Tangle is an independent, ad-free, non-partisan politics newsletter where I answer reader questions from across the country. If you found Tangle online, you can subscribe below.
Today’s read: 8 minutes.
The bombshell excerpts from Nikki Haley’s book, a question about Trump refusing to leave office, and the big news ahead on DACA.
A photo of the Veteran’s Day parade in New York City, taking place today, from 2009. Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Annie Elis / WikiCommons
Happy Veteran’s Day.
The meaning of Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are often confused. Memorial Day is a somber holiday to recognize those who died in uniform. Veteran’s Day is a bit more celebratory and is a day meant to honor anyone who has served in the Armed Forces. For those of you who get the day off, I hope you enjoy a relaxing day. If you’re a veteran, thank you for your service — and here’s a link to free stuff you can get today.
A big change.
Today, I’m making an important change to Tangle: Instead of “What Republicans are saying” and “What Democrats are saying,” I’m changing the headers of these sections to “What the left is saying” and “What the right is saying.” In a world where staunch liberals like Bernie Sanders are registered independents and staunch conservatives like Justin Amash have left the Republican party, I’m finding these political party labels increasingly meaningless. More than half the country identifies as independents, only a quarter identify as Republicans, and Democratic party identification has plummetted since the 1970s. All told, I think it’d be more representative to talk about the left, right, and note people who orbit around the middle, then to simply denote conservatives as Republicans or liberals as Democrats.
What D.C. is talking about.
Nikki Haley. The former United Nations ambassador said two of Trump’s most senior advisers — former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly — repeatedly ignored Trump in what they said was an effort to “save the country.” Kelly makes the claim in her new book, “With All Due Respect,” which The Washington Post got excerpts of ahead of its release this week. Haley said she was “shocked” that two of Trump’s most senior administration officials were trying to undermine him. “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley wrote of their views. “It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing.”
What the left is saying.
Trump was that big of a threat, huh? So many headlines have gravitated toward the angle as Haley presented it: that she had to fend off efforts to undermine the president. But lots of people on the left are pointing to the obvious implication: that two of the president’s most senior officials viewed him as such a threat they actively tried to recruit people to undermine him. The whole thing also wreaks of moral cowardice. Democrats have long suspected that there were people inside Trump’s administration — all the way to the top — who understood what a threat Trump is to America. This isn’t the “deep state” or some “political coup” but rather anyone with a brain or experience recognizing the threat Trump is. And yet, despite what Kelly and Tillerson were doing while in the administration, neither has had the courage to speak up about Trump since they left office. Nor did they really take any big stands when they were in their positions, instead just working quietly to try to slow down parts of his agenda. Others on the left immediately speculated that Haley was trying to angle for a role as Vice President in 2020 or positioning herself as pro-Trump because she has long-term political goals for the White House and views Trump’s future prospects positively. (I’ve written about the speculation Trump would pick Haley up for VP here).
What the right is saying.
We knew it. Haley’s book confirms what Republicans have been saying since Trump entered office, which is that he was surrounded by enemies and “deep state” operatives who were trying to undermine him. The President’s allies have saved their harshest words for critics who came from inside the administration, and Haley’s new book brings Kelly and Tillerson out into the daylight. Sheriff David Clarke Jr., one of the most outspoken Trump sycophants, said Haley’s courage proved that John Kelly was a “snake.” Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said: “undermining a president is dangerous and it does go against the constitution.” Kelly himself responded to the charges by saying that if providing Trump “with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice from across the government so he could make an informed decision is ‘working against Trump,’ then guilty as charged.”
It’s a pretty astonishing account. What sticks out to me most, and what I hope people really take away from it, is that The Washington Post, The New York Times, Axios, POLITICO and loads of other newspapers reported this months ago. Each has run stories about the friction between Kelly and Tillerson and the fact that both were so concerned by Trump they were working to keep him in check during their time in his cabinet. But when those stories came out, the administration dismissed them as “fake news.” Not only that, they also alleged that the reporters who wrote those stories were “the enemies of the people” and used the stories to ramp up hatred of the media from Trump’s base. Inadvertently, Haley just confirmed that all of those reports were accurate, and the administration was willing to slander truth-tellers as enemies of the people and stoke up vitriol just because they didn’t like what the news said. As a journalist, and as someone covering the administration, I’ll remember those denials and the hollowness of their defenses going forward.
Your questions, answered.
Remember: Tangle is about answering reader questions from all over the country. I don’t care what your politics are, I’d love to hear from you — and to try to help give you the information or insight you’re looking for. You can submit a question by simply replying to this email.
Q: This question has been on my mind for a while: Given Trump’s blatant disregard for conforming to the rules/norms of his office, and his willingness to spin the truth, do you think it is a likelihood that, if voted out in 2020, he simply denies the legitimacy of the vote and stays in office? Should we have any reason to believe Republicans in Congress would not allow this?
- Megan, Denver, CO.
