This week in Trump’s America: Trump angers Russia, threatens North Korea, and drops “the Mother of All Bombs”
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Week 12, in one sentence: President Donald Trump caused “dramatic damage” to U.S. relations with Russia by bombing Syria, Moscow says; dropped a lawsuit against Twitter that attempted to unveil an anonymous critic after Twitter sued back; deployed a Navy strike group to the Korean Peninsula, further escalating tensions with Pyongyang; golfed again; stood by Neil Gorsuch’s side as the judge was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice; took his “phenomenal” tax plan back to the drawing board; criticized Russia for continuing to back Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Trump called a “truly evil person”; weighed in on the United Airlines fiasco; flip-flopped on several of his most popular campaign promises/applause lines; dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan to kill ISIS fighters; privately signed a bill that allows states to withhold some federal funds from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood; pissed off North Korea even more with his tweets; and promised everything will work out just fine with Russia.
Day 78 April 7
Furious Russians and a new Supreme Court justice
Russian officials reacted with fury to Trump’s decision to launch the first direct attack on Assad in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 85 civilians — without congressional approval. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backs Assad, said the bombing caused “dramatic damage” to Russian–U.S. ties.
Russia’s spokesman for the Ministry of Defense also mocked Trump’s strike as “highly ineffective” and claimed that fewer than half of the missiles reached their intended targets. Russia also suspended cooperation with the U.S. in Syria, a pact that was meant to prevent accidental encounters between the two countries’ air operations.
After a bitter partisan feud, the Senate officially confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch as the newest justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans went “nuclear” to confirm Trump’s nominee, permanently decreasing the number of votes required to confirm a Supreme Court justice from 60 to 51.
On April 6, Twitter announced a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to stop a government lawsuit trying to reveal the identity of an anonymous Trump critic. Not even a day later, the administration dropped its lawsuit.
After a string of bizarre incidents — including a midnight trip to the White House and canceled hearings — Rep. Devin Nunes stepped down as chair of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. Top Democrats have accused Nunes, who was part of Trump’s transition team, of muddying the investigation for the president’s benefit. Nunes decried the charges against him as false and “politically motivated.”
Day 79 April 8
Trump send a warning to the Hermit Kingdom
Trump deployed a Navy strike group — the USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying fleet — to the Korean Peninsula in response to a string of provocative moves by North Korea, including continued work on its nuclear program.
The reason you don't generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2017
Syrian regime airplanes reportedly took off from those runways just a day after the airstrikes.
Day 80 April 9
Putting a mirror up to Russia
Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, gave an exclusive interview to Fox News about the administration’s decision to bomb Syria.
“Russia should ask themselves, ‘What are we doing here?’” McMaster said. “‘Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”
Trump, a vociferous critic of President Barack Obama’s golf outings, golfed again. While Obama did indeed golf a lot, Trump has already surpassed all three of his predecessors’ time on the green in the early stages of the presidency. Obama and George W. Bush never golfed in their first 81 days president. Bill Clinton golfed three times. Trump has golfed at least 17 times.
Day 81 April 10
Back to the drawing board
Trump reportedly pushed back his “phenomenal” tax plan. The president had promised to present ambitious tax reform within his first 100 days as president — a quickly approaching deadline he likely won’t hit.
Neil Gorsuch was officially sworn in as a justice on the Supreme Court, finally refilling the ninth seat left vacant since Antonin Scalia’s death more than a year ago and breaking a tie between conservatives and liberals on the bench
Palm Beach County commissioners are sick of Trump’s expensive trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort — so they proposed turning Mar-a-Lago into its own tax district to offset the costs.
The county spends $60,000 per day while Trump is town, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Trump has spent seven of his 13 weekends as president at Mar-a-Lago.
The Kremlin said that Putin had no intention to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his visit to Moscow that week.
Day 82 April 11
North Korea calls Trump “reckless”, Trump responds with threats
Trump’s fleet in the Korean Peninsula expectedly angered Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling the actions “reckless” and warned of “catastrophic consequences.” Trump seemed unfazed.
