Eye on 45
The second installment of CN&R’s biweekly rundown of news items out of the Trump White House and Congress
In this second installment of Eye on 45, CN&R’s biweekly look at what’s taking place under the Trump administration, we pick up where we left off on Feb. 7. That’s the day Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the confirmation of POTUS’ controversial pick for secretary of education, billionaire Betsy DeVos.
Here are some highlights:
Feb. 8: A lone Democrat from West Virginia crosses the aisle to approve the confirmation of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general. The vote in the Senate was controversial given Sessions’ history of making racially offensive comments. Attorneys from the Department of Justice who worked with the embattled senator testified in the 1980s about those remarks. Sessions was denied a federal judgeship as a result. Among that testimony were comments that Sessions thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out its members smoked marijuana.
The night before, during a debate on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invokes an arcane rule to shut down Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of Trump’s fiercest critics. Warren was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr., 30 years earlier in opposition to Sessions’ bid for the aforementioned judgeship. McConnell’s rebuking of Warren—“She was warned. … Nevertheless, she persisted”—has been embraced by progressives.
Feb. 9: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco upholds a Seattle federal court judge’s ruling halting Trump’s executive order barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. POTUS’ plan caused chaos at airports throughout the country because it included those with valid visas as well as permanent residents (i.e., those with green cards). The order also called for a four-month ban on refugees, and an indefinite hold on those from Syria.
In response, the president takes to Twitter: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” Those comments ostensibly mean taking the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Feb. 10: The Washington Post reveals that President Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, spoke privately with the Russian ambassador to the United States about sanctions President Obama put in place in response to Russia’s interference in the general election. The paper’s reporting reignites concerns about the administration’s ties to the Kremlin and contradicts comments made by Pence, whom Flynn reportedly misled by denying such conversations took place.
President Trump dines with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at POTUS’ private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, and allegedly conducts an emergency meeting in front of members and other guests after news breaks that North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. Guests post photos of the scene on Facebook, drawing criticism from security experts, among others.
Feb. 11: POTUS and Abe golf at the Trump National Golf Club. Later in the day, Trump suggests he’s working on a new immigration ban.
Feb. 13: Flynn resigns after just 24 days as national security adviser.
Feb. 14: Media reports reveal that the president had known for two weeks that Flynn wasn’t being honest about his conversations with Russia. Trump had been warned by the Justice Department back in January due to concerns that, because Russia knew about his dishonesty, Flynn would be vulnerable to the Kremlin.
Trump takes to Twitter, declaring that the “real story” behind Flynn’s resignation has to do with government leaks.
Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, a U.S. senator and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, calls for a full investigation into the ties between Russia and President Trump and his administration.
Feb. 15: The New York Times reports that communications intercepted by American intelligence agencies during the 2016 presidential campaign show that members of Trump’s campaign staff—including then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort—had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials.”
Feb. 16: Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, CEO of the parent company for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, pulls his name from consideration for that cabinet post. Republicans and Democrats alike were poised to tank Puzder’s confirmation following reports on his past, ranging from concerns about his business practices to his personal life, including charges he abused his ex-wife.
POTUS holds a press conference, ostensibly to talk about his new Labor Department secretary nominee, Alex Acosta. Instead, he focuses on intelligence agencies’ leaks to the media about his campaign’s ties to Russia and calls the subsequent reporting “fake news.” Among other things, the president falsely claims he secured “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan” and says his administration is “running like a fine-tuned machine.”
The president signs a bill that eliminates a rule prohibiting coal operations from polluting waterways.
Feb. 17: The president takes to Twitter to further castigate the media. “The FAKE NEWS media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
Trump pick Scott Pruitt is sworn in as the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency he sued repeatedly in his role as the attorney general of Oklahoma.
Feb. 18: The Washington Post reports that John F. Kelly, Homeland Security secretary, announced he’d signed new guidelines allowing federal agencies to step up detainment and deportations of undocumented immigrants.
Feb. 20: POTUS names a new national security adviser: Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. The move comes four days after Vice Adm. Robert Harward turned down the job.