Crises, confrontations envelop Trump at home and abroad

Donald Trump always strives to command center stage, but the pugilistic American President is now embroiled in so man...

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 1:07 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 1:07 PM

Donald Trump always strives to command center stage, but the pugilistic American President is now embroiled in so many escalating global and domestic tests of will, it's becoming impossible to keep count.

Unrestrained and lashing out at enemies at home and abroad, Trump is increasingly exporting the turbulence that has exhausted Washington.

Yet another pivotal week for the Trump presidency opens on Monday with top officials gathering under the direction of new national security adviser John Bolton to discuss how to respond to a chemical weapons attack in Syria with the world on edge over a potential strike.

The assault on civilians, already blamed by Trump on Bashar al-Assad, is raising the prospect of new US military action, since the Syrian President was clearly not deterred by American missile strikes after a similar attack last year. Heightening tensions, Syrian state television reported a missile strike on an airbase Sunday night, which it said was likely from the US. But separately, a senior US administration official told CNN that reports from the region claiming that US missiles have struck targets in Syria are not true.

Russia's Defense Ministry has since claimed that Israel was behind the strikes.

Trump is meanwhile driving America to the precipice of a full-on trade war with China, apparently racing out well ahead of his top economic advisors and setting up a very public confrontation with China's strongman leader Xi Jinping.

On Sunday, Trump's belligerent form of statesmanship took an unexpected turn as he almost unprecedentedly singled out President Vladimir Putin for blame over the chemical weapons attack in a potentially fateful moment for America's fast worsening relations with nuclear rival Russia.

There's no respite for the crisis-battered White House at home. Trump's pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is expected to endure a bruising confirmation hearing Thursday, with Democrats out for blood.

Trump's dispatch of the National Guard last week to the southwest border to respond to what critics see as a nonexistent crisis further polarized a Washington immigration showdown that is likely to worsen in the days ahead.

And the constant churn of staff departures and internal administration discord claimed another victim on Sunday night, as National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton left, just before Bolton takes the reins.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is still hanging by a thread after a dizzying sequence of scandals, although the President can change on a dime, so there's no guarantee he'll be in the job by week's end.

The Russia cloud that has loomed over Trump every day since he took office is also likely to thicken this week. An appearance Tuesday on Capitol Hill by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is likely to revive scrutiny in Russian election meddling that is all but guaranteed to make the President fume.

As ever, there's the potential for further damaging revelations related to the special counsel probe of Robert Mueller.

CNN reported exclusively Friday that Trump has begun informal prep work for a potential interview with Mueller that his legal team opposes but would represent another test of wills between the President and an adversary.

And Trump is almost certain to be gearing up by the end of the week to renew his public feud with James Comey, as the fired FBI chief is breaking his seclusion before the publication of his tell-all memoir on April 17 with an interview on ABC two days before.

In the short term however, the showdowns over Syria and China that are likely to prove especially vexing for Trump.

The President vented his disgust in a tweet on Sunday over an attack on civilians that reportedly killed at least 48 people.

"Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world," Trump wrote, vowing there would be a "big price" to be paid for the attack.

Trump's international credibility and willingness to enforce his red lines will be in question if the attack can be definitively linked to Assad's forces.

But to be more effective than before, US action would presumably need to be more robust. That would risk drawing Washington deeper into the war and seriously worsening tensions with Assad's backers Russia and Iran.

Any action in Syria against Assad would also highlight the contradictions in Trump's impulses regarding the country's brutal civil war. Less than two weeks ago the President said he wanted to get troops out of Syria "real soon."

Republican Sen. John McCain said that Trump's equivocation over Syria may have helped spur the chemical attack.

"Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma," McCain said in a statement.

If the President does take military action, he may draw substantial support in Congress.

"Last time this happened, the President did a targeted attack to take out some of the facilities. That may be an option that we should consider now," Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

The top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, said that if Assad was behind the chemical weapons attack it would be a "war crime of staggering inhumanity." But she also took a shot at Trump: "The Trump administration must finally provide a smart, strong and consistent strategy in Syria," Pelosi said in a statement.

While Trump contemplates sending American forces into harm's way in Syria, he is also acting as a general in a different kind of war, over trade with China.

Last week, Trump consciously stepped up the showdown, threatening another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to punish intellectual property theft injecting new volatility into global stock markets and setting up possible retaliation from Beijing.

Trump's decision to heighten the confrontation in such a public way has effectively put his own credibility on the line in the dispute -- even as he insists that it is not personal with China's leader.

"President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade. China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do," Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Despite his confidence, however, any resolution looks a long way off, raising the political stakes, since in its retaliatory moves, Beijing is directly targeting the Trump coalition hitting agricultural goods sectors like soybeans and pork -- that support thousands of jobs in states that the President won in 2016.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed nearly 600 points on Friday further threatening the Trump era bull run that the President often touts as proof that his economic policies are working.

Trump's new top economic adviser Larry Kudlow is continuing to try to dampen global investor concerns over the looming trade war, suggesting that the tariffs may never go into effect, even as the President ratchets up the pressure.

"He is pretty good at negotiating, but he is also pretty good at standing his ground," Kudlow said, explaining Trump's tactics.

But the truth is, in the China duel, as in the Middle East, or with Russia, or in the endless battles raging in Washington at the President's instigation, no one can really predict how any of this ends.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319704

Reported Deaths: 7369
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22276267
Hinds20677421
Harrison18407317
Rankin13880282
Jackson13689248
Madison10249224
Lee10056176
Jones8464167
Forrest7827153
Lauderdale7260242
Lowndes6509150
Lamar634888
Lafayette6310121
Washington5420137
Bolivar4837133
Panola4669110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4604147
Marshall4573105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425373
Union415777
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4061179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386687
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3369111
Alcorn325972
Scott320174
Yazoo314171
Adams307486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298189
Tippah291968
Prentiss283861
Leake271974
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231568
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187854
Stone187833
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127138
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69532
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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We continue to monitor a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be in heavy rainfall two locations across the southeast over the course of the weekend, and flooding rainfall could be in tow as well. Things are looking better for Father’s Day itself, thankfully.
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