The Trump administration’s deportation campaign began this week. A series of memos released by the Department of Homeland Security greatly expand the number of people who can be kicked out of the country, amounting to a “sweeping rewrite” of the nation’s immigration laws. While the Obama administration prioritized illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes, now anyone convicted or charged of any crime—or even suspected of having committed a crime—will be deported. More immigrants will be eligible for expedited removal, and more immigrants will be deported to Mexico—even if they’re not from there.
End of the national security adviser sweepstakes
Trump picked Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to take the role of national security adviser, which had been empty since retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was forced out amid the ongoing Russia scandal last week. Trump’s first choice, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the offer, describing it privately as “a shit sandwich.”
McMaster is a widely respected active duty officer seen as one of the leading intellectuals in the military who helped change the way the armed forces deal with counterinsurgency and terrorism. He’s also known for not being shy about questioning authority and has expressed concern about Russia’s resurgence and growing ambitions—so many wondered whether he would be a good fit in Trump’s White House.
Trump has long criticized journalists, and he stayed true to form in his first solo White House news conference, which “he dedicated almost entirely to chastising the news media.” But he still made waves with a tweet on Friday in which he labeled the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN “the enemy of the American People.”
Many observed that Trump’s behavior put him in a category with tyrants like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong. Sen. John McCain went on to warn in an interview that “dictators get started … by suppressing a free press.” Even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace joined the chorus of criticism, saying the president’s words crossed “an important line.”
Also this week
The New York Times reported that Trump associates, including his personal lawyer, had held conversations with a member of Ukraine’s pro-Russian opposition about lifting sanctions against Russia.
Under pressure, Trump described a recent spate of threats against the Jewish community as “horrible” and “painful.” The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect fired back that the president’s words amounted to a “Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration.”
Membership applications at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort have soared since the November election—even though the initiation fee has doubled to $200,000.
The Trumps’ complicated lifestyle is costing taxpayers quite a bit of cash.
Trump is preparing new executive orders that would cut back on Obama-era environmental regulations.
The White House is considering fiddling with trade data to make the U.S. trade deficit look worse in order to give the administration more leverage in negotiating deals.
Thousands took to the streets on Monday to take part in “Not My Presidents Day” rallies held in numerous cities.
What to read
We expected it to be bad, but Trump’s first month in office has been worse than that, writes Slate’s Michelle Goldberg:
Every day there’s a new Trumpian outrage that in an ordinary presidency would be a multiday scandal: an ostensibly light-hearted threat to invade Mexico, a casual dismissal of a potential Palestinian state, a feud with a reporter or an actor or a department store. Trump lies so much it’s as if he’s intentionally mocking the impotence of truth.
At the president’s unhinged 77-minute news conference, Trump seems to have settled a debate within the White House about who his enemy should be, writes the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:
Trump appeared to settle the issue by declaring—or reigniting—a war on the media. This was the target that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who calls the press “the opposition party,” favored. But not all of Trump’s advisers agreed with this approach.…
Still, faced with a crisis of government management, the Trump team has responded with the two campaign tactics that helped him win the election: his political performance art at press conferences and rallies.
The scandal over former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador isn’t going away, writes Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald:
Even if Trump tries to sweep the Flynn affair aside with his now-cliché proclamation that everything he dislikes is “fake news,” enough evidence already exists to demonstrate that this scandal could consume the administration for months to come. Little doubt, Trump’s words at his press conference about Flynn’s Russia contacts—“I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it’’—will likely join the ranks of ill-advised presidential scandal comments along the lines of “I did not have sexual relations with that woman Lewinsky,’’ and “I am not a crook.”
This week in @realDonaldTrump
The president’s Twitter feed had a clear theme this week: Attack the media. He used the word “fake” to describe some aspect of the news seven times over the last seven days. He defended his press conference by citing Rush Limbaugh and dismissing the “fake media,” called the media the “enemy of the American People,” and accused them of lying (“the White House is running VERY WELL”).
The media is failing, the president warned, but they’re “far more effective than discredited Democrats” who “made up a story—Russia” to explain “why they lost the election, and so badly.” He also blamed “liberal activists” for planning protests against Republican lawmakers.
Trump raised eyebrows last week when he referred to “what’s happening last night in Sweden” to justify his Muslim ban. The phrase launched a thousand memes, the Scandinavian country’s official Twitter account moved to correct the record, a former prime minister asked what Trump had been smoking, and Chelsea Clinton wondered if the Swedes had apprehended the perpetrators of the (nonexistent) Bowling Green Massacre.
Trump later said he was inspired by a Fox News segment on refugees in Sweden. Later, he doubled down, writing that “The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” Conservative media was quick to cite a subsequent riot in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in a suburb of Stockholm as proving Trump right.