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March 20, 2017

President Trump is a hand-shaker — an aggressive one, at times — so it was kind of strange that at an Oval Office photo session with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, he did not shake her hand, despite her asking him if he wanted to. Despite this apparent snub and a later, awkward joke about wiretapping by former President Barack Obama, Trump wants you to know that he had a "GREAT meeting" with Merkel, regardless of what the "FAKE NEWS" and your own eyes might have surmised to the contrary.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer offered an explanation for the strange, apparently icy photo session, where Trump avoided all eye contact with Merkel as well as not shaking her hand. "I do not believe he heard the question," Spicer told Germany's Der Spiegel. If you sit through the first 50 seconds of the photo spray, you can hear what Trump apparently did not — reporters yelling out "Handshake?" and Merkel leaning over and asking if he wants to shake hands:

Now, Trump did shake Merkel's hand at least twice during their visit on Friday.

So if it was meant as a snub or show of pique, it was temporary on Trump's part. And another way to look at this is that Merkel was actually lucky. After Trump's notoriously long handshake with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February, John Oliver's Last Week Tonight put together this (briefly NSFW) compilation of Trump shaking hands in uncomfortable-to-watch ways. Peter Weber

10:29 a.m. ET
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images

The FBI had already uncovered evidence of bribery and kickbacks in the United States that benefited the Russian nuclear industry prior to a controversial 2010 uranium deal between the Obama administration and Moscow, The Hill reported Tuesday, citing FBI and court documents.

The 2010 Uranium One deal involved the Hillary Clinton-headed State Department and Committee on Foreign Investment's approval of the partial sale of a Toronto-based uranium mining company to Russia's atomic energy corporation, Rosatom. It is unclear if the FBI or Justice Department told members of the committee about their findings before the members unanimously approved the partial sale.

Lawmakers, at least, were kept in the dark. Former House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said: "Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by U.S. regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them." Rogers added, "The Russian efforts to manipulate our American political enterprise is breathtaking."

Documents indicate that the FBI was already aware that the head of Rosatom's U.S. arm, Vadim Mikerin, was involved in extortion. Additionally, Russian nuclear officials reportedly "routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow," The Hill writes based on "eyewitness" accounts and documents.

The implications are long-lasting. As The Hill adds:

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired earlier this year. [The Hill]

Read the full report at The Hill. Jeva Lange

10:25 a.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

When President Trump issued the third version of his travel ban in late September, the Supreme Court canceled oral arguments for two challenges to the policy's second iteration. But this week the ban is back in court as a federal judge in Maryland has held hearings to determine whether the new ban codifies religious discrimination against Muslims, as well as whether it exceeds Trump's executive authority to regulate immigration.

At the hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang pressed the Justice Department attorney defending the ban about the contents of the classified report that informs the new rule. "How is this different than Korematsu?" Chuang asked, referring to inaccurate information presented by the federal government to the Supreme Court in 1944's Korematsu v. United States, in which SCOTUS approved the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Chuang has yet to issue a ruling. The new ban is scheduled to take effect Wednesday, Oct. 18, which gives him a tight deadline to decide whether to suspend Trump's order. Bonnie Kristian

9:58 a.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Congressional Democrats are not supporting efforts to fund President Trump's much-promised wall along the southern border, a White House representative said Tuesday, purely out of petty, political malice.

"Many Democrats, don't forget, many Democrats in 2006 voted for the Secure Fence Act," Marc Short, Trump's director of legislative affairs, argued on Fox News. "But now they don't want to fund it for political reasons," he continued. "They don't want the president to have a win." Short said that because the wall is key to national security, funding "will happen at the end of the year."

Trump's border wall is supposed to be see-through, up to 55 feet high, and possessed of a "big, beautiful door." Its price tag — depending on what features are included and, at this stage, whose estimate you use — would be in the tens of billions of dollars. The 2006 bill Short mentioned is part of the reason much of the border is already fenced. The places without a barrier tend to have mountainous terrain and extreme heat that together make both wall construction and illicit border crossings very difficult. Bonnie Kristian

9:21 a.m. ET

For a competitive sum, you may own an authentic, sweaty, game-worn LeBron James jersey — as well as the internal warmth that comes with a good deed done.

The NBA season tips off Tuesday, and the NBA announced that along with broadcasting partner Turner Sports it will be auctioning off the jerseys worn by players in opening night games to go toward relief efforts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The funds will be routed through the One America Appeal, a philanthropic effort spearheaded by the five living former U.S. presidents. Tuesday's two inaugural match-ups are between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, and the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, which means threads worn by the likes of James, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant may be up for grabs.

The auction begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, and will run through Thursday, Oct. 26, at 9 p.m. ET. In addition to jerseys, autographed memorabilia and game-worn sneakers will also be available. The NBA will also run a promotional social media campaign Tuesday to raise awareness and engagement for hurricane relief efforts.

The first game of the season, between the Celtics and the Cavaliers, tips off Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in Ohio. Read the league's full announcement below. Kimberly Alters

8:56 a.m. ET

President Trump announced Tuesday that Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has withdrawn his name from consideration for the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Tom is a fine man and a great congressman," Trump tweeted while sharing the news.

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes and The Washington Post reported that Marino had worked for two years to push through a bill promoted and apparently written by the pharmaceutical industry that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its biggest tool to fight prescription opioids entering the black market. Trump said Sunday that "we're going to look into the report" and that a long-delayed declaration of the opioid crisis as a national emergency could come next week. Jeva Lange

8:25 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump has gotten some flak for claiming, falsely, that former President Barack Obama and other ex-presidents did not call the families of fallen troops, but that was only one of the bits of indisputably "fake news" Trump spread during his two interactions with reporters on Monday, by Mike Allen's count at Axios early Tuesday. ObamaCare isn't "dead," for example, because Trump's "repeated efforts to repeal it failed," Allen notes, and the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aren't "closer than ever before," because "both men and their staffs have been trashing each other in public and private for months."

Trump spreading fake news isn't new, Allen concedes, "and, yes, 35 percent of voters don't seem to care. But that doesn't make it any less dangerous." You can read his list of other demonstrable untruths, a few Trump "keeper" quotes, and a bonus prognostication from Stephen Bannon at Axios. Peter Weber

8:11 a.m. ET

Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski was unable to hold back her thoughts Tuesday concerning President Trump's erroneous claim that his predecessors did not call families of fallen soldiers, Mediaite reports. "Can [Trump] make a moment, perhaps just one, not about himself?" Brzezinski asked, shaking her head in disbelief. "It's really hard to watch. It's unbelievable. It's just gross."

"It's offensive enough," agreed co-host Joe Scarborough. "What is doubly offensive is ... he makes it about himself, 'boy, it's really tough,' and then he brings up his petty, long-running, insecure, pathetic, sad, weak dispute with the 44th president of the United States."

"This is rock bottom," Brzezinski said, "when he speaks like this, about our heroes."

Later in the segment, Brzezinski marveled: "What good, honest person, with a sense of duty and honor to this country, what person who loves America would say something like that? Let's just say it. There's nothing good about it, it's horrible — not a good person." Watch her remarks below, and Trump's original comments here at The Week. Jeva Lange

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