A week ago we learned that Trump is feeling emboldened to rely on his instincts and ignore his advisors. He believes he has learned to navigate Washington and that “a lot of…what hasn’t worked, is that he wasn’t allowed to be Trump.” Although there is no evidence that either proposition is true, this week Trump continued implementing his new approach.
At about that same time as the emboldened report, Trump tweeted that “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.” Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, then called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to terminate Mueller’s investigation. In response, outgoing Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”
Shortly after, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), said that the House Intelligence Committee had indeed found “evidence of collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia regarding the 2016 U.S. elections, despite Republican claims to the contrary.
Perhaps not by coincidence, on Monday we learned that Trump plans to hire a new attorney, Joseph E. diGenova, for Trump’s Russia-investigation legal team. DiGenova has advocated the unfounded theory that FBI officials have framed Trump. Trump hired diGenova because Trump wants to be more confrontational in dealing with Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation into collusion with Russia.
Outside of criticism by Republicans like Gowdy who have announced they are not seeking reelection, Republican reaction to threats to fire Mueller was timid. Republicans refused to consider legislation to protect Mueller’s investigation. That timidity is expected to encourage Trump.
If Mueller is fired, MoveOn is sponsoring demonstrations in hundreds of cities across the U.S., with a website showing the locations and times that the demonstrations will occur after the firing.
On Tuesday, despite his national security advisors telling him in all capital letters “DO NOT CONGRATULATE”, Trump publicly congratulated Russian President Vladmir Putin on Putin’s re-election. Criticism was immediate and fierce. Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ) stated that “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.” Unless, of course, that President is Donald J. Trump.
Then, despite warnings from the business community, on Thursday Trump announced massive tariffs against Chinese imports. Fearing a trade war that will devastate the economy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 700 points Thursday and another 400 points Friday.
Then on Friday we learned that Trump will replace his (second) National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, with super hawk John R. Bolton. McMaster was one of the “adults” in the White House keeping Trump under control. Bolton, in contrast, has long called for military action against Iran and North Korea. More specifically, Bolton advocates a military first strike against North Korea. Assuming that did not set off a nuclear war at least on the Korean peninsula, any non-nuclear response by North Korea would still cause the deaths of tens of thousands of South Koreans in Seoul as well as American troops stationed there. Seoul is within easy artillery and missile range for North Korea.
Bolton also wants to terminate the six-country agreement preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and bomb Iran instead. Iran’s nuclear facilities are built under mountains and relatively safe from attack; terminating the agreement would cause Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program. Further, ending the agreement with Iran would allow Trump to use American forces in Syria and Iraq to attack militias affiliated with Iran there.
Despite all this, somehow the House and Senate managed to pass a $1.3 trillion budget bill needed to prevent a government shutdown. Trump threatened to veto the bill because it did not include $25 billion for his wall on the Mexican border. Democrats refused to include that unless a path to citizenship was guaranteed for the Dreamers. Trump refused, although the final bill did contain $1.6 billion for improving barriers on the Mexico border. Ultimately, Trump signed the bill on Friday after complaining bitterly.
Given the Democrats’ minority positions in the House and Senate, they did well. Defense spending favored by Republicans increased by $80 billion, but Democrats were able to obtain a $63 billion increase in domestic spending. That included increases in funding for the opioid epidemic, infrastructure, medical research and veterans’ programs.
Despite Trump wanting to cut the budget for the IRS – not surprising given questions over his taxes – the IRS received a $196 million year-to-year increase. The bill also included $380 million to improve state election security and $300 million for the FBI to combat Russian hacking. Finally it contained full funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
One supposes Trump now has enough money to fire Robert Mueller.