30, July 2017
US President Donald Trump has just had one of the worst weeks of his presidency, highlighted by humiliating attacks against his attorney general, infighting among White House advisers, a major change of staff, and the failure to overhaul the healthcare system.
The backlash started last week when Trump publicly humiliated Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “very weak,” hoping the top lawyer would buckle under pressure and resign. Senate Republicans were quick to come to their former colleague’s defense, urging Sessions to stand his ground. They forced Trump to back off by threatening to block any effort to replace Sessions.
The president is furious that Sessions recused himself from the ongoing investigation into the alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. However, experts say going to these lengths to verbally abuse the attorney general betrays Trump’s sense of frustration with his inability to shut down a probe that has bedeviled his presidency.
Then came the bizarre series of tweets declaring that the US military would no longer accept transgender personnel, practically attempting to change military policy on Twitter without notifying his military generals. Trump’s surprise declaration, which appeared to pre-empt an ongoing Pentagon review into the issue, drew sharp rebuke from the nation’s senior officers.
“I hope our commander in chief understands that we don’t transmit orders via Twitter, and that he can’t, either,” a senior officer told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. “Even if this were an order, implementing it legally would take considerable time, if it’s even possible.”
America’s top military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, told the armed forces on Thursday there had been no change to the current policy.
Congressional Republicans also backed the president into a corner by their veto-proof passage of legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia, undercutting Trump’s efforts to improve relations with the Cold War adversary. Knowing that a Trump veto would be easily overridden, the White House announced that the president intended to sign the bill, which also includes sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
The turmoil spilled into public when Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, launched an obscenity-laced rant against then chief of staff Reince Priebus. In a sign that major change was needed, Trump then terminated Priebus and installed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to take command.
Above all, Trump suffered his biggest legislative setback to date, when three Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in rejecting a measure to replace and repeal Obamacare. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose recent medical procedure had delayed a vote on health care, sided with Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and effectively killed the so-called “skinny repeal” package.
Hill staffers braced themselves for Trump to take out his anger on McCain, a former Trump antagonist, but the president surprisingly kept his cool on that front. Instead, he warned the entire Congress that healthcare “bailouts” for insurers and lawmakers would soon end unless they pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon.
Strategists are wondering whether this past week would mark the beginning of Republicans standing up to a president, whose run for the White House they so reluctantly backed in the first place.
“Anyone in a position of responsibility in GOP politics is quickly losing patience with President Trump,” Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, told The New York Times. “The dysfunction is beyond strange; it’s dangerous.”
“If Trump’s poll numbers were above 50 percent,” Conant continued, “healthcare reform would have passed. Instead, he’s spent more time responding to cable-TV chatter than rallying support for his agenda.”