The Trump Administration’s mixed messages on Syria are leaving even many in the White House confused about where the president stands just days after he ordered a cruise missile strike to respond to a chemical weapons attack. Some of the unanswered questions: How far is the administration willing to go to protect Syrian civilians from Bashar al-Assad’s regime? Does Assad need to leave power and when? And how will the administration approach Assad’s backer, Russia? White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer added to the confusion Monday, particularly on the first question, when he suggested that the use of barrel bombs would cross a red line for the president. The murderous weapons have become routine in Syria, which made Spicer’s comments all the more suggestive of an increase in U.S. involvement. Meanwhile, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reading off different playbooks on Assad, with the former suggesting a more aggressive timetable for his removal from power. And Tillerson is set to visit Moscow this week, as so many key issues weigh on the bilateral relationship.
Republicans are increasingly worried about two congressional special elections—one in Georgia, the other in Kansas—where Democrats are running unexpectedly well against weaker GOP fields in what they hope will be referenda on Trump. Both districts voted heavily in Trump’s favor, but Democrats are hoping that better recruitment and a surge in anti-Trump sentiment and enthusiasm will provide them a sorely-needed jolt as the moribund party looks to reset after its 2016 disaster. The GOP isn’t going easy, with the party and outside groups dumping more money to take down the Democrats, and in Kansas, Trump cutting an ad to boost the GOP contender.
Alabama’s GOP governor resigns in the fall-out of a sex scandal. Texas’ voter ID law is tossed out. And the White House celebrates Passover.
Here are your must reads:
Spicer Seeks to Clarify ‘Barrel Bomb’ Remarks on Syria
‘Barrel bomb’ comment needs a walk-back [NBC]
Allies Have Big Questions Over America’s Hazy Syria Policy
Mixed messages leave everyone guessing [Associated Press]
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change Has Surprising New Supporters
A challenge for Trump’s jobs promise [TIME]
Fight Looms Over Planned Rollback of Net-Neutrality Rules
Consumer groups and many congressional Democrats regard the rules as essential for ensuring continued competition on the internet [Wall Street Journal]
Trump Administration Halts Reports on Immigration Cooperation
After local governments question data [New York Times]
Why Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Could Wind Up in a Ditch
His hopes for a ‘very bipartisan’ bill are running into the same kinds of political forces that torpedoed the Obamacare repeal. [Politico]
“If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb into innocent people, I think you will see a response from this president.” — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a since-retracted statement Monday
“He’s very confident in the team that he has, that they have an unbelievable amount of knowledge, and he believes the counsel that they all bring to the table.” – Spicer dismissing reports of White House drama as “overblown” Monday
Bits and Bites
Judge Finds Texas Voter ID Law Was Made to Stop Minorities From Voting [Associated Press]
Trump’s Company Settles Lawsuit With a Second Celebrity Chef [New York Times]