The week of April 2 through to April 9 was a week dominated by two major stories for the Trump administration: the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the use of chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
The Democrats spent the first half of the week filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination, as they had the requisite number of votes, 41, to block an overruling of their filibuster. However, halfway through the week, the Republicans decided to detonate what was known as the “Nuclear Option,” changing the rules for the voting process for all Supreme Court nominations, and barring filibusters for the vote on Supreme Court justices. After this, the senate elected Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as the 113th Justice by a mere 54-45 majority. However, some Democrats still denounced the confirmation of Gorsuch, criticizing him for what they argued is an overly strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
The other big story of the week was the reported use of chemical weapons on civilians in the ongoing civil war in Syria. In an attack on the city of Khan Sheikhoun, the Syrian army is reported to have used sarin gas on local civilians living in the city. The Trump administration denounced the attack, and three days later, the U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a military airfield in Homs, which the Syrian army reports killed six people. The reasoning behind the choice of target is unclear, but the strike seems more symbolic than anything else. The following day Russia, an ally of President Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian army, announced that it had suspended cooperation with the U.S. on air operations in Syria as a retaliation for the airstrikes.
However, those were not the only two stories this week. News came out of increasing tension within the Trump administration as Steve Bannon was removed from Trump’s National Security Council.There had been reports that Bannon was getting unruly, and in the days following his removal, news began to leak of infighting between Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Reports stated that Kushner was critical of Bannon’s attempts to deconstruct the federal government, and that Bannon had resorted to calling Kushner a “cuck” (a derogatory term meaning a cuckold) and “globalist,” both insults associated with the alt-right movement for which Bannon is a sort of figurehead. Breitbart, the news organization for which Bannon served as editor-in-chief before stepping down to join the Trump campaign team, has also begun to publish articles critical of Kushner, highlighting his ties to Russia as well as questioning the morality of his business dealings.
Furthermore, in less reported news this week, Trump signed the internet privacy bill that will let internet providers like Verizon sell their users’ browsing history without permission from their users. The bill was a repeal of legislation signed by Obama that made providers ask their users for permission before sharing their sensitive information. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer criticized the bill as an invasion of privacy.
The FBI continued its investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia amidst continued accusations that the Russian government helped rig the election for Trump. Also, an amended statement filed with the White House counsel suggests that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had failed to disclose payments from Russia Today, a Russian state-backed news organization. According to the amended statement, Flynn has now reported that he received $45,000 from Russia Today, but reports state that he failed to disclose that payment to the House Ethics Committee during the vetting process.
The previous Obama administration was also in the news this week, specifically with regard to its actions during the transition to the Trump administration. Firstly, reports state that the Obama administration made a list of classified documents because they were worried the Trump administration would hide them from the committee investigating Trump’s ties with Russia, they then handed this list over to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Secondly, Trump accused Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice of breaching the law when she asked for the names of various members of Trump’s transition team, as well as intelligence on details regarding the progress of the transition process.
Finally, Trump sent an aircraft carrier and three other ships to the Korean peninsula amidst growing concerns about the progress of North Korea’s weapons program. However, as of now, the North Korean government and the Trump administration have yet to issue any announcements on the subject. We will most likely see more reporting on this move in the coming days.
Despite the many things that happened this week, I found myself most interested in the reaction of Trump’s supporters to his Syrian air strike. Many people who had previously supported Trump have now come out against his strike and showcased some signs of disillusion by disavowing their support for him, or at least heavily criticizing his actions. This went against much of the narrative that had been created by the liberal media until then, and suggested that in fact the appeal of Trump lay in his policies, not in a cult of personality surrounding the man himself. This suggests that many of the things liberals have found abhorrent until now about the Trump campaign and presidency will not simply go away once the he has gone. These problems that are deeply rooted within society itself and must be properly addressed and resolved if liberals hope to avoid another Trump-type presidency in the future. However, this does not mean there were not plenty of people who supported Trump through this, and it also brought out the hawkish side of the Democratic party, some of whose politicians actually came out in support of the air strike. This week has been an interesting week not only in foreign policy and legislation, but also in what it has told us about American society itself and the factors that led to Trump’s election. The Trump administration has brought new stories to the table every day, and will continue to do so, but that’s been this week, Days 73-80, and what a week it’s been!