President-elect Donald Trump,  walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. 
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

Muslim ban roils relationship between White House, congressional GOP

Of the 292 Republicans in Congress, including both the House and Senate, most have said nothing about Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. According to Vox’s running tally, 38 GOP lawmakers have been critical of the White House’s policy – that’s just 13% of the overall number of Republicans – while 62 have expressed their support.

Meanwhile, 192 of the 292 have either remained silent or said they don’t have a position.

What congressional Republicans are eager to talk about, however, is the fact that the Trump administration acted without notifying them or consulting with them in advance. The Washington Post reported:
President Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and other foreigners has significantly deepened fissures in his already fragile relationship with congressional Republicans, as GOP leaders on Capitol Hill complained angrily Monday that they were not consulted before the order was issued.

At least a dozen key GOP lawmakers and aides said Trump’s order took them by surprise, even as the White House insisted that it collaborated with Congress.
In response to Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claims that Capitol Hill was kept in the loop, a senior Republican aide told BuzzFeed Spicer’s assurances were “total B.S.

There seems to be a conflict. On the one hand, congressional Republicans are outraged after being excluded. On the other hand, White House officials keep insisting that Congress was part of the process all along. “Republicans on Capitol Hill wrote it,” one administration official said on Sunday in reference to the executive action.

So, which is it? As it turns out, I think they’re both right.

Politico reported yesterday that senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee “helped Donald Trump’s top aides draft the executive order … but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed.”

In fact, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte this morning reportedly conceded to his colleagues in a closed-door meeting that his staff did, in fact, quietly work with the White House – though the chairman himself was not aware of any of the details surrounding their efforts.

Why would Bob Goodlatte’s aides work with the White House on national policy and not talk to Bob Goodlatte about it? We don’t know, but there’s always the possibility that Team Trump had them sign non-disclosure agreements.

For the record, it’s hardly unprecedented to have congressional staffers work with executive branch aides on policy, but what’s weird in this case is the compartmentalization: the White House was willing to have Capitol Hill staff participate, but Trump World didn’t keep those staffers’ bosses in the loop.

As a result, nearly every Republican leader in Congress had no idea what was going on with the Muslim ban, even as congressional aides had a hand in shaping the executive order.

I can appreciate why all of this seems like insider baseball to those who don’t follow politics at a granular level, but here’s why this matters: Trump can ill afford hostilities with his congressional allies. For now, no matter what how ridiculous the White House’s antics, GOP leaders and rank-and-file members have been generally content to go along.

What’s less clear is whether a tipping point exists. Keeping members in the dark won’t help.