This Week in Politics – April 28

It’s been another week in Trumpland. 100 days down, only 1361 more to go. I apologize for being AWOL last week, but I got thrown of by our Town Meeting earlier in the week and never seemed to be able to catch up.

North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute. “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday. (Reuters)

Government Shutdown

Republicans said they would push a short-term spending bill — essential to keeping the government open — through the House Friday with only GOP votes, if necessary. The brinkmanship came less than 30 hours before a midnight Friday deadline for a shutdown. At the same time, a House GOP leader said late Thursday that there would be no vote on major GOP health care legislation until at least next week. That meant that on both the budget and health care fronts, there would be no milestone victories for Trump before Saturday, his 100th day as president. (AP)

Trump’s Tax Plan

On Wednesday, Trump issued a one-page outline for changes to the tax code, pinpointing numerous changes he would make that would affect almost every American. He wants to replace the seven income tax brackets with three new ones, cut the corporate tax rate by more than 50 percent, abolish the alternative-minimum tax and estate tax, and create new incentives to simplify filing returns. (Washington Post)

NAFTA Gonna Say If We’ll Stay or We’ll Go

For much of Wednesday, the Trump administration played hardball, spreading word that it was considering the shocking step of withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Advisers to President Trump said he wanted to announce an executive order beginning the process of withdrawing from the deal at a Saturday evening rally marking his 100th day in office. The rally is being held in Harrisburg, Pa. — in the heart of a region where many people regard Nafta as a dirty word. But by the end of the night, the White House was in full retreat after the news caused panic in Washington, Ottawa and Mexico City. The president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada both called Mr. Trump to warn against such a precipitous step. Mr. Trump said Thursday morning that he had been persuaded by their calls to focus on reworking the trade agreement.For much of Wednesday, the Trump administration played hardball, spreading word that it was considering the shocking step of withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement. (NY Times)

Flynn Was Warned

It ends up that Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser, was explicitly told in 2014 to seek approval for any payments he accepted from a foreign government, documents released on Thursday show. Nonetheless, he did not seek permission before receiving payments from foreign governments, which he then lied about. To quote Mitch McConnell, “He was warned, he was given an explanation, but nevertheless, he persisted.” (NY Times)

Trump Continues to Show Poor Judgement About Judges

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing a threat to take away funds from sanctuary cities. So in a scathing late-night statement, the White House on Tuesday called the ruling an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.” Trump, himself, expressed frustration about the ruling Wednesday morning, tweeting: “First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!” (CNN)

As Always In Trumpland

There was more news than I could possibly cover in one column. I hope you all have a good week! Stay safe, stay sane, and stay strong!

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This Week in Politics – April 14

MOAB

On Thursday, the United States used its second-largest non-nuclear weapon for the first time ever in combat, in a strike aimed at a tunnel complex used by forces aligned with the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The 21,000-pound, GPS-guided bomb, also known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, has been nicknamed the “mother of all bombs.” It was last tested on March 11, 2003, when it caused a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away. Americans were unusually obsessed with the strike because of the nickname of the bomb, shortened to the acronym MOAB by most news outlets. (Politico)

North Korea

Tensions are mounting over North Korea. North Korean monitoring service 38 North said Wednesday the country’s Punggye-ri nuclear site is “primed and ready” for a sixth nuclear test. “The activity during the past six weeks is suggestive of the final preparations for a test,” said 38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez… “North Korea believes the only way to deter the US from attacking them and maintaining the power of the Kim regime is by the possession of nuclear weapons,” Bermudez said. (CNN) North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression, as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific – a force U.S. President Donald Trump described as an “armada”. Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished ally and neighbor, said in a tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help… (Reuters)

And Then China Said…

China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said… On Tuesday, a fleet of North Korean cargo ships headed home, mostly fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal, sources with direct knowledge of the trade said. China banned all imports of North Korean coal, the country’s most important export, on Feb. 26, but Washington has questioned how well the sanction was being implemented. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, In Russia…

