Trump orders boycott of White House Correspondents’ Dinner


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The White House on Tuesday ordered administration officials to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual fundraising gala attended by the White House press corps and scheduled for this Saturday.

The message was conveyed to agency chiefs of staff on Tuesday morning by White House Cabinet Secretary Bill McGinley, who indicated that the order was coming from the president himself. Trump has already announced he will be holding a political rally in Green Bay, Wisc., Saturday night, calling the dinner “so boring and so negative.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Trump’s Fox News love fest hits a rough patch


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Many viewers of Monday night’s Fox News town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders saw a left-wing candidate in the hot seat on a network known for its tight relationship with President Donald Trump.

But Trump himself saw something else: sinister forces at his favorite news network aligning against him. Trump complained twice about the event on Twitter over the next day, griping about an allegedly pro-Sanders audience and charging that the anchors had sucked up to one of his 2020 rivals.

The political class may marvel at Trump’s perceived control over Fox, which liberal critics have likened to a propaganda outlet. But the president’s complaints suggest he’s frustrated that he doesn’t have enough. In particular, Trump has repeatedly aimed Twitter barbs at the network’s news anchors, griping that they are insufficiently enthusiastic about his agenda.

“So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @Fox News,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, Continue reading “Trump’s Fox News love fest hits a rough patch”

Japanese leader plans grueling D.C. dash for Trump face time


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When Japan enthrones a new emperor on May 1, the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, might be feeling a little jet lagged.

Just four days before one of his nation’s most important ceremonial events in a generation, akin to the election of a new Pope in Rome, Abe plans to jet around the world and back for a vital mission: maintaining his relationship with President Donald Trump.

Abe’s 36-hour trip to a foreign capital 6,700 miles away — he tentatively plans to join First Lady Melania Trump’s 49th birthday celebrations on Friday, April 26, and golf with Trump himself the next day, according to two sources familiar with his plans — underscores the extraordinary lengths he has gone to cultivate the U.S. president.

Abe, who came to office in 2012 determined to cement the U.S.-Japan alliance, has fully embraced the belief that developing a personal rapport with Continue reading “Japanese leader plans grueling D.C. dash for Trump face time”

Republicans confront Trump amid cascading controversies


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As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Republicans this week to head off problematic nominees before President Donald Trump officially picked them, the Kentucky Republican singled out Ken Cuccinelli.

Floated for the job of Homeland Security secretary, the former Virginia Attorney General runs the anti-establishment Senate Conservatives Fund. McConnell remarked Tuesday that the group had cost the GOP seats in 2010 and 2012 by guiding the party away from more electable candidates, according to attendees at the closed-door Republican policy lunch.

Now with McConnell up for reelection and eager to protect his narrow majority, it’s Senate Republicans who are trying to take control.

In addition to confronting Trump on his purge at the Department of Homeland Security and his threat to deploy auto tariffs and keep existing levies, GOP senators hope they can persuade the president to avoid nominating Cuccinelli or Kris Kobach, another immigration hard-liner, to lead DHS. They Continue reading “Republicans confront Trump amid cascading controversies”

Homeland Security chief Nielsen is out


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Kirstjen Nielsen will leave her post as secretary of Homeland Security, President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.

“I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary,” the president added.

Nielsen oversaw the implementation of Trump’s contentious immigration agenda, including the separation of thousands of families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 46-year-old Cabinet member was confirmed to the role in December 2017. Almost from the start, she came under fierce criticism from Trump and, later, national security adviser John Bolton over an uptick in illegal immigration.

The news comes after the White House on Friday unexpectedly pulled the nomination of Ronald Vitiello to become director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Vitiello, a longtime Border Patrol official, had already been approved by one congressional committee, but still need the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Continue reading “Homeland Security chief Nielsen is out”

Cummings demands briefing after Mar-a-Lago arrest of Chinese woman


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House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings has demanded a briefing from the Secret Service about security at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s exclusive resort, following the arrest this weekend of a Chinese woman who gained access to the club.

