TrumpWatch, Day 447: House Speaker Ryan Jumps Ship

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Donald Trump and Paul Ryan (File)

Did prospect of Democrat majorities in Congress — or Trump-Russia outcome — bring Ryan departure?


Developments on Day 447 of the Trump Administration:

Top GOP Legislator Leaves Amid Economic, Political Tensions

In a blow to the Republican Party, House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will not stand for re-election in November.

Ryan issued the statement on Wednesday, saying he wanted to spend more time with the family. However, the decision comes amid uncertainty over the GOP’s handling of the economy and the Trump-Russia investigation, as well as the prospect of the Democrats claiming majority in both houses of Congress in the mid-term ballots.

Ryan, who became Speaker in 2015 amid party in-fighting that toppled his predecessor John Boehner, built his careers on claims of financial and economic responsibility. However, he departs with the Government in unprecedented levels of debt, the Trump Administration failing to even produce a final budget after 15 months, and Donald Trump’s withdrawing from trade deals as well as welcoming confrontations with countries such as China, Canada, and Mexico.

Ryan has also been muted on topics like immigration, where his advocacy of relaxed walls has faced Trump’s crackdown on immigrants and demand for The Wall, and on federal law enforcement, with Trump and his allies attacking the FBI and Justice Department.

All of this occurred as the GOP obtained only one major legislative accomplishment in the Trump era, December’s passage of a tax package including $1.5 trillion in cuts, mainly for the wealthy.

The Speaker was seen as vital to Republican chances of retaining a Congressional majority. Despite the turmoil around Trump and the Administration, Ryan had continued to bring large amounts of campaign funds into the party.

Up to 50 House Republican seats face challenges, with Trump’s approval rating well below 40 percent in some of the districts. In the Senate, the Republicans have only a 51-49 majority going into November.

Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, assessed on Wednesday:

The first thing a Democrat House majority would do is begin impeachment proceedings. The second would be to undo tax reform. A GOP Senate will stop both of those things and continue to put conservatives on the bench [of courts] at a record pace.

Making no refernce to any consequence, Trump tweeted after Ryan’s announcement:


Bannon’s Back — Advising White House to Fire Rosenstein Over Trump-Russia

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and editor of the attack site Breitbart, is back advising Donald Trump’s inner circle — on how to halt the Trump-Russia investigation.

“Four people familiar with the discussions” said Bannon’s first recommendation is the firing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Meanwhile, all cooperation with Mueller and his team should be halted, including provision of information and staff interviews.

Then Bannon — who is not a lawyer — is saying Trump should assert executive privilege and argue that Mueller’s interviews with White House officials over the past year are null and void.

Bannon, forced out last August amid factional fighting within the West Wing, told the Washington Post on Wednesday:

The President wasn’t fully briefed by his lawyers on the implications [of not invoking executive privilege]. It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively.

Several advisors said Trump — who said Bannon had “lost his mind” after the former chief strategist gave a series of interviews criticizing members of the President’s inner circle such as daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — is unlikely to heed the advice.

“If you say his name in front of the President, it’s not a pretty sight,” said a “senior administration official”. “The President really goes off about him.”

Bannon has been scrambling to regain influence after he was removed as Breitbart editor, following controversy over his remarks about Trump’s advisors and family last autumn, by chief funders Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

However, Bannon’s remarks could reinforce Trump’s growing threats to cut off the Russia investigation by removing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein, and/or Mueller.

See TrumpWatch, Day 446: Fear and Fury — Trump Considers Firing Rosenstein and Mueller


Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Halts All Enforcement Operations

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has halted all enforcement operations against banks, credit card companies, debt collectors, or finance companies.

Last November, the White House imposed Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, on the CFPB as Acting Director.

Mulvaney, who attacked the agency as a “sick, sad joke” as a legislator, has not authorized a single enforcement action.

Under former Director Richard Cordray, the CFPB took two to four actions per month. The CFPB had recovered $12 billion for consumers and stopped harmful practices by companies.

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