Here’s where things stand heading into Day 76 of the Trump administration:
How will President Trump handle the conflict in Syria?
We don’t yet have an answer to that question, but it became clear Wednesday that the president is thinking about the issue in a new way.
Trump held a news conference with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House a day after a chemical attack in Syria killed dozens of civilians, including children.
The White House had responded to the attack Tuesday with a denunciation that also placed some of the blame with former president Barack Obama. But at his news conference Wednesday, Trump seemed to take adopt a new approach, acknowledging the conflict “is now my responsibility.”
The clearly emotional president said the attack “crossed a lot of lines for me … Beyond a red line. Many, many lines.” He specifically spoke about the killing of Syrian children and said his “attitude toward Syria” and its president, Bashar al-Assad, has “changed very much.”
What that change will mean for U.S. policy in Syria remains unclear. Trump did not say whether the chemical attack makes U.S. military intervention in Syria more likely, and he did not address the issue of accepting Syrian refugees into the United States.
As our colleague wrote, the challenges posed by the Syrian conflict and North Korean aggression are quickly testing Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
“The big question,” his story stated, “was how long Trump’s sense of outrage would last and whether it would lead to substantive action.”
BANNON REMOVED FROM NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
At the beginning of Trump’s presidency, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon was described as having vast powers within the West Wing.
As of Wednesday, one of those powers had shrunk. That’s because Trump removed Bannon from the National Security Council as part of a wider staff reshuffling. The changes mean higher positions for key military and intelligence officials on the council and less influence for Bannon on day-to-day national security policy.
Sources inside the White House said the change was in no way a demotion for Bannon, attributing the shakeup to the increasing power of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who took over after retired general Michael Flynn was ousted in February.
UP NEXT IN THE GORSUCH CONFIRMATION BATTLE
Thursday will be pivotal in the process of confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
That’s because it’s the day senators will vote on whether to end debate on Gorsuch’s nomination and move to a final vote — the event that is central to the Democratic filibuster.
Here’s what’s expected to happen. Because 60 senators must agree for debate to end, Republicans will lose the vote in a temporary victory for Democrats.
After that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will raise a point of order on the Senate floor to note that the vote could pass with a simple majority of 51 senators.
The chair of the Senate will rule against that point of order, then McConnell will appeal that ruling, prompting the whole Senate to vote on his desired rules change.
Once that vote takes place, McConnell is home free — he has enough votes to pass it within his own party.
Read more about the process — which is expected to conclude with Gorsuch’s confirmation on Friday night — at PowerPost.
TRUMP COMMENTS ON SUSAN RICE ALLEGATIONS
This is sure to add fuel to the fire.
Trump said Wednesday that he believed Obama’s former national security adviser committed a crime by requesting the identities of Trump campaign associates that were masked in classified intelligence reports.
The comment about Susan E. Rice, who called Trump’s accusation “ludicrous,” comes as White House aides and conservative media figures charge Rice with requesting the identities to leak them to the media.
Rice addressed this accusation on MSNBC on Tuesday.
“The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes … Absolutely false,” she said.
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