"Israel will not allow Iran's regime to put the noose of terror around our neck," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. "We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not only against Iranian proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself."
Netanyahu alleged Iran is attempting to "colonize" Syria, which is located between the two countries, as part of a larger project "to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza." As he spoke, he waved a piece of an Iranian drone recently downed on Israeli land.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif labeled the remarks "a cartoonish circus which does not even deserve a response." He accused Israel of practicing "aggression as a policy against its neighbors," saying Netanyahu is angry because "the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled." Bonnie Kristian
In a joint news conference Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Trump expressed a desire to arm Japan against North Korean threats, The Associated Press reports. Trump apparently said that once Abe "completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States," he "will easily shoot [North Korean missiles] out of the sky."
Although Japan's pacifist constitution does not allow its military to shoot down missiles unless they pose a direct threat to the country, Abe announced a plan earlier this year to revise the country's self-defense clause through a constitutional amendment in 2020. On Saturday, The Japan Times reported that Trump apparently had told leaders of southeast Asian countries that he did not understand why "a country of samurai warriors" like Japan did not shoot down North Korean missiles that flew over the country earlier this year.
Trump's comments come days before he is scheduled to visit South Korea and call for "maximizing pressure" on Pyongyang in a speech in front of the South Korean National Assembly. White House officials and Asian leaders fear that North Korea may launch a missile test or conduct an atmospheric nuclear test during Trump's visit to Japan or South Korea, Politico reported Saturday. Last week, South Korea's spy agency warned the South Korean National Assembly that it sees signs indicating that North Korea is preparing to launch a missile test. Kelly O'Meara Morales
As the press protests increasingly restrictive access to the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer is reportedly looking to move on from his job. Spicer is now "kind of useless," CNN's Jim Acosta vented as the White House has transitioned on-camera briefings to off-camera, and recently updated guidance to clarify that audio from the briefings cannot be used elsewhere, either.
While the press has blamed President Trump for attempting to "insulate himself from answering hard questions," in the words of Acosta, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has another explanation:
Neither Spicer nor deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to queries about the changes to the briefings. Asked why the briefings are now routinely held off-camera, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said in a text message "Sean got fatter," and did not respond to a follow-up. [The Atlantic]
Rumor has it Spicer is considering a "new senior role to both the communications director and press secretary" — off-camera. Jeva Lange
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has no qualms about going after President Trump and his administration, and on Sunday, he called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "a racist" and "a liar," following his controversial remarks about Hawaii.
Last week, while discussing Trump's second travel ban that would have kept people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, Sessions said he was "amazed" that a federal judge "sitting on an island in the Pacific" had the power to block such an executive order. Lawmakers from the island in the Pacific, a.k.a. the great state of Hawaii, immediately criticized his comments, including Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, who said Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, "voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect."
During an appearance Sunday on This Week, Sessions said he couldn't understand why no one saw the hilarity in his statement, suggesting that "nobody has a sense of humor anymore." Lieu — whose Twitter cover image shows side-by-side photos of the crowds at former President Barack Obama's first inauguration and Trump's, and whose bio states he doesn't "take orders from Vladimir Putin" — tweeted in response, "Dear 'Attorney General' Sessions: You are a racist and a liar. Actually, just joking. Oh wait, your record shows you are a racist and a liar." Ha. Ha. Ha? Catherine Garcia
Conservative columnist S.E. Cupp rips the White House's lax approach to Syria: 'Is Trump man enough?'
Conservative columnist S.E. Cupp published a blistering op-ed in the New York Daily News on Tuesday that slammed the Trump administration for its back-burner approach to the "brutality" of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Cupp's piece comes on the heels of reports of a sarin gas attack in the province of Idlib in northwestern Syria, which is believed to have been ordered by the Assad regime. The Syrian medical relief group UOSSM reports that 100 people were killed and 400 others injured, including many children. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dismissed Trump's responsibility, claiming in a statement that "these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution."
But Cupp is not impressed:
Despite a continued holocaust in Assad's Syria, the Trump administration seems to have no clearer vision — practical or moral — for ending the Syrian slaughter.
While it's nearly doubled U.S. forces in northern Syria to fight ISIS, the administration has also said ousting Assad will no longer be a focus.
This is morally unconscionable and politically shortsighted. As long as Assad is killing his own people without international accountability, extremists will continue to exploit the chaos and power vacuum to their benefit. And when Syrian civilians have a choice between death by Russian air strikes and chlorine bombs or a well-paying job with ISIS, eventually terrorism will be the better option. [Daily News]
The first week of the new Congress is nearly at an end, and Democrats aren't too impressed by President-elect Donald Trump's ability to rein in his party. "Who knows if Trump understands what is happening, but if he does, he has got to be upset by how weak he already seems," one senior Democratic aide told Politico's Playbook.
As evidence, Democrats cite instances like the Republicans' surprise move to try to curb the Office of Congressional Ethics as going against the president-elect. Additionally, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan moved to defund Planned Parenthood, although the president-elect has been relatively supportive of many of the organization's women's health services in the past.
In another blow, Republican and Democratic senators met with top intelligence officials Thursday to discuss allegations of Russia influencing the U.S. election. Although Trump has publicly put his trust in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, many Republicans on the committee blasted the president-elect's slight to the intelligence community. "All I can tell you is, I hope [Trump] listens to the intelligence briefing. I'm sure he will. All 17 intelligence agencies have come to the same conclusion," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier this week. "You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what the Russians are up to. They're trying to break the backbone of democracies throughout the entire world."
Trump "is going to be in a constant battle against irrelevance," the Democratic aide told Politico, "and he is already losing." Jeva Lange
Tim Kaine suggested in an interview Saturday that forces within the FBI are conspiring to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign. "I don't think Giuliani's walkback is credible," the vice presidential nominee said, referencing Rudy Giuliani's backtracking of comments in which he indicated he knew about the FBI's recent announcement about Clinton's private email server before it became public.
"What's come out since suggests that it's probably more likely explained that [Giuliani] knew that the FBI is not only a leaky sieve," Kaine continued, "but there were people within the FBI actively working — actively working — to try to help the Trump campaign. This is just absolutely staggering, and it is a massive blow to the integrity of that body."
Watch Kaine's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
Disney CEO Bob Iger isn't letting Bernie Sanders' comments on the company's wages slide.
"To Bernie Sanders: We created 11,000 new jobs at Disneyland in the past decade, and our company has created 18,000 in the U.S. in the last five years," Iger wrote in a private Facebook post, The Wrap reports. "How many jobs have you created? What have you contributed to the U.S. economy?"
On Tuesday, during a rally just down the street from Disneyland, Sanders asked: "Anybody make a living wage working for Disney? It's an example of what we're talking about when we talk about a rigged economy." Sanders said it would be "very nice of the Disney corporation to start building factories in the United States," and asserted that "Disney pays its workers wages that are so low that many of them are forced to live in motels because they cannot afford a decent place to live. People are asking, is it right that at Disneyland, you have a CEO making $46 million while they're paying their workers starvation wages?"
In a statement, a spokesperson for Disney told The Wrap that Sanders "clearly doesn't have his facts right. The Disneyland Resort generates more than $5.7 billion annually for the local economy, and as the area's largest employer, has added more than 11,000 jobs over the last decade, a 65 percent increase. These numbers don't take into account our $1 billion expansion to add a Star Wars-themed land, which will create thousands of additional jobs across multiple sectors." Catherine Garcia