There is a worrying dynamic developing between the executive and the legislative branches just two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency.
Trump is intent on maintaining his brash and unpredictable style, relying on campaigning traits to propel him through his presidency.
Congressional leaders, however, who at first resisted, but eventually fell in line behind the Republican nominee, have been forced into a new role: moderating parent. They are acutely aware that diplomacy is not usually entrusted to unskilled and unapologetic TV personalities.
After Trump’s widely reported call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which the president acted disrespectfully and hung up in a brazen atypical manner, House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to deliver damage control: “Australia is a very central ally; they are and they will continue to be,” Ryan assured reporters on Thursday. “I don’t think Australia should be worried.”
Unfortunately, President Trump is expected to continue in his aggressive style for the foreseeable future. With Steve Bannon at his side, this may be White House strategy: Undermine the Washington status quo by actively engaging in destabilizing actions at home and abroad.
The consequences on the domestic front were immediate. Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates resisted the travel moratorium Executive Order, while State Department staffers are leaving their posts en masse.
We’ve also witnessed scores of leaks from the executive branch and various agencies from day one.
One important outcome of these leaks is to threaten Trump's internal trust level. It likely makes the tight inner circle, including Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, who have been unilaterally making most of the early decisions, even more paranoid — and less inclined to discuss policy with the appropriate sources.
“Where you have new Cabinet secretaries and unnamed officials speaking out on background across the board about the lack of input screams dysfunction. It’s dangerous and irresponsible,” a former Bush official told Politico.
Bannon's anti-establishment beliefs underline his stated goal of disruption. Whether he and Trump succeed in unraveling Washington, D.C., or end up stuck in a wave of anti-executive bureaucracy, is anyone's guess.
But as a Politico adeptly warns: “The president has awakened the slumbering beast that felled presidents before him: the federal bureaucracy."