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Donald Trump made it clear at the beginning of his campaign that he wasn’t going to follow the normal rules or tone of politics. We’re keeping track of all the ways his presidency veers from the norm in terms of policy and rhetoric.
Day 307 Nov. 22
The president can’t stop rage-tweeting at LaVar Ball
Trump doubled-down on his feud with the father of a U.S. basketball player Wednesday, calling LaVar Ball an “ungrateful fool” and a “poor man’s Don King” for his failure to thank Trump for getting his son out of a Chinese jail.
Trump has been locked in an escalating war of words with Ball – a brash, self-promoting businessman – since Ball’s middle son, LiAngelo Ball, was released with two of his UCLA teammates from a Chinese jail earlier this month. The three basketball players had been arrested on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Trump says they were freed after he personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene, and since their release has repeatedly commented on the Balls’ lack of gratitude. His latest outburst came after Ball pointedly refused to give Trump credit for freeing his son in interviews.
“It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
“LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think… LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!”
Ball, CEO of a shoe brand endorsed by his sons, has repeatedly refused to express appreciation to Trump for playing any role in his son’s release, saying the president was already on an Asian trip at the time and suggesting he himself played a role in getting the athletes out.
“It’s not like he was in the US and said, ‘OK, there’s three kids in China, I need to go over there and get them.’ That wasn’t the thought process,” Ball said in an interview with CNN Monday. “I had some things done, I talked to some people that did some things, too.”
Ball’s comments came after Trump had already lashed him on Twitter for his lack of appreciation, saying he “should have left [the players] in jail!”
“Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!”
In interviews, Ball has expressed amazement that the world’s most powerful man is fixated on the issue. But if he wants Trump to let it go, he might need to follow his son’s lead and just say thank you.
Last week, Trump had wondered out loud on Twitter whether a thank you would be forthcoming from the released trio. “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
But after the players thanked him and apologized for their actions later that day, he swiftly changed his tone, wishing them well and dispensing them some life advice.
“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!” he tweeted Thursday.
Day 306 Nov. 21
This national park is stocking Trump-brand wine
When President Donald Trump said in August that “both sides” were to blame for the events Charlottesville, he also bragged about a vineyard he owns — “one of the largest wineries in the United States, it’s in Charlottesville,” he said as he left the podium.
Now it’s easier than ever to buy: Wine from that same vineyard has been for sale in the gift shop at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, a picturesque federal park just 75 miles from Washington, D.C.
At Skyland Resort, a lodging on park grounds, the concessions distributor, Delaware North Cos., told The Hill that it had been selling Trump wine for much of 2016. They restocked in May or June, and although they say they stopped buying the wine after that, it was on sale as recently as September.
NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum stressed that the parks service had no role in selling the wine. “The National Park Service authorizes concessioners to sell categories of retail goods and products like t-shirts, baseball hats, and in this case wine. However, the NPS does not specify what brands of these products should be sold,” Barnum said according to E&E News.
The environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to try to figure out how the wine ended up there.
“If this is the level of Trumpism at national parks, what other policy issues have that level of Trumpism?” Bill Snape, general counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity said according to E&E News. “It just raises a number of disturbing and intriguing conflict-of-interest issues.”
Trump believes Roy Moore over the women accusing him of assault
President Donald Trump has some experience in denying accusations of sexual assault from women, so it’s not out of character for him to brush aside the accounts of nine women by essentially endorsing Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate accused of molesting multiple teenage girls.
“We don’t need a liberal person in there,” Trump said outside the White House on Tuesday, according to AP.
He added, “Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That is all I can say.”
Roy Moore is running for the GOP Senate seat to represent the state of Alabama, and it’s a pivotal one: It’s too late for Moore to withdraw from the race, and Democrats haven’t won a Senate election in Alabama since 1992. A victory for Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, would be a stunning defeat for the Republican party, which already saw sweeping losses on election night earlier this month.
Other top Republicans — including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and Sen. John McCain — have denounced Moore and even called for him to withdraw from the race. Trump’s own daughter and adviser Ivanka has condemned Moore, and said she believes his accusers. But the president will take Moore’s word for it, apparently.
Tillerson’s diplomats accuse him of breaking child soldier law
Senior U.S. diplomats say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is looking the other way when it comes to U.S. allies using child soldiers.
In July, nearly a dozen State Department officials formally accused Tillerson of breaking the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which prevents foreign militaries that use child soldiers from receiving U.S. aid, according to unpublished internal documents reviewed by Reuters.
