White House celebrates "infrastructure week" by ... canceling infrastructure council

Actually, I don’t know if this week technically qualifies as “infrastructure week.” The real “infrastructure week” was back in June. And that was a sh*tshow too.

It was supposed to be a big week for infrastructure, though. That’s why Trump called that press conference in Trump Tower on Tuesday, remember — he was announcing an executive order to expedite the permitting process for infrastructure projects generated by whatever bill ends up passing Congress. The new infrastructure council, which the White House formed last month, was going to make recommendations on priorities for the bill. That was before he decided to spend 15 minutes riffing on the “very fine people” protesting via torchlight in Charlottesville last Friday. You won’t find a starker example of those comments derailing his policy agenda than this:

President Donald Trump will not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on Infrastructure, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday…

Trump had tapped New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, whom he described as friends, to lead the infrastructure panel, which he established by an executive order on July 19. But he had not announced any formal appointments to it. Through a spokeswoman, LeFrak declined to comment. Roth didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The council, which was supposed to have no more than 15 members representing real estate, finance, labor and other sectors, was designed to study and make recommendations to the president regarding the funding, support and delivery of infrastructure projects.

He did his friends LeFrak and Roth a favor by blowing up the council on the launchpad. If he hadn’t, they would have faced a hard choice about whether to turn on Trump and follow the lead of other CEOs in boycotting his business councils or to participate and weather the liberal backlash. Tough place for a New Yorker to be. Trump solved their problem for them, no doubt in the expectation that even if LeFrak and Roth were game, other would-be members would end up declining the invitations and embarrassing the White House.

What’s it going to take to get his agenda back on track? Maybe … it never gets back on track:

The president’s top advisers described themselves as stunned, despondent and numb. Several said they were unable to see how Mr. Trump’s presidency would recover, and others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job

Many in the White House said they still held on to the hope, however slim, that the new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, could impose order on the disarray even as Mr. Trump hopscotches from one self-destructive episode to the next.

“The Kelly era was a bright, shining interlude between failed attempts to right the Trump presidency and it has now come to a close after a short but glorious run,” said a GOP operative to WaPo. A senior official who’s thinking of whether to resign told Reuters, “After yesterday, it’s clear that there is no way for anyone, even a Marine general, to restrain his (Trump’s) impulses or counter what he sees on TV and reads on the web.” Expectations that Kelly would impose more discipline on Trump are one major casualty of Tuesday. It’s YOLO from here on out.

The other major casualty is whatever remaining goodwill existed between Trump and Republicans in Congress. The tone of the criticism over the past few days has been striking in its harshness. Watch Bob Corker and Tim Scott below, and remind yourself that Corker was in the running to be Secretary of State. It’d be shrewd of Trump to lie low for awhile and avoid any further needless antagonism, especially with the Russiagate probe still uncertain and impeachment a (small) possibility, but there he was on Twitter this morning taking shots at Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake. I don’t think he could execute a tactical retreat even if he were convinced he’d benefit from doing so. It’s not in his nature. This conflict with his own caucus is going to spiral. How does that end?