Poli Storm

Hello and welcome to the Top 5 by Sam Jenkins. The Top 5 consists of the top five things happening right now in politics. Be sure to click that like button, leave a comment, or let me know if I’m #FakeNews. Thank you for reading!

1 Big Thing: Tomahawk Missiles

On Friday night, the United States’ military launched targeted missile strikes against the Syrian regime. These missile strikes come in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad employing chemical weapons against his own people last Saturday.

  • These strikes were targeted as they destroyed three chemical weapons sites. They were also limited because the U.S. wanted to avoid Russian forces, who align with President al-Assad’s regime. Because of this, Russia strongly condemned the attack but did not respond with direct military action.
  • On Capitol Hill, the reactions were divided along party lines. Some people applauded the strong use of force, while others questioned the legality and long-term strategy in Syria.
  • President Trump’s administration claimed this was a “one-time strike.” Although, they were prepared for a sustained campaign in Syria. Trump is balancing many factors in this situation, including deterrence of future chemical weapons’ attacks, long-term escalation and an international confrontation with Russia and Iran.

Cohen and Comey

The Russia saga added several new elements this week. On Monday, the FBI raided the home of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, where they searched for evidence relating to many different topics. Additionally, parts of former FBI Director James Comey’s book were released, which offered insight into his relationship with President Trump.

  • Trump, Cohen and their attorneys are attempting to remove certain records gathered from the raid because of attorney-client privilege. However, prosecutors say these records were legally obtained because Cohen is under criminal investigation.
  • Additionally, a new report came out this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen visited Prague to meet with several Russians. This report, which is thoroughly disputed by Trump and Cohen, would prove a specific claim from the Steele dossier and, therefore, possible collusion with Russia.
  • James Comey’s new book will certainly have some interesting allegations. However, Trump and his allies are engaging in a campaign to destroy his credibility and, therefore, the possible implications of his statements.

The Gavel

On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he would retire from Congress at the end of his term. This decision has far-reaching implications:

  • Ryan’s decision signals the GOP’s tough political terrain entering the 2018 Midterm Elections. While the Republicans currently hold a 23-seat majority in the House, 50 Republican-held districts are considered toss-ups.
  • Then as a lame duck, Ryan will wield less influence when fundraising across the country as well as when recruiting candidates to run for office.
  • Finally, the GOP’s messaging strategy is up in the air. On one hand, Ryan campaigned on positivity and inclusivity with issues like economy and taxes. On the other hand, Trump’s campaign style is more negative and divisive as it focuses on cultural issues like immigration.

Zuckerberg Testifies

Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress for two days. This testimony followed the news that Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained the information of 87 million Facebook users.

  • Zuckerberg fielded questions about privacy, political censorship and election meddling.
  • Also, he seemed to understand federal regulations may be on their way as there is political pressure to move legislation forward. However, lawmakers must first decipher how to do so by solving conflicts like data collection, hateful content, transparency and lack of competition.

The Politics of Commencement

I don’t graduate from the University of Florida until the Spring of 2019. But when I do, I expect the commencement address to be shrouded in partisan undertones, politically correct sass and metaphorical jabs. Traditionally, commencement addresses transcended politics. However, over the past couple years, these addresses have been used as a platform to deliver not-so-subtle political messages. For example, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, exclaimed, “Fireball is a nickname that Donald Trump uses on Twitter, not a beverage to be consumed by distinguished college graduates.” Likewise, speaking to Coast Guard graduates, President Trump bemoaned the media, “No politician in history—and I say this with great surety—has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down.” More political commencement addresses are on the horizon this year with interesting characters, such as Hillary Clinton, Rex Tillerson, Rod Rosenstein, Oprah Winfrey and Ben Carson, set to speak.