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A tortured president and a country teetering on chaos?

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Feb 5, 2019 - 10:59:01 AM

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President Donald Trump meeting with his Intel Chiefs in the Oval Office, Jan. 31. Photo: MGN Online
WASHINGTON—The tortured presidency of Donald J. Trump entered its third year in early February with the state of the Union weakened after a useless, but costly, 35-day partial government shutdown; with U.S. foreign policy in disarray, as the president remains in open defiance of the sworn testimony of his own intelligence chiefs and top generals; and faces a tangled web of investigations about his campaign drawing in more of Mr. Trump’s closest friends and advisers.

And, he has apparently met his political match in the form of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

After two years of Republican domination of both houses of Congress, Ms. Pelosi’s new Democratic majority in the House staged a legislative confrontation, refusing to fund Mr. Trump’s demanded southern border “wall,” even as the government shutdown—the bargaining chip in the political drama—dragged on for five weeks.

In the end, Mr. Trump agreed to a three week extension of government funding without money for his wall, although he threatened an emergency declaration if Congress does not approve his demand.

“With Caravans marching through Mexico and toward our Country, Republicans must be prepared to do whatever is necessary for STRONG Border Security,” the president wrote in a tweet late Feb. 3, ahead of his planned State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 5.

“Dems do nothing. If there is no Wall, there is no Security. Human Trafficking, Drugs and Criminals of all dimensions - KEEP OUT!” the tweet continued. Mr. Trump also repeated his criticisms of the intelligence community, which he tweeted earlier was “extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran.”

That presidential behavior sparked a bi-partisan “uprising” of sorts against the president in the Senate, in the form of a slap on the wrist over his calls to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Senators approved an amendment to a Middle East policy bill that warned “the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.”

The amendment, which was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), refrained from attacking the president by name but clearly targeted his foreign policy approach: “It is incumbent upon the United States to lead, to continue to maintain a global coalition against terror and to stand by our local partners,” said the amendment.

The rebuke came after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on Capitol Hill, contradicted Mr. Trump’s assertions that ISIS has been defeated, that North Korea is on a path to removing its nuclear arsenal, and that Iran has violated the nuclear agreement with the West.

Mr. Trump’s often errant behavior in public may be no coincidence. Axios recently published weeks of leaked West Wing schedules painting an unflattering picture of a president who spends hours a day in unstructured “executive time.”

“The best I can figure is we know that Trump in many ways was the useful idiot for the GOP and like any useful idiot when he became and as big as he becomes a problem, they’re going to discard him,” Dr. Greg Carr, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Howard University, said in an interview. “It seems to me that the first time they’ve had any conflict with Trump was about this wall business and the federal government.

“They were in control of both branches of government, the executive and the legislative for two years, and they never gave Trump a passage of any of this outsized budget for a wall and we know why because they never believed in him.

“All they needed him to do was be an ‘auto-pen’ to sign for their judges which they wanted, and for deregulation which they wanted, and for their massive tax giveaway and wealth transfer. Those are the three things they wanted and he was great with that,” said Dr. Carr.

The government is currently funded through Feb. 15, and Mr. Trump has hinted that he may call a national emergency if Congress does not agree to fund his proposed wall. “You know, there have been plenty national emergencies called,” Mr. Trump told CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan in an interview aired ahead of the Super Bowl Feb. 3. “And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers.

“I think that she was very rigid,” Mr. Trump said of the House Speaker, “but I think she is very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it’s very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn’t mind human trafficking or she wouldn’t do this.

“She can keep playing her games,” the president continued, “but we will win, because we have a much better issue. On a political basis, what she’s doing is—I actually think it’s bad politics, but much more importantly it’s very bad for our country.”

“I don’t know if Trump really wants a wall,” said Dr. Carr. “If he gets all the money he wants for a wall, it can’t be built and now he’s lost the issue and the Republican Party has basically conceded any ruse that they believe in American democracy.

“Mitch McConnell is just basically decided this is the end for my party. This is the end for my ideology and I’m going to ride this until the wheels fall off. I’m gonna get as many judges that I can get on the bench, maybe extend this thing another generation or two through the courts. And other than that, oh, that’s my legacy.

“I do think finally that the response to Trump is going to say a lot about the future of this country, not only in the short term, but in the long-term,” Dr. Carr continued.