Spin the debacle
What do you call it when a president, after backing himself into a corner, signs a bill that falls way short of meeting his core demand, and he declares a national emergency in a constitutionally questionable crapshoot to make up the difference? The White House billed it like this: "President Donald J. Trump's Border Security Victory."
Sure, Trump said Friday in the White House Rose Garden, "on the wall, they skimped." But otherwise, "they didn't even fight us on most of the stuff . . . We have so much money, we don't know what to do with it. I don't know what to do with all the money they're giving us. It's crazy."
As Trump biographer Timothy O'Brien writes for Bloomberg News, Trump is well-practiced in putting lipstick on a pig of a predicament to avoid owning up to losing.
When his casino company went bankrupt and his stake was reduced in a restructuring, Trump said, “I don’t think it’s a failure; it’s a success.” When his USFL team collapsed, along with the league, after his bid to take on the NFL directly went bad, Trump said, “It was a small deal. I didn’t lose.” After his Trump Shuttle airline venture went belly up, he said, “I got out at a good time. I walked away saying, ‘I'm smart.’”
There was an apparent win Trump could have legitimately claimed. The New York Times reports that thousands of Hondurans who traveled by caravan to northern Mexico hoping to apply for asylum at U.S. ports of entry have given up in the face of tougher policies. But that also seems to undercut Trump's argument that he needs a wall to stop the caravans.
Trump's emergency plan calls for supplementing the $1.375 billion from Congress for border barriers with $3.6 billion that had been appropriated for military construction projects, $2.5 billion from the military drug prevention program and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund.
Besides a flurry of court challenges, Democrats in Congress will try to stop him and expect enough Republicans queasy about Trump's assertion of emergency powers to pass a joint resolution, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said on ABC's "This Week." She was less confident of building two-thirds majorities to override a certain Trump veto. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
He will not be laughed at
Two-time "Saturday Night Live" guest host Trump says the show ought to be investigated and punished after he was mocked in the latest installment.
Trump tweeted his review the morning after impersonator Alec Baldwin spoofed his Friday "national emergency" in the show's cold open (here's the video).
The tweet: "Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!"
Collusion with who, to do what? Trump did not explain under what law and what grounds he would mute "SNL." Is he thinking of declaring a national comedy emergency?
Janison: Get riyal
What got into Trump's billionaire real estate buddy Tom Barrack when he tried to sweep Saudi human rights abuses under the rug and bemoaned "the corrupt hand of the West" as "the primary instigator in the kingdom"? Why would he tell a conference in Abu Dhabi that "whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse"?
Maybe there's nothing to be surprised about. Barrack has made big bucks in the region and, like Trump, has gone out of the way to avoid ruffling the royal Saudi feathers over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In his next-day apology, Barrack said, "the United States is the greatest country in the world, but our history and our policies in the Middle East have been confusing at times.” To many, they still are. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.
Ex-FBI man rekindles Trump fits
Controversy surrounding ex-FBI official Andrew McCabe, fired due to presidential politics, has returned full blast with his new book "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."
On CBS' "60 Minutes" McCabe argued that a "crime may have been committed" with the firing in 2017 of James Comey as FBI director.
"If the president committed obstruction of justice... to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia’s malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, “Why would a president of the United States do that?” McCabe said.
He also told NPR, "I think the FBI has been under a relentless attack in the last two years."
Trump erupted on Twitter at 7:15 a.m. after watching television: "Wow, so many lies by now "disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged. He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught."
Why Abe lobbied for Trump Nobel
Trump made a surprising claim during his Friday news conference — that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for opening a dialogue with North Korea.
Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Sunday that it's true — Abe did it because the U.S. government "informally" asked him to make the pitch.
Not true, according to former Obama administration officials, is Trump's repeated claim that former President Barack Obama was on the verge of going to war with North Korea, The New York Times reported.
Did nanny's state sink UN pick?
Former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert — Trump's choice to be the next UN ambassador — has withdrawn from consideration, saying she concluded that "it is in the best interest of my family."
Officials speaking on background said an issue that arose in the two months since Trump picked her was Nauert's employment of a nanny who did not have the legal status to work in the U.S. There were also persistent questions about her experience for the job previously held by Nikki Haley.
Nauert joined the administration in April 2017 as spokeswoman for the State Department, but she isn't expected to return to that job.
The 25 skiddoo
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he will hold a hearing about comments made by former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe about Justice Department officials, in the days after James Comey's firing, discussing the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Graham said he wants to hear from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who disputes the account. "There's an allegation by the acting FBI director at the time that the deputy attorney general was basically trying to do an administrative coup."
A Democrat on the committee, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, said "it is alarming that there were apparently folks at the highest levels of our government considering whether or not our president is unfit to serve." But Coons said it also is important to look at why the Justice officials were determined to keep the Russia investigation going.
"Folks who were career professionals were troubled enough by what they saw in terms of President Trump's actions with regard to Russia, that they felt compelled to open a counterintelligence investigation," he said. Both Graham and Coons spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation."
What else is happening:
- A Trump tweet called on European countries to "take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial." Otherwise, he said, "we will be forced to release them," and they would likely "permeate Europe."
- Sen. Bernie Sanders has shot a video in which he says he is running for president in 2020, but it's not yet clear when or even whether it will be released, Politico reports.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he has not ruled out a presidential bid, Newsday's Scott Eidler reports.
- Former Maine Gov. Paul LeLePage and staff spent $22,000 for more than 40 rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Portland Press-Herald reports.
- Cambridge Analytica's former director Brittany Kaiser said she has been fully cooperating with the special counsel's Russia-meddling probe.
- Democrats in pork-producing Iowa don't appear bothered that Sen. Cory Booker, a Democratic 2020 contender, is a vegan, so long as he doesn't push anti-meat policy, Politico reports. But Republicans have the knives out. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tweeted that she supports "PETA" — “People Eating Tasty Animals."
- California's Sen. Kamala Harris, another White House contender, got a four-Pinocchios grade from Washington Post fact-checkers for tweeting that lower tax refunds mean taxes were hiked on the middle class. Other factors, including withholding over the past year, decide the total tax bill.
- European leaders were more openly critical of Trump than ever during the Munich Security Conference, The New York Times reported. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov happily took note. "We see new cracks forming, and old cracks deepening,” he said.