Nothing left to say
General Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, doesn’t have all the answers yet about the deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger. But he has a promise for the families, including the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson.
“I can assure you, if Mrs. Johnson or any of families of the fallen are unsatisfied with the support they’ve had to date, or have additional questions, we’re going to go to every last length to satisfy their concerns,” Dunford told a Pentagon briefing.
Donald Trump won’t allow for the possibility that his support fell short of what he intended, even after Myeshia Johnson went on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to confirm as “100% accurate” how Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), a family friend, criticized the president’s condolence call.
“It made me cry,” she said. “ ... I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name and that’s what hurt me the most.”
She’s wrong, Trump tweeted: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
The widow was asked if there was anything she’d like tell Trump now? “I don’t have nothing to say to him,” she replied.
Wynn, friend and influence
Meeting with his top advisers after casino magnate Steve Wynn personally delivered a letter to him from the Chinese government urging that the U.S. send a dissident home, Trump was ready to deport him, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.
“We need to get this criminal out of the country,” Trump said of Guo Wengui, a real estate tycoon who fled China in 2014 and is now seeking asylum in the United States. Aides talked him out of it by pointing out that, among other things, Guo is a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
Guo has been a vocal critic of alleged government corruption in China, which has accused him of crimes such as bribery and rape. Wynn, a former Trump business rival and now a friend, has casino interests in China’s gambling enclave of Macau that require licenses from the government.
A Wynn Resorts executive denied the Journal’s report. The White House had no comment.
Trump KOs 401(k) idea
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t rule it out, but Trump did — tweeting he opposes a sharp reduction in tax breaks for people who use 401(k) plans to save for retirement:
“There will be NO change to your 401(k). This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!”
The GOP tax overhaul plan will be among the ideas on the agenda when Trump goes to Capitol Hill Tuesday for lunch with Senate Republicans.
Squeezing MS-13 harder
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he is deploying more resources against MS-13 — designating the murderous gang as a legitimate target for interagency task forces typically focused on drug trafficking and money laundering.
“Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off the streets,” Sessions told a police chiefs conference in Philadelphia.
Bergdahl sentencing delayed
The judge deciding on punishment for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to desertion, delayed sentencing Monday and expressed concern about whether Trump’s comments on the case could undermine confidence in the military justice system.
Trump said at a news conference last week he wouldn’t speak any more about the Bergdahl case, and then added, “But I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
As a candidate, Trump called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” who deserved to be executed by firing squad or by being thrown out of a plane without a parachute. The judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, recessed the court until Wednesday.
Friendship, friction with Trump
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tells GQ he and Trump still have a good relationship.
“He gets mad at me at times, he yells at me at times, but he respects me.” Christie said he often yells back at Trump, although “less now that he’s president.”
Christie has faced conflicts with the administration from chairing Trump’s opioid addiction commission. “There are aspects of the administration who still believe this is an enforcement issue,” he said, alluding to Sessions’ advocacy of harsh penalties for low-level drug offenders.
Another commission member, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), told The Washington Post that there also are tensions between Christie and budget chief Mick Mulvaney on spending to fight the addiction crisis.
What else is happening
- Trump awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday to Gary M. Rose, a retired Army medic from Alabama, who repeatedly risked his life to aid wounded comrades during the Vietnam War.
- Trump likely won’t visit the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea during his visit to South Korea next month. All but one president since Ronald Reagan has visited the DMZ. Trump will visit Camp Humphreys, a military base 40 miles south of Seoul, the White House said.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, said Monday there is a place for “moderate” elements of the Taliban in that country’s government if they renounce violence and terrorism, and commit to stability.
- First lady Melania Trump, who has made battling bullying a cause, joined Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on a visit to a Michigan middle school.
- Sen. John McCain burst into laughter when he was asked on “The View” whether he was “scared” of Trump. Angered by a McCain speech last week, Trump had said, “At some point, I fight back and it won’t be pretty.” McCain said he has “faced greater challenges.”
- Trump has toned down his complaints about the Russia investigation in recent months, following the advice of White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who has tried to manage a more cooperative relationship with special counsel Robert Mueller, Politico reports.