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July 11, 2019

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan in a new book says President Trump knows almost nothing about government and had to constantly be prevented from making bad decisions.

Ryan spoke to Politico's Tim Alberta for his new book American Carnage, excerpts of which were published by The Washington Post on Thursday.

"I told myself I gotta have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right,” Ryan says in the book, per the Post. “Because, I'm telling you, he didn't know anything about government ... I wanted to scold him all the time."

Ryan reportedly claims that he and others around Trump "really helped to stop him from making bad decisions. All the time." Now, he argues that Trump is "making some of these knee-jerk reactions" that he was prevented from making before." Ryan further criticizes Trump's behavior by saying "don't call a woman a 'horse face'" and "don't cheat on your wife" while bemoaning the fact that we've "gotten so numbed by it all." He's referring to the fact that in October 2018, Trump on Twitter called Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she had an affair with him before he became president, "horseface." Ryan at the time said there is "no place for that kind of language."

Alberta's book also describes a day in 2017 when Trump famously tweeted a claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him, with Ryan reportedly bursting out laughing after reading the tweet and with then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus frantically calling Ryan to ask, "What the hell is he talking about?" Ryan, who earlier this year said Trump will not win re-election if the race is about "his personality" retired in January, and according to Alberta's description, he did so because he couldn't imagine continuing to work with Trump and saw leaving Congress as his "escape hatch." Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

12:22 a.m.

Slowly but surely, the coral reefs in Jamaica are making a comeback.

In the 1980s and '90s, Jamaica lost 85 percent of its coral reefs, due to hurricanes, overfishing, and water pollution that caused algae and seaweed to take over. Coral sustains one-quarter of all marine species, and as the reefs disappeared in Jamaica, so did the fish.

To revive the reefs, at least twelve organizations have launched "coral nurseries" underwater, where pieces of staghorn coral are tied to suspended ropes, slowly growing until they reach the size of a human hand, The Associated Press reports. Then, those pieces are taken to reefs and tied to rocks, where the limestone skeleton ultimately becomes attached.

Thanks to the hard work of coral gardeners, as well as the volunteers who patrol the nurseries and fish sanctuaries to stop illegal fishing, the reefs are growing and the fish populations are increasing. "When you give nature a chance, she can repair herself," marine biologist Stuart Sandin told AP. "It's not too late." Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

The White House is expected to soon announce it will withdraw the nomination of Jeff Byard, President Trump's choice to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, CNN reports.

Byard's nomination was announced seven months ago, and several lawmakers recently said issues came up during his background check. Trump has now settled on nominating Acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, people with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

In a letter obtained by the network, Byard wrote to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan last week, letting him know that he wanted his nomination withdrawn as it "would be best for me to focus entirely on pressing issues related to my current role as the associate administrator for response and recovery." Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

A whistleblower complaint filed on Aug. 12 by an official in the U.S. intelligence community involves President Trump's communications with a foreign leader, two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

During the interaction, Trump made a "promise" to the foreign leader that the whistleblower found so troubling they decided to file the complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the Post reports. In turn, Atkinson found the complaint worrisome enough that he marked the matter of "urgent concern" and submitted it to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Maguire replaced former DNI Dan Coats, who resigned in August.

By law, Maguire was supposed to send the complaint on to Congress, but after asking Justice Department officials for legal guidance, he refused, the Post reports. The House and Senate intelligence committees only learned of the complaint after Atkinson, not Maguire, notified them earlier this month, though he did not say what was in the complaint. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is trying to get intelligence officials to share the details with lawmakers, and Atkinson is scheduled to appear before Schiff's committee for a private session on Thursday.

One former official told the Post the communication in question was a phone call. It's not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking to or what he promised them. In the five weeks before the complaint was filed, White House records show that Trump spoke and interacted with at least five foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Wednesday night for a 2001 photo showing him at an Arabian Nights–themed gala wearing brownface makeup.

