The Complete Mid-Summer Round-Up on American Politics
Reporting by Elena Sheppard.
President Trump has been in office for six months, but boy, does it feel longer. Since his inauguration day, the headlines have been a constant barrage of the unbelievable and sometimes the disturbing. Already things that a mere year ago would have seemed unconscionable—presidential tweet storms, routine firings in the White House—now seem quotidian. This summer, in particular, things have gone into turbo-drive. As we make our way toward the seven-month mark, it is worth looking back at the stories that have dominated the news during the summer season. In any other year, just one of these stories would be front-page worthy. But this is the Trump administration, where every day breaks the internet. Here are a few of the political stories that have dominated the summer so far—and which absolutely need to be on your radar.
Trump + Russia = 💖
The absolute number one story which NEEDS to be on your current events radar is the ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Most recently, the investigation which began as a probe into Russian involvement is now an investigation into the possibility of that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to bring President Donald Trump to power. Because so many names and dates and accusations have been flying around in the news, here’s a teeny timeline to get you up to speed.
- June 2016: We learned (not very long ago, mind you) that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016, as the lawyer said he had some damaging information to share about Hillary Clinton. In fact, his response to hearing that this information existed was, “I love it.”
- Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law and advisor) and former campaign manager Paul Manafort were also in the meeting. Meetings like this have been offered to candidates in the past, but they usually report the offer to the U.S. authorities. Trump Jr. released a statement downplaying the meeting, which has been proven to be misleading. The statement he released was apparently dictated by President Trump.
- July 2016: Though we didn’t know it at the time, we now know that July was the month that the FBI began investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
- December 2016: The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a report saying that Russian organizations were involved in hacking that took place during the U.S. election.
- January 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee opened an investigation into Trump and Russia, and from then on, heard testimony from Jared Kushner, Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and more.
- February 2017: National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after it was revealed that he did not disclose the extent of his communications with the Russian diplomat, Sergey Kislyak. The concern was that if Flynn did not resign, he could be blackmailed by the Russians.
- March 2017: Then-FBI director, James Comey, announced that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaigns ties to Russia. The House Intelligence Committee and House Oversight Committee also opened investigations which meant that Trump was being investigated from various different sides of the government; it later comes out that Trump asks Comey to “lift the cloud” of this investigation. Also in March, Attorney General Sessions recuses himself from federal inquiries into the Trump campaign
- May 2017: Trump fires Comey, initially saying it’s because Comey mishandled the whole Hillary e-mail thing, but ultimately saying to Russian officials who were visiting the Oval Office, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Also in May, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is appointed by the Department of Justice as special counsel in the Russia probe.
- July 2017: While at the G20, Trump and Putin had an undisclosed meeting that lasted roughly an hour. When the meeting came to light Trump said, “we talked about adoption.”
- August 2017: Mueller convenes a grand jury to issue subpoenas related to the June 2016 meeting. The jury will be used to decide whether or not charges should be brought.
That Whole Healthcare Disaster
Important story number two on the whole ‘what-is-happening-in-American-politics-right-now’ totem pole, is health care. The long and short of it is basically that Trump and co. desperately wanted to do Obamacare in—to “repeal and replace” it, or just “repeal” it, or ultimately “just pass something and we’ll fix it later.” The whole thing eventually came down to a “skinny repeal,” a slimmed-down version of the Obamacare changes they initially wanted. The Senate only had a few hours to read the hastily drafted bill before voting on it, and they needed 50 votes for it to pass onto the next stage in the process. Ultimately Republican Senators Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski joined 48 Democrats in voting ‘no’ on the bill. That vote was a big blow for Trump who is now threatening to withdraw government funding for insurance companies.
The Climate Change Catastrophe
It feels like this happened years ago, but it’s been less than two months since President Trump announced he’d be removing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. While this has been somewhat swept under the rug, mostly because SO much other stuff has been going on in the news, there have been other huge stories this summer underscoring the urgent need to act on climate change—like the huge crack in the Larsen C iceberg and the news that Earth will warm by 2 degrees celsius by 2100.
Immigration. Immigration. Immigration.
After the beginning of his time in office was dominated by threats of #MuslimBans, 45 was eerily quiet on immigration—until this week. His new “merit-based” immigration plan would dramatically cut legal immigration to the United States. As reported by the Miami Herald, it would “cut legal immigration by half over the next 10 years, close the door to people who don’t speak English upon arrival, and prioritize skills over family reunification, abandoning that sacrosanct and humanitarian tenant of U.S. immigration policy.” The long and short of it is, this doesn’t look good. When the White House brought out advisor Stephen Miller to present the plan to the press, a fight erupted over the meaning of the Statue of Liberty.
White House Dramz
Even though President Trump maintains that there is “no chaos” in the White House, we on the outside (thanks to leakers of course) are hearing a pretty different story. With Press Secretary Sean Spicer quitting, the 10-day disaster that was explosive Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci, the firing of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and the hiring of new Chief of Staff John Kelly (allegedly brought in to impose “military discipline”), the White House drama has kept a pretty exhausted nation at the edge of its seat.