The confidential oil plan that could cost Trump reelection

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

The confidential oil plan that could cost Trump reelection

The Trump administration is considering auctioning off Florida’s coastal waters for oil and gas drilling — and Republicans are warning it could cost the president dearly in Florida in the 2020 election.

An industry lobbying offensive has put it on the cusp of achieving its holy grail: access to the resource-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico. The idea is so politically toxic in Florida that past presidents haven’t even entertained it. But behind the scenes, oil and gas interests are appealing to Trump’s desire to turbocharge U.S. energy production, including his past openness to drilling off the Florida coast.

The president and his top advisers haven’t yet weighed in on the plan taking shape inside his Interior Department. But giving it the green light would be tantamount to a declaration of war on his second home state, given the uniform opposition from Florida Republicans, including prominent allies like Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis and others.

“He would have a price to pay for that,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump supporter, told POLITICO.

Industry representatives have said a plan has been imminent since last fall, but many expect the Interior Department is waiting for the Senate to confirm acting Secretary David Bernhardt to fill the agency’s top slot before formally releasing the draft. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture Monday on Bernhardt’s confirmation, teeing up a vote this week.

Multiple oil and gas industry sources told POLITICO that the eastern Gulf, along with the Atlantic coast, are included in the administration’s current five-year off-shore drilling proposal, which hasn’t yet been released. The deliberations surrounding that plan are occurring mostly at Interior between lower-level policy aides who are being lobbied by industry representatives, they said.

The administration’s position was muddied when former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke held an elaborately staged Jan. 2018 meeting with Scott, then Florida’s governor, to declare the state wouldn’t be on the drilling map. The announcement was seen as a favor to boost Scott’s electoral fortunes in his ultimately successful challenge against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, who tried to use environmental issues to separate himself from the Republican challenger.

In reality, Trump was upset by the announcement. People familiar with his reaction said Zinke’s statement came without White House approval and contradicted the administration’s “energy dominance” message.

Both parties in Florida oppose offshore drilling. Memories of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which sent tarballs ashore in Florida, bring fears of a future spill damaging the state’s fisheries and tourism. Many in the state also say drilling would conflict with military exercises in the area.

Bernhardt has stayed mum about what’s in the offshore leasing proposal, remarking in a March 28 confirmation hearing that the department is at “step one” of the process. Several industry sources disputed that, though, saying the plan is nearly complete.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s done,” said an industry lobbyist familiar with the plan.

But the senior political officials charged with protecting Trump’s electoral prospects haven’t yet focused on the drilling plan, said a source close to the president who met recently with members of Trump’s energy policy team.

The White House referred a request for comment to the Interior Department. An agency spokesperson did not immediately reply to questions about whether the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be included in any draft plan. Bernhardt said at his nomination hearing that the latest draft plan hadn’t reached his desk.

Offshore drilling is broadly unpopular in Florida. A Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters released March 13 showed 64 percent oppose the practice. Republicans, though, supported it by a 54-38 percent margin. A ballot measure banning oil and gas development in state waters passed overwhelmingly in November.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Florida remains off the table,” Scott told POLITICO in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve been very clear to let the White House know where I stand. This is very important to me.“

The draft plan from Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would have to go through a comment period, giving the Trump administration another chance to rewrite it before finalizing. It does not need to pass Congress.

The current plan includes a “buffer” to keep rigs at least 100 miles from Florida’s shoreline, according to industry representatives. They said they plan to present Trump with several options for each of the major regions to be covered under the plan, including the mid-Atlantic and Pacific.

“They can put the plan out and if it doesn’t go over very well, this isn’t the final version, so they can just pull it back,” said an oil-and-gas industry source, who added that industry is trying to figure out how close it can get to Florida without inviting backlash. Former President Barack Obama, for example, offered the eastern Gulf of Mexico with a 125-mile buffer before implementing a seven-year ban following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, though Congress already had imposed a moratorium on drilling in waters closest to Florida until 2022.

Florida lawmakers from both parties have signed numerous letters rejecting offshore drilling, no matter how far from the state’s shoreline. Many also have pushed back on what’s known as seismic testing, a precursor to drilling that involves blasting sonar from boats toward the seafloor to search for buried oil and gas deposits. Both chambers of the state legislature are moving resolutions rejecting offshore drilling in the Gulf.

