After a number of events forced President Donald Trump to temper his tone on U.S. domestic and foreign policy, many media outlets were quick to praise him for “adjusting his position” to a more “moderate agenda,” ignoring the president’s extremist policies that are playing out in the background.
Media Claim Trump Is Shifting Toward A More Centrist Policy
Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski: “You Can Literally See This Metamorphosis Happening.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski commented that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is now “out” of the administration and far-right nationalist Stephen Bannon is also “on his way out.” She claimed that these moves are an indication that there is a “metamorphosis happening” with President Donald Trump and “with the right people around him, he can make good decisions.” Co-host Joe Scarborough suggested that Trump may now be “figuring it out” and lauded his approval rating. From the April 13 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Here is the hope that he's evolving. Flynn’s out, Bannon is on his way out, and he is being called the walking dead at this point. And over the past week he's sort of been in the room with, surrounded by, his foreign policy team. And a lot of Trump -- the way he works is he takes in information -- the last thing he heard is what he goes with. And you can see it happening. You can literally see this metamorphosis happening where, with the right people around him, he can make good decisions.
FRANK BRUNI: I think something else is happening, too, though. A lot of the things that he's now turning on -- that he is turning away from to a new position -- were things that were great applause lines during the campaign. When you said them at these rallies, rallies that were attended by a certain kind of voter, they gave him the applause that he loves. This is a man who lives for affirmation. Well those same positions, those same statements were not moving the needle on his approval ratings. So you could say he’s been constant. He's constantly in search of the most affirmation.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Got him down to 34 percent over the past week. Look, he’s up to 41 percent just in one week's time.
SCARBOROUGH: He's also -- I don't know that he's figuring this out, but it would make sense.
BRZEZINSKI: We can hope. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 4/13/17]
NY Times: Trump’s “Shifts” Suggest “That The Moderate Financiers He Brought From Wall Street Are Eclipsing The White House Populist Wing Led By Stephen K. Bannon.” An April 12 article that appeared on the front page of The New York Times listed a number of “shifts” that Trump had initiated on a number of issues, claiming that the changes represent “a more mainstream economic approach” and “an abandonment of [his] tough stance” on immigration.
President Trump made three startling economic policy reversals on Wednesday, stepping away from pledges he made as a candidate and even policies he supported only days ago.
The shifts confounded many of Mr. Trump’s supporters and suggested that the moderate financiers he brought from Wall Street are eclipsing the White House populist wing led by Stephen K. Bannon, the political strategist who is increasingly being sidelined by the president.
Mr. Trump’s latest pronouncements suggest he is moving toward a more mainstream economic approach, although on other issues that he discussed on Wednesday, like a tax overhaul and health care, his policy and strategy appeared muddled.
Last Friday, Mr. Trump named Kevin Hassett, a conservative pro-immigration economist, to lead his Council of Economic Advisers. Ardent supporters worried it was an abandonment of the tough stance he took on the issue during the campaign. [The New York Times, 4/12/17]
WSJ: Trump’s Statement Of “Strong Support” For NATO “Marked A Sharp U-Turn From His Campaign Rhetoric.” The Wall Street Journal highlighted Trump’s recognition of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as “fundamental to the West’s security and crucial to checking increased Russian aggression,” calling it a “sharp U-turn from his campaign rhetoric.” [The Wall Street Journal, 4/12/17]
Wash. Post: Trump Is In “A Period Of Rapid Evolution … On Both Foreign And Domestic Issues.” The Washington Post reported that Trump is “is abandoning a number of his key campaign promises on economic policy, adopting instead many of the centrist positions he railed against while campaigning as a populist.” The article said that Trump’s shifts on U.S.-China policy, among other issues, “come amid a period of rapid evolution for [him] on both foreign and domestic issues.” From the April 12 article:
President Trump is abandoning a number of his key campaign promises on economic policy, adopting instead many of the centrist positions he railed against while campaigning as a populist.
The statements represent a move toward the economic policies of more centrist Republicans and even at times align with the approach of former president Barack Obama. Should he follow through on the newly articulated positions, it would suggest that the candidate who ran as the ultimate outsider is increasingly adopting a more moderate economic agenda.
The reversals come amid a period of rapid evolution for Trump on both foreign and domestic issues.
Trump’s embrace of moderate positions also suggests a waning influence among the hard-line nationalist White House advisers who helped Trump win the election, as well as the rise of other advisers — many of whom hail from New York — who have more centrist, even left-leaning views.
