Weekly column on Trump’s Washington by Susan B. Glasser here
July 21, 2019 wset.com Congregation walks out of service amid church sign controversy
APPOMATTOX, Va — (WSET) A sign at a local church has gone viral.
Last week, Pastor E.W. Lucas put up the sign “America, I love it. If you don’t love it, leave it.” at Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox.
Some support his stance. But he’s also facing backlash from people across the country and from people in his own congregation.
On Sunday, the church was empty for it’s 11 o’clock service.
Lucas says during the Sunday School service, some members of his church led the congregation out of the service in a stance against him.
He says members were upset with the national attention the church received this week.
Lucas says he stands behind his decision to keep the sign out front.
“I’ve tried to be honest,” Lucas said. “I’ve tried to do what’s right. But I believe in my country. I love my country. And I don’t mind standing up for the country.”
ABC13 reached out to several members of the church for a response. They told us they had no comment. Source
July 8, 2019 politico.com Trump campaign plunges into brawl to control Pennsylvania GOP
‘People are pretty disgusted with the whole thing,’ one pol says of the fallout from a sexting scandal gripping the party.
Several top Trump associates have publicly endorsed Bernadette Comfort in the fight for Pennsylvania’s vacant Republican chairmanship, including his his son, Donald Trump, Jr. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Donald Trump’s campaign is injecting itself into a battle to lead Pennsylvania’s Republican Party — a race with serious implications for the president’s reelection hopes that has badly divided the GOP in the battleground state.
The fight for the state’s vacant Republican chairmanship was triggered when Val DiGiorgio resigned from the position two weeks ago amid a scandal involving racy texts and allegations of sexual harassment. The episode set off fierce jockeying and backbiting within the state GOP, as Trump’s team tried to close ranks behind Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort, the party’s vice chairwoman for the past two years.
But the Trump campaign’s involvement has not gone over well with some Pennsylvania Republicans, especially supporters of Comfort’s rival, attorney Lawrence Tabas. They argue that Trump’s advisers are unnecessarily taking sides in a local feud and could exacerbate longstanding power struggles within the state GOP.
The election on Saturday, to be decided by roughly 360 state GOP committee members, is expected to be close.
“People are pretty disgusted with the whole thing,” said Scott Wagner, a Republican donor who was the party’s unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial nominee. “I’m afraid it’s going to backfire. It may be damaging to the president. This is sort of like a family issue. We don’t need interference from the outside.”
The showdown highlights the importance of Pennsylvania to the presidential race in 2020 — and the determination of Trump’s reelection team to quash any potential dissension within the party heading into next year. Trump’s aides have intervened in a number of states besides Pennsylvania toward that end.
“It shows that they still believe Pennsylvania is going to be a battleground state, first and foremost,” said Mick McKeown, a former Trump administration official. “The next thing they’re doing by picking Bernie is not letting the party be divided again.”
If Trump’s team is successful in both electing Comfort and uniting the party, it would be a major victory. But the campaign is taking a risk by jumping into the race. If Comfort loses, Trump’s aides will have to work with a party chairman they actively opposed. And despite their best efforts, the election is exposing old divides within the state party.
Several top Trump associates have publicly endorsed Comfort: his son, Donald Trump, Jr.; campaign manager Brad Parscale; 2016 campaign aide David Urban; and campaign adviser Ted Christian. Former Reps. Tom Marino and Lou Barletta, who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in Pennsylvania, have also thrown their weight behind Comfort. Pennsylvania’s Republican National Committee members are in lockstep behind her, too.
Marino, Barletta and Christian have emailed state Republicans in support of Comfort, according to messages obtained by POLITICO. Trump’s team has also made calls to party lieutenants to determine who they are backing in the race, as they have done in other state chair elections.
A person close to the Trump campaign said Comfort is the “best leader” and “only candidate aligned with the president,” and will help both him and down-ballot Republicans win in the 2020. The fact that Comfort is a woman, this source said, “is a bonus.”
Indeed, some of Comfort’s supporters believe that having a woman at the helm of the state GOP is critical. They note that Trump has struggled to win over suburban female voters, and the stain of DiGiorgio’s #MeToo allegations risks worsening the party’s standing with that demographic. Comfort’s backers also argue that she already has experience leading the party as vice chair under DiGiorgio, and that it would be unwise to change midstream.
Tabas’ backers say he will help boost fundraising for the state party, which has had financing issues in recent years, and enjoys relationships with Republican leaders across the state from his days serving as general counsel of the Pennsylvania GOP. For instance, former state GOP chairman Rob Gleason supports Tabas.
“Bottom line, it’s about who can raise money,” said Mike Cibik, a pro-Tabas state committee member.
Barletta said he likely would have remained neutral if Trump’s campaign hadn’t gotten involved.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help the president win here in Pennsylvania, and feel that since they have obviously made a choice, that I am going to follow their leadership,” Barletta said. He added that “it seems to make sense not to have a big change” at the top of the party when the presidential election is around the corner.
Party insiders say the election is cleaving along geographical lines. But the sorting isn’t necessarily predictable: Many of Comfort’s allies are in the more moderate part of the state in the southeast, and several of Tabas’ supporters hail from the Trump-friendly west.
he race has also pitted two of the party’s donors against each other. Wagner, who is behind Tabas, shot off an email to supporters assailing the pro-Comfort Republican National Committee member Bob Asher for “working the phones calling people to influence who becomes the next party chairman,” and saying his “politics have left our party bitterly fractured and highly dysfunctional.” Wagner is calling for Asher to be removed from his position in the party.
That’s not it: Some of Comfort’s supporters have accused Tabas of going against Trump’s wishes by staying in the race, while a handful of Tabas’ allies have labeled Comfort a onetime “Never Trumper.” Comfort has repeatedly said she is firmly behind Trump. But it’s a familiar concern in the party: DiGiorgio, who initially backed Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 primary, was seen as insufficiently pro-Trump by some Republicans.
Charlie Gerow, a state committee member and GOP consultant who is backing Tabas, said Trump’s aides should not have taken sides.
“If he’s speaking on behalf of the campaign, I think he’s making a major mistake,” Gerow said of a recent tweet in which Parscale announced his support for Comfort. “I would say stay the hell out of it. There’s no good scenario. Even if you win, you have bruised feelings that need to be healed.”
Cibik said of the Trump campaign’s involvement: “I’m flabbergasted. I just don’t get that.”
When Tabas ran against DiGiorgio for party chair in 2017, he lost by only two votes. The battle bruised the party, and in its wake, Republicans lost three congressional seats, the gubernatorial and Senate elections, and numerous state positions.
“We’ve got to be one team to help President Trump in Pennsylvania,” said Barletta. “We cannot be divided at the end of this process.” Source
July 6, 2019 newyorker.com Cutouts of J.F.K., Jr., Tanks, and Adulation at Trump’s “Salute to America”
Arriving early at the Mall for Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” event on Independence Day, I saw no tanks. But I did see, everywhere, the face of John F. Kennedy, Jr.—on hand fans, on signs, and, in one instance, as a cutout fixed to the back of a chair. The chair belonged to a dark haired and trimly bearded forty-something man and a blonde woman of about the same age. Both wore red T-shirts prominently featuring the letter Q and some other indecipherable text. I asked the woman what “Q” meant. She smiled warmly.
“What I believe it is, is a military operation that is communicating with the public,” said the woman, a follower of Q, a mysterious online conspiracy theorist who claims to have top-secret information about various plots and intrigues involving the Trump Administration and the wider political world. “I don’t think it’s just one person,” she added, explaining that posts on the Web site were perhaps written by Donald Trump himself. I then asked what the J.F.K., Jr. cutout was all about.
“You know how he died, right?”
“A plane crash,” I replied.
“So there’s a theory that there’s a possibility, that, maybe . . . ”
She smiled almost apologetically.
“ . . . he didn’t actually perish.”
“I see,” I said.
“That he staged his own death. In order to not only avenge his father’s death—J.F.K., who was assassinated—but also to take back our government. So it’s for the people, not an elite group.”
“So, he’s working with Trump to do that?” I asked.
“Possibly. Wouldn’t it be a neat ticket for 2020?”
I replied that it would be an interesting one.
As the President’s speech drew closer, the crowd thickened. Conversations broke out. I overheard a short blonde woman in a parka talking to a young man in an American flag shirt about clashes that had taken place between the far-right group the Proud Boys and anti-fascist protesters in Portland. The woman argued that the Mafia would not have tolerated open violence in the streets back in its heyday. She was Italian, she said by way of explanation. A minute or two later, the pair turned to the annual Independence Day parade that had taken place that morning.
“You know what I found interesting about the parade?” she asked. “The Taiwan-Americans, the Sikh-Americans, the Chinese-Americans playing ‘I’m proud to be an American, where at least . . . ,’ you know?”
“How did that make you feel?” the young man asked.
“It actually made me cry,” she said. “It was so nice to see them be grateful to America for giving them a better life!”
“Yeah, it really is!”
“But what you didn’t see,” she continued, “were Muslims. Muslim-Americans. Almost every different sect was represented except for the Muslims. They don’t want to assimilate.”
At about this point I decided to ask the woman, who had said she was Italian, how her ancestor or ancestors had come to the country; perhaps through Ellis Island?
“He was a stowaway, actually,” she replied. “He killed a man.” Then she turned away.
Some seconds passed in silence. I then asked her, with an apology for the question, whether she believed that a Mexican immigrant who had killed a man should be allowed to cross the border and enter the country. She considered this for half a moment.
“It was a different time,” she said. “Around the turn of the century! And, I mean, this was an honor killing, you know? The man was flirting with his girlfriend.”
The Trump Administration is mulling over ways to force the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. It’s widely believed that doing so will lead to an undercount of the overall population by discouraging responses from undocumented immigrants. One potential goal of this move was put into relief by a New York Times article in May about the hard drives of the late Thomas Hofeller, a Republican strategist. The hard drives contained a report detailing the ways in which a tally of non-citizens would allow conservative states to exclude them from the population counts used to draw state legislative districts, to the advantage of Republicans. But the citizenship question is, more broadly, also about sending a message to undocumented immigrants: that they, literally, do not count, that they are not members of our communities or our society—that policymakers and government do not have any particular obligations to them.
How steep is the slide from this idea to the notion that undocumented people are not really people at all? Over the past several weeks, we’ve read reports that undocumented immigrants in Customs and Border Protection’s custody, including many children, are being kept in obscenely crowded rooms and going unbathed and underfed. Defenders of the Trump Administration’s handling of the surge of migrants at the border have argued that any administration would struggle to process the influx. But the Trump Administration, which has intentionally separated children from their families on a massive scale to deter further migration, has done little to inspire faith that they are working to deal with the situation as humanely and expeditiously as possible. On the day before his Salute to America, President Trump dismissed reports about conditions at detention facilities in a tweet. “If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come,” he wrote. “All problems solved!”
Of course, many immigrants—including those making up the bulk of undocumented recent arrivals, who are fleeing violence and destitution in Central America—come here because they feel they absolutely must. There are an estimated twenty-five thousand asylum seekers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, a small but important share of D.C.’s substantial foreign-born population. Walking around the Mall on Thursday, you could hear Spanish, Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and many other languages in the air, spoken by parents and children toting tiny American flags and ice cream—whether assembled out of curiosity, out of disdain, or even in support of a President who finally managed, for a day, at least, to conquer Washington with a massive crowd of his fans.
When the President finally arrived, his supporters were treated not to the campaign rally many expected but to an American history lesson that, truth be told, may well be the best speech Trump has ever had prepared for him—which is, naturally, saying extremely little. There was a bizarre mistake or two. At one point the President noted how, during the American Revolution, the Continental Army, in its extraordinary bravery, had seized “the airports.” It seems unlikely that we would have a fourth of July to celebrate if King George III had had air support, but again, in comparison to his usual blather, Trump’s remarks were, on the whole, almost professorial.
The crowd loved it all, even from behind the fence, gazing up at jumbotrons of Trump speaking behind rain-streaked bulletproof glass. As the Salute wore on, I met a man who said he was a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On a whim, he had driven to Washington from Arkansas overnight with a friend. Seeing Trump in person had been worth it, he said. “Donald Trump is the most patriotic motherfucking President we’ve had in a goddamn long time,” he told me. “He is absolutely most definitely my motherfucking President.”
Soon afterward, Trump finished his spiel about the Air Force and announced an incoming flyover.
“Representing the Air Force you will soon see beautiful, brand new F-22 Raptors from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia,” he crowed. “And one magnificent B-2 Stealth Bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri!”
As he paused and the band struck up the Air Force march, the crowd tilted their phones and heads skyward, looking for a sign of the planes in the clouds. When they finally appeared in the distance behind the Washington Monument, there were cheers. They came in fast, swinging widely around the reflecting pool before disappearing out of sight briefly above the trees. They reappeared a moment later—two F-22s escorting the B-2’s dark arrowhead, all roaring towards the Lincoln Memorial over the whooping crowd, likely one of the few assemblies of human beings in the world, at that particular moment, eager to see an American bomber directly overhead. As the planes flew out of sight, the veteran, who had been pointing excitedly just a second before, tapped my side and looked at me with a sadness in his eyes that startled me.
“How,” he asked me, “could anyone hate this guy?”
The fireworks display that followed the event was, at the President’s request, the largest in Washington’s history. It was as though someone had looked at a menu of ordnance and ordered several of everything—starbursts and waterfalls; brocades, and comets and crossettes; smiling faces and explosions of the letters U.S.A. all so large that the night sky seemed at times nearly day-bright. But about midway through the thirty-five minute show, the fireworks became occluded by their own smoke. There were so many, a large gray cloud emerged over the Mall, making it impossible to see the grand finale clearly. By its end, the whole thing had been reduced to plumes of ash, flashing red, white, and blue against a backdrop of assaultive noise. The oohs and ahs gradually hushed, and we all began filing for the exits. The smoke followed, sinking in a thick shroud to the city streets for a mile or two around the Monument, as the crowds put their hats and shirts to their noses and mouths, wandering through the haze that had descended upon Washington. Source
June 1, 2019
‘IRRESPONSIBLE’: COST OF DONALD TRUMP’S JULY 4 MILITARY PARADE BLASTED BY NATIONAL PARK ADVOCACY GROUP
resident Donald Trump’s decision to transform the annual Fourth of July celebration into a larger event including armored military vehicles stationed along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. has drawn criticism from National Park advocacy groups warning against the exorbitant cost.
“It’s irresponsible to ask the National Park Service to absorb the costs of an additional and political event when there are so many unmet needs in the parks,” Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, which represents current, former and retired Park Service employees and volunteers, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“The men and women of the National Park Service have been asked to do more with less for too long,” he continued. “Funds should be directed to the agency’s highest needs such as operation of the parks and the maintenance backlog and should not be directed to support political objectives.”
Although the total cost of the Independence Day event is not yet known, it comes at a time when the National Park Service faces a backlog of some $11 billion in maintenance. The Trump administration has also repeatedly called for cutting the National Park Service’s budget, while also moving to eliminate key environmental protections for the lands set aside for conservation.
Trump has reportedly been uniquely involved in planning this year’s annual Fourth of July celebration in Washington, according to The Post. In addition to being criticized for increasing costs for the event, the president has faced backlash for attempting to make himself the central focus of the celebration.
An op-ed published byThe New York Times last month accused Trump of “hijacking” the Fourth of July festivities. “He is trampling a longstanding tradition of keeping these events nonpartisan — apolitical even — and focused on bringing the nation together,” a member of the paper’s editorial board argued.
The opinion piece pointed out that the last time a sitting U.S. president even participated directly in the Independence Day ceremony was Harry Truman back in 1951. Former President Richard Nixon later shared pre-recorded remarks that were aired on the National Mall in 1970.
Trump has proudly touted his involvement with this year’s event, hyping the fact that he will present an address during the celebration, which will be marked with massive fireworks displays and the armored military vehicles along the National Mall.
