Eye on 45
CN&R’s semi-regular rundown of news out of the Trump White House and Congress
President Trump’s administration has navigated stormy seas throughout its time in the White House, but over the last few weeks POTUS has steered the ship into a political hurricane. He played nuclear chicken with North Korea, sparred with members of his own party, made dramatic cabinet changes worthy of The Apprentice, struggled against the tightening noose of the Russia investigation and failed, repeatedly, to denounce violence fueled by white supremacy.
July 28: Trump’s hardline tactics on health care backfire as the Senate rejects the so-called “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act thanks to dissenting votes from three Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The president’s anger boils over on Twitter and he targets Murkowski with threats to change course on issues affecting her state.
But wait, there’s more. After enduring a barrage of public and profane insults from new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus resigns as chief of staff. Trump announces Priebus’ replacement—John Kelly, a retired four-star general who oversaw the implementation of Trump’s travel ban as secretary of Homeland Security. NPR calls it the “biggest White House shakeup yet.”
July 31: Just 10 days after being appointed, Scaramucci is fired following an expletive-laced interview with The New Yorker.
Aug. 1: On a 92-to-5 vote, the Senate confirms Christopher Wray as director of the FBI, a post left vacant since May, when Trump fired the former director, James Comey.
Aug. 2: Trump grudgingly signs a bill placing sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran and limiting the president’s ability to lift them unilaterally. The New York Times reports that the bill passed by veto-proof margins in the Senate (98-2) and House (419-3). Trump calls it “seriously flawed.”
Aug. 3: Special Counsel Robert Mueller launches a grand jury to investigate the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election and the Trump family’s financial ties to Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Aug. 4: At a campaign-style rally, Trump dismisses the investigation as the “totally made-up Russia story.” Meanwhile, the grand jury issues subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.’s now-infamous 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Aug. 8: Speaking to New York Times reporters at his golf club in New Jersey, Trump threatens North Korea with “fire and fury” if Kim Jong Un continues to provoke the U.S. Hours later, North Korean officials say they are planning a missile strike against Guam (a U.S. territory) in retaliation.
Aug. 11: News breaks that, last month, the FBI raided the home of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, as part of the Russia investigation. Trump tells The Washington Post, “I thought [the raid] was a very, very strong signal, or whatever.”
Trump tweets that the U.S. is “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”
Aug. 12: Racial tensions spill over in the college town of Charlottesville, Va., during one of the largest gatherings of white supremacists in recent U.S. history. Neo-Nazi James Alex Fields allegedly drives a speeding car into a crowd of counterprotesters, injuring 30 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Fields is charged with second-degree murder; Trump blames the violence on “many sides,” sparking near-universal criticism.
Aug. 14: About 48 hours after the attack, Trump finally calls out neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, saying “racism is evil.” According to Gallup, the president’s national approval rating hits a new low—34 percent.
Aug. 15: During a press conference on infrastructure, Trump goes off-script and once again blames the deadly violence in Virginia on “both sides” and denounces the “very, very violent” actions of the “alt-left.” He argues that removing Confederate statues is a slippery slope: “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?”
NPR reports that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is holding off on the missile strike against Guam, but that he could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”
Aug. 16: Trump disbands his business councils following the high-profile departures of several CEOs due to his equation of hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Former Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all publicly denounce bigotry in the wake of Charlottesville. North State Congressman Doug LaMalfa, however, does not. “There are two sides of a story to be told here, and right now this is a heyday for the left, or the Democrats, trying to tie the president or Republicans to this particular thing,” LaMalfa tells KRCR Channel 7.
The same day, in an interview with the liberal journal The American Prospect, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon calls white supremacists “clowns” and “losers” and contradicts Trump on North Korea.
Aug. 18: Trump fires Bannon, who returns to his post as executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News Network and declares war against anyone opposing the nationalist, conservative agenda, The New York Times reports.
Aug. 21: NPR reports that at least 16 charities—including the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and the American Cancer Society—have canceled planned events at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s country club in Florida, over his reaction to the violence in Charlottesville.
USA Today reports that, due to the Trump family’s frequent travel, the Secret Service has almost burned through its budget for the year.
Despite warnings, Trump dares to look directly at the sun during the “Great American Eclipse.”