Warnings won’t deter Trump
In 1995, Congress passed a law calling on the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.
But there was an out, invoked by then-President Bill Clinton and his successors every six months since — waivers to put off the move on national security grounds as the U.S. tried, in fits and starts, to encourage peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump has boasted he could pull off such a deal. But he’s also taking a risk with a plan to announce Wednesday an official U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would set off a potential firestorm — even though another waiver is expected on grounds it would take years to build a new diplomatic outpost in the holy city.
Arab and Western allies have warned recognizing Jerusalem will threaten regional stability and undermine peace talks. Fearing violence, the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem ordered American personnel and their families to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank.
Saudi Arabia, a key player in the Trump administration’s Mideast peace initiative, said King Salman told Trump it “would constitute a flagrant provocation to all Muslims, all over the world.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Moore, lesser evil
There are more than 150 Waffle Houses in Alabama. In that spirit, the White House had a Waffle Tuesday on Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore.
Does Trump want Alabama voters to send the Republican candidate to the Senate? Absolutely. So he believes Moore’s denials of sexual misbehavior with teens years ago? Not necessarily.
“We find the allegations very troubling,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, but “the president feels that he would rather have a person who supports his agenda” instead of Democrat Doug Jones. If the women accusing him told the truth, she said, “he should step aside ... But we don’t have a way to validate that.”
Janison: Fed up
The FBI is getting its turn under Trump’s style of management by public pillory, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison. He wailed on Twitter that the FBI’s standing is the “worst in history” and its reputation in “tatters.”
Though Trump’s grievances have their origins in James Comey’s stewardship of the bureau, the current, Trump-chosen director, Christopher Wray, felt compelled to speak up for his agents.
Wray wrote them that he has been “inspired by example after example of professionalism, and dedication to justice demonstrated around the bureau. We find ourselves under the microscope each and every day and rightfully so ... Keep calm and tackle hard.”
SALT back on the menu
With the Senate and House hashing out the different versions of their tax bills, an idea has emerged to rescue a piece of the state and local income tax deduction, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune.
House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said one option is to allow the rewrite of the deduction capped at $10,000 for property taxes so it could also be used for income and sales taxes.
“It’s not enough,” responded Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
Poll: Tax plan panned
Only 29% of Americans approve of the Republican tax plan, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed — 64% — said the bill would benefit the wealthy most, while just 24% said they believe the middle class would make out best.
The same poll put Trump’s approval rating at 35%.
Meeting with Republican senators Tuesday, Trump called the tax plan “a tremendous bill for jobs and for the middle class” and said, contrary what polls are finding on how it’s playing with the public, “the more they learn about it, the more popular it becomes.”
In a Singapore sling
K.T. McFarland of Park Avenue and Southampton was supposed to get a soft landing after her hasty exit from the National Security Council staff — a posting to Singapore as the U.S. ambassador.
Now Senate confirmation for McFarland is on hold — “frozen,” as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) put it. Recently revealed emails suggest she deceived them about her knowledge of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia.
Trump’s White House is still trying to dig out from his tweet that suggested he knew when he fired Flynn that the national security adviser had lied to the FBI — the crime for which he has now pleaded guilty.
That would provide a potential motive for an obstruction of justice case.
Asked if Trump knew if back then, Sanders said, “The president knew that he lied to the vice president, and that was the reason for his firing.” Asked again when Trump knew, Sanders said reporters should ask Trump lawyer John Dowd.
So they did. Dowd told NBC News, “I am not going to engage further on this.”
What else is happening
- Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has cost more than $6.7 million through Sept. 30, according to a financial report released Tuesday.
- Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz asked a New York judge to dismiss a suit by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who accused the president of groping her a decade ago and charges his denials defamed her.
- Border Patrol arrests have plunged to a 45-year low and detentions away from the U.S.-Mexico border have surged 40% under Trump’s illegal immigration crackdown. Sanders called that a “success story” and said Trump still wants a border wall.
- Trump as tweeter-in-chief has 44.1 million followers, but he’s an also-ran in another category. None of Trump’s tweets from 2017 have been among the Top 10 most retweeted. Former President Barack Obama had three of them — including a tweet against racial hatred after the Charlottesville violence.
- Trump plans to visit Mississippi for the state’s bicentennial and to help open two museums, including one dedicated to civil rights. Activists are threatening to boycott or protest Trump’s participation.
- The Senate voted 62-37 to confirm Trump’s choice for Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen. The job opened up after John Kelly became Trump’s chief of staff.
The 1600 reported erroneously on Tuesday that President Bill Clinton signed the 1995 law calling on the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The bill passed by Congress became law without his signature.