Donald Trump’s highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for April
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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 98 April 27
People are reporting space alien abductions to Trump’s new immigration hotline
Trump launched a new office Wednesday to help victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, or as the president repeatedly refers to them, “illegal aliens.” But people calling in to the department’s hotline took the wording quite literally — by trolling operators with reports of space aliens, BuzzFeed reported.
I plan on calling every day to report how badly these green aliens from outer space are treating me. How about you?
— Jean Bonifacio (@Jeaniebonotex) April 26, 2017
If any of you need to report space aliens to our government, please call their hotline: 1-855-48-VOICE. Here are some of their Most Wanted: pic.twitter.com/nWnVYdDdpG
— Steven Santos (@stevensantos) April 27, 2017
The new office, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE, falls under the Department of Homeland Security as part of Trump’s Jan. 25 executive orders, which laid out plans for an aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration. The office also publishes a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
Trump made such crimes a key talking point of his campaign, often trotting out family members of victims killed by immigrants during rallies and speeches. But despite Trump’s claims, research paints the problem as a minor one.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suggested the trolls had affected the service.
“There are certainly more constructive ways to make one’s opinions heard than to prevent legitimate victims of crime from receiving the information and resources they seek because the lines are tied up by hoax callers,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
In the internet’s defense, the administration did launch the hotline on National Alien Day.
Trump threatened to “break up” the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Donald Trump took his repeated attacks on the judiciary to a new level on Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner, the president said he has “absolutely” considered splitting up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It’s outrageous,” he added.
His comments — which appear to ignore the separation of powers cemented by the Constitution — come one day after U.S. District Judge William Orrick temporarily blocked Trump’s attempt at withholding resources from “sanctuary cities,” a vague term that refers to jurisdictions that don’t fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After the decision, Trump lashed out at the 9th Circuit, which would hear any appeal of Orrick’s decision, on Twitter.
…the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%). They used to call this "judge shopping!" Messy system.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
Republicans have long condemned the 9th Circuit for its vast reach and liberal leanings; the court previously blocked Trump’s first executive order limiting travel from several Muslim-majority countries.
Trump told the Washington Examiner: “Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that’s like, semi-automatic.”
Day 97 April 26
The White House held a pointless security briefing on North Korea
With its much-touted “100 days in office” deadline looming, the Trump administration summoned almost every U.S. senator to the White House Wednesday, ostensibly for an urgent meeting on North Korea. But the pomp and circumstance didn’t make sense: The meeting was pointless.
The meeting failed to clarify the administration’s policy on North Korea and its intercontinental ballistic missile testing, a Republican senator told the Washington Post — a strategy that remains murky thanks to President Donald Trump’s inarticulate stance on the hermit kingdom and its close ally China. The White House also recently incorrectly announced that an aircraft carrier was bound for the Sea of Japan as a deterrent, when it was actually headed toward the Indian Ocean, thousands of miles away.
Most all-hands-on-deck national security briefings are held on Capitol Hill, not at the White House, though administration officials contended that the choice to bring senators to Trump’s domain — on buses held together by duct tape — was purely logistical, and not a PR stunt to distract from the administration’s many failures to so far follow through on several of Trump’s campaign promises.
Day 97 April 26
Trump is once again publicly complaining about judges who rule against him
By now, we know the playbook: A court strikes down one of Donald Trump’s executive orders, so he attacks the judge. On Tuesday, a federal court issued a national stay blocking Trump’s bid to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities, making Judge William Orrick the president’s latest villain.
The ruling triggered a strong statement from the administration.
“Once again, a single district judge — this time in San Francisco — has ignored federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country. This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the five-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down Katie Steinle in her father’s arms,” the statement read, referring a 32-year-old woman killed by a stray bullet in 2015. “San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands.”
Per usual, Trump also lashed out on Twitter, although he appeared to think the 9th Circuit had ruled against him. While Orrick doesn’t sit on the 9th circuit, any appeal of his decision would go to the 9th Circuit. Some also consider the 9th Circuit all the courts where the 9th Circuit has jurisdiction.
First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
Out of our very big country, with many choices, does everyone notice that both the "ban" case and now the "sanctuary" case is brought in …
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
…the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%). They used to call this "judge shopping!" Messy system.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
Trump previously attacked the 9th Circuit for its rolle in blocking his first executive order limiting travel to the U.S. from several majority-Muslim countries. Others members of the judiciary on Trump’s hit list include: the judge who okayed a settlement in the fraud lawsuits against Trump University and judges who ruled against Trump’s second attempt at a travel ban. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped into the ring last week when he questioned a Hawaii federal judge’s ability to block the executive order.
But as CNN’s Chris Cillizza pointed out, the Watson’s ruling may be a political gift in disguise. That’s because Trump can keep campaigning against the so-called “liberal” judiciary, which is red meat to his base.