The woman, Yujing Zhang, was carrying two passports, multiple cellphones and a thumb drive loaded with malicious software when she was detained, according to a complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida.

The court filing said Zhang was trying to gain entry to an event advertised on Chinese-language social media by Li "Cindy" Yang, a Florida massage parlor owner and Trump donor who offered clients access to the president and his family. Yang’s interactions with Trump came to light after a massage parlor she founded was tied to a prostitution and sex-trafficking operation. Democrats recently asked for an FBI criminal and counterintelligence investigation into Yang’s interactions with Trump.

Cummings said he wants Continue reading “Cummings demands briefing after Mar-a-Lago arrest of Chinese woman”

Why Trump didn’t stop a GOP revolt on his border emergency


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On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump sent out a pointed missive ahead of the Senate’s vote to block his emergency declaration: “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!“

Soon after, White House aides began blasting the tweet to GOP senators by text message to remind them of how the president viewed the impending vote, according to senators and aides who received the messages.

The last-minute lobbying did little to quell a Republican rebellion that eventually arrived in eye-popping numbers: a full dozen GOP senators joining Democrats in voting to overturn Trump’s unilateral move to fund his border wall.

It didn’t have to be that way, Republicans say, especially if Trump had engaged more consistently with senators and made a relatively modest agreement to change the National Emergencies Act to rein in presidential power.

It also was Continue reading “Why Trump didn’t stop a GOP revolt on his border emergency”

Cheney grills Pence on Trump’s foreign policy


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Dick Cheney lit into Vice President Mike Pence behind closed doors over the direction of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, flouting a set of agreed-upon subjects and forcing Pence on the defensive over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

The former vice president interviewed Pence at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum in Sea Island, Ga., an off-the-record confab attended by approximately 200 top-dollar Republican donors, lawmakers and business leaders who flock to the private island every spring.

Cheney pressed Pence about Trump’s proclivity for making major policy announcements on Twitter and his off-and-on commitment to NATO, according to four meeting attendees and a source briefed on their remarks. The former vice president, who has kept a low public profile in recent years, questioned whether Trump places enough value on the findings of the intelligence community, which he has repeatedly and publicly dismissed. He suggested that Trump foreign policy Continue reading “Cheney grills Pence on Trump’s foreign policy”

Fearing mass GOP defections, Trump leans in to emergency fight


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Sen. Ron Johnson made no secret of his displeasure with Donald Trump declaring a national emergency to build his border wall, worrying in late January that the president would take the “Emergency Act beyond where it’s ever been.”

But the Wisconsin Republican has made up his mind when it comes to voting on the House’s disapproval resolution next week. He’s standing with Trump.

“The president’s taking this pretty personally. And in his mind, this is: You’re supporting him or you’re supporting Nancy Pelosi. And I think that’s pretty accurate at this point in time,” Johnson said on Thursday.

Johnson’s pointed defense of the president comes amid a week of growing tension in the Senate Republican caucus about Trump’s plan to shift billions from military construction projects to fund the wall after Congress refused to give him the money.

The president has grown increasingly engaged in the debate, and White Continue reading “Fearing mass GOP defections, Trump leans in to emergency fight”

Trump aides worry he’ll get outfoxed in North Korea talks


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President Donald Trump is eagerly anticipating his second summit with Kim Jong Un, touting his “really meaningful” relationship with the North Korean strongman and insisting he’s ready to give up his nuclear arsenal.

In Washington, he’s pretty much the only one who feels that way.

Many, including several of the president’s top advisers, are less excited. Some have expressed trepidation not only that the summit, scheduled to take place next week in Hanoi, may not yield big results. They worry, too, that Trump, eager to declare victory on the world stage, could make big concessions in exchange for empty promises of denuclearization.

The push for a second summit came almost entirely from the president himself, according to current and former White House officials — but Trump remains undeterred. He has gushed about the “wonderful letters” he has received from Kim, as well as the “good rapport” he has developed with Continue reading “Trump aides worry he’ll get outfoxed in North Korea talks”

Trump bets on North Korea to break his losing streak


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Stung by domestic defeat after a losing battle with Democrats in Washington, D.C., this winter, President Donald Trump hopes his negotiating skills can achieve better results some 8,000 miles away when he meets with North Korea’s leader in Vietnam later this month.

