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Trumponomics Daily—Friday, February 17

February 17, 2017, 4:03 PM UTC

Is Donald Trump okay? To hear him tell it, for 77 freewheeling minutes yesterday in the White House’s East Room, at least, he was having a lot of fun. “I love this. I’m having a good time doing it,” Trump told reporters gathered for a hastily-arranged news conference capping his first month in office. To watch him tell it, the new president more often appeared frustrated and angry. The rambling performance included a review of Candidate Trump’s greatest hits: Slamming Hillary Clinton repeatedly (“nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates”); mocking individual reporters and lambasting the media generally (“the press should be ashamed of themselves”); and inaccurately touting the size of his electoral college victory.

The election, however, was 100 days ago, and things haven’t gone smoothly since. His administration’s inner circle has been marred by infighting and leaks; he’s facing a widening scandal into his campaign’s alleged cooperation with Russian intelligence operatives; his national security team is in disarray after the firing of his national security adviser and the refusal of his top backup choice to take the job; his pick for Labor Secretary was forced to withdraw; and his legislative agenda has barely budged. Trump at his press conference insisted on an alternate reality, one in which his White House is operating as a “fine-tuned machine,” a state of affairs that would be apparent if not for the “lies” and “horrible fake reporting” by the political press corps. But he was right about this much: “The stock market has hit record numbers, as you know, and there’s been a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world.” Stocks were off slightly Thursday after closing at record highs Wednesday for the fifth day in a row, driven up by continued expectations that Trump will deliver on a pro-growth agenda. (As one hedge fund executive tells me, the debate among financiers these days doesn’t contemplate a potential downside to the news out of Washington, only “shades of growthiness.”)

Yet one CEO whisperer who watched Trump’s performance Thursday said it should give business leaders pause. Kerry Sulkowicz, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and founder of the Boswell Group, says Trump displays hallmark sociopathic characteristics. There’s been plenty of controversy in the psychiatric community about the advisability of assigning a diagnosis to a figure you’ve only observed from a distance. So Sulkowicz says he avoids it in favor of being “phenomenologically descriptive.” But Trump’s pattern — “his habitual lying, in a sadistic sense, his taking advantage of others, his behavior that skirts the law or would be seen as amoral” — is well established and all points in the same direction. And based on Thursday’s performance, Sulkowicz says, he appears to be getting worse (or “decompensating,” in the argot of the discipline). “The combination of that power and the isolation of the role amplifies the most disturbing and dangerous traits in his personality,” he says. “If people want to profit in the short term while they can, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. The harm is in believing that it’s real.” After all, he says, “bubbles burst.”

Tory Newmyer

Must Reads

Robert Harward Turns Down Offer to Be Trump’s New National Security Adviser [Fortune]

The vice admiral would have brought some much-needed stability to a national security apparatus still reeling from the resignation of Michael Flynn. Harvard said his decision was “purely a personal issue.”

Trump Plans to Issue a New Immigration Executive Order Next Week [Fortune]

The president offered no details but indicated the replacement order will be reverse-engineered to avoid the legal problems the first encountered.

R. Alexander Acosta, Law School Dean, Is Trump’s New Pick for Labor [NYT]

The former assistant attorney general, who if confirmed would be the first Hispanic in Trump’s cabinet, is considered a safe pick after the president’s first choice was forced to withdraw earlier this week amid controversy.

Mark Zuckerberg Warns Against Threats to Globalism and Says Facebook Is Here to Help [Fortune]

In a 5,700-word manifesto, the Facebook chief executive laid out his vision for how the social media company could be a bulwark against rising isolationism.

GOP Tech Plan Takes Aim at H1-B Visas, Taxes, and Patent Law [Fortune]

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch unveiled an “Innovation Agenda” on Thursday aimed at courting tech industry support for Republican plans on everything from corporate tax reform to revamping the foreign worker visa program.

Jared Kushner Delivers Critique of CNN to Time Warner Executive [WSJ]

Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor has taken the family’s gripes about CNN coverage to an executive at its parent company, which is seeking government approval for a $85.4 billion sale to AT&T.

Loose change

‘We Want to Show Solidarity.’ Restaurant Owners Back Striking Immigrant Workers [Fortune]

FBI Searches for Possible Accomplices in Probe of Fallen K Street Lobbyist [WSJ]

Uber’s Former Chief Adviser Fined for Illegally Lobbying Chicago Mayor [Bloomberg]

Trump Must Fix the National Security Council, Says Former Intelligence Chair [Fortune]

Warren Buffett’s Right-Hand Man Has a Message for Trump Haters [Fortune]

The Secret Messaging App Used by Trump Staffers Has Seen an ‘Enormous Spike’ in Sign-Ups [Fortune]

Why Ginni Rometty’s Email About Trump Came Too Late [Fortune]

Deutsche Bank Pressured to Come Clean on Trump [Fortune]

Trump: #NeverTrumper Paul Singer Loves Me Now [Daily Beast]

Uber’s Former Chief Adviser Fined for Illegally Lobbying Chicago Mayor [Bloomberg]