“One of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, DC,” the president wrote on Twitter back in February. He said it would be “A Salute to America,” and would feature a “major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!” Source
May 20, 2019 nationalreview.com China Says It Never Agreed to Trump Administration’s ‘Extravagant Demands’ in Trade-Deal Talks
China said Monday that it never agreed to the “extravagant demands” U.S. negotiators made during April negotiations meant to solidify a trade deal between the world’s two largest economies.
“We don’t know what this agreement is the United States is talking about,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in comments to reporters. “Perhaps the United States has an agreement they all along had extravagant expectations for, but it’s certainly not a so-called agreement that China agreed to.”
The White House earlier this month raised tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese imports after accusing Beijing of reneging on the terms of a deal. China retaliated last week, saying it will raise tariffs from 5 to 25 percent on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, including coffee, batteries, and spinach.
The Trump administration attempted “to achieve unreasonable interests through extreme pressure,” Kang said. “From the start this wouldn’t work.”
The U.S. and China “had a very strong deal, we had a good deal, and they changed it. And I said, ‘That’s OK, we’re going to tariff their products,’” President Trump said last week.
The tariffs have sparked a fierce backlash from critics who say they will hit American businesses, and by extension consumers, hard. Republican senator Pat Toomey called the tariff hike “very bad policy,” last week, saying that tariffs are a “dangerous and a painful tool that hits both the country against which the tariffs are being imposed and the country that is doing the imposition.”
Meanwhile, the stock market dropped for four days at the beginning of this month as the U.S. prepared to make good on its threat to raise tariffs on China.
The trade war between the two countries has heated up just ahead of next month’s G-20 summit in Japan, where President Trump plans to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Source
May 13, 2019 The Atlantic Trump Is Angry That the FBI Won’t Endorse His Theory of Victimhood
The president has already fired an FBI director and an acting director. Now he’s gunning for the present director, Chris Wray.
On March 24, Attorney General William Barr released a summary of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that stressed positive news for President Donald Trump. The redacted text of the report would not be released until April 18, more than four weeks later.Over those four weeks, Trump and his supporters made the most of their one-sided information advantage. They blared “No collusion! No obstruction!” They dismissed the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia as a “hoax.” They demanded punishment of those in government and media who had investigated and reported on those connections.In retrospect, that was not a very smart thing to do.The smart play would have been to pocket the legal win—no more indictments—and then try to rise above the controversy. The president could have given a speech analogous to the one President Ronald Reagan gave after being absolved of direct personal responsibility for Iran-Contra: Acknowledge mistakes, apologize for them, vow that lessons would be learned. Condemn the Russian interference in 2016, and vow to harden future U.S. elections against any repeat. Meet critics more than halfway, move forward, try to consign the controversy to the past.
But that is not the Trump way. The Trump way is to escalate, always.
Over the four weeks between the Barr letter and the release of the redacted Mueller report, Trump kept insisting that the Mueller report said more than it did. It said, in effect: We didn’t find sufficient evidence to charge your campaign with conspiracy, and our internal Department of Justice policies forbid us from charging you with obstruction. He wanted it to say: You did nothing wrong. He wanted it to say: Actually, Donald, you were the real victim here—and Hillary Clinton the true criminal conspirator.”
Trump has tried to close that gap by lying about it—and by demanding that other people lie, too. When they don’t and won’t, Trump gets angry. And when Trump gets angry, he takes to Twitter.
Trump got extra angry Sunday night. Uncheered by Mother’s Day, the president launched into a sequence of rage tweets that included the line: “The FBI has no leadership.” Trump has fired one FBI director, James Comey, for looking into the Russia matter. He fired an acting director, Andrew McCabe, for the same apparent reason. Apparently, he is now gunning for the present director, Chris Wray.
Why is Trump angry? Trump disjointedly tweeted over linked messages: “The Director is protecting the same gang…..that tried to……..overthrow the President through an illegal coup. (Recommended by previous DOJ) @TomFitton@JudicialWatch”
Trump wants the FBI to endorse his own theory of victimhood—and it won’t. Worse, the FBI was embedded in the Mueller investigation. The FBI received, and still holds, whatever information the investigation gathered about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including potential answers to the all-important question: Why? Why was Vladimir Putin so eager to help Trump into the presidency? Why did Russia care so much, and run such risks for him?
The answer may be indicated in an underappreciated pair of sentences on page 76 of Volume II of the Mueller report: “As described in Volume I, the evidence uncovered in the investigation did not establish that the President or those close to him were involved in the charged Russian computer-hacking or active-measure conspiracies, or that the President otherwise had any unlawful relationship with any Russian official. But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal or political concerns.”
So long as the FBI remains in independent hands, the president will remain gripped by those concerns.
What Trump means by leadership is compliance. He wants an FBI director who serves him personally the way Attorney General Barr has served him personally. So long as the FBI retains its integrity, Trump feels unsafe. He cannot close the case, because he keeps hearing scratching sounds from inside. He cannot move on, because he keeps looking back in fear. His next move? He’s already telegraphing it: another attack on the independence of law enforcement.
Trump today welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the White House. I keep thinking on this trip of the shrewd insight offered by a Budapest observer when I visited Hungary in 2016: “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.” Trump holds that power, and he is determined to wield it. Source
May 7, 2019 nytimes.com 5 Takeaways From 10 Years of Trump Tax Figures
By Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, journalists at The New York Times and elsewhere have been trying to piece together Donald J. Trump’s complex and concealed finances. Now The Times has obtained 10 years of previously unrevealed figures from the president’s federal income tax returns. The tax numbers, for the years 1985 through 1994, paint a far bleaker picture of Mr. Trump’s deal-making abilities and financial condition than the one he has long put forth.
Mr. Trump became an unprecedented president — a businessman and reality television star with no government experience — and he broke with decades-old presidential tradition by refusing to release his income tax returns. Questions about what secrets they may hold — about his recent business dealings and the sources of his financing — only intensified with the Russia inquiry, and the Trump administration is now locked in a battle with House Democrats demanding the last six years of the president’s returns. On Monday, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he would not give a House committee access to the returns.
The newly revealed tax information covers an earlier period of Mr. Trump’s business career. And The Times did not obtain Mr. Trump’s actual tax returns. But it obtained printouts from his official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, from someone who had legal access to them. They represent the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes. And they show that during a tumultuous decade of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse, Mr. Trump’s core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings — ran up $1.17 billion in losses.
The White House’s response to the findings has shifted over time.
Several weeks ago, a senior official issued a statement saying: “The president got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments. That is why the president has always scoffed at the tax system and said you need to change the tax laws. You can make a large income and not have to pay large amount of taxes.”
On Saturday, after further inquiries from The Times, a lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, wrote that the tax information was “demonstrably false,” and that the paper’s statements “about the president’s tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate.” He cited no specific errors, but on Tuesday added that “I.R.S. transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate” and “would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayer’s return.”
Mark J. Mazur, a former director of research, analysis and statistics at the I.R.S., said that, far from being considered unreliable, data used to create such transcripts had undergone quality control for decades and had been used to analyze economic trends and set national policy. In addition, I.R.S. auditors often refer to the transcripts as “handy” summaries of tax returns, said Mr. Mazur, now director of the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington.
In fact, the source of The Times’s newly obtained information was able to provide several years of unpublished tax figures from the president’s father, the builder Fred C. Trump. They matched up with Fred Trump’s actual returns, which had been obtained by The Times in the earlier investigation.
If the new tax information does not offer a new narrative of Mr. Trump’s career, its granular detail gives a precise accounting of his financial failures and of the constantly shifting focus that would characterize his decades in business. Here are some key takeaways.
1. Mr. Trump was deep in the red even as he peddled deal-making advice
“Trump: The Art of the Deal” came out in 1987. It became a best seller — and a powerful vehicle for the self-spun myth of the self-made billionaire that would ultimately help propel him to the presidency.
Mr. Trump has long attributed his first run of business reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that hit three years later, in 1990. But the new tax information reveals that he was already in deep financial distress when his master-of-the-universe memoir hit the shelves.
For Mr. Trump, the 1980s were a frenzy of acquisition and construction, buoyed by hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money. In 1985, for the first time, Forbes’s “rich list” included Mr. Trump individually, independent of his father. But his estimated net worth according to the magazine, $600 million, included the real estate empire Fred Trump still owned.
With Mr. Trump’s vast debt and other expenses on his properties — among them Trump Tower and the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan, and two Atlantic City casinos — his fortunes were already on the way down. In 1985, his core businesses reported a loss of $46.1 million; they also carried over a $5.6 million loss for earlier years.
Because those businesses were generally created as partnerships, they did not pay federal income taxes themselves. Instead, their gains, and their losses, flowed onto Mr. Trump’s ledger. To put his results in perspective, The Times compared them with detailed information that the I.R.S. compiles on an annual one-third sampling of high earners. Most of them appeared, like Mr. Trump, to be businessmen who received what is known as pass-through income.
For 1985, the I.R.S. information indicates this: Only three individual taxpayers in the sampling reported bigger losses than Mr. Trump.
2. In multiple years, he appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer
The tax results for the years that followed trace an arc of continued empire building — and gathering loss.
He bought the Eastern Airlines shuttle for $365 million; it never made a profit, and he spent more than $7 million a month to keep it flying. His new Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, opened in 1990 with more than $800 million in debt, sucked revenue from his other casinos, pulling them along into the red.
And so, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer, according to the I.R.S. information on high earners — a publicly available database with taxpayers’ identifying details removed. Indeed, in 1990 and 1991, his core businesses lost more than $250 million each year — more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the sampling for those years.
The tax code allows owners of commercial property to write down the cost of their buildings — a valuable tax shelter known as depreciation. In “The Art of the Deal,” Mr. Trump cited one of his Atlantic City casinos to show how it works. Built for $400 million and depreciated at a rate of 4 percent a year, he said, it could allow him to shelter $16 million in taxable income annually. But Mr. Trump’s example, meant to demonstrate the magic of depreciation, shows something else: Depreciation alone cannot account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses he declared on his taxes.
3. He paid no federal income taxes for eight of the 10 years
Business owners like Mr. Trump may also use their losses to avoid paying taxes on future income. Over the years, those losses rolled into a $915.7 million free pass, known as a net operating loss, that appeared on his 1995 tax returns, pages of which were mailed anonymously to The Times during the 2016 campaign.
The new tax information shows how Mr. Trump’s net operating losses snowballed, reaching $418 million in 1991. That was fully 1 percent of all the losses that the I.R.S. reported had been declared by individual taxpayers that year.
And the red ink continued to accumulate apace. In all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying any federal income taxes for eight of the 10 years.
4. He made millions posing as a corporate raider — until investors realized he never followed through
For a time, Mr. Trump was able to stave off his coming collapse with the help of a new public role: He traded on his business-titan brand to present himself as a corporate raider. He would acquire shares in a company with borrowed money, suggest publicly that he was contemplating a takeover, then quietly sell on the resulting bump in the stock price. An occasional quote from a high-profile associate helped burnish the myth.
“He has an appetite like a Rocky Mountain vulture,” his stockbroker, Alan C. Greenberg, told The Wall Street Journal in 1987. “He’d like to own the world.”
From 1986 through 1989, Mr. Trump declared $67.3 million in gains from stocks and other assets bought and sold within a year.
But ultimately, the figures show, he lost most, if not all, of those gains after investors stopped taking his takeover talk seriously.
5. His interest income spiked in 1989 at $52.9 million, but the source is a mystery
Amid the hundreds of figures on 10 years of tax transcripts, one number is particularly striking: $52.9 million in interest income that Mr. Trump reported in 1989.
In the three previous years, Mr. Trump had reported $460,566, then $5.5 million, then $11.8 million in interest.
The source of that outlier $52.9 million is something of a mystery.
Taxpayers can receive interest income from a variety of sources, including bonds, bank accounts and mortgages. Hard data on the workings of Mr. Trump’s businesses is hard to come by. But public findings from New Jersey casino regulators show no evidence that he owned anything capable of generating that much interest. Nor is there any such evidence in a 1990 report on his financial condition, prepared by accountants he hired at his bankers’ request.
Mr. Trump’s interest income fell almost as quickly as it rose. By 1992, he was reporting only $3.6 million. Source
May 7, 2019 nytimes.com TIMES INVESTIGATION Decade in the Red: Trump Tax Figures Show Over $1 Billion in Business Losses
Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known.
By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir “Trump: The Art of the Deal” hit bookstores in 1987, Donald J. Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns.
Mr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition.
The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.
The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.
In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.
Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits.
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, journalists at The Times and elsewhere have been trying to piece together Mr. Trump’s complex and concealed finances. While The Times did not obtain the president’s actual tax returns, it received the information contained in the returns from someone who had legal access to it. The Times was then able to find matching results in the I.R.S. information on top earners — a publicly available database that each year comprises a one-third sampling of those taxpayers, with identifying details removed. It also confirmed significant findings using other public documents, along with confidential Trump family tax and financial records from the newspaper’s 2018 investigation into the origin of the president’s wealth.
The White House’s response to the new findings has shifted over time.
Several weeks ago, a senior official issued a statement saying: “The president got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments. That is why the president has always scoffed at the tax system and said you need to change the tax laws. You can make a large income and not have to pay large amount of taxes.”
On Saturday, after further inquiries from The Times, a lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, wrote that the tax information was “demonstrably false,” and that the paper’s statements “about the president’s tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate.” He cited no specific errors, but on Tuesday added that “I.R.S. transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate” and “would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayer’s return.”
Mark J. Mazur, a former director of research, analysis and statistics at the I.R.S., said that, far from being considered unreliable, data used to create such transcripts had undergone quality control for decades and had been used to analyze economic trends and set national policy. In addition, I.R.S. auditors often refer to the transcripts as “handy” summaries of tax returns, said Mr. Mazur, now director of the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington.
In fact, the source of The Times’s newly obtained information was able to provide several years of unpublished tax figures from the president’s father, the builder Fred C. Trump. They matched up precisely with Fred Trump’s actual returns, which had been obtained by The Times in the earlier investigation.
Mr. Trump built a business licensing his name, became a television celebrity and ran for the White House by branding himself a self-made billionaire. “There is no one my age who has accomplished more,” he told Newsweek in 1987, adding that the ultimate scoreboard was “the unfortunate, obvious one: money.” Yet over the years, the actual extent of his wealth has been the subject of much doubt and debate. He broke with four decades of precedent in refusing to release any of his tax returns as a presidential candidate, and until now only a few pages of his returns have become public. Last year’s Times investigation found that he had received at least $413 million in 2018 dollars from his father.
The new tax information does not answer questions raised by House Democrats in their pursuit of the last six years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns — about his recent business dealings and possible foreign sources of financing and influence. Nor does it offer a fundamentally new narrative of his picaresque career.
But in the granular detail of tax results, it gives a precise accounting of the president’s financial failures and of the constantly shifting focus that would characterize his decades in business. In contrast to his father’s stable and profitable empire of rental apartments in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Trump’s primary sources of income changed year after year, from big stock earnings, to a single year of more than $67.1 million in salary, to a mysterious $52.9 million windfall in interest income. But always, those gains were overwhelmed by losses on his casinos and other projects.
The new information also suggests that Mr. Trump’s 1990 collapse might have struck several years earlier if not for his brief side career posing as a corporate raider. From 1986 through 1988, while his core businesses languished under increasingly unsupportable debt, Mr. Trump made millions of dollars in the stock market by suggesting that he was about to take over companies. But the figures show that he lost most, if not all, of those gains after investors stopped taking his takeover talk seriously.
In Washington, the struggle over access to Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information has sharpened in recent days, amid partisan warfare over the findings in the Mueller report. On Monday, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he would not deliver the tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee. And after vowing that “we’re fighting all the subpoenas” from House Democrats, the president has filed lawsuits against his banks and accounting firm to prevent them from turning over tax returns and other financial records.
In New York, the attorney general’s office is investigating the financing of several major Trump Organization projects; Deutsche Bank has already begun turning over documents. The state attorney general is also examining issues raised last year by The Times’s investigation, which revealed that much of the money Mr. Trump had received from his father came from his participation in dubious tax schemes, including instances of outright fraud.
The first of the two previous glimpses of the president’s tax returns came from his 1995 filings, pages of which were anonymously mailed to The Times in 2016. They showed that Mr. Trump had declared losses of $915.7 million, giving him a tax deduction so substantial that it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars of income for almost two decades. Several months later, the journalist David Cay Johnston was mailed pages of Mr. Trump’s 2005 returns, which showed that by then he had significant sources of income and was paying taxes.
The year was 1985, and Mr. Trump appeared to be on top of the world.
He was still riding high from the completion of his first few projects — the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Trump Tower and another Manhattan apartment building, and one Atlantic City casino. He also owned the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.
As the year played out, he borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to fuel a wave of purchases, acquiring a second casino ($351.8 million), a Manhattan hotel ($80 million), the Mar-a-Lago property in Florida ($10 million), a New York hospital he intended to replace with an apartment building ($60 million) and an undeveloped expanse of railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan ($85 million), where he planned to construct an entire neighborhood, including a 150-story tower envisioned as the world’s tallest.
For the first time, Forbes’s ranking of the wealthiest Americans listed Mr. Trump individually, independent of his father — with an estimated net worth of $600 million that included the real estate empire Fred Trump still owned.
“What I have done is build the most beautiful buildings in the best locations,” Donald Trump told the magazine.
But what the newly revealed tax information makes clear is that, with his vast debt and other expenses on those properties, Mr. Trump’s fortunes were already on the way down.
His yearly carrying costs on the rail yards would rise to $18.7 million. He would not be able to convert Mar-a-Lago into a moneymaking club for another decade. The apartments on the hospital site would not be ready for sale, as Trump Palace, until 1990, and another residential project would be stalled for years. The football league would soon fold.
Because his businesses were generally created as partnerships, the companies themselves did not pay federal income taxes. Instead their results wound up on Mr. Trump’s personal ledger.
Beyond the $46.1 million loss that his core businesses logged in 1985, Mr. Trump’s tax information shows that he carried over $5.6 million in losses from prior years. The I.R.S. data on one-third of high-income tax returns that year lists only three taxpayers with greater losses.
In his letter, Mr. Harder, the president’s lawyer, took issue with comparing the tax returns of “a real estate developer to the returns of all taxpayers.” But most of the high-income taxpayers appeared, like Mr. Trump, to be business owners who received what is known as pass-through income. (That data does not include businesses, like most large corporations, that pay their taxes directly.)
The next years were a time of continued empire building. The information also documents, year by year, a time of gathering loss. Here is how it added up.
In 1986, he bought out his partners in Trump Tower and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. He bought an apartment building in West Palm Beach for $43 million. His business losses for the year: $68.7 million.
A Deal Maker in Financial Distress
Every year from 1985 through 1994, Donald J. Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income on his tax returns. That number grew as new losses were combined with those from prior years. The New York Times previously found that Mr. Trump declared an adjusted gross income in 1995 of negative $915.7 million. View graph here
About two weeks before the stock market crash of Oct. 19, 1987, he spent $29 million on a 282-foot yacht. Months later he bought the Plaza Hotel for $407 million. He recorded $42.2 million in core business losses for 1987, and $30.4 million for 1988.
In 1989, he bought a shuttle operation from Eastern Airlines for $365 million. It never made a profit, and Mr. Trump would soon pump in more than $7 million a month of his dwindling cash to keep it airborne, New Jersey casino regulators, who closely monitored his finances in those years, found.
Mr. Trump’s business losses that year soared to $181.7 million.
Then came the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, which opened in April 1990 saddled with more than $800 million in debt, most at very high interest rates. It did not generate enough revenue to cover that debt, and sucked revenue from his other casinos, Trump’s Castle and Trump Plaza, pulling them deep into the red.
As a result, 1990 and 1991 represented the worst years of the period reviewed by The Times, with combined losses of $517.6 million. And over the next three years, as Mr. Trump turned over properties to his lenders to stave off bankruptcy, his core businesses lost an additional $286.9 million.
The 10-year total: $1.17 billion in losses.
Mr. Trump was able to lose all that money without facing the usual consequences — such as a steep drop in his standard of living — in part because most of it belonged to others, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. And as The Times’s earlier investigation showed, Mr. Trump secretly leaned on his father’s wealth to continue living like a winner and to stage a comeback.
This is not to say that Mr. Trump never made money on a deal. One that turned out quite well came in 1985, when he bought the Hotel St. Moritz in Manhattan for $73.7 million. Mr. Trump has said he sold it for $180 million in 1989. His tax information showed long-term capital gains of $99.8 million, accounting for the vast majority of such gains in the 10 years reviewed by The Times.
But that rich payday was overwhelmed by his business losses, and Mr. Trump still paid no federal income taxes that year.
Some fraction of that ocean of red ink represented depreciation on Mr. Trump’s real estate. One of the most valuable special benefits in the tax code, depreciation lets owners of commercial real estate write down the cost of their buildings.
In “The Art of the Deal,” Mr. Trump points to one of his Atlantic City casinos to illustrate the magic of depreciation. If the casino’s cost was $400 million, he says, he would be able to depreciate it at a rate of 4 percent a year, allowing him to shelter $16 million in taxable income annually.
But while this example is intended to show the benefits of depreciation, it also demonstrates that depreciation cannot account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses Mr. Trump declared on his taxes.
The tax code also lets business owners like Mr. Trump use losses to avoid paying tax on future income — a lucrative deduction intended to help troubled businesses get back on their feet. Mr. Trump’s losses over the years rolled into the $915.7 million free pass from income taxes — known as net operating loss — that appeared on his 1995 returns.
The newly revealed tax information sheds light on how those net operating losses snowballed. By 1991, they had grown to nearly $418 million, accounting for fully 1 percent of all the losses that the I.R.S. reported had been declared by individual taxpayers that year. And the red ink continued to accumulate apace.
Because Mr. Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income in each of the 10 years, he was not allowed to deduct any charitable contributions. So while he has boasted of making large donations at the time, the information obtained by The Times shows no such itemized deductions. Potential deductions could have been carried over to a future year, should Mr. Trump have reported a positive income.
As losses from his core enterprises mounted, Mr. Trump took on a new public role, trading on his business-titan brand to present himself as a corporate raider. He would acquire shares in a company with borrowed money, suggest publicly that he was contemplating buying enough to become a majority owner, then quietly sell on the resulting rise in the stock price.
The tactic worked for a brief period — earning Mr. Trump millions of dollars in gains — until investors realized that he would not follow through. That much has been known for years. But the tax information obtained by The Times shows that he ultimately lost the bulk of the gains from his four-year trading spree.
The figures do not include an itemization of individual trades. But The Times was able to align the reported total gains with details on trades publicly documented by casino regulators at the time.
As with many things Trump, his adventures in the stock market were more image than substance, helped greatly by news reports quoting anonymous sources said to have knowledge of Mr. Trump’s actions. An occasional quote from an associate — including his stockbroker, Alan C. Greenberg — helped burnish the myth.
“He has an appetite like a Rocky Mountain vulture,” Mr. Greenberg, the legendary chairman of Bear Stearns, told The Wall Street Journal in 1987. “He’d like to own the world.”
In his actions, Mr. Trump was more like a peacock.
An early and profitable gambit came in February 1987, when Mr. Trump started buying stock in the company that owned United Airlines. That April, The Times reported that Mr. Trump was “believed to own 4.9 percent” of United and was “believed to have paid” about $50 a share.
Trump takeover speculation set off a rally in the stock. At the end of the month, Mr. Trump quietly sold nearly all his shares. The next day, The Journal reported that Mr. Trump’s gamble appeared to have netted him $55 million.
It was a gross exaggeration. New Jersey gaming regulators later determined that he had purchased only 2.3 percent of the company and gained $11 million, before interest and commissions.
The same tactic continued to work through 1988. Mr. Trump made a total of $57 million by briefly presenting himself as a takeover threat to, among others, Hilton Hotels, the Gillette razor company and Federated Department Stores, casino regulators found.
In all, from 1986 through 1989, Mr. Trump declared $67.3 million in gains from stocks and other assets bought and sold within one year.
By 1989, investors were less fooled by his moves. That September, he bought a large stake in American Airlines and announced a takeover bid.
“I’m very skeptical of everything this man does,” Andrew Geller, then an airline analyst at Provident National Bank in Philadelphia, told The Associated Press.
Mr. Trump was rebuffed, and the stock price fell sharply. Though at the time his losses were reported to be modest, the new tax return figures show that in 1990, the year he sold his American Airlines stake, Mr. Trump lost $34.9 million on short-term trades, wiping out half his gains from the previous four years.
He appears to have held only one other significant chunk of stock by decade’s close: a 27 percent stake in the Alexander’s department store company.
Mr. Trump had bought those shares for $67.9 million and held on, hoping to gain control of the company’s real estate with a partner. After climbing on the possibility of a takeover, the stock price slid.
Mr. Trump ultimately agreed to turn over that stock and most of his other assets — including the yacht, the Trump Shuttle and his stake in the Grand Hyatt — to his lenders. On the day in 1992 when he gave up the stock, it was trading at about $9 a share — which would represent a loss of $55.5 million.
And with that, Mr. Trump’s days as a market mover were over.
As would be expected for a business owner, the line on Mr. Trump’s tax returns showing regular wages and salary does not represent the bulk of his income. But one year stands out: 1988, when he recorded $67.1 million in salary — 90 percent of his total regular wages for the 10 years.
The figure appears to include a payment he received as part of a deal to buy the unfinished Taj Mahal casino from Merv Griffin, the talk show host turned businessman. Mr. Griffin’s company had agreed to pay Mr. Trump to manage construction of the casino, among other services, and the resolution of a bitter dispute between the two included Mr. Griffin’s company paying Mr. Trump $63 million to buy out that contract.
That windfall contributed to Mr. Trump’s making his biggest income tax payment of the 10 years reviewed by The Times. Even so, his overwhelming business losses meant that he paid only $1.4 million in alternative minimum tax that year.
The only other income tax he was required to pay in those years was $124,344 in 1987, also under the alternative minimum tax, which was created to make sure wealthy people could not avoid all income tax through loopholes and deductions.
One number from Mr. Trump’s tax returns is particularly striking — and particularly hard to explain: the $52.9 million in interest income he reported in 1989.
Mr. Trump reported $460,566 in interest income in 1986. That number grew to $5.5 million the next year, and $11.8 million the next. Then came the outlier 1989.
Taxpayers can receive interest income from a variety of sources, including bonds, bank accounts and mortgages. High-yield bonds, though less common today, were popular with institutional investors in the 1980s. And to make $52.9 million in interest, for example, Mr. Trump would have had to own roughly $378 million in bonds generating 14 percent a year.
Hard data on most of Mr. Trump’s business life is hard to come by, but public findings from New Jersey casino regulators show no evidence that he owned anything capable of generating close to $52.9 million annually in interest income.
Similarly, there is no such evidence in a 1990 report on Mr. Trump’s financial condition, prepared by an accounting firm he hired at his bankers’ request and based on his most current tax returns and audited financial statements.
Mr. Trump’s interest income fell almost as quickly as it rose: He reported $18.7 million in 1990, and only $3.6 million in 1992.
At his nadir, in the post-recession autumn of 1991, Mr. Trump testified before a congressional task force, calling for changes in the tax code to benefit his industry.
“The real estate business — we’re in an absolute depression,” Mr. Trump told the lawmakers, adding: “I see no sign of any kind of upturn at all. There is no incentive to invest. Everyone is doing badly, everyone.”
Everyone, perhaps, except his father, Fred Trump.
While Donald Trump reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for 1990 and 1991, Fred Trump’s returns showed a positive income of $53.9 million, with only one major loss: $15 million invested in his son’s latest apartment project. Source
April 2, 2019 newyorker.com Trump, Wrecker of Reputations
On Attorney General William Barr’s testimony and the coming constitutional crisis.
In his short time in politics, President Trump has shred the careers, professional integrity, and dignity of many who have worked for him. Attorney General William Barr is no exception.
In the first year of the Trump Presidency, White House advisers often promised reporters that this would be the week when they would unveil Trump’s plans for a massive investment in American infrastructure. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump had vowed to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding roads, bridges, and airports. He said that he would work with Democrats to do it. For a time, it seemed to be the only bipartisan project that might actually go somewhere. But, of course, Infrastructure Week never happened. There was always some distraction, some P.R. disaster that overwhelmed it—a chief of staff to be fired, an errant tweet upending foreign policy. Infrastructure Week lived on as an Internet meme, a Twitter hashtag, a joke; it became shorthand for the Administration’s inability to stay on message or organize itself to promote a legislative agenda it claimed to support.
Trump never fully gave up on the infrastructure idea, though, and this week he resurrected it in a rare meeting with congressional Democratic leaders, who emerged from the White House on Tuesday morning, smiling and apparently excited. The President, they explained, had decided to double the price tag of his proposal, from a trillion to two trillion dollars, because it sounded more impressive. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to whom the President reportedly offered Tic Tacs at the meeting in a friendly gesture, praised his vision for a “big and bold” plan. The meeting, Senator Chuck Schumer added, had been a “very, very good start.”
But it was all just a form of Washington performance art. There are no Republican votes for such an expensive package, as the Democrats well knew, and there is no way that the President’s allies on Capitol Hill, nor his own penny-pinching White House chief of staff, would agree to such a budget-busting deal. Trump’s “extreme and aspirational” idea, as Senator Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, put it, had Republicans “rolling their eyes,” Politico reported. The ranking member of the House committee that would have to approve any measure had offered a simple answer to the question of whether Trump’s idea could ever be passed. “No,” he said. It would not be Infrastructure Week, or even Infrastructure Day. The new era of bipartisan dealmaking was over before it began.
By late Tuesday, the news cycle had moved on. Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, was refusing to testify before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee and would not turn over the unredacted Mueller report or its underlying evidence. The Administration, in fact, was refusing to comply with more or less any congressional demands for information and testimony on an array of investigations of the President, from his business-related conflicts of interest to his family-separation policy at the border. Then came more news: Barr had a behind-the-scenes dispute with the special counsel about his characterization of the report. Robert Mueller, it turned out, had sent a letter to Barr (who later called the missive “snitty”) weeks earlier, but it was only now being revealed. In the letter, Mueller suggested that Barr had minimized and deflected the serious questions about the President that Mueller’s investigation had turned up. The next day, the whole mess was fought over in excruciating detail when Barr appeared before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to testify for the first time since the release of the Mueller report.
By Thursday, House Democrats were holding a hearing, with an empty chair where Barr would have been seated, had he shown up, and threatening to take the Attorney General to court. One of the Democrats had brought fried chicken, which some of his fellow-representatives ate during the hearing, to mock Barr—he’s a chicken, get it? It was all a “stunt,” a “circus,” and a “travesty,” Representative Doug Collins, the panel’s top Republican, complained. But Representative Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, said that nothing less than the “integrity of this chamber,” the Constitution, and the American system of “not having a President as a dictator” was at stake in Barr’s refusal to comply with the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena. “There is no way forward for this country that does not include a reckoning with this clear and present danger to our constitutional order,” Nadler added. Soon after, Pelosi, at a press conference, told reporters that the Administration’s refusal to coöperate with Congress on so many matters was itself obstruction. As for Barr, she said, he had lied under oath to Congress about his dealings with Mueller and “disgraced” his office. “We are in a very, very, very challenging place,” she said. So much for Infrastructure Week. The constitutional crisis was back on.
The Trump Presidency has been a great wrecker of reputations. In his short time in politics, Trump has managed to shred the careers, professional integrity, and dignity of many of those who worked for him. Rex Tillerson had been an American corporate superstar, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, one of the wealthiest oil companies in the world. He became Trump’s Secretary of State and, according to the account given to reporters at an off-the-record session by Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly, learned that he was being fired while sitting on the toilet, an indignity followed up with a Presidential tweet announcing his exit. Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was just leaving Air Force One, oblivious, when Trump tweeted the news of his firing. On Thursday, Trump did it again, with Stephen Moore, his controversial choice for the Federal Reserve, tweeting that he was out of contention soon after Moore told Bloomberg News that the President was his “biggest ally.” In the interview, Moore said, of the President, “He’s full speed ahead.” The Trump tweet abandoning him came at 12:29 p.m., which was apparently little more than half an hour after Moore told a Bloomberg writer that the President was still all in. “Moore got Priebus-ed,” the writer tweeted.
Just as striking as Trump’s own crude efforts to humiliate, however, are the numerous examples of those who seem to abase or degrade themselves in their efforts to curry favor with the President. Such behavior, of course, has long been a bipartisan feature of life in Washington, where access to power can do bad things to the character of those who seek it. The Trump Presidency has produced more than its share of examples, however, given that getting and staying in this President’s good graces appears to require an extra helping of public obsequiousness, grovelling, flip-floppery, and over-the-top televised pronouncements.
This unseemly aspect of the Trump era was on full display at Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, where both the committee chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Attorney General Barr went out of their way to appeal to the President, at the expense of their own credibility. Graham, who ran against Trump, in 2016, and called the future President a “kook” who was “unfit” to hold the office, opened the hearing by reading aloud text messages exchanged, in 2016, between two F.B.I. agents, who expressed the same fears about Trump that Graham had at the time. Graham then announced that he had not actually read the whole Mueller report, the contents of which he proceeded to dismiss.
For his part, Barr, once again, acted more as the President’s defense lawyer than as his Attorney General. Taking a maximalist position on Presidential power, Barr argued that Trump would be well within his rights to shut down any investigation of himself if he believed it to be unfair. Surely, that statement will go down as one of the most extraordinary claims of executive authority since Richard Nixon said that “when the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Throughout his appearance, Barr continued to assert that Trump had been cleared of all wrongdoing by the Mueller investigation, while admitting, under questioning by Senator Kamala Harris, that he and his deputy had not actually looked at the underlying evidence of Presidential obstruction assembled by Mueller before determining that it was not sufficient to warrant charges. Barr also said that Trump directing his then White House counsel to fire the special counsel—a key incident in the Mueller report—was not a big deal because Trump was actually ordering that Mueller be replaced, which, Barr contended, is not the same thing as ordering him fired. His client, not surprisingly, was pleased. “A source familiar with Trump’s thinking said the President thought Barr was great and did an excellent job,” Axios reported.
Barr’s whole performance, in fact, was so over the top, so Trumpian, that it immediately led to an array of tweets and op-eds wondering why Barr, a once-respected figure in conservative legal circles and a relatively uncontroversial Attorney General during the Presidency of George H. W. Bush, would choose to end a distinguished career in such a fashion. After all, Barr, like Graham, hadn’t even liked or supported Trump when he ran for President.
The most scathing take of all came from the former F.B.I. director James Comey, whose firing by Trump led to Mueller’s appointment. Writing in the Times, in a piece titled “How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr,” Comey posited that Barr’s conduct and that of others around Trump was a consequence of their having chosen to serve the President. “Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them,” Comey wrote. “Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from.” It doesn’t happen right away but over time, Comey wrote, in a series of compromises along the way. “Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”
So Washington enters May as it ended April, with a constitutional crisis in the making and no Infrastructure Week. But will the constitutional clash between the Democratic House and the Republican President be any less performance art than the nonexistent infrastructure deal they claimed to be making? After Wednesday’s contentious Senate hearing, Lindsey Graham, whatever you think of his credibility, spoke what appeared to be a genuine political truth. He said that, as far as he and his Republican-controlled committee are concerned, there will be no more discussion of the Mueller report, no more testimony, and no impeachment. “It’s over,” he said, and he may well be right. Source
March 29, 2019 newyorker.com Our President of the Perpetual Grievance
Donald Trump appears to have been freed from the fear of impeachment and removal from office, but he remains the public figure he has always been.
“The Russian hoax is finally dead,” President Trump declared on Thursday night, at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “The collusion delusion is over.” Trump, though, was not over it, and he was definitely not moving on. Four days had passed since his Attorney General, William Barr, released a four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s Russia ties. In it, Barr announced that Mueller “did not establish” a conspiracy with Russia and had declined to proceed with an obstruction case against Trump (although he did not “exonerate” him, either). The President has not been content with merely claiming vindication, however. He seems determined to keep talking and talking about it, which was exactly what he did on Thursday night.
In his first appearance before a crowd since Barr’s summary dropped like a bomb, last weekend, Trump blamed Democrats, “the deep state,” “and the fake news media, right back there”—pointing to the rear of the packed arena—for what he called “a crazy attempt . . . to overturn the results of the 2016 election.” The President recast a lengthy investigation overseen by his own Justice Department as “nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people.” It was “an elaborate hoax,” he said, and “a plan by those who lost the election to try to illegally regain power.” In short, he said, “It was the single greatest hoax in the history of politics in our country.”
Trump was speaking at the site of his final rally of the 2016 election. He loves nothing more than to revisit that night, when his upset victory would not have happened without narrow wins in the upper Midwest. Arguably, this has been his single best week since that victory; Barr’s summary has dispelled the question mark that has hung over Trump’s win since the beginning of Mueller’s investigation. The good news, however, was hardly reflected at the rally, where Trump did not seem so much a vindicated President as a vengeful one, whose political calculus involved none of the reaching out to disaffected voters that more conventional politicians might attempt at such a moment—especially in a key battleground state like Michigan, where Trump’s poll ratings have plummeted since 2016.
What’s been remarkable, this week, is how much Trump triumphant has sounded like Trump at every other point in his Presidency: angry and victimized; undisciplined and often incoherent; predictable in his unpredictability; vain and insecure; prone to lies, exaggeration, and to undercutting even those who seek to serve him. Sure, he appears relieved, but the Barr letter, with its welcome news for Trump, did not come with magic fairy dust that could suddenly transform the seventy-two-year-old President into someone else entirely. The new Time cover shows Trump under an umbrella, smiling in the rain, with the headline “The Trump Reboot,” but that misses the point. There is no reboot, no Trump 2.0—nor will there be. Even without the existential peril to his Presidency that Mueller posed, Trump is still Trump, the same as he ever was.
Before his rally on Thursday, Trump had made eight public appearances after Barr released his summary of Mueller’s findings, most of them short responses to shouted questions from reporters and one long interview with his favorite Fox News host, Sean Hannity. I went back and listened to all of them. There was no new Trump, no moving on. What was striking was how little celebration there was from the President, although he did talk a few times about the “beautiful” outcome. The same was true for Trump’s always-active Twitter feed, which combined the usual fevered mix of insta-punditry, peremptory demands(The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries must “increase the flow of Oil… Thank you!”), and score-settling (“the Fake News Media is going Crazy!”) that has become familiar, if no more Presidential, by now. The main news of Trump’s post-Mueller week, in fact, was the undercutting of his own party, another Trump trademark, as his Administration decided to support a court ruling that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Trump declared a new slogan for Republicans as “the Party of great health care,” although G.O.P. leaders on Capitol Hill view the issue as a political loser that cost the Party control of the House last fall.
Trump appears to have been freed from the fear of impeachment and removal from office, but he remains the public figure he has always been: a weird combination of perpetual victim and perpetual bully, whose one constant is to remain on the attack. In case the President’s plan wasn’t already abundantly clear, on Thursday morning he tweeted out a Fox commentary segment: “Now is the time for President Trump to Counter Punch.” And counterpunch he did. The closest thing to an overture to Democrats in his rally on Thursday night was when he called on the Party “to decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with this ridiculous bullshit . . . or whether they will apologize to the American people” and work with Trump on priorities like fixing “broken trade deals” and building a wall on the southern border. As political overtures go, it wasn’t much of one.
In the immediate aftermath of the release of Barr’s letter, some of Trump’s Republican supporters called on him to be magnanimous in victory. Or, at least, they hoped he would move on, perhaps recalling the politically astute course followed by the Clinton Administration, in 1999, after Republicans failed to convict Bill Clinton in a Senate trial and the President, though privately fuming, publicly heeded his advisers’ counsel to make the White House a “gloat-free zone.” As anyone who’s been watching Trump for the last few years could have told you, that was not going to happen.
In fact, Trump seems to be getting more exercised about the whole ordeal the further away he gets from his initial relief that it appeared to be over. His interview with Hannity was particularly revealing. He complained about a long list of enemies, from “dirty cops” to John Brennan, the former C.I.A. director and one of Trump’s toughest public critics, whom the President said was “a sick person.” He continued to simply ignore or mischaracterize Barr’s statement that the special counsel did not “exonerate” the President on obstruction of justice, and proclaimed himself, in fact, “the most innocent human being.”
In one particularly revealing exchange, Hannity asked Trump why he was still bringing up his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her deleted e-mails, reminding the President that back on Election Night he had told his followers that he was prepared to move on. “Do you still feel that way today?” Hannity asked. “No, not really,” Trump said. Later, he elaborated, “I said, you know, let’s get back on; let’s not think about the past; let’s think about the future. But now I think thinking about the past is just O.K., because we can never let this happen again in our country or to another President. . . . We can never allow these treasonous acts to happen to another President. This was an attempted takeover of our government, of our country, an illegal takeover.”
If Trump still sounds like Trump, so, too, did Washington after the Mueller report still seem an awful lot like Washington before the Mueller report. For starters, we are still waiting for the report itself, and likely will be for many weeks. If there’s one thing we’re used to by now, it’s waiting for Robert Mueller. The state of it’s-never-really-over feels especially relevant, given that the Timessays that the report is more than three hundred pages and still has not been seen by anyone outside of the Trump Justice Department. Jerry Nadler, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and another entry on Trump’s list of enemies, said that it’s “very comprehensive,” but less than a thousand pages. Whatever the actual length of the report, all of the past week’s flood of analysis and interpretation is based on barely two partial sentences of Mueller’s report that have actually been revealed.
So, of course, it was never going to end with a four-page summary written by a Trump political appointee and released late on a Sunday afternoon. There will be hearings, perhaps subpoenas, and court fights over what the public can see and when it can see it. Nadler has set a deadline of Tuesday, April 2nd, for Barr to send him the report, although everyone expects the Attorney General to miss it. Barr will be called to testify. Mueller will be called to testify. Echoing the vindictive tone set by Trump, some Republicans won’t let it go any more than some Democrats will.
On Thursday at 6:43 a.m., after four days of declaring victory, the President signalled his state of mind: he was still focussed on the investigation and going after his enemies. He tweeted, “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!” Within hours of the release of the Barr letter, Trump and his advisers had called for vengeance against Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the leading public face of congressional investigations into Trump. Hannity asked Trump about it in his interview. “A bad guy,” Trump said, of Schiff, adding that he was a “disgrace to our country.” “He knew he was lying,” he said. “He should be forced out of office.” The attack the next morning seemed like an obvious next step. A couple of hours after Trump’s tweet, all nine Republicans on Schiff’s House committee followed up, disrupting a hearing to present their written demand, while sitting on the dais with Schiff, that he quit, saying the he “knowingly” promoted a now-disproved conspiracy theory.
Schiff responded with a long, impassioned speech, in which he listed all the disturbing data points about the Trump 2016 campaign and the Russians: a meeting at Trump Tower with Trump’s son and his campaign chair, with Russians offering “dirt”; the false statements about that meeting; the overtures to Trump’s staff linked to Russian intelligence; the President’s pursuit of a multimillion-dollar Moscow real-estate deal during the campaign; his false statements about that deal. “I don’t think it’s O.K.,” an unrepentant Schiff said. “I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.” Democrats defended Schiff, too. “I think they’re just scaredy-cats,” Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, responded later, referring to the Republicans. “They’re just afraid.”
It was all a reminder that the story of Trump and Russia won’t go away. For Trump, it’s a key to his victimization narrative—look at what the evil deep state tried to do to me. The President is all about the politics of grievance. For Democrats, even if the politics of impeachment have fizzled, the Trump-Russia story remains proof of Trump’s unfitness for office. It also remains unresolved by Barr’s short summary, which, after all, is just a few paragraphs of declarative legalese after two years of waiting.
So, yes, Washington is less different than you would think after Mueller. Trump watched Schiff’s speech on Thursday morning, and he didn’t like it. He called him “Little Pencil Neck” Schiff to the cheers of his Michigan crowd on Thursday night. The fight will go on. Source
Susan B. Glasser is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she writes a weekly column on life in Trump’s Washington.
March 10, 2019 nymag.com Everything to Know About the Spa Founder Selling Access to Trump
The woman who founded the Florida spa where police allege Patriots owner Robert Kraft solicited prostitution appears to have also sold access to the president, according to investigations by the Miami Herald and Mother Jones. The reports not only raise another red flag about how political influence has been monetized during the Trump presidency, but provide new evidence of how Trump-branded properties have become magnets for corruption and grift — and may soon lead to new investigations into what may have been illegal campaign donations to Trump and the RNC.
Who Is Cindy Yang?
At the center of this developing story is Cindy (Li) Yang, a 45-year-old entrepreneur and naturalized U.S. citizen from China who started fund-raising for Trump in 2017. Yang and her family members founded a chain of Asian day spas in Florida, mostly under the Tokyo Day Spa brand. One of the spas Yang founded but later sold was the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida, where police say they filmed billionaire Robert Kraft paying for oral sex in late January as part of a multi-agency law enforcement operation targeting human trafficking at spas in the state. Ten Asian day spas were ultimately raided and shut down as a result of that investigation, but Orchids of Asia was the only one associated with Yang.
According to the Miami Herald, there is no indication that Yang was implicated in the sting. However, the Herald reports that many of the day spas she and her family have owned and operated, including the location which later became Orchids of Asia, at the time Yang still ran it, have earned reputations as so-called rub-and-tug parlors, where sexual services are sold to clients in addition to massage.
Yang and her family members have opened at least six day spas as well as a massage school and several nail salons — all in Palm Beach and Broward counties. “The family’s Tokyo Day Spa branches have attracted the attention of at least two local police agencies over allegations of prostitution, and are discussed online as places where men can pay for sexual extras,” the Heraldreported on Friday. The publication dug through Yelp and websites aimed at would-be patrons of rub-and-tug businesses, and noted allegations from former employees and customers:
Online ads on obscure websites also raise flags about Yang’s businesses. In an ad written in Chinese recruiting masseuses, Yang stated that anyone over the age of 45 need not apply. Phone numbers associated with members of the Yang family are connected to various apparently old online advertisements for more explicit sex services.
The Herald reported on Friday that Yang denied that she or her family members had done anything illegal, but did not respond when asked whether they were aware of allegations that sexual services were being sold at their businesses. She also said she wanted to avoid negative press ahead of her upcoming move — to Washington.
From massage to MAGA
If there is any evidence that Cindy Yang had an interest in politics before the 2016 presidential race, the Miami Herald couldn’t find it. She hadn’t voted in ten years, but then seemed to undergo some kind of political awakening. She made some small donations to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign in 2015 and talked about starting a “new life” in a Facebook post from a GOP women’s event in 2016. But then, she started posting more and more about politics on social media as the general election played out. She also removed her name from the business records of the spas she founded, and had founded what the Herald characterized as a disorganized charity called the Overseas International Female Organization.
Within a year of Trump’s election, Yang was deep in the MAGA muck. She had been to Trump’s inauguration, a fancy New York fund-raiser, an elite lunch at Mar-a-Lago, and she had started fund-raising for the president. She had also started amassing a large collection of photos of herself with Trump, Trump family members, Trump administration officials, Republican lawmakers, and conservative personalities.
