August 12, 2017

"We have many options for" dealing with the ongoing political unrest in Venezuela, President Trump said Friday. "I am not going to rule out a military option," he added, noting the United States has "troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away" and "Venezuela is not very far away."

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino labeled Trump's comments "a crazy act, an act of supreme extremism." The Department of Defense said in a statement the "Pentagon has not received any orders with regards to Venezuela," calling rumors of a U.S. invasion "baseless." Bonnie Kristian

July 26, 2017
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Republican lawmakers have rallied to urge President Trump against firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an option Trump has repeatedly indicated he is considering.

Sessions' most eager defender may be Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who called Sessions "one of the most decent people I’ve ever met in my political life" and labeled Trump's tweets about him "highly inappropriate." Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted his statement Wednesday morning:

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Luther Strange (R-Ala.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) all stated their support for Sessions' character, as did former lawmaker Newt Gingrich. "There's a lot of good in Jeff Sessions," Gingrich said Monday. "I think it would be a big mistake for the president to do anything except move forward with him."

Trump told reporters Tuesday only "time will tell" whether he gives Sessions the ax; in the meantime, Sessions reportedly has no plans to resign. Bonnie Kristian

July 9, 2017

President Trump's early morning tweets proposing the U.S. "move forward in working constructively with Russia" by "forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" with Moscow to prevent election hacking were met with swift condemnation Sunday among members of his own party.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) shared his response on Twitter, conceding "reality & pragmatism requires [sic] that we engage Vladimir Putin" and maintaining the U.S. has "no quarrel with Russia or the Russian people," but also dropping this line:

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gave his reaction during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press:

"It's not the dumbest idea I've ever heard — but it's pretty close," Graham said. "When it comes to Russia I am dumbfounded, I am disappointed, and at the end of the day [Trump is] hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin is a bad guy."

The president also came under fire from across the aisle. If the U.S. is going to work with Russia on election hacking, "we might as well mail our ballot boxes to Moscow," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on CNN's State of the Union, calling Trump's idea "dangerously naïve." Bonnie Kristian

June 4, 2017
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President Trump used Saturday's terror attack in London as an occasion to tout his travel ban executive order targeting Muslim-majority countries, which remains stalled pending a Supreme Court ruling. "We need to be smart, vigilant and tough," he wrote on Twitter. "We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!"

Trump's rallying cry has not been met with universal acclaim, including within his own party. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on Fox News Sunday he believes "the president does have certainly the right to put in place extreme vetting," but that this could be accomplished "without a travel ban."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was even less enthusiastic. "I think that the travel ban is too broad and that is why it has been rejected by the courts," she said Sunday in a CBS interview, while allowing that the U.S. should do a "better job of vetting."

Across the aisle, Trump's raising of the travel ban topic also came under fire from former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who served under President Obama. "There's a very real risk that by stigmatizing and isolating Muslims from particular countries, and Muslims in general, that we alienate the very communities here in the United States whose cooperation we most need to detect and prevent these homegrown extremists from being able to carry out attacks," she said while appearing on ABC News. Bonnie Kristian

April 8, 2017
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Senior adviser Jared Kushner and chief strategist Stephen Bannon are reportedly attempting to smooth their differences as competing power centers in the Trump White House after reports on Friday suggested Bannon was on thin ice.

President Trump ordered a "bury-the-hatchet meeting" between the two top aides while senior administration staff weekended at Mar-a-Lago, Politico reports. "Work this out," Trump said, per two accounts given to The New York Times, expressing frustration with media coverage of administration infighting.

A White House statement to the Times denied the entire narrative of a potential shake-up in White House staff. "Once again this is a completely false story driven by people who want to distract from the success taking place in this administration," said White House representative Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the president’s aggressive agenda forward." Bonnie Kristian

April 7, 2017
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Chief strategist Stephen Bannon apparently wasn't behind President Trump's decision to launch a missile strike against Syria — but Trump went ahead and ordered it anyway. Daily Intelligencer's Gabriel Sherman reported Friday that Bannon, long considered a key Trump influencer, argued that the Syrian strike contradicted Trump's "America First" doctrine. "Steve doesn't think we belong there," a Bannon ally told Sherman.

The fact that Trump went ahead with the strike despite Bannon's opposition is further indication of the decline of Bannon's power and the rise of Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's, Sherman said:

The debate over Syria is the latest fault line that has opened up in the once close Bannon-Kushner relationship. "During the campaign and transition, they had an almost uncle-nephew thing going," one Bannon associate said. But in recent weeks, Kushner and Bannon have clashed over the direction of Trump's agenda. While the press has covered it as a personality feud, Bannon allies say the rift is about policy differences. "The press is calling it fighting, we call it debating," Bannon told an associate, according to a source. On a board in his West Wing office, Bannon keeps a list of promises Trump made to populist voters. Kushner, whose portfolio has ballooned in recent weeks, seems much less interested in keeping those promises. [Daily Intelligencer]

Read more on the brewing Bannon-Kushner war over at Daily Intelligencer. Becca Stanek

April 2, 2017

President Trump's social media director, Dan Scavino, on Twitter Saturday called for pro-Trump Republicans in Michigan to oust Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a congressman who has become a vocal libertarian critic of Trump. "@realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan," Scavino tweeted. "@justinamash is a big liability., defeat him in primary."

Amash is also a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which helped defeat the American Health Care Act. Trump himself declared his displeasure with the caucus Thursday, tweeting his intention to "fight" the group in 2018, presumably in the primaries.

On Sunday, Freedom Caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) hit back. "Tweets and statements and blame don't change facts," he said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. "And the facts remain the same. When you look at the [AHCA] document, when you look at the legislation, it doesn't repeal ObamaCare." Of the Scavino tweet, he added, "Justin Amash is a good friend and one of the most principled members of Congress. And, frankly, if he is primaried, I'm going to do everything I can to help him." Amash replied on Twitter, too:

Scavino's post may have run afoul of the Hatch Act, which prohibits electioneering by government officials. A White House ethics lawyer who worked under President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, raised the issue on Twitter. This is "Ethics 101," he wrote, adding that the Bush White House would have fired Scavino forthwith. Bonnie Kristian

February 26, 2017

The impulse of some conservative House Republicans "to say just get rid of the whole thing" in the ObamaCare reform process is "not acceptable," Ohio Gov. John Kasich argued during an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday. "Republicans have to reach out to some of the Democrats" in Congress if they are to craft a new health care program "that still provides coverage to people," the former Republican presidential candidate told host John Dickerson.

"You have 20 million people, or 700,000 people in my state" whose health coverage is now provided through the Affordable Care Act, Kasich said. "Where do the mentally ill go? Where do the drug addicted go?" Kasich conceded reforms are needed to make the system functional and affordable, but, he added, "we're just not going to pull the rug out from under people." Watch his comments in context below, and see this analysis from The Week's Ryan Cooper on how Kasich's fears could come true. Bonnie Kristian

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