“We don’t want to see any of it in the Gulf, I don’t want to see any of it on the Atlantic side, which is where I represent,” Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) told POLITICO. “We’re not looking for Deepwater Horizons off of Jensen Beach, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Fort Pierce Beach, and we don’t want to see it out there in the Gulf.”

Even DeSantis, whom Trump endorsed in a crowded Republican primary last year, signed an executive order in January committing the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to “adamantly oppose” offshore drilling. Pressure on Republicans to oppose drilling has only grown since DeSantis was elected in November, as Democrats have homed in on fighting climate change.

“It seems hard to believe that the administration would move forward with drilling off the coast of Florida less than two years before a presidential election,” said Alex Conant, a partner at Firehouse Strategies and former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “It would certainly be an issue that Democrats would try to use against [Trump] throughout the state.”

China providing services to woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

LEGAL

China providing services to woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago

BEIJING — Chinese diplomats have been informed of the arrest of a Chinese woman at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club over the weekend and are providing her with consular services, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that the Chinese Consulate General in Houston had been notified of the March 30 arrest, had gotten in touch with the person involved and was providing her with consular assistance. Geng gave no details.

Yujing Zhang is being held on charges of illegal entering and lying to U.S. agents.

Court documents allege 32-year-old Zhang told a Secret Service agent Saturday she was a Mar-a-Lago member there to use the pool. Agents were later summoned and they say Zhang began arguing during an interview.

Agent Samuel Ivanovich wrote in court documents that Zhang told him that she was there for a Chinese American event and had come early to familiarize herself with the club and take photos, contradicting what she had said at the checkpoint. He said Zhang said she had traveled from Shanghai to attend the nonexistent Mar-a-Lago event on the invitation of an acquaintance named “Charles,” whom she only knew through a Chinese social media app.

Ivanovich said Zhang carried four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive and a thumb drive containing computer malware. She did not have a swimsuit.

There is no indication Zhang was ever near the president or that she personally knew Cindy Yang, a Chinese native, Republican donor and former Florida massage parlor owner who made news recently after it was learned she was promising Chinese business leaders that her consulting firm could get them access to Mar-a-Lago, where they could mingle with the president.

A man named Charles Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association and was photographed at least twice with Yang, who also goes by the name Yang Li. Yang previously owned a spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution.

Archived images of the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association website, which has since been taken down, show that the organization advertised itself as a non-profit registered with the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. A page of “registration documents” purports to show certificates from the States of Delaware and New York, as well as a screenshot of a listing on the U.N.’s official website.

But a search Thursday for the association on the U.N.’s database did not turn up any results.

The United Nations Chinese Friendship Association’s website also shows Lee in photos with several government officials of various countries, including Trump, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as officials from China, Canada, Turkey and South Korea. It is not clear whether any of the photos have been digitally altered.

While no espionage charges have been filed against Zhang, her arrest has reignited concerns especially among Democrats that Trump’s use of the club constitutes a security risk as long as members and guests are allowed to come in and out while he is there.

Zhang’s arrest attracted comments from Chinese internet users on the popular Weibo microblogging service, many of whom portrayed her as having been tricked by those seeking to exploit her desire for attention and connections.

The Communist Party newspaper Global Times, known for its strident nationalism, ran a lengthy report on the Zhang and Yang cases, accusing the U.S. media of hyping them as examples of Chinese “Trojan horses” entering Mar-a-Lago out of an excess of “Cold War thinking.”

Romney savages Trump’s leadership in Washington Post op-ed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

CONGRESS

Romney savages Trump’s leadership in Washington Post op-ed

The president “has not risen to the mantle of the office,” writes the incoming Utah senator.

President Donald Trump “has not risen to the mantle” of his office, and his “words and actions have caused dismay around the world,” Mitt Romney wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

The scathing rebuke of Trump’s leadership from the former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential nominee comes just two days before Romney is set to be sworn in as Utah’s junior senator.

The op-ed — titled, “The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short.” — also suggests Romney will not shy away from criticizing the president in ways that cost lawmakers such as outgoing senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) considerable political clout within Trump’s Republican Party.