“North Korea is looking for trouble,” the president tweeted hours after North Korea’s statement. “If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer faced widespread outrage after attempting to paint Assad as worse than Hitler. Spicer said Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” This is obviously historically inaccurate: Hitler gassed millions of his own people during the Holocaust. The White House tried to “clarify” the remarks three times before Spicer issued an apology the following morning.
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions finished up a tour of the U.S.–Mexico border, he unveiled new guidance for federal prosecutors to enforce immigration law, including ramping up nonviolent crime prosecution. Every U.S. attorney’s office will now be required to assign someone as “border security coordinator.”
Tillerson, at a meeting with foreign ministers in Italy, said Assad’s reign was “coming to an end.” Tillerson went on to criticize Russia, just hours before he was scheduled to arrive for a diplomatic visit in Moscow, saying that Putin’s continued support of Assad “is not going to serve Russia’s interest longer-term.”
Trump gave an interview to Fox Business about his decision to strike Syria, during which he called Assad a “truly evil person” and “an animal” and criticized Putin for supporting the Syrian leader. Trump also brought up the Mar-a-Lago dessert menu: The president said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping about the Syria bombing “over the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen.”
Day 83 April 12
Tillerson meets with Putin after all
Despite the Kremlin announcing the secretary of state and the Russian president wouldn’t meet, they did — but not until 5 p.m. The two couldn’t agree on much, and Tillerson later said relations were “at a low point” between the countries.
The feelings are apparently mutual. On Russian state TV earlier, Putin said relations had “deteriorated.”
Trump congratulated Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes on his special-election victory that won him a congressional seat in the House. Trump said Estes “easily” won despite heavy spending from Democrats. But that’s not true. Estes won by a much thinner margin than expected, and Democrats spent virtually no money to back Estes’ challenger, James Thompson.
Trump did a complete 180 on one of his most popular campaign lines: that NATO is “obsolete.” During a press conference with the NATO secretary general, the president called the intergovernmental military alliance “no longer obsolete” and a “bulwark of international peace and security.” The sudden reversal came with at least six other reversal in the past week — on relations with Russia, supporting the Export-Import Bank, labeling China a currency manipulator, and the Fed keeping interest rates low.
First lady Melania Trump settled a libel suit with The Daily Mail, which reported she’d “provided services beyond simply modeling” in her former job. The publication apologized and agreed to pay damages of nearly $3 million, according to the Associated Press.
Trump also put his two cents into the controversy surrounding United Airlines’ violent removal of a passenger from his seat. Trump called the airline’s treatment of the 69-year-old paying passenger “horrible” and said that nobody “should be treated that way.”
Former Trump adviser Carter Page called allegations that he acted as a Russian agent “such a joke that it’s beyond words.” Page was reportedly the subject of a secret FBI surveillance warrant obtained last year to investigate his links to Russia.
Day 84 April 13
Dropping the “Mother of All Bombs”
The United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat — nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs” — on a series of caves in eastern Afghanistan used by the Islamic State group. The U.S. had never used the 21,000-pound Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb, which killed 36 Islamic State fighters. Trump, however, wouldn’t confirm whether he personally signed off on the bombing, saying he had given the military “total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Trump was unusually private about signing a bill that would potentially cut Planned Parenthood funding. The bill allows states to withhold some federal funds from organizations that provide legal abortion services. It’s a reversal of a recent Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding Title X money — state-managed grants meant to help cut the cost of family planning for low-income households — from health providers that offer abortions.
Customs and Border Patrol released data that showed the agency had grown much more aggressive about searching phones — almost twice the previous rate — since Trump took office.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Day 85 April 14
Pyongyang snaps back
North Korea blamed especially hostile tensions with the U.S. on Trump’s “aggressive” tweets.
“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” North Korea’s vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press. “So that’s why. It’s not [North Korea] but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble.”
North Korea is poised to conduct another nuclear test imminently. Lately, Trump has publicly chided China, which has close economic and political ties with Pyongyang, to step in and “deal with” North Korea. And Tillerson has said pre-emptive military action against North Korea isn’t off the table.
This week in POTUS tweets:
Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2017
Gangs & cartels that flood our country will no longer be able to profit from their lawlessness, turn cities into warzones & harm our people! https://t.co/ehf3XBzsm2
— President Trump (@POTUS) April 11, 2017
— Fox Nation (@foxnation) April 8, 2017