Wednesday, June 28, 2017


President Trump wasn't much help to Senate Republicans as they tried to ram through their McConnellcare bill this week -- not surprising when you consider the fact that Trump, according to The New York Times, lacks even a basic understanding of the bill:
Until Tuesday’s meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump had spoken with only a few members of the Senate, according to an administration official....

A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.
On that subject, Trump seems a tad defensive:

That tweet provoked this response:

Obviously Trump could never do that. What Trump and his allies did this month was attack a GOP moderate who's vulnerable to defeat in 2018, a move that infuriated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
Over the weekend, Mr. McConnell made clear his unhappiness to the White House after a “super PAC” aligned with Mr. Trump started an ad campaign against Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, after he said last week that he opposed the health care bill.

The majority leader — already rankled by Mr. Trump’s tweets goading him to change Senate rules to scuttle Democratic filibusters — called the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to complain that the attacks were “beyond stupid,” according to two Republicans with knowledge of the tense exchange.
According to Politico, McConnell is upset with Trump for other reasons:
McConnell has also been stewing about another race: the Alabama Senate primary, which has turned into a personal priority for the majority leader. For weeks, McConnell and top political aides had been asking the Republican National Committee to release coordinated funding to help newly appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who is trying to fend off a large field of GOP primary opponents in a late summer special election....

Yet after weeks of requests, no RNC expenditures have been granted, and Senate Republican strategists began to wonder whether the requests had simply been lost in a bureaucratic logjam — or worse, whether the anti-establishment president was reluctant to have the national party wade into a contested primary.
This is happening even though one of the top potential challengers to Strange, Mo Brooks, attacked Trump during the presidential campaign, although he's now a Trump backer:
“I think what you are going to see 12 to 18 months from now is that a lot of people who have supported Donald Trump, they are going to regret having done so,” Brooks told MSNBC in February 2016, one day before the pivotal Super Tuesday primaries.

“For those of us who believe in certain things like border security, like a stronger economy, like a strong national defense, like low taxes, like moral values, you’re going to find that on a significant number of those issues, Donald Trump is not going to do what people think he’s going to do.”

... “I don’t support people who support adultery and I don’t trust people who are serial adulterers, as Donald Trump has been and bragged about in writing, because I don’t think that is an honorable thing or trait in a person.”
What else about Trump has ticked McConnell off?
Trump has already complicated the GOP’s 2018 candidate recruitment plans, dating back to just before the inauguration, when the president nominated Montana Republican Ryan Zinke to the Interior secretary post. McConnell had been pursuing Zinke for months, viewing the congressman as a prized recruit who could defeat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018, and had met with him to discuss a possible race. Top party strategists had reviewed polling data suggesting that Zinke would start out the contest in a virtual dead heat with the incumbent.

When he found out that Trump was about to tap Zinke for the Cabinet post, McConnell launched a late effort to get him to reconsider.... It didn’t work.

McConnell had been pushing the White House to appoint a pair of red-state Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2018, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, to Cabinet positions — a gambit that would have improved the GOP’s odds of seizing their seats.

Yet Trump ignored the advice. While Manchin and Heitkamp were invited to Trump Tower ... neither was tapped.
In Arizona, where Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, is facing a difficult reelection, Trump-fueled primary worries are intensifying. Prior to the 2016 election, Trump vented openly about Flake’s criticism of him — at one point, backstage before a campaign rally in Arizona, telling top aides animatedly that he wanted to find a Republican opponent to challenge the senator in 2018, according to two people familiar with the exchange. The administration’s anger at Flake has flared anew amid his criticism of the president’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.

Flake has already drawn a Trump-friendly primary opponent in former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and two other allies of the president — Trump 2016 campaign COO Jeff DeWit and former state GOP chair Robert Graham — could also try to unseat him.
But while Trump comes in for a lot of criticism in these stories, there's a great deal of praise for Mike Pence. From the Times story:
... over the past few weeks, the Senate Republican leadership has made it known that it would much rather negotiate with Mr. Pence than a president whose candidacy many did not even take seriously during the 2016 primaries.
And from Politico:
Among party operatives, there is extensive praise reserved for Vice President Mike Pence, who has emerged as the administration’s de facto ambassador to Republicans planning for next year’s races.

Pence has begun promoting the party’s Senate contenders. During a stop in West Virginia, Pence asked to take a photo with GOP Rep. Evan Jenkins, who is challenging Manchin, and then posted the picture on his Twitter feed, accompanied by the caption: “Enjoyed seeing Rep. @EvanJenkinsWV while visiting Charleston, WV today. Thanks to his leadership we will Make America Great Again.”
You know, guys, there's a simple solution to your problem. Let's spell it together: I - M - P - E - A ...

It's hard to imagine congressional Republicans embracing the notion of removing the president from office -- not when Trump continues to have 80% job approval among Republicans, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. But is it conceivable that McConnell and company will start cooperating a bit more with investigations into Trump, at least sub rosa? It seems to me that they'd be crazy not to. They can see Trump is a dead loss for them. They can see that Pence is much more competent. What are they waiting for?

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