Congressmen Waver While Trump And Pelosi Refuse To Compromise On Shutdown

It’s Day 21 of the government shutdown and there is no end in sight. As of today, the shutdown is tied with the 1995-96 shutdown as the longest in history. The leadership of both parties is resolute. Both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have dug in and refused to compromise from their respective positions. Not everyone is happy among the party rank and file, however.

In the most recent House votes on compromise bills to reopen the government, 12 Republicans joined with House Democrats in voting to fully fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HR 267). Previously, 10 Republicans had voted to fund parts of the government. In Thursday’s vote, they were joined by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), the most recent chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Stivers and Davis did not join the 10 other Republicans in a separate vote to reopen the Department of Agriculture (HR 265).

The number of disaffected Republicans is growing. On Wednesday’s votes, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) joined with another eight Republicans who had earlier voted to fund the government. The eight who have consistently voted in favor of funding are Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Greg Walden (R-OR), Fred Upton (R-MI), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Greg Walden was the chairman of the RCCC from 2014 through 2016.

Although both bills passed the House, they will die in the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take any action on a bill that Trump would not sign. President Trump has refused to waver on his demand for $5 billion for his wall project, about one-fifth of the estimated total that would be required, and Democrats have offered only $1.3 billion for border security funding that excludes the wall. Pelosi joked with reporters that she would only appropriate one dollar for the wall, adding, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that?”

Despite Pelosi’s show of resolve, some Democrats are wavering as well. Politico reported on Wednesday that some freshman House Democrats were “freaking out” about the shutdown and the party’s strategy. A senior Democratic aide blamed some of the anxiety on the fact that some new congressmen didn’t have their offices and emails set up and were not receiving communications from Speaker Pelosi.

Nevertheless, some are feeling the heat from constituents. “If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).

Even if some Democrats have misgivings, so far, they have not had the opportunity to break ranks with their party. The only funding bills active are the partial funding bills passed by the House that reopen individual departments of the federal government. The dynamics of the shutdown are that funding bills originate in the Democrat-controlled House. Since McConnell is quashing votes in the Senate, that means that Republicans have more chances to cross the aisle than Democrats.

If McConnell decides to allow the House funding bills to be considered in the Senate, it is highly likely that they would pass easily. The bigger question is whether the Senate would have enough votes to override a probable veto from the president.

As the shutdown stretches on, the effects are starting to pile up like trash in the unstaffed national parks. Federal workers are missing a payday today. That has rippling effects throughout the country as local federal employees may be unable to pay their bills and about $2.2 billion in consumer spending is withheld from the economy. Even the Coast Guard and air traffic controllers are affected. Some services, such as the ability to obtain passports from the State Department are already closed and, if the shutdown stretches on others, such as tax refunds, may be delayed.

The shutdown will continue until one side blinks. So far, neither President Trump nor Speaker Pelosi has given any indication of budging from their positions. The compromise to end the shutdown will have to come from members of Congress who feel the pressure from their constituents. Pelosi’s San Francisco seat is safe, but many other congressmen and senators represent swing districts and states. They will be ready to make a deal and, because Republicans are more vulnerable after the last midterms, the odds are that it will not include a wall.

At this point, Mitch McConnell is the key. If McConnell stays strong and protects the president then the shutdown could last indefinitely. However, polling already shows that voters blame Trump for the shutdown and oppose both the shutdown tactic and the wall. If and when McConnell determines that Trump’s shutdown is endangering the Republican majority in the Senate, he could easily allow a vote and put Trump in the position of having to veto funding without a wall or backing down.

Why Democrats Won’t Impeach Donald Trump

As the 116th Congress begins, the question on the minds of many political observers is, “Will they or won’t they?” Democrats will control the House of Representatives, the congressional body that is responsible for impeaching elected officials, so will they impeach Donald Trump?

The answer is a definite maybe.

On NBC’s Today Show this morning, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that impeachment would be very “divisive” for the country. She added, “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason.”

Some Democrats are anxious to begin impeachment proceedings. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) is already planning to introduce articles of impeachment based on the allegation that Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey. Sherman originally introduced the articles in 2017 but they went nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.

But just because the legislation is being introduced does not mean that it has the support of House Democrats or their leadership. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush in 2008 but the effort went nowhere. Nancy Pelosi was speaker then as well.

