President Donald Trump may have needed a bit of a pick-me-up.
His White House has been dodging questions – about his mental fitness, his relationship with ex-staffers, even his desire to be president in the first place – ever since excerpts began circulating from an explosive forthcoming book on the administration, “Fire and Fury.”
On Thursday around the Roosevelt Room, senior Republicans helped cheer him up, opening a meeting on immigration by heaping praise on the U.S. leader in a scene that is becoming something of a tradition in the Trump White House.
As in previous instances, Vice President Mike Pence went first.
“Mr. President, you've made immigration a centerpiece in the national debate over the last year and a half. And you said all along the way we’re going to build a wall and reform our immigration system,” Pence said. “But you've also said along the way we're going to do it with a big heart. And you’ve opened the door to an agreement on DACA.”
“Mr. President, thank you for bringing all of us together,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). “You gave us a deadline, and setting that for March the 1st, and that’s a tremendous gift to be able to get that done. Thanks for your engagement on this. I do absolutely agree with your heart on the issues on DACA and for those kids.”
“I just want to thank you for your leadership on this issue,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “And I really appreciate your support of the men and women at DHS.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) briefly broke script by making a joke that seemed to poke fun at the whole exercise.
“Lindsey. Used to be a great enemy of mine, now he’s a great friend of mine. I really like Lindsey. Can you believe that? I never thought I’d say that but I do like him a lot,” Trump said.
Graham replied: “Thank you. I like me too, so we have something in common.”
But even he got back on the praise train.
“Obama couldn’t do it. Bush couldn’t do it. I think you can do it,” Graham, a Trump critic-turned-cheerleader, said of immigration reform. “I’ve never been more optimistic about an immigration reform proposal making it to the President's desk right now.”
Trump seemed satisfied with the performance.
“We have a great spirit going in the Republican Party,” Trump declared before the press was ushered away.
Even so, he couldn’t steer clear of the controversy everyone in Washington was talking about. Asked by a reporter in the room about Steve Bannon, one of the chief critics quoted in the book, which will be released Friday, Trump quoted a back-pat from his chief strategist-turned-antagonist.
“He called me a great man last night,” Trump quipped. “So, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.”