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July 12, 2019

In a series of tweets on Thursday night, President Trump hurled insult after insult at former House Speaker Paul Ryan, presumably in response to Ryan's derogatory remarks about Trump in Tim Alberta's new book, American Carnage.

When Ryan announced his retirement in April 2018, Trump hailed him as "a good man" who "will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question." On Thursday, Trump said Ryan's "record of achievement was atrocious (except during my first two years as president)," and called him a "failed V.P. candidate" who doomed running mate Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign, and "blew" his House majority "with his poor leadership and bad timing," ultimately becoming "a long running lame duck failure."

CNN's Chris Cuomo also dressed Ryan down Thursday night, for only slightly different reasons. "If integrity is defined by what you do when no one is looking, then perhaps political principle is somewhat of a practical opposite, meaning it is what you stick to when everyone is looking," he began. And Ryan is "Exhibit A" among all those "who staked their reputation on principle caved to political convenience in this administration."

"When he took the speakership, insisting he would do it his way, his spine softened," Cuomo said. "Now that he's retired, he seems to be trying to recast his reticence to speak truth to power." Forget about Ryan "remounting the moral high horse about this president's personal life — I don't care about his personal life," Cuomo said. "Let's stick to serious politics and policy, and remember where Ryan stood while in office."

Alberta's book has other examples of politicians who "once opposed and then became patsies" of "this POTUS," but Ryan "could well have a second act in politics," and "he's going to have to own that he was just like the rest of them, not the best of them," Cuomo said. "This period that we're all living together right now is going to be remembered for a long time, and people will be counted: What they stood for, what they stood against, and absolutely those who stood still." Peter Weber

July 11, 2019

She's long called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished, but now, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wants its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, eliminated as well.

During an interview with The New Yorker's David Remnick published Wednesday, the freshman representative said that the Department of Homeland Security, which was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, is one of several "large threats to American civil liberties." People "sounded the alarm back then that these agencies are extrajudicial, that they lack effective oversight, and it is baked into the core foundational structure of these agencies."

When Remnick asked Ocasio-Cortez if the department should be dismantled, she said yes, because "we need to undo a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush administration did. I feel like it is a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence and in terms of being able to make the argument that we never should have created DHS in the early 2000s."

Ocasio-Cortez also said she believes the country has a "misunderstanding of the issue of immigration. We think of it as a stand-alone issue. It's like asking, what are you gonna do about homelessness? But these are systemic issues. Once you're at the point where you are mitigating what is happening at the border, you are already dealing with the symptoms of a large amount of other U.S. policies." One example is President Trump withdrawing humanitarian aid to Central American countries. "We think of everything as south of Mexico, and we treat it that way," she said. "And because of that, our largest interaction with Latin America is what happens at our border. And so that's how it manifests in our country." For more on this, and what Ocasio-Cortez considers "sane immigration policy," visit The New Yorker. Catherine Garcia

July 2, 2019

Homelessness is a serious problem, involving drug addiction, mental illness, stagnant wages, and rising housing costs, among other serious issues demanding serious solutions. In an interview from Osaka broadcast Monday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson appeared to ask President Trump about homelessness problems in major U.S. cities, contrasting New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with the "clean" cities in Japan that have "no graffiti," no public urination, and no "junkies." Why do U.S. cities have "a major problem with filth?" Carlson asked. Here's part of Trump's response:

It's a phenomena that started two years ago. It's disgraceful. I'm going to maybe — and I'm looking at it very seriously, we're doing some other things that you probably noticed, like some of the very important things that we're doing now. But we're looking at it very seriously because you can't do that. You can't have what's happening — where police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat. I mean, they're getting actually very sick, where people are getting sick, where the people living there living in hell, too. ...

We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It's inappropriate. ... We've never had this in our lives before in our country. ... If you look at some of these, they are usually sanctuary cities run by very liberal people and the states are run by very liberal people. [President Trump, Fox News]

"Trump did not mention the word homeless during the segment, so it was difficult to glean his exact meaning or how he would address the issue," The Washington Post notes. "The numbers of homeless people in the United States has stayed relatively level in the three years between 2016 and 2018, ticking up from 550,000 to 553,000 last year. But these numbers represent a significant drop over the past decade." You can read Trump's entire response below. Peter Weber

June 21, 2019

President Trump sat down for an interview Monday with Time's Massimo Calabresi, Brian Bennett, Tessa Berenson, and editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal. While they were discussing the 2020 Democratic field, according to a transcript of the interview released Thursday, Trump abruptly told the reporters: "Okay, now I'm going to show you this letter. So this was written by Kim Jong Un. It was delivered to me yesterday. By hand." Then they went off the record and the letter wasn't mentioned again until Trump started pushing back on details from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

The Time reporters noted that Trump confidante Corey Lewandowski had testified "under threat of prison time" that Trump told him to order then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the Mueller investigation. Trump had just denied trying to limit the investigation. Things got weird:

Trump: Excuse me — Under Section II — Well, you can go to prison instead, because, if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you ... confidentially, I didn't give it to you to take photographs of it. So don't play that game with me. Let me just tell you something. You take a look —

Time: I'm sorry, Mr. President. Were you threatening me with prison time?

Trump: Well, I told you the following. I told you you can look at this off-the-record. That doesn't mean you take out your camera and start taking pictures of it. Okay? So I hope you don't have a picture of it. I know you were very quick to pull it out — even you were surprised to see that. You can't do that stuff. So go have fun with your story. Because I'm sure it will be the 28th horrible story I have in Time Magazine. ... With all I've done and the success I've had, the way that Time Magazine writes is absolutely incredible. [Time transcript]

The interview is the basis for Time's June 17 cover article. Peter Weber

June 14, 2019

Louise Linton is aware you probably know her from that photo where she's touching newly printed cash with leather opera gloves with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, now her husband, or that luxury-brand-tagged Instagram post of her stepping off a government jet. And she's very sorry for those "rookie mistakes," Linton told Los Angeles Magazine's Maer Roshan over three interviews at her Bel Air mansion. The U.S. Mint was cold, she'd been warned, and she immediately regretted "that awful Instagram post."

