WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNN) — President Donald Trump escaped more than the chilly Washington weather when he decamped to the warm and welcoming confines of his private Florida club for the weekend.
Touching down just as the orange sun was setting, Trump was effectively pushing the pause button on what had been a tough week in the White House, where he was beset by complications for his travel ban and the Republican health care plan and controversy over his unfounded claims that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped his phones during the presidential campaign.
But the pause won’t last long. Trump will return Sunday to one of the most consequential weeks of his early presidency, with his Supreme Court pick and FBI director making appearances before Congress and the GOP health care proposal coming up for a vote.
Trump’s unfounded claim that Obama wiretapped his phones during the 2016 campaign was rebuffed by Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill last week, his health care law teetered in Congress, and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, sparked an international incident when he read the unconfirmed musings of a Fox News commentator from the White House briefing room that alleged British intelligence helped surveil Trump during the campaign.
Spicer’s comments Thursday were decried by both British and American intelligence officials, with NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett saying in an interview with BBC that the allegations were “arrant nonsense” that showed “a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works” between the two countries’ spy agencies.
Fox News said Friday that legal analyst Andrew Napolitano “stands by his report,” but top news anchor Shephard Smith said the network “cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary.”
The continuing wiretapping narrative colored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House on Friday, where, during an afternoon news conference, Trump joked that he and the German leader have something in common because her cell phone was once tapped by the National Security Agency.
“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said.
Merkel, who appeared to take several seconds to process what Trump said, simply turned to look at him. She did not smile.
On Saturday, the chancellor’s visit was still on the President’s mind.
“Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel,” Trump tweeted in two messages. “Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany.”