When the history of Donald Trump’s presidency is written, this past week will be remembered as the one when everything changed. Then again, how many times has that sentence been written?
Even by that measure, this week saw a significant shift. Democrats may have long been united against this president, but now many key Republicans have begun to publicly oppose him, too.
Let’s recap: When Trump clearly wanted his attorney general to resign, Republicans made it impossible to do so. The GOP then denied Trump an Obamacare repeal bill and instead sent him a Russia sanctions bill he didn’t want. Even the military said it wouldn’t implement his policy on transgender individuals — at least not immediately. And as badly as Trump wants the Russia investigations to go away, it was a Republican committee chairman who went ahead and subpoenaed Trump’s former campaign chief to testify in the investigation.
Any notion that Republicans fear to cross to Trump no longer applies. To be fair, Republicans had privately grumbled about Trump for a while. But they (mostly) kept it private for the sake of advancing a GOP agenda and keeping the party’s base from revolt. This week was the one when it became publicly acceptable for them to rebuke their sitting president, even knowing it could unleash one of those all-too-familiar Twitter tirades against them.
Why should that shift matter? Let’s look at how we got here.
1. He failed to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
When it came to his public airing of grievances toward Sessions, it could be that Trump simply chose the wrong fight. Despite his repeated, sometimes humiliating efforts to force Sessions to resign, the attorney general stood his ground. That left it up to Trump to outright fire Sessions. Many told him — or more precisely warned him — not to do that, including Breitbart News, the Wall Street Journal, nearly every Republican senator, and even Ken Starr.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said that if Trump wanted to oust Sessions, he should understand that the committee would not hold confirmation hearings for a new attorney general this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that if Trump was thinking he could just fire Sessions and make a recess appointment for a new AG, well, then the Senate just would not recess.
2. He got no traction on an Obamacare repeal.
The breakdown of the Obamacare repeal attempts failed in the Senate this week for a number of reasons. But it was stunning to witness how Trump stepped up pressure on the issue in ways he hasn’t before.
He traveled to West Virginia and Ohio to put pressure on incumbent Republican senators who were on the fence about certain votes on health care. They said no (well, then they voted yes in a subsequent vote, but you get the idea). Trump also took to Twitter to rally votes, with no luck. He called out Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski on the site, to which she responded with a terse “How about just doing a little bit of governing around here.” Ultimately, she was one of three senators who killed the final attempt at a repeal bill.
Lastly, before the vote on the “skinny repeal” bill was cast early Friday morning, Trump not only had Vice President Mike Pence spend time trying to persuade the Arizona senator to vote in favor, he called McCain himself minutes before the vote. McCain voted no anyway.
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