For example, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president who did not play a role during the campaign, has a rapidly growing portfolio within the White House, while Trump has marginalized the role of chief strategist and self-proclaimed economic nationalist Stephen K. Bannon in recent days. [The Washington Post, 4/12/17]
CNN Military Analyst: “I’m Glad To Say Our President Is Adjusting His Position.” A panel on CNN’s New Day credited Trump for seeming to “[flip] to a more moderate direction” on certain issues. CNN political analyst David Gregory said the shift away from his far right position makes “people feel more relieved.” CNN military analyst Maj. Gen. James Mark also commented that Trump is “evolving” and welcomed the prospect that “our president is adjusting his position.” From the April 13 edition of CNN’s New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): How do you read these new positions, kind of a recognition of pre-existing fact on all of these different -- NATO, Russia, Syria?
DAVID GREGORY: Look the president was never an ideological guy, never a terribly principled person when it came to views of the world or even of governance on major policy positions. He didn’t have that kind of experience. I think he played fast and loose with the campaign for effect. And I think he believes a couple of things. One, unpredictability and flexibility are his strength in negotiation, but also in how people will evaluate him, both friend and foe alike. I think he finds advantage in that and finds a way with a change in position to bring people around because they can't pin him down a little bit. I think there’s dangers as well we can get into in terms of being that unpredictable with our allies. What can people expect. But I think he’s challenging all of this, saying, “What’s the big deal? I just have a different view now that I'm actually governing.” And there is something to that. OK. Campaign is one thing. You get into the office and you deal with new realities. And I think he is actually in some ways getting more credit for these flips because he is flipping to a more moderate direction and people feel more relieved.
CUOMO: The problem in the shift, General, is that in each of these cases, it’s that the president had it wrong. We all know. If you know anything about NATO, it’s never been obsolete. It’s never been divorced from terrorism. The only time it’s invoked the the article was to help the United States after 9/11. He said they don't pay enough money. And that's not how it works. It’s about what your commitment is to defense. He had things wrong on each of these issues. Now he has them right. Is that necessarily a strength or a reflection of his challenges?
JAMES MARKS: Well I would hope it’d be a strength and that our president is evolving. You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose. It’s kind of what we are seeing. And I'm glad to say that our president is adjusting his position in this regard. There’s nothing more important to us right now than to have a unified Europe. We can deal with that. If we are doing these one-off bilateral relationships and negotiations, that opens a whole host of doors where malfeasance and problems and negotiating positions can come in. We want a Europe, we hope we would have a Europe, who has a focus to the West, which it has had forever, versus a focus to the East. And we know what the problems that would result from that. So it is to our advantage that the president is raising his hand and saying “Look, I may have had it wrong.” We now need to be able to create these positions where we can find interest with Russia so that we can have a unified picture in all these problems that we're confronted with right now. [CNN, New Day, 4/13/17]
The Trump Administration Is Continuing To Push Policies That Are Outside The Mainstream
Wash. Post: Trump Administration Is Moving To Assemble A “Nationwide Deportation Force.” On April 12, The Washington Post reported on an internal assessment by the Department of Homeland Security which revealed that the agency had already expanded the capacity of detention centers to house undocumented immigrants and is seeking to capitalize on a January executive order designed “to boost deportations and strengthen border enforcement.” This comes after “Trump’s executive orders broadly expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants who are deemed a priority for removal.” From the April 12 report:
The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration.
An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by The Washington Post shows the agency has already found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump’s border wall could begin.
The agency also is considering ways to speed up the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Patrol officers, including ending polygraph and physical fitness tests in some cases, according to the documents.
Although Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has said DHS is not pursuing mass deportations, Trump’s executive orders broadly expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants who are deemed a priority for removal.[The Washington Post, 4/12/17]
Politico: Trump Is Strongly Considering Another Climate Denier As A Top White House Environment Official. Politico recently reported that Kathleen White, a “vocal critic of climate change science … who says carbon emissions are harmless and should not be regulated, is a top contender to run the Council on Environmental Quality.” From the April 12 report:
President Donald Trump may tap a vocal critic of climate change science to serve as the highest-ranking environmental official in the White House.
Kathleen Hartnett White, who says carbon emissions are harmless and should not be regulated, is a top contender to run the Council on Environmental Quality, the White House’s in-house environmental policy shop, sources close to the administration told POLITICO.