Whatever you might think of Nancy Pelosi, one thing is certain: She is politically shrewd. Pelosi undoubtedly realizes that as long as Senate Republicans remain united, there would be no point in impeaching President Trump.

The House could pass the articles of impeachment but to what end? The second phase of impeachment is a Senate trial to determine whether the president would be removed from office. With Republicans in control of the Senate, it is a certainty that this effort would fail.

Pelosi is more likely to bide her time and wait. If the Mueller investigation uncovers evidence of more wrongdoing by Trump, then it is possible that she will consider pursuing impeachment in the future. This is particularly true if the revelations about Trump’s actions cause a split in the GOP that enables her to pick up enough Republican votes to remove Trump from office.

Looking back to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, this was the error that Republicans made. House Republicans impeached the president but he was acquitted in the Senate even though Republicans held a majority in that body as well. A number of Republican senators voted “not guilty” and Clinton was allowed to remain in office. President Clinton’s popularity reached its highest points during and after his impeachment.

Bill Clinton was in his second term in 1998 and could not run for re-election. If Donald Trump is impeached in 2019, however, the Democrats run the risk that he will become more popular. A failed impeachment might give Trump the edge he needs to win re-election.

Napoleon is said to have advised, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Speaker Pelosi is likely to take this advice to heart.

While impeaching Trump would be emotionally satisfying for many on the left, Pelosi will play the long game. Her focus will not be on a feel-good impeachment, it will be on winning the Senate and the White House in 2020. This year’s midterm elections showed that the best chance for Democrats in 2020 is to keep Trump in office. His divisive temperament and unpopular policies led Republicans to a suburban rout in 2018 and more of the same is likely in 2020.

On the other hand, a successful impeachment of President Trump would result in Mike Pence becoming president. Pence is a much more experienced and competent politician who would stand a better chance of being re-elected than Donald Trump. Pence would also benefit from a united Republican Party that would rally avenge the ouster of President Trump.

A lot can happen in two years but at this point, it seems that Pelosi’s best strategy would be to keep impeachment on the back burner. If the opportunity to oust Trump presents itself, she will be prepared to jump on it, but her best bet would be to sit back and allow Trump to defeat himself and fracture the GOP in the process.

Welcome To Trump Unchained

For the past two years, Donald Trump has governed largely as any other Republican president would have when it came to policy. The president successfully passed tax reform and appointed judges to federal courts that looked like they could have been picked by any Republican president of the past. It was mainly with his trade policy and his tweets that President Trump seemed different than past presidents.
I have long theorized that Trump’s normalcy and measured success over the first two years of his presidency was due primarily to traditional Republicans who influenced him and kept him on the reservation. Paul Ryan helped to orchestrate tax reform and Mitch McConnell was instrumental in getting Trump’s judges confirmed. The conservative Federalist Society seems to have actually picked most of the actual judges, although Trump deserves credit for sticking to their recommendations. White House appointees like John Kelly and James Mattis kept the president from straying too far from established norms.
Now, after two years of restraint, the influence of the traditional Republicans seems to be over. Over the past few months, President Trump has fired or forced out many of the cooler heads that surrounded him. While some advisors have richly deserved to be let go, the departures of calmer voices such as Chief of Staff John Kelly, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Defense Secretary James Mattis are extremely worrisome for those who want to see that America‘s influence as a world leader is preserved. Rumors that Trump is considering replacing Mike Pence in 2020 may mean the vice president’s influence is also waning.
The departure of the cooler heads seems to be partly a result of Trump’s more erratic behavior and partly a contributing factor. The president‘s behavior seems to have deteriorated since the midterm elections when the GOP took heavy losses. Since then, Trump has been forced to deal with Democrats who know how to push his buttons.
Trump trusts his own instincts above all else. As he tunes out his advisors, they resign in protest and leave the president with even fewer stabilizing influences. Essentially, the Trump Administration is in a death spiral as responsible Republicans lose their influence and jump ship.
We are now entering a phase where Donald Trump is left to his own devices with no one to check his behavior. In this phase, we can expect the president to pander to his base by embracing policy positions that he has been advised against until now. He has already signaled his willingness to withdraw from NAFTA and may remove the US from other international agreements as well. It is not inconceivable that the president will leave the United Nations. Trump’s isolationist tendencies will be on display as he brings troops home from Syria and Afghanistan. We may see retreats from Korea and Europe as well. These moves will embolden Iran, China, and Russia.
President Trump’s real passion is immigration. He previously announced his intent to try to curb illegal immigration with an Executive Order that restricted birthright citizenship. Although considered unconstitutional crazy talk by many, this idea will probably be resurrected soon along with other attempts to restrict immigration by executive decree.
We may also see a resurgence of Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin. Trump’s admiration for Putin always seemed to lurk just beneath the surface. It bubbled up occasionally at their summit meeting and more recently when the president dropped sanctions on a Russian oligarch and left Syria to Putin’s devices. In 2019, President Trump will probably be more open about his desire for friendship with Putin‘s Russia.
Also expect more tweets from the president. Lots of them.
Trump unchained is not a conservative. He is an isolationist and populist who veers from one policy decision to the next based on his gut. Trump unchained has the depth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the integrity of the Clintons, and the pen and phone of Barack Obama.
This month seems to have marked a turning point in the Trump presidency. There is a tectonic shift between traditional Republican influences and Trump unchained. As the president goes off the rails, the chances will increase that Republicans will either join Democrats in an impeachment effort or seek to remove Trump from office in a 25th Amendment solution.
Fasten your seatbelts. The next few years are going to be a bumpy ride.

