Tuesday ReadsPosted: May 2, 2017
Today is a big day for Trump. He’ll be talking on the phone to his idol Vladimir Putin. He must be on pins and needles. I can just imagine his inner dialogue: “I wonder if he likes me? I think he likes me. He’s such a strong leader! And he’s so dreamy!” Politico:
Trump is scheduled to speak to Putin at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Oval Office, according to the daily guidance email sent late Monday evening by the White House. The two men spoke most recently a month ago following a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Leaders from both nations have conceded that U.S.-Russia relations, which Trump had suggested that he might be able to revive, have in fact sunk to low levels not seen since the Cold War.
But Trump is the master of “the art of the deal,” so I’m sure he’ll fix those problems “very quickly.”
From Axios, a summary of the Wall Street Journal article today (behind the paywall) on Jared Kushner’s latest ethics problems:
Jared Kushner failed to specify his part-ownership of Cadre, a real estate startup also backed by Goldman Sachs, George Soros, Peter Thiel, and Vinod Khosla, as well as debt consolidation loans bad credit direct lender adding up to at least $1 billion from multiple big banks, per the WSJ‘s review of government financial disclosure forms….
One visible example: Kushner has been tapped to head the American Technology Council, whose participants may very well include Thiel or Khosla-backed companies.
Ivanka has problems too, according to Huffington Post: Ethics office says it wasn’t consulted about Ivanka Trump job.
The New York Times and Politico reported March 20 that the president’s older daughter was working out of a West Wing office. A White House official told CNN that she would get a security clearance but would not be considered a government employee.The next day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer assured reporters that Ivanka Trump would follow the ethics restrictions that apply to federal employees. He said she was acting “in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics.”
But the ethics office, in a letter made public Monday, said it was not consulted. Director Walter Shaub said he reached out to the White House and to Ivanka Trump’s lawyer on March 24 to tell them that Ivanka Trump should be considered a federal employee, subject to those rules….
The rules require Ivanka Trump to disclose her financial holdings and either sell assets or recuse herself from matters in which she has a financial interest.
Shaub gave his account in a letter to Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tom Carper of Delaware, who had asked him about the ethics rules for Ivanka Trump’s White House job.
More details at HuffPo.
Meanwhile The New York Times is refashioning itself as a Trump propaganda site with today’s loving profile of Ivanka. The piece begins with a description of Ivanka’s failed effort to get her father to apologize for his bragging about sexual assault on the “Access Hollywood” tape.
Ivanka Trump made an emphatic case for a full-throated apology, according to several people who were present for the crisis discussion that unfolded in Mr. Trump’s 26th-floor office. Raised amid a swirl of tabloid headlines, she had spent her adult life branding herself as her father’s poised, family-focused daughter. She marketed her clothing line with slogans about female empowerment and was finishing a book on the topic. As she spoke, Mr. Trump remained unyielding. His daughter’s eyes welled with tears, her face reddened, and she hurried out in frustration.
I guess she’s not that successful at “softening” him. On her White House role thus far:
The two trade thoughts from morning until late at night, according to aides. Even though she has no government or policy experience, she plans to review some executive orders before they are signed, according to White House officials. She calls cabinet officials on issues she is interested in, recently asking the United Nations ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, about getting humanitarian aid into Syria. She set up a weekly meeting with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary.
In interviews last week, she said she intended to act as a moderating force in an administration swept into office by nationalist sentiment. Other officials added that she had weighed in on topics including climate, deportation, education and refugee policy….
Ms. Trump, 35, a former model, entrepreneur and hotel developer, says she will focus on gender inequality in the United States and abroad, by aiming to create a federal paid leave program, more affordable child care and a global fund for women who are entrepreneurs, among other efforts. Her interest in gender issues grew out of a “Women Who Work” hashtag and marketing campaign she devised a few years ago to help sell $99 pumps and $150 dresses. On Tuesday, the career advice book she worked on before the election, whose title echoes her hashtag, will be published.
