Trump’s Road to Armageddon

Just when we think that Donald Trump’s behavior cannot become more bizarre, it does. On May 22, congressional leaders went to the White House, ostensibly to discuss a plan to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure; Trump walked out of the meeting, after throwing a temper tantrum — saying he would not work with Congressional Democrats until they called off all investigations into his (alleged) high crimes and misdemeanors. Democrats aren’t going to call off these investigations and Trump isn’t going to work with Congress.  So where does this leave us? On the road to armageddon.

The Federal Debt Limit expired on March 1st and, at the moment, the Treasury Department is using accounting gimmicks to pay the nation’s bills.  Experts say that this will only work until sometime in September-October.  What will happen then?

Forbes Magazine (https://www.forbes.com/sites/teresaghilarducci/2019/04/25/the-u-s-debt-ceiling-expired-on-march-1-and-nobody-cared-but-they-will/#57842bff6b3f ) explains: “When the [debt] limit is reached, the U.S. Treasury can’t borrow any more… severely impacting the real economy for fear the government would default on our debt…. Interest rates, already one of the fastest rising costs in the federal budget, will rise as the political crisis builds, because foreign borrowers will demand an additional risk premium. And rising interest rates will impact U.S. Treasuries, mortgages, credit cards, car loans, student debt, and corporate debt. If workers, households, students, and corporations can’t pay their bills because of the interest rate shocks, the economy could go into recession.”

Judging by his increasingly erratic behavior, it’s likely that Trump will hold the nation hostage over the Federal Debt Limit — and the appropriations bill to keep government running (which comes due October 1st).  Trump will issue an ultimatum, “Call off the investigations or I won’t sign these bills.”  Even though his intransigence will be opposed by all congressional Democrats and most Republicans, Trump will refuse to compromise.  In the process he will drag the United States over a financial cliff.

Of course, the House Democrats could head off this turmoil by dropping all Trump-related investigations.  But they are not going to do that because the Mueller Report concludes: (a) Trump committed crimes by obstructing justice and (b) the Russian government continues to meddle in our political affairs.  Writing in the New York Review of Books (https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/05/23/robert-mueller-report-trump-indictment/ ) David Cole (ACLU National Legal Director) observes: “The [Mueller] report dispassionately lays out the facts, which are an indictment in all but name.”

On May 29th, Robert Mueller made a brief public statement where he again noted: ” If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so [in our report].”  Mueller repeated that he and his associates did not indict Trump because such an action was against Department of Justice policy.

Over the next three months, the Democrats will continue their Trump investigations.  Given the unprecedented Trump Administration obstruction, the House is likely to instigate a formal impeachment inquiry — which would strengthen its legal case to obtain key documents and testimony.

Over the summer, the White House will likely initiate no new policy proposals or legislative action.  Instead the Administration will continually rail against the investigations, call them “witch hunts.”   And, Trump will take trips: Next week Trump will go to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France for D-day memorial ceremonies.  At the end of June, Trump will travel to Japan for the G20 Summit — which will give him a chance to confer with his buddy, Vladimir Putin.  In August, Trump will go to France for the G7 Summit.  (In between, Trump will go to campaign rallies and play golf.)

During this same period the House of Representatives will be hard at work. (Except, possibly, for the month of August, when it is scheduled to be in recess.  Given the current circumstances, plus the desire of Democrats to prove that they can walk and chew gum at the same time — investigate Trump (and the Russians) and also generate meaningful legislation — it’s likely that the House will stay in session during August.)

In the past, faced with an extreme conflict, Trump has usually backed down.  However, last December 22nd Trump didn’t back down on his request for border-wall funding, he initiated a 35-day (partial) government shutdown — the longest shutdown in U.S. history.  Given this recent history, and Trump’s desperation-fueled erratic behavior, there’s no reason to believe that he will back down in September if faced with a combination debt-limit and appropriations conflict.

We’re headed for armageddon and Donald Trump doesn’t care.  Trump is focussed on protecting himself, not the United States.