For a president heading toward likely impeachment and a Russian election interference probe, yesterday was a down day at the polls. The president needed an excuse. He needed a way out of the political firestorm, and Scant Information about Omicron is as good as any.
With no breakthroughs on government funding or a border wall on Friday, there were now just six business days left before the government shuts down for the first time in 17 years.
And after meeting in the Oval Office with Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden then shared a briefing about cybersecurity with Trump in the Oval Office, according to a release from his office.
“We saw the president tonight and he is definitely isolated,” one person briefed on the meeting said.
But while the meeting seemed to give Biden and Trump some hours to fake a crisis, the group realized there was not much they could do. Back up the federal government, but without actually giving the administration any specifics.
Biden, of course, was not alone on the call with the president. Fellow House Democrats, McCarthy, Hoyer, Hoyer, Hoyer, Pelosi, and Pelosi’s Chief of Staff Drew Hammill were all on the call. Biden shared the call publicly.
Biden was not specific either. “They made an administrative decision that caused us to essentially be staring down the barrel of our first shutdown in 17 years,” Biden told reporters after speaking with the president in the Oval Office.
The decision was being led, of course, by the president. He announced on Thursday the Executive Order he wanted to put in place that would “improve transparency and accountability of the intelligence process.”
Which, for Democrats, made that a terrible idea, as outlined in a statement from Speaker Pelosi after speaking with Trump:
“Unfortunately, the President has now ordered agencies to avoid leaking sensitive intelligence,” Pelosi said. “A deliberate strategy, particularly since this Executive Order is riddled with misleading provisions, undermines transparency and ends any ability to independently verify the accuracy of foreign intelligence and non-classified intelligence reports. It also frustrates Congressional oversight, as agencies will feel no obligation to share intelligence that threatens national security.”
The worst plan, however, may be the one Biden and the others decided not to discuss. It’s a plan to convince the White House to negotiate with a unilateral executive order.
So it’s the latest in the administration’s obsession with giving the appearance of cooperation, while at the same time, strengthening their hand as negotiating partners with Democrats.
It was a short-term use of a crisis, but perhaps one worth seizing. Although as other events move closer to the brink, the pressure on each side is only increasing.