Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He’s worse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

 

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He’s worse

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He’s worse
President Trump at the White House on April 18, the day the redacted Mueller report was released. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report makes one thing clear: Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He is worse. And yet Trump seems almost sure to be spared Nixon’s fate. This will do severe — possibly irreparable — damage to the vital norms that sustain American democracy. There is still time for Congress and the American people to avert the worst of this damage, but the odds are long and time is short.

Despite his famous protestation to the contrary, President Nixon was a crook. He directed the CIA to shut down the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate burglary, in which several of his campaign operatives broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters. He also directed subordinates to pay hush money to subjects of that investigation. He then fired the first special prosecutor appointed to investigate these matters, hoping to protect himself and his senior advisors from possible criminal liability and untold political damage.

For these attempts to obstruct justice, Nixon paid the ultimate political price. When he terminated special prosecutor Archibald Cox, a ferocious public backlash forced him to appoint a widely respected replacement. That was Leon Jaworski, whose dramatic victory at the U.S. Supreme Court forced the release of secret White House tapes that destroyed the last vestiges of Nixon’s congressional support. He resigned the presidency days later. Had he failed to do so, impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal by the Senate were all but certain.

If Trump escapes unscathed, future presidents will take notice.


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Nothing in Nixon’s presidency became him like the leaving it. For two generations, his downfall served as a cautionary tale for subsequent presidents who might be tempted to interfere with a federal investigation for personal or political reasons. Firing a special prosecutor, in particular, was almost universally understood to be political suicide. As Watergate showed, the American people simply would not stand for a president who sought to place himself above the law. This broadly shared understanding served as a crucial safeguard against the abuse of presidential power.

Then came Trump. After smashing through dozens of other deeply rooted norms of American politics to win the presidency, he treated the post-Watergate consensus with similar contempt. Just weeks after he took the oath of office, as the Mueller report details, Trump asked FBI Director James B. Comey to drop the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn. Before making this request, the president cleared the room, strongly suggesting that he knew his actions were improper. Requesting that the FBI drop an investigation of his friends is exactly what Nixon was caught doing on the famous “smoking gun” tape that sealed his fate.

Yet for Trump, this was just the beginning. A few weeks later, in early March 2017, the report shows that Trump lobbied vigorously to prevent Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation. When Sessions nevertheless followed the advice of ethics officials and recused himself, Trump exploded in anger and personally pressed Sessions to reverse his decision. Trump wanted an attorney general who would protect him to be in charge of the investigation.

In May 2017, the Mueller report shows that Trump removed Comey as head of the FBI and concocted a deliberately false explanation related to Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Along with Trump’s attendant criticism of the Russia investigation and personally vindictive treatment of Comey, this action “had the potential to affect a successor director’s conduct of the investigation.” The report catalogs significant evidence that the president was worried the investigation would turn up politically and legally damaging information, and that it threatened the legitimacy of his election.

The report’s most damning evidence of obstruction of justice concerns the special counsel’s investigation itself. Once Trump learned in June 2017 that he was himself under investigation by Mueller’s team, his efforts to thwart the investigation reached new heights of audacity. That month, in a series of frantic phone calls, he ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. The report describes “substantial evidence” that this was an attempt to obstruct the special counsel’s investigation; Trump was acting to protect himself from potential criminal liability and political damage.

When McGahn refused to carry out the order to fire Mueller, Trump resumed his campaign to get Sessions to take over the investigation and curtail it — or resign, so that Trump could appoint someone who would protect him. Much of this information was already in the public domain, but it is no less shocking for that. The evidence available to Mueller’s investigators, including contemporaneous documents and testimony under oath, provides a far surer foundation than anonymously sourced news stories.

The report also contains a wealth of new information. When Trump’s order to fire the special counsel was publicly reported in January 2018, Trump demanded that McGahn fabricate “a record denying that the President had tried to fire the special counsel.” This is witness tampering, plain and simple, of a much more direct and personal kind than any that Nixon engaged in. It also amounts to falsifying evidence, which counts as obstruction of justice even on the narrowest possible reading of the federal statute advanced by Trump’s lawyers.