Trump will travel for his second session with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to discuss whether the strongman might relinquish his nuclear weapons in return for an end to economic isolation.

Skeptics call it a fool’s errand. But even some harsh critics of Trump’s foreign policy hold open the possibility that the president mught find it easier to deal with the diminutive Asian tyrant than with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

At a minimum, the Hanoi summit offers Trump a chance to shift a losing political narrative which dates back to the drubbing his party took in November’s midterm elections.

“A lot of positive things Continue reading “Trump bets on North Korea to break his losing streak”

Trump preps Venezuela aid package amid push to oust Maduro


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The Trump administration is strongly considering sending millions of dollars in additional humanitarian aid to Venezuela, according to three U.S. officials, as the country grapples with a mounting political crisis and its citizens face widespread food shortages.

Senior administration officials have spent weeks quietly developing the aid plan, which could be included in President Donald Trump’s upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget request to Congress. The president also privately discussed the administration’s plans to send additional aid to Venezuela during an off-the-record meeting with television anchors last week ahead of his State of the Union address.

The additional money would supplement the nearly $97 million in humanitarian aid that the Trump administration has already given to help Venezuelan refugees.

The exact dollar figure remains in flux, one of the administration officials said, but could exceed tens of millions of dollars. The White House declined to comment.

An initial shipment of Continue reading “Trump preps Venezuela aid package amid push to oust Maduro”

Regime change by tweet? John Bolton hopes so


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He is the unlikeliest social media star of the Trump administration.

At 70 years old, and in one of Washington’s most sensitive jobs, national security adviser John Bolton has started tweeting with the frequency, and often the passion, of his boss.

Trump’s third national security adviser is using Twitter far more often, and more colorfully, than any of his predecessors — making policy pronouncements and lambasting perceived bad guys. His targets range widely, from the Cuban government to Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the “failing” New York Times.

In recent weeks, he has trained his fire on the embattled socialist regime of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro. On a single day in February, Bolton tapped out seven tweets, several of them directed at Maduro and his allies, warning them to relinquish power. “It’s time for Maduro to get out of the way,” he wrote.

Under the handle @ambJohnBolton, he has offered Venezuelan generals Continue reading “Regime change by tweet? John Bolton hopes so”

‘It will create a firestorm’: Mulvaney’s border wall cash grab sparks dissent in White House


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The White House is firming up plans to redirect unspent federal dollars as a way of funding President Donald Trump’s border wall without taking the dramatic step of invoking a national emergency.

Done by executive order, this plan would allow the White House to shift money from different budgetary accounts without congressional approval, circumventing Democrats who refuse to give Trump anything like the $5.7 billion he has demanded. Nor would it require a controversial emergency declaration.

The emerging consensus among acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and top budget officials is to shift money from two Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control projects in Northern California, as well as from disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico. The plan will also tap unspent Department of Defense funds for military construction, like family housing or infrastructure for military bases, according to three sources familiar with the negotiations.

“There Continue reading “‘It will create a firestorm’: Mulvaney’s border wall cash grab sparks dissent in White House”

White House hunts for ‘executive time’ schedule leaker


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The White House is aggressively investigating several leaks of President Donald Trump’s private schedules, a source of repeated embarrassment to the White House and the president himself.

West Wing officials managing the hunt have enlisted the help of the White House’s IT office, and believe they are making progress in narrowing the search for potential suspects. One Trump official said the culprit is likely a career government employee who works in the White House, not a person appointed by Trump himself, but did not offer specific evidence.

The search has been approved by the office of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Trump himself — who has been infuriated by leaks from within his White House — is aware of the mole hunt and supports the effort, according to one of the officials.

Axios on Sunday published Trump’s private schedules for the last three months that showed how he Continue reading “White House hunts for ‘executive time’ schedule leaker”

Kushner to visit Mideast for peace plan push


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Jared Kushner will crisscross the Middle East later this month seeking buy-in for his peace plan from leaders throughout the region.

During the trip, the president’s son-in-law will for the first time share significant details of the economic portion of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, whose development he has spent nearly two years overseeing.

“Jared is going to present the economic plan to the region. The economic plan only works if the region supports it,” a senior administration official said Tuesday. "We understand that if the political aspect of it is not solid, the economic aspect is meaningless. But at the same time the political aspect will not succeed without a proper economic plan."

The White House is preparing to release a finalized plan for a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians in the coming months, administration officials said, though they stressed they are unlikely to Continue reading “Kushner to visit Mideast for peace plan push”

Diplomats to hammer out Trump-Kim summit details at DMZ meeting


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A top United States diplomat plans to see North Korean officials in early February to hammer out details of a late-February second nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, is likely to see his counterparts on or around Feb. 4 in Panmunjom, the “truce village” that lies along the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, according to a person familiar with the issue. South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo first reported the planned meeting.

Ahead of that meeting, Biegun is due to give a speech on Thursday about the ongoing U.S. effort to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Biegun will deliver the remarks at Stanford University’s Walter Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, according to the State Department.

The White House has announced that the Trump-Kim summit will take place in late Continue reading “Diplomats to hammer out Trump-Kim summit details at DMZ meeting”

Immigration hawks ‘frustrated’ over Trump’s border wall obsession


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<![CDATA[
Democrats aren’t the only ones who wish President Donald Trump weren’t obsessed with building a border wall.

Even hard-line conservative immigration activists are frustrated with Trump’s relentless focus on a border wall — and are pushing him to embrace what they call more effective enforcement policies as part of any deal with Congress.

They are working with a half-dozen Republican members of Congress to write additional proposals they hope the White House will support. The suggestions include reducing the number of people sponsored for residency by family members, eliminating the visa lottery system and mandating nationwide E-Verify, an online system that allows businesses to cross-check work authorizations.

“We’re obviously a little frustrated because so much focus has been on barriers, walls and fences,” said Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, which supports curbing legal and illegal immigration.

When NumbersUSA outlined 10 steps to bolster immigration enforcement on Continue reading “Immigration hawks ‘frustrated’ over Trump’s border wall obsession”

‘It got a little heated’: GOP infighting almost killed criminal justice reform


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<![CDATA[
Just hours before the Senate passed major reforms to the criminal justice system, Mike Lee and Tom Cotton were still bickering.

At a private party lunch, the two young Republican senators argued one last time: The libertarian-leaning Lee defended a bill the hawkish Cotton had derided as a “jailbreak” for violent felons, while Cotton accused Lee of overseeing a sloppy process that included last-minute revisions to the bill, according to multiple sources familiar with the interaction.

“It got a little heated, on his part,” Lee said.

The dispute neatly encapsulated why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was so reluctant to put the bill on the floor in the first place and publicly split his party. But even the skeptical GOP leader could not ultimately stop the bill: President Donald Trump supported it, and McConnell himself wound up voting for it. The legislation passed 87-12 on Tuesday night after Continue reading “‘It got a little heated’: GOP infighting almost killed criminal justice reform”

Trump names Mulvaney acting White House chief of staff


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<![CDATA[
After eliminating one contender to be his next White House chief of staff, and being turned down by another, President Donald Trump announced on Friday that Mick Mulvaney, the right-wing congressman who has served as his budget director for the past two years, would take on the role in an acting capacity.

The decision does little to remove the uncertainty that has consumed the White House this week, as Trump cast about for someone to replace chief of staff John Kelly, who is leaving his post at the end of the year.

It is unclear how long Mulvaney will serve in the role — a senior administration official said there was no time limit, and a source close to Mulvaney confirmed there was no timetable for his exit — and the decision to bring him on in an acting capacity suggests the president may have been running out of options. Continue reading “Trump names Mulvaney acting White House chief of staff”