Trump moves embassy, Middle East takes a turn for the worse

While it has always been a US policy to keep the US Embassy in Tel Aviv so that it doesn’t increase tensions, Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem brought tensions higher. Just on the day of the opening of the “new” embassy in Jerusalem, clashes killed quite a few and many more injured.

“While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once they were in office, this president delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it,” Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner said. Actually few if any previous president promised to move the embassy knowing the problems it could bring. As for making a promise, it is one of the few election promises that he kept.

Trump said he remained committed to “facilitating a lasting peace agreement” except few believe this will actually help bring peace to the region and most think it will raise tensions. More than half the representatives from various countries did not attend the opening.

A minor woops. Ivanka Trump, with microphone in hand, she beamed her 100-watt smile and welcomed the attendees on behalf of “the 45th President of the United States on America” to the “new” US Embassy in Jerusalem. If you missed it, she said “on” instead of “of”. But aside from the goof, aside from the fact that the embassy was a actually a consulate upgraded to an embassy – and it still cost US taxpayers millions to “upgrade”.

Thousands of pages were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The voluminous testimony and exhibits pertaining to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting tell us much about two key prongs of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The first is attempted coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the second is possible obstruction of justice regarding the investigation into that potential collusion.

Mueller’s team has informed Trump’s attorneys that they have concluded that they cannot indict a sitting president – this according to Rudy Giuliani. That conclusion is likely based on longstanding Justice Department guidelines. The inability to indict a sitting president has been the position of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department since the Nixon administration and reaffirmed in the Clinton administration, but it has never been tested in court.

But Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, says he thinks Trump could be indicted, despite Giuliani expressing otherwise.

Giuliani said that Mueller has agreed to narrow the scope of a potential interview with Trump from five topics to two. Giuliani claims that the President has “complete discretion to fire anybody he wants.”

Giuliani said “he [a president] can [obstruct justice], but in the case of firing a subordinate who is going to be replaced by somebody else on an active basis immediately.”

A recent New York Times report that at least one government informant met several times with Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. But Giuliani said he didn’t know for sure if there were informants embedded with the Trump campaign who spoke to federal authorities. Trump’s lawyers “were told there were two embedded people in the campaign” but where did they get their information from. Trump tweeted about the “all time greatest political scandal.”

[Giuliani is always making comments that conflict (or not verified to be factual) with what others have said. The above are further examples.]

US officials said that the confidential intelligence source was not planted inside the campaign to provide information to investigators. The identity of the informant had been closely held at the highest levels of the FBI and intelligence community, and the individual has been a source for the FBI and CIA for years.

“Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit,” Trump said.

Trump blamed Democrats for immigration laws that force federal immigration agents to break up families during a roundtable to discuss California sanctuary state policies. “I know what you’re going through right now with families is very tough. But those are the bad laws the Democrats gave us,” Trump said during the meeting with California officials.

“We have to break up families,” Trump said. Interesting since Trump has undo many Obama era laws. So why not these? As well, an odd comment since getting rid of DACA will surely split up families, let alone deporting non-Americans from the US – the estimated 11 million.

The administration is using protocols described in a 2008 law designed to combat child trafficking that gave special protections to Central American children at the border. While the bill was authored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it unanimously passed both houses of Congress and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush as one of his last acts in office. A democrat authored law approved by Congress and a Republican president.

“These [MS-13 gang and other criminals] aren’t people, these are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level, at a rate, that’s never happened before and because of the weak laws…” And yet he has done nothing in 16 months to fix those laws.

Trump acknowledged for the first time that he repaid his lawyer Michael Cohen more than $100,000 for expenses Cohen incurred during the 2016 presidential election, according to a financial disclosure form. The document did not explicitly state what the payments were for.

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced that it agreed with the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Tell me something we don’t know…..

There goes Trump’s Nobel Prize. North Korea has threatened to cancel the planned summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, saying the US should carefully consider the fate of the upcoming meeting, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea.” What they mean is the annual joint military drill conducted by South Korea and the US.

Trump reported on his financial disclosure, filed with the US Office of Government Ethics and released Wednesday, that his golf-related revenue made him about $67 million less in 2017 in comparison with 2016. Trump carries as much as $1.25 billion in mortgages that will mature in the next five to seven years for three of his golf courses.

