Beltway Briefing: The Trump Administration Takes Off

Mark Alderman, Blake Rutherford and Howard Schweitzer of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies discuss the first two weeks of new political order in DC and the policy priorities at the top of the agenda.

Alex: Good afternoon. My name is Alex and I'll be your conference operator today. Welcome to the Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies Series about the latest developments in politics and policy in DC. Our call today will be moderated by Blake Rutherford, a member of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Our speakers are Howard Schweitzer, managing partner, and Mark Alderman, chairman of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies.

As a reminder, this conference is being recorded and will also be available on iTunes and SoundCloud by searching for Cozen O'Connor. For any questions, please email

I would now like to turn the conference order to Blake Rutherford. Please go ahead, Sir.

Blake: Thank you very much and thank you to everyone who has joined us today. My name is Blake Rutherford with Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, and this is our weekly, I think it's going to be in light of everything going on in politics and policy in Washington, call called The Beltway Briefing. I'm joined today, as always, by Mark Alderman, the chairman of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, and Howard Schweitzer, the managing partner of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Howard, Mark, always great to be with you, guys.

Howard: Thanks, Blake.

Mark: Thank you.

Blake: Well, I think, Mark, at one point you and I battered around the notion of whether there would be enough content coming out of the early days of the Trump administration, enough for us to talk about and analyze, both in the politics and policy. I think the administration's proving that they are not going to sit quietly in the early days of their administration. We are 10 days in and it has been nothing short of active, I think.

Mark, where I want to begin our discussion today is really kind of ripped from the headlines. We have arguably the most significant and also right now apparently the most controversial of President Trump's executive orders which bans certain persons from certain countries around the world from entering the United States for a period of time. It has led to people being turned away as they tried to enter the country and, in certain cases, either detain for periods or time until they can gain admission, or returned to the country of origin. It has created a lot of conversation nationally and internationally.

Mark, in the context of that effort and in the context of Trump being really very active early in his presidency, what do you make of the ramifications of that ban? I want to get into the policy ramifications with you and Howard a little bit later, but let's talk about politics first. What are the political ramifications of that order at this point, do you think?

Mark: Let me go back to the beginning and admit that I asked a foolish question last week about whether these calls could be weekly, whether we would have enough to talk about. I am withdrawing that question. We have too much to talk about and I think that that is part of the political answer. There is chaos in the political system right now. I think we are headed towards a geopolitical recession if this sort of confusion continues.

What is most significant to me about the Muslim ban which Rudy Giuliani at least had the honesty to admit is what it's intended to be, what is most significant is how it was done. It was done without consulting any other agencies. It was done without consulting the Congress. It was done by people in secrecy who clearly didn't know what they were doing. Before or against the policy, it plainly wasn't done well.

I think what is happening, 10 days in, if this continues is that the confidence, not only of the American people and Congress in the administration, but the confidence of members of the administration is being eroded. General Mattis, General Kelly, and others are not going to stick around to be embarrassed as they were last week or to be precluded from doing their duty. So I don't think it could have come down much worse.

Blake: Howard, I want to extrapolate on that point because you obviously have advised cabinet secretaries. It is apparent, to Mark's point, that General Mattis and General Kelly and Rex Tillerson, the soon-to-be, I think we're on this course, Secretary of State, were not consulted by the administration prior to doing this. It really does seem like that it was two of Trump's senior policy advisers, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, with some help from what appears to be curiously some staffers on the Hill, but not members and certainly not committee chairmen.

What do you make about that, Howard? Is that inside baseball? Do we care or is, to Mark's point there, there likely to be some erosion of confidence if not greater disruption as a result of that dynamic?

Howard: Blake, in government process is as important as substance. I think in this case all of that is about the process. In order to operate as one government, which is critically important to confidence in the White House, you got to have good processes around your policy, so you're acting as one, especially in the early days.

So I think the lesson that the White House will learn from this is one of process. I think on substance they're not particularly concerned about the policy and there, no doubt, would have been these protests and uproar on a policy basis alone, but it would have been much less chaotic, to use Mark's word, if it had been done pursuant to an orderly process.

Blake: Yeah, Howard, I think that's an interesting point and I want to stay with it for a little bit. Both of you saw this firsthand when the Obama administration began and how their staffs came together. This White House, unlike that one, and certainly we can compare it to others, but this White House seems to be teetering on less of a spirit of cohesion. There is a question about the influence of the president's Chief of Staff versus his Chief Strategist. Reince Priebus, his Chief of Staff, versus Steve Bannon, his Chief Strategist.

