Trump's Impeachment Rebuke Bookended by Policy Victories

Date : 12/13/2019 @ 8:25PM
Source : Dow Jones News

Trump's Impeachment Rebuke Bookended by Policy Victories

By Catherine Lucey 

WASHINGTON -- Political whiplash, anyone?

President Trump wrapped up a dizzying week of major wins and a historic rebuke.

In the victory column, the president clinched congressional Democratic support for his North American trade deal, won backing for the creation of the U.S. Space Force, and reached a limited trade deal with China.

But he also watched as House Democrats moved forward with their push to make him just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, an effort that could energize voters in both parties, though Mr. Trump faces strong odds of acquittal in the Senate.

While Mr. Trump's White House has long been defined by extreme contrasts, there was little precedent for the swings showcased in recent days. The president emerged with a stack of achievements to tout on the 2020 campaign trail, even if it was tempered by the push to remove him from office.

"We're having a very exciting month in Washington, D.C. There haven't been too many like it," Mr. Trump told lawmakers gathered in the festively decorated White House on Thursday night for the annual Congressional Ball.

For Mr. Trump, there were clear incentives for reaching agreements on trade and spending, giving him achievements to tout as well as evidence he can work amid impeachment. Congressional Democrats have some similar goals, with those representing swing districts eager to show they can legislate and impeach at the same time. And both the U.S. and China have been working to reach a limited trade deal before a new round of tariffs kicks in.

A senior administration official described Mr. Trump as "upbeat" about the events of the week, saying he is "feeling very confident about how things are going." The official also cited the strong jobs numbers that came out last week, as well as the recent raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as other items the White House sees in the positive column.

"The White House and President Trump's allies are ecstatic about how this past week has gone," said former Trump campaign aide Jason Miller. "Literally on the day Democrats were introducing two politically driven articles of impeachment, the president had a rally that filled up a stadium beyond capacity."

Mr. Miller was referring to Mr. Trump's campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., on Tuesday night, just hours after congressional Democrats said they would support his long-sought trade deal with Mexico and Canada, and also announced two articles of impeachment.

"To me, impeachment is a very ugly word," Mr. Trump said at the rally. "It's a word I associate with some very bad times in our country. The good news is we're having the best times in history."

While Mr. Trump and his aides struck a positive tone, impeachment clearly still rankled the president, who fired off an avalanche of tweets throughout the week, mostly about venting about impeachment or retweeting supporters. He sent over 100 tweets and retweets Thursday alone, starting just before 7 a.m.

"I did nothing wrong. This will be the first Impeachment ever where there was no crime," Mr. Trump tweeted early that day.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.,Calif.) on Thursday declared the articles of impeachment "very strong," calling them a "continuation of a pattern of misbehavior on the part of the president."

Mr. Trump is accused by Democrats of abusing his power by pressing Ukraine to investigate a possible Democratic rival in the 2020 U.S. election and conditioning U.S. aid to Kyiv and a White House meeting on the probe. Democrats also allege Mr. Trump obstructed Congress by preventing at least nine officials from testifying and by blocking records from across the federal government from being shared with lawmakers. Mr. Trump denies any wrongdoing, and the White House has said it is protecting executive branch authority by not allowing officials to testify.

"Our president holds the ultimate public trust. When he betrays that trust, and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) said Tuesday as he announced the articles of impeachment.

The week also included a last-minute spending deal between Congress and the White House to avoid a government shutdown, and saw Mr. Trump meeting with a senior Russian official in the Oval Office. And there was a politically contentious new report on the FBI probe into possible links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, which found that the bureau committed "serious performance failures," but also said the origin of the investigation was justified.

That offered ammunition for both sides in a controversy that has stretched through Mr. Trump's presidency and looks set to continue: A Justice Department investigator appointed by Attorney General William Barr is examining the same issues, and both Mr. Barr and the investigator expressed skepticism over some of the findings in the Justice Department's inspector general's report.

At the same time, Democrats claimed the legislative deals as wins for their members. As congressional Democrats announced support for the North American trade deal Tuesday, Mrs. Pelosi said the agreement was "infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration."

Mrs. Pelosi touted the number of bills passed out of the House with bipartisan support and specifically praised the spending deal, noting that "there's a great deal in the bill for people on both sides of the aisle to take home" to their districts. Both Democrats and the White House also took credit for a defense policy bill that includes a new provision for parental leave for federal workers.

The landslide of December agreements -- after months of partisan stalemate -- was the product of a series of complex negotiations and political calculations, as well as a number of looming deadlines.

"Let's consider that we're in the middle of December and if things are going to get settled, they're going to get settled now," said William Galston, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton.

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway framed the list of wins as evidence the president could work despite the impeachment process.

"These are real results," she said. "These are matters of consequence that cannot be denied or impeached. The country is divided, Washington is divided, but there should be very little division about the historic progress and hearty boldness this president shows."

The president and his allies say they have seen political benefits to the impeachment process.

"I've always said I would rather not have the president impeached," said Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale at a campaign briefing for reporters Thursday. But he added that "this lit up our base, lit up the people that are the supporters of the president," citing an increase in donations, volunteers and rally attendance.

Write to Catherine Lucey at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 13, 2019 15:10 ET (20:10 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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