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Image: President Trump Holds Make America Great Again Rally In Pennsylvania

What Trump's McCain snub tells us about his character

08/14/18 08:00AM

Donald Trump seems to enjoy headlining campaign rallies, and nearly all of his recent events have one thing in common: the Republican president sets aside time to whine about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Just from the last couple of months, there's video evidence here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Yesterday, however, Trump had an opportunity to be gracious toward the ailing GOP senator of his own party. He just couldn't bring himself to do it.

Congress wanted to honor the ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. President Donald Trump did not.

In extended remarks during a visit to Fort Drum in upstate New York to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 -- this year's version of an annual bill that sets defense policy -- Trump chose not to mention the former prisoner of war and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who is battling brain cancer. He even omitted McCain's name when citing the title of the bill.

It would have been easy for Trump to show some class. He could've at least acknowledged the name of the legislation, which honored McCain and his priorities. It would've taken very little effort for the president to mention the Republican senator in some perfunctory way.

But, no. Trump made no reference to McCain while signing the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

Yes, the two men have been foes. Yes, they've been publicly critical of one another, as Trump's mockery of McCain's military service helped demonstrate.

But part of being president is being gracious. After McCain and Barack Obama waged a fairly aggressive campaign against one another in 2008, the Democratic president repeatedly offered public praise for his former rival, which is exactly what one would expect of a leader with dignity.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 8.13.18

08/13/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The fourth judge to endorse the legitimacy of Mueller's investigation: "A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump ruled Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller's probe is constitutional and legitimate, rejecting an effort by a Russian company -- accused of financing a massive political influence operation in the United States -- to stamp out the ongoing investigation."

* Speaking of legal proceedings, prosecutors targeting Paul Manafort rested their case late this afternoon.

* This story can, and probably will, get worse: "Jilted ex-'Apprentice' star and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has told friends and associates that she has tapes of private phone calls from first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, according to two sources with whom she has discussed the recording."

* Erdogan's monetary crisis: "Turkey's currency fell to another record low on Monday, hitting stocks in Europe and Asia and raising fears that the country is on the verge of an economic meltdown that could spread to other emerging markets."

* A wild story out of West Virginia: "West Virginia's House of Delegates voted to impeach two of the four justices on the state's Supreme Court of Appeals on Monday, saying Justices Allen Loughry and Robin Davis should face an impeachment trial in the Senate over the use of state funds to renovate Supreme Court offices."

* Trump's trade war: "As the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum products begin to impact bottom lines, auto suppliers are taking actions to sidestep the impact -- all proactive, but some on the outside of legality."

* The latest congressional ethics misstep: "The House Ethics Committee has called for Rep. Markwayne Mullin to return $40,000 to his family business, Mullin West, following a review that concluded the money was paid out to him in a manner that is out of compliance with House rules and the committee's recommendations."

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Image: FILE: Omarosa Manigault Newman Resigns from White House Role

Trump accidentally tells the truth about why he liked Omarosa

08/13/18 04:07PM

With Omarosa Manigault Newman going on the offensive against Donald Trump, it was only a matter of time before the president returned fire. This morning, Trump published a trio of tweets that probably say more about him than her. Here's the whole series in its entirety:

"Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time. She never made it, never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes, I said Ok. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart. I would rarely see her but heard really bad things.

"Nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work. When Gen. Kelly came on board he told me she was a loser & nothing but problems. I told him to try working it out, if possible, because she only said GREAT things about me - until she got fired!

"While I know it's 'not presidential' to take on a lowlife like Omarosa, and while I would rather not be doing so, this is a modern day form of communication and I know the Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible. Sorry!"

I won't unpack all of this, but there are three things that jumped out at me as notable.

First, Trump's preoccupation with talking about people "begging" him is a little creepy.

Second, the more the president describes Manigault Newman as someone who was disliked, "vicious," "not smart," and "nasty," the more the White House should try to come up with some kind of explanation as to why Trump gave such a person a lucrative and high-ranking job in the White House.

And third, there's the simple fact that Trump, according to his own version of events, kept on a White House adviser he knew to be toxic and incompetent, solely because she praised him.

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Why the FBI firing Peter Strzok, a frequent Trump target, matters

08/13/18 03:18PM

A striking number of leading federal law enforcement officials have been removed from their posts since Donald Trump took office, including acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, and FBI Assistant Director Mike Kortan.

Today we learned that the list is still growing.

Peter Strzok, the senior FBI official who helped lead the initial probe of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until it was discovered he sent anti-Trump texts, was fired from the agency on Monday, NBC News has confirmed.

Strzok, a 21-year veteran of the department, had exchanged text messages criticizing President Donald Trump with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he had an affair, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Both worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation and also on special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

His ouster comes roughly a month after the Republican-run House Oversight Committee created a 10-hour spectacle with Strzok as the feature attraction. The hearing was, however, a total bust for the White House and its allies: the entire Trump-driven conspiracy theory was predicated on the idea that Strzok worked behind the scenes to undercut the GOP's presidential ticket and last month's hearing helped prove the conspiracy theory wrong.

But despite the fact that the congressional sideshow backfired, and despite Strzok's lengthy and impressive career, his tenure at the FBI came to an abrupt end late last week, done in by some private text messages he sent in 2016 that were critical of Donald Trump (among others).

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Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

The White House's non-disclosure agreements aren't normal

08/13/18 12:32PM

Earlier this year, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether officials on Donald Trump's team are asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. "There's an ethics agreement," she replied. "Beyond that, I can't get into any additional details."

Yesterday, however, on ABC News' "This Week," Kellyanne Conway went a little further in confirming what Sanders would not. This was the exchange between the White House counselor and ABC's Jonathan Karl, after Conway said, "We've all signed them in the West Wing."

KARL: You've signed a non-disclosure --

CONWAY: We have confidentiality agreements in the West Wing, absolutely we do. And why wouldn't we?

Soon after, in the same interview, Conway added, "Everybody signs an NDA."

The idea, evidently, was to treat this dynamic as somehow routine and uninteresting, but the truth is more complicated.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.13.18

08/13/18 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Despite polling from a few months ago showing the incumbent likely to lose, Hawaii Gov. David Ige won his Democratic primary against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa by seven points on Saturday.

* In the multi-candidate Democratic primary in Hawaii's 1st congressional district, former Rep. Ed Case prevailed and is heavily favored to return to Capitol Hill in January. Kaniela Ing, who received a high-profile endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, finished a distant fourth.

* Tomorrow will be a fairly busy day for election watchers, with statewide primaries in four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Vermont.

* In Kansas' still unresolved Republican gubernatorial primary, Secretary of State Kris Koback leads incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer by 110 votes, though officials are scheduled to begin tallying provisional ballots today.

* On a related note, Colyer, who has already accused Kobach of irregularities, has hired outside legal counsel, signaling what's likely to be a contentious process.

* Ahead of tomorrow's primary election in Minnesota, Rep. Keith Ellison (D), who's running for state attorney general, is denying allegations that he abused a former girlfriend. The accuser, Karen Monahan, has suggested she has video proof, but at this point, nothing has been released, and the congressman denies the video's existence.

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Republicans schedule Kavanaugh hearings, despite lack of documents

08/13/18 11:30AM

Save the date.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4, Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced Friday.

Grassley expects the hearings to last between three to four days, his office said, with opening statements delivered on Sept. 4 and the questioning of Kavanaugh to begin on Sept. 5.

At first blush, Friday's announcement may not have seemed especially surprising. After all, Senate Republicans have said they intend to confirm the conservative jurist before the Supreme Court's fall session, which means confirmation hearings have to begin in early September.

The trouble, of course, is whether senators will be able to properly prepare to scrutinize Kavanaugh's record without access to his lengthy paper trail.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Friday, "Republicans' mad rush to hold this hearing after unilaterally deciding to block nearly all of Judge Kavanaugh's records from public release is further evidence that they are hiding important information from the American people, and continues to raise the question, 'What are they hiding?'"

Under the circumstances, that need not be a rhetorical question.

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Trump admin has a funny way of showing its support for veterans

08/13/18 11:00AM

At a recent campaign rally in Ohio, Donald Trump didn't just condemn Democratic lawmakers, the president took some time to list some of the American entities he thinks Democrats don't like.

"They're lousy politicians, they have horrible, stupid policies," Trump said. "You know, 'let's get rid of law enforcement, let's get rid of our military, let's not take care of our vets' -- all of these things."

To the extent that reality still matters, the president's rhetoric was mindless, but given the Trump administration's approach toward supporting veterans, it was also rather ironic. The New York Times  reported over the weekend:

The Trump administration is planning to suspend routine examinations of lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act, which was devised to protect military service members and their families from financial fraud, predatory loans and credit card gouging, according to internal agency documents.

Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, intends to scrap the use of so-called supervisory examinations of lenders, arguing that such proactive oversight is not explicitly laid out in the legislation, the main consumer measure protecting active-duty service members, according to a two-page draft of the change.

According to the Times, advocates for military families were "surprised" by the Trump administration's proposal, not only because they hoped to see the opposite when it comes to protecting veterans' finances, but also because no one from the financial industry challenged the legality of these lender examinations when the Obama administration took action to protect servicemembers in recent years.

In other words, Mulvaney is so eager to protect lenders, he's apparently taking steps to fix a "problem" that no one thought existed.

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