Day 95 April 24
The State Department promoted Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private business
Even before he took office, President Donald Trump called his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida the “winter White House.” Earlier this month, the State Department apparently made that title official — a move that critics say exploits the government and taxpayer money for private gain.
The U.S. government site ShareAmerica first published a post titled “Mar-a-Lago: The winter White House,” detailing the club’s history on April 4, shortly before Trump took the Chinese President Xi Jinping there for “a beautiful piece of chocolate cake” while they chatted about bombing Syria). The next day, the State Department’s website published a shortened version of the post, with the same title.
“Trump is not the first president to have access to Mar-a-Lago as a Florida retreat, but he is the first one to use it,” the post reads. “By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer.” After Mar-a-Lago’s original owner, Marjorie Merriweather Post, died, Post willed the property to the U.S. government. But Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter never used it and the government eventually returned it to Post’s foundation, enabling Trump to buy it in 1985.
But there’s one important fact about Mar-a-Lago that the post fails to mention: It’s not just “President Trump’s Florida estate” — it’s a business that charges its private club members annual dues of $200,000, dues that just so happened to double in January, right before Trump’s inauguration. The ShareAmerica entry only notes that after Trump bought the property in 1995, he opened it to “dues-paying members of the public.”
Democrats like Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and House Minority Leader and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi criticized the move on Twitter, asking why the government was promoting a private club. Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, also tweeted that the post was “use of public officer for private gain pure and simple.”
Use of public office for private gain pure and simplehttps://t.co/V1naBvE6jt
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) April 24, 2017
Since taking office, Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago seven times, at a reported cost to taxpayers of upwards of $3 million, which Trump has declined to reimburse.
Late Monday evening, the State Department pulled the page and apologized, adding the update:“The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.”
Day 95 April 24
Trump is about to sign the most executive orders in 100 days since WWII
President Donald Trump is on track to have signed more executive orders in his first 100 days in office than any president since World War II, according to Axios.
The report says Trump will be signing four additional executive orders, which don’t require congressional approval, before hitting his 100-day mark on Saturday. The orders will reportedly address the treatment of veterans, the designation of national monuments, expansion of offshore drilling, and promoting agriculture in rural America.
With these additional four orders, Trump will have signed 29 executive orders in his first 100 days — more than Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined, according to the Federal Register. Obama signed 19 executive orders in his first 100 days. Axios, however, puts Trump’s full number at 32, which might include a few other executive actions.
Day 92 April 21
Trump brags about ratings — again
In an interview with the Associated Press’ Julie Pace, Trump wanted everyone to know that some of his television appearances drew more viewers than anything “since the World Trade Center came down.”
Here’s a an excerpt of the transcript:
Trump: No I have, it’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning.
AP: I remember, right.
Trump: It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, (CBS “Face the Nation” host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.
Jeff Sessions is “amazed” that Hawaii has judges who can stop Trump
President Donald Trump has a history of attacking judges, especially ones who rule against his interests. And now his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has followed suit.
On a conservative talk show Tuesday, Sessions said he was “amazed” that a judge on “an island in the Pacific” could block President Trump’s executive order banning travel from six majority-Muslim countries.
The “island” Sessions is referring to is the state of Hawaii, and the judge is Derrick K. Watson, the federal judge in the state who issued a ruling last month that temporarily blocked the second version of Trump’s executive order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries.
Here’s what Sessions said on “The Mark Levin Show”:
“We are confident that the president will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the 9th Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”
Naturally, residents of Hawaii— an archipelago of islands, of which one is an island also named Hawaii — weren’t happy about Sessions’ slight.
Hawaii’s attorney general’s office on Thursday night tweeted out a photo of the act that established Hawaii as a state in 1959, along with the hashtag #Islandinthepacific.
— Hawaii AG (@AtghIgov) April 21, 2017
In a statement Thursday, state Attorney General Doug Chin also said it was “disappointing” that Sessions doesn’t believe in the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution.
Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono called Sessions’ remarks “ignorant and dangerous,” while Sen. Brian Schatz politely reminded Sessions that he had voted to approve Watson’s nomination to the court.
Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences- including my own. Jeff Sessions’ comments are ignorant & dangerous
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 20, 2017
Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect. https://t.co/sW9z3vqBqG
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017
Ian Pryor, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, told the New York Times via email:
“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the attorney general’s granddaughter was born. The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the president’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”
You can listen to the full conversation between Sessions and Levin here.
Day 91 April 20
EPA chief Scott Pruitt can’t stop helping the oil and gas industry
Scott Pruitt may head the Environmental Protection Agency, but he has a long and unusually cozy relationship with oil and gas companies. And Pruitt’s latest move suggests it’s not changing any time soon.
In a letter Wednesday, Pruitt informed energy industry leaders that thanks to their petition against an Obama-era rule regulating methane emissions from oil and gas wells, the EPA would stay the rule for 90 days. During that time, the regulation — meant to help curb the effects of climate change — would be “reconsidered,” freeing energy companies from having to comply with it.
It’s the natural extension of President Donald Trump’s executive order “Promoting Energy Independent and Economic Growth,” signed last month, asking the EPA to review this methane rule, among others. But ironically, critics have pointed to this methane rule as proof of Pruitt’s warm friendship with the oil and gas industry before: In 2013, while Pruitt was still Oklahoma’s attorney general, one of his deputies sent an Oklahoma-based oil and natural gas company a letter challenging the rule. Pruitt planned to send the letter to the EPA, the deputy explained, and the deputy wanted the company’s input.
Within hours, the company sent back an edited version of the letter. And just a day later, Pruitt sent that letter — without making a single change.
Day 91 April 20
The judge Trump called biased over his “Mexican heritage” will hear first deported Dreamer case
The federal judge Donald Trump once attacked for his “Mexican heritage” will preside over a lawsuit brought by the first “Dreamer” the Trump administration allegedly deported … back to Mexico.
During Trump’s campaign, District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard civil lawsuits against the president’s now defunct for-profit education company, Trump University. But Trump said he didn’t trust Curiel, who was born in Indiana, to rule impartially because of his “Mexican heritage.”
Even after politicians on both sides of the aisle denounced those sentiments as racist, Trump issued a statement doubling down on his concerns.
“Given my unique circumstances as nominee of the Republican Party and the core issues of my campaign that focus on illegal immigration, jobs, and unfair trade, I have concerns as to my ability to receive a fair trial,” the statement read.
In an ironic twist, Curiel’s court has been assigned the case of Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old resident of California who came to the U.S. when he was 9. Montes claims the current administration deported him to Mexico — and he doesn’t know why. Under the protections granted to him through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers temporary status to qualifying undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Montes thought he could live and work in the U.S. without fear.
Trump has a history of criticizing the judiciary, and Montes’ case won’t be the first time the administration argues its case in front of a judge the president previously criticized.
After federal judge James Robart temporarily halted Trump’s first immigration executive order attempting to block travel to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries, the president called the “so-called” judge’s opinion “ridiculous.” A little over a month later, Trump’s second attempt at the order was back in Robart’s Washington state courtroom.
Day 90 April 19
Trump raised over $100 million for his inauguration from corporations and the 1 percent
President Trump raised $106.7 million for his inaugural festivities, more than doubling the previous record of $53 million set by President Obama in 2009, according to Federal Election Commission reports released Tuesday.
The eye-popping nine-figure total came from a mix of corporate and individual donors, including five NFL team owners. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson gave $5 million, the biggest donation to an inaugural committee in history. Some of the other big donors included:
- Boeing: $1,000,000
- Quicken Loans: $750,000
- Citgo Petroleum Corp.: $500,000
- Microsoft: $500,000
- Google: $250,000
- Pepsi: $250,000
- Ford: $250,000
But Trump hosted only three inaugural balls, while his predecessor threw 10.
The flush inaugural committee also stands in stark contrast to Trump’s inaugural address where he castigated the Washington political establishment for fleecing the American people. “And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land,” he said and pledged “[t]hat all changes starting right here and right now.”
Trump’s committee says it’s in the process of identifying charities to receive the leftover funds, but did not say how much money remains. “The amount of funds raised for the inaugural celebration allowed the President to give the American people, those both at home and visiting Washington, a chance to experience the incredible moment in our democracy where we witness the peaceful transition of power, a cornerstone of American democracy,” the committee’s chairman, Tom Barrack, said in a statement.
Day 89 April 18
The White House didn’t send an aircraft carrier to North Korea last week after all
Last week, as fears over possible North Korean missile tests reached a fever pitch, the White House announced that an aircraft carrier had been deployed to the Sea of Japan to try to defuse escalating tensions in the area.
There was just one small problem with that announcement. On Saturday, that aircraft carrier was photographed passing through the Sunda Strait — thousands of miles away from North Korea — because it was never headed there in the first place.
The carrier was actually on its way to take part in exercises in the Indian Ocean, the New York Times reported Tuesday, even though White House officials like Press Secretary Sean Spicer had previously said its mission was in the Sea of Japan.
“The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent. But it does a lot of things,” Spicer said in a briefing last week, when asked about the decision to send the carrier to North Korea. “We have the strategic capabilities, and it gives the president options in the region.”
But apparently, the president never had those options. Instead, “a glitch-ridden sequence of events” within the White House and Defense Department confused administration officials and led people like Spicer, Defense Secretary Jim Matthis, and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster to give inaccurate explanations and answer questions about a military action that wasn’t actually happening.
The carrier has reportedly now changed direction and will arrive near the Korean Peninsula next week.
Day 89 April 18
Ivanka Trump landed 3 Chinese trademarks the same day she dined with President Xi
On the day Donald Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping for dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Ivanka Trump got some great news. The Chinese government awarded her company provisional approval for three trademarks, the Associated Press reported, allowing her to sell her line of clothes, handbags, and jewelry exclusively in China, the world’s second-largest economy.
The award of the provisional patents highlights the inherent conflicts between Ivanka’s role as an advisor to the president and that as owner of Ivanka Trump Marks LLC. And despite Nordstrom’s public dumping of Ivanka’s brand and T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Kmart scaling back her products, business is booming. Partly driving the profits are sales in — you guessed it — China, which shot up 166 percent last year, according to the AP.
Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has more than 180 pending and registered trademarks in countries like China, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Israel, Canada, and Saudi Arabia, ABC News reported. She’s apparently taking after he father, who, in the past decade, has filed 126 trademarks applications in China, according to government data obtained by the Washington Post.
“Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy,” Norman Eisen, Barack Obama’s chief ethics lawyer told ABC News. “For their own sake and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.”
Yet Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner — both advisors to the president — attended the dinner on April 6, the one at which the president later informed Xi that the U.S. had unleashed 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base.
Trump congratulates Turkish President Erdoǧan after his controversial power grab
World leaders watched the results of a Turkish referendum come in on Sunday with dismay. After his proposals passed by the very narrow margin of 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent, President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan will gain sweeping new powers. Independent monitors have responded with skepticism, international leaders have urged caution, and the opposition party has alleged vote-rigging and demanded the entire vote to be annulled.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s reaction was a little different.
In a pre-arranged call Monday, Trump congratulated Erdoǧan on the successful outcome of a referendum, which replaces the country’s parliamentary system with a presidential one and abolishes the role of the prime minister. It means that if Erdoǧan is re-elected in elections set for November 2019, he could remain in power until 2029 — and with substantially greater powers.
Trump joins a select group of international leaders to publicly offer their congratulations, including the leaders of Qatar, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.
Trump’s decision to publicly congratulate the Turkish president is strange for a number of reasons. Not only is the simple fact of congratulating Erdoǧan on a referendum victory — not an election — strange, it stands in stark contrast with most other world leaders. Many have remained silent, but those that have have spoken out have urged caution following the result.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the outcome “shows how deeply split Turkish society is,” adding that she expects Erdoǧan “to seek respectful dialogue” with all opposition parties. Indeed the U.S. State Department’s own statement urged Erdoǧan to work with opposition parties, and noted “irregularities on voting day and an uneven playing field during the difficult campaign period.”
Trump’s congratulatory call came as the main opposition parties rejected the result and called for it to be annulled, with questions surrounding 3 million unstamped ballots. In a preliminary report published Monday, the International Referendum Observation Mission said “fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed.”
Day 85 April 14
Trump picked a campaign supporter with no military experience to run the U.S. draft agency
Remember Don Benton, the Washington state senator with a dubious background who backed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign early-on and served on the “landing team” to manage the transition at the EPA? Well, the president found him a full-time job as head of the Selective Service System, an independent agency that keeps track of military-aged men and runs the contingency plan for the draft. Benton was sworn in to the job on Thursday.
One problem: Benton never served in the military and has no professional military experience whatsoever. Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer for George H.W. Bush, thinks that’s a bad idea. “We need to convince young men to register for the draft, and to step up if they’re needed to fight,” he told the Huffington Post. “And who is it who’s asking them to do that? Someone who’s never served, and for whom this is a throwaway political patronage job.”
Trump — who has no military experience either — also faced criticism for appointing a non-veteran, David Shulkin, to run the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For Benton, the natural place seems like the EPA, since he served on the transition team there and has some experience, at least on paper, with hazardous waste removal. But Benton was such an infuriating presence within the agency that Trump’s eventual EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, started locking him out of policy meetings, according to the Washington Post.
Trump misses the deadline for the “full report” he promised on Russia’s alleged blackmail
The Intercept points out it’s been 90 days since the infamous dossier dropped, which alleged Russia had blackmail on Trump, including allegations of sexual escapades and financial dealings.
Trump, however, called the allegations “phony” and promised “a full report on hacking in 90 days.” So, where is it? A White House spokesman hung up on The Intercept when it asked.
Day 84 April 13
Trump flip-flopped on so many issues in one week we can’t fit them all in this headline
Donald Trump is gunning for a new title: the King of Flip-Flopping. Over the past few days, he’s reversed course on at least a half-dozen policy positions, including some of his most popular applause lines from the campaign trail.
The NATO alliance
Throughout Trump’s campaign: The 68-year-old military alliance is “obsolete” and member governments, especially Germany, don’t pay their fair shares.
April 13, 2017: In a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump did a full 180, calling NATO “no longer obsolete,” a “bulwark of international peace and security,” and a “great alliance.”
Relations with Russia
Throughout his campaign: Let’s be better friends.
April 13, 2017: U.S.-Russia relations may be at “an all-time low,” Trump said during the press conference with Stoltenberg.
Support for the Export-Import Bank
During his campaign: The bank benefits only a few companies, and the U.S. would “do well without it.”
April 12, 2017: Trump wants to fill two vacancies on the bank’s five-member board, which has been at a standstill for more than year. “It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped, the vendor companies,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
China as a currency manipulator
On Trump’s campaign website right now: “I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.”
April 12, 2017: In a report set to drop later this week, Trump said his administration won’t label China a currency manipulator.
Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve
April 12, 2017: Trump said he just might keep Yellen as head of the Fed. “I do like a low-interest-rate policy, I must be honest with you,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. involvement in Syria
What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria,fix U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
April 6, 2017: Trump ordered an airstrike on the Syrian air base that launched a chemical attack on Syrian civilians earlier in the week.
Day 83 April 12
Trump’s first Easter Egg Roll is apparently going to be a disaster
Thousands of people could be gravely disappointed when they attend the 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday.
First of all, Melania Trump didn’t order the eggs in February like she was supposed to, The New York Times reported. (The first lady typically plans this annual extravaganza.) The usual manufacturer even tweeted a reminder to her, but it went ignored until early March. And the White House only ordered 40,000 — less than half of the 85,000 ordered in 2016, Lara Kline, vice president for marketing and communications at the White House Historical Association, told the Times.
Instead of A-list artists like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, who performed at previous Easter Egg Rolls, this year’s crowd (expected to be smaller than the previous 35,000, Melania’s new communications director told the Times) might be listening to a military band. And there may be a lot fewer volunteers on hand to guide the festivities due to gridlock finalizing appointments within the Trump administration.
Other deviations from the grand celebration of years past include:
- Several area schools that usually receive a combined 4,000 tickets haven’t heard from the White House yet. While Melania’s communications director confirmed tickets had been set aside, she couldn’t say how many.
- After receiving late notice of the event, PBS, which usually floods the Easter Egg Roll with characters, is only sending one.
- No one told the White House yogi, who coordinated the Yoga Garden for all eight of President Barack Obama’s Easter Egg Rolls.
We have the same question as Esquire: Honestly, how do you fuck up an Easter Egg Roll?
Trump discussed his “beautiful piece of chocolate cake” during an interview about Syria
President Donald Trump has failed to articulate a clear way forward in Syria after last week’s surprise launch of 59 cruise missiles on Bashar Assad’s regime air base. But he’s crystal clear on the details of what he ate while ordering the strikes.
During a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, which at times exhibited the breeziness of a brunch-time chat, Trump regaled the TV host about what it was like to order the strikes on Syria while eating dessert with President Xi Jinping of China.
“We had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you had ever seen, and President Xi was enjoying it,” Trump told a visibly giddy Bartiromo. “And I was given the message from the generals that ‘the ships are locked and loaded — what do we do?’”
“And we made a determination to do it,” Trump said.
The president went on to explain how he broke the news to Xi, how the President of China took it, and just how “brilliant,” “so incredible,” and “genius” U.S. military technology is today.
Trump also mistakenly said the strikes hit Iraq, but Bartiromo quickly helped him out.
“Heading toward Syria,” she said.
“Yes, heading toward Syria,” Trump said.
Why it’s not normal:
Just watch the video below.
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) April 12, 2017
Melania Trump wants everyone to know she was a model — just a model — when she met Donald
First Lady Melania Trump was a model and just a model, she’ll have you know, when she met Donald Trump. The First Lady settled a libel suit with The Daily Mail, forcing it to apologize for reporting that she “provided services beyond simply modeling,” and agreed to pay damages and costs of nearly $3 million, according to the Associated Press.
The story also alleged Melania actually may have met Donald three years earlier and staged their actual meeting as a “ruse.” “We accept that these allegations about Mrs. Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them,” the paper wrote.
Trump had sued the paper for $150 million, arguing that it had damaged her “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to turn her celebrity into “multi-million dollar business relationships.” That claim raised eyebrows of critics who say that any attempt to trade on her position as First Lady risks violating the Foreign Emoluments clause of the Constitution which prohibits those holding public office from receiving compensation or gifts from foreign parties.
In February, Mrs.Trump also settled another lawsuit against a blogger in Maryland who also reported that the First Lady has previously served as an escort.
Day 82 April 11
The FBI got a warrant to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page
The FBI obtained a secret warrant to surveil the communications of a Trump campaign adviser during the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Last summer, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court judge granted the FBI and the Justice Department a warrant, ruling that the investigators had shown sufficient evidence to show that Trump adviser Carter Page may have been acting as an agent of Russia, anonymous officials told the Washington Post. Page, who Trump singled out by name in a March 2016 interview as one of his foreign policy advisers, was first named in January as one of multiple Trump associates under investigation by law enforcement.
Page has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong, and he has not been charged with any crimes.
The 90-day warrant for Page’s communications, the application for which had to be signed off on by top FBI and Justice Department officials, was also renewed more than once by the court, officials told the Washington Post.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed last month that the bureau was investigating whether Russian interfered in the election and whether any members of the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians. Page is far from Trump’s only associate who has been allegedly linked to Russia — Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Jeff Sessions have all faced scrutiny for their Russian connections.
Day 82 April 11
Palm Beach is sick of paying for Trump’s visits, so it may make Mar-a-Lago a separate tax district
President Donald Trump’s regular jaunts to his Mar-a-Lago resort — his so-called Winter White House — are hitting Palm Beach County hard in the pocketbook, and taxpayers there have had enough.
Palm Beach County officials, like Commissioner Dave Kerner, are considering turning the 11,000-square-foot Florida complex into its own special tax district that would pay a levy to cover Trump’s security costs, the Orlando Sentinel reported. So far, Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago have cost an estimated $20 million, CNN reported. That sets Trump up to surpass, in just his first year as president, all four years of Obama’s travel expenses.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told the Sentinel that the county has spent nearly $2 million since January on beefed-up security for Trump during his six visits there since taking office 12 weeks ago. Bradshaw noted the county had to spend $250,000 just to cover security for Trump’s recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
What’s more, the sprawling luxury property gets a tax break because it’s registered as a club rather than a hotel.
When Bradshaw spoke with Trump in February, the president reportedly assured him that the federal government would pay Palm Beach County back, Bradshaw told the Sentinel. But he doesn’t know whether to take Trump’s word for it.
Eric Trump calls nepotism a “beautiful thing”
At the very least, Donald Trump looks like he’s playing favorites by giving his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner roles in the White House, despite their lack of the usual credentials. The president might even be violating anti-nepotism laws.
In a new interview with the Telegraph, however, Trump’s son Eric, who now co-runs the Trump Organization, all but confirmed the president’s motivations for giving power to his family, whether in the Oval Office or in the business world.
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) April 11, 2017
Day 81April 10
Betsy DeVos doesn’t think numbers are important
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has a history of either failing to understand or ignoring topics that pertain to her job. Now we can add “numbers” to the list.
A staunch proponent of unregulated school choice, DeVos said at a recent public forum that she wants her record in office graded on expansion of those policies rather than on the academic outcomes, according to the Washington Post. “I’m not a numbers person,” she said.
While school choice gets support across the political aisle, the best way to determine its success and effectiveness would be hard data. That’s how lawmakers have historically determined education policy.
For example, the divisive No Child Left Behind Act — a portion of the larger Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which authorizes federal spending on K-12 schooling — requires that schools test various grade levels in math, reading, and science to ensure “proficiency,” which marks when a student has reached a specific benchmark, like a third-grade reading level.
But at her confirmation hearing, DeVos didn’t seem to understand a basic tenet of the debate over No Child Left Behind: the difference between using test scores as a measure of proficiency and using them as a measure of growth, indicating a student’s progress over time. Sen. Al Franken, who asked for her thoughts on the issue, had to explain the concepts to her.
Instead of following the numbers, DeVos would apparently rather spew soundbites — like comparing school choice to taking an Uber instead of a taxi — that suggest the education market behaves like the traditional business one. It doesn’t.
Day 78 April 7
Trump just settled yet another lawsuit even though he “never settles”
Despite President Donald Trump’s declaration that he never settles lawsuits, his namesake organization did just that Friday. Again.
In 2015, Spanish-born chef José Andrés pulled out of a lease to open a restaurant in the Washington, D.C.–based Trump International Hotel after the then-candidate called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers. In return, Trump sued him. Now, two years later, Andrés and the Trump Organization have settled.
Though Trump declared “I don’t settle cases” in a March 2016 presidential debate, this is far from the first time he’s settled a lawsuit. In 1973, Trump and the Department of Justice reached a settlement over the department’s claims that Trump Management Inc. discriminated against renters of color. More recently, in November 2016, Trump paid out $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits against Trump University.
At the time, he took to Twitter to explain he settled that case only because being president was taking so much of his time.
The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
Though Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. now run the Trump Organization, Trump remains its owner. The terms of the settlement between Andrés and the organization were not made public.
Day 77 April 6
Jared Kushner didn’t tell the FBI about those times he met with the Russians
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser failed to mention dozens of his recent contacts with foreign government officials in his paperwork for top-secret security clearance.
When people seek clearance, they must fill out an intensive FBI questionnaire detailing any and all encounters with foreign officials dating back seven years, according to the New York Times. But Kushner, who has met with the Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak and the chief of a Russian state-owned bank, didn’t describe those encounters — or several others — in his paperwork.
If the government decides that Kushner didn’t merely make a mistake but actually was “withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying information,” he may be denied access to classified information or eligibility for positions. He may also face felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison. While prosecutions are rare, they’re not unheard-of.
His lawyer told the New York Times that his questionnaire had been submitted prematurely, and that Kushner would provide more information when the FBI interviewed him. That has yet to happen.
Day 77 April 6
Trump, without evidence, says he thinks Susan Rice committed a crime
President Donald Trump called a woman who has not been convicted of a crime a likely criminal on Wednesday, declining to provide any evidence — despite repeated requests.
Trump’s comments about President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice were likely in reference to reports this week from Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake and some conservative commentators that Rice had requested the “unmasking” of Trump associates in intelligence reports during the presidential transition last winter.
Names of American citizens not under surveillance are typically hidden in intelligence reports but some national security officials in the federal government are legally allowed to unmask people if there is a legitimate security rationale. Rice did not confirm or deny if she unmasked any names of Trump associates in an interview with MSNBC earlier this week. She said she had unmasked names in her role as NSA but “absolutely not for any political purpose, to spy, expose, anything.”
Rice has long been a favorite target of the right following her misleading statements on the Benghazi attacks in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. Her reemergence this week allowed Republicans to deflect attention away from the questions surrounding Trump’s connections to Russia during last year’s presidential election and instead focus on President Trump’s as-yet unproven claims that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Here is a partial exchange from the Times interview.
THRUSH: One last thing on that. Have you actually seen intelligence that leads you to believe that people other than Susan Rice are involved.
TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on anything about — other than to say I think it’s a — I think it’s truly one of the big stories of our time.
THRUSH: Do you think she might have committed a crime?
TRUMP: Do I think?
TRUMP: Yes, I think.
Day 76 April 5
Kushner’s newest White House hire specializes in promoting horror movies
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner found someone with experience peddling fear to Americans to work in the White House — he just hired Josh Raffel, a publicist for a horror production house.
Raffel previously headed communications for Blumhouse Productions, the company behind horror films like The Purge, Paranormal Activity, and Get Out. His new federal gig is a position on Kushner’s so-called “SWAT team” of strategic consultants, called the White House Office of American Innovation, which aims to infuse government operations with business world ideas.
Raffel’s history with Kushner might help explain how he got his new gig — he previously represented Kushner’s family company while working for Hiltzik Strategies, a communications and consulting film.
Still, though the hire is somewhat ironic, Raffel is definitely familiar with the Trump administration’s ethos — his firm even used the slogan “Keep America Great” to promote the Purge sequel, “Election Year”.
Day 75 April 4
Trump calls Syrian chemical weapons attack a “consequence” of Obama’s “weakness”
President Donald Trump lashed out at Barack Obama Tuesday, saying his policies led to a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria.
“These heinous acts are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said in a statement put out by the White House.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is believed responsible for the attack, which reportedly killed at least 70 people, including 11 children. But President Donald Trump saved his sharpest barb for Obama.
“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Trump said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also weighed in, saying Iran and Russia bore “great moral responsibility” for the attack and calling on them to curb the Syrian dictator in the future. In their statements, neither Trump nor Tillerson left any doubt as to who they believed was behind the chemical attack, condemning Assad by name.
Trump’s latest attack on Obama comes at a time when U.S. officials are signaling a softening in their opposition to the brutal Syrian dictator and the U.S. military is shifting its priorities toward its war against ISIS.
When Obama made his controversial 2013 “red line” decision not to intervene in Syria’s civil war, Trump tweeted “Don’t attack Syria — an attack that will bring nothing but trouble for the U.S.”
Betsy DeVos’ brother tried to set up a line of communication between Trump and Putin
Blackwater founder Erik Prince secretly met with “a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin” in January as part of an attempt to establish a back channel for the Trump administration, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Prince reportedly met with the man — who was not identified — in the Seychelles Islands on Jan. 11, nine days before Trump took office. The meeting was said to be arranged by the United Arab Emirates as part of an effort to convince Russia to move away from its support of Iran.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” Barry Faure, the Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs, told the Washington Post. “The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”
U.S. officials tell the paper they are looking at the meeting as part of a counterintelligence investigation into the relationship between Trump’s administration and Russia.
Though Prince was never formally employed by the Trump administration, he donated a quarter of a million dollars to the campaign, met repeatedly with Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, and spent time at Trump Tower during the campaign. Officials describe him as playing a “direct role” in the administration despite his lack of a formal title.
He’s also the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
Both Prince and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report Monday.
“Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called underresourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?” a spokesperson told the Post.
Day 74 April 3
Trump donates $78K salary while still forcing taxpayers to pay millions for his golf trips
Good news and bad news for taxpayers: President Trump donated his presidential salary to the government, but he also declined to reimburse it for his expensive habits — weekend trips to his Florida Mar-a-Lago club and Secret Service protection to enable his wife and son to live in Trump Tower in New York.
While on the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised to donate his salary, claiming that because he was wealthy he didn’t need to take “even one dollar” from taxpayers. And during a Monday briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer made good on the president’s promise by handing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a check for $78,333.32, Trump’s quarterly salary.
