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Trump could get desperate to keep base happy

By Dania Koleilat Khatib
President Donald Trump announces an agreement to reopen the government on Friday in the rose garden of the White House. Photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI
President Donald Trump announces an agreement to reopen the government on Friday in the rose garden of the White House. Photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Unexpectedly, President Donald Trump ended the government shutdown without getting any concessions from the Democrats. For this, he is being hammered by the media on the left and on the right.

He was called by Anne Coulter a "wimp." She said that she was "stupid" for believing in him. Conservatives are scolding him for caving in to Democrats, especially that his main political appeal to them is that he is a tough negotiator who does not fold.

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On the other hand, liberals are not looking at the end of the shutdown as a positive initiative from Trump but as a sign of defeat. They are mocking him.

The question is how things will unfold for Trump? Will he let his base, his precious base, elude from his grip? What are Trump's options?

RELATED CBO report: Federal shutdown wiped out $3B for U.S. economy

Until recently, Trump has enjoyed the full support of the Republican Party. Trump has public support and the Republicans do not want to lose that by alienating him. Prior to the shutdown's end, a resolution was proposed to open the government despite Trump's order of a shutdown. Six Republicans defected and endorsed the bill. The lawmakers could no longer face their constituencies and support a measure that is hugely unpopular to which the president takes the major blame.

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The president took the step and opened the government as the Republican support was seeming about to unravel. Trump said that opening of the government is by no way a concession. He threatened to close the government again in three weeks if he did not get the funding he wants for the wall along the Mexico border.

Another shutdown is not guaranteed. It is likely that more Republicans will oppose him to keep the government open. He cannot seem to be losing control over his party. That will be a political suicide for him. On the other hand, declaring a state of emergency might be unconstitutional. There is an ongoing debate whether he can use his executive powers as a president to take the funds from the budget without Congress' approval and build the wall.

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Chances are he will be barred from doing that. Lawmakers will use the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. vs. Sawyer case, in which President Harry S. Truman was denied from nationalizing the steel industry at the time of the Korean War. Plus, many will argue that there is no emergency, i.e., nothing unusual and catastrophic suddenly "emerged." The state of the border is as it has been for years and years.

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Facing this scenario and facing the ongoing pressure from the Mueller investigation, Trump badly needs to appease his base. His base is his only true ally. The Republicans, who mainly see him as an intruder, humor him because of his base. He is the archenemy of the media, except for Fox news.

The Mueller investigation is developing. Trump's close aide Roger Stone has been indicted. The last thing Trump wants is for the Republicans to turn on him the same way they turned on President Richard Nixon. This is why the base is crucial for him to maintain the support of the Republican Party.

RELATED Government shutdowns create national emergency

The Republicans have introduced a bill showing support for Trump. Supporting the president prior to the conclusion of the investigation represents a risk for the Republicans, who are set to lose much, if Mueller found a smoking gun. An unraveling base will surely not reassure them.

Therefore, Trump needs by any means to keep his base. If another shutdown is not possible nor a state of emergency, what could he offer his supporters in return for their loyalty to him? He could resort to mass deportations.

The initial offer he proposed to the Democrats was $5.7 billion for the wall in return for giving three years deportation relief for the "Dreamers" (minors brought illegally to the United States) and to those under Temporary Protected Status. Those are people who took refuge in the United States fleeing disaster-stricken countries. In total, Trump was offering the Democrats a temporary relief for a million immigrants in return for wall money.

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At the beginning of his presidency, he threatened to deport all illegal immigrants. So far, he has not used this option. Could the deportation be the last card Trump might use in the wall/border security fight? The rationale he can present to his base is that the Democrats did not give him the money; on the other hand, he could not leave 800,000 families without a paycheck. Hence, he could choose to deport illegal immigrants as a measure to increase America's safety.

If this happens, and Trump resorts to mass deportations, the internal divisions will increase and unrest will spread across the cities. However, such a measure will help him maintain his capital with his base. At the end, this is the most important thing for him.

Dania Koleilat Khatib is executive director of the Al Istishari Al Strategy Center for Economic and Future Studies, a UAE-based independent think tank. She specializes in U.S.-Arab relations and researches sectarianism, extremism and governance. Her book "The Arab Lobby and the U.S.: Factors for Success and Failure" was published by Routledge UK and translated to Arabic.

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