Trump Watch: Day 73 Wrap-Up

Good evening, Trump watchers. Here is your Trump-related news from Monday, April 3, 2017. We have a lot to cover tonight!

— To start things off, I present to you a story recently reported by the Washington Post regarding Trump’s ties to Russia. They tell the story pretty well, so I’m going to rely heavily on some quotes from the article: “The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.” Blackwater is a private military company and security firm. The secret meeting took place in the Seychelles islands in early January, and according to the Post, “U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to comment.” A bit more information that makes this story pretty interesting — Erik Prince donated $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, and guess who his sister is? Trump’s completely unqualified selection for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

— Additionally, this chart that the Washington Post put together (and that will be updated as this story continues to unfold) shows all of Trump’s ties to Russian interests. It’s definitely worth checking out.

— It appears that the Senate Democrats have enough support to filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. In a party-line vote of 11–9, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination, meaning it will move forward to a full Senate vote later this week. According to the New York Times, there are currently 41 senators who say they will vote against Gorsuch, leaving the nominee one vote short of being confirmed. Reuters reports that the number is 42. In either case, Gorsuch would not be confirmed in those votes. It is possible that this will prompt Senate Republicans to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” of changing the rules so that a simple majority vote will confirm the nomination. According to Reuters, Trump favors this option. Stay tuned.

— If you want more information on the “nuclear option”, the Associated Press did a great job of explaining it in this article.

— Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, has been banned from the White House since the authoritarian leader took power of the country in a military takeover. Today, Trump made it clear that the ban is over, hosting President el-Sisi in the White House oval office. The New York Times referred to it as a “fundamental shift in American foreign policy”. During the meeting, Trump said to reporters, “We agree on so many things. I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing.” Trump has effectively put Egypt’s ability to serve as an ally in the battle against terrorism ahead of the U.S.’s concern over el-Sisi’s “brutal suppression of domestic dissent.”

— Today Trump made it tougher for overseas workers to get H1-B visas that allow many non-U.S. people to work in places such as Silicon Valley, which draws in thousands of overseas tech workers. According to Bloomberg, about 460,000 people held the H1-B visa in 2013. The move was made as part of Trump’s attempt to provide more jobs to Americans instead of non-citizens.

— Trump donated his salary since taking office (approximately $78,000) to the National Park Service. Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the announcement today and presented a check signed by Trump to Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, and Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendent of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia. Interestingly, Trump’s budget includes an 11.7% reduction in the Interior Department’s budget. The National Park Service is included in this department.

— A U.S. District Judge ruled that three protesters who were attacked at a Trump rally last year in Kentucky may move forward with their lawsuit against the Trump campaign and the two Trump supporters (one of them a white nationalist) who attacked the protesters. According to CNN, the judge said, “it’s plausible the would-be president incited a riot.” The court also rejected Trump’s defense that it was free speech. As Trump’s supporters began to attack the protesters, Trump said into the microphone, “Don’t hurt ‘em.” According to Judge David Hale, “Presumably if he had intended for protesters to be escorted out by security personnel, Trump would have instructed the intervening audience members to stop what they were doing, rather than offering guidance on how to go about it.”

That’s all for tonight. Stay tuned for the next wrap-up on Wednesday evening!