Monday, January 6, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He found time in his busy schedule to claim he was too busy to be impeached.

Today, Trump had his first working day in the Oval Office since December 20, 2019, which lasted at least through a 1:00 p.m. lunch with Vice-President Mike Pence. But he began the day as usual on Twitter, and specifically by arguing that he was too "busy" to be impeached.

Trump spent the previous seventeen days at his luxury resort in Florida, and on thirteen of them spent the better part of the day at his golf course. During that time, his public schedule had zero official activities and only scattered political and social appearances. 

Of course, Trump wasn't completely idle during this period: he did order the assassination of an Iranian military leader—something his tweet today makes clear he hopes will push his impeachment out of the news. 

But the confusion and disarray in the administration's response to the aftermath doesn't make it seem like Trump is spending much time trying to work the problem. Even Trump's staunchest supporters don't seem to be able to agree on why Trump ordered the attack, what he hoped to achieve, or whether he had any good idea of what the consequences would be.

Today saw an embarrassing example of that. The commanding general of American forces in Iraq drafted a letter to the Iraqi government, dated today, in which he explained his plans for his troops' "movement out of Iraq" in "due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq." The Iraqi parliament voted on Sunday to expel US forces. Gen. William Seely closed by acknowledging that "we respect your sovereign decision to order our departure." It was only after the letter was leaked to the press that the Defense Department walked back the letter. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said that Seely's letter was "poorly phrased" and was only a draft—in spite of the fact that it appears to have actually been sent to some Iraqi leaders. 

While this was unfolding, Trump was indeed "busy"—campaigning for re-election on a radio show.

Why should this matter?

  • Commander-in-chief is a job, not just a title.
  • Presidents aren't above the law, even if they're "busy."
  • Busy people generally don't have time to play golf 13 times in 17 days.