A Possible Trump Indictment And The Looming Constitutional Crises

 

As the Mueller investigation draws to a close, many political observers and legal analysts point to the increasing likelihood that President Trump will be implicated in criminal wrongdoing. Mr. Trump is not only threatened by the Russia probe but also the separate federal investigation by the Southern District of New York that recently led to the conviction of Michael Cohen. If investigators find evidence that the president committed crimes, it will trigger not but a series of constitutional crises.

As Erick Erickson pointed out earlier this week, “Republicans have gone mostly quiet, and their deflections are half-hearted and coupled with ‘but Hillary’ cries. This behavior is a pretty big red flag that everyone now knows Mueller has something and it is not good for the President and possibly for other members of his family.”

While the “something” that Mueller has may not be illegal Russian collusion, it is becoming more and more obvious that investigators do have something serious on the president. As Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News after Cohen’s sentencing, “Career prosecutors here in New York have evidence that the president of the United States committed a felony by ordering and paying Michael Cohen to break the law. How do we know that? They told that to the federal judge. Under the rules, they can’t tell that to the federal judge unless they actually have that hardcore evidence. Under the rules, they can’t tell that to the federal judge unless they intend to do something with that evidence.”

While Napolitano said that the felony is that Trump paid Cohen to commit a felony, there are a host of other possible charges that the president could potentially face. These range from obstruction of justice to lying to the FBI. There is also the possibility that the investigations could have uncovered illegal acts committed by Mr. Trump before he became president. The Cohen investigation could have implicated Trump in anything from tax fraud to money laundering.

An accusation by prosecutors that President Trump committed a felony would trigger not one but several constitutional crises. The most obvious crisis would be whether a sitting president can be indicted. The current opinion of the Department of Justice is, “The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

The DOJ is concerned that malicious indictments of the president by rogue US attorneys or states could be used to subvert the will of the people. If you think this scenario is not possible, think again. It was only 10 years ago that prosecutors illegally hid evidence in the corruption trial of Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Stevens’ conviction was overturned and two prosecutors were suspended but only after Stevens had lost his Senate seat.

On the other side of the issue is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations limits how long after a crime that the perpetrator can be prosecuted. Some crimes, such as murder, have no statute of limitations.  In the case of most federal crimes, the statute of limitations is five years. If President Trump is elected to a second term, the statute of limitations for offenses committed early in his administration would expire before he leaves office. This would effectively mean that the president could not be prosecuted if he committed nonviolent crimes in 2017.

It should be apparent to any student of American history and the Constitution that the framers did not intend that the president should be above the law and immune from prosecution. So, what is the remedy for criminal acts by a sitting president?

Most would argue that impeachment is the answer. Under this view, Congress would impeach the president and then he could be indicted in the court system. This theory has problems as well, especially in the case of Donald Trump.

The Constitution says that grounds for impeachment include “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” but does not define these terms. A 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service found that impeachable offenses don’t have to be criminal acts and not all criminal acts are impeachable offenses. Impeachable offenses would fall into three broad categories:

  • Exceeding or Abusing the Powers of the Office
  • Behavior Incompatible with the Function and Purpose of the Office
  • Misuse of Office for Improper Purpose or for Personal Gain

With respect to the current situation, another constitutional crisis would be fomented if President Trump was found to have committed crimes before becoming president. The question would be whether the president could be impeached for crimes committed before he took office. This question would be especially relevant if the statute of limitations for these crimes would expire before the president leaves office.

