January 11, 2018
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President Trump made two surprising confessions Thursday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

First, Trump stated with baffling uncertainty that he has great rapport with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. "I probably have a very good relationship with [Kim]," Trump said, following weeks of escalating tensions between the White House and Pyongyang. Trump additionally seemed to revel in the ambiguity of his statement, declining to clarify to the Journal whether he had in fact communicated with Kim. "I don't want to comment on it," Trump said. "I'm not saying I have or haven't. I just don't want to comment."

Elsewhere in the conversation, the president lamented the "betrayal" of former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, after Bannon was quoted offering some unkind evaluations of the administration in Michael Wolff's new book, Fire and Fury. While musing about whether his relationship with Bannon is forever damaged, Trump reportedly said, "I don't know what the word permanent means."

Read the entire interview at The Wall Street Journal. Kelly O'Meara Morales

November 2, 2017

Update 11:04 a.m. ET: Sam Clovis has withdrawn his nomination for chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture, The Associated Press reports. Our original post appears below.

President Trump's nominee for chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture, Sam Clovis, might know all about science fiction, but his open acknowledgement of a lack of hard science credentials has left many wondering how he is possibly in consideration for a job with the word "scientist" literally in the title, The Washington Post reports.

Appointees to the chief scientist position are required to be "among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics." Clovis has a bachelor's degree in political science and an MBA and doctorate in public administration. In a letter to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Clovis argued that he meets the job requirements simply by having run for state office in Iowa:

"Please list all graduate level courses you have taken in natural science," the second of [Stabenow's] 10 questions requested.

"None," Clovis replied.

"Please list all membership and leadership roles you have held within any agricultural scientific, agricultural education, or agricultural economic organizations," the third question read.

"None," Clovis replied.

"Please describe any awards, designations, or academic recognition you have received specifically related to agricultural science," the fourth question read.

"None," Clovis replied. [The Washington Post]

In another question, Clovis told Stabenow that his "specialized training or significant experience" in agriculture research came from the fact that "one cannot be a credible candidate in [Iowa] without significant agricultural experience and knowledge." Clovis' bid for Iowa state treasurer in 2014 was unsuccessful.

There could be even more problems afoot for Clovis, who was interviewed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. As the former national co-chair of Trump's campaign, Clovis was the supervisor of George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to making false statements to the FBI about his interactions with Russians. CNN reported Thursday that due to the probe, Clovis' nomination could soon be withdrawn. Jeva Lange

September 14, 2017

In an interview with the Financial Times published Thursday, first daughter Ivanka Trump effectively blamed her silence over her father's response to the violence last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, on her unwavering commitment to being a team player. "To voice dissent publicly would mean I'm not part of the team. When you're part of a team, you're part of a team," Trump said. "That doesn't mean everyone in the White House has homogeneous views — we don't, and I think that's good and healthy — but that doesn't mean we're publicly undermining [each other] and this administration."

Even behind closed doors, Trump, who is also a senior adviser to the president, claimed that it's "unrealistic" for people to expect she could change her father's mind on key issues. "That my presence in and of itself would carry so much weight with my father that he would abandon his core values and the agenda that the American people voted for when they elected him, it's not going to happen," Trump said. "To those critics, shy of turning my father into a liberal, I'd be a failure to them."

Notably, she didn't mention that time she reportedly heavily influenced her father's decision to bomb Syria in the wake of the country's chemical attack.

Catch the full interview at the Financial Times. Becca Stanek

August 24, 2017

President Trump's former campaign adviser and close personal friend Roger Stone told TMZ on Thursday that an effort to impeach Trump would result in a literal "civil war."

"Try to impeach him. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection, like you have never seen before," Stone said. "Both sides are heavily armed, my friend."

Stone additionally claimed "any politician who votes" to impeach Trump "would be endangering their own life."

"There will be violence on both sides," Stone said. "Let me make this clear: I'm not advocating violence. I am predicting it." Jeva Lange

July 24, 2017

In a speech ahead of Senate Republicans' Tuesday vote on health care, President Trump on Monday declared that ObamaCare "is death." "[Democrats] run out, they say, 'death, death, death,'" Trump said, referring to Democrats' concerns about Republicans' health-care plans. "Well, ObamaCare is death. That's the one that's death."

Trump urged Senate Republicans to fulfill their longstanding promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare, pushing specifically for a plan that replaces the health law immediately. "So far, Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the ObamaCare nightmare," Trump said. He warned that "any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the ObamaCare nightmare."

Though Senate Republicans have confirmed a health-care vote for Tuesday afternoon, it's not yet clear even to senators which bill they will debate or whether there will be enough votes for the effort to succeed. Becca Stanek

July 11, 2017
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A documentary pointing to evidence that Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese and died in their captivity has apparently been disproved by a Japanese blogger, The Guardian reports. The documentary, which aired on the History Channel this weekend, relied on a photograph of two unidentified white people who experts said could have been Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. Only, blogger Kota Yamano quickly found the same photograph had been published in a Japanese book two years before Earhart disappeared.

"I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself," Yamano told The Guardian. "I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan." Yamaha added it took him just 30 minutes to disprove the theory after he searched "Jaluit atoll" between 1930 and 1940.

"The photo was the 10th item that came up," Yamano said. "I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn't confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That's the first thing they should have done."

Once again, Earhart's disappearance is subsumed in mystery. Read more about why we're mesmerized by her vanishing here at The Week.

Update 2:49 p.m.: The History Channel writes that they have "a team of investigators exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart and we will be transparent in our findings. Ultimately, historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers." Jeva Lange

May 25, 2017

Concerning reports about Trump campaign officials' possible collusion with Russian operatives often lead to big, glaring questions: How and why exactly did the Trump campaign end up hiring people who were clearly red flags? The problem might come down to some really terrible vetting, The Washington Post reported Thursday:

As Trump was starting to win primaries, he was under increasing pressure to show that he had a legitimate, presidential-caliber national security team. The problem he faced was that most mainstream national security experts wanted nothing to do with him.

"Everyone did their best, but there was not as much vetting as there could have been," former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said.

Another longtime campaign official put it this way: "Anyone who came to us with a pulse, a résumé, and seemed legit would be welcomed." [The Washington Post]

Consider, for example, Carter Page, a former national security adviser for President Trump who also has deep ties and apparent loyalty toward Russia. When Page came to Trump Tower to be interviewed, "a top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, employed what campaign aides now acknowledge was their go-to vetting process — a quick Google search — to check out the newcomer," the Post writes.

Unfortunately, "a thorough vetting of Page might have revealed several red flags," the Post adds. "Page had spent three years working in Moscow, for instance, and he held stock in the Russian company Gazprom, meaning that he could have a personal financial stake in the future of U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia."

"We were not exactly making due diligence the highest priority," one campaign veteran admitted. Read the entire scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

May 16, 2017
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Undemocratic leaders around the world are taking a "guilty pleasure" in watching events unfold in the United States, Politico writes. "There's a credibility issue when it comes to the rule of law, particularly with the firing of [former FBI Director James] Comey," explained the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Margon.

But that's not all:

In addition to firing Comey ... the examples cited by critics include: Trump's scathing criticisms of federal judges who have ruled against his policies; his family's entanglement of business and political interests; his baseless charges of massive voter fraud; his accusation that President Barack Obama wiretapped him; and his routine branding of negative media stories as "fake news." [Politico]

The finger-pointing has already begun. One recent Chinese delegation claimed Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner resembled a "princeling" in their own country who mixed business and politics. In another example, when "Capitol Hill aides warned officials from another repressive foreign government that they could pay a political price for human rights abuses, their visitors scoffed," Politico writes. "President Donald Trump had just called their leader, they said, and told him he was doing a great job."

A diplomat from another "undemocratic nation" told Politico that with the events unfolding in the U.S., "now you guys can't lecture everyone else anymore." Jeva Lange

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