TrumpWatch Daily Update; Week 13, Tuesday
Last week, Defense Secretary Mattis and President Trump both said that an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, was being deployed to the Western Pacific as a deterrent to future North Korean missile tests and pursuit of nuclear weaponry. However, instead of steaming toward the Korea Peninsula, the carrier strike group that includes the Carl Vinson and its escort of two guided-missile destroyers and a cruiser, was actually headed in the opposite direction to take part in “scheduled exercises with Australian forces in the Indian Ocean.” On the day that many people were watching the North Korean military parade and worrying about the preemptive US strike, the Carl Vinson was actually some 3,000 miles away. South Koreans newspapers are now reporting that the Carl Vinson is heading their way now, with an expected arrival of April 25 when “the strike group will join the South Korean Navy in a massive maritime drill designed to counter provocation from the North.”

President Trump called Turkish President Erdogan late Monday to offer his congratulations on the passage of a referendum that grants widespread new powers to the president. The results of the vote are disputed, many critics believe it represents the cementing of Erdogan's authoritarian rule, and the State Department issued an earlier, very lukewarm statement about the vote that emphasized the need for the Turkish government to respect the human rights of its citizens. Nonetheless, Trump became the first Western leader to congratulate Erdogan on the result of the vote. 

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly today took on critics of his agency, which has been dealing with the fallout from President Trump’s travel ban attempts. Kelly said that “If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws. Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.’’

Democrats are rallying around the idea of making Trump’s unreleased tax returns a stumbling block to his plans for tax reform, pledging not to cooperate until they know how changes to the tax code will benefit Trump himself. In addition to the Democrats, more than a dozen Republicans are now saying that Trump should release his taxes. Trump’s tax reform could be the next high profile loss for an administration that has accomplished very little in its first 100 days. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin admitted that the administration’s goal of getting a tax plan signed by August was “not realistic at this point.”

Trump signed an executive order in Wisconsin today that directs federal agencies to implement the "Buy American, Hire American" rhetoric of his campaign. The "buy American" portion of the order directs agencies to conduct a "top-to-bottom performance review" of the use of waivers and calls for stricter enforcement laws pertaining to the purchase of US-made goods by the federal government and the use of US-made iron and steel in projects supported by federal funds. On the "hire American" front, the executive order directs federal agencies to more strictly enforce H1-B visa laws and propose reforms to the program to prevent fraud and abuse and ensure visas are awarded to the most-skilled applicants. It isn’t immediately clear that anything in this order would impact Trump’s own businesses, which were frequently targeted over the course of the campaign for neither using American workers nor American products.

First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s new role as a White House adviser creates a whole new exciting set of conflicts of interest. Most recently, China approved three new trademarks for her brand on the very day she met China’s president. Japan also approved multiple Ivanka Trump trademarks in February. And trademark applications in her name are awaiting decisions in 10 more countries at the moment. It isn’t at all clear that anything is being done to work through the ethical issues raised by these unprecedented Trump conflicts of interest. When asked for comment by the New York Times, the White House referred reporters to the Trump Organization, which did not comment.

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