Trump on win­ning streak by go­ing it alone

Self-pro­claimed mas­ter deal-maker en­coun­ters trou­bles with Congress

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Trump scored a ma­jor win in the courts this week, saw some of the air go out of the Rus­sian col­lu­sion nar­ra­tive that dogged him for months, and proved he is not a ma­jor elec­toral li­a­bil­ity for Repub­li­can can­di­dates at the polls — but he is still strug­gling for his first ma­jor leg­isla­tive win on Capi­tol Hill.

De­spite his per­sonal ap­peal Tues­day, Se­nate Repub­li­cans an­nounced they were punt­ing — for now — on re­peal­ing Oba­macare. House Repub­li­cans are strug­gling to find unity on the pres­i­dent’s promised tax code over­haul. And Mr. Trump has been un­able to win fund­ing for his border wall.

Five months into his ten­ure, the pres­i­dent — a self-pro­claimed mas­ter deal­maker — has in fact had far more suc­cess go­ing it alone, us­ing ex­ec­u­tive power to im­pose his will.

He has man­aged to cut il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion across the border to a 40-year low, be­gun to roll back the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s red-tape legacy, and evis­cer­ated his pre­de­ces­sor’s global warm­ing and other en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist plans.

His back­ers say he also has re­asserted U.S. lead­er­ship in the Mid­dle East and put NATO al­lies on no­tice that they must do more to pro­vide their own de­fense.

He re­warded his base by ap­point­ing a solid con­ser­va­tive to the Supreme Court, and the Repub­li­can Party has tri­umphed in four spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tions un­der Mr. Trump, al­beit all in Repub­li­can­lean­ing dis­tricts.

“All we do is win, win, win,” the pres­i­dent said last week, tak­ing a vic­tory lap af­ter spe­cial elec­tion wins in Ge­or­gia and South Carolina.

He also turned a cor­ner this week with a Supreme Court rul­ing re­viv­ing at least part of his travel ban ex­ec­u­tive or­der, and he scored a sym­bolic vic­tory against the press when CNN re­tracted a story about a Trump as­so­ciate it said had ne­far­i­ous ties to Rus­sia.

It couldn’t come at a more op­por­tune time for Mr. Trump, who is strug­gling to get a bill to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare across the fin­ish line. The ef­fort was dealt an­other set­back Tues­day when erod­ing sup­port among Se­nate Repub­li­cans forced the post­pone­ment of a planned vote this week un­til af­ter the In­de­pen­dence Day re­cess.

Jim McLaugh­lin, a Repub­li­can strate­gist and poll­ster whose New York firm did con­sult­ing work for the Trump cam­paign, said the pres­i­dent had found his foot­ing in the White House and should use the new­found trac­tion to work on Capi­tol Hill.

“I’ve known Don­ald Trump a long time. And he’s a re­ally, re­ally bright guy, and he learns — whether it is learn­ing how to build things and be a de­vel­oper or learn­ing how to do TV. And I think he’s learn­ing how to be pres­i­dent,” he said. “Look, they are on track if they can get some­thing done here on health care and on taxes and get the econ­omy go­ing. That’s ex­actly what the Amer­i­can peo­ple are look­ing for.”

He cred­ited Mr. Trump with keep­ing the prom­ises he made on the cam­paign trail and giv­ing Amer­i­cans what they voted for by stand­ing up to the Washington es­tab­lish­ment.

“A lot of the time the press goes crazy and says he’s tweet­ing and he’s not putting the brief­ings on cam­era and all that stuff. And that’s not what the Amer­i­can peo­ple are con­cerned about,” said Mr. McLaugh­lin. “What they are con­cerned about right now are real kitchen-ta­ble is­sues: the econ­omy, be­ing safe from ter­ror­ism, health care, ed­u­ca­tion, how am I go­ing to send my kids to col­lege. And that’s what they want these folks to talk about.”

Mr. Trump’s wins have done lit­tle to quell the Re­sist move­ment that sprung up af­ter his elec­tion, how­ever, and his strug­gles on Capi­tol Hill have only em­bold­ened his leg­isla­tive op­po­nents.

They said Mr. Trump has turned his back on the vot­ers who put him in the White House by back­ing ma­jor changes to the Med­i­caid pro­gram and propos­ing deep cuts in his bud­get for so­cial safety net pro­grams.

Democrats also say he has failed to fight China’s un­fair cur­rency prac­tices, lacks a strat­egy to de­feat ter­ror­ists in the Mid­dle East and hasn’t reached out to work with them on in­fra­struc­ture — one ma­jor leg­isla­tive item on which there ap­pears to be bi­par­ti­san agree­ment.

“In no way, shape or form is he keep­ing his cam­paign prom­ises. He is not com­mit­ted in any way to the leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties that he spoke of so ar­dently on the cam­paign trail,” Demo­cratic strate­gist Christy Set­zer said.

She ar­gued that Mr. Trump’s fail­ure to achieve early leg­isla­tive suc­cesses, es­pe­cially with his party in con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress, bode badly for the re­main­der of his pres­i­dency.

“There’s a rea­son why we pay at­ten­tion to the first 100 days,” said Ms. Set­zer. “Typ­i­cally, pres­i­dents who don’t get much done in the first 100 days don’t get much done in the sec­ond 100 days or the third 100 days. I sus­pect that will be the case for Pres­i­dent Trump.”

Fad­ing from pub­lic view, though, are the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into whether Mr. Trump or his as­so­ciates col­luded with Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the elec­tion — a charge that seemed to chal­lenge the le­git­i­macy of his pres­i­dency.

A re­newed zeal was pal­pa­ble when White House se­nior deputy press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders chided re­porters at the daily brief­ing Tues­day.

“I think that there are a lot of things hap­pen­ing in this world that, frankly, a lot of peo­ple would like to hear about. Whether it’s job growth, whether it’s dereg­u­la­tion, whether it’s tax re­form, health care. I think a lot of those things de­serve a lot more cov­er­age than they get,” she said.

Mrs. San­ders, ex­pound­ing on the CNN re­trac­tion and a re­port about net­work edi­tors ad­mit­ting that the Rus­sia col­lu­sion sto­ries had no ba­sis, said: “All we’re say­ing is, you know, I think that we should take a re­ally good look at what we are fo­cused on, what we are cov­er­ing, and mak­ing sure that it’s ac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate and it’s hon­est.”

The re­tracted CNN story was based on an anonymous source and er­ro­neously claimed that fi­nancier An­thony Scara­mucci, a mem­ber of the Trump tran­si­tion team, was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Se­nate Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence over a meet­ing he had with a Rus­sian in­vest­ment banker.

Mr. Trump claimed vic­tory on Twit­ter af­ter CNN pulled the ar­ti­cle and three of the net­work’s top jour­nal­ists re­signed over their role in it. CNN also in­sti­tuted new rules for re­view­ing sto­ries about Rus­sian med­dling in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“Fake News CNN is look­ing at big man­age­ment changes now that they got caught falsely push­ing their phony Rus­sian sto­ries. Rat­ings way down!” the pres­i­dent said on Twit­ter.

In an­other tweet, he added: “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the fail­ing @ny­times & @wash­ing­tonpost? They are all Fake News!”


Pres­i­dent Trump has man­aged to cut il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, be­gun to roll back Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s red tape, and evis­cer­ated his pre­de­ces­sor’s en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist poli­cies.

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