POTUS: Be my guest
As Mike Pence's chief of staff explained it, President Donald Trump never insisted that the vice president stay at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg during his official visit to Ireland.
"I don't think it was a request, like a command. … I think that it was a suggestion," said Marc Short. It “wasn't like a, 'You must.' It wasn't like, 'You have to.’ ”
Also, it wasn't like Trump is going to comp the rooms. The two-night stay for Pence, his wife, his staff and security count as official expenses. The vice president is paying for his mother and sister, who came along on the trip to their ancestral hometown. Also running up the taxpayers' bill was the cost of flying the Pences from Doonbeg on the west coast to Dublin on the east coast to meet Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Irish President Michael Higgins. The round trip took four hours.
Pence said the arrangements made sense to him. "The opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical." Another rationale is that besides official business, Pence's itinerary included a stop at a village pub owned by a distant cousin where he worked for a few weeks when in his 20s. It was "important for me to at least spend one night in Doonbeg," he said.
The explanations drew skepticism from a liberal-leaning watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It’s impossible to imagine that there was no place closer and more convenient and cheaper, in essentially all of Ireland, than this,” said Noah Bookbinder, CREW's executive director. The Democratic National Committee tweeted: "Your tax dollars: making the Trump family richer."
But Trump has repeatedly found his properties a logical choice for official, reimbursed purposes regardless of critics. On his own Ireland trip in June, the president stayed at Doonbeg and skipped Dublin entirely, meeting with Varadkar at an airport VIP lounge. Last week, he was touting his Doral golf resort outside Miami as a top contender with "magnificent" facilities to host next year's G-7 summit. He already hosts world leaders at a Mar-a-Lago.
There's no disputing that as a hotelier, Trump has made presidential history.
Janison: Blown call stands
Most people in big executive jobs simply correct their errors when made aware of them, particularly when issuing emergency advisories, but Trump isn't most people, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. As the Southeast coast braced for Hurricane Dorian, Trump tweeted at 10:51 a.m. Sunday: "In addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."
Twenty minutes later the National Weather Service issued this notice: "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian … The system will remain too far east."
But Trump, who considers himself more expert than the experts on many subjects, told a news conference after the NWS advisory that Dorian was still a potential threat to Alabama. After ABC News alerted the public to Trump's misleading error, he personally assailed the on-air reporter as a "lightweight" and tweeted about "fake news" and "bad people."
Wall Street's tweeting indicators
An analysis from Bank of America Merrill Lynch finds that days when Trump tweets a lot tend to be down days for the stock market. Conversely, when Trump's tweeting is light, the market tilts to the upside.
“Trade talk, political campaigning and tweets have contributed to volatility, from China to Fed policy to tax policy,” wrote the brokerage’s chief equity strategist, Savita Subramanian, according to a report by CNBC.
In waiting period on guns
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the onus on Trump for identifying bills he'd back to counter gun violence following three deadly mass shootings in the past month, Newsday's Tom Brune reports.
"I expect to get an answer to that next week,” McConnell told radio show host Hugh Hewitt. “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it, it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor.”
Democrats have called for universal background checks, red-flag laws and even assault weapon bans. Trump, who initially spoke in favor of expanded background checks, appeared to have cooled on that idea in his most recent comments. Trump hasn't backed away from "red-flag laws," which let authorities get a court order to remove guns from people deemed to be dangerous.
The wall rises above all
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has authorized the diverting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build 175 miles of Trump's Mexican border wall. Defense Department officials say 127 military construction projects are being put on hold.
The announcement fulfills a vow made by Trump in February to tap the construction funds after Congress wouldn't authorize the spending. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was notified that one of the delayed projects was at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
"It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that @realDonaldTrump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego, and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build," Schumer tweeted.
Biden aides: No quick KOs
Electable doesn't mean invincible. A senior adviser to Joe Biden's campaign on Tuesday said neither Iowa nor New Hampshire is a must-win state for the former vice president, and they don't expect the other top-tier candidates to get knocked out early either.
In setting modest expectations for New Hampshire, an adviser said "historically, there’s an incredible home field advantage for a Massachusetts candidate or a New Englander.” Elizabeth Warren comes from Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders is from Vermont.
Biden advisers have said they’ve laid groundwork in early voting states but “are now ramping up for Super Tuesday and beyond.”
What else is happening:
- Secret Service veterans dispute the Trump administration's assertion that his resort properties offer security advantages over the alternatives, Politico reports.
- An openly gay White House spokesman said Pence showed he is not "anti-gay" by having lunch with Varadkar, who is gay, and his partner. Pence has backed policies that LGBT advocates regard as harmful to the community.
- Trump tweeted that if there is no trade deal with China by November 2020 and he wins a second term, the U.S. position will get "MUCH TOUGHER!" Amid the standoff, a key indicator of U.S. manufacturing contracted in August for the first time since 2016, sending the stock market lower.
- Warren is planning a speech for the evening of Sept. 16 in Manhattan's Washington Square on “how corruption in Washington" has tilted rules in favor of "the rich and powerful."
- The fourth Democratic debate will be held Oct. 15 and also Oct. 16 if a second night is necessary, according to a memo the Democratic National Committee sent to presidential campaigns, Politico reported. The venue hasn't yet been announced but will be somewhere in Ohio.
- France has proposed offering Iran about $15 billion in credit lines until year-end if Tehran comes back fully into compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal, Reuters reported. The move hinges on the Trump administration not blocking it.