President Donald Trump devoted much of the online portion of his weekend to attacking NFL player-protesters and boosting calls for a boycott of the league.
This latest round of culture war controversy began in Alabama, where Trump asked supporters on Friday night, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag (by kneeling during the anthem), to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!’”
The crowd responded enthusiastically – and Trump carried the cudgel into the weekend. Now, with the debate escalating, a host of other questions are fading deeper into the background. Here are a few other things Trump could focus on as his flag fight ramps up:
A disaster in Puerto Rico
Millions of people on the island have been without power, cut off from the world – and the aid they desperately need – since Hurricane Maria struck last week. Officials there describe an “apocalyptic” scene. Relief is now beginning to trickle in, but the rebuilding figures to be a years-long process.
Trump last tweeted about Puerto Rico on September 20.
“War” with North Korea?
Trump didn’t only troll the NFL and its protesting players this weekend. On Saturday, he took a shot at North Korea – threatening to annihilate the entire country.
“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N.,” Trump said. “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
On Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho responded by telling reporters in New York that Pyongyang read the tweet as an outright escalation of hostilities.
“In light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operating table of the Supreme leadership of DPRK,” Ri said, according to his official English translator. (Trump would need Congress to officially declare war, although he said at the UN that the US would “totally destroy” North Korea if “forced to defend itself or its allies.”)
Alabama’s Senate race
Polls out of Alabama suggest far-right challenger Roy Moore is in contention to knock off the Trump-backed Sen. Luther Strange in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
The President held a rally for Strange, nominally, in the state on Friday night and has tweeted his support. But Moore, who has the backing of Breitbart and conservative celebrities like Sarah Palin, seems poised to show the limits of Trump’s sway with GOP voters.
The new travel ban
Yup, another one.
With the initial ban expiring, the administration on Sunday announced a new set of guidelines that will impose restrictions on foreigners from eight countries – Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. This round has a more permanent feel, with a senior administration official telling reporters that, unlike in the past, there is no expiration date – this ban will be “conditioned based, not timed based.”
Travel ban arguments, stemming from the initial executive order, were due to be heard in the Supreme Court next month. But in an announcement Monday, the court opened up the possibility of scrapping them.
The latest attempt to repeal the law is looking more and more likely to meet the same fate as its predecessors: failure. Republicans haven’t given up yet – and figure to keep on trying as long as they control Congress – but the Graham-Cassidy legislation is short on support and time. The deadline to move the bill under reconciliation rules, which require only a simple majority, closes on September 30.
Trump has jabbed at GOP senators openly opposing the new bill, which has a 20% approval rating according to a new CBS news poll, but not swung any votes.
DACA in the balance
About three weeks ago, the White House announced that it would phase out DACA, the Obama-era program that shields nearly 800,000 mostly young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Trump has encouraged Congress to use the six-month delay to agree on legislation that would formalize the protections. But after an initial flurry of discussion, and some confused discussion about a deal with Democrats, the process has moved to the back burner.
DACA will officially end in early March of next year.
Jared’s special emails
Politico first revealed over the weekend that Jared Kushner, Trump son-in-law and senior White House adviser, has occasionally used a private email account – created after the election – to talk with other administration officials. His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, says the correspondence has been preserved in accordance with federal law.
Trump has not yet addressed the issue, nor the irony (Trump said he’d lock up Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while in government service) of one of his own top aides using an off-the-grid address.
Tax reform? Tax reform!
“We’re here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crumbling burden on our companies and on our workers,” Trump said. “The foundation of our job creation agenda is to fundamentally reform our tax code for the first time in more than 30 years.”
That was August 30. Nearly a month later, the big push to radically reform the US tax code is pretty much stuck in neutral. On Capitol Hill, the focus remains on Obamacare. The focus inside the White House changes every few days – or hours.
His Cabinet’s posh travel habits
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wanted to, but ultimately did not, use a government jet for his honeymoon. He and new wife, Louise Linton, did subsequently hire one for a visit to Kentucky in August. Ethics watchdogs have suggested Mnuchin took the trip – which included a tour of Fort Knox, where he was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – to get a better view of the summer solar eclipse.
Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s use of expensive, taxpayer-funded private jets to conduct government business is now on hold. The inspector general of Price’s HHS is looking into whether the chartered flights defied any federal regulations.
State voting system targeted by hackers
Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin – along with 16 other states – have been told by federal officials that their voting systems were targeted by hackers ahead of the 2016 election, The Associated Press reported on Friday. Whether or not any of the attempts succeeded is unclear, but state officials are upset they weren’t notified earlier.
Trump, rarely shy about his concerns over alleged voting fraud and the like, has not commented publicly.
Facebook and the Russians
So just how pervasive were Russian-sponsored political ads on Facebook during the 2016 campaign? Special counsel Robert Mueller seems to have taken an interest. And what does it mean going forward – are foreign powers going to routinely electioneer via heavily used social media platforms? Congress is investigating both questions and Facebook is facing a public relations crisis – and with it a groundswell of support for new regulations.
Rise of the German right
The German election on Sunday all but guaranteed another term for Chancellor Angela Merkel. But the balance of power in the country could be shifting, as the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, Alternative for Germany (AfD) scored just over 13% – making it the first far-right party in nearly six decades to claim seats in Germany’s parliament.
Now the party is saying it is poised to “take back our country and our people.”
Trump is saying… nothing, so far.
About the opioid epidemic
It continues. But the promise of a federal blitz to stop it hasn’t materialized. In early August, Trump said: “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency.”
Still, the White House has yet to formally declare one – a meaningful distinction that would free up new resources for state and federal agencies.
Why athletes are actually protesting
Which brings us back to the start. Trump on Sunday said his attacks on NFL and NBA players have “nothing to do with race.” True or not, it ignores the fact that the protests are – quite openly – about racial inequality and police brutality. If Trump has any actual desire to confront the issue head-on, then there lies another item for a growing to-do list.