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Trump, Pelosi engage in 29-hour war of insults worthy of ‘Veep’ storyline

HBO series has wrapped, but president and speaker keep its spirit alive as relationship sours again

President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi argue over border security in the Oval Office on Dec. 11. They are back it, engaging in a war of words after he abruptly ended a meeting Wednesday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)
President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi argue over border security in the Oval Office on Dec. 11. They are back it, engaging in a war of words after he abruptly ended a meeting Wednesday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

ANALYSIS — HBO’s hit series “Veep,” with its hysterically dysfunctional depiction of official Washington, wrapped its seven-season run earlier this month. Or did it?

The president called the speaker of the House “crazy” after she pleaded for White House aides and his family members to hold an “intervention” for the leader of the free world. No, that’s not a scene from the Julia Louis-Dreyfus-starring show. It’s just the latest shenanigans from two of the most powerful officials in Washington — and on the entire planet, for that matter.

President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have never been on good terms, despite occasionally describing civil phone calls or a rare meeting where everyone stayed in the room or avoided bickering in front of reporters and television cameras. But since she took back the gavel in January, the two have yet to negotiate and pass any major legislation.

And the last 24 hours appear to have sent their relationship plummeting from barely functional to rock bottom.

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Wednesday: 11:40 a.m.

Trump went first. During a Rose Garden appearance after he cut short a White House meeting with Democratic leaders about infrastructure, he described a meeting of House Democrats earlier in the day that revolved around possible impeachment proceedings as “very sad.”

[Trump calls Dems ‘DO NOTHING PARTY’ after Pelosi says he ‘took a pass’ by storming out]

“This whole thing was a take-down attempt at the president of the United States,” the president said of what became Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russian meddling probe and House Democrats’ ongoing investigations of all things Trump.

Wednesday: Around 12:15 p.m.

“He just took a pass,” Pelosi said of Trump once she arrived back at the Capitol. The speaker has often used her words to, it appears, emasculate the verbally muscular chief executive, as she did following the latest meeting with Democrats from which he has ejected himself.

The speaker opined that Trump’s refusal to continue the infrastructure talks suggests a “lack of confidence on his part.”

She wasn’t finished. And her next swipe got Trump’s attention.

“In any event, I pray for the president of the United States. And I pray for the United States of America,” she said.

Wednesday: 1:02 p.m.

Trump responds by accusing Pelosi and other Democratic leaders with “tearing the United States apart, but I will continue to set records for the American People.”

Then he mocked the speaker: “Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!”

Wednesday: 10:28 p.m.

Trump fires off a tweet quoting Pelosi’s letter to her caucus saying he threw a “temper tantrum” during the meeting. He describes that assessment as “such a lie.”

Thursday: 11:24 a.m.

It was the speaker’s turn. And she landed some new jabs.

“Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his staff would stage an intervention for the good of the country,” Pelosi told reporters.

Thursday: 11:32 a.m.

But wait, there’s more from her weekly press conference.

“Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence. I don’t know,” Pelosi said of Trump and his vow to avoid working with Democrats on major legislation until their investigations are over.

That came a few hours after a morning Trump twitter rant in which he jabbed at the Democratic-controlled House by writing that “the Democrats are getting nothing done in Congress.” He used another tweet to dub them “THE DO NOTHING PARTY!” Shortly after that, his top spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, accused Democrats of telling a “lie” about wanting to investigate and work with Trump at the same time. And she called it “lunacy” that Pelosi huddled with her members about impeachment hours before the meeting with Trump.

Thursday: 4 p.m.

Asked about her call for a family intervention for him, Trump dubbed the comment “nasty.” Minutes later, he called her “crazy Nancy,” saying “she’s lost it.” Other than saying he has been “watching” Pelosi for a long time, he did not offer supporting evidence.

Minutes later during yet another impromptu question-and-answer session with reporters after an unrelated event, Trump said he saw footage of Pelosi talking about him “with the hands,” saying it “reminded me of Beto,” a reference to him also calling the former Texas Democratic congressman and 2020 presidential candidate “crazy” because he often gestures while speaking.

Thursday: 4:04 p.m.

Even when the questioning from reporters turned to his proposed trade pact with Canada and Mexico, Pelosi was on his mind — and his only target.

“I don‘t think she’s capable of understanding it,” Trump said of Pelosi and the trade pact. “She’s a mess. … Pelosi does not understand the bill,” he said of the revised agreement, which is not technically a bill. “She’s got to get up to snuff.”

He said the speaker wants two more weeks to review the proposed pact, but said the time to formally submit the pact to Congress so it can be addressed by lawmakers is fast approaching — but he did not offer a timeline for when that might happen. “I think it’s going to be very hard for Pelosi to stop that,” he said of the three-country trade pact.

As always, the president seemed unconcerned about contradicting one of his top aides. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said Pelosi has been easy to work with as she and her staff seek information about the proposed trade agreement, and she has at times signaled a willingness to bring it to a vote after members have had time to assess and hold hearings on it.

Thursday: 4:36 p.m.

Near the end of yet another impromptu mini-press conference during which Trump again called himself a “stable genius,” Pelosi pounced on the president’s self-mental assessment.

“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential,” she wrote in her own tweet, “I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”

Thursday: 5:17 p.m.

All quiet. For now. The president is set to leave the White House Friday morning for a four-day visit to Japan. He will pass reporters and television cameras on his way to Marine One. 

Martha Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project, tracks his interactions with reporters. He’s had 408 since taking office. Friday could bring No. 409 — and more insults for the speaker.

The last two days could make one wonder if “Veep” has been extended, but in real life. And with much higher stakes.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this story.

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