Tangle: This is a question I think a lot of liberals in America have, at one point or another, asked themselves. Let me nip this in the bud off the bat and just say that, if Trump loses at the ballot box or is impeached, he will leave office. As David Frum recently put it in an article in The Atlantic, “If the 2020 election is certified against him and he does not vacate the White House voluntarily, the Secret Service will arrest him for trespassing and the ushers will pack his bags and throw them onto Pennsylvania Avenue.” Even with support in the ranks of police, the military, and his oft-cited “Bikers for Trump,” there’s simply no way the president would be able to stay in office against the will of the people. There are far too many checks and balances to stop it from happening, and of all the presidents to survive (figuratively, not literally) such an attempt, Trump is one of the last I imagine getting away with it. He is loathed by the intelligence community, the CIA, the FBI, and his support in the military is mixed. If anyone were to get away with such a feat, it’d be a wildly popular president beloved by rank and file intelligence officers and most of the military and Congress. Basically, the opposite of Trump.
My godfather once said that “America is batting one thousand percent on peaceful transfers of power, and that will always be one of the things that keeps the country together.” And he’s right. I suppose that precedent could be broken someday, but it certainly won’t be Trump who does it.
Now, with all that being said, that very article in The Atlantic — appropriately timed to inform some of my response here — also cites the half dozen times Trump has “joked” about staying in office past his term. A lot of Republicans and conservatives laugh at liberals for being so “deranged” they think Trump may actually try to extend his time in office past what is legal, but I’m not totally convinced those fears are unwarranted. More than almost anything else, Trump’s defining characteristics are an unshakeable arrogance (or deep-seated insecurity, though those things aren’t mutually exclusive) and a willingness to bend laws and norms. So do I think he would seriously explore changing the law or amending the constitution to keep himself in office longer than two terms? Do I think his ego could be that big? Yes, I do. But I think there is absolutely no chance he could find even an inkling of support from anywhere in Congress for such a proposal.
Which, by the way, brings me to another point: Trump’s support amongst Republicans may seem unbreakable, but it’s not. The worst-kept secret on Capitol Hill and amongst even some of his staunchest supporters is a lot of them actually don’t like him very much, if at all. Plenty of them hate him. The above story from Nikki Haley’s book is just one example. And why wouldn’t they hate him? He’s effectively turned his base against everyone except himself, and he’s forced traditional Republicans to turn their backs on some of the values they’ve been espousing for decades. The reason Trump has such a brick wall of support is that he is polling so well with conservatives and because the Republican party as a whole is shrinking and becoming less and less liked across the country. Before Trump, lots of people thought the Republican party was on death’s door.
Far more likely than any Trump-by-force presidency is that if he loses or is impeached he will activate the significant number of Americans who have unyielding support for him. He will say it was a “deep-state coup” that ended his presidency, or a lying, “enemy of the people” media, or millions of illegal Hispanic voters. And the consequences for that rhetoric, when it inevitably comes, could be just as dangerous as an effort to force himself into an extended time in office. If you’re interested in reading more about what life after Trump might look like, I really can’t recommend that article from The Atlantic enough. The timing of its publication with your question is quite serendipitous. You can read it here.
A story that matters.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in a case challenging President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. The program granted more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought here when they were younger than 16 temporary residency and work privileges. You had to have no criminal record and be attending school to qualify. Many of those immigrants were raised almost entirely in America and have no connection to their native country, though they may now face deportation back “home.” DACA has enjoyed some bipartisan support despite being created by Obama after Congress didn’t enact legislation. Experts say the outcome in court is a toss-up. You can read more here.
Rep. Peter King, a Trump ally and longtime New York congressman, announced his retirement this morning. King served 14 terms in New York and was on the House Intelligence Committee during the Russia probe. Despite his backing of Trump, he was considered by some as a moderate in the House of Representatives. Others know him for proposing Islamaphobic policies in New York City. Here are two opposing reactions from folks on the left:
- 70%. The number of Democrats who say that politics is making them increasingly angry about America, according to an Axios on HBO poll.
- $2 million. The amount of money former national security adviser John Bolton landed for his book deal about his time in the White House.
- 4%. The percentage of Democratic voters who listed former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg as their first choice for president, putting him in sixth place in the race, according to Morning Consult.
- 25%. The percentage of Democratic voters who expressed unfavorable views of the former mayor, the highest of any other Democrat in the race.
- $10 million. The amount of money the Trump campaign and the RNC have spent on impeachment-related television ads.
- 75,000. The number of new people who have signed up to volunteer for Trump and Republicans through the RNC’s anti-impeachment website.
- 100,000. The number of new donors Trump has gotten since House Democrats announced impeachment proceedings.
- 2.4 million. The number of U.S. military veterans who were born outside the U.S. or are children of immigrants.
- These startling numbers on wealth inequality:
Have a nice day.
Fukushima, the infamous nuclear powerplant, is going to be “reborn” as a massive wind and solar hub worth $2.7 billion. A plan is underway to create 11 solar power plants and 10 wind power plants on farmlands that can’t be cultivated anymore and around mountainous regions where population outflows continue, Yahoo News reports. The estimated power generation will be 600 megawatts, or about two-thirds of a nuclear power plant, and will be sent to the Tokyo metropolitan area. You can read more here.