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Witness: Mike Flynn heralded doom for Russia sanctions

Vice President Mike Pence looks on after

Vice President Mike Pence looks on after President Donald J. Trump signs a declaration to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Credit: Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock

Flynn’s premature celebration

Donald Trump was still giving his inauguration speech Jan. 20 when National Security Adviser Mike Flynn texted news to a former business associate: A project stymied by sanctions against Russia was “good to go,” a witness told Democratic congressional investigators.

Flynn assured him that the sanctions would be “ripped up” shortly after the president took office, allowing a private plan to join with Russian interests building nuclear reactors in the Middle East to go forward, according to the account.

As it turned out, the sanctions — made even tougher by Congress over Trump’s objections — outlasted Flynn.

The story from the witness, who said he spoke with Alex Copson, the former Flynn associate, at an inauguration event, was made public by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

It suggests the administration wanted to end the sanctions quickly. But Trump held off. At the time, investigations of Russian election meddling were gathering steam.

Flynn last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador on sanctions.

Recognizing Jerusalem ‘reality’

In a speech from the White House, Trump officially proclaimed U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, calling his a “new approach” to seeking an elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinians, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Trump said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded Trump’s “courageous and just decision.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas predicted extremists would lash out against the decision and “wage a religious war that would harm the entire region.”

More 'reality' sets in 

As everyone expected, Trump's symbolic move ignited violent protests in the region. Early troubles were reported in Bethlehem, Ramallah, and elsewhere as Hamas called for a new intifada. Updates to come. 

Janison: Tax bill not at finish line

For all the happy talk about momentum, House and Senate Republicans still need to hash out the differences between their tax bills, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Still up in the air are corporate alternative minimum tax, the top-bracket rates for individuals and what, if anything, lawmakers from high-tax states like New York can salvage of the deductions for state and local income, sales and property taxes.

There’s also a job for them and Trump to do on public opinion, which as of now is likelier to assign blame than credit. Polls find only 29% of voters like what they are seeing.

Trump thinks women faked stories

While the White House, through press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, acknowledges the women who have accused Roy Moore of sexual misbehavior when they were teens could be telling the truth, Trump flat-out doesn’t believe them, according to The Daily Beast.

The report, citing three sources close to the president, said Trump is convinced Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate is the innocent victim of false stories, as well as a forged signature in one of the women’s high school yearbook.

Not this time

Trump came in second as Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year. That distinction went to “The Silence Breakers” — the women and men whose stories propelled the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

But Trump does get mentions in the cover story. His election despite the “Access Hollywood” tape, a record of crude comments about women and accusations of groping was cited by harassment victims as a catalyst for deciding to take action.

The privileged Trump

Donald Trump Jr. cited attorney-client privilege to avoid telling House Intelligence Committee questioners about a conversation he had with his father after news broke about the younger Trump’s meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

Neither Trump is a lawyer, but Donald Jr. claimed privilege because lawyers were present for the conversation, Politico reported. Trump agreed to the meeting in Trump Tower after he was told the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

What else is happening

  • A correction: The previous edition of The 1600 said erroneously that then-President Bill Clinton signed the 1995 law calling on the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem at Israel’s capital. The Jerusalem bill passed by Congress became law without Clinton’s signature.
  • Trump seemed to be slurring his words toward the end of his Jerusalem speech (video clip here). One theory kicked around on Twitter: a momentary dental problem.
  • In a rare calling out of Saudi Arabia, Trump said the kingdom should immediately end its blockade of humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen so “food, fuel, water, and medicine” can “reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it.”
  • An attempt to impeach Trump was defeated in the House by a vote of 364-58. Democratic leaders have tried to hose down rank-and-file calls for impeachment, saying “now is not the time.”
  • First lady Melania Trump and second lady Karen Pence visited Texas to see recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey and pay tribute to first responders.
  • Trump ridiculed Mike Pence and his family after learning they would be bringing pets, including two cats, a rabbit and a snake, when they moved from Indiana to the official vice presidential residence in Washington in January, according to The Atlantic. “He thought it was so low class,” a Trump adviser said.

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