Many experts argue that impeachment should be limited to crimes committed while in office. The problem is that this could prevent the president from being prosecuted for crimes he committed before becoming president.

The CRS report indicates that there is precedent for impeaching officials for crimes committed before they took office. US Circuit Court Judge Robert Archibald was impeached in 1912 based on articles of impeachment that included acts committed in his prior position as a district judge. More recently, in 2010 US District Court Judge Thomas Porteous was impeached in part for acts committed before he held any federal office. These included misconduct as a state judge as well as lying to the FBI and Senate during his confirmation as a federal judge. The charges against both men also included acts related to their current office. No one has ever been impeached solely on the basis of acts committed prior to holding office.

There is also precedent for impeachment after an official has left office. In 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap resigned two hours before the House impeached him. In his Senate trial, Belknap argued that he was a private citizen and therefore not under the Senate’s jurisdiction. The Senate voted to affirm jurisdiction over Belknap but ultimately acquitted him of the charges against him.

Impeachment is almost certainly out of the question as long as Republicans control the Senate, which they will until the end of Trump’s first term. This leads to a third constitutional conundrum. In today’s hyper-partisan environment, evidence of a very serious crime would have to be overwhelming for the president’s own party to vote to remove him from office. If there is no chance of removing Trump from office, there would be little point in House Democrats impeaching him. In the end, we may be left with a scenario in which Trump is accused of felonies by prosecutors who are prohibited by from indicting him. In Congress, Democrats consider impeachment but Republicans circle the wagons around the president and refuse to join the effort, arguing, “What about Hillary?” With the clock on the statute of limitations ticking and the impeachment effort stalled, Donald Trump could effectively use the office of president as a shield from prosecution.

The intent of the Founders was clearly not to have a presidency that is above the law. Having just fought a war to liberate themselves from a system in which the king had unchecked power, this would have been the last thing that they would have wanted, but that is the possibility with which we are confronted.

The current crisis was foreseen by John Adams, who warned, “Avarice, ambition, revenge, and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The best defense against a president using the office to shield himself from prosecution is for the parties to nominate people of good character and morals as their candidates and for voters to send trustworthy candidates to the White House. On that score, the country was in trouble regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election.

John Kelly May Be Next Member Of Trump Administration Voted Off Island

If the Trump Administration can be likened to a reality television show, the steady stream of departures can be compared to contestants being voted off the island. As we approach the final installments of season two, there are rumors that the next exit will be none other than John Kelly.

Kelly, in the role of White House Chief of Staff, has long been rumored to want out and there are rumors that Kelly’s relationship with the president has become increasingly unworkable. CNN reports that Trump and Kelly have stopped talking to each other in recent days as the president has complained that Kelly is not politically savvy and is not well-suited to helping Trump handle a House led by Nancy Pelosi.

Shortly after the election, CNN reported that Trump was considering replacements for Kelly, Jeff Sessions, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Sessions tendered his resignation as attorney general last month.

Axios reported that a likely replacement for Kelly would be Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence. White House insiders who favor Ayers argue that his political instincts could help Trump deal with a divided Congress as well as the Russia probe and an economy that is increasingly turbulent, in large part due to President Trump’s protectionist trade policies.

Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general, was originally appointed to be Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security. He became chief of staff in July 2017 in the shakeup that followed President Trump delivering his signature line, “you’re fired,” to Reince Priebus. Kelly helped bring order to the chaos of the Trump White House but has reportedly clashed with the president on numerous issues.

Previous rumors of Kelly’s firing or resignation have been ‘greatly exaggerated,” to use Samuel Clemens’ phrase. Last July, President Trump confirmed to senior staff that Kelly had agreed to stay on until at least 2020. Even at that point, Trump alternated between praising and criticizing Kelly and there were reports that the president had ignored or circumvented many of Kelly’s policies and protocols.

Now the news coming out of the White House indicates that Kelly’s departure may be imminent. With the habit of dumping controversial news on Friday afternoon or over the weekend, it’s possible that Kelly’s departure could be announced as soon as today.

The Mueller Team Just Blew Up The Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators just debunked the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. As part of the draft document against conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, Mueller’s team cites an email that purports to show that Corsi knew full well that the DNC emails were stolen by Russian hackers in 2016, even as they advanced the baseless theory that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer, stole the emails as part of an inside job and was murdered in retribution.

