■ The president tries to set the tone in an early-morning interview on “Fox and Friends.” He gives himself a grade of A so far.
■ Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, said he would break a nearly 30-year streak and not try to greet the president, citing policy differences.
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Here is what to keep an eye on:
Trump suggests anti-Semitic acts are ‘false-flag’ attacks
President Trump suggested on Tuesday that the recent spate of anti-Semitic bomb threats and cemetery vandalism could be politically coordinated attacks to “make people look bad” — an apparent suggestion that his opponents could be behind them.
Speaking at the White House to attorneys general from around the country, Mr. Trump was asked by Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, about the wave of attacks and how the federal government could work with state governments to confront the violence.
“First, he said the acts were reprehensible,” Mr. Shapiro, a Democrat who was elected to the post in November, said while recounting Mr. Trump’s response. “Second he said: ‘And you’ve got to be careful, it could be the reverse. This could be the reverse, trying to make people look bad.’ ”
The comments echoed the Twitter post of an adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, who suggested that Democrats were behind threats to Jewish community centers.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump was questioned for his seemingly reluctant denunciation of David Duke, the former Klansman who backed him, and for the onslaught of anti-Semitic hate from supporters on social media. At a news conference this month, Mr. Trump suggested that people who were holding up anti-Semitic signs at rallies were doing so to make him look bad.
“Some of it is written by our opponents,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “You do know that. Do you understand that?”
Approximately 100 tombstones were toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia this week, the second such attack in the city in the last month. Synagogues, community centers and cemeteries around the country have been targeted this year.
Democrats condemned Mr. Trump’s remarks on Tuesday and called for an apology.
“For millennia, Jews have not only endured unthinkable violence, but the subsequent denial of that violence,” said Eric Walker, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “For the president of the United States to insinuate that threats to Jewish community centers are illegitimate is truly beyond the pale.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism, said it was “astonished” by Mr. Trump’s sentiments and called on him to clarify his remarks.
Mr. Shapiro, speaking on the sidelines of the attorneys general conference, said that he was not entirely sure of what to make of Mr. Trump’s comments.
“I was a little surprised by it, and others were, too, Republicans and Democrats,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The question I asked was a genuine one and one of great concern to people in my state.”
Mr. Trump told the attorneys general that he planned to discuss the issue during his address to Congress on Tuesday night.
Trump: ‘I think I’ve done great things’
Mr. Trump gave his presidency an A so far in an interview broadcast Tuesday morning, but he added that he would only give himself a C for communicating how great he has been.
Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” which he has called one of his favorite shows, Mr. Trump blamed former President Barack Obama for organizing opposition against him, called Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, “incompetent” and gently criticized his own press secretary for how he has handled leaks.
The interview, shown just hours before Mr. Trump was to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress, set the stage for a day when he will have perhaps the biggest audience available to him for the rest of his first year in office. He highlighted his plans to increase military spending, tighten borders and replace Mr. Obama’s health care program, and he boasted that he had already brought back jobs to America.
“I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have — I and my people — I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public,” he said. “I think I get an A in terms of what I’ve actually done, but in terms of messaging, I’d give myself a C or a C-plus.”
He acknowledged that he did not have the support of a majority of Americans in polls, but he said those who do back him were more intense. “The love is great,” he said. “And I saw a poll where I was at 45 or 46 percent, but one of the things they said is that the level of enthusiasm for me is as strong as they’ve ever seen.”
Mr. Trump rejected criticism by Ms. Pelosi, who said that for all the sound and fury, the president had not actually accomplished much in his first month in office. “I’ve been watching Nancy’s tape, and so I think she’s incompetent, actually,” Mr. Trump said.
Asked by the Fox hosts if he thought Mr. Obama was responsible for some of the protests against his policies, Mr. Trump agreed but brushed it off. “I think he is behind it,” he said. “I also think it’s politics,” adding, “And look, I have a very thick skin.”
Mr. Trump, who has railed against leaks, said some of them had probably come from holdovers from the Obama administration. But he said his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was wrong to have brought a group of staff members into his office and inspect their cellphones in the presence of White House lawyers.
“Sean Spicer is a fine human being; he’s a fine person,” Mr. Trump said. “I would have done it differently. I would have gone one-on-one with different people.” He added: “I would have handled it differently than Sean. But Sean handles it his way, and I’m O.K. with it.”
