Politics Roundup: From Comey’s Book To Syria Strikes

With the Syria strikes over, President Trump is furiously tweeting about James Comey’s new book. NPR’s Michel Martin and the Washington Post‘s Robert Costa consider the state of the Trump presidency.


The military strikes against Syrian targets are over, but President Trump remains in fighting mode, so we’ll start the program there. The president was particularly active on Twitter today. He defended his use of the phrase mission accomplished to describe the weekend missile strikes. But many more of his tweets were dedicated to aggressive personal attacks on former FBI Director James Comey and Comey’s new book, which will be available to the public starting this week. We wanted to know more about this, so we called Robert Costa, national political reporter at The Washington Post.

Robert, welcome. Thanks for coming over.

ROBERT COSTA: Great to be with you.

MARTIN: Well, the big news this weekend was the U.S.-led strikes on Syria. What do those airstrikes tell us about how the president’s national security team is working and how this policy was developed?

COSTA: You said fighting mode. And know who else is in fighting mode is Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader. He’s reportedly in a good mood today because of the limitations of the strike. And that limitation and the scope of the strike was really a debate inside of the administration. The defense secretary, Jim Mattis, was wary of having an extensive attack that could maybe become a proxy war against Russia. But you had John Bolton, the new national security adviser and the president having an aggressive posture.

MARTIN: So let’s talk about the other aspect of this story, which is the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said today that new sanctions are going to be announced tomorrow against Russia because of Russia’s support for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Now, this is, you know, noteworthy, in part, because this president is seen as highly desirous of a closer relationship with Russia, particularly its president, Vladimir Putin. So how do you understand this move? And how do we understand this administration’s evolving Russia policy?

COSTA: It’s evolving, and its often contradictory because you look at this president – over the past year, we’ve so often covered him being friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, with Ambassador Haley at the U.N., with other members of this administration, you have this more hawkish line when it…

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