“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” Romney wrote. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

Romney did applaud Trump for several of the administration’s actions over the past two years, including the 2017 Republican tax law, the criminal justice reform bill Trump signed into law last month, Trump’s aggression toward Beijing over China’s trade practices and the White House’s push to confirm conservative jurists to the federal judiciary.

“But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency,” Romney added, asserting that Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office “made a deep descent” in December following the announced departures of White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — both retired four-star Marine generals long viewed as stabilizing forces within the administration.

Romney also cited “the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience” as other low points of the past month, appearing to jab at State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News personality Heather Nauert’s nomination to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as well as Deputy Defense Secretary and former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan’s selection to take Mattis’ place as Pentagon chief.

And while Trump’s appointments of other now-departed administration officials including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn and former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster “were encouraging,” Romney wrote, “on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

The tone of Tuesday’s op-ed, as well as its timing, are likely to assuage certain congressional lawmakers of both parties who hoped Romney would adopt the role of a Republican elder statesman on Capitol Hill during his freshman term in the Senate — especially following the death of former Sen. John McCain in August and the exodus of many of the president’s GOP critics after November’s midterm elections.

“I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not,” Romney wrote. “I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”

Romney, who was on Trump’s shortlist to become secretary of state in late 2016, previously vowed during his Senate campaign to challenge the president if elected to the chamber.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign manager, responded to Romney’s op-ed in a tweet Tuesday evening.

“The truth is @MittRomney lacked the ability to save this nation,” Parscale wrote of the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee. “@realDonaldTrump has saved it. Jealously is a drink best served warm and Romney just proved it. So sad, I wish everyone had the courage @realDonaldTrump had.”

Romney’s op-ed comes less than one month after another op-ed in the Post, authored by a bipartisan group of 44 former senators, warned that the United States is “entering a dangerous period.” That piece did not mention the president by name.

Trump, LIAR IN CHIEF Made Up B.S.: Trump’s mystery tax cut puzzles Washington

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

WHITE HOUSE

Trump’s mystery tax cut puzzles Washington

The president has spoken twice about a tax plan no one else seems to know anything about. ‘I guess I’ll hear about it when I get to work on Monday,’ one official said.

Call it the mystery middle class tax cut.

In recent days President Donald Trump has twice promised a new “major tax cut” ahead of the November midterm elections, mystifying White House officials, congressional leaders, and tax wonks around town who mostly have no idea what he’s talking about.

The pledge — which Trump repeated Monday afternoon — came as news to House and Senate lawmakers, who’ve already returned to their home states to campaign for the elections and have no plans to consider new legislation before then.

White House officials spent the day trying to decode what Trump meant because no one knew the substance of any such tax cut, or had seen any policy proposal related to it. Aides were left wondering what Trump had read in newspaper clippings, or seen on Twitter, to inspire this grand promise from his rally podium.

One senior administration official on Sunday night had not even heard about the president’s tax cut remark on Saturday in Nevada and said they had no idea what he was talking about. “I guess I’ll hear about it when I get to work on Monday,” the official said.

Trump said that House Speaker Paul Ryan was involved in crafting the plan. But Ryan’s office shed no light, referring questions back to the White House.

Trump first floated the idea on Saturday, saying that his administration is “studying very deeply right now round the clock a major tax cut for middle income people.” He upped the ante before leaving for a campaign trip to Texas on Monday, telling reporters at the White House that the administration plans to produce a “resolution” calling for a 10 percent tax cut for middle income earners. It was not clear what he meant by resolution. There are no current plans in Congress for any kind of large new tax cut for the middle class.

The GOP is already scrambling to avoid criticism for the ballooning debt and deficit under Trump’s watch. The president’s own Treasury Department reported last week that the deficit hit $779 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, the highest level since 2012, following the GOP tax cut bill and a massive spending increase in Congress. Jason Furman, who served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama suggested a 10 percent middle class tax cut would cost roughly $2 trillion over ten years.

“This is the height of cynicism,” Greg Valliere, chief global strategist for Horizon Investments, said of Trump’s tax cut talk. “Number one, I think even Republicans would be gun shy about adding this much more to the deficit. And the public actually seems pretty indifferent to tax cuts. This doesn’t pass the smell test or the laugh test.”

One potential clue to Trump’s thinking: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) released a tax proposal aimed at the middle class late last week. Some Republicans close to the White House speculated that Trump is trying to one-up his potential 2020 presidential rival.

