WaPo’s Robert Costa, AP’s Jonathan Lemire, former DOJ spox Matt Miller, NBC’s Carol Lee, and MSNBC contributor Karine Jean-Pierre on the divide within the Republican party over Trump’s continued attacks on the late Sen. John McCain
The trade war between the United States and China showed no signs of yielding on Thursday, as Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told lawmakers there was no clear path to resolution and Beijing blasted the administration over its approach.
Mr. Mnuchin, who has tried to avoid calling the trade tensions with China a “war,” said talks with Beijing had “broken down” and suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions. President Trump, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, described the trade talks with China as a “nasty” battle.
.. “The administration needs to explain to Congress where this is all headed,” Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the committee’s chairman, told Manisha Singh, an assistant secretary at the State Department, as she prepared to testify.
“To my knowledge, not a single person is able to articulate where this is headed, nor what the plans are, nor what the strategy is,” Mr. Corker said.
.. China has also had difficulty figuring out whom to negotiate with, after tentative agreements reached with Mr. Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, fell through.
“I think they’re coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter whether Mnuchin or Ross or anybody is in the front of the line, that it’s really going to be figuring out what Trump wants,”
.. “For the purpose of meeting domestic political needs and suppressing China’s development, the U.S. has fabricated a set of policy arguments that distort the truth about Sino-U.S. economic and trade relations.”
It would be difficult to overestimate the meaning of Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress even as he occupies the office of Speaker of the House. So let’s estimate.
Twice in the past three years, the sitting Speaker has walked away from the office. Ryan only became Speaker because John Boehner, his predecessor, quit rather than suffer through a challenge from the bomb throwers in the Republican House conference. There’s no precedent for this in American history. The Speakership has been one of the most powerful offices in the world. Now it’s apparently more agony than ecstasy for a Republican.
.. A Republican likely won’t be elected speaker after the 2018 midterms. Ryan’s decision suggests he and others have seen enough internal data to know their capacity to hold their 23-seat majority is slipping away.
.. That makes 42 GOP retirements among the 237 Republican members of the 115th Congress—a number vastly higher than any recent Congress’s.
.. the Ryan retirement isn’t just a sign. It’s like a fireball from the sky. And it will occasion more retreats and embolden more Democrats.
.. the GOP is Trump’s party now, not Ryan’s.
.. His mercurial nature and habit of punching down have combined with general GOP support for Trump personally to prevent any such rump from emerging in the Congress. He’s already claimed the scalps of two Republican senators—Bob Corker and Jeff Flake—who attempted to do just that. How did their standing athwart Trump help them or anyone?
.. some of the GOP’s wonkier agenda items are being implemented by the Trump administration–notably, in the sphere of deregulation. So, yes, it’s Trump’s party, but there’s an extent to which it’s also Ryan’s party, the conservative policy wonk’s party. Except, of course, for two big things.
The first big thing is entitlement reform, which is the issue nearest to Ryan’s heart.
.. No matter what happens, no matter the growth of the economy or the glories of #MAGA, the remorseless logic of the actuarial charts showing the government going bankrupt from the cost of Medicare and Medicaid sometime around 2030 is unyielding
.. The second big thing is the massive federal deficit, which is projected to stay above the $1 trillion mark for God knows how long. The bitter irony here is that the Tea Party–whose ab nihilo existence began the Republican resurgence in the House and Senate, and whose anti-Establishment ethos was the precursor to Trump–was obsessed with the idea that Barack Obama was breaking the bank, and rightly so. Now, the Tea Party forms the hard schist of the Republican base, and it’s clearly decided not to hold Trump accountable
Since the beginning of this nightmare administration, we’ve been assured — via well-placed anonymous sources — that a few sober, trustworthy people in the White House were checking Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims. A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country. Through strategic leaks they presented themselves as guardians of American democracy rather than collaborators in its undoing.
.. Last August, after the president said there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Va., senior officials rationalized their continued role in the administration to Mike Allen of Axios. “If they weren’t there, they say, we would have a trade war with China, massive deportations, and a government shutdown to force construction of a Southern wall,”
.. Since then, we’ve had a government shutdown over immigration, albeit a brief one. A trade war appears imminent. Arrests of undocumented immigrants — particularly those without criminal records — have continued to surge.
.. Over the past 14 months we’ve also seen monstrous levels of corruption and chaos, a plummeting of America’s standing in the world and the obliteration of a host of democratic norms. Yet things could always be worse; the economy is doing well and Trump has not yet started any real wars.
The former Deputy National Security Adviser
- Dina Powell left in January.
- Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, announced his resignation on March 6. Secretary of State
- Rex Tillerson was terminated by tweet on Tuesday. National Security Adviser
- H. R. McMaster will reportedly be among the next to go, and Trump may soon fire Attorney General
- Jeff Sessions, possibly as a prelude to shutting down the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Adding to the tumult, a parade of lesser officials have either quit or been fired, including the White House communications director
- Hope Hicks, staff secretary
- Rob Porter and Trump’s personal aide
- John McEntee.
The self-styled grown-ups are, for the most part, being replaced by lackeys and ideologues. Larry Kudlow, the CNBC pundit Trump has appointed to succeed Cohn, is known for the consistent wrongness of his predictions.
.. John Roberts of Fox News reported that McMaster could be replaced by uberhawk John Bolton, who last month wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” (Bolton has described proposed talks between Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea as an opportunity to deliver a harsh ultimatum.)
.. This new stage of unbound Trumpism might make the administration’s first year look stable in comparison. That would partly vindicate the adults’ claims that things would be even messier without them. But it would also mean that by protecting the country from the consequences of an unhinged president, they helped Trump consolidate his power while he learned how to transcend restraints.
Whatever their accomplishments, if from their privileged perches these people saw the president as a dangerous fool in need of babysitting, it’s now time for some of them to say so publicly... That logic, however, only holds for those who remain on decent terms with Trump. Which means that if there’s one person who has no excuse for not speaking out, it’s Tillerson, once one of the most powerful private citizens in America, now humbled and defiled by his time in Trump’s orbit... “Rex is never going to be back in a position where he can have any degree of influence or respect from this president,” my Republican source said. Because of that, the source continued, “Rex is under a moral mandate to do his best to burn it down.” That would mean telling the truth “about how concerned he is about the leadership in the Oval Office, and what underpins those concerns and what he’s seen.”.. patriotism and self-interest point in the same direction... If Tillerson came out and said that the president is unfit, and perhaps even that venal concerns for private gain have influenced his foreign policy, impeachment wouldn’t begin tomorrow, but Trump’s already narrow public support would shrink further... Republican members of Congress like Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, might be induced to rediscover their spines and perform proper oversight.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “declare war.”
.. In practice, however, it seems as if the rule is observed mainly in the breach. In the post–World War II era, American forces have been committed time and again even in offensive military actions without even the slightest effort to obtain congressional authorization.
.. The latest example occurred on April 6, 2017, when President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons
.. Unless there is classified information we don’t yet know, a strike of this nature is exactly the kind of military action that should require congressional approval.
.. We were not at war with Syria. We were not acting in immediate self-defense of our nation. We were not fulfilling a Senate-ratified treaty obligation.
.. Shrugging off the Constitution is a bipartisan practice.
- Who can forget President Obama’s strikes against Libya? He ordered offensive military action against a sovereign nation without a declaration of war.
- While George W. Bush obtained congressional authorization for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his predecessor,
- Bill Clinton, launched extended aerial campaigns in the former Yugoslavia with no congressional vote.
years of presidential overreach, congressional inaction, and partisan bickering have jeopardized our constitutional structure. We are steadily moving away from the separation of powers and toward an unconstitutional legal regime that places sole war-making authority in the hands of an increasingly imperial presidency.
.. There are widespread reports that the president is considering launching a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea — a strike designed to send the strongest possible message, short of all-out war — that its ICBM program has to end.
.. The discussions are apparently so serious that the administration pulled its nominee for ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, because he opposed the strike. He then immediately took to the pages of the Washington Post to express his opposition
.. We are not facing the necessity of immediate self-defense. Oh, and in both countries, military action carries with it risks of dangerous escalation. With Russian boots on the ground in Syria, miscalculation risks a great-power conflict. With immense North Korean forces clustered near the border of South Korea, miscalculation risks a truly terrible war.
.. New military action in Syria and new military action in North Korea represent textbook cases for congressional authorization.
.. So why did the administration feel that it had the legal authority to order its Syria strike?
Well, it turns out there’s a memo.
.. Prior to the Syria strike, the administration generated a classified document by an “interagency group of attorneys” that analyzed the “legal basis for potential military action.”
.. We cannot sustain and protect our constitutional structure if we delegate arguments against the unconstitutional abuse of presidential authority exclusively to members of whichever party is out of power.
.. it’s time for Senator Corker to insist on a public debate and congressional authorization before we launch any new military action against North Korea.
.. While the facts supporting the argument may well be legitimately classified, the legal analysis itself — which will turn on questions of constitutional, statutory, and international law — should be a matter of open inquiry.
when this bill leads to these predicted deficits, Republicans will return to their sidelined deficit rhetoric armed with a sickle, aiming the blade at the social safety net, exacerbating the egregious imbalance of the tax bill’s original sins.
.. That’s the strategy: Appease the rich on the front end; punish the poor on the back. Feed the weak to the strong.
.. No matter how folks try to rationalize this bill, it has nothing to do with a desire to help the middle class or the poor. This is a cash offering to the gods of the Republican donor class. This is a bill meant to benefit Republicans’ benefactors. This is a quid pro quo and the paying of a ransom.
.. Last month at a rally in Missouri, Trump said of the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me.” He continued:
.. “This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s O.K. You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.”
That, too, was a lie.
.. It also lines the pockets of people like Senator Bob Corker, who mysteriously “coincidentally” switched his vote from a no to a yes on the bill after the language was added.
.. Donald Trump is a plutocrat masquerading as a populist. He is a pirate on a mission to plunder.
.. Republicans in Congress rushed the bill through for other reasons: to combat the fact of their own legislative incompetence, to satisfy their donors and to honor their long-held belief that the rich are America’s true governing force.
.. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.
“I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the effect that this has … The vast majority will be [doing their taxes] on a single postcard.” Thunk. There’s no postcard. That was a prop. And the filing for the first year under the new tax code will be in 2019.
She also declared of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who decided to vote for the final tax bill after voting no on the Senate version: “He really believes that tax relief, coupled with the administration’s deregulatory actions, will create the growth that will start to erode and ultimately eliminate the national debt that has been accrued over the last several decades.”
I’m confident Corker believes no such thing because that would be preposterous, unsupported by any reputable economic analysis. (Corker voted for the final bill upon concluding it was flawed but helpful in promoting economic growth.
.. If Trump cared to do her homework, she wouldn’t say objectively false things. She wouldn’t treat the pittance that Republicans gave to poor families as a grand accomplishment. Then again, perhaps she has learned at her father’s knee to be a flim-flam artist, a con woman and an entitled child of wealth who looks out for herself and only herself. Those who thought that she’d bring smarts, empathy and reason to the White House sure missed the mark.