[Marxism] Did Two White House Advisers Help Push Trump Toward a Shutdown?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 22 06:44:59 MST 2018

New Yorker Magazine, Jan. 22, 2018
Did Two White House Advisers Help Push Trump Toward a Shutdown?
By Jonathan Blitzer

On Friday afternoon, hours before the government was due to shut down, 
the President invited Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, to the 
White House for a cheeseburger. Over lunch in a small study next to the 
Oval Office, the two reached what Schumer later described as a deal to 
keep the government running—in exchange for an increase in defense 
spending, and massive funding for a border wall, the President would 
grant legal status to those immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, 
known as Dreamers. According to a person with knowledge of the meeting, 
Stephen Miller, the President’s thirty-two-year-old senior adviser, was 
seen lurking outside during the talks. After Schumer left, John Kelly, 
the White House chief of staff, told Trump that the deal was too soft on 
immigrants. Within hours, it was scuttled. “Whoever has access to the 
President last—that’s what sticks,” a second person close to the White 
House told me.

As the shutdown continues through its second day, members of both 
parties remain confused about what the President personally thinks. 
Dealing with Trump, Schumer said this weekend, is “like negotiating with 
Jell-O.” Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who tried, for 
months, to bring the President around on an immigration deal, has 
complained that there are “two Trumps.” One, the self-described 
“dealmaker,” likes the idea of brokering an agreement that eluded Barack 
Obama; the other is recalcitrant and contemptuous. If the shutdown has 
clarified anything, it may be that “two Trumps” actually amount to three 
people—the President and two of his main advisers, Miller and Kelly, who 
now appear to be driving the negotiations.

On January 9th, the President summoned members of both parties to the 
White House for a free-wheeling discussion about a deal to replace a 
popular Obama-era policy called daca, which shielded seven hundred 
thousand Dreamers from deportation and granted them work authorization. 
(Trump cancelled daca in September, then called on Congress to devise a 
substitute policy.) After fifty-five minutes, reporters, who had been 
invited in to record the talks, left the room, and the conversation 
continued, according to the Washington Post. Kirstjen Nielsen, the newly 
confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security and Kelly’s former deputy, 
distributed a four-page memo outlining the White House’s position on 
“must-haves” for a deal. The document caught Trump by surprise. “I don’t 
know what this is,” he said, as the Times reported. He then told the 
congressmen in attendance to discard the memo.

Two days later, the President invited Lindsey Graham and his Democratic 
counterpart, Dick Durbin, to the White House, after they informed him, 
at 10 a.m. that morning, that a bipartisan group of senators had reached 
an agreement. By the time they arrived, around noon, the President had 
changed his mind. He blasted the deal and demanded to know why the U.S. 
had to accept “all these people from shithole countries.” Graham later 
asked Nielsen, “What happened between ten and twelve?” He blamed the 
White House staff for giving Trump “really bad advice,” adding, later, 
that “as long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, 
we’re going nowhere.” According to a source close to the White House, 
Miller and Kelly were the ones who whipped Trump up before Graham and 
Durbin arrived.

Late last week, the news site Axios published a leaked White House memo 
drafted in response to the deal announced by Durbin and Graham and 
supported by at least five other Senate Republicans. The “proposal would 
cripple border security and expand chain migration,” the document read. 
The logic of the memo, which seemed hostile to the very idea of a 
Dreamer deal in the first place, reiterated positions that Miller has 
been pushing since October, even as Trump continued to embrace Dreamers 

It also aligned with a hard-line bill introduced in the House by the 
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary 
Committee. Goodlatte proposes a twenty-five-per-cent reduction in legal 
immigration to the U.S., seeks to establish criminal penalties for all 
undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and threatens to undo 
temporary protections for Dreamers in the event that their annual 
incomes drop below a certain level. There are other, more moderate 
proposals in the House and the Senate, with broad bipartisan support, 
but Trump’s waffling has emboldened conservatives, who now appear to be 
coalescing around Goodlatte. Kamal Essaheb, the policy director of the 
National Immigration Law Center, told me, “It’s not clear what Trump is 
negotiating for, or if he’s really the one negotiating. Does he want the 
wall? Does he want cuts to legal immigration? Does he want more 
resources for immigration enforcement? No one knows. Either he keeps 
changing his mind, or he keeps getting overruled by his own staff.”
While Republicans and Democrats have traded recriminations all weekend 
about who was responsible for the shutdown, Trump has been cloistered in 
the White House, watching himself on television and following the advice 
of aides to do less, not more, according to the Times. But Trump is the 
central player in the immigration deadlock—after his dramatic calls for 
an agreement on Dreamers, he has twice rejected offers to avert the 
current crisis. He refuses to take the blame, and yet he is also 
bitterly resentful of the idea that he isn’t in control.

In an interview that added to the confusion, John Kelly told Fox News, 
earlier this week, that Trump “has evolved in the way he looks at 
things,” and that the President’s obsession with the border wall was, 
perhaps, ill-advised from the start. “He’s changed his attitude towards 
the daca issue and even the wall,” Kelly said. Feeling undermined, Trump 
quickly reiterated his support for the wall on Twitter and groused to 
his aides. Miller hasn’t yet been openly at odds with the President. His 
political future, like that of anyone in Trump’s White House, depends on 
his discretion. For months, Miller has been forcefully articulating the 
Administration’s positions on immigration in conversations with 
lawmakers and journalists. But it’s always been behind the scenes—Miller 
is careful not to seem like the one calling the shots. He repeatedly 
called Trump a “political genius” in a recent, contentious interview 
with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

The beginning of the end of Stephen Bannon, some say, was the Time 
magazine cover calling him “The Great Manipulator.” That label seems 
like an increasingly apt description of Kelly and Miller, too. It may be 
a matter of time before Trump realizes it. On Sunday, a bipartisan group 
of twenty senators worked away at a compromise to keep the government 
funded for three more weeks in the absence of an agreement over an 
immigration deal. It’s far from clear, though, what this might mean. 
Schumer said, on Sunday, that “only Trump” can end the shutdown. But, 
with the President’s own views a mystery, the chaos will continue.

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