President Obama on Monday said international investigators must be granted "immediate and full access" to the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed, and he questioned why the pro-Russian separatists controlling the area are reportedly removing key evidence.
"All of which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?" he said.
Rebels over the weekend reportedly seized at gunpoint the bodies of some 200 crash victims and loaded them on to train cars. The separatists also recovered the plane's black boxes, though they promised to turn them over to investigators.
Speaking from the White House, Obama also called on Russia to prod the rebels into working with the international community, saying Moscow and President Vladimir Putin in particular had a "direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate." Then pivoting to the broader conflict in eastern Ukraine, Obama warned Russia that it would face more consequences should it continue to aid the rebels with training and equipment. However, he declined to say what those consequences could be, saying only that "costs will increase." Jon Terbush
Lobbyists and party operatives around D.C. are reporting a startling amount of interest from White House staffers looking to move on to other jobs in early 2018, Politico reports. "There will be an exodus from this administration in January," predicted one lobbyist. "Everyone says, 'I just need to stay for one year.' If you leave before a year, it looks like you are acknowledging that you made a mistake."
Reports of infighting and generally unhappy staffers have plagued the Trump White House, although all administrations have some turnover in their first year. Usually, though, staff will try to hang on through the first two years, when a midterm presents an opportunity for a more elegant exit.
Complicating matters in 2016 is the fact that the White House is already struggling to fill its seats as departures — including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and chief strategist Stephen Bannon — mount. The administration has only nominated 345 appointees for Senate-confirmed positions, while at the same point in their administrations, President Barack Obama had nominated 459, President George W. Bush 588, and President Bill Clinton 407.
"There is no joy in Trumpworld right now," one adviser told Politico. "Working in the White House is supposed to be the peak of your career, but everyone is unhappy, and everyone is fighting everyone else." Read more at Politico. Jeva Lange
Megyn Kelly, who rocketed to international fame as President Trump's least-favorite anchor at Fox News, is not actually not much of a political junkie, and when her new NBC morning show, Megyn Kelly Live, starts on Monday, "I don't want to talk about Trump at all," she told The Associated Press. She elaborated:
In fact, the bar is very high for Trump coverage (on Megyn Kelly Live). If you want Trump, you can watch virtually every channel in the country and get Trump nonstop. I think people are looking for a break from that. Not just Trump, it's inside the Beltway. I don't want to talk about Mitch McConnell either, or Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi. [Megyn Kelly to AP]
Kelly said she wants her new show to be somewhere between the fun earlier hours of NBC's popular Today show and something more substantive, covering things like bullying, mental health, job interview tips, how to protect yourself from cybersecurity breaches, and moving past divorce. Kelly will go up against Live! with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, and NBC executives are reportedly concerned about her ratings — following the middling debut season of her Sunday night newsmagazine, her positive "Q" popularity score among women fell to 4 from 21 two years ago, according to Marketing Evaluations Inc., versus a 15 average for TV hosts. Kelly says she's not paying attention to the noise, and her viewers are "going to watch the show and either they're going to feel a connection to me or they won't. And that will be on me." You can read more of her interview at AP. Peter Weber
Stephen Bannon secretly met with "the second most powerful Chinese Communist Party official" last week, The Financial Times reports. The 90-minute huddle with Wang Qishan in Beijing followed Bannon's speech in Hong Kong calling for stricter U.S. policy on China at a conference hosted by a state-owned brokerage and investment group.
Wang, 69, serves as the head of the Communist Party's anti-corruption campaign but is "expected to step down during the Communist Party's five-yearly congress next month, in line with informal retirement rules," the South China Morning Post reports. Nevertheless, there is some speculation he might stay on anyway.
Wang reportedly had questions for Bannon involving topics like "economic nationalism" and "populist movement," the South China Morning Post adds. "[Wang] must have had a reason to meet Bannon, and the topic doesn't seem relevant to his current job," said Zhang Lifan, a Chinese political commentator. "It's possible his political career will be extended, though maybe in a different area."
Bannon has claimed that America is in an "economic war with China" and he is a subscriber to the "Thucydides Trap" theory, which suggests that historical indicators show the U.S. is on an unavoidable path to war with China. "A hundred years from now, this is what they'll remember — what we did to confront China on its rise to world domination," Bannon said in a recent interview with The New York Times. Jeva Lange
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have spent the week volleying insults and threats ever since Trump suggested he might "totally destroy" Kim's country if it continues to menace the U.S. and its allies. Kim responded Thursday by claiming Trump is "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire" and vowing to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."
Trump didn't walk back from his threats. On Friday he tweeted that Kim "will be tested like never before":
Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
President Trump's badgering and other pressure tactics arguably backfired in July, when three Senate Republicans sank the previous last effort to repeal much of ObamaCare, but when you have a very large megaphone, you apparently use it.
Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as "the Republican who saved ObamaCare."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
Senate Republicans are holding a vote next week on the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who voted for the last GOP health-care bill, says he is a solid no on this one. The other Republicans up in the air are believed to be Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — though if Republicans let Alaska keep ObamaCare, who knows? Peter Weber
On Friday, Transport for London, the British capital's transportation regulator, said it had declined to renew ride-hailing service Uber's license to operate in London, effective Sept. 30. Uber "is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license," the regulator said in a statement, saying its "approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications," including its use of Greyball software to avoid regulation and its "approach to reporting serious criminal offenses."
TfL has today informed Uber that it will not be issued with a private hire operator licence. pic.twitter.com/nlYD0ny2qo
— Transport for London (@TfL) September 22, 2017
Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers puzzle over how Republicans defend their last-ditch health-care bill
President Trump has been tweeting his support for the Republican Party's last-ditch health-care bill, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, especially its sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a doctor. "And you can trust Trump's opinions when it comes to doctors — remember, his primary care physician is this guy," Colbert said. "Practically every medical organization opposes this bill, so why are Republicans pushing so hard to get it through?" Well, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) offered to list 10 reasons Republicans shouldn't pass the bill, but then said they had in order to keep their promise. Colbert found that inspiring enough to give that formula a try: "Honey, I can give you 10 reasons why I shouldn't give you this pony, but I promised you one, so enjoy your alligator."
Actually, "very few Republicans can defend their bill or explain what it does," Seth Meyers said on Thursday's Late Night. Graham-Cassidy will cut funding for vulnerable people on Medicaid and put people with pre-existing conditions at risk, Meyers said, and if you're wondering how anyone could support "such a monstrous bill, well the answer is they either don't know or don't care." He had a wry laugh over Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kansas) Thelma & Louise answer. "I love how he realized halfway through that his analogy made no sense and just hoped the reporter had never seen the movie."
The bill's hundreds of billions in "cuts may seem savage and cruel, but to be fair, Republicans have always preached fiscal responsibility and the importance of saving money," Meyers said, cuing up some clips about HHS Secretary Tom Price's love of using taxpayer-funded private jets, and also Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's. Will Republicans wrangle the 50 votes? Maybe, Meyers said. "They're throwing another Hail Mary, except Republicans aren't exactly Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers. They're more like Jay Cutler." Watch below. Peter Weber