Eye on 45

CN&R’s biweekly rundown of news out of the Trump White House and Congress

It’s been another chaotic couple of weeks in Washington, with tensions increasing between the Trump administration and the leaders of three foreign nations: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in response to his alleged use of banned chemical weapons, Russian President Vladimir Putin for his support of al-Assad, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, due to his ongoing nuclear ambitions.

In this installment of Eye on 45, we pick up on the day that more than 80 people, including children, were killed by a nerve agent believed to be sarin gas in the northern Syria town of Khan Sheikhoun.

April 4: The New York Times reports that President Trump, among other Western leaders, blames the alleged chemical weapons attack squarely on al-Assad.

The same day, a new poll from Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics reveals that Trump’s popularity has dropped to a new low: 34 percent. That’s 11 points down from the same poll taken a month earlier, according to The Hill.

April 5: Bloomberg reports that the president removed chief strategist Steve Bannon, a controversial figure and founding member of right-wing website Breitbart News, from his post on the U.S. National Security Council. The move follows months of scrutiny of Bannon’s appointment to that committee, a post traditionally reserved for high-level intelligence and defense personnel.

Politico publishes a story that busts Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for “[copying] the structure and language used by several authors and [failing] to cite source material in his book and an academic article.”

North Korea launches a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, the latest round of tests of its weapons capabilities. It was the country’s fourth such effort of the year, one of which failed.

April 6: The New York Times reports that, following a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, Senate Republicans voted to torch the legislative body’s longtime practice of requiring a supermajority vote to move forward on nominees to the highest court. The so-called “nuclear option” would allow the Republican lawmakers to circumvent the filibuster and confirm Gorsuch on a simple majority vote.

April 7: President Trump, speaking from his Florida estate, tells the media that the United States had struck a Syrian air base in retaliation against Syrian President al-Assad’s alleged use of deadly sarin gas. According to the Pentagon, U.S. forces fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the facility.

The same day, Senate Republicans confirm Gorsuch as the Supreme Court’s 113th justice.

April 10: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson puts pressure on Russia over the country’s ties to al-Assad. The about-face from Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO whom Russian President Putin has awarded the “Order of Friendship,” ostensibly is the result of the Kremlin’s support for the Syrian dictator despite his alleged use of sarin gas the week before.

The Hill reports that the Trump administration faces lawsuits from multiple organizations seeking access to White House visitor logs under the Freedom of Information Act.

April 11: During a press briefing on Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, White House press secretary Sean Spicer unleashes his biggest gaffe to date: during World War II, he says, “someone as despicable as [Adolf] Hitler … didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

CNN reports that, if Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago continue at the pace set over the past three months, the president will in one year exceed the travel costs of President Obama’s entire two terms.

April 12: Secretary Tillerson meets with Putin in Russia to discuss, among other things, Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Russia and the U.S. are increasingly at odds over the attack.

The Associated Press reveals evidence that Paul Manafort, the embattled one-time Trump campaign manager and central figure in FBI and congressional investigations into alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, took in more than $1 million in payments from a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party for consulting work he conducted years earlier. Ukrainian investigators say the payments are evidence of corruption by former President Viktor Yanukovych, who allegedly paid Manafort with government funds.

April 13: Based on an announcement from the Pentagon, The New York Times reports that the U.S. deployed the so-called “mother of all bombs” on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan on Thursday. The Pentagon did not confirm whether there were casualties. The agency did, however, confirm that a separate bombing two days earlier in Syria killed 18 fighters allied with the U.S.