Since 2017, Yang and family members have donated almost $60,000 to the Trump campaign and the Trump Victory super PAC, and she has frequented Mar-a-Lago, where she recently took a selfie with the president during the club’s Super Bowl party. She’s also been to the White House, where she attended a meeting of Trump’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative in February 2018. She has apparently attended at least two other events hosted by the group in Washington, as well.
Yang’s Trumpmania may not have been all about MAGA, however, as she didn’t just obtain access, but has tried to profit from it.
Selling the presidential selfie in China
A little more than a year after Trump’s election, Yang and her husband started a consulting firm, GY US Investments, targeting Chinese businesses looking to expand their operations in the U.S. The company’s website marketed Yang’s connections to Trump, his administration, and his conservative allies. To prove that point, the site featured numerous photos of Yang posing with Trump, Trump family members, White House officials and various other Republicans and conservative personalities.
According to Mother Jones, “the overall message conveyed by the GY US Investments website seems clear: hire Yang’s company and she can get you close to Trump and his government — at Mar-a-Lago and in Washington.” The GY site, which went offline after the Herald story broke but can still be seen in archived form, claimed that the firm had arranged attendance and photo opportunities for clients at the White House’s “Asian New Year” celebration in 2018, had gotten “a number of guests” into the annual New Year’s Eve bash at Mar-a-Lago this year, and teased more opportunities to come:
The GY US Investments website lists upcoming events at Mar-a-Lago at which Yang’s clients presumably can mingle with Trump or members of his family. This includes something called the International Leaders Elite Forum, where Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, will supposedly be the featured speaker. Attendees, the site says, will include “Chinese elites from various countries, including the US states, as well as elite leaders from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, Europe and other countries and regions.” Another event for which Yang’s firm says it can provide access is Trump’s annual New Year’s celebration at Mar-a-Lago. Elsewhere on the website, the firm boasts that “GY Company arranged a number of guests to attend the 2019 New Year’s Eve dinner. All the guests took photos with” members of Trump’s family. This page displays photos of Chinese executives and a Chinese movie star with Donald Trump Jr., suggesting that these pics were arranged by the company, and also includes a photo of Yang with Elizabeth Trump Grau.
The first Trump event Yang may have sold access to was in late 2017. On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that Yang had attended a fund-raiser on December 7 at Cipriani New York, and was accompanied by a group of Chinese business executives. She said the foreigners were her “guests,” according to one of the attendees:
In the 11 days before the event, Yang gave $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $23,500 to the Trump Victory political action committee, according to a Miami Herald analysis of federal political contributions. [Yang] also claimed to have arranged the presence of a large group of business people from mainland China.
Nearly 100 of the 400 or so guests at the New York fund-raiser were Chinese, according to Chinese-language media reports at the time. Even Trump noted the disproportion at the event, according to the Herald:
The source who attended the party said the president joked that the Chinese guests got all the good seats and would be omnipresent at future events if his American friends in real estate didn’t start donating more. The source said admission started at $2,700, and photos with the president were offered for $10,000.
Ten days after the event, Yang and her husband registered GY US Investments as a company in Florida and began marketing her access.
Did Yang break the law?
It’s not yet clear. Since U.S. election law only allows American citizens and permanent residents to contribute money to a U.S. politician, foreigners can only attend political fund-raisers if they do not pay their way in. If Yang paid for a foreign citizen’s ticket, but was reimbursed by them — thus acting as a conduit for foreign donations — that would be illegal.
Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, commented on Saturday that a law enforcement investigation may now be an inevitability. She explained that there seemed to be “a lot of potential criminal conduct” in the reports, and the next step, she said, was to find out how and why Yang had access, predicting that, “I see subpoenas in her future.”
Reached for comment about her businesses and Trump connections by the Miami Herald, Cindy Yang said she did not know the president personally or work for him, but has volunteered with the Trump campaign:
“I just come to some events. There’s nothing special,” Yang said. Although she has claimed online to be a member of Trump clubs, she told the Herald she does not in fact belong to any.
Is this a national security risk?
Sam Vinograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council, speculated on Saturday that it was very likely China, thanks to its counterintelligence strength, knew about Yang’s access, and may have even directed it. Another national security expert, Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey made a similar point.
On Sunday, Mother Jonesreported that Yang was an officer in two groups with links to China’s government, though stressed there was no evidence to suggest she was involved in espionage. According to the report, an online profile of Yang said she held senior roles in Florida local branches of the (American) Chinese Association of Science and Technology and the Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (CPPRC). Both organizations have numerous U.S. chapters, and don’t at all prove that Yang was some kind of government agent, but they are still organizations which are linked to China’s Communist Party, and at least one, the CPPRC, is meant to help promote Chinese influence. Mother Jones also notes that Yang was once invited to attend a ceremony welcoming three warships as they docked in Florida — an event which was also attended by China’s ambassador to the U.S. and consul general.
What about blackmail?
Another potential security risk revolves around sex work that may have been performed at Yang’s day spas, as well as their proximity to Trump’s Southern White House — Mar-a-Lago. What if, as the Daily Beast’s David Rothkopf loudly worried on Saturday, Trump or members of his inner circle have been customers at any of the spas operated by Yang and her family. Billionaire Trump friend Robert Kraft allegedly was. And billionaire Trump backer John Childs allegedly paid for sexual services at a different Asian day spa caught up in the same sting.
You don’t have to be a spy novelist to imagine the blackmail opportunities such a situation could create. There are no indications that any other Trumpworld figures were spa clients, but no one should be surprised if Trump’s tabloid presidency gets somehow crazier, or sleazier.
Is anyone else trying to sell White House access in China?
Yang, of course, is only the latest specific example of the gold rush of influence seekers and peddlers who have tried to work their way into Trump’s orbit since he was elected president. In the half-exploded ethical minefield of the Trump administration, concerns over executives and foreigners using Trump family businesses to gain access and influence within the White House have been repeatedly justified. Just this past week, ProPublica reported that a Mar-a-Lago member was able to get Trump to forward his personal policy idea to the head of the Veterans Administration — hardly the first or last time that will happen before Trump leaves office.
When it comes to obtaining access to Trump events, Yang’s company has been just one of at least several options for interested parties in China. Last May, the Washington Posthighlighted the rising number of well-off Chinese citizens who were attending Trump fund-raisers. They reported that official-looking offer letters had made the rounds among wealthy businesspeople in China offering chances to meet Trump at a campaign fund-raising event in Dallas for as much as $100,000. The Post even tracked down the source of that offer, and heard about tactics which seem somewhat similar to Yang’s:
In an interview with The Washington Post, a Beijing man who claims to be an organizer of the excursion to Dallas said he coordinated a previous U.S. trip, bringing members of the Chinese business elite to snap selfies and pose for photos at a swanky Manhattan fund-raiser headlined by Trump in December. As part of his promotional materials for the Dallas trip, the man circulated pictures of wealthy Chinese business leaders, including a businessman known as the country’s first owner of a Ferrari, standing shoulder to shoulder with Trump in formal wear and giving a thumbs-up. …
Sun’s invite claims that he and his associates have “prior experience participating in three Republican president dinners in 2017,” including the New York visit. The Post could not independently verify his involvement in any trips. In the interview, he said his Beijing-based company aims to raise the profile of Chinese entrepreneurs. The $100,000 per-person price tag includes airport pickup, lodging, meals and translator, the invitation says.
The RNC, in their response to the Post’s story, denied having any knowledge of the efforts to woo Chinese nationals and said they would not have endorsed them if they had. “We maintain strict compliance with the law and have a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone who attempts to take advantage of the system in order to attend our events,” an RNC spokeswoman said.
There have also been suspicions about presidency-leveraging in China from someone with the closest possible ties to Trump. Jared Kushner was reportedly aggressively pursued by China’s government after Trump got elected, and his family business was caught, more than once, using his connection to Trump to attract investment in the country.
Foreign citizens can spend as much as they want at Trump properties. At a typically Trump-attended event like the New Year’s gala at Mar-a-Lago, the money just goes to Trump’s company, not his campaign or the GOP. Trump did not attend the New Year’s event at Mar-a-Lago this year, having decided to remain at the White House during his partial shutdown of the federal government. If he’d gone, he may have run into Huachu Tang, the owner of an electric car company in China, who later told Yahoo Finance that he’d made the trip from China with his wife in the hope of meeting Trump and raising the profile of his soon-to-be-public company. It’s not clear if Tang was a client of Yang’s firm or not. He said he had arranged the trip through a PR agency. Stood up by the president, Tang scored photos with Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and the president’s sister, instead.
Tang’s company, when asked by Yahoo, declined to reveal how much he had paid to attend the event. According to the Palm Beach Post, Mar-a-Lago raised its prices for the party this year, and a pair of nonmember guests could expect to pay the Trump Organization as much as $2,500 to attend. We don’t know who else was there, either. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics watchdog group has sued to gain access to Mar-a-Lago’s visitor logs, but so far to no avail. Source
March 2, 2019 rawstory.com The Republican Party is dead: GOP strategist stunned by reception to Trump’s ‘unhinged’ CPAC speech
Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, GOP strategist Rick Tyler was visibly upset at what he heard from Donald Trump during his speech at CPAC, and even more so by the enthusiastic reception the president was receiving.
“It’s interesting about CPAC,” Tyler began. “It used to be the confab of conservatives who would get together once a year but it’s not CPAC anymore — it hasn’t been since 2016. It’s now Trump-pac and should be TPAC.”
“The people there talk about being pro-tariffs, anti-justice, anti-law enforcement, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, pro-Russia, pro-autocrat,” he continued. “It’s unrecognizable what Donald Trump has done to the party and what he’s done to the conservative movement — it’s a shame.”
Asked by host Witt, “What can be done to resurrect the Republican Party as it was — or is that gone?” Tyler said the party is dead.
“Rest in peace,” he lamented. “No, it’s over. The problem is that the Republican Party has no grounding governing philosophy anymore because they’ve signed on to all these things as I just mentioned that were antithetical to the conservative movement.”
“So it’s the Trump party,” he conceded. “When Trump passes on, one way or the other, the party will no longer exist and the Republican party will have — it has no fundamental belief. You have to believe in something, and I don’t know what the Republican Party believes in or what its message is anymore.”
Feb 19, 2019 npr.org Trump Threatens To Cancel California’s $929 Million High Speed Rail Grant
A full-scale mockup of a high-speed train on display at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., in 2015. The Trump administration is planning to cancel a $929 million federal grant for the project.
The Trump administration says it intends to cancel a $929 million federal grant for California’s high-speed rail project. The administration also wants to reclaim another $2.5 billion in federal funds already spent by California on the project.
The Department of Transportation is accusing California officials of missing several deadlines tied to the $929 million appropriation for the state’s high speed rail line.
In a letter from the Federal Railroad Administration to the state High-Speed Rail Authority, the federal officials say it will terminate the grant effective March 5.
The FRA letter adds that the agency is concerned that California is changing its original plan to “connect San Francisco in the north and Los Angeles and Anaheim in the south.”
In his state of the state address last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, proposed to scale back the project, and focus on completing a link in the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Merced.
A day later, President Trump tweeted that California’s high-speed rail project was a ” ‘green’ disaster” and demanded that the state return billions of federal dollars.
“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now,” Trump said.
Newsom responded with his own tweet, saying, “Fake news. We’re building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond. This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back. The train is leaving the station — better get on board! (Also, desperately searching for some wall $$??)”
Trump himself connected the two issues in a tweetTuesday, “As I predicted, 16 states, led mostly by Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left, have filed a lawsuit in, of course, the 9th Circuit! California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge!”
The cost of the original plan to build a high-speed link between San Francisco and Los Angeles is currently estimated at $77 billion, about twice the initial price tag.
As the Associated Press reports, the $929 million that Trump is threatening to cancel was approved by Congress nearly a decade ago. It is not clear how the administration can force California to return the $2.5 billion it has already spent, although the FRA letter says the agency “is exploring all available legal options.” Source
February 17, 2019 washingtonexaminer.com Here’s where Trump could order up 234 miles of new border wall
President Trump’s national emergency declaration to build hundreds more miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was short on specifics about where the steel structures would go.
Trump’s emergency order faces opposition in Congress. And even the president, in announcing the emergency declaration Friday, admitted it could get bogged down in court fights for some time to come.
In the meantime, though, Trump administration officials are looking to Homeland Security experts for guidance about where along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border it makes sense to add steel wall structures.
“So it actually ends up being a complicated question,” one official said Friday. “The men and women of the Border Patrol each year put together a border security improvement plan, which looks at all of the areas on the 2,000-mile border by risk. It takes into consideration smuggling routes, violent gangs, humanitarian issues, different types of terrain, and figures out where we need physical barriers the most. Based on that list, that is what we build against.”
The Department of Homeland Security is working on projects from money they were given in 2017 and 2018 appropriations. They will decide on where to spend Trump’s $8 billion after Customs and Border Protection’s annual report on the 2018 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, 2018, is released.
Some hints as to where the Trump administration will put up more wall can be found in the guidelines that specify how each pocket of money must be spent.
“It’s going to be a little bit of mix and match, because instead of Congress just providing the money, the different pots have different authorizations for how and where we can use that money. And so, we are in the process to make sure that we can make those dollars go as far as they possibly can, and we expect they will be able to go farther than 234 miles,” a second administration official said.
The rest of the money is funding the White House took from the Pentagon and the Treasury Department. These cash pots must be spent on projects related to their original intention, according to the national emergency order.
The White House is using $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug interdiction program, and $3.5 billion from a military construction fund.
The drug interdiction money must be spent on projects that interrupt drug smuggling activity — in areas of the border where narcotics operations are especially prevalent. Based on CBP’s forthcoming report, DHS will tell the Pentagon which regions need better or new wall, because agents and officers are seeing an uptick in drug busts there.
Regions with high narcotic activity include Laredo, Texas; Pharr, Texas; Nogales and Yuma, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif.
Guidelines for how to use the $600 million of drug forfeiture money must be spent on law enforcement purposes. That gives DHS significant latitude in how to use it. Around 700 miles of existing southern border have some type of barrier, but DHS could build more in areas that have high illegal entry rates.
The final $3.6 billion pot of military construction money must go toward projects that help military operations. Last April and again in the fall, Trump approved National Guard and active-duty troop deployments to border states. The military has largely remained behind the scenes, monitoring cameras and sensors, repairing vehicles, installing concertina wire on existing barriers, and other tasks.
The administration is limited to only building a steel, bollard wall. This type of barrier was approved by Congress last fall as the only type of wall it would allow. Tests in 2017 by the Army Corps of Engineers and CBP officers later showed it to be the most effective type of barrier, among by eight wall prototypes evaluated in San Diego, Calif. Source
February 15, 2019 vanityfair.com REPUBLICANS MELT DOWN OVER TRUMP’S NATIONAL EMERGENCY Even the president’s allies are worried about his emergency powers—and terrified that Democrats will use them against them.
With Democrats sharing the Republicans’ grip on the federal purse strings, Donald Trump is set to bypass Congress and use the nuclear option to build his long-promised wall at the United States-Mexico border. It’s a move that will trigger a tough, protracted legal fight—and one that could even cause a rift within the G.O.P., where leadership previously warned the president against an emergency declaration.
Democrats, naturally, labeled the move “crazy,” “ridiculous,” and something “all of us will come to regret.” But Thursday also saw renewed cries of alarm from Republicans. Senator Susan Collins, who has criticized Trump in the past, released a statement calling the administration’s plan B a “mistake.” “Such a declaration would undermine the role of Congress and the appropriations process,” Collins said, warning of the precedent it could set. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a proponent of limited government, told a reporter he was “not in favor” of the plan, saying that “revenue raising and spending power was given to Congress” and suggesting that going around lawmakers would be an abuse of executive power. And Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who’s stood up to the administration before, said she “[doesn’t] think this is a matter that should be declared a national emergency.”
“I wish he wouldn’t have done it,” Senator Chuck Grassleytold Politico. “I imagine we’ll find out whether he’s got the authority to do it by the courts.”
“I never thought that was a good idea,” Republican Senator Pat Toomeytold a reporter. “I still don’t.”
Trump had long suggested he’d employ the nuclear option, having previously called the bipartisan talks that led to this week’s border-security agreement a “waste of time.” He’d even implied that he would declare a national emergency during his State of the Union address earlier this month, but ultimately decided against it amid bipartisan backlash—including from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Now, though, Trump is planning to sign the bipartisan deal and employ the nuclear option. That will likely please his base, including Sean Hannity, who signaled this week that the only way he’d give his blessing to the “garbage compromise” would be if the president accompanied his signature with a national emergency. It’ll also please some of his Capitol Hill allies, including Lindsey Graham, who said Thursday that “this is a political fight worth having.”
It remains to be seen whether pushback from lawmakers can overcome the kudos from Trump’s base. That, after all, is one of the defining problems of Republican criticisms of Trump: that his detractors, time and again, have proven far more pliable than his allies. McConnell, who had previously opposed the nuclear option, announced his support on the Senate floor Thursday. And even those who expressed concern with the maneuver seemingly left themselves wiggle room. Take Marco Rubio: the Florida Republican indicated he believes Trump may be violating the Constitution if he bypasses Congress to build the wall—but only went so far as to say he is “skeptical it will be something [he] can support.” “I will wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the President relies on to justify such a declaration before making any definitive statement,” he said. Source
February 13, 2019 newyorker.com The Border Deal Is What a Defeat for Donald Trump Looks Like
With Donald Trump, it’s always been B.S. all the way down. “I play to people’s fantasies,” begins a passage in “The Art of the Deal,” his ghostwritten magnum opus, from 1987. “People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective promotion.”
Ever since Trump entered the Presidential race, in 2015, he’s been selling a fantastical vision of a wall across the southern border. Now reality has finally caught up with him, and he isn’t enjoying the experience. “I’m not happy about it,” he said to reporters on Tuesday morning, after they asked him to comment on the funding agreement that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill had reached the previous evening.
It’s clear why Trump isn’t happy. This time last year, he was demanding twenty-five billion dollars for a vast concrete wall. At the end of December, he shut down large parts of the federal government in support of his demand for $5.7 billion in funding and two hundred miles of steel barriers. Under the dealreached on Monday, Congress would provide $1.375 billion for fifty-five miles of slat fencing. In Wall Street terms, the agreement would give Trump about twenty-four cents on the dollar. As of Wednesday morning, he hadn’t yet agreed to the plan but it looked like he would. The Washington Post and CNN both reported that Trump intended to sign the spending bill.
He certainly knows how coercive deals work. When he was in the private sector, he was often on the other end of them. In 2006, Andrew Tesoro, a New York architect who designed the clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, informed Trump’s representatives that he was owed a hundred and forty thousand dollars. They offered him fifty thousand, take it or leave it. Fearing he might get nothing, Tesoro submitted a revised bill for that amount. Then Trump called him up and said that he’d pay half of it. “I walked away with $25,000,” Tesoro told Forbes, in 2016.
In all of his businesses, Trump was known for behaving like this toward smaller venders and contractors. How did he get away with it? He had the leverage. To get paid in full, people like Tesoro would have had to take him to court, an expensive, risky, and hassle-inducing prospect. So, they tended to settle for dimes on the dollar, as Trump knew they would.
Now Trump’s the one lacking leverage. Having already folded when the shutdown damaged his poll ratings, his threat to cause another government closure isn’t credible. He’s also been threatening to declare a national emergencyand seize some extra funds from the Pentagon budget, but Republican leaders on the Hill don’t like this scheme, which, in any case, would quickly get snagged in the courts.
Trump is stuck, so he’s resorting to yet more B.S. After registering his unhappiness about the spending deal to reporters, he went on, “It’s not doing the trick, but I’m adding things to it. And when you add the things I have to add, it’s all gonna happen where we’ll build a beautiful, big, strong wall that’s not gonna let criminals and traffickers and drug dealers and drugs into our country.” Later in the day, in a pair of tweets, Trump said, “Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources . . . Will be getting almost $23 billion for border security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak.”
Virtually nobody who has followed the story in any detail is falling for this spin. “One point three billion dollars? That’s not even a wall, a barrier,” Sean Hannity, who is arguably Trump’s biggest booster in the media, said to his Fox News Channel audience on Monday night. “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.” Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus, told Hannity’s colleague Neil Cavuto, “Only in Washington, D.C., can we start out with needing twenty-five billion dollars for border-security measures and expect applause at $1.37 [billion]. I mean, only in D.C. is that a winning deal.”
For once, Meadows was right. But, by Tuesday evening, there were signs that even some of the most rabid supporters of the wall had realized that further resistance was futile. Or, perhaps, they had been issued a new set of talking points. Speaking on his daily radio show, Hannity now referred to the $1.3 billion as “a down payment” and suggested that Trump could get more money for the wall from elsewhere in the federal budget, with or without declaring a national emergency. “In that case, he wins big time,” Hannity said.
This is what defeat looks like for Donald Trump and the maga Praetorian Guard: accepting scraps and describing them as a feast. Source
February 12, 2019 insideclimatenews.com TVA Wants to Close a Costly, Unreliable Coal Plant. Trump and Kentucky Politicians Are Fighting It.
The old Paradise plant is among the least reliable coal power plants in the country. TVA says it isn’t needed, but Republicans are demanding it keep burning coal.
In rallies and videos, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Sen. Mitch McConnell argued that the nearly 50-year-old Paradise coal plant should continue operating to help the coal mining industry. Credit: Tennessee Valley Authority
The U.S. president has joined Kentucky’s governor and the coal state’s U.S. senators in trying to pressure the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep a 49-year-old coal-fired power plant operating, even though the nation’s largest public electric utility has concluded that the plant is unreliable, no longer needed and too expensive to repair and operate.
Shutting the Paradise Fossil Plant down would avoid customers having to pay for the aging plant’s frequent repairs. It also would reduce emissions that cause lung-damaging smog by as much as 11.5 percent across TVA’s seven-state system, and cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 4 percent, the federally owned utility said in an assessment released Monday.
But none of that is stopping Gov. Matt Bevin and other top elected officials from this coal state from fighting to keep the plant’s last coal burners turned on. President Donald Trump added more pressure Monday with a tweet in defense of coal.
Bevin also suggested that federal regulators may be about to step in with a new study on power plants and national security that could bolster coal, though exactly what study he was referring to wasn’t clear. The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for more details.
At a pro-coal rally over the weekend, the governor joined representatives of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and other Kentucky officials to pressure the TVA board, which meets this week, to keep burning Kentucky-mined coal at the Paradise plant.
“We sit on hundreds of years of supply of the most reliable, most stable, most affordable source of electricity production that the world has ever known,” Bevin said. “There is no capacity now if we shut this facility and others like it to provide what America needs.”
The new environmental assessment by TVA, however, found that energy demand in the utility’s Southeast region was “flat to declining.” The study concluded that “the retirement of a unit with high maintenance and other costs would facilitate TVA’s statutory mission to provide reliable power at the lowest system cost.”
The Paradise coal unit is among the least reliable coal-fired power plants in the United States based on the frequency of forced shutdowns, TVA found.
Politicians Focus on Benefit to Coal Mining
The TVA board meets Thursday in Chattanooga to decide whether to retire the 1,150 megawatt Paradise Unit 3. It will now be weighing the political pressure from the president and Kentucky’s political leaders against its own experts’ analyses and the interest of its customers.
“Closure is one option they could consider,” said TVA spokesman Scott Brooks.
“We respect the governor’s point of view and appreciate all the input we have received from the public and elected officials,” he said Monday.
Trump got involved later that day, declaring via Twitter that “coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!” TVA responded with its own Twitter post, saying “coal is an important part of TVA’s power generation mix and we will give serious consideration to all factors as we make this decision.”
McConnell, in a video, urged TVA to wait until the TVA board gets two new Trump appointees. “Kentuckians strongly oppose moving away from coal, and I would hope that the TVA listens to our voices,” he said.
The TVA board on Thursday is also weighing the potential closure of its 800-megawatt, 1960s-era Bull Run coal-burning plant near Knoxville, Tennessee, for similar reasons.
The potential votes come as Kentucky continues to shed coal mining jobs, despite President Trump’s promise to restore the industry. Coal mining employment in the state has fallen from 17,115 workers in 2010 to 6,409 last year, according to the latest state government report.
TVA Has Been Closing Marginal Coal Boilers
The Paradise plant was once one of the largest coal-burning plants in the country, with a generating capacity large enough to supply more than a million homes. It was made famous by folk singer John Prine’s song about the ravages of strip mining from “the world’s largest shovel.”
Its first two coal-burning units were shuttered in 2017, replaced by a large natural gas power plant. TVA has been shedding its marginal coal boilers like these over the last several years as the price for cleaner-burning natural gas has plummeted, making coal less competitive.
Keeping outdated plants like Paradise’s coal-burning unit and the Bull Run plant operating with their 1960s technology costs power customers more in higher electricity bills and adds to their burden of pollution, said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which closely follows TVA and encourages it to shift to renewable energy.
Is the Governor Expecting Federal Intervention?
The governor, who is running for re-election this year, called on the TVA board to at least delay its Paradise vote until the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency completes a study that looks at “the security and reliability of our electrical grid.”
“It’s a national defense issue as much as anything else,” he claimed, saying he’s worried that terrorists may sabotage natural gas pipelines.
What study the governor was referring to isn’t clear, said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School, who follows FERC proceedings.
FERC opened a review of the “resilience” of the nation’s electrical grid last year after the commission unanimously rejected a Trump administration effort to reward utilities for keeping large stockpiles of coal, supposedly to improve the reliability of power supplies. But there has also been speculation, based on a leaked Department of Energy memo, that the department has launched an energy reliability study based on national security issues, such as the potential for attacks on natural gas pipelines, Peskoe said.
What is clear, Peskoe said, is that the Trump administration has been wanting to do something big for the coal industry and so far has been unable to deliver. “I assume they still have this goal,” he said. “We are waiting for the next move.”
TVA Decision Will Impact an Entire Region
The Energy Information Agency shows most of the coal shipped to the Paradise plant during the first nine months of 2018 came from Kentucky mines that are part of Murray Energy Corp., which is led by coal baron and Trump supporter Robert E. Murray. Murray has pushed for a government-ordered bailout of coal.
Bevin, in a video of the rally posted on his Facebook page, argued that coal is cheap and reliable—even though the assessment by the TVA found the Paradise coal-burning unit neither cheap nor reliable, due to its age and condition.
The TVA review concluded that the Paradise coal-burning unit requires “significant” investment for it to comply with Environmental Protection Agency requirements for managing its coal-burning waste and water discharges, and also needs “large investments” to upgrade its overall condition.
Brooks, the TVA spokesman, declined to comment on details of the plant’s condition or the anticipated cost of its needed repairs. He said that would be presented to the board on Thursday.
At the rally, speakers took shots at former President Barack Obama and prominent Democratic politicians and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“We are not talking about burning coal in Paris, where they may not want it,” said Terry Carmack, Sen. McConnell’s state director. “We are not talking about burning coal in (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco. We are not talking about burning coal in (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer’s New York City. We are talking about burning coal here, where people actually support burning coal.”
“TVA needs to make the right decision and burn coal,” he said.
Smith, in an interview, said he understands the coal economy has suffered. But the decision about Paradise and Bull Run affect the economy and environment in the whole TVA region, not just western Kentucky, with implications for the global environment.
“Change is hard,” he said. “But this is a change that’s necessary. Coal is just dirty from cradle to grave.” Source
February 12, 2019 cnn.com The 50 most eye-popping lines from Donald Trump’s El Paso speech
(CNN)President Donald Trump stopped in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night to highlight the need for a border wall — and to begin his 2020 campaign for reelection in earnest.
He spent 75 minutes speaking to a crowd who hung on his every word and seemed more than willing to relive the greatest hits of his 2016 campaign — from “Build the wall!” to “Lock her up!” Trump, of course, reveled in the adulation — allowing the love of the audience to take him to ever more fantastical rhetorical heights, lifted there by a mountain of inaccurate information.
I went through the whole transcript and pulled out the lines that matter most. They’re below.
1. “I love this state, and I love the people of this state. We’ve had a great romance together. You know that. Been a great romance.”
Donald Trump and Texas sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love then comes … ah, you know the rest. And away we go!
2. “This is like the Academy Awards used to be. Used to be. They’ve gone down a long ways since they started hitting us a little bit, right?”
There’s so much here. First, Trump was comparing his rally to the Academy Awards because of the amount of press that was covering it. (But I thought he hated the media?) Then he’s saying that the Oscars, like everything else, aren’t as good as they used to be. And finally, he is attributing the decline of the Oscars to the fact that some of the actors have taken shots at him. He truly contains multitudes.
3. “And America is winning again. Isn’t that nice?”
Winning is nice. And no, before you even ask, I am not sick of it yet. Or bored.
4. “It’s a mainstream, commonsense agenda of the American people.”
This line is a preview of how Trump is going to try to sell himself to skeptical voters in 2020: Don’t believe the way the media covers me, look at my results on the economy. Or on trade. Or on foreign policy. The elites may disapprove of how I’ve done things, but the average Joe gets it. I think that is a very hard sell given where his poll numbers are among independents, but we shall see!
5. “And a new poll just came out today. Rasmussen. One of the most respected polls. One of the polls that got the election right. So I have to remember that. You know what the number is? Fifty-two percent, with no good news!”
6. “So, someday, with all of us — this is all of us — and those hats are beautiful, by the way. Someday.”
This an an unedited “sentence” from the President of the United States. Someday.
7. “If you would say, as an example, that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here — now the arena holds 8,000. And thank you, fire department. They got in about 10,000.”
This, from the El Paso Times, serves as a tidy fact check: “A Fire Department spokesman said 6,500 people were inside the venue and denied any special accommodations were made.” The story also says that “thousands” of people were outside, but refrained from any official estimate. Crowd size is, of course, a dumb measure of, well, anything. But Trump cares deeply — and exaggerates heavily — about it.
8. “But if you want to really see something, go outside. Tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside. Tens of thousands.”
9. “A young man who’s got very little going for himself, except he’s got a great first name. He has — he challenged us, so we have let’s say 35,000 people tonight and he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good.”
14. “Where do these people come from? Where do they come from? They go back home to Mommy. They get punished when they get home.”
It’s when a protester interrupts speech — as in this moment — when Trump’s real bullying tendencies emerge.
15. “Now, you really mean ‘finish that wall,’ because we’ve built a lot of it. It’s ‘finish that wall.’ We have.”
This is how Trump responded to the “build the wall!” chant from the crowd. What he is saying is patently false. Here’s WaPo’s Matt Viser: “The US-Mexico border is 1,954 miles. There’s 654 miles in existing barrier. And as of January, 0 miles of barriers had been added since he took office.”
16. “Is there any place that’s more fun to be than a Trump rally? Is there any place?”
Remember: Trump views himself as an entertainer first and everything else second. So his measure of success is whether people are having fun.
17. “Some people said it was a great speech. Some people said, really, a great speech.”
The two options when it came to Trump’s” State of the Union speech were, according to Trump “great” and “great.” I didn’t think it was a great speech, just for the record. I thought it was sort of blah but fine.
18. “But I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of, ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’ of … ‘You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.'”
The “Green New Deal” to which Trump is referring was introduced into Congress last week by, among others, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While liberals love it, you can bet Trump is going to make it a major talking point in his effort to paint Democrats as totally out of touch with the average person in 2020.
