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February 13, 2017

On Friday evening, Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy spent half an hour drinking with President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe retired to bed, Ruddy said on Twitter (Trump had Diet Coke, he noted). On Sunday, Ruddy — a member of Mar-a-Lago and a longtime friend of Trump's — went on CNN to share his impressions of President Trump's first few weeks in office. "I think he is a little sensitive to the press criticism," Ruddy told Brian Stelter, adding that Trump is "battle-tested" after facing down the New York media for decades. The real problem, Ruddy argued, is White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

"There's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff," he said. "I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned, but he clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work. He doesn't have a really good system. He doesn't know how the communications flow." Ruddy said he thinks White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is doing a good job under tough circumstances, but "the president is not getting the backup he needs in the operation of the White House, and sometimes the pushback that he needs, which you would have with... a stronger White House chief of staff."

After his CNN appearance, Ruddy elaborated to The Washington Post, stating that personally, "it's my view that Reince is the problem. I think on paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff — and Donald trusted him — but it's pretty clear the guy is in way over his head." He specifically blamed Priebus for botching "this whole immigration rollout," and said he's actually "hearing from a lot of people on the inside" that Priebus isn't pushing back like Trump needs him too. "He just doesn't have the gravitas that Donald would respect at the end of the day."

By the end of Sunday, Ruddy was softening his critique a bit, tweeting: "Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have 'open mind' based on his results." He also said Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, "tells me COS Reince is doing 'amazing job.' Disagrees with me!" Peter Weber

12:44 p.m. ET

Conservative author Mona Charen got booed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday because of comments she made about the #MeToo movement, the Republican Party, and President Trump.

"I am disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women," Charen said, referencing Trump and the Access Hollywood tape. "This is a party that endorsed Roy Moore for the Senate in the state of Alabama even though he was a credibly accused child molester," she continued. "You cannot claim that you stand for women and put up with that."

Writing in the New York Times Sunday, Charen stood by her critique of the GOP as a lifelong conservative. "There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth," she wrote. "And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds, and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability."

Watch an excerpt of the CPAC panel below, and read the whole New York Times op-ed here. Bonnie Kristian

12:17 p.m. ET

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union he will not resign despite allegations that multiple deputies under his command did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, "when they should have" during the Valentine's Day mass shooting.

Israel previously said one deputy assigned to the school was suspended without pay and then resigned because he never entered the school to protect students or confront the shooter. Now the Coral Springs Police Department has accused other deputies of delaying their entry.

"Deputies make mistakes, police officers make mistakes, we all make mistakes," Israel argued. "But it's not the responsibility of the general or the president if you have a deserter."

Israel also addressed the warnings his department received about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, before the attack. "I can only take responsibility for what I knew about," the sheriff told host Jake Tapper Sunday. "I exercised my due diligence. I provided amazing leadership to this agency." Tapper was unconvinced, countering that "you measure somebody's leadership by the way they protect the community" and suggesting Israel failed to protect Parkland.

Watch the full interview below. Bonnie Kristian

11:14 a.m. ET
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee on Sunday announced a proposal to remove the presidential term limit that would constrain the rule of President Xi Jinping.

Under the present structure of the Chinese Constitution, Xi is limited to two five-year terms, the second of which is due to end in 2023. If the constitutional amendment is approved, Xi could potentially stay in office indefinitely. An editorial in a Chinese state newspaper said the change would not mean "the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure," but it quoted a Communist Party source saying China needs "consistent leadership" through 2035.

Xi's anti-corruption campaign has been popular among the public, but comments about the proposal on Weibo, China's Twitter analogue, suggested extending the term limit would be preferred over ending it. "If two terms are not enough, then they can write in a third term, but there needs to be a limit," wrote one user. "Getting rid of it is not good!" Bonnie Kristian

10:46 a.m. ET

President Trump phoned in for an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro Saturday night, holding forth on a wide range of topics.

He declared the Democratic counter-memo, published earlier that day, "really fraudulent" and its congressional authors worthy of investigation. Trump specifically targeted for critique Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the counter-memo's creation and release, labeling him a "bad guy."

On guns, the president again proposed arming teachers as an antidote to school shootings. A mass shooter would be deterred by "some offensive power in there," Trump said, while "a gun-free zone is like target practice" and beloved of "bad guys."

And though he insisted "the generals would love" a military parade, the president seemed to back off from the idea by noting it could be too expensive. "We'll see if we can do it at a reasonable cost," he said. "If we can't, we won't do it." A Military Times poll found nine in 10 readers believed the parade is "a waste of money and troops are too busy."

Watch two excerpts of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian

10:35 a.m. ET
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto scrapped plans to visit Washington in February or March after an argumentative phone call with President Trump on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported Saturday night, citing officials from both countries.

Trump reportedly "lost his temper" in a discussion of his unrealized pledge to build an extensive wall along the United States' southern border with Mexican funding. "Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall," American officials reportedly told the Post.

Also at issue, the Post story says, is Peña Nieto's dissatisfaction with Trump's refusal to commit to a meeting agenda that will avoid embarrassment. A column in Mexico's El Horizonte newspaper on Friday likewise said the Trump's "volatility" and the "lack of certainty about his commitments and actions" makes the Mexican president wary of a public conversation.

Trump met with Peña Nieto in Mexico as a candidate. Since he took office, their relationship has been notoriously fraught. Bonnie Kristian

8:24 a.m. ET
Jung Yeon-je/Getty Images

The North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, indicated "North Korea is willing to have talks with the U.S., and the North agrees that inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U. S. relations should advance together," said a statement from South Korea's presidential administration Sunday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in "pointed out the urgency to hold dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. in order to fundamentally the resolve the issues on the Korean Peninsula and to improve inter-Korean relations," the statement reported.

In a public statement earlier Sunday, however, the North Korean regime condemned the United States' latest round of sanctions against North Korea, announced Friday. "The two Koreas have cooperated together and the Olympics was held successfully," Pyongyang said via state-run media, "but the U.S. brought the threat of war to the Korean peninsula with large-scale new sanctions."

President Trump has repeatedly expressed an interest in direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. However, he frequently vacillates toward more aggressive rhetoric. On Friday, he suggested that if these sanctions fail, he will move on to an unspecified "Phase 2" which could be "rough" and "very unfortunate for the world." Bonnie Kristian

7:55 a.m. ET

House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Saturday published their counter to the Nunes memo, a controversial document compiled under Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee chair, and released earlier this year.

The Nunes memo alleges the FBI acquired FISA court permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page using the Steele dossier, which was created with funding from a Clinton campaign lawyer, not telling the court the information's source.

The new memo defends the FBI, claiming the agency was conducting its own probe of the Trump campaign for seven weeks before obtaining the Steele dossier. The dossier was only narrowly used in the surveillance application, the counter-memo says, with proper identification of its political provenance.

President Trump promptly denounced the counter-memo, calling it "a nothing" and "really fraudulent" in a Fox News interview Saturday night. On Twitter, he misquoted Fox to attack Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the counter-memo's creation and release. He also declared the counter-memo proves his own campaign's persecution. "Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done," Trump wrote. "SO ILLEGAL!"

Read the counter-memo below. Bonnie Kristian

Dem.countermemo by M Mali on Scribd

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