Linton said she mostly lives in L.A. now instead of Washington, D.C., for work — she's an actress and producer. Moving to D.C. was hard and she "never got much guidance," she said. "The partners of ambassadors and congressional spouses get to go to a training camp! Cabinet spouses get nothing. Being married to someone so high up in government, it surprised me that there was no one there to step in, as I'm sure they do, for the first lady or for Meghan Markle or Kate Middleton!"

She and Mnuchin "notoriously" don't host "D.C. society dinners," Linton said, but she does "very small ones with good friends like Mike and Susan Pompeo," or Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Secretary of State Pompeo is "gregarious" and "such great fun," she said, "Ivanka is like a movie star," and "Jared is incredibly kind, polite, and kind." Linton carefully said she doesn't agree with the Trump administration's policies on gay rights or animal and wildlife issues, but she won't criticize them and she discovered she can't really shape policy. "Cabinet spouses are not allowed to lobby other Cabinet members," she said. "It's against the rules."

"Donald Trump Jr. is not in the administration," Roshan noted. "He's a big advocate of big-game hunting — lions and elephants. Do you feel uncomfortable going to dinner with him?" There was a long pause. "Yes, I feel uncomfortable," Linton said, then quickly moved on. Read the entire interview at Los Angeles Magazine. Peter Weber

June 3, 2019

In the teaser for Sunday's Axios on HBO, reporter Jonathan Swan pressed Jared Kushner — President Trump's son-in-law and senior White House adviser — on his "close and influential relationship" with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After noting that bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, kidnapped Lebanon's prime minister, and "indiscriminately bombs civilians in Yemen," Swan asked Kushner, "What do you see in this guy?"

Kushner said he feels that the Trump administration and the Saudi government share "a lot of interests" and "our goal is to pursue those." Regarding Khashoggi's murder, he said, "look, it's a horrific thing that happened and what we've done is call for full transparency. We are working on an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened. Once we have all the facts, then we'll make a policy determination, but that would be up to the secretary of state to push on our policy." The CIA and Republican-led Senate have determined that bin Salman is responsible for Khashoggi's death, Axios notes.

Kushner insisted Trump is "absolutely not" and never was a racist, and when Swan pointed to Trump's lead role in the "birtherism" lie that former President Barack Obama was born in Africa and Trump's promised ban on Muslim travelers to the U.S., Kushner just repeated that he "wasn't involved" in those things.

Kushner also deflected Swan's questions on why Palestinians would want to work with him on a peace plan with Israel.

Kushner also suggested that the Palestinians aren't "capable of governing" themselves yet. Read more at Axios. Peter Weber

May 31, 2019

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed lead nuclear negotiator Kim Hyok Chol and four other senior foreign ministry officials in March, in punishment for the failure of February's Hanoi summit with President Trump. South Korea's government and acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said they can't or won't confirm the report, which Chosun Ilbo attributed to one unidentified source, but North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper also published an editorial Thursday with specific language it last used after a top official was executed in 2013.

The rumors of a post-summit purge aren't new. ABC News This Week's Jonathan Karl asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the rumored executions on May 5. Pompeo didn't confirm or deny them. "It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else, but we don't know that for sure," he said, smiling. "Just as President Trump gets to decide who his negotiators will be, Chairman Kim will get to make his own decisions about who he asks to have these conversations."

It's not clear if the firing squad reports are true, and if so, whether the U.S. knew that three weeks ago. But if Pompeo knew, his response and body language are a little unsettling. "Secretary Pompeo in all likelihood knew when he answered this question that Kim Jong Un had executed and imprisoned his interlocutors," tweeted Ned Price, a former CIA officer and National Security Council spokesman. "His reaction says a lot about who Pompeo is and, more importantly, how he represents America and our values around the world." Peter Weber

May 29, 2019

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) held his first public appearance Tuesday night since arguing on Twitter that President Trump has committed clearly impeachable offenses, based on his close reading of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. The hundreds of constituents who gathered to hear Amash at a two-hour town hall at Grand Rapids Christian High School gave him several standing ovations as he laid out the case for impeaching Trump he continues to make on Twitter. Amash, a 39-year-old lawyer first elected to Congress in 2010, started by explaining what impeachment is and isn't.

Amash, whose district voted for Trump in 2016, shrugged off the blowback he's getting from his fellow Republicans over his impeachment comments. Every member of Congress "has a duty to keep the president in check," and "I'd do it whether it was a Republican president or a Democratic president," he said. "You elected me to represent all of you."

The criticism of his comments from "so-called" House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is indicative of "the kind of 'leadership' we now have in Congress," Amash said. "I read the Mueller report, I'm sure he did not read it. I stated what it actually says, and he resorted to ad hominem attacks." He added he thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) doesn't support impeachment because she's "concerned with her members in tougher districts" and "with protecting her majority." But "a lot of people think I'm right about the Mueller report," he said. "They just won't say it. A lot of Republicans."

"Over the evening, as it became clear that most of the audience supported his impeachment stance, Amash sought out critical questions," The Washington Post reports. One Trump supporter asked Amash, eventually, why "he's become a Democrat." Amash said he hasn't. Republicans under Trump no longer care "about limited government," he said. "But I haven't changed. I'm who I said I was. I'm a principled, constitutional conservative." Peter Weber

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