By Robert A. Vella
Today’s first story is as disturbing as it is humorous. President Trump’s alienation of America’s European allies is causing great concern among the world community while it must be giving Russia’s Vladimir Putin a big smile. Former Vice President Joe Biden tried to reassure attendees at the Munich Security Conference last weekend:
“As my mother would say, this too shall pass,” Biden said, in reference to the divisive policies of the administration of President Donald Trump. “We will be back. We will be back,” he said, leading to loud clapping from the audience, some of who stood to their feet. Raising his voice to be heard over the applause, Biden added: “Don’t have any doubt about that.”
Conversely, current Vice President Mike Pence was met by utter silence when he mentioned President Trump. But, that didn’t stop the White House from claiming lying that the deafening sound of crickets chirping was actually applause.
The U.S.-led liberal world order is falling apart, according to the organizers of a gathering of world leaders and defense chiefs in Germany that has met annually since the Cold War.
The Munich Security Conference report said the Trump administration displays an “irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe” and “disdain for international institutions and agreements.”
First, in Warsaw, Poland, the U.S. organized a conference seeking to marshal international outrage over Iran, and Vice President Pence urged France, Germany and the U.K. to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, accusing them of concocting a “scheme” to continue to business with Iran. Top European allies trying to keep the nuclear deal alive declined to send top-level diplomats to the conference.
Then on Saturday, in Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the security conference with several critiques of U.S. foreign policy – and received a sustained standing ovation.
Watch: Pence met with silence; Merkel hammers Trump – While speaking at the 55th Munich Security Conference, VP Mike Pence was met with silence after mentioning President Trump. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the Trump administration’s foreign policies.
Even as speculation mounts that special counsel Robert Mueller might be winding down his investigation, a parallel threat to President Donald Trump only seems to be growing within his own Justice Department: the Southern District of New York.
Manhattan-based federal prosecutors can challenge Trump in ways Mueller can’t. They have jurisdiction over the president’s political operation and businesses — subjects that aren’t protected by executive privilege, a tool Trump is considering invoking to block portions of Mueller’s report. From a PR perspective, Trump has been unable to run the same playbook on SDNY that he’s used to erode conservatives’ faith in Mueller, the former George W. Bush-appointed FBI director. Legal circles are also buzzing over whether SDNY might buck DOJ guidance and seek to indict a sitting president.
“This is why I’ve been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing,” Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor, told ABC News earlier this month.
“I’m thoroughly convinced the SDNY will make its own evaluation. They will not say that’s a department policy,” said Jon Sale, a former SDNY and Watergate prosecutor who is close with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “They’re obviously looking at the president and I wouldn’t rule out that they could decide you can indict a sitting president.”
Days after a federal judge gagged Roger Stone from talking about the special counsel’s Russia investigation around U.S. District Court in Washington, the Republican strategist and provocateur on Monday posted a photo of the judge with crosshairs in the background.
Stone later submitted a formal apology to Jackson, but not before several hours during which he posted — and deleted — a slightly muted version of the original and tried to play down the symbolism.
Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, political observers have been trying to understand what the heck has happened to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. For a politician with a long record of standing on principle, even if his principles were frequently controversial, it has been very puzzling to see McConnell transform himself from a stubborn turtle-man into a Trump-sycophant. But now, maybe we know why.
A trove of more than 800 pages of emails sheds new light on the working relationship between Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most potent power couples in Washington — including their dealings with McConnell supporters from their home state of Kentucky.
Chao has met at least 10 times with politicians and business leaders from the state in response to requests from McConnell’s office, according to documents provided to POLITICO by the watchdog group American Oversight. In some cases, those people later received what they were hoping for from Chao’s department, including infrastructure grants, the designation of an interstate highway and assistance in getting state funds for a highway project — although the documents don’t indicate the meetings led to those outcomes.
“This is the kind of stuff the American public hates,” said Caroline Ciccone, executive director of Restore Public Trust, adding that a “prudent elected official” will avoid favoritism “not just because it looks bad, it’s because it is bad.”
big National Emergency lawsuit
A coalition of 16 states filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block President Trump’s plan to build a border wall without permission from Congress, arguing that the president’s decision to declare a national emergency is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, brought by states with Democratic governors except for one — Maryland — seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent the president from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts.
Republicans are struggling with Trump’s declaration calling the move “dangerous” and an “abuse of power.” Here’s an email I received yesterday from my Republican congressional representative Jaime Herrera Beutler:
In light of the president’s national emergency declaration last week, I released the following statement at that time.
“I have voted repeatedly and consistently for increased security on our borders, but I do not support the president using a national emergency declaration to redirect funds toward the border that were already appropriated for other purposes by Congress. If President Obama had ever hinted at using emergency powers in this way I would have spoken out strongly against it, and consistency demands that I do the same now.
“An emergency declaration would set a dangerous precedent. Some conservatives may cheer today, but someday it’s likely that the shoe will be on the other foot, and a liberal president would have the power to disregard Congress, declare an emergency, and enact whatever policy she sees fit. Speaker Pelosi, referring to this development, has already said, ‘Just think what a president of different values can present to the American people. A Democratic president can declare emergencies as well.’ What could the next president circumvent Congress to enact with emergency powers? Government-run, one-size-fits-all health care? A firearms ban? A Green New Deal?
“Our government is a system of checks and balances, and declaring an emergency in such a situation would undermine that system in a way that even those of us who support strong border security may later deeply regret. I say that as one who has voted to meet and exceed the president’s $5 billion request for physical border security last June and in my role as an appropriator. Ultimately, it’s up to Congress to finally do its job and craft an immigration bill that secures our borders and fixes the countless other problems with our immigration system. We can’t let our frustration allow us to disregard the Constitution and its separation of powers.”
North Carolina election fraud
RALEIGH, N.C. — A key witness testified Monday that she engaged in fraudulent and illegal activity involving absentee ballots in a congressional race in North Carolina as part of a get-out-the vote operation to benefit the Republican congressional candidate in a race that is still unresolved.
In frank testimony before the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Lisa Britt said that she was paid to collect absentee ballots in the 2018 election by McCrae Dowless, a political operative hired by consultants for Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris.
Britt said some of the ballots she collected were unsealed and uncompleted and testified she filled out the options left blank for Republican candidates — an admission of vote tampering that violates North Carolina law.
West Virginia teachers’ strike
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly a year to the day after West Virginia teachers went on a strike that launched a national “Red4Ed” movement, they’re doing it again.
Unions have called a statewide walkout Tuesday over complicated education legislation that they view as lacking their input and as retaliation for last year’s strike.