The role of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and there's a story in "Vanity Fair" today about his efforts to try and really build a bridge between President Trump and the president of Mexico only to see that bridge collapse 24 hours later. We saw Steve Bannon with some very pointed comments about the role of the media and how the media ought to feel in the wake of the president's victory. Then, Sean Spicer, the president's press secretary, essentially saying, "I disagree with those media characterizations."

What significance and, again, what consequence do both of you think about those tensions within the West Wing? Again, too much inside baseball, are we paying too much attention to it, or is it leading to real problems? I think certainly with the rollout of the Muslim ban one could certainly articulate that the dysfunction in the West Wing led to a bad process, to your point Howard. Howard, I wanted to just come back to you. What do you make of what you're hearing out of the West Wing itself?

Howard: I don't necessarily ... Actually, I disagree with your premise, which is that it's different than other administrations. Yes, there's some dysfunction. These guys are getting up and running and I can tell you because I was there in 2009, when Obama took office, there was plenty of dysfunction. There was plenty of disagreement among his team. We were actually dealing then with not a self-inflicted crisis, but an actual existential crisis. There were factions. There were people on different sides of the issue in terms of how to deal with the financial crisis. Mark, I think wants to jump in and say something, but this is-

Mark: No, it's not. It is what it's not, in my opinion. There is all the difference in the world and I mean the world because the whole world is watching. There is all the difference in the world between dysfunction due to inexperience and learning curve, on the one hand, which clearly characterized the early days and weeks and months of the Obama administration, and dysfunction, on the other hand, caused by affirmative disrespect for and dismissal of the experts in the subject matter that is being considered. The men and women, although in this case except the former acting Attorney General, it's all men, the men whom the president has asked to serve him and to serve the country on these very issues.

I disagree. I think it is naïve and falsely optimistic, fake optimism for our age of fake news to think that this president is going to learn anything or that this president is going to change. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are experienced enough in running stuff their way that they did this. They decided "We're not telling anybody. We're just simply doing it." Everybody works for them in their view and everybody will just get on board or leave in their view. That's what their press secretary said.

So I would love to see some learning, but I'm very pessimistic that this was caused by inexperience as much as by deliberate disrespect of the intelligence community and the Justice Department.

Howard: Look, Mark, it's a huge deal. I don't disagree. It is-

Mark: He announced this in front of his Secretary of Defense without telling him.

Howard: No, it's bad. It's bad.

Mark: That's not inexperience. That is a deliberate decision about how to govern the country.

Howard: It may be inept. It's going to hurt the president. It absolutely costs him precious political capital, as I said on this morning, but it is inexperience. It is something that can be corrected. If Trump wants to have a successful presidency, he's got to watch and learn.

Blake: Howard, to that-

Mark: I disagree. I don't believe ...

Howard: By the way-

Mark: ... inexperience caused him not to turn around and say to his Secretary of Defense, "By the way."

Howard: Look, I am not going to defend the way they've handled this in any way, shape, or form. I'm a government process guy. I'm somebody who knows how to work the process. It's critically important and you've got to bring people along. I do think that six months down the road they're either going to get it right or they're going to be in shambles. I think we should all be hoping that they get it right.

Blake: Let's stay with this for a little bit because last night, we had a rather significant development. The acting Attorney General Sally Yates issued a directive to her federal attorneys at the Department of Justice not to enforce the president's executive order in significant part, to the point that Mark made and that former Mayor Giuliani made, that this was a Muslim ban and that that would raise significant legal questions.

Trump fired her and has put in place the US attorney from the Eastern District of Virginia, who has said he's going to enforce the Muslim ban, all until presumably Jeff Sessions is confirmed as the next attorney general. They're holding a hearing and debate ... Not a hearing, I'm sorry, they're just holding debate on him today. We'll get to that in a minute.

Mark, what do you make of, certainly, Sally Yates was a 27-year attorney at DOJ. It served Republicans and Democrats, but was the acting AG under President Obama and was holding that position only until Sessions was confirmed, which in theory could be by the end of this week. What do you make of that decision, any consequences politically or otherwise for the president?

Mark: First and foremost, I of course agree with her legal analysis that this is an unconstitutional and unenforceable order, but I will say there are two sides to this particular story. She handled it one way and I respect the way she handled it. I admire her. She knew she was getting fired the minute she put that directive out. She could have resigned in protest, would have been another way to do it. That would have spared the country the firing that came by the president.

The point, to me, isn't so much that president replaced the acting attorney general. To a degree this is a little bit inside baseball. She was the acting attorney general only until Sessions is confirmed. He will be confirmed, although it's now being slowed down. It's again the consequences of these actions for governing. For example, the acting attorney general, last night, Sally Yates, had clearings to approve surveillance of suspected terrorists. It's a whole complicated special court procedure. The new acting attorney general does not.

The government is scrambling today to keep its intelligence and surveillance program together because until the new guy gets the special court clearance, there's no one who can sign a warrant. The way in which things are being done, apart from the content of the policy is chaotic and is damaging the governing of the country.

Howard: This is all just politics, Blake. All political people-

Mark: Yeah, I mean-

Blake: [crosstalk 00:17:00] in the Justice Department today.

Howard: Mark, it's politics. Come on. She knew what was going to happen.

Mark: She knew she'd get fired.

Howard: She wanted to get fired. He wanted to fire her. They're both playing ... She's political. I know she was a career prosecutor. She was the deputy attorney general under President Obama. There’re politics all around and it's frankly-

Mark: She wasn't consulted as she should have been on the way in. It's all part of the same-

Howard: They consulted the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice as to the constitutionality of the order. That's the office that the White House Counsel's Office turns to for legal opinions. It's inside DOJ. Specifically on and only on constitutional issues. They vetted it with them.

Look, I don't like the thing. I'm not defending the thing as a policy matter, but this is political theater and that's all it is.

Blake: Let's talk about the policy ramifications of this ban. I did an interview yesterday on the effect that it is likely to have on the airline industry, for example, which is not only faced with having to try and manage through the uncertainty of it, but also is having the bear cost burdens of returning people to country when they are not allowed to come in. I think there are other policy ramifications for this ban. Howard, I thought I might start with you. What do you see as the policy challenges that the country may face going forward assuming this ban holds up?

Howard: Blake, I think the primary challenges are national security challenges, as opposed to practical business challenges. It's what is the impact of this order on national security? It's in that context that it was issued. Does this make us safer or less safe? The president of the United States owns that decision. That doesn't necessarily make me sleep better at night. In fact, that affirmatively does not. This is a national security policy issue and that's really the beginning and the end of it.

Mark: The nationals security has been compromised by the policy.

Howard: I totally agree.

Mark: If we're talking now about the substance of the policy, we now have created the most compelling recruiting tool for ISIS with this policy.

Howard: Yeah.

Mark: We have now undermined the building of trust in the American Muslim community and that is a critical element of our terrorism campaign at home and we are keeping no bad dudes, as the president of the United States literally tweeted because this isn't fact-based. This is all political. I will agree with you there. This is all political. He promised to ban Muslims and he's banning Muslims although obviously he left out a couple of countries where, coincidentally he does business.

Howard: 40.

Mark: Well [crosstalk 00:20:43]

Howard: Look, I'm not defending it. I agree with everything you just said. It makes us less safe. This call is not about you or me opining on what makes this country safer or less safe because we're not qualified to do that. What we are qualified to do is to comment on the politics of this and on the long-term impact. The questions that I'm getting from clients and people I speak to are more like, "How did this happen? What is the process by which this came down?"

People hate this thing as a policy issue and they think it's discriminatory and unconstitutional, but the questions we're getting from our clients, Mark, are "What does this mean for the future? What does this mean about how my healthcare issues are going to be dealt with, my energy policy issues are going to be dealt with? Are they going to follow the same kind of process in dealing with those or is some sense of normalcy going to return to Washington? Are things going to normalize?"

Blake: Let me interject and pull this back to what I think is a necessary and interesting development, Mark. I think there was certainly commentary early in the transition and even to a degree I think up until about, I don't know, maybe even 48 hours ago that Trump was a deal-maker and he was going to make deals. Schumer was willing to make deals and Paul Ryan was willing to make deals.

Howard raises a point about people's interest and how this went down. Mark, I think you did kind of encapsulate it. I think we have a good sense that this was very much two people and Trump making a call here, which from my own perspective, should rattle anyone in the business world because if that's how decision making is going to be made, it'll continue to be unpredictable, just as this was, setting aside the fact that Trump did say he wanted to ban Muslims during the campaign. Mark, the Democrats are now changing ...