A man who opened fire at the Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami had been yelling “anti-Trump … rhetoric” there. The gunman is in stable condition after police shot him in an exchange of gunfire.

Previously, at the White House, Kelly Sadler, an aide to Trump “joked” that John McCain’s opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel was largely immaterial because “he’s dying anyway.” The Trump White House has refused to apologize for the remark. Now the White House is saying that is a secondary matter and are claiming that the real problem is that information was leaked from the meeting. Seriously? After how many days they came up with this excuse.

Then Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union and husband of White House adviser Mercedes Schlapp, said on CNN’s “New Day” that Sadler is “a little bit of a victim here.” Yes. You read right. And still, she hasn’t apologized except to McCain’s daughter.

Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee who blew the whistle on its alleged misuse of Facebook data, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the company offered services to discourage voting from targeted sections of the American population. He alleged that African-Americans were particular targets of Cambridge Analytica’s “voter disengagement tactics,.

“Mr. Bannon sees cultural warfare as the means to create enduring change in American politics. It was for this reason Mr. Bannon engaged SCL (Cambridge Analytica’s parent company), a foreign military contractor, to build an arsenal of informational weapons he could deploy on the American population,” Wylie claimed, referring to Trump’s former top political adviser Steve Bannon.

Cambridge Analytica is under investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI. The probe into the firm has led to prosecutors querying its former employees and banks that handled its business dealings.

Andrew Hughes, 32, who is now serving in a powerful senior level position as chief of staff to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, is a former Uber driver who lacks any government, policy and relevant experience at the agency. The department’s deputy chief of staff, Deana Bass, is leaving in June. She was Carson’s press secretary for his badly failed 2016 presidential campaign.

Not really surprising because Carson himself is a medical doctor with no government experience prior to taking the reins of HUD. Meanwhile nominees for three key assistant secretary slots have not yet been confirmed – 16 months after the election.

Trump has characteristically taken to Twitter to announce that he has directed the US Department of Commerce to allow ZTE to operate again as there are mounting job losses in China. ZTE said it was ceasing “major operating activities” due to export sanctions placed on it by the US government, after the Department of Commerce said ZTE lied to the Bureau of Industry and Security about disciplinary actions supposedly enforced on senior employees relating to the illegal shipments to Iran and North Korea, and paid full bonuses to employees who had engaged in illegal conduct.

So Trump decides that what ZTE was doing wasn’t so illegal. On top of that Trump seems to be caring more about Chines jobs than US jobs. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in April “ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management.” So that went out the window. The company was subsequently slapped with a ban on purchasing components and software from US manufacturers for seven years.

Bill Gates talked recently about when he first met Trump. In one case, Trump didn’t know the difference between HPV and HIV. In another case he left a horse show only to return 20 minutes later ” o make a grand entrance in a helicopter”.

While still pathetically low for a president, Trump’s approval ratings have actually went up slightly in 3 areas 50-64 year olds and oddly those who weekly attend church and those who seldom or never attend church. At 42% it is around the same percentage when President Obama had his two lowest approval ratings [2011 near shutdown and a 2013 shutdown] as well a President G.W. Bush [right after Hurricane Katrina].

The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker blog has been keeping a strict count of Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies. And, over the weekend at a rally in Michigan, Trump hit a milestone: He topped 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in 466 days in office. Averaging 6.5 per day, over the past 2 months he’s averaged 9 per day.

“Girls. We left open the first female President of the United States if you want it.” Kellyanne “The Witch” Conway said to pre-teen children at the White House during Easter. So the US could have to wait probably at least 40 years before the first female president?

Rachel Crooks, who alleged that Donald Trump kissed her without her consent in 2005 when she was working as a receptionist in Trump Tower, secured her primary bid for state office in Ohio.

 

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Another two resignations, more scandals, typical Trump week

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has resigned [did he really?] and will be replaced by former US ambassador and Fox News analyst John Bolton. McMaster claims he is leaving the military and retiring from public service. Bolton’s hard edged, hawkish views on issues like North Korea, Iraq and Syria make him a controversial pick.

