Uncertainty Will Follow

Thursday, April 12, 2018Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 8.04.59 AM

Good Thursday morning,
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • President Trump made clear that missiles will be coming at Syria at any moment, telegraphing a military operation as he has previously said he would never do. But the real suspense remained — how many missiles, for how long, at what targets and to what end.

  • The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, announced that he will retire at the end of the year, signaling the peril that the Republican majority faces in the midterm elections.

  • The F.B.I. agents who raided the office and hotel of Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, were seeking details on his relationship with the Trump campaign and his efforts to suppress negative information about Mr. Trump.

  • After Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing, there was widespread consensus among lawmakers that social media technology — and its potential for abuse — had far outpaced Washington and that Congress should step in to close the gap.

  • Career diplomats have greeted the nomination of Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state as a harbinger of new life for the department.

— The First Draft Team
White House Memo

Trump’s Tweets on Syria, Russia and China: The Triumph of Contradiction

By MARK LANDLER
President Trump's recent tweets on foreign policy have contradicted many of his administration's own positions and have left officials more bewildered than usual.

President Trump’s recent tweets on foreign policy have contradicted many of his administration’s own positions and have left officials more bewildered than usual. Tom Brenner/The New York Times

President Trump’s fusillade of tweets about Syria, Russia and China this week set a new standard for contradictory and inconsistent positions in Mr. Trump’s approach to war, trade and relations with adversaries.
The president promised never to telegraph military action against an enemy, yet all but showcased a coming missile strike on Syria. He threatened Russia and called its relations with the United States worse than during the Cold War, yet blamed the ill will not on Moscow but on the special counsel investigation.
He praised President Xi Jinping of China for his “enlightenment” on trade in a highly anticipated speech, but in it Mr. Xi actually offered little to change what Mr. Trump has called decades of predatory practices by Beijing.
Mr. Trump might argue, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” But the latest reversals and back flips were so jarring that they left foreign officials more bewildered than usual about Mr. Trump’s next moves.
Read more »
Paul D. Ryan at a news conference on Wednesday in Washington. His announcement that he will not run for re-election opens up a House seat in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, a traditionally conservative area.

Who’s Running for Paul Ryan’s House Seat in Wisconsin?

By LIAM STACK

Even before Mr. Ryan’s surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election in November, several candidates had emerged to challenge him.

A picture said to show victims of the chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma.

In a Syrian Town, People Started Shouting: ‘Chemicals! Chemicals!’

By BEN HUBBARD

An attack on a Damascus suburb has drawn the threat of a retaliatory missile strike from President Trump. What really happened there?

A manufacturing plant in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In Nafta talks, the Trump administration has not significantly softened its position on rules aimed at bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

U.S. Seeks Quick Nafta Deal, but Allies Balk as It Gives Little Ground

By ANA SWANSON

The Trump administration confronts conflicting desires: to secure a deal in time for approval by the current Congress and to keep contentious proposals on manufacturing.

A shipment of soybeans at the Chinese port of Nantong. Many economists say the use of tariffs to address trade grievances with China will backfire on the United States, raising costs to its businesses and consumers and inviting retaliation against its exporters.

Economists Say U.S. Tariffs Are Wrong Move on a Valid Issue

By JIM TANKERSLEY

While saying President Trump is right about China’s offenses, trade experts feel his response is unlikely to work. They favor a multilateral approach.

President Barack Obama giving a presidential challenge coin at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California in 2014.

Morale, Allegiance and Drinking: How Military Challenge Coins Evolved and Spread

By EMILY BAUMGAERTNER

Pocket-size medallions once given by commanders have been adapted for civilian government agencies from fire departments to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator. An E.P.A. official said Mr. Pruitt dislikes the agency’s logo because he feels that it looks like a marijuana leaf.

Scott Pruitt’s Idea to Update an E.P.A. Keepsake: Less E.P.A., More Pruitt

By LISA FRIEDMAN AND KENNETH P. VOGEL

When Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency head, decided to refashion the agency’s souvenir medallion, he proposed deleting the E.P.A. logo and adding symbols more reflective of himself.

Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election.

How Retirements Like Paul Ryan’s Are Shrinking Republicans’ Built-In Advantage in the House

By NATE COHN

Court rulings around the nation have also reduced the effects of partisan gerrymandering, leaving the G.O.P. potentially more vulnerable to the effects of a wave election.

Robert S. Mueller III in 2013. The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote as soon as next week on bipartisan legislation that would allow special counsels like Mr. Mueller to appeal their firing to a panel of judges and possibly be reinstated.

Bill to Protect Special Counsel Mueller Is Headed for a Committee Vote

By NICHOLAS FANDOS AND CHARLIE SAVAGE

Senator Charles E. Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will bring special counsel protections up for a vote, despite the G.O.P.’s position that such actions are not needed.

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman. Minutes of the Fed’s March meeting, the first under Mr. Powell, showed officials raising concerns about a potential trade war.

Fed Officials Have Concerns About Trade, March Meeting Minutes Show

By JIM TANKERSLEY

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting last month reveal significant discussion about how policymakers should respond to a potential trade war between the United States and China.

John Boehner reflected on his career during an interview in 2015. The former House speaker tweeted on Wednesday, “my thinking on cannabis has evolved.”

John Boehner Says, ‘My Thinking on Cannabis Has Evolved’

By DANIEL VICTOR

The former House speaker once said he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization. Now, after joining a cannabis company’s board, he is arguing for change.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, during a visit to Nashville last month. On Monday, she unveiled a series of policies that were aimed at working around Obamacare’s requirements.

Republicans Couldn’t Knock Down Obamacare. So They’re Finding Ways Around It.

By MARGOT SANGER-KATZ

Alongside one health care market, a parallel one, with fewer rules.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former intelligence official, will advise the attorney general on counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

Aide Ousted From White House Re-emerges at Justice Dept.

By ADAM GOLDMAN

A former National Security Council official has accepted a new post as the national security adviser to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The website Backpage.com on April 6, 2018. A federal indictment accuses several of Backpage’s top officials of facilitating prostitution.

Trump Signs Bill Amid Momentum to Crack Down on Trafficking

By ELIZABETH DIAS

President Trump has signed new anti-sex-trafficking legislation just days after the classified advertising website Backpage.com, whose founders have been charged with facilitating prostitution, was seized by federal authorities.


With Scant Precedent, White House Insists Trump Could Fire Mueller Himself

By CHARLIE SAVAGEPresident Trump on Tuesday in the Oval Office. The general understanding has been that the president himself cannot directly fire the special counsel and that he would instead have to order the deputy attorney general to do so.

There is little precedent supporting the notion that the president has lawful authority to bypass the acting attorney general and directly fire Mr. Mueller, legal scholars said.