President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress are showing signs of going their own way, both on politics and policy, determined to salvage what they can of their agenda on healthcare and tax reform in the wake of one of the most difficult weeks of any American presidency.
At the same time, Trump’s failure to fill senior roles at federal agencies means he does not have a cadre of loyalists who can help rein in a bureaucracy that many in Trump’s orbit believe are out to leak information intended to damage the president. That has worsened the isolation of the White House in a city that relies on friends and allies to shake off a crisis.
The result is problems on multiple fronts: a government whose bonds with Congress, federal agencies and the public look increasingly fractured; an ambitious but stalled program of reforms; and a president whose low approval ratings threaten his party’s control of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.
Trump and his beleaguered staff, some White House aides told Reuters, feel besieged by a parade of negative stories and abandoned by fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, as the furore over the firing of FBI Director James Comey and allegations that Trump tried to influence the probe into Russian meddling in last year’s election show little sign of abating.
Since Tuesday, when leaked excerpts of a purported memo by Comey detailing his conversations with Trump were made public, few Republicans beyond the White House have rushed to the airwaves to push back against suggestions that the president may have obstructed justice in asking Comey to end the probe into the conduct of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
As the Russia probe entered a new phase on Wednesday with the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the investigation, a move that will likely place the White House under even stronger scrutiny, some Republicans expressed surprise that the White House had not done more to recruit them to backstop the president.