A common move in Washington is for unpleasant political news to be leaked or released on Friday evenings. The move takes advantage of the duality of main political reporters having gone on weekend mode and a weaker focus on the news during the weekend. Friday was a different storm altogether as several political and international news stories broke while the nation prepared for Hurricane Harvey, one of the first major tests for the Trump Administration.
At approximately 6:30 PM, the White House released a presidential memorandum where President Donald Trump formally moved to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, effective in one year. The policy change did not indicate what would happen to transgender recruits already serving. The move had been announced by Trump on Twitter several weeks ago, but there was then nothing formal done to actually institute the policy change.
Roughly fifteen minutes later, the South Korean military announced that North Korea had fired what the Yonhap news agency described as an “unidentified projectile” into the Sea of Japan. A U.S. military official said that the projectile in question was a ballistic missile.
Around 7:20 Hurricane Harvey intensified to a Category 4 storm.
At roughly 8:00 PM, the White House announced that Trump had pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio is aligned with the President’s hardline illegal immigration stance and the two were allies while pushing the birther narrative that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Trump went to Arizona, Arpaio’s home state, on Tuesday and teased that a pardon for Arpaio would be coming. The White House said of Arpaio’s sheriff tenure, “[He] continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” It also justified Arpaio’s pardon with “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is [a] worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.” A federal judge in 2013 found that Arpaio had racially profiled Latinos, however Arpaio persisted earning himself a contempt of court charge. He was then found guilty of that charge. Arpaio has not been sentenced yet and both of Arizona’s senators criticized Trump’s move. Senator Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic whom the President has been encouraging a primary challenge against, tweeted, “Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.”
However the night was still young and there was news to be made. Shortly after 8:00, the Federalist published the breaking news story that Sebastian Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to the President, had resigned. Gorka wrote in his resignation letter that the White House had changed and “given recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House.” Trey Yingst of the conservative outlet One America News Network spoke to Gorka and the ally of former chief strategist Steve Bannon said that he had indeed resigned. However, a White House official said, “Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House.” That statement was emailed to the entire White House press pool and raised more unanswered questions.
Finally around 11:30, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, still a Category 4 storm.