A group of Congressional Republicans is implementing what looks like a clever, low-key strategy for the destruction of President Donald J. Trump (R-New York). The plan might succeed; because it involves an indirect attack against cabinet members and White House staff, rather than a frontal assault on the President.
A typical example of the assault involves moderate Republican Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colorado). Coffman is demanding that Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin resign because he tried to put a trip to see the Wimbledon tennis match in London on the taxpayer’s dime, The Denver Post reported.
“It’s exactly corruption and abuses like this that doesn’t help our veterans,” Coffman tweeted on Valentine’s Day. “@SecShulkin must RESIGN now. @realDonaldTrump ran on accountability, it starts here.”
Coffman is trying to tar Trump with the brush of corruption by associating him with Shulkin. He is far from alone, recent headlines indicate.
Congressional Republicans Line up to Attack Trump
U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) set his sights a little higher by going after the president’s chief of Staff and former General John F. Kelly. Kennedy is also trying to associate Trump with an evil that is far uglier than simple corruption – domestic violence through his assaults on Kelly.
Kennedy told CNN that Kelly made a “bad decision” by protecting staff secretary Rob Porter who has been accused of beating his ex-wives on 8 February 2018. Kenney applauded Porter for resigning and implied that other officials should do the same thing.
“It’s wrong, and if it happened and they’re serious allegations — some honestly believe that it did happen — then Mr. Porter did the right thing,” Kennedy said.
Finally, there is EPA Director Scott Pruitt who was the target of several GOP Senators; including Kennedy, in a sort of St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, disguised as a committee hearing. The Senators went after Pruitt for charging first-class air travel on a federal credit card, Politico reported.
“I just think all cabinet secretaries and all of us ought to fly coach,” Kennedy said.
“Whether we are members of Congress or members of the Cabinet, I think we’ve got responsibility that when we’re traveling on government business that we make sure we’re being responsible with those dollars,” Senate Energy Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told POLITICO.
What the Congressional Republicans are trying to do
The pattern from the attacks on Kelly, Pruitt, and Shulkin portray the cabinet; and by insinuation Trump, as wealthy, corrupt, insensitive, unethical, and arrogant elitists who don’t care about America, conservatism, or average people. The attacks are similar to those Republicans have been making on prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton for decades.
The assaults on two members of the Trump cabinet and the White House Chief of Staff with similar tactics on the same day do not appear to be a coincidence. This looks coordinated, and it appears designed to discredit or damage Trump.
The attacks are designed to discredit Trump’s image as a populist reformer and man of the people out to clean up Washington. Trump has convinced a large portion of the Republican base that he is one of them; a “people’s champion” battling a corrupt elite.
Congressional Republicans are trying to change that narrative by portraying Trump as surrounded by crooks, liars, and hypocrites. The strategy they are employing to implement that change is low key but readily apparent.
The Low-Key Republican Strategy to Destroy Trump
The Congressional GOP’s anti-Trump strategy is clever and low-key that it just might work. Here are the tactics the Republican legislators are employing:
- Hit the soft underbelly. Instead of attacking Trump the Republicans are going after corrupt and incompetent cabinet and staff members. Exposing their wrongdoing makes Trump look corrupt or at least ineffective, without actually attacking him. A steady barrage of this might convince some voters that “draining the swamp” is nothing but a hollow catchphrase.
- Put the President in a bind. Trump cannot be seen defending the cabinet members without looking corrupt and hypocritical. He either has to be silent, betray the cabinet members, or defend them. All of which makes the Donald look very bad.
- Death by a thousand cuts. Instead of a knockout blow, the Republicans are slowing chipping away at Trump’s reputation. This takes the form of a series of steady attacks that raise doubts in voters’ minds, rather than blatant allegations of corruption.
- Attack Trump on conservative grounds. Shulkin and Pruitt are being accused of wasting money. Kelly is being accused of having no respect for the family and women. They’re being exposed as “un-conservative” and “unchristian;” and by insinuation so is the President.
All this enables Republicans to attack Trump without publicly confronting him, and enraging his legions of followers. There are serious risks here because it can help Democrats and widen the fractures inside the GOP.
An advantage here is that the attackers can simply back off if the base objects. If it does not they will ratchet up the pressure on Trump.
The goal here is not impeachment or removal, but to make Trump unpalatable to Republican primary voters in 2020. It is too early to tell if this will work, but it should show Trump supporters that their most dangerous enemies are within their own party.
The anti-Trump Republicans are not dead as many observers have assumed. They’ve simply gone underground and launched a campaign of guerrilla warfare. One has to wonder how Trump and his handlers will react to this development.