Trump Takes Control

Congressional Republicans are worried about the midterm elections, White House staffers their job security, but President Trump is moving full speed ahead.

Recent personnel and policy moves, combined with Trump’s usual freewheeling commentary at rallies and on Twitter, show a president shedding constraining influences in his second year of office right as Republicans are trying to defend their congressional majorities, with more to come.

Or as Trump himself put it after firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week, “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”

Those things so far have included Tillerson’s ouster; the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs that precipitated the departure of top economic adviser Gary Cohn; a surprise announcement of talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to resolve the nuclear weapons impasse; and in general a greater willingness to pursue the more distinctly “Trumpian” parts of his agenda after a year in broad agreement with Capitol Hill Republicans.

As loyalists like Hope Hicks depart the White House, Trump seems to be even more willing to make changes on his own. He personally popped in to give reporters a head's up on the North Korea announcement, a courtesy he reportedly did not extend to all relevant players inside his administration. He caught many people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue off-guard with his tariffs decision.

“What drives President Trump is making good on his campaign promises, and he wants a staff that he trusts and thinks is going to best position his White House to make that happen,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

“President Trump is also looking at the polls and realizes that Republicans could very well lose the House in 2018,” O’Connell said. “And since he feels he is by far the best advocate for the Trump agenda, we are going to see more of these rally-style speeches to fire up the GOP base.”

“So from this perspective, we are witnessing a ‘Let Trump Be Trump’ moment,” he added. “The campaign trail is where Trump feels most comfortable and where he feels he can most affect the national narrative and policy debates on Capitol Hill.”

Read more from W. James Antle III at the Washington Examiner

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