Image

White House Install Political Aides At Cabinet Agencies To Spy For Trump

 

Lisa Rein, Juliet Eilperin
The network of political appointees reports to Rick Dearborn, left, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, according to administration officials. At center is Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post The network of political appointees reports to Rick Dearborn, left, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, according to administration officials. At center is Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.  

 

The political appointee charged with keeping watch over Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides has offered unsolicited advice so often that after just four weeks on the job, Pruitt has shut him out of many staff meetings, according to two senior administration officials.

At the Pentagon, they’re privately calling the former Marine officer and fighter pilot who’s supposed to keep his eye on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “the commissar,” according to a high-ranking defense official with knowledge of the situation. It’s a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal.

Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

These aides report not to the secretary, but to Rick Dearborn, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, according to administration officials. A top Dearborn aide, John Mashburn, leads a weekly conference call with the advisers, who are in constant contact with the White House.

The aides act as a go-between on policy matters for the agencies and the White House. Behind the scenes, though, they’re on another mission: to monitor Cabinet leaders and their top staffs to make sure they carry out the president’s agenda and don’t stray too far from the White House’s talking points, said several officials with knowledge of the arrangement.

“Especially when you’re starting a government and you have a changeover of parties when policies are going to be dramatically different, I think it’s something that’s smart,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser. “Somebody needs to be there as the White House’s man on the scene. Because there’s no senior staff yet, they’re functioning as the White House’s voice and ears in these departments.”

The arrangement is unusual. It wasn’t used by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. And it’s also different from the traditional liaisons who shepherd the White House’s political appointees to the various agencies.Critics say the competing chains of command eventually will breed mistrust, chaos and inefficiency — especially as new department heads build their staffs.

“It’s healthy when there is some daylight between the president’s Cabinet and the White House, with room for some disagreement,” said Kevin Knobloch, who was chief of staff under Obama to then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“That can only happen when agency secretaries have their own team, who report directly to them,” he said. “Otherwise it comes off as not a ringing vote of confidence in the Cabinet.”

The White House declined to comment about the appointees on the record, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters and internal operations. But a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, contested their mission of holding agencies accountable and said they technically report to each department’s chief of staff or to the secretaries themselves.

“The advisers were a main point of contact in the early transition process as the agencies were being set up,” the official said in an email. “Like every White House, this one is in frequent contact with agencies and departments.”

The advisers’ power may be heightened by the lack of complete leadership teams at many departments.

The long delay in getting Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue (R), confirmed means that Sam Clovis, who was a Trump campaign adviser, and transition team leader Brian Klippenstein continue to serve as the agency’s top political appointees.

“He and Brian Klippenstein are just a handful of appointees on the ground and they’re doing a big part of the day-to-day work” said Dale Moore, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s public policy executive director.

Every president tries to assert authority over the executive branch, with varying degrees of success.

The Obama White House kept tight control over agencies, telling senior officials what they could publicly disclose about their own department’s operations. Foreign policy became so centralizedthat State Department and Defense Department officials complained privately that they felt micromanaged on key decisions.

After then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made some political gaffes, Obama aides wanted to install a political aide at the Justice Department to monitor him. But Holder was furious about the intrusion and blocked the plan. Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates pushed back against a top official the White House wanted at the Pentagon to guide Asia policy, wary of someone so close to the president in his orbit.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a Trump adviser, said the president needs to dispatch political allies to the agencies to monitor a bureaucracy that’s being targeted for reduction.

“If you drain the swamp, you better have someone who watches over the alligators,” Gingrich said.“These people are actively trying to undermine the new government.And they think it’s their moral obligation to do so.”

At the Transportation Department, former Pennsylvania lobbyist Anthony Pugliese shuttles back and forth between the White House and DOT headquarters on New Jersey Avenue, according to an agency official. His office is just 20 paces from Secretary Elaine Chao, the official said.

Day to day, Pugliese and his counterparts inform Cabinet officials of priorities the White House wants them to keep on their radar. They oversee the arrival of new political appointees and coordinate with the West Wing on the agency’s direction.

The arrangement is collegial in some offices, including at Transportation and Interior, where aides to Chao and Secretary Ryan Zinke insisted that the White House advisers work as part of the team, attending meetings, helping form an infrastructure task force and designing policy on public lands.

Tensions between the White House and the Cabinet already have spilled into public view. Mattis, the defense secretary, and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly were caught unaware in January by the scope of the administration’s travel ban in January. The president has been furious about leaks on national security matters.

Trump does not have long-standing relationships or close personal ties with most leaders in his Cabinet. That’s why gauging their loyalty is so important, said officials who described the structure.

“A lot of these [Cabinet heads] have come from roles where they’re the executive,” said a senior administration official not authorized to publicly discuss the White House advisers. “But when you become head of an agency, you’re no longer your own person. It’s a hard change for a lot of these people: They’re not completely autonomous anymore.”

Many of the senior advisers lack expertise in their agency’s mission and came from the business or political world. They include Trump campaign aides, former Republican National Committee staffers, conservative activists, lobbyists and entrepreneurs.

At Homeland Security, for example, is Frank Wuco, a former security consultant whose blog Red Wire describes the terrorist threat as rooted in Islam. To explain the threat, he appears on YouTube as a fictional jihadist.

Matt Mowers, a former aide to New Jersey Gov. Christie (R) who was Trump’s national field coordinator before landing at the State Department as senior adviser, said through a spokesman that he “leads interagency coordination” among the White House, agencies and the National Security Council and “coordinates on policy and personnel.”

Mowers sits at the edge of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s seventh-floor suite, dubbed Mahogany Row. But neither Tillerson nor his chief of staff are his direct boss.

Many of the advisers arrived from the White House with the small groups known as “beachhead teams” that started work on Jan. 20. One of the mandates at the top of their to-do list now, Bennett said, is making sure the agencies are identifying regulations the administration wants to roll back and vetting any new ones.

At the Pentagon, Brett Byers acts as a go-between between Mattis’s team and the White House, largely on “bureaucratic” matters, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel issues.

Career officials who work near the “E” ring offices occupied by senior Pentagon staff, suspicious that Byers is not directly on Mattis’s team, came up with the Soviet-era moniker “commissar”to describe him, someone familiar with their thinking said.

Elsewhere, resentment has built up. Pruitt is bristling at the presence of former Washington state senator Don Benton, who ran the president’s Washington state campaign and is now the EPA’s senior White House adviser, said two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

These officials said Benton piped up so frequently during policy discussions that he had been disinvited from many of them. One of the officials described the situation as akin to an episode of the HBO comedy series “Veep.”

Trump’s approach may not be so different than Abraham Lincoln’s. Coming into the White House after more than a half-century of Democrats in power, Lincoln worked swiftly to oust hostile bureaucrats and appoint allies. But he still had to deal with an Army led by many senior officers who sympathized with the South, as well as a government beset by internal divisions.

Gettysburg College professor Allen C. Guelzo described Lincoln as “surrounded by smiling enemies,” which prompted him to embed his friends into army camps as well as some federal departments.

“I think that presidents actually do this more than it appears,” said Guelzo, adding that Lincoln dispatched Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army Montgomery Meigs to circulate among the Army of the Potomac to pick up any negative “doggerel” or insults officers made about him.

The Washington Post

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

Trump Wrote Off $100 Million In Losses In 2005, Leaked Forms Show

 

By PETER BAKER and JESSE DRUCKER
President Trump, at the White House on Monday, refused throughout the campaign to release his tax returns.© Stephen Crowley/The New York Times President Trump, at the White House on Monday, refused throughout the campaign to release his tax returns.  

WASHINGTON — President Trump wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes in 2005, according to forms made public on Tuesday night: a rare glimpse at documents that he had refused to disclose since becoming a candidate for the nation’s highest office.

Mr. Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $150 million, an effective tax rate of 25 percent, according to forms disclosed on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show. By claiming losses, Mr. Trump apparently saved millions of dollars in taxes that he would otherwise have owed.

The White House responded without even waiting for the show to air, issuing a statement that seemed to confirm the authenticity of the forms even as it defended Mr. Trump and assailed MSNBC for publicizing them. “Before being elected president, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world, with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement said.

The White House described the business losses as a “large-scale depreciation for construction,” but did not elaborate. In addition to the federal income taxes in 2005, the statement said, he paid “tens of millions of dollars in other taxes, such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes, and this illegally published return proves just that.”

Mr. Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public during the campaign broke with decades of tradition in presidential contests and emerged as a central issue. That drumbeat has continued since he entered the White House, particularly from critics who contend that his returns may shed light on various aspects of his business practices, including whether he has done business with Russian companies and banks.

Nothing in the two pages produced on Tuesday night suggested any ties with Russia. Nor did they provide much information about his businesses that was not previously known. But they showed that the vast bulk of the federal income taxes he paid in 2005, $31 million, was paid under the alternative minimum tax, which Mr. Trump wants to abolish.

That tax serves as a backstop to the ordinary income tax and is intended to prevent wealthy Americans from paying no income tax at all. Without it, Mr. Trump would have paid about $5 million in regular taxes, plus nearly $2 million in self-employment taxes, on $153 million in income in 2005.

“Trump’s return shows that he’s pushing tax changes that benefit multimillionaire heirs like him, not the middle class,” said Lily Batchelder, a tax law professor at New York University and former majority chief tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. “His proposal to repeal the A.M.T. would have slashed his own tax burden by $31 million, and his income tax rate would be lower than the average rate paid by families earning $75,000 to $100,000.”

Edward Kleinbard, a professor of tax law at the University of Southern California, said, “It’s disturbing that he is pushing to eliminate the only tax that really bit him in that year.”

The White House castigated MSNBC for reporting on Mr. Trump’s taxes. “You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago,” its statement said. “The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the president will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.”

The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. suggested that the disclosure only demonstrated his father’s business acumen. “Thank you Rachel Maddow for proving to your #Trump hating followers how successful @realdonaldtrump is & that he paid $40mm in taxes!” he wrote on Twitter.

Democrats pounced on Tuesday night’s report, arguing that the White House’s decision to release details of Mr. Trump’s 2005 taxes before Ms. Maddow’s show undercut his past refusal to release any such information.

“If they can release some of the information, they can release all of the information,” Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. “The only reason not to release his returns is to hide what’s in them, such as financial connections with Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin.”

The tax forms were sent to David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter who covered tax policy for years and has written a book on Mr. Trump. Appearing with Ms. Maddow, he said he had received the forms “over the transom” at his home and did not know who had sent them. He suggested that they might even have been sent by Mr. Trump himself. Because he did not solicit the forms, Mr. Johnston said it was not illegal to receive them.

The forms showed that Mr. Trump made $67 million in real estate royalties, $42 million in business income, $32 million in capital gains, $9 million in taxable interest and $998,599 in salary in 2005, for a total of nearly $153 million. After writing off $103 million, he reported adjusted gross income of nearly $49 million. In the end, he had to write a check for $2,450,597, including penalties and interest for late payment.

In October, The Times published three pages of Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns, which showed a $916 million deduction that could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years. The forms disclosed on Tuesday do not say whether the $103 million in losses were left over from that 1995 loss.

The 1995 deduction was derived from the financial wreckage of some of the companies Mr. Trump drove into bankruptcy years ago, including his Atlantic City casinos, and would have allowed him to cancel out taxable income for an 18-year period. A tax code provision benefiting real estate developers, which took effect in 1993, permitted businesses like Mr. Trump’s to take tax deductions for losing other people’s money.

Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Trump was able to deduct $39.1 million from his federal income taxes in 2005 by pledging not to build on a New Jersey golf course he owned.

However, it was unclear how much of a deduction Mr. Trump actually took. The I.R.S. has challenged such deductions, known as conservation easements, saying that taxpayers overstated the value of their transactions.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump initially promised he would release his tax returns. “I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful, and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he said in a January 2016 television interview. He then backpedaled, saying he would wait until the I.R.S. had completed its audit. In May 2016, tax lawyers for Mr. Trump released a letter saying that his personal returns had been “under continuous examination” by the I.R.S. since 2002, and that examinations of his returns from 2009 on were continuing.

The I.R.S. has not confirmed that Mr. Trump’s taxes are, in fact, under audit.

Few people outside Mr. Trump’s inner circle have seen his tax returns. One person who has is Timothy L. O’Brien, another former Times reporter, whom Mr. Trump sued for libel after Mr. O’Brien published a book that argued that Mr. Trump’s net worth was $150 million to $250 million, rather than several billion dollars, as Mr. Trump had claimed. The suit was ultimately dismissed.

Limited information about Mr. Trump’s tax returns from other years has surfaced in court and regulatory records. A 1981 report by New Jersey regulators assessing his fitness for a casino license stated that he had paid more than $71,000 in federal income taxes on about $218,000 of taxable income earned from 1975 to 1977.

But in the next two years, 1978 and 1979, Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes. The New Jersey report explained that, by taking advantage of deductions available to real estate developers and claiming losses from partnerships, he was able to report a “negative income” of $406,379 in 1978 and $3.4 million in 1979 — thus avoiding any tax liability for those two years, a time when he claimed to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tax court records indicate that Mr. Trump also avoided paying federal income taxes in 1984. In 1991 and 1993, when his Atlantic City casinos were in deep financial trouble, casino commission reports show he claimed losses that would have allowed him to avoid paying income taxes in those years, too. Mr. Trump may have been able to use those losses to reduce or eliminate his federal tax bill for years to come.

During the presidential debate, Hillary Clinton suggested that Mr. Trump was refusing to release his tax returns to hide the fact that he did not pay federal income taxes. “That makes me smart,” Mr. Trump retorted during one debate.

In response to The Times’s disclosure that Mr. Trump could have used a $916 million tax loss to avoid paying years of federal income taxes, Mr. Trump and his surrogates said the revelation merely proved his “genius” at legally avoiding that burden.

(New York Times)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

Kellyanne Conway ‘Meant No Disrespect’ With Viral Oval Office Photo

 

Rebecca Savransky

Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday she meant “no disrespect” after a photo of her perched on a couch in the Oval Office sparked debate on social media.

“I was being asked to take a picture in a crowded room with the press behind of us,” Conway explained in an interview on Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

“I was asked to take a certain angle and was doing exactly that. I certainly meant no disrespect, I didn’t mean to have my feet on the couch,” she said.

The photo of Conway sitting on her knees on the couch in the Oval Office while President Trump met with leaders of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) circulated widely on social media.

Some Twitter users criticised Conway for putting her shoes on a couch in the Oval Office, while others posted photos of former President Barack Obama with his feet up on the Resolute Desk.

Conway said Tuesday the president had the “largest gathering of men and women to date in the Oval Office for a picture.”

“These are the presidents and other leaders of the historically black college and universities and they came to visit the White House,” she said.

“Of course, just today, the President signed the executive order on HCBU’s and I had an occasion to speak at length to many of those leaders before that picture and after that picture and again today,” she continued.

“And I really want to thank so many of them for coming to my defence because they were in the room and they know.”

Conway 'meant no disrespect' with viral Oval Office photo                 © Provided by The Hill Conway ‘meant no disrespect’ with viral Oval Office photo  

Conway said the photo came from a journalist “who is not happy” that Trump is president.

“But I just want people to focus on the great work of the HBCU presidents,” she said, “and how honoured we were to have them here.” (The Hill)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

CNN: FBI Refused White House Request To Refute Stories About Russian Contact

 

Matt Shuham
National Intelligence Director James Clapper, left, and FBI Director James Comey, center, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Intelligence Activities.© AP Photo/Cliff Owen National Intelligence Director James Clapper, left, and FBI Director James Comey, centre, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Intelligence…  

CNN reported Thursday that the FBI and other federal agencies rejected the White House’s request to refute stories about contact between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals, including members of the Russian intelligence community.

CNN’s report was based on multiple unnamed U.S. officials briefed on the matter.

The New York Times and CNN reported last week that members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals were in repeated contact during the campaign.

Trump affiliates mentioned in the Times’ story all denied that they knowingly had untoward contact with Russians during the campaign. Some, including Roger Stone, later denied any contact categorically.

This article was written by Matt Shuham from Talking Points Memo and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

(TPM)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

White House Punts New Travel Order To Next Week |The Republican News

 

Jordan Fabian
White House punts new travel order to next week        © Provided by The Hill White House punts new travel order to next week  

The White House is pushing back the release of a revised executive order on travel and refugees until next week, an official said Wednesday.

No explanation was given for the delay, and it remains unclear how the White House will tweak the travel ban to avoid future legal pitfalls.

“Fundamentally you’re going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” White House policy adviser Stephen Miller said on Fox News on Tuesday night.

He said the new order will largely resemble the old one, but that the changes will be “mostly minor technical differences.”

President Trump said last Thursday he would unveil a more tailored travel ban this week after his initial directive was blocked by a federal court.

White House officials have been scrambling to draft a new executive order, while stressing they are taking steps to ensure a smoother rollout than the last one.

The initial ban temporarily blocked travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. and suspended refugee resettlement for at least four months. It indefinitely blocked Syrian refugees from entering the country.

