Trump’s stalled presidency: Legislative agenda sputters amid Russia cloud

Updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue June 6, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC:  U.S. President Donald Trump announces the Air Traffic Control Initiative during an event in the East Room of the White House on June 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC: U.S. President Donald Trump announces the Air Traffic Control Initiative during an event in the East Room of the White House on June 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:59
Turmoil stalls Trump's presidency
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
PHOTO: Richard Drew/AP
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Now playing
02:17
Trump claim to world leaders met with laughter
PHOTO: CNNMoney
Now playing
06:22
How Trump's tweet sparked #WhyIDidntReport
President Donald Trump points to the crowd after speaking to law enforcement officials on the street gang MS-13, Friday, July 28, 2017, in Brentwood, N.Y.
PHOTO: Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump points to the crowd after speaking to law enforcement officials on the street gang MS-13, Friday, July 28, 2017, in Brentwood, N.Y.
Now playing
01:46
Trump's I'm-joking-but-not-really strategy
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 15:  U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks to members of the White House Press Corps prior to his Marine One departure from the South Lawn of the White House December 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 15: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks to members of the White House Press Corps prior to his Marine One departure from the South Lawn of the White House December 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:20
Trump often says he's 'the least racist person'
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:00
Trump on Manafort: I feel sad about that
PHOTO: Pool
Now playing
01:22
Trump on Cordray: He was groomed by 'Pocahontas'
Now playing
05:58
Baldwin: This face behind Trump startled me
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:01
Trump responds to op-ed: 'Gutless'
PHOTO: CNN Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
03:18
Why Woodward's book matters
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:13
Dean: Trump acts 'frighteningly dictatorial'
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 08:  U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. After two and a half years of negotiations, Iran agreed in 2015 to end its nuclear program in exchange for Western countries, including the United States, lifting decades of economic sanctions. Since then international inspectors have not found any violations of the terms by Iran.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 08: U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. After two and a half years of negotiations, Iran agreed in 2015 to end its nuclear program in exchange for Western countries, including the United States, lifting decades of economic sanctions. Since then international inspectors have not found any violations of the terms by Iran. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:31
Woodward book reveals 'crazytown' White House
PHOTO: CNN Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
03:03
Trump's latest Twitter tirade lashes at media
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump waits to speak during a memorial service at the Pentagon for the 9/11 terrorist attacks  September 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump waits to speak during a memorial service at the Pentagon for the 9/11 terrorist attacks September 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:57
Trump warns of violence if GOP loses midterms
PHOTO: Photo Illustration: Getty Images/CNN Business
Now playing
01:40
Trump: Impeach somebody who's done great job?
PHOTO: Fox News Channel
Now playing
01:19
Trump on Sessions: What kind of man is this?

Story highlights

Trump is meeting with members of Congress Tuesday

He hopes to spur his agenda

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump’s legislative agenda is stalled on Capitol Hill, collateral damage to a mix of swirling controversies – including the firing of FBI Director James Comey and Russia investigation – and the President’s off-the-cuff style that has Republican lawmakers constantly responding to the crisis du jour.

After Trump’s unexpected 2016 win, Republicans were bullish at the start his presidency about winning wholesale changes to health care, remaking the tax system and rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

Calculating or naive? Trump caught in cloud of Russia probe revelations

Nearly five months in, though, little of that has happened. And Trump’s top aides are now acknowledging the problem.

“There’s no doubt that keeping members focused on investigations detracts from our legislative agenda and detracts from what we’re trying to deliver to the American people,” Marc Short, Trump’s White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters on Monday.

Stunted progress

Short’s blunt comments echo what Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill have said in private about the continual drip, drip, drip of controversies coming from the White House. With only so many hours to work each week, the controversies have forced Republicans to spend time responding to Trump stories and protecting the party, leaving them largely unable to move legislation through a contentious Congress.

Trump’s flagging approval rating – 37% in the most recent Gallup poll – is at or near historic lows for this early in his presidency, a fact that has not helped the issue. Public disapproval has hardened Trump’s opposition, giving Democrats hope for the future and has provided some Republicans the cover to stand up to the President when needed.

Democrats learned early on in Trump’s presidency that there is no upside to working with the contentious leader. Special and primary elections this year have found Democrats trumpeting their opposition to Trump, not their willingness to work with him. And Democrats on Capitol Hill have done the same, disavowing Trump more than working with him.

Trump’s constant crises are putting his economic agenda at risk

“In all honesty, I think it’s a stalled Congress,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told CNN’s Manu Raju on Tuesday. “So the President’s going to have to lead. Tweeting doesn’t help, but Congress is more broken than just his tweets.”

To spur his legislative agenda, Trump will meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn Tuesday afternoon, according to a White House official.

The meeting will focus on health care, tax reform and next steps in the President’s agenda, Short said.

Republicans, like Graham, are hopeful that the meeting will lead to more coordination between the White House and Capitol Hill.

GOP future on the line

These congressional leaders also have their futures on the line. Failing to get much done during Trump’s first year in office, when Trump’s power is at its highest, could mean GOP disaster in the 2018 midterm election. Democrats, invigorated by a sputtering Trump, have already began laying out plans to target vulnerable Republicans whose future relies on Trump’s popularity and effectiveness.

Later Tuesday, Trump will have dinner with Sens. Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner and Todd Young and Reps. Lee Zeldin and Francis Rooney, according to the same official. The focus of that meeting will be the President’s recent foreign trip and foreign policy.

Trump’s renewed focus on his legislative agenda comes days before one of the most consequential moments in Trump’s presidency, when Comey heads to Capitol Hill to testify about his conversations with Trump and memos he kept about requests the President made to him. The hearing before the Senate intelligence committee could be the most watched moment of the year in Washington, largely thwarting any momentum Republicans had hoped for on tax reform or infrastructure spending.

Short said that the White House believes Trump “is often very effective in driving our message in Congress” despite the fact he does “not have a conventional of style.”

“Many of his efforts are extremely helpful to us in getting our legislation accomplished,” Short said.