Meadows: We're standing by to impose law and order in the cities -- and some EOs on China

Just what does Donald Trump plan to do about rising violence in the cities? And what about COVID-19 mask wearing, too? Chief of staff Mark Meadows made a rare venture out to the media this morning, first on Fox & Friends and then in a stand-up presser outside the White House, to talk about a lot of potential action coming from the Oval Office.

Potential, that is. It takes an invitation in some instances, and the unrest in the cities definitely falls into that category. Meadows told Fox & Friends that Trump has instructed several federal agencies to prepare for interventions to support law enforcement and other services, but Meadows hinted that Trump would not consider an Insurrection Act action. If cities want help, Meadows suggested they will have to ask for it:

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot certainly doesn’t sound ready to ask Trump for assistance. That probably suits the White House just fine anyway. As with Seattle, an Insurrection Act declaration would allow Trump to act, but it would also make his administration politically responsible for everything else that followed. Better to have Lightfoot and other mayors keep that responsibility for themselves — and then to blast them as they fail to meet them.

Trump understands the politics of the situation well enough:

The same federalist principle that restrains presidents from taking command over cities holds for other issues, too. That includes the idea of a national mask mandate, as Meadows hints but never quite gets around to arguing explicitly:

This is actually a pretty easy question, and it’s related to the first point. Governors and mayors may have the authority to impose a mask mandate, but the federal government does not, no more than they have the authority to put federal police or soldiers in the streets to enforce laws. It might be a great idea to have everyone wear a mask in public, but community policing is a great idea too — and the federal government has no jurisdiction under the law or Constitution to enforce either. Outside of an Insurrection Act declaration, of course, but again, it’s the same issue.

Governors who call on Trump to issue an executive order mandating mask wearing have their own motives for doing so. They don’t want to take the political hit for ordering a mandate in their state if other states aren’t imposing the same orders. They want to avoid the political backlash, and instead want to shift blame to Trump. There’s an easy tell for this, too — why aren’t these same governors asking Congress to pass a mask mandate? If Trump has this jurisdiction, then so does Congress. The fact that no one’s mentioning Congress exposes these calls as mere demagoguery.

That doesn’t mean that Trump isn’t going to be busy with executive orders, however. Meadows told reporters at his stand-up that Trump has some new EOs coming down the pike, and that those will particularly target China and illegal immigration:

“We’ve got a number of executive orders,” Meadows told Fox. “We’re looking at how we make sure that China is addressed, how we bring manufacturing back from overseas to make sure the American worker is supported. We’re also going to look at a number of issues as it relates to immigration, we’re going to look at a number of issues as it relates to prescription drug prices — and we’re going to get them done when Congress couldn’t get them done.” …

Meadows didn’t specify when the orders would be issued, or offer any further detail on their scope. Speaking to reporters afterward at the White House, Meadows signaled that manufacturing incentives are a priority for Trump in talks over the next round of coronavirus aid, which are set to ramp up in Congress later this month.

It’s important for Trump to “provide incentives for American manufacturing to be brought back from abroad,” he told reporters. Trump also still favors a payroll tax, calling it and the manufacturing incentive “critical components” of the White House’s position.

Trump followed up with another tweet, emphasizing the point:

EOs are a bad way to govern, at least in the context Meadows uses with “Congress couldn’t get them done.” We complained about this process when Barack Obama used it to get around a Republican House majority, and it’s really no more effective now either. Anything Trump can accomplish by EO can be undone by the same process in the next administration — or so we thought until the Supreme Court’s recent DACA decision, anyway. However, at least the areas targeted by the coming EOs fall within the president’s jurisdiction and within federal authority.

Thus, we can expect a lot of talk about violence in the cities. We can expect action on China, immigration, and perhaps even on drug prices, although action on that front will probably do more harm than good. It still beats having Trump obsess over Bubba Wallace.

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