Taking It in the Trump: Everything the President Did This Week (April 16, 2017)

We've got a recap of the latest happenings within Donald Trump's White House, from the rumblings of war to the ongoing Russian investigation.

Through 90-plus days under Donald Trump’s reign, not a week has gone by without some new controversy arising around the president and his administration. Week after week, month after month, another critical budget cut or jarring accusation regarding connections to the Russian government sends the U.S. tailspinning deeper into uncertainty. Last week, we witnessed the rising role of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the intensification of war in the Middle East, and aggravated interactions with North Korea. Here’s a recap of everything that transpired under Trump and his ever-worrisome administration.


Flexing Military Muscle in the Middle East & North Korea

  • A little over a week ago, Donald Trump responded to the heinous chemical attack conducted on the Syrian people, reportedly by their own president Bashar al-Assad, by ordering a massive airstrike on a government military base. Trump's decision to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles was applauded by politicians and media pundits alike, and was arguably the most widespread praise the president has received since taking office. But according to his son Eric Trump, the actual influencer behind the military action was Ivanka Trump, the Commander-in-Chief’s favorite daughter and unofficial advisor. He also tried to use the bombing to undermine the allegations of his father’s connections to Russia. “If there was anything that Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie,” Eric Trump said.    

  • In the week following the strike in Syria, the president decided to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb in the country’s arsenal in Afghanistan. Known by the military as the "mother of all bombs" (MOAB), Trump gave the green light to deploy the massive explosive near the Achin district of Nangarhar province. The MOAB was dropped to destroy the underground tunnels and caves reportedly used by ISIS, and its blast was said to have decimated everything within a one-mile radius. The Afghan defense ministry claims that the bombing killed up to 36 ISIS militants.  

  • But the Middle East isn’t the only region where military tensions are rising. The U.S. Navy recently deployed a handful of ships into the Pacific Ocean to provide an intimidating presence to North Korea. With the administration closing in on the Korean peninsula, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke in a threatening manner against dictator Kim Jong-un, claiming that “action has to be taken.”

  • On Sunday, Trump hosted Chinese president Xi Jinping at his beloved Mar-a-Lago resort. The two leaders reportedly “had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea." Though the meeting seemed cordial on the surface, China’s state-controlled news agency blasted Mr. Trump just as Jinping was heading back home. The government-run outlet called the strike against Syria an act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles. The Chinese media also accused Trump of ordering the action just to overcome accusations that he was “pro-Russia.”     

This Week in Russia: Paul Manafort’s Money, Surveilling Carter Page

  • Although the mainstream media has been a bit consumed with Trump’s newfound love for dropping bombs, the FBI’s probe into his connections with the Russia has continued to mount suspicion. For starters, it recently emerged that that Britain’s spy agencies caught onto the Trump administration’s sketchy connection with Russian operatives back in 2015, helping to jumpstart the ensuing investigation by the U.S. intelligence community.

  • This past week, it also surfaced that Trump’s ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort received over $1.2 million from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. This was one of the many claims found on the infamous dossier that speculated on the president’s many connections to Russian officials.

  • Additionally, reports emerged that in 2016, the FBI obtained a secret court order to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a close adviser to Trump during his campaign. U.S. officials claim that the intelligence agency was observing Page as a part of their probe into the possible links between Russia and the campaign. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant after they convinced a judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as a foreign agent for Russia.

Outspending and Out-Vacationing Obama

  • While the Russian probe continues to brew, Trump has continued to take a leisurely approach to his demanding job, pretty much doing everything he condemned former president Barack Obama for, but in a more extravagant way. Since taking office, the president has cost taxpayers $21 million for his weekend travels to his “Winter White House” in Mar-a-Lago. In just his three months in office, Trump has already surpassed Obama’s annual travel budget of around $12 million.