Regardless of the origin of the president’s comments, they nonetheless set off a scramble in official Washington to de-code his exact meaning.

One senior administration official stressed that the president was left hungry for more even after his White House pushed tax reform legislation through Congress for the first time since 1986. “He’s wanted to do more,” the official added. “But on those specifics, you may have to wait a bit because they have to go through Congress.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady already unveiled a tax reform 2.0 bill earlier this fall, which now must wait for consideration from the Senate. Brady’s bill contains many of the tweaks and fixes to the individual side of the tax code, so much so that one Republican congressional staffer said: “What else can we really do?” when asked for reaction to Trump’s comments.

Tax wonks, too, were left to speculate about the policy machinations. Some suspect Trump was referring to a proposal from the Treasury Department to index capital gains to inflation, a move the department could do unilaterally.

“We think Mr. Trump could have been hinting that the administration may propose indexing capital gains for inflation,” Brian Gardner, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods wrote in a note to clients on Monday. “While indexing capital gains for inflation might not meet many people’s definition of a ‘middle class tax cut,’ it is an idea that National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow supports and has pushed for many years and which the administration floated during the summer.

Or Trump could have been referring to a proposal out of his Department of Labor that would expand access to 401(k)’s for people who work for small businesses, said Stephen Moore, an informal economic adviser to the Trump campaign and distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation who, despite his own deep relationships in the White House, was also left wondering about Trump’s ‘major tax cut’ rhetoric.

The specifics may not matter, though, in the days before an election — especially as the media echoes his message, often uncritically.

“Trump says ‘major tax cut’ on the way for the middle class” read one headline on Fox News business on Oct. 22. “Trump: Working on tax cut for middle class,” an MSNBC chyron declared during his remarks Monday. Making headlines like those may have been Trump’s clearest plan all along.

And for Republicans making the final sprint to the midterms, Trump talking about tax cuts – even fanciful ones with no chance of happening – is better than Trump talking about much of anything else.

“It’s not a serious proposal. It wasn’t kicked around a whole lot, he just tossed it out there,” said one conservative lobbyist with close ties to GOP leaders on the Hill. “Nobody is taking it seriously, but we’d rather have him talking about tax cuts than some of the crazy stuff he usually talks about.”

Trump Blasts Sessions Because Sessions Obeyed The Law–How Ignorant, How Sick

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘POLITICO NEWS’)

 

Trump blasts Sessions over charges against GOP congressmen ahead of midterms

Updated 

President Donald Trump on Monday attacked his Justice Department for indicting two Republican congressmen ahead of this fall’s midterm elections, admonishing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for potentially robbing the GOP of “two easy wins” in November.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.”

Trump has made a habit of tweeting insults at Sessions ever since the attorney general recused himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in March 2017. But Monday’s jabs marked an extraordinarily brazen suggestion by the president that America’s chief law enforcement officer should have weighted the political repercussions of the indictments against the basic integrity of the U.S. justice system.

According to a March 2012 Justice Department memorandum from then-Attorney General Eric Holder: “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”

Rep. Chris Collins of New York and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California — the first two lawmakers to endorse the president’s 2016 bid for the White House — were indicted last month. Both were in the middle of reelection campaigns in districts that are now considered competitive in a season where Republicans were already playing defense.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on the president’s online remark.

Collins and his son were charged as part of an insider trading scheme, and the third-term congressman from the Buffalo area faces multiple counts of securities fraud, as well as charges of wire fraud and lying to investigators. He has since suspended his re-election campaign and will attempt to remove his name from the ballot.

Hunter and his wife are accused of improperly using hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars as a personal slush fund for expenses including family vacations and dental work.

Hunter, a five-term incumbent, is also accused of filing false campaign reports and wire fraud. Unless he were to pass away before Aug. 31, California Republicans will not be able to replace him on the ballot in his San Diego-based district this November, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.

Trump ripped into Sessions again in a tweet posted minutes later Monday, suggesting that the attorney general, who was confirmed over “no” votes from all but one Democratic senator, is sure to win favor from Capitol Hill’s minority party for prosecuting the two GOP House members.

“The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey,” Trump posted. “The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!”

