Here’s where things stand heading into Day 80 of the Trump administration:
How do Friday’s airstrikes in Syria fit into President Trump’s wider foreign policy?
The administration is having trouble answering this question, and even offered differing public statements about the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The missile attack was front and center in political news over the weekend, as top government officials made the rounds on television to defend the action and analysts wondered what might come next.
The strikes were launched early Friday in retaliation against Assad for a chemical attack that killed Syrian civilians earlier in the week.
The United States earned praise from some members of Congress and military analysts for its first direct assault on the Syrian government in the country’s six-year civil war.
Many former administration officials, however, questioned whether Trump is prepared to manage a possible escalation in the conflict.
There is one objective that seems to unite the administration at this point: pressuring Russia to end its support for Assad’s regime.
“I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday on ABC.
Tillerson is headed to Moscow for talks with top Kremlin officials this week. The trip, which was on the calendar before Friday’s airstrikes drew condemnation from Russia, is expected to include considerable discussion of the Syrian conflict.
Trump on Saturday defended the military operation, as Syrians in the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun reported Assad’s warplanes had returned to drop conventional bombs.
TRUMP TELLS KUSHNER, BANNON TO WORK IT OUT
Top Trump adviser Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon met Friday afternoon to work out their differences at Trump’s request, two senior White House officials said. The meeting reportedly ended amicably, one official said.
The meeting followed stories last week documenting tensions and even open conflict between Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Bannon, his campaign’s chief executive.
Another note on personnel: Deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland is expected to leave her National Security Council post to become U.S. ambassador to Singapore, our colleague wrote.
The departure comes amid a wider shake-up of the council under the leadership of H.R. McMaster, who replaced retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser.
TRUMP, XI WRAP UP SUMMIT AS STRIKE GROUP HEADS TOWARD KOREA
In case you missed it, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up their two-day summit in Palm Beach, Fla., by announcing a 100-day plan to improve ties.
Trump aides said the meetings were productive, particularly on matters of trade. But it appears as though the two sides never reached a way forward on a key topic for the Trump administration: North Korea.
As our colleagues wrote, there was no discussion of a “package deal” in which China would increase pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the United States curbing military drills with South Korea, Tillerson said.
In the meantime, a Navy strike group is making its way toward the Korean Peninsula to “maintain readiness” as Pyongyang prepares to celebrate key national anniversaries.