Newsdeck

Trump’s White House: Five takeaways from Sunday

By AFP 6 February 2017

by Brian KNOWLTON US President Donald Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida for a weekend of relaxation and Super Bowl-watching, but as his first days in office have demonstrated, politics -- and Twitter -- are never far away.

The looming issue remains the worldwide furor over his January 27 order temporarily banning refugees as well as travelers from seven mainly Muslim countries. 

After two legal setbacks — a federal judge’s order suspending the bans and an appeals court upholding that order — Trump lashed out at the judges involved.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s events in Palm Beach, Washington and Houston (site of the Super Bowl):

– Administration appeal denied -After judge James Robart of the federal district court in Seattle on Friday ordered the nationwide suspension of the travel ban, the Justice Department filed an emergency motion Saturday before an appeals court, arguing that the suspension was causing “irreparable harm.” 

But that court upheld Robart’s ruling on Sunday, meaning the case is likely to end up before the Supreme Court. 

The president then interrupted a nearly day-long break from Twitter, tweeting, “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

That tweet, coming a day after he blasted Robart as a “so-called judge,” drew sharp Democratic criticism as potential interference in the judicial branch of government.

– Silence – and then a tweet -Before his first Sunday tweet, Trump had gone an unusually long 22 hours without succumbing to Twitter’s temptation. But he quickly followed with a tweet saying he had instructed the Homeland Security Department to check incoming travelers “VERY CAREFULLY,” adding that the courts were not helping. 

On a lighter note, Trump then encouraged his millions of Twitter followers to “Enjoy the #SuperBowl and then we continue: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

– Trump on Putin -The president drew fire from Republicans and Democrats alike Sunday after he defended a softer stance on Russia, playing down political assassinations.

Showing no signs of yielding to demands that he distance himself from President Vladimir Putin, he plunged himself into a fresh political firestorm.

“I do respect him. Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get along with them,” Trump said in a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

When pressed over Putin’s alleged links to the extrajudicial killing of journalists and dissidents, Trump said, “we’ve got a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”

“Take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes.”

Trump’s fellow Republicans were quick to criticize the remarks. Senate leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on CNN, said of Putin, “He is a former KGB agent [and] a thug.”

But Vice President Mike Pence told NBC that Trump would not “let semantics or the arguments of the past get in the way of exploring the ability to work together with Russia.”

– Pence on Iran -At a time when world leaders are still puzzling over what to make of the policies and pronouncements of the Trump administration, Pence warned Iran that it “would do well not to test the resolve of this new president.” 

The administration sharply criticized a recent Iranian missile test, and Trump said Thursday that Tehran was “playing with fire.” On Friday, the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on Iran.

Asked Sunday on ABC how the White House would respond to any new provocation, Pence noted that “the president said everything’s on the table,” a phrase understood to include possible military action.

Iran has so far dismissed such talk as the bluster of a new administration.

– Pence at Super Bowl -On Sunday Pence attended one of the most spectacular US sporting events: the Super Bowl. He was said to be only the fourth vice president to watch the event in person.

Trump, like presidents before him, elected to view the big game from afar, in the comfort of his Mar-a-Lago resort. 

Trump is friendly with the coach, owner and quarterback of one of the contending teams, the New England Patriots.

In his pre-game interview with O’Reilly, Trump predicted that the Patriots would win. 

“They’re going to do very well. Tom is a winner,” Trump said of the team’s four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.

His ties with the team seem to have influenced how some people are cheering, with one liberal TV talk-show host, Bill Maher — normally not a football fan — saying he would now be loudly supporting the opposing Atlanta Falcons.  DM

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