Essential Washington

Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington.

Some are recalling the last time a president declared "Mission accomplished," in May 2003 when George W. Bush was talking about Iraq.
Some are recalling the last time a president declared "Mission accomplished," in May 2003 when George W. Bush was talking about Iraq. (Stephen Jaffe / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump on Saturday morning thanked his allies in a tweet that declared the airstrikes on Syria “perfectly executed,” but he might have wished he’d stopped there.

Instead, he ended his message with the phrase, “Mission Accomplished!” That’s a line that might have a previous president shaking his head.

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq under a “Mission Accomplished” banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. That war, which began in March 2003, grew into a prolonged conflict that didn’t end until 2011.


The Pentagon is blocking the release of data showing how much of Afghanistan’s territory lies outside government control, censoring a key metric used to gauge progress in the 16-year war, a watchdog agency said Tuesday.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an auditing agency established by Congress, said in its latest report that the Pentagon instructed it not to release unclassified data on how many districts and people are controlled or influenced by insurgent groups.

  • White House
The view from the women's section.
The view from the women's section. (Noga Tarnopolsky / Los Angeles Times)

Vice-President Mike Pence’s 48-hour visit to Israel stumbled into a public storm Tuesday when female reporters covering his final stop at Jerusalem’s Western Wall were penned behind four rows of their male colleagues.

White House officials told stunned journalists that the arrangement emanated from a request made by the Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, and followed “Western Wall rules.”

Some women journalists said they could not recall such treatment in the past.

(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press) (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who last year was pardoned by President Trump in a case stemming from his enforcement tactics aimed at immigrants, announced  Tuesday he will run for the open Senate seat in his home state. 

“I am running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again,” Arpaio, 85, said on Twitter. 

He’ll enter a Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. 


President Trump signed an executive order late Wednesday ending the voter fraud commission he launched last year as the panel faces a flurry of lawsuits and criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Trump signed the order disbanding the commission "rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Congress returns to work this week with unfinished business on spending, immigration and other crucial issues, but with an even narrower GOP majority that will make it tougher to move on President Trump’s agenda.

The House and Senate will convene Wednesday, swearing in the newly elected Democratic senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, and Minnesota’s Tina Smith to replace a fellow Democrat, Sen. Al Franken, who is resigning as the latest high-profile public figure sidelined by allegations of sexual misconduct. The change gives Republicans only a one-seat margin in the Senate.

Trump, fresh off passage of the GOP tax cuts bill, is pushing lawmakers to pivot quickly on his new year priorities of infrastructure investment and immigration, as well as his foreign policy agenda.

(European Pressphoto Agency)

President Trump on Tuesday angrily threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Palestinians as punishment for what he called their failure to show “appreciation or respect” to the United States.

Writing on Twitter, the president compared the Palestinians to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed ally that abruptly drew his ire this week and a similar threat to drastically curtail aid.

He accused the Palestinians of recalcitrance in what he described as their refusal to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

  • White House
University students attend an anti-government protest at Tehran University on Dec. 30, 2017.
University students attend an anti-government protest at Tehran University on Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

President Trump wants Iran to give its citizens “basic human rights” and “stop being a state sponsor of terror,” his top spokeswoman said, but the White House stopped short of calling for a change of government in Tehran.

“If they want to do that through current leadership, if that's possible, OK,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

Sanders praised the “organic popular uprising,” which she said the widespread protests in Iran represented. The protests grew out of years of “years of mismanagement, corruption, and foreign adventurism have eroded the Iranian people's trust in their leaders,” she said.

  • Congress
(Romney family)

The retirement of Utah’s senior senator, Orrin G. Hatch, opens the way for a widely expected Senate bid by Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee and a frequent critic of President Trump.

Although Romney previously served for two terms as governor of Massachusetts (and was raised in Michigan, where his father was governor and his mother ran for the Senate), he comes from a prominent Mormon family with strong ties to Utah. He also served as chief executive of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He’s viewed as a strong candidate for the Senate seat.

Romney’s criticisms of Trump, however, could prompt a challenge in a Republican primary. Trump was widely reported to have tried to convince Hatch to run for a seventh term, in part to head off a Romney candidacy.