Trump offers White House staffers discounted merch from his golf club

There’s an under-the-radar perk being offered to staffers in President Donald Trump’s administration — discounts on Trump-branded merchandise sold at his Bedminster golf club.

White House staffers who have a Secret Service hard pin identifying them as administration officials can flash it at the pro shop — where Trump-branded driver headcovers retail for $40 and a Trump golf polo tee sells for $90, according to the online Trump store — and receive the same discount available to club members, who pay a reported $350,000 to join the club.

Those discounts range from 15 percent off of any merchandise sold in the store, to 70 percent off of clearance items, according to two staffers and a receipt reviewed by POLITICO.

The practice is the latest indication that being a public servant in this administration comes with special perks to sweeten the deal. The discounts available at the Bedminster club were originally Continue reading “Trump offers White House staffers discounted merch from his golf club”

Why Omarosa’s attack on Kelly could backfire

Apprentice star-turned-spurned White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman opened a new front in her war on the West Wing on Sunday, attacking chief of staff John Kelly as a bully who drummed her out of the White House unfairly.

With new prey in her talons, Manigault Newman gave voice to many of the problems that have roiled the West Wing. In a tell-all interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, she spoke in dramatic terms about the White House’s difficulties with race, honesty and loyalty, at the same time that President Donald Trump is reckoning again with criticism of his equivocal response one year ago to violence at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

And Manigault Newman put some of the problems she described on stark display Sunday, surfacing a tape she surreptitiously recorded in the White House Situation Room.

"You have to have your own back, because otherwise you’ll look Continue reading “Why Omarosa’s attack on Kelly could backfire”

Hell hath no fury like Omarosa scorned

Nothing can change your mind about a person as quickly as getting dumped or fired.

In season one, Omarosa Manigault Newman, “The Apprentice” villain-turned-senior White House official, crowed that Donald Trump’s critics one day would be proved wrong about him and forced to “bow down to President Trump.”

In season two, the former communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison has penned a tell-all book in which she calls the president a “racist, bigot and misogynist” and slams his daughter for ordering up lists of leakers to fire.

The story behind Newman’s change of heart sold for a modest advance, according to people in the publishing world, in part because she spoiled the surprise in February, when she appeared on the reality show “Celebrity Big Brother,” likening her exit from the White House last December to being “freed from a plantation” and calling Trump “a special Continue reading “Hell hath no fury like Omarosa scorned”

Email exposes Kavanaugh to questions about role in terrorism response

A 2001 email from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is likely to reignite a debate over his involvement in making the legal case for the Bush administration’s treatment of terrorist suspects — and whether he misled Congress about it.

The email, part of a tranche of documents that the White House turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the run-up to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, indicates that Kavanaugh, then a White House lawyer, helped to prepare then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to testify before Congress on the federal government’s monitoring of communications between terrorists in federal custody and their attorneys.

Democrats are likely to seize on the communication to argue that he misled them during his 2006 confirmation to the D.C. Circuit when, pressed about whether he had helped to make the legal case for torture, he denied any involvement in discussions about the treatment of enemy combatants.

The White Continue reading “Email exposes Kavanaugh to questions about role in terrorism response”

The Rand-Trump alliance bursts into view

He infuriates West Wing aides who have had to scramble to win his support for key votes, but Rand Paul has the ear, and the affection, of the most important person in the White House: President Donald Trump.

Once bitter rivals on the Republican campaign trail, the Kentucky senator and the commander-in-chief have bonded over a shared delight in thumbing their noses at experts the president likes to deride as “foreign policy eggheads,” including those who work in his own administration.

When Trump dismissed national security adviser H.R. McMaster in March, replacing him with John Bolton, he told McMaster, “Look, he’s a hawk, you’re hawk, I can handle you guys,” according to a White House aide. While Trump tolerates his hawkish advisers, the aide added, he shares a real bond with Paul: “He actually at gut level has the same instincts as Rand Paul.”

