Perhaps we should not be surprised by the flurry of unforced errors. President Trump has little relevant experience, zero curiosity in policy and a rotten temperament that suggests he is divorced from reality. His staff is a mix of ideological extremists and party hacks, none with White House experience. His 30-something daughter and son-in-law have no public experience, either. How did you think this was going to work?
On Thursday, the administration was dealt a body blow when former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn let it be known that he was seeking immunity in exchange for testifying. One wonders: Immunity from what crime? And what has he got to tell us?
Trump’s travel ban had yet another setback this week. (“A judge in Hawaii has extended a broad block on President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, turning aside pleas from the federal government to narrow or drop an earlier order forbidding the president from implementing key parts of his plan.”) It might earn the distinction of the least successful executive order of all time. Maybe it is time to put a halt to the charade. If they needed a new “extreme vetting,” they should have come up with it by now. Things are not going well, then, with the judicial branch.
Scores of executive-branch appointments have yet to be made. The State Department took a two-week hiatus from briefings. One doesn’t have the sense that the White House is capable of filling most, let alone all, of the vacancies.
Over in the legislative branch, a veritable civil war has broken out between Trump and the ultra-conservatives in the House. “Regardless of how self-destructive and dumb the Freedom Caucus can be when they’re trying to get to the ‘X,’ Trump launching a war with them puts them, and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, in a terrible position,” GOP veteran consultant Rick Wilson tells me. “Is he going to stick with Trump and shaft almost 60 members of his caucus? Or go to war with Trump? It’s a train wreck that ran off the rails into a line of clown cars.”
Meanwhile, Trump surrogate and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has discredited himself and been caught telling falsehoods about his trip to the White House. The Post reports:
At least three senior White House officials, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved in the handling of intelligence files that were shared with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and showed that Trump campaign officials were swept up in U.S. surveillance of foreign nationals, according to U.S. officials.
The White House role in the matter contradicts assertions by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and adds to mounting concerns that the Trump administration is collaborating with the leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In other words, three White House employees used Nunes to disclose information they thought might help defend the president’s groundless conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama “wiretapped” him. (Do we really think these three acted without direction or consent from higher-ups?)
What Congress did manage to pass and now heads to the president’s desk is horrifically unpopular:
Congressional Republicans are facing widespread outrage after advancing a bill that will overturn privacy protections for internet users.
The bill narrowly passed the Senate by two votes and the House by 10. Now it heads to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.
The measure blocks rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration that restrict what internet service providers can do with their customers’ data. Those companies would be required to get consumers’ express permission before using or sharing “sensitive” data for advertising.
The rule’s definition of sensitive data includes users’ browsing history, app usage and financial and medical information. . . .
Some Republicans appeared to have realized the political baggage that comes with being seen as anti-privacy. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), who has become a Democratic target after Hillary Clinton won his district in November, was one of 15 House Republicans who voted against the bill.
“In the 21st Century, Americans deeply value their privacy when it comes to digital content,” Yoder said in a statement Tuesday. “We don’t want the government having access to our information without our consent, and the same goes for private business.”
“These digital privacy protections put in place by the FCC are commonsense measures similar to long-standing rules that apply to phone companies that will simply ensure internet users can continue to have control over their personal information.”
You’d think that would be obvious to his colleagues.
And now Republicans mostly have moved on to tax reform. Whether the Freedom Caucus wants to give the president any help remains to be seen. What we do know is that the cornerstone of the House tax plan is the border-adjustment tax that has been soundly rejected by a significant number of GOP senators. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is the latest to throw cold water on the idea. The Columbus Dispatch reports:
In an interview today with CNBC, the Ohio Republican said while he recognizes “some of the economic reasons” for a border tax, he urges lawmakers to “go for a more traditional approach” that would include lowering the income tax rates and make the tax code simpler.
Portman’s decision all but dooms efforts to rely on money raised from an import tax to finance even steep reductions in the corporate income tax. Portman joins a number of GOP senators who are opposed to the tax.
As with the health-care bill, the House might be asked — by the president who threatened its members — to make a series of hard choices on a tax bill, take heat from voters and not come close to passing anything for the president’s signature.
Trump most definitely is not “winning.” He’s failing and flailing, shedding support from voters and alienating allies he desperately needs. An outbreak of backstabbing and skin-saving seems about to begin. (Trump’s lack of loyalty to underlings suggests that they will be equally unwilling to protect their boss.)
No wonder Trump has always worked in a family business. His dependents never cross him and can never resign — and he never has to tell shareholders or the public how badly he flopped.