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said it was concerned about many aspects of U.S. foreign policy, particularly North Korea. “We are really worried about what Washington has in mind for North Korea after it hinted at the possibility of a unilateral military scenario,” the ministry said in a statement. (Reuters) And though on Tuesday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reign in Syria was “coming to an end,” and that Russia was at risk of becoming irrelevant in the Middle East by continuing to support him, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, showed no signs of backing away from Mr. Assad. He likened the accusations against the Assad government — made by Britain, France and other allies, along with the Trump administration — to the flawed intelligence that President George W. Bush’s administration cited in 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Putin insisted that the chemical attack had stemmed from anti-Assad rebel units. (NY Times)

So, Of Course, Assad Said…

In his first interview since an April 4 attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed over 80 people, sickened hundreds and outraged the world, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria not only repeated the government’s denials of responsibility but contended without evidence that the episode had been fabricated as a pretext for an American retaliatory missile strike. “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” Mr. Assad told Agence France-Presse in the television interview from Damascus, which was recorded on Wednesday. “Were they dead at all?” (NY Times)

And Then Sean Spicer Said What?!?!

Sean Spicer brought up Hitler unprompted during Tuesday’s White House briefing while emphasizing how seriously the United States takes Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Spicer said:

We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to if you’re Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.

Later in the briefing, a reporter read Spicer’s comments back to him and gave him the opportunity to clarify. Spicer’s answer only added more confusion.

I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly, I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. What I am saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought — so the use of it. And I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent. (The Washington Post)

Bannon Who?

Steve Bannon seems to have worked his way onto Trump’s sh#! list. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that their has been infighting among the president’s advisors, particularly between Steve Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And last week, Bannon was removed from the National Security Council. On Tuesday, Trump was asked if he still had confidence in Bannon, who is his chief strategist, and he his answer was not exactly enthusiastic (or truthful), “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.” (CNN)

As Always In Trumpland

There was more news than I could possibly cover in one column. Other important and interesting tidbits from the week are:

I hope you all have a good week! Stay safe, stay sane, and stay strong!

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This Week in Politics – April 7

Syria

Syria is a rather small country, yet it has been dominating headlines for years now and the news is never good. This week, the new coming out of Syria was particularly gruesome.

Chemical Weapons

On Tuesday, someone dropped chemical bombs on to a northern rebel-held area in Syria. Many believe that the chemical bomb attack was the work of the Syrian government and that the chemical used in the attack was sarin. Sarin is a nerve agent, one of a class of chemical weapons that affect the brain’s ability to communicate with the body’s organs through the nervous system…. The United Nations Chemical Convention, which bans the use of sarin in war, went into effect in 1997. The Syrian government agreed in 2013 to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin…. According to the United States military, sarin is 81 times as toxic as cyanide. (NY Times)

At least 86 people were killed in the assault including 28 children, according to a tally from the health department in rebel-held Idlib Province, but that may not include victims sent to Turkey who have died. Some officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey have said the attack killed more than 100 people. Unicef said in a statement on Thursday that 546 people were injured, “among them many children.” (NY Times)

Trump Launches a Missile Attack

The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government target in response to the chemical weapon attack.

The Pentagon released details on the strike, saying it was conducted using tomahawk missiles launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. “A total of 59 [Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles] targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in an official statement. “As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.” (CNBC)

But Did He Have the Authority to Launch the Strike?

It is not clear what ― if any ― legal authority Trump is claiming to strike the Assad regime. The U.S. has claimed authority to bomb ISIS in Syria under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force by claiming that ISIS is an offshoot of al Qaeda. But there is no war authorization from Congress that could be interpreted to allow military action against the Syrian government, nor can the U.S. claim it is defending itself.(Huffington Post)

Putin Angry About Missile Strike

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin sees the strikes on Syria as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, and under a false pretext”. Peskov claimed that Syria did not have any chemical weapons. “With this step Washington has struck a significant blow to Russian-American relations, which were already in a sorry state,” said Peskov. (Guardian)

Rex Tillerson’s Words on Syria

After the strike, Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, said, “We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out by aircraft under the direction of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and we also have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas.” He also noted the 2013 U.N. arrangement under which Syria agreed to surrender its chemical weapons under the supervision of Russia, and stated,”Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013. So either Russia has been complicit or simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on that agreement.”

On the Domestic Front

Inside the United States, it was politics as usual, Trump style.

Jeff Merkley Holds the Floor for Over 15 Hours!!!