Along similar lines, the report describes substantial evidence that Trump privately urged Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen to “stay strong” and promised — through his lawyers — that they would “be taken care of” unless they “went rogue.” Together with the president’s public tweets praising Manafort and Stone for their bravery and baselessly accusing members of Cohen’s family of crimes, this conduct also amounts to witness tampering, plain and simple.

Lest it be forgotten, all of this took place in the context of one of the most serious law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations in the history of the United States. As the Mueller report explains, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” on behalf of Donald Trump. The FBI and Mueller set out to discover whether Trump’s campaign was complicit, and Trump took extraordinary measures to thwart their efforts. Nixon’s obstruction of the Watergate investigation looks almost innocent by comparison.

And yet Trump seems very likely to escape direct accountability. House Democrats may well opt against pursuing impeachment, for entirely understandable reasons: It might be too wrenching for the country, in the absence of a clear popular consensus supporting Trump’s removal. It might not be good politics for 2020, with voters more concerned about bread-and-butter issues. Even if the House votes to impeach, a two-thirds Senate vote to remove Trump from office seems almost inconceivable.

But if Trump escapes unscathed, future presidents will take notice. The cautionary tale of Watergate will be superseded by the Trump triumph and its very different lesson: In the hyperpolarized political environment of the early 21st century, the president is a law unto himself.

Andrew Coan is a professor of law at the University of Arizona and the author of “Prosecuting the President: How Special Prosecutors Hold Presidents Accountable and Protect the Rule of Law.”

Has the Affordable Care Act given 200,000-plus West Virginians health coverage?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘POLITIFACT’) 

 

Has the Affordable Care Act given 200,000-plus West Virginians health coverage?

Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., in 2017. (AP/Michael Virtanen)

During the 2018 midterm elections, many Democrats across the country argued that they would be better positioned than their Republican rivals to protect Americans’ health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act.

The 2018 election cycle may be over now, but the West Virginia Democratic Party continues to make that argument.

In fact, the issue gained new relevance in March 2019 when the Trump administration said it has decided to seek the law’s full repeal in an ongoing court case. (This is the same lawsuit that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey signed on to, as we’ve noted.)

In an April 1 tweet, the state party said that President Donald Trump “is threatening to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act that provided over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage. Our seniors depend on it for affordable prescriptions and pre-existing condition coverage.”

WV Democratic Party

@wvdemocrats

Trump is threatening to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act that provided over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage. Our Seniors depend on it for affordable prescriptions and pre-existing condition coverage.

See WV Democratic Party’s other Tweets

Here, we’ll look at whether the party is correct that “over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage.” (The West Virginia Democratic Party did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)

The Affordable Care Act provides two primary ways to get coverage — individual policies purchased on online marketplaces and an expansion of Medicaid to a wider group of eligible Americans. We turned to data on both types from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For 2019, the number of West Virginians purchasing health insurance on the marketplace totaled 22,599.

And for fiscal year 2017, West Virginia added 183,100 residents to its Medicaid rolls due to the Affordable Care Act. (Kaiser communications director Craig Palosky said 2017 figures are the most recent available due to state-by-state reporting lags.)

Combined, that works out to 205,699 West Virginia residents securing coverage from the law, making the Democratic tweet accurate.

Palosky added that other West Virginians benefited from the law without specifically securing insurance under the law. For instance, the law required coverage of pre-existing conditions and provided more generous coverage of prescription drugs under Medicare.

Our ruling

The West Virginia Democratic Party said the Affordable Care Act “provided over 200,000 West Virginians with health care coverage.”

The combination of insurance purchases on the marketplace and the increase in Medicaid coverage works out to 205,699, according to the most recent data available. That’s in line with what the tweet said, so we rate it True.

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The Affordable Care Act “provided over 200,000 West Virginians with health care coverage.”

