Axelrod: Trump has boxed himself into a corner

CNN's SE Cupp explains what Americans can expect following the partial government shutdown and wonders whether President Trump can learn from the experience.

Posted: Jan 27, 2019 12:00 PM
Updated: Jan 27, 2019 12:00 PM

When President Barack Obama was seeking House votes for an ill-fated climate change plan in 2009, I was summoned to Capitol Hill for a ritual flaying.

Democratic House members were rightly anxious about casting a politically fraught vote, particularly without any assurance the Senate would take it up. (It didn't.) So I was sent from the White House with the dubious assignment of making the political case to the Democratic caucus for the hazardous vote.

The moment I walked through the door, and before I addressed the group, the once and future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accosted me. "The President of the United States assured me that he would be out, making a public case for this vote," she said, jabbing a finger in my direction. "Where is he?"

Mercifully, God intervened. A clergyman took to the microphone, causing Pelosi to pause the tongue-lashing as she bowed her head and clasped her hands in prayer. But as soon as amens were said, she resumed her tirade.

"And if I don't see him out there, I am going to pull this bill!"

Pelosi was Obama's greatest and most resourceful ally on Capitol Hill. She was tough and unsparing, even to a friendly White House, when the moment demanded.

Newly back in charge of the House, Pelosi has just treated President Donald Trump to a brutal civics lesson about the separation of powers under the US Constitution. Friday, the President called an end to his five-week partial government shutdown.

Now both he and Pelosi have calculations to make.

The most urgent are those of Trump, who impulsively painted himself into a corner and smashed headlong into his mythic border wall. Picking a fight he could not win, he neither pleased his base nor the majority of Americans who reject the wall and resented the costly, marathon shutdown.

In Pelosi, Trump has encountered a canny and implacable foe, with an intimate understanding of the power invested in the Congress. She would not be bullied or cowed.

It seems doubtful that the speaker, flush with victory, will extend a life raft to the President, who faces another deadline three weeks from now. It is unlikely that her caucus will yield on the wall; instead it will probably offer the same package of border and port enhancements it proffered last week.

Had he not made the wall his sine qua non, Trump might have been able to claim this as a victory, arguing that he won significant new funding for border security. After all, he may not be the master negotiator he played on TV but the man does know how to sell.

The problem is, he got elected by selling the wall. He invested it with huge symbolic importance and his faithful, nativist flock believed him. They saw his capitulation on the shutdown as surrender. He is their leader. They are his jailers.

So my guess is that Trump will play the national emergency card when the deadline arrives in three weeks, claiming the power to shift funds from other purposes to build the wall.

He almost certainly will lose again -- this time in the courts -- as the Constitution clearly assigns the power to appropriate money to the Congress. But he will want to get caught trying, in the eyes of his followers. The judges will become his foil.

Trump's bigger concern should be less a wall on the border than the ones closing in on his presidency. On the very day he paradoxically declared victory in the shutdown battle by signaling surrender, he saw another ally ensnared in a Russia probe that seems to be churning to a crescendo.

With the indictment of Roger Stone, special counsel Robert Mueller added another piece to a jigsaw puzzle that is taking shape. And no matter how often the President loudly proclaims "witch hunt" and denies collusion, the growing weight of evidence dispels both.

The House will have the responsibility to act on Mueller's findings or any attempt by the White House and Justice Department to suppress them. No one knows exactly what the inscrutable special counsel will conclude.

But for two years, Congress has done its best to shield Trump from a thorough reckoning on Russia, his commercial exploitation of the White House and myriad other potential abuses.

Now the power of the House is in Pelosi's hands.

What should be clear to the President today, if it wasn't before, is that she knows how to use it.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1380370

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1534461574
Cuyahoga1354332341
Hamilton984041326
Montgomery677001161
Summit566391051
Lucas51349869
Butler47858663
Stark42048983
Lorain31922539
Warren30328338
Mahoning27315643
Clermont25897297
Lake24746422
Delaware22501147
Licking20701246
Fairfield20658223
Greene20527275
Trumbull20127516
Medina20006290
Clark18086332
Richland16602236
Portage16305231
Wood15869209
Allen14257261
Miami13963261
Muskingum12858155
Wayne12126244
Columbiana11896242
Tuscarawas11103271
Marion10865150
Pickaway10580129
Scioto10477127
Erie9822171
Ross9566177
Lawrence8886125
Hancock8567143
Ashtabula8423187
Geauga8226156
Belmont8221188
Jefferson7635175
Huron7507131
Union740751
Washington7334126
Athens705965
Sandusky6925135
Darke6853137
Knox6762122
Seneca6496137
Ashland6035115
Auglaize593188
Shelby5796104
Brown572972
Mercer563690
Defiance5538101
Crawford5530117
Madison549371
Highland548082
Fulton539583
Clinton532081
Logan516987
Preble5058111
Putnam4876107
Guernsey480664
Williams466482
Perry459054
Champaign452264
Ottawa441384
Jackson432963
Pike397045
Morrow393851
Coshocton386669
Fayette381753
Adams366875
Hardin363970
Gallia352858
Holmes3297111
Henry328869
Van Wert318871
Hocking308070
Wyandot284558
Carroll265452
Paulding245143
Meigs220242
Monroe191949
Noble172942
Morgan169429
Harrison160041
Vinton140619
Unassigned05
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