Trump faces tough re­turn to Wash­ing­ton ‘swamp’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­turns to Wash­ing­ton yes­ter­day af­ter a brief over­seas respite, fac­ing an en­dur­ing and in­ten­si­fy­ing storm over his cam­paign’s con­tacts with Rus­sia. Dur­ing two pomp-filled days in Paris and an­other two play­ing maitre d’ to pro­fes­sional fe­male golfers driv­ing, chip­ping and putting their way around his Bed­min­ster course in New Jersey, Trump was in his el­e­ment. In the French cap­i­tal, Trump played the role of hon­ored guest, wooed by new Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron who was de­ter­mined to re­assert France’s im­por­tance on the world stage.

The visit seemed-and in­deed was-tai­lor made for Trump. It was the pres­i­dency as he would no doubt like it, cer­e­mo­nial, ag­gran­diz­ing and shorn of its oner­ous se­cu­rity brief­ings and te­dious pol­icy de­bates. Trump even got to at­tend a mil­i­tary pa­rade of the sort he is ru­mored to have wanted for his own in­au­gu­ra­tion. For a few days, the an­gry tweets and the rants against the me­dia were largely gone. In their place, more than a dozen ef­fu­sive elec­tronic mis­sives that were part tourist post­card, part thankyou note to a cher­ished host.

Trump var­i­ously thanked Macron “for the beau­ti­ful wel­come cer­e­mony,” for a “great evening” din­ing at the Eif­fel Tower” and for “great con­ver­sa­tions.” “It was a great honor to rep­re­sent the United States at the mag­nif­i­cent #BastilleDay pa­rade. Con­grat­u­la­tions Pres­i­dent @Em­manuelMacron!” Trump wrote in one tweet. Trump’s staff ap­peared to wel­come the respite just as much as their boss, steal­ing away a few min­utes for a late-night Parisian cock­tail or Croque Mon­sieur. But for staff, the re­lease was tinged with a sense of ex­haus­tion.

The last few gru­el­ing weeks have seen them fly the pres­i­dent from Wash­ing­ton to Poland to Ger­many, back to Wash­ing­ton, on to Paris and then to Bed­min­ster. All the while, aides like chief of staff Reince Priebus have been chained to their phone try­ing to min­i­mize the dam­age from new scan­dals at the same time as man­age the pas­sage of ma­jor leg­is­la­tion. Si­mul­ta­ne­ous travel, scan­dal and law­mak­ing would be a mas­sive chal­lenge for even the most ef­fi­cient White House, much less for Trump’s un­der­staffed, chaotic, be­sieged and back­stab­bing ad­min­is­tra­tion. Their re­turn to the “swamp”-as Trump’s camp nick­names the US cap­i­tal-is un­likely to bring much com­fort.

Wel­come home

In Wash­ing­ton, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion faces a fresh string of ques­tions about con­tacts with a Rus­sian lawyer and lob­by­ist, fur­ther rais­ing the stakes in the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump’s team col­luded with Rus­sia to tilt last year’s elec­tion. Trump and most of his top as­so­ci­ates-from his son Don­ald Jr to son-in-law and close aide Jared Kush­ner-have retained hard-charg­ing de­fense lawyers. The rolling storms-like the Jupiter tem­pest cap­tured this week-have made life dif­fi­cult on the face of planet Trump, with­out fun­da­men­tally altering its tra­jec­tory.

While in­ves­ti­ga­tions are suck­ing up vi­tal oxy­gen in Congress, and law­mak­ers get asked about lit­tle else, there is so far lit­tle sign Rus­si­a­gate is cost­ing Trump votes. His al­lies in Congress ap­pear to be edg­ing closer to re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing health­care re­form that was the sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment of Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency. On Satur­day Trump posted on Twit­ter a video in which he praised the Repub­li­can bill while de­nounc­ing Oba­macare.

“I am pleased to re­port that we are very, very close to end­ing this health­care night­mare. We are so close,” he vowed. Trump’s pop­u­lar­ity has set­tled at around 39 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to opin­ion polls. “About four in 10 Amer­i­cans ap­prove of the job Don­ald Trump is do­ing as pres­i­dent,” said Gallup an­a­lysts. “That fig­ure has not changed ma­te­ri­ally over the past four months.” But a fail­ure to pass health­care re­form, tax re­form or a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing could prove a dev­as­tat­ing blow, weak­en­ing so-far solid sup­port among Repub­li­cans.

There are early signs that sup­port may be ebbing. Even some lead­ing voices at Fox News, the ca­ble net­work pop­u­lar with con­ser­va­tives which has been in lock-step with the ad­min­is­tra­tion, have ex­pressed dis­sent about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s shift­ing ex­pla­na­tions on Rus­sia. The last six months have seen Trump aides shift from deny­ing any con­tact with Rus­sians to dra­mat­i­cally rais­ing the bar for cen­sure-wor­thy be­hav­ior. In light of Trump Jr’s bomb­shell ad­mis­sion he met a Rus­sian lawyer last year in a bid to get dirt on his fa­ther’s Demo­crat ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton, top aide Kellyanne Con­way seemed to dra­mat­i­cally shift the goal­posts. —AFP

NEW JERSEY: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump waves to spec­ta­tors at the Trump Na­tional Golf Club dur­ing the third round of the US Women’s Open Golf tour­na­ment in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey.—AP

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