Trump’s relationship with Chuck Schumer takes center stage


Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump
Chuck Schumer and Donald
Trump.

Alex Wong/Getty
Images


The most intriguing relationship in Washington is finally getting
interesting.

President Donald Trump’s decision to shun his own party and
strike a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi surprised both Democrats and
Republicans.

The trio made an agreement to tack
on a three-month suspension
of the federal debt ceiling — and
a continuing resolution to fund the government through early
December — to a bill that would also include money for Hurricane
Harvey relief.

That agreement, which was reached between the three during a
White House meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional
leaders, flew in the face of what House Speaker Paul Ryan and
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were advocating for,
though McConnell later
said Democrats were too quick to
celebrate.

It also brought to the forefront that aforementioned relationship
between Schumer and Trump.

It was a relationship many were curious to see play out following
Trump’s shocking victory last fall. As The Washington Post
noted in November, “the dynamic to watch” play out in the Senate
“could actually be between Trump, the self-described master
negotiator,” McConnell, and Schumer.

Shortly after his
victory
, Trump praised Schumer, a fellow outer-borough New
Yorker, as someone with whom he “had a good relationship,” saying
he is “far smarter” than the man he was succeeding as Senate
minority leader, Harry Reid.

“He is far smarter than Harry R and has the ability to get things
done,” Trump tweeted.
“Good news!”

It wasn’t the only time last year Trump talked up his ability to
work with Schumer.

Last January, Trump
told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that, if elected, he would “be able to
get along well with Chuck Schumer.”

“I was always very good with Schumer,” Trump said. “I was close
to Schumer in many ways.”

One way, at least on paper, happened to be Trump’s past donations
to Schumer’s campaigns.

Schumer happened to be
the sitting member of Congress
 that Trump personally
donated the most money to, according to Federal Election
Commission filings. Over the past three decades, Trump donated
roughly $9,000 directly to the New York Democrat’s campaign.
Three of Trump’s children — Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka —
donated a combined $6,800 to Schumer. Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s
husband and a White House senior adviser, donated $4,000 to
Schumer.

“I mean, I’ve contributed to Schumer, I contribute — I’ve known
Schumer for many, many years,” Trump said last
year
. “And I have a good relationship with him. The fact is,
that I think it is time maybe that we all do get along.”

And at last year’s Al Smith dinner in New York, Trump joked
that Schumer “used to love me when I was a Democrat.”


pence trump mcconnell schumer
Mike Pence, Trump, and
Schumer.

Evan Vucci/AP
Images


For his part, Schumer has worked to downplay any appearance of a
relationship between the two. But going into the Trump
presidency, he did leave the door open to making deals on issues
where Democrats found themselves closer to Trump’s outlook
than they did congressional Republicans.

“He was not my friend,” Schumer told Politico last
fall following Trump’s election. “We never went golfing together,
even had a meal together. He’s called me, we’ve had civil
conversations a couple of times. But I’ve got to see what he
does.”

“When we can agree on issues, then we’re going to work with
them,” Schumer said last
fall
. “But I’ve also said to the president-elect on issues
where we disagree, you can expect a strong and tough fight.”

That tough fight is exactly what ended up happening. Instead of
starting his presidency working on a campaign pledge such as
increased infrastructure spending, an area where he could find
common ground with Schumer and Democrats, Trump’s first
legislative item was replacing the Affordable Care Act, President
Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Schumer found
himself among those leading the Democratic Party’s opposition to
the Republican healthcare effort, which eventually failed in the
Senate and was subsequently quashed.

Schumer too was outspoken about the multiple ongoing
investigations into Russian interference in last year’s
presidential election. At least one of those investigations is
probing whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russian
officials to influence the election. And Schumer was at the
frontlines of battles against Trump’s travel ban, his nomination
of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and, more recently, in
denouncing the president’s comments on the racist attacks and
white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia last
month.

Within the first few days of the Trump presidency, it became
clear that any possible working relationship between the two
would be virtually non-existent.

“I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with the fake tears,” Trump told reporters in
January
 about a video of Schumer tearing up alongside
Muslim refugees as he was denouncing the president’s travel ban.
“I’m going to ask him who was his acting coach, because I know
him very well. I don’t see him as a crier.”

“If he is, he’s a different man,” he continued. “There’s about a
5% chance it was real. But I think they were fake tears.” 

But that all appeared to take a turn — however brief it may be —
with last week’s deal.

In its aftermath, Trump was speaking in glowing terms about the
deal and his partners in it, “Chuck” and “Nancy.” He told
reporters that he thinks “you are going to see a much stronger
coming together,” and that the deal
signaled
that more bipartisan action could be on the way.

“I think we will have a different relationship than we’ve been
watching over the last number of years. I hope so,” Trump said.
“I think that’s what the people of the United States want to see.
They want to see some dialogue.”

Trump too appeared to bask in the coverage of the deal, which was
given positive reviews in both pro-Trump and
mainstream outlets. As Schumer told The New
York Times
, Trump called him to boast of the deal’s reception
in the press.

