Trump goes to Japan and still gets into trouble

On a long weekend [Memorial Day weekend] where Americans pay tribute to those who have fallen defending the country through various wars and Trump decides to visit Japan to do business, visit the new Emperor and play golf. And a reminder that Japan brought the US into World War II 78 years ago. Could he have chosen the following weekend?

Trump told reporters as he was preparing to leave he would be witnessing “something that hasn’t happened in over 200 years,” though didn’t specify what he meant. Nobody ever does.

While Japanese President Shinzo Abe took Barack Obama, to what is regarded as the best sushi restaurant in the world [Sukiyabashi Jiro], Abe will be taking Trump to a Japanese BBQ restaurant. I was expecting McDonald’s or Burger King.

No shock that Trump is whining that Japan is another country that has a big trade surplus over the US and Trump is thinking of dumping tariffs on Japanese made vehicles. It seems every country in the world has a trade surplus over the US – at least in Trump’s mind.

Tradition holds that American presidents and political candidates avoid politicking while on foreign soil, but Trump frequently disregards such norms. But Trump commented negatively against a fellow US politician by saying that he agreed with Kim Jong Un that Joe Biden has a low IQ. He is siding with a dictator over a former Vice-President. But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump “agrees” with the assessment. Is there a difference here? Trump also thinks that it is a “signal” that he will beat Biden if Biden wins the nomination. From a dictator?

In a press conference in Tokyo [something he doesn’t do in the US], Trump claims that there has been no testing done by North Korea recently. Wasn’t there one in mid-May? Trump also claimed that since he killed the arms deal with Iran, that Iran hasn’t been behind any terrorist activities and he claims Iran has economic issues. So why sending a fleet of ships towards Iran?

Trump said he also has no problem if North Korea fires off short range missiles [that will ultimately end up near Japan]. But National Security Adviser John Bolton says it is an issue.

An unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson called Bolton a “war monger”, “ignorant” hard-liner and “human defect” after he described its recent tests of short-range missiles as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Bolton told reporters in Tokyo on Saturday that there was “no doubt” that North Korea’s recent missile launches violated UN resolutions, and that sanctions against the North must be kept in place. Trump later downplayed the missile tests.

North Korea tested short-range ballistic missiles on May 4 and 9 – first time in 17+ months.

“I hereby award you the United States President’s Cup,” Trump told Asanoyama, the sumo champion, as he read from a scroll. Trump, Abe and wives went to a sumo wrestling match and didn’t sit on cushions as they usually do but chairs. Wondering if the trophy will end up on eBay. Trump managed to squeeze in some cheeseburgers for lunch yesterday with PM Abe. I wonder what Abe thought of this. In a foreign country. Can’t eat that country’s food?

Trump claimed in a tweet that “numerous” Japanese officials had told him that Democrats would rather see the US fail than see Trump or his Republican Party succeed.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller says that “If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” His investigation could not clear President Donald Trump and that charging the President was not an option his office could consider. He emphasized that Justice Department guidelines did not allow him to charge a sitting President, and as a result, his office did not determine whether Trump had committed obstruction of justice.

House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler said “He [Trump] is lying about the special counsel findings, lying about the testimony of key witnesses in the special counsel’s report, and above all, lying and saying that the special counsel found no obstruction and no collusion.” Trump previously said Mueller’s investigation found him innocent when Mueller’s investigation could not charge a sitting President.

Yet Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s remarks today confirmed what we already knew. There was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and there was no case for obstruction. President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated.”

Speaker of the House Pelosi says it is Congress’s duty to “investigate and hold the President accountable”. Many of the Democratic candidates for President have already said this pushes close to impeachment.

So if Trump thinks that he is still exonerated in the Russian investigation by Mueller, why did he send out the day after many tweets attacking Mueller? Trump said:

  • The investigation cost $40 million. The Justice Department estimates maybe $25 million but excludes the last 7 months.
  • Trump said, “Robert Mueller would have brought charges, if he had ANYTHING, but there were no charges to bring!” except by longstanding Justice Department guidelines which said that a sitting President can’t be indicted Trump said Mueller had “unlimited access, people, resources and cooperation,” except Trump and his son, Donald trump Jr., refused to answer any questions.
  • Trump said Mueller was “highly conflicted,” except the Justice Department cleared Mueller of any conflicts when he took the job in 2017.

Trump tweeted that he had “nothing to do with Russia helping me get elected,” then minutes later, telling reporters: “Russia did not help me get elected.” He also insisted that he’s been tough on Russia and that Moscow would have preferred Hillary Clinton as president [with no proof of this].

Asked about impeachment by Congress, he called it a “dirty word” and said he couldn’t imagine the courts allowing him to be impeached. “I don’t think so because there’s no crime,” he said. Except it is not the court that will impeach him but congress. Does he know anything about the constitution?

Attorney General William Barr has said he was surprised Mueller did not reach a conclusion, though Mueller in his report and again in his statement said he had no choice. Barr and then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then stepped into the void, deciding on their own that the evidence was not sufficient to support a criminal charge.

Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on Mexico if the country does not step up its immigration enforcement actions, combining his boiling border-related frustrations with his preferred method of punishing foreign countries. Trump said in a White House statement that the first round of tariffs would begin on June 10 at 5% “on all goods imported from Mexico.”

The statement said Trump would carry out his threat under authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and that he would lift tariffs only “if the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico.” The news sent the Dow Jones dropping 300 point at one point the day after. In addition, it may push Mexico not to sign the new NAFTA agreement just as Canada is about ready to sign.

Vice-President Mike Pence visited Canada’s capitol, Ottawa [not Toronto], for a visit and chatted with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about trade, China, abortions, etc. Seems that US news site for the most part, didn’t know about it. I guess Pence’s boss is more interesting.

White House and lower-level US Navy officials traded emails about keeping a warship named from the late John McCain’s father and grandfather out of sight ahead of the President’s trip to Japan. Trump claimed he denied knowing about the plan and said that he wouldn’t have supported it. The ship ultimately was not moved nor was anything done to obscure McCain’s name. Petty.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the Northern District of California blocked Trump from tapping into Defense Department funds to build parts of his Trump Wall. It blocks the administration from moving forward with specific projects in Texas and Arizona, saying Trump couldn’t disburse the funds without congressional approval. The ruling does not prevent the Trump administration from using funds from other sources to build the projects.

Current and former officials have described White House trips on Air Force One as grueling endeavors accompanied by long hours, but several privately said the flights overseas are easily the worst. The duration can stretch nearly 20 hours. Sleeping space is limited. The televisions are streaming Fox News constantly. And if the headlines flashing across the bottom of the screen are unfavorable to their boss, aides know it’s time to buckle up for a turbulent ride.

When staffers can sleep, finding space is a problem. With no designated sleeping spots, they claim miniature couches or lean back in office chairs and prop their feet up on the desk. Some spread out on the floors of conference rooms or on leather benches along the side of the plane, and more seasoned staffers have learned to bring yoga mats to soften the floor. Trump had promised to renovate Air Force One and the backup[s] but hasn’t.

Trump is scoffing at Democrats’ attempts to pry loose his tax returns, saying his refusal to release the records as a candidate didn’t hurt him in 2016 and voters “didn’t care” about the issue. Was this one of his “polls” where he asked one of staffers whether or not they care about his taxes and then used the answer as an assumption for all Americans?

Legal issues for Trump continue

It was a relatively quiet week for Donald Trump. But you know that can change quite fast.

Trump accused the New York attorney general’s office of illegally investigating the National Rifle Association. “The NRA is under siege by (New York Gov. Andrew) Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office announced in a statement it had launched an investigation into the NRA and had issued subpoenas to the organization, but did not confirm what the probe was in regard to. The investigation could be about chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, for financial misconduct where LaPierre improperly used $200,000 of NRA funds to purchase clothing from an NRA vendor. Another example of Trump’s obstruction of justice and him using his power to help friends.

Trump, three of his children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — and his business are suing two banks to block them from turning over financial records to congressional committees that have issued subpoenas for the information. “The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses, and the private information of the President and his family‚Ķ.” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the complaint.

The lawsuit in New York’s Southern District claims that the subpoenas the House Intelligence Committee and House Financial Services Committee sent to Deutsche Bank and Capital One aren’t valid because they violate banking privacy law and they are not for shaping legislation. Yet at least one other court has said previously that claims like those can’t stop congressional subpoenas.

Seems Robert Mueller is not happy with Barr’s summary report, saying in a letter to Attorney General William Barr: “As we stated in our meeting of March 5 and reiterated to the Department early in the afternoon of March 24, the introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this Office’s work and conclusions. The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25.”

It took around 3 weeks from the time Mueller’s report was sent to Barr and Barr released his shortened version of the report. Between then, Barr claimed that Trump was vindicated but Barr’s version left out many key findings and didn’t summarize the right findings in others. Barr has since been grilled in a Congressional committee and now may not answer further questions but could be charged with contempt.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler sent his latest offer Attorney General William Barr to try to reach an agreement in his effort to obtain the unredacted special counsel report and the underlying evidence before Nadler moves forward with holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress.

Trump indicated that he’s not willing to allow former White House counsel Don McGahn — a key figure in the Robert Mueller report and Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation — to testify before Congress. So more obstruction of justice.

White House counselor Kellyanne “The Witch” Conway said that Trump could use executive privilege to block McGahn from complying with a congressional subpoena. McGahn was a key player with direct knowledge about Trump’s efforts to undermine the Russia probe.

Trump and Russian President Vladimir Poutine spoke by telephone for “over an hour,” during which they briefly discussed special counsel Mueller’s report and other issues, White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders said. I’m sure there was Trump saying “There was no collusion with you but of course there was.”

In a Kremlin’s readout, Poutine warned Trump against “outside interference” in Venezuelan affairs, saying such efforts would “undermine the prospects for a political settlement of the crisis.” Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro was ready to leave the country when Russia told him to stay put. That’s not outside interference? The Kremlin denied this.

The Democrats agree with Trump on a $2 trillion infrastructure bill but may not pass the senate as GOP senators are balking because warn that they will oppose any measure that adds to the deficit. You think Trump will still whine that the Democrats aren’t working with him? The agreement calls for a 35 cent a liter tax to help. Republican lawmakers were not invited to the White House meeting that involved Trump and Democrat leaders that hammered out the agreement.

The city of San Francisco is suing the Trump administration over its new rule protecting religious providers when they object to providing certain types of care. The lawsuit claims the administration’s rule will restrict access to contraception, abortion, HIV treatment and a host of other medical services.

Economic commentator Stephen Moore has withdrawn his name from consideration to sit on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Moore previously said that women should be banned from refereeing, announcing or beer vending at men’s college basketball games, asking if there was any area in life “where men can take vacation from women.” In a 2000 column, Moore complained about his wife voting for Democrats, writing, “Women are sooo malleable! No wonder there’s a gender gap.” And there are other gender comments that aren’t good either. Too many Republican senators are against him to win the bid.

Joseph Yun, the former State Department Special Representative for North Korea, confirmed that he signed an agreement to pay North Korea $2 million for the release of American student Otto Warmbier in 2017. He did so with the approval of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and that it was his understanding Trump had also signed off on the decision. But the Trump administration has said no money has been paid for release of Warmbier.

White House national security adviser John Bolton also confirmed that Yun signed a document pledging $2 million for Warmbier’s release and that the US has not made any payments. It happened before Bolton joined the administration.

Recently Trump tweeted, “‘Donald J. Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States. 20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years. No money was paid.’ Cheif (sic) Hostage Negotiator, USA!” It is one thing he can probably be proud of in this less than stellar administration.

At a Wisconsin rally, Trump’s claimed that mothers and doctors are permitted to execute a baby after it leaves the womb. Obviously false. The bill he referred to would mandate that health professionals do all they could to keep a baby alive if it was “born alive” and would penalize anyone who let a baby die [after the baby was born].

Wisconsin governor, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, planned to veto a GOP-backed state bill that could have meant life sentences in prison for doctors who intentionally did not provide medical care to babies born alive after a failed abortion but Trump [maybe confusing the two or not] said “shockingly stated that he [Evers] will veto legislation that protects Wisconsin babies born alive.” The legislation doesn’t say that.

US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein submitted his resignation, ending a two-year run defined by his appointment of a special counsel to investigate connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. His last day will be May 11. The departure had been expected since the confirmation of William Barr as attorney general in February.

Trump, upset that a major firefighters union have endorsed Joe Biden, went on a Twitter storm, sending out about 60 tweet, many related to the endorsement for Biden and claiming that many firefighters support him. No actual proof of course. He even tweeted “I’ve done more for Firefighters than this dues sucking union will ever do, and I get paid ZERO!” Doesn’t help him.

The White House Correspondents’ Association came and went with no comedian. Trump of course still skipped the dinner even if no one was expected to roast and filet him. He ended up at a rally in poor Wisconsin.

Presidential historian Ron Chernow gave a speech in lieu of a comedian. Among Chernow’s jokes:

  • “I was puzzled by this news [Trump banning anyone in his administration from attending], but then I learned a rumor was circulating in Washington that I was going to be reading from the redacted sections of the Mueller report and everything was explained.”
  • While referencing Trump’s recent comment that America “is full” when speaking about immigration, joked that Alexander Hamilton [from the musical “Hamilton”] was an immigrant who arrived, “thank God, before the country was full.” He added, “Frankly I don’t know why they let the guy in, clearly someone slipped up at the southern border.”
  • “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.” Chernow remarked, “As best I can tell, [George] Washington committed only one major blunder as President: He failed to put his name on Mount Vernon and thereby bungled an early opportunity at branding.” He wryly added, “Clearly deficient at the art of the deal, the poor man had to settle at the lowly title of ‘Father of his Country.'”
  • Chernow finished his speech by paraphrasing a line by Mark Twain: “Politicians and diapers must be changed often — and for the same reason.”

Trump has now said more than 10,000 false or misleading things [said or tweets] in his first 827 days in office, according to The Washington Post Fact Checker – or just over 12 per day [one every 2 hours]. In just 3 days from April 25-27 [at a rally and the NRA conference], he 171 in those 3 days alone. The last seven months have 3 times the rate of his first 600 days.

The University of Virginia men’s basketball team will not be celebrating its national championship with Trump at the White House, per a statement from the head coach. “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation,” Bennett said in the statement.

The Baylor women’s basketball team, whose members also became national champions this year, announced Wednesday that it would be attending a ceremony at the White House that will include Trump.

In a poll commissioned by CNN, Trump’s approval rating actually as at its highest [at 43%] in over 2 years. When you scratch your head, don’t take out too much hair – if you have hair. In addition 44% of Democrats and 46% of independents believe the Democrats are going too far to investigate Trump.

About two-thirds still say Trump ought to release his tax returns (66%, including 52% who consider it important for a president to do) and 54%, say the President is not doing enough to cooperate with Democratic investigations. 37% say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 59% say they do not feel that way.