02:04 - Source: CNN
Years of Trump panning the Iran deal
Washington CNN —  

President Donald Trump’s teardown strategy is going into overdrive. But the former real estate magnate is leaving the rebuild to an already overwhelmed Congress.

Trump, frustrated at his inability to transform his election victory into quick action by Congress, has unleashed his executive power on health care, immigration and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.

Seen from Trump’s point of view he’s had a good few days, framing himself as a dominant figure enforcing political change at home and across the globe, cutting through the bitter inertia surrounding his White House and honoring campaign promises.

At the same time, his actions ending Obama-era programs or policies without having a replacement plan ready to go saddles lawmakers with the political risks of dealing with unraveling health care protections, the fate of millions of undocumented immigrants and a deal that halted Iran’s nuclear program.

The tone of an early morning tweet Friday suggests the President is relishing dictating terms on health care after his actions Thursday, in what may be an attempt to force Congress into acting on his agenda or to jam Democrats into some kind of deal.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

While he has often dealt in bluster and distraction in office, Trump’s moves on Thursday and Friday will lead to significant consequences – and the President has no real idea how they will turn out.

His gambits on health care and Iran mirror his decision to put the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children in the hands of Congress when he canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Last month, Trump said he was ending DACA, which had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation, but giving Congress time to figure out a solution.

That’s led to a back-and-forth between the White House and congressional leaders about just what Trump wants in a deal – a border wall? – versus what he told top Democrats about hoping to keep DACA in place.

How serious is Trump on DACA?

It’s no coincidence that his moves Thursday and Friday satisfy his fixation with undermining his predecessor’s legacy. But the limited congressional schedule combined with the need to act in policy areas where legislation is signed once in a generation, may not translate into results.

Democrats are accusing him of jeopardizing health care for poorer Americans, by withdrawing Obamacare subsidies and stirring competition in the insurance market in a move likely to force sicker patients to pay more for care.

“It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” top congressional Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

While Trump will fall short of ripping up the Iran deal as he promised on the campaign trail, his aggressive moves leave its future in doubt and may trigger a sharp deterioration in US-Iran relations that could threaten it in future.

Trump has decided to declare that the Iran nuclear deal is no longer in US interests. It will now be up to Congress to decide whether to re-impose sanctions that would likely cause Iran to walk away from the deal.

The administration is not pushing for those sanctions to be renewed, so in some ways the initiative could be seen as a victory for administration figures like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who want the United States to remain in what they see as an imperfect deal.

But it also argues that Iran is exploiting loopholes in the deal, and accuses the previous administration of adopting a “myopic” focus on the nuclear deal, and failing to confront Iran’s belligerence in the region, including its support for radical groups like Hezbollah and for Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Trump supporters believe that his new approach may force the deal’s other signatories – France, Britain, the European Union, Russia, China and Iran – back to the table to improve the deal.

But opponents of his approach argue that he is banking a short term political win without thinking of the consequences of his actions down the road.

Trump’s willingness to place the deal in limbo and to go back on agreements of previous administrations is raising doubts about the staying power of the United States in international agreements and its good faith in negotiations. It is also likely to isolate the US from its allies.

In effect, Trump will certify that Iran is not living up to the spirit of the agreement even though the International Atomic Energy Agency, US allies and even the US government testify that Iran is honoring it.

Critics say the entire exercise, which could put the deal in doubt, is intended to spare Trump the humiliation of being forced by law to certify every 90 days that Iran is complying, even though he repeatedly stretches the truth to say it is not.

“Trump’s team was forced to search for a rationalization for irrational decision,” said Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration.

Congress now gets to pick up the pieces.