19. “No president should ever have to go through what we’ve gone through in the first two years. It’s a hoax. It’s a disgrace. And it should never be allowed to happen again. A hoax!”
To date, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has produced 199 criminal charges against 37 people and entities. There have been seven guilty pleas and four people have been sentenced to prison. Another person, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was found guilty in a jury trial. These are all facts.
20. “And Richard just announced that they found no collusion between Donald Trump and Russia.”
Here’s what North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, actually said: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Which isn’t exactly how Trump is spinning it.
21. “The fact is that the real collusion was between Hillary and the Democrats and the other side with Russia. That’s where the collusion is.”
Trump says this a lot. It’s based on a theory that the entire Mueller probe began because of an anti-Trump dossier produced by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. But we know for a fact that’s not why the probe started; it started because George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in Britain that he knew the Russians had dirt on Clinton. Read more about all of it here.
22. “And by the way, there’s also collusion between the Democrats and the fake news right here. And they know it better than anybody.”
What is being alleged here? And who is “they”? And why do “they” know it better than anybody?
23. “I don’t think anybody in this room wants to pay 70%, 80%, 90% and 95% tax. Does anybody want to pay a 90% tax?”
Trump refers here to some elements of tax proposals put forward by liberals — including Ocasio-Cortez — that would install a 70% tax on people who make more than $10 million a year. The tax levies would help fund the “Green New Deal.” While Trump is obviously exaggerating here — since most people in the crowd aren’t likely earning over $10 million a year — his attack is a preview of what’s to come for Democrats in the 2020 general election.
25. “It sounds like a high-school term paper that got a low mark. It would shut down American energy, which I don’t think the people in Texas are going to be happy with that.”
Trump, again on the “Green New Deal.” So yeah, I think he’s going to make it a BIG part of his 2020 stump speech.
26. “They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home, and put millions of Americans out of work, spend $100 trillion, which, by the way, there’s no such thing as $100 trillion. You have to spend $100 trillion. And remember this. No other country except us is going to do it. That’s a little problem, too.”
The idea that “they” — in this case Democrats who support the “Green New Deal” — are coming to take away your stuff and spend a bunch of money on their liberal ideas is a very powerful one in a campaign context for Trump. It also represents the danger for 2020 Democrats who are rushing to the left at the moment to win support from the party’s most liberal voters. It opens them up to the possibility of being caricatured by Trump in the general election.
27. “To pave the way for socialism.”
And this, for Trump, is the cherry on top. He mentioned socialism in his SOTU speech, which was no accident, and he talked about it again on Monday night. The idea is simple: Convince voters that, even if they don’t like Trump personally, that they like his capitalist views. And that the other side is really and truly trying to pursue turning America into a socialist state.
28. “Some of the most dishonest people in media are the so-called ‘fact-checkers.'”
29. “He almost moonwalked. His wife stopped him. ‘Darling, darling, it would be inappropriate.’ I want to see somebody try and imitate Michael Jackson in the moonwalk. This would not have been a good scene.”
30. “But the governor stated that he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world and wrap the baby and make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother, and talk to the father, and then execute the baby. Execute the baby.”
Here’s what Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam actually said: “There are — you know when we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician by the way. And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
But there is NO question that Northam’s comments — coupled with a new New York law that allows for abortions after 24 weeks in certain extreme situations — have allowed Trump to re-inject the abortion issue into the national consciousness. And that is a very good thing for a Republican president who needs to rally his base come 2020.
31. “They’re becoming the party of socialism, late-term abortion, open borders and crime.”
You are going to hear A LOT more of this from Trump between now and November 2020.
32. “As I was walking up to the stage, they said that progress is being made with this committee. Just so you know: We’re building the wall anyway.”
I am sure this line went down smoothly with the congressional negotiators who have spent the last two weeks trying to hammer out some sort of compromise to keep the government open and funded. No matter what sort of deal you guys make, I am building the wall anyway, says Trump. So there!
33. “The wall’s being built. It’ll continue. It’s going at a rapid pace.”
[narrator voice] It isn’t.
34. “You look at the car companies, they’re moving back.”
35. “Pretty soon we’re going to be saying keep America great. Keep America great.”
Trump has already said, repeatedly, that “Keep America Great” is his preferred 2020 slogan. Also, he’s been running for a second term since the day he won in 2016.
36. “He suffered a great defeat. Watch what the news does tomorrow, though. They won’t mention the disparity. They won’t mention the disparity tomorrow. They’ll say, “Beto O’Rourke.” That’s his last name, right? O’Rourke? Beto O’Rourke had a wonderful rally. Although they had 15 people.”
37. “It’s driving them crazy, but look at them. They still come. I’ve never seen anything like it. But illegal immigration hurts all Americans.”
In the space of five seconds, Trump goes from saying that the media is driven crazy by his success to denouncing illegal immigration. I’m sure this transition makes sense to someone. But that someone is not me.
38. “If we didn’t do that shutdown, we would not have been able to show this country, these politicians, the world what the hell is happening with the border. That was a very important thing we did.”
To be clear: Trump demanded $5.7 billion for the border wall and said he would agree to no deal to re-open the government unless he got that money. He re-opened the government without any new wall funding. And, in the compromise deal that emerged from Congress last night, there is $1.375 billion for new border structures. Which — check my math here — is less than $5.7 billion.
39. “How about the word ‘caravan?’ Caravan? I think that was one of mine.”
In which Donald Trump claims to have invented the word “caravan.”
40. “We have now illegal — we need Perry Mason.”
“Perry Mason,” a TV show about a fictional attorney, went off the air in 1966. Good current cultural reference!
41. “Walls work.”
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” — Gordon Gekko
42. “By the way, there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned German shepherd.”
Yup. He said this.
43. “German shepherd. Certain types of dogs. You do love your dogs, don’t you?”
“Certain types of dogs.” Yes, of course. I know exactly what he means here. Yup. Totally. Clear as day.
44. “I wouldn’t mind having one, honestly, but I don’t have any time. I don’t have — how would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?”
45. “Yeah, Obama had a dog. You’re right. Both parties should come together to finally create a safe and lawful system of immigration.”
This is not edited. He really said these sentences back to back.
46. “Check it out, 1888. Have the press check it out. They’ll say Donald Trump said 1888.”
Fun fact: 1888 was 131 years ago! Check it out. Also, if you are really and truly interested in the year 1888, this is for you.
47. “He says to me, he says, thank you very much. I don’t what they’re saying, but that’s OK. No, he’s this big, strong guy. And he’s crying. And he said, Mister — I’m walking up. Mister — and it happens all the time. Thank you very much, Mr. President.”
Trump tells some version of this story at virtually every campaign rally. A big, tough guy — according to his description — comes up to him as he’s about to take the stage and breaks down in tears, thanking Trump for all he’s done. Could this happen at every rally? I suppose it’s possible. But I think we all know it doesn’t.
48. “When prime ministers and when presidents and kings and queens, they talk to me, they say, ‘Congratulations on what’s happened with your economy, Mr. President.’ It’s incredible. They’re emulating what we’re doing. They can’t believe it.”
I could actually see this happening. But I also think that most world leaders have figured out that the way to get Trump to do what you want is to flatter the hell out of him — whether you believe it or not. So that’s what they do.
49. “And I say it for the world to hear: America will never be a socialist country. Never.”
I am not sure anyone is saying America will be a socialist country. But it doesn’t matter. This is all part of Trump’s sale: Elect Democrats and watch socialism grow.
50. “We were losing track. We didn’t lose track anymore. We’re straight on that track.”
Wait, where is this track? And why were we losing it? Yeah, this feels like a good pace to stop.
February 9, 2019 Business Insider Here’s the complete timeline of the feud between Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer, including the ties to President Trump
On Thursday, Jeff Bezos published a bombshell blog post in which he claimed that the National Enquirer was engaging in “extortion and blackmail” over his intimate personal texts and photos.
It’s the latest dramatic development in a feud that started in early January, when Bezos announced that he and wife MacKenzie Bezos were seeking a divorce — shortly before a story in the National Enquirer revealed that the Amazon CEO was having an extramarital affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.
The story has only gotten more complicated, as Bezos himself has insinuated that there could have been political motives behind the investigation into his personal life.
Here’s what you need to know about the saga, and how it involves President Donald Trump.
Read it all here
February 7, 2019 theverge.com Jeff Bezos says National Enquirer is threatening to publish his nude photos
A bombshell personal blog post from the world’s richest man
In a post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” Bezos claims he’s being threatened with the publication of nude photos of him and suggestive photos of Lauren Sanchez, the news anchor and reporter with whom Bezos was having an affair. That is, unless he agrees to publicly make a statement downplaying the motivations behind National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc.’s investigation into his personal life, by saying the company was never “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
What could “political forces” have to do with Jeff Bezos’ love life? AMI is at the center of an ongoing legal controversy involving President Donald Trump over the practice of “catch and kill,” where a publication buys the exclusive rights to incriminating information about someone and purposefully prevents it from becoming news, through non-disclosure agreements and other legal techniques, to avoid it ever getting out — shielding a person, in that case Trump, from damaging stories.
(Through court documents, AMI was found to have used the “catch and kill” tactic to kill a story about Trump’s alleged affair with a woman prior to his presidential campaign by paying $150,000 for exclusivity on it. AMI CEO David Pecker, a close friend of Trump’s, was allegedly then rewarded for this and other support during Trump’s campaign with a White House dinner invitation for Pecker and someone close to the royal family of Saudi Arabia, where Pecker was pursuing business deals and looking for acquisition financing.)
AMI allegedly approached Bezos after learning he had been conducting his own private investigation into how National Enquirer obtained his text message. Lawyers for the company tried to persuade Bezos into shutting the investigation down because of the likelihood it may lead to more damning revelations about AMI’s “catch and kill” tactics and its political ties to Trump and other world leaders, Bezos claims in the Medium post. “If your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession,” read one of the emails sent to the legal team of Bezos’ private investigation.
The photos in question include a “full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks,” and a “naked selfie in a bathroom… wearing nothing but a white towel,” among others including an explicit dick pic. The full photo rundown came from a threatening email sent to the attorney of Gavin de Becker, the well-known security consultant Bezos hired to run the private investigation, penned by none other than the Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of AMI. (In late 2017, Howard was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct during his years at AMI and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, referred to himself around the office by the nickname “dildo.”)
Here’s the full, seven-point extortion attempt from Jon Fine, AMI’s current deputy legal counsel and, coincidentally, a former Amazon lawyer who worked at the company for 9 years:
Here are our proposed terms:
1. A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the “Bezos Parties”), on the other, may have against each other.
2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).
4. AM affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct.
5. The agreement is completely confidential.
6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.
7. Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California
“Well, that [the email] got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?,” Bezos writes.
“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: they will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press,” he goes on. “Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here… Nothing I might write here could tell theNational Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words below.”
“These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” he adds. “Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
Amazon and representatives for AMI didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Source
February 4, 2019 Washington Post Federal prosecutors issue sweeping subpoena for documents from Trump inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal probe
ederal prosecutors in New York on Monday delivered a sweeping request for documents related to donations and spending by President Trump’s inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal investigation into activities related to the nonprofit organization.
A wide-ranging subpoena served on the inaugural committee Monday seeks an array of documents, including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.
Only U.S. citizens and legal residents can legally donate to a committee established to finance presidential inaugural festivities.
“We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” a spokesman for the committee said in a statement.
The subpoena — issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York — indicates that prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering.
The subpoena also specifically seeks all communications with one donor, Los Angeles venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, as well as the firm with which he is affiliated, Avenue Ventures. The company donated $900,000 to the inaugural committee, records show. Read more here
A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump’s private schedule for the past three months.
Why it matters: This unusually voluminous leak gives us unprecedented visibility into how this president spends his days. The schedules, which cover nearly every working day since the midterms, show that Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured “Executive Time.”
We’ve published every page of the leaked schedules in a piece that accompanies this item. To protect our source, we retyped the schedules in the same format that West Wing staff receives them.
What the schedules show: Trump, an early riser, usually spends the first 5 hours of the day in Executive Time. Each day’s schedule places Trump in “Location: Oval Office” from 8 to 11 a.m.
But Trump, who often wakes before 6 a.m., is never in the Oval during those hours, according to six sources with direct knowledge.
Instead, he spends his mornings in the residence, watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.
Trump’s first meeting of the day — usually around 11 or 11:30 a.m. — is often an intelligence briefing or a 30-minute meeting with the chief of staff.
Since Nov. 7, the day after the midterm elections, Trump has spent around 297 hours in Executive Time, according to the 51 private schedules we’ve obtained.
For those same schedules, Trump has had about 77 hours scheduled for meetings that include policy planning, legislative strategy and video recordings.
Some days, Executive Time totally predominates. For instance, he had 1 hour of scheduled meetings on Jan. 18 (with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin) and 7 hours of Executive Time.
The day after the midterms, Trump’s schedule had 30 minutes for a chief of staff meeting and more than 7 hours for Executive Time.
Former chief of staff John Kelly introduced the concept of Executive Time because the president hated being locked into a regular schedule.
“He’s always calling people, talking to people,” a senior White House official told us. “He’s always up to something; it’s just not what you would consider typical structure.”
Between the lines: The private schedules we published below do not list all Trump’s meetings over the past three months.
That’s because many of his meetings are spur of the moment, according to senior White House officials with direct knowledge of his daily habits.
It’s also because a more detailed schedule — kept within a very small, tight circle — typically has 1 or 2 extra meetings per day that aren’t listed on private schedules sent to staff.
The president sometimes has meetings during Executive Time that he doesn’t want most West Wing staff to know about for fear of leaks. And his mornings sometimes include calls with heads of state, political meetings and meetings with counsel in the residence, which aren’t captured on these schedules.
For example, the private schedule we obtained said Trump had a “media engagement” at 4:30 p.m. this past Wednesday. The more detailed schedule revealed it was an interview with the right-wing Daily Caller, according to a source with direct knowledge.
Wednesday’s more detailed schedule also listed Trump’s meeting with former presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, whom he is considering for a Federal Reserve governorship, per Bloomberg. (The private schedule obscured that meeting with Executive Time.)
The longer view: Chris Whipple, a student of presidential schedules who wrote the book ‘The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” told us that “there’s almost no [historical] parallel” for how this president spends his days.
“The most important asset in any presidency is the president’s time,” Whipple said. “And Trump is a guy who gives new meaning to the notion of an unstructured presidency.”
Responding to Axios’ reporting, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders emailed this statement: “President Trump has a different leadership style than his predecessors and the results speak for themselves.”
“While he spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, events, and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive President in modern history.”
“President Trump has ignited a booming economy with lower taxes and higher wages, established the USA as the #1 producer of oil and gas in the world, remade our judiciary, rebuilt our military, and renegotiated better trade deals. It’s indisputable that our country has never been stronger than it is today under the leadership of President Trump.”
January 27, 2019 cnn.com Pence, Ivanka, Kushner no-show as Mattis gets standing ovation at elite DC dinner
Washington (CNN)Former Defense Secretary James Mattis received a standing ovation Saturday at the annual black-tie Alfalfa Club dinner after delivering a speech in which he honored the troops and talked about the importance of the US’ standing abroad, according to a source with knowledge of the event.
For the third year running, President Donald Trump skipped the annual event — but this year, so did the vice president as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen as well as White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Kushner were all on the seating chart for the head table but didn’t show at the event, attended by a who’s who of prominent political and business leaders, according to the source.
CNN has reached out to both the White House and Pence’s office for comment.
The rest of the evening was lighter in tone, with former Secretary of State John Kerry delivering a speech replete with jokes about official Washington and himself. Kerry, the outgoing president of the club — a mainstay of establishment Washington — handed over his leadership role to newly minted Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney at the black tie event.
“This is the only speech in Washington that hasn’t been canceled by Nancy Pelosi,” Kerry joked, according to CNN’s source.
