Wednesday, March 29, 2017

No, Sir, I Won't

First Lady Nancy Reagan's advice in the drug war applies to dealing with Donald Trump: just say no.

Three days before the demise of the GOP's health care plan, President Trump had members of the Freedom Caucus  over to the White House for a little cajoling and arm-twisting. He promised to campaign for any of them who voted for the bill. And Chris Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, commented afterward "the president is very adroit at putting somebody on the spot and he did that today with Mark Meadows."

Or maybe not, because

when he rose to address the GOP conference, the president made it clear there would be no further modifications, and said he expected Republicans to rally around Ryan's bill.

Then Trump made a mistake. After singling out Meadows and asking him to stand up in front of his colleagues, Trump joked that he might "come after" the Freedom Caucus boss if he didn't vote yes, and then added, with a more serious tone: "I think Mark Meadows will get on board."

Representative Meadows didn't get on board and the measure had to be pulled by Speaker Ryan, either at the initiative of the President or with his consent.

Then it was Sally Yates' turn.  The Assistant Attorney General was scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week about the connection between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Justice Department wrote Yates' attorney, David A. O'Neill, on March 24 "such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The President owns these privileges."

Own? It sounds like this is one of Donald Trump's properties he intends to run into the ground or one of his ex-wives (or girlfriends).  O'Neill was having none of it, responding that his client intends "to provide information" to the committee about "Russian cyber activities directed against the U.S. election, potential links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, the U.S. government's response to these Russian active measures and related leaks of classified information."

Trump's Justice Department could have claimed executive privilege in court, thereby at least delaying the testimony.  But the DOJ instead issued a statement: " The Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible." Spicer later remarked "we have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple."

Donald Trump folded, in what may have been rare common sense from the Administration.  More likely than judiciousness, however, is an inability to respond in kind when challenged. When the emperor is confronted, we find he has no clothes. Heading into a fight over Judge Gorsuch, infrastructure, health care (again) or anything else, it's something the Democratic Party ought to consider.

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