North Korea, Dreamers, Irma . . . a week in Trump’s world
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma took attention from a stormy week in the White House
US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer makes a point to president Donald Trump in the Oval Office prior to Trump’s departure for North Dakota to deliver a speech on tax reform. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
As Americans cleaned up after Hurricane Harvey and braced for Hurricane Irma, another dramatic week in Washington – the first week of Congress after the August recess – went almost overlooked. This is how it played out:
It’s Labor Day in the United States, the public holiday that traditionally marks the end of summer. A special meeting of the UN General Assembly is convened on North Korea, a day after defence secretary James Mattis warned that any threat from North Korea would be met with “a massive military response”. US ambassador Nikki Haley accuses North Korea of “begging for war” during the meeting, though she strikes a less belligerent tone than Mattis, calling for further sanctions.
Donald Trump announces the abolition of the so-called Dreamers programme, introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama. An estimated 800,000 people who were brought to America illegally by their parents as children, and who have legal protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), now face the threat of deportation.
Trump gives Congress six months to pass a replacement Bill before the scheme is phased out. Protests take place across the country and senior business leaders criticise the move, but attorney general Jeff Sessions says the programme has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs”.
In a rare public intervention, Barack Obama criticises his successor’s decision to rescind the programme. “To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong,” he writes in a Facebook post. “It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.”
Trump blindsides his party during a meeting with top Democrats and Republicans in the White House when he unexpectedly sides with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi by agreeing to tie hurricane relief money to extending the debt limit by three months.
Republicans had wanted to push out the debt ceiling by 18 months, until after the mid-term elections. Some at the meeting are reportedly annoyed when Ivanka Trump drops by to say hello.
Trump also appears to backtrack on his move to abolish the Dreamers programme, tweeting: “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”
The president then flies to North Dakota where he delivers a speech at an oil refinery on tax reform, one of many he is scheduled to give around the country in the coming weeks and months as he tries to rally his base behind the need to reform the tax code – the White House’s key priority this term.
Trump’s newfound love for the Democrats continues as he reportedly calls both Schumer and Pelosi on Thursday morning to rave about the positive media coverage the extension of the debt ceiling attracted.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate votes to keep the government funded until December and provide $15 billion in hurricane relief. As concern grows about Hurricane Irma, Trump declares a state of emergency for South Carolina, which may be hit by the storm.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump jnr is questioned by the senate judiciary committee in private on Capitol Hill, over a meeting with Russian individuals he attended in Trump Tower in June 2016. The president’s eldest son tells the committee during five hours of questioning that he attended the meeting to find out information about Hillary Clinton and her “fitness” for office, but the meeting came to nothing.
The focus turns to Florida as the National Hurricane Center warns that Hurricane Irma, which has battered through the Caribbean, is likely to make landfall in Florida as a “dangerous major hurricane”.
Miami and the Florida Keys are expected to be worst hit and hundreds of thousands of people leave the area. The president is briefed by officials on the latest storm relief efforts in the White House. Other engagements include his first meeting with the new Irish ambassador to the United States, Dan Mulhall.
On Friday afternoon Trump and his wife Melania depart the White House for Camp David, where they will be joined by members of the cabinet and their partners for the weekend.