Trump turns to core base to protect imperiled presidency

President Donald Trump, with his grandchildren Arabella Kushner and Joseph Kushner, exiting Air Force One at Morristown Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, on Friday, for a summer "working vacation" at his Bedminster estate.
President Donald Trump, with his grandchildren Arabella Kushner and Joseph Kushner, exiting Air Force One at Morristown Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, on Friday, for a summer "working vacation" at his Bedminster estate.PHOTO: REUTERS

He's shoring up support with right-wing policy moves and red-blooded speeches

BEDMINSTER • Beset by probes, dire approval ratings and growing party dissent, Mr Donald Trump is stirring up his core base, hoping to mobilise an army of political shock troops to protect his presidency.

Revelations that a grand jury has been impanelled to investigate his finances and his campaign's ties to Russia raise the spectre of indictments and subpoenas that would shake any administration.

But for Mr Trump, just six months into his presidency, it represents more turmoil after an exodus of top White House officials and humiliating recent reverses in Congress.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University shows the approval rating for his imperiled presidency at 33 per cent - the same level endured by Mr Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal and Mr George W. Bush after the Iraq war.

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Facing the prospect of limping through another 31/2 years, Mr Trump is settling on a strategy of shoring up the support of voters who propelled him to the White House with a series of right-wing policy announcements and red-blooded speeches.

In a little more than a week, Mr Trump has encouraged police to dole out rough justice, moved to kick transgender personnel out of the military and played up the threat of Hispanic gangs. He championed a massive curb on legal immigration last week.

The President also addressed thousands of supporters at a rally where many of the themes that served him so well in the presidential campaign were dusted off again. Hitting his notes on immigration and law and order, Mr Trump painted the grand jury investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia as a personal threat to him and his supporters.

"The Russia story is total fabrication," he said, a "fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most of all demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution".

Ms Emily Ekins, polling director at the Cato Institute, believes opposition to immigration is a rare common thread running through most of his base. "People ask, 'is there anything he could have done to get his core supporters to abandon him?' There is one thing. If he were to back-track on immigration I think that would have been the thing to invalidate him in their eyes," she told Agence France-Presse.

After losing a key vote on healthcare and then having his hands tied on dealing with Russia by a vote on sanctions that he has tried to disown, Mr Trump has become openly critical of Congress - even though his Republican Party has a majority in both chambers.

On Friday, the President retweeted a friendly Fox News commentator who suggested there would be an uprising if Mr Trump or his family were targeted by the grand jury."There will be an uproar in this country if they end up with an indictment against a Trump family member just to get at POTUS," he retweeted, referring to the President of the United States.

Some worry Mr Trump's embrace of that kind of message could portend a serious constitutional crisis ahead."We have never had a president call his supporters into the streets to resist a legal process. But it seems possible here. What then?" asked commentator and longtime Trump critic David Rothkopf.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2017, with the headline 'Trump turns to core base to protect imperiled presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe