After his soporific performance last night on national television, Donald Trump is back in form. He just engineered a fresh shutdown this afternoon. At a meeting with congressional Democrats this afternoon, Trump threw a temper tantrum, slamming his fist on the Resolute Desk and exiting the Oval Office. He tweeted, ‘Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!’
By the bye, Trump is insisting that Republicans have never been more unified. He met with congressional Republicans this afternoon, where he not only touted a wall but also a troop withdrawal from Syria, to the evident satisfaction of Sen. Rand Paul. Many Republicans are sticking with Trump. Freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw tweeted, ‘Democrats are pretending that this budget is about a 2,000 mile contiguous wall. They know that isn’t true. It’s about a multi-faceted approach to border security, which includes 234 miles of physical barriers. Stop making arguments against an idea that doesn’t exist.’
But hairline cracks are starting to emerge. A number of Republican senators, including Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Thom Tillis and Lisa Murkowski, are starting to make bleating sounds about the shutdown that Trump has engineered. The prospect of a reelection campaign in 2020 has focused their minds on the costs of serving as water-carriers for Trump whose indifference to the fortunes of the GOP itself is palpable. For now, however, leading Republicans continue to cower before Trump, unwilling to confront him about the perils of the course he has chosen. ‘I’m going to defer to the president on the best strategy and I would never vote to override a veto on something that the president didn’t think was the best approach,’ Sen. Thom Tillis declared today.
In a remarkable shot at Trump, who inherited hundreds of millions from his father, starting from when he was a toddler, House speaker Nancy Pelosi declared at the White House to reporters that ‘Many federal workers will not be receiving their paychecks, and what that means in their lives is tragic … the president seems to be insensitive to that. He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t.’ The Washington Post reports that farmers are starting to be hit not only by Trump’s trade war, but also the shutdown. Many are unable to apply for the bailout funds that the administration promised as compensation for losses they’re suffering as a result of the trade battles with China: ‘In agricultural states, which tend to lean conservative and have shown strong support for Trump and the GOP in the past two elections, Republican senators expressed concern about the impact of the shutdown on their farmers.’
So far, however, Trump isn’t budging. The prospect of the Mueller report, coupled with House Democrats’ determination to summon Donald Trump Jr., for testimony, means that he has every incentive to maintain the furor over a wall, including apparently contemplating canceling his upcoming trip to Davos and continuing to float the notion of declaring a national emergency over the southern border. Anything less could lead to a shutdown of his own presidency.