Welcome to the latest installment of Norms Watch, our series tracking both the flouting of democratic norms by the Trump administration and the erosion of those norms in reactions and responses by others. This is our collection of the most significant breaks with democratic traditions that occurred in July 2018.


The Trump administration struggles to meet court-ordered deadlines for reuniting immigrant families

Nearly three months after the Trump administration announced its new “zero-tolerance” border policy, more than 700 children remain separated from their parents while new reports continue to surface alleging physical, emotional, sexual and labor abuses in detention centers and shelters.  

Trump Administration in Chaotic Scramble to Reunify Migrant FamiliesNew York Times’ Caitlin Dickerson

Hundreds of migrant children remain in custody, though most separated families are reunited at court deadlineWashington Post’s Nick Miroff and Samantha Schmidt

More Than 450 Migrant Parents May Have Been Deported Without Their ChildrenNew York Times’ Miriam Jordan and Caitlin Dickerson

Separated: Children at the Border — PBS’ FRONTLINE

The “Ineligible” FamiliesNew York Times’ The Daily podcast

Trump-Putin summit

The Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked bipartisan outrage and frustration after Trump publicly broke from U.S. intelligence findings about Russian election interference and failed to unequivocally reject the idea of allowing Russian investigators to question former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. In the days after the summit, it became clear that few in his administration understood what transpired while the two leaders met in private.

Putin: I wanted Trump to win the electionPOLITICO’’s Stephanie Murray

Trump, at Putin’s Side, Questions U.S. Intelligence on 2016 ElectionNew York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis

White House: Trump will consider letting Russia question investor, former ambassadorPOLITICO’s Eleanor Mueller

As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarityWashington Post’s Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Anton Troianovski

Trump to Invite Putin to Washington, Blindsiding His Intelligence Chief New York Times’ Mark Landler

GOP lawmakers react to Trump-Putin summit: lots of condemnation, few concrete plans — Vox’s Jen Kirby

Trump continues to downplay threat of Russian interference despite clear concern from his administration

The president repeatedly dismissed Russian election interference as a hoax this month, even after his own statement to the contrary, made in the wake of public criticism for his comments on the subject during the Helsinki summit.

As midterm elections approach, a growing concern that the nation is not protected from Russian interferenceWashington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg

Pence condemns Russian meddling, an issue that has vexed TrumpWashington Post’s Ellen Nakashima

Facebook says it has uncovered a coordinated disinformation operation ahead of the 2018 midterm electionsWashington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm

Trump again reverses course on Russian interference, calls it ‘all a big hoax’Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez

Trump Undermines NATO, EU Relations

Before leaving on his trip to Europe at the beginning of the month, Trump criticized U.S. allies for not contributing enough to NATO and predicted his visit with Putin would be the “easiest” part of his travels. Once in Europe, Trump criticized Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany; he undercut British Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach to Brexit; and praised her political rival, Boris Johnson.

In Interview, Trump Appears To Question NATO’s ‘Collective Defense’ ClauseNPR’s Scott Neuman

Trump opens NATO summit with blistering criticism of Germany, labels allies ‘delinquent’CNN’s Jeremy Diamond

Trump’s NATO trip shows ‘America First’ is ‘America Alone’Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor

Trump Says He Sees The European Union As A ‘Foe’ Of U.S.NPR’s Merrit Kennedy

Donald Trump’s Disastrous Trip to EuropeThe New Yorker’s John Cassidy

As May’s Government Teeters Over Brexit, Trump Gives It a ShoveNew York Times’ Stephen Castle and Julie Hirschfeld Davis

House Republicans continue to attack the Justice Department to discredit the Russia investigation

House Republicans continued their assault on Justice Department leadership, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in a so-far unsuccessful attempt to prematurely end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign helped in those efforts.

