Reuters reported on Wednesday that President Donald Trump said there would be no federal government shutdown before the election this November. According to Political Wire, Trump said, “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns. I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now.”
It’s important to ask what Trump means by “right now.”
If this was even close to a normal presidency Trump’s latest statement would immediately get me to reduce what I had said was a 60 percent chance of a shutdown this fall.
But…and to be kind…Trump is not a “traditional” president and this is anything but a normally operating White House.
First, Trump has changed his mind so often on government shutdowns that it’s impossible to know what he really thinks about them. From tweets calling for a “good ‘shutdown'” to rants saying he would never sign another omnibus appropriation if it didn’t include money for his wall between the U.S. and Mexico to his repeatedly backing down from previous threats, Trump’s stance on shutting down the government has been consistently inconsistent.
either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
Second, shutdowns aside, nothing Trump says on any particular day should be taken as gospel. As this great story by Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly in The Washington Post details, Trump has made 4,713 false or misleading statements in his first 592 days in office. As a result, he definitely doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt about his current position on a shutdown.
Third, there’s almost no doubt in my mind that, as they have in the past, Republican congressional leaders promised Trump something in return for his Reuter’s-reported statement, something they may not be able or plan to deliver. If and when Trump realizes that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are playing him…again…all current shutdown bets will be off.
Fourth, we still can’t discount Trump’s needs to divert attention away from Mueller, Manafort, Cohen and now Bob Woodward’s new book. And with Manafort’s second trial set to begin just a week before fiscal 2019 starts and Trump confidant Roger Stone seemingly about to get indicted, the biggest diversion of all will be a shutdown.
Because of all this, I’m unwilling to accept the Trump statement that he won’t cause a government shutdown as anything that will stay in place long-term, that is, past lunch (EDT) tomorrow.
Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy.