Trump feels like he's having a good month despite impeachment

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE is about to be impeached, yet at the White House, it doesn’t feel like he’s having a bad month.

As he faces down a historic vote in the House this week, Trump is reveling in a series of legislative and executive victories. 

On Friday, Trump announced terms of a “Phase One” trade agreement with China that he trumpeted as a “phenomenal deal” that leaves room for a more substantial accord moving forward.

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The pact followed a flurry of legislative deals brokered between the White House and Congress.

The House passed an annual defense policy bill establishing Trump’s long-desired Space Force and paid parental leave for federal workers; members of Congress appear on the verge of passing a complement of spending bills; and the House is poised to approve the president’s signature North American trade deal, which Trump himself dubbed the “silver lining to impeachment.”

Put together, the legislative victories provide achievements that Trump, constantly seeking to validate his dealmaking persona, can tout on the campaign trail once impeachment is in the rearview. 

“I think the way we look at it is this impeachment is fatally flawed. But we haven’t been paralyzed by it. We haven’t been driven into a corner by it,” said Eric Ueland, director of legislative affairs in the White House.

“In partnership with a split Congress in this split-screen moment, we’ve been able to pull off some great results,” he said.

Trump observed Friday in the Oval Office that it had been a “wild week.” 

First, on Tuesday, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDon't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Hillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches B climate initiative Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei MORE (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats announced articles of impeachment, followed an hour later by a press conference declaring the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would see a House vote.

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The House on Wednesday passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that contained Space Force and other key priorities for the president. 

Nearly simultaneously on Friday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance articles of impeachment against Trump while China announced it had a deal with the president for a limited trade deal. 

Some in the White House described it as the “week of wins,” even as impeachment — a historical black mark on Trump’s record — became a near certainty.

The president has been gripped by the impeachment proceedings in the House, setting a personal record for tweets and retweets on Thursday as he looked to counterpunch accusations from Democrats that he abused his office and obstructed Congress.

Trump has also used his campaign rallies to rail against the impeachment inquiry, devoting considerable airtime to his grievances against House Democrats while also trying to tout efforts on trade, immigration and other big-ticket priorities for his administration.

On Tuesday evening, Trump told a crowd in Hershey, Pa., that Pelosi finally came to the table on the USMCA because she was “embarrassed” by the impeachment proceedings.  

But White House allies believe they were able to effectively use impeachment as leverage given the need to placate Democrats returning to face constituents in districts Trump won in 2016.

“Democrats have their own calculation to make to balance with impeachment,” a former White House official said. “But I give more credit to the White House here in terms of getting these things done.”

The final NDAA bill passed by the House dropped a handful of more progressive items, including language to reverse Trump’s ban on transgender people joining the military and end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

And a tentative stopgap funding bill to keep the government open through the end of the year retains some funding for Trump’s border wall, a contentious issue that will likely anger some Democrats.

Democrats have been just as quick to claim the pacts with the White House as wins of their own. Pelosi privately told her caucus that Democrats “ate their lunch,” referring to the numerous changes to the USMCA from what the administration originally proposed.

“They were in our diner,” Ueland quipped when asked about Pelosi’s assertion.

But the trade deal and a funding agreement provide pivotal cover for Democrats in more moderate districts in need of a résumé beyond impeachment.

Indeed, some Republicans argue Pelosi purposefully announced articles of impeachment and support for the USMCA in the same day in order to give Democrats in districts Trump won in 2016 something to tout other than impeachment. 

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“It’s counterintuitive, but impeachment has actually created space for some real legislating,” said GOP strategist Alex Conant. “It’s not a coincidence that the Democrats introduced articles of impeachment the same day they announced the USMCA.” 

“Pelosi risks losing some moderate Democrats on impeachment if she doesn’t give them wins somewhere else,” Conant, who served as communications director for Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCheese, wine importers reeling from Trump trade fight Peace Corps' sudden decision to leave China stirs blowback Lawmakers raise concerns over Russia's growing influence in Venezuela MORE’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign, continued. 

Ueland, who along with his team led negotiations on the Hill, demurred when asked whether impeachment forced Democrats to make concessions, simply saying the legislative affairs staff is willing to seek out partnerships where it can on both sides of the aisle.

Instead, he deflected credit to Trump, saying the president laid the foundation earlier in the year for the legislative results that emerged this week.

But the White House is not in full victory mode yet.

Trade experts believe the “Phase One” agreement with China will benefit American consumers and farmers, though its text has not yet been released and questions remain about the gravity of the deal. 

It doesn’t address some of the major structural reforms of the Chinese economy sought by the Trump administration, though officials touted breakthrough commitments on intellectual property and forced technology transfer, among other issues. 

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“This is a very modest deal. It’s not a big deal. The good news is that it stops for the moment and even slightly reverses what had been an escalating trade war,” said Edward Alden, a trade and economics expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) and other Republicans have expressed frustration over the state of the USMCA. 

The House is expected to vote on a budget deal, the USMCA and impeachment next week before leaving town for the December recess, meaning one or more agenda items could still falter. 

The House is widely expected to vote to impeach Trump, but the president is almost certain to be acquitted by the GOP-controlled Senate. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Whistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics MORE (R-Ky.) has said a Senate trial will begin in January, meaning the issue will loom over Trump for at least another month. 

Ueland — who has also been at the center of negotiations with the Senate about what a possible impeachment trial might look like — downplayed the broader impact impeachment might have on the president’s record as well as the more immediate effect it could have of overshadowing this month’s accomplishments.

“I believe that not only will impeachment be judged by history as a very minor moment in a two-term presidency of [Trump], there is no threat that it poses to a fair-minded evaluation of the significant accomplishments of the president,” he said.