By inserting herself into a scalding set of gender dynamics, she is becoming a proxy for dashed dreams of a female presidency and the debate about President Trump’s record of conduct toward women and his views on them.
Oh really? I certainly don’t see her as a “proxy” for Hillary. WTF?! The Times also seems to call into question what Planned Parenthood funding does (emphasis added):
…recently, with congressional Republicans threatening to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood (even though the women’s health organization says it receives no federal funding for abortions), Ms. Trump approached its president, Cecile Richards, to start a broader dialogue. She also had a proposal: Planned Parenthood should split in two, Ms. Trump suggested, with a smaller arm to provide abortions and a larger one devoted to women’s health services.
White House officials said Ms. Trump was trying to find a common-sense solution amid the roar of abortion politics. But Planned Parenthood officials said they thought Ms. Trump’s advice was naïve, failing to understand how central reproductive choice was to the group’s mission. Ms. Richards sharply criticized Ms. Trump for not publicly objecting to the Republican health care bill that failed in March, and Ms. Trump felt stung.
Tough shit. Toughen up Ivanka. You wanted the job, now do it. And why is the Times suggesting that Planned Parenthood might be lying about how it uses federal funds?
The White House is still cleaning up from Trump’s “dizzying day of interviews” yesterday. Politico:
President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War— which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the “right circumstances.”
The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was “looking at” breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.
And Monday still had nine hours to go.
“It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. “It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president.”
The interviews — published by Bloomberg, Face the Nation and the SiriusXM radio network — seemed timed to the president’s 100-day mark but contained a dizzying amount of news, even for a president who often makes news in stream-of-consciousness comments. Trump’s advisers have at times tried to curb his media appearances, worried he will step on his message. “They were not helpful to us,” one senior administration official said. “There was no point to do all of them.”
It’s frightening that no one can control him, even his loyal daughter and son-in-law.
More from Politico on the Civil War question: Historians see a dark underside to Trump’s Civil War riff.
The president’s comments on Monday struck some historians as darker than a history goof, with the president seeming to minimize the painful history of slavery in the United States and to talk up Jackson’s role as a strongman leader who proudly owned many slaves.
“It’s the kind of comment that will get applause from neo-Confederate circles in the South,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University.
Confederate flags were a common sight at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign, and monuments to Confederate leaders are common in Southern states.
Some in Trump’s circle, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, have sought to liken Trump to Jackson, a populist. In March, Trump visited Jackson’s gravesite in Nashville, Tennessee, where he declared himself “a fan.”
“Steve Bannon has made Jackson the epitome of the hardscrabble, American folk hero,” added Brinkley. “And Trump has bought into Steve Bannon’s version of Andrew Jackson.” ….
“What I saw in that comment was his belief, his attraction to a kind of strongman history,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “It’s so completely out of any knowledge or context to suggest that somehow Jackson would have headed off the Civil War.”
Here’s a bit of positive news: Michael Slager, Ex-Cop Who Shot Walter Scott, to Plead Guilty in Civil Rights Case.
A white former South Carolina police officer will plead guilty Tuesday in a federal civil rights case over the fatal shooting of unarmed black motorist Walter Scott, two attorneys close to the case told NBC News.
The state of South Carolina, meanwhile, will drop a pending murder charge against Michael Slager, who was fired after cellphone footage of Scott’s killing went viral. Slager’s first murder trial ended last December in a hung jury.
Slager, 35, has claimed he pulled over Scott on April 4, 2015, due to a broken taillight. The incident escalated, he has claimed, when Scott, 50, wrestled away his Taser and fled. The cellphone video, recorded by a bystander, shows Slager shooting Scott in the back while he was running away.
The defense in Slager’s first trial claimed the former North Charleston police department patrolman feared for his life and fired in self-defense.
Slager’s federal trial was set to begin on May 15, and jury selection was slated to begin May 9. A federal judge in March ruled that jurors in Slager’s federal trial would be allowed to view the video.
I’ll put a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?