“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, and carbon is certainly not a poison. Carbon is the chemical basis of all life on earth. Our bones and blood are made out of carbon,” White wrote in a June op-ed. She added that CO2 is the “gas of life” because it is a nutrient used by plants — an argument frequently raised by climate skeptics that most scientists say distracts from the climate-changing components of the gas.
If nominated, White would likely be an advocate within the administration of reopening the foundation of Obama's climate change agenda: EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding,” a scientific conclusion that greenhouse gases constitute a threat to public health or welfare. [Politico, 4/12/17]
CNN: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Promised More Prosecutions Against Undocumented Immigrants, Referring To Them As “Filth.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on the administration’s anti-immigrant position, promising to go after all immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally rather than focusing only on criminals who pose a threat to the public. From the April 11 report:
The Justice Department announced Tuesday it would take further steps to up prosecutions against undocumented immigrants -- the latest in a series of steps by the Trump administration to more aggressively enforce immigration laws.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to the US-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona, to make the announcement with Customs and Border Protection personnel, calling the measures a move against “filth” like gangs and “criminal aliens.”
“It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth,” Sessions was to say, according to a copy of his speech from the Justice Department, though he left the words “against this filth” out of his spoken remarks.
In sum, the measures could substantially increase the number of cases brought against undocumented immigrants, and escalate the nature of charges brought against them, also raising the stakes for the appointment of US attorneys in border districts.
Sessions also issued a memo to federal prosecutors that would up charges against undocumented immigrants. Among the measures was more heavily prosecuting smugglers and traffickers under statutes against transportation and harboring, prosecuting more cases of fraud and identity theft, and more aggressively going after people who enter the US illegally.
Sessions ordered all border district US attorneys to begin making felony cases against individuals who illegally enter the US and have done so two times prior, or have gotten a misdemeanor for doing so once before and have other “aggravating circumstances” like gang convictions. [CNN.com, 4/11/17]
CNN: Sessions Called For Review Of All Justice Department Police Reform Initiatives Meant To Reduce Police Brutality. Sessions ordered what could potentially be “the beginning of the end of” many police department consent decrees in a number of major cities. The consent decrees established with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch ensured the implementation of reform measures meant to address “a pattern of unconstitutional treatment … of black residents” in cities across the U.S. From the April 13 report:
Last week Sessions ordered his deputies to undertake a comprehensive review of all police reform activities, including any existing or contemplated consent decrees, which were binding agreements used in prior administrations to outline and enforce reform measures.
“These are, first and foremost, tasks for state, local and tribal law enforcement. ... It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,” Sessions wrote in a memo -- a federalism-tinged tone that some forecast as the beginning of the end of the department's use of consent decrees.
“I think there is concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department that have done wrong,” Sessions said in January. “These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness, and we need to be careful before we do that.”
A year-long federal investigation uncovered a pattern of unconstitutional treatment of the city's black residents and excessive force used by the Baltimore police department. The city and police had agreed on extensive reform measures with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and the only remaining step was signoff from a federal judge who would oversee the agreement.
Sessions said not so fast, however, and directed his attorneys at DOJ to ask the judge for additional time for the department to review the proposed decree to ensure it aligned with the priorities of the Trump administration on “crime reduction.” [CNN.com, 4/13/17]
NY Times: Trump’s Muslim Ban Faces Another Series Of Lawsuits. After Trump’s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States was halted over concerns that it “violated the U.S. constitution's prohibitions on religious discrimination,” the administration faced multiple related lawsuits. Civil liberties groups said they were filing a series of lawsuits in an “attempt to enforce requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)” that would reveal how many people have been “detained or subjected to additional screening since the first executive order as well as the guidance that was provided to DHS staff about how to enforce the order.” [The New York Times, 4/12/17]
Rewire: Trump Adds Two More Anti-Immigrant Extremists To His Administration. On April 13, Rewire reported that members of two anti-immigrant hate groups, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), had obtained high-level positions in the Department of Homeland Security. From the April 13 report:
The Trump administration has chosen two immigration hard-liners with links to known hate groups for key agency posts, alarming immigrant rights advocates.
Jon Feere, a former analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), has been hired as an adviser to Thomas D. Homan, Acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Julie Kirchner, former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has been hired as an adviser to Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, CNN reports. [Rewire, 4/13/17]