Trump challenges North Korea and is challenged to release his tax returns.

This Week in Trump: Death, Taxes, and North Korea

This Week in Trump: Death, Taxes, and North Korea

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April 20 2017 5:12 PM

This Week in Trump: Challenging the DPRK

Trump confronts a thorny foreign policy issue and more protests at home.

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People participate in the Tax Mach on Saturday in New York City.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

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North Korea Switch

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Barack Obama had warned Donald Trump that North Korea should be his top national security priority, and over the past week the president seemed to suggest his administration was still coming up with a policy to deal with Pyongyang. First there was a lot of saber-rattling, leading some to wonder whether the U.S. could be headed to war with North Korea.

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When North Korea’s missile test fizzled out humiliatingly, the administration changed its tune. Top defense officials and Vice President Mike Pence all emphasized that negotiations and diplomacy were the priorities.

This week it also became clear that some of the president’s anti-Pyongyang bluster was based on false information. Although Trump had said that he was “sending an armada” to North Korea, the aircraft carrier in question was actually 3,500 miles away.

Show the Returns

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered across the country on Saturday—tax day—to demand Trump release his tax returns. More than 150 rallies and marches were planned across the country to counter Trump’s claims that no one cares about his taxes except the media.

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The tax day marches were peaceful but in Berkeley, California, Trump supporters and opponents clashed at a counter-demonstration intended to show support for the commander in chief. More than a dozen were detained.

While the world worried about North Korea, Trump made clear that the rallies got to him, taking to Twitter to wonder who had paid the protesters and declaring that “the election is over!” Despite Trump’s efforts to paint the insistence that he release his tax returns as a fringe issue, a January poll found a clear majority of Americans agree he should release the documents.

Also This Week

  • Trump ordered the “mother of all bombs” be dropped on an ISIS complex in Afghanistan (Fox News celebrated with country music).
  • Trump signed a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order on Tuesday, in what could be the first step toward a wholesale reform of the H-1B visa program that allows non-U.S. workers to get jobs in the country.
  • New data reveal the deportations of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children have increased sharply under Trump.
  • The Trump administration said the White House will no longer reveal its visitor logs, breaking with a practice instituted by Barack Obama.
  • Although top aides had been downplaying the possibility of a quick tax reform, the president said on Tuesday that “we’re in very good shape on tax reform” and “we’re going to be announcing it very soon.”
  • The commander in chief called to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in a referendum that many fear will solidify his government’s autocratic rule.
  • The president raised a record $106.7 million for his inauguration, with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson contributing $5 million.
  • Trump’s advisers are urging him to stick with the global Paris climate agreement.
  • Dubai-based airline Emirates said it will cut back on flights to the United States next month due to weaker demand after new security rules targeting travelers from the Middle East were put into place.
  • The White House announced Trump is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in May.
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What to Read

Sarah Ellison’s inside look at the civil war inside the White House is filled with anonymous dish:

Governing requires saying no to one’s strongest supporters and yes to one’s fiercest opponents. To have that presence of mind requires a clear and unified vision from the president. “Without an ideology or a worldview, all you have is a scramble for self-preservation and self-aggrandizement,” a former West Wing aide told me.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been behind the effort to diminish Steve Bannon’s influence, reports the New York Times:

More openly than any president before him, Mr. Trump is running his West Wing like a family business, and as he has soured on Mr. Bannon, his combative chief strategist, he has turned to his daughter and son-in-law. Their ascendance has some conservative supporters fretting about the rising influence of the urbane young New Yorkers, as some moderates and liberals swallow concerns about nepotism in the hope that the couple will temper the temperamental president.
Still, for all the talk of a velvet coup against Mr. Bannon, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have achieved few concrete victories. And several administration officials and people close to the family said the couple’s move against Mr. Bannon was motivated less by interest in shaping any particular policy than by addressing what they view as an embarrassing string of failures that may damage her father personally, as well as the Trump family brand.
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Don’t believe Trump when he says he has already expanded the military, warns Slate’s Fred Kaplan:

Whatever Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis decide to do with their maiden military budget, it will take years—probably as long as Trump’s first term—before they make a dent on the military’s size, shape, and strength. The money that the Defense Department is now spending on weapons procurement, research and development, personnel, operations, maintenance, and so forth all stems from budgets approved during Barack Obama’s years as president—which saw the highest defense budgets since the peak of Ronald Reagan’s Cold War buildup.

This Week in @realDonaldTrump

The president was an optimist on Twitter this past week, expressing confidence that relations with Russia “will work out fine” and that China will “properly deal with North Korea.” Trump also recommended a book (albeit a novelty book without any words) and, yet again, criticized the media—although he specified the attack was against the “Fake Media (not Real Media).”

The commander in chief also celebrated reports that his approval rating has increased, and he repeatedly commented on Georgia’s special election and later claimed credit for the result.

Last Take

Trump’s first White House Easter egg roll was full of memorable moments—Jeff Sessions reading a story to kids, anyone?—but one moment took the cake. When it was time for the national anthem, first lady Melania Trump very clearly nudged her husband to remind him to put his hand over his heart. The moment was turned into a GIF that quickly spread on social media.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.