Week 6 in Trump’s America
Week 6, in one sentence: Donald Trump said he’d skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; hosted 46 governors for dinner at the White House; got called out by an Iranian Oscar winner; proposed a 2018 budget that would increase defense spending by $54 billion; blamed White House leaks and protests on Barack Obama; gave his first speech to Congress as president; reportedly held the release of a second immigration order so that it could have its own moment; blamed a botched raid in Yemen on his generals; defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions after it was revealed that Sessions met with a Russian ambassador during Trump’s campaign, contradicting statements he gave under oath to the Senate; saw Sessions recuse himself from any probe into Trump’s campaign; blamed Sessions’ Russia scandal on Democrats; found Vice President Mike Pence — vocal critic of Hillary Clinton’s email use — at the center of a controversy regarding his own use of a private email account while governor of Indiana; and almost made it the entire week without a Twitter rant.
Trump backs out of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Day 37 — Feb. 25: President Trump, whose relationship with the press is increasingly hostile, tweeted that he won’t attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual event where journalists and the president roast each other for charity. The last president to miss the event was Ronald Reagan, who was recovering from an assassination attempt, in 1981.
Trump’s warm reception at the Conservative Political Action Conference comes in stark contrast to 2016’s conference, which he skipped due to friction with the GOP establishment. A straw poll released Saturday showed that 86 percent of attendees approved of the president’s Trump’s performance as president so far.
Trump, the first lady, and 46 governors
Day 38 — Feb. 26: President and First Lady Melania Trump hosted 46 of the nation’s governors at the White House for dinner, an annual tradition.
That night, at the Academy Awards, Asghar Farhadi’s film “The Salesman” won the Oscar for best foreign-language film. Farhadi, however, did not attend the ceremony in protest of the president. Trump’s travel ban would have barred the Iranian-born director from entering the U.S.
“Dividing the world into the U.S. and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear,” Farhadi said in a statement.
Trump’s nominee for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration due to ethical concerns.
Trump’s big budget
Day 39 — Feb. 27: The White House said its proposed fiscal-year 2018 budget would increase defense spending by $54 billion. The U.S. already budgets around $600 billion each year for defense spending — hundreds of billions more than any other country. The defense money would come from the slashing of other federal programs, although the budget will have to clear a ton of hurdles to become a reality.
In an interview on Fox News, Trump accused Barack Obama of orchestrating leaks and protests to undermine the new administration’s legitimacy. The president, however, failed to provide any evidence.
After a less contentious hearing than other economic advisers faced, the Senate confirmed billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as Trump’s commerce secretary. Ross would play a key role in overhauling trade deals like North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump gets “presidential”
Day 40 — Feb. 28: Trump gave his first speech to Congress as president — and it was surprisingly restrained. For the most part, the president stuck to the script and was widely praised by pundits for appearing “presidential.” While the speech was tame, it wasn’t normal: Trump defended some of his most radical actions, including the travel and immigration ban, and cited questionable data to assert that most terrorists are foreign. Here are the highlights.
Trump also detailed a new program for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. It’s called VOICE, or the Office of Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens, and was first announced in a Jan. 25 executive order. Here’s what you need to know about VOICE.
After the speech’s largely positive reception, Trump delayed a revised travel ban, according to CNN, because he wanted the executive order to have its own moment.
Trump broke his silence on last week’s bar shooting in Kansas City, Kansas, that left one man dead. Adam Purinton allegedly murdered Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian man, after shouting “Get out of my country.”
“Last week’s shooting in Kansas City reminds us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.
Trump began to distance himself from the raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and multiple civilians dead. While the buck traditionally stops with presidents, Trump blamed his generals and President Obama..
“This was a mission that started before I got here,” he said on Fox News. “They came to me. They explained what they wanted to do — the generals — who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
VICE NEWS’ COVERAGE
Sessions met with a Russian ambassador
Day 41 — March 1: A day after some of Trump’s most positive media coverage in months, the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the height of the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere with the election last year. This directly contradicted a statement Sessions gave to the Senate under oath — although he claims he didn’t mislead Congress.
That makes Sessions the fifth member of the president’s Cabinet to stand accused of making false statements during their confirmation hearings.
Some top Democrats called for Sessions’ resignation. Several high-ranking Republicans called for Sessions to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Sixty-one police officials from across the country — in both red and blue districts — signed a letter asking Trump to scale back his immigration enforcement strategy.
Trump’s State Department is reportedly a ghost town, with key posts unfilled and longtime professionals left out of meetings with foreign leaders.
Sessions recuses himself
Day 42 — March 2: Sessions recused himself from involvement in all probes of Trump’s campaign, including investigations of the president and his campaign staff’s ties to Russia.
Trump continued to defend Sessions and blamed the scandal on Democrats. “Jeff Sessions is an honest man,” Trump tweeted. “He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win.”
The Indianapolis Star revealed that Mike Pence routinely used a private AOL email account while governor of Indiana to conduct state business, including discussion of homeland security issues. Pence’s AOL account was hacked last summer. During the campaign, Pence was a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner also met with Russian ambassador in December, the New York Times reported, to “establish a line of communication” between Trump’s White House and the Russian government.
The Senate confirmed Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as well as Rick Perry as the next energy secretary.