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

Move comes 3 weeks after Trump recognizes Israeli sovereignty over Heights; Mideast envoy Greenblatt tweets picture of the map that also refers to West Bank as Israeli-occupied

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

The US has for the first time published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau.

US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map on Tuesday, saying: “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system.”

The map shows the 1974 ceasefire line between Israel and Syria as a permanent border, whereas the border with Lebanon continues to be demarcated as the 1949 armistice line.

The map also notes that the West Bank is Israeli-occupied, with its final status to be determined in peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security tour in the Golan Heights, near Israel’s northern border with Syria, on April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

And it notes that while the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, it does not take a position on the boundaries of the holy city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after @POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights

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However, while the map was updated, text attached to the Israel entry in the latest CIA world factbook, which included the map, continued to call East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights “Israeli occupied.”

Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan sparked widespread international condemnation. The announcement in late March was a major shift in American policy and gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a needed political boost ahead of April elections.

US President Donald Trump, seated, holds up a signed proclamation on the Golan Heights, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing center, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. Second from right is Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and at right is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and in 1981 effectively annexed the area, in a move never recognized by the rest of international community, which considers the Golan Heights to be occupied Syrian territory.

The map was published with the US indicating it may also be on board with Israel annexing West Bank settlements.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan.

His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.

Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”

“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he added.

“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

He said the Trump administration wanted “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In interviews days before the elections, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.

On Tuesday, a coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups, most of them Jewish, sent a letter to Trump tacitly asking him to respect a potential Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements.

The letter comes in response to a coalition of centrist and liberal groups who last week urged Trump not to recognize a potential Israeli West Bank annexation.

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Kim Tightens Leadership Over North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Kim Tightens Leadership Over North Korea In Major Government Reshuffle

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un listens during a meeting in February with President Trump at the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has further cemented his grip on power, in a big reshuffle of the country’s leadership. However, he didn’t signal a retreat, either from negotiations with the U.S. or a self-imposed moratorium on testing of missiles and nuclear bombs, something Pyongyang said he had been considering.

Instead, Kim’s remarks pointed to economic belt-tightening in an attempt to ride out economic sanctions — and perhaps the Trump administration, too – while hanging on to his country’s nuclear arsenal.

At a session in Pyongyang of the newly elected parliament — the result of voting last month in which all candidates ran unopposed — Kim was re-elected as Chairman of the State Affairs Commission. That means he retains, as expected, his posts as leader of the ruling party, state and military.

He added an extra honorary title though, “Supreme Representative of all the Korean People,” apparently for use in ceremonial and diplomatic occasions.

Long-serving officials such as 91-year-old Kim Jong Nam, the titular head of state, and Premier Pak Pong Ju, 80, were either retired or promoted to symbolic posts and replaced by younger officials.

Kim’s main message came on Wednesday, when he told ruling Workers’ Party officials to make the country’s economy self-sufficient, “so as to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes, miscalculating that sanctions can bring (North Korea) to its knees,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The remarks were clearly aimed at Washington, and they come weeks after a second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi that ended abruptly with no progress toward the U.S. goal of ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Kim’s comments and his reshuffle of the leadership appear to have two aims, says Park Hyeong-jung, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, or KINU, a government think-tank in Seoul.

“One is to double down on economic self-reliance, through strengthened mobilization,” Park says. “The second is to reinforce control over society.” He explains that tighter control is necessary because anecdotal evidence out of North Korea suggests the economy is deteriorating under the pressure of sanctions, and citizens feeling the pinch are starting to gripe.

There are fewer merchants and fewer customers, for example, in the “jangmadang” or free markets, Park says. And North Korean officials, he adds, are becoming more “extractive” and predatory, demanding bigger bribes from merchants as a sort of tax on the markets.

Kim’s expectations of tough times ahead seemed to anticipate President Trump’s comments to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday that he was unwilling to ease sanctions on the North, or make big concessions in nuclear negotiations.

