Nebulous nuke news
Once again, nobody is quite sure where President-elect Donald Trump seems to be heading with the abrupt appearance of a very short, sweeping and attention-grabbing statement on a very big issue.
Trump tweeted darkly on Thursday that the U.S. should “greatly expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
A new arms buildup? Keeping up with the Kremlin? Nobody could immediately tell or discern whether the president-elect, who eschews question-and-answer sessions with the news media, might propose to increase existing stockpiles or update the weapon systems that now exist.
Whatever his intentions, Trump’s seemingly out-of-the-blue statement came shortly after Russia’s Vladimir Putin, an apparent Trump ally, stated his nation’s nukes should be updated so they can “reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”
Muslim registry roadblock
The Obama administration is moving in its waning days to scrap a post-9/11 requirement for immigrant men from mostly Muslim nations to register with the federal government.
Killing the program could make it more complicated for the incoming Trump administration to start its own registration program for Muslims — if that’s what its plan proves to be.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, begun under the Bush administration, required men and boys from certain areas to register with the government, including fingerprints and photos.
While it remains on the books, the program has been dormant for five years. Officials cited a newer data collection system as better and sufficient. Expunging it would mean that the Trump administration would purportedly need to start its own from scratch.
Ivanka’s bumpy flight
Crew members on JetBlue removed a passenger at Kennedy Airport who protested to fellow passenger Ivanka Trump: “Your father is ruining the country.”
Matt Lasner, an associate professor of urban studies and planning at Hunter College, said that his husband, Brooklyn lawyer Dan Goldstein, “expressed displeasure in a calm tone, JetBlue staff overheard, and they kicked us off the plane.”
Both the same-sex couple and the president-elect’s daughter had children with them. The flight was going to Palm Beach, Florida.
Donald’s thin win
Certified results of the election are in, following Trump’s Electoral College victory. Democrat Hillary Clinton drew the largest popular-vote margin of any losing U.S. presidential candidate — 2.9 million more than the Republican victor.
In the end, Trump got only 46 percent of the votes cast. Clinton got 48 percent. The rest went to minor-party candidates.
That works out to 62,979,636 votes for Trump, 65,844,610 for Clinton.
Despite a spokesman’s earlier “landslide” claim, Trump’s 306-232 electoral-vote margin of victory ranked 46th out of 58 U.S. presidential elections, as described here. And there is not a shred of evidence in any state to back Trump’s peculiar claim that millions voted illegally.
Election meddling: Us vs. them
While the CIA accuses the Russian government of interfering with the American election, some critics cite the numerous instances in which the U.S. has done the same abroad.
It’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University, cited by The Los Angeles Times.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn recently closed the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City after employees struck over health insurance and other benefits. This week, the president-elect named Icahn his special adviser on regulations.
On Thursday, Icahn called it “crazy” to say he should sell stock holdings to avoid the appearance of a conflict while in that role. Since he won’t have an official federal job, Icahn, 80, wouldn’t be subject to employees’ legal restrictions.
New spox from old GOP
Sean Spicer, the seasoned spokesman for the Trump-maligned, pre-Trump Republican National Committee, has been tapped for White House press secretary. In the second term of the Bush administration, he held the title of U.S. trade representative for media and public affairs.
He’s served for five years as RNC communications director. With Kellyanne Conway as counselor, Trump’s public-relations team named this week also includes campaign names Jason Miller, Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino.
What else is happening
- Trump demanded Obama have the U.S. block an Arab-supported U.N. resolution condemning “construction and expansion” of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.
- The immense wealth of Trump Cabinet nominees and the complexity of vetting them threaten to delay early operations in the administration after his swearing-in Jan. 20, the Times says.
- An insider trading law from 2012 affecting government officials could gum up Trump’s business activities, NPR reports.
- Newt Gingrich reversed his claim Trump is no longer on his “drain-the-swamp” mission, as the president-elect publicly batted it down. But ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski too had said such drainage no longer held priority.
- Saddam Hussein’s daughter said of Trump that he has “a high level of political sensibility, that is vastly different than the one who preceded him.”
- The Rockettes will be high-kicking for Trump at the president-elect’s inauguration, according to Madison Square Garden. Their addition to the event comes as many artists have reportedly declined to perform for the controversial businessman-turned-politician.