"I wish circumstances were different and I didn't feel the need to make public remarks today," said Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), to begin his address Wednesday at the Brookings Institute about government ethics and why President-elect Donald Trump should take them more seriously. "You don't hear about ethics when things are going well. You've been hearing a lot about ethics lately." Trump had laid out his plan to distance himself from his business interests to avoid conflicts earlier in the day, and Shaub said that plan is "wholly inadequate." "Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts," he explained.
The point of speaking publicly about the fixable ethics shortcomings of the incoming administration, Shaub said, is to defend the post-Watergate ethics structure built to safeguard the public good and to urge Trump to change course. "I've been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top," he said, and it is hard to persuade other officials to comply if the president does not.
And he's been trying to get his message to Trump, particularly. He started with some tweets, Shaub said, because "I was trying to use the vernacular of the president-elect's favorite social media platform to encourage him to divest." His speech on Wednesday included Biblical scripture, an appeal to patriotism, and the advice of Trump's favorite Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia:
Back when he was working for the Justice Department, the late Antonin Scalia also wrote an opinion declaring that a president should avoid engaging in conduct prohibited by the government's ethics regulations, even if they don't apply. Justice Scalia warned us that there would be consequences if a president ever failed to adhere to the same standards that apply to lower level officials. [Shaub, Brookings Institute]
At Trump's press conference, his conflicts-of-interest lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had noted that "the conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets." That's true. But as Shaub noted: "The sheer obviousness of Justice Scalia's words becomes apparent if you just ask yourself one question: Should a president hold himself to a lower standard than his own appointees?" The jury is still out. Watch below. Peter Weber
For a competitive sum, you may own an authentic, sweaty, game-worn LeBron James jersey — as well as the internal warmth that comes with a good deed done.
The NBA season tips off Tuesday, and the NBA announced that along with broadcasting partner Turner Sports it will be auctioning off the jerseys worn by players in opening night games to go toward relief efforts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The funds will be routed through the One America Appeal, a philanthropic effort spearheaded by the five living former U.S. presidents. Tuesday's two inaugural match-ups are between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, and the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, which means threads worn by the likes of James, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant may be up for grabs.
The auction begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, and will run through Thursday, Oct. 26, at 9 p.m. ET. In addition to jerseys, autographed memorabilia and game-worn sneakers will also be available. The NBA will also run a promotional social media campaign Tuesday to raise awareness and engagement for hurricane relief efforts.
The first game of the season, between the Celtics and the Cavaliers, tips off Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in Ohio. Read the league's full announcement below. Kimberly Alters
NBA on TNT will auction game-worn jerseys, other gear from tonight's season-openers to support hurricane relief efforts: pic.twitter.com/kKT6rOO70m
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) October 17, 2017
President Trump announced Tuesday that Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has withdrawn his name from consideration for the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Tom is a fine man and a great congressman," Trump tweeted while sharing the news.
Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes and The Washington Post reported that Marino had worked for two years to push through a bill promoted and apparently written by the pharmaceutical industry that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its biggest tool to fight prescription opioids entering the black market. Trump said Sunday that "we're going to look into the report" and that a long-delayed declaration of the opioid crisis as a national emergency could come next week. Jeva Lange
President Trump has gotten some flak for claiming, falsely, that former President Barack Obama and other ex-presidents did not call the families of fallen troops, but that was only one of the bits of indisputably "fake news" Trump spread during his two interactions with reporters on Monday, by Mike Allen's count at Axios early Tuesday. ObamaCare isn't "dead," for example, because Trump's "repeated efforts to repeal it failed," Allen notes, and the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aren't "closer than ever before," because "both men and their staffs have been trashing each other in public and private for months."
Trump spreading fake news isn't new, Allen concedes, "and, yes, 35 percent of voters don't seem to care. But that doesn't make it any less dangerous." You can read his list of other demonstrable untruths, a few Trump "keeper" quotes, and a bonus prognostication from Stephen Bannon at Axios. Peter Weber
Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski reacts in stunned horror to Trump's erroneous claims about fallen soldiers
Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski was unable to hold back her thoughts Tuesday concerning President Trump's erroneous claim that his predecessors did not call families of fallen soldiers, Mediaite reports. "Can [Trump] make a moment, perhaps just one, not about himself?" Brzezinski asked, shaking her head in disbelief. "It's really hard to watch. It's unbelievable. It's just gross."
"It's offensive enough," agreed co-host Joe Scarborough. "What is doubly offensive is ... he makes it about himself, 'boy, it's really tough,' and then he brings up his petty, long-running, insecure, pathetic, sad, weak dispute with the 44th president of the United States."
"This is rock bottom," Brzezinski said, "when he speaks like this, about our heroes."
Later in the segment, Brzezinski marveled: "What good, honest person, with a sense of duty and honor to this country, what person who loves America would say something like that? Let's just say it. There's nothing good about it, it's horrible — not a good person." Watch her remarks below, and Trump's original comments here at The Week. Jeva Lange
U.S.-backed forces seized complete control of the Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday, a commander told The Associated Press. Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo deemed the victory "the fall of the capital of terrorism."
— Rojava Defense Units (@DefenseUnits) October 17, 2017
Fighting with ISIS militants had been pushed back to a stadium in Raqqa, the terrorist group's last stronghold in the city, and on Tuesday the Syrian Democratic Forces at last raised their flag over the base, Reuters reports. The Kurdish YPG flag was planted in the stadium grounds.
ISIS has lost massive swaths of territory this year, including the city of Mosul, Iraq, and its forces have been pushed back into the Euphrates River Valley, where experts expect the militants to make their "final stand." Jeva Lange
On Monday, the Senate confirmed President Trump's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, 70 to 23. Gingrich, who is Catholic, is the third wife of prominent Trump supporter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who converted when he married her. "She realizes how big a challenge it's going to be," Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. "If you are the communications bridge between Pope Francis and President Trump, you're going to have a really big job, and she knows she's going to have to work hard." Peter Weber
Nobody loves talking about Hillary Clinton more than the nighttime pundits on Fox News. But during a press conference on Monday, it was a Fox News reporter, John Roberts, who asked President Trump about the woman who beat him by nearly 3 million votes and still managed to lose the election. Specifically, Roberts asked Trump about Clinton's comments Sunday that the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem are assuming "a reverent position ... to demonstrate in a peaceful way against racism and injustice in our criminal system," not protesting "our anthem or our flag."
Trump was happy to answer at length. "I mean, honestly, it's that thinking," he began, "that is the reason she lost the election." On Twitter, Tommy Vietor, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama and current cohost of the Pod Save America podcast, said "asking Trump to comment on what Hillary said about the NFL is a stupid, clickbait question and a wasted opportunity to push him on real issues. Do better." Roberts pushed back, leading to a fight about Fox News doing "free PR" for Trump and treating Clinton as a "permanent Fox News boogieman" (Vietor), versus Clinton remaining "relevant to the discourse" because she "has not yet left the stage" (Roberts). Then Roberts tried to end things:
We'll have to agree to disagree. As long as HRC operates as a "shadow President", what she says carries relevance and weight.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) October 16, 2017
That caused some confusion — and a cascade of wistful tweets — so Roberts jumped back on Twitter Monday night to explain that he does not believe Clinton "has created some sort of shadowy presidency," but was merely employing a "British parliamentary term used to designate the opposition critic as a metaphor." He did not say if in this shadow parliamentary America, Prime Minister Trump might call snap elections, or if Lady Clinton might challenge him. Peter Weber