Trump seeks momentum after Syria strike, Supreme Court win

Trump seeks momentum after Syria strike, Supreme Court win
© Greg Nash

The White House is seeking to parlay a successful Supreme Court nomination and military strike against Syria into some badly needed momentum for President Trump. 

Trump won some of his best press coverage in office for last week’s missile strike against Syria and Neil Gorsuch's confirmation as a justice.

While questions remain about Trump’s overall strategy in Syria, criticism from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerYouth organizations call on Biden to ensure 'bold' climate investments New York Times calls on Cuomo to resign 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium MORE (N.Y.) and other Democrats has been muted. 

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Gorsuch's success, meanwhile, have given Trump the kind of legacy-burnishing accomplishment any Republican president would covet: saving the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat for conservatives. 

Trump talked up the accomplishment Monday during the swearing-in ceremony for Gorsuch at the White House. 

“I've always heard that the most important thing that a president of the United States does is appoint people — hopefully great people like this appointment — to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.

“And I got it done in the first 100 days — that's even nice. You think that's easy?”

The question now is whether Trump and the White House can build on the positive news.

The president found himself at a similar juncture six weeks ago when he delivered a well-received joint address to Congress. 

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But that momentum was quickly halted by a report that Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador during testimony under oath despite being asked directly about such contacts. 

Clearly frustrated by the turn of events, Trump a few days later accused former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden nominates Mark Brzezinski to be U.S. ambassador to Poland On The Money: Trump asks court to block release of tax returns to Congress | Private sector adds 330K jobs in July, well short of expectations Biden wishes Obama a happy birthday MORE of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign; he offered no evidence but nonetheless created a firestorm that consumed his White House for weeks.

“He now knows what a good week feels like. And my guess is he is going to want more good weeks like this,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and writer for The Hill's Contributors blog.

“The question is: Is he going to stay disciplined enough going forward?” he added. “Not to chase every rabbit but stay focused on the issues that matter to the public. Can he play the long game?”

The Syria strikes, the Gorsuch confirmation and Trump’s successful meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping appear to have lifted the mood at the White House. 

But Trump and his aides now face the difficult task of reviving the stalled legislative agenda.

The failure to advance the Republican healthcare plan in the House virtually ensured the president will end his first 100 days in office without a signature legislative achievement aside from reversing a raft of Obama-era regulations.

Top White House officials have worked behind the scenes in the past few weeks to push forward on healthcare, but just a handful of working days remain for Congress after its two-week spring recess.

Those days will be consumed with a passing a spending bill to keep the government running past the April 28 funding deadline. The president will mark his 100th day in office two days later.

The White House is also looking to formulate a tax reform plan that can pass Congress, which is an arguably an even tougher task than repealing and replacing ObamaCare. 

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday denied reports that Trump is abandoning his tax proposal from the campaign. But he conceded changes will likely be made, saying the plan will serve as the “backbone” of what the White House eventually puts forward.

Trump and his Cabinet secretaries are expected to use a strategy session with CEOs on Tuesday to discuss that and other pressing agenda items.

There are also signs Trump is trying to put an end to the feuding between senior staff members that has made it difficult to govern.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus reportedly convened a sit-down last Friday between chief counselor Stephen Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, asking the two men to work out their differences and agree on a direction for the administration.

The meeting, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., came amid reports that the president was considering a major staff shake-up, with the positions of both Bannon and Priebus in danger.

Spicer on Monday dismissed those reports as “overblown” but indicated the president is tired of hearing about infighting in the media.

"Our battles and our policy differences need to be behind closed doors," the spokesman said. "We need to focus and ultimately all come out committed to his agenda.” 

While the aides appear to have reached a detente, it’s unclear how long it will last. Bannon and Kushner were allies during the campaign, but they have recently voiced differing views on the direction of the administration. Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, has espoused a more moderate approach on key issues, while Bannon has been outspoken about his self-described agenda of “economic nationalism.” 

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Even if the White House is able to quell its infighting, the jury is still out on how big of a boost Trump will get from last week’s events.

A CBS News poll showed 57 percent of Americans approved of the president’s decision to launch cruise missiles into Syria, and his approval rating ticked up to 43 percent.

But a majority of Americans said they are still “uneasy” about Trump’s approach to Syria, and 69 percent say he must seek congressional approval if he wants to launch another strike.

Trump received no movement in his approval rating in Gallup’s daily tracking poll, which remained at 40 percent on Monday.