Here’s where things stand heading into Day 81 of the Trump administration:
The Trump administration is under pressure to explain its foreign policy after the airstrikes in Syria last week.
Now, White House press secretary Sean Spicer has made an attempt to do that — and his explanation is raising further questions.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Spicer said the Trump administration would act against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if he uses barrel bombs or gasses children in the country’s civil war.
“If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bombing to innocent people, I think you can see a response from this president,” Spicer said during his daily briefing. “That’s unacceptable.”
A barrel bomb, for those who aren’t familiar, is a crude explosive device that is designed to kill indiscriminately.
There’s just one problem for Spicer: Assad has been accused of using barrel bombs throughout the six-year conflict in Syria.
Does this mean that the next time he does, the Trump administration will launch additional airstrikes? Based on Spicer’s wording, it’s a legitimate question.
The White House seemed to walk back his comment later in the day, however.
“Nothing has changed in our posture,” Spicer said in a statement reported by various news outlets.
“The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest … and as the president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses.”
As a reminder, last week’s airstrikes were launched to retaliate against the Assad regime for a chemical attack that killed scores of Syrians.
Spicer, in his statement, said the use of chemical weapons violated U.S. interests.
GORSUCH JOINS THE SUPREME COURT
Judge Neil M. Gorsuch officially became Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch on Monday after taking his oath at the court.
The swearing-in was low-key compared with last week’s theatrics on the Senate floor, when the chamber eliminated the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch passed in a final vote of 54 to 45, with three Democrats joining the Republicans.
The event, as our colleagues wrote, is a big win for Trump and conservatives who have “struggled desperately to produce significant victories despite pledges of sweeping change in Washington.”
It also restores the court’s conservative tilt and concludes a nearly 14-month process to fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
SESSIONS PURSUES TOUGH-ON-CRIME POLICIES AT JUSTICE
Changes are afoot at the Justice Department under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The former senator from Alabama is working to bring a tough-on-crime approach, with plans to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences.
Sessions also announced Monday that he will end an Obama-era partnership between the Justice Department and independent scientists to raise forensic science standards.
As a reminder, Sessions announced last week that top aides will review reform agreements with troubled police forces around the country, another legacy of the Obama administration.
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