Moon’s trip to Washington was seen in Seoul as a crucial test of his role as mediator between North Korea and the U.S. South Korea’s government had voiced hopes for a “good-enough deal,” and an “early harvest.” In other words, a smaller, interim deal to get the denuclearization ball rolling.

But Trump mostly rebuffed Moon, saying “at this moment, we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.”

Trump did leave some wiggle room for incremental progress. “I’d have to see what the deal is,” he told reporters. “There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen.”

“The question is what Kim can be convinced to give up at a future meeting, in exchange for what he left on the table in Hanoi,” says Leif-Eric Easley, an international relations expert at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

Trump and Kim failed to reach a deal in Hanoi in February, Easley says, because North Korea’s offer to dismantle its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon was not enough for a comprehensive deal, while Pyongyang’s “asking price — the lifting of key U.N. Security Council resolutions — was unreasonably high.”

Seoul says Moon’s next step will be to seek a fourth summit with Kim Jong Un to try to broker a deal.

But whether Kim Jong Un will be interested in another meeting is unclear, says KINU’s Park Hyeong-jung.

“Probably, North Korea would assess that South Korea does not have much leverage to change U.S. attitudes,” he says, as evidenced by Moon’s meeting Thursday with Trump, and therefore Moon’s usefulness as a broker is questionable.

Trump And His IRS Screwing The Working Class Again With New Tax Laws

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

Another tax headache ahead: IRS is changing paycheck withholdings and it’ll be a doozy

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/embed/video/39090145?sitelabel=reimagine&placement=snow-smallarticleattophtml5&keywords=taxes%2Cpublic-finance%2Cinternal-revenue-service%2Chr-block%2Ctax-refunds&simpleTarget=&simpleExclusion=&pagetype=story&cst=money&ssts=money&series=

The first tax filing season under the new federal tax law is proving to be surprising, confusing — and occasionally frightening — for some Americans, especially those accustomed to getting money back from the government. (Feb. 21) AP

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You finally finished your taxes and are learning – for better or worse – the ins and outs of the new law.

But wait, the law isn’t done with you. There’s another complication coming out later this year: The Internal Revenue Service is changing how you adjust your paycheck withholdings, and early indicators show it won’t be easy.

The agency plans to release a new W-4 form that better incorporates the changes ushered in by the new tax law so that the amount held back for taxes in each of your paychecks is more accurate.

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The agency’s goal: A taxpayer shouldn’t owe or be owed come tax time.

Gas prices: Why you should fill up on gas on Monday mornings (and never on Friday afternoons)

Travel bonus: Travel tech: Cruising with this gadget on your vacation can make for much smoother sailing

But the changes won’t be simple, says Pete Isberg, head of government affairs at ADP, the payroll and human resources company.

Filling out the new form will be a lot like doing your taxes again.

“It’ll be a much bigger pain,” he says. “The accuracy will be 100 percent, but the ease-of-use will be zero.”

What’s changing?

While the new form hasn’t been released yet, the IRS last summer put out a draft version and instructions  seeking feedback from tax preparation companies and payroll firms. Instead of claiming a certain amount of allowances based on exemptions – which have been eliminated – the draft form asked workers to input the annual dollar amounts for:

  • Nonwage income, such as interest and dividends
  • Itemized and other deductions
  • Income tax credits expected for the tax year
  • For employees with multiple jobs, total annual taxable wages for all lower paying jobs in the household

“It looked a lot more like the 1040 than a W-4,” Isberg says.

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The new form referenced up to 12 other IRS publications to fill it out. It was so complex and different from the previous W-4 form that Ernst & Young worried employees would struggle to fill it out correctly and employers may need to offer training beforehand.

Why is it taking so long?

The tax and payroll community expressed many concerns about the draft form aside from its complexity.

Many cited privacy issues because the form asked for spousal and family income that workers might not want to share with their employers. Other employees may not want to disclose they have another job or do side work outside their full-time job.

To avoid disclosing so much private information, taxpayers instead could use the IRS withholding calculator, but it’s “not easy to use and the instructions are confusing,” according to feedback from the American Payroll Association.

In September, the IRS scrapped plans to implement the new W-4 form for 2019 and instead is planning to roll it out for 2020.

What to expect

Another draft version of the new W-4 is expected by May 31, according to the IRS, which will also ask for public comment.

“We encourage taxpayers to take advantage of that opportunity and send us comments on the redesign,” says agency spokeswoman Anny Pachner.

The IRS will review the comments and plans to post a second draft later in the summer. The final W-4 version will be released by the end of the year in time for the 2020 tax year.

Once it arrives, you’ll probably need the following information on hand, says Kathy Pickering, executive director of H&R Block’s Tax Institute. That may mean lugging in past 1099 forms, paystubs or last year’s tax returns to fill it out correctly.

  • Your filing status
  • Number of dependents
  • Information about your itemized deductions such as home mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable deductions
  • Earnings from all jobs
  • Information about nonwage income such as business income, dividends, and interest.

“If you’re married, and both you and your spouse work, it will also be helpful to know information about your spouse’s income,” she says.

You may also need to fill out a new state income withholding form. Many states use the current W-4 for withholding, but they may need to release their own forms, too.

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Oded Balilty/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz

The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”

Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians now live in in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.

Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.

“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.

Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.

Gantz has accused Netanyahu of inciting against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and embracing extremists by allying with the far-right Jewish Power Party.

My Grumpy Valentines Day Comment To Us All

Would We Ever Know The Truth: If, We Ever Heard Such A Thing

 

The news out this morning is that Mr. Paul Manafort is in trouble with the Feds for lying again. Seriously, who would have ever thought such a thing, Paul Manafort lie? Didn’t President Trump’s former Lawyer have an issue with the truth? Speaking of our President and truth issues, how about His Son, Don Jr? Then of course we have our President who would no doubt rather cut down a Cherry Tree then to lie to all of us, right?

 

You may wonder why I have brought up know Serial Liars on Valentines Day, and that is a fair question. The reason is simple, today how many lies will be told? How much Chocolate and Roses does it take to cover up all the Little White Lies (and a few Whoppers) that we have told to our Spouse throughout the years?

 

Today, how many men will give Candy and Flowers to their wife, and to their girlfriend? Then there are the guys who don’t get their wife anything for Valentines Day, but he does manage to get them for his girlfriend (or boyfriend), ya never know. Then there are the real men who didn’t get his wife or their girlfriends anything because he spent all his money on Tequila at a Titty-Bar. Then of course there are you Ladies out there you know, it isn’t just an all boys club Ladies, some of you are all just as darn guilty as the empty jock straps are. Think of the dear sweet Wife who spends the day having sex with her boyfriend then goes out this evening for a ‘Special’ evening out with their Husband.

 

What I am trying to get at is this, in our Society today when people speak to you, in the back of your mind you already blew them off because you figured the best chance is their just Blowing Smoke? Does is ever bother you when you are being 100% honest about an issue with a person or people and you can tell they are not believing you? What I am saying is that in our Society today we tend to get lied to so often that we don’t recognize the truth on different issues even when that truth is standing right before us.

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.

Israel’s Government Collapses Amid Corruption Charges and Trump’s Mideast Chaos

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

 

Israel’s Government Collapses Amid Corruption Charges and Trump’s Mideast Chaos

The specific issue that brought down Bibi’s government was subsidies for ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. Still, he thinks he’ll win at the polls again in April.

Amir Cohen/Reuters

JERUSALEM — In the most expected surprise declaration of 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the dissolution of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and elections to be held in early April.

The move comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump roiled the region with the startling announcement he was immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, and as his long-anticipated plan to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appears to be have shriveled.

A 2019 electoral campaign was inevitable, in fact. Netanyahu’s four-year mandate runs out in November 2019, but Monday’s unforeseen move became inescapable when Netanyahu was unable to muster the necessary votes to pass a popular law levying heavier fines against orthodox Jewish seminary students who dodge Israel’s otherwise universal draft of 18-years-olds on religious grounds.

Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition members opposed the law, and two opposition parties that had initially hinted at support withdrew it due to fears Netanyahu and his religious political partners had cut a secret deal providing financial compensation to counterbalance fines imposed on draft dodgers.

Elections have been in the air since Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation last month, which left the survival of Netanyahu’s coalition hanging by a single Knesset vote.

Lieberman has since taunted Netanyahu for his “government for survival,” but the prime minister remains the most popular leader in Israel’s rambunctious multi-part political process.

The next three months will see Bibi, as Netanyahu is widely known, confront unprecedented tests, none more challenging than his own precarious legal predicament.

Following police and state attorney recommendations that he be indicted on several corruption charges, senior Israeli jurists say his prosecution appears inevitable.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, an essential partner in any future Netanyahu government, restated on Monday that no minister, and no prime minister, can continue to serve if indicted.

Israel’s Justice Ministry issued a rare statement reassuring the public that its work in sifting through the legal recommendations will continue “as usual” despite the announcement of elections.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee who will make the final determination, said at a conference last week that Israeli law has not yet had to decide whether a sitting prime minister may remain in office if facing legal prosecution.

In recent years, both a president and a prime minister resigned when facing almost certain indictment,. Both eventually served time in prison.

Speaking to a quickly assembled meeting of his parliamentary faction, and ignoring the legal drama, Netanyahu forecast victory in the April vote and said the coalition he currently leads—the most right-wing in Israeli history and one of the most volatile— is “the seed” for his future government.

Listing his administration’s achievements, Netanyahu ignored instability in the financial markets that saw the Tel Aviv stock exchange lose more than 5 percent of its value since U.S. President Donald Trump’s startling decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, where they have provided crucial support for Israeli efforts to contain and halt Iranian entrenchment.

Lauding his government’s “four full years of achievements,” Netanyahu praised Israel as “a growing power, with flourishing diplomatic ties” with continental powerhouse nations such as India, Brazil and Australia, far from Israel’s historic allies.

After extolling ties with “west and east Europe, and central Europe, and Latin America,” Netanyahu extolled Israel’s alliance “with the United States that has never been stronger, with the historic decision made by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

“Israel has the eighth most powerful military on earth,” he boasted to his followers. “It is hard to believe, Israel is not a large country, but serious institutions rank us that high.”

Dec.14th, Trump Tells Turkey’s President Erdogan That Syria Is “All Yours”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

US President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the US was “done” with Syria as the pair discussed the possible withdrawal of US forces from the country.

Erdogan was explaining all the problems with the US presence in Iraq and Syria and was irritating Trump, according to a senior administration official who received a detailed readout of the phone call between both presidents.
“OK, it’s all yours. We are done,” Trump said, according to the source.
Erdogan made his case to Trump during the December 14 call that the US should pull out of Syria by pointing to the near-total defeat of ISIS in the country, according to a separate source familiar with the call. The President then sought assurances from Erdogan that Turkey would continue to fight ISIS and defeat the terrorist group.
A senior White House official said Erdogan gave Trump his “word” that Turkey would finish off ISIS.
“In the call on Friday, Erdogan said to the President, ‘In fact, as your friend, I give you my word in this,'” the senior White House official said.
Erdogan, for his part, described his conversation with Trump during a speech last Friday, saying he told Trump that he could clear Syria of ISIS.
“During a conversation I had with Mr. Trump — he said ‘ISIS, can you clear ISIS from this area?'” Erdogan recalled. “We did it before, and we can again as long as we have logistic support from you.”
“And so they began pulling out,” Erdogan said.
“Within the framework of the phone call we had with Mr. Trump, we have started preparing plans for operations to clear the ISIS elements still within Syria,” he continued.
The Associated Press first reported some details of the phone call.
Trump and Erdogan held a phone call again on Sunday where the two discussed the conflict in Syria, both nations said.
“I just had a long and productive call with President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey. We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years they are coming home. We also discussed heavily expanded Trade,” Trump tweeted.
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