“He said, ‘This was so great!'” Schumer said. “Here’s what he
said: ‘Do you watch Fox News?’ I said, ‘Not really.’ ‘They’re
praising you!’ Meaning me. But he said, ‘And your stations’ — I
guess meaning MSNBC and CNN — ‘are praising me! This is great!'”

Highlighting Trump’s sentiment regarding the cable coverage,
Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic staffer who was a top
spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, told Business Insider that
the deal itself hasn’t changed much in the relationship between
Trump, Schumer, and other Democratic leaders.

“In the end, Donald Trump doesn’t have an allegiance with anyone
other than Donald Trump’s ego,” he said. “So, if you want to get
something, this deal is the latest proof that if you want to get
Donald Trump to do something, show him that he will be praised on
cable news for it, and he will do it.”

“That’s always been the reality of Trump,” he continued. “And so
I think what is going forward, it’s a reminder that the
legislative strategy focused on the policy merits is never the
way to win this White House’s support. A legislative strategy
focused on throwing a ticker-tape parade for the president is far
more likely to be successful.”

But Ferguson said he continues to “hold out hope” that Trump will
be able to work with Democrats to pass a massive infrastructure
passage, something that could be a product of a productive
Trump-Schumer relationship.

“Democrats will get to create jobs and rebuild America’s
infrastructure, and we’ll just have to let every bridge and every
road be named after Donald Trump in order to get it passed,” he
said. “I don’t think that’s anything new. That’s been true the
whole time.”


Chuck Schumer
Schumer.
Alex Wong/Getty
Images


At an Oval Office meeting with New York and New Jersey leaders
the day after the surprise deal was struck, Schumer and Trump
engaged in what longtime Republican Rep. Peter King of New York
described as “a love-in.”

“He and Chuck — both of them would interrupt each other at times
— and they’d go back and forth and Chuck would say something
and smile and the president would look at him and smile,”
King told CNN.
“This went on for the whole — let’s say the meeting was
around 40 minutes or so? It was almost like a love-in at times.”

Calling the deal “a good moment” that he would like to see
continue, Schumer
joked
 that he believed Trump was “a little tired of
the partisanship, too, even though frankly he caused some of it.”

Speaking to the Times, Schumer said the White House may be
“learning, either instinctively or intellectually, that just
embracing the hard right isn’t going to get them very far.”

Many Republicans, particularly strong supporters of Trump, have
framed the deal as a “warning shot” at Republican leadership.
Trump, they say, is tired of nothing getting done, and this deal
provided him with the chance to both get something through
Congress and send a message to his team.

“It will serve as a warning shot,” Barry Bennett, a Trump
campaign adviser, told Business Insider. “Pursuit of perfection
is not an excuse for failure. Congress had an 8% approval rating
even including their friends and families. We are in charge of
everything. We best figure out how to drive.”

Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and president of the
Potomac Strategy Group, told Business Insider that the
“unpredictable” Trump’s “recent alliance with Schumer was
born more of a desire to get a win than to achieve a specific
policy victory.”

He noted that the three-month delay on the debt ceiling and the
spending bill “will be quickly forgotten.”

“What matters is the end game in December,” he said. “Trump
thinks this deal was good for him and now I suspect Schumer and
Pelosi are proposing other deals. The details matter and the
President needs to focus on the specifics or his coalition will
fracture. Congressional Republicans were forced to swallow this
recent deal due to the inclusion of the Harvey relief money, but
there is no guarantee they will sit on their hands the next time,
particularly if the deal is a policy loser for
conservatives.” 

And Democrats aren’t all dancing as a result of the
agreement. 

“President Trump is transactional, capricious, and terrified of
failure – he’s both manipulative and vulnerable to manipulation,”
Jesse Lehrich, a Democratic operative who worked as a Clinton
campaign spokesperson, told Business Insider. “There’s no reason
leaders Schumer and Pelosi shouldn’t continue looking for areas
where they can work with the president, but they should proceed
with great caution and distrust.”

“This is a man who sees in others nothing more than temporary
utility, and he takes joy in publicly humiliating those who no
longer serve a purpose for him, especially if he feels they’ve
wronged him,” he continued.

But as Schumer acknowledged, the pair do have their New York
roots to fall back on in any setting, something that some believe
gives the Democratic leader a leg up on Ryan and McConnell when
all are in the process of negotiating with Trump.

“The one thing we have is we’re New Yorkers,” Schumer told the
Times. “We’re pretty direct, and we talk right at each other.”

Ferguson, however, thinks that aspect is oversold.

“Relating with Donald Trump is much more about ego than accents,”
he said. “I don’t think it matters whether you’re talking in a
Kentucky, a midwest, or a New York accent — if Mitch McConnell
offered to rename the RNC building after Donald Trump, the
president would suddenly be far happier with Mitch McConnell’s
leadership.”

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