Eye on 45

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

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

photo by peter snoopy via flickr

Tension between the United States and North Korea is a thread that runs throughout the narrative of mid-April through early May. In this installment of Eye on 45, a snapshot of the last few weeks, we pick up on the day North Korea continues its efforts to possess a nuclear warhead.

April 15: The New York Times reports that North Korea launched another test missile. Meanwhile, Chinese officials warn the U.S. that the situation could, as the Times put it, “spin out of control.” However, the projectile in question explodes after launch, racking up yet another failure for the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, who is determined to possess an arsenal of long-range ballistic missiles.

The same day, the Washington Post reports that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told Fox & Friends that the United States should pull out of the Paris climate agreement, a deal among nearly 200 countries to commit to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

April 16: The Trump administration warns North Korea that it will face repercussions from the United States should it continue its nuclear tests, reports the Los Angeles Times. That warning came from H.R. McMaster, Trump’s recently installed national security adviser. McMaster replaced embattled retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign when it was revealed that he’d met in private with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and lied to Vice President Mike Pence about it.

April 17: Pence puts pressure on North Korea during a trip to South Korea. At a press conference in Seoul, Pence says, “Since 1992, the United States and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. We hope to achieve this objective through peaceable means. But all options are on the table.”

On the same day, Gallup releases results of a poll in which 45 percent of respondents say Trump keeps his promises. That figure is down 17 points from February, when 62 percent had faith the president would do what he’s promised.

April 18: Underscoring concerns about conflicts of interest in the Trump White House, The Associated Press reports that Ivanka Trump’s company received “provisional approval” for multiple trademarks from the Chinese government on the same day she dined with the president of China at her father’s sprawling Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Federal employees are barred by law from participating in government matters that could benefit them or their spouses financially.

The New York Times reports that, despite what the Trump administration said in early April about having sent an American aircraft carrier to the Sea of Japan in a show of force to North Korea, the ship at that time was actually on its way to Australia. The newspaper also reports that the ship had switched direction and was now headed north toward the Korean peninsula.

April 19: Despite reports of election irregularities in Turkey, President Trump calls that country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, congratulating the controversial politician on a referendum that will give him sweeping powers, including the ability to select judges.

April 20: POTUS gets called out for comments in which he conflated the late Kim Jong Il, former leader of North Korea, with his son and successor, Kim Jong Un. Trump charged that the younger Kim, who has held power in North Korea only since 2012, had been in power for a long time and that Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had been ineffective in dealing with him.

April 21: Anticipating the benchmark of Trump’s first 100 days in office, the president sets his sights once again on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, reports Politico.

The Department of Justice, under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, threatens to withhold money from sanctuary cities, reports The New York Times. The agency sent correspondence noting its intent to officials in several states, including California.

The House Intelligence Committee asks Sally Yates, an Obama-era attorney general, to testify publicly as part of the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, reports The Hill.

April 23: Sessions, the attorney general, says the government has the right to deport Dreamers. Meanwhile, Trump says going after those particular undocumented immigrants isn’t a priority.

The threat of a government shutdown lingers, as Trump and the GOP push for border wall funding in the pending budget.

April 24: Trump’s administration prepares to brief all U.S. senators on the flare-up with North Korea.

April 25: Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, did not follow the law related to disclosure of payments from foreign governments, say members of the House Oversight Committee.

Meanwhile, Trump relents on his demand that the pending federal budget contain money to pay for construction of the border wall.

ABC News, in conjunction with The Washington Post, reveals a poll in which 61 percent of respondents want the ACA to stay put and be improved.

April 26: Reuters reports that China is upset about the installation of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

Trump threatens to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the White House drafts a plan to do so.

April 27: Trump tweets that he’s willing to work with leaders in Canada and Mexico on NAFTA, and, in fact, he reveals that he has no plans “at this time” to withdraw from the agreement.

April 28: Congress avoids a government shutdown by passing a short-term (week-long) budget deal.

April 29: Trump hits 100 days in office.

May 1: Trump calls North Korea’s leader a “pretty smart cookie” and says he’d be “honored” to meet with him “under the right circumstances.”