The Past 24 Hours or So – Trump Administration News

Read Time: 4 Minutes

  • Intelligence officials told the Associated Press that the president was briefed on the Russian/Taliban bounty matter earlier this year. “The administration discussed several potential responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step.”
  • American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.

The assessment was backed up by “several pieces of information” that supported the view that there was an effort by the Russian intelligence unit, the GRU, to pay bounties to kill U.S. soldiers, but added that there was also information that did not corroborate this view.

“This was a big deal. When it’s about U.S. troops you go after it 100 percent, with everything you got,” the official said. 

Trump has denied being briefed on the matter.

  • Late Monday night, the Associated Press reported that top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

  • Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are demanding answers after reports revealed the intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The uproar includes a chorus of Republicans who are typically reticent to confront President Trump, who has sought to deflect blame and responsibility by arguing he was not briefed on the intelligence that he claims is not credible.

  • President Trump set off a “five-alarm fire” in the White House on Sunday morning after he retweeted a video of one of his supporters saying “white power,” according to two White House officials.

The video remained on the president’s Twitter page for more than three hours because White House officials couldn’t reach him to ask him to delete it. The president was at his golf club in Virginia and had put his phone down, the officials said.

Aides also tried unsuccessfully to reach deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino to ask him to delete the retweet.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C) added to the urgency when he called the tweet “indefensible” and demanded that the president take it down during an interview on CNN.

Once officials were able to reach the president, he agreed to delete it.

  • Iran issued arrest warrants for President Trump and 35 others in relation to Islamic Revolution Guard Corps commander Qasem Soleimani’s death. The Tehran attorney general says Trump was at the top of the list.
  • A group of top House Democrats is introducing a new proposal to empower the House to levy stiff fines against Trump officials who defy subpoenas.
  • President Trump threatened to veto House Democrats’ $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan on Monday, arguing it should eliminate or reduce environmental reviews and doesn’t route enough money to rural America.

The bill contains billions to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges while setting aside funds for broadband, schools and hospitals. It would also require states to commit to reducing greenhouse gases and other climate measures in order to receive funding.

But Republicans have branded it as an iteration of the Green New Deal crafted without their input.

  • The Supreme Court declined to take a case challenging President Trump’s border wall, leaving in place a decision that rejected environmental groups’ quest to stop construction. The lawsuit was over the Trump administration’s decision to waive environmental reviews to speed up construction of the wall.
  • Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who last week ordered former Trump adviser, Roger Stone, immediately into home confinement and to prison on July 14, said she was turning down Stone’s request to delay his reporting to prison until September.
  • The Trump administration placed new restrictions on U.S. exports of defense equipment and certain high-technology products to Hong Kong on Monday, in response to a new Chinese law aimed at tightening Beijing’s control over the territory.
  • A bipartisan group of senators is trying to place limits on President Trump’s ability to remove troops from Germany unless the administration is able to meet a slew of requirements. 

The proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), would prohibit the administration from reducing the number of active-duty troops in Germany below 34,500 unless the Pentagon can certify to Congress that it is in the national security interest of the United States and would not negatively undermine European alliances or NATO.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NJ.com, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 7 Minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19

  • The death toll from COVID-19 reached half a million people on Sunday.
  • Vice President Mike Pence said new outbreaks of the coronavirus may be arising because younger Americans aren’t abiding by federal guidance.

Pence said people “should wear masks whenever social distancing is not possible” and “wherever it is indicated by state or local authorities.”

  • A choir of more than 100 people performed without masks at an event in Texas at the First Baptist Church on Sunday that featured a speech by Vice President Mike Pence.

Nearly 2,200 people attended the “Celebrate Freedom Rally,” according to rally organizers. The venue capacity for the indoor event was close to 3,000 attendees, organizers say. Face masks at the event were “strongly encouraged,” with signs posted around the venue. According to reports, at least half of the crowd was wearing a face covering. 

Throughout the service, the members of the choir sang at full volume, behind an orchestra. Between songs, the choir members put their masks back on when they sat down.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday a nationwide mandate to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of coronavirus is “definitely long overdue.”

The speaker called on President Trump to “be an example” to the U.S. and wear a face covering, saying “real men wear masks.”