Engel pledges: No handshake for Trump
For almost three decades, Representative Eliot L. Engel, a New York Democrat, has stood along the aisle of the House chamber for every presidential address to Congress, waiting to shake the president’s hand.
But on Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump will become the first president since 1989 to not receive a greeting from Mr. Engel.
As curious reporters mused whether Mr. Engel would repeat his annual ritual of claiming his seat long before the address begins, the lawmaker bypassed the prime empty aisle seat and a chance to shake hands with his fellow New Yorker.
Among other disagreements that factored into his decision to skip the handshake, Mr. Engel said, were Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and his attacks on the news media.
“The president needs to work with all people,” Mr. Engel said. “And therefore I will listen to what he has to say today, but I will not greet him and shake his hand.”
Mr. Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has been among Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics in the House, pressing for further investigations into the administration’s ties to Russia. In January Mr. Engel introduced legislation that would punish any foreign entity found to have intervened in a federal election.
Some Democrats planned to make a statement with their wardrobe as well: A group of female members planned to wear white, the color of the suffragist movement, in a signal to Mr. Trump on women’s rights.
Representative Lois Frankel of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, said on Twitter that the choice of attire symbolized “a pledge to protect women’s health, fair pay, paid leave & more!”
On crime and punishment
Based on the preview that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, gave reporters on Monday, Mr. Trump is expected to hark back to his “law and order” theme by promising more aggressive federal policing of gun crimes, drugs and other areas in response to a rise in violent crime in some big cities.
Crime is near historic lows nationwide and remains far below levels seen in the 1970s and ‘80s.
But Mr. Sessions, a former senator and prosecutor who was an important campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, told reporters he was worried that the increase in violence in some major cities, like Chicago and Baltimore, was “not a blip” and could signal “a longer-term trend.” Mr. Sessions gave speech of his own on that topic Tuesday morning to the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington.
Mr. Sessions said he wanted to let local police officers know “that they’re being supported” in Washington, and he suggested that morale was lagging in some departments because of a lack of federal leadership.
The buck stops where?
Mr. Trump will also be trying to affirm his role as commander in chief.
In the Fox interview, Mr. Trump described a raid in Yemen that left an American commando and a number of civilians dead as something that generals “wanted to do” and that was planned before he took office, drawing charges that he was deflecting responsibility for a mission he approved.
Mr. Trump was asked to respond to William Owens, father of Chief Petty Officer William Owens, 36, the Navy SEAL member who was killed in the Jan. 29 raid. Mr. Owens told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with the president when his son’s body was returned home, and asked why the new administration had rushed into a “stupid mission.”
“Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here,” Mr. Trump said. “This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals.”
Moments later, he reiterated that “this was something that they were looking at for a long time doing.”
His statement drew sharp responses from critics who said he was defying a long tradition of commanders shouldering responsibility for what happens under them.
“He’s the opposite of a `buck stops here’ president,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “Trump has a predilection for always blaming somebody else for what goes wrong.”
Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger who served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration, wrote on Twitter that in the Trump worldview, “Trump is responsible for all the victories, his team for all the defeats.”
Though he spoke of the Yemen mission not as his own, but as a project of “the generals,” Mr. Trump boasted, “My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe.” In fact, the military command consists almost entirely of people who were in their posts before he took office.
Democrats’ guests send anti-Trump message
Muslims. Immigrants. A recent detainee.
Officially, the Democratic rebuttal to Mr. Trump’s speech will come from Steven L. Beshear, the former governor of Kentucky, who will defend the Affordable Care Act.
But inside the House chamber where Mr. Trump will speak, Democrats plan to assemble a cadre of human symbols, bringing as guests several people imperiled by the president’s policies. Eschewing wide-scale boycotts of the speech — a feature of Mr. Trump’s inaugural address — members of Congress have used their invitations as another form of protest.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is bringing an Iraqi refugee who settled in the state in 2010 and is now an American citizen. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez of New York invited Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who worked as a translator for American forces in Iraq and was detained last month at Kennedy International Airport under the Trump administration’s travel ban. Other guests include undocumented immigrants who were protected from deportation under Mr. Obama, an Iranian graduate student and the founder of the Syrian Community Network.