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Iran hawks bare their talons at Trump

President Donald Trump and his new national security

President Donald Trump and his new national security adviser Robert O'Brien on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Making America gun-shy?

Some of the most strident Iran war hawks who counted President Donald Trump as a leader of the flock are coming to fear that he's becoming a bird of a more dovish feather.

After Trump announced Wednesday that he would ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the coming days, Sen. Lindsey Graham said that wasn't enough to answer the attack on Saudi oil facilities for which U.S. officials are holding Iran responsible.

“Sanctions so far haven’t worked and I doubt they ever will. So I think an appropriate military response is in order," Graham said. Asked about Trump's Tuesday night tweet rebuking him for saying Iran saw Trump's previous hesitance to use force as a "sign of weakness," Graham replied, "The Iranians are your target audience, not me."

Trump shot back with a reminder of the Iraq War debacle. “It's very easy to attack, but if you ask Lindsey, ask him how did going into the Middle East, how did that work out? And how did going into Iraq work out?"

It wasn't just Graham. In a broad attack on Trump's deal-seeking, ex-national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday told a private Manhattan luncheon for a conservative think tank that any negotiations with North Korea and Iran were “doomed to failure” and Trump's aborted invitation to meet with the Taliban at Camp David was “disrespectful” to the victims of 9/11, Politico reported. Trump hit Bolton again for his Bush-era role. "He got stuck in quicksand and we became policemen for the Middle East," the president said.

Still, Trump said, "If we have to do something, we'll do it without hesitation.” Reverting to the ominous-sounding rhetoric he has used in past tensions, Trump said, "There are many options … There’s the ultimate option, and there are options that are a lot less than that.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Saudi Arabia, said the strike against the oil installation was "an act of war." Trump wouldn't go that far.

Not all GOP hawks are as gung-ho as Graham and Bolton to launch a reprisal attack. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has warned, "Such a conflict would be difficult to de-escalate." Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the U.S. it will retaliate in a "rapid and crushing" manner if it is targeted. For more on the Iran tensions, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Feeding Trump's sense of security

Will flattery get you the job of Trump national security adviser? It didn't hurt Robert O'Brien. Back in April, Trump tweeted that he had been praised by O'Brien as "the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States."

That was a fair summary of O'Brien's comments regarding his efforts as a special presidential envoy in getting Americans freed from captivity by foreign fighters and governments. "The president has had unparalleled success in bringing Americans home without paying concessions, without prisoner exchanges, but through force of will and the good will that he’s generated around the world,” O'Brien said.

Earlier this year, Trump directed O’Brien to attend court proceedings in Sweden after American rapper A$AP Rocky was arrested in Stockholm on assault charges. The veteran diplomat served in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. He also worked for Bolton and shared his view, and Trump's, that Obama's Iran nuclear deal was a mistake. For more, see Newsday's story by Figueroa.

Ticking bombshell?

Trump made a “promise” to a foreign leader that a U.S. intelligence official found troubling enough to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, The Washington Post reported.

The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, determined that the complaint was credible and serious enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern” — a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

But acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers, setting off a battle with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

The complaint was filed on Aug. 12. The Post said its sources were two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Janison: Mourning constitutional

Constitution Week is going by like any other week in the Trump era, with the president making no effort to get the public to revere the founding document he's sworn to uphold, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

The Constitution assigned coequal powers to the three branches of government, but Trump is stonewalling congressional subpoenas. That's in keeping with his novel interpretation that "I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."

A presidential push to end California's separate car emissions regulations underscored a historic role reversal in which progressives now invoke states' rights. Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment, yet Trump muses he could take it away by fiat. Reasonable searches per the Fourth Amendment? Trump pardoned a former Arizona sheriff who defied federal court orders to stop abusing his office in pursuit of undocumented immigrants.

He jokes about staying in office beyond two terms. The 22nd Amendment says no.

Won't click with Trump

Seeing what Obama did — and doing the opposite — is an ethos for Trump. So are key elements of his approach to decision-making, a contrast evident from Obama's remarks at a data analysis company's event in San Francisco Wednesday.

One thing "that's helpful is not watching TV or reading social media," Obama said. "Those are two things I would advise, if you're our president, not to do. It creates a lot of noise and clouds your judgment." His comments were reported by Business Insider.

Bibi buh-bye?

The curtain may be coming down on Trump's buddy act with Benjamin Netanyahu. The president said he had not spoken to the Israeli prime minister since his future in office was put in doubt by Tuesday's elections.

"Look, our relationship is with Israel. We'll see what happens," Trump said.

During his election campaign, Netanyahu played up his personal relationship with Trump.

Trump finds homeless unsightly

A few days before his trip to California, Trump mystified officials there with his interest in problems of homelessness in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities. When he finally spelled out his concerns, it became clearer which one was uppermost: the blight on high-end real estate.

"In many cases, they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents,” Trump said. “Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave.”

In Los Angeles and San Francisco, Trump said, people are living on the “best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings … where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige.”

Trump has spoken vaguely of a federal intervention to sweep the homeless off the streets, leaving many unanswered questions. Local officials wrote to Trump seeking more funds for programs like housing vouchers. HUD Secretary Ben Carson, answering for Trump, said no, blaming "state and local policies" in the Democratic-dominated California, such as an "over-regulated housing market."

Hole in the wall

Trump visited new section of border barrier east of San Diego and was so enthusiastic about its features that the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried gently to caution him not to give away secrets.

“They're wired, so that we will know if somebody's trying to break through, and you may want to discuss that a little bit, general," he said to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.

Semonite hesitated: "Sir, there could be some merit in not discussing that."

Trump responded: "I'll just tell you they're wired, OK?”

After the news conference, Trump signed a slat with a Sharpie.

What else is happening:

  • Trump was unsatisfied by the Fed's quarter-point cut in interest rates Wednesday. "Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No 'guts,' no sense, no vision!" he tweeted. Asked how he responds to Trump's criticism, Powell told reporters at news conference: "I don't."
  • While Joe Biden is the first choice of more Democrats in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Elizabeth Warren has the most who are comfortable, if not outright enthusiastic, about her — 70%. Who would disappoint the most? An Economist/YouGov poll found Marianne Williamson the letdown leader, followed by Bill de Blasio.
  • Further information provided by the Pentagon to the House Oversight Committee shows the U.S. military has spent nearly $200,000 at the president's luxury Turnberry golf resort in Scotland, all since Trump took office, Politico reported.
  • Democratic leaders in Congress show no interest in reviving investigations of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh over murky new allegations surfaced by The New York Times over the weekend. Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) lamented a "knee-jerk reaction among many Democrats" to raise impeachment, The Washington Post reported.
  • Trump retweeted a false smear of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from right-wing comedian Terrence Williams, the Daily Beast reported. It purports to show that the Muslim congresswoman “partied on the anniversary of 9/11.” The video of Omar dancing actually is from a Congressional Black Caucus event on Sept. 13. Williams' tweet was deleted; Trump's remained up.
  • While Congress still awaits Trump's position on expanding gun-sales background checks, the president complained in a tweet that "Dummy Beto" O'Rourke "made it much harder to make a deal" by calling for mandatory buybacks of assault rifles. "Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away," Trump said.
  • Starting next month, users of Amazon Alexa will be able to dictate their donations to a 2020 presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported. Unclear is how Alexa can make sure the contributions are legal.

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