The journalists on hand were evidently less than satisfied with the giveaway, asking Spicer about calls from officials for Trump to pay out of pocket for visiting Mar-a-Lago and protecting Trump Tower. Each of Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago costs about $3 million, CBS found, and as of late March, Trump had visited Mar-a-Lago 17 times since taking office.
Spicer reminded reporters that not only had Trump just donated his salary, he’d also graciously given up his day job as a businessman to run the country. “At what point does he do enough?” Spicer asked.
Why it’s not normal:
Trump isn’t the first president to donate his salary — John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover also gave away theirs. But Trump has changed his story about his salary, a lot. Last month, when reporters pointed out that Trump had yet to donate it, Spicer said that the president planned to give it away at the end of the year and would allow reporters to choose a cause. No explanation was given for Trump’s apparent change of heart.
Meanwhile, Trump’s vacation costs are extraordinary. Barack Obama’s vacations cost taxpayers only $3.5 million each year. Just two months into Trump’s presidency, the Secret Service has asked for an additional $60 million for costs partially related to covering the Trump family’s unique lifestyle.
Trump’s son-in-law is now overseeing America’s fight against ISIS
President Donald Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a busy man on the world stage. He’s the president’s point man on peace in the Middle East, a back-channel negotiator with the Chinese, and a “shadow diplomat” in navigating the contentious U.S.-Mexico relationship. (That’s when he’s not reinventing the entire U.S. government through his newly created Office of American Innovation.)
And on Monday, he arrived in Iraq — something Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has yet to do — to help oversee the fight against ISIS, meet Iraqi leaders, and greet American troops at the invitation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.
Kushner’s increasingly prominent role in some of the world’s most delicate and intractable problems suggests that Trump is concentrating authority inside the White House rather than delegating it to Tillerson and the State Department. Diplomats are reportedly turning to Kushner to relay messages to the White House, knowing that he has Trump’s ear and, by virtue of being married to Ivanka Trump, is likely to be around for a while.
In addition to his informal role as one of America’s chief diplomats, Kushner has also been tasked with helping to solve the opioid epidemic, reform the criminal justice system, and reorganize the federal government to run more like a business.
Why it’s not normal:
Some presidents have opted to run foreign policy out of the White House rather than the State Department — most famously with President Nixon and Henry Kissinger — but it’s not normal to entrust so many sensitive diplomatic tasks to a son-in-law with no government experience. It is also not normal for that same son-in-law to simultaneously be put in charge of some of the country’s most pressing domestic issues.
President Trump changes trust to access cash
The legal arrangement that President Trump said would limit his personal connections to his business empire was changed to allow the president to take money out of the trust whenever he wants.
The trust was already seen as a completely insufficient substitute for the president selling off his business interests. That would be the only way for Trump to reasonably avoid conflicts of interest, according to bipartisan ethics experts.
But the latest change, which ProPublica reporters found on page 161 of a legal agreement signed by Donald Trump Jr. on Feb. 10, would allow the president to personally profit from business activities while in office. This comes despite the statement from Trump’s lawyer at a January press conference — with Trump looking on — that he was “completely isolating himself from his business interests.”
Day 72 April 1
The happy White House couple could still profit from $740 million real estate empire
Jared Kushner and Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka both have official roles in the White House. They also happen to be married. And a new financial disclosure report could put them on shaky legal ground, multiple experts told the New York Times.
Despite promising to divest from their businesses and abide by all ethics rules, Kushner and Ivanka still stand to benefit from a real estate empire worth as much as $740 million, according to the report released Friday. Ivanka maintains holdings in the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and Kushner, who resigned from over 200 positions at the limited liability corporations and partnerships that make up the multibillion-dollar family empire, could still see money from most of those entities, the report revealed.
Last week, Ivanka’s unprecedented and unofficial advisory role — complete with a White House office — turned into an official, albeit unpaid, job. Although she promised to abide by all ethics rules in her unofficial role, an official position legally holds her to ethics standards. And Kushner, who previously served as an adviser from the president, will head the new White House Office of American Innovation.
The report, released by the White House late Friday, showed the wealth and assets of as many as 180 senior officials, including former pollster and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, former Breitbart executive and chief strategist Steve Bannon, and former Goldman Sachs chief operating officer and head of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn. Their financial holdings have already raised questions and prove the difficulty of tracking the Trump administration’s conflicts of interest.
But some Trump administration officials — like former ExxonMobil CEO and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — agreed to divest when taking their positions. Tillerson liquidated all of his assets and ownership stake in Exxon before taking on his Cabinet role.
With a combined net worth of $12 billion, according to Bloomberg, Trump’s Cabinet is the wealthiest in history.
Gabrielle Bluestone, Morgan Conley, Alex Lubben, Louisa Oreskes, Matt Phillips, Carter Sherman, Christina Sterbenz, and Alex Thompson contributed to these reports.