Trump has been fighting on several fronts for a while now. The two most prominent of these are the political one against the Democrats, and a criminal one against Mueller’s investigation. On Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III disclosed evidence showing that a top official in Trump’s campaign sent the President’s longtime adviser, Roger J. Stone, to gather information from the Russian-led WikiLeaks sabotage operation regarding hacked Democrat emails.
Stone was arrested this morning following an official indictment against him, and was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, lying to an official committee, and witness tampering. The arrest and disclosure of the indictment presented even more evidence that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.
Under considerable strain
Only hours after the arrest took place, Trump announced that, after 35 days of stubbornly maintaining a shutdown to obtain funding for a wall on the US-Mexican border, he would now reopen the government—without having secured the funds. In short, Trump gave in before the Democrats, and he did so at a suspiciously convenient time.
Now, news about the government reopening—even if temporarily—have taken attention away from the recent developments in the Mueller investigation, and Trump can appease the angry mob by painting himself in the illusory light of a politician “willing to compromise for the sake of the people.” And indeed, the mob needed appeasing. Trump’s approval rates sunk deep into the low 30s as the shutdown continued. The news about Roger Stone’s arrest were poised to take those numbers further down still.
Trump’s ongoing stance
Remember, Trump specifically promised the shutdown would not end until he got $5.7 billion to fund the wall. That clearly didn’t happen. But even as he caved when it comes to the government, Trump didn’t change his stance with respect to the border situation. During his address, he stubbornly kept using the same previously debunked anti-immigration rhetoric, calling the current rate of migration “an unprecedented crisis” (it’s not) and a relevant danger to public safety.
In fact, it’s been proven, over and over again, that immigrants do not represent a particularly big threat to the safety of the average American (in fact, studies show immigration actually tends to decrease criminal rates). The president spread further misinformation when he claimed, again, that the wall would stop or slow down drugs coming into the country. As you should know, the vast majority of both immigrants and illegal drugs come through legal points of entry (even El Chapo, one of the most famous drug-lords around, has tellingly debunked that particular myth).
Trump also suggested he still has “a very powerful alternative” to deal with the “emergency,” but added that he “didn’t want to use it at this time.” It’s important to mention that many legal experts point out that declaring a national emergency to secure the funds under these circumstances would be an illegitimate, if not outright illegal, use of the presidential powers.
Additionally, the President praised the “extraordinary devotion” shown by the thousands of unpaid federal employees during the shutdown. He said he expects them to get paid “very quickly, or as soon as possible,” but didn’t give a specific timeline.
You can watch the whole address here:
Regardless of whether Stone’s arrest actually made any difference in Trump’s decision to reopen the government, we shouldn’t let the latter distract us from the former. As accusations of collusion intensify, we must remember it was the president who initiated the shutdown in the first place—and got nothing to show for it.
(Cover photo by Gage Skidmore)
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