Trump’s terrible week marks beginning of congressional resurgence
It’s hard to believe that this past week could have been any worse for President Donald Trump. He was rebuked by national Boy Scout leaders for his inappropriate political remarks and use of adult language and themes in an address to the Boy Scout Jamboree.
He was lectured by national police officials for encouraging police personnel to use unprofessional and, perhaps, illegal use of force in handling suspects. The Joint Chiefs of Staff rejected Trump’s effort to bar transgendered citizens from serving in the military.
There were more acts of defiance. Peggy Noonan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative commentator and former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, described President Trump as “weak and sniveling.”
Credit Congress for what we can only hope is a long-awaited resurgence in the exercise of its constitutional and policy responsibilities. Congress, pursuant to its critical role in formulating American foreign policy, overwhelmingly passed legislation that imposed further sanctions on Russia, an act opposed by both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. But Trump has little choice but to sign the measure, given the veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
Senior GOP members of the Senate found their voices — and backbone — as they sought to reign in President Trump’s campaign of humiliation against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, widely perceived as an effort to force him to resign his post so that Trump might appoint a new attorney general who would then order the removal of Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a means of thwarting the Russian investigation.
Conservatives came to the aid of Sessions and made it clear, as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, stated, “There would be holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions. He added that such a move would be “the beginning of the end” of Trump’s presidency. Graham will introduce this week legislation that would require judicial review of any action by Trump to fire Mueller. Score one for the republic and the rule of law.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, declared that the committee would not hold hearings “this year” on a Trump nominee to succeed Sessions. Other leaders chimed in with a warning that all tools would be employed to prevent Trump from making a recess appointment, essentially scuttling any efforts to replace Sessions at the Department of Justice.
The refusal of the GOP Senate to pass the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Health Care Act, Trump’s signature campaign issue, marked yet another setback for the president. Trump’s effort to strong-arm Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, with a threat to undercut federal funds flowing to her state, backfired. She joined forces with fellow republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, and every Democrat in the upper chamber, in voting against the “skinny” measure. Supporters had said that their aim was “not to make” that bill law, but promote it as a vehicle to get to a conference committee with the House of Representatives.
But Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, could not provide adequate assurance to McCain, Murkowski and Collins that the House would go to conference. Rather, the House might have elected to pass the Senate measure and send it to the president’s desk to be signed into law. If that had happened, another 16 million Americans would have lost health insurance, and premiums would have risen, perhaps 20 percent. If Sen. McCain has entered his final hours, let that vote be his finest hour.
And then there was Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laced interview with a reporter from The New Yorker magazine. For many, that was a sober reminder of Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks about a woman’s anatomy during the campaign. Yes, it was a terrible week for President Trump.
David Adler is president of the Idaho Falls-based Alturas Institute, which promotes the Constitution and civic education. He has lectured nationally and internationally on the Constitution and presidential power, including the scope of the pardon power. Adler is a former Idaho State University political science professor. This column originally appeared on idahopoliticsweekly.com.