Defense lawyer John Dowd resigned from President Trump’s Russia investigation legal team last week. His departure leaves the president without competent legal representation. It would appear that Trump intends to defend himself in the media instead of a court room. With the help of Fox News and other right-wing commentators, he is mounting a furious attack on special counsel Robert Mueller. This blitz will focus on alleged Mueller bias and misconduct by the FBI and the Justice Department. Trump wants to keep his supporters fired up and congressional Republicans in line. I believe this strategy is a prelude to firing Mueller.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) basically admitted that Republicans haven’t advanced legislation to protect Mueller because they fear a midterm election backlash from Trump’s base. Corker confirmed that the president’s numbers among his base are very strong and that their support is “tribal in nature.” He added, “People who tell me, who are out on [the campaign] trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has expressed somewhat tepid support for Mueller, hoping to prevent Trump from firing him before the midterms. That would present his Republican caucus with a no-win decision, either they back Trump or infuriate his base. The midterm elections are driving all decision making in Washington. It’s a sad commentary on the men and women who have taken a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution. It seems that duty is secondary to getting reelected.
U.S. infrastructure is in serious need of upgrades. Highways, bridges, airports and the like have gone too long without attention, taking a backseat to a failed effort to replace Obamacare and a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Candidate Donald Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in rebuilding America during the presidential campaign. But now it appears America will have to wait again.
Recently Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Senate Majority Whip, said Congress may not have time to pass Trump’s infrastructure plan this year. This sent me searching for the legislative calendar for 2018. The Senate is scheduled to be in session for 174 days — around two-thirds of what most people work. The House will be in session for 120 days — just 46 percent of what’s required for a full-time job. That means most of their time will be spent back in their districts raising money and campaigning. With mounting budget deficits, I doubt if infrastructure legislation will even get passed in 2019.
The Congressional Budget Office won’t be updating its 10-year projection of federal revenues, outlays and deficits until April. But last June it projected that federal budget deficits would add another $10 trillion to the national debt by 2027, putting it north of $30 trillion. But wait, deficits are about to get much worse.
The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently estimated that current tax and spending legislation will increase those CBO deficit estimates by $2.4 trillion over the next decade. And if Congress makes the temporary provisions of the 2017 tax reform permanent — as Republicans are now advocating — deficits would increase by $3.6 trillion. With interest rates on the rise and deficits already alarmingly high, causing the nation to take on trillions more in debt with tax cuts is unconscionable.
Now it appears CNBC economist Larry Kudlow will become Trump’s chief economic advisor. Kudlow said Trump’s tax reform “is going to pay for itself” and predicted an economic growth rate of “3 to 4 percent.” Few economists agree with him and Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimated this legislation would add $1.07 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. With Trump and Kudlow managing economic policy, what could go wrong?
In addition to tax cuts, Trump took office promising a huge buildup in defense and a strong position against Iran and North Korea. Does that sound familiar? Ronald Reagan immediately cut taxes after he was inaugurated, pumped billions into defense and increased the national debt by 187 percent. President Bill Clinton handed incoming President George W. Bush a balanced budget. Bush immediately cut taxes, started two wars, almost doubled the national debt and left President Barack Obama with the Great Recession that further exacerbated the red ink.
Well, Trump got his tax cut last December and a massive increase in military spending in February. Hawkish CIA director Mike Pompeo will soon be Secretary of State. The former U.N. ambassador — and super-hawk — John Bolton will become Trump’s National Security Advisor. A war with either Iran or North Korea is unthinkable but Bolton has proposed attacks on both. If Secretary of Defense James Mattis is pushed out and replaced by a Dick Cheney-like hardliner, it will be déjà vu 2003 when Bush invaded Iraq.
Only Congress has the power to declare war. But with the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force, Congress gave the president broad powers to conduct a war on terror and to invade Iraq. If these resolutions are not modified or repealed, Trump and Bolton could use them as authority to attack Iran. That would be a catastrophic blunder.
Republicans in Congress won’t restrain Trump — but the voters can. I believe the upcoming midterm elections are the most important in U.S. history.