  • Vice President Pence said the federal government would extend support for coronavirus testing in Texas as long as necessary amid a dangerous surge in new cases. U.S. health officials had originally moved to end supporting sites at the end of the month..
  • Florida Gov. DeSantis says his state’s rise in coronavirus cases is being “driven by a big increase over the last three weeks in individuals testing positive throughout the state of Florida in younger age groups.”
  • California Governor. Gavin Newsom ordered bars in several counties to close due to the spread of COVID-19, including Los Angeles County.

Newsom tweeted the order around Noon on Sunday, which also affects Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Tulare counties.

The governor also recommended bars close in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus and Ventura counties.

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned Sunday that “the window is closing” to take action to curb the spread of the coronavirus as cases across the southern United States continue “surging.”

In an interview with “Meet the Press,” Azar said that the country has “more tools than we had months ago” to fight the virus and the disease it causes, including new treatments and more personal protective equipment. But he stressed that America is facing a “very serious situation.”

  • A CBS News poll shows record numbers saying efforts against the outbreak are going badly (including new highs saying efforts are going very badly); President Trump receives his lowest marks for handling the pandemic since it began; and the outlook for the summer is grim. Twice as many expect the outbreak to worsen, rather than improve.

In addition to coronavirus concerns, overall, views of how things are generally going in the country are decidedly negative. Seventy-six percent of Americans say things are going badly compared to 56% who felt that way in December 2019.

  • Allegheny County, PA officials say they are banning on-site consumption of alcohol following a recent surge of new Coronavirus cases.

“For the first time since COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the state, Allegheny County led the state in the number of new COVID-19 cases,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “We’re going the wrong direction.”

  • The United Kingdom reported a weekly total of 6,820 coronavirus infections, that’s a decrease of 19.2% over last week and 80.9% since the week of April 19th.
  • Brazil tallied 38,693 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours and 1,109 additional deaths. The number of COVID19 infections stands at 1,313,667 and the death toll at 57,070 as of Saturday night, with no sign of policy changes by the Bolsonaro government.
  • The University of Tennessee will require students to have both flu and, when available,  COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday New York State’s lowest death toll and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Saturday, there were five deaths and 869 hospitalizations in New York State.

Of the 61,906 tests conducted in New York State Saturday, 616, or 0.99 percent, were positive.

  • Oklahoma (478), South Carolina (1,384), Louisiana (1,454),  North Carolina (1,576), Georgia (2,225), and Arizona (3,857) all set records for new coronavirus cases.

Protest/Race Relations News

  • Two street murals, one reading, “All Black Lives Matter” and the other “Abolish White Supremacy” were painted on two streets in Newark, NJ by artists with the support of the city.
  • The Mississippi state legislature — both the House and Senate — passed a bill on Sunday to change the state’s flag in a historic step toward removing the flag’s Confederate battle emblem.

The bill will now go to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who has said he would sign legislation that state lawmakers send him to remove the Confederate insignia. The legislation cleared the state House in a 91-23 vote and the state Senate with a 37-14 vote

  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Tweeted: “Today, Mississippi lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag.

We replaced the MS flag with the American flag at Liberty State Park last year due to its hateful imagery. We look forward to raising a new MS flag soon.”

Administration News

  • United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said.

Officials briefed on the matter said the assessment had been treated as a closely held secret but that the administration expanded briefings about it over the last week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces were among those said to have been targeted.

In addition to saying he was never “briefed or told” about the intelligence report, Mr. Trump also cast doubt on the assessment’s credibility. He described the intelligence report as being about “so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.” The report described bounties paid to Taliban militants by Russian military intelligence officers, not direct attacks. Mr. Trump also suggested that the developments could be a “hoax” and questioned whether The Times’s sources existed.

  • Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a Twitter message on Sunday: “If reporting about Russian bounties on U.S. forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the [Presidential Daily Briefing]? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?”
  • Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total 26 deaths from 2018-2019.

  • British security officials have confirmed to Sky News that the reports about the Russian bounty plot are true.
  • The president Tweeted late Sunday night: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP . Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!

Presidential Campaign

  • 5% of Americans say they feel things in America today, generally speaking, are going “very well” according to a new CBS poll.
  • Following pressure to disclose the number of minorities on their staffs, the campaigns for former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump released diversity statistics.

