The Week on Planet Trump: White House Fights Democrats on DACA and DOJ Memo
Monday: Pence Pushes Hard Line in Korea
Vice President Mike Pence heads to Japan and South Korea this week, stepping into what has become an increasingly comfortable role for him, that of President Donald Trump's interpreter in chief.
With all eyes on South Korea ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics on Friday in PyeongChang, Pence will carry an uncompromising message towards Kim Jong Un and will deride any notion of normalizing North Korea's relationships with the outside world when he leads the US delegation at the Olympics.
North and South Korea agreed to send a North Korean delegation to the Olympics. Both countries' athletes will march under a unified flag during the opening ceremony on Friday, athletes from the two countries will train together before the Olympics begin, and a joint North and South Korean women's ice hockey team will compete during the games.
But despite the overtures, the Trump administration is eager to keep up the pressure on North Korea and dilute what officials call North Korea's propaganda "charade."
Elise Labott and Laura Koran, CNN
Tuesday: Stock Market Bubble Bursts
When it comes to the stock market, the Trump administration has suddenly entered a quiet period.
The president, who frequently boasted when the stock market was hitting record highs, has said nothing about the market's stomach-churning gyrations in the past few days. The Dow Jones industrial average lost a total of 7 percent on Friday and Monday, before bouncing back on Tuesday with a gain of more than 2 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq experienced similar swings.
The official silence on the stock market would have been the norm in any previous administration. But it marks a departure for Trump and his team. The president has not been shy about claiming credit as the market climbed thousands of points in the past 15 months.
The recent stock market sell-off was sparked in part by last week's news that average hourly wages rose 2.9 percent in the last 12 months — the biggest jump in nearly eight years. Nervous investors worry about what that means for inflation and interest rates. To average workers, though, it just means more money in their paychecks.
Scott Horsley, NPR
Wednesday: Chief of Staff Echoes President’s Prejudice
White House Chief of Staff and former head of Homeland Security John Kelly's comments on Tuesday about the number of people who were eligible but did not apply for protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are incredibly revealing, though not in ways he intended. They show how uninformed he is about the lives of undocumented people and reflect a callous disregard for the fear and anxiety that is roiling immigrant communities nationwide. His words give further evidence to those who have charged that racism that appears to be driving the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
It is inconceivable that anyone not just lazily reaching for any excuse to insult a hard-working group of young people would characterize the DREAMers as “lazy.” It was their relentless activism that led President Obama to create the DACA program in 2012, and they have continued to mobilize for their right to live and work openly in the only country that most of them have ever really known.
Raul A. Reyes, NBC News
Thursday: Democrats Draw Red Line to Defend Dreamers
Following the lead of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats are saying they will oppose a budget deal unless they get a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for an immigration vote.
After huddling in the Capitol basement just hours before the government is set to close, House Democrats appeared to be leaning heavily against a sweeping bipartisan budget deal to keep the government open, despite the deal's endorsement by Senate Democratic leaders. They are citing the absence of a commitment from Ryan to vote on legislation to protect the “Dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids.
Pelosi supports the underlying budget deal — indeed, she helped to craft it — but is withholding her support unless Ryan guarantees a vote to shore up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Trump is terminating in the first week of March.
The legislative game of chicken comes over a bipartisan budget deal that would set the stage to boost federal spending for defense and nondefense programs by $300 billion over the next two years and raise the debt ceiling for one year. It would fund the government until March 23, which will give lawmakers time to write an omnibus spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year.
Melanie Zanona and Mike Lillis, The Hill
Friday: Dissenting Justice Department Memo Kept Under Wraps
President Trump on Friday refused to authorize the release of a Democratic rebuttal to a Republican intelligence committee memo alleging that FBI and Justice Department officials abused their power to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
In a letter to House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the White House said it could not release the Democrats' memo because the Justice Department "has identified portions...which it believes would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests."
That explanation stands in stark contrast to his release of the GOP memo last Friday. The president approved its release over the strong objections of the FBI, which warned that it could jeopardize national security.
Democrats have been pushing to formally refute the GOP memo, which they see as an effort by Trump and his allies in Congress to divert attention away from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, and possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Erin Kelly, USA Today
Saturday: Domestic Abuse Revelations Engulf White House
Another Trump administration official is resigning amid accusations of domestic abuse, just days after White House staff secretary Rob Porter stepped down after he faced similar allegations.
The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reports that David Sorensen, a speechwriter, is resigning. His ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, has accused Sorensen of physical and emotional abuse in their two-and-a-half-year marriage. The couple divorced in September.
Sorensen denied the allegations to the Post, saying that he was the victim and that he resigned because he didn’t want the allegations to be a “distraction.” The Post was working on the story when he resigned.
The White House “should be able to focus on continuing President Trump’s historic accomplishments for the American People,” Sorensen texted to the Post.
Sorensen’s departure comes after the White House is still reeling from the fallout of abuse allegations against Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary. The FBI was reportedly aware of the abuse allegations against Porter, which turned up during a background check for security clearance. It was reported that White House officials also knew of the allegations against Porter before he officially stepped down on Wednesday.
Jen Kirby, Vox
Sunday:Blame for Both Sides of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
President Donald Trump sat down with a right-wing Israeli paper and refused to give any kind of timeline for when Washington would unveil a plan for peace in the Middle East. Why? He’s just not sure either side wants to actually go through with it. “We are going to see what goes on,” Trump told Israel Hayom, a free daily newspaper backed by Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. “Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens.”
Although Trump has previously been critical of Palestinians for what he has characterized as a lack of desire to negotiate with Israel, his statement was notable because he also criticized Israel. When the paper’s editor-in-chief Boaz Bismouth asked him about what other nations could play a role in helping broker a peace deal, Trump said that for now he was “interested in the Palestinians and Israel,” adding that “I don’t know frankly if we are going to even have talks.” Leaving the door open for the unexpected to happen, Trump said that “it is very foolish for the Palestinians and I also think it would be very foolish for the Israelis if they don’t make a deal.”
Daniel Politi, Slate
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