US President Donald Trump has said he would get a Nobel Prize if they were given out fairly.
Congressional Democrats are pressing their demands for full disclosure of a whistleblower’s complaint about Donald Trump and intensified calls for impeachment.
Donald Trump has said a fourth summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “could happen soon” amid stalled nuclear diplomacy.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sept. 22 discussed bilateral relations and regional issues with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.
At a time when political opponents and watchdog groups are questioning whether Trump Organization properties are benefiting financially from those seeking to please President Donald Trump, a U.S. Marine Corps … Click to Continue »
The Latest on President Donald Trump and a whistleblower's complaint (all times local): 9:40 p.m. Seven Democratic freshmen lawmakers who served in the military and national security say that if … Click to Continue »
Allegations that President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine's leader to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden at the same time he was withholding millions in aid from the Eastern … Click to Continue »
President Donald Trump made his political priorities clear Monday within an hour of arriving at the United Nations for a three-day visit: He breezed by a major climate change summit … Click to Continue »
The Latest on President Donald Trump's U.N. visit (all times local): 9:05 p.m. President Donald Trump breezed by a major climate change summit Monday at the United Nations, choosing to … Click to Continue »
The Republican National Committee is putting a college twist on its grassroots voter registration efforts, seeking to mobilize President Donald Trump's supporters. The "Make Campus Great Again" initiative is offering … Click to Continue »
U.S. President Donald Trump says his dispute with Iran will be a key issue when he addresses the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24 as he looks to bolster support for his strategy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran.
U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a cooperation agreement with his Polish counterpart that foresees an expansion of the United States' military presence in Poland.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called on U.S. President Donald Trump to restart peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, and said Washington has a "duty" to calm the Kashmir standoff with India.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called on countries to "end religious persecution," saying that about 80 percent of the world's population is living in places where religious liberty is "threatened, restricted, or even banned."
Donald Trump has dismissed talk of impeachment over a whistle-blower allegation that reportedly involved a plea from the U.S. president to his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival.
Under mounting pressure from President Donald Trump and his allies to investigate the work of Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy must find a way to get out of a political battle raging in Washington without angering either side.
US President Donald Trump tried at the ‘Howdy Modi!’ rally to reset the optics for his campaign among immigrants.
Anthony Pratt called Scott Morrison ‘Don Bradman of Australian job creation’ but Donald Trump had no idea who the legendary Australia cricketer was.
Few Democratic leaders have seemed less eager to impeach President Donald Trump than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She’s warned that the public doesn’t want it and the Senate would never go for it. But a rolling series of disclosures may force her to recalculate the politics. A report in The Wall Street Journal today, quickly confirmed by other major outlets, introduced an explosive new twist to a story that already had the trappings of one of the biggest threats yet to Trump’s presidency. The fresh details about Trump’s apparent effort to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating his political rival Joe Biden may have irreversibly pushed the president into the impeachment hot zone.
According to the Journal, in a phone call in July, Trump pressed Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Biden’s son Hunter. Over and over, Trump urged Zelensky to work in tandem with his lawyer and confidant Rudy Giuliani, who has publicly accused Joe Biden of trying to interfere in the investigation of a Ukrainian gas company, on whose board Hunter Biden sat. (A Ukrainian official said there was no wrongdoing, the Journal reported.)
Little Trump says has the power to shock anymore, but his alleged behavior in this instance is head-spinning. It suggests that whatever the fallout for America’s standing in the world, he is willing to use his office as a weapon to damage the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, the man he could well face in a 2020 general election. It shows that, at some fundamental level, he may not grasp his responsibilities as head of state and the innate patriotism the role requires. The nation’s interests and Trump’s immediate political needs are supposed to be separate. In his mind, they may seem one and the same.
All this could reinvigorate an impeachment drive that has appeared to be sputtering. A good chunk of Pelosi’s caucus was already chafing at her reluctance to push forward. The Ukraine episode will inevitably create a new front in the oversight wars, with Congress demanding to see transcripts of exactly what Trump has been saying in these calls. This wasn’t an incident from two or three years ago that Congress has obsessed over; this was in July.
Talking to reporters in the Oval Office today, Trump didn’t dispute that he had spoken to his Ukrainian counterpart about Biden. Indeed, in reference to Biden’s attempts as vice president to get Ukraine’s chief prosecutor fired, Trump said, “Somebody ought to look into that.” (Biden wanted the prosecutor, who had at one time investigated the gas company, dismissed from his office as part of a broader push against corruption in Ukraine.)
If Trump’s call for Ukraine’s assistance sounds familiar, it should. During the 2016 election, he called on Russia to unearth emails missing from his rival Hillary Clinton’s computer server. He made that plea in public, during a press conference, but it now seems an eerie foreshadow of the Ukraine request. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. Later that same day, Russian hackers made an effort to penetrate the server.
Almost a year later, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, in part, to investigate whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to defeat Clinton, an investigation that shadowed Trump’s presidency and upset him to no end. But if today’s multiple press reports are right, it seems he learned little from the ordeal.
[Read: Corey Lewandowski tried to make a mockery of the House]
Though, really, that’s been evident for a while: In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in June, Trump said that if foreign powers offered him damaging information about political opponents, he might well take a look without alerting the FBI. “I think you might want to listen,” he said. “There isn’t anything wrong with listening.”
Rank-and-file Democrats have been inching toward impeachment proceedings against the wishes of the House leadership. Through the summer, a steady stream of lawmakers publicly announced their support for the president’s removal. The House Judiciary Committee only just began its impeachment investigation, hauling the president’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski into a hearing earlier this week. Lawmakers have largely been replowing old ground, sifting through the Mueller report, trying to obtain Trump’s taxes, and investigating how he’s benefited financially through the presidency.
Last month, Pelosi told fellow Democrats on a conference call that “the public isn’t there on impeachment.” Yet in her statement today, she sounded a more ominous note: “If the president has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his administration and our democracy.”
Amid the cascading disclosures about the call between Trump and Zelensky, the White House has said little. A spokesman declined to comment Friday about the Journal’s report. But Trump will likely find it hard to move on. Next week he heads to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly sessions, and one meeting on his schedule is with Zelensky. Ordinarily a U.S.-Ukraine meeting would garner little attention. In this environment, it could overshadow everything else that happens during Trump’s visit.
Quietly, White House officials and allies are trotting out a potential defense of Trump’s behavior. Under the Constitution, Trump has unfettered authority to conduct foreign policy as he sees fit, they’ve told me in recent days. It’s not Congress’s place to tell him how to talk to foreign leaders. But that misses the point: Does he see foreign leaders—does he see the presidency—as anything more than tools for his own aggrandizement? The question goes to his fitness for office. Voters can render their own verdict in the 2020 election, but Congress may not want to wait around that long.
For a man who once characterized Donald Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” worthy of being ISIS’s “man of the year,” Lindsey Graham took a rather tame jab at the president recently. The Republican senator, now one of Trump’s top allies in Congress, argued on Tuesday that the Iranian government had detected “weakness” in the president’s “measured” decision in June to call off retaliatory military strikes against Iran, which emboldened the Iranians to execute “an act of war” by attacking oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
But it was just enough to stir up @realDonaldTrump. Fast and furious came the counter-tweet: “No Lindsey, it was a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!”
The exchange was a faint sign that a Republican crack-up on foreign policy could be coming over Iran in a way it hasn’t yet, incredibly enough, over the president’s approach to Afghanistan, Hong Kong, NATO, North Korea, or Russia, and beyond. On such issues, Trump hasn’t so much remade the Grand Old Party ideologically as he has somehow managed to make Republicans tolerate moves that, had they been carried out by a Democratic president such as Barack Obama, would have afflicted the GOP with a series of collective aneurysms.
Iran policy is more politically charged than most matters in international affairs because of the Islamic Republic’s foundational hostility to the United States and its ally Israel, Tehran’s support for proxy militant groups, and the bitter partisan divide over Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal. Many on the right cheered Trump’s withdrawal from that pact and his reimposition of suffocating economic sanctions on Iran. But more recently, some have spoken out against the president’s retreat from military action in response to Iranian provocations (recalling his predecessor’s decision to pull back from enforcing his “red line” on chemical-weapons use in Syria), as well as his expressed openness to meeting with Iranian leaders without preconditions and to providing some economic relief to them in pursuit of a nuclear agreement (again à la Obama). Those critics include his former Republican presidential challenger Ted Cruz and, reportedly, his just-departed national security adviser John Bolton.
[Read: Bolton’s departure signals Trump’s foreign-policy pivot]
A meeting next week between the U.S. and Iranian presidents at the United Nations General Assembly in New York seems off the table for now, particularly after the attack on a Saudi oil facility that both the Trump administration and the kingdom are attributing to Iran. But how Trump responds next could open him up to more criticism from his party. If that backlash comes, it would be remarkable, after Republicans have given him an out on so many other things:
Pretty much every element of Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea.
Obama set off Republicans and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during his first presidential campaign by pledging to meet unconditionally with the leaders of adversarial countries. His political opponents later pilloried him for appeasing America’s authoritarian enemies in seeking to constrain Iran’s nuclear program and reconcile with Cuba.
Imagine the uproar if Obama had held a splashy summit with Kim Jong Un in return for no substantive concessions on North Korea’s nuclear-weapons arsenal—let alone if he had done that three times, as Trump has, including the first presidential foray into North Korean territory. What if Obama had gushed about how he “fell in love” with North Korea’s dictator? Or unabashedly taken the totalitarian leader’s side in disputes with a former American vice president and the president’s own national security adviser? Or absolved Kim of responsibility for the death of an American college student in North Korean captivity? Or castigated the CIA for cultivating Kim’s half brother as an intelligence asset? Or, while we’re at it, saluted a North Korean general? (See: the various controversies surrounding Obama’s bows to U.S. partners such as the Saudi king and Japanese emperor.)
[Read: Trump’s foreign-policy ‘adhocracy’]
Trump’s supporters tend to explain away this behavior as the unsavory means by which the president hopes to achieve a worthy objective: a nuclear deal with North Korea, which has eluded his predecessors. They note that Trump has held firm on severe North Korean sanctions. “For 30 years, they’ve been trying to pound a round peg in a square hole,” the Republican Senator James Risch once told me, regarding the history of U.S. talks with Pyongyang. “Things need to be done differently.” If nothing else, even as Trump has worked to erase nearly every aspect of Obama’s foreign-policy record, the two presidents have fashioned a joint legacy: shattering the long-standing bipartisan American taboo of presidents directly engaging with their foes.
Inviting Taliban leaders to peace talks at Camp David right before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Congressional Republicans investigated and censured the Obama administration in 2014 for freeing five Taliban commanders from Guantánamo Bay in return for the release of a captive American soldier named Bowe Bergdahl, and for keeping U.S. lawmakers in the dark about it. “Those folks are sitting in Qatar capable today of inflicting harm on the United States of America," an indignant representative from Kansas named Mike Pompeo declared at the time.
Today those same folks are still sitting in Qatar as part of a Taliban delegation negotiating the terms of an American military withdrawal from Afghanistan, beside a U.S. team appointed by now–Secretary of State Pompeo. And earlier this month, Trump went much further than Obama ever did in his talks with the militant group, secretly summoning Taliban leaders to his Camp David retreat just days before the anniversary of 9/11 to seal a peace deal.
Republican officials have generally been more vocal about Trump’s prudence in canceling the meeting over a Taliban attack that killed an American soldier in Kabul than about the underlying folly of the scheme itself, but others in their orbit have been less forgiving. “It is an outrage that Obama freed” the Taliban commanders, the conservative columnist Marc Thiessen recently wrote. “But for Trump to even consider allowing leaders of a designated terrorist organization to set foot in Camp David is worse than an outrage; it is an insult to all those who died on 9/11 and the American troops who gave their lives fighting them in Afghanistan.”
Siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.
Republicans went after Obama for—in their view—naively seeking to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia during his first term, and for informing then–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, during a private conversation caught on a hot mic, that he would have more “flexibility” to discuss missile-defense issues after the 2012 presidential election.
Trump, meanwhile, privately told Russian officials in the Oval Office that he had fired the FBI director to relieve Russia-related pressure on him, while also sharing highly classified intelligence with them. He has zealously advocated for good relations with Moscow (see his call for Russia to be admitted back into the G7 group of leading democracies after it was kicked out for invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea). Trump has blamed Obama’s weakness, not Russia’s aggression, for the dismemberment of Ukraine. When Trump defended Putin from the accusation that he was a “killer” by claiming that the United States wasn’t “so innocent,” Republicans who once denounced Obama for “apologizing for America” issued mild criticism.
Most notoriously, of course, Trump went before microphones he very much knew were on during his 2018 press conference with Putin in Helsinki and repeatedly placed greater faith in the Russian president’s denials of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election than in his own intelligence agencies’ assessment that the Kremlin had orchestrated an unprecedented assault on American democracy. The Republican outcry over Trump’s obsequious performance was certainly intense, but it dissipated within days and hasn’t recurred as Trump has continued to downplay Russian meddling in U.S. politics.
Questioning America’s commitment to the defense of NATO members.
Obama sought to reinvigorate U.S. alliances, but by the end of his administration he had grown aggravated with “free riding” allies and developed frosty relations with the leaders of longtime American partners such as Israel and Saudi Arabia over policy differences. Republicans accused him of abandoning the Israelis and Saudis, and of doing the same to fellow NATO members when Obama scrapped plans for a missile-defense system in Central Europe.
Trump shares Obama’s grievances about allies mooching off the American military. But whereas Obama mostly groused privately about the predicament, Trump signals publicly and privately—really to anyone who will listen, and nearly every chance he gets—that he would have misgivings about repelling an attack against other NATO states (especially marginal ones such as Montenegro and wealthy ones such as Germany) if they were not investing in their own defense to a level of his liking. Since NATO’s capacity to deter threats is only as strong as adversaries’ belief that an attack on one would be considered an attack on all, the president’s statements amount to a direct challenge to the alliance’s very viability.
Many Republicans argue that Trump is merely shoring up an alliance that is too dependent on U.S. military might by demanding that NATO members spend more on their common defense. But even if that is the case, the president has left the bloc in a confused and vulnerable state.
Deferring to China on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
When pro-democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong in 2014, Republicans such as Senator Marco Rubio criticized the Obama administration for failing to champion American values and side with those struggling for freedom and human rights in the semiautonomous Chinese region. The implicit critique was that Obama was proceeding too cautiously in order to avoid antagonizing mainland China.
[Read: A defining moment for Trump’s foreign policy]
Faced with another outbreak of demonstrations in the city, Trump has in some ways responded similarly to Obama—gingerly endorsing the cause of liberty, urging the parties to refrain from violence, and largely staying out of the fray. But amid intense trade negotiations with Beijing, he has appeared to take China’s side by using the Chinese government’s preferred term riots to refer to the protests, describing the unrest as an internal Chinese matter, and even suggesting that Chinese President Xi Jinping meet with the protesters.
When I asked Rubio about these comments recently, he told me that he didn’t think Trump has “any ill will toward the people, and frankly, I think he sympathizes with the people of Hong Kong.” Of course, this still doesn’t explain why the president hasn’t spoken up more on their behalf.
Across a growing number of issues, from immigration to taxes to health care, President Donald Trump is harnessing federal power to constrain—and even punish—the blue states outside of his political coalition.
One recent move escalated that offensive: Yesterday, Trump tweeted that the Environmental Protection Agency will revoke a federal waiver that California received from former President Barack Obama to set its own standards for reducing vehicle emissions, a key contributor to climate change. No previous president has attempted to revoke a waiver granted to California since the state was granted the unique authority to set its own emissions rules under the Clean Air Act of 1970.
“This is the fight of a lifetime for us,” Mary Nichols, the longtime chair of the California Air Resources Board said at a press conference yesterday morning. “We have to win this, and I believe we will.”
Trump’s move to revoke the waiver stands at the intersection of three broad trends in his presidency. First is his clashes, on many fronts, with California, which has emerged as the symbol of blue-state resistance to his agenda. The second is his systematic effort to undo Obama’s initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. The third, and most sweeping, is the president’s growing attempt to shift resources from blue to red states, to hobble blue states’ ability to resist federal initiatives, and even to inhibit the ability of blue states to pursue liberal policies within their own borders.
“There is a strong and aggressive focus [in the Trump White House] on using these strategies to go after states that are not in the president’s corner in ways that have an enormous amount of technical sophistication to them,” says Don Kettl, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies state-federal relations. “They are doing it in ways that previous administrations haven’t tried. So this is a very big thing. It has the possibility of casting a very long shadow over not only the next few months, but also the possibility of a second term.”
While Democrats and Republicans both claim to revere the principle of states’ rights, each side, while occupying the White House, has at times leveraged federal authority to override state decisions. The general trajectory over the past quarter century has been toward steadily rising conflict between presidents of one party and states controlled by the opposing party.
[Read: Federalism is dead, long live federalism]
During the relatively less polarized 1990s, former President Bill Clinton managed to build alliances with Republican governors, such as John Engler of Michigan and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, on issues such as welfare reform. But by the time Obama took office in 2009, coalitions of attorneys general from Republican states were routinely filing federal lawsuits challenging his policies. Those Republican lawsuits blocked several Obama initiatives, including his efforts to limit carbon emissions from electricity generation and to provide legal status to about 4 million undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration, in turn, launched lawsuits against some Republican states seeking to limit access to voting; Obama’s Justice Department also sued to block Arizona’s “Show your papers” law targeting undocumented immigrants.
Still, Trump and Republicans in Congress have escalated these skirmishes to a new level. “I can’t really recall a federal administration that has so aggressively and on so many fronts claimed federal powers to supersede state authority,” says Richard Frank, who studies environmental law at the University of California at Davis.
Through both legislation and executive action, Trump and congressional Republicans have pushed a series of policies that target blue states, starting with the tax bill passed in late 2017. That law sought to pressure blue states to cut their own taxes by capping what taxpayers could deduct in state and local taxes from their federal tax returns. (Almost all of the states in which the largest share of taxpayers claimed these deductions in 2016 voted for Hillary Clinton that year.)
Trump has also tried to pressure so-called sanctuary cities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement by withholding law-enforcement funds from them. And his Justice Department has sued California over its “sanctuary state” law.
The same trend is apparent on other issues. In August, the EPA proposed regulations that would limit states’ ability to contest the construction of energy pipelines through their borders. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has issued a policy blocking state regulators from scrutinizing the companies that collect federal student loans. When Republicans controlled the House in 2017, they passed legislation that would override state laws by allowing any gun owner with a concealed-carry permit in one state to bring that firearm to any other state. In recent weeks, Trump has hinted that he will seek to intervene to override policies on homelessness in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
And take health care: The president’s most recent federal budget endorsed legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act with block grants to the states, massively shifting federal dollars from the mostly blue states that expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the ACA to the mostly red states that did not.
Democratic governors view these moves as a consistent effort to limit their authority. “The Trump administration continues to undermine important state programs and protections in order to push a dangerous, out-of-touch political agenda,” Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, who also chairs the Democratic Governors Association, said in an emailed statement.
Even within this well-established pattern, the effort announced yesterday to revoke California’s waiver to regulate vehicle emissions stands out because it runs so counter to the moves that presidents of both parties have made for nearly half a century.
California’s authority to set its own standards dates back decades, to when former President Richard Nixon, a Republican (and Californian), signed the Clean Air Act. Recognizing that California had started regulating auto emissions in 1966 in response to its struggles with air pollution and smog, the law gave California, alone among the states, the ability to receive waivers from the EPA to set stricter vehicle-emissions standards. In 1977, Congress allowed other states to adopt California’s standards, rather than the federal rules.
Since 1970, the EPA has granted California more than 100 of these waivers, paving the way to the country’s first limits on emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, along with the development of the catalytic converter and the check-engine light.
The waiver Trump is trying to revoke traces back to a 2002 California state law that required automakers to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from their vehicles, which functionally mandated that they improve the fuel economy on the cars they sell. Former President George W. Bush’s EPA refused to grant California a waiver to implement that law, and the state went to court to obtain it—though the dispute became moot when Obama took office in 2009 and approved the waiver. Obama then incorporated the California rules into a national agreement with auto companies to improve fuel-efficiency standards through 2016. In 2012, when California approved new state standards through 2025, Obama granted it another waiver, and again essentially merged the state rules into new national rules.
Trump is seeking to undo those national regulations, which would require automakers to improve the average fuel economy of their vehicles to about 54 miles a gallon by 2025; Trump wants to freeze the requirement at 37 miles a gallon. His effort has become tangled in a regulatory thicket as the EPA tries to assemble a legal justification for the move. But even if Trump succeeds in undoing the federal rules, he could still be stymied by the existence of the tougher California state regulations.
Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia (all of which voted against Trump in 2016) have adopted the California rules as permitted under the Clean Air Act—and they account for one-third of the total auto market in the United States. Automakers have been unenthusiastic about operating under two sets of fuel-economy rules, and encouraged the Trump administration to reach a deal with California. When that failed this summer, four of the largest automakers enraged Trump by agreeing with California to meet a slightly loosened version of its requirements (51 miles a gallon by 2026).
[Read: How the carmakers trumped themselves]
The environmental stakes in the dispute between Trump and California are enormous. Luke Tonachel, the director of the clean-vehicles and fuels group at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me that the Trump administration’s own analysis found that freezing the fuel-economy standard would increase carbon emissions from the average new vehicle in 2025 by 37 percent. “The only ones that benefit from this rollback are the oil companies, because it will force drivers to pay more at the pump,” Tonachel said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom made a similar argument yesterday, noting that even the auto manufacturers are not asking the Trump administration to pursue this step. “It’s about the oil industry, full stop,” Newsom insisted.
The state is suing, but legal observers say it’s unclear exactly how the courts—especially the five Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court—will respond to Trump’s move. The president’s gambit opens new legal territory, because no president has ever tried to revoke a waiver to California granted by a previous administration. At yesterday’s press conference, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra insisted flatly that Trump “doesn’t have the executive authority to do this.”
However the courts resolve this fight, it’s clear that the latest confrontation between Trump and California is just one salvo in the widening conflict between Democratic states and the administration. As president, Trump has pursued a distinctive strategy toward deep-blue states: Rather than trying to convince them, he’s been more likely to flog them as a symbol of failed policies that he uses to mobilize his base. In many respects, he’s governed as a wartime president, with blue states, rather than any foreign nation, as the enemy. And what’s clear is that Trump’s administration is growing more skilled at finding new ways to launch offensives against the states that he views as his adversaries.
“Now they have figured out, in effect, the dials of the combination lock to try to do some of this in ways that are breathtaking and have enormous implications for the future,” says Kettl, the author of the forthcoming book The Divided States of America. “If you start looking at the implications of the Affordable Care Act regulations, Medicaid regulations—you have your hands on the jugular of state budgets. There are things about unemployment insurance and food stamps, there is much you can do with highway and bridges … There is an enormous universe of things that really, really matter to state and local governments in terms of their budgets.”
By sending out an early-morning tweet, Trump may have wanted to personally claim credit for confronting California over fuel economy. But more and more, the war between blue states and the administration may be fought far from the headlines, Kettl told me. Trump’s team, he said, has learned that by taking control of relatively obscure budgetary and regulatory decisions that don’t usually reach the front pages, “you can grab them by the throat and inflict real pain without it ever having to reach the level of a presidential tweet.”
Updated at 7 p.m. ET on September 17, 2019.
From the moment Corey Lewandowski filibustered the first question he received from a member of the House Judiciary Committee today, his goals for the afternoon were readily apparent.
Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s close ally and erstwhile campaign manager, wanted to make a mockery of a congressional hearing; to frustrate and embarrass his Democratic interlocutors; to demonstrate his loyalty to the president; and to boost his likely bid for a Senate seat in New Hampshire.
Within about five minutes, Lewandowski had accomplished his objective: Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler was rolling his eyes and chastising Lewandowski for refusing to answer his questions, Republicans were accusing Nadler of breaking committee rules to hound the witness, and the proceeding had descended into a cacophony of cross talk and gavel-banging.
The display was especially disappointing for Democrats, who had at least a sliver of hope that Lewandowski’s testimony would be more fruitful. They had brought him in—the first witness in the House Judiciary Committee’s newly minted impeachment investigation—to ask him about one of the juicier episodes described in the Mueller report: that Trump had twice asked Lewandowski to relay messages to then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructing him to publicly clear the president, even though he had recused himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The Democrats’ initial victory had been getting Lewandowski to show up in the first place. For months, current and former Trump-administration officials whom they had called as public witnesses in their investigation of the president had refused to comply with subpoenas at the demand of the White House. Those included Rick Dearborn, a former deputy chief of staff, and Rob Porter, the former staff secretary, who had been called to testify alongside Lewandowski today.
Lewandowski, however, had never served in the Trump administration, so the White House’s ability to block his testimony was more limited. Still, on the eve of his appearance, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone informed Nadler that he was instructing Lewandowski not to talk about anything that was not already covered in the public Mueller report.
The demand infuriated Democrats, but their options to contest it were limited, partly by their own choosing. They are challenging the Trump administration’s assertions of executive privilege and refusal to comply with subpoenas in court, but that legal process could drag out for months. The party’s other recourse is impeaching Trump for obstructing Congress, but even though the Judiciary Committee is now formally investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment, the Democratic leadership is reluctant to move more quickly or aggressively toward a vote. Republicans, both in Congress and in the White House, know this and are taking advantage.
[Read: The question Democrats have to answer before they can impeach]
Lewandowski had given Democrats a preview of his tone during the hearing on Twitter, when he tweeted early this morning that he was “excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion [and] no obstruction.” In his opening statement, he adopted Trump’s talking points about the “fake Russian collusion” narrative and criticized “Trump haters” bent on taking down a duly elected president. At one point, he said that as Trump’s campaign manager, he received hundreds of thousands of emails. “Unlike Hillary Clinton, I don’t think I ever deleted any of those,” Lewandowski joked.
When Nadler began his questioning by simply asking Lewandowski whether, as stated in the Mueller report, he had met with Trump in the Oval Office in July 2017, Lewandowski made clear that he was going to follow Cipollone’s instruction to a T. Before answering the question, he demanded that Nadler furnish him with a physical copy of the Mueller report and a precise citation he could reference.
To prevent Lewandowski from running out Nadler’s five minutes of allotted question time, the chairman ordered the clerk to stop the clock, which drew protests from Republicans, who demanded that he had to restart it. “No, I don’t when he is filibustering me,” an exasperated Nadler replied.
“Filibustering is across the hall in the Senate,” joked the committee’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, who seemed to be enjoying the spectacle and is himself eyeing a promotion to the Senate.
Republicans ultimately accused Nadler of breaking his own rules and tried to force an adjournment of the hearing. The bid failed, but the hearing went downhill from there.
When he wasn’t stalling for time by demanding that Democrats refer to specific passages in Mueller’s 448-page report, Lewandowski was sidestepping questions by deferring to the White House’s other ask, that he not divulge private conversations with the president. “This is clearly just part of the president’s continued attempt to cover up his actions,” Nadler lamented, “his obstructing our congressional investigation by preventing you from telling the American people the truth about his misconduct. He will not succeed, and we will not be deterred.”
The chairman’s colleagues were similarly frustrated. When Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas started talking over Lewandowski’s deflections to the White House, he told her: “I’d be happy to answer your question, or you can have a conversation by yourself.”
Jackson Lee snapped back: “This is House Judiciary, not a house party.”
Democrats tried a different tack, hoping to bait Lewandowski into candor by accusing him of “chickening out” on Trump’s 2017 requests that he transmit a message to Sessions.
“You chickened out?” Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia asked him.
“I went on vacation,” Lewandowski replied, drawing laughs from the hearing room. He explained that between his first and second meetings with the president, he took his family to the beach. At one point, Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island asked Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt of Congress.
The best Democratic members could do was elicit confirmation from Lewandowski that he believed that the incidents involving him in the Mueller report were rendered accurately.
If anyone really got to Lewandowski, it was Barry Berke, the attorney Democrats hired to consult on their investigation and the staff member they designated to question the witness after all the lawmakers were done. Republicans had objected to staff members having the opportunity to question Lewandowski, and judging by Berke’s effectiveness, it was clear why they would be concerned. Berke caught Lewandowski in a lie when he played a clip of the former campaign manager saying on MSNBC that he did not recall the president asking him to get involved with Sessions or the Department of Justice. “I have no obligation to be honest with the media, because they are just as dishonest as anybody else,” Lewandowski replied, drawing gasps in the hearing room.
Under questioning from members, however, Lewandowski littered his replies with none-too-subtle praise of the president and critiques of his opponents (including, notably, “the Obama-Biden administration”). Democrats soon realized what his play was.
“This is not a Republican-primary campaign,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York admonished him. “This is not the campaign trail yet. This is the House Judiciary Committee. Act like you know the difference.”
It would be easy to surmise that Lewandowski was performing for an audience of one. (And true to form, Trump tweeted his thanks to his former campaign manager before the hearing was even an hour old.) Yet in this case, Lewandowski probably did hope to have a bigger viewership up in New Hampshire, where he is hoping to run as an unapologetic Trump ally and surely wants the president’s endorsement.
So it wasn’t, as Jeffries suggested, that he didn’t know the difference between a congressional hearing and a campaign stop. Lewandowski does know the difference; this afternoon, however, he didn’t much care.
RIO RANCHO, N.M.—Long before Air Force One even touched down here, the line of Donald Trump supporters snaked around the suburban Santa Ana Star Center, with thousands of red-capped fans happy and impatient to see the president live and in person.
Traffic in the vicinity of the venue had been snarled for miles and hours. And while many of the president’s signature promises—namely a proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—are at best works in progress, the rally-goers I spoke with last night weren’t just supportive, but, whatever their walk of life, seemed to see Trump in themselves.
“He’s just like me,” said Richard Tuttle, an attendee in a Make America Great Again hat who moved to New Mexico from Southern California several years ago. “He’s a working man.”
“He’s in our town and so we’ve got to support him,” said Richard’s wife, Frances, who was in a matching red cap. “I will be voting for him again.”
On its face, the president’s visit to Rio Rancho, a suburb of New Mexico’s largest city, strung along the sage-covered mesas west of the Rio Grande, was quixotic. The Trump campaign is reportedly targeting New Mexico as a backstop in case it loses a state or two in the Midwest in 2020, sensing that it can flip the state and its five electoral votes. But the campaign’s case is slim. Trump lost the state by eight points in 2016, and Democrats wiped out Republicans in 2018. Democrats now control every statewide office and each congressional seat.
[Read: The limits of Trump’s white identity politics]
Axios has reported that the Trump team became interested in America’s 47th state after a recent rally in El Paso, Texas, lured numerous people with New Mexico addresses. Yet the El Paso metropolitan area includes much of southern New Mexico, including 100,000 people in the Las Cruces area who work, shop, and visit the Texas city, just 40 minutes away, daily.
Nevertheless, what makes Trump supporters here tick, based on my interviews, isn’t the president’s electoral strategy, or his policies and promises. It’s the identification that voters like Tuttle feel with the president himself. Even if Trump’s signature promises are unfulfilled—or barely started—he gets points for his pugilism, and any blame is deflected at others.
“I love that he is standing up to China,” one woman said, “even if it takes five years.” Said one man: “We need that border wall, and Congress has slowed it down.” (Both declined to give their name for this story.)
I worked as a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal, the statewide newspaper, for many years, beginning in the 1990s. Back then, Republicans in Northeast New Mexico were interested in fiscal prudence and healthy defense spending. In the southeast corner of the state, abutting Texas, were oil barons, workers, and ranchers. The state has voted only once for a Republican president in this century, George W. Bush in 2004. In other words, New Mexico Republicans have never been monolithic.
Today’s Trump supporters in the region are similarly dissimilar to one another: They are libertarians; disaffected Democrats; Latinos; evangelicals; suburbanites new to the state; and those from the southeast quadrant of the state, nicknamed “Little Texas.”
Standing patiently in line to get into the arena last night was a blonde woman in a black dress with bright turquoise jewelry: Susie Galea, the former mayor of Alamogordo, New Mexico. A conservative Republican, Galea crossed the aisle last year to support the Democrat Xochitl Torres Small over the Republican Yvette Herrell in the race for the state’s Third Congressional District. Galea went so far as to appear in a television advertisement for the Democrat, arguing that Herrell was corrupt. A long shot, Torres Small won.
“I think the president has strengthened our families,” Galea told me. “And I think, when you strengthen our families, that strengthens our nation and our society.”
How has Trump done that? I asked. His opposition to abortion, for one, she answered. Galea said that Trump has helped women. And she believes that he supports a pathway to citizenship for immigrants—though, of course, he has led a historic crackdown on undocumented immigrants since assuming office. Her hope for Trump in a second term? That he places more emphasis on education, namely putting more technology in classrooms.
Inside the arena, the atmosphere was that of a festival or concert: The rally-goers I saw were friendly, approachable, and often busy buying Trump-campaign T-shirts and buttons—including one for the proposed Space Force. People lined up for hot dogs, popcorn, and pretzels. A campaign worker distributed Latinos for Trump signs. Just after 6:30 p.m. local time inside the fairly small arena—just about 7,000 seats—the warm-up acts whipped up the arriving crowd. Tony Mace, the firebrand sheriff of rural Cibola County, to the west, generated chants of “U.S.A.!” when he said he was tired of liberals, the news media, and efforts to impose new controls on gun ownership.
Steve Pearce, the state’s Republican chairman, claimed that he’s tried to persuade the Trump campaign to target the state for 2020 since early this year—contradicting the Axios report—and touted Trump’s 2017 tax cut as beneficial to locals.
One attendee, Ralph Sain of Albuquerque, told me that the economy was the single most important issue to him.
“The better the economy, the more jobs there are,” said Sain, who was holding a Latinos for Trump sign. A longtime Republican, Sain denied that Trump was unpopular with Latinos nationally, as polls have shown, or even nearby, as in El Paso, where the president received the cold shoulder after the August massacre at a Walmart that killed 22 and wounded nearly as many. Locals had lined Trump’s motorcade route with signs reading You are not welcome.
“That’s all Beto O’Rourke down there,” Sain said, referring to the influence of the Democratic former House member who’s now running for president. How? I asked. “O’Rourke started those riots down there when Trump was visiting in February,” Sain said. When I told him that I was at both Trump’s rally that month and O’Rourke’s counterrally, and that there was no rioting, Sain only smiled.
“Hispanics have been against Trump till they were educated,” said the man next to Sain, who declined to give his name. He wore a matching T-shirt and ball cap that read Trump 2020: Keep liberals crying.
[Read: Sometimes winning gets old]
When the president finally took the stage after 7:30 p.m., he delivered a barrage of claims about how his achievements were helping New Mexico in general—which was slow to recover from the Great Recession and a bust in oil prices—and Latinos in particular. Trump boasted that thousands of supporters were still outside, unable to get into the Star Center. (A peek outside suggested that this was an exaggeration.)
Trump made an economic pitch aimed at the state’s oil and gas industry—even though the industry is centered some 200 miles away from here. He claimed that he had engineered the United States’ rise to No. 1 in oil and gas production, though this happened under former President Barack Obama, as the CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale noted. Trump claimed that the United States is a net energy exporter—though it won’t be until next year, Dale also pointed out. The president accurately described record-low Latino unemployment, but also made the unsubstantiated claim that Latinos support his proposed border wall.
Nonetheless, the crowd loved it all.
Many people I spoke with last night said that the news media and liberals were unrelentingly arrayed against Trump. They cited various causes—from the Second Amendment to support for nationalism—but what united them was an unfailing belief in Trump.
And yet, more than one Trump supporter I spoke with sincerely doubted that he could flip New Mexico into the Republican column in 2020. “Maybe they can flip Bernalillo County,” said Galea, the former mayor.
Outside on the steps, Gene Martinez, a former television-news journalist, lingered after having been turned away from the arena because it was full. In his T-shirt and MAGA cap, Martinez said he had no hard feelings. He, too, has his doubts about turning New Mexico red in 2020, he said: “The Democrats have just had such control over the state for the better part of 75 years.”
Overhead, the sun had set and the sky had turned gray, threatening rain. But Martinez was upbeat.
“It makes my heart feel good that we have a president who thinks on his feet,” he said. “And he’s not afraid to do what he has to do.”
After a summer of escalations between the United States and Iran, the past few weeks seemed almost civil. President Donald Trump was openly suggesting that he could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But just as quickly, the pendulum swung back, with an attack on a critical Saudi oil facility over the weekend that temporarily knocked out about half the country’s oil capacity or 5 percent of global supply, according to CNN.
Almost immediately, Trump, who habitually boasts of American might but just as strongly bemoans U.S. entanglements overseas, was back to threatening tweets. He declared the U.S. “locked and loaded,” again raising the specter of a U.S. conflict with Iran. But how likely is that, really?
The attack on the oil facility, operated by Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Aramco, had major and sudden consequences. Even as Saudi Arabia, the actual victim, declined to directly name Iran as the culprit, the Trump administration was quick to do so—and Energy Secretary Rick Perry called it no less than an attack on the global economy.
[Read: The world is getting sucked into U.S.-Iran tensions]
Oil prices jumped in short order, and so an explosion in the eastern Saudi desert reverberated across the globe. The message, from whoever sent it: An escalation in the Middle East isn’t going to stay in the Middle East. Everyone’s going to feel it.
As for the messenger, there was little to go on as of yesterday, other than assertions from parties with vested interests, none of whom have complete credibility: Trump officials (Iran); Trump (it looks like Iran, but still investigating); Saudi Arabia (not sure, but the weapons were Iranian); Iran (not Iran); and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are aligned with Iran and are being bombed in a Saudi-backed air campaign (themselves).
Regardless, the attack demonstrates in dramatic fashion just how vulnerable the region’s energy infrastructure is, which has unmistakable implications for America’s Iran policy. For the first year of Washington’s so-called maximum-pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic, the Iranians bore escalating sanctions with barely a peep of direct retaliation, creating the temporary illusion that the U.S. could use its own financial power to virtually cripple another country’s economy at no cost to itself.
[Read: Seven questions that need answers before any attack on Iran]
The illusion persisted even when the U.S. moved to cut off all of Iran’s oil exports, which in May numbered more than a million barrels a day. The move did not appreciably raise oil prices despite the supply disruption, but the policy’s cost became clear in other ways. Iran appeared to change its strategy and stepped up its confrontations. If Iran couldn’t export its own oil, it was going to try making it very difficult for others to do so.
At least in geographic terms, the circle of retaliation was small, confined mainly to Iran’s immediate neighborhood—most notably through Houthi strikes from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, and tanker explosions (for which Iran denied responsibility despite U.S. accusations) and drone shootdowns near the Strait of Hormuz over the summer. But the circle was never as small as it looked. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, and Japan were all embroiled in tankers hit over the summer; Singapore and Taiwan had some imports disrupted; China, India, and South Korea are among the other major destinations for oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Other than Iran’s regional Saudi and Emirati rivals, none of those other countries sucked into the summer’s escalation had much to do with the U.S.-Iran confrontation otherwise.
Over the weekend, the circle expanded further still. Global oil prices had surged about 15 percent yesterday afternoon, the largest one-day increase in about a decade, according to The Wall Street Journal. Even as Perry was condemning the attacks and Trump was warning darkly of consequences, both also simultaneously tried to sound reassuring for the rest of the world. Oil markets remain well-supplied—OPEC declined yesterday to increase production, and unnamed Saudi officials told The Wall Street Journal that they feared a production increase would cut into their market share. The 15 percent jump is a big one in relative terms, but oil prices remain well below where they were five years ago, when Barack Obama was pursuing his own sanctions campaign against Iran in pursuit of the nuclear deal. In the summer of 2014, for example, oil prices went above $100 a barrel; yesterday they hit about $66 a barrel.
[Read: The Americans left behind in Iran]
If there’s a way out, meanwhile, it’s foggy, and the path is obscured further by the ever-contradictory statements coming from different centers of power in the administration—or sometimes from the very same person. Having repeatedly and specifically said he would meet with the Iranians with no preconditions, Trump tweeted Sunday night that reports about his own prior position were false. (“The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).”) On Sunday he declared the U.S. “locked and loaded depending on verification” of who conducted the attack (his secretary of state had already fingered Iran as the culprit); by yesterday he was telling reporters that “we’d certainly like to avoid” conflict with Iran, that diplomacy was “never exhausted,” and “I know they want to make a deal.” (Perhaps not soon, though: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later ruled out talks with the U.S. “at any level.”)
Trump’s remarks yesterday were consistent with his oft-stated desire to avoid a conflict. (“I don't want war with anybody,” he said. “I’m somebody that would like not to have war.”) Even as the military has built up forces in the Gulf, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said in the past that the point is to avoid a conflict, not to start one. The conditions John Bolton laid out in May for the use of “unrelenting force” against Iran, namely an attack on U.S. interests or those of its allies by Iran or its proxies, have long since been satisfied; but Bolton is gone now and no one knows where the real line is. All of which suggests that Iran and its allies may well keep walking up to it. And if for some reason they stumble over, it seems neither the Iranians nor the American people will know ahead of time what could start a war.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday questioned a decision by his top trade negotiators to ask Chinese officials to delay a planned trip to U.S. farming regions after trade talks last week, saying he wanted China to buy more American farm products.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday denied trying to coerce Ukraine into investigating his Democratic rival Joe Biden, but wavered about whether he would release a transcript of a phone call that some Democrats say is grounds for his impeachment.
The growing flap over whether President Donald Trump used his office to seek re-election help from his Ukrainian counterpart poses political risks, and some opportunities, for Democratic White House front-runner Joe Biden.
U.S. President Donald Trump called for an end to religious persecution on Monday at a U.S. event on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations featuring a woman whose Uighur father has been imprisoned in China.
A Manhattan state prosecutor on Monday urged a federal judge to dismiss U.S. President Donald Trump's bid to block a subpoena seeking eight years of his tax returns as part of a criminal investigation.
Some Democrats are calling for the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump over reports that he asked his Ukrainian counterpart to launch an investigation that could damage his Democratic political rival Joe Biden.
Interest rate futures traders believe the U.S. Federal Reserve will bow to President Donald Trump's persistent tweets pressuring the central bank to lower interest rates, and this poses a "significant" risk to Fed independence, according to research released on Monday.
Some of U.S. President Donald Trump's critics in the House of Representatives are calling for an impeachment investigation following a whistleblower complaint that has roiled Washington.
U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called on Senate Republicans to issue a subpoena for a whistleblower complaint from an unidentified U.S. government official and demand a transcript of President Donald Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Three U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Monday threatened to issue subpoenas to obtain documents related to President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine if the administration does not comply with their request.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he is considering the release of a transcript of his controversial July phone call with Ukraine's president but noted concerns about the precedent of doing so.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.
An aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quoted on Monday as saying any investigation in Ukraine would be conducted transparently, after U.S. media reports said President Donald Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden, a rival in next year's U.S. election.
Australia will invest A$150 million ($101 million) in its companies and technology to help U.S. President Donald Trump's bid for a moon landing by 2024 and subsequent U.S. missions to Mars, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said over the weekend.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in held a summit in New York on Monday to discuss plans to restart U.S.-North Korea talks, as Seoul's spy agency said the negotiations could take place in two to three weeks.
El Salvador said on Monday its president would discuss migration with U.S. President Donald Trump this week in New York, after agreeing the United States could send back asylum seekers who cross El Salvador while journeying north.