President Trump’s rancor with lawmakers from his own party should come as no surprise. He’s looking for cover that they’re not providing.
And while his public feuding with John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Mitch McConnell is well-documented, by now, there have been several others that he’s had more private clashes with.
A for instance would be the recently passed sanctions bill against Russia.
Trump expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that it wasn’t good policy, according to three people familiar with the call. Trump argued that the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would damage his presidency. Corker was unrelenting, these people said, and told Trump the bill was going to pass both houses with bipartisan support.
Bummer. And his budding relationship with Russian strongman, Putin, was off to such a great start, too.
Russia has since expelled a number of U.S. diplomats, in response.
Another burr under Trump’s saddle is a bill that protects Robert Mueller (or any special counsel) from being fired by the president.
Trump dialed up Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Aug. 7, two days before a blunt call with the Senate majority leader that spilled over into a public feud. Tillis is working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating the president’s Russia connections, from any attempt by Trump to fire him.
The Mueller bill came up during the Tillis-Trump conversation, according to a source briefed on the call — the latest signal of the president’s impatience with GOP senators’ increasing declarations of independence from his White House. Trump was unhappy with the legislation and didn’t want it to pass, one person familiar with the call said.
Spokespeople for both Tillis and Corker refused to discuss specifics of the conversations, but did confirm that the conversations took place.
Trump’s chewing out of GOP senators, according to people briefed on the calls, reflected the president’s frustration that fellow Republicans would make moves that could damage him, particularly on an investigation that he detests. Trump also complained about the Russian sanctions measure in a call with McConnell earlier this month that devolved into shouting. The New York Times first reported that Trump discussed the Russia probe with McConnell.
“It seems he is just always focused on Russia,” one senior GOP aide said.
That’s because he is.
In the couple of weeks John Kelly has been chief of staff, he’s attempted to exert some control over Trump’s unscheduled interactions with lawmakers. The president is said to have a habit of seeing a senator on television, getting a wild hair, and then having an assistant call that senator up.
Kelly has asked that there be a senior White House aide present whenever Trump make these calls, and that Trump be briefed on the topic he’s planning to call about.
That sure speaks volumes.
Embarrassing, cringe-worthy volumes.
The president needs to understand that he’s likely never going to get the approval of Democrats for anything he’s hoping to push. He needs the Republicans. He needs actual allies in Washington, and not just clingers.
He’s really not off to a good start.