Back in 1971, Karen Carpenter was singing that rainy days and Mondays always got her down – the ultimate Monday song – and that would do now for the Monday after the Super Bowl and before Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address, Tuesday evening. No one wanted to look back to Sunday. The Patriots won again. Tom Brady won again. That seems to happen every year, even if that doesn’t happen every single year. It just feels that way – and the game was dull – neither team was doing much of anything for most of it. Viewers drifted away. The ratings dropped again for the third straight year. And then the Patriots won. There was no point in looking back to Sunday – what everyone knew would happen happened. The same thing will happen next year. This did not make Monday any better.
But there was no point in looking forward to Tuesday:
An 11-year-old boy who says he’s been bullied because of his last name – Trump – will be one of President Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s guests at the State of the Union on Tuesday, the White House announced.
Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Del., who is not related to the president, drew headlines last year after his parents went public to share stories of the abuse they said he had suffered because of his last name.
“They curse at him, they call him an idiot, they call him stupid,” his mother, Megan Trump Berto, told ABC affiliate WPVI at the time.
That’s not nice, but that’s just shorthand. That’s what the majority of Americans call Trump – but decisions like this fill many with dread. Trump is going to play victim, and his base will eat it up. Everyone’s always picking on us! It’s not fair! And everyone picks on Christians too, who are an unnumbered minority now. And everyone picks on white folks too, who are an unnumbered minority now. And everyone has to speak Spanish now, and that’s not fair. And… and innocent young Joshua becomes a symbol for it all. So expect Donald Trump to whine, and expect his base to whine, and then all Republicans. Someone took their country away from them, and they want it back. Innocent young Joshua is their martyr. Donald Trump is their savior. Now no one was looking forward to Tuesday.
That’s okay. Trump is toast:
Many Senate Republicans are deeply opposed to President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency to build his border wall, with enough resistance that the president might ultimately be forced to veto a measure intended to block him.
Interviews with a dozen GOP senators on Monday revealed broad efforts to wave Trump from doing an end run around Congress, part of an effort to avoid a politically perilous floor vote that could place them at odds with the president.
They really don’t want to be pinned down on this:
If the House were to pass a formal resolution of disapproval, the Senate would be forced to take it up with a majority threshold required for passage under procedural rules. That would mean just four GOP defections along with all Democrats would be enough to rebuke the president.
Trump could still win that vote, as no GOP senators would commit to voting against the president, deeming it too hypothetical given the ongoing bipartisan negotiations on border security. But just a handful of Republicans right now are publicly committing to standing with Trump, suggesting the president could face a brutal intraparty fight should he move forward.
That may seem a bit arcane, but Greg Sargent can straighten that out:
Senate Republicans appear to be in a panic about President Trump’s threat to declare a national emergency to realize his unquenchable fantasy of a big, beautiful wall on the southern border. Republicans are reportedly worried that such a move could divide them, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delivered that warning to Trump in private conversations.
Republicans have good reason to be deeply nervous… According to one of the country’s leading experts on national emergencies, it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can trigger a process that could require the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a vote on such a declaration by Trump – which would put Senate Republicans in a horrible political position.
Trump reiterated his threat to declare a national emergency in an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend. “I don’t take anything off the table,” Trump said, adding in a typically mangled construction that he still retains the “alternative” of “national emergency.”
But Pelosi has recourse against such a declaration – and if she exercises it, Senate Republicans may have to vote on where they stand on it.
That won’t be fun:
Trump does have the power to declare such an emergency under the post-Watergate National Emergencies Act, which also requires him to identify which other specific statute delegating emergency powers he’s invoking. Trump is expected to rely on one of several statutes that authorize military officials, in a presidentially declared emergency, to redirect funds for purposes that are either “essential to the national defense” or support “use of the armed forces.”
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has privately told Trump that a national emergency is “viable,” and officials at the Army Corps of Engineers are searching for ways to build the wall. This would be challenged in the courts, which would have to decide whether the statute Trump invoked actually does authorize this type of spending.
