Donald Trump has continued attacking critics over a tell-all book as his party gathers for a key meeting to thrash out their priorities for 2018.
A retreat at Camp David will focus heavily on a strategy before crucial congressional elections in November.
Michael Wolff’s book raises concerns over Mr Trump’s mental health. The president called Wolff a “total loser”.
Mr Trump tweeted he was mentally fit, adding that he was a “genius….and a very stable genius at that”.
The Camp David summit begins two weeks before the end of Mr Trump’s first year in office. It will seek to tie up unfinished business by Republicans, who have rallied around Mr Trump during the release of Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
“We have a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to accomplish,” Mr Trump said as he left for the Maryland retreat.
Those issues are reported to include:
Money, money, money
Specifically, how legislators can agree on funding the federal government for the current fiscal year. If they don’t do so before 19 January, there is a risk of a government shutdown.
Different Republicans have different priorities: for example, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, is keen to address a reform of welfare programmes.
On the other hand, Mr Trump and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, will push for funding to rebuild infrastructure, Reuters news agency reports.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security was widely reported on Friday to have asked for $18bn (£13.3bn) to complete a section of Mr Trump’s much-vaunted border wall with Mexico – though it is unclear if this will be discussed in the latest round of budget talks.
How to win in 2018
We are 10 months from congressional elections in the US – all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, and another 33 in the Senate.
Kevin McCarthy, the House of Representatives’ Majority Leader, is among the Republican leaders who will speak this weekend.
In an interview with Fox News this week, he said that the party of a first-time president always lost an average of 25 seats in the next House election after they were sworn in. The Republican majority in the House is only 24 seats, he warned.
Mr McConnell is expected to address the political landscape ahead of the Senate elections, Associated Press report.
It will be difficult to avoid discussing the victory of Democrat Doug Jones in last month’s Senate race in deeply conservative Alabama. Wider Democrat wins later in 2018 would make it much more difficult for Mr Trump and Republicans to push through their policies.
The agenda is not public, but various US media outlets have said the talks will also look at:
- Immigration: namely, what protection will be given to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children
- The opioid crisis: these drugs killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr Trump has promised to address the situation, but his “opioid czar” Kellyanne Conway does not appear to be at Camp David
What is the latest with the Wolff book?
Fire and Fury went on sale early on Friday, days ahead of its scheduled release, despite the president’s attempts to block its publication.
The book says:
- White House employees believed Mr Trump’s “mental powers were slipping”
- the Trump team was shocked and horrified by his election win
- his wife, Melania, was in tears of sadness on election night – though she has denied this
- the president’s son Donald Jr engaged in “treasonous” behaviour, according to former Trump aide Steve Bannon (claims denied by the Trumps)
Mr Bannon and the author have both been the target of the president’s ire over the past few days – the former cried when he lost his job last year, Mr Trump said; the latter had written a book “full of lies”, he added.
On Saturday morning, Mr Trump posted a series of tweets accusing rivals of trying to throw doubt on his mental wellbeing.
“Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he wrote.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN that he had “no reason to question” Mr Trump’s mental fitness.
He said Mr Trump was “not typical of presidents of the past”.
“I think that’s well recognised. That’s also though why the American people chose him,” he said.