In June, Tillerson decided to keep U.S. partners Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan off a list of offenders, despite the fact that the department has acknowledged these countries use child soldiers.
“Beyond contravening U.S. law, this decision risks marring the credibility of a broad range of State Department reports and analyses and has weakened one of the U.S. government’s primary diplomatic tools to deter governmental armed forces and government-supported armed groups from recruiting and using children in combat and support roles around the world,” reads a formal “dissent” memo the officials sent to Tillerson.
Other documents show that Tillerson’s adviser Brian Hook acknowledged the countries were using child soldiers, but said the secretary was using his discretion in interpreting the law and shielding the countries because they were “making sincere — if as yet incomplete — efforts” to address their issues.
“The secretary thoroughly reviewed all of the information presented to him and made a determination about whether the facts presented justified a listing pursuant to the law,” a State Department spokesperson said regarding the charge Tillerson broke the law.
The U.S. has already red-flagged countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Mali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen under law in the past. According to the U.N., “tens of thousands” of children are used as soldiers around the world each year.
Trump’s attack on “sanctuary cities” just got permanently blocked
A San Francisco district court judge permanently blocked Donald Trump’s executive order limiting funding for “sanctuary cities” Monday, calling the legislation “unconstitutional.”
Citing “constitutional injuries,” District Judge William Orrick’s said the EO violates the “separation of powers doctrine” and deprives counties of their “Tenth and Fifth Amendment rights.”
Within minutes of the decision, the Department of Justice attacked the ruling and promised to “vindicate the president’s lawful authority” to enforce the law.
“The District Court exceeded its authority today when it barred the President from instructing his cabinet members to enforce existing law,” DoJ spokesman Devin O’Malley said. “The Justice Department will vindicate the president’s lawful authority to direct the executive branch.”
The EO, which was part of a broad range of measures introduced in the early days of the administration to crack down on illegal immigration, limits federal funding to cities that refuse to share information with U.S. immigration authorities.
The White House argued that the public is endangered when local authorities refuse to hand over illegal immigrants that have been arrested. Opponents of the EO argue that local police should have no part in rounding up immigrants for deportation.
The case was brought by the city and county of San Francisco, as well as the county of Santa Clara.
“This is a victory for the American people and the rule of law,” San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement. “This executive order was unconstitutional before the ink on it was even dry. We live in a democracy. No one is above the law, including the president.”
Despite the DoJ’s hardline stance, Attorney General Jeff Sessions did awarded grants Monday to 36 jurisdictions the Department insists are noncompliant with federal immigration authorities, following earlier court rulings.
— David Gilbert
Day 305 Nov. 20
Trump is waiting for a Supreme Court justice to die or retire
President Trump added five new people on Friday to his already unprecedented wish list of Supreme Court nominees. It’s an odd move considering the high court has no vacancies for him to fill at the moment.
“As far as I know, it’s never been done before,” Georgetown constitutional law professor Randy Barnett said.
Three people Trump added to the list currently serve on federal appeals courts, meaning they could hear disputes about his policies — like the travel ban or DACA repeal. If they know Trump is considering them for a seat on the Supreme Court, that could create conflicts of interest.
Trump first published a list of 11 names of presidential nominees to the high court in May 2016 to appeal to conservative groups that share his mission to reform the federal judiciary. He added 10 names to the list before the general election last year, including Neil Gorsuch, who he nominated in January and took his seat on the bench after his Senate confirmation in April.
The five people added Friday — all conservative and relatively young — bring the total list to 25 people.
As rumors about Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement swirl (He’s the longest serving justice on the court.) and seats on federal benches across the country become vacant, Trump is poised to change the future of the judicial branch for generations to come.
Trump regrets release of U.S. citizens: “I should have left them in jail!”
Donald Trump said Sunday he should have left three U.S. citizens to rot in a Chinese jail because he wasn’t sufficiently praised for their release.
The UCLA students and basketball players, who were arrested in China on suspicion of shoplifting, were released by authorities last week after Trump visited Beijing and raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Although the players thanked Trump for intervening during a Wednesday press conference, LaVar Ball, the father of one of the accused, questioned Trump’s role in his son’s release during an ESPN interview.
“Who?” he said when asked about the president’s role. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
Trump replied with an angry tweet Sunday, concluding, “I should have left them in jail!”
After a brief tweet about tax cuts, he returned to “ungrateful” Ball with further criticism:
The freshman athletes — LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill — returned to the U.S. on Tuesday after they were detained and questioned for allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton shop, though they were never put in jail.
— David Gilbert