President Donald Trump on the green on July 14, 2018,...

President Donald Trump on the green on July 14, 2018, at his Turnberry Golf Club in Scotland. Credit: AP/Peter Morrison

Golf's grand sham

President Donald Trump lives by his own rules, and his conduct on the golf course is no exception, according to a new book by former Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly: “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.”

With on-the-record accounts, Reilly documents dozens of examples of dishonest behavior and dirty play that made Trump a legend among those who have been on the links with him. "In golf, he’s definitely not exonerated," Reilly told The Associated Press.

Examples: During a 2017 round with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, Fox Sports golf analyst Brad Faxon, the president's playing partner, recalls Trump put down a score that didn’t account for two balls he hit into the water on one hole.

Besides cutting corners to improve his score, Trump take steps so that his opponents fare worse. Sports announcer Mike Tirico says Trump once threw his ball off the green into a nearby bunker. Reilly also reports that caddies at one course got so used to seeing him kick his ball back onto the fairway, they came up with a nickname for him: "Pele," after the retired Brazilian soccer superstar.

There's collusion, too, according to players quoted by Reilly. They say not only Trump but his caddie and Secret Service agents, too, regularly move his golf balls out of difficult lies.

Bryan Marsal, chair of the 2020 U.S. Open to be played at Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, told Reilly that Trump began one game with him as a partner by warning: “You see those two guys? They cheat. See me? I cheat. And I expect you to cheat because we’re going to beat those two guys today.”

Without cheating, Trump could be fairly regarded as a good golfer, especially for his age, but Reilly said the president's claimed 2.8 handicap is rigged. Trump’s score-altering and other schemes were “so brazen you almost admire it,” said Reilly, who’s played with Trump and known him for decades.

Secrets at risk?

A career official-turned-whistleblower in the White House security office says at least 25 people in Trump's administration were granted security clearances despite "disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds, including concerns about foreign influence, drug use and criminal conduct.

Tricia Newbold, an 18-year government employee who oversees the issuance of clearances, told the House Oversight Committee said senior Trump aides who weren't acting "in the best interest of national security" overturned decisions to block the clearances.

Newbold said she raised her concerns up the chain of command, to no avail. She accused the director of personnel security, Carl Kline, of seeking to humiliate her because she has a rare form of dwarfism. He physically elevated security files out of her reach, and when she complained to him, he replied, "I have people, they can get the files for me," Newbold said.

Holy guacamole shortage

If Trump carries out his threat to shut crossings on the Mexican border, American consumers would soon face shortages of imported fruit and vegetables, NBC News reports. The nation's avocado supply would be depleted in three weeks, according to the top U.S. produce distributor.

It could also be a bad time to run out of margarita makings. A Forbes magazine analysis said an interruption to the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual cross-border trade would risk triggering a U.S. recession.

Trump has warned of a border closure this week unless Mexico does more to turn back Central American migrants headed for the U.S. Though the economic consequences could be dire, it might win him back the support of far-right immigration hard-liner Ann Coulter. "As the world's leading consumer of margaritas & guacamole, I nevertheless would fully support a shortage of avocados if it also meant a shortage of illegals," Coulter tweeted.

Janison: Cuts have big buts

Trump got headlines he wanted over the weekend in the vein of "Trump cuts aid to Central America," but Newsday's Dan Janison points out the catch: He may not have the power to do that.

The hundreds of millions in aid for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is allocated by Congress in this year's budget.

Trump's State Department seems to acknowledge a legal problem. A spokesman quoted by CNN over the weekend said, "We will be engaging Congress as part of this process." 

Some Biden touch-ees less touchy

Lucy Flores' complaint about an uninvited kiss on the back of the head from Joe Biden prompted scans at photos and videos of the former vice president's touching encounters with other women. At least one came forward to say she had no problem with it.

Stephanie Carter, wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, disputed characterizations of Biden's placing of hands on her shoulders during her husband's swearing-in ceremony in 2015. "The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful," Carter wrote in a post on the website Medium.

At another swearing-in that same year, the 13-year-old daughter of Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) appeared to react with discomfort as Biden whispered in her ear and kissed the side of her head. But Coons told The Washington Post that Biden was praising her composure and that his children view Biden as a grandfather figure. “All three of my kids have known Joe their whole lives," he said.

Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist, told The Associated Press that Biden's behavior is not automatically disqualifying if he runs for president, and that "it all depends on how he continues to respond to this. He has to acknowledge that his behavior made some women uncomfortable." Flores, a former Nevada state legislator, told CBSN that if the 2020 election came down to Trump vs, Biden, "Of course I would support Biden."

Supreme and supersized

Seven of the Democrats' 2020 contenders — almost half the field — either favor or are open to the idea of expanding the Supreme Court beyond its traditional roster of nine justices, The Washington Post reports. Liberals see that as way to quickly counter the court's shift to the right under Trump, and a way to get even for Republicans blocking a Barack Obama nominee in 2016. Ten of the Democrats favor or are open to term limits for the justices, who can serve for life if they choose.

Trump, meanwhile, has a likely nominee picked out if he gets the chance to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 86 and recently returned to work after a third battle with cancer, Axios reports. He told confidants he had big plans for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of conservative activists now on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. "I'm saving her for Ginsburg," Trump has said, according to three Axios sources.

What else is happening:

  • House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) plans to authorize a subpoena this week seeking special counsel Robert Mueller's full Russia report. The Justice Department will miss the Tuesday deadline Nadler set for getting the report.
  • Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have pressed the mute button on impeachment talk, but billionaire Tom Steyer, who has paid for ads calling for Trump's removal, isn't standing down. “We’ve said from the beginning this isn’t about the Mueller report; this is a broad sense of criminality," he told New York magazine.
  • Democrat Pete Buttigieg, no longer among the longest of 2020 long shots, raised over $7 million in the first quarter of 2019. That should put the South Bend, Indiana, mayor in the upper echelon of Democratic presidential hopefuls for fundraising, Politico reports.
  • Trump tweeted a complaint that Democrats are blocking a disaster-relief bill. They complain it shortchanges Puerto Rico. The Senate voted down both Democratic and Republican proposals.
  • Trump said at a White House event that he wants to follow up on criminal justice reform with efforts that help federal inmates find jobs after they leave prison.
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