Your Daily Dose of Trump and His Administration News
- President Trump on Friday asserted he has “the legal right” to insert himself into the Justice Department’s handling of criminal cases one day after Attorney General William Barr said the president’s tweets were making his job more difficult. Trump Tweeted: ““The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!”
- The Air Force’s dress code has been updated to clear the way for an approval process for Sikhs and Muslims that would allow them to wear their articles of faith while serving. Finalized last week, the new code lets Sikhs and Muslims in the Air Force seek a religious accommodation that will allow turbans, beards, unshorn hair and hijabs, with the expectation that they’ll be approved as long as their appearance is “neat and conservative
- A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Pentagon to halt its work on a controversial cloud-computing contract amid a court challenge by Amazon, notching a major win for the tech giant as it seeks to prove that President Trump improperly interfered to keep the $10 billion contract away from Amazon.
- President Trump tweeted a New York Times article including a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about going after a “king,” prompting thousands to use the trending phrase “YOU ARE NOT A KING.” Some Twitter users noted that Trump appeared to tweak the phrasing of the analysis piece, changing the Emerson quote from “when you strike at a king” to read “when you strike the King” in his post.
- The Trump administration will begin sending 100 border patrol officers to so-called sanctuary cities to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A senior official with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told NBC News that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were being deployed to work with ICE from February to May to “enhance integrity of the immigration system, protect public safety, and strengthen our national security.”
- Attorney General William Barr has ordered an outside prosecutor to review the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser. Such reviews are rare and are likely to raise new questions about potential political interference by Department of Justice officials into cases. Barr has also tapped outside prosecutors to review other politically sensitive cases being handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, which is overseeing Flynn’s prosecution.
- Defense Secretary Mark Esper knocked China as a growing threat to world order at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, on Saturday. Esper said China is high on the Defense Department’s list of potential adversaries, along with Russia. He said that the U.S. is not seeking conflicts with China, but warned European leaders of China’s growing army.
“The Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction – more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture,” he said.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday pledged that the U.S. would contribute $1 billion to help support the energy independence of European allies. The support to the Three Seas Initiative, an effort that aims to promote dialogue among 12 member states in Central and Eastern Europe on a variety of policies, comes as President Trump continues to press European allies over their contributions to shared defense, trade and other issues.
- The U.S. Government Accountability Office is opening a review into the Trump administration’s $28 billion bailout for farmers affected by the U.S. trade wars. The investigation was initially requested by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who has accused the administration of allocating more funds to southern states that voted for President Trump and favoring large and foreign companies over local farms.
- The White House is reportedly considering ways to incentivize U.S. households to invest in the stock market as part of an upcoming tax cuts package. Four senior administration officials familiar with the discussions told CNBC that the proposal, which is one of several currently under consideration, would include a clause to allow some of household income to be treated as tax-free should families invest outside a traditional 401(k).
- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who provided damaging testimony during President Trump’s impeachment, is not being investigated by the Army, the service’s top civilian said Friday. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy’s comments come days after Trump suggested the military discipline Vindman for his testimony during the House’s impeachment inquiry.
- A day after the Senate voted to restrict President Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran, the Trump administration sent Congress its legal justification for the drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Committee Chairman Eliot Engel argued the document “directly contradicts’ Trump’s claim of an imminent attack. “The administration’s explanation in this report makes no mention of any imminent threat and shows that the justification the president offered to the American people was false.”
- The U.S. military is reportedly advancing plans to make ready for a potential pandemic of the coronavirus. Last month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave the order to initiate pandemic plans that include quarantining service members who have traveled to China since Feb. 2. The Military Times reported Thursday that troops around Asia have begun enforcing the directive at their own discretion on members who have traveled to China during the dates specified.
- Former top Environmental Protection Agency adviser, Mandy Gunasekara, who ran the Office of Air and Radiation under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, played a key role in writing regulations to roll back pollution controls for coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions, as well as the effort to leave the Paris climate accord will return to the agency as its chief of staff, according to a Friday report from The Washington Post.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a security conference in Munich on Friday that the State Department did not publicly disclose before nor after the fact. Politico reported that the two diplomats met in Lavrov’s meeting room at the hotel in which the conference took place. Maria Zakharova, Lavrov’s spokesperson, posted about the meeting on Facebook and included a photo of Pompeo in the hotel hallway with Lavrov and others.
- On Saturday, it was reported that Attorney General William Barr ran interference for Trump at the DOJ. Barr “personally spearheaded” an effort last year to save Halkbank, a state-owned Turkish bank, from being indicted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “pressed Trump in a bid to avoid charges.” Erdogan’s personal involvement complemented a months-long lobbying campaign by Turkey to avoid prosecution. Turkey spent millions of dollars “pressing the White House, the State Department, and Congress to ask the Justice Department not to prosecute the Turkish bank. The top lobbyist working on that case, Brian Ballard, extensively contacted Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow during that time.
- The Trump administration has zeroed out of the State Department budget a request from a nonprofit entity set up in honor of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 terrorist attacks. The agency’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal cuts $420 million from its educational and cultural programs, including $5 million for the Stevens Initiative, an organization created to memorialize the late ambassador’s dedication to cultivating international exchanges.
This is the third time that dedicated funding for the program has been removed by Trump’s budget officials. For the past two years, Congress has restored it.
- More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General William P. Barr on Sunday to step down after he intervened last week to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. They also urged current government employees to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the agency’s inspector general and to Congress.