Infrastructure Week Is Still Just a Joke in Washington
It seemed like things had changed. The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was to talk through ways in which to finance a new $1 trillion to $2 trillion bill. They had put this meeting on the calendar three weeks earlier, after Schumer and Pelosi happily told reporters that all three leaders were on the same page about the promise of a bipartisan deal before the end of Trump’s first term.
Oddly enough, though, a preprinted sign positioned in front of a podium in the Rose Garden did not read, say, “The Power of Revenue Restructuring” or “The Surprising Benefits of a Gas Tax,” but instead, “No Collusion, No Obstruction.”
As I awaited Trump’s remarks, I thought about the optimism I’d heard not 24 hours earlier from lawmakers on both the House and Senate committees on infrastructure, who were eager to see what new details would emerge from Wednesday’s meeting. “I’m hopeful that we’ll avoid getting into an ‘us versus them’ discussion … and come out with an agreement on the size of a package,” Republican Representative Rob Woodall of Georgia told me. “Having everyone’s enthusiastic participation is what I’ll consider a success.”
“I like the fact that the last meeting … didn’t turn into a circus like they usually have in the past,” added Republican Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois. “So we’ll see what happens.”
I thought about these lawmakers as Trump proceeded to take a sledgehammer to their hopes. He kicked off his speech by railing against Pelosi for accusing him, just before the meeting, of being involved in a cover-up. “I think most of you would agree: I’m the most transparent president probably in the history of this country,” Trump said. “The whole thing with Russia was a hoax as it relates to the Trump administration and myself. It was a total horrible thing that happened to our country.”
He then listed the number of FBI agents, lawyers, search warrants, witnesses, dollars, and hours involved in the Russia investigation. He accused Robert Mueller’s team of contributing money to the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton. He referenced himself in the third person: “They hated President Trump. They hated him with a passion.
“So here’s the bottom line,” he said, summing up a speech that many—namely, myself—errantly assumed would be about infrastructure: “There was no obstruction.”
Ultimately, he referenced “infrastructure” just five times in the 1,800-word address, mainly to argue that he wanted “to do infrastructure” more than Pelosi and Schumer “want to do it,” and that he’d “be really good at it.” It was a performance on par with that of Infrastructure Weeks past—including the second one, in which Trump used an event meant to highlight the federal-permitting process to announce that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the white-supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.