Mitt Romney carries donuts to members of his staff during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on June 8. While stumping in the Hawkeye State, Romney seized on a comment that President Obama made at a press conference ("The private sector is doing fine"), declaring that Obama's remark would "go down in history" as an "extraordinary miscalculation."
Tensions between two of the Trump administration's economic advisers has surpassed the usual co-worker drama.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and top trade adviser Peter Navarro have not resolved their differences when it comes to economic policy opinions, The Daily Beast reported Thursday, and sources say Navarro has taken to calling Mnuchin "Neville Chamberlain."
The nickname stems from a former Prime Minister of the U.K., who famously capitulated to Nazi Germany and fascist dictator Adolf Hitler during the late 1930s. Navarro reportedly sees China as such a serious economic threat that he thinks Mnuchin's international policy principles make him just as bad as a Nazi appeaser.
Navarro takes an "America First" stance when it comes to trade policies, The Daily Beast reports, and is very frustrated that other advisers like Mnuchin don't want to be as tough on China as he'd like. One official said that the battle between the two advisers is like a "cold war that became hot," also referring to a shouting match between Mnuchin and Navarro while in China earlier this month. Read more at The Daily Beast. Summer Meza
The U.K. is blaming Russia for a prank phone call to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, with Johnson's deputy, Alan Duncan, telling Bloomberg News: "If this was an attempt to ridicule us, it has totally backfired." Russian pranksters have previously placed hoax calls to U.S. politicians by posing as world leaders; earlier this year, radio comedians "Vovan" and "Lexus" pretended to be the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament in order to offer Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) nude photos of President Trump, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was tricked into telling the pranksters she was "closely watching" Russia's interference in the elections of Binomo, a made-up country.
Johnson apparently realized the call was a hoax and ended the conversation, earning the respect of prankster Alexei Stolyarov who claimed it was "probably the first time the person we talked to ... was not a fool."
The U.K. was not amused, suggesting that the Kremlin supported the call in an attempt to discredit reports that Russia poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. "These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him," said the Foreign Office. Jeva Lange
President Trump and his allies have spent the past week stoking unfounded fears that the Deep State planted a spy in his 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump didn't let up on Thursday, tweeting:
Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE - a terrible thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
Trump was immediately called out on his lies. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper actually said the opposite of what Trump claims, Politifact reports: Clapper's exact quote when asked "was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign" was, "No, they were not. They were spying on — a term I don't particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing."
Clapper didn’t say this or anything approximating it. https://t.co/eEWjHk0e5y
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 24, 2018
There is no publicly available evidence that there was any politically motivated spying on Trump's campaign. Rather, an FBI informant spoke with two Trump campaign advisers in 2016 after being alerted to suspicious contacts with Russia. "Accusations that the FBI was 'spying' on the Trump campaign — rather than spying on foreign spies, which is its job — erase the important distinctions between counterintelligence and criminal investigations," argued Asha Rangappa at The Washington Post.
Many critics believe Trump is intentionally branding the intelligence community as partisan as a means of discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Read how Trump's strategy might just be crazy enough to work here at The Week. Jeva Lange
In March 2016, an errant Snapchat video of a U.S. Air Force airman stationed at F.W. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming led investigators to a ring of airmen who were using LSD, ecstasy, cocaine, and other mind-altering or illegal drugs, The Associated Press reports. Eventually, disciplinary action was taken against 14 of the airmen, all of whom were in the the 90th Missile Wing — which, AP explains, "operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand 'on alert' 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains," the ICBMs "capable of unleashing hell." Six airmen were court-martialed for using and/or distributing LSD.
"I absolutely just loved altering my mind," the purported ringleader, Airman 1st Class Nickolos Harris, testified at his court-martial hearing. Airman 1st Class Devin Hagarty panicked and fled to Mexico when the investigation began, grabbing cash and a backpack and text-messaging his mom that he loved her. Another court-martialed member, Airman Basic Kyle Morrison, said in his hearing that while tripping he could not have responded if called to duty in a nuclear emergency.
"Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn't," said prosecutor Capt. Charles Grimsley during one court-martial. Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland told AP that all the drug activity occurred during off-duty hours and that "there are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely, and effectively." The military stopped screening for LSD in 2006. You can read more about the trips, the punishments, and the mole at AP. Peter Weber
Dutch investigators have concluded that a Russian anti-aircraft missile brigade is responsible for shooting down a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over eastern Ukraine in 2014, The Guardian reports. The disaster resulted in the deaths of all 298 people on board.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in shooting down MH17, and has used its veto power at the United Nations to block an international tribunal over the incident. Dutch investigators say they are convinced Russia is behind the attack because they managed to identify a specific BUK missile system that was used, which was traced to a brigade in Kursk, in western Russia.
MH17 had been traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down. Jeva Lange
Trump tells Fox & Friends that NFL players who don't stand during the national anthem maybe 'shouldn't be in the country'
On Thursday morning, Fox & Friends broadcast an interview Brian Kilmeade conducted with President Trump on Wednesday, on short notice. Kilmeade informed Trump that the NFL owners had just approved a policy that fines teams if any of their players refuse to stand for the national anthem, though players also have the option to stay in the locker room during the anthem. Trump said he didn't like the locker room option but was pleased with the other part — maybe a little too pleased. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem," Trump said, "or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the county."
— Axios (@axios) May 24, 2018
The NFL Players Association was less pleased with the decision, and at least one team owner — New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, the brother of Trump's ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson — said he would personally pay the fine of any player who decides to kneel anyway. Also in disagreement with Trump? The New York Daily News.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) May 24, 2018
So. Are you ready for some football? Peter Weber
"Of all the questions hanging over the special counsel investigation, one stands out: How will President Trump fare in the end?" asks Michael Schmidt and his colleagues at The New York Times. They run through Special Counsel Robert Mueller's three main options and what would happen next — Schmidt provides a good summary in the video below.
But one former senior FBI official who used to work under Mueller tells Vanity Fair the special counsel isn't really interested in Trump's fate. "Mueller doesn't care if he gets Trump," the official said. "He doesn't care if he doesn't get Trump. He has no political agenda. He is digging through the layers and bringing back the truth, and the truth is going to be whatever it is going to be." But he had some interesting thoughts on what Mueller is doing:
This investigation is classic Mueller: He is doing a classic, organized crime case. This is RICO 101, working your way up and sideways. You pop a few guys for gambling. ... You flip one guy who you arrest with no fanfare. It's exactly what Mueller has been doing his whole goddamn life. It's just that this time the boss of the family happens to be the leader of the free world. [Former FBI official to Vanity Fair]
Vanity Fair's Chris Smith specifically examines Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's role, whether his exploitation of Mueller's inability or refusal to push back against the Giuliani-Trump scorched-earth attack on the investigation will prevail. The ex-FBI official said "Mueller is critically aware of everything that's being written or said" but "he completely tunes it out," for good reason. He brought up the old expression about the dangers of mud-wrestling with a pig, arguing that "the very fact that Mueller refuses to respond to the most outrageous criticisms and claims is the reason the pig is wrestling with itself in its own mud." Read more at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber