FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
February 15, 2017

When White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Monday afternoon that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had President Trump's "full confidence" — hours before Flynn stepped down — she was apparently "out of the loop," The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night. The newspaper's look at Flynn as canary in the Trump coal mine, by reporters Michael C. Bender and Rebecca Ballhaus, begins like this:

Dining at his oceanside resort in Florida on Friday, President Donald Trump was surprised to learn that National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was sitting at a nearby table, a person familiar with the event said. "What is he doing here?" the president said, describing the man who was once at the center of his political orbit as "very controversial." [The Wall Street Journal]

Flynn, despite his loyalty to Trump and simpatico worldview, was always viewed warily by some White House officials, The Journal reports, giving as an example a red-eye flight senior advisers Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner took to Washington before Trump's inauguration to reassure future Cabinet members about Flynn. "We tried to help him succeed," a senior administration official told the newspaper. "It was absolute dysfunction." And Flynn isn't likely to be the last casualty of Trump's chaotic, power-jockeying White House, WSJ suggests. The conservative-media circle of the Trump orbit is apparently gunning for Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

"Reince Priebus walked Mike Flynn to the gallows," political operative Roger Stone said Tuesday, calling his departure a "Pearl Harbor moment" for Trump supporters. "Trump loyalists are fed up with Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer whose loyalties are to the Republican National Committee, and not to the president." Priebus is also reportedly in a power struggle over ambassador nominations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, while Conway is facing ethics inquiries and Press Secretary Sean Spicer is being ridiculed on Saturday Night Live. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

July 22, 2017
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

A witness who observed and filmed at least part of the death of an unarmed Australian woman, Justine Damond, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has come forward, Minnesota state investigators told the Star Tribune. Any footage would be particularly valuable in this case because the officers involved, who were at Damond's house because she called 911 to report a suspected crime, were wearing body cameras that were not turned on during the incident.

The witness was reportedly bicycling near the alley where Damond was fatally shot and watched her receiving CPR before she died. How much of the interaction the witness saw or caught on camera is not yet known, but the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said in a statement the witness "has been cooperative and provided an interview today."

Minneapolis officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the squad car from which the shooting took place, already gave investigators a four-hour interview, but officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot Damond in the abdomen while still seated in the car, has yet to be interviewed by the BCA, which cannot legally compel his testimony. Noor's attorney "has not provided any update about when, if ever, an interview would be possible," the BCA statement said.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned Friday in response to uproar over Damond's death and other recent police violence cases in the Twin Cities. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017

Actor John Heard, best known for his roles in Home Alone and The Sopranos, died Friday in Palo Alto, California. He was 72.

Heard was staying in a hotel room and recovering from minor back surgery at the time of his death, which has been confirmed by the Santa Clara Medical Examiner’s office.

Heard came to fame in the 1970s and 1980s with roles in movies including Tom Hanks' Big, Martin Scorsese's After Hours, and Bette Midler's Beaches. Today, however, he is best remembered for playing Kevin McAllister's dad in the first two Home Alone films. "At the time, we didn't know the movie was funny," he later said of the role. "We were playing the parents who lost their kid, so we didn't how funny-stupid we could be."

Heard is survived by three children and continued acting through this year. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017
U.S. Navy/Getty Images

President Trump spoke at a ceremony Saturday commissioning the USS Gerald R. Ford, the newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy fleet. His speech warned that the "sea holds many challenges and threats" and called the ship an "incredible work of art [that] becomes the pride of the U.S. Navy and symbol of American pride and prestige no matter where in the world you go."

Trump also used the occasion to address his plans to increase military spending. "It's been a very, very bad period of time for our military, that is why we reached a deal to secure additional $20 billion for defense this year and it's going up and why I ask Congress for another $54 billion for next year," he said. "Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs that our fighting men and women deserve, and you will get, believe me."

As in past discussions of the spending bump, Trump connected more money to more winning. "We will win, win win; we will never lose," he said at the commissioning in Norfolk, Virginia. "When it comes to battle we don't want a fair fight," he added. "We demand victory and we will have total victory, believe me." Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017

A Friday Washington Post story reported President Trump has been exploring the option of exercising his broad constitutional pardon power on behalf of himself or members of his campaign team or family. Trump set tongues wagging Saturday morning with a tweet apparently reserving the right to do exactly that:

Legal experts and commentators are divided over whether the presidential pardon power can be used this way, but the troubling implications of such a move are much less controversial.

"The Constitution doesn't specify whether the president can pardon himself, and no court has ever ruled on the issue, because no president has ever been brazen enough to try it," explains University of Michigan Law School professor Richard Primus at Politico. "Among constitutional lawyers, the dominant (though not unanimous) answer is 'no,' in part because letting any person exempt himself from criminal liability would be a fundamental affront to America's basic rule-of-law values."

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher similarly highlighted rule-of-law issues in a post on the subject for The American Conservative, arguing that what such a pardon "would reveal about how respect for the rule of law and basic republican order in the United States had decayed would be staggering."

Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet also focused on impropriety over illegality. "A self-pardon might well be outrageously improper (unless there was the prospect of charges brought by a rogue prosecutor, whom, for some reason, the president could not control by firing him or her)," he told Vox, "but the response the Constitution creates for such misconduct is impeachment, a political rather than criminal remedy." Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser, disclosed 77 previously unreported assets in paperwork released Friday.

Kushner's attorneys said these assets were "inadvertently omitted" in previous disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics, which certified the new disclosures as part of the "ordinary review process." The assets are valued between $10 million and $50 million, depending on where each item falls in the valuation ranges on the federal forms.

Kushner's wife, Ivanka Trump, also a presidential adviser, reported assets valued around $66 million and $13.5 million in 2016 income in additional disclosures filed Friday. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017
FBI/Associated Press

A U.S. soldier was indicted on terrorism charges by a federal grand jury in Hawaii Friday. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang is accused of attempting to provide material aid to the Islamic State, including leaked U.S. military documents, as well as planning a mass shooting after pledging his allegiance to ISIS. He was arrested by the FBI earlier this month and is held without bail.

Kang's court-appointed attorney, Birney Bervar, is pursuing a mental health defense, arguing Kang may suffer from known mental illness which the military did not appropriately address. Bervar said he expected the indictment. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017

President Trump presented Senate Republicans with a to-do list on Twitter Saturday and also offered some thoughts on congressional Democrats:

In a rambling interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, the president seemed to share a different view, conceding that at most 50 GOP senators would support the most recent iteration of the plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Given that "very tough standard," Trump said, "let's not vote on repeal. Let's just vote on this. So first, they vote on the vote. ... And then they’ll vote on this, and we'll see." Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads