What’s Trump Building? His Public Disapproval Rating (Plus: AG Hears, “You’re Fired!”)

January 29, 2017; The Hill

President Trump is a guy who likes to get things done his way and at any cost. Even as protests raged against Trump’s executive order-cum-Muslim ban on Friday, his aides were shrugging the response off, calling the whole endeavor a success that actually completely delighted his base. However, that base seems to be diminishing somewhat, as Trump’s public disapproval ratings rose above 50 percent.

Recent Gallup Polls have tracked the public’s approval/disapproval ratings and, as a consequence, the number of days it took Trump to achieve majority disapproval among the electorate as contrasted with other recent presidents. In this, at least, he does excel. By Saturday, Trump’s disapproval rating was at 51 percent. It took former President Obama more than two years to get there; Trump managed it in less than a week.

Here are the other presidents’ numbers: Reagan: 727 days; Bush I: 1336 days; Clinton: 573 days; Bush II: 1205 days. It is worth noting, however, that the right-of-center Rasmussen reports slightly different polling numbers that show that 53 percent of likely voters still approve of the president as of today. As recently as last Thursday, the Democratic polling firm PPP has Trump’s approval/disapproval rating in a tie at 44 percent.

Meanwhile, acting attorney general Sally Yates directed the Justice Department not to defend the order in court. “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration, as Jeff Sessions, who has been nominated by Trump for attorney general, is not yet confirmed for the role. Still, a public rebuke by a federal official of a sitting president is very unusual and somewhat reminiscent of the dramatic “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973, when President Nixon fired both his attorney general and deputy attorney general when they declined to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case. History appears to have repeated itself here; calling her letter a “betrayal,” Trump fired Yates last night, replacing her with Dana Boente, a career Justice Department employee who currently serves as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.—Ruth McCambridge