Howard: They wanted to be unpredictable.

Blake: Right. Mark, the Democrats are changing their tune now. They are beginning to telegraph that this will be a full out resistance, that they will oppose everything Trump wants to do, which, if that is the case, takes this notion of deal-making off the table unless Trump can find a way to bring it back. What are your thoughts in terms of the ramifications of that for people needing to engage with this administration if the Democrats do in fact run an all-out blockade of Trump's agenda?

Mark: To your point and Howard's that we are getting barraged with inquiries from the business community about how to do business in the Trump era, what has happened is that the fantasy that there was going to be deal-making and that things were going to happen has been blown to hell here or in the first 10 days. Never say never. I'm not saying that Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump can never repair the rift and do a deal, but everything got harder. The consequences for legislation and regulation that the business and the country is deeply interested in, everything just got harder.

Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act just got harder. The rollback of regulations on the financial community just got harder, and on and on. That has consequences beyond the 48 Democrats in the Senate going into opposition. It has consequences far outside the halls of Congress in terms of how Americans live their lives in the now complete uncertainty of the Trump administration.

Blake: Howard, recognizing that that uncertainty exists, you published a piece last week about some principles of how to engage with the Trump administration, but we're gaining more insight, I guess I should say, every day in terms of their decision making. What advice do you have at this point to anyone who, to Mark's point, is looking at this and saying, "Wow, if they're really going go issue an executive order with these kinds of ramifications without consulting the traditional channels." You said process matters as much as policy. The Trump process is an entirely new process. What advice do you have based on what you've seen so far? I know it's early, but what advice do you have?

Howard: The same advice I had a week ago, which is you got to stay engaged. You have to bet that things are going to normalize to some extent and I think they will. You can't overlearn the lessons of the early days of this administration. Look, Bill Clinton stumbled out of the gate. Barack Obama stumbled out. This was bad and I'm as offended personally by the policy as you guys are, but things will normalize. They have to normalize from a process point of view. Stay engaged and work the process.

I agree that it just became harder to cut deals. I do not agree that we are now in an environment where deals won't be cut in the future. Of course deals are going to be cut in the future. Of course Trump's going to be able to work wit Chuck Schumer. This isn't all-out war on every single thing that's on the agenda. It's Trump cost himself political capital. Maybe that makes it more likely deals are going to be cut. Washington is still Washington. It's not changing. You have to stay engaged.

Blake: I'm sorry, Mark, go ahead.

Mark: I certainly agree on the engagement point. By the way, you have to stay engaged as citizens of the country also, but that's a different call maybe. I just want to say, again, because it is what I believe. It is what I believe we have seen in the two years that we have been in this surreal experience. Process is not only important. Process is policy. The way in which the president decides to conduct business is a policy decision. I believe a dangerous policy decision has been made about how Donald Trump intends to govern. We will see. As an American, we should all be hoping that this was a rookie mistake. I think not.

Howard: I'll say this. We wrote an op-ed a long time ago that they were not preparing to transition. I think a lot of this goes back to that. They weren't prepared. They were not prepared to assume the presidency. Donald Trump did not plan a transition. As a result, when he won unexpectedly, they were way behind the curve in terms of staffing for a Day One start. I think as a result, this is what's happening.

Mark: Staffing up a half empty government, which is what we have, got harder because of how this all went down. Talking somebody into becoming the Deputy Defense Secretary got harder over the weekend.

Blake: Now, we're seeing again this notion of sort of slow-playing Trump's cabinet secretaries. That took on an interesting element today or recently when the Democrats boycotted the votes on Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin, which didn't allow the Republicans to have a quorum to move those forward, which is not a common thing that we see happen in confirmation hearings. As I mentioned at the beginning of the call, they're debating Jeff Sessions nomination now.

Howard, staffing government is something that you've written about, you've talked about. I know you don't staff a government during transition even. You certainly don't do it in the first 10 days, but Mark raises the point about attracting talent in the government and bringing competent people in. With what we're seeing in this insular nature of the White House and the growing influence that certain people within the West Wing have, what's your perspective on the state of government at this point and what the Trump administration ought to consider as it really thinks about how to fill out these positions and establish that sense of normalcy that you think is coming?

