Here is your weekly briefing in American politics:
Let’s begin with the week’s big number: 3.
Three federal judges ruled unanimously against Trump’s executive order banning 134 million people from entering the US. The order halted immigration from 7 Muslim majority countries and shut down America’s refugee program entirely, meaning Trump’s America would no longer accept civilians escaping war, persecution or natural disaster. Trump did say, however, that when considering entry to the US, Christian refugees would be prioritized over Muslims. With the ruling declared unconstitutional for the time being, immigration has resumed as normal. Trump responded with a fully capitalized tweet, ”SEE YOU IN COURT,” indicating the administration is likely to fight for the executive order until it reaches the Supreme Court.
SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017
The week’s most alarming stories centered on the administration’s perpetual struggle with the truth. Trump made 19 demonstrably false statements this week. The list ranges from lying about the weather, claiming “God didn’t let it rain” on his Inauguration Day (it literally rained while he was speaking) to claiming the murder rate is the highest it’s been in 47 years (it’s not, it’s actually one of the lowest it’s been in 47 years.) The dishonesty seems to be trickling down. Trump’s top advisor, Kellyanne Conway, invented a terrorist attack that never occurred to justify her boss’s travel ban, citing the fake “bowling green massacre” in multiple primetime interviews. Even more alarming, Trump’s National Security Advisor was caught on wiretap giving Russian diplomats a heads up about oncoming sanctions, despite denying he ever communicated directly with the Russians. The dishonesty coincides with blurred lines between Trump’s business empire and Trump’s White House. He attacked Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughter’s clothing line, then praised Kellyanne Conway for urging Americans to “buy Ivanka’s stuff” on national TV. Here’s Kellyanne defending the administration:
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2017
Red America Abroad
Turning to foreign affairs, Trump has unleashed diplomatic chaos across the world. European leaders met to discuss the future of the transatlantic alliance while Trump berated the Australian prime minister and threatened the President of Mexico (again). He also put Iran “on notice” without defining precisely what this status means, and imposed new sanctions on the increasingly bellicose Islamic Republic. In an interview before the Super Bowl, Trump argued for moral equivalency between Russian President Vladimir Putin (an ex-KGB agent whose political enemies notoriously wind up dead) and the US government. While speaking with the Russian President this week, Trump had to pause the phone call to ask his aides to explain the Russian-American nuclear armaments treaty. To cap things off, Trump was silent over an attack on a Canadian mosque by a pro-Trump white nationalist in which six Muslims were killed. He did, however, speak out against a knife attack in France by an Egyptian Muslim in which zero people were killed.
Red America on Capitol Hill
Republicans in Congress have been reliably compliant amid the administration’s confrontational approach. They’re getting exactly what they want out of Trump: through executive orders and nascent policy initiatives, the White House has targeted federal regulations protecting the environment, repealed Obama-era financial regulations enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, and weakened the Affordable Care Act.
While significant in their own right, the executive actions are merely the first step in laying the groundwork for Congress to approve major legislation that will empower big oil and gas over the environment, Wall Street over middle-class consumers, and insurance companies over at-risk Americans. In a victory for the resistance, House Republicans encountered a stunning display of public opposition at townhalls across the country, during which angry constituents demanded their representatives hold Trump accountable and protect the life-saving statutes of Obamacare.
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) February 10, 2017
Meanwhile, it is difficult to underestimate the spectacular failure of Congressional Democrats in their new role as the opposition party. The Democrats have no vision, fractured leadership and little leverage to resist Trump’s reactionary onslaught. The minority party has been unable to block any of Trump’s cabinet nominees or make meaningful progress in pulling their Republican counterparts out of Trump’s orbit. It appears the only institution standing in Trump’s way is the judicial branch: the network of court systems spread around the country. Trump has so far shown no restraint in preparing for the legal battles ahead, which shouldn’t be surprising considering Trump’s colorful legal history.
The big takeaway from the Donald’s first three weeks: a constitutional crisis is looming. His ban on 134 million people, and his intent to reorient the country’s immigration process to prioritize Christians over Muslims, are flagrant violations of both international law and Article 1 of the Constitution. Furthermore, most Constitutional scholars agree that Trump’s refusal to separate himself from his business empire already puts him in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. This week saw his administration blurring the lines between business and politics even further. I worry for the ratings of the upcoming season of House of Cards – real life is far more entertaining.