 

Earlier this month, Corsi, an Infowars contributor who has also authored books questioning Barack Obama’s birth certificate and citizenship, predicted that he would be indicted by Mueller’s investigation. Corsi recently said that he was offered a plea deal, which he plans to reject. As evidence of his claim, he posted the draft Statement of Offense online.

 

The document alleges that Corsi was approached in the summer of 2016 by “Person 1,” apparently Roger Stone, who asked him to get in touch with “Organization 1,” WikiLeaks, about the release of the stolen emails. Stone was a top Trump advisor until August 2015 and the two men were longtime friends who apparently kept in contact even after Stone left the Trump campaign. Per the draft, Corsi falsely claimed that he rebuffed Stone’s request and never contacted WikiLeaks.

 

Per the DOJ, Corsi contacted Julian Assange, who was in hiding in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Corsi then related to Stone that WikiLeaks was in possession of documents damaging to Hillary Clinton and that WikiLeaks planned to release the documents as part of an October surprise.

 

As evidence, the draft cites a string of emails in which Stone instructs Corsi to contact Assange in July 2016. The first email, in which Stone asked Corsi to contact WikiLeaks, is dated July 25, three days after the initial WikiLeaks dump of 20,000 stolen emails. Two days later, on July 27, Donald Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s private server. The indictment of Russian intelligence agents last July indicated that the Russian hackers spear-phished the Clinton campaign for the first time the same day that Trump made his request.

 

In the second email, dated July 31, 2016, Stone told Corsi that an unnamed “overseas individual” should “see [the founder of Organization 1],” Assange. The overseas individual was possibly Ted Malloch, an American Trump supporter living and working in England who was reportedly considered for an ambassadorship to the European Union by President Trump.

 

In an email dated August 2, 2016, Corsi responds:

 

“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”

On August 12, the hacker Guccifer 2.0 posted contact information for most congressional Democrats. The information apparently came from the stolen DNC data.

Even though Corsi acknowledged that hackers were responsible in his August 2, 2016 email, he continued to publicly espouse the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was murdered by the CIA on the orders of John Brennan for the benefit of Hillary Clinton well into 2017 on Twitter, in Infowars articles, and in YouTube videos.

 

On August 21, 2016, Roger Stone, whose account is now suspended, tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.” Another Stone tweet on Oct. 3 said, “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.” The next day, Julian Assange released a video announcing that WikiLeaks would be releasing more DNC emails, these stolen from John Podesta. On Oct. 7, hours after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, the next document dump from WikiLeaks is released.

 

Corsi now says that on August 30, Stone contacted him for help in concocting a cover story to explain the Podesta tweet. Corsi says he wrote a memo about Podesta’s business dealings which Stone claimed was the inspiration for his eerily prescient tweet. Stone denies this version of events, but the Mueller team’s computer analysis may sort out the truth.

 

“What I construct, and what I testified to the grand jury, was I believed I was creating a cover story for Roger because Roger wanted to explain this tweet,” Mr. Corsi said in the Wall Street Journal. “By the way, the special counsel knew this. They can virtually tell my keystrokes on that computer.”

 

Stone has denied any knowledge of coordination between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. He also denies that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are de facto Russian agents, a fact disputed by US intelligence. Mike Pompeo, a Republican and President Trump’s pick to head the CIA, called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” The group even had a television show on RT, a Russian propaganda network, in 2012.

 

The document posted by Corsi raise interesting questions about contacts between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, but it offers definitive proof that the Seth Rich conspiracy theory was never seriously believed by either Corsi or Stone. It was merely a smokescreen to conceal the fact that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC and ultimately used their stolen emails to help elect Donald Trump.

Trump vs. General Motors

 

Donald Trump launched his latest salvo against General Motors with a threat to end the automaker’s federal subsidies if it follows through with plans to close several North American plants and lay off about 15,000 workers. However, as with Harley Davidson’s decision to move some production to Europe, at least part of GM’s decision can be traced to the president’s trade war.

 

On Tuesday, the president tweeted, “Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including for electric cars. General Motors made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there (and in Mexico) – don’t think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America’s Workers!”

 

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow confirmed in a press conference that a possible move to cut GM’s federal subsidies was under consideration. Politico reports that Kudlow announced prior to the president’s tweet that the White House was “going to be looking at certain subsidies regarding electric cars and others, whether they should apply or not.”

 

Under current law, the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for new electric vehicles purchased in the US. This tax credit applies only the first 200,000 cars that a manufacturer produces. Since GM is close to reaching its limit, any change to existing law would have minimal effect on the company, but auto companies have been lobbying for an expansion of the law. CEO Mary Barra told Forbes that GM planned to double the resources devoted to electric and self-driving cars over the next two years. GM also reportedly gets about $943 million in other unspecified federal grants and tax credits.

 

Even though President Trump is talking tough over GM’s cuts, his policies are at least partly to blame for the lost jobs. Earlier this year, GM warned that Trump’s tariffs could force layoffs and cause increases in the price of cars. In September, GM announced that its 2018 material costs would increase by an estimated $1 billion due to tariffs as well as higher oil prices, inflation, and tighter supplies.

 

As with the higher cost of materials, there are a number of factors at play in the decision to close the plants and lay off workers. The plants being closed make sedans which are not selling well in the US as buyers choose more SUVs and trucks. Forbes also notes that the popularity of ridesharing services is driving a reduction in car ownership. A large supply of used cars has also contributed to a decline in new car sales.

 

The argument that GM’s cuts are purely due to poor sales of sedans misses an important point, however. The Wall Street Journal points out that China is GM’s largest market for small cars. After President Trump applied tariffs to Chinese imports, the Chinese government retaliated with a 40 percent tariff on imported American cars. If GM exports American-made cars to China they get hit with the double whammy of the US tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as well as the Chinese tariff on imported cars. That is a powerful incentive for the company to move small car production to China.

 

The entire episode is an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. When President Trump launched his tariff policy to protect the American steel industry, it was entirely foreseeable that American companies that consume steel would suffer from higher steel prices. In the case of the auto industry, other problems are exacerbated by the trade war.

 

President Trump’s heavy-handed attempts to intimidate GM into keeping its plants open miss the mark. If the plants make products that are not competitive, then keeping them open will only weaken the rest of the company and possibly lead to further problems. If GM continues to build cars in the US that it cannot sell either here or abroad then it will be forced to either carry a large inventory or sell the cars at a loss. Alternatively, GM could pay workers to do nothing, but is a business‘s purpose to provide meaningless jobs or to sell products for a profit?

A better course would be to allow GM’s executives to take the steps to cut costs without incurring more public relations damage than necessary. The president should also get serious about eliminating trade barriers so American workers can build cars in this country and ship them around the world without incurring tariffs that make them too expensive for foreign consumers.

 

Unfortunately, President Trump’s trade policy has been similar to his immigration policy in that it focuses on erecting walls. Trump’s regulatory walls of tariffs and retaliatory measures by other countries are having the opposite effect from what was intended. Unless Trump reverses his trade policy, more American jobs will be shipped overseas to elude the tariffs that are being placed both on imported materials and exported American goods.

How Donald Trump Repeated Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake… With Similar Results

As news of the Republican midterm defeat continues to trickle in, it is becoming more apparent that 2018 was a blue anti-Trump wave after all. The Republicans made small gains in the Senate, thanks to an abnormally friendly map, but the GOP lost the House as well as seven gubernatorial seats and numerous seats in state legislatures across the country. How we got to this point is remarkably similar to how Barack Obama led the Democrats to lose more than a thousand seats in his eight years.

 

As I have written in the past, Donald Trump has echoed many of President Obama’s mistakes and has now yielded similar results. The bottom line is that both Barack Obama, who campaigned as a moderate Democrat, and Donald Trump, who was elected with the support of a minority of voters, both governed as though they had a broad mandate to enact a laundry list of wishes from their most partisan supporters when what voters really wanted was for both parties to work together.

 

Barack Obama began his administration with staggering popularity and goodwill. Two years later, he had squandered much of his approval by forcing through an unpopular health care reform law against the will of the people. Opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the way that Democrats enacted the law were prime factors in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

 

Ironically, Obamacare was unpopular when passed by the Democrats and promises to repeal and replace the law played a major role in the rise of the Republican Congress since 2010. Unfortunately, President Trump and Republicans made a hash of healthcare reform. In fact, Republicans handled health care reform so badly that they managed to do what Obama and the Democrats could not do: They convinced voters that the Affordable Care Act was a good thing.

