This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.
Thursday could have been—should have been—a banner day for the Trump administration. Senators were nearing a bipartisan deal to protect Dreamers. Fiat Chrysler, crediting the recently passed corporate tax cut, announced that it was moving jobs back to Michigan from Mexico. [CNN] Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, announced that it was increasing its minimum wage to $11 an hour (still poverty-level, but it’s something) and giving employees cash bonuses. [Reuters] (Ignore for a second that Walmart also announced that it was closing about fifty Sam’s Club stores—though most of the seventy-five hundred affected workers will be rehomed somewhere else in the company—and the fact that the Carrier plant President Trump promised to save laid off another 215 workers. [CNN]) It could have been a banner day. But it wasn’t. Because Donald Trump is his own worst enemy.
MORNING: A little before seven a.m., a Trump-loving Fox News personality went on Fox & Friends to rail against the White House’s support for the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “I don’t understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this,” he said. Less than an hour later, Trump was no longer supporting the bill. [WaPo] On Twitter, “the president quoted verbatim the Fox headline from [Andrew] Napolitano’s appearance and suggested that the FISA law had been used by the Obama administration to ‘so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign.’”
- But we’re not done yet: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) spent 30 minutes on the phone with the president explaining the differences between domestic and foreign surveillance, as many fellow Republicans reacted in disbelief and befuddlement. … A presidential correction came 101 minutes after the initial tweet. The second missive—an explanation perhaps as much for Trump himself as for anybody else—stated that ‘today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land.’”
- “The confusion—less than two hours in all—sent members of Congress reeling, the president’s staff scrambling and was a fresh reminder of how Trump’s haphazard impulses can undermine his own administration and upend the daily workings of the federal government.”
- “The program is known as Section 702, named after the part of the 2008 FISA law that established it. But with his morning tweet, Trump seemed to be conflating Section 702 with the broader FISA law, which governs a variety of surveillance and intelligence activities. Trump charged that the FISA law had been used to get a warrant to spy on his campaign.”
- In short, the dispute over 702 was whether to continue the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program or to enact significant privacy restrictions. A bipartisan, civil-liberties-minded coalition opposed it, but, with Democrats’ help, it passed the House 256–164. It’s now expected to pass the Senate, as well. [NYT] (Of North Carolina Democrats, David Price and G.K. Butterfield voted for the privacy restrictions, while Alma Adams did not vote. [House.gov])
AFTERNOON: Then came the racist Trump statement everyone is talking about this morning, the one that caused The Washington Post to put a profanity on its front page. In an Oval Office meeting to discuss immigration changes, and specifically immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, the president asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” [WaPo]
- WaPo: “Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically. In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said. ‘Why do we need more Haitians?’ Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. ‘Take them out.’”
- To make an obvious but important observation: immigrants from Norway tend to be white. Immigrants from Haiti and Africa are usually black, and those from El Salvador are Hispanic.
- To make another obvious point: Haiti and El Salvador and some African countries are indeed struggling, but Trump’s inclination to chalk this up to a deficiency of their people, whom he does not want in his country, is definitionally racist. It also ignores centuries of Western colonialism that impoverished Haiti and much of Africa and led El Salvador to civil war. It overlooks the fact that people from Norway and other developed countries with functional health care systems have no reason to come here en masse. But those fleeing oppression and poverty and violence do. Trump is already sending hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have lived and worked in the U.S. for more than a decade, back to these “shitholes.” Now he wants to prevent any of their compatriots—or, if you extend his logic, any refugee from anywhere—from ever touching our shores.
- Tl;dr: the president is a stone-cold racist, full stop.
- The president’s racism could derail the brewing immigration deal, and consequently shut down the federal government a week from today: “The president’s remarks came at a moment of frustration during an Oval Office meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers Thursday, as they were presenting an opening bid for a broad immigration package. The deal included a solution for ‘dreamers,’ as well as improvements to border security and changes to two other elements of the immigration system: one allowing U.S. citizens to sponsor certain relatives for citizenship, and the other, known as the ‘diversity visa lottery,’ which distributes 50,000 visas annually to nations with low rates of migration to the United States. Trump became angry during a conversation about the visa lottery program, which benefits some African countries, and about the temporary protected status afforded to immigrants from certain nations, including El Salvador and Haiti.” [WaPo]
- “Late Thursday, Trump took to Twitter to attack Democrats and push for a border wall. ‘The Democrats seem intent on having people and drugs pour into our country from the Southern Border, risking thousands of lives in the process,’ he tweeted. ‘It is my duty to protect the lives and safety of all Americans. We must build a Great Wall, think Merit and end Lottery & Chain.
- “The day began much differently, with rumors circulating on Capitol Hill that senators from both parties were close to an immigration deal. … But the tentative plan from just six senators in a closely divided body of 100 immediately sparked fresh tensions over how Republicans should oversee the emotionally charged immigration debate. White House officials and top GOP Senate leaders insisted that no deal had been reached. Adding to the confusion, other groups of lawmakers are meeting separately to come up with a solution, including the vote counters in each chamber, who have been called on by Trump to reach consensus. Some of these lawmakers bridled at the notion that a small group of their colleagues, especially a group that does not include any immigration hard-liners, could come up with a deal and impose it on everyone else.”
- For the record, I called “white supremacist” months ago, after the president’s indifferent response to the catastrophe in Puerto Rico. I was right then, and I’m right now. [INDY]
- This morning, Trump continued down this road.
EVENING: Just before midnight, the president announced—again, on Twitter—that he was not going to London because “I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut
- First of all, Trump’s motives are transparent. His visit was going to be greeted by mass waves of protest, and the president couldn’t handle it. [The Guardian]
- Second of all—and again, you’ll be shocked—basically no part of that statement is true. The decision to move the embassy was made during the Bush administration for security reasons. Per CNN: “The decision to move the embassy from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms was made in 2008 under George W. Bush, not Obama. It would have been impossible to retrofit the aging concrete building with the security measures needed, officials said at the time.”
WHAT IT MEANS: In a new poll this morning, a majority of Americans—including 88 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents—see Trump’s mental health as a legitimate issue. [Axios] I can’t but think yesterday’s outbursts aren’t going to help Trump assure his doubters. In just eighteen hours, he put on full display many of the traits his critics have long accused him
ignorance, narcissism, racism.
Related: And then there’s the president’s interview with The Wall Street Journal [sub. required], which contains this remarkably narcissistic passage.