This morning, Donald Trump blamed Congress (which is controlled by Republicans) for the demise of our relationship with Russia (and the failure of Obamacare repeal).
Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2017
That tends to affirm something that John Harwood tweeted a few days ago.
Ryan-Priebus ally to me: next phase of Trump presidency will be warfare against GOP Congress
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 28, 2017
The feeling might be mutual. Take a look at how John McCain responded to that tweet from Trump this morning.
Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 3, 2017
Senators like McCain and Flake have been challenging Trump for a while now, so that’s not necessarily new. But a theme is beginning to emerge about how both Republicans in Congress and administration officials are ignoring the president. Top Justice Department official from the Bush administration, Jack Goldsmith, noticed.
What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive. Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials. I’m not talking about so-called “deep state” bureaucrats. I’m talking about senior officials in the Justice Department and the military and intelligence and foreign affairs agencies. And they are not just ignoring or contradicting him in private. They are doing so in public for all the world to see.
Goldsmith goes on to provide examples of how people like Sec. of Defense Mattis, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sec. of State Rex Tillerson have openly contradicted Trump. Those examples aren’t necessarily new either. But John Harwood recently updated them.
Increasingly, federal officials are deciding to simply ignore President Donald Trump.
As stunning as that sounds, fresh evidence arrives every day of the government treating the man elected to lead it as someone talking mostly to himself.
On Tuesday alone, the commandant of the Coast Guard announced he will “not break faith” with transgender service members despite Trump’s statement that they could no longer serve. Fellow Republicans in the Senate moved ahead with other business despite the president’s insistence that they return to repealing Obamacare. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “we certainly don’t blame the Chinese” for North Korea’s nuclear program after Trump claimed, “China could easily solve this problem.” And Vice President Mike Pence said the president and Congress speak in a “unified voice” on a bipartisan Russia sanctions bill Trump has signed, but not publicly embraced.
Just yesterday, Martin noted that Senate Majority Leader McConnell is ignoring the White House directive on how to handle tax reform.
Frankly, this is all beginning to look like a free-for-all. There doesn’t seem to be a leader Republicans are willing to follow—a job that is usually assigned to a party’s sitting president. James Hohmann thinks that might be a plus in that it puts the brakes on the rise of executive power.
The White House has accumulated vastly more power than the men who wrote the Constitution intended, and one unintended consequence of the Trump presidency may be a long-term rebalancing between the three branches of the federal government.
That is an interesting possibility, but I suspect that all of this is more idiosyncratic in response to the particular incompetence of Trump. A rebalancing would also suggest that Congress is able to step up to the plate when it comes to governing. But so far Republicans have demonstrated that they are unable/unwilling to do that. The overall effect is a completely dysfunctional system when it comes to legislating and executing the federal government.
Donald Trump is both paranoid and delusional. He assumes that anyone who doesn’t submit to his dominance is out to get him and that he can “win” by attacking those he perceives as his enemies. It hasn’t come to open warfare with congressional Republicans and administration officials yet. But they are certainly taking the first steps in that direction by ignoring him. It’s not hard to guess how the president will eventually respond.