Listen up, California: Donald Trump is hella fed up with you people.
The Golden State has been on the president's wrong side since it preferred Hillary Clinton by more than 3.4 million votes in 2016 — enough to deny him a national popular-vote victory. It's only gotten worse since the 9th Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco kept throwing up obstacles to his executive orders on the Muslim travel ban, sanctuary cities and DACA.
After the Trump administration this week said it was looking ways to reclaim $2.5 billion in federal funds for a scaled-back high-speed rail plan, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said "it’s no coincidence that the … threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president’s farcical national emergency" to build a wall on the Mexican border. He called it "clear political retribution by President Trump."
His supporting evidence from a Trump tweet Tuesday, a medley of grievances: "As I predicted, 16 states, led mostly by Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left, have filed a lawsuit in, of course, the 9th Circuit! California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge!"
On Wednesday, the Trump administration broke off negotiations with California on fuel efficiency standards. The state, long a leader in promoting environmentally friendly rules for motor vehicles, is resisting Trump's effort to relax future requirements and prevent California from maintaining stricter ones.
Trump also criticized California's forest management after devastating wildfires and tweeted on Jan. 9 "I have ordered FEMA to send no more money." BuzzFeed reports he never got around to issuing an order and FEMA is still aiding the recovery.
Beating up on California is in sync with Republican messaging against the state as a "hippy lefty" threat to the rest of America, Politico Magazine writes. Last year, Sen. Ted Cruz warned that liberals wanted Texas to be “just like California, right down to the tofu and silicone and dyed hair.” Its Democrats see no cause for shame. "The story of California is the story of America — immigration, innovation, investing in what works,” said Rep. Ted Lieu. “Plus we’ve got amazing beaches, and Disneyland! How cool is that?”
Gag for the trickster
Roger Stone swapped his swagger for self-flagellation Thursday as he apologized to a judge for posting a photo of her on Instagram with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun.
"I am hurtfully sorry for my own stupidity. I am kicking myself, not as much as my wife is kicking me," the longtime Trump confidant told Judge Amy Berman Jackson during a federal court hearing in Washington. Stone called the Instagram post "a momentary lapse of judgment" before saying that the photo was selected by someone among "five or six people" who work for him.
Openly skeptical of Stone's excuses, Berman issued a strict gag order to not discuss his criminal case with anyone. The veteran dirty trickster is facing trial on charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Clock set for wall clash
House Democrats say they will file a resolution Friday aimed at blocking the national emergency declaration that Trump has issued to help finance his wall. That sets up a vote by mid-March.
The Senate also is expected to vote in favor of the resolution, put over the top by Republicans dubious about the new claim to executive power. But it's not likely the opponents could must a two-thirds vote to override a Trump veto.
A triple-scoop Cohen
Michael Cohen is now set for three consecutive days of Capitol Hill appearances next week to answer questions about his former life as Trump's fixer.
On Tuesday and Thursday, closed hearings of the Senate and House intelligence committees will quiz him on the Russia investigation-related matters. On Wednesday, an open hearing conducted by the House oversight committee will explore what its chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), described as Trump's "debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election," compliance with campaign finance laws and his business practices, among other topics.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors say an IRS investigator in California has admitted leaking confidential details of Cohen's financial transactions to Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels. The documents showed Cohen collecting fees from various companies as he sought to profit from his access to Trump.
Trump lawyers: Believing him was dumb
Trump's endorsements of a troubled multilevel marketing venture before he was elected president were "puffery" that no "reasonable investor" would have relied upon, according to lawyers defending him against a civil racketeering lawsuit.
Bloomberg News reports Trump and his three eldest children were sued over his comments on "Celebrity Apprentice" touting investments in a company selling a desktop video phone that paid him to promote it. The plaintiffs said they believed Trump's claim that they could invest in American Communications Network "without any of the risks most entrepreneurs have to take."
Trump said of the videophone product: “The absolute truth is that this technology will be present in every home within the next several years.” That didn't work out.
Absence of nu-clarity
With Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un set to start their second summit Wednesday, a fundamental question remains unresolved: What does denuclearization mean?
The two sides have yet to agree whether that means North Korea gives up its existing stockpile of atomic weapons.
"I expect that there will be an ongoing process of give-and-take while we try to tease out exactly what is the full commitment," a senior administration official said Thursday,
What else is happening:
- Condo owners in a fifth Trump-developed luxury tower on Manhattan's Riverside Boulevard have voted to remove his name from their building, The Washington Post reported. The condo board announced the vote Thursday.
- A federal judge in Virginia set March 8 as the sentencing date for Paul Manafort's conviction on financial malfeasance charges. The former Trump campaign chairman also has a March 13 sentencing date in a Washington case. He could be sent away for the rest of his life.
- Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Colombia on Monday to demand Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro step down.
- Trump chimed in on Twitter after "Empire" cast member Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with staging a fake racist and homophobic assault on himself by a supposed "MAGA" pair "What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?" said Trump.
- When he was U.S. attorney in Miami in 2008, Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta illegally concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by politically connected hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge ruled Thursday. The Miami Herald spotlighted the case last fall.
- Before becoming the EPA's top air pollution regulator, Bill Wehrum was a partner in a lobbying firm paid millions by coal-burning power companies to fight Obama-era environmental rules. He's now working aggressively to undo many of those regulations, Politico reports.