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Schumer riles Trump with talk of 'bluffing' on Mexico, tariffs

Schumer, by all appearances, wants to keep the Republicans' intra-party conflict going. It didn't take long for Trump to take the bait.
Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mike Pence
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argue during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Washington.

If Donald Trump follows through on his threat, in just five days, the president will begin imposing new trade tariffs on all products imported from Mexico. The only way for Mexico to avoid the tax penalty would be to satisfy unspecified White House demands about stemming the flow of immigration.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke on the chamber floor yesterday and offered a prediction of sorts: the Democratic leader thinks the president will back down.

"Now, frankly, I don't believe that President Trump will actually go through with the tariffs.... President Trump has a habit of talking tough and then retreating. Because his policies often can't be implemented or don't make sense. President Trump has a habit of proposing asinine and dangerous policies before backing off. And President Trump has a habit of pretending that the very act of not following through on a misguided policy is somehow a victory."So I wouldn't be surprised at all if President Trump doesn't follow through on these tariffs either."

The Republican apparently heard about the remarks and took time away from his trip to the U.K. to issue a response via Twitter:

"Can you imagine Cryin' Chuck Schumer saying out loud, for all to hear, that I am bluffing with respect to putting Tariffs on Mexico. What a Creep. He would rather have our Country fail with drugs & Immigration than give Republicans a win. But he gave Mexico bad advice, no bluff!"

Putting Trump's juvenile rhetoric aside, the back and forth is actually part of an interesting political dispute that's unfolding this week.

Schumer is hardly the only prominent lawmaker who believes Trump is -- or at least might be -- bluffing. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said over the weekend that he expects the president to back off from his threats, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters earlier this week that no one can really say with certainty "what the president's ultimately going to do,"

They didn't explicitly use the word "bluff," but the implication was that they maintain some skepticism about Trump's intention to follow through on his threats. If no one knows "what the president's ultimately going to do," it necessarily means we shouldn't take Trump's claims at face value.

But I suspect Schumer's language was more derisive for a reason. He taunted the president for having caved before -- a point rooted in fact -- probably because the New York Democrat is watching Republicans fight among themselves over this issue.

Schumer, by all appearances, wants to keep the intra-party conflict going.

It didn't take long for Trump to take the bait.