Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!
The codes are being loaded for the “nuclear option” set to blow up the Senate later this week over the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has rallied his fellow Democrats to filibuster the vote even though three Senators are voting with Republicans.
If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hits the button, the way business is conducted in the World’s Most Deliberative Body will be changed forever.
The Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines voted to move Gorsuch confirmation to the full chamber for a vote.
President Donald Trump signaled McConnell to do whatever is necessary to assure Gorsuch’s position on the nation’s highest court.
Hoosier Republican Senator Todd Young had this to say about Gorsuch, “In Judge Gorsuch, President Trump found an individual who embodies the characteristics most Hoosiers are looking for on our nation’s highest court. I’m proud to say that I will be voting to confirm him on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”
The President met with the Egyptian President today, a man who had been banned in the White House by former President Barack Obama. Trump assured the Egyptians that the US would continue to be a strong ally and partner.
On Wednesday, the King of Jordan will visit the White House.
Thursday and Friday are already making news ahead of the visit from the Chinese President at Mar-A-Lago for a two-day powwow with the President.
A big topic between the Prez and Xi Jinping may be North Korea.
First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner traveled with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford on a surprise trip to Iraq.
The Washington Post is reporting, The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials. (More on this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/blackwater-founder-held-secret-seychelles-meeting-to-establish-trump-putin-back-channel/2017/04/03/95908a08-1648-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html)
Bloomberg is reporting, White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. (More on this: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-03/top-obama-adviser-sought-names-of-trump-associates-in-intel)
The Prez is donating his first quarter salary as POTUS to the National Park Service.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear an appeal in May over a Hawaii federal judge’s order that blocked President Trump’s revised travel restrictions on people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The Trump Executive Orders to-date: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/here-s-full-list-donald-trump-s-executive-orders-n720796
State Politics: The Kansas House failed by a narrow margin Monday to override Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill that would expand Medicaid to thousands of low-income Kansans.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who not only supports work requirements and premium payments, but also a new additional condition: to make applicants undergo a drug test if they’re suspected of substance abuse, if the person wants Medicaid.
Global Politics: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said today that the sovereignty of Gibraltar would not change as part of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said his government was surprised to see British leaders “losing their cool” over Gibraltar.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders called for calm, saying, “You can now see how difficult the divorce is.”
Both of the main candidates, including the incumbent President, are declaring victory in Sunday’s election in Ecuador. The divide between the two was only 3% with 96% of the vote counted.
Conservative Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday by a huge margin, confirming his domination of the Balkan country as he pursues a delicate balancing act between Europe and Russia.
The Presidents of Russia and Belarus said today they had resolved all disputes over energy, signaling a rapprochement at a time when both leaders are grappling with street protests and the threat of new Western sanctions hangs over Minsk, Belarus.
Could it be after announcing that the Republican Administration will move on to tax reform and infrastructure, health care insurance reform is once more in the forefront of things to do?
White House officials, spearheaded by Vice President Mike Pence, met with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Monday in a bid to jumpstart stalled talks on replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Freedom Caucus’ Chairman Mark Meadows said the Administration of President Donald Trump had offered a “solid idea” that could lead to a compromise to get past GOP infighting that caused the bill to fail last month.
The Department of Homeland Security Monday announced steps to crack down on fraudulent use of H1B visas.
President Trump has signed the law that repeals protections forcing internet service providers to get a person’s OK before collecting and sharing data.
A wrong move in my opinion.
President Trump blasted critics on Monday for focusing on his associates’ communications with Russia, saying the “real story” was the former President Barack Obama Administration’s “crooked scheme” to find damaging intelligence on Trump before last year’s presidential election.
No – it is both.
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice said she did nothing wrong in unmasking American names in intelligence reports.
“The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, ” Rice said in an exclusive interview with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”
First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner travelled with the top US General Joseph Dunsford to an Iraqi base 10 miles from Mosul today, and voiced hope the city’s eventual recapture from Islamic State would be “a victory for the world.”
Speaking to the North America’s Building Trades Unions today as well as to CEOs from the construction industry, the Prez vowed only to approve “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects.
