The Memo: Trump faces crucial stretch

The Memo: Trump faces crucial stretch
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President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE faces one of the most intense stretches of his White House tenure after the brief respite offered by the Fourth of July holiday.

Trump has promised to name his Supreme Court nominee on Monday. He will attend a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12. From there, he will visit the United Kingdom and then go to Helsinki for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


This all comes against a backdrop of international skirmishing over tariffs, while new revelations from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s probe could erupt at any moment.

Still, there are opportunities for Trump as well as dangers — especially when it comes to the Supreme Court nomination, which seems virtually guaranteed to please his base.

“There is no question that filling the Supreme Court vacancy has huge political ramifications — for the midterms, for the base, for the country,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. “But perhaps the greatest element is that it is a golden opportunity for him to deliver on promises he has made.”

Dating back to the 2016 campaign, the issue of the Supreme Court has been imperative for conservatives, many of whom pointed to it as a reason to vote for Trump despite unease with his colorful personal life and often belligerent language.

They got their first taste of vindication when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the court less than three months after Trump’s inauguration. 

But a second Trump justice would shift the court decisively to the right, since he or she will be replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, the de facto swing vote on the nine-person bench.

Trump has been talking to potential candidates for the nomination but beyond providing sparse details — such as that he spoke to three people on Tuesday — the White House has been tight-lipped.

The president has said, however, that he is working from a previously published 25-person list that was drawn up in conjunction with the conservative Federalist Society. 

That doesn’t just ensure that the pick will please Trump’s supporters — it also makes it certain that it will be met with outrage from Democrats.

Liberals are particularly fearful that a new conservative justice could spell doom for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at Monday’s media briefing that Trump is “not going to talk to judges about specific cases. He's looking for individuals that have the right intellect, the right temperament, and that will uphold the Constitution.”

Liberals insist Democrats must fight hard against Trump’s pick, even if they do not on their own have the votes in the Senate to derail it.

“Trump is going to declare victory the moment anyone is appointed to the court, even if it comes down to the vote of the vice president after a tie in the Senate,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who worked on Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWomen's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential bid.

“But Democrats have to fight really hard,” Devine added. “They have to make it clear that they are doing everything in their power to stop the appointment of someone who would be well outside of the mainstream of politics and jurisprudence.”

Democrats believe that Trump has a much weaker hand on the international stage.

The NATO summit, the U.K. trip and the Putin meeting could all offer significant challenges.

Trump has become increasingly pointed in his complaints that other NATO members are not spending their fair share on defense. While versions of this argument have been made by past presidents of both parties, Trump’s approach — which has included writing letters of complaint to several world leaders, according to a Tuesday New York Times report — has raised tensions.

Trump is likely to get an icy response from many of those leaders in Brussels, just as he was perceived to have received at last month's meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in Canada.

His British trip could also be fraught, since his relationship with Prime Minister Theresa May has deteriorated — she has been particularly critical of the administration’s tariffs. Public protests are also certain, given Trump’s unpopularity in Britain.

The summit with Putin may hold the greatest perils of all, given the cloud of suspicion that hovers over Trump and the Kremlin. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a summary report upholding the view of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential election and sought to undermine his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE.

Even Republicans worry that Trump might go too far in trying to make nice with Putin.

“The question is, who benefits from the summit? And, if the United States gives anything up, what are we getting?” said Mackowiak. “I’m not against them meeting but what do they hope to achieve? What does success look like coming out of this summit?”

Democrats, such as Devine, put it more harshly:

“I think Trump is going to continue to be what he has been and what Hillary Clinton predicted he would be in that third debate: a puppet to Putin, and someone who does Putin’s bidding and accepts Putin’s word.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.