This Week in Trump

This Week in Trump: Executive Orders and Supreme Court Showdowns

Airport chaos, families torn apart, and a judicial reality show.

President Donald Trump nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Welcome to This Week in Trump, Slate’s weekly look at Donald Trump’s presidency. Every week, we’ll catch you up on the events of the past seven days, point you to further reading, and keep an eye on the @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed.

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A chaotic order

Trump signed an executive order blocking Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely, suspending the refugee program for 120 days, and blocking almost all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. Chaos ensued in airports around the world. The order unexpectedly hit green card holders and those with valid visas. (The administration later backtracked on the green card portion.)

People were pulled off airplanes and detained in airports. Protests erupted across the country as lawyers rushed in. There was plenty of chaos inside the administration as well: Key officials hadn’t been consulted and the order had undergone little or no legal review, leaving agencies to scramble to implement it.

Trump and his allies insisted the move was not a Muslim ban despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Judges around the country struck down provisions of the order that had kept passengers detained in airports, and Democrats condemned the plan as unconstitutional. Some Republicans also spoke up but others, including congressional leaders, either stayed silent or outright supported the ban. Universities, tech companies, financial firms, and at least 13 Nobel laureates criticized the move.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates instructed department lawyers not to defend the measure. She was swiftly fired.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 49 percent of the country agreed with the ban while 41 percent disagreed. Only 31 percent said the ban would make them more safe.

Supreme Court reality show

With airports still in chaos, the president announced he would name his first nominee to the Supreme Court at a live primetime broadcast. Like a reality-TV season finale, there were two finalists. The winner: conservative favorite Judge Neil Gorsuch, who currently sits on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Gorsuch was appointed in 2006 by George W. Bush and sailed through his Senate confirmation. He’s described as well-liked and approachable, with a résumé tailor-made for the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch was immediately compared to the late Antonin Scalia for their similar views and unusually vivid prose. Conservative groups praised the selection while Democrats, who haven’t forgotten the way Republicans blocked Obama nominee Merrick Garland, vowed to fight. But Gorsuch will be “an extraordinarily difficult jurist for Democrats to oppose,” writes Slate’s Mark Stern. Trump has suggested getting rid of the filibuster if Democrats block his pick but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem too keen on the idea … yet.

The rise of Bannon

Former Breitbart CEO and champion of white nationalism Steve Bannon will sit on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee if Trump gets his way.

Political appointees are usually kept out of the key committee. Sen. John McCain called the shake-up a “radical departure from any National Security Council in history.”

The new role illustrated Bannon’s immense influence in Trump’s White House. According to a Politico report, he’s telling the president he can keep his campaign promises and positions himself as an enemy of the Washington establishment. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius calls Bannon “the intellectual center of the new administration.”

That intellectual center evidently believes the United States’ only responsibility is to itself. Needless to say, many are worried.

Also this week:

  • The White House issued a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism. The administration confirmed the omission was deliberate, to take “into account all of those who suffered,” administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. Jewish groups cried foul.
  • Trump signed an executive order Monday requiring federal agencies to cut two existing regulations whenever they add a new one.
  • In a meeting with senior pharmaceutical executives in the White House, Trump said the sector needs to slash its “astronomical” prices.
  • A Trump visit to a Milwaukee Harley-Davidson factory was canceled due to the company’s worries about planned protests.
  • Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to cooperate on ISIS and repair bilateral relations in their first phone call. The two could meet in person before July.
  • An Obama-era executive order that protects LGBTQ federal employees from discrimination will stay in place, the White House announced.
  • A U.S. commando was killed and three more were wounded in the first military operation of the Trump presidency, carried out in southern Yemen. People on the ground said around 30 people were killed, including the 8-year-old American daughter of New Mexico–born al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
  • The British Parliament will debate canceling Trump’s planned state visit after 1.6 million people signed a petition calling on the government to scale down the invitation.
  • Trump is the first president in modern history to have a disapproval rating above 50 percent after eight days in office.

What to read

David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, paints a terrifying picture of what a Trump presidency could look like in the latest Atlantic cover story. Frum ends on a hopeful note:

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

There’s much to fear from Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, writes the New Yorker’s Steve Coll:

An initiative so reviled and so easily caricatured across the Islamic world will inspire terrorists to action and invite various forms of retaliation against Americans. It will make shaky governments in Muslim-majority countries that coöperate with the United States—from Morocco to Indonesia—vulnerable to domestic protests and political pressure to break ties with American counterterrorism programs.

It’s easy to laugh at the way Trump announced his Supreme Court pick, but it’s another example of the president showing off his power, writes Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick:

So instead of seeing Tuesday’s spectacle as some new atrocity, understand that it represents more of the same: Donald Trump’s complete misapprehension of judges and what they do; the subordination of a judicial branch that is not in a position to fight back; self-referential shows of dominance over the courts and the law, institutions that—as we are quickly discovering—have laughably few weapons to protect themselves beyond the esteem of the public.

This Week in @realDonaldTrump

Amid protests this weekend, the president took on a traditional foe: the media. He specifically directed his ire at the New York Times and Washington Post.

The president vehemently defended his executive order on refugees and immigration, hitting out at both Democrats and Republicans who dared to question his plans.

Trump also said Democrats should be “ashamed” for failing to confirm his Cabinet.

Last take

As protesters gathered outside the White House on Sunday afternoon to protest Trump’s immigration order, inside White House staff and their families watched a screening of the Disney/Pixar animated film Finding Dory. Many pointed out the irony of selecting a movie about a separated family attempting to find one another. Albert Brooks, the voice of Marlin in the film, wrote on Twitter: “Odd that Trump is watching Finding Dory today, a movie about reuniting with family when he’s preventing it in real life.”