  • And even though Trump has held a number of meetings in his Florida resort, he hasn’t been just been spending his time at Mar-a-Lago working from out of the office. Instead, the president has been busy practicing his golf swing, hitting the green for the 16th time since he was inaugurated. Prior to the election, Trump constantly criticized Obama for playing too much golf, but he is also outpacing his predecessor here, as well.

  • Outside of vacation time, Trump has also made a practice of signing numerous executive orders (whether he reads them or not is up for debate). This was something both the 45th president and the GOP constantly ragged on Obama for prior to Trump taking office. By the end of March, Trump penned his name on a whopping 23 orders, five more than the former president did over the same stretch of time.  

Spicer’s Hitler Gaffe

  • White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is well known for not having the best way with words, or with the press, but he took things to a whole new level during a daily briefing this past week. On Tuesday, Trump’s spokesman made a major gaffe when he stated that Adolf Hitler "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons" against his own people. The claim was meant to villainize Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, but instead made Spencer sound like a fool who never learned about the Holocaust.

  • This sent the press secretary on a frantic apology spree, trying to own up to his offensive blunder and put it behind him. At first, he only made matters worse for himself, referring to concentration camps as the “Holocaust center.” He later issued a formal statement to try and alleviate his ignorant comments: 

“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. . . . I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”

The White House’s Dirty Little Secrets

  • After months of criticism for not making White House visitor logs publically available, the Trump administration has recently announced that these records will remain private. The decision will break the precedent set by Obama, who voluntarily disclosed over 6 million records during his presidency. White House communications director Michael Dubke claimed that the refusal to release these visitor logs is due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” These logs, which are maintained by the U.S. Secret Service, will not be made available until at least five years after Trump leaves office, leaving the public and press wondering who the president is communicating with behind closed doors.  

  • But Trump’s refusal to share the White House visitor logs have been matched with heavy scrutiny and lawsuits. A number of organizations, including the National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University have all filed a suit calling for the release of the logs, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The three groups are also calling for the disclosure of who Trump is meeting with at his private properties in Florida and New York, as well.

The Demise of Steve Bannon

  • Since rumors started rumbling about an inner battle between two of the president’s closest advisors, the ex-Breitbart editor Steven Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the Commander-in-Chief seems to be slowly disassociating himself with the former. Even though records show that Trump and his chief strategist first met in 2011, the president blatantly lied to the New York Post about the pair’s relationship, claiming that they didn’t meet until 2016. “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary,” Trump said. Some have speculated that the president is pulling his support from Bannon after reportedly fierce disputes between him and Kushner.    

  • If the president does decide to cut Bannon from his administration, it would likely rile up dissent from the alt-right community, which undyingly supported Trump’s bid for presidency. A former Breitbart executive recently warned that the right-wing website would go into “open warfare” against the administration if Bannon is forced out of the White House. This could potentially turn a hefty portion of supporters against Trump, who garnered their favor after campaigning heavily on a nationalistic platform.

Cutting the Safety Net From Underneath Our Feet

  • It wouldn’t be a week in Trump’s America without some short-sighted plan to take away beneficial programs from citizens in need. On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos, the highly controversial head of the Department of Education, decided to undo a valiant attempt by the Obama administration to reform how student loan entities collect debt from students. The protections were put in place shortly after the loan collection agency Navient was accused of abusing borrowers by taking shortcuts to boost their bottom line. In turn, the former president sought to penalize companies that mislead or take advantage of debtors by reducing their chances of new contracts. DeVos move would increase the chance that Navient would have of being chosen for that contract, which will be given out after the current round ends in 2019.  

  • Trump also signed a bill that will roll back federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Under Obama’s regulations, states were prevented from withholding money the women’s health group. The measure was passed by the GOP-controlled Congress after Vice President Mike Pence casted a tie-breaking vote. Now, conservative state officials will have the ability to determine how to distribute these grants, enabling them to undercut Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services.  


 

Written on April 16, 2017 by

Tyler Koslow

Tyler Koslow is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with an intensive focus on technology, music, pop culture, and of course, cannabis and its impending legalization.