Insults, fighting, shouting: Strzok hearing boils overCNN’s Stephen Collinson 

FISA release

House Republicans Mount a Long-Shot Bid to Impeach Rod RosensteinNew York Times’ Katie Benner

Giuliani says Mueller probe results should be dismissed after Strzok testimonyWashington Post’s John Wagner

FISA application released for first time in history

The Justice Department released a heavily redacted version of its application to surveil on Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign in 2016. The administration made the previously classified documents public after media organizations sued for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

What to Make of the Carter Page FISA ApplicationsLawfare’s David Kris

Carter Page FISA Documents Are Released by Justice Department New York Times’ Charlie Savage

Trump cabinet continues to be plagued by ethics scandals

Even as Scott Pruitt departed the EPA, the cloud of scandals appeared simply to migrate over to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.  

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Resigns Amidst ScandalsThe Atlantic’s David A. Graham

Scandals Pile Up For Interior Chief Ryan ZinkeHuffington Post’s Chris D’Angelo

Interior watchdog opens probe of land deal linking Zinke, Halliburton chairmanPOLITICO’s Ben Lefebvre

Trump’s businesses raise ethics and conflicts of interest concerns

As a lawsuit proceeds against Trump alleging his violation of the Emoluments Clause, the president and his family continue to flout ethics norms with costly business trips, undisclosed contacts and pursuit of foreign projects. The Trump Organization’s pursuit of new foreign deals violates the promise Trump made in his January 2017 press conference before taking office.

Trump’s Scottish resort to expand, raising ethics concernsAP’s Bernard Condon

Trump Must Face Emoluments Lawsuit Over D.C. Hotel ProfitsBloomberg’s Andrew M. Harris

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Cost Taxpayers $250,000 in Just 1 Month for Family Business Trips, Documents ShowNewsweek’s Jessica Kwong

The Trump administration adds new obstacles to government transparency

The Trump administration continued this month to take further steps limiting media access, retaliating against news networks whose coverage it doesn’t like, resisting public scrutiny and decreasing government transparency.

Exclusive: White House stops announcing calls with foreign leadersCNN’s Kaitlin Collins

‘We are fighting for information about war’: Pentagon curbs media accessPOLITICO’s Jason Schwartz

Help us identify Trump’s unknown golf partnersWashington Post’s Philip Bump

White House held just 3 daily press briefings in JulyThe Hill’s John Bowden

White House bans network pool reporter from Rose Garden eventCNN’s Brian Stelter

Trump pardons Oregon ranchers

On July 10, the president issues another controversial pardon, this one of brothers Dwight and Steve Hammond, the Oregon ranchers convicted of arson for starting a fire on federal land that burned over 100 acres. The Hammonds have a history of confrontation with federal law enforcement, and their case sparked the 2016 occupation of federal land by a right-wing militia group led by Ammon Bundy.

Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Whose Case Inspired Wildlife Refuge TakeoverNew York Times’ Eileen Sullivan and Julie Turkewitz

This is the message that Trump’s latest pardon sends to the radical rightWashington Post’s Leah Sottile and Ryan Haas

Trump’s Militia Pardon is Another Blow to Federal Law EnforcementJust Security’s Barbara McQuade

Setting the Record Straight: The Pardon Power is Part of the Rule of LawJust Security’s Sam Morison

Trump steps up attacks on journalists, news media

Trump escalated his ongoing attacks on the press this month at home and abroad, refusing questions from CNN and NBC, and telling his supporters at a rally not to believe what the news media reports. Further evidence emerged that Trump’s anti-media message is taking hold among his supporters, who again heckled CNN’s Jim Acosta with shouts of “traitor” and “liar” at a rally where many chanted “CNN sucks.”

Trump calls ‘fake news’ media ‘the real enemy of the people’ over Putin summitABC News’ Nataly Pak and Matt Seyler

What despots hear when Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people”Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board

Trump’s latest speech compared to ‘1984’: ‘What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening’The Independent’s Kimberley Richards

Spotting CNN on a TV Aboard Air Force One, Trump Rages Against RealityNew York Times Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman

Trump uses Twitter to promote video of supporters chanting ‘CNN sucks’Washington Post’s John Wagner

‘Fake News’ Goes Global as Trump, in Britain, Rips the PressNew York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum

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