 

Obamacare’s protections for pre-existing conditions are so popular that the law directly contributed to the loss of a Republican Senate seat in Arizona. Just before the election, Republican candidate Martha McSally told Sean Hannity that she was getting her “ass kicked” over her vote to reform Obamacare because Democrats were invoking fear that Republicans wanted to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. It now appears that McSally has lost her Senate race to Democrat Kirsten Sinema.

 

In addition to healthcare, the Trump Administration has adopted a number of other unpopular policies as well. The tax reform law that caused the economy to surge is still not popular with voters. Trump’s policy of separating illegal immigrants from their children was widely unpopular. Likewise, Trump’s personal behavior consistently drives down his approval ratings.

 

In 2010, Democrats took a “shellacking,” in President Obama’s words. Republicans gained six Senate seats, 63 House seats, and six governorships as well as doing well in down-ballot races for state and local offices. The GOP won control of the House but, like Democrats this year, were unable to win the Senate. For Republicans, it took two more elections until the party finally won the Senate in 2014. Now, rather than building on those hard-won gains, Republicans are giving them back.

 

To say that the 2018 wave was not as large as the 2010 wave misses the point. Democrats had more seats to give up than Republicans did. Even after losing six Senate seats in 2010, Democrats controlled 53 seats including two Democrat-leaning independents. The House results in 2018 will leave Democrats within a few seats of the 242 that Republicans controlled after 2010.

 

The bigger picture is that 2018 was a wholesale rejection of President Trump by moderate and suburban voters. USA Today reported that more than 80 suburban counties voted more Democrat this year than in 2016. In 20 of these counties, Democrats saw a double-digit surge. CNN’s exit polls show that Republicans lost female voters as well as minorities, the middle class, and college-educated voters. Republicans lost moderate voters by 26 points this year compared with eight points in 2014.

 

President Trump, like Barack Obama, has an abrasive style that is much-loved by his ardent supporters but few others. Like Obama, Trump tends to divide up the electorate and focus on turning out his base rather than on winning converts. Also, like Obama, President Trump is apparently incapable of reaching across the aisle to form a bipartisan legislative coalition, preferring instead to use (or overuse) his executive authority to make small, temporary changes rather than sweeping, permanent ones.

 

Republicans may look at all that and say, “So what? Obama got re-elected.”

 

That’s true, but Obama also had a large victory than President Trump, who lost the popular vote and only eked out an Electoral College win with skin-of-the-teeth victories in several states. Obama had much more support that he could lose. And lose it he did, just not quite in large enough numbers to lose the 2012 election.

 

Up until now, Republicans have maintained a narrative that President Trump’s economic success will overcome problems with his personal style. After the midterms, it is painfully obvious that this view is not true. President Trump is overwhelmingly popular with Republicans and unpopular with everyone else. That leaves the Republican Party in a difficult spot.

 

The GOP has three different options for moving forward. First, its members can convince President Trump to change course. Trump could possibly reach out to the new Congress and become the dealmaker that he claimed to be in 2016. The two parties could work together to resolve the issues that confront the country. Obviously, this won’t happen.

 

The second alternative is for Republicans to distance themselves from Trump and try to repair the damage with moderate voters. One problem here is that Donald Trump does not take rejection well. Distancing oneself from the president will bring forth the full wrath and fury of the First Tweeter. A second problem is that many polls suggest that today’s Republican voters are more loyal to Donald Trump than to traditional Republican ideals. Unless Republican voters sour on Trump, most Republicans officials who oppose him are likely to be on the losing end of the fight.

 

Finally, the third option is for Republicans to say, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead,” and go right on doing exactly what they are doing. This is the option that Democrats chose after 2010 and, given President Trump’s claim that the midterms were a “big victory” for Republicans, it seems likely that the GOP will follow this course now.

 

If the parallels between the Obama and Trump Administrations persist, Trump might be re-elected by following Obama’s model of doing very little aside of issuing Executive Orders and blaming the opposition for their obstructionism. However, given Mr. Trump’s slim victory margin in 2016 and the GOP’s lack of success in the “blue wall” states this year, it seems more likely that the parallels will diverge as the president fails to win a second term.

 

If President Trump and the Republicans realize the error that they are making, they may be able to break the pattern before the party suffers a series of Obama-like defeats. Although they would have to stand up to factions of the base on issues such as immigration, if Republicans can come together with Democrats to create bipartisan solutions, they might be able to win back their majority. More importantly, they would be helping the country and doing the job that the voters hired them to do.