Donald Trump’s long time go-to strategy when he has a problem is to play a high-stakes game of chicken.
From his real estate business and presidential campaign to the White House – taking on opponents with bluster and bluff has been Trump’s modus operandi. And every time Trump plays this game it ends the same way: Trump’s opponents don’t blink, they win, and he loses.
For example, we learned this week that during a ten-year period, 1985-1994, when Trump was losing $1.7 billion he tried to make money by becoming a corporate raider to counter his losses. Trump would borrow money to acquire shares in a publicly traded company, then would use his public profile to claim that he was thinking about becoming a majority owner in an attempt to drive the stock price up. In each instance, Trump never became the majority owner, and he would then sell his shares with no fanfare. His career as a corporate raider was short lived once investors realized he wouldn’t follow through with his claims. Investors stopped buying the stocks he touted when Trump announced a takeover bid for American Airlines – and he wound up losing the majority of his gains, ending this chapter of his career.
Investors didn’t blink and Trump lost.
During the 2016 campaign Trump promised to build a wall on the southern border to stem immigration and Mexico would pay to build it. Trump’s claim was a constant refrain on the campaign trail and rallies where Trump supporters would finish his sentence about who would pay for the wall with “Mexico.”
After the election, Trump called Mexican President Pena Nieto on January 27, 2017, to discuss paying for the wall on the southern border. According to transcripts of the call, Trump pleaded with Pena Nieto, reminding him that it was a campaign pledge and it would be embarrassing to Trump if Pena Nieto didn’t pay for it. Trump admitted that he was cornered politically and asked that Pena NIeto stop stating publicly that Mexico wouldn’t pay for the wall. Not only did Pena Nieto refuse to pay for the wall, but his successor, the current President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has refused to pay as well.
Mexico didn’t blink and Trump lost.
Trump also campaigned that he would be able to make the best trade deals. Yet, in his biggest trade negotiation with China, he’s lost, twice. His most recent effort to get a deal with China last week failed when China refused Trump’s terms. As a result, Trump increased tariffs on Chinese goods to 25 percent – a move that will hike prices even higher on products like appliances, bicycles, televisions, computers, clothes, furniture and more. This hurts working families and will cost jobs. It is estimated that the new tariffs, added to the previous round, will cost the average American family $1,300 a year.
In addition, it will further cripple farmers already hurt from the first round of tariffs, as China purchased less of their crops and will buy even less now. Farmers are part of Trump’s base. As a result, Trump now is seeking a bailout to help farmers, realizing the political peril it places him in and by extension conceding his failure. So Trump is left with no trade deal, angry consumers, plummeting crop prices, struggling farmers, the loss of political support, and an even bigger deficit because of the bailout of farmers.
Trump should be careful what he wishes for regarding impeachment. There is no higher stakes game of chicken than impeachment. None.
China didn’t blink and Trump lost.
Now Trump is applying his strategy of playing a high stakes game of chicken to impeachment. Last week we learned that Trump wants to be impeached – or so he claimed. Countless media reports stated that Trump believes impeachment would help him politically. A deluge of articles, cable stories and interviews promoted Trump’s theory and the advantage it would provide him.
If Trump really believes impeachment is politically advantageous then why is he stonewalling the Mueller Report and Congressional investigations at every turn? Why did Trump claim Executive Privilege over the entire Mueller Report and the evidence associated with it, refusing to release it to Congress? Why is Trump fighting every subpoena? Why is Trump refusing to allow Robert Mueller, Don McGahn, Donald Trump Jr. and others to testify before Congress? Why is Trump refusing to turn over his taxes to the Ways and Means Committee? Why did Trump twice ask McGahn to say he didn’t obstruct justice? Why did Trump say “Case closed?”
Trump is clearly trying to create the political environment, aided and abetted by the media, to convince Democrats and voters that impeachment is good for him because he knows it is bad for him. The more Trump can use his Twitter account and all the other resources the White House affords to make this argument, the more he thinks it is likely his opponents will blink and won’t impeach him. So Trump dares them to do it.
Nancy Pelosi knows this, which is why she has said repeatedly that Trump is trying to “goad” Democrats into impeaching him. She’s right.
However, it is also clear that Pelosi knows that Trump is bluffing. She has reiterated the importance of first holding hearings and conducting investigations of Trump by Congress before considering impeachment. Pelosi said Democrats must get more information, stating "Our impeachment power is a justification for our getting that information.”
Once Pelosi and Congress get that information, and voters learn what Trump, his associates, and Russia did to undermine the 2016 election and obstruct justice, then support for impeachment will increase. It is then, and only then, that Pelosi will begin impeachment proceedings. If Pelosi begins impeachment proceedings, then Trump should fear his fate because it means there is political and public for support for it.
On Saturday morning Trump tweeted/retweeted 62 times in 40 minutes before 9:00 am about the Mueller Investigation, the Senate Intelligence subpoena of Donald Trump Jr., and allegations of wrongdoing by his opponents about the Russia investigation. Are these the actions of a person unconcerned about impeachment or his fate?
Trump should be careful what he wishes for regarding impeachment. There is no higher stakes game of chicken than impeachment. None. The consequences for Trump if he is impeached are even higher and he knows it. If he continues this game of chicken then the results will be the same as every other time he’s played it.
Pelosi won’t blink and Trump will lose.