THE MORNING PLUM:
If Democrats vote in insufficient numbers for the short-term funding bill, and the government shuts down, the culprit will be easy to identify. It will lie in the bottomless bad faith coming from President Trump, his hard-line anti-immigration advisers and some Republicans — and with Trump’s openly advertised racism and white nationalism.
As of now, it remains unclear whether Republicans have the votes to pass a one-month spending bill in the House, where it will likely have almost no Democratic support, because it punts on a solution to the “dreamers,” after Trump rejected a bipartisan deal that would have protected them. In the Senate, Republicans probably will need around a dozen Democrats to pass it, and it’s unclear whether Democrats will supply those votes.
Republicans are already losing their own: Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Mike Rounds (S.D.) have announced they will vote against the funding bill. A Senate Democratic aide tells me that there is broad recognition among Democrats that the way to maintain their leverage is to refrain from bailing Republicans out of this predicament, though individual Senate Democrats will be making their own decisions.
And let’s be clear: This predicament is the creation of Trump and Republicans. There is no reasonable way to read the available facts and the narrative leading up to this point and conclude otherwise. Any other rendering of them basically borders on disinformation.
Those facts are plain. The dispute is not over whether to protect the “dreamers” — which Trump himself and leading Republicans have said they want to see happen; it is over what Trump will gain in return for signing a bill doing that. Thus, the question is whether Trump has been offered reasonable concessions in exchange for that — or whether his motives in rejecting them are unreasonable or unacceptable, or demonstrate undeniable bad faith.
To understand why the latter conclusion is inescapable, let’s return to the genesis of this whole situation. Back in August, before Trump ended the Obama-era executive action protecting the dreamers, the White House hatched a scheme to use them as a bargaining chip to pressure Congress into passing a raft of hard-line immigration proposals, including cuts to legal immigration. In other words, while he’d temporarily end their legal protections, Trump had decided he wanted the dreamers to stay but would use their uncertain fate to pressure Democrats into accepting things they would otherwise reject.
Trump has since confirmed that he agrees that failing to protect the dreamers is crazy as a matter of policy, but has continued to demand concessions in exchange for it. This month, Trump publicly asked bipartisan lawmakers to “come up with a solution” that protects the dreamers but also secures the border (in part by adding to the border wall), ends family-based immigration and the diversity visa lottery system. Trump said: “If you do, I’m going to sign that solution.”
Republicans and Democrats then negotiated a good-faith deal that did what Trump asked them to do. True, it does not give Trump everything he wants. In exchange for legalizing the dreamers, it only nixes family-based migration for their parents, and only cuts the visas awarded through the diversity program by half, reorienting them to people with Temporary Protected Status. But this might disqualify as many as half a million parents of dreamers who might otherwise have achieved legalization. It diverts visas away from new immigrants to TPS-protected people who would stay anyway if Trump were not rolling that program back. And it gives Trump billions in border security. The deal does give Trump some of what he wants — in exchange, again, for doing what Trump himself wants to see happen, i.e., protecting the dreamers.
We now know why Trump rejected this deal. Thanks to his leaked comment that he wants more people from countries such as Norway rather than from “shithole countries,” it’s clear he rejected it because it does not sufficiently conform to his white nationalist agenda. Though he denied the comment, The Post reported that Trump did, in fact, privately reject the compromise because it would result in more people coming “from countries he deemed undesirable.”
Republicans who defend Trump’s position in this standoff, then, are also defending Trump’s rejection of the deal on those grounds. What’s more, The Post also reported that hard-liners such as Stephen Miller, as well as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), cynically talked Trump into believing that the deal would sell out his base, a laughable argument that Trump has now adopted as his own motive. And Trump is now tweeting that “if there is no Wall, there is no Deal!” Trump is not only rejecting a deal that gives him some of what he wants; he’s also saying the government should shut down if he doesn’t get his wall.
To be fair, there are plenty of Republicans who would like Trump to accept this deal. But GOP leaders are adopting a strategy of passing a short-term bill premised on the gamble that Democrats will prove too skittish about a shutdown to stand up for the dreamers. And if Democrats don’t stand up for them now, why would their leverage increase later? Republicans are banking on Dems capitulating in the face of Team Trump’s bottomless bad faith in addressing the fates of hundreds of thousands of blameless people facing the prospect of uprooted lives, a stance that is rooted in openly advertised white nationalism. So Democrats have to stand firm — because that’s what they’ll be standing firm against.
* WORLD APPROVAL OF U.S. LEADERSHIP DROPS: A new Gallup report finds that during Trump’s first year, world approval of U.S. leadership dropped to a new low of 34 percent, down 18 points from President Barack Obama’s final year:
The losses in U.S. leadership approval may have implications on U.S. influence abroad. With its stable approval rating of 41 percent, Germany has replaced the U.S. as the top-rated global power in the world. The U.S. is now on nearly even footing with China (31 percent) and barely more popular than Russia (27 percent) — two countries that Trump sees as rivals seeking to “challenge American influence, values and wealth.”
But Trumpists will just proclaim that this global dissatisfaction proves Trump is putting “America First.”
* TRUMP HEADS TO PENNSYLVANIA: Trump will meet today with Rick Saccone, the GOP candidate in a House special election near Pittsburgh. Trump carried the district by nearly 20 points, but the Associated Press notes:
The White House said Trump won’t mention Rick Saccone in his remarks. And the event isn’t actually in the 18th Congressional District … the White House would confirm only that Saccone will greet the president at the airport and attend Trump’s tour of a local factory.
Given Trump’s abysmal approval ratings, Republicans can’t be too careful, it seems.
* TRUMP IS ‘VERY EAGER’ TO TALK TO MUELLER: Trump lawyer Ty Cobb tells CBS News’s Major Garrett that the president is “very eager” to talk to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and that Team Trump wants to get “the facts out.” Also:
Cobb said if Mueller did interview Mr. Trump, it could be a perjury trap — that is, a situation in which his story does not match the evidence — something Cobb said [was] “foolish” not to consider. But Cobb said he has known Mueller for a long time, and doesn’t believe that is his aim.
Perhaps the fact that Trump is a serial liar who has actively tried to frustrate the probe in multiple ways also puts him at risk. If Trump is so eager, surely he’ll agree to an open-ended interview.
* CONSERVATIVES MAY ENABLE SHUTDOWN: CNN reports that some House conservatives may vote against a short-term bill funding the government, meaning GOP leaders may not have the votes without Democrats. And:
Asked about [conservatives] planning to oppose the bill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California tweaked his GOP colleagues, saying “they want a shutdown? I don’t think they’d want to shut down.”
Well, at least McCarthy is admitting that if the government shuts down, conservative Republicans will be to blame for it, meaning this is all on the GOP.
* RETIREMENTS MAY HELP DEMOCRATS: Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball reports that as of now, there are 46 House seats with no incumbent running, which is higher than the postwar average:
The current list of retirees includes 31 Republicans and 15 Democrats. … Of the 46, the Crystal Ball rates 18 as competitive. The seats likeliest to flip generally are held by Republicans. In order to win the House, Democrats should net a half-dozen or more seats out of the total number of open seats. … they still will need to defeat somewhere around 15-20 GOP House incumbents to win a majority. But that is not that high of a number historically.
And of course, if the political environment continues to deteriorate, more GOP retirements are likely.
* KELLY’S JOB IS TO TUTOR ‘ILL-INFORMED PRESIDENT’: Yesterday, White House chief of staff John Kelly told Democrats that Trump’s call for a big, beautiful wall is “uninformed.” The New York Times adds:
In telling lawmakers that Mr. Trump had essentially erred from the start in promoting a wall and by claiming credit for dissuading him, Mr. Kelly appeared to be voicing a sentiment some in the West Wing have heard him express privately — that it is his job to tutor a sometimes ill-informed president who has never served in public office before.
The Times also reports that Kelly has prevailed on Trump to stop fixating on the need for a wall or that Mexico will pay for it. How long will that last? Well …
* TRUMP WATERS DOWN DEMAND FOR WALL: Good morning, Mr. President:
In other words, Trump is laying the groundwork to redefine border security money as a “win” on the wall and recasting his vow to make Mexico pay for it as … well, it’s unclear what he thinks he’s doing on that front. But he’s winning!