Trump Is a Snob Who Secretly Despises His Own Supporters: His Own Words Prove It

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘INTELLIGENCER’ NEWS)

 

Trump Is a Snob Who Secretly Despises His Own Supporters

President Trump. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Deep in a Politico report about President Trump’s attempt to build support for firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump loathes for recusing himself from the investigation of a campaign he was part of, is a striking artifact of Trumpism. The president’s swelling complaints against Sessions include the fact that he “doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers” and that Trump “can’t stand his Southern accent.”

Conservatives have spent decades depicting liberals as coastal snobs. Entire campaigns were built from this theme, from Michael Dukakis’s “Harvard Yard boutique” to various Democrats failing to display the requisite enthusiasm for Nascar. Every image of Barack Obama in the right-wing media cast him gazing downward imperiously, a pose that conservatives seemed to think captured his contempt for the good people of the heartland.

Given the attention they have lavished on such picayune details as John Kerry’s failure to order cheesesteak properly, it’s not even possible to imagine what they would do with direct evidence of a president disdaining his attorney general’s University of Alabama law degree and regional accent. Imagine one of those scenes from a ’90s action movie where the bad guys are wearing night-vision goggles in the dark, and then suddenly faced with blinding light.

But as is so often the case, the accusation that was made falsely against Democrats turns out to be true of Trump. For all his vaunted populism, he is filled with contempt for average people in general and his own supporters in particular.

Trump has touted the mindless loyalty of his base, and when he marveled that he would not lose any support if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue, he was not complimenting the discernment of his supporters. He has tried to turn that into a positive — “I love the poorly educated!” — but the association with low socioeconomic strata has grated on him. Trump is the ultimate snob. He has no sense that working-class people may have equal latent talent that they have been denied the chance to develop. He considers wealthy and successful people a genetic aristocracy, frequently attributing his own success to good genes.

Attempting to explain his penchant for appointing plutocrats to his Cabinet, Trump has said, “I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?” It makes sense if you assume a person’s wealth perfectly reflects their innate intelligence. Trump has repeatedly boasted about his Ivy League pedigree and that of his relatives, which he believes reflects well on his own genetic stock. He has fixated on the Ivy League pedigree of his Supreme Court appointments, even rejecting the credentials of the lower Ivys as too proletarian.

Trump has built a brand on attracting working-class strivers. But the relationship he cultivates is unidirectional admiration. Trump gives his supporters a lifestyle they can enjoy vicariously. He views them as suckers. The Trump University scam was premised directly on exploiting the misplaced trust of his fan base. The internal guidance for salespeople trying to drain the savings accounts of their targets explained, “Don’t ask people what they think about something you’ve said. Instead, always ask them how they feel about it. People buy emotionally and justify it logically.”

The declassé image of his fan base has rubbed off on Trump, to his evident frustration. He regularly proclaims that his supporters are the true elite, but his unconvincing attempts to make the case usually devolve into boasts that Trump himself is the elite. Here is a typical passage, from a rally in West Virginia:

We’re the smart ones, remember. I say it all the time. You hear the elite. They’re not elite, we’re elite. You’re smarter than they are, you have more money than they do, you have better jobs than they do, you’re the elite. So let them have the word elite. You’re the super elite. That’s what it is.

 

I always hate — I always hate when they say, well the elite decided not to go to something I’m doing, right, the elite. I said, “Well, I have a lot more money than they do. I have a much better education than they have. I’m smarter than they are. I have many much more beautiful homes than they do. I have a better apartment at the top of Fifth Avenue.” Why the hell are they the elite? Tell me.

Obviously, the most elemental feature of populist politics is to associate one’s opponents with “elite.” But Trump is unable to maintain the pose because he cannot stand the stink of the people upon him.

Senator Corker compares revoking security clearances to Venezuela’s dictatorship

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

Corker compares revoking security clearances to Venezuela’s dictatorship

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration’s decision to consider revoking security clearances for several ex-government officials who have been vocal about their opposition to President Donald Trump, adding that it’s “the kind of thing that happens in Venezuela.”

“I can’t even believe that somebody at the White House thought up something like this,” Corker said during an interview on MSNBC. “I mean, when you’re going to start taking retribution against people who are your political enemies in this manner, that’s the kind of thing that happens in Venezuela.”

