On Sunday, the story line of national politics for the week ahead was set, but by Monday morning President Trump blew all that up.
The nation’s capital was going to be buzzing ahead of former FBI director James Comey’s testimony on Thursday, and the White House was going to make a big push on an infrastructure bill that it hoped would compete for the news cycle's attention.
The week’s dynamic would be obvious. While Washington and the Democrats were talking about Russia all the time, Trump would be fulfilling a $1 trillion infrastructure campaign promise meant to have something for everyone: improvements to airports, subway extensions, and critical funding to repair roads and bridges. The president was scheduled to take his message on a trip to Ohio.
But on Monday morning Trump whipped up a tweetstorm, defending controversial ideas and, in some cases, contradicting his own actions as president. When the White House did brief reporters on the infrastructure plan, there was no actual written plan or list of bullet points.
Trump’s tweets, inspired by the terrorist attack in London Saturday night, immediately drew criticism. As the Washington Post put it: “He reacted impulsively to Saturday night’s carnage by stoking panic and fear, being indiscreet with details of the event, and capitalizing on it to advocate for one of his more polarizing policies and to advance a personal feud.”
Instead of talking about improving New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Monday, as he did on the campaign trail, he criticized his own Justice Department for “watering down” a second ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. Never mind that as president, he appoints the Justice Department officials who crafted this plan, and he was the one who signed it.
Then, based on a tweet from the acting US ambassador to Britain, which appeared to contradict the president in tone following the terrorist attack, Trump blamed Democrats for stopping his ambassadors from being put into their posts. Republicans control the Senate, which approves ambassadors. While Democrats, in the minority, can hold up an ambassador’s nomination for a little bit, Republicans could have approved all the outstanding ones by this point.
Trump has yet to say or tweet anything about infrastructure.
The White House said that next week is “workforce development” week. We’ll see how that goes.