Donald Lambro

The Art of the Backpedal

WASHINGTON -- Have you been following some of the policy decisions announced by President Trump, who then had to back away from them a few days later?

Earlier this month, Trump announced he would host next year's Group of Seven summit at his swanky golf club, the Trump National Doral in Miami.

But it wasn't long before Trump came under withering criticism from Republicans who complained that he was enriching one of his businesses in open violation of the Constitution, by promoting his exclusive golf club among the elite leaders of the world.

Less than a week after the president announced his decision to hold the G-7 meeting at Doral, he was caving under an avalanche of complaints, led by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

He had been warned by White House advisers that the idea of using his business to host G-7 leaders "would not play well" on Capitol Hill, but Trump rejected that advice.

Close advisers told him that he would be in violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution's emoluments clause that says "no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State."

The Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act of 1966 also "enumerates several elected positions in its definition of 'employees' who may not accept any gift of more than minimal value without congressional approval. Such 'employees' include the president and vice president, a member of Congress, and the spouses and dependents of the same," according to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School.

Stunned by a wave of criticism, Trump backed down, after it had become clear that his move "had alienated Republicans and swiftly become part of the impeachment inquiry that threatens his presidency," The Washington Post noted.

Then there was the sweeping announcement last December when Trump said he was bringing home all of what were then over 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.

It wasn't long before he pulled back from that decision in the face of strong political criticism at home and abroad.

"Ultimately, about half of the force was withdrawn. His announcement early this month that all 1,000 remaining troops were leaving cleared the way for a Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria and led to charges he was abandoning Syrian Kurdish allies and capitulating to Turkey. The Kurdish forces have suffered thousands of casualties while helping beat back the Islamist State," the Post reported this week.

Trump's decision was partially pulled back, deciding last week "to keep some troops in Syria after ordering a complete withdrawal," the Post said.

His pullout decision didn't anticipate Turkey's response, nor did it think through that it left Middle East oil fields exposed to ISIS takeover.

"It would be highly embarrassing for the U.S. for ISIS to start up oil operations again," said David Butter, associate fellow in Middle East studies at Chatham House, a London think tank.

All of this is going on while the House continues holding its impeachment proceedings, which include testimony from witnesses that Trump withheld critically important security assistance from the Ukraine government after asking officials there to dig up damaging information on one of his rivals in the 2020 presidential election.

This information came this week in testimony from our acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor.

In his opening testimony, Taylor said, "In August and September of this year, I became increasingly concerned that our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons."

Taylor told the bipartisan House impeachment panel that U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, "told me that President Trump had told him that he wants [Ukrainian] President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate" Joe Biden and his son, who got a high-paying job with a Ukrainian energy company.

"He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky 'in a public box' by making a public statement about ordering such investigations," Taylor testified under oath.

Instead, as he has with past decisions, Trump may be finding himself boxed in and looking for a way out. Stay tuned.