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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump credos fail to catch on with own appointees, Senate GOP

President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of

President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday. Credit: Pool / Getty Images / Olivier Douliery

Each week the gully grows between the words of President Donald Trump and the actions of his appointees and partisan allies.

Trump has announced the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from Syria. But last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) led the 68-23 approval of an amendment defying him. It said jihad militants in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a security threat here.

Also on Capitol Hill, Trump's intelligence chiefs contradicted his claims that his policies erased foreign threats from Iran to North Korea.

The disconnect goes beyond foreign policy.

Trump likes to mock global warming. Last Monday amid a record cold snap, he tweeted: "People can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming [sic]? Please come back fast, we need you!"

The president raised ecologists' eyebrows in late 2017 when he picked a nonscientist, ex-AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers, to head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Myers hasn't been confirmed. Under an acting director, NOAA firmly rejects Trump's lighthearted climate-change denial. The agency last week posted a message on social media: "Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening . . . Here's one of our favorite resources to explain the science."

Pat Shanahan, Trump's acting defense secretary, also went remarkably off message. He turned away from the president's insistence that his ballyhooed Space Force become a new sixth branch of the U.S. military. The effort belongs within the Air Force, Shanahan said, and should have a "small as possible footprint."

Since 2017, McConnell and the House of Representatives have pushed aside key Trump initiatives. These included a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, Obamacare's replacement with what Trump called a "great" new program, sharp budget cuts and Trump's fluidly-defined border wall.

Congress also let the Russia investigation proceed under special counsel Robert Mueller.

In an interview published last week, McConnell cited areas in which Trump has "done what I thought ought to be done” — a major tax cut, appointment of conservative judges and deregulation.

McConnell added this extremely faint praise: “If Marco Rubio had been president, we’d have done it. If Jeb Bush had been president, we’d have done it. I say that not to take anything away from President Trump, but he took good advice on all three of those areas that are traditional Republican positions.”

And the majority leader called for avoiding another government shutdown — just after Trump publicly touted the possibility.

Asked what would make a satisfactory border security deal, McConnell said, "I’m for whatever works that would prevent the level of dysfunction we’ve seen on full display here the last month and also doesn’t bring about a view on the president’s part that he needs to declare a national emergency."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), now contending with a Democratic majority, said he would not insist that a deal include the word “wall.”

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have been skeptical of Trump's tariffs, which might not help the White House play hardball on trade with China.

On one issue after the next, the president seems to face difficulty getting even those he appoints to follow his cues.


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