Around 5:30 p.m. on May 30, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that the United States would impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods beginning June 10, and that it would “gradually increase … until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.” Less than 24 hours earlier, according to The Washington Post, administration officials including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had lobbied against the decision. But Trump was unmoved—“infuriated” after learning that a record number of Central American migrants had surrendered to U.S. officials at the border—leaving Kushner and others to relay the decision to Mexico.
Following a major policy announcement by the president, it’s common to be hit with a cascade of stories about how the decision shocked even Trump’s closest aides. Call it a perverse consistency of sorts in an administration defined by its volatility, the cycle that begins with a random and whim-driven move and ends with officials clamoring to reassure lawmakers, allies, and the public alike that all is going as planned.
But beyond fitting neatly within the shock-and-awe-and-cleanup pattern of this White House, the recent Mexico event illustrates Trump’s preferred method of relief in moments of crisis. In the days leading up to the tariff announcement, the news cycle was captivated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first public remarks since he was appointed to his role more than two years ago. Mueller reiterated that his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice in the executive branch did not, in fact, amount to a “total exoneration” of the president. Hearing these words from Mueller himself spurred many Democrats to ratchet up calls for impeachment, and Trump was clearly affected by the fallout. “How do you impeach a Republican President for a crime that was committed by the Democrats? WITCH-HUNT!” the president tweeted on Wednesday.