What a week, politics friend. Saturday marks the 79th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. And this week has continued the non-stop action. Let’s get to it.
Trump takes on Syria
What’s going on? President Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria, his first major military action since taking office. The launch of 59 missiles struck the Shayrat Airfield, reportedly killing nine civilians. Why? The strike took place days after a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government killed at least 86 people. Trump said it was in national security interest to prevent and deter the use of such weapons. “Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” he said. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” What happens next? That’s a good question. It seems like the president is betting that Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, won’t retaliate. But that hasn’t kept people from wondering if this is the start of World War III. And the Trump-Putin bromance? History.
Meet your new Supreme Court Justice
What’s going on? Neil Gorsuch is set to become the Supreme Court’s newest justice after the Senate approved his nomination on Friday. But while that sounds simple, it’s not. What do you mean? Gorsuch is filling the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2015. Then-President Obama tried to fill the seat by nominating Merrick Garland, but Senate Republicans refused to give Garland a hearing. Enter Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Trump in January. Democrats vowed to filibuster his nomination, and since Republicans didn’t have the required 60 votes under Senate rules, that could have been the end of it. Enter: the nuclear option. That means that instead of needing 60 votes to advance Supreme Court nominee confirmations — something that generally lends itself to bipartisanship — the GOP only needed a simple majority. The tactic that was first used by the Democrats in 2013 for lower court and Cabinet nominees. What happens next? Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday morning, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed that the nuclear option won’t be used to prevent legislative filibusters.
Xi visits Mar-a-Lago
What’s going on? President Trump met with Chinese President Xi for two days down at the southern White House aka Mar-a-Lago. It was set to be an interesting meeting, at the very least; never forget that Trump spent 2016 throwing shade at the rival country. So how did it go? Per Trump, there was “tremendous progress” made, though there were no major breakthroughs to announce. What about Trump’s talk about North Korea? The president had gone in to the talks hoping to convince China to get North Korea to stop playing with nuclear weapons. That didn’t happen. What’s next? The two countries have agreed to a 100-day plan to set aside their economic issues.
Nunes steps away from Russia probe
And because there’s nothing such as a slow news week, we turn our attentions back to the investigations into whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election. What’s going on? Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has temporarily stepped aside from leading the Russia probe. Why? It looks like there have been several complaints filed against the California Republican with the Office of Congressional Ethics. Basically, these groups said Nunes violated House rules when he disclosed classified information that he said confirmed the surveillance of U.S. citizens involved with President Trump’s transition. He then briefed the president about the information. So what does this have to do with Russia? Well, there have been questions about the independence of the House’s investigation into Russian meddling. Nunes served on Trump’s transition team and is viewed as an ally of the president. What happens next? Republican Reps. Mike Conaway of Texas, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina (and Benghazi probe fame) and Tom Rooney of Florida will lead the House probe.