Infrastructure Week Rarely Disappoints

Yesterday marked a substantial shift in the political narrative as Infrastructure Week once again turned into a spectacle. The morning started with a closed door meeting amongst House Democrats to discuss the growing discontent over the prospect of impeachment and to take the pulse on where representatives stood. Out of that meeting came a carefully crafted message from Democrats who instantly began doing the cable news rounds to explain that they were closer to starting impeachment hearings than ever before. They revealed there was now a line and that “red-line” was Trump disobeying a direct court order. This is significant given the ruling by Federal Judge Amit Mehta on Monday that upheld a congressional subpoena seeking President Trump’s financial records. Trump’s attorneys have already filed an appeal, but it’s important to note that it was only a month ago the initial subpoena was issued from Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, which means the adjudication process is moving at a fairly quick pace. This new red-line standard of not defying a court order that is being embraced by many House Democrats who were previously not on board before means impeachment could come sooner than later.

“It’s important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States and we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.” - Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Next came Nancy Pelosi issuing a quick statement to the press before heading over to the White House with Senator Chuck Schumer for a meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office on Infrastructure. The statement took less than 40 seconds and she proceeded to say that Democrats had just had a “very positive” meeting where they “shared ideas” and she stressed the importance of “following facts.” She then reiterated the statement being made by other Democrats simultaneously by saying that “we believe no one is above the law.” Pelosi concluded with saying that Democrats believe “the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.” Then she briskly walked off camera and headed to the White House.

Based the comments made from Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer after the meeting in the Oval Office, we now know that Trump’s reaction to being accused of a “cover-up” was not good. According to Schumer the two went to the White House prepared with a thirty-three page plan for Infrastructure allocations and they were met with a pre-planned attack that seemed like an “exit strategy.” Schumer also pointed out the pre-printed attack materials, such as the podium sign and handouts for reporters in the Rose Garden, used by the Trump Administration would have had to have been prepared well ahead of time. Speaker Pelosi described the event similarly, as an Oval Office temper-tantrum of sorts, where the President was very orchestrated and had a childlike attitude as he whined about her saying he was engaged in a cover-up. From the Pelosi and Schumer accounts, it doesn’t seem the meeting lasted long but it also doesn’t seem like it was intended to be a serious sit-down to really hash out a deal on Trump’s end. 

Next, Trump proceeded to the Rose Garden where he held what he claims is an impromptu speech, even though there was pre-printed material to emphasize his barely discernable talking points. Trump began with a seemingly prepared recitation of his jobs and employment numbers and about the strength of the economy, but he quickly digressed into the Infrastructure meeting that just took place. He seemed rattled as he stumbled over a few words and concepts and he began discussing Pelosi’s accusations of a cover-up.

Trump claimed he was willing to work on Infrastructure all along because “it’s one of the easiest things” but that none of this could work now that Speaker Pelosi had accused him of “doing cover-ups.” Trump gave no details about his own Infrastructure plans now or in the future, which makes it appear as if he doesn’t have a plan. The details from Schumer and Pelosi about the meeting as well as Trump’s behavior after the meeting only added to the likelihood of an Oval Office storm-out that was pre-planned.

From the Pelosi and Schumer accounts, it doesn’t seem the meeting lasted long but it also doesn’t seem like it was intended to be a serious sit-down to really hash out a deal on Trump’s end. 

The entire Rose Garden speech lasted less than twelve minutes and included the typical aspects of a rambling Trump speech. He started with what he considers his to be his strongest accomplishments and then devolved into name calling and further attacks. He went off script often, talking about “19 people heading up this investigation” under Robert Mueller saying they were, “contributors to the Democrat Party, most of them and Hillary Clinton, they hated President Trump, they hated him with a passion-they went to her big party after the election.” It was mostly what we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Trump in terms of not making sense and often speaking about himself in the third person, but it is also worth noting that he made a few interesting mistakes.

While straying from his speech to go into what the investigation has done to him and how “they would have loved to have said we colluded,” he started to talk about all that Donald Trump Jr. has suffered. In trying to emphasize what Don Jr. went through, Trump brought up the phone calls that were alleged to have been made by Don Jr. to Trump with regard to the planned meeting with Russian operatives in Trump Tower. Both Trump and Don Jr. claim that Trump Sr. knew nothing about the meeting and never did, either before it happened or directly after it happened. But in this segment of his Rose Garden speech, Trump went from speaking in the hypothetical about what supposedly happened to speaking in the actual. Trump slipped up while speaking about Don Jr. and said, “…he had a meeting and he called me, then he had the meeting after…” Considering that Donald Trump Jr. still has to go back to Congress for further testimony to clear up his previous statements, this could be a big problem.

Another interesting point from the Rose Garden yesterday was that Trump claimed the Mueller Investigation has cost the taxpayers “$40 million or $35 million dollars” and he even had a little sign on the podium that said, “Mueller Investigation by the numbers: $35+ Million Spent.” This is misleading for so many reasons. First, we don’t have actual cost numbers at this point only estimates, but let’s say Trump’s estimates are correct. He has failed to factor in what his continued refusal to comply with subpoenas is costing the taxpayers or for that matter, what Barr’s inaccurate and inappropriate assessment of the Mueller Report has cost. He is also failing to include the government seizure of Paul Manafort’s property, which is estimated to be worth between $42 million and $46 million. Even though whatever the government recovers from Manafort will not go directly to pay back costs for Mueller’s investigation, it will go to the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund, which pays for "any necessary expenses associated with forfeiture operations” and also pays for "certain general investigative expenses." Essentially, Manafort’s seized assets will actually benefit the taxpayer and substantially lessen the cost of the overall investigation. It’s also important to recognize that even though the Mueller investigation may end up costing $35 million, Trump has spent $102 million already just for his golf trips and in June he is planning a seven-figure presidential visit to another country so he can play at his own course. All funded by the taxpayer.

What yesterday showed us is that Trump intends to hold America hostage by refusing to negotiate on Infrastructure or other critical programs, hoping to force a premature end to the investigation against him.

Although Infrastructure Week now has a reputation of creating the most political drama for both sides, yesterday proved to be unsuccessful for President Trump, despite his calculated plans to make it appear that Democrats who won’t work with him. All of his plans backfired as it became clear he has no real plan or solution for America’s crumbling infrastructure, but more than that it revealed that he was caught off guard again and does truly fear the continued investigation against him. What yesterday showed us is that Trump intends to hold America hostage by refusing to negotiate on Infrastructure or other critical programs, hoping to force a premature end to the investigation against him. But leading up to 2020, what he fails to realize is that tactic is a losing proposition.

Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero and a Scholar” Newsletter and is an an attorney, contributor to Playboy Magazine, analyst for BBC radio and Director of The Inanna Project. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.