Yes, that is right, as much as Trump and the surrogates want to position this latest event, the fact remains that Donald Trump is under criminal investigation. For this reason, Trump’s premiere agenda items are now on hiatus.
Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign be demonizing Mexicans and México. He promised his electorate several specific items, among them building The Wall, deporting undocumented immigrants and ending, or significantly changing NAFTA.
As Trump has demonstrated, he has ample authority under executive orders to begin the process on some of those public policy agenda items. However, although his party, the Republican party, controls both houses of Congress, he must press them into enacting the legislation to accomplish those goals.
As demonstrated by his signature issue, repealing Obamacare, Trump has little leverage over Congress, even a heavily Republican one. That was before the special counsel was appointed to investigate criminal allegations against Donald Trump.
The thing about politicians is that all of them have one significant thing in common – self-preservation.
Simply put, the Republicans are now focused on their political futures and as such are unlikely to support the Trump agenda items that have significant resistance among the electorate.
That means that The Wall will not be built. Donald Trump does not have political clout to force the Congress to fund The Wall even though Trump continues to promise that México will pay for it. Except for Trump, no one else believes that México will pay for The Wall. As such, Congress is not about to fund a wall.
To be crystal clear, The Wall will not be built.
The other item on Trump’s agenda involving México is NAFTA. Trump has already back peddled on ending NAFTA. Yesterday, his administration notified Congress of his intent to begin renegotiating NAFTA. The notification is a requirement of Congress that requires the administration to notify them 90-days before any trade negotiations begin. The letter triggered a 90-period before the negotiations begin.
But here is the problem for Trump. Trump promised to bring back jobs to the country through renegotiating NAFTA. The Democrats, because of their labor base, are the ones that would support any agreement emphasizing job protection. Congress is led by the Republicans. Already the business communities and the farmers have applied significant pressure on Congress not to antagonize México too much because México’s retaliations would hurt significant sectors of the U.S. economy, namely the famers. As demonstrated by his notification to Congress, it is Congress that ultimately has a say on how NAFTA is renegotiated, regardless of Trump’s bluster.
Against this backdrop are two time constraining issues, in addition to the unfolding criminal investigation of Donald Trump. México will hold presidential elections next year. Those elections will consume the country and thus any pending international matters will be delayed until the incoming administration takes control. The second are the mid-term elections for the United States. It is possible that the result will be a shakeup of the party politics in Congress. This creates a dilemma for Trump. The first is that Republicans are going to be too preoccupied with keeping control of Congress that they are unlikely to go against the farmers and the business communities on NAFTA before the election. He needs to conclude the negotiations before the end of the year and that simply is a tight schedule for negotiations between the three countries. Trump has said that he wants to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year. The soonest that the Trump administration can begin the talks will be in late August, if Congress gives him fast track authority. That leaves him less than six months to conclude the negotiations. He doesn’t leave enough time for him to threaten withdrawing from NAFTA, even if he wanted to.
Both Canada and México understand that dynamics of the upcoming elections and Trump’s predicaments. As such, all they need to do is hold-fast on the substantial issues and push for the issues, like the origin rules, that benefits them. In essence, Canada and México hold the upper hand in the negotiations.
Donald Trump needs a win on his core agenda items and proclaiming a NAFTA win will give him that.
For that reason, Trump only has one option and that is too push as much as he can for his items, but in the end he will accept what is given to him by Canada and México.