Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
Paul Ryan and Donald Trump suffered a tough legislative defeat last week.
Welcome to This Week in Trump, Slate’s weekly look at Donald Trump’s presidency. Every week, we’ll catch you up on the events of the past seven days, point you to further reading, and keep an eye on the @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed.
Trump suffered his first legislative defeat last week when the GOP’s repeal-and-replace-Obamacare bill collapsed in the House, putting the rest of the Republicans’ legislative agenda in jeopardy. Trump responded by blaming Democrats and the conservative Freedom Caucus, which opposed the bill. He didn’t blame Paul Ryan, the Republican House leader—although he did encourage his Twitter followers to watch a Fox News show that called for Ryan’s resignation.
Soon after the bill’s failure, Trump announced his intention to “let Obamacare explode.” On Tuesday, though, the president told a bipartisan group of senators that a new health care deal could happen “very quickly.” He didn’t offer specifics.
Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that axes most of his predecessor’s climate change agenda. Why? To end the “war on coal” and “job-killing regulations,” and boost energy independence. (Experts insist the plan won’t do any of that.)
The measure rewrites the Clean Power Plan, which limited carbon pollution from power plants. It also lifts a ban on new coal mining on public land and bars federal departments from considering the effects of climate change on policy or national security. Whether Trump will remove the United States from the global Paris climate accord remains an open question.
Nunes Under Fire
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Devin Nunes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, is too loyal to the White House to hold an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham accused Nunes of running an “Inspector Clouseau investigation.” But Nunes won’t resign, and the Republican leadership is supporting him.
The Senate Intelligence Committee stepped into the breach Wednesday, pledging to conduct a proper investigation that “will go wherever the intelligence leads it,” all the way up to Trump himself.
Also This Week
- After the Trumpcare failure, the White House is turning its attention to tax reform. There are reports the administration may introduce infrastructure spending bills at the same time.
- Trump’s approval ratings dropped after the health care bill’s collapse. A Politico/Morning Consult poll put the rating at 46 percent, a low for that poll. Gallup, which has been less favorable to Trump, saw him dropping to 36 percent.
- Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to head the new White House Office of American Innovation, with a mandate to make government run more like a business. And daughter Ivanka Trump, who is married to Kushner, will become an (unpaid) government employee with the title assistant to the president.
- The Times of London reported Trump handed German Chancellor Angela Merkel an invoice for $374 billion for the country’s debt to NATO. Both U.S. and German officials denied the report.
- Senate Democrats are considering filibustering Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch—and Republicans may invoke a “nuclear option” that would allow them to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote.
What to Read
In the New York Times Magazine, Robert Draper wonders whether Trump will be able to move forward with other legislative priorities after the embarrassing defeat on health care:
“You get about nine months to do the big things,” Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, told me at the beginning of the year. Nine months seemed like a long time then, the calendar spacious and the legislative deal-making possibilities plentiful. But more than two of those months are gone already—and the path to future wins, as Trump foresaw in his meeting with the Freedom Caucus, is now more complicated. When he took office, Trump relished the prospect of becoming a new kind of deal maker in the White House. By the time I spoke with him in early March, however, he already seemed to be taking stock of the limits to his powers.
Republicans have always been good about coming up with excuses to support one of their own in the White House, but it will be interesting to see how the Russian connection plays out, writes Michael Tomasky in the New York Review of Books:
Republicans and conservatives over the years have excused mountains of hypocrisy in their own leaders. Deficits mattered, until Ronald Reagan ran them up and suddenly they didn’t. Cutting spending mattered, until George W. Bush increased spending and suddenly that was okay (until Bush became unpopular). … But how the Republicans will find a way to defend a Republican president who may well owe his election in part to the Russian Federation, of all political forces, will be an interesting thing to watch.
Many Republicans dislike Trump—but don’t expect them to stand up to him, writes Slate’s Michelle Goldberg:
Before Trump’s election, I thought I had a low opinion of Republican members of Congress. Yet it turns out I had much more faith in them than I realized, because I’ve been stupefied by their passivity in the face of Trump’s corruption and incompetence. … Republican politicians have an opportunity to do something heroic at a dire moment in American history, but they don’t appear to be remotely tempted to seize it.
This Week in @realDonaldTrump
In the face of his first big legislative defeat, Trump blasted the conservative Freedom Caucus (three times!) but told followers not to worry because “ObamaCare will explode” and Democrats will come crawling.
The commander in chief said that stories of Russian connection to his campaign are nothing but “a hoax” and wondered why no one is looking into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s links to Moscow instead. He once again hit out against the “failing” New York Times (twice) and wrongly said the paper had “apologized to subscribers” after the election. (The paper set the record straight on Twitter.)
Trump used to mock President Obama for playing golf. Now he’s playing a lot of it. The president has visited a Trump golf course at least 13 times since he took office on Jan. 20, and he seems to have hit the links at least 12 of those times. This is only one example of how Trump likes to visit properties with his name on the front door, boosting the profile of his company’s holdings. After all, you might run into the president here seems to be a nice little selling point for hotels, restaurants, and private clubs.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
A print-out of the Affordable Care Act sits next to a copy of the plan introduced to repeal and replace it during the daily briefing at the White House on March 7.