Sep 2, 2017 - Politics & Policy

August in Trumpland

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

August is normally a quiet month for Washington. Congress in recess, business is more relaxed, and even the president finds time for a vacation. But this year, the historically uneventful month turned out to be surprisingly notable. Here's what went down:

North Korea "fire and fury"

  • Reports surfaced on Aug. 8 that North Korea had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could fit inside its missiles, putting Pyongyang on the path to full nuclear capability.
  • Trump later warned North Korea not to threaten the U.S., or else face "fire and fury like the world has never seen." Pyongyang responded by announcing potential plans to strike Guam.
  • North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in history on Aug. 28. The White House responded by stating "all options are on the table." Trump later tweeted, "Talking is not the answer!"

Charlottesville's "many sides"

Bye Bye Bannon

  • On Aug. 18 it was announced that Steve Bannon would be leaving the WH. Bannon said he resigned, but a WH official told Axios that "Steve was made aware he was going to be asked to leave."
  • Later that day Bannon was already back at Breitbart, where he's currently serving as Executive Chairman.

Gorka's WH exit

  • Sebastian Gorka, Trump's deputy assistant known for his fiery TV appearances, submitted a resignation letter stating that he felt the globalists were becoming ascendant in the WH.
  • An official WH email was later blasted to reporters, stating: "Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House."

Military transgender ban

  • Trump finalized his ban on transgender military recruits on Aug. 25, and said the Pentagon should decide what to do about currently serving transgender troops.

Arpaio pardon

  • When Hurricane Harvey began pummeling the Texas Coast on Aug. 25, Trump pardoned ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been found guilty of criminal contempt for disobeying a judge's order to stop profiling suspected undocumented immigrants.

DACA uncertainty

NAFTA renegotiations

  • Trump at a rally in Arizona: "We will renegotiate NAFTA or we will terminate NAFTA."
  • On Aug. 27, Trump tweeted "We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?"
  • Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied by stating "Mexico will not negotiate NAFTA... through social media or any other news platform."

Border wall or bust

  • Trump said on Aug. 23 that "we're building that wall," even if it means the government will shut down as a result.
  • A few days later, Trump tweeted that Mexico is "one of the highest crime Nations in the world" and stated that the U.S. "must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other."
  • "Our country will not pay, under any circumstances, for a wall," Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response.


  • On Aug. 21, Trump, who once supported full withdrawal from Afghanistan, laid out his plan to continue the war.
  • He announced a shift to a conditions-based strategy, taking a harder line on Pakistan, and reducing the restrictions on troops.

Hurricane Harvey

Tax reform

  • With the end of the fiscal year rapidly approaching (Sept. 30) the administration shifted its focus to tax reform.
  • Sources told Axios that the working plan is expected to come from the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • Trump delivered a speech on tax reform in Missouri on Aug. 30, which Jonathan Swan described as light on substance and heavy on populism.
  • During the speech, Trump reiterated his call to bring the corporate tax rate down to 15%, and told Congress they "better get this job done."
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