The first hint of trouble came when Donald Trump oddly spent all day today bitterly sniping at people instead of celebrating his first legislative accomplishment. Something was wrong, and he knew it, and he couldn’t hide it. Now this evening we’re gaining some insight into what’s really going on. After the GOP bent over backwards to try to ram through the tax scam bill before the holidays, Trump made a stunning announcement tonight: he’s not signing it yet. There’s only one possible reason why.
The Republicans in Congress were so bent on completing the tax heist before going on holiday recess, they were willing to humiliate themselves by passing a half-finished and incoherent bill that most of them hadn’t even fully read. They desperately wanted this over with. Yet now Trump is announcing he won’t sign it until January 2nd, according to Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show this evening. Some news outlets are theorizing that it might have a different financial impact if it’s signed in 2018 instead of 2017, but that’s not really the case. What’s really going on here? Trump is suddenly looking for leverage against his own party.
Let’s revisit why the GOP was so eager to get this bill done right now, even though it’ll still have the majority when it comes back in January. The party is clearly operating under the premise that something is coming over the holidays that’ll make it very difficult to pass partisan legislation for the foreseeable future. Throw in the fact that the GOP suddenly began rejecting Trump’s various nominees this week after having rubber stamped them all year, and it’s clear the GOP is positioning itself for some sort of Trump implosion – perhaps even one that it’s strategically planning to trigger itself.
Trump’s ally Steve Bannon publicly stated two weeks ago that he believed the Republican Party would try to oust him the minute he signs the tax scam bill. So it’s nearly a given that Bannon is feeding this same advice to Trump in private as well. Perhaps Bannon has been pointing to the same things I’ve been pointing to: the weird haste to pass the bill, and the sudden shutdown of nominees, suggest that the GOP may be planning to dump Trump over the holidays.
Keep in mind that the Republican Party presumably has blackmail material it can privately use to try to force Donald Trump to resign. Also keep in mind that Mike Pence and the majority of the cabinet can invoke the 25th Amendment and immediately remove Trump any time they like. Trump could appeal the decision to Congress, but if they’d rather part ways with the headaches Trump has been causing them, they can simply side with Pence. Trump may not understand this kind of thing, but Bannon does, and Trump still listens to him.
So the most logical interpretation here – and arguably the only logical interpretation – is that Donald Trump suddenly fears the GOP is going to oust him over the holiday recess, and he’s waiting to sign the tax bill until January as a way of trying to retain a bit of leverage. If the GOP is hoping to dump him around Christmas, when few will be paying attention anyway, he’s going to at least make them wait until January when he can make a big fight out of it. Of course he’s forgetting that if Mike Pence takes his place, Pence can sign the bill in January just as easily.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report