Family problems and more departures

The Washington Post published a bombshell report that at least four countries had discussed how to use White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s sparse experience, financial troubles and intricate business arrangements to manipulate him.

The security clearance of Kushner has been downgraded. Kushner had been operating with an interim clearance at the “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” level for more than a year. Now he is only authorized to access information at the lower “secret” level.

The news set off rampant speculation among Donald Trump allies that Kushner’s days in the White House might be numbered. Another announcement saw the departure of a top Kushner aide in the White House, deputy communications director Josh Raffel, the third departure of a Kushner ally in the West Wing in as many months.

With the downgrade in clearance, Kushner may not be able to fulfill his job as a foreign policy advisor such as the Middle East peace process – which itself went from not good to worse since Trump announced that it would move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Is that advising? He also can’t be in any room where a higher security clearance is required.

He can’t even see intercepted communications or the most secret CIA information about their informants. Unless Kushner is cleared by the FBI to receive a permanent security clearance or gets a waiver from Trump [I can see that happening!], his diminished role will spur fresh speculation about his longevity as a White House staffer.

He also worked on trade deals for the United States’ relationships in Asia has been dying a slow death over the last year due to a combination of his lack of experience, lack of respect from world leaders and the actions of his boss and father-in-law, President Donald Trump. The drop in clearance will also affect Ivanka Trump.

Trump pledged to hire the most qualified people in the world to serve in his administration, and made the alleged mishandling of classified material by his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton a key argument of his campaign. But yet, his “qualified” people have either resigned [more likely fired] or can’t get a top secret security clearance. Yet many others also can’t get a clearance approved.

White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders insisted that the change in Kushner’s security clearance would not impact his standing in the White House. “He is a valued member of the team and will continue to do the important work he has been doing since he started in the administration,” she said. He won’t be too valuable if he doesn’t have the access needed to do his job – maybe except for maintenance work [gardener, pick up trash from baskets, etc.] Trump has the ability to declassify information and could do so in order to allow Kushner to see certain documents, which might not fly well with the national security and intelligence communities. But he doesn’t care about them since has already degraded them in the past.

Kushner’s family real estate group obtained business loans after Kushner met with the company heads in his official government capacity where Kushner met with Joshua Harris, one of the founders of Apollo Global Management, on multiple occasions while advising the Trump administration on infrastructure policy. The size of the loan was triple the size of their average property loan.

As well, Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael Corbat, met with Kushner in the spring of 2017 and a short time after, the group lent Kushner Companies $325 million for some of its Brooklyn properties.

The chief White House calligrapher has greater access to sensitive information than Kushner with a top secret clearance. The clearance is supposedly required because of the knowledge of the President’s schedule, as well as the calligrapher’s proximity to world leaders.

Not to be outdone by her hubby, US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump’s international business deals. The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump. Wonder how her father will respond to this news. Twitter storm against the FBI?

Adding to this is that Trump was already under ethical fire for breaking anti-nepotism conventions by hiring family members.

Trump indirectly notified Chief of Staff John Kelly against removing Kushner’s clearance. So instead, Kelly reduced his clearance. But with Kushner’s job requirements, it is the same as removing as Kushner will now be mostly useless at his job. This could push Trump to remove Kelly from his job. If you remember, Kushner had to adjust his security clearance at least three times to add further information previously left out.

Trump has begun floating possible names for a future chief of staff in conversations with outside advisers. This includes budget director Mick Mulvaney, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Mark Meadows and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

So now Communications Director Hope Hicks has resigned. Hicks explained her decision saying she told colleagues that she had accomplished what she felt she could with a job that made her one of the most powerful people in Washington, and that there would never be a perfect moment to leave.

But one day after she spent hours testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee regarding its investigation into Russia’s attempted meddling in the 2016 presidential election where she acknowledged that she sometimes told white lies for Trump but insisted that she had never done so in regard to the Russia investigation.

Supposedly Trump berated Hicks after her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. She was considered one of his closest allies. And now? Betrayal?

During Hicks’ testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, she reportedly admitted to telling white lies on behalf of Trump, but said she never had to lie on substantial issues for him. But “It truly was just a setup of this witness [Hicks], who was trying to be forthright and honest,” according to Utah Rep. Chris Stewart. Funny how no one else complained and why 3 days later?

The Supreme Court said that it will stay out of the dispute concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for now, meaning the Trump administration may not be able to end the program March 5 as planned.

Trump right away blamed the Democrats on inaction. Trump has previously claimed his plan will allow 3 times more DACA people than the previous Obama administration. The current DACA program could help protect potentially 1.9 million people [1.3 million at this time] who are eligible – the same as Trump’s plan.

Trump called Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson [the deputy who didn’t enter the school building in Parkland] a “coward” as well as other comments. Not only did Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but three other deputies were also outside the school and had not entered. The deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles and not one of them went into the school. Maybe because you don’t go up against a shooter with a handgun while the shooter has an AR15. Why isn’t Trump going after them?

While Trump is pushing for teachers to be armed at schools, the majority of state governors, at a meeting are against that though saying that teachers are there to teach – not police.

Trump hilariously said he would have stormed into the Florida high school to stop the gunman perpetrating the nation’s latest mass shooting “even if I didn’t have a weapon” as he lambasted the inaction of a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school.

Trump raised eyebrows in a meeting by suggesting that law enforcement officials should be able to confiscate people’s firearms without a court order to prevent potential tragedies. Guarantee the NRA won’t like that or Second Amendment hawks.

Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign used a photo of a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting in an email that asks its recipients to donate money to the campaign. The email contains a photo of 17-year-old survivor in a hospital bed surrounded by her family, Trump and the first lady. Very tacky. A privacy issue?

Trump appears to be backing away from his call to increase the age limit to 21 for some weapons. Surprised? There was a bipartisan bill to “raise the minimum purchase age for non-military buyers from 18 to 21.” But now Trump has indicated how a soldier could be told he or she could use an assault weapon on the battlefield but not at home to protect his or her family.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he isn’t supportive of the proposals to impose new restrictions on gun purchases, telling reporters “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law abiding citizens.” But then he said “we should be focusing on making sure that citizens who shouldn’t get guns in the first place don’t get those guns.” That last part was right but he is assuming like just about every pro-NRA politician that new rules would apply to those who haven’t been in trouble before.

Asked about arming teachers, Ryan suggested that the issue was not something Congress should take the lead on. But Trump is suggesting to do just that and both are gun related which is probably a federal jurisdiction.

The House passed a bill was attached to another a proposal that loosens gun regulations and allows those with permits to carry concealed weapons to legally travel with those firearms to other states. Take them on airplanes?

Florida state House approves only one part of a gun bill – ban bump stocks [sale and possession]. Failed to ban assault weapons, arm teachers or mental health background check.

Donald Trump Jr. liked a tweet promoting a false conspiracy theory that claimed that Parkland survivor Lauren Hogg’s older brother, David, had been coached by his father — a former FBI agent — to speak out against President Donald Trump.

Of all the congress members only 6 Republicans did NOT receive any financial support from the NRA. In comparison only 24 Democrats did receive support from them – with the most at just $49,000 for his career. Eight Republican lawmakers have been on the receiving end of at least $1 million in campaign contributions from the NRA over the courses of their careers. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is among them.

The state of Georgia is threatening to kill a tax break on jet fuel for Delta airlines after Delta abandoned its relationship with the NRA unless delta goes back to the status quo. Blackmail? Just over a dozen individuals used Delta’s NRA discount.

Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, a frontrunner in the state’s gubernatorial race this year, vowed to “kill any tax legislation” that helps Delta unless it reverses course. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” he tweeted. We know where he is getting some of his donations from.

Vermont is home to the nation’s most permissive gun laws saying all you have to do was Google “AR-15 Vermont,” get in touch with a seller, and a few emails later and you could had arranged to exchange the weapon in a parking lot — no ID, background check, license, or wait required.

While some expect Kelly to leave the administration, White House national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster could leave his position in the White House by the end of the month and more likely that McMaster will not return to the military and ultimately will retire as a three-star general.

Out of the blue, Trump wants to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum. Unsure what brought this on [but with him does anything have a reason?]. It was not immediately clear whether Trump would exempt some countries from the tariffs, as his national security advisers have urged him to do to avoid hurting key US allies. Already the move has divided top advisors and caused the Dow Jones to drop 400 points.

He had tweeted “Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!” If you look at the tweet, it is basically the same word he uses when he thinks the US has had a bad deal. For example, with NAFTA he complains about Canada taking advantage of the US but yet it is Canada that has a trade deficit.

Aside from the industries that use Canadian aluminum and steel, various Trump backers and politicians have already complained about how it will actually hurt Americans in the end. For example, American companies will have to purchase more American steel and aluminum which is more expensive. The extra costs would be passed on those that use them. Molson Coors [which uses aluminum for beer cans] are estimating it will add 10% to the price of a beer can. That could cause job loses because of probable loss in beer sales.

According to a report, special counsel Robert Mueller is asking questions about Trump’s business dealings with Russia before Trump’s campaign, a potentially significant development in the investigation. Mueller is also taking a look at Trump’s finances in the run-up to his decision to run for president.

Trump publicly chastised Attorney General Jeff Sessions again over an investigation into alleged surveillance abuses. He tweeted “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” Isn’t this meddling in investigations that involve himself? The attorney general is supposed to be independent – not take orders from the President every time things don’t go his way or has nothing else to tweet about.

Trump’s personal pilot, John Duncan, is on a short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. [Can Homer Simpson be the new Secretary of the Department of Energy?]

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has called off an official trip to Washington to meet with Trump after a tense phone call brought the two leaders to a policy-driven standstill. Peña Nieto called off the trip in March after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall. At least one Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper.”

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has firmly denied reports about its involvement in secret negotiations with a “Russian intermediary” from whom the agency, along with the NSA, allegedly tried to retrieve a trove of stolen hacking tools. “The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false,” the CIA said in a statement. The agency added that the only “people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg,” the authors of the Friday reports in the New York Times and the Intercept.

The vague descriptions of the alleged spy saga described how the US spies were conned by a man they believed was linked to Russian intelligence, who fed them $100,000-worth of ‘gossip’ about Trump instead of the material they were after. The National Security Agency (NSA) has not yet officially commented on the issue.
Former adviser to Trump’s campaign Carter Page claims that the US government [i.e. Obama administration] meddled in more on the last election than the Russians. Page always wasn’t working with a “full deck”.

 

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About ebraiter
computer guy

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