Trump’s secret deals (or no deals)

No one seems to know what sort of deals Donald trump may have made with North Korea or Russia.

Fox News: Lawmakers struggle to decode Trump’s ‘secret’ to deal with Russia, North Korea

It’s unclear if the Trump Administration has a “secret plan” to deal with Russia or North Korea. But whatever the circumstances, it’s still secret after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about President Trump’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the status of North Korean denuclearization. Try as they may, senators weren’t able to exhume much information from Pompeo about what went down in Helsinki or the state of play with Pyongyang.

“I’m afraid that at this point, the United States, the Trump Administration is being taken for a ride,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

“Fear not, senator. Fear not,” advised Pompeo.

But there was “fear.” Senators wondered if the President agreed to something in secret with foreign leaders and if even Pompeo was cut out of the loop.

“It’s not for me to disclose the contents of those conversations,” said Pompeo when asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about what was said in Finland regarding Russia’s role in Syria.

“I’d prefer not to answer questions about the nature of our negotiations,” said Pompeo when Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., asked about North Korea.

Lawmakers of both parties struggle to make sense of what policies the Trump administration holds by the hour.

Trump created more confusion than normal after his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, changing a ‘would’ to ‘wouldn’t’ after widespread concern was expressed.

Pompeo create his own confusion:

“We focus on words from the President because our allies and our adversaries listen to those words and they calibrate their actions based upon those words,” observed Murphy.

Murphy asked whether the President’s statements constituted U.S. policy, specifically when Mr. Trump suggested the U.S. might not assist Montenegro, despite a NATO treaty which states otherwise.

“I think the President’s been unambiguously clear,” said Pompeo.

Yeah, all the time. He makes a thing of being clearly unclear. Or is that unclearly clear?

A moment later, Murphy suggested that “policies are statements and statements are policies.”

“No, that’s not true,” responded Pompeo. “I make lots of statements. They’re not U.S. policy. The President says things.”

“How do I know the difference between a presidential statement that is not a policy and statement that is?” asked Murphy.

But later in the hearing, Pompeo asked if he could “clean that up.”

“I misspoke there,” said Pompeo. “The President runs this government. His statements are in fact U.S. policy.”

It is becoming a secretive, misspoken presidency.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., waited until midway through the hearing to press Pompeo on this point. Corker told the Secretary that “much of what you are hearing today has nothing whatsoever to do with you.”

“It’s the President that causes people to have concerns,” said Corker.

“Why does he do those things? I mean, is there some strategy behind creating doubt in U.S. senator’s minds on both sides of the aisle? Doubt in the American people as to what his motivations are?” asked Corker.

That’s from a senior Republican politician.

Senators of both parties failed to pierce Pompeo’s armor and learn anything at all about Singapore or Helsinki.

That could be because Trump also keeps his deals secret from his Secretary of State. I hope he knows what his deals are.

A pork barrel Corker

If this is true it’s an extreme example of how dysfunctional and dominated by dollars that US politics has become.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip, on Sunday said a provision that could personally enrich key Republican lawmakers was added to the final tax bill as part of an effort to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.”

Cornyn was pressed about the provision on ABC’s “This Week,” after an International Business Times investigation showed that Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee suddenly switched his vote to “yes” after GOP leaders added the provision, which could boost Corker’s real estate income.

A top Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, responded to Cornyn’s explanation by saying the language put into the bill also “would be a windfall to Donald Trump.”

As IBT first reported, the provision potentially enriching Corker, Trump and a handful of other top Republican lawmakers, was not part of the House- or Senate-passed bill, but was added by GOP lawmakers to the final bill, which was publicly released on Friday afternoon.

Corker, who is not seeking re-election and is considered a crucial swing vote due to his criticism of President Trump, suddenly said he would support the final bill. He initially voted against the original bill in the Senate, which did not have the provision.

Corker subsequently asserted to IBT that he did not know about the provision being added to the final bill, and he also declared he has not even read the tax bill he announced he is voting for.

The provision at issue would provide a special tax deduction on income made from so-called “pass through” entities, like real estate LLCs. The specific language would provide the lucrative tax deduction for such entities, even when they employ few or no employees — a structure that tax experts say is designed to give a tax break to real estate moguls.

It looks like a corrupt mess.

At first, Cornyn said the criticism of the provision was unfair, declaring: “Picking out one piece in a 1,000-page bill and saying, ‘well, this is going to benefit somebody’ — I just think that takes the whole bill out of context.”

But then Stephanopoulos pressed Cornyn, noting that “this provision wasn’t included in either the House or the Senate bill and apparently was added at the last minute. Why was that done? Why was it necessary to include that provision?”

Cornyn responded: “Well, we were working very hard. It was a very intense process. As I said, the Democrats refused to participate. And what we’ve tried to do is cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.”

Just as well only a few trillion dollars and probably the future of the Us economy and the future of the world economy is at stake.

Trump and the nuclear football

As dysfunction and bizarreness continues in US politics concerns keep surfacing about whether President Trump can be trusted in command of the US nuclear arsenal.

In a recent public spat with Trump Senator Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

NBC News: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

Tillerson is another who has come into conflict with Trump recently, reportedly calling Trump a moron.

As an aside Trump has threatened to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license over this article.

Ironic claiming that media is bad for the country.

What would happen if Trump rhetoric escalated to the point of pushing the nuclear button?

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly, both military men, are seen as potential moderators of trump’s excesses.

Raw Story: GOP official imagines Kelly and Mattis discussed tackling Trump if he ‘lunges for the nuclear football’

New York Magazine contributing editor Gabriel Sherman on Tuesday reported on a remarkable conversation he had with a senior Republican official, who described imagined conversations Donald Trump’s chief of staff Gen. John Kelly and defense secretary James Mattis have had about “physically [restraining] the president” in the event he “[lunges] for the nuclear football.”

Sherman was discussing the growing concern in the West Wing over Trump’s temperament, particularly as the president continues to escalate feuds with prominent Republicans like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) while simultaneously setting the United States “on the path to World War III.”

“A conversation I had with a very prominent Republican today, who literally was saying that they imagine Gen. Kelly and Secretary Mattis have had conversations that if Trump lunged for the nuclear football, what would they do?” Sherman told NBC’s Chris Hayes. “Would they tackle him? I mean literally, physically restrain him from putting the country at perilous risk.”

It is illegal for them to prevent their President from going nuclear.

“That is the kind of situation we’re in,” Sherman added.

Pressed by Hayes to explain the sources’ relationship to—and direct knowledge of—the Trump administration, Sherman explained, “these are the conversation they have, on very good authority, are taking place inside the White House.”

Wikipedia: Nuclear football

The nuclear football (also known as the atomic football, the President’s emergency satchel, the Presidential Emergency Satchel, the button, the black box, or just the football) is a briefcase, the contents of which are to be used by the President of the United States to authorize a nuclear attack while away from fixed command centers, such as the White House Situation Room. It functions as a mobile hub in the strategic defense system of the United States. It is held by an aide-de-camp.

If the president (who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces) ordered the use of nuclear weapons, they would be taken aside by the “carrier” and the briefcase would be opened. A command signal, or “watch” alert, would then be issued to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president would then review the attack options with the aide and decide on a plan, which could range from a single cruise missile to multiple ICBM launches.

The United States has a two-man rule in place at the nuclear launch facilities, and while only the president can order the release of nuclear weapons, the order must be verified by the Secretary of Defense to be an authentic order given by the president (there is a hierarchy of succession in the event that the president is killed in an attack).

This verification process deals solely with verifying that the order came from the actual President.

The Secretary of Defense has no veto power and must comply with the president’s order.

Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is the current Secretary of Defense, but he seems to be a lot more sensible and sane than Trump.

Journalist Ron Rosenbaum has pointed out that the operational plan for nuclear strike orders is entirely concerned with the identity of the commanding officer and the authenticity of the order, and there are no safeguards to verify that the person issuing the order is actually sane.

Notably, Major Harold Hering was discharged from the Air Force in late 1973 for asking the question “How can I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?” under Richard Nixon

We may never find out what goes on behind closed doors in the presidency. Or all hell could break loose.

trumpbomb

When will it be appropriate to challenge Trump’s license to wreak havoc?

USA – Trump tries political blackmail

 

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I know political threats are probably common, done privately, but Donald Trump is openly threatening Republicans who won’t rubber stamp his agenda.

All is not well in the once Grand Old Party.

Fox News: Trump on Freedom Caucus: ‘We must fight them’

President Trump on Thursday struck back at the House caucus that sunk his ObamaCare replacement bill, threatening their legislative careers if the staunchly conservative members refuse to get on board with the new president’s agenda.

Trump is attacking via Twitter of course.

Later Thursday, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Justin Amash returned fire in the Republican civil war:

Later, Amash told Fox News that “most people don’t take well to being bullied” and compared Trump’s tactics to those of a fifth grader.

Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan, however, refused to take Trump’s bait during an interview on “America’s Newsroom.”

“We appreciate the president,” Jordan said. “We’re trying to help the president, but the fact is you have to look at the legislation.”

He added: “I’m not here to assign blame to anyone…what I focus on doing is doing what I told the voters we’re going to do.”

And also a public spat between House Speaker Paul Ryan and a Republican Senator.

Ryan and a top Senate Republican engaged in a brief public spat Thursday about comments Ryan made earlier in the morning, seeming to suggest Trump should not try to work with Democrats.

“What I worry about, Norah, is that if we don’t do this, then he’ll just go work with Democrats to try and change ObamaCare and that’s not – that’s hardly a conservative thing,” Ryan told CBS.

Sen. Bob Corker, an avid backer of Trump’s during the presidential campaign who was among those considered to be vice president, shot back on Twitter: “We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem.”

Ryan, during his news conference, dismissed Corker’s remarks.

“They’re not going to help us repeal ObamaCare, that’s my point,” Ryan said of Democratic lawmakers.

I wonder what is going on in private.