How local, state and federal officials work around Trump
President Donald Trump hinted Tuesday at using a government “shutdown” as a way to prod a temporary budget agreement on Capitol Hill that tightens immigration laws.
Top Democrats and Republicans in the Senate promptly ignored him. The next day, they cut their own deal to add hundreds of billions of dollars in military and other spending.
Trump then urged the House go along with the Senate’s legislation. Whether the House would heed him any more than the Senate did remained to be seen as the deadline for a spending plan approached.
Getting around the policies, declarations and whims of the second-year president has become a growing goal for elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
Some of their gambits are tricky. New York and other so-called blue states have been wrestling for a way to blunt the effect of a new Republican tax law that limits the ability of citizens to deduct their state and local taxes on federal forms.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, for example, suggested shifting some state and local levies to a payroll tax paid by employers. But there are complications that mitigate against it.
In California, Democrats have toyed with the idea of replacing taxes with “donations” to the state coffers to get around the new double taxation.
California officials also intend to block the transportation of petroleum from new offshore oil rigs as a way of sabotaging Trump’s order to expand private drilling in federal waters.
“I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement this week.
Recently, the White House was forced to disband a commission on alleged voting irregularities because it received so little cooperation from states both red and blue — consent of the governed and all.
The practice of sidestepping Trump goes beyond open party-line resistance.
More than two months ago, U.S. Border Agent Rogelio Martinez and his partner Stephen Garland were found critically injured in a culvert. Martinez died shortly after in a hospital in El Paso, Texas.
Trump said at the time that the injured agent had been “brutally beaten” — citing the case to bolster the call for his southern border wall. But federal investigators have gone on performing their jobs as they ordinarily would — and now concluded there was no evidence of any attack or ambush. Garland, who survived, has reportedly been unable to describe what occurred.
Bottom line: The case makes the wall no more or less likely to be built, regardless of how the president used the case.
After NFL linebacker Edwin Jackson and a man named Jeffrey Monroe died in an Indiana car crash on Sunday, Trump focused his tweet on the immigration status of the allegedly drunken driver.
He demanded lawmakers “get tough on the Border and with illegal immigration, FAST!”
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, a Democrat, filed felony charges against the driver, a Guatemalan citizen named Manuel Orrego-Savala, and vowed to “vigorously prosecute” the case. But he made clear he’d act regardless of Trump.
“We are disheartened that ghoulish and inappropriate public commentary has politicized this tragedy. Much of such commentary, including tweets by the President, fails to acknowledge that both Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe lost their lives on Sunday,” he said. “We will simply seek justice on behalf of the families of those two victims.”
There are also varied examples of federal bureaucrats in the executive branch functioning professionally in ways that may contradict the stated policies of the White House. The issues have included bank regulation, defense, climate change and foreign aid.
Recently, Bloomberg News quoted David Lewis, political science chairman at Vanderbilt University, saying: “It’s an enormous challenge for a new president and administration to exert influence over the bureaucracy.
“The bureaucrats know a lot more than the political appointees who come into the agencies. That gives them an advantage.”