Howard: This has no impact on people's desire to serve in the administration. I know plenty of people. Mark, you and I know plenty of people, and Blake too, who are buying for jobs in this administration. There's a long line of highly qualified people. I don't think what's in the news today is impacting people's desire. I do think that, again, not being ready for prime time and being behind the curve in terms of vetting, in terms of the basic nuts and bolts of getting people on board, that's what's hurting these guys. That's what's going to slow this down. That's what is going to make this a one year transition instead of a more typical six months transition. That's problematic. It is problematic.

Mark: I'm not sure I agree that this isn't impacting people's decisions. We'll see what happens with our meeting last night. My prediction is he won't go in. I was approached this morning by someone who wants to talk to us, Howard, who is being considered for a very high position in the Defense Department and is having very severe second thoughts. So it's happening to at least the two people I have talked to.

Blake: Let's talk about a position that is coveted by a whole lot of people in the legal profession and one that President Trump has indicated he will put forth tonight, which is his nomination to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia to the United States Supreme Court. The president has said he will announce his nomination at 8:00 p.m., in prime time, as we like to say. I don't know if there'll be fireworks. Maybe there'll be a government motorcycle jumping over some cars. Nevertheless, he's going to nominate his Supreme Court pick and by all accounts it's down to three people, all served on the Court of Appeals, but two of whom which are a little Left controversial and one that we've heard about before.

Thomas Hardiman, a Pennsylvania connection, Judge Thomas Hardiman, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who actually clerked for Scalia I think. That may not be right, sorry, and then Bill Pryor, who's from Alabama, who has a relationship to Jeff Sessions, who came under some scrutiny in the past. Those seem to be the top three choices.

Howard, I wanted to get your thoughts about the president's direction here on a Supreme Court nominee. I'm not going to ask you to forecast who will be because I do think it could very much be a last minute change by this president, but nevertheless, what do you think about Trump's direction here with a Supreme Court nominee?

Howard: I think he knows he's got a fight on his hands and that there may be a sacrificial lamb here. I think it again shows his ignorance of the process to think that, as he said last week, the Senate will just do away with the 60-vote margin that's required to put somebody through for a vote, do away with the filibuster rule. Mitch McConnell came out and said, "That's not your decision, Mr. President, that's mine." He's not going to do it, at least it doesn't appear right now that that's on his agenda.

I think a lot of this, again, gets back to institutional kind of jockeying. It's just as important to Mitch McConnell that he preserves the prerogative of the Senate as it is that he confirms President Trump's nominee. There's always going to be another person waiting in the wings to take the job. I don't think it's that consequential which of the three he chooses. I think there's a very high likelihood that the Dems go to the mat and filibuster that nomination and then put someone else up and that person gets confirmed.

Mark: Well, just as ...

Blake: Mark, what do you-

Mark: ... a footnote, Blake, to what Howard said, with which I generally agree, but at least the two leading contenders as far, as we know, Gorsuch and Hardiman, there’re a lot of senators, including a lot of Democrats, who have already voted to confirm these two men.

Blake: Right.

Mark: They were confirmed for the circuit courts on which they sit. Right away, this gets very complicated with either of those two picks, specially Hardiman is the more recent of the appointments, because there’re some Democrats who found him qualified to serve on the circuit court that they're going to have to explain why he's no longer qualified. I think that there will be extreme vetting of the nominee. There will be extreme vetting and whether there will be a filibuster or not, I believe, will depend on a number of things, on who the nominee is, on how the process unfolds as a process, and on what else is going on in the world.

The hip bone's connected to the thigh bone. All of these events of the first 10 days are not unrelated. They are all politically related and it's too soon to know whether there's going to be a tooth and nail fight over the Supreme Court. There will be tooth and nail fights aplenty. Whether it's over the Supreme Court, I don't think we're going to know until tomorrow or later.

Blake: Howard, to Mark's point, obviously when Judge Garland was put up to the Supreme Court, the same arguments were made. Certainly, he had been confirmed in the past and respected by Republicans and yet couldn't get a hearing, and that certainly didn't appear to have political consequences for the Republicans, but memories can be long in politics and in life. What do you sense that the smart play here is? I know it does depend a bit on the nominee. Certainly, if this was a Harriet Myers pick that even Republicans couldn't get behind, it's a different analysis. Do you sense that there's an opportunity?

Let me ask you a different way. Do you sense that it's a smart play for the Democrats if it is one of these three to go down the filibuster route just to prove a political point?