As recently as March 8, the White House was denying reports that McMaster was on his way out, with White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declaring on “Fox & Friends” that “General McMaster’s not going anywhere.” The Pentagon had been quietly looking to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster.

Donald Trump’s lead lawyer, John Dowd, has resigned from his personal legal team handling the response to the Russia investigation. Dowd, who has urged Trump to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and resist attacking him publicly, resigned as his disagreements with Trump intensified and Trump stepped up his attacks on the special counsel.

At least four defense attorneys at major law firms were approached to join Trump’s legal team in recent weeks. This includes a former US Solicitor General and 2 lawyers that have worked for previous presidents. All turned Trump down, for various reasons, including concern that the President doesn’t listen to his lawyers and that their law firms represented other clients that would pose conflicts.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he received “assurances” that Trump is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. “The special counsel should be free to follow through with his investigation to its completion without interference,” Ryan said during a House GOP leadership news conference on Capitol Hill. “Absolutely, I am confident that he will be allowed to do that.”

But Trump’s approach to the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as his rhetoric and his legal team have begun to reflect an increased focus on winning the fight for public opinion rather than cooperating with the actual probe. This include tweets like “Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!” Trump tweeted of the special counsel investigation. “”Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Except Mueller himself and Mueller’s boss [Rod Rosenstein] are both Republicans. Unsure about those under Mueller but there are more than 13.

Trump admitted that a majority of Americans may not be ready to support the death penalty for “the really bad pushers and abusers.” “It’s possible,” Trump said. “It’s possible that our country is not ready for that and I can understand it, maybe. Although personally I can’t understand that.” He added: “I think unless you do that, unless you have really, really powerful penalties led by the death penalty for the really bad pushers and abusers, we are going to get nowhere.” Maybe the pushers, but abusers?

Trump said his administration would be addressing the problem of overprescribing of opioids, adding that the Department of Justice is looking “very seriously” into bringing litigation against drug companies. “We’ll ensure opioid addiction is not subsidized by the American tax payer.” As if people are getting their opiods exclusively from drug companies.

Trump, who as a candidate used the Clinton Foundation to slam his opponent Hillary Clinton, heralded an opioid program backed by the Clinton family foundation. Trump touted the work of Adapt Pharma, a program that makes Narcan — a type of drug that can save someone who is overdosing on opioids — more available in colleges and universities. The program was made possible in 2017 because of a partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

Maybe a bit tongue and cheek, Chelsea Clinton, someone who has been critical of Trump throughout his administration, thanked the President for mentioning the effort.

Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the federal government open until September, then excoriated Congress for passing the plan in the first place. “I said to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump said. And yet we know how much we take his word for. Right? He had threatened a veto early. More Fake Presidential News.

In a post bill signing conference/speech, Trump also called on Congress to give him a “line item veto” for all government spending bills, echoing a desire expressed by previous presidents who lamented parts of congressional legislation. He also called on Congress to get rid of the filibuster and “go to 51 votes in the Senate” in order to have “success” in Congress.

The Supreme Court has previously found that the line-item veto violated the Presentment Clause of the Constitution, which says the President does not have the power to unilaterally amend or repeal legislation (Clinton v. City of New York). Most senators oppose giving up the filibuster rule, which was designed to ensure the minority party has some say in the legislative process.

During his speech, Trump argued that Democrats have stood in the way of DACA recipients gaining permanent legal status, while casting Republicans as would-be saviors. “The Democrats fought us, they just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill.” Will anyone believe him?

A $#.6 billion cut in spending offered by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was chopped from the final bill.

Trump lamented the “ridiculous situation that took place over the last week,” saying the bill was quickly put together and lawmakers were given little time to read through it. At 2300 pages, I doubt it but it would be quite a read. Then again, the government would of shut down after today. Who’s to blame there? I thought he was commenting about the many things that happened in his administration. Scandals, resignations [really firings, right?], etc.

Trump tweeted “Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming.” $1.6 billion doesn’t go to [sic] far when building the Trump Wall. With the probably corruption in building the mess, expect just a few hundred feet if lucky.