Trump told the group, “If you have a job that you can’t start within 90 days, we’re not going to give you money for it…because it doesn’t help us.”
In an interview on CBS This Morning, Chelsea Clinton was asked whether she thinks her mother, Hillary Clinton, would run for public office again.
“Oh, I have no idea. I don’t think so,” Chelsea said. “I think right now she’s focused on her book. She’s focused, thankfully, on her grandchildren. She’s focused on what she can do to help support work that she’s been engaged in for longer than I’ve been alive, around children, around women, around families.”
State Politics: The Justice Department on Monday asked a judge to delay until at least the end of June a hearing on a proposed agreement on reforms in the Baltimore, Maryland Police Department.
The request came shortly before Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered his department to review proposed overhaul deals with troubled police departments nationwide.
Ten states led by Democrats and a handful of national environmental groups sued the Trump Administration, claiming it’s violating federal law by delaying energy-efficiency standards intended to save Americans almost $24 billion.
The lawsuit is the latest challenge to the Trump Administration by groups of Democratic-led states seeking to slow the implementation of the President’s policy initiatives.
Global Politics: A US Navy aid unit has been told to leave Cambodia, the US Embassy said, in a new sign of the Southeast Asian country loosening links with the US as it strengthens ties with China.
Singapore’s Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that parents have a strong interest in “genetic affinity” with their children, one that can merit compensation if subverted.
The US has withdrawn funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries. The State Department said the UNFPA “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
“End up in jail.”
That is the assessment of Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro about associates of the campaign of President Donald Trump when he was running for office in 2016.
Castro seems certain there was collusion by staffers of Trump and Russian officials to interfere in the presidential election.
White House Political Director Steve Bannon is no longer serving on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee as the President realigns the West Wing.
President Trump on Tuesday blamed the Syrian government for what appeared to be one of the deadliest chemical weapon attacks in Syria’s civil war.
Trump called the attack, which killed an estimated 72 people, “reprehensible.”
Trump, however, leveled his harshest criticism at former President Barack Obama.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past Administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said.
President Trump said today that the chemical attack in Syria was “horrible” and “an affront to humanity.”
“These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” the President warned.
While still casting aspersion on former President Barack Obama on not following through with his “red line“, President Trump said, “It is now my responsibility. I carry that responsibility with honor” to react on Syria gassing its own people.
“My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very, very drastically,” the President said.
King Abdullah II of Jordan met with the Prez today at the White House, ahead of the meeting tomorrow and Friday with Xi Jinping of China at Mar-A-Lago.
Senate Democrats began their filibuster of Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vows to confirm Gorsuch Friday – one way or the other.
Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley ended his all-night Supreme Court protest this morning, yielding the Senate floor after more than 15 hours.
Bipartisan negotiations involving as many as 10 senators hoping to avoid a floor blowup over the Senate rules and Gorsuch have collapsed, setting up a partisan showdown.
Tomorrow head for the bomb shelters.
Republicans are ready to launch the “nuclear option“, changing the way the Senate conducts business forever.
McConnell said Tuesday that the “legislative filibuster” is safe from being blown to smithereens.
A Quinnipiac poll found that 52% of Americans are embarrassed to have Trump as President.
The Islamic State released a statement on Tuesday on what it thinks of President Trump, saying he is an “idiot who does not know what Syria or Iraq or Islam is.”
The Prez told The New York Times that he thinks that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime when unmasking names of his campaign associates caught up in incidental collection.
The Prez also defended Bill O’Reilly against charges of sexual harassment.
Progress on a healthcare bill have “stalled” in talks between Republican conservatives and moderates, who had hoped to patch up differences this week.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a Senate panel today that apprehensions of undocumented immigrants along the US-Mexico border was below 17,000 in March, marking the least migration since at least 2000.
Two Democratic Senators want the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to explain the agency’s decision-making that ultimately paved the way for completion of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Those documents which both House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff saw are being withheld from the entire committee by the White House.
Get ready for a fight that may lead to a government shutdown by month’s end.
State Politics: Chicago, Illinois Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared on CBS This Morning today to discuss his new proposal, which would require students to develop a post-high school plan before receiving a diploma.
In a memo issued Tuesday, federal District Judge Howard Sachs said he is issuing a ruling which will invalidate Missouri’s requirement that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.
Global Politics: Russia denied today that Syrian President Bashar al Assad was to blame for a poison gas attack.
The Russians said it would continue to back Assad.
This sets the Kremlin on course for its biggest diplomatic collision yet with President Trump’s White House.
Israel’s Parliament voted in favour of a controversial law against illegal constructions that detractors say will mostly target Arab homes built without required, but hard-to-get, permits.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte faced criticism today for defending adultery by a powerful political ally.
An increasing number of female officials, teachers and students have been wearing the Atlas and other traditional dresses following a recommendation by the Central Asian country of Tajikistan’s government.
The authorities have campaigned against Arab-style head and face coverings like the hijab as part of a crackdown that has also included forced beard shavings.
The government claims that over a thousand Tajiks have joined the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and points to “foreign” Islamic clothing as “being a sign of radicalization“, said Edward Lemon, a researcher at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in New York.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside from the probes into Russian interference and possible collusion by associates of President Donald Trump during his campaign today.
Texas Congressman Mike Conaway will now lead the investigation.
Nunes is facing ethics complaints that he may have inadvertently disclosed classified information during some of his press briefings on the investigation.
The Senate headed into a showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch today.
Republicans were unable to break the Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch during a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then pushed the button and launched the “nuclear option,” which changes the rules to allow for a simple majority to confirm Supreme Court nominees.
The option was employed a few years ago by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to all other appointments, but did not apply to the Supreme Court nominees.
This paves the way for Gorsuch to be confirmed and take his place on the high court bench with tomorrow’s confirmation vote.
For now, the legislative filibuster remains a part of Senate rules.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced today an amendment, which would revive the failed American Health Care Act, by lowering costs for health insurance while protecting insurers covering people with pre-existing conditions. The plan calls for the creation of high risk pools to offset the cost for patients with pre-existing conditions.
The majority of House Freedom Caucus members will vote for a Republican health care bill if changes offered by the White House are included in the legislation, the head of the conservative group of House Republicans said today.
The Prez is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-A-Lago today and tomorrow.
The meeting is expected to focus on the North Korean nuclear threat as well as testy economic issues facing the Presidents.
The President is considering limited, targeted military response to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, which also killed babies and children. See below for more information.
A crime reduction task force created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will review how the Department of Justice enforces marijuana laws, among other things, according to a memo Sessions issued Wednesday to 94 US Attorneys.
Could the days be numbered for White House Political Director Steve Bannon?
First Son Donald Junior told a gun club meeting last night that he was considering running for Governor of New York.
The younger Donald said he had caught the political bug working on his father’s campaign.
Whether Junior jumps in to the 2018 race in the Empire State seems doubtful at this time, but 2022 is not that far off.
State Politics: The Alabama Ethics Commission says Governor Robert Bentley may have violated state ethics and campaign finance laws.
The case has been sent to a district attorney. If he’s charged and convicted, Bentley could face fines and jail time.
The Alabama State Legislature may reconsider whether to impeach Bentley after it failed to do so earlier this year.
The Florida State Legislature is considering a bill to apologize to victims of abuse and neglect at the former state-run Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a reform school in the Florida panhandle that closed in 2011.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is halting payments to Amtrak following a second derailment at New York City’s Penn Station that is causing headaches for commuters in the nation’s busiest rail hub.
A coalition of 17 states filed a legal challenge Wednesday against efforts by President Trump’s Administration to roll back climate change regulations, deepening a political rift over his emerging energy policies.
Global Politics: The Dalai Lama consecrated a Buddhist monastery in India’s disputed northeast border region on today, triggering an angry reaction from China.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the visit by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, “severely harms China’s interests and the China-India relationship.”
The spokesman for President Vladimir Putin tells The Associated Press that Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad is not unconditional.
