Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former Chief of Staff and current mayor of Chicago, is publicly warning that President Trump is likely to take military action against Venezuela to boost GOP midterm prospects.
“We have a phrase in this country: the October surprise,” Emanuel said in an NBC interview Wednesday. “I think in this situation he is looking to do anything and will do anything.”
Emanuel’s comments come following a New York Times report revealing that Trump administration officials had been secretly meeting Venezuelan rebels for months to discuss potentially assisting them with a military coup. The arrest of dozens of plotters and the hesitation of Trump’s own top aides has thus far stalled the talks.
The notoriously impulsive Trump has repeatedly asked his top aides about invading Venezuela, and threatened a “military option” to reporters last year. While his aides have thus far persuaded him not to take action, Trump has a history of ignoring recommendations of top aides on matters of national security, including his scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal and his decision not to retaliate against Russia for attempting to influence the 2016 election in his favor.
Emanuel fears that the GOP-led Congress, who has largely fallen in line with most of Trump’s whims without much scrutiny, would quickly approve military intervention.
“If you’re going to take military action, lay out the case,” Emanuel continued. “The Senate should be asking serious questions now — not after the fact.”
While experts on both sides of the aisle largely agree that U.S. intervention in Venezuela would be disastrous, military actions tend to boost the nationalistic spirit of American voters, and has helped the GOP win elections in the past. Trump himself received some of the most positive media attention of his presidency after dropping the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan in 2017.
And Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro makes for an appealing villain. His regime has become increasingly violent, and 75 percent of the country’s population lost an average of 19 pounds of bodyweight from 2015-2016 because of food shortages. Refugees are pouring out of the country, an issue which could plausibly be used to alarm Trump’s anti-immigrant voting bloc.
However, it could be argued that much of the suffering in Venezuela could be attributed to U.S. intervention. The U.S. government has had long-standing economic sanctions against Venezuela, meaning Venezuela has to import 70 percent of its food. The food that does get imported is typically sold on the black market at inflated prices out of reach for much of the population. Additionally, Venezuela’s economy is overly dependent on oil exports, and low oil prices have severely impacted the country’s ability to provide decent public services to its people.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last month of Venezuela that the White House is “going to keep all options on the table.”
“He has crossed so many lines,” Emanuel said. “I’ve never seen anything constrain him before.”
Nathan Wellman is a Grit Post contributing editor in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @LIGHTNINGWOW. You can also email him at info AT gritpost DOT com.