Trump after midterms
A highly combative Donald Trump didn't even wait for the dust to settle after the American midterm election before firing the first shot on his Twitter account. On Wednesday afternoon, the president took immediate aim at the Department of Justice by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
China.org in the article Post-midterm: Trump's risks, Washington's bigger drama writes, that this seems to herald a new game in the Washington jungle, as Trump fights tooth and nail to hold onto political power. Facing a resurgent Democratic Party regaining control of the House of Representatives, he had already placed the White House on a virtual war footing, threatening instant retaliation if there were any further moves to investigate him.
In fact, the word was out that Trump had long wanted to fire Sessions, disappointed that the latter had recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential collusion between the Trump's presidential campaign team and Russia. He had called Sessions "weak" and "disgraceful," and their relations had become cold and awkward after the president had directly asked his Attorney General to resign.
Before this shocking news broke, Trump held a disputatious and hostile press conference regarding the midterm election results, where he couldn't hold back his anger in repeated clashes with reporters. In an earlier tweet, Trump couldn't wait to claim his Republican Party had enjoyed a "tremendous success." When the midterm results picture became a bit clearer Tuesday night, it turned out the Republicans had maintained their Senate majority, but suffered big losses in the House.
What Trump is good at is hitting out, with proven ability to survive and even prosper in past "battles." However, it's questionable whether this tactic will continue to work in a totally changed situation with heightened risks.
Loss of the House means the rules in Washington are not those to which Trump has become accustomed over the past two years. The Democratic Party has been re-energized and is now a core player on the Washington political stage.
The first and biggest risk is that of "subpoena" empowerment through its House majority. That is, the Democrats may issue a subpoena to compel any White House staff member to testify before Robert Mueller's special investigation into the 2016 presidential election campaign. However, right now it's not clear if that card will be played in the coming months.
Certainly, it will have some sort of chilling effect. The special investigating team led by Mueller has already charged four Trump campaign or administration team members. If Mueller continues to press others to testify it could change the course of the investigation, and nobody is able to predict the future influence and direction it will take
Secondly, in terms of domestic issues, what Trump has been doing in the past two years, if he continues along the same road, will incur many risks depending on what cards Democrats choose to play.
For example, the chances of Congress overturning Barrack Obama's "Obama Care" health program seems highly unlikely. Trump's pride and joy, his economic policy and the various measures he has trumpeted as great success, will encounter totally different resistance and technical hurdles as well.
The Federal budget will become another battlefield, over such issues as economic stimulus plans and emerging border expenses. For instance, under the current situation, Trump's administration has more spending needs involving the subsidies needed for farmers hurt by the ongoing trade war. This offers Democrats more chances for trade-offs with the administration.
More interestingly, the prospects are gloomier over Trump's continued infatuation with an anti-immigrant wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Even when Capitol Hill was totally controlled by the Republican Party the wall couldn't be built. And now, the Democratic Party definitely will not agree, adding to the negative feelings in the White House.
Thirdly, Trump's foreign policy is at risk. More strictly, those days when Trump could do what he liked seem to be gone. One of the Democrats' main weapons will be that they can decide which bills they will allow to go forward. Moreover, the Democratic Party has some different ideas with Trump on America's relationship with its allies in Europe and Asia. As one Democratic Congress member said, "There will definitely be a reevaluation of American's engagement in the world." Those fields in which Trump has no interest will return with a vengeance, such as governance of climate change and global poverty alleviation.
Here, sensitive issues involving bilateral relations are not mentioned, such as those between America and Russia, North Korea and Iran. How Trump dealt with them had caused a lot of oppositions in the past, and that is likely to reverberate through his foreign policy strategies from now on.
As for the trade war with China, though the Democrats and Republicans have some interests in common, they also have some radical differences. For example, farmers in red states are regarded as Trump's power base, but the Democratic Party's supporters mainly gather in the big cities. This raises the issue of how to control the prices of daily economic necessities – city dwellers wanting them lowered, farmers wanting them raised. This could well become an important battleground between Congress and the White House.
Therefore, after the midterm election, America enters into a new phase, full of uncertainty. Trump's future presidency will meet new challenges in terms of his domestic and foreign policies. If Trump continues to act as a bareknuckle fighter, Washington may be on the way to a much bigger drama than the past two years.