In a summary of staff data obtained by NBC News, the Biden campaign disclosed that 35 percent of the full-time staff and 36 percent of senior advisors are people of color.

After the Biden campaign revealed its numbers, the Trump campaign followed, announcing that 25 percent of its senior staff are people of color but declining to provide information for all full-time staff.

  • Fox News Senior Correspondent Charles Gasparino Tweeted: “BREAKING— (thread)GOP operatives are for the first time raising the possibility that @realDonaldTrump  could drop out of the race if his poll numbers don’t rebound. Over the weekend I spoke to a sample of major players; one described Trumps current psyche as “fragile.”

“I’m not convinced yet; he’s got time and he’s running against an opponent who is literally hiding in his basement. Plus the public isn’t focusing yet on just how left wing @JoeBiden has become, so much so, he can bring himself to denounce rioting.

“That said the speculation indicates how tense  GOP operatives are about Trump losing and the party losing the senate and having their entire agenda abolished in a leftist wave election. Again lots of time and Trump has endured a horrible couple of months but that’s the snap [shot]”

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NJ.com, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

The Past 24 Hours or So – Trump Administration News

Read Time: 2 Minutes

  • President Trump, who tweeted yesterday that he canceled his New Jersey trip to ensure “LAW & ORDER is enforced,” arrived at his Virginia golf club. The weather forecast for Sterling, VA is mostly sunny, while it may rain in Bedminster. It’s the 271st time he has been at one of his golf clubs and 363rd time at one of his properties in his presidency. 
  • President Trump on Saturday reiterated a vow to protect those with preexisting conditions after his administration asked the Supreme Court this week to strike down ObamaCare, Republicans’ latest move to dismantle the health care law.

“Now that the very expensive, unpopular and unfair Individual Mandate provision has been terminated by us, many States & the U.S. are asking the Supreme Court that Obamacare itself be terminated so that it can be replaced with a FAR BETTER AND MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE ALTERNATIVE,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

“Obamacare is a joke! Deductible is far too high and the overall cost is ridiculous. My Administration has gone out of its way to manage OC much better than previous, but it is still no good. I will ALWAYS PROTECT PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS,ALWAYS!!!”  he added.

The administration on Thursday filed a legal brief to the Supreme Court asking that the ACA be invalidated, a move that would take away health insurance coverage for about 20 million people.

  • U.S. fighter jets intercepted four Russian aircraft that entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Saturday, the latest in a series of incidents off the Alaskan coast.
  • The Pentagon has announced that as part of the federal government’s July 4 celebration, military aircraft will conduct flyovers of major East Coast cities, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied a new report that President Trump and Vice President Pence were briefed on intelligence that Russian military operatives offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan, including US troops, during peace talks.
  • A statement by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe read: “I have confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.” 

“The White House statement addressing this issue earlier today, which denied such a briefing occurred, was accurate. The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”

  • In response to the Russian bounty story, Trump Tweeted: “Nobody briefed or told me, 

@VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an “anonymous source” by the Fake News @nytimes. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us.

  • According to Adam Goldman, one American official had told The Times that the intelligence finding that the Russians had offered and paid bounties to Afghan militants and criminals had been briefed at the highest levels of the White House. Another source  said it was included in the President’s Daily Brief, a written document which draws from spy work to make analytic predictions about long standing adversaries, unfolding plots, and emerging crises around the world.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NJ.com, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

The Past 24 Hours or So – Trump Administration News

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Administration News

  • The White House announced that President Trump is set to sign an executive order shifting the focus while hiring for the federal government from college degrees to skills. The federal government is the largest employer in the country and includes 2.1 million non-military workers.

“This will ensure that we are able to hire based on talent,” Ivanka Trump said. “The president built the most inclusive workforce in the history of the country prior to the pandemic and we will rebuild it.”

  • The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump administration does not have the authority to use military funding to pay for construction of a border wall. The panel found that diverting $2.5 billion Congress had appropriated for the military violated the Constitution and is unlawful.
  • George Nader, a key witness in the special-counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for transporting a child into the country for sex and possessing child pornography.
  • The U.S. economy shrank at a 5.0% rate in the first quarter with a much worse decline expected in the current three-month economic period because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Commerce Department reported that the decline in the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, in the January-March quarter was unchanged from the estimate made a month ago.

