Trump Readies His Riskiest Gambit Yet
We Don’t Think He’s Bluffing This Time About A Government Shutdown For One Big Reason: “The Wall”
While there’s no guarantee Democrats will flip the House or Senate, if they do, Trump’s hopes for getting full funding for his wall are kaput. And that may be a chance he’s not willing to take. As we’ve said before, the importance to him of the border wall is consistently underestimated. We believe to him, it’s his legacy. It’s what he’ll leave behind with his name on it. Which is after all, what he does and what’s been most important to him all his life.
It’s also why Trump continues to insist on full-funding for the wall up-front, which he so far has not received. Congress has only allocated about 6% of Trump’s estimates of the full cost.
Therefore, while the President has called for a “good shutdown” several times before, and not gone through with it, this time we believe there’s a good chance he will. Even though it’s fraught with political risk since it could come a scant 5 weeks before this year’s midterm elections. (Of course, Congress might not be up for a budget fight that close to the election, and could pass a short-term spending bill as it has in the past, but Trump would still have to sign that).
Trump mentions other changes to immigration law in his Tweet, but the wall is clearly front and center. And remember Trump himself was willing to do a deal when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered him full funding for the wall only, and we believe the President has regretted not doing it, and instead letting his people talk him into pressing for more.
Also, when it came time to pass an omnibus spending bill earlier this year, and very little of the wall funding was in it, Trump signed it grudgingly, with a warning it left such a bitter taste in his mouth he’d never do it again.
We’ve also seen a more emboldened Trump in the past weeks and months: on North Korea, on NATO, on tariffs. We’d could almost respect him for that, except most of the time he’s leaving leaving so much immediate or potential damage in his wake.
The emboldened Trump could also still fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He brought back an old refrain this weekend about Mueller’s “conflicts of interest” which include something about how Mueller was miffed that Trump didn’t pick him to be F.B.I. Director. And unless there’s something new we don’t know about, the “nasty and contentious business relationship” Trump refers to in the Tweet below is some nonsense about a dispute over a golf club membership.
At the same time, those are the same reasons he gave when — according to the New York Times — he ordered Mueller fired a little over a year ago, but then backed off when his Chief White House Counsel threatened to quit.
Trump apparently can’t imagine anybody acting for any reason other than naked or hidden self-interest.
While the “conventional wisdom” is Trump will not fire Mueller unless and until Republicans hold both the House and Senate in the midterms, there’s a possibility he could try to pull something sooner. The Senate was scheduled to go on recess August 4th for a month, but is now sticking around for a lot of the month in order to 1) try to get more Republican-backed Judicial appointments done (also “just-in-case” ahead of the midterms) and 2) hurt vulnerable Democratic incumbents by keeping them tied to Washington while their Republican opponents are out campaigning. There are many more Democrats than Republicans up for re-election in the Senate.
At any rate, the House is already off through Labor Day. So it’s really too late for Congress to legislatively pre-empt Trump from doing anything, for instance by passing a law that would make it more difficult for the President to fire Mueller. Of course, another thing Republican leadership could still do (but probably won’t) is vow to hire Mueller immediately as Independent Counsel (reporting to Congress), should Trump fire him as Special Counsel (reporting to the Attorney General, or in this case the Deputy Attorney General).
When we see a Tweet like the one immediately below from Trump all we think is “and he goes around calling other people hysterical”? At the same time, if you aren’t following the Mueller investigation closely, and this is all you see and hear, we can see how it might seem to start making a little sense.
Or maybe you just don’t care enough about the Mueller investigation to care enough if it goes away.
One of our Trump supporter friends tried to take another crack at explaining it to us this weekend. “Russia is nothing” he insisted, “compared to all the great things [Trump] is doing for our country.”