"I wish circumstances were different and I didn't feel the need to make public remarks today," said Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), to begin his address Wednesday at the Brookings Institute about government ethics and why President-elect Donald Trump should take them more seriously. "You don't hear about ethics when things are going well. You've been hearing a lot about ethics lately." Trump had laid out his plan to distance himself from his business interests to avoid conflicts earlier in the day, and Shaub said that plan is "wholly inadequate." "Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts," he explained.
The point of speaking publicly about the fixable ethics shortcomings of the incoming administration, Shaub said, is to defend the post-Watergate ethics structure built to safeguard the public good and to urge Trump to change course. "I've been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top," he said, and it is hard to persuade other officials to comply if the president does not.
And he's been trying to get his message to Trump, particularly. He started with some tweets, Shaub said, because "I was trying to use the vernacular of the president-elect's favorite social media platform to encourage him to divest." His speech on Wednesday included Biblical scripture, an appeal to patriotism, and the advice of Trump's favorite Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia:
Back when he was working for the Justice Department, the late Antonin Scalia also wrote an opinion declaring that a president should avoid engaging in conduct prohibited by the government's ethics regulations, even if they don't apply. Justice Scalia warned us that there would be consequences if a president ever failed to adhere to the same standards that apply to lower level officials. [Shaub, Brookings Institute]
At Trump's press conference, his conflicts-of-interest lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had noted that "the conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets." That's true. But as Shaub noted: "The sheer obviousness of Justice Scalia's words becomes apparent if you just ask yourself one question: Should a president hold himself to a lower standard than his own appointees?" The jury is still out. Watch below. Peter Weber
After an introduction from First Lady Melania Trump, the president began by pointing to a helicopter he could see landing in the distance, wondering if the craft contained Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — or perhaps "Justin from Canada," which is probably a reference to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and not Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) May 27, 2017
Trump's speech quickly turned to more serious matters, with a lengthy section about "eradicating the terrorism that plagues our planet." He condemned this week's terrorist attacks on concert attendees in England and Coptic Christians in Egypt, vowing cooperation with allies to "confront the shared threat of terrorism."
Toward the end of his speech, the president spoke of honoring fallen American forces on Memorial Day. "There is no peace without those willing to bear the scars and wounds of war," he said. "There is no strength without those brave enough to protect the weak and the people that need protection. And there is no prosperity at home without those willing to shoulder our burdens overseas."
"You are the warriors of freedom," Trump told the assembled troops. "You are the ones who protect the God-given freedoms that are the birthright of every single American child." Watch the entire speech below. Bonnie Kristian
Police evacuated London's Old Vic theater, located near Waterloo Station, during a performance on Saturday in response to an unspecified security threat. The area has been isolated as "specialist officers" investigate the scene.
— Rachel Griffin (@Carryonsmiling) May 27, 2017
This incident comes less than a week after a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, during an Ariana Grande concert left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. The play that was interrupted is a showing of Woyzeck featuring Star Wars actor John Boyega.
This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more details become available. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump will return to Washington on Saturday after the second day of the G7 summit in Italy, completing his nine-day tour through Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. Saturday morning, Trump claimed on Twitter that his speech in Brussels Thursday is already producing results:
Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in- NATO will be much stronger.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017
Trump's description of "payments" into a fund is misleading; NATO countries actually pledged in 2014 to hit a 2 percent of GDP target for their own defense spending. Only five allies have met that goal.
The president also used Twitter Saturday morning to address his decision on the 2015 Paris climate accord:
I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017
The other G7 member nations — Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and Canada — are all urging Trump not to exit the agreement made by former President Obama. They reaffirmed their "strong commitment" to the accord on Saturday, but Trump declined to join the declaration at that time. However, the White House on Friday said Trump's views on climate change are "evolving." Bonnie Kristian
Two people were killed and a third injured on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, by a man witnesses said was "yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs." Unverified reports suggest the suspect may have been targeting two Muslim girls riding the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab.
The victims were attempting to protect other passengers when they were stabbed. "Terrible tragedy on Portland's Max Train," Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley wrote on Twitter of the attack. "Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil."
The suspect has been detained by police, who have deemed his rant to be hate speech. Neither the attacker nor the victims have been publicly identified. Bonnie Kristian
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, died Friday in Virginia. He was 89.
The son of a Polish diplomat whose background was in academia, Brzezinski advised Carter throughout his presidency, guiding the White House during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis as well as the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Though a hard-line Cold War hawk — he implicitly encouraged, for example, Chinese support of the totalitarian Pol Pot regime to limit Soviet influence in Vietnam — in his later years, Brzezinski opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
His death was announced by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, on social media. "He was known to his friends as Zbig, to his grandchildren as Chief and to his wife as the enduring love of her life," she wrote. "I just knew him as the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have."
The Trump campaign has to hand over every Russia-related document to the Senate Intelligence Committee
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked President Trump's campaign to hand over all documents, including phone records and emails, with any reference to Russia dating from June of 2015 onward. The request, which The Washington Post reported Friday evening citing two unnamed sources, is part of the committee's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The committee's letter arrived last week, and campaign staffers are reportedly in the process of cooperating, though they have been instructed not to comment publicly. The letter was signed by committee chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) as well as Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat.
This is the first time the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, which is distinct from the Justice Department probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has involved the official campaign organization. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner reportedly held discussions with Russia's ambassador about setting up a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election, intelligence officials confirmed to The Washington Post.
The Post first learned of Kushner's inquiry in an anonymous letter sent in December; Kushner's meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reportedly happened at Trump Tower on Dec. 1 or 2. Kushner apparently suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the secret communications, alarming Kislyak, as that would have been a security risk for Russia, too.
... Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials.
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, [Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn, and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a "Russian contact" in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter. [The Washington Post]
Senior U.S. officials expressed shock at Kushner's bold proposition, especially as Russian communications are closely monitored by the U.S., with one calling his idea "extremely naive or absolutely crazy.” Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange