Week 13 in Trump’s America: a call to Erdoğan, North Korea tension, and dinner with Palin
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Week 13, in one sentence: President Donald Trump cut off public access to White House visitor logs; refused to call China a currency manipulator despite repeated promises to label the country as such on Day One of his presidency; upset North Korea with his tweets; accused Tax March protesters of being paid, without citing evidence; congratulated Turkey’s president, who has instituted brutal clampdowns against dissenters and his opponents, after he gained sweeping new powers that pushed the country toward one-man rule; tweeted a lot about the Democratic underdog in Georgia campaigning for a House seat; held his first White House Easter Egg Roll, with first lady Melania Trump; signed an executive order to encourage companies to buy and hire American; hosted Kid Rock, Sarah Palin, and Ted Nugent for dinner at the White House; was sued by the first “Dreamer” to be deported under his administration; definitely didn’t send that promised “armada” to North Korea — in fact, the aircraft carrier initially went in the opposite direction; held a joint press conference with Italy’s prime minister, during which he apparently didn’t wear his translation earpiece; negotiated the release of an American charity worker imprisoned in Egypt for three years; and started to get a bit defensive about approaching the 100-day milestone of his presidency.
Logging off Day 85 — April 14
Citing national security reasons, the White House decided to cut off public access to the logs that detail the comings and goings of the president’s visitors. The move, which broke with the practice started by the Obama administration, adds a shroud of secrecy to Trump’s activities and meetings at the White House.
In an official report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department broke one of Trump’s most prominent campaign promises: to label China a currency manipulator, or a country that deliberately depresses the value of its currency. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised that the Treasury would slap China with the undesirable title on Day One of his presidency.
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 Korean 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 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said pre-emptive military action against North Korea isn’t off the table.
Show them the money Day 86 — April 15
With tax day approaching, protesters around the country gathered in at least 200 cities to call for Trump to finally release his tax returns. The first U.S. president or presidential candidate since Richard Nixon to not release his tax returns, Trump later questioned why people were still upset and accused the protesters, without evidence, of being paid.
Trumps big U-turn on China Day 87 — April 16
Trump defended his sudden 180 on promising to label China a currency manipulator.
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” the president tweeted. “We will see what happens!”
Homeland Security chief John Kelly made a surprisingly chill remark about marijuana — that it’s “not a factor” in the war on drugs.
Hey, Erdoğan? It’s Trump Day 88 — April 17
Many powerful world figures and human rights monitors — including the U.S. State Department — expressed dismay when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed a slim victory in a referendum that granted him sweeping new powers and solidified his role as the country’s leader.
Trump, however, called him to say congratulations.
Trump began a Twitter campaign against Jon Ossoff, an unexpectedly popular 30-year-old Democratic candidate in a Georgia district that Republicans have held for almost 40 years. Ahead of the special election Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressioal [sic] race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!”
While the White House Easter Egg roll was rumored to be an imminent disaster, the event went off relatively smoothly. Attendance was down from the Obama years, but crowd sizes were roughly in line with previous administrations. There were a few minor hiccups, of course, including Trump autographing a boy’s “Make America Great Again” hat, then mistakenly tossing it into the crowd as the boy screamed. And first lady Melania Trump visibly nudged the president during the playing of the national anthem, apparently reminding him to put his hand over his heart.
Buying and hiring AmericanDay 89 — April 18
Day 89 — April 18: Trump signed an executive order he called the “Buy American, Hire American” order, meant to “aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labor is hired to do the job,” Trump told a crowd of students and manufacturing employees at Snap-On, a tool manufacturer based in Wisconsin.
One of the big components of the order is a report on the H-1B visa program for skilled foreign workers, which admits about 85,000 foreign workers every year, usually in high-tech medical, and science positions. Trump and Republicans have put a target on the visas for enabling companies to hire foreign workers to avoid hiring more-expensive Americans.
Trump and daughter Ivanka both have a long history of manufacturing goods overseas. In fact, the very day Trump signed the “Buy American, Hire American” order, the Associated Press reported that Ivanka had scored a personal business win in China. Trump’s daughter landed three preliminary Chinese trademarks — which would give China monopoly rights to sell her brand’s jewelry, bags, and spa services — the same night she happened to dine next to China’s president at Mar-a-Lago, April 6.
Last week, Trump said he was sending an “armada” near the Korean Peninsula to frighten Kim Jong Un — but it never showed up. Photos surfaced that showed the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier was actually traveling in the opposite direction into the Indian Ocean, though it will apparently end up in the Korean Peninsula.
Trump sent out four more tweets that urged Georgians to vote against Ossoff. The Democratic underdog fell just short of the 50 percent of votes he needed to claim the House seat, but he did get 48 percent, the most of any candidate in the field of 17. That seat is still up for grabs, and Ossoff and the top Republican candidate will compete for it once more in a runoff election in June.
Trump, however, still characterized the election as a big win for Republicans and credited himself for helping to undermine Ossoff.
Homeland Security chief John Kelly apparently changed his mind about pot, calling it a “dangerous gateway drug” while also pledging to track its distribution. Two days earlier, he’d called marijuana “not a factor” in the war on drugs.
The FBI reportedly used a dossier of blackmail Russia allegedly has on Trump to get the go-ahead to secretly monitor one of his campaign advisers, unnamed U.S. officials told CNN. The dossier claims that Carter Page met with Russian officials on behalf of Trump’s campaign to discuss deals related to U.S. sanctions, business opportunities, and Kremlin interference in the election. Page has denied the allegations.
Rich people donated a lot to Trump’s inauguration Day 90 — April 19
Trump raised a record amount of money — about $107 million — for his inauguration parties, according to FEC reports. That’s more than double Barack Obama’s 2009 high of $53 million. And Trump held just three inaugural balls, compared to Obama’s 10. The bulk of the money came from 1 percenters (including five NFL team owners) and big corporations. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson donated a whopping $5 million to Trump’s inaugural festivities, the largest single donation to any presidential inaugural committee.
Tillerson ramped up his anti-Iran rhetoric even further. The secretary of state asserted that if the country goes “unchecked,” it could become another North Korea. He also called the international deal on Iran’s nuclear program a failure.
Trump hosted Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent for dinner at the White House. He also gave them a tour of the grounds and chatted about policy. All three guests mockingly posed in front of Hillary Clinton’s official White House portrait during their four-hour visit to the president’s official residence.
Vice President Mike Pence tried out North Korea tough-talk as tensions continue to increase between the U.S. and the Hermit Kingdom.
“We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,” Pence said aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan at the U.S. naval base in Japanese waters. “All options are on the table. History will attest the soldier does not bear the sword in vain,” he added, quoting the Bible.
The first “Dreamer” — undocumented immigrants protected under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — sued the Trump administration for deporting him to Mexico. In an ironic twist of fate, the judge overseeing the case is Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the same judge Trump had previously called biased for his “Mexican heritage” when he was ruling on the Trump University class-action suits.
A think tank controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin put together a plan to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and swing the election to Donald Trump, anonymous officials told Reuters.
The International Monetary Fund warned that Trump’s fiscal policies — such as tax cuts and cutting regulations — are similar to those that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
South Korea corrected Trump’s assertion that Korea was once part of China. (It wasn’t.)
Taking on Wikileaks Day 91 — April 20
Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a priority for his administration. Assange and WikiLeaks — an organization that CIA Director Mike Pompeo said is abetted by “state actors like Russia” — spearheaded a mass leak of Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails. At the time, Trump had infamously called on Russia to hack Clinton’s emails.
Sessions also wrote off Hawaii as “an island in the Pacific” while criticizing a Hawaiian judge for blocking Trump’s second attempt to ban travel from several Muslim-majority countries.
“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said.
During a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump said that he “does not see a [U.S.] role in Libya” just after Gentiloni called a U.S. military presence in Libya “critical.” (Trump didn’t appear to be wearing his earpiece, which would have allowed him to hear translations of Gentiloni, so it’s possible he didn’t understand the prime minister.)
The Trump administration negotiated the release of an American charity worker, her husband, and four other humanitarian workers from prison in Cairo, Egypt. Aya Hijazi, a 30-year-old American citizen, and her Egyptian husband, Mohamed Hassanein, were held in prison there for three years on charges of child abuse and trafficking, which human rights groups widely decried as fabrications.
This week in POTUS’ tweets:
Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2017
Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to W.H.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2017