Howard: No, I think it's a mistake. I think if the person is qualified for the position that that's what the confirmation process is about and that's what they should vote on. Look, I think on some level, it depends how they perform in their hearing. It depends on what comes up when the opposition research begins to come out. If this is a Justice Roberts kind of performance as opposed to a Judge Bork kind of performance, they're going to have to confirm the guy, apparently it's a guy.

Mark: I like that.

Howard: That's the way I see it.

Blake: A white guy. Guys, look, I think we've got again an interesting development tonight. We will certainly see. Mark, the president's chosen to make this announcement in prime time at 8:00 p.m. I don't meet to put too cynical a point on it, but I think he probably wouldn't mind changing the conversation a little bit. What do you make about that decision? It certainly shines a whole lot of light on this appointment, puts it front and center and puts the president talking to a national audience in prime time. Dare I say is [Must CTV 00:39:51]?

Mark: It's [Must CTV 00:39:55] as he has been all along, which is a whole different call about the role of the media in the rise of Trump. This is actually [Must CTV 00:40:04]. It's the president of United States addressing the country about a Supreme Court nomination. When his Press Secretary was asked why had been moved from Thursday to Tuesday, of course the answer was, "Because he wanted to." That probably is in fact the underlying answer, but he wanted to because he wanted to change the conversation. He is a master at blowing things up and moving on. Now, he is doing it again with tonight's performance, this is a performance. I'll be watching and you'll be watching and Howard will be watching.

Howard: Every White House does this. Come on, guys. Every White House does the same thing. You create a controversy to distract from whatever the issue is.

Mark: Sure.

Howard: I can't rattle off the top of my head the dozen of times that Barack Obama did this, that Bill Clinton did this, that George Bush did it, but this is politics 101. Let's not make too much of that. Yes, he's the master of the PR game. No one's going to beat him at that. I think they are making a mistake in the sense that the immigration order is fundamentally a constitutional issue and ...

Mark: The immigration order is on its way to the Supreme Court, so this is not unrelated. That's why I say, hip bone's connected to the thigh bone. You can tease out these different issues. I think you were saying, Howard, or at least I am saying, I don't know how much of a distraction or a deflection this will be.

Howard: This is all politics. I think the fundamental question that people are asking now is, "Can this administration work its way out of self-inflicted crisis?" That's what happened here, Friday, over the weekend. It was self-inflicted crisis because they didn't follow a process. I think I'm more optimistic than you guys are, both of you, about their ability to do that. Trump isn't going to change who he is, but the White House can get its act together. Guess what, it's a hard job. I've been in the room. They can get their way to the point where they are no longer self-inflicting crisis on themselves and I think they will generally speaking. Politics is always going to be politics and these guys are going to play a lot of politics, too.

Mark: I think it's going to depend on who wins the tug of war between Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, if indeed Priebus is still on the other end of that rope. He was going in, it's hard to know where he's been in the last week. I said it before, I will say it again. They are not going to get their act together if in fact this is their policy about how to govern. I think there is a chance that Steve Bannon's influence is behind this style of government. If he remains the dominant force advising the president, I expect that we're going to have four years or less of this.

There are others who clearly don't think this is a good way to govern. If their voices are heard, I don't know that they will be, but if their voices are heard, then some of them may come down.

Howard: The inflection point for this administration, and you kind of stole my line earlier, Mark, but I'll use it again anyway, is three months from now, four months from now, six months from now, when the administration goes to do something that Mattis or Kelly or somebody else doesn't like, particularly those two, and I think particularly Mattis, and does he say, "Mr. President, if you do x, I will tender my resignation"? Or does he say, "Mr. President, I am tendering my resignation" or does he not? That's this inflection point in this administration.

That's what is going to decide whether this administration is going to get its act together and hopefully it happens sooner rather than later, frankly, because they need to get their act together. They need to have the process right. You're right, Mark, process is policy in some level. That's how this plays out.

Blake: Guys, to echo a theme that I think has been consistent in the only 10 that we've been into this administration is engagement, stay engaged. Certainly if you have thoughts, comments, questions about this call, don't hesitate to reach out to us, Our next call is going to be February 7th. We look forward to that. Mark, Howard, as always, appreciate the insight and it was great to be with both of you.

Howard: Thanks, Blake.

Mark: Thank you, Blake.

Alex: Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your line

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