Going with Flo
With Hurricane Florence churning toward the Atlantic coast, President Donald Trump was asked by reporters at an Oval Office FEMA briefing about the lessons learned last year from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Trump's reply: The federal response to Maria was "incredibly successful ... an incredible unsung success."
Let's hope the response to Florence is even more incredibly successful — and credibly successful, too — for the sake of the Carolinas, Virginia and other states that could be hammered by the monster storm.
A government-supported study last month estimated Puerto Rico's death toll at 2,975 from Maria and its aftermath, which left much of the island without power and vital services for months. Trump has rejected criticism that the federal recovery effort was slow-footed and inadequate. His administration got better marks for its handling of two other major hurricanes in 2017, Harvey and Irma, which brought their greatest devastation to parts of Texas and Florida.
Trump said his administration is "absolutely totally prepared" for Florence and is "sparing no expense." Citing forecasts, he said the hurricane is expected to be “tremendously big and tremendously wet — tremendous amount of water."
Circle of distrust
With one anonymous senior official writing about aides protecting the country from ill-considered decisions, and others telling Bob Woodward about a president whose wide-ranging ignorance exasperates them, Donald Trump Jr. said his dad has gotten more wary of those around him.
“I think there are people in there that he can trust, it's just — it's a much smaller group than I would like it to be,” Trump Jr. said in an interview on ABC’s "Good Morning America." “It would be easier to get things done if you’re able to fully trust everyone around you.”
The president's eldest son also said he is not worried about his potential legal exposure in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. "I know what I did and I’m not worried about it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they won’t try to do something,” he added.
Janison: Blurred lines
It's become common for Trump aides and allies to step outside their box, including their official roles, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Mick Mulvaney already has two jobs — director of the federal Office of Management and Budget and running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But that didn't stop him from privately huddling about the midterm elections with big donors, including lobbyists with an interest in policies he can make or influence.
More examples: Trump Jr. is supposed to be running the Trump Organization with his brother to keep business and government separate, but he is constantly weighing in on politics. Rudy Giuliani, brought on board as a legal adviser for the Mueller probe, talks on TV as a political surrogate on unrelated issues.
Not a mourning person
As the nation awoke Tuesday to solemn sights and sounds marking the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Trump had other matters to air — angry tweets about the Russia investigation, the Justice Department and the FBI. As his focus shifted to 9/11, he saluted Giuliani for "leadership, bravery and skill" as New York City's mayor and tweeted: "17 years since September 11th!" That was factual, if short on eloquence and empathy.
Trump found the right tone when he spoke at a memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the last of the 9/11 planes crashed after passengers — a "band of brave patriots" — fought back against the hijackers.
"A piece of America's heart is buried on these grounds, but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace and courage as the heroes of Flight 93," the president said in his speech. "This field is now a monument to American defiance. This memorial is now a message to the world: America will never, ever submit to tyranny."
Ireland's government said Trump's planned visit there in November has been postponed, but the White House said the administration was still "finalizing" whether Ireland would be a stop on a previously announced trip to Europe.
Irish leaders said they were caught unaware when Trump's intention to go there was first announced last month. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it had come "a little bit out of the blue." Eamon Ryan, leader of the small opposition Green Party, said Tuesday the visit “has now been canceled in the same erratic way. We are glad he is not coming."
Large protests had been expected, including the appearance of the "Trump baby" balloon that flew in London during the president's visit to the U.K. in July. Besides Dublin, Trump likely would have visited his Doonbeg golf resort in County Clare.
Feds, N.Y. at odds over probes
Federal prosecutors have asked New York state and local prosecutors' offices to back off from moves to investigate the Trump Organization — probes that could hinder completion of the federal investigation that included the Michael Cohen case, CNN reported.
Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges including campaign violations arising from the payoffs that were made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep their stories of alleged affairs with Trump private. Cohen is awaiting sentencing, but the feds are still considering whether other Trump Organization executives violated laws, CNN and Bloomberg News said.
What else is happening:
- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet Republican attorneys general from several states later this month to consider potential violations of consumer and antitrust laws by Google, Facebook and Twitter, Bloomberg News reported. Trump has accused the companies of bias, but there are also complaints about their handling of consumers' personal data and anticompetitive practices.
- Trump's GOP House allies say texts last year from fired FBI official Peter Strzok about a "media leak strategy" were part of an anti-Trump scheme. Democrats and Strzok's lawyer said they were about plugging leaks.
- The Senate Intelligence Committee isn't likely to release its final report on Russia's 2016 election interference until after the November midterm elections, said the panel's top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia. The committee wants to talk to Cohen again and to George Papadopoulos, the campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying about Russia contacts, Warner said.
- Trump's former top economic adviser Gary Cohn and former staff secretary Rob Porter joined the parade of current and past officials calling Woodward's book misleading, but they were vague on specifics.
- The Trump administration, in another planned rollback of regulations to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to allow leaks of methane from oil and gas wells into the atmosphere, The New York Times reported.
- Americans are divided in a CNN poll on whether senators should confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, with 38% saying yes and 39% saying no.