I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

.. The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
.. To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
.. But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
.. Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives:
  • free minds,
  • free markets and
  • free people.
At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
.. In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture:

  • effective deregulation,
  • historic tax reform, a
  • more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is

  • impetuous,
  • adversarial,
  • petty and
  • ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

.. Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

.. On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

.. This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

.. The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

.. Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

.. We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

.. There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

Why Republicans Stick With Trump

It’s all the things he hasn’t done. On key issues, the president has come around to conservative positions.

it’s instructive to examine what Mr. Trump hasn’t done. Since the campaign, Mr. Trump has abandoned many of his previous positions and embraced traditional conservative views.

Spending and taxes. During the election, Mr. Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Some Republicans feared his first initiative on taking office would be a pork-laden spending package reminiscent of Barack Obama’s stimulus bill. They also worried he would cut a deal with Democrats to raise taxes. “I am willing to pay more,” Mr. Trump said in May 2016. “And do you know what? The wealthy are willing to pay more.” Instead, the reverse happened: There’s no infrastructure plan in sight, except for the border wall, and Mr. Trump signed a sweeping bill to reduce personal and corporate taxes.

• Court nominees. In 2015 candidate Trump said his sister, a liberal federal judge, would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice, though he claimed he had been joking. After Justice Antonin Scalia died, Mr. Trump decided to release a list of potential replacements. This was a central reason many conservatives voted for him. In appointing Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump made good on his promise. Since then, constitutionalists have cheered the quality and sheer quantity of his appointments to all levels of the judiciary.

• Abortion. In a successful effort to win the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Ted Cruz attacked Mr. Trump’s “New York values.” A Cruz TV ad showed Mr. Trump years earlier calling himself “pro-choice in every respect.” Yet President Trump has reinstated Reagan’s “Mexico City policy,” which prohibits federal funds from going to international groups that provide or promote abortions. Mr. Trump is also moving to require a hard division between abortion providers and clinics that take federal Title X funds, which would be a significant hit to Planned Parenthood.

• Israel. In February 2016, Mr. Trump claimed he would not take sides between Israel and the Palestinians, saying he would be “sort of a neutral guy.” Sen. Marco Rubio labeled this “an anti-Israel position.” Yet in December 2016, when the United Nations considered a resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, Mr. Trump said it was “extremely unfair to all Israelis” and pressed the Obama administration to veto it. Then this year Mr. Trump made good on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there. Time and again, he has proved to be a reliable ally for Israel.

• Guns. In a 2000 book, Mr. Trump wrote: “I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” After the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., earlier this year, President Trump did briefly suggest expanding background checks and raising the age limit to buy certain guns. But he quickly reverted to strong Second Amendment rhetoric, while saying that massacres could be prevented by fixing mental-health services and arming teachers.

 Health care. In 2015, candidate Trump told “60 Minutes” that his plan would provide universal health coverage paid for by the government. “I am going to take care of everybody,” he said. Campaigning in New Hampshire a few months later, he said Medicare could save an unrealistic $300 billion if the government negotiated with drug companies to lower prices. But as president, Mr. Trump has pursued more-conventional Republican policies, such as adding work requirements to Medicaid, expanding short-term insurance plans, and broadening association health plans.

• Defense. In a 2013 interview, Mr. Trump seemingly supported the sequestration cuts to defense spending—only complaining that, as “a very small percentage of the cuts that should be made,” sequestration wasn’t big enough. In 2015 he suggested, unworkably, that by eliminating waste he could strengthen the military while still reducing spending. Yet in his first address to Congress as president, he proposed a 10% increase to the Pentagon’s budget, which he later called “historic.”

It isn’t unusual for a politician to change positions. Unsurprisingly, voters tend to be more forgiving of flip-flops when they agree with the final result. This explains why Mr. Trump is forgiven for abandoning Republican orthodoxy on free trade and entitlement reform: those convictions were always held more by donors than voters. The same is true of support for “comprehensive immigration reform.” If he were to cross his party on issues like taxes, abortion or guns, it would be quite another story. But in the meantime, begging Republicans to ditch Mr. Trump is a waste of time.

 

 

Omarosa, the Tragic Narrator of Our Times

Manigault Newman claims that applicants to “The Apprentice” were tested for S.T.D.s, and that female prospects were subjected to a “humiliating vaginal examination and Pap smear.” She claims that, on the set of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump egged Gene Simmons on as he hit on Ivanka.

.. Gone is the conviction of “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump.” “Now, when I look at things, I’m stunned that I was involved in this kind of shady dealing,”

.. she writes, of dropping a lawsuit against the National Enquirer at Trump’s behest. The Enquirer, she claims, sent a reporter to surveil the funeral of her brother Jack, who was murdered, in 2011. She also claims that Trump brokered a solution: Manigault Newman would serve as the West Coast editor in exchange for letting the matter go. (David Pecker, the Enquirer’s publisher, denies such an arrangement.)

.. To deliver palace intrigue, you must be well placed in the court. “Unhinged” is obsessed with showing how Manigault Newman, who critics say did nothing in the Administration, was in fact a key presence. Résumé inflation has long been in the Omarosa playbook; she débuted, in the early aughts, by exaggerating her positions under Al Gore and the Clintons. Here she goes further: she wants to prove that, before Trump betrayed her, she was his one true confidante.

.. No one is buying that the hardened reality-show player could not see what was tweeting in front of her. So what is Omarosa really selling? Her product is not simply the alleged tapes but the idea that she may have outmaneuvered Trump. I’ve written before about Manigault Newman’s scrounging embrace of black exceptionalism. Opportunism has never morally burdened her, which makes her self-interest seem both egregious and banal. She has clung to her infamy, in part, by perverting the black worker’s experience of racism. She has always exploited the vantage of the pariah, but has more frequently tried to frame herself as a victim.

.. Our infantilization of women in power has, at times, elicited empathy for figures such as Hope Hicks, Melania Trump, and Ivanka Trump. This seems to be what Omarosa seeks.

Why China Won’t Yield to Trump

China may give Donald Trump some face-saving way out from the trade war he has started, but it won’t offer any substantive concessions. In other words, Trump’s tariffs will do nothing to improve America’s external balance, output, employment, or real wages.

.. some defend Trump’s actions as a  to impel China to adjust its trade policies, such as the requirement that foreign companies share their intellectual property (IP) to gain access to the Chinese market.

.. Trump does not understand the basics of such a negotiation: he thinks that a country with a trade deficit necessarily has the stronger negotiating position. In reality, the surplus country is often in the stronger position, because it has accumulated financial claims against its “opponent.”

.. China does not necessarily even have to sell to wield influence. With US debt expanding and interest rates on the rise, even rumors that the Chinese might stop buying Treasury securities could be enough to drive down US bond prices and accelerate the increase in US interest rates.

.. While industries and consumers in China would also be hurt by a trade war, that country’s leaders can overrule interest groups and stifle protests.

In any case, public opinion will largely back retaliation against the US.

.. The Chinese remember well the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century, when the Middle Kingdom tried and failed to resist the British campaign to force it to open its economy to opium and other imports.

.. Add to that Trump’s reputation for flip-flopping, and the odds that Chinese leaders would bother making a deal with Trump to change their country’s trade policies seem small.

.. Even if China did decide to concede something to Trump, it would not be meaningful.

.. China could export less merchandise to the US directly, instead routing products through Taiwan and other countries, where some final assembly could take place.

.. The result would be economically meaningless; but so is the concept of the bilateral deficit itself, as Chinese exports to the US contain a high proportion of intermediate inputs produced in South Korea, the US, and elsewhere.

.. What really matters is that China’s current-account has been falling since 2008, and now stands at a relatively small 1% of GDP.

.. America’s external deficit is growing, but that is the result not of trade policy; it stems from Republicans’ , which is blowing up the budget deficit and reducing national saving.

.. As for Trump’s complaints about China’s IP “theft,” there are some valid grievances on this front. But addressing this issue requires technical expertise and negotiating skill, not blunt threats based on inadequate knowledge.

Crucially, it would also require cooperation with other partners who have similar grievances with China, ideally including pressure applied through rules-based institutions like the World Trade Organization.

Trump is pursuing the opposite strategy, arguing that neither multilateralism nor bilateral negotiations work with China. Yet such tactics have helped to compel China to allow a 37% appreciation of the renminbi in 2004-2014 and to crack down on counterfeiting of US merchandise and theft of US software.

.. Trump may also want to avoid the WTO because the US doesn’t win all of the cases it brings there. But it does have a 90% success rate. And it is not as if the US has never violated international rules

 

Senate confirms a former coal lobbyist as Scott Pruitt’s second-in-command at EPA

If embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt were to leave office, the reins of the agency could fall to a former Senate aide and coal mining lobbyist who was confirmed 53 to 45 Thursday afternoon to become second-in-command at the EPA.

Andrew Wheeler worked at the EPA more than two decades ago and later served as an adviser to Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a high-profile critic of climate science who famously brought a snowball to the Senate floor as a prop. For the past nine years, Wheeler has been a lobbyist for a variety of companies, including Appalachian coal mining firm Murray Energy.

.. Wheeler, who works for the lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels, received $370,000 in fees last year from Murray Energy

.. Murray asked Perry to increase payments to coal and nuclear plants supplying electricity to the Midwest and Appalachia. Perry tried to implement such a plan, but independent electricity regulators rejected it.

 .. “It is critically important that the public understand Wheeler’s career as a lobbyist for some of the worst actors in the energy industry,” Keith Gaby, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an email this week. “Andrew Wheeler running EPA would go far beyond having an administrator overly influenced by lobbyists — the head of EPA would be an energy industry lobbyist.”
.. “The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment, but Andrew Wheeler has dedicated his career to weakening environmental protections, serving as a lobbyist for numerous fossil fuel clients, including one of our country’s biggest polluters, Murray Energy
.. Karpinski pointed to a measure Inhofe co-sponsored known as the Clear Skies Act, which would have undermined the landmark Clean Air Act. Inhofe was a vocal critic of climate-change science, which he said was “the greatest hoax” ever foisted on U.S. citizens.

.. Wheeler spent four years as a career employee at the EPA under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton before moving to the Hill.

.. Wheeler wrote a post on his personal Facebook account the day before Super Tuesday pleading with those considering voting for Trump to reconsider. In his six-point critique, Wheeler questioned Trump’s character, business acumen and viability as a general-election candidate. Trump was a “bully,” Wheeler wrote in the since-deleted Facebook post obtained by The Post. He said that Trump “hasn’t been that successful” in business and “has more baggage then all of the other Republican candidates combined.”

.. Wheeler added that Trump “has demonstrated through the debates and interviews that he doesn’t understand how the government works.”

.. But Wheeler has changed his tune.

“I was just looking at the debates and what I saw on the news, and I hadn’t focused on what he was saying,”

.. when I started looking into what he was saying and what his campaign and what his candidacy was about, I was fully on board.”

.. Three Democrats voted for Wheeler, all from coal states. They included Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

.. “Andrew Wheeler is Big Oil’s backup plan in case Scott Pruitt’s corruption finally finishes him,”

Democrats have finally figured out how to turn Trump’s tweets into their own weapon.

The Almanac of American Politics details Sen. Gillibrand’s eye-rolling flip-flops—famous in New York political circles—from upstate House conservative to progressive Senate saint, described in an apparently forgotten New York Times account.

.. With Democrats themselves admitting they have no coherent message that could win a presidential election, the opposition strategy has been built around Mr. Trump’s personality, his alleged collusion with Russia to disable Hillary Clinton, and now the return of the same accusations of sexual harassment that did not cause him to lose the election.

.. Democrats may finally have hit upon the Achilles’ heel that will fell or weaken this president: his tweets.

The tweets have worried Republicans and Trump supporters since they started. Mr. Trump rejects this criticism. He said, with a tweet, that they energize his base. But Roy Moore just lost in Alabama.

.. The biggest nonpolitical story for months has been sexual abuse, starting with Harvey Weinstein. It was only a matter of time before the politicians would figure out how to manipulate harassment for their own purposes.

.. Then on Monday, the day before the Alabama election, came the following: Three women repeated sexual harassment accusations they’d made against Mr. Trump during the campaign; the congressional Democratic Women’s Working Group called for an investigation of the charges; and Sen. Gillibrand called on the president to resign.

.. They have discovered how to make his tweets their weapon.

.. Mr. Trump’s Tuesday-morning tweet suddenly elevated a B-level New York senator, and the media instantly recycled the Trump sexual-harassment details. Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore by just 1.5%, and the Republicans’ Senate majority fell to 51. By day’s end, Sen. Gillibrand was soliciting funds via email for her 2018 election. They figured out how to make the Trump side lose. It’s the president’s move now. Checkmate awaits.

Watch Out World, Trump’s Coming

while visiting both Saudi Arabia and Israel is a welcome gesture, Richard Nixon tried the same thing in 1974, and nobody was distracted.

.. It’s true that during the campaign Trump suggested the Saudis were somehow involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, that they “push gays off buildings” and “kill women and treat women horribly.” On the other hand, he also told one rally that he got along “great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Whatever else you complain about, give the man credit for flexibility.

.. Peter Baker reported in The Times that as heads of state were preparing for the big trip, all of them were being primed to remember to bring up that Electoral College thing a lot.

.. Pope Francis, with whom Trump conducted a verbal war over wall-building. But that’s all over, and the president now clearly appreciates Francis as the great moral leader he is. (“I think he’s got a lot of personality.”)

.. When the meeting is over, the other people at the table often come away very pleased with themselves, unaware he has already forgotten everything they said.

.. The Vatican talk will probably be about refugees and immigration. It’s possible Francis will feel they had a real meeting of the minds. The president will recall that the pope is shorter than he is.

.. There definitely is something about him that makes people want to increase their defense budgets.

.. Trump has spent his entire political career warning Americans that “the world is laughing at us.” But now it really, really is. Europe is awash in stories about the two-to-four-minute limit on remarks during the NATO discussions.