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Trump adds to turbulence over Boeing 737 Max 8 crash overseas

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One in

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One in Hanoi on Feb. 28 after his Vietnam visit, which included a signing ceremony for the purchase of Boeing 737 Max jets by Vietnamese airlines. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Saul Loeb

Raising the flaps

It's no surprise that a president who proudly governs by relying on his gut yearns for the days of pilots flying by the seat of their pants.

As more countries around the world, but not the United States, grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 over safety concerns following a second air disaster in five months, Donald Trump got on his Twitter intercom to share his skepticism about the advance of technology.

"Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT," the president said. "I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better." Alluding apparently to suspicions in last October's crash that an anti-stall system went haywire, Trump concluded: "I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!"

After the tweet, Trump took a call from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. A Boeing spokesman said Muilenburg "reiterated to the President our position that the Max aircraft is safe."

Just two weeks ago, Trump joined a signing ceremony in Hanoi for a purchase of 100 Boeing 737 Max jets by Vietnamese airlines.

Trump has long regarded himself as an expert in aviation, notes The Washington Post. He once owned an airline, the Trump Shuttle, which went bust. For a while, he pushed the idea of naming the pilot from his personal pre-presidency jet to lead the FAA. That job has remained vacant for 14 months.

Curiously, that pilot was the expert he cited to back up a contrary complaint in 2017 — that for air traffic control, the FAA hadn't kept up with the latest technology. "A lot of the new equipment that already is obsolete the day they order it,” Trump said. While the cause of the 737-Max crashes will remain under investigation for some time, technological advances are widely credited for making air travel much safer in recent decades.

Trump's Florida swampland

Golf is his hobby. His golf clubs in Florida and the Mar-a-Lago resort are places to lobby.

According to Politico, Jack Nicklaus lobbied Trump on the links to get $20 million from HHS toward a mobile children's hospital project at Miami's Nicklaus Children's Hospital, named for the golfing great. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds, one of Politico's sources said.

The report follows news of how Li Yang, who owns a chain of massage spas and has apparent links to China's government, sold business clients on her access to Trump and other political figures at Mar-a-Lago. ProPublica has reported on Mar-a-Lago members who are pals of Trump and persuaded him to let them help shape policies at Veterans Affairs.

Janison: Backyard grill

Trump left New York behind two years ago, but his hometown legal entanglements keep growing. New York Attorney General Letitia James has opened a civil investigation into Trump's business dealings. The AG's office was already investigating the Trump Foundation.

The latest probe was prompted by Michael Cohen's recent Capitol Hill testimony, including his accusation that Trump exaggerated his wealth on documents provided to Deutsche Bank when he was seeking financing for development projects and to buy the Buffalo Bills.

Key prosecutorial offices in New York are in Democratic hands. In a Tuesday evening tweet, Trump took note and seemed to blame Gov Andrew M. Cuomo for James' actions, though she is an elected official, not an appointee: "New York State and its Governor, Andrew Cuomo, are now proud members of the group of PRESIDENTIAL HARASSERS. No wonder people are fleeing the State in record numbers. The Witch Hunt continues!" Perhaps he's thinking of yet another investigation by the state's tax department, which Cuomo does control.

See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

Trump feels ICE chill

Rank-and-file ICE officers are souring on Trump, complaining that he has failed to follow through on his get-tough promises and the catch-and-release of immigrants illegally in the U.S. is not only still happening but has gone into “overdrive,” The Washington Times reported.

A letter to Trump from the National ICE Council, the union that represents the agency's officers, also complained the Border Patrol is sloughing off release operations onto ICE because they don't want any part of it.

"You frequently speak publicly of the great public safety work ICE is doing under your leadership," the letter said. "To be direct Mr. President — the rhetoric doesn’t match reality and we hope that this letter shows you the complete and total nonsense that is really taking place under the Trump Administration on the southern border.”

When is impeachment ripe?

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff agrees with Speaker Nancy Pelosi that impeachment would be a mistake without an "extraordinarily clear and compelling" case that could generate bipartisan support. But Schiff also says the results of ongoing investigations could get the country to that point.

"I don't foreclose that the possibility that the Mueller investigation will produce that, or that our own will," Schiff told reporters Tuesday.

Schiff also said the Justice Department should reconsider its guidelines that prohibit indicting a sitting president.

For more chatter on to impeach or not to impeach, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.

Tickling the ivies

Charges against 50 people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed their children's way into some of the nation's most selective schools brought attention on how others among the rich gain advantage: huge donations. 

It may be just coincidence, but Trump gave at least $1.5 million in the 1990s to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump enrolled, notes Trump biographer Tim O'Brien. It's also Trump's alma mater.

New York magazine recalls how Jared Kushner became a Harvard man after his father pledged $2.5 million to the school. Author Daniel Golden, who interviewed Kushner's high school teachers in New Jersey, said they didn't think he got into Harvard on merit. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it," a former official of The Frisch School in Paramus said.

What else is happening:

  • Paul Manafort, who received an unexpectedly light sentence last week in one federal corruption case, faces sentencing on Wednesday on his other conviction.
  • Stormy Daniels has parted ways with lawyer Michael Avenatti. Neither explained why. Their collaboration led to the criminal case against Cohen over hush money the porn star received to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump and ongoing scrutiny of the president's role in the payoff.
  • The Trump administration is preparing to shutter many of its immigration operations abroad, which could make it more difficult for those seeking legal entry to the U.S., The New York Times reported.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to a firefighters group, called for permanent funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Biden was greeted with chants of “run Joe, run” as he continues to prepare for a possible 2020 bid.
  • A deputy national press secretary for Bernie Sanders' campaign, Belén Sisa, apologized for a Facebook post questioning whether the “American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel,” Politico reported. Similar comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) sparked a recent uproar.
  • The Senate will vote Thursday on a resolution disapproving of the president's national emergency declaration to build a border wall. It is expected to pass, but not by enough to override a Trump veto.
  • A Trump tweet Tuesday quoted a "co-founder of Greenpeace," Patrick Moore, as saying, “The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it’s Fake Science." Moore is not a co-founder; he belonged to the group's Canadian branch more than 30 years ago before becoming an energy industry advocate. Trump saw him on "Fox & Friends."

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