WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump kicked off “Infrastructure Week” at the White House on Monday by angrily tweeting about London Mayor Sadiq Khan, decrying Khan’s assurances to Londoners following a terror attack over the weekend.
The White House was hoping this week to pivot to the president’s efforts to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure system, with an emphasis on the potential for job creation. That message would offer some counterprogramming to former FBI Director James Comey’s highly anticipated testimony before Congress on Thursday.
The president is scheduled to hold a series of events this week related to infrastructure: remarks from the White House on privatizing the nation’s air traffic control system; a speech on upgrading inland waterways in Ohio and Kentucky; and a meeting with mayors, governors and Transportation Department officials later in the week.
But the president’s itchy Twitter finger threw the carefully crafted rollout into disarray.
Earlier in the morning, Trump also railed about his stalled travel ban on Twitter ― resulting in cable news coverage about the legal ramifications of his tweets, and drawing further attention away from the president’s infrastructure plan.
Many Republicans have said the president’s Twitter feed has been a detriment to his presidency. It’s likely one reason why he does not have a communications director at the moment. From the campaign to the White House, sticking to a script has never been Trump’s strong suit.
The bulk of Trump’s plan on infrastructure, meanwhile, has yet to be seen. Reed Cordish, an assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives, told reporters in a press briefing on Monday that the White House is “absolutely” confident the infrastructure package can be accomplished this year.
Trump’s “Infrastructure Week” rollout met with criticism from Democrats, who called his efforts a giveaway to wealthy investors at the expense of rural Americans.
“It means Trump tolls from one end of America to the other, and huge profits for financiers who, when they put up the money, want to be repaid by the average driver, worker and citizen,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Monday. “It also means that places where they can’t build a toll, like repairing our crumbling schools, will likely get left behind.”
UPDATE: 1:05 p.m. ― Trump touted his air traffic control reform initiative during a ceremony at the White House on Monday that was attended by top White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. After brief remarks in which he stressed the need to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system, the president signed what one White House aide called a “decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principles to Congress” related to the initiative.
Trump did not, however, sign a bill into law. The legislation itself, the concept of which has been discussed in Washington for years, is not likely to pass. Democrats and several Republicans in the Senate oppose privatizing the Federal Aviation Administration, a state of affairs that has changed little in the two years since House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) started pushing for a plan to do so.
Monday’s event, then, was essentially a faux bill ceremony. The president signed a statement that could have simply been written by staff and transmitted to Congress, and then distributed the pens he’d used to smiling members of Congress behind him ― a tradition typically reserved for the signing of bills and executive actions.