But Pelosi has a much more immediate way to challenge Trump’s declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, or NEA, both chambers of Congress can pass a resolution terminating any presidentially declared national emergency.
Nothing is simple:
GOP senators would have to decide between going on record in favor of a presidential declaration of a national emergency for something that everyone knows is based on false pretenses, a move that would be opposed by two-thirds of the country, or opposing it and possibly forcing a Trump veto (which they then would have to decide whether to override), enraging Trump’s base.
This is now quite the mess:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on Monday that there could be a “war” among Republicans if President Trump declared a national emergency to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Graham, speaking in South Carolina, acknowledged that the idea divides Republicans, who he argued should unite behind the president if he ends up circumventing Congress to build the wall.
“It seems to me that he’s gonna have to go it alone, but there could be a war within the Republican Party over the wall,” Graham said.
Graham added that he would “stand with” Trump if he declares a national emergency to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall and urged his Republican colleagues to “get behind the president” if he goes down that path.
“To any Republican who denies the president the ability to act as commander in chief, you’re going to create a real problem within the party,” Graham said.
None of that will make it into Trump’s State of the Union address. He’ll say things are fine, even if he is toast, but all of that is procedural. The New York Times’ Michael Tackett and Maggie Haberman keep it simple:
Richard M. Nixon once said, “People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.”
No president since has deployed fear quite like Donald J. Trump. Whether it is the prospect of a crime wave at the border with Mexico or nuclear war with North Korea, President Trump has persuaded his supporters that there is plenty to fear beyond fear itself.
In an interview as a presidential candidate in 2016 with the author Bob Woodward, Mr. Trump said, “Real power is – I don’t even want to use the word – fear.”
And he was also quite good at spreading fear, until he wasn’t:
As president, he initially tried to intimidate some of the nation’s strongest allies, including Canada, Mexico, Britain, France and Germany, in trade talks. He demanded political loyalty from Republicans in Congress and drove several who bucked him from office, notably Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. But as his presidency enters its third year, a less convenient truth is emerging: Few outside the Republican Party are afraid of him, and they may be less intimidated after the disastrous government shutdown.
One of the clearest signals came last week when Republicans, backing an amendment offered by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, opposed the president’s call for withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan as part of a Middle East policy bill. Only three Republicans voted against it.
“I believe the threats remain,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech last week. “ISIS and Al Qaeda have yet to be defeated, and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there.”
Mr. McConnell also counseled the president last week against declaring a national emergency to get a wall built on the southwestern border, even as Mr. Trump emphasized that he was reserving that option.
Mitch told him to forget the threats. No on is afraid of him now, if anyone ever was. He’s toast, and this day had to come:
Mr. Trump has found that his lack of experience in politics and diplomacy, which require policy knowledge, team building and nuanced negotiating ability, has left him at a decided disadvantage despite his boasts about his deal-making prowess.
“He’s surrounded in these standoffs by people who have all those boxes checked,” said Timothy O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.”
“Nancy Pelosi has been doing this for quite a while, Putin has been doing this for a quite a while, Xi has been doing this quite a while. They’ve all been running circles around him.”
“The next question is when he really does realize that for what it is, and I think the answer for that is he never will,” Mr. O’Brien said, “because it would admit either defeat or acknowledgment of his inadequacies, and he will just never do that.”
An inspiring State of the Union address won’t fix that, and it won’t fix this:
Federal prosecutors in New York on Monday delivered a sweeping request for documents related to donations and spending by President Trump’s inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal investigation into activities related to the nonprofit organization.
A wide-ranging subpoena served on the inaugural committee Monday seeks an array of documents, including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.
Only U.S. citizens and legal residents can legally donate to a committee established to finance presidential inaugural festivities.
The subpoena – issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York – indicates that prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering.
Well, something was up:
Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $107 million to fund events and parties surrounding his assumption of office in January 2017, more than twice the amount raised to fund President Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural. Contributions were made by a wide array of corporate interests and wealthy Trump supporters, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
And they all wanted something for their money – unless they were just feeling generous. One never knows, but it doesn’t matter. This is over. This guy really is toast.