The President of the United States is famous for many reasons, one of those being The Art of the Deal: a book “written” by Donald Trump, that he claims is second best only to the Bible. The entire logic underwriting Trump’s candidacy was essentially tied to this book that “proved” his bona fides as a master negotiator.
Well, a little over seven months into his presidency, the “consummate dealmaker” finally made his first deal as president, and it basically went something like this:
PAUL RYAN: An 18-month extension of the debt ceiling is prudent.
MITCH MCCONNELL: I agree.
CHUCK SCHUMER: No that won’t work for us.
NANCY PELOSI: What about a three-month extension?
STEVE MNUCHIN (Trump’s Treasury Secretary): No, that’s not—
DONALD TRUMP: OK we’ll take it! Bye everyone!
My simplified drama really isn’t that far off from reports. Per Politico:
Donald Trump, who casts himself as a master negotiator, took the first offer Democrats put on the table.
Republicans left the Oval Office Wednesday stunned. Trump had quickly sided with Democrats on a short-term debt ceiling increase, even overruling his own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to concur with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he later called them on Air Force One.
Trump’s sycophants spun this as yet another instance of his genius infinity-dimensional chess, because Dear Leader can do no wrong.
The rest of the Republican Party? Not so much. Here are the 17 greatest reports from this saga (all quotes and reports come from the aforementioned Politico story, The Daily Beast's report and the NYT's writeup).
Democrats were gleeful.
“I think our members would probably want to see something that goes significantly longer than that,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader, when asked about the short-term debt limit proposal.
One senior Republican aide spoke more bluntly on background: “The president of the United States just handed a loaded gun to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.”
During a Wednesday morning press conference Speaker Paul Ryan blasted Democrats' opening salvo as “ridiculous and disgraceful,” accusing them of playing politics “at a moment when we have fellow citizens in need.”
“Let's think about this: We've got all this devastation in Texas. We've got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida. And they want to play politics with the debt ceiling?” Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “That will strand the aid that we need to bring to the victims of these storms.”
Trump appeared to tire of the back and forth when Democrats wouldn't cave to the six-month increase. He struck a deal — or at least, what he saw as one — cutting Mnuchin off mid-sentence as he argued against the merits of a short-term debt increase. The room went silent. Everyone was stunned.
Republicans returned to the Capitol disheartened. They thought they could call Democrats' bluff on the matter and were ready to exit the meeting as a standstill. One senior GOP aide said the whole experience was “mystifying.”
“Maybe it's about the wall, I don't know,” this person said. “None of it makes any sense.”
For all his famed negotiating skills, Trump emerged from the meeting having handed Democrats a legislative triumph. But according to sources close to Trump, the president was more than willing to cut the deal because he has grown tired, if not resentful, of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
It was well-known within the White House that President Trump, going into the meeting, was “not looking to do [Ryan and McConnell] any favors,” as one White House official put it.
Simply put, the president made a “deliberate decision not to care about Ryan's feelings” and did what he wanted, another White House adviser said.
“I think it was calculated, in his unique way. Republicans can't get anything done, so maybe the other side will,” a senior Trump administration official said of the deal, which will forestall a government shutdown until mid-December and allow the government to continue borrowing money until around the same time. “At the very least,” the administration official added, “it says, 'don't take me for granted.'”
Addressing reporters shortly after the deal was finalized, Trump completely neglected to mention congressional leaders of his own party, emphasizing instead that “we had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.” Asked a followup about potential legislation to give legal protections to young undocumented immigrants, Trump was even more colloquial.
“Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I,” the president said.
At 2 p.m. ET, about an hour after the deal was announced, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway held a conference call with congressional Republican aides. According to a source on the call, Conway spent the first 15 minutes simply rattling off talking points about the importance of tax reform as baffled staffers awaited an explanation for the deal Trump had cut with leading Democrats.
Mr. Trump's courtship of Democrats left conservatives miffed at a spending-and-debt deal they considered anathema to their principles. “The question of politics is, a deal to what end?” said Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina. “I think all of us as taxpayers need to be very skeptical of deals for the sake of deals.”
Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, expressed surprise at Mr. Trump’s action. “I’m still processing this, but my first instinct is I’m not very happy about it,” he said.
Democrats were grinning at their surprise victory and happy to rub it in. “It was a really good moment of some bipartisanship,” Mr. Schumer said. He added: “The bottom line is the president listened to the arguments. We think we made a very reasonable and strong argument. And to his credit, he went with the better argument.”
Conservative groups like FreedomWorks and For America expressed indignation. “This is straight out of the swamp,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, “and I call on President Trump to say something publicly about how this is a swamp deal and will not be tolerated.”
“I would like to think that Trump siding with Dems is some strategic move to put the Republican members on notice to play ball on the big items we said we’d do,” one Republican leadership aide told The Daily Beast. “But that’s giving a lot of credit, and part of me thinks Schumer talked first, and it was like, ‘OK, that sounds good.’”
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.