“I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings” – Trump

Considering that Donald Trump tweeted less this week there still was plenty of news.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump tweeted. So supposedly he personally didn’t record, but doesn’t rule out that someone else did.

But, Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer, said earlier in June that Trump told him during interviews that he was recording their conversations. But that when Trump sat down for a deposition, Trump “essentially” said he used the threat of tapes to “intimidate” him.

Comey hopes there are tapes as it would once and for all clear [most] things up.

“You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!” Trump said in a tweet last week that signified an attempt to undermine both special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe.

“The President is not a subject or target of an investigation. That tweet was in response to a Washington Post story that ran with five unnamed sources….” said Jay Sekulow, a Trump legal adviser. This contradicted Trump’s statement where he previously said he was under investigation. But trump’s tweet made no reference to the Washington post or anything else. Then, in a subsequent interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Sekulow sowed further confusion by saying Trump was under investigation — then denied he said anything of the sort. He also said the tweet was taken “out of context”. How do you do that in 140 characters?

Meantime, the administration is having second thoughts of Mueller heading the investigation even with his credentials because Mueller is said to be friends with Comey [in addition to previously mentioning that a few of Mueller’s people donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign]. The top level enforcement community is a small community – so of course Mueller knows Comey. And why now after Mueller has been on the job for weeks?

Any though of Trump getting rid of Mueller [he can’t actually Mueller but Rosenstein can] would add to the misery for Trump. It would [again] show that Trump is obstructing justice.

By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans say they are more likely to believe former FBI Director James Comey than President Donald Trump when it comes to their differing accounts of events that led up to Comey’s firing, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. By party, 76 percent of Democrats side with Comey, while 50 percent of Republicans believe Trump. Independents break for Comey over Trump, 47 percent to 17 percent. Just 27 percent approve of Comey’s ouster.

Surprise! Surprise! Trump ranted on the special elections. But he couldn’t get the number of wins right! “Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0”. There were 4 wins and those elections took place in districts where the Republicans always won. He shouldn’t be too happy. For all of them, the percentage between the two candidates shrunk between this election and last November. So some Republicans aren’t happy or didn’t vote.

Scratch your head time. He tweeted “Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on Healthcare,Tax Cuts,Security.”

Trump’s nominee to be the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, represented an American energy executive in 2006 who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government. The detail, which was included on Wray’s biography on the website of the law firm King and Spalding dating back to 2009, was removed in 2017.

Senate armed services committee Chairman John McCain threatened to block Trump’s deputy defense secretary nominee. McCain charged that Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan was ducking questions during his confirmation hearing, particularly over his response in a written statement that he would look into providing military assistance to Ukraine.

The Senate released their secretive health care bill. The legislation would still make major changes to the nation’s health care system, repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, drastically cutting back federal support of Medicaid [phase out from 2022 to 2024], eliminating Obamacare’s taxes on the wealthy, insurers and others. The Senate plan however would keep Obamacare’s subsidies to help people pay for individual coverage. The bill would shrink the program even more over time by pegging the annual growth rate of those funds to standard inflation. This would likely force states to cut enrollment, benefits or provider payments.

Obamacare’s premium subsidies structure would be maintained, but tighten the eligibility criteria starting in 2020. Fewer middle class folks would get help because only those earning up to 350% of the poverty level would qualify, rather than the 400% threshold contained in Obamacare. But it would also open up the subsidies to enrollees below the poverty level so those living in states that didn’t expand Medicaid could get some assistance.

The House bill would defund Planned Parenthood for one year. The bill would also aim to shore up the existing Obamacare market by allocating funds for the cost-sharing subsidies until 2019.

So far, 5 GOP senators won’t agree with the bill. If more than 2 say no, the bill won’t pass.

Trump suggested that Otto Warmbier, the American who died days after his release from North Korea, would still be alive if he had been released sooner. He was in prison in North Korea for 17+ months. “He should have been brought home a long time ago,” Trump said. North Korea only informed the US of Warmbier’s medical condition earlier this month. So Trump has been in office for roughly 6 months now. What did he do? White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the US will “continue to apply economic and political pressure” to change North Korea’s behavior. So far, that hasn’t done much. Look at the rockets they continue to test. In the meantime, there are still 3 other Americans in North Korea – two were recently “arrested” and “convicted”. What is he waiting for?

Wow. The Trump administration had some big news [they think]. After the death of Otto Warmbier, they want to add North Korea to the so-called “Travel Ban”. Very few go to North Korea [and fewer even now as the main tour operator to North Korea is refusing Americans]. The administration is trying to show it isn’t just Muslims. Sure.

Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton – who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned – to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York. Cronyism.

As mentioned previously, Trump has named a top donor and fundraiser as ambassador to Canada by choosing Kelly Knight Craft for the post in February and had the State Department vet her, but did not formally nominate her until last week. Craft must now be confirmed by the Senate. She will be part of the team fixing/renegotiating NAFTA and other agreements with Canada. And her experience?

The White House is mulling a new role for White House press secretary Sean Spicer that would take him away from the podium and into a different role inside the West Wing, a White House official said. Unsure what Melissa McCarthy [who portrayed him on Saturday Night Live last season] will do this fall.

The Congressional Black Caucus will reportedly decline to meet with Trump. The lawmakers will reject a meeting with Trump, noting they don’t believe the Trump administration has done anything to support the priorities of the group. “No one wants to be a co-star on the reality show,” said one senior Democratic aide.

A stunning 50% of the CEOs, business execs, government officials and academics surveyed at the annual Yale CEO Summit give Trump an “F” for his first 130 days in office. The survey, released earlier this week, found that another 21% give Trump’s performance a “D” so far. Just 1% of the 125 leaders polled awarded the billionaire an “A.” The survey was a cross-section of the business community, including some who are quite pro-Trump.

Two-thirds of respondents indicated that Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord diminished America’s global standing. Another 86% expressed concern about Trump minimizing Russian security mischief. Business leaders are not impressed with Trump’s budget either. Three-fourths of survey respondents said the administration’s budget proposal is not sound. The Goldman Sachs CEO even sent his first-ever tweet to slam the Paris accord move as a “setback” for U.S. leadership in the world. Just 42% of leaders surveyed by Yale think Trump will pass corporate tax reform.

Recent White House briefings now include no audio or no video. So anything said by a Trump official can’t bite them in the romp.

For the second time in almost 6 months, Trump invited the CEOs of major tech companies to visit him. Trump introduced the tech executives as “special people” who employ “hundreds of thousands” of American workers and are “on the absolute cutting edge of innovation.” Maybe “hundreds of thousands” of American workers but probably a lot more elsewhere. The CEOs asked questions about H-1B visas [normally given to tech people], immigration, climate control, “travel” ban, etc.

From a text message from White House adviser Steven Bannon to a reporter explaining why Sean Spicer has spent less and less time in front of cameras at the podium. “Sean got fatter,” texted Bannon. Republicans said he was joking. Still. If true [and I’m doubting it], is it polite to say in public that to a fellow co-worker who also works in the government?

Trump will host his first re-election campaign fundraising event next Wednesday at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.

The Department of Homeland Security announced that the Trump administration would maintain an Obama-era program providing protection to undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children by their parents. This breaks another election promise.

White House social media director Dan Scavino violated the law when he used an official-looking Twitter account for campaign purposes, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has concluded, issuing Scavino a letter of admonishment. Scavino violated the Hatch Act, which bars most executive branch officials from using their government positions to influence elections by tweeting “@realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability,” Scavino wrote on April 1. “#TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.”

Ivanka Trump said she is surprised by the “viciousness” of the media covering her father’s presidency. [Not really surprised because of how her father has treated most of the media.] “My father felt very vindicated in all the statements that he’s [James Comey] been making and feels incredibly optimistic,” she said. She interprets Comey’s comments as if Trump will never be implicated but things can happen.

The group VoteVets [with 500,000 military veterans and families] has been blocked from Trump’s Tweeter account access. The group has in the past criticized the president over his budget proposal, Republicans attempts to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and the president’s executive order temporarily barring individuals from certain predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States.

The Golden State Warriors may have won the NBA championships, but many on the team including the team’s coach, Steve Kerr, are not fans of Trump. Don’t expect them to show up for the standard visit to the White House. Unsure about the NHL’s Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins.

New Jersey parents are complaining their kids’ support for Donald Trump was erased from a high school yearbook. The school is investigating who removed the text from pictures and in one case a quote from Trump. They want the year book to be reissued. [Good luck there. Cost a lot of money to do so.] While investigation continues, a teacher involved in the publication has been suspended.

Hudson’s Bay — owner of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor — said it is cutting its workforce by 2,000 jobs. Unsure how many US jobs. Macy’s said earlier this year that it will close 68 stores and cut 10,000 jobs. Ascena Retail Group — which owns the Ann Taylor, Dress Barn, Loft, Lane Bryant, Justice, Maurices and Catherines stores — plans to shutter between 250 and 650 locations over the next two years. Unknown number of jobs lost.

JC Penney is shutting down 138 stores by August. Unknown number of jobs lost. Bebe said it planned to shut down all of its stores by the end of May. Unknown number of jobs lost. GameStop said in March it will close more than 100 retail locations. Unknown number of jobs lost. The parent company of Kmart and Sears said in January it will shutter 150 stores. Unknown number of jobs lost.

Gymboree filed for bankruptcy protections with 1300 stores and 12,000 employees. Verizon expects to cut as many as 2,100 employees with the purchase of Yahoo’s core Internet assets.

Retail bankruptcies are up about 30% so far this year. Total store closings across the U.S. are likely to reach record levels this year.

Yes. The American economy is doing well under this presidency. Not.

Trump’s job approval rating has dropped to 36% due to Americans’ negative reaction to his handling of the Russia investigations, a new CBS News poll has found. From CBS, it was 41% in April. 63% of Americans disapproving of Trump’s response to the Russia investigation. 73% would prefer a public discussion on the Republicans’ health care replacement bill and feel they don’t have a good understanding of what the new plan would do. 67% of people believe the Republicans’ plan would hurt them more than help them.

 

Trump and company lawyering up

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump for obstruction of justice. The three officials Mueller is interviewing are Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Richard Ledgett, the recently retired deputy NSA director. Mueller has been tasked with leading the executive branch’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential collusion between Russia and Trump associates. It took a few days but Trump finally admitted he was under investigation but not specifically notified.

The Justice Department is also looking into the financial dealings of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Trump’s longtime attorney and adviser Michael Cohen has hired a lawyer to represent him in the investigations into Russian meddling. Even Mike Pence has brought in a personal lawyer.

“Never has there been a president….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than I have,” said Trump this past week in a cabinet meeting. Oh ya? Aside from executive orders which are mostly like request, there was nothing passed by congress itself. Every new cabinet secretary sucked up to Trump with praise and other positive comments followed by all the other secretaries.

During the campaign, Trump signed a “Contract With the American Voter,” in which he promised to work with Congress to introduce 10 bills “and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration.” But he only had introduced one – the American Health Care Act – and the initial version was never voted on. The second version passed by a single vote but will probably not pass the Republican controlled senate. Experts agree it is impossible to pass 10 legislative bills in the first 100 days.

Trump said that after the shooting in Virginia, where a Republican congressman and others were shot, that the shootings could bring unity to a divided nation. He wishes that. We wish it. But I doubt it. Just look at some comments that came after the shooting and after the shooter was found to be anti-Trump. Some Republicans said the shooting happened because of the Democrats – either their rhetoric or their actions.

Oh, the Democrats won 11-2. But at least the booing was toned down, even when Trump was on the video screen prior to the game.

In the weirdness of Washington, Mike Pence’s lawyer is the godfather of Comey’s daughter. That’s “the swamp” for you.

The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia plan to sue Trump, alleging that he has violated the Constitution by accepting foreign money through his business empire, according to a person familiar with the plans. The suit will allege that Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress, according to the person. It will cite not just the president’s luxury hotel in Washington but his worldwide network of hotels, golf courses and other commercial properties The suit will argue that Maryland and the District of Columbia have been harmed by Trump’s ongoing ownership of the business. They plan to cite convention centers and other properties in Maryland and the district that compete with the Trump hotel.

Trump keeps on playing around whether or not there are tape recordings of conversations [in the Oval Office] between he and others such as Comey. A sort of un-presidential hide and seek. Is he hiding something? Maybe there are tapes and the tapes show him doing things he shouldn’t have.

A close friend of Trump suggests that Trump wanted to dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller, who is appointed to lead the FBI investigation into Russia’s potential ties to the 2016 election. Legally, the attorney general is the one who has to fire him. [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions is recused here, so it would be up to [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, who was the person who just appointed Bob Mueller a couple of weeks ago. Respected by both parties, but Mueller has brought in three lawyers [among the others] who have donated to the Democrats in the past.

Adam Schiff said if Mueller was ousted, Congress would have to re-establish the Independent Counsel Act that expired following the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Newt Gingrich tweeted in mid-May “Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.” 4 weeks later he says ” Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair.”

Trump accused Comey of “cowardly” leaks and predicted many more from him. “Totally illegal?” he asked in a tweet. “Very ‘cowardly!'” Wondering if he knows the definition of coward.

In a sarcastic outburst, Russian President Vladimir Putin scoffed at former FBI director James Comey’s disclosure of his conversations with Trump, saying the move has made Comey eligible for political asylum in Russia.

Donald Trump Jr said in an interview on Fox News that when his father says to do something – no matter how he says it – you do it.

Trump reported hundreds of millions of dollars in income Friday in financial disclosure forms that shed more light on his vast business holdings. At his golf courses alone, Trump reported $288 million in income in the past year The numbers were reported in a 98-page disclosure form signed by Trump this week and made public by the Office of Government Ethics. The report covers January 2016 through April 15, 2017. This is not his tax returns.

Chief of Staff Reince R. Priebus is said to have until the Independence Day holiday to put the West Wing in order. If he fails to do so, Trump may reportedly ship him off to serve as the ambassador to Greece.

While Trump berates Qatar for sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels, he is simultaneously authorizing the country to purchase over $21 billion of 36 F-15QA fighter jets. Maybe he’ll send those to Hamas or Hezbollah. The Qatari ambassador to the U.S. tweeted “…creating 60,000 new jobs in 42 states across the United States.” Sounds to me like he was told to say that – something the administration would want.

NBC’s Megyn Kelly’s forthcoming interview with controversial media personality Alex Jones. His extreme right wing views has some of her sponsors dropping her at least for the show. Jones called Sandy Hook and Aurora hoaxes. Jones has said Sandy Hook massacre could have been a “false flag” operation to win support for new gun control measures. Trump was interviewed by Jones during the 2016 campaign, and he reportedly thanked Jones for his support after winning the election.

Another federal appeals court has upheld a decision blocking Trump’s revised travel ban. This ruling from a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deals the administration another legal defeat as the Supreme Court considers a separate case on the issue. The judges say the president violated U.S. immigration law by discriminating against people based on their nationality and that Trump failed to show their entry into the country would hurt American interests.

Trump tweeted in early June “In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!” It sounds like his so-called extreme vetting is being used but I wonder if it is any different than vetting done 6 months ago. The courts are always slow – they want to come out with the proper answer – not some sloppy decision making Trump is accustomed to. As for the political part, not all of the justices – who are supposed to be impartial – are Democrats.

The proposed changes in US-Cuba relations that Trump will unveil in Miami could adversely impact hotel brands that directly compete with Trump’s business empire, making it more difficult for them expand their foothold in Cuba. Trump’s changes in Cuba policy include prohibiting “financial transactions, including transactions incidental to travel with GAESA and its affiliates, subsidiaries, and successors.” Gaviota, the tourism arm of the government-run GAESA, currently operates the Four Points by Sheraton Havana.

Melania Trump finally moved into her not so new digs with son Barron. We will see if this will have some type of change on the hubby. The good thing is the cost to protect the family will drop as they will rarely be in New York. I’m sure the city of New York is also happy with the extra costs as well as traffic issues.

Trump hosted 13 Republican senators for lunch at the White House in a bid to help the lawmakers find common ground to move forward with health care reform legislation this summer. He would probably have to add more funding in order to get some law approved.

A Democratic congressman introduced the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement or COVFEFE act with the goal of ensuring presidential social media posts are archived. It would amend the Presidential Records Act to include the term social media.

There are 21 states where someone bought the vanity license place “COVFEFE” by checking online. This is one.

In addition some are using the alternative spelling “COVF3F3”. Not all states have the option to check online.

The Guardian reported that Trump told Prime Minister Theresa May that he doesn’t want to come to the UK if there will be protests — a likely prospect. [On top of that, May’s government may not even last that long.] London Mayor Sadiq Khan last week said the visit should be called off, after Trump insulted him in tweets following the London Bridge attack.

Can Trump do nothing and still cause problems?

We’ll see. Trump is off to the Middle East and Europe.

Trump asked James Comey to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a request documented in a memo written by the former FBI director. According to Comey’s memo, Trump said “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” This is obstruction of justice.

At one point, Trump claimed that he fired Comey on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Previously he said he would fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s recommendation. But Rosenstein said Trump was ready to fire Comey prior to the release of Comey’s memo.

Meanwhile, Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser retired Gen. Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team.

Flynn told Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, that the Trump administration would look favorably on a decision by Russia to hold off on retaliating with its own sanctions. The next day, Putin said he wouldn’t retaliate. Flynn also told Kislyak that the incoming Trump administration would revisit US sanctions on Russia once in office.

Trump bragged to two top Russian officials last week that firing “nut job” Comey eased “great pressure” on him.

Trump lashed out at the appointment of a special counsel to investigate allegations that his campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election, saying that it is “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” But the day before, he was happy for the investigation to once and for all clear him. The Justice Department on Wednesday appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the investigation. Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers. Maybe Trump has a change of heart because of Mueller.

The announcement was made by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The White House counsel’s office was alerted only after the order appointing Mueller was signed. Mueller has butted heads with the White House previously. Mueller is a lawman with deep bipartisan respect.

Trump tweeted “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel (sic) appointed!” He did not provide examples or evidence of any alleged “illegal acts” as usual. And another piece of evidence that he can’t spell.

First reactions from Congress were mainly positive. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee are among the Republicans who welcome Mueller. We will see if they have a change of heart in the upcoming months.

The author of Trump’s controversial travel ban, Stephen Miller, which targeted people from six-majority Muslim countries, is the principal speechwriter for the President’s speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the US in a White House meeting last week. Two former officials knowledgeable of the situation confirmed. Supposedly the information Trump leaked came from Israel regarding using laptops on bombs on airlines. CNN was cautioned by Trump administration officials not to report certain details about the threat, including the city in which the intel was collected. Trump later revealed that city in a meeting with Russians.

Vladimir Poutine has said that Russia is ready to provide US Congress with a transcript of the talks between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. One has to wonder why the Russians recorded the conversation [we’ll assume without Trump’s knowledge] and whether the tapes could be doctored. How would it look if Trump allowed Putin to defend him? Is this Russia meddling in US affairs? Poutine dismissed outrage over Trump’s disclosures as U.S. politicians whipping up “anti-Russian sentiment” for being either “stupid” or “dangerous” and “political schizophrenia”.

Trump contradicted his aides-and confirmed on Twitter that he had indeed shared sensitive information: “As President I wanted to share with Russia which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

The disclosure put a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk and Trump later was informed that he had broken protocol.

Trump boasted about his access to classified intelligence in last week’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. An excerpt to an official transcript of the meeting reveals that Trump told them, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” he said.

Trump spent the campaign arguing that his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should be locked up for careless handling of classified information. And him?

A senior White House official was asked would accelerate President Trump’s demands for a crackdown on national security leaks, the aide simply replied, “Oh, definitely.”

A senior Trump appointee involved in counter-ISIS policymaking said “I miss candidate Trump. Now he’s just a pathetic mess.” Another former FBI official said “I think he shared because he thinks he’s playing chess when he’s actually playing checkers. International affairs is not like buying a golf course.”

A former FBI official said “He thinks he’s arranging some business deal except that he’s not.”

In front of United States Coast Guard Academy graduates [a good place to mix politics, eh?], Trump complained that ” No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Wonder how he knows? Maybe he’ll sue the government and ask for compensation. Some in the crowd wore “Make America Great Again” hats. Wonder if his people gave them out – hats that weren’t sold in November.

In the same speech, he said “We’ve saved the second amendment,” he said, after touting his work on immigration, job creation and tax reform. What did he do again?

As of May 11, Trump’s odds of being impeached during his first term were sitting at a whopping 60 percent. The odds are part of a host of “Donald Trump Specials” offered by the Irish betting house Paddy Power. (Vegas doesn’t let you bet on anything but sports.) It includes bets that Trump will be impeached for treason (6/1 odds) and on who his next FBI Director will be (Trey Gowdy leads with 4/7 odds). On the more soothing side, Paddy Power has 13/8 odds — 38 percent — that Steve Bannon will be the next one fired from the White House.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said the wave of negative stories related to Trump and intelligence meant the White House is in a “downward spiral.” Republican Susan Collins, a Maine senator, said “Can we have a crisis-free day? That’s all I’m asking.”

Republican Senator John McCain said that the recent developments had reached “Watergate size and scale” and if Trump revealed highly classified information to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week, then it is “deeply disturbing.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said simply, “It would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.”

In my previous blog, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that FBI employees had “lost confidence” in James Comey go. But former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who works with the FBI, says FBI employees at the FBI were shocked.

In a letter sent to Republican and Democrat Congress and Senate leaders, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that Trump “intends to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization” of NAFTA. The letter gives Canada and Mexico a 90-day notice before the negotiations could begin.

Nonpartisan congressional research concluded in 2015 that NAFTA had not caused an exodus of jobs, nor was it a major job creator. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 14 million US jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico. Exports and imports between the three countries have boomed since NAFTA became law in 1994.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program promises to cancel any remaining student debt for those who work for the government or non-profits if they have been making on-time payments for 10 years. Many teachers, public defenders, Peace Corps workers, and law enforcement officers fit the qualifications. This numbers 400,000 student loans with some exceeding $300,000 in debt. The median borrower in the program has more than $60,000 in student debt and almost 30% of them have more than $100,000 in debt.  The Department of Education is planning to propose ending the program. Another cut from the Trump administration.

Trump signed his long-awaited executive order on cyber security, laying out his plans for addressing security in federal IT and across US infrastructure. The most ambitious mandate was that all federal IT systems move to the cloud.

One of Trump’s new surrogates, Conrad Black, looks like is defending Trump for Canadians. Black is a billionaire Canadian who spent time in prison related to 8 counts of fraud. Black also said that James Comey was not likable at the FBI.

Trump claims his book The Art of the Deal [out since 1987], is “the No. 1 selling business book of all time.” While hard to put business books in a specific category [since an biography such as the book Steve Jobs is business related], Trump’s book sold an estimated 1 million copies. In comparison, the Steve Jobs book sold 3 million copies and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People sold at least 10 million copies.

Trump is taking credit for a phrase. For “prime the pump” he said ” I just… came up with it a couple days ago and I thought it was good”. It actually dates back to 1933.

A bill called Stop Waste and Misuse by the President (SWAMP) Act, states that Trump’s travel “results in the American taxpayer effectively subsidizing the president’s businesses.” The bill would also require that Trump reimburse the government for Secret Service costs derived from visits to his properties.

As the $6 million in “campaign funds” that Trump spent in the first quarter of 2017, $500,000 was directed right back into Trump-owned hotels, restaurants and golf clubs. In total, since the start of his campaign, over $14 million has been funneled back into Trump-owned properties.

Congress is set to approve $61 million to reimburse local police departments for protecting Trump and the first family when they travel outside of Washington. Most of it will head to New York as Melania and Barron are there. New York estimates it spends between $127,000 to $146,000 a day to protect the first family when Trump is not in town, and more than $308,000 a day when he visits.

The Trump administration is discontinuing a signature girls education initiative, “Let Girls Learn”, championed by former first lady Michelle Obama, according to officials. Also being modified is Michelle Obama’s lunch program. [Make America Fat Again?]
There are 238 members of the House Republican conference, and just 21 of them are women (that’s less than 9%). As for Democrats in the House, 62 of the 193 members are women (that’s 32%).

Bebe Stores [168 stores across Canada and the US with unknown number of employees] will close its stores in May adding to the other store chains that are closing stores [Macys, Sears and JC Penney among others] and those that want news owners [Neiman Marcus and Staples among others]. Trump won’t take credit but I’m sure he’ll blame the Democrats. Ford will cut roughly 9600 jobs in the US. Let’s see if Trump can save them and at what cost to taxpayers.

“South Koreans are more concerned that Trump, rather than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will make a rash military move, because of his outrageous tweets, threats of force and unpredictability,” said an intellectual from South Korea.

Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, said he was arrested at the West Virginia State Capitol after trying to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the House-passed healthcare bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Dictatorship?

As if Trump has nothing else to butt in, he tweeted “Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader.” Manning stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks and served 7 years before being pardoned by Obama. Ungrateful because she went after Obama even though Obama released her. Wow. Trump defending Obama.

 

One wacky week with wacky Trump

Warning: It is a nutty week. This blog is “extended today”.

In a signed letter, Donald Trump informed [former] FBI Director James Comey that he was “hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” explaining that he reached the conclusion that Comey is “not able to effectively lead the bureau.” Trump was praising Comey during and after the election. 5 months later, Trump had a change of heart?

The White House said that Comey was fired based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a separate letter, Rosenstein laid out the reasons for Comey’s firing, arguing that it was his transgressions over the Clinton email investigation that were the cause of his dismissal. Errr. Trump didn’t even meet him. Comey was in Los Angeles.

In his letter to Comey firing him, Trump thanked him for telling him three times “that I am not under investigation.” The FBI has not confirmed that Comey ever made those assurances to the president. Former FBI agents said such a statement by the director would be all but unthinkable.

Comey reportedly thought his removal was a prank. Trump had been planning to oust Comey for at least a week Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been charged with finding a good pretext.

Then Trump tweeted “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”

Days before he was fired by Trump, Comey requested more resources to pursue his investigation into Russia’s election meddling and the possible involvement of Trump associates, U.S. officials say, fueling concerns that Trump was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency. That same type of action help bring down Richard Nixon.

Trump said that he was going to fire Comey with or without Rosenstein’s memo criticizing the director. Meanwhile White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “…the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” Sure Sarah. Took a poll?

Seems Trump was also jealous that Comey was getting more of the spotlight than him saying he was a show-off, agreed about Obama’s surveillance and would not exonerate him in the Russia mess. White House officials said Trump’s confidence in Comey had been eroding for months and Trump was persuaded to take the step by Justice Department officials and a scathing memo, written by Rosenstein, criticizing the director’s role in the Clinton investigation.

Andrew McCabe, top deputy to ex-FBI Director Comey, could be a contender for the Director’s role. He is now acting director. But McCabe’s actions are among the decisions being scrutinized in an ongoing Justice Department inspector general probe of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. One issue is whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton case after his wife [running for senate] received large campaign contributions from the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton ally.

As well, Trump may kill the press briefings [what will Sean “Garlic” Spicer do?] by releasing press releases to keep the answers accurate. This maybe because deputy WH press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders contradicted some things Trump said.

Garlic literally hid in the bushes to avoid press after Comey was fired. Didn’t know what to do. Maybe unrelated, Spicer is spending his week at the Pentagon for Navy reserve duty for the rest of the week. Huckabee-Sanders replaced him.

“When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” Trump tweeted. Clapper, however, qualified his remarks by saying he had been unaware of an FBI investigation into the matter until Comey announced it to the public at a House hearing in March. So Trump using more outdated information.

President Barack Obama warned then-President-elect Trump in November against hiring retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser during their Oval Office meeting on November 10, former Obama administration officials confirmed to CNN.

Trump’s travel ban is back in the spotlight with a high-stakes legal battle in front of a dozen federal judges in Richmond, Virginia. Normally, such an appeal from a district court’s decision would be heard by a randomly assigned panel of three judges, and the losing party may ask for it to be reheard by the full court. Yet in this case, the judges on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided it should be heard by the full court — otherwise known as “en banc” — in the first instance. Ten of the 15 active judges on the court are either Clinton or Obama appointees.

“Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,” said Raul Labrador, the Republican congressman in response to a statement by a woman that the “lack of health care was essentially asking people to die.” The Democrats confirmed with this quote that they are out of touch with the average person and simply don’t understand (or don’t care) about the real-world implications of their policy proposals.

Canada may retaliate against Trump’s softwood [a.k.a. house] lumber by either adding stiff tariffs to Oregon plywood, wine, flooring, wood chips and packaging materials [a congressman from there was one of the hawks in the lumber tariffs] or maybe coal from Washington state [which is shipped through harbors in British Columbia] to Asia [Trump wants to increase coal productivity. Another option is to lean heavily on 35 states that trade quite a bit with Canada. While none of the tariffs would affect Canadians as much, it would affect 2 US industries. The Trump administration says it won’t be pressured by trade threats from the Canadian government. I guess they don’t care who gets hurt.

Several American companies that rely on Canadian softwood say thousands of American jobs are at risk unless the U.S. Department of Commerce exempts them from hefty duties imposed on imported softwood lumber.

In an interview, Trump said “Oh, at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.” This won’t stop him for being prosecuted if he said something that contradicted his tax returns such as owning property in Russia.

Revelations that the sister of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, promoted a program offering a path to U.S. citizenship to Chinese backers in a Kushner family project bring new scrutiny to a foreign investor visa program. Marketing materials for the event promoted Nicole Kushner Meyer as Jared’s sister, and cited the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status. Yes, celebrities like in one of Trump’s shows. The project promoted by Meyer in Beijing is a 79-story apartment building called Kushner 1.

As part of such deals, investors typically accept below-market investment returns to qualify for a visa, allowing the developer to pocket the savings on financing costs. After as little as two years, participants can apply for a fast-track green card and later U.S. citizenship.

Meanwhile, after seeing advertisements for what was described as a “Kushner event featuring Jared’s sister,” in Beijing a Canadian reporter decided to attend. Then she was asked to leave. The Beijing-based correspondent for the Washington Post, was seated apart from her colleague, who faced similar resistance from the hosts. Some of her colleague’s video and audio was deleted by the event organizers on the Chinese side. “I later heard from another reporter — who tweeted a picture — that there was indeed a picture of President Trump … on a slide that said ‘key decision makers.'” Seems that Nicole Kushner Meyer has now been removed of her duties.

In signing an omnibus bill, Trump said in a statement: “My administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender … in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.” This could be code wording for “Unlike previous administrations, I won’t give historically black college financing, Native American housing block grants and minority business development anything more than what is required by law.” [i.e. Bare minimum.] I am assuming someone wrote this because I’m not sure how much of the constitution he knows and it doesn’t sound like him.

Maybe Trump finally did something right. The recently signed cybersecurity executive order requires federal agencies to adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (Cybersecurity Framework; the agency heads have 90 days to prepare a report describing how they will implement the Framework. The previous administration had encouraged adoption of the framework, but did not make it a requirement.

Don’t you just love Trump? “[Former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is “no evidence” of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.” Except Clapper said that he was unaware of evidence suggesting there was any.

Then he said “Biggest story today between Clapper & Yates is on surveillance. Why doesn’t the media report on this? #FakeNews!” Except the idea that the surveillance story is a bigger deal than Russia having compromising information about the national security adviser is nonsense.

Steve Munoz, a political appointee hired by the Trump administration for a significant State Department role was accused of multiple sexual assaults as a student several years ago at The Citadel military college. Five male freshmen alleged that Munoz used his positions as an upperclassman, class president and head of the campus Republican Society to grope them. So he fits in well with Trump’s crowd.

Ivanka Trump was reportedly reduced to tears by her father after he refused to issue a full apology for his comments about groping women. But according to the New York Times [one of the “fake news” outlets – so Papa will not accept it!], Ivanka repeatedly attempted to convince him to offer a full apology for the comment, but he had only agreed to say sorry for any offence he caused.

Another court loss for Trump: A US federal court has declined to rehear a case in which telecommunications companies seek to overturn net neutrality rules established during the Obama administration by the FCC.

If Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” said a researcher.

Ivanka Trump, at a Berlin conference on women called W20 Summit, drew scattered groans and hisses for describing Trump as “a tremendous champion of supporting families.” “Some attitudes toward women your father has publicly displayed in former times might leave one questioning whether he’s such an empoweree for women,” said the moderator of the summit. Ivanka responded saying the media continues to bring that up. Then she said “I grew up in a house where there was no barrier to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and my own tenacity.” Of course, if you are a daughter of a billionaire, there are few barriers.