Eye on 45

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

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

photo courtesy of disney/ABC

President Trump’s uncanny knack for keeping people guessing continued in August and into September, as he further employed the shock-and-awe tactics that have come to mark his presidency. Among the biggies: pardoning a fellow birther and known racial profiler, setting a time frame to end DACA, and saying the United States will “totally destroy” North Korea if the rogue nation continues developing its nuclear arsenal.

Here’s a rundown of the last month:

Aug. 21: NBC releases a survey, conducted jointly with pollster Marist, showing that the president’s job approval in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—states that voted red during the general election—dropped below 40 percent. Moreover, a majority of those polled said POTUS has been an embarrassment.

The same day, ABC News reports that 28 percent of respondents in a Langer Research Associates poll approve of Trump’s response (casting blame on “both sides”) to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that led to the death of a women protesting the neo-Nazi demonstrations in that college town. Conversely, 58 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on Trump’s nebulous plans for further U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan—16 years after the start of that conflict—noting that the president gave scant details. The thing that was clear is that POTUS is not pulling troops out of the region anytime soon. That news came as a shock to those in his base who believed his promises to the contrary during his campaign.

Aug. 22: Trump went off script during a rally in Phoenix, blaming the media (including the “failing New York Times”) for the widespread backlash generated by his controversial response to Charlottesville, reports the Times. It’s during this event that POTUS hints he’s going to pardon Joe Arpaio, the embattled former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who is known for, among other things, employing racial profiling tactics, abusing inmates, violating election laws, and being a so-called birther. Arpaio was convicted back in July of criminal contempt of court. Years earlier, he was found guilty of unfairly targeting Hispanics during traffic stops.

Aug. 23: CNN reports that Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal investigative journalist who worked on the infamous dossier that alleges collusion between Russia and the Trump camp during the presidential campaign, met in private with Senate Judiciary Committee staff. The committee is investigating the allegations.

Aug. 25: White House Economic Council Director Gary D. Cohn penned a letter of resignation—a direct result of Trump blaming “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville—but ultimately decided to stay in his post, reports The New York Times. However, in an interview in The Financial Times, Cohn says the Trump administration must “do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”

Other big news of the day: The president is considering ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (aka DACA), the Obama-era policy shielding certain undocumented immigrants from deportation—specifically, young people who arrived in the United States prior to age 18 who meet certain qualifications, file an application and pay a fee.

And finally, the president takes to Twitter to announce that he’d pardoned Arpaio. “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85-year-old American patriot Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!” Trump tweeted. The president later mentioned during a press conference with the president of Finland that he purposely timed the announcement about Arpaio as Hurricane Harvey touched down in the Lone Star State because he “assumed the ratings would be far higher.”

Aug. 28: The Washington Post and The New York Times report, respectively, that A) during his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump was seeking to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow; and B) that one of then-candidate Trump’s business colleagues pledged to put together a deal to accomplish just that with the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The same day, North Korea launches three ballistic missiles, one of which flew over Japan, the Times reports.

Aug. 30: As part of its ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s camp and the Kremlin, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to interview the president’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, reports Politico.

Meanwhile, POTUS ramps up his tough talk when it comes to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and his nuclear ambitions. “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” Trump tweets.

Reuters reports that Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis has called for 4,000 or so additional U.S. troops to be sent to Afghanistan. The Pentagon confirmed that 11,000 troops—a far larger number than the agency previously had stated—already are stationed there.

Sept. 1: Vox reports that a decision of the Senate parliamentarian means that Republicans in the Senate will not be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act without involving Democrats in the vote at the end of September.

Sept. 5: POTUS announces he’s ordered an end to DACA and places the onus on Congress to come up with a replacement immigration policy. The move generates immediate backlash from the Democrats, some Republicans, as well as educators and prominent business people, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, reports The New York Times. Former President Obama also weighed in, calling the move, among other things, “contrary to our spirit, and to common sense.”

Meanwhile, Trump sends out his second tweet in as many days related to North Korea’s weapons tests. In the later, he wrote: “I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.”

Sept. 6: The Washington Post reports that Facebook traced at least $100,000 in advertising revenue during the presidential campaign to a so-called “‘troll farm’ with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda.” That revelations comes after the social network’s representatives met with congressional investigators.

Sept. 7: CNN reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team is looking closely at the circumstances surrounding Donald Trump Jr.’s initial statement related to his controversial meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian attorney during his father’s campaign—specifically, how the statement was crafted, since it was later found to have been misleading. Also present at that meeting: Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and embattled onetime Trump campaign Manager Paul Manafort.

Sept. 10: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, in an interview with Charlie Rose, confirms that he considers Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey the biggest mistake in “modern political history.”

Sept. 11: On a unanimous vote, the U.N. Security Council steps up sanctions against North Korea. Among other things, the measures call for restrictions on the country’s imports of oil and a ban on its textiles exports, reports The Washington Post.

Sept. 13: Sen. Bernie Sanders, in collaboration with Senate Democrats, introduces a Medicare for All bill. During his announcement, the fiery Vermont senator says he’s going to take his plan to “every state in the country and hear what the people have to say.”

Sept. 14: North Korea launches yet another missile over Japan, flouting sanctions and reprisals from the global community.

Sept. 15: The Trump administration announces plans to gut funding to Affordable Care Act-advocacy groups by up to 98 percent, reports Vox.

Sept. 18: The New York Times reports that federal agents picked the lock to Paul Manafort’s front door when they arrived to his Virginia home with a search warrant back in July. That means Special Counsel Mueller was able to convince a federal judge there was concern Manafort would attempt to destroy evidence.

Sept. 19: Trump, during his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, comes out swinging against North Korea and Iran. Among other things, POTUS referred to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man” and said North Korea’s supreme leader was “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” Aside from support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump’s combative tone largely drew criticism from world leaders and other attendees. In fact, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was photographed looking distraught during the president’s 40-minute address.