This Week on Planet Trump: President Acts Tough on Russia and Guns, but Plays to his Base on Immigration

Monday: White House Strikes against Putin with Diplomat Expulsions

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats the US identified as intelligence agents and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, the most forceful action Trump has taken against Russia to date. Of those being expelled, 48 of the alleged intelligence agents work at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 are posted at the United Nations in New York, senior administration officials said.

Trump took the action after the US joined the United Kingdom in accusing Russia of attempting earlier this month to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter using a nerve agent in the town of Salisbury, England. The action comes just 11 days after the Trump administration leveled the first sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Senior Trump administration officials said the actions were being taken not only as a direct response to that attack, but also to rebuke Russia's "steady drumbeat of destabilizing actions."

Jeremy Diamond, Allie Malloy and Angela Dewan, CNN

Tuesday: Voters Approve of Summit with Kim

Roughly two-thirds of Americans polled are in favor of President Trump's decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a new CNN poll.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they approved of Trump's plan to meet with Kim, while 31 percent said they disapproved.

In comparison, a Politico/Morning Consult poll released earlier this month found that 41 percent of Americans said Trump should meet with Kim without preconditions.

The CNN poll shows that Americans increasingly approve of the way the president has handled the tense situation with Pyongyang.

Forty-three percent of Americans polled said they approved of Trump's handling of the situation, compared with 35 percent of Americans approving of the president's handling of the situation in November.

However, 49 percent of those surveyed in the CNN poll said they disapproved of his handling of the situation.

Julia Manchester, The Hill

Wednesday: Pence and POTUS Hint at Tougher Police Powers

President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for seizing guns "early" from potentially dangerous people without having to first obtain a court order.

Trump made the suggestion after Vice President Mike Pence suggested that new gun policies should "give families and local law enforcement ... the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapon" from a potentially dangerous individual.

Pence made sure to note that any such proposal should "allow due process." But Trump, interrupting his Cabinet ally, suggested that law enforcement officials should "take the firearms first and then go to court."

The exchange between the two leaders of the Executive branch came amid a wide-ranging discussion on how lawmakers should proceed in crafting new gun policies after a gunman wielding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle killed 17 students and adults at a Florida high school in February.

Kevin Breuninger, CNBC

Thursday: Amazon Downturn Follows Twitter Tangent

President Trump once again lashed out at Amazon.com, the online retailing giant, on Thursday morning, saying he has long had concerns about the company’s business practices.

Trump’s latest critique comes after Amazon’s stock took a hit Wednesday following the publication of a report in Axios that Trump was “obsessed” with the retail giant, according to a person interviewed by the publication. Shares fell more than 4 percent on Wednesday and continued their tumble Thursday, falling more than 3.8 percent in morning trading. It’s share price recovered after a White House spokeswoman said that while Trump “has expressed his concerns with Amazon, we have no actions at this time.” By the close of trading, the share price was up 1.1 percent for the day.

Before becoming president, Trump criticized Amazon’s “monopolistic tendencies” and said the company could face “a huge antitrust problem” because “Amazon is controlling so much.” The retailer, which last year had $177.9 billion in revenue, has more than half a million employees worldwide. The company purchased Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion last year, in a deal approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post

Friday: Syria Retreat Begins with Freeze on Aid

President Trump, having this week signaled a possible withdrawal of American troops from Syria, has ordered the State Department to suspend more than $200 million in funds for recovery efforts there while the administration reassesses its role in the conflict, administration officials said Friday.

The freeze on stabilization and humanitarian aid came as two members of the United States-led coalition fighting in Syria were killed — one American soldier and one British — and five others were wounded by a bomb in a late-night attack, the military said on Friday.

On Thursday, President Trump suggested that the United States could pull its approximately 2,000 troops out of Syria “very soon.” The comments surprised Defense Department officials who have maintained that some kind of American presence in parts of Syria may be necessary to avoid recreating the conditions that led to the rise of the Islamic State — and also to avoid ceding influence in the country to Russia.

Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times

Saturday: Rant on Pardons Parrots Fox News

In addition to lashing out at Amazon and the Washington Post, President Donald Trump had another person on his sights during his Saturday morning tweetstorm: California Gov. Jerry Brown. In a tweet, the commander in chief criticized Brown for pardoning five ex-convicts who were facing deportation.

“Governor Jerry ‘Moonbeam’ Brown pardoned 5 criminal illegal aliens whose crimes include (1) Kidnapping and Robbery (2) Badly beating wife and threatening a crime with intent to terrorize (3) Dealing drugs. Is this really what the great people of California want?” the President wrote on Twitter while tagging Fox News. The tag to Fox News is appropriate considering that the language he used in the tweet was pretty much a copy of a graphic that was broadcast on Fox & Friends.

Brown granted 56 pardons and 14 commutations on Friday. “Those granted pardons all completed their sentences years ago and the majority were convicted of drug-related or other nonviolent crimes,” said a statement from Brown’s office. Although the pardons don’t automatically stop the deportation proceedings they do “eliminate the state convictions federal authorities based their deportation decisions on,” notes the Associated Press. “That gives the men’s lawyers strong legal arguments before immigration judges to try to prevent the deportations.”

Daniel Politi, Slate

Sunday: President Marks Easter with Threat of Deportations

On Sunday, a little more than an hour after tweeting “HAPPY EASTER!” to his 49.8 million followers, President Donald Trump appeared to call off a major immigration deal.

“Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!” the president wrote, in part, referring to the Democrat-led initiative to protect the children of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. That was the first tweet, which seemed to call for the end of the filibuster in the Senate to pass tougher immigration laws and for the end of negotiations to get a deal on DACA.

The other two — where the president declared that people in Mexico were laughing at America’s immigration laws, and suggested that the international trade deal NAFTA might have something to do with that — seemed designed to further stoke traditional conservative fears that surround immigration.

These tweets are mostly typical rhetoric for Trump: He’s prone to suggesting that more immigration will lead to more crime and violence despite decades of evidence that more immigration does not correlate with more crime and may actually lead to less crime.

German Lopez, Vox

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