Even with Congress on break, there was a lot of news this week. From the expulsion of Russian diplomats to a citizenship question on the 2020 census, here are five of the biggest stories in American politics this week, in a nutshell. (And some additional links if you want to read further.)
The 2020 census will ask respondents if they are American citizens. At least a dozen states said they will sue the Trump administration to block the change.
The Commerce Department announced on Monday that a question about American citizenship will be added to the 2020 census, a politically charged request from the Trump administration that many officials feared would result in a substantial undercount and faulty data.
Critics of the change argue that amid a divisive national debate on immigration, many immigrants would be reluctant to return their census questionnaires, resulting in an undercount.
At least a dozen states signaled Tuesday that they would sue the administration to block the change to the census, arguing that the change would violate the Constitution. Census data is important not just for redrawing political boundaries, but also for allocating billions of dollars of federal funding to the states.
We learned more about the special counsel’s investigation, and that President Trump’s lawyer had floated the prospect of pardons.
A court document filed by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, said a top Trump campaign aide had repeated phone calls with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. While Mr. Mueller did not identify the business associate with whom Rick Gates, the campaign official, spoke, the document released Tuesday stated that the communications were “pertinent to the investigation.”
The Times reported on Wednesday that a lawyer for Mr. Trump broached the idea of the president pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers, as the special counsel was building cases against the two men. The discussions suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel in exchange for leniency.
The U.S. and its Western allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Russia responded in kind.
Mr. Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States this week, the toughest action he has taken against the Kremlin. The order includes 12 people identified as Russian intelligence officers, and closes the Russian consulate in Seattle.
The move was part of a coordinated retaliation among over two dozen countries worldwide in response to Russia’s alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
The Kremlin responded Thursday, expelling 60 American diplomats, ordering the closing of the American consulate in St. Petersburg and warning that it plans to expel an unspecified number of diplomats from other countries.
More upheaval in the administration: Mr. Trump picked a new Veterans Affairs secretary (the White House doctor) and Hope Hicks officially left.
After weeks of uncertainty, David J. Shulkin was dismissed as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. In a Twitter post, President Trump named the White House physician, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, as his choice to lead the federal government’s second largest department.
Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and Mr. Trump’s most trusted aide, formally left the White House on Thursday. It remains unclear who can and will replace her.
From the Opinion Pages:
Mr. Trump secured the first major trade deal of his administration — and then said he might delay it.
Mr. Trump secured a trade deal with South Korea this week, opening the South’s automobile market to American cars in the first significant trade deal of his administration. But during a rally Thursday, he suggested he might delay finalizing it.
While the deal represents the kind of one-on-one trade agreement Mr. Trump has pledged, it may have more to do with the upcoming geopolitical challenges involving nuclear discussions with North Korea. The trade pact, which had stalled amid disagreements this year, comes at a time when the United States needs South Korea as an ally.