A Lot Happened This Week

Saturday, April 21, 2018Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 3.48.11 PM

The Biggest Stories in American Politics This Week

By EMILY COCHRANE
President Trump in Key West, Fla., on Thursday.

President Trump in Key West, Fla., on Thursday. Tom Brenner/The New York Times

From the release of James Comey’s private memos about his meetings with President Trump to developing talks with North Korea, let us catch you up on six big stories from the week.
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James Comey’s memos were released, and the war of words between former F.B.I. officials and President Trump continued.

Copies of the memos written by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey detailing interactions with President Trump. Lawmakers are expected to receive unredacted versions on Friday. Susan Walsh/Associated Press
The memos offer an intimate look at the interactions between officials at the highest levels of government in the months leading to Mr. Comey’s ouster, elaborating on the president’s concerns about the salacious dossier detailing his supposed ties to Russia and the investigation into Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser at the time.James B. Comey’s redacted, declassified memos detailing his meetings with President Trump were released late Thursday after the Justice Department sent them to Congress. The release came hours after Mr. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, spoke with Michael Barbaro of The New York Times for an interview on the podcast “The Daily.”
Mr. Trump repeatedly lashed out at his former F.B.I. director this week as Mr. Comey continued his publicity tour across television networks to promote his tell-all memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.”
Andrew G. McCabe, Mr. Comey’s former deputy director who was fired hours before retirement, also faced renewed attacks from conservatives after federal prosecutors began examining whether they had enough evidence to open a criminal investigation. A Justice Department inspector general report had repeatedly faulted Mr. McCabe for misleading investigators.
Additional Reading
■ Read the memos here.
■ Congressional Memo: Pressure to Release Comey Memos May Have Backfired on G.O.P.
■ 6 Takeaways from the James Comey Memos
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Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, secretly visited North Korea over Easter weekend. It’s a sign that talks are progressing.

President Trump during his meeting on Tuesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.President Trump during his meeting on Tuesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
Doug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Trump confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director and his nominee for secretary of state, visited North Korea to meet with its leader, Kim Jong-un. The goal of the trip, which took place over Easter weekend, was to lay the groundwork for a summit meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.
But Mr. Trump warned on Wednesday that if he felt the diplomatic gesture was not headed toward success, he would scrap the planned summit meeting or even walk out while it was underway. Although the North has reportedly dropped its demand that the United States remove troops from South Korea as a condition for denuclearization, the Trump administration has reacted warily.
But the president reacted more favorably early Friday evening when Mr. Kim announced that North Korea no longer needed to test nuclear weapons or missiles and would close a nuclear test site.
“This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
The president, who spent part of the week meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, also rebuffed the prospect of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement. It was another blow to Japan, which fears it has been sidelined as Mr. Trump cultivates relationships with other Asian countries.
Additional Reading
■ Sanctions Are Hurting North Korea. Can They Make Kim Give In?
■ Meet Me in Mongolia: How Aging Aircraft May Dictate Kim-Trump Venue
■ Treaty to Formally End Korean War Is Being Discussed, South Confirms
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Within the administration, there was division over how hard to target Syria and Russia.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday. He briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill about last week's allied airstrikes in Syria.Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday. He briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill about last week’s allied airstrikes in Syria.
Erin Schaff for The New York Times
The New York Times reported this week that Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, was overruled in his push to get congressional approval for a barrage of missile strikes against Syria by American, British and French forces. He succeeded, however, in limiting the strikes to three targets that did not risk endangering Russian troops at military installations scattered through Syria.
But a military intelligence report found that while the strikes probably stalled the production of sarin gas, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is expected to continueresearching and developing chemical weapons.
There was also a public divide over whether the administration would impose a fresh round of sanctions against Russian companies found to be aiding Syria’s chemical weapons program. Mr. Trump rejected the measure after his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, said on a Sunday television program that the administration would be enforcing them.
Ms. Haley pushed back against the idea that there had been “momentary confusion” over the issue, as Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser had suggested.
“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she said.
Additional Reading
■ News Analysis: ‘Mission Accomplished!’ But What Is the Mission in Syria?
■ Divided on Strikes, Democrats and Republicans Press for Clearer Syria Strategy
■ A Hard Lesson in Syria: Assad Can Still Gas His Own People
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It was another week of upheaval for President Trump’s legal team.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, at a campaign rally for Donald J. Trump in 2016. The two are longtime friends.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, at a campaign rally for Donald J. Trump in 2016. The two are longtime friends.
Eric Thayer for The New York Times
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, will join Mr. Trump’s legal team in an attempt to “quickly” resolve the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and ties to Trump campaign associates.
A federal judge in Manhattan indicated on Monday that she was not prepared to grant Mr. Trump exclusive first access to the documents that F.B.I. agents had seized in raids on the office and hotel room of his personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. In the courtroom, it was also revealed that Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator, was another client of Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen has been treated poorly by Mr. Trump over the course of their relationship, with gratuitous insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired. There is now concern about that treatment backfiring if Mr. Cohen ends up cooperating with federal officials.
Mr. Trump’s campaign also faced a new legal entanglement on Friday after the Democratic National Committee named the campaign in a sweeping lawsuit filed in federal court. The committee says it was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Additional Reading
■ How Michael Cohen and President Trump Are Connected
■ What Sean Hannity Has Been Saying About Michael Cohen
■ No Disclosure? No Problem. Sean Hannity Gets a Pass at Fox News.
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Despite strong opposition, some of Mr. Trump’s political nominees are progressing through the confirmation process.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote Monday on Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be the new secretary of state.The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote Monday on Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be the new secretary of state.
Erin Schaff for The New York Times
Mr. Pompeo, the current C.I.A. director, is expected to be confirmed as the country’s 70th secretary of state. However, he is also expected to receive a historic rebuke from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is not likely to recommend his confirmation.
The C.I.A. is mounting an unusual campaign to ensure that its deputy director, Gina Haspel, a career spy with a highly classified career, succeeds Mr. Pompeo as the agency’s director. Ms. Haspel faces opposition from Democrats, who are likely to have questions about her role in overseeing the brutal interrogation of a terrorism suspect at a secret prison in Thailand and conveying orders to destroy videos that documented torture.
The nominee to lead NASA, Jim Bridenstine, was confirmed on Thursday in a stark partisan vote, ending the longest span of time that the agency has gone without a leader. The vote, which lasted more than 45 minutes, was punctuated by the arrival of Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois. She cast her “no” vote with her infant daughter cuddled in her lap — a first for the Senate.
Additional Reading
■ G.O.P. Pollster Withdraws From Role Advising Both Pence and Haley
■ Trump Picks Monetary Expert for No. 2 Job at Federal Reserve
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Barbara Bush, the wife of one president and mother of another, died at 92.

Barbara Bush in 1984. She was the widely admired wife of George Bush and the mother of George W. Bush.Barbara Bush in 1984. She was the widely admired wife of George Bush and the mother of George W. Bush.
George Tames/The New York Times
Barbara Bush, the beloved wife of the 41st president and the mother of the 43rd, died Tuesday evening at her home in Houston. She was 92.
She and her husband, President George Bush, had celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in January, making them the longest-married couple in presidential history.
Mrs. Bush, who had congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, decided this week to forgo further medical treatment and instead spend her last few days saying goodbye to loved ones and her family.
Her funeral will be held on Saturday in Houston, with Melania Trump, the first lady, representing the White House at the ceremony. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, will also attend.
Additional Reading
■ Dignitaries React to the Death of Barbara Bush
■ Barbara Bush Mourned in Houston as a Revered Matriarch and ‘Salty’ Neighbor