The person said the dinner was attended by major business figures including Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Tim Cook, Bill Gates and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, which owns CNN parent company WarnerMedia.
Political figures at the dinner included former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Rex Tillerson.
Aside from Mattis, Kerry and Romney, the list of speakers included Bezos as well as Chief Justice John Roberts and former Tennessee GOP Sen. Bill Frist.
Among those at the head table currently in the Trump administration were Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. They sat alongside former administration officials Tillerson, Mattis and former White House chief of staff John Kelly — all of whom were ousted by Trump in the past year.
Politico and Axios were first to report on Kerry’s speech, which CNN’s source confirmed included the following quips:
“I got to tell you, you all look incredibly dapper tonight in your ball gowns, your tuxedos, your bow ties and your cummerbunds, or as we call it at our house: workout gear. Or as we call it at our other house: pajamas. Or as we call it at our other house: swimming costumes. But tonight it looks like I’ve done something Donald Trump can only dream of: finishing my term.”
“Donald Trump could be the first President to go to the inaugural of his successor in a limo with license plates made by his campaign manager.”
“I think we’ve all noticed, there’s been a lot of turnover in this administration. Secretary (Ryan) Zinke was fired. Reince Priebus was fired. Rex Tillerson, Gen. McMaster, Jeff Sessions — all fired. One thing you can say about the Trump people — they’re not quitters. Wilbur Ross is here. I want to thank him for taking care of dessert. He went to the kitchen and said, ‘Let them eat cake.'”
“Just think, Mitt and I are two of the only people who understand the temptation to run for office in every state where you own a home.”
“I watched the Oscar nominations a few days ago. And afterwards every single actor said what a great honor it was just to be nominated. … Trust me: It’s not.” Source & Video
January 26, 2019 AXIOS AM
Trump’s self-inflicted slump
Good Saturday morning! Happy to be the first to tell you it’s not Shutdown Day 36.
1 big thing: Trump’s self-inflicted slump
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Yesterday was a devastating day for President Trump as he heads into his reelection campaign and an era of divided government.
As Jonathan Swan puts it: He blinks; he disappoints the people who still love him; he gets no credit for reopening the government, given he already took credit for the shutdown; and we’re back where we started after 35 days of pointlessness.
The shutdown not only wasted a month of Trump’s presidency, but it accelerates a months-long losing streak:
Trump is being outfoxed and outplayed by Speaker Pelosi:
He ended the shutdown without getting anything obvious in return, after caving earlier in the week to her refusal to hold the State of the Union address in the House chamber.
“Pelosi 2, Trump 0,” a senior administration official instantly texted me.
Swan tweeted: “A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: ‘Trump looks pathetic…he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi.'”
Maggie Haberman tweeted: “Not only did Trump alienate moderates with a shutdown, he upset his core 35 percent by caving — and, most significantly for 2020, did it all as Democrats held together on a major issue fight.”
Yesterday’s indictmentof Roger Stone references “senior Trump Campaign officials,” “a senior Trump campaign official” and “a high-ranking member of the Trump Campaign”:
A “senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional [WikiLeaks] releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign.”
The midterm results left Trump weaker in battleground states than many people in his orbit seem to realize.
As Jim VandeHei and I pointed out in November: “[A]ll the big trends are working against Trump and the GOP.”
Trump’s election and Year 1 juiced the record bull run, but the stock market wobbled and dipped in Year 2:
Data: Money.Net, Yahoo! Finance. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Be smart: An adviser to top Republicans told me this week’s debacle “rendered Trump impotent.”
“Total surrender,” the adviser said. “Disorganized, disoriented and now disrespected.”
“The Senate Rs were about to cut and run. He had no exit ramp.”
Roger Stone flashes a Nixon impression as he walks out of the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale yesterday. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Roger Stone texted me before going to bed: “I will prevail.”
Stone had hit the cable news circuit after being released on bond from a Florida courthouse, telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson:
“No matter how much pressure they put on me, no matter what they say, I will not bear false witness against Donald Trump. I will not do what Michael Cohen has done and make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.”
On CNN, Chris Cuomo asked Stone if he was making the unusual move of going on the air to defend himself because he thinks Trump will pardon him.
Stone said: “I’ve never had any discussion with him or communication with him regarding that.”
Asked if he would accept one, Stone said: “I don’t expect to be convicted, so I’m not going to address it. I don’t address hypothetical questions, as you know.”
Asked if he would cut a deal to avoid a trial: “I know that I am innocent. My intention is to plead not guilty and to fight the charges, and I have had no discussion with anyone regarding a pardon.”
“I believe in God. I know what I have and have not done.”
“I have to raise $2 million through stonedefensefund.com because I’m not a wealthy man, and the legal expenses so far have been very damaging, very devastating.”
January 15, 2019 philly.com Trump orders thousands back to work without pay to blunt shutdown disruption
(Bloomberg) — The Trump administration has ordered thousands of furloughed federal employees back to work without pay to inspect planes, issue tax refunds, monitor food safety and facilitate the sale of offshore oil drilling rights.
The efforts in recent days illustrate how President Donald Trump is trying to limit the impact of the partial government shutdown and shield favored industries, as the funding impasse thwarts the deployment of new aircraft, stock offerings and even craft beers. The Obama administration took the opposite approach in 2013 by erecting barricades around open-air monuments and largely closing national parks — then leveraging public anger to blame Republicans for halted government services.
Critics say the Trump administration is skirting federal law by keeping some workers on the job and continuing some functions amid the political stalemate between congressional Democrats and Trump over whether to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. A 149-year law bars agencies from spending money Congress hasn’t given to them, with only limited exceptions for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”
“This administration is being creative in its ability to break the law and test the boundaries,” said Sam Berger, a senior adviser at the Center for American Progress who worked at the Office of Management and Budget under former President Barack Obama.
“They are really walking up to and past that line,” Berger said. “It’s clear they are making political calls, and they aren’t letting decisions be dictated by sound management, by the law or by really anything other than the next 10 minutes of news coverage and how they can win the day.”
The responsibility for prosecuting violations of the 1870 Antideficiency Act falls to the Justice Department — and no one’s ever been hauled to court to account for flouting the law. It’s not clear if anyone else would have standing to challenge agency spending and activities that continue amid a shutdown.
Paychecks for some 800,000 government employees have been halted amid the lapse in federal funding, including about 420,000 who have been forced to work anyway.
The Trump administration said last week it is calling back some 45,000 furloughed employees to issue tax refunds, even though the Treasury Department previously decided a shutdown would bar the activity.
The National Treasury Employees Union is suing the federal government for making those employees work without pay, arguing that forcing them to process tax refunds falls outside the scope of activities that should be permitted during a shutdown.
A federal judge in Washington is expected to decide Tuesday whether to grant a temporary order requiring the U.S. to pay its workers or let them stay home or work elsewhere.
That includes efforts to patrol the skies led by the Federal Aviation Administration, which said on Tuesday it had “determined that after three weeks, it is appropriate to recall inspectors and engineers.” Those recalled workers will “perform duties to ensure continuous operational safety of the entire national airspace,” the agency said.
But they also may help the FAA begin processing a backlog of company applications to launch new flights and add planes to their fleets. American Airlines Group Inc. had been blocked from adding two newly purchased planes to its operations because safety inspectors must approve such additions. Southwest Airlines Co. said on Monday it was delaying new service to Hawaii because it hadn’t been able to obtain FAA approvals necessary to fly long distances over water.
The Food and Drug Administration had briefly suspended some inspections before bring back furloughed employees to conduct the work.
“With the support of our dedicated field force, we’re recalling hundreds of furloughed colleagues to conduct inspections of high risk food facilities and other entities,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday on Twitter. Gottlieb said the inspectors will be working on “mostly unpaid” assignments, as about 150 of the roughly 400 newly recalled workers seek to ensure companies are complying with federal standards for making, processing and packing food.
The Interior Department is now clearing the way for previously furloughed workers to help sell drilling rights in U.S. coastal waters, as 11 personnel are being temporarily recalled to prepare documents necessary for auctions of Gulf of Mexico expected in March and August. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it is tapping “carryover” funding from fiscal 2018 to facilitate the activity, with the employees exempted “for only the amount of time needed to complete this work.”
Some 40 personnel also are available amid the shutdown on an on-call basis to help process permits authorizing seismic tests to search for oil in the Atlantic Ocean and develop a new five-year plan for selling drilling rights in U.S. coastal waters from mid-2019 through mid-2024.
The bureau says the activity is “critical” to hold the lease auctions on schedule. “Failure to hold these sales would have a negative impact to the Treasury and negatively impact investment in the U.S. offshore Gulf of Mexico.”
“Where did this magical new carryover money come from?” asked Elizabeth Klein, deputy director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University School of Law. “Apparently, they don’t have enough carryover to bring back employees to answer the public’s questions about their day-to-day business or address FOIA requests, but they have enough carryover to push forward a new and unnecessary five-year plan to replace the current one that goes through 2022.”
The recall of furloughed Interior Department workers comes as the agency processes drilling permits and takes other steps to ensure the shutdown does not halt oil and gas development on federal lands and waters.
The Trump administration is using some available funds to push forward a “fossil fuel-oriented energy dominance agenda” in inexcusable ways, said David Hayes, a former deputy Interior secretary.
By contrast, under Obama, Hayes said Interior officials “recognized that the availability of relatively small amounts of these special funding streams for use during a shutdown could create an awkward situation in which it appears that the department may be favoring the provision of some types of services over others.” Source
January 13, 2019 cnn.com Trump threatens to ‘devastate’ Turkey’s economy if they attack Kurds in Syria
(CNN)President Donald Trump said Sunday the US would “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region.
“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” the President tweeted on Sunday.
He added, “Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” but followed up in a second tweet, “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”
Donald J. Trump
Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone….
23.5K people are talking about this
Donald J. Trump
….Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!
19.4K people are talking about this
It’s a stark threat toward an ally in the region that has partnered with the US in the fight against ISIS. Turkey views some Kurdish groups in the region as terrorist organizations and Kurds make up the majority of US-allied fighters operating in Syria in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
CNN reported on Thursday that the first US military ground equipment has been withdrawn from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly lashed out at US national security adviser John Bolton for saying the US withdrawal was contingent upon Turkey’s pledge not to attack US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria once troops leave.
“Bolton made a serious mistake. If he thinks that way, he is in a big mistake. We will not compromise,” Erdoğan said.
“Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” Trump continued in the second tweet. Source
January 21, 2019 Issue (Comment) newyorker.com The Republican Test at the Border
If Trump does declare a national emergency, a humanitarian crisis could become a constitutional one.
President Donald Trump doesn’t like to be alone, it seems, at least not during a government-shutdown fight. Over the holidays, he complained about having to stay in the White House and work while his wife, Melania, flew to Mar-a-Lago. (“Poor me.”) Last Thursday, the twentieth day of the partial shutdown, when he travelled to inspect the border near McAllen, Texas, he brought along the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen; Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers (a potential wall-builder); and Sean Hannity, of Fox News. Trump also kept the state’s two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, close at hand. They walked with him along the Rio Grande, as he met with Customs and Border Patrol agents. When the President asked an agent how many Pakistani immigrants his team had apprehended the day before (the answer was two), Cruz and Cornyn leaned in to listen. “I think the Republicans are very happy,” Trump told reporters. “I think there’s great unity.” Cruz, who was sporting a barn jacket and a new beard, nodded vigorously in agreement.
The question of how many real friends the President has among the Senate’s Republicans has rarely been more acute. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has said that he would allow a vote only on funding bills to reopen the government “that the President will sign,” knowing that Trump intends to sign only a bill that will give him more than five billion dollars to build a wall or a “steel barrier.” McConnell, along with many other G.O.P. lawmakers, has moved from the role of reluctant supporter to that of active booster. On Tuesday, he dismissed Democratic criticism of the wall—that it is wasteful, demagogic, driven by bigotry, and generally immoral—as “silly.” He added that “enforcing our laws wasn’t immoral” under other Presidents. Only Trump, he said, had been so maligned. And, after Trump delivered a prime-time address on the shutdown which was riddled with inaccuracies, Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, said, “This is the most Presidential I’ve seen President Trump.”
There were reports that some Senate Republicans, notably Cory Gardner, of Colorado, Susan Collins, of Maine, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Rob Portman, of Ohio, are growing increasingly irritated with Trump’s intransigence, not to mention with the lies that he has told to defend his position. That would be understandable, given the disruption that the shutdown has brought to the lives of the eight hundred thousand affected federal workers, and to the people and the country they serve. (The C.B.P. agents who showed Trump around McAllen have been working without pay, as have many of the people involved in getting Air Force One to Texas.) But, when members of the Republican caucus met with Trump at the White House last Wednesday, the opposition was, by most accounts, muted. “I was able to raise the issues that I have with using a shutdown,” Murkowski told the Times. “He listened and urged that we all stick together.”
In McAllen, Trump said he felt that even “very smart” Democrats had realized that his insistence on the wall was a political winner. “It’s common sense,” he said. Republicans, as he sees it, will triumph at the polls by accusing Democrats of being indifferent to crime in their mad pursuit of open borders. He may be wrong, judging from the midterms. But if he can persuade enough Republicans to adopt that tactic—and many already have—it will both extend the shutdown and make the 2020 election even cruder and dirtier than it is already bound to be.
The Republicans may also be facing a more immediate test. “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” Trump said on the way to McAllen, adding that, if the Democrats didn’t give him his wall, “probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.” The consensus among legal scholars is that any President has the power, under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, to take certain limited actions—in particular, the diverting of funds from existing military construction projects—when faced with a national emergency. The problem is that, for the past forty years, it has been left to the President to decide whether a crisis exists and whether the actions that he wants to take will actually help solve it. The law thus may not offer adequate protections against a President who sees not getting his way on a piece of legislation as a national emergency. (The Administration is reportedly considering moving money allocated for disaster relief in Puerto Rico, California, and Texas to a wall slush fund.) This is a flaw in the emergencies statute, as much as in Trump’s character. Congressional Democrats have indicated that, if the President does declare an emergency to build the wall, they will sue him. The humanitarian crisis on the border could become a constitutional one.
Some Republican senators have expressed wariness about such an aggressive extension of executive powers; Marco Rubio, of Florida, warned his colleagues about a future President declaring climate change an emergency. They would do better to contemplate what other emergencies Trump might find if he gets accustomed to invoking them, especially as his own legal problems escalate. As with the shutdown, the Republican senators have the most power to limit Trump and are the least likely to use it. In McAllen, Trump turned to Cruz for affirmation of his broad view of his powers—and got it, in the form of more enthusiastic nods.
The same afternoon, the White House reportedly scuttled a deal that Senator Graham had been working on, aimed at both giving the President a substantial sum to build a wall and granting Democrats some of the measures that they have fought for on immigration, including protections for the Dreamers. Graham seemed frazzled, telling reporters, “Somebody’s got to, like, get some energy to fix this.” Soon afterward, he put out a statement suggesting someone who might, instead, break it more. “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border-wall barrier,” he said. “I hope it works.” Graham may have walked away from negotiations, but neither he nor his Republican colleagues were leaving the President behind. ♦
This article appears in the print edition of the January 21, 2019, issue, with the headline “On the Border.” Source
January 9, 2019 Kron4.com Trump threatens to cut off FEMA funds for California fire relief
SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – President Trump is threatening to cut off FEMA funds for California due to what he’s calling a problem with the state’s wildfire preparedness.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen,” the president tweeted. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” he tweeted Wednesday.
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
This tweet comes just a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press conference with fire officials regarding fire prevention.
Here’s what Gov. Newsom had to say about Trump’s latest tweet:
Mr. President — Just yesterday, @OregonGovBrown, @GovInslee, and I sent a letter asking the federal government to work with us in taking on these unprecedented wildfires. We have been put in office by the voters to get things done, not to play games with lives.
Donald J. Trump
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money! Source