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After infrastructure blowup, Trump owns Washington gridlock

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump appears at a presentation of Public Safety Medals of Valor to officers in the East Room of the White House on May 22, 2019. Copyright Carlos Barria Reuters
Copyright Carlos Barria Reuters
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — By telling Democrats that he won't work on items like infrastructure until they end their investigations into him, President Trump on Wednesday took ownership of Washington's gridlock.

That's a dangerous place for any American president, especially one facing re-election a year from now.

In fact, it's pretty similar to when Trump took ownership of a government shutdown in that meeting last December with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"I am proud to shut down the government for border security," he said back then. "I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down." (What is it about Trump's meetings with Pelosi and Schumer?)

It's a given that it's more difficult to get things done in Washington when there's divided government.

But an incumbent president has to try. It's why Bill Clinton did welfare reform and a minimum wage increase with a GOP Congress.

It's why George W. Bush worked with Democrats on immigration, even though they were unsuccessful.

And it's why Barack Obama desperately tried cutting that debt-ceiling deal with Republicans in 2011.

Trying makes it easier to at least share the gridlock. Not trying, however, makes you own it.

While the conservative echo chamber will make Trump feel good for a while about yesterday's blowup ("Way to own the libs!"), do note that some GOP Senate allies aren't too happy with how Wednesday played.

"My advice to the President is to try to find solutions to problems like infrastructure, prescription drugs, and a broken immigration system," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted.

"Why haven't we brought up a bill on prescription drugs? There's common ground there," added Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on "MTP Daily" yesterday.

One other thing: It's clear that Trump is trying to drive a wedge between Democrats on the subject of impeachment.

But what yesterday did was unite Democrats around Pelosi — at least for the time being.

Trump fires back: No, Democrats own the gridlock

Obviously responding to the kind of critique above, Trump tweeted this morning:


"The Democrats are getting nothing done in Congress. All of their effort is about a Re-Do of the Mueller Report, which didn't turn out the way they wanted. It is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time. Their heart is not into Infrastructure, lower......"

But here's the thing: Trump was the one who make the ultimatum yesterday. And he was the one who ended the meeting on infrastructure.

Five falsehoods from yesterday

Here's a compilation of five of the false or misleading claims that President Trump made in his Rose Garden comments yesterday:

Quote: "I think most of you would agree, I'm the most transparent president probably in the history of this country."


The facts: While the Trump White House did turn over documents in the Russia probe and while Trump officials did speak to Mueller, President Trump hasn't turned over his tax returns (like other presidents have); his administration objected to former WH counsel Don McGahn testifying before Congress; and Trump never sat down for an interview with Mueller in the Russia probe.

Quote: "The whole thing with Russia was a hoax as it relates to the Trump administration and myself."

The facts: While Mueller's investigation didn't establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government, it did establish that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, that it did so to help Trump, and that the Trump campaign expected it would benefit from the interference.

Quote: "This is what happened: No collusion, no obstruction, no nothing."


The facts: Mueller's report never exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice. "Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Quote: "We had an election [last night] for Fred Keller, a 50/50 shot and he won in a landslide. We went and we did a rally. Hardly mentioned today. And yet it would be the biggest story in the country."

The facts: Keller's special-election victory last night was in the ruby-red PA-12 district, where the previous GOP congressman won 66 percent of the vote in 2018.

Quote: "But for my way of thinking, and I know a lot of you agree with me, the crime [regarding the Russia investigation] was committed on the other side."


The facts: The Mueller investigation resulted in guilty pleas and convictions regarding Trump's former campaign chairman (Paul Manafort), the president's former national security adviser (Michael Flynn), a former top campaign/transition aide (Rick Gates), former campaign adviser (George Papadopoulos), and former lawyer/fixer (Michael Cohen).

2020 Vision: Biden's unity argument looks a lot stronger today

It's easy for many Democrats and pundits to mock Joe Biden's unity message.

The response: "Hey Joe, what about Merrick Garland?"

But guess what: Biden's desire for unity looks a whole lot stronger after yesterday's Trump-Pelosi-Schumer blowup than it might have during the former vice president's speech in Philly on Saturday.


And one other thing: If there are impeachment proceedings or inquiries this summer or in the fall, guess who that benefits?

Answer: The candidate leading in the polls.

On the campaign trail today

Julian Castro (in North Carolina), Jay Inslee (in Chicago) and Bill de Blasio (in Des Moines) and Cory Booker (ditto) attend McDonald's strikes/protests… Bernie Sanders participates in another McDonald's protest (in Texas) via livestream… And Booker partakes in an MSNBC town hall with Chris Hayes.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 2026

That's the earliest that a new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman could be unveiled, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who announced the delay in the redesign yesterday.


The bill itself likely won't be in circulation until 2028.

The New York Times reports that Mnuchin wanted to delay the redesign until Trump was out of office, worried that the president might otherwise cancel it altogether.

In 2016, Trump called the idea of changing the design "pure political correctness" and praised the current face of the $20 — Andrew Jackson — as a president with a "great history."

Tweet of the day

The Lid: The Who?

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the share of American voters peering at the Democratic field and asking, "Who?"


ICYMI: New clips you shouldn't miss

A federal judgeruled that Deutsche Bank and Capitol One can turn over financial documents in response to congressional subpoenas. And our own Capitol Hill team reports that Wells Fargo and TD Bank have already turned over some Trump-related documents to Congress.

Benjy Sarlin and Alex Seitz-Wald look at the Democrats' debate over whether or not to go on Fox News.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school found that it could not "conclusively determine" whether he appeared in a racist yearbook photo.

Narendra Modi is declaring victory in the Indian elections.


And Michael Avenatti is in the news again — this time, for charges that he stole almost $300,000 from Stormy Daniels.

Trump agenda: Underprepared

Rex Tillerson says that Donald Trump was underprepared for what became a two-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin in 2017.

Sen. Chris Murphy is warning that Trump might try to bypass Congress to push the sale of a bomb deal to Saudi Arabia.

The Washington Post has the latest on tensions with Iran.


Dem agenda: Getting under Trump's skin

POLITICO reports on why Nancy Pelosi so often gets under Trump's skin.

House Dems are proposing a $25 million fund for carbon monoxide detectors and other upgrades to public housing, Suzy Khimm writes.

2020: Legal eagle

Elizabeth Warren worked on more legal matters during her time as a professor than were previously known.

Bernie Sanders is getting closer to calling for impeachment.


Liberal groups are pushing 2020 Democratic candidates to back Pentagon spending cuts.

The DeVos family won't back Justin Amash in his primary contest.

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