  • President Trump has just nominated William Perry Pendley, who has controversially served as the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management for months, to lead the agency. Opponents say Pendley should not lead an agency that he has “spent an entire career trying to undermine” as he’s authored multiple books opposing public lands and calling to sell them.
  • American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will not take up Douglas Benevento’s nomination for the No. 2 position at the Environmental Protection Agency  after Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced her opposition.
  • The Energy Department on Friday announced a new initiative that aims to boost the declining coal industry by creating new uses for the fossil fuel. 

The department said in a statement that it will make about $122 million available to create “coal product innovation centers” to make new products from coal and develop new methods to extract critical minerals from it.

  • President Trump tore into Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after a string of violent incidents struck Chicago, accusing the two lawmakers of failing the city. 

“Your lack of leadership on this important issue continues to fail the people you have sworn to protect,” he wrote in a letter, a copy of which was released by the White House. “I am concerned that it is another example of your lack of commitment to the vulnerable citizens who are victims of this violence and a lack of respect for the men and women of law enforcement.”

  • Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, announced Friday that she is stepping down next week, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions.

Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the Senate confirmation of Republican Trey Trainor.

Trump on Friday took immediate action to fill Hunter’s position, nominating Allen Dickerson to serve as a commissioner.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

In The Past 24 Hours Or So

Your Daily Dose of Trump and His Administration News

11/8

  • The Trump administration has made it easier to sell U.S. firearms outside the United States, including assault rifles and ammunition. The proposed rule changes, which would move oversight of commercial firearm exports from the U.S. Department of State to the Department of Commerce, could be enacted as soon as the end of this year, the sources said late on Wednesday.

NOTE: While the State Department is primarily concerned with international threats to stability and maintains tight restrictions on weapons deals, the Commerce Department typically focuses on making it easier for U.S. companies to sell products overseas.

  • In his new book, Don Jr writes about a visit to Arlington National Cemetery before his father’s inauguration and compares the sacrifice of the soldiers buried there to his. “In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family, and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed — voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals.”
  • The White House sent its nomination for outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s replacement to the Senate. Nominee Dan Brouillette currently serves as the deputy secretary at the Department of Energy.
  • Jennifer Williams, an aide to VP Pence who listened to the call between Trump and the Ukrainian President told impeachment inquiry investigators that she found the conversation to be unusual because it was political in nature.
  • A lawyer for the Ukraine whistleblower has sent the White House a cease and desist letter to stop Trump’s attacks. “Your client, the President of the U.S., is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client and their family in physical danger.”
  • Trump’s Acting Chief Of Staff Mick Mulvaney ignored a subpoena to appear before House committees for a closed-door deposition.
  • President Trump says they’re going to impose a 21 year old age limit for vaping. He says it’s coming next week.
  • Trump refutes China’s claim the 2 sides have reached a deal to slowly rollback tariffs. The President says he has not agreed to such a deal at this point, negotiations are continuing and China ‘wants a deal more’ than the US.
  • After weeks of Republicans demanding that Schiff open up the doors and allow the public to see the impeachment proceedings, Trump says this morning: “They shouldn’t be having public hearings.”
  • Trump says he’s considering visiting Russia in May. He told reporters that Vladimir Putin invited him to a May Day parade.
  • Trump tweeted: “I will be announcing the winners of the #MAGACHALLENGE and inviting them to the @WhiteHouse to meet with me and perform. Good luck!”

NOTE: The MAGA Challenge is a Twitter challenge among Trump supporters, in which they upload Trump-friendly raps to the internet.

  • Trump will host the Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov at the White House later this month, the White House announced Friday. The two leaders plan to discuss security in the Black Sea region, energy and “countering malign influence,” Grisham said.
  • The House committees running the impeachment inquiry into Trump released the transcript of their closed-door deposition with the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman and Deputy Assistant to the President, Fiona Hill.
  • Months before Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman – both Giuliani clients who are currently awaiting trial – urged then-Ukrainian President Poroshenko to announce those investigations in return for a state visit to DC.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone told top NSC lawyer John Eisenberg in July to talk to Trump about NSC aides’ concerns that Ukrainians were being unduly pressured. Eisenberg never did that nor reported the complaints to DOJ.