Do you wanna know a secret?
Oops, he did it again. Or rather, it turns out he did it before.
Eleven days before giving Russian diplomats classified intelligence received from Israel, Trump phoned President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and told him the United States had two nuclear submarines off the coast of North Korea.
Pentagon officials were stunned by the conversation, according to BuzzFeed, saying, “We never talk about subs!” Submarines are harder to detect than surface warships, and stealth is key to their mission.
As in the Oval Office meeting with the Russians, where Trump said, “I get great intel,” his reveal to Duterte also came in a boast: “We have two submarines -- the best in the world.”
The president has the authority to decide with whom to share classified information. But there could be consequences.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday his country has done a “spot repair” of intelligence-cooperation protocols with the United States. “What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did,” he said.
Fight them on the breaches...
British officials say they are vexed by U.S. leaks they call "damaging" in regard to their probe of the Manchester terrorist attack this week. Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday she plans to tell Trump about it when they meet later in the day at a NATO summit.
May said on TV that briefings on the matter have stopped "until such time as we have assurances that no further unauthorized disclosures will occur." Her government's security forces face their own embarrassment for failing to take action in the wake of warnings about Salman Abedi's extremism.
CBO on health bill: A score-cher
Nearly three weeks after Trump and House Republicans celebrated their passage of a health care bill, the score from the independent Congressional Budget Office is in. Its analysis:
The bill would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion, but leave 23 million fewer people insured over a decade. Premiums on average would fall compared with Obamacare, but that would be partly because policies would typically provide less coverage. People with pre-existing conditions may not be able to afford coverage.
The White House attacked the report’s credibility. “History has proven the CBO to be totally incapable of accurately predicting how health care legislation will impact health insurance coverage,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity. See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo.
Friends in high places
U.S. spies last summer discovered discussions among senior Russian intelligence and political officials on how to exert influence over Trump through his advisers, The New York Times reported.
The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, the retired general who was advising Trump. Flynn became national security adviser, only to be fired for withholding details on his Russia contacts. It was unclear whether the Russians followed through on the influence attempts, the Times said.
CNN reports Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to list his Russia contacts on a security clearance form. A spokeswoman said an FBI employee told him he didn’t have to list meetings he had with ambassadors while a senator.
The take-away: Hired gun
Trump’s reported choice of longtime legal adviser Marc Kasowitz to personally represent him in the Russia investigation casts a spotlight on his Manhattan law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
A former partner was David Friedman, now Trump’s ambassador to Israel. A senior counsel is former Sen. Joseph Lieberman -- who had been a front-runner for FBI director, but isn’t anymore, several reports said. Kasowitz has represented Trump on divorce records, real estate and civil charges of fraud at Trump University.
Audience with the pope
Trump and Pope Francis didn’t let their differences show on the surface as they met in the Vatican.
Trump smiled broadly, the pope smiled less, but both agreed on a message about the need to avoid conflict.
In an exchange of gifts, Francis gave the president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions. That suggested he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris climate-change accord.
NATO takes Trump’s cues
The agenda for Trump’s NATO meetings in Brussels has been tailored to what other members of the alliance believe he wants to hear -- boosting their sharing of the cost burdens and fighting terrorism. Less of a topic: Russia.
Thousands of anti-Trump demonstrators were on the streets as Trump arrived in the Belgian capital, which he described last year as a “hellhole.”
Trump district turns blue
Are all politics still local in the age of Trump? Progressive groups and union organizers said Tuesday night’s victory for Democrat Christine Pellegrino in a Long Island Assembly district that had favored Trump signaled a Democratic wave in November and in 2018, reports Newsday’s David M. Schwartz.
Lisa Tyson, executive director of Long Island Progressive Alliance, said Trump “has awoken the sleeping giant. More people are getting involved in local elections.”
But Republicans blamed local factors, including GOP corruption scandals in Nassau County. “There’s no sign of Trump fatigue, especially among the base,” said a Suffolk Republican official.
What else is happening
- The Trump Organization is backing away from a pledge to turn over hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, saying the required bookkeeping is impractical.
- Some Trump properties have thrived since his election, but the Trump SoHo is in a slump, WNYC Radio found. Bookings for corporate events are down sharply, room rates are now several hundreds of dollars less than other five-star hotels and layoffs are planned.
- American voters believe by 54 percent to 43 percent that Trump is abusing the powers of his office, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. A Fox News poll put his approval at 40 percent -- down 5 points from a month ago -- with sharp drops among whites without a college degree and independent voters.
- The House Intelligence Committee will issue subpoenas demanding Flynn’s cooperation with its Russia investigation. The Senate Intelligence Committee is wrangling with Flynn’s lawyers over its subpoenas.
- Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has set up shop in a Washington office building to begin work investigating Russian influence on the 2016 election.
- Press Secretary Sean Spicer, a devout Catholic, had been looking forward to meeting the pope, but he didn’t make the cut for staff invited to the occasion.