Trump claimed during his speech that the stock markets were doing well. Unsure which stock market he was looking at as the Dow Jones dropped 425 that day. The market sold off after Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on about $50 billion of Chinese imports to retaliate for theft of intellectual property. 1100 points were lost in two days in the Dow Jones. The worry is that a tit-for-tat escalation between the two largest economies in the world will ruin the solid economic backdrop

After saying that Canada and Mexico received exemptions for any tariffs, the administration says that tariffs will be imposed on May 1st, if the NAFTA deal is not signed by then. No one is really surprised that Trump changed his mind…. again. The European Union, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and Australia will not be subject to the trade penalties with [so far] no strings attached.

Meanwhile it looks like Trump is caving in again as he had thrown out the requirement that all vehicles sold in the US must have 50% or more American content. With that gone, an updated NAFTA agree is more likely – assuming Trump drops removing Article 19 [which is the trade arbitration – US has lost every time to Canada].

Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to Trump’s campaign, reportedly gained access to information about 50 million Facebook users. The data was collected by a professor for academic purposes in accordance with Facebook rules, the company said. But then the information was transferred to third parties, including Cambridge Analytica. The transfer violated Facebook policies.

One of the first uses of a trove of Facebook data on tens of millions of Americans that has thrown Facebook and Cambridge Analytica into crisis was in 2014 by a super PAC run by John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser.

A former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who allegedly had a nine-month affair with Trump is suing the company that kept her original account from publication. Shortly before the presidential election, American Media Inc., the company that owns The National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to McDougal, but did not run her story in a tabloid maneuver known as “catch and kill.” The contract did not require the Enquirer to run the story and required McDougal’s silence. American Media is owned by a major Trump supporter.

The Trump administration has offered a two-and-a-half-year extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. In exchange, the Trump administration wants $25 billion for the proposed Trump Wall with Mexico and other security measures. Democrats say for that amount, DACA recipients and people who might qualify for the program must get more: a chance at citizenship.

Trump initially didn’t congratulate Vladimir Poutine after his landslide election “win”. Poutine spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that maybe Trump’s schedule didn’t allow it and suggested he might call later. Maybe he’s too busy tweeting rants against Robert Mueller and doesn’t have time to congratulate Poutine in a tweet.

The White House said that it is “not surprised by the outcome” of Sunday’s election, and that no congratulatory call was planned. That quote sounds interesting. Trump did contact Poutine later and quite a few Republicans were upset that he did so – especially when not bringing up the subject of the election meddling or the fact that Poutine’s election win was suspicious.

Trump tweeted “I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him.” The difference was 6 years ago, Vladimir Poutine wasn’t turning into a corrupt dictator who has amassed billions that should of gone to the people and his government wasn’t known to be involved in hacking US elections.

Trump was infuriated after it quickly leaked that he had been directly instructed by his national security advisers in briefing materials not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory during their call. Warnings from multiple national security advisers and briefing materials that said “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” was included.

Trump will hire an attorney to join his personal legal team who has alleged that he is being framed by a group of FBI and Justice Department officials. Former US Attorney for the District of Columbia Joe DiGenova will be joining the legal team. This comes two months after DiGenova appeared on Fox News to allege that FBI and Justice Department officials carried out “a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

Wondering if fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will launch a lawsuit in case he can’t get his pension – although it sounds like he has had at least two offers from the Democrats to work at a federal agency [any that can have him] for at least a couple of days.

After McCabe’s firing, there is still rumbling that Robert Mueller will be next. Trump gloated in tweets at McCabe and then came around to attack Mueller and his Russian investigation. But senior Republics have warned him that firing Mueller will cross the line and probably open a constitutional crisis. It would be “the beginning of the end of (Donald Trump’s) presidency,” predicted South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Trump said Rick Saccone lost the Pennsylvania special election, despite the fact that he has not yet conceded the race. “We’re 5-0 and then we lost by 300 votes the other night, right? 300 out of 200-twenty-some-odd-thousand votes.” He said in a speech – but Saccone lost by 700.

Former FBI director James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” won’t be released until April 17 but is already a number one best seller.

A long-time Fox News analyst, Ralph Peters, sharply criticized the network, denouncing the outlet as a “propaganda machine” devoted to Trump, and saying that it was “wittingly harming our system of government for profit,” in a stunning internal email announcing his exit from the company.