Friday Spotlight – April 7, 2017

Image courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst. Copyright 2017 Thompson Reuters. Click for restrictions

Each Friday, Torchlight Media will publish a summary of the major news that happened for that week: the announcements and events, the twists and turns of ongoing stories, and all of the other highlights in between. Our goal is to give you a big-picture look at the week’s news so that even if you can’t follow everything yourself, you can have a general sense of where things stand. We hope, too, that seeing the highlights laid out will help you separate the small, pointless stories that crop up over the week from the more impactful, ongoing stories.
Here’s what’s in the spotlight for this week:

  • On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination with an 11-9, party-line vote. This approval sent the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation, where Senate Democrats announced they would filibuster it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded Thursday by invoking the “nuclear option,” which changed the Senate’s rules so that Supreme Court nominees can no longer be filibustered. I wrote about the implications of the filibuster’s removal on Wednesday. Judge Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed today. Update 4:10 PM EST: Judge Gorsuch has been confirmed
  • On Wednesday, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council.  Additionally, the traditional NSC members, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were restored to their positions after being removed earlier this year. Bannon’s initial placement on that council sparked criticism, as he has no national security experience and was formerly the editor of the alt-right media outlet Breitbart News. We Spotlight this news because it may signal an early stage of a split between President Trump and the Bannon wing of his supporters.
  • On Tuesday, a chemical weapon attack in northwestern Syria killed at least 70 people. The Trump administration, along with anonymous US government officials, placed the blame on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The Trump Administration also placed blame on the Obama Administration, accusing them of emboldening Assad by not enforcing President Obama’s “red line” remark in 2012. Far from not acting, however, the Obama Administration worked with Russia to remove and destroy chemical weapon stockpiles from Syria. Additionally, at the time Trump had encouraged President Obama not to engage in Syria, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said earlier Tuesday that removing Assad from power was not a priority of the Trump administration. For his part, President Assad denies that the Syrian Army conducted the attack.
  • On Thursday, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes, announced he was recusing himself from the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. His cited reason is an investigation into his conduct by the House Ethics committee, which was also announced Thursday. He is being investigated for showing classified documents to White House officials last week. For more information on Russian ties to the Trump campaign and administration, see David Sptizley’s article from Monday.
  • On Thursday, President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meetings are expected to continue today; we will update this article if anything of substance is announced.
  • Late Thursday, President Trump ordered cruise missile strikes on Syrian government targets in retaliation for Tuesday’s chemical weapon attack. We will update this story throughout the day as events develop.