One day later, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) introduced a resolution condemning the president’s racist missive. The day after that, it passed. The New Jersey Democrat spoke with Rachel the night of the vote and she noted that the White House lobbied congressional Republicans on the resolution, suggesting he cared about the non-binding outcome.
“Of course he cares,” Malinowski replied. “He wants us to think he doesn’t, but of course he does.”
The Washington Post published an interesting behind-the-scenes report over the weekend, and it left little doubt that the author of the resolution was right.
The White House vote-counters initially feared as many as 50 Republicans might defect to support the resolution, and Trump ordered an all-hands White House effort to keep the GOP caucus together. White House aides told allies on the Hill that it was okay to criticize Trump, as long as they didn’t vote with Democrats.
Trump was obsessed with the vote tally and received regular briefings. Aides fed him a constant stream of lawmaker reactions and put him on the phone with several lawmakers. He told his team to tell any wafflers that he loves America and that they needed to pick sides. Trump called McCarthy to cancel an immigration meeting planned at the White House on Tuesday.
“Stay there and fight,” he told McCarthy.
Remember, Trump invested this time and effort in opposition to a symbolic measure that he knew would pass anyway. In the process, he made a few things abundantly clear.
First, even when the president feigns indifference, Trump hates criticism and fears the implications of Republican divisions, especially as they relate to him and racism.
Second, if the president were to invest these kinds of efforts into actual governing, his presidency might be more successful.
Third, the lobbying and arm-twisting had the intended effect. Even when confronted with an eloquent resolution condemning obvious racism, 98% of House Republicans were told to vote “no,” and at the White House’s insistence, they did exactly that.
And finally, if Trump was “obsessed with the vote tally” on a non-binding resolution in one chamber, I shudder to think how manic he’d become if House Democratic leaders agreed to pursue impeachment proceedings.