President Donald Trump’s administration has been plagued by damaging leaks and marked by protests against him and his policies. And as he tries to sell America on Republicans’ plan for health care reform, he risks facing humiliation should he fall short.
In his eyes, though, there’s one clear person to blame: Barack Obama.
The former president has emerged as the perfect scapegoat for Trump. The 44th commander in chief is a revered Democratic Party figure who is both loathed by conservatives and, in keeping in line with the precedent of past presidents, unlikely to publicly speak out against his successor.
And while Trump one month ago told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that the two “get along” and that Obama even “likes me,” he’s back to raging against his longtime foe.
In the past week alone, Trump has blamed Obama and his administration for setting up the first meeting between Jeff Sessions and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. (Sessions failed to disclose having met with the ambassador last year when testifying about contact with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing to be attorney general), allowing the aforementioned ambassador to visit the White House 22 times in eight years, allegedly wiretapping Trump Tower phone lines during the campaign (an explosive accusation for which no evidence exists), releasing 122 detainees from Guantanamo Bay who later returned to terrorist activity (113 of those prisoners were released two days before Obama became president) and getting run over by a strengthening Russia (in his words).
Trump’s White House piled on with fresh accusations Friday, with Trump himself suggesting Obamacare is a ticking time bomb that was set to detonate once Obama left office and his top spokesman endorsing the idea of a so-called “deep state” full of Obama appointees seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency.
During a meeting with House committee chairmen, Trump said 2017 was supposed to “be a disaster for Obamacare,” which he and Republicans more broadly campaigned on repealing and replacing.
“That’s the year it was meant to explode because Obama won’t be here,” Trump alleged. “That was when it was supposed to be even worse.”
Trump’s replacement plan faces steep opposition from far-right Republican lawmakers as well as powerful conservative groups, raising questions of whether America’s CEO can negotiate a deal that appeases enough factions within the Republican Party to provide affordable, quality health care to Americans or lose the first policy battle of his nascent administration.
And despite the House Intelligence Committee’s chairman and ranking member telling reporters that after a briefing with FBI Director James Comey there’s still no evidence that Obama ordered a wiretap, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to say whether Trump would apologize if no evidence emerges during congressional investigations.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he cautioned. “I think it’s important to see where that goes, and I don’t wanna pre-judge their work at this time.”
Spicer later contended “there’s no question” that there are government officials aligned with the previous administration who espouse Obama’s agenda.
“So I don’t think it should come at any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and can want to continue to seek it,” he said. “I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone.”
Obama — more specifically his Affordable Care Act — dominated the president’s weekly address Friday morning. Trump panned the health care law, casting it as hundreds of pages “full of broken promises” that were enacted over Americans’ “profound objections.”
“I want every American to know that action on Obamacare is an urgent necessity,” he said in his address. “The law is collapsing around us, and if we do not act to save Americans from this wreckage, it will take our health care system all the way down with it. If we do nothing, millions more innocent Americans will be hurt — and badly hurt. That’s why we must repeal and replace Obamacare.”
He went on to “encourage Democrats to work with us to improve the health care system” but maligned Obama about an hour later — despite declaring in his address to Congress, “The time for trivial fights is behind us.”
The House unveiled its Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act, late Monday. It has already gone through committee markups and advanced through key panels as Republicans rush to meet an April deadline to enact the first phase of Trump’s three-pronged plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. But it faces opposition from both moderate and far-right Republicans over objections to the elimination of the law’s Medicaid expansion and a proposal to replace insurance subsidies with tax credits.
The GOP replacement, Trump asserted during his meeting with committee chairmen, is what the American people want.
“They want repeal and replace,” he said, warning that “as bad as [Obamacare] is now, it’ll get even worse” if Republicans don’t repeal and replace it.
There is one issue the Trump administration refused to let Obama take credit for on Friday, though: the jobs report. The economy added 235,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate has dropped to 4.7 percent.
Candidate Trump, however, had claimed the Labor Department numbers were “phony” in 2016, surmising with no evidence that they were actually as high as 42 percent.
“I talked to the president prior to this and he said to quote him very clearly,” Spicer told reporters Friday. “‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’”