The opening days of the year provided a model for what will happen in 2019. President Trump's request for $ 5 billion in funding for a border wall, the resistance of the Democrats to the proposed one and the consequent closure of the government prefigure a year of intense conflicts and efforts on both sides to increase the level of pain on the other.
The current arrest has now entered the record book as the longest in history, an inauspicious way to start the second half of the president's first term. Not surprisingly, however, the two previous years and the results of the mid-term elections.
In the days following the November elections, Trump claimed that the midterms were close to the Republicans' complete victory. The Democrats have just sworn in the biggest new class after Watergate. The President of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Accepting the gavel in the open day of the Congress, said the new Chamber would be bipartisan and unifying. The closing battle was neither one nor the other.
The president made a slight withdrawal on Friday from previous statements, suggesting that he was moving rapidly and impatiently to declare a national emergency to force the construction of the wall. It will address both legal and political problems if it were to follow this path. The shift of tone did not bring any other sign that the arrest will end soon. It was left to Saturday morning tweets to try and fill the void.
Entering the fourth week, the arrest lasted longer than the stalemate of 1995-96 which then opposed President Bill Clinton at the time House President, Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The fight eventually helped to revive Clinton's political position after the 1994 general elections had taken the 1994 general election and gave him an advantage over his 1996 re-election, with Gingrich as a stand-in.
In the aftermath of the extinction battle, the two sides found a way to work productively. In 1996, Clinton signed a welfare reform project that had previously vetoed (which was also good for Gingrich but a blow to Clinton's 1996 challenger, former Senator Bob Dole). A year later their negotiations led to a balanced budget agreement.
This is a different era with different players. The casting of a party president against a speaker of another gives some sense of parallelism, but Pelosi is not Gingrich and Trump is not Clinton. It is difficult at this time to see how this arrest can lead to any kind of productive work.
One hope is that this may eventually lead to renewed negotiations on a broader agreement on immigration.
Previous efforts in past administrations, whether under the presidency of George W. Bush or Barack Obama, have been blocked by conservative resistance. These past efforts included legal status or the path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. During Trump's presidency, these talks focused only on the so-called Dreamers, young people who came to this country as children, brought by their parents.
Trump and Democrats discussed an agreement that would give dreamers a path to citizenship in exchange for $ 25 billion in funding for a border wall. But those discussions included the president's proposals for reductions in legal immigration that are not part of the Democrats. Those speeches were interrupted in a typical way, with rancorous accusations on both sides and a conviction between Democrats that Trump preferred the political question to a resolution, or that the White House violinists would never allow him to accept terms with the Democrats.
More recently, Senator Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) has spread the idea of an agreement that would include wall financing along with limited-time work permits for dreamers and protections for those with temporary status. protected. That resized idea seemed to quickly sink between resentment and closure. Immigration still remains an insoluble problem and the rhetoric around the wall makes the compromise even more difficult.
Successful negotiations on a package of immigration reforms seem far from the plausible feelings of the two parties.
In fact, this extinguishing drama could only be the introduction for events to come when the Democrats will begin to explain their commitment to conducting multiple investigations of supervision over the Trump administration and the president himself.
This will begin on February 7, when Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer for the president who pleaded guilty before lying to Congress and who will go to prison in the spring, will testify before the House Supervisory and Reform Committee.
The president told journalists Thursday that he is not worried about what Cohen might say, but probably this was a bad faith comment. Cohen has already said that he has carried out a plan to pay sums of money ahead of the 2016 elections to women who have claimed previous relations with the chairman of the then Trump candidate.
Cohen's testimony will at least be a show. It will also give the president, but a taste of things to come: conflicting events and partisans who will dominate the news and probably push the president to look for ways to create diversions. It could be a dangerous moment.
Cohen will testify before Congress with the approval of Special Adviser Robert S. Mueller III, which means that he may be limited in areas he can freely discuss. But the fact that his testimony came so early could also suggest that Mueller is approaching the end of his investigation and will hand over his relationship in the near future.
The stalemate of the arrest is also the prelude to what will probably be a series of clashes between the White House and the Democrats of the Congress on access to documents and information, with the alleged claims of executive privileges. Another battle looms over the fate of Mueller's report: will it be released in full to Congress and to the public or partially released with heavy editorial offices or will the administration try to keep it in its entirety? Anything short of full version will produce fireworks and a real legal battle. The threat of an impeachment proceeding will be suspended over everything.
The arrest is testing the determination of both the Democrats and the president and so far neither has been willing to show weakness or desire for compromise. This is the first important test of Pelosi as a recently re-elected rapporteur, and he met, in Trump, an unpredictable and unstable opponent. Ultimately, however, next year will provide an even more challenging test for Republicans, especially those in the Senate.
During the closing, the president was effective in holding elected republicans together, despite some cracks in the façade. The president's position among the basic republicans helps keep the elected officials of the GOP in line, as well as their distaste for the negotiating tactics of Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) He was politically embarrassed when the president turned against the GOP compromise offered before the closure. He remained mostly silent and mostly disappeared from sight. Given everything that is coming, this could become his most challenging year as a leader. The same goes for the other Republican senators who do not have particular love for the way Trump behaved alone.
For how long the closure lasts, and in any case has been resolved, no one should expect a real change in the political atmosphere in Washington. Given the toxic policy of these times, things could actually plummet down after this low start of the year.