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In unusual White House appearance, Trump pretends he's winning

Trump believes his base supports his shutdown -- and for this president, that's the only national constituency that matters.
President Donald Trump speaks in the press briefing room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks in the press briefing room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in Washington.

In a way, Donald Trump sort of appeared in the White House press briefing room once before -- just not in person. Exactly one year ago today, Trump delivered brief remarks to reporters, but he did so in a pre-recorded video message, which was aired on the briefing room's screens.

It was odd and a little creepy. The president wanted to say something to reporters, but instead of walking the short distance between the Oval Office and the briefing room, Trump delivered the message in a "Wizard of Oz" sort of way.

One year to the day later, however, Trump actually spoke from the briefing room's podium.

President Donald Trump took to the White House briefing room Thursday to tell reporters that he is winning a fight over funding for his promised border wall that has kept parts of the government shut down for nearly two weeks."I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control, and for frankly, the wall or the barrier," Trump said in his first remarks ever in the briefing room. "I have never had anything like it in terms of calls coming in, in terms of people writing in, and tweeting and doing whatever they have to do.""I have never had this much support, and we've done some things that as you know, have been very popular," he added.

The unexpected briefing lasted just nine minutes, and once it was over, Trump fled the room, refusing to answer any questions from the assembled reporters.

There are a few relevant angles to the bizarre spectacle. The first is the motivation behind the surprise appearance: Trump was no doubt aware of the fact that the new House Democratic majority was receiving all kinds of attention, the president who enjoys the spotlight a little too much very likely looked for a way to get the cameras to turn back at him.

The second is what we saw when the cameras did exactly that. As House Democrats brought a historic level of diversity to Congress, Trump appeared in the briefing room with four immigration officials -- all of whom looked eerily similar.

But even putting these relevant details aside, what was especially striking was Trump pretending that he's winning the shutdown fight.

The president gushed about all of the "support" he's received for his hostage strategy, despite the fact that all independent evidence shows that the American mainstream opposes his gambit, and Trump's approval rating has declined accordingly.

Of course, what the Republican means is that his base is pleased, which, for this president, is the only national constituency that matters.