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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

When Trump relents on his darker threats, many express relief

President Donald Trump is seen Monday in El

President Donald Trump is seen Monday in El Paso, Texas. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

Grim warnings come from President Donald Trump so often that it is easy to lose track of them.

On Dec. 28, Trump threatened to "close the southern border entirely" if Democrats didn't agree to "finish" building a wall on the Mexican border. That didn't happen.

At the same time, he said "we will be cutting off all aid" to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador over migrants, which hasn't happened either.

On Jan. 4, he said he could keep his partial government shutdown going for months or even years. It ended Jan. 25.

By Wednesday, Trump sounded unwilling to shut down agencies again.

This sort of end to a threat is what we now call good news out of Washington.

“I think it’s a good step in the right direction,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of a tentative budget deal that fell far short of what Trump demanded.

This would make for a popular end to the latest agency-funding crisis.

Trump's biggest threat yet, to blow North Korea off the map, was not fulfilled, fortunately. Sweet talk with dictator Kim Jong Un followed. Sane people worldwide find this a lot nicer than "fire and fury" — even if the erratic Kim has yet to stop developing nukes or change his ambitions.

Snits of little consequence can prompt threats from the White House. Trump didn't like Jim Acosta's attitude, so the CNN reporter's press credential was revoked. "It could be others also," Trump warned.

Acosta soon got his pass back. Nobody else lost one. The president and his staff saved face by imposing new news-conference rules, the impact of which has been hard to discern.

Trump as president also has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO and to cut off federal payments to California over fire response. Neither has happened.

At times he has followed through. He began to withdraw the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union in an anti-China move, withdrew from the Paris climate accord, and cut off Palestinian refugee aid after a UN vote chided Israel.

Sometimes Trump's aides have been known to talk him out of an order they perceive to be a political threat to his administration.

In June 2017, Trump ordered that Robert Mueller be fired as special counsel for the Russia probe, but he backed off after the White House counsel threatened to quit, The New York Times later reported.

At least one pending Trump threat has yet to be fully understood. In November, he said his administration was “looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars.” But neither GM nor the White House seemed able to say what subsidies the auto giant supposedly receives.

Then there are questions about what really constitutes a threat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used the term when Trump in his State of the Union speech called for an end to investigations of his administration.

Empty or valid, the presidential threats have piled up.


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