At the time, Trudeau was 29 and working as a teacher at West Point Gray Academy in Vancouver. The picture, published on Wednesday by Time, appeared in the private school's 2000-2001 yearbook. Trudeau is seen wearing a turban and robe, with his face, neck, and hands darkened. A Vancouver businessman gave the yearbook to Time, saying that after he saw the photo in July, he thought it needed to be made public.

Trudeau confirmed he attended the gala, dressing up as Aladdin and donning makeup. "I shouldn't have done that," he said. "I should have known better, but I didn't, and I'm really sorry." Trudeau is running for a second term, and the election is scheduled for Oct. 21. He is already facing one scandal, as the former attorney general says Trudeau's administration pressured her into settling corruption charges against a major engineering firm. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton turned a private lunch into a roast of President Trump, several attendees told Politico.

Bolton was asked to speak by the Gatestone Institute, a conservative think tank, and the invitation came before he resigned (or was fired, depending on who you ask). The lunch, held Wednesday in Manhattan, was attended by billionaire Rebekah Mercer, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, and former Fox News host John Stossel, and Bolton made it clear he thinks Trump's foreign policy is the pits, two attendees said.

Bolton took umbrage at Trump inviting the Taliban to Camp David, saying it sent a "terrible signal" and was "disrespectful" to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, as the Taliban let Osama bin Laden hide out and plan the attack in Afghanistan. He said negotiations with North Korea and Iran were "doomed to fail," and all Pyongyang and Tehran are worried about is easing sanctions so they can have a bit of economic relief. Bolton, one attendee told Politico, "ripped Trump, without using his name, several times."

Bolton is a longtime hardliner on Iran, and attendees said he mentioned several times that because Trump did not retaliate against Iran for shooting down an American drone in June, it emboldened Tehran. This, Bolton suggested, could be one of the reasons why Iran allegedly attacked Saudi oil facilities over the weekend. Read more about Bolton's criticisms, and how the audience received them, at Politico. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

Documents and figures released by the Pentagon show that since August 2017, the U.S. military has spent close to $200,000 on about three dozen separate stays at President Trump's Turnberry resort in Scotland.

The information was provided to the House Oversight Committee. The Pentagon said that on average, from August 2017 to July 2019, the cost of a room at Turnberry for service members was $189. The total amount of expenditures was $124,578.96, plus $59,729.12 in unspecified charges to government travel credit cards, Politico reports.

In a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent Wednesday, Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said that if these numbers are correct, "it appears that U.S. taxpayer funds were used to purchase the equivalent of more than 650 rooms at the Trump Turnberry just since August 2017 — or the equivalent of one room every night for more than one-and-a-half years."

Earlier this month, Politico reported that the committee began investigating in April whether this was a violation of the domestic emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from the federal government that is not a salary. Last week, the Air Force confirmed that since 2015, crews have stayed at Turnberry up to 40 times, and an internal review is now underway. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

The drone strikes on two of Saudi Arabia's major oil facilities over the weekend have dominated the news cycle in the U.S., but they seemingly haven't altered how European leaders are approaching their continued diplomatic efforts with Iran.

As things stand, The New York Times reports, Europe appears cautious about jumping aboard the blame-Iran bandwagon, even after Saudi Arabia doubled down on its accusations that Tehran, not Yemen's Houthi rebels, were behind the attacks. And there are no signs that Europe's largest powers, such as Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, are reneging on their endeavors to once again get Iran to comply with the terms of the 2015 nuclear pact, which is now in jeopardy.

Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as recently as Tuesday called for a return to the nuclear deal and added that "Germany will always be in favor of de-escalation" even after "tensions in the region rose" last weekend. Germany on Wednesday also extended its ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia, which, while not necessarily related, certainly does not appear to be a call to war with Iran.

The other possible reason Europe has stayed silent so far, aside from evading angering Iran, is that the continent's leaders aren't keen on blindly falling in line with President Trump as Washington seemingly strengthens its stance against Tehran. In fact, the Times reports that Ellie Geranmayeh, a scholar of Iran at the European Council on Foreign relations, said the European powers blame Trump for creating the environment that led to the attacks as much as the Iranians, even if the latter do turn out to be responsible for them. Tim O'Donnell

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