Donald Trump had a big day on Thursday.
With the Fed having finally capitulated in the interest of pacifying nervous investors, the onus for keeping the train on the tracks now falls to the White House. Markets (and Americans in general) are obviously concerned that another government shutdown is imminent and the world is on tenterhooks ahead of the March deadline on the trade talks.
It still seems just as likely as not that renewed gridlock in DC after February 15 will end up raising concerns about the debt ceiling and that those concerns will ultimately collide with the expiration of the 90-day truce with China beyond which tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods will more than double to 25%.
Nancy Pelosi made it clear on Thursday that there will be no wall money for Trump who, in turn, reiterated threats to declare a national emergency in the course of lambasting Democrats for being – and this is a quote – “the Party of late term abortion, high taxes, Open Borders and Crime!”
Trump had some press availability following his morning Twitter tirade and the clips are just as amusing you’d imagine they would be. Frankly, the two-front war with Pelosi and Xi is taking a visible toll on Trump’s already fragile mental state. His gesticulations and facial contortions were even more pronounced than usual on Thursday.
He kicked things off by addressing that other elephant in the room, where that means suggesting he knows more about national security than the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence (who last year literally laughed at Trump in public for inviting Putin to the White House after Helsinki).
Got that? Time will “probably prove” that Trump is “right” (and, implicitly, that the CIA is wrong) when it comes to North Korea and Iran.
This “debate” is mind-boggling, to say the least. This is a President who was (and likely still is, assuming Mueller folded the investigation into his own probe) under investigation by the FBI for being a possible Russian intelligence asset, who confiscates the notes of his own interpreters to make sure nobody knows what he discusses when he’s alone with the Russian President and who ignored the assessments of the CIA and Turkish intelligence during the Jamal Khashoggi debacle, claiming that Dan Coats and Gina Haspel are “probably” wrong about Pyongyang and Tehran. Later, Trump would claim on Twitter that the media “distorted” what Coats and Haspel said. He even posted a picture of himself staring at them.
Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media – and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc. Their testimony was distorted press…. pic.twitter.com/Zl5aqBmpjF
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
On the border, Trump actually tried to claim that Nancy Pelosi will one day “beg” him for a wall and as you’ll hear/see below, he is now completely delusional about this situation.
Next, Trump tried out a brand new pitch for the wall, centered around a hypothetical situation where “all walls”, all around the world are “taken down”, a scenario he (correctly) suggests would lead to “a mess like you’ve never seen before”.
The President then ran through a list of his “accomplishments”. As anyone who is familiar with how he usually goes about this knows, he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between an “accomplishment” and a plain old noun. Recall this classic tweet:
Mr. Prez, "strong military" isn't an "accomplishment." it's just a noun with an adjective in front of it. like "big truck" or "baby bird"
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) October 22, 2017
The latest example of this phenomenon finds Trump saying he “accomplished the military.” In the clip below, he also tries to take credit for the US having “the number one economy in the world” and as usual, that’s either not attributable to him or else manifestly false, depending on what he means by “number one”. The US has had the world’s largest economy for as long as anyone can remember and if he’s talking about GDP growth, the US isn’t even close to “number one”.
Asked why the deficit has ballooned on his watch, he cited the lag time between signing trade deals and when they “kick in” which, he says, “won’t be for a while”.
And here’s a fun looped video of him pounding the table and doing something strange with his hands for no readily apparent reason.
Finally, when asked whether he’s concerned about “legal challenges” to what everyone now just assumes is an inevitable national emergency declaration, Trump said simply this:
As you can see, it does not appear that there will be any kind of bipartisan agreement on border security that will keep the government open past February 15 and indeed, Trump explicitly says in one of the clips above that he won’t even bother to read any deal that doesn’t include money earmarked specifically for his wall.
On the trade talks with China, Trump called recent efforts on the part of Beijing to purchase more US soybeans a “fantastic sign of faith” and claimed Lighthizer made “tremendous progress” in talks with Liu He. Steve Mnuchin will reportedly travel to China soon. Huawei hasn’t been discussed yet, “but it will be”, Trump said.
As for whether the March deadline is negotiable, the answer is apparently “no”. Trump “reiterated that the 90-day process agreed to in Buenos Aires represents a hard deadline, and that United States tariffs will increase” barring a deal, a White House statement on the negotiations reads.
In any case, the problem with all of the above is that it still isn’t clear there’s anything Democrats could do to pacify Trump on the border battle and, in the same vein, it’s even less clear there’s a way out of the trade war for China.
We would continue to suggest that Trump feels like he needs to have battles to fight somewhere in order to preserve his political capital and keep the Roseanne base energized. If that’s the case, all of this is pointless.