Syria’s armed forces “did not and will not” use chemical weapons, even against jihadist groups, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said today.
Aung San Suu Kyi has denied security forces have carried out ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, speaking to the BBC after the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to investigate allegations of rape, murder and torture against the Myanmar Army.
A Malaysian Member of Parliament said girls as young as nine were “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage, as the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country passed a law on sexual offences against children without criminalizing child marriage.
Nauru President Baron Waqa says Australia’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to his impoverished Pacific island nation is “working well.”
Between 8 and 9 p.m. (ET), while having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Donald Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike the al-Shayrat airbase north of Damascus, Syria on Thursday.
The target was the airstrip from where the deadly chemical weapons were launched that killed nearly 90 people, including nearly two dozen children, in Idlib.
The missile strike was limited, targeted and precise to let Syria and the world know there was a new sheriff in town, who would not tolerate a brutal regime committing war crimes against his own people.
In giving the order to strike, the President and the US acted alone, but were not alone in support.
Most western world leaders backed the President’s decision as did the Japanese and such Middle Eastern nations as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In opposition were only Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.
Russia was given a one-hour’s notice of the strike. About a dozen members of Congress were consulted. Leaders of allies such as Great Britain, France, Canada and Australia were notified in advance.
Broad support of the President from across the aisle in both chambers of Congress. Support came from former officials of the Administration of former President Barack Obama, who opined they wished that Obama had done similar in 2013 when Bashar al Assad, the dictator of Syria, crossed the then President’s “red line.”
From pundits and military analysts, the support for the US hitting Shayrat was nearly universal.
There are those who say any more action will require the consent of Congress with a new authorization for the use of force (AUF).
The Pentagon is investigating whether Russia may have been complicit in the chemical attack in Syria on Tuesday.
Officials say a drone belonging either to Russia or the Syrian government was seen just before the attack, and it returned later to bomb the hospital where patients were being treated, perhaps an effort to hide evidence.
On a personal note, I agree with the limited, targeted strike to let Syrian strongman Assad know that war crimes will not be tolerated.
President Trump pressed President Xi to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program and help reduce the gaping US trade deficit with Beijing in talks, even as he toned down the strident anti-China rhetoric of his election campaign.
The message of Thursday night’s missile strike was also to North Korea and China that the US would do what was necessary to rein in the rogue state if it continued to launch missiles and pursue its nuclear ambitions in violation of United Nations resolutions.
That message was apparently received and understood by President Xi.
The White House is taking steps that could open up new areas of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to offshore oil and gas drilling, according to multiple individuals briefed on the proposal.
Tennessee State Senator Mark Green has been tapped to become Secretary of the Army. The West Point graduate is a physician and the CEO of an emergency department staffing company.
State Politics: California Governor Jerry Brown declared his state’s historic, four-year drought is officially ended.
“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”
Global Politics: President Trump’s decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base late Thursday puts Washington and Moscow “on the verge of a military clash,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, labeling the strike “really sad for [Russia’s] now completely ruined relations” with the U.S. and “good news for terrorists.”
“The world is waiting for the Russian government to act responsibly in Syria,” Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, replied. “The world is waiting for Russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar Assad.”
Not only did Russia condemn the missile strike, but said it was suspending an agreement to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between US and Russian aircraft operating over Syria.
“The two leaders had positive and productive meetings,” said a statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the meeting at Mar-A-Lago between the President and President Xi. “The two presidents reviewed the state of the bilateral relationship and noted the importance of working together to generate positive outcomes that would benefit the citizens of both countries.”
China’s official newspaper said the summit went “as well as it could,” editorializing that “Beijing and Washington have so far managed to do well in preventing conflicts,” which “shows confrontation is not inevitable.” Another state-run outlet said the summit indicated a new “pragmatic relationship” between the two nations.
Venezuela’s embattled socialist government stepped up its campaign against the opposition by banning Henrique Capriles, two-time presidential candidate and governor of Miranda state, from holding public office. The opposition responded by calling on Venezuelans to step up protests.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reacted with outrage to US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian military air base, calling them an “unjust and arrogant aggression” that would only increase his government’s determination to “crush” militant groups in Syria, according to the state news agency.