“So you just don’t do that. I can’t believe they even allowed it to be aired, to be honest,” he said. “I mean, it’s a banana republic kind of thing.”

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s administration is considered a dictatorship by the United States.

Corker’s comments come a day after the White House announced it was looking to remove security clearances held by former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former NSA Director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser Susan Rice and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

McCabe’s security clearance was deactivated after he was fired earlier this year, and Comey also does not currently have a security clearance. Hayden, the only Bush administration-era official who is facing revocation of his security clearance, tweeted he does not go back for classified briefings but has occasionally been asked to offer a view on something.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Monday’s press briefing that Trump feels as though the former officials have “politicized” their positions by accusing Trump of inappropriate contact with Russia.

“The fact that people with security clearances are making baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” she said.

Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

CONGRESS

Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia

The South Carolina Republican chastised Trump for inviting Putin to Washington this fall.

Updated 

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy chastised Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that some members of the president’s administration should consider quitting if Trump won’t listen to their advice.

“The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday” of the Putin invitation, which the White House confirmed last week would be extended for the fall. “Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.”

The South Carolina Republican suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if Trump continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia.

That concern has dominated discourse in Washington since Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki last week, at which he spoke more harshly of the FBI than of Russia.

“It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy told host Bret Baier. “So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.”

Political commentators and Democratic lawmakers said after Trump’s news conference with Putin — in which he refused to side with the U.S. intelligence community on the issue of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and said he held both countries responsible for tensions — that advisers including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and national security adviser John Bolton should quit their posts.

But Republican lawmakers have been more hesitant to call for such a response from the president’s team.

Earlier this weekend, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman penned an op-ed for a Utah newspaper in which he said he would not resign, saying he felt he is very much needed in the role. And Coats said during a Thursday interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that the question of resigning was “a place I don’t really go to publicly.”

“As long as I’m able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I’m on board,” Coats said. After Trump indicated Monday that he did not believe Russia was responsible for hacking Democratic Party computers and other wrongdoing during the 2016 election, Coats defended American spies’ assessment that Moscow was to blame.

Gowdy struck a tone of admonishment Sunday on Trump’s refusal to side with the U.S. intelligence community — comments that the president later partially walked back.

“I’m glad he corrected it,” Gowdy said, “but when you’re the leader of the free world, every syllable matters.”

Still, Gowdy urged Trump to separate concerns about Russian interference from his frustration with the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that this president colluded, conspired, confederated with Russia,” he said. “And neither has anyone else, or you may rest assured Adam Schiff would have leaked it,” he said, referring to the Democratic congressman from California.

Congressional Democrats continued Sunday to be skeptical of the response of their Republican colleagues on the Russia issue.

“When it comes to defending the country, they’re not willing to follow through,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Others were just rather startled at the week’s whole turn of events.

“The fact that we have to question the integrity, the honesty and the loyalty of a commander in chief when it comes to dealing with Russia is a problem in and of itself,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) on CNN‘s “State of the Union.”

Conservatives (GOP) introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

It’s the latest sign of GOP resistance to the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Three House Republicans on Friday moved to pressure special counsel Robert Mueller to resign over what they contend are “obvious conflicts of interest,” the latest instance of rising GOP resistance to his Russia probe.

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), introduced a measure that, while nonbinding, would put the House on record describing Mueller, a former FBI director, as unfit to lead the probe because of his relationship with James Comey, his successor at the bureau.

“[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states.

Mueller is investigating whether any Americans aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as whether figures in the Trump administration may have obstructed justice in part by moving to oust Comey in May, when the FBI’s Russia investigation was picking up steam. Mueller was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein after an uproar following President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

The move by the three lawmakers to seek Mueller’s resignation is a sign of intensifying frustration among Trump’s allies during the same week Mueller issued his first indictments in the probe: money laundering charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Mueller also secured a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a low-level campaign foreign policy adviser, who lied to the FBI about his attempts to arrange a meeting between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

The anger from Republicans appears to mirror the feelings of Trump, who on Friday unloaded in a series of tweets urging his own Justice Department to investigate Democrats — not him — for transgressions he says occurred during the 2016 election.

“This is real collusion and dishonesty. Major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering,” he said, accusing Democrats of the same charges that Manafort was hit with. “[W]here is our Justice Department?”