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) started speaking on the Senate floor around 6:45 pm Tuesday night and proceeded to speak for over 15 hours. His speech was in protest of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

But Merkley couldn’t keep talking forever, even if he had unlimited endurance. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) preemptively filed a motion to end debate, known as a cloture motion, before Merkley started talking. That motion starts a clock for votes on cloture, which is one of the few things that Senate rules allow to interrupt a marathon speech like Merkley’s.

That means that while Merkley could use his speech to draw attention and as a symbolic protest, he couldn’t actually delay the vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation (and it also means that, technically, his speech wasn’t a filibuster). (ThinkProgress)

Senate Republicans Go Nuclear

After Democrats held together Thursday morning and filibustered President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Republicans voted to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority. (NY Times)

Nunes Recuses Himself

The continuing fallout from President Trump’s unsubstantiated wiretapping allegation cost him another ally on Thursday, as Devin Nunes, the embattled Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced he would step aside from his panel’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to disrupt last year’s election. The announcement from the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, came shortly before the House Committee on Ethics said he was under investigation because of public reports that he “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” (NY Times)

Bye-Bye Bannon?

White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, was removed from the National Security Council this week and speculation was running rampant about what that meant. Both the New York Times and Politico reported that Bannon was so annoyed about this move that he threatened to quit. Rumors have been swirling also that Bannon and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, have been feuding and that Trump is dissatisfied with Bannon. (Vox)

As always, in Trumpland, there was more news than I could possibly cover in one column. Jeff Sessions is messing with police reform, Trump signed the bill to repeal our internet privacy laws, California passed a sanctuary state law, it ends up that Trump changed the terms of his trust, which already did not adequately address his conflicts of interest, former National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, acknowledged Tuesday that she engaged in unmasking Trump officials late in President Barack Obama’s term, but insisted it was not politically motivated, the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., a judge ruled the Trump may have incited violence, the United Nations warned that Americans’ right to protest is in grave danger under Trump, and everybody in the Trump administration is stinking rich (which surprised no one).

I hope you all have a good week! Stay safe, stay sane, and stay strong!

This Week in Politics – March 31

We Have Two Victories to Celebrate This Week!

Two resistance actions were successful this week! Daniel Ramirez was released and the ACA was saved. Read on for more information about these two actions and to read about the rest of the news.

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This Week in Politics – March 24

What the Heck Happened This Week?!?!

OMG! This week was insane! Anybody else feeling like we need to say, “Stop this ride, I want to get off!” Trying to decide what to include in this column has been really hard, because a lot of important and crazy stuff happened this week. But, without further ado, here it is, the week in politics:
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This Week in Politics – March 17

Keeping Up With Politics Can Be Tough, So We’re Here to Help

Since Trump’s inauguration, it has been more difficult than usual to keep up with politics. So we decided that a weekly column summarizing what happened during the week was in order. We’ll follow all the stories and then bring the week’s events to you in condensed form. So without further ado, here it is, the week in politics:

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The Week in Politics – March 10

Keeping Up With Politics Can Be Tough, So We’re Here to Help

Since Trump’s inauguration, it has been more difficult than usual to keep up with politics. So we decided that a weekly column summarizing what happened during the week was in order. We’ll follow all the stories and then bring the week’s events to you in condensed form. So without further ado, here it is, the week in politics:

Continue reading “The Week in Politics – March 10”

The Week in Politics – March 3

The Week in Politics – March 3Keeping Up With Politics Can Be Tough, So We’re Here to Help

Since Trump’s inauguration, it has been more difficult than usual to keep up with politics. So we decided that a weekly column summarizing what happened during the week was in order. We’ll follow all the stories and then bring the week’s events to you in condensed form. So without further ado, here it is, the week in politics: Continue reading “The Week in Politics – March 3”

The Week in Politics – February 23rd

Keeping Up With Politics Can Be Tough

Since Trump’s inauguration, it has been more difficult than usual to keep up with politics. Usually, before I even wake up, Trump has done something crazy. As the judge in the SNL People’s Court said, “You’re doing too much! I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell of me!”

We’re Here to Help

So we decided that a weekly column summarizing what happened during the week was in order. We’ll follow all the stories and then bring the week’s events to you in condensed form. So without further ado, here it is: Continue reading “The Week in Politics – February 23rd”