Paul has quietly emerged Continue reading “The Rand-Trump alliance bursts into view”

How John Kelly became ‘chief in name only’

John Kelly got the official news of his promotion a year ago the same way a select few in the Trump administration have — by presidential tweet.

Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, had talked with the president about coming on board as White House chief of staff, but the two had yet to discuss the timing of an announcement or an official rollout when Trump tweeted from aboard Air Force One: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American ….”

The announcement’s unexpected timing and the unorthodox forum may have represented a feature of the Trump presidency that Kelly sought to normalize when he took the job, but those hopes have not materialized. (A White House spokeswoman said that at the time of Trump’s tweet, Kelly had received a Continue reading “How John Kelly became ‘chief in name only’”

Trump Cabinet heads fret over Bolton’s lack of meetings

National security adviser John Bolton’s lack of high-level meetings in his first several months on the job is frustrating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, administration officials and others familiar with the situation told POLITICO.

Mattis has gone so far as to draft a letter to Bolton requesting that he hold more gatherings of agency and department chiefs “to smooth the bubble” on thorny issues ranging from U.S. policy in Syria to North Korea, according to one senior administration official. In particular, senior officials are concerned about the dearth of “principals committee” meetings scheduled by Bolton, officials say. Principals committee meetings are traditionally key forums for relevant Cabinet bosses to prepare and recommend policy options for the president.

Of special concern is the U.S. relationship with Russia, especially since Trump’s July 16 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin with only translators present. Officials across Continue reading “Trump Cabinet heads fret over Bolton’s lack of meetings”

White House morale tanks amid Helsinki fallout

President Donald Trump’s disastrous performance since his press conference alongside Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has sent West Wing morale to its lowest level since the Charlottesville fiasco almost a year ago.

As happened last August, when the president refused to condemn neo-Nazi demonstrators, Trump’s attempts to tamp down outrage have backfired. Stilted statements followed by ad-libbed remarks left even his allies feeling that while the president was technically acknowledging a mistake, he actually meant what he’d said on the first go-round – that he believed Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“People are just depressed,” said one Republican close to the White House. “Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they’d leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable.”

But the president’s usual defenders, Continue reading “White House morale tanks amid Helsinki fallout”

Trump’s Russia spin falls flat with GOP

The more President Donald Trump talks about Russia, the more Republicans cringe.

The president’s effort to clean up his disastrous Monday news conference is falling flat on Capitol Hill — and White House aides are doing little to assuage an increasingly frustrated GOP. The reason: Threats from Republican lawmakers about confronting the president or pushing bills to punish Russia for further election interference are ringing hollow inside the White House, which has grown accustomed to panic, followed by inaction, on Capitol Hill.

A number of hawkish senators alarmed by the president’s remarks have yet to hear from chief of staff John Kelly, who frequently reassures nervous Republicans, and some senators are barreling forward with efforts to combat Russian interference in the fall elections. Increasingly, they view their own efforts to blunt Russia as distinctly separate from whatever Trump or his administration is doing or saying at any given time.

“In Continue reading “Trump’s Russia spin falls flat with GOP”

Hannity wins as Trump’s lone defender

Republican lawmakers denounced him. Newt Gingrich demanded a do-over. And the hosts of “Fox & Friends,“ President Donald Trump’s favorite morning television show, gave him a verbal slap on the wrist for his performance in a press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The mass desertion by some of the president’s stalwart allies made his remaining defenders – Sean Hannity and a handful of right-wing media personalities – all the more conspicuous in the wake of Trump’s Helsinki appearance by virtue of being virtually alone.

Leading them all was Hannity, who has shadowed Trump across the globe for high-stakes international summits to provide him with a friendly interview platform moments after their conclusion. He was in Singapore last month to interview the president after his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and he was in Helsinki on Monday to shield him from bipartisan attacks that he had disgraced the Continue reading “Hannity wins as Trump’s lone defender”

White House eyeing two candidates to replace Joe Hagin

Two internal candidates are emerging as the leading contenders to replace Joe Hagin, the outgoing White House deputy chief of staff for operations, according to two administration officials.