Chaos ensured after the ban was handed down on Jan. 27, as hundreds of travelers were stranded at airports around the country amid confusion about whether the policy applied to people in transit and legal permanent residents.

The Department of Homeland Security days later clarified the order did not apply to permanent residents.

But that did not stop a federal judge in Washington from issuing a nationwide restraining order halting the ban, which was later upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House has signaled it intends to continue the legal fight even though Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing the administration planned to rescind the initial order.  (The Hill)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

Trump’s Young White House Being Burried By Crush Of Crises

 

By JONATHAN LEMIRE
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump accompanied by, from second from left, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Trump's White House is nearly paralyzed by crisis, divisions and dysfunction. Virtually all policy announcements have slowed to a crawl. Aides are undercutting each other in leaks (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)© The Associated Press FILE – In this Jan. 28, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump accompanied by, from second from left, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and then-National…  

WASHINGTON — Less than a month into his tenure, Donald Trump’s White House is beset by a crush of crises.

Divisions, dysfunction and high-profile exits have left the young administration nearly paralyzed and allies wondering how it will reboot. The bold policy moves that marked Trump’s first days in office have slowed to a crawl, a tacit admission that he and his team had not thoroughly prepared an agenda.

Nearly a week after the administration’s signature travel ban was struck down by a federal court, the White House is still struggling to regroup and outline its next move on that signature issue. It’s been six days since Trump — who promised unprecedented levels of immediate action — has announced a major new policy directive or legislative plan.

His team is riven by division and plagued by distractions. This week alone, controversy has forced out both his top national security aide and his pick for labor secretary.

“Another day in paradise,” Trump quipped Wednesday after his meeting with retailers was interrupted by reporters’ questions about links between his campaign staff and Russian officials.

Fellow Republicans have begun voicing their frustration and open anxiety that the Trump White House will derail their high hopes for legislative action.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota on Wednesday demanded that the White House “get past the launch stage.”

“There are things we want to get done here, and we want to have a clear-eyed focus on our agenda, and this constant disruption and drumbeat with these questions that keep being raised is a distraction,” said Thune.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona blasted the White House’s approach to national security as “dysfunctional,” asking, “Who is in charge? I don’t know of anyone outside of the White House who knows.”

Such criticism from allies is rare during what is often viewed as honeymoon period for a new president. But Trump, an outsider who campaigned almost as much against his party as for it, has only a tiny reservoir of good will to protect him. His administration has made uneven attempts to work closely with lawmakers and its own agencies.

Officials have begun trying to change some tactics, and some scenery, with the hope of steadying the ship. The White House announced Wednesday that Trump would hold a campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday, the first of his term. The president has often mentioned how much he loves adoring crowds and affirmation from his supporters.

To be sure, pinballing from one crisis to the next is not unprecedented, particularly for a White House still finding its footing. But the disruptions that have swirled around Trump achieved hurricane force early and have not let up.

On Wednesday as his choice for labor secretary, fast food CEO Andy Puzder, withdrew his nomination while the administration continued to navigate the fallout from the forced resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn was ousted on the grounds that he misled the vice president about his contacts with a Russian ambassador.

Flynn’s departure marked the return of an issue Trump is not likely to move past quickly. The president’s relationship with Moscow will continue to be scrutinized and investigated, sometimes apparently fueled by leaks from within his own administration.

Trump on Wednesday blasted what he called “illegal leaked” information.

Not just leaks, but also legal woes, have derailed Trump’s early efforts.

After the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his immigration ban last week, Trump emphatically tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT!” and the administration vowed that it would re-appeal the block and either revise its original executive order or write a new one from scratch.

But confusion soon followed. After first indicating they would not take a temporary restraining order to the Supreme Court, administration staffers squabbled audibly, behind closed doors, over the accounts emerging in news reports.

When the dust settled, a new statement was printed out and handed to journalists, stating, “to clarify,” that all options were on the table. But, despite Trump’s vow to have a plan in place by Tuesday, one has not emerged.

The collapse of the ban, which poured fuel on simmering staff rivalries, was followed by a period of stark inaction by a White House suddenly put on the defensive. Trump did sign legislation Tuesday that rolled back a financial regulation, but his administration has not issued any executive orders in days.

House Republicans have been nudging the White House to get behind Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax overhaul, which includes a border adjustability plan of which Trump has been skeptical. GOP aides believed they were making progress, but the matter has been overshadowed by the flood of controversies.

Other possible executive actions have been bandied about, from a task force on allegations of voter fraud to steps to strengthen cybersecurity, but have yet to be released. Key legislative items such as a massive plan to rebuild roads and bridges and an overhaul of the tax law remain works in progress.

“He’s a one-man band for all practical purposes, it’s how he ran his business,” said Bill Daley, a former White House chief of staff under Obama. “When you try to take that and everything revolves around that and he is the beginning, middle and end of everything, that is a tough model. His campaign was the same way.”

Trump’s new administration has also been plagued by ethics brushfires that are taking up the time and energy of communications and legal staff members.

In one incident that sparked bipartisan condemnation and calls for ethics investigations, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on TV that people should “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” — an endorsement that came after the president disparaged Nordstrom for dropping his daughter’s fashion line. And congressional Republicans also are demanding to know more about the security measures in place at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s weekend White House, where resort members photographed him during a dinnertime national security strategy session after North Korea launched a missile.

“When you are the White House, every day is a crisis. Crisis is routine,” said Ari Fleischer, who was President George W. Bush’s first press secretary. “But when they all come right on top of each other, particularly at the start of an administration, it starts to create the feeling that they don’t know how to run the place.”

AP

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

White House Stops Defending Flynn, Raising Questions About His Fate

 

By JILL COLVIN and JULIE PACE
WASHINGTON (AP) — Embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn’s fate as one of President Donald Trump’s senior aides remained uncertain Monday following reports that he discussed U.S. sanctions with a Russian envoy before Trump’s inauguration.

For a fourth straight day, White House officials would not say whether Trump had confidence in Flynn. The president has not publicly commented on Flynn’s status, nor has Vice President Mike Pence, who previously denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Pence and Flynn spoke twice on Friday, according to an administration official.

Trump has told associates he is troubled by the situation, but he has not said whether he plans to ask Flynn to step down, according to a person who spoke with him recently. Flynn was a loyal Trump supporter during the campaign, but he is viewed skeptically by some in the administration’s national security circles, in part because of his ties to Russia.

The administration official and both people with ties to Trump spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for Flynn to be fired, saying he “cannot be trusted to put (Russian President Vladimir) Putin before America.”

FILE- In this Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump passes Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as he arrives via Air Force One at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. A top White House aide sidestepped repeated chances Sunday, Feb. 12, to publicly defend Flynn following reports that he engaged in conversations with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions before Trump's inauguration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)© The Associated Press FILE- In this Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump passes Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as he arrives via Air Force One at Ma…  

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Flynn addressed sanctions against Russia in a call with Kislyak. The report contradicted repeated denials from Trump officials, including Pence, who vouched for Flynn in a televised interview.

Flynn has since told administration officials that sanctions may have come up in the calls, which coincided with the Obama administration slapping penalties on Russia for election-related hacking.

It’s illegal for private citizens to conduct U.S. diplomacy. Flynn’s conversations also raise questions about Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow hacked Democratic emails during the election.

Stephen Miller, Trump’s top policy adviser, skirted the issue on several Sunday news shows, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the “sensitive matter” or to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.

Several other White House officials did not respond Sunday to questions about whether Trump had confidence in his national security adviser. Their silence appeared to reflect some uncertainty about the views of the president, who is known to quickly change his mind.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who led Trump’s transition planning before the election, said Flynn would have to explain his conflicting statements about his conversations with Kislyak to Trump and Pence.

“Gen. Flynn has said up to this point that he had not said anything like that to the Russian ambassador. I think now he’s saying that he doesn’t remember whether he did or not,” Christie said on CNN. “So, that’s a conversation he is going to need to have with the president and the vice president to clear that up, so that the White House can make sure that they are completely accurate about what went on.”

The controversy surrounding Flynn comes as the young administration grapples with a series of national security challenges, including North Korea’s reported ballistic missile launch. The president, who was joined at his Mar-a-Lago estate by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend, voiced solidarity with Japan.

Trump meets Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and later in the week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House is also dealing with fallout from the rocky rollout of Trump’s immigration executive order, which has been blocked by the courts. The order was intended to suspend the nation’s refugee program and bar citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

Advocacy groups contend the government has rounded up large numbers of people as part of stepped-up enforcement. The agency calls the effort no different from enforcement actions carried out in the past.

AP

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: