Is this news? They’ve known each other for years. They’re from the same city and used to belong to the same party. No one in the Senate, Democrat or Republican, has received more campaign money from Donald Trump than Chuck Schumer, in fact. And Trump’s issues with Ryan and McConnell are well known. Ryan announced that he wouldn’t campaign with Trump after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged and McConnell has crossed him several times during the transition period, on issues ranging from free speech to investigating Russian hacking. Schumer, meanwhile, has mostly kept his head down, popping up now and then to chirp excitedly that he thinks he and Trump can do business on infrastructure. It’d be surprising if Trump didn’t like him better than the two Republicans.
Donald Trump told Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer in a phone call he likes him more than his GOP brethren House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a source close to the transition team said.
During a recent phone call, the president-elect “said to Schumer he likes Schumer more than Ryan and McConnell because they both wanted him to lose,” the source said. “They are Republicans and Trump knows they didn’t support him.”…
“These two fellas are both New Yorkers. Washington is like a cafeteria table. You sit where you know,” said a Capitol Hill source.
Two possibilities. One: He says this to literally everyone he talks to. “I like you better than X” may be standard Trumpese for ingratiating oneself. Soon Theresa May will be hearing that Trump likes her better than Francois Hollande, and vice versa. Two: He means it. Remember, the right-wing populism that fuels Trump spends most of its time obsessing over ways to beat Republicans, not Democrats. That ceases briefly every two years as the party focuses on the presidency and/or a few key Senate races, but the tea party was mainly about remaking the GOP by ousting RINOs like John Boehner and Eric Cantor while Trumpism is mostly about remaking the GOP by ousting “globalists,” i.e. the free-traders and amnesty fans who run the caucuses in Congress. It wasn’t Chuck Schumer whom Steve Bannon allegedly focused on as “the enemy” while he was still running Breitbart. It was Paul Ryan. So, again: Why wouldn’t Trump like Schumer better?
What’s newsy about the Post scoop is the sourcing. It’s not coming from Schumer, as you might expect of a story about how dimly the president-elect views his party’s leaders. It’s coming from a “source close to the transition team.” The Post has had other Trump-friendly scoops from well-placed sources in the recent past: They were the ones who broke the story about him dressing down news anchors and their corporate bosses in a meeting at Trump Tower in November. As one of New York’s two major tabloids, thy’ve had a relationship with Trump and his business associates for 35 years. It’s plausible that Team Trump might go running to them with something like this. But … why? Why leak that the new Republican president prefers the Democratic Senate minority leader to his own party’s leadership?
Assuming it’s not just a petty humiliation of Ryan and McConnell (which is possible), it’s probably just Trump’s way of trying to butter Schumer up before the confirmation hearings on his nominees begin. Two weeks ago Jared Kushner flattered Schumer by saying at an event held in New York City that Trump’s vision of an infrastructure bill is probably closer to Schumer’s than to Ryan’s or McConnell’s. Message: Cooperate with us on our priorities and we’ll cooperate with you on yours. The leak to the Post about liking him better than Ryan or McConnell is, I take it, Trump reminding Schumer that a close working relationship is possible here if Schumer doesn’t make life too difficult for him this month. After all, the man in charge of getting Trump’s nominees through the Senate is Mitch McConnell, and it’d be a shame if Trump ended up liking McConnell more after all. Outreach to Democrats is smart strategy for a centrist like him, as it gives him options to move his agenda in case the ideologues in his own party resist him. If, for instance, Ivanka’s plans for paid maternity leave can’t pull a majority in the House because too many fiscal conservatives oppose it, being on good terms with Nancy Pelosi means House Dems might be willing to supply the missing votes. Trump’s just getting ready here for the battles ahead. And hey: If it bugs Ryan and McConnell to hear that the popular (on the right) head of the party isn’t their biggest fan, maybe that’ll make them more compliant with his policy wishes. Win/win for Trump.
Speaking of which, here’s Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intel Committee, warning that Congress will respond “vigorously” if Trump rolls back Obama’s new sanctions on Russia. Trump will be counting on Ryan and McConnell to block any Democratic bills to reinstate the sanctions or pass even more draconian ones. Who wins that staredown?