Week 5, in one sentence: Donald Trump held a rally in Florida, where he declared the press his enemy— again; alluded to a terror attack in Sweden that never happened, based on a Fox News segment; appointed a new national security adviser after Michael Flynn resigned last week; saw his EPA chief under fire after newly released emails detailed his more-than-cozy relationship with the fossil fuel industry; finally condemned a growing surge of anti-Semitism in the U.S.; tweeted that “so-called angry crowds” at Republican town halls were “planned by liberal activists”; revoked Obama-era guidance on protections for transgender students; delayed a new immigration ban until next week; and defended his First Amendment right to bash the press at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).
Behind enemy lies
Day 30 — Feb. 18: Trump kicked off his bid for reelection in 2020 with a rally in Melbourne, Florida, where he called the crowd his “friends” and framed the press as his enemy.
“They’re part of the corrupt system,” Trump said. “When the media lies to the people, I will never ever let them get away with it.”
During the same rally, Trump vaguely alluded to a terror attack in Sweden that didn’t happen. “We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Trump said. “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.”
Trump’s time in Florida also marked the third trip since inauguration to his luxury resort Mar-a-Lago, where he exposed national security secrets to diners at the private club just last week. Trump’s favoring of Mar-a-Lago over Camp David for government business — in addition to his family’s travel habits, often for business related to the Trump Organization — is costing taxpayers a fortune.
That time when nothing happened in Sweden
Day 31 — Feb. 19: The president tried to clarify his comments about Sweden by tweeting that they were a reference to a Fox News story he’d seen — most likely one featuring a clip from a documentary about alleged violence committed by refugees in the country.
The Department of Homeland Security drafted two new memos that signal increased deportation efforts against undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Fringe conspiracy theorist Alex Jones told the New York Times that he sometimes speaks to Trump on the phone. Jones repeatedly pushes bizarre theories proven to be false, such as calling the 2014 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which killed 26 people, a “false flag” that didn’t happen.
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also doubled down on Trump’s statement that the news media are the enemy of the American people.
National security adviser: Round 2
Day 32 — Feb. 20: Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his next national security adviser. Michael Flynn resigned from the job last week after admitting he misled Vice President Mike Pence and discussed sanctions with Russia before Trump took office.
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Big Oil and Scott Pruitt, sitting in a tree
Day 33 — Feb. 21: The Oklahoma attorney general’s office released more than 7,500 emails and other records that detailed a close relationship between Trump’s EPA chief Scott Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general, and the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt routinely collaborated with oil and gas companies, even allowing one of them to edit his emails. The Senate confirmed Pruitt as the EPA chief last week despite efforts by Democrats to stall the approval until the emails were released.
Trump finally addressed a growing wave of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. Eleven Jewish community centers received bomb threats the day before, and a historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated the previous weekend. Trump called the events “a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
The New York Times also reported Tuesday that the Trump administration’s move to reduce two key advisers’ role on the National Security Council was essentially the result of an editing mistake.
Trump rescinds transgender protections
Day 34 — Feb. 22: Trump’s administration rescinded Obama’s guidance to schools that transgender students’ bathroom choices were protected under Title IX. The decision was immediately met by harsh criticism from lawmakers, educators, and LGBTQ advocates. Trump had pledged to protect American LGBTQ citizens during his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July.
The White House said it would briefly postpone issuing a new immigration order meant to replace Trump’s controversial executive order that has been blocked by federal courts. The new executive order is scheduled to drop sometime next week.
Voter anger boiled over at yet another Republican town hall. Constituents booed and interrupted Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, chanting “Do your job!” and “Tax returns!” Many Republicans are skipping town halls this month to avoid made-for-TV confrontations in the Trump era. In a tweet addressing the recent conflicts at Republican town halls, Trump said the “so-called angry crowds” are “planned out by liberal activists.”
Making private prisons great again
Day 35 — Feb. 23: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he intends to undo an Obama-era decision to phase out federal use of private prisons, helping prison stocks continue their meteoric rise since Trump’s election.
A number of top Trump administration officials, including Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.
Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and one of the president’s most controversial appointees, made a rare public speaking appearance. At CPAC, he railed against media coverage of Trump.
“It’s going to get worse every day for the media,” Bannon said.
The intelligence war continues
Day 36 — Feb. 24: The president woke up Friday and took a shot at the FBI, tweeting that the intelligence agency is “totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government.”
As with many of Trump’s early-morning tweets, it came on the heels of a CNN report he probably didn’t like. The report claimed the FBI had knocked back a White House request to publicly refute reports in the media that the agency was investigating communications that took place between Trump’s associates and Russia during the 2016 election campaign.
Trump also gave a vigorous defense of his First Amendment right to bash the “fake news media” in a speech at to CPAC.