Meshuga move by MAGA man?
The president's message of the day: Nobody is stronger than Donald Trump for Israel. Stronger than the Democrats who call themselves friends of the Jewish state. Stronger than AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. Stronger even than Benjamin Netanyahu?
About an hour after Trump's press secretary denied he had urged Israel's prime minister to bar a planned visit by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Trump sent the tweet: "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit."
Shortly thereafter, Israel told Tlaib, of Palestinian descent, and Omar to stay home. It followed Trump's "recommendation," said a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. The two Muslim congresswomen back the Palestinian-led boycott of Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement has a smattering of support on the left but is at odds with mainstream Democrats. Trump, with eyes on 2020, wants it seen otherwise.
"Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!" he said in a follow-up tweet. The pair, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, is half of the progressive "Squad," women of color, who Trump tweeted last month should "go back" to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came."
Israel's decision and Trump's involvement was condemned by top Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who tweeted, "Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength. It will only hurt the U.S.-Israel relationship and support for Israel in America." They weren't alone in warning the move could backfire.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), noting he authored an anti-BDS bill and disagrees "100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar" on Israel, said keeping the women out hands Israel's foes a bigger propaganda victory than letting them in would. "Denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake," Rubio tweeted. "Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along."
While affirming its disagreement with Tlaib and Omar, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said "every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand." The head of the American Jewish Committee tweeted that Israel "should've taken the high road & let these Members of Congress in, no matter how vile their views.”
Early Friday, Israel granted Tlaib entry to visit her elderly grandmother in the West Bank. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri approved a written request after Tlaib wrote a letter overnight. "I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother who is in her 90's and lives in Beit Ur Fouqa," she wrote. "This could be my last opportunity to see her." No word yet on whether Trump thinks it shows "great weakness."
At a New Hampshire campaign rally Thursday night, Trump adjusted expectations for winning his trade war with China.
"I never said China was gonna be easy," said Trump. Well, actually, he did say in the past "trade wars are good and easy to win."
Earlier, he sent out cheerleading tweets about the economy as “the Biggest, Strongest and Most Powerful … in the World." Privately, The Washington Post reports, he is anxious about a possible recession and has told confidants he suspects many economists and other forecasters are presenting biased data to thwart his re-election.
Trump habitually accuses all manner of American institutions of acting in bad faith, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, and the motive is usually clear — to defend against attacks on his own performance, or "counterpunch," as his aides like to put it.
His rip of the Fed after Wednesday's stock market plunge was one fresh example. The nation's intelligence agencies are repeat targets, as are the nation's courts. His claims of being victimized by massive fraud in the 2016 election have never been backed up, but they haven't gone away either.
Again, grievance trumped grief
From Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, comes another story of Trump grumping about other matters when he visited the Texas city last week ostensibly to offer consolation after the mass shooting that killed 22 people.
After inviting the mayor to ride back to the airport with him. Trump started talking about a border wall and Margo shared his view about the limitations of it. The mayor also told the president he had presented "misinformation" about crime rates in his city. Trump bristled.
“He said, ‘You’re a RINO [Republican in name only],’ and I said, ‘No, sir. I am not a RINO,’ ” Margo said in an interview with PBS. "I said … ‘I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by [the Texas] attorney general, and that’s all I did.’ ”
Call it Mar-a-Igloo
Trump has expressed interest to advisers of having the United States purchase Greenland, The Wall Street Journal reports. The 811,000 square mile territory between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans belongs to Denmark, which rebuffed a $100 million offer from President Harry Truman in 1946.
Greenland is covered mostly by ice, but it's been melting at an increasing rate as a result of climate change. The Journal's report set off a mirthquake on Twitter. Republican strategist Evan Siegfried tweeted:
WH aide: “Mr. President, Greenland is heating up.” Trump: “Love a hot market. Let’s get in early.”
Jesse Ferguson, who served a spokesman in 2016 for Hillary Clinton, chimed in: "Donald Trump is going to buy Greenland and Mexico is going to pay for it."
What's the story, Corey?
The House Judiciary Committee announced it had issued a subpoena to question former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who Trump enlisted in a never-executed effort in 2017 to have then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rein in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said Lewandowski and another subpoena target, former White House official Rick Dearborn, "were prominently featured in the Special Counsel’s description of President Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice." White House officials are considering whether they can try to invoke executive privilege to block Lewandowski from testifying even though he never served in the administration, CNN reported.
Trump is touting Lewandowski as a 2020 Senate candidate in New Hampshire to the distress of some Republican leaders there.
What else is happening:
- Still watching from the sidelines, Trump has decided it shouldn't be hard to solve the Hong Kong crisis. He said President Xi Jinping should meet with the protesters and "I’ll bet he’d work it out in 15 minutes."
- Trump has always avoided comment on the white nationalist musings of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), even after the House GOP stripped him of committee assignments. But Steve King's comment that humanity might have died out without rape and incest nudged Trump off the fence. "Certainly it wasn't a good statement," Trump said.
- A longtime donor with deep ties to Ukraine loaned Biden’s younger brother James $500,000 toward buying a multimillion-dollar Florida vacation home, Politico reported. While there's no indication the loan influenced the then-vice president's official actions, it adds to pattern of Biden relatives leaning on his political allies for financial benefit.
- BuzzFeed reports there's "chatter" around Joe Biden's campaign that New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would be a good fit for chief of staff in a Biden White House.
- Move over, Ivanka. Bill de Blasio said he wouldn't rule out hiring his son, Dante, as an official White House adviser if he’s elected president.
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday and said he will consider a 2020 Senate run.
- An online petition that seeks to troll Trump by renaming Fifth Avenue block where Trump Tower stands has 290,000 signatures but isn't going anywhere, The New York Times reports. The local community board is against renaming streets and neither the councilman who represents the area nor Council Speaker Corey Johnson want to do it.