Daniel Walsh, director of the White House Military Office, and Marcia Lee Kelly, White House director of management and administration, are the top candidates for the job, the officials said.

Hagin, who has worked in every Republican administration since Ronald Reagan’s, is slated to leave the White House early next month, taking his decades of experience in Washington with him. As deputy chief of staff for operations, Hagin was charged with planning and organizing the president’s every movement, from foreign trips to campaign-style rallies.

The job requires extensive experience with presidential logistics and planning. White House officials think both Walsh and Kelly fit the bill, though they cautioned that there has been no final decision and other candidates could be considered.

The Continue reading “White House eyeing two candidates to replace Joe Hagin”

Former Fox News executive Bill Shine considered for White House communications role

Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who was ousted from the network over his handling of sexual harassment claims, is close to being tapped as President Donald Trump’s next communications director, according to multiple people familiar with the process.

Shine, a protégé of the late Roger Ailes, has in the past flirted with the idea of joining the administration in a senior post, but taken himself out of consideration.

In recent months, however, a person familiar with his plans told POLITICO, Shine has been at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida spending quality time with the president and their mutual close friend, Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Shine, a person familiar with the process said, was scheduled to have a meeting with Trump this week.

A White House official confirmed Shine’s name is back in the mix for the post, but said there was no formal announcement to make yet.

Continue reading “Former Fox News executive Bill Shine considered for White House communications role”

How Stephen Miller is winning — and losing — as Trump’s immigration czar

For the past two months, a handful of immigration hawks from across the government have assembled in Stephen Miller’s West Wing office on a weekly basis to chart the course of the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

Led by Miller, President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser and the architect of his hard-line approach to immigration, the meetings have replaced the usual interagency process involving key agency officials and remained largely out of view to the rest of the administration.

The gatherings, described by a half-dozen administration officials and Republicans close to the administration, have taken shape over time, from loosely structured meetings and conference calls among like-minded officials early in the administration to more formal meetings in recent months. And they have produced the president’s two most controversial policies — the January 2017 travel ban, which the Supreme Court let stand Tuesday, and the more recent decision to send adults caught Continue reading “How Stephen Miller is winning — and losing — as Trump’s immigration czar”

The president who never backs down finally caves

In the face of protests at airports across the country opposing his restrictive travel ban last year, President Donald Trump defended the executive order as a necessary protection from terrorists.

When he was confronted with bipartisan outrage and criticism from his own aides after condemning violence on “both sides” of a white nationalist rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, Va., last year, the president dug in his heels.

But on Wednesday, facing what has grown into the biggest moral and political crisis of his administration, the president whose default position is to double down, simply caved in.

Sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and embattled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting his policy of separating children from their parents at the border.

“The border’s just as tough,” Trump told reporters. “But we do want to Continue reading “The president who never backs down finally caves”

Trump’s fuzzy North Korea timeline: ‘At some point,’ ‘quickly,’ or ‘at the appropriate time’

President Donald Trump spent over an hour answering questions from reporters in Singapore after his historic handshake with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But when it came to offering any sort of timeline for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – or anything else – he left himself plenty of exit chutes.

Kim will begin dismantling his nuclear arsenal “very quickly,” Trump said vaguely. Throughout the press conference, however, he even hedged when it came to offering any definition of his concepts of “quickly” or “long.”

Trump said he wants to withdraw the American troops currently stationed in South Korea. When, exactly, will that be?

“At some point…I want to get our soldiers out,” he said. “At some point, I hope it will be, but not right now.”

Trump expressed interest in traveling to North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, to continue talks with Kim – but again Continue reading “Trump’s fuzzy North Korea timeline: ‘At some point,’ ‘quickly,’ or ‘at the appropriate time’”

Inside Trump and Kim’s ‘science fiction movie’

SINGAPORE — It was the North Korean dictator who best captured the day. Strolling with President Donald Trump along a colonnade at their luxury resort summit moments after their historic handshake, Kim Jong Un said that many people would think the scene came straight out of “a science fiction movie.”

