Here’s Every Action Trump Took In His Twelfth Unpresidented Week As POTUS
It’s been a wild ride. We’re all recovering from our collective whiplash. After going 90 in a 55, the Trump administration just slammed on the brakes, took a left turn, and accelerated up to about 110 in a new direction.
President Trump turned left on China. He turned left on Russia. He turned left on NATO. This was a week of flip flops. Trump took multiple policy positions that were distinctly different than what he campaigned on and confirmed that his isolationist campaign rhetoric was hot air.
These left turns are tied directly to the fall of Steve Bannon. Trump is beginning to heed more centrist advice and is developing a reliance on a US military that is making enormous decisions without the need for White House approval. Trump has given the military “total authorization,” and with an understaffed State Department we’ve seen a lack of diplomatic efforts.
While all of this was taking place in the forefront, there were new developments in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia.
As the President’s 100-day mark approaches, this administration is scrambling to redefine themselves.
Here is every action President Trump, and his administration, took during his twelfth week as President of the United States:
Twelfth Weekend (April 8–9)
Fresh off of the tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian airbase, President Trump started his weekend golfing at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Meanwhile, the world was dissecting the details surrounding the strike and speculating on what would happen next
- Before the attack was launched, the US informed Russia in advance, who then made a call to the Assad regime. This allowed the Syrian military to mobilize their aircraft and minimize the damage. The strike itself was mostly symbolic, with no real intent to create lasting damage
- The following day, planes took off from the targeted airbase and the Syrian military was seen carrying out airstrikes on the same town they launched a chemical attack on
- After condemning the attack as an “act of aggression” and stating it damaged US-Russia relations, Russia reportedly deployed a warship into the Mediterranean sea
- Trump supporters wrestled with the news of the attack. Many called the chemical attack a hoax, with some claiming they were “off the Trump train”
- As nationalist Trump supporters took to Twitter getting #FireKushner trending and others getting #FireBannon trending, Trump was trying to crack down the beef between these two advisers. Trump hasn’t been happy with Bannon’s counsel over the past few months, and thinks it has contributed to his chaotic first months in office. Bannon was removed from the National Security Council’s principals committee last week, and we continued to see his influence degrade this week
- Trump’s deputy national security advisor K. T. McFarland was asked to step down. She was brought in by Trump’s previous National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who stepped down after lying about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. This is another sign of Bannon’s nationalist school of thought leaving the foreign policy power table, and Trump’s new National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, gaining influence within the Trump administration as he continues to reshape the National Security Council
- China offered concessions to avert a trade war with the US
Twelfth Week (April 10–14)
Monday April 10
The Swearing In
After a long battle, ending with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) changing the rules and breaking the Democrat’s filibuster, Judge Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. President Trump touted the Republican victory. There is now a 5–4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court
- The Trump administration sent mixed messages regarding their Syria policy. Over the weekend, Ambassador to the UN Nicki Haley said regime change was the only way forward. Meanwhile, Tillerson was more nuanced stating that ISIS was the priority. Then on Monday, he suddenly took a hard line against Russia, stating that they were “incompetent” for allowing Syria to launch chemical attacks. And in the same Monday press conference where Press Secretary Sean Spicer called Russia an ally, he also said he doesn’t see any way stability can return to Syria while Assad is in power
- The Guardian reported that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arranged a meeting between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon’s aides so they could “bury the hatchet” and move on from their beef. Even if that is the case, Steve Bannon’s lack of influence can be felt throughout every decision the administration has recently taken
- A coalition of nonprofit groups sued the Trump administration for not releasing their White House visitor logs
- Politico reported that the Trump administration is scrambling to rebrand themselves as the symbolic 100-day mark approaches
Tuesday April 11
The FISA Warrant
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page under the basis that he was an agent of the Russian government. This follows the news that Page had met with a Russian spy in 2013. It was unclear how early in the Summer the FBI obtained the warrant, but it could’ve been prompted by Page’s sketchy behavior in July. Bear with me while I give you some background to explain why this is important:
Two weeks before the Republican convention in early July, Carter Page visited Moscow and disparaged U.S. policy. Page reportedly met with the chairman of the Russian owned oil company Rosneft, where he may have discussed lifting sanctions. Page also reportedly met with the person responsible for the intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election. This was a Moscow trip that the Trump campaign was not only aware of, but approved.
This beyond important in the Trump-Russia investigation because it aligns with the dossier that is gaining credibility by day. The dossier mentioned the Rosneft meeting with Page and “that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate Western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 percent (privatized) stake in Rosneft.”
This is very important because as Business Insider reports:
Rosneft…ultimately signed a deal that was similar to the one the dossier described: On December 7, the oil company sold 19.5% of shares, worth roughly $11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund. Page was back in Moscow on December 8, one day after the deal was signed, to “meet with some of the top managers” of Rosneft, he told reporters at the time.
- Tillerson continued his harsh rhetoric against Russia, stating that Assad’s reign in Syria is “coming to an end.” The White House also accused Russia of trying to cover up the fact that Syria was behind the chemical attacks
- With no evidence, President Vladimir Putin claimed that he had information the US was planning a “fake chemical attack” in order to provoke another strike in Syria. The Russian President is known for his spread of disinformation. The US then released intelligence discrediting this claim
- Sean Spicer said that Assad’s use of barrel bombs in Syria might cross the line for President Trump during his Tuesday press conference, but that wasn’t what made headlines. When speaking on Assad, Spicer asserted that Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” although he sent Jews to “the Holocaust center.” This drew widespread condemnation and outrage. It appeared Spicer forgot Hitler gassed millions of Jews. Spicer later apologized
- In response to the US deployment of a naval strike group to the Korean peninsula, North Korea threatened they will defend themselves “by powerful force of arms.” Trump took to Twitter
North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.
- President Trump is on pace to surpass 8 years of Obama’s travel spending in 1 year
Wednesday April 12
The Flip Flops
On Wednesday, President Trump flip flopped on numerous policy positions, reflecting the waning influence of his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Here are his flip flops, with some that have developed over the last few weeks:
NATO: After previously stating that “NATO is obsolete” on the campaign trail, Trump said “I said it was obsolete; it’s no longer obsolete.”
China: After previously stating “On day one of a Trump administration, the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator,” Trump said “They’re not currency manipulators.”
Export-Import Bank: When referring to the Export-Import Bank, Trump said “I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s a one-way street also. It’s sort of a featherbedding for politicians and others, and a few companies.” Trump is now saying “It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped….it’s a very good thing.”
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen: After previously stating “She’s keeping [rates] artificially low to get Obama retired,” Trump is now saying “I do like a low-interest rate policy, I must be honest with you. … No, not toast. I like her, I respect her.”
Russia: After only saying kind things about Russia for the past few years, Trump took a left turn on his stance towards Russia stating “Right now, we’re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russia.”
Syria: After literally years of repeatedly tweeting about how the US should stay out of Syria and bashing Barack Obama for intervening, Trump has taken an even more aggressive approach than Obama did.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for nearly two hours, and it appeared they did not come to an agreement on the chemical attack. Tillerson’s takeaway was “There is a low level of trust between our countries”
- Further credibility has been added to the handwritten ledger that linked payments from a pro-Russian political party to Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort. The AP reported that “financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States”
- President Trump seemed to belittle Steve Bannon in a New York Post interview, where Trump claimed he was his “own strategist.” After this, The Washington Post published an insightful report depicting a once highly powerful influence over President Trump that has faded into the background, as Trump seeks counsel from more centrist sources:
Trump also is increasingly embracing more mainstream policy positions championed by daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner and their allies, including ascendant National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, instead of Bannon’s brand of combative nationalism.
This shift explains many of Trump’s flip flops.
- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back Obama-era student loan protections
- The Trump administration lifted the federal hiring freeze that slowed government agencies
- After reviewing the intelligence reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes claimed to reveal unmasking of Trump associates and Trump spreading lies about Susan Rice, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers came to the conclusion the Obama administration used no nefarious tactics
Thursday April 13
The Mother Of All Bombs
This is where we see the US military operating on its own accord. On Thursday, the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on Afghanistan. The strike took out 36 ISIS fighters and was a show of force to North Korea, who has been prepping for another nuclear test. President Trump would not specify if he ordered it directly but he stressed the flexibility he’s given the US military. He told reporters:
“What I do is I authorize my military. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”
Total authorization. This statement was corroborated by a Fox News report that revealed the decision to use this unprecedented weapon was made unilaterally by Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander on the ground. The largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat was ordered without the approval of the commander-in-chief. The White House has been taking a “hands off” approach to strategy, allowing the military to handle the details. This is in stark contrast to the way the Obama administration handled things. Now, decisions that were previously made higher up in the chain of command are beginning to be made at the lower ranks, leading to more mistakes. This is also tied to the understaffed State Department and lack of diplomatic input. This overall shift in strategy is one we should not ignore. It has already led to more civilian deaths and mistakes.
- The Guardian dropped a report that revealed the British intelligence agency GCHQ discovered suspicious “interactions” between Trump’s campaign team and Russian agents as early as 2015 and passed that information over to the US. It also reported that investigators have obtained new evidence that point to collusion:
“They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,” the source said. “This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.”
- On the same day that Paul Manafort left Trump’s campaign he borrowed $13 million from Trump-connected businesses
- President Trump privately signed a law that allows states to block funding to any organizations that perform abortions. This was a direct shot at Planned Parenthood
- Satellite images showed that North Korea’s nuclear test site was primed and ready for its sixth nuclear test
I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.
Friday April 14 (With a little Saturday April 15)
The US said they were prepared to take preemptive strikes against North Korea if they saw that they were going to follow through with their nuclear test. Vice Minister Han Song Ryol of North Korea responded by saying they are willing to launch a preemptive strike of their own:
“We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike. Whatever comes from the U.S., we will cope with it. We are fully prepared to handle it.”
China warned that tensions in the region could spin out of control:
“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent, and there have been storm clouds gathering,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in Beijing, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. “If they let war break out on the peninsula, they must shoulder that historical culpability and pay the corresponding price for this.”
In the midst of this global crisis, President Trump is spending yet another weekend at Mar-a-Lago without many of his top aides.
This week, we saw an administration marred by policy failures leaning on the one apparatus that seems to be yielding them tangible “wins.” The military.
We are seeing global tensions rise, as the Trump administration leans on provocations over diplomacy. And all the while, the Trump-Russia collusion storyline continues to unfold.
As Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s influence in the White House continues to degrade, we are beginning to see President Trump taking the advice of more centrist sources. Bannon’s chaotic approach to governing was simply not yielding him the wins he wanted, so Trump abandoned him.
President Trump is a man who is easily influenced by who he is surrounded by. That has become even more apparent this week, as we are watching his entire administration shift with the rising and falling influence of various advisers.
If you want to guess what President Trump will do next week, don’t look at him. Look at who’s sitting next him.