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.