Week Six | Index

The deconstruction continues, with a few silver linings, including a democratic victory in the Delaware special election.

President Trump:

  • Pledges to elevate military spending by 10%, funded through major cuts to non-defense expenses such as the Environmental Protection Agency and foreign aid.
  • Utters remarks sympathetic to Dreamers, thus briefly enervating his base and giving hope to many. It turns out to be contradicted other statements, and by ongoing ICE actions.
  • Announces he will not be attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
  • Tells bipartisan group of governors in meeting at White House, “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.”
  • Pledges additional funding to historically black colleges, while Betsy DeVos cites historically black colleges as a shining example of school choice rather than Jim Crow segregation. After the world (and the Twittersphere) erupts in shock and anger, she later recants in a spectacularly poorly written statement.
  • Signs the “Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act” to authorize the National Science Foundation to encourage women to become entrepreneurs, and the “Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers Women Act,” which says NASA should urge girls to study science. Neither measure directs a dime of funding to either aim, and so they pass Congress unanimously.
  • Signs a measure killing the regulation of gun purchases for those with severe mental illnesses. Media barely notices, because they’re too distracted by Russia.
  • Pledges his faith in Sessions despite news of his undisclosed meetings with Russia.
  • Addresses Congress, and acts roughly presidential in bearing; ticks boxes of unity and, nominally, black history and solidarity with geopolitical Muslim allies; invokes clear nationalist, protectionist, exceptionalist, militarist, conspiracy-theorist, and xenophobic rhetoric; trades in mixed metaphor (“finally, the chorus became an earthquake”); reiterates falsehoods around the current economy and jobless rate, murder rates, his renegotiated deals, and the benefits of voucher programs; promises more pipelines, more jobs, bigger military, and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare (we will “expand choices, lower costs, and at the same time provide better healthcare”–magic!); contradicts his earlier criticisms of NATO; increases security to prevent “criminal cartels;” announces a plan to “destroy ISIS”; promises his “Great Wall of America,” to much eye-rolling; suggests, in full nationalist vein, that he’ll prevent America from becoming a “beachhead of terrorism, a sanctuary for extremists;” lauds the widow of the Navy SEAL killed in his administration’s first military operation and says that the slain soldier would be pleased “because he broke a record” for standing ovations; promises improved vetting procedures for immigrants; calls for “fair trade,” but not like you think it; Orwellianly announces a new Office for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VICE, laboriously); and, in breaking with Republican party line, promises “paid family lead [and] investing in clean air and clean water.” Concludes by chillingly calling for the “renewal of the American spirit” and by declaring “the time for small thinking is over.” Says very little about foreign policy.
  • This Friday afternoon, news emerges of possible Trump administration plans to separate mothers from children when being detained after trying to cross into the US without documentation. This cruelty is being sold as an immigration deterrence: a proposal to that effect is being considered by Homeland Security.

Elsewhere,

  • Fallout continues from administration’s decision to exclude major news networks from White House press briefing, with #freepress and #FreePressFreeUS hashtags taking off.
  • ICE raids pick up pace across the country, and stories emerge of undocumented people with no convictions and even with American family members being detained and deported.
  • The Democrats select former Labor Secretary Tom Perez as new chair of Democratic National Committee, disappointing progressives who favored Keith Ellison, whom Perez later named as deputy leader.
  • Congress receives little fallout from its vote the previous week to repeal a background check intended to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.
  • All democratic women present at Trump’s address to Congress wore white in honor of the suffragists.
  • Under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department changed its position on a strict Texas voter ID law; Obama’s administration had declared it discriminatory, whereas Sessions deems it permissible.
  • Philip Bilden, Trump’s choice for Secretary of the Navy, withdraws his nomination because giving up the holdings necessary to meet ethics standards would represent too large a financial loss.
  • It’s confirmed that Kim Jong-nam was assassinated by VX nerve agent.
  • Jewish community centers across the nation report over 96 bomb threats, and two more Jewish cemeteries are vandalized.
  • Russia vetoes a Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its use of chemical weapons and defying the Trump administration, which supported the measure.
  • Mohammed Ali Jr. and, more briefly, his mother are detained at a Florida airport by customs officials. The family claims that Ali Jr. was detained because he is Muslim and was grilled about his faith and his birthplace. Customs officials deny this.
  • At least 16 bills have been introduced in state legislatures by Republicans seeking to curtail rights to protest or other perceived threats to free speech.
  • Dr. Ben Carson, who has no experience with housing and who earlier claimed that he had insufficient expertise for any cabinet position, is confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Former Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, who famously claimed that he’d abolish the Department of Energy and then forgot which department he’d said he’d abolish, is confirmed as Secretary of Energy.
  • Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, who has stated that he is against the sale of federal lands but in favor of drilling and mining on them, is appointed to lead the Department of the Interior. He shows up to his first day at work on a horse, in jeans, boots, and hat.

In good news,

  • After revelations that Jeff Sessions met twice with Russian diplomats during the presidential campaign and failed to disclose those meetings in his confirmation hearings, top Democrats call for his resignation and top Republicans call for him to recuse himself from investigations of Russian influence in the election. Sessions eventually recuses himself from the investigation. Calls for his resignation continue.
  • Republican Representative and Trump ally Darryl Issa calls for an independent prosecutor to oversee Trump/Russia investigation.
  • Delaware Democrat Stephanie Hansen wins a State Senate seat by a landslide 58–42 margin in a special election. Over a third of registered voters turned out, which is unusual for a special election in the middle of winter. Democrats are hoping this bodes well for 2018.
  • And finally, a brilliant New Yorker cover this week. За здоровье! to the new America.