The main goal of President Donald Trump remains the defeat of the Islamic State and a distorted Islamic ideology spreading terror around the world. But the status of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad is also a target, but not the highest aim.
“Getting [Bashar al-Assad] out is not the only priority,” United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley told Jake Tapper this morning on CNN‘s State of the Union in response to Tapper’s question about whether regime change is official US policy.
“So what we’re trying to do is obviously defeat [the Islamic State]. Secondly, we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then finally move towards a political solution…but we know that there is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday likewise said the US “can’t put up with” Assad, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson named defeating ISIS as the Trump Administration’s top priority in Syria.
Reportedly, President Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on and is going back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the tax system.
Administration officials say it’s now unlikely that a tax overhaul will meet the August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
White House Political Strategist Steve Bannon and First Son-in-Law and “Has the Ear of the President” Jared Kushner met. The pair agreed to “bury the hatchet” over their differences, in a bid to stop infighting that has distracted from President Trump’s message.
This came after the two powerhouses were corralled by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus Friday night in what could be termed a “come to Jesus meeting.”
K. T. McFarland has been asked to step down as Deputy National Security Advisor to the President after less than three months.
McFarland is expected to be nominated as Ambassador to Singapore, according to a person familiar with White House personnel moves.
State Politics: The Alabama Supreme Court Saturday ruled the state’s lawmakers can proceed with impeachment proceedings against embattled Governor Robert Bentley, who has been accused of misuse of power in an effort to conceal his alleged affair with an aide.
Bilbray admits to inappropriate conversations, but denies an affair and illegal activity.
James Thompson, the Democrat running to fill the House seat vacated by Trump Administration appointee Mike Pompeo as Central Intelligence Agency Director, is seeing a last-minute fundraising surge in the days before Tuesday’s unexpectedly competitive Kansas special election.
The surge in donations shows a groundswell of support for Thompson, the first Democrat to face voters in a federal election since Donald Trump won the presidency in November. The Democratic Party, however, is staying away from the race.
With dispirited Republican voters on one side and a fired-up liberal base on the other, Democrats are hoping to use the April 18 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District as a model for how to convert Trump’s unpopularity into votes in future contests.
It’s a high-profile race for a seat that used be held by Newt Gingrich and which was recently vacated by former Congressman Tom Price, who joined Trump’s Cabinet as Health and Human Services Secretary.
Global Politics: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have spoken on the phone and agreed that recent US airstrikes in Syria were unacceptable and violated international law, the Kremlin said today.
The two leaders also called for an “objective, unbiased investigation” into the incident involving chemical weapons which killed more than 100 people last week in Idlib province, Syria, the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.
Earlier on today North Korea vowed to boost its defenses following the US strikes in Syria.
A foreign ministry official told the country’s state-run news agency that the airstrikes proved that it needed to protect itself against Washington.
“The recent US military attack on Syria is an action of warning,” the report said, according to The Associated Press. “We will bolster up in every way our capability for self-defense to cope with the U.S. evermore reckless moves for a war and defend ourselves with our own force.”
On Saturday British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced he had canceled a planned trip to Russia because of fast-changing developments in Syria.
Amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington, Johnson said Saturday the situation in war-torn Syria had “fundamentally” changed following a chemical weapons attack on civilians and the US airstrikes targeting a military airfield.
Responding to Johnson’s announcement, Russian Foreign Ministry representative Maria Zakharova described his reasons as “absurd,” according to Russian news agency Interfax.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities today.
Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the Presidential Palace after a meeting of the National Defence Council.
Somalia’s new military chief survived a suicide car bomb attack today just moments after he was sworn in with a mandate to launch a new offensive against Islamic extremists. Thirteen people were killed the attack.
Iraq’s influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “take a historic heroic decision” and step down, to spare his country further bloodshed.
Sadr, who commands a large following among the urban poor of Baghdad and the southern cities, is the first Iraqi Shi’ite political leader to urge Assad to step down.
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