The old adage says that you should never negotiate with someone who’s holding a gun to your head, because you have no leverage. Donald Trump is facing an even more complicated situation: he’s trying to negotiate his way out of yet another government shutdown, even as someone else – Special Counsel Robert Mueller – holds the metaphorical gun to his head by demanding that Trump testify in the Russia scandal. Trump is a sitting duck and everyone knows it. This is the part where things get interesting.
Trump is so desperately in need of a win, he’s resorting to taking reckless low percentage swings like the Devin Nunes memo which have predictably backfired on him. When it comes to the government shutdown, Trump has no path for winning or doing anything that can be seen as a win. Because of the bad deal he made in order to bail himself out of the last shutdown, he’s headed right back toward another shutdown unless he completely caves on DACA – which gives his racist base a strong reason to consider giving up on him. If Trump doesn’t cave on DACA, the government gets shut down again, and mainstream America will once again blame Trump for it.
These are the kinds of no-win, no-leverage situations you try to avoid falling into. Trump is already going to lose the government shutdown battle in a few weeks no matter how he decides to play it. He has even less leverage because the Mueller interview deadline is playing out in a similar timeframe. Trump has to decide whether to give Mueller an interview about the Russia scandal which will likely incriminate him and end his presidency, or invoke the Fifth Amendment which would finish him off politically.
Moreover, because everyone involved with the budget negotiations knows Donald Trump is about to fall down Robert Mueller’s well, everyone is going to hold his feet even further to the fire in the negotiations. It’s difficult to imagine Trump being able to offer enough to both Republicans and Democrats in order to find sixty Senate votes to keep the lights on. Both parties know he’ll take the bulk of the blame for the shutdown anyway – and two shutdowns in a month on his watch exposes him as being completely washed up.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report