After a headline-grabbing strike in Syria, let’s not forget that the president has failed to advance most of his agenda.
Aboard Air Force One on Thursday, hours before launching missiles against the Syrian government in a sudden foreign policy shift, Donald Trump told reporters how great he was doing. According to the president, it’s been “one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency,” a curious statement on a couple grounds. First of all, it’s been 11 weeks. Second of all, no it hasn’t. Here’s what’s gone wrong for Trump during this “successful” stretch:
His “travel ban” barring refugee admissions and entry to the US from several Muslim-majority countries remains stalled in the courts, at least partially because of loose talk from Trump and his advisers about enacting a “Muslim ban.”
The effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act hasn’t even gotten out of the House of Representatives thanks to a terrible bill that was incompetently rolled out.
We’ve yet to see a single brick of Trump’s famous border wall.
Trump’s other big legislative priorities—tax reform and an infrastructure plan—have yet to even materialize as concrete proposals.
His proposed budget was full of drastic cuts, but no one thinks that it will become reality due to opposition in Congress.
There are more than 500 important positions in the federal government that have yet to be filled, the vast majority because Trump has failed to even name a nominee. (There is no deputy secretary of state, for instance.)
Trump has promised to make a bunch of splashy foreign policy moves: pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, renegotiate NAFTA and the Iran nuclear deal, label China a currency manipulator, force US allies to contribute more to their own defense. But the only pledge he’s really followed through on is killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the few issues he and Clinton agreed on during the campaign.
As for the Syria strike itself, it’s not clear what the administration intends to achieve, let alone if it will be successful.
Despite everything that has gone awry Trump, he has accomplished some things. He nominated conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a pick that was confirmed despite a filibuster from Senate Democrats. He is also assisting a Republican-dominated Congress in gutting regulations using a once-obscure tool called the Congressional Review Act. Trump’s EPA doesn’t seem too concerned about protecting the environment, raids targeting undocumented immigrants have ramped up, and the White House has thrown the State Department into chaos.
The US secretary of state has said he hopes Russia will abandon its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because actions such as last week’s chemical attack have stripped him of all legitimacy.
Rex Tillerson made the remarks at the conclusion on Tuesday in Italy of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) and “like-minded” countries.
“It is clear to us the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end,” he said shortly before leaving the Tuscan city of Lucca for Moscow.
SENATOR RON WYDEN rarely asks a rhetorical question. In a March 2013 hearing, the Oregon Democrat asked the Director of National Intelligence whether the National Security Agency collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” The director, James Clapper, replied, “No, sir,” but within weeks came the first in a series of news articles, based on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing the agency had conducted surveillance on a breathtaking scale, with millions of Americans swept up.
Since then, Americans have looked to Wyden to defend privacy rights — often by asking pointed questions about secret issues known only within the intelligence community.
Last week, I spoke with Wyden about what questions he’s asking today. The senator packed a wide range of concerns into our brief phone interview, including whether coordinated Russian election hacking compromises “the legitimacy of [the U.S.] government,” how often the NSA has engaged in “warrantless backdoor queries of Americans,” the possibility that not just foreign but also domestic intelligence agencies might be exploiting a widespread vulnerability in cellular and landline communications — and a rare upcoming opportunity to reform government mass surveillance.
As a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Wyden has a busy 2017 ahead of him addressing these and other issues. Already this year, he’s become an outspoken player in the ongoing investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, but he’s also trying to scrutinize less sexy threats. In mid-March he and Rep. Ted Lieu of California wrote a letter to the FCC, asking for the agency to “address major security weaknesses” in SS7, the telephone networking standard that allows for fundamental cellphone capabilities like roaming and SMS messaging. Just a few weeks later, Wyden joined seven other senators in questioning the nation’s broadband providers about recently gutted privacy rules governing internet service providers, including one particularly esoteric query about whether ISPs would provide to intelligence agencies, under an administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, “netflow” data that captures streams of data flowing to and from customers.
The transcript below has been edited for clarity, and links have been added where appropriate.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is attempting to shake up policing in the country by limiting federal oversight of police departments with a history of civil rights violations, while calling for an escalation of the war on drugs. Last week, Sessions ordered a wide-ranging review of the federal consent decrees with local law enforcement agencies that have been accused of brutality and violating civil rights laws. The review signals the Justice Department intends to shift away from monitoring and forcing changes within police departments, such as the police department of Ferguson, Missouri, where systematic racial discrimination by the police and the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old African American Michael Brown sparked an uprising in 2014. This comes as Sessions is also calling for what many see as a new war on drugs. We speak with Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Shares in United Airlines’ parent company plummeted on Tuesday, wiping close to $1bn off of the company’s value, a day after a viral video showing police forcibly dragging a passenger off one of its plane became a global news sensation.
The value of the carrier’s holding company, United Continental Holdings, had fallen over 4% before noon, knocking almost a billion dollars off its value. It rallied slightly, leaving the share price down 2.8%, close to $600m less than the company’s $22.5bn value as of Monday’s close.
Investors largely shrugged off United’s woes during trading on Monday. The airline’s stock finished Monday’s trading session 0.9% higher, adding about $200m to the company’s market cap.
But the airline’s problems only seem to have escalated since Sunday, when a man was violently removed from a flight by aviation police officials at Chicago’s O’Hare international airport after refusing to volunteer his seat on the overbooked flight.