The Memo

The Memo: Trump concedes defeat on shutdown

President Trump raised the white flag of surrender on Friday, bringing an end to a partial government shutdown in its 35th day despite not getting funding for his border wall.

Weakened by negative opinion polls, growing restiveness in his own party and mounting beyond-the-Beltway problems including snarl-ups with air travel, Trump consented to reopening the government for three weeks.

{mosads}The Senate and the House in short order passed a stopgap spending bill by voice vote, and the president signed it into law without any public ceremony.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden earlier in the day, he suggested he would consider either a further shutdown or a declaration of national emergency if Democrats still refused to fund the wall by Feb. 15.

But that bravado persuaded almost no one in the political world, Trump friend or foe alike.

“This was an unmitigated disaster for the president, who bled significant political capital in exchange for absolutely nothing,” one former Trump White House official told The Hill.

The shutdown began on Dec. 22, directly affecting 800,000 federal workers and shuttering roughly a quarter of the government.

Friday morning brought news of delays at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, as well as in Newark and Philadelphia. The plight of federal workers in general continued to worsen, as thousands went without a second consecutive scheduled paycheck on Friday.

A Washington Post/ABC News survey released Friday gave Trump an approval rating of just 37 percent. An Associated Press/NORC poll released Wednesday was even worse, putting his standing at 34 percent.

Even among Republicans, pressure on the White House to yield was building all the time.

The Hill reported on Thursday evening that GOP senators had read Vice President Pence the riot act at a luncheon earlier that day. One Republican source quoted in the report said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had told Pence that the shutdown should never have happened.

Six Republican senators on Thursday crossed the aisle to support a Democratic bill to reopen the government without wall funding.

GOP critics of the president were even more scathing on Friday after Trump’s shutdown announcement.

“Every Republican senator had to have known that the shutdown was being driven by a farce, by a lie, by a fiction,” said Peter Wehner, who has worked for three Republican presidents preceding Trump, but is a frequent critic of the 45th president. “There was no emergency that demanded a government shutdown for this money.”

Wehner added that Trump “stumbled into this, and he stumbled out of it. There was no plan.”

Rick Tyler, who served as communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) 2016 presidential campaign, dismissed the idea of a second shutdown in February — or the suggestion that Democrats would in the end fund the border wall.

“Zero chance!” Tyler said. “There is zero chance of another shutdown. It’s over and he lost and we are never going back there.”

The president did have some defenders, among activists and sympathetic media commentators.

Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News Channel anchor, tweeted that the “political chess game continues” and that it was “Advantage Trump today.”

The Tea Party Patriots issued a statement, in the name of co-founder and honorary chairwoman Jenny Beth Martin, which praised the president for again raising the possibility of a declaration of national emergency to build the wall.

“It is time for Members of Congress to end the political games, get over their hatred of the President, and work with President Trump to provide the security our nation deserves,” Martin said.

Within the White House, however, the idea of a national emergency declaration is deeply controversial. It would be sure to face an instant legal challenge. And while it has its advocates, including immigration hard-liner and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, it has influential opponents such as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also a senior adviser.

The less hard-line figures in Trump World note ruefully that the president turned away from an immigration deal in February 2018 that looks, in retrospect, much better than anything he is likely to get now.

{mossecondads}The contours of that deal included $25 billion for Trump’s border wall, in return for a path to legalization for people eligible for the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Now, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in charge in the House, such an offer seems implausible.

Instead, the Speaker has handed the president two defeats in quick succession. Before Trump pulled the plug on the shutdown, he backed down over whether he would be able to deliver the State of the Union address in the House as planned on Tuesday.

Some on the right are now hitting out at what they see as a timorous performance by a president whose supposed strength had been central to his political appeal.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” conservative commentator and provocateur Ann Coulter tweeted on Friday afternoon.

Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs, normally a staunch supporter of the president — and someone who reportedly speaks to him on a regular basis — blasted his actions on air.

“Illegal immigrants are surely pleased,” Dobbs said, going on to note that there had been “no mention of our citizenry or making America great again or putting Americans and America first.”

The main headline on Breitbart, a news organization that favors a hard line on illegal immigration and has been closely identified with Trump’s right-wing populist platform, lamented, “Government open…and border! No Wall. Still no SOTU!”

Several hours after his Rose Garden remarks, Trump took to Twitter to defend himself.

“I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession,” he insisted. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The ending to the government shutdown played out against the backdrop of the indictment of the president’s onetime adviser Roger Stone by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The ramifications of Stone’s indictment could be profound. But so too could Trump’s capitulation — regardless of how he tries to frame it.

“The latest Washington Post poll put his job approval underwater 21 points — that’s blowout loss territory,” said the former White House official. “This was art of the fail.”

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

Tags Donald Trump Government shutdown Jared Kushner Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Robert Mueller Roger Stone Ted Cruz

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