Hours after congressional Republicans moved to neuter the Office of Congressional Ethics, Trump fired back, chastising them in a series of tweets. Then they backed off: The OCE will not be touched, at least for now. But Trump was given too much credit by many in the media who said that he was opposing the move itself—instead, as my colleague Brian Beutler wrote on Tuesday morning, he was merely criticizing the timing of it. So Trump got to play the hero. He took on his own party! He, unlike Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, was able to rein in those crazy Republicans in the House!
Trump’s tweets certainly played a role in today’s drama and his willingness to use social media to pressure Congress will certainly be interesting to watch as he tries to implement his agenda. But, as The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported in a series of tweets, members of Congress did not feel that Trump was the catalyst for the reversal. Instead, their constituents were.
This is a lesson for those hoping to keep a radical Congress and an impulsive president in check: Civic engagement can protect democratic norms.