Embattled Trump faces Republican revolt, staff infighting
Donald Trump suffered yet another humiliating blow Friday as a small group of Republican rebels dealt him a stinging legislative defeat on health care, adding to the woes of a White House riven by vicious infighting.
The billionaire president lashed out at Republican senators who defied his threats and barbs to vote against health care reform, which experts predicted would have left millions more Americans without coverage.
“3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!” Trump tweeted after the dramatic vote in the early hours of Friday.
The party rebellion — led by Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain — is a deeply ominous sign for Trump, whose political brand is defined by his dealmaking acumen and a take-no-prisoners approach to politics.
For months, Trump has kept skeptical Republicans in line with an implicit threat that he would turn his diehard supporters against them.
Republican lawmakers had privately worried that even an angry tweet against them could spell disaster at the next election.
But there are growing signs those threats are losing potency, when Republicans not only killed efforts to dismantle Obamacare, but joined Democrats in supporting a new sanctions regime against Russia.
To veto or not to veto?
The sanctions bill — which also includes measures targeted at North Korea and Iran — is designed to restrict Trump’s ability to lift punitive measures on Moscow.
Trump now faces a choice between swallowing a bill he deeply opposed and refusing to do so — a move that would intensify suspicions about his attitude to Russia and likely bring a humiliating veto override.
Trump’s administration and his presidential campaign are under investigation by a special prosecutor and several Congressional committees over whether they colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 presidential election.
The new sanctions appear to have thwarted Trump’s efforts to build better relations with Russia.
Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday announced countermeasures, ordering Washington to reduce its diplomatic staff and seizing two US facilities.
Moscow ordered the US to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia to 455 diplomats and staff and also barred it from using a Moscow summer house and storage facility.
Moscow complained that the “new sanctions bill showed with all clarity that relations with Russia have fallen hostage to the domestic political struggle in the US.”
If the view from Trump’s White House looks bleak, the view inside is no better.
This week saw top staff in open warfare with each other, as they fought to get Trump’s ear.
White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci launched a searing foul-mouthed attack on his most senior colleagues.
In an eye-watering exchange with a New Yorker reporter, the fast-talking Scaramucci described chief of staff Reince Priebus as a “paranoid schizophrenic” and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon as trying to build his own brand off Trump.
Scaramucci, a millionaire New York financier, arrived at the White House vowing to serve Trump’s interest and right a badly faltering administration.
He did not apologize for the tirade, but said he would try to clean up his language in the future.
“I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda,” he tweeted.
On Friday, Trump will try to turn the page with a trip to the New York suburbs to talk about his administration’s battle against the violent street gang MS-13.
He also will likely be cheered by data showing the US economy gathered speed in the second quarter, with gross domestic product up 2.6 percent in the April-June period.