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Clash over oil tanker attacks sends U.S. ship of state into rough seas

President Donald Trump on Friday.

President Donald Trump on Friday. Credit: AP / Jacquelyn Martin

Gulf grows wider

Clearly trying to gain leverage against the West, officials in Iran warned Monday that the nation would increase its store of enriched uranium beyond a cap set by the 2015 nuclear pact that President Donald Trump trashed.

The hostile Tehran government, seeking to get Europe to ease sanctions, is accused of sabotaging two Gulf of Oman oil carriers and thus instigating a return to the 1980s, when tankers were regularly targeted for attack in the region and U.S. warships would act to protect them.

Diplomatically, Trump & Co. face special challenges, some of their own making. Over the weekend, allies questioned evidence claimed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of Iran's culpability, reflecting doubts about Trump's credibility and motives in the 2003 Iraq War. 

“I am confident that as we continue to develop the fact pattern, countries around the world will not only accept the basic facts, which I think are indisputable, but will come to understand that this is an important mission for the world,” Pompeo said.

While Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact it signed with Iran under President Barack Obama, his subordinates seemed to be asking that its terms be respected. 

"We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) over the weekend called for military engagement but so far has been widely ignored. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says there's "no doubt" Iran is behind the attacks, but because Trump has "alienated ourselves from our allies," they do not want to fall in line with the U.S. So the next step is unclear.

Florida, man ...

Trump is expected to "announce his candidacy" for re-election at a rally at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Orlando. But it's a bit of a fake news event. He's actually been campaigning all along and even began raising funds for 2020 before he was sworn into office in January 2017.

Democrats, too, are homing in on the Sunshine State with debates in Miami next week and the horde of party contenders planning campaign stops.  

Why there?

J. Edwin Benton, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, says: “History is on the side of the candidate that can win Florida and its 29 Electoral College votes, and Donald Trump and every Democrat and Republican knows it." 

Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez further explains the importance of this contest within a contest.

Meanwhile, five immigrants who worked at Trump golf resorts but were fired once found to be in the U.S. illegally said they will crash the Florida kickoff to protest his “cruelty and hypocrisy."

Their home is their hassle

If New York State's pair of extremely longshot contenders hope to gain traction, they better look beyond familiar climes.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are not only down in the polls and starved of donations. They also aren't reeling in the endorsements, particularly from their fellow home-state politicos, Newsday's Emily Ngo reports.

"I think the overwhelming view of most Democrats and even most independents is: 'Who’s the best candidate to beat Donald Trump?'” Sen. Chuck Schumer told Ngo. “And we have to let it play out. That’s more important than geography right now.”

SCOTUS 'doubles' down

Federal and state governments can separately prosecute defendants for the same crime, under a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling issued Monday that featured a rare joint dissent from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Neil Gorsuch. It's an exception to the double-jeopardy principle.

Although the case is unrelated, the ruling paves the way for a New York State prosecution of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, regardless of whether the president decides to pardon him on his federal convictions for which he's now imprisoned.

Manafort faces 16 counts in Manhattan on mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and other charges.  

Separately, an intervention by Trump’s Justice Department will allow Manafort to avoid being held on Rikers Island.

Self-pity party

Trump's interview segments with ABC News, rolled out over the weekend, included several new glimpses of how he sees himself in relation to other people. 

“Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly, but nobody's been treated badly like me,” was among the commander-in-chief's highlighted statements.

Asked if he thought North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is still developing nukes, he said: "I hope not."

“He promised me he wouldn’t be. He promised we — me — he wouldn’t be testing. I think he’d like to meet again. And I think he likes me a lot. And I think — you know, I think that we have a chance to do something.”

And he got very sulky when chief of staff Mick Mulvaney started coughing during a taping. 

“And let’s do that over, he’s coughing in the middle of my answer,” Trump complained. “I don’t like that, you know, I don’t like that.”

“If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t — you just can’t cough. Boy, oh boy,” the president moaned.

What else is happening:

  • Illegal migrant crossings at the Mexico border have been falling in recent weeks, officials said, with fuller reports to come.
  • Trump's false and misleading remarks from the ABC interview are logged here.
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg canceled a political appearance in New York and returned to South Bend, Indiana, after a police-involved shooting in his city.
  • India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 U.S. products ahead of the G-20 summit.
  • UN Ambassador nominee Kelly Craft was frequently absent from her current post as ambassador to Canada, Politico reports.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee under Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) has been quietly poking into the administration's explosive foreign entanglements.

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