This Week on Planet Trump: A Year On from His Election, Democrats Enjoy Their Own Upsets while President Tours Asia

Monday: NRA-Bankrolled Trump Fails on Gun Violence

Even though 26 people were gunned down at a church in Texas Sunday, there was to be no change to President Donald Trump’s scheduled golfing and negotiating in Asia. Trump was two days into a five-country trip when an armor-clad gunman walked into First Baptist Church in the rural town of Sutherland Springs and fired an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing 26—around half of them children, including one as young as 18 months—and injuring at least 20 more.

The largest gun-rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, was the biggest outside donator to Trump’s campaign for president. And, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Trump has rejected any calls for even a debate about gun control in the wake of mass shootings. His stance differs sharply with his responses to perceived “terrorist attacks,” when he has immediately and aggressively called for tougher immigration laws.

Jason Le Miere, Newsweek

Tuesday: Praise for Saudi Purge Risks Antagonising Iran

Trump administration officials on Tuesday appeared to temper President Trump’s wholehearted support of last weekend’s purge of domestic rivals by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and issued conflicting statements about a missile attack that the Saudis have blamed on Iran.

Saudi Arabia has said it considers the missile attack an “act of war.” A cabinet meeting Tuesday in Riyadh labeled the strike “an open aggression,” and affirmed “the Kingdom’s right to legitimate defense of its territory,” according to the official Saudi news agency.

The combination of Saudi domestic upheaval and fears of open conflict with Iran left some officials seeking to lower the temperature.

Trump, on a trip to Asia, had tweeted his support on Monday, saying that some of those under arrest “have been ‘milking’ their country for years.” He said he had “great confidence” in Mohammed and his father, King Salman, and added that “they know exactly what they are doing.”

Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post

Wednesday: Trump Secures Grip on His Party As Mueller Inquiries Linger

It requires fortitude to accept the likelihood that the Trump Presidency is about to become more eventful still. The investigations into Vladimir Putin’s interference in the 2016 election, and the possibility that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, are intensifying. The accusation that Russian covert operations influenced the Presidential vote clearly drives Trump to distraction. He has repeatedly denied that his campaign collaborated with Russia, and he insists that Putin’s activity contributed nothing to his victory. Yet the latest revelations do not bode well for the President.

A Justice Department investigation of a sitting President or his senior aides creates its own ecosystem of betrayals and political calculations. When considering Donald Trump’s position, it is natural to reflect on Watergate and the events that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation, in 1974. The political equation is more favorable for Trump than it was for Nixon. During Watergate, when the evidence against the President began to look damning, Republican leaders in Congress encouraged him to resign, for the sake of the Party. Since then, the G.O.P. has shifted sharply to the right, and it is now consumed by conflicts between populists and traditionalists. Trump remains popular with committed Republican voters, and the Party’s congressional wing has so far been largely supine.

Steve Coll, The New Yorker

Thursday: Tillerson Attempts to Temper “Fire and Fury”

During his swing through Asia this week, President Trump avoided the sort of inflammatory and insulting language about North Korea that has alarmed diplomats and set nerves on edge.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that in Seoul, Trump had “invited the North Koreans to come to the table.” But Trump’s invitation came with conditions that Tillerson himself hasn’t always insisted on.

In August, the secretary of State seemed to suggest that the U.S. would reengage with North Korea if it stopped testing ballistic missiles. That, he said, would be “the best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk.”

Even if such talks were slow to bear fruit, renewed negotiations — coinciding with a cessation of North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests — would make everyone breathe more easily. Will Trump allow Tillerson to pursue that possibility?

Michael McGough, Los Angeles Times

Friday: Anti-Trump Backlash Drives Democrat Surge

Words like “landslide,” “wipeout,” and “blue tsunami” have been used to describe the surge in Democratic turnout and associated liberal wins, such as Maine’s victorious referendum to expand Medicaid, doing an end run around Republican Gov. Paul LePage's veto.

Exit polls showed an unmistakable anti-Trump backlash as turnout exceeded expectations. In Virginia, most dramatically, those who hoped Democrat Ralph Northam would be able to eke out a victory in the neck-and-neck gubernatorial race were pleasantly surprised by his comfortable 9-percentage-point victory over Republican Ed Gillespie, along with enough victorious Democrats to bring the party within shouting distance of a majority in the state’s Republican-dominated House of Delegates.

Could this be the first step to a national comeback for Democrats? If so, they can give some thanks to President Trump, who seems to be doing all he can to embarrass his own cause.

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Saturday: President Xi Claims Global Leadership

President Trump is incidental to China’s ambitions, a mere blip on a 33-year plan. In a speech last month, President Xi Jinping set out the objectives with great clarity. By 2035 China will be a “global leader in innovation,” showing “solid progress” toward “prosperity for everyone.” By 2050, China will be a “global leader in terms of composite national strength” and a “great, modern socialist country.”

Those Chinese targets for 2035 and 2050 presuppose one essential thing: regional stability. That’s the headline, not Trump’s machinations. A second Korean War would be a nuclear war. This is the last thing China wants.

Therefore, China will try to squeeze Kim, not to the point of denuclearization (let alone collapse) but to the point where he does not further provoke the United States or Japan. The question is whether Kim is controllable.

The other question is whether Trump is controllable. Xi projects the image of a reliable partner committed to an open, stable trading system. Trump, meanwhile, goes on walkabout with the Saudis.

Roger Cohen, The New York Times

Sunday: Trump Sides with Putin on Russian Interference

The prospects for a bilateral meeting were dampened by many factors, including disagreements over Russia's role in fueling the bloody Syrian civil war. But the issue of election meddling loomed as the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller proceeds apace.

As Trump departed Da Nang without meeting Putin, he fumed to reporters aboard Air Force One that intelligence officials from the last administration were "political hacks" and labeled the Russia investigation a "hit job" masterminded by Democrats.

In his remarks on Sunday, Trump suggested that imposing new sanctions on Russia was misguided.

"People don't realize Russia has been very, very heavily sanctioned," Trump said. "They were sanctioned at a very high level, and that took place very recently. It's now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken."

Kevin Liptak, CNN

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