Most Republicans, including those in GOP leadership, are not on board with dismissing Mueller.

But the conservative push has worried some on the left, who are urging Democratic lawmakers to step up their defense of Mueller.

“While it might be ideal to wait to speak out until Mueller finishes his investigation, Trump’s defenders in Congress are not waiting to defend the President’s actions or to pass judgment on the investigation,” CAP Action Fund wrote in a memo being prepared for lawmakers and obtained by POLITICO. “The heightened risk to Trump from Mueller’s investigation also means there is a heightened risk to the Mueller investigation from Trump.”

Other conservatives, like Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), have already called for Mueller’s departure.

DeSantis, too, has ramped up his efforts to hinder Mueller’s investigation. He recently pushed an amendment, which failed to gain traction, that would have curtailed Mueller’s probe within six months and limited its scope.

And in a Thursday interview with Breitbart Radio, DeSantis blamed Rosenstein for a “clumsy” decision to appoint Mueller without putting strict limits on his scope.

“Rosenstein really muffed this,” he said.

Breitbart News Editor Alex Marlow, who interviewed DeSantis, promised to give his proposal a lot of airtime and ink.

“We’re going to be pushing it heavily or at least content on it heavily,” he said.

In his interview, DeSantis also foreshadowed the end of the House Intelligence Committee’s separate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“The good news on the congressional side, at least in the House, is from what I understand, they’ve really increased the frequency of the interviews of the people and I think on the House side this Russia-Trump [probe] is going to come to an end soon,” he said.

DeSantis isn’t on the intelligence panel but said talking to committee members, he’s convinced it’ll be done “certainly before the end of the year.”

He also said he’s been urging Speaker Paul Ryan to curtail the House investigation.

“I said, ‘Mr. Speaker, we’ve been spinning these wheels. There’s no evidence. If there is, produce it. I think we’d all like to see it. But if not, then we’ve got to get on with our business,’” adding, “I think that message has been received.”

While the new resolution faults Mueller for leading the probe despite his professional relationship with Comey, it also includes a broader broadside against the FBI.

The three lawmakers say the agency should be investigated for “willful blindness” over a seven-year-old sale of uranium production facilities to Russian interests, which conservatives have argued was approved in part by the Hillary Clinton-led State Department at the same time a party to the deal was making donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Mueller, they note, was presiding over the FBI at the time the agency was investigating a Russian bribery and extortion scheme connected to the uranium deal, but the agency declined to notify Congress of its investigation and prevented a confidential informant from notifying lawmakers.

“Any thorough and honest investigation into the corruption of American-uranium related business must include investigating the willful blindness of the FBI and its leaders,” according to the resolution.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

(Donald Trump Is A Liar And A Fraud On Everything: The Boy Scouts Are No Exception)(TRS)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

Boy Scouts ‘Unaware’ of Call Trump Said He Received From Organization Praising Jamboree Speech

Updated: 8:23 PM ET | Originally published: 7:41 PM ET

President Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that after his controversial speech at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in West Virginia, the head of the Boy Scouts called him and told him it was “the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” But the organization told TIME they are unaware of any call from national leadership placed to the White House.

“The Chief Scout Executive’s message to the Scouting community speaks for itself,” the organization said, referring to a July 27 statement from Michael Surbaugh, the Chief Scout Executive for the Boy Scouts of America, who apologized to anyone in the scouting community who could have been offended or alarmed by the political rhetoric in the speech.

“For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program,” Surbaugh wrote.

The President also told the paper he did not find his politicized speech to the Boy Scouts last month to be controversial, despite Surbaugh’s apology.

“They loved it,” the President told the Wall Street Journal, according to a transcript of the interview obtained and published by PoliticoIn the transcript, the President is responding to claims from the paper’s reporters that the reaction to his speech was “mixed.”

“I’d be the first to admit mixed. I’m a guy that will tell you mixed,” Trump responded. “There was no mix there. That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix.”

During his July 24 speech, the President bragged about his election victory,slamming his former opponent Hillary Clinton as well his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, and repeatedly decrying the media for what he deemed unfair coverage.

The interview with the Journal took place July 25, but the paper only released excerpts rather than a full transcript. Politico obtained and released the transcript on Tuesday.