He was right: the landmark summit between the two men was far out in almost every way, from the array of U.S. and North Korean flags draped side by side to the lunchtime menu of Korean delicacies alongside beef and potatoes.

There were other bizarre elements, like the North Korean security official clad in latex gloves who emerged to inspect and swab down a pen Kim used to sign a vaguely worded commitment to a process of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Trump wrapped the day with an afternoon press conference that kicked off with a slick video offering Continue reading “Inside Trump and Kim’s ‘science fiction movie’”

Pompeo: U.S. will offer ‘unique’ assurances to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization

SINGAPORE — The United States is prepared to offer “different” and “unique” security assurances to North Korea in exchange for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday on the eve of President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Citing a desire to avoid airing negotiations publicly, Pompeo declined to say what assurances the U.S. would offer and specifically refused to say if the removal of American troops from South Korea will be on the table.

“I’m not going to get into any of the details of the discussions that we’ve had to date. I can only say this: We’re prepared to take what will be security assurances that are different, unique, than have been provided – than America has been willing to provide previously,” Pompeo told reporters Monday afternoon in Singapore, where Trump and Continue reading “Pompeo: U.S. will offer ‘unique’ assurances to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization”

Trump lowers expectations ahead of historic North Korea summit

SINGAPORE — As anticipation for his historic summit with North Korea has ratcheted up, salesman-in-chief Donald Trump has done something out of character: Ratcheted expectations down.

Less than two days before his tête-a-tête with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the president who initially welcomed the idea that his efforts might net him a Nobel Prize was downplaying the possibility that Tuesday’s meeting would lead to any major breakthroughs.

When asked upon landing in Singapore how he was feeling about the encounter, Trump gave a brief answer: “Very good.”

The historic event, a spectacle that has brought thousands of reporters and even basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman to the tiny South Asian country to catch a glimpse of the action, has leapfrogged decades of cautious diplomatic initiatives between Washington and Pyongyang – but in a press conference Saturday, the president declined to clarify the objective of the meeting aside Continue reading “Trump lowers expectations ahead of historic North Korea summit”

Trump and Bolton spurn top-level North Korea planning

National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea next week, a striking break from past practice that suggests the Trump White House is largely improvising its approach to the unprecedented nuclear talks.

For decades, top presidential advisers have used a methodical process to hash out national security issues before offering the president a menu of options for key decisions. On an issue like North Korea, that would mean White House Situation Room gatherings of the secretaries of state and defense along with top intelligence officials, the United Nations ambassador, and even the treasury secretary, who oversees economic sanctions.

But since Trump agreed on a whim to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on March 8, the White House’s summit planning has been unstructured, according to a half-dozen administration officials. Trump himself has driven the preparation Continue reading “Trump and Bolton spurn top-level North Korea planning”

Trump bragged about classified Syria skirmish at fundraiser

The White House has tried to avoid discussing a February skirmish between U.S. troops and Russian mercenaries in Syria, but that didn’t stop President Donald Trump from bragging about the Pentagon’s performance at a recent closed-door fundraiser.

The details of the battle remain classified but speaking to donors in midtown Manhattan last Wednesday, Trump said that he was amazed by the performance of American F-18 pilots. He suggested that the strikes may have been as brief as “10 minutes” and taken out between 100 and 300 Russians, according to a person briefed on the president’s remarks, which have not previously been reported.

Trump often makes unscripted comments at fundraisers, and revels in the exploits of the U.S. military. At an RNC fundraiser last fall, he told the crowd that Defense Secretary James Mattis, had “never lost a battle” and he has bragged about the country’s nuclear superiority in Continue reading “Trump bragged about classified Syria skirmish at fundraiser”