This week in Trump’s presidency brings up a stock of new issues with WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of documents detailing the C.I.A.’s hacking operations and techniques. According to The New York Times, “There is no evidence that the C.I.A. hacking tools have been used against Americans,” but WikiLeaks affirm that both Apple and Android smartphones have been compromised. According to WikiLeaks, their source’s agenda was to begin a public debate on “whether [or not] the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers,” but an argument has been made that the source was instead an outside power that took the documents and gave them to WikiLeaks in order to either weaken national security or to release the code to foreign hackers. The F.B.I. and C.I.A. have opened up a criminal investigation into the leak’s origins, and some officials told CNN “that the documents published so far are largely genuine.”
In other news, President Trump has continued to accuse former President Barack Obama of wiretapping phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. After tweeting Saturday “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump asked for an investigation into his allegations as he continued to tweet inflammatory accusations about the Obama administration, about which Mr. Obama has remained quiet. A presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, told The Wall Street Journal that the fact that “a sitting president would charge his predecessor with a felony…creates a feeling of instability in the United States.” Since then, the Department of Justice has not submitted any hard evidence to President Trump’s claim for the House Intelligence Committee to review. Rather, they have requested and received an extension for the deadline on a date before the hearing on Russian involvement in the U.S. election on March 20th. Sunday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told CNN that “The president has one of two choices, either retract or provide the information that the American people deserve…I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute,” and that following Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to clarify that President Trump was neither being literal or specific in his accusations. Read more
Last weekend finds Trump’s administration facing fierce criticism as its first full month in office draws to a close. Trump’s policies on immigration come under fire while he continues to deny allegations of Russian involvement in the election.
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported events that transpired on Wednesday at Houston International Airport when Henry Rousso, “an Egyptian-born French citizen” and a leading Holocaust scholar was detained and almost deported. It was thanks to the quick actions of Texas A&M University that the situation was diffused. Richard Golsan, director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M, explained that “Rousso was ‘mistakenly detained’ by U.S. immigration authorities” in an article in The Washington Post.” Rousso tweeted “the officer who arrested me was ‘inexperienced.’” Issues with Rousso’s treatment are further compounded by the fact that France is “a beneficiary of the U.S. visa waiver program, which permits French citizens to enter the United States without a visa,” as well as the fact that Egypt was never included in the seven countries in the travel ban. Rousso’s lecture was on the Vichy Regime in unoccupied France in WWII and its collaboration with Nazi Germany, where tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps. The irony was not lost on fellow historians, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of Italian history with New York University, called out the irony in her tweet, calling “his work on cost of forgetting past (Vichy) so relevant.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat also drew a parallel between Donald Trump and Mussolini’s authoritarian traits in this article from The New Yorker. Read more
As Day 34 under Trump’s administration comes to a tumultuous close, the focus is on strong reactions to anti-immigration and anti-minority policies. Our day starts with the removal of Shepard Fairey’s “We the People” poster series from a Maryland high school. Fairey is known most for his work on the “Hope” posters that became iconic for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign back in 2008. The pictures, depicting women of color framed by the caption “We the People,” intend to convey the idea that “equality, respect, and religious freedom are unassailable American values and non-partisan.” The school administration asked teachers to take down the posters because “they perceived them as ‘political’ and ‘anti-Trump’”, according to the Huffington Post. Fairey felt “very disturb[ed] that someone could find those ideas specifically, and by extension inclusion in general, to be partisan or problematic.” In response, the students have organized a day to wear shirts with the designs printed on them and stand in solidarity with those who feel marginalized by the school’s actions and Trump’s administration. Read more
As Day 32 of Trump’s administration draws to a close, the American people find the position of national security adviser filled by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. After the fiasco earlier last week that led to the resignation of Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, President Trump was quick to fill the role with another high-ranking military official. He even gave his impressive Twitter following a play-by-play of his day, tweeting: “Meeting with Generals at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Very interesting!”
Although both are generals in the United States military, the two men could not differ more in their approaches to certain key issues of U.S. national security, in particular their attitudes on engagement with Russia. Flynn created suspicion when he failed to inform Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had secretly held with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., which led to his very public dismissal. McMaster, on the other hand, is known for his skeptical stance towards engaging Russia, developed during his time as director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center.
“He is a man of tremendous talent and experience,” President Trump said, announcing McMaster’s appointment earlier today. McMaster, who has been referred to in the media as a “warrior-scholar,”, is an experienced pick in terms of national security. Judging from his earlier experience in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as his fierce public criticism of the government’s handling of Vietnam in his book, Dereliction of Duty (1997), it seems McMaster may finally be able to bring order to a National Security Council that has reportedly been “rattled and demoralized” by recent events, according to The New York Times.