Category Archives: Later, on politics

Something So Wrong: August 2017

  • On August 2, Trump endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate by Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). The bill would sharply reduce the number of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) each year. It would redefine family-based immigration priorities, removing a path for siblings and adult children of US citizens to become permanent residents. It would institute a point-system for green card applicants, favoring those who speak English and who have job skills. The bill would cap refugee admissions at 50,000 per year.
  • On August 8, Trump responded to North Korea’s threats against the US by saying that any more threats would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The UN Security Council voted unanimously on August 5 for a new set of sanctions to pressure North Korea to curtail its development of nuclear weapons after several successful tests of intercontinental missiles. North Korea, responding to the new UN sanctions, threatened retaliation against the United States on August 7 boasting that the US would pay “thousands of times” for the sanctions. In response to Trump’s warning, North Korea issued a statement on August 9 that its military was “examining the operational plan” to launch a strike against the US territory of Guam.
  • On August 12, various white nationalist groups staged a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The so-called “Unite the Right” rally was ostensibly in protest of the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The City Council earlier, on June 5, had changed the name of the park—formerly known as Lee Park. The Lee statue was commissioned in 1917. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. During the rally, a 20-year-old who identified with the white nationalist movement, intentionally drove his car into a group of counter-protesters gathered to protest against racism and hatred, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19. In response to the violence, Trump said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.” He gave no explanation of what he meant by blaming “many sides” for the violence, and he did not condemn the white nationalist group that had organized the rally.
  • On August 14, Trump told Fox news that he was “seriously considering” pardoning former Arizona sheriff Jo Arpaio, calling Arpaio a “great American patriot.” Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt of court for defying a federal court order to stop detaining people based on mere suspicion of being illegal immigrants. Due to be sentenced in October, Arpaio faces up to six months in prison. Arpaio was an outspoken Trump supporter during the presidential campaign, and he was a speaker at the Republican National Convention.
  • On August 15, Trump again blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville. He described what he called “alt-left” demonstrators as “very, very violent” people who “came charging with clubs in their hands” against the “alt-right,” who were there “to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.” In advance of the rally, however, one of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” said the planned rally was “about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do.”
  • On August 25, Trump tweeted: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”
  • On August 25, the Trump White House issued an order to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security to implement its directive banning transgender people from military service. The order temporarily excluded persons currently serving in the military, stating “no action may be taken against such individuals” until the secretary of Defense comes up with a plan to address such military personnel. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested that a panel of experts study the matter and report back to him.

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Something So Wrong: July 2017

  • On July 19, in an interview with three New York Times reporters, Trump said that special counsel Robert Mueller should not have been appointed. He criticized his Attorney General saying, “Sessions should never have recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” Trump said that the recusal was “very unfair to the president.” Sessions responded on July 20, saying in a press conference that he planned to continue in the job of Attorney General “as long as that is appropriate.” On July 21, the Washington Post reported that Sessions had discussed campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign, siting US intelligence agency intercepts of Kislyak’s communications with Moscow. On July 22, Trump began a series of “tweets,” criticizing Sessions: “So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council [sic] looking into the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes?” In yet another tweet, Trump on July 24 questioned why “our beleaguered A.G.” was not looking into “Crooked Hillarys crimes.” On Tuesday, July 25, Trump continued his tweet-attack on Sessions: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC leaks) & Intel leakers!” On July 26, Trump again criticized Sessions, tweeting: “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives.”
  • On July 21, Senate Republicans failed to pass legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Three Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona joined the unanimous Democrats in defeating legislation that would have repealed the ACA and eliminated the law’s mandates for individuals and businesses to purchase health insurance. The so-called “skinny repeal” amendment would have increased the number of people without health insurance by an estimated 16 million by 2026. In response to the vote, Trump threatened to stop the ACA’s federal subsidies to insurers. The payments reduce the price of health coverage for low-income Americans. Trump demanded that the Senate take another vote on ACA repeal legislation before their scheduled August recess.
  • On July 21, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned after Trump named Anthony Scaramucci to be the new Communications Director. Spicer reportedly told the president that he believed Scaramucci would add to the confusion and uncertainty already engulfing the White House. Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, became the new press secretary.
  • On July 26, Trump announced via Twitter: “Please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” This announcement reversed a policy adopted by President Obama’s defense secretary, Ashton Carter, in 2016 that allowed transgender individuals to serve in the military and gave the military one year to develop procedures to allow transgender service members to receive medical care. An estimated 11,000 transgender troops are currently serving, and the president’s announcement did not address whether those currently serving would be allowed to remain in service.
  • On July 28, Trump removed his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, tweeting that John Kelly, Homeland Security Chief would be take over the position. Priebus submitted his resignation after Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci called him a “paranoid schizophrenic” in an interview published by the New Yorker on June 27.
  • On July 31, Trump removed Anthony Scaramucci from the position of White House Communications director, eleven days after appointing him. Scaramucci’s resignation came apparently at the request of John Kelly on Kelly’s first day as Trump’s chief of staff.

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