Donald Lambro: White House feeling the heat on multiple fronts

June 25, 2018

One and a half years into his battle-weary presidency, Donald Trump is fighting a three-front war: with Congress on immigration; our trading partners and U.S. businesses on tariffs; and special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s widening criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

All three wars show no signs of ending anytime soon. If anything, they are heating up and further undermining his presidency.

Trump was abruptly thrown on the defensive by his unpopular and arguably cruel practice of forcibly taking children away from their migrant parents at the border, and putting them into metal detention cages.

Nightly network newscasts have been showing little kids, some with terrified expressions on their faces, in their caged confinement.

In a Brownsville, Texas, border facility, an audio recording captured children crying for their parents. “Papa! Papa!” one child is heard crying on the tape that was first reported by the nonprofit ProPublica news service.

Even the president, meeting with House Republicans Tuesday evening in the Capitol, told lawmakers that his daughter Ivanka pleaded with him, saying, “Can we do anything to stop this?”

Although he had defended the practice of separating children from their parents, he told the lawmakers, “We need to figure this out. It’s a bad situation.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, 2,342 children had been separated from their parents in the last month, as they awaited deportation proceedings.

The latest Quinnipiac University Poll found that two-thirds of Americans opposed the policy of separating immigrant children.

In an earlier Quinnipiac poll, 79 percent said they agreed that “Dreamers,” high schoolers or college-aged young adults who were brought here many years ago as infants or young children by illegal migrants, should be allowed to remain in the U.S.

Trump came to his senses partly this week by ordering that children should not be separated from their parents.

But if you think that Trump’s war on immigration is a can of worms, his trade tariffs have turned into a costly, regulation-oppressive nightmare for thousands of U.S. companies.

The import taxes he has slapped on our trading partners, from China to Mexico to Canada — and elsewhere — has resulted in a flood of petitions, numbering in the tens of thousands, from U.S. businesses seeking waivers from tariff levies on foreign steel and aluminum.

Under a bleak headline announcing a “Flood of U.S. companies seek relief on metals tariffs,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Commerce Department officials “have been overwhelmed” with 21,000 petitions from U.S. companies that want to continue importing the metals on a duty-free basis.

Trump’s leftist trade tariff policies, the kind that liberal Democrats have been pushing for decades, threatens to impose higher costs on U.S. businesses and its products, turning a once-bullish stock market suddenly bearish.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial average plunged almost 300 points.

A majority of our fellow citizens — the kind of people who shop at Walmart — say they do not think Trump’s trade policies is the way to “Make America Great Again.” Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed believe his tariff war will leave them personally worse off, according to a new CBS poll.

Nevertheless, Trump is playing hardball on tariffs, and upping the ante with our trading partners, especially China.

On Monday, he ordered his chief negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, to draw up a list of $200 billion worth of Chinese products that he will impose 10 percent tariffs on if China refuses to reduce the trade deficit we have with their country.

“Such a step would be virtually unprecedented in U.S. history and would put nearly all of the $505 billion in products that the United States imports from China under tariffs,” the Post reported Tuesday.

If you are a Walmart customer, as I am, that will mean their prices would at least triple.

The third war front with Mueller, easily the riskiest one of all, is impossible to predict. From the beginning, Trump denied that Russia was interfering with our election in an unprecedented cyberwar offensive throughout America’s social media industry. He’s not denying that anymore.

Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.