Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. US, UK, and France Bomb Syria Over “Suspected” Chemical Weapons Attack
The US and several of its allies launched airstrikes on April 13 against several Syrian military targets in response to a supposed chemical attack near Damascus ordered last week by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed nearly 40 people. The UK and France joined the US in the strikes in an action that was meant to show Western resolve in the face of what the Trump Administration called persistent violations of international law by the Assad Regime since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. “These are not the actions of a man, they are crimes of a monster instead,” President Trump said of Assad’s presumed chemical attack in an oval office address.
The operations carried out by the US, UK, and France in Syria were somewhat limited than originally anticipated. The main target in the operation was the Barzah Research and Development Center, a scientific research center located outside of Damascus. The facility was hit with 76 missiles, utterly destroying the facility and setting back the Syrian chemical weapons program back at least several years according to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The other two targets were part of the Him Shinshar chemical weapons complex, located outside the city of Homs. The strikes completely destroyed the facility and the installations chemical weapons bunker was irreparably damaged. Overall, most military strategists and commentators feel that the operations in Syria were successful and achieved their goals in weakening the Assad Regime.
The international reaction to the US strike in Syria was mixed overall. Several US allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Israel applauded the strike and pledged to expand their support for regime change in Syria. On the other hand, Russia, Iran, China, as well as several socio-political organizations active in the Middle East such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthi Movement forcefully condemned the strikes. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the strikes were a violation of international law and viewed them as a direct threat to Russian interests in the Middle East. Additionally, the Russian government warned of “dire consequences” for the US, sparking fears of an open conflict between the US and Russia.
2. House Speaker Paul Ryan Announced Retirement, Indicating Tough Road for Republican Party in Midterm Elections
On April 11, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stunned the political world, as well as the Republican Party leadership, by announcing that he will not run for re-election for a tenth term in Congress and will step down as House Speaker after the midterm elections. In delivering the news to the press, Ryan said that among his proudest moments in Congress, the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Trump Tax Cuts”) and the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), are the ones that stand out the most. The retirement of Ryan from Congress creates an opening for the Republican Congressional leadership. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is likely to run for House Republican Leader but is expected to experience a strong challenge from Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), a known supporter of white supremacist activist and Trump supporter David Duke.
Even though Paul Ryan framed his retirement from Congress as a personal decision related to his family, the retirement creates another open House seat for the GOP to defend in a midterm election that is expected to be difficult for the Republican Party. Additionally, Ryan’s retirement serves as a vote of non-confidence for the Republican Party going into the midterm elections. Even though Ryan’s seat was previously considered to be “safe Republican as long as he was running for re-election, the seat is now considered to be one of many likely Democratic pick-ups in the midterm election. Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers are the two Democratic candidates who have announced their interest in the seat, whereas white nationalist activist Paul Nehlen is the most likely Republican nominee for the seat. Most polling shows Randy Bryce leading the Democratic primary and that the general election at this point is his to lose.
3. President Trump promises GOP lawmaker to Protect the Rights of States That Have Already Legalized Marijuana Usage
President Donald Trump has promised to support legislation protecting the marijuana industry in states that have legalized the drug, a move that could lift a threat to the industry made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions back in January. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), a strong supporter of efforts at the state level to legalize marijuana, said on April 13 that Trump made the pledge to him in a conversation two days earlier. This action marked the latest flip by President Trump on the issue of marijuana legalization. Trump pledged on the campaign trail to respect the rights of states and localities that legalized marijuana, but hinted as President that he would support expanding the death penalty to cover individuals who both deal marijuana as well as use the substance. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Gardner’s account was accurate and the president supported states’ rights in the matter.
Senator Cory Gardner has been pushing to reverse a decision made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January that removed prohibitions that kept federal prosecutors from pursuing cases against people who were following pot laws in states such as Colorado that have legalized the drug. “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all,” Gahttps://twitter.com/RonWyden/status/984903124904284160rdner said in a statement to the press. Additionally, Gardner pledged to introduce bipartisan legislation keeping the federal government from interfering in state marijuana markets.
The reaction to the change in the Trump Administration’s marijuana policy has been met with much public support by even some of the President’s most persistent critics. “We may now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mason Tvert, who spearheaded the 2012 proposal legalizing marijuana in Colorado. “This is one more step toward ending the irrational policy of marijuana prohibition, not only in Colorado but throughout the country.” Additionally, former House Speaker John Boehner announced that he was switching his position on marijuana legalization in response to the change in policy by the Trump Administration and would now lobby on behalf of the legal marijuana industry. On the other hand, several other supporters of legalization were wary given the president’s record of reversing positions and pledges of legislative support. “This cannot be another episode of realDonaldTrump telling somebody whatever they want to hear, only to change directions later on,” wrote Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in a twitter post.