Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads off to Asia with just one reporter in tow, from a conservative site
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departs Wednesday for a three-nation, four-day visit to Asia, starting in Japan, moving to South Korea, and finishing in China. The focus of all three stops is expected to be North Korea, which has ratcheted up tensions in the region by test-firing several medium-range ballistic missiles toward Japan.
In Tokyo, Tillerson will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, and will seek to reassure Japan that the Trump administration will stay engaged. He will carry similar assurances about North Korea to Seoul, which is in political upheaval after the impeachment and removal of President Park Geun-hye last week. Her successor after May 9 elections is expected to be a liberal candidate seeking a more conciliatory posture toward Pyongyang. In Beijing, Tillerson will lay the groundwork for President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Washington, and he's expected to urge China to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear belligerence.
Breaking with 50 years of tradition, Tillerson isn't bringing the diplomatic press corps with him on his airplane, or even a few "pool" reporters, as he did on his first two official trips abroad. Originally, the State Department said that Tillerson, who has kept an unusually low profile, would travel with no reporters, citing his small plane and calling it a cost-saving measure — though reporters pay market price for their seats, costing taxpayers nothing. But now he is flying with one journalist, Erin McPike of the conservative Independent Journal Review. The State Department Correspondents' Association said Wednesday that it is "disappointed" Tillerson isn't bringing even a single pool reporter on his plane.
U.S. reporters will still cover Tillerson's three stops, flying commercially and meeting up with him in each capital. You can watch three of them, from CNN, offer a preview of Tillerson's Asia trip in the video below. Peter Weber
A former employee for Fox News says the network rebuffed her requests to investigate ties between President Trump and Russia — even when she offered to pay her own travel expenses to Moscow, Bloomberg reported Monday. "You can't do in-depth reporting if you're not [in Russia]," said Jessica Golloher, a former Fox Radio correspondent who is suing the company for gender discrimination. "Fox is just buying what the White House is selling."
Golloher made the claim during her testimony to the British Parliament, as the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority considers whether "Fox has a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards." The CMA review of Fox's broadcasting standards stemmed from a bid by Fox's parent company, Twenty-First Century Fox, to buy the U.K telecommunications company Sky. The review was additionally triggered in part over allegations that the White House and a prominent Trump donor pushed Fox News to publish an article that used fabricated quotes to call into question Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Although Fox News did not send a representative to the hearing, the network referred Bloomberg to an earlier statement from May which said Golloher's claims "are without merit. Her allegations of discrimination and retaliation are baseless. We will vigorously defend the matter."
Fox News' various TV personalities have been loudly skeptical of ties between Trump and Russia and have in some cases claimed that Hillary Clinton is really the one who conspired with Moscow. In late October, CNN reported that several Fox News employees were appalled by their network's coverage of the Russia investigation. One TV personality even texted CNN, "I'm watching now kicking and screaming. I want to quit." Kelly O'Meara Morales
The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to block AT&T from its controversial $85.4 billion grab at Time Warner, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. President Trump has long been critical of the deal, saying he believes it would focus too much of the power in the media industry in one company. The Justice Department's move could be complicated, though, because it will require convincing the courts "that the deal would threaten competition," Bloomberg Politics wrote earlier this year. "That could be tough because AT&T isn't buying a direct competitor."
The merger would have paired AT&T's wireless phone service with Time Warner's visual media, including networks like CNN, TNT, and HBO as well as the Warner Bros. film and television studio. Earlier this month, the Justice Department demanded CNN's parent company, Turner Broadcasting, be sold before the deal could go forward, raising questions about Trump's involvement in the decision.
"Vigorous antitrust enforcement by the Justice Department would ordinarily be a cause for celebration, given that antitrust law is the last line of defense for consumers when federal agencies go on the sort of deregulatory jihad that President Trump has directed," wrote the Los Angeles Times. "But in this case, it's impossible to tell whether the DOJ is being principled or a puppet. In fact, its motives are completely suspect."
Before the suit was officially filed, AT&T's general counsel said the move would be a "radical and inexplicable departure from antitrust precedent." Read more about the AT&T-Time Warner deal, and how Trump might have played a role, at The Week. Jeva Lange
Rates have dropped significantly at all but one of President Trump's 13 hotels since he took office, The Telegraph reported Monday. The average price for a weekend at a Trump hotel dropped by 36 percent in the last year, with the most dramatic decrease occurring at the Trump Las Vegas, where rates fell 63 percent.
The Macleod House and Lodge in Scotland fared the best comparatively, as its prices only dropped 10 percent. The lone Trump hotel to increase its price was the Trump Doonbeg in Ireland, whose rates inched up 7 percent.
But while prices have dropped at the president's properties, that does not necessarily mean that they are not making money. Prices at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for example, dropped by a whopping 52 percent per The Telegraph's report. But in August, The Washington Post reported that the same hotel had already made nearly $2 million in the first four months of 2017 — despite the Trump Organization's prediction that it would lose more than $2 million in the first quarter.
The profitability of Trump's D.C. hotel could be an anomaly, given that foreign governments and their dignitaries may see an incentive in staying at the president's properties when doing business with or lobbying his administration. And even if prices are lower this year at Trump hotels, the president still has his beloved Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, which has doubled its membership prices this year. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Janet Yellen, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, will step down from the central bank's Board of Governors when her successor assumes the chairmanship in February. President Trump announced he would nominate Fed governor Jerome Powell to succeed Yellen as chair when her term comes to an end early next year.
Yellen's term as governor would run until 2024, but she announced Monday that she would step down from the board as well when Powell takes over. "As I prepare to leave the board, I am gratified that the financial system is much stronger than a decade ago," Yellen wrote in a letter informing Trump of her decision. "I am also gratified by the substantial improvement in the economy since the crisis."
Yellen's departure will leave Trump with four vacancies on the Fed's governing board. He has nominated just one replacement, Randal Quarles, who has been confirmed by the Senate. The remaining open governorships have yet to see any replacement nominees. Kimberly Alters
Nothing quite says it's the most wonderful time of the year like a Make America Great Again hat decorated with embroidered Christmas lights. The festive item is now on sale in President Trump's campaign store and runs $45, up from the $25 it costs to purchase the regular red MAGA hat acceptable for the other 364 days of the year.
The seasonal hat is additionally emblazoned with "Merry Christmas" on the back, lest a well-meaning cashier begin to wish "happy holidays" at your retreating back:
Trump 2020 campaign has a new hat for sale. Costs nearly twice as much as regular MAGA hats. But it lets everyone know you’re a soldier in the War on Christmas. pic.twitter.com/MQbK2VQlki
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) November 20, 2017
Apparently Rex Tillerson isn't the only Cabinet member in the Trump administration who looks down on the president.
BuzzFeed News reported Monday that at a private dinner in July, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster compared President Trump's intelligence to that of a kindergartner. McMaster additionally said the president was "an idiot" and "a dope," BuzzFeed News reported, while dining with Oracle CEO Safra Catz.
One source who spoke to BuzzFeed News said that McMaster also had harsh words for former White House strategist Stephen Bannon; Secretary of Defense James Mattis; Tillerson, the secretary of state; and Trump's son-in-law/opioid crisis solver/broker of Middle East peace, Jared Kushner. Five sources confirmed the contents of McMaster's table talk to BuzzFeed News, while a sixth claimed that the national security adviser has also questioned Trump's intelligence — or lack thereof — in private.
Officials from both Oracle and the Trump administration rejected the claim that McMaster spoke disparagingly of Trump and the other Cabinet officials while at dinner with Catz.
McMaster, like Tillerson, has long been a target of the alt-right for holding "establishment" and "globalist" positions on foreign policy. Sources who spoke to BuzzFeed News said McMaster was also deeply critical of Trump's foreign policy positions — most notably the president's disdain for the Iranian nuclear deal. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council said: "Actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any of the comments attributed to him by anonymous sources. Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster's actual views." Kelly O'Meara Morales
It has been 17 days since Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was tackled by his neighbor, Rene Boucher, in an incident that has upset the (normally) peaceful gated community of Rivergreen in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Paul reportedly sustained five broken ribs after Boucher ran him down while he was mowing his lawn.
What prompted Boucher's attack is still unclear — if you ask the neighbors, they'll tell you it was a landscaping dispute, although Paul himself has said his libertarian politics provoked his "socialist" neighbor, GQ reports. The real story, though, might be much shorter than that.
Like most everyone else in the Rivergreen development, [Bowling Green resident Bill Goodwin] told me, Boucher pays in the ballpark of $150 a month for professional landscaping, while Paul insists on maintaining his yard himself. Goodwin said that part of what nagged at Boucher was the difference in grass length between his lawn and that of his libertarian neighbor's. "He had his yard sitting at a beautiful two-and-a-half, three inches thick, where Rand cuts it to the nub," Goodwin said. [GQ]
Goodwin also told GQ that Boucher was infuriated by Paul's "tendency to mow outward at the edge of his property, spraying his clippings into Boucher's yard." Read more about the dispute at GQ. Jeva Lange