President Trump met with former Colombian Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, an undisclosed meeting that Colombian media says was arranged by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio, Uribe, and Pastrana are all prominent critics of the peace deal Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated with the FARC guerrilla group. Next month, Santos is meeting with Trump in Washington, and he will urge Trump to support the peace deal, which won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize, by maintaining the $450 million in foreign aid that former President Barack Obama pledged to implement the agreement, McClatchy reports.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to confirm that the meeting had taken place. On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told McClatchy that Trump had "briefly said hello when the presidents walked past them," saying the two presidents happened to be visiting Trump's private club with an unidentified member. "There wasn't anything beyond a quick hello," she said.
On Twitter, meanwhile, Pastrana thanked Trump for the "cordial and very frank conversation about problems and perspectives in Colombia and the region," and Uribe ally and former vice president Francisco Santos told McClatchy that the former presidents had raised concerns with Trump about the turmoil in Colombia and Venezuela, and the FARC peace deal, in a short but direct meeting.
Colombian analysts focused on the damage to the peace process if Trump pulled funding or publicly opposed the peace plan, while in the U.S. observers were more concerned about the ease with which well-connected foreign leaders can meet with the president to press their case, without any public record. Mar-a-Lago's membership rolls are not public, the media is kept at arm's length when Trump is down there, and the club has no visitor log. You can read more about the meeting and the Colombian politics at The Miami Herald. Peter Weber
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has announced he'll vote "no" on the GOP health-care bill in its current form — but he doesn't want to cast that vote this coming week. "We don't have enough information. I don't have the feedback from constituencies who will not have had enough time to review the Senate bill," he said Sunday in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press.
Johnson said he would like to delay the vote if possible. "I have been encouraging leadership, the White House, anybody I can talk to for quite some time, [saying] let's not rush this process," he continued. "Let's have the integrity to show the American people what it is."
The bill cannot pass the Senate if more than two GOP senators vote against it; at present, five Republicans say they will vote "no." Watch a clip of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 25, 2017
Republican supporters of the GOP legislation to replace ObamaCare are making promises they can't deliver, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday on ABC's The Week.
"The fundamental flaw of ObamaCare," Paul argued, "was that it added regulations to insurance, mandates which made insurance more expensive, but then it also told individuals, 'You know what, if you don't want to buy now, you can wait and buy [insurance] after you're sick.'"
The problem with the GOP health-care bill currently under development in the Senate, Paul continued, is that it doesn't significantly change those flaws. "Ten of 12 regulations that add cost to insurance remain under the Republican bill," he said, "and we still say you can still by insurance after you're sick. If you add those two together, you still get the death spiral," which is a cycle of rising premiums and healthier people dropping insurance coverage until they get sick.
Too little change from current legislation is why Paul says GOP leadership has "promised too much. They say they're going to fix health care and premiums are going to down. There's no way the Republican bill brings down premiums. ... It's a foolish notion to promise something you can't provide."
Of course, the libertarian-leaning senator's objections to ObamaCare and the GOP plan alike go beyond pragmatic considerations. "Shouldn't the individual in a free country be able to decide what they want for insurance?" he asked ABC host George Stephanopoulos. "The government shouldn't tell you what you have to buy for insurance." Watch an excerpt of Paul's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 25, 2017
President Trump advocated bipartisanship while attacking his partisan opponents in a Fox & Friends interview Sunday. "One of the things that should be solved — but it probably won't be — is that Republicans and Democrats don't get together," Trump said. "And I'm open arms [to Democrats], but I don't see that happening."
Trump turned to the subject of the embattled GOP health-care bill currently under consideration in the Senate to expand on his point. "It would be so great if Democrats and Republicans could get together, wrap their arms around it, and come up with something that everybody's happy with. It's so easy," he continued. "But we won't get one Democrat vote, not one. And if it were the greatest bill ever proposed in mankind, we wouldn't get a vote."
From there Trump moved on to "the resistance," a name for the popular protest against his presidency. "That's a terrible word. Think of it: Their theme is 'resist.' Their theme should be, 'Let's get together. Envelop,'" Trump said. Apparently remembering the belligerent tone of his own campaign, he conceded "resist" is a good theme for winning an election, but maintained it is "terrible" for right now.
Trump also addressed The Washington Post's Friday article detailing former President Obama's inaction in response to Russian election interference in 2016. "The question is, if [Obama] had the information, why didn't he do something about it?" Trump asked. He suggested the media is suppressing the story while actively referencing the Post report, a widely publicized story in a major media outlet.
Watch Trump's comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) June 25, 2017
A black St. Louis, Missouri, police officer was shot by a colleague while off duty this week, an encounter in which the injured officer's lawyer says race was a factor. "In the police report you have so far, there is no description of a threat [the shooter] received," said attorney Rufus J. Tate Jr. in a local news interview. "So we have a real problem with that. But this has been a national discussion for the past two years. There is this perception that a black man is automatically feared."
The off-duty officer was at home when he heard commotion outside and took his police-issued firearm to investigate. When two cops pursuing a suspect saw him, they "ordered him to the ground." He complied, and was recognized by his coworkers, who told him "to stand up and walk toward them."
At that moment, a fourth officer arrived. "[F]earing for his safety and apparently not recognizing the off-duty officer," the police report says, he immediately shot the off-duty cop in the arm.
An oil tanker overturned and exploded in Pakistan Sunday, killing 153 people and leaving dozens more injured, including around 50 in critical condition. About 20 children are among the dead.
The truck tipped over on a highway after it blew out a tire, local officials said. A crowd gathered to collect the spilling fuel, putting them close to the truck when it exploded nearly an hour later.
"I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help," said Abdul Malik, a police officer involved in rescue efforts. "We saw bodies everywhere, so many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape." Bonnie Kristian
No less than 18 large wildfires are burning in the West and Southwest regions of the U.S., aggravated by extreme heat and lack of rain. The two largest blazes are in Utah and Arizona, but there are also fires in California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon.
— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) June 22, 2017
Wildfires have burned more than 2.5 million acres in the United States in 2017 alone, about 1 million acres more than is typical for this time of year. In Utah, 800 people have been evacuated, and 13 homes have burned. That fire began June 17 and is only 5 percent contained. Bonnie Kristian
The health-care proposal to replace ObamaCare expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week is insufficiently conservative, said Tim Phillips, president of Americans For Prosperity, a political outfit in the Koch brothers' network, in an Associated Press report published Sunday.
Phillips said the Koch network is "disappointed that movement has not been more dramatic toward a full repeal or a broader rollback of this law, ObamaCare," labeling the Senate bill "a slight nip and tuck" of current law which changes so little it is "immoral." To net his support, he added, the "Senate bill needs to get better."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he is willing to alter the health-care legislation to make it viable, but he faces incompatible demands from across the political spectrum. Bonnie Kristian