Neil M. Gorsuch joins the Supreme Court just in time to cast potentially significant votes in cases that pit religious liberty against gay rights, test limits on funding for church schools and challenge California’s restrictions on carrying a concealed gun in public.
Such issues arise either in appeals filed by conservative groups that have been pending before the justices for weeks or in cases to be heard later this month.
In those matters, the votes of Gorsuch -- who took the first of two oaths Monday morning, in a private swearing-in -- may give an early sign of whether the court’s conservatives, with their 5-4 majority restored by his confirmation, will pursue an activist agenda.
The Trump administration will move forward with the sale of high-tech aircraft to Nigeria for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists despite concerns over abuses committed by the African nation's security forces, according to U.S. officials.
Congress is expected to receive formal notification within weeks, setting in motion a deal with Nigeria that the Obama administration had planned to approve at the very end of Barack Obama's presidency. The arrangement will call for Nigeria to purchase up to 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft with sophisticated targeting gear for nearly $600 million, one of the officials said.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the terms of the sale publicly and requested anonymity to speak about internal diplomatic conversations.
President Trump made an about-face in his approach to the Middle East by launching a fiery salvo of cruise missiles early Friday, and with it came relief to American allies — and many of the president’s critics at home — but its impact in Syria will ultimately depend on what Trump does next.
Attacking one airfield — at least one of the two runways were still in use Friday — hardly diminishes President Bashar Assad’s military capability. And whatever cache of poison gas or other chemical agents the Syrian government has remains intact, including one at the air base that the Pentagon deliberately didn’t target for fear of spreading a toxic cloud.
The volatile situation will quickly test the new administration’s ability to respond to international atrocities or other provocations while upholding Trump’s vow to keep the U.S. military out of prolonged ground wars around the world.
After 10 weeks of pinballing through political and domestic fiascos largely of his own making, President Trump last week faced the kinds of wrenching external challenges no White House occupant can avoid for long.
“No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” Trump said emotionally Thursday night after he ordered a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield in response to a poison gas bomb that killed dozens of civilians, including children, and left dozens more writhing in pain.
This was the week a reality-TV presidency faced cold reality.
The Trump administration gave mixed messages about its goals in Syria on Sunday, with top officials stressing different priorities in the wake of a U.S. airstrike that marked a deepening involvement in the country's bitter conflict.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad is a U.S. priority, just as it was under the Obama administration, and that peace in Syria was probably impossible while he remained in power.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a more nuanced view, asserting that Assad had undermined his legitimacy as a leader but declaring that defeating Islamic State remains the top U.S. goal in Syria.