By Larry Silverton*
An abbreviated weekly update on the Administration’s activities to start off the new quarter. Subsequent updates will generally be posted on Saturdays and contain about six items instead of the three discussed here.
On Thursday April 6, Trump ordered US warships to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Airbase, from which the Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government had launched chemical attacks. Syria’s Armed Forces General Command released a statement that the strike killed six people. Remarks from Pentagon officials indicate that, based on preliminary data, the strike destroyed some Syrian aircraft and related infrastructure. The US military informed the Russian government of the strike beforehand, allowing them to evacuate several Russians present at the base for unknown reasons. It remains unclear how the strike may affect US-Russia relations ahead of a pending visit to Moscow by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Bannon off Security Council
On Wednesday April 5, Trump removed Chief Strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council (NSC) as part of an NSC restructuring that also included promotion of Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to full seats. In a subsequent statement, Bannon claimed his removal was due to completion of his task to “de-operationalize” the NSC, undoing the “operationalization” of the NSC under President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. Bannon’s presence on the NSC was controversial due to his lack of foreign policy experience and his strong political leanings as former editor of Breitbart News. Internal reports suggest Bannon’s demotion may be linked to his clashes with Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, who Bannon has allegedly derided as a “globalist” and a “cuck” (short for “cuckold” and popular as a slur among the alt-right). The demotion may also be tied to Trump’s displeasure with the widespread, often humorous idea of “President Bannon” – that is, the widespread perception that Bannon has set the administration’s agenda and holds influence over Trump.
Trump hosted a summit with President Xi Jinping of China last week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Reports indicate that the talks proceeded cordially, described by Secretary Rex Tillerson as “very frank, very candid, [and] very positive”. The topics discussed with President Xi reportedly include the US-China trade relationship and the need to address the problem of North Korea’s nuclear arms. It is unclear if the talks were at all affected by the Syrian attack, which Trump launched during Xi’s visit; though Xi reportedly received the news positively, or at least neutrally, Chinese state news outlet Xinhua criticized Trump for the attacks and suggested that they were a show of weakness meant to discredit his alleged ties to the Russian government.
Photo by Matt Johnson
*Because of the sensitivity of some of the topics discussed here and the reaction of the Trump administration towards the media, some writers have opted to use pen names when writing about the Trump Presidency. Likewise, some of our staff writers at Prospect Journal of International Affairs will be using pen names when discussing the Trump government.