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February 9, 2018
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At least two top White House officials, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Counsel Don McGahn, knew for months that former staff secretary Rob Porter had been credibly accused of abuse by his two ex-wives, The Washington Post and CNN report, and they not only didn't follow up on the allegations but elevated Porter's responsibilities and access to President Trump. Kelly, especially, is facing withering criticism over the mishandling of the Porter scandal.

Kelly reportedly learned about the spousal abuse accusations last fall when McGahn told him they were holding up Porter's security clearance. Kelly "agreed that Porter should remain and said he was surprised to learn that the 40-year-old had ex-wives," the Post reports. He urged Porter not to resign even after The Intercept published photos Wednesday of a black eye Porter's first wife says he gave her, according to White House officials. Trump is not inclined to fire Kelly, yet, CNN reports.

McGahn also has some explaining to do, the Post reports:

In January 2017, when McGahn learned of the allegations, he wanted Porter to stay put because he saw the Harvard Law-trained Capitol Hill veteran as a steadying, professional voice in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. His view didn't change in June when the FBI flagged some of its findings to the White House. Nor did he act in September when he learned that the domestic violence claims were delaying Porter's security clearance, or in November when Porter's former girlfriend contacted him about the allegations, according to these people. A White House spokesman said that McGahn — who had access to the FBI's background investigation file conducted for Porter’s security clearance — and Kelly feel misled by Porter. [The Washington Post]

The White House had rallied support for Porter Tuesday by arguing that the allegations were part of a "smear campaign" led by, among other people, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, two sources tell The Daily Beast. Lewandoski flatly denied any role in Porter's downfall. Peter Weber

May 27, 2018

The evidence that occasioned the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead a probe into Russian election meddling efforts and alleged Trump campaign involvement was illegitimate, President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on CNN Sunday, arguing that therefore the entire probe is illegitimate.

"I'm not saying Mueller is illegitimate; I'm saying the basis on which he was appointed was illegitimate," Giuliani told State of the Union host Dana Bash, pointing to James Comey's leaked memos and "spygate" as the sources of illegitimacy.

Bash sought to clarify Giuliani's view of the probe's legitimacy, as distinct from Mueller as special counsel and the probe's origins. "So you think that the Mueller probe is legitimate?" she asked. "Not anymore," he replied. "I don’t. I did when I came in." Watch Giuliani's comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

May 27, 2018

Hawaiian officials have urged complete evacuation of the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the path of lava flows from the still-active Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

"I don't know what's going to be left of Leilani," said resident Steve Gebbie. "I really think it might be wiped out."

So far, the lava has covered 2,200 acres, destroyed 82 structures, and made another 37 structures inaccessible. There were 90 earthquakes near the summit Friday, and tremors have continued over the weekend. Lava flows now threaten a nearby geothermal plant, which has been shut down as a precaution. Bonnie Kristian

May 27, 2018

President Trump went after The New York Times on Twitter Saturday, revisiting his usual critiques of the paper's ethics and commercial viability. He also claimed an unnamed senior White House official the Times cited in a report on the North Korea summit was fabricated:

In reality, as recorded audio of a White House background briefing has demonstrated, the source is National Security Council official Matt Pottinger, and he was speaking in a White House-arranged conference call:

Other news organizations were present in the briefing and reported stories citing the same source. "I mean, every reporter on the call knows who this official was, and this official exists," said Mike Warren of the conservative Weekly Standard. "And we all heard the official say it." Bonnie Kristian

May 27, 2018

President Trump was working his way through a fairly typical weekend tweetstorm about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling efforts when things took a ... strange turn Sunday morning. Amid lots of more usual fare — "the crooked highest levels of the FBI or 'Justice,'" "#SPYGATE & CONFLICTS OF INTEREST," "13 Angry Democrats," and so on — Trump posted this:

In a follow-up tweet, the president did not explain what "young and beautiful" people he has in mind. He is 71. Bonnie Kristian

May 27, 2018

The approach of Subtropical Storm Alberto has prompted the governors of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi to declare states of emergency, warning residents and Memorial Day tourists of forthcoming heavy rain, high winds, storm surges, and flash flooding. "Remember, the track of these storms can change without notice," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). "Do not think that only areas in the cone will be impacted."

Alberto is expected to make landfall sometime Monday, gathering strength as it moves northward through the Caribbean and up the Gulf Coast. Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and experts are predicting a fairly normal year despite this head start. Bonnie Kristian

May 27, 2018
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still very much committed to his maybe on-again summit with President Trump in Singapore on June 12, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday. The two Korean leaders met Saturday for an unannounced discussion of how to keep the summit and inter-Korean relations on track after Trump's surprise Thursday cancellation of the scheduled negotiations.

Moon also reported Kim reaffirmed his promise to pursue "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Kim's uncertainty, he said, "is not the will for denuclearization, but the concern that if [North Korea] denuclearizes, whether the U.S. can end hostile relations and guarantee the security of the [Kim] regime." Pyongyang has long cast its nuclear development as insurance against U.S.-orchestrated regime change, and in late April, Moon's government said Kim promised to denuclearize if the U.S. pledges not to invade.

Meanwhile, Trump told reporters late Saturday that if the summit proceeds, the time and location will remain unchanged. Bonnie Kristian

May 26, 2018

The Trump administration on Friday announced it has made a deal to help a Chinese telecom, ZTE, shuttered by a U.S. Commerce Department export ban. ZTE obtains about one quarter of its manufacturing components from American businesses, and it suspended operations earlier this month after the administration imposed sanctions as a penalty for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

On Twitter Friday evening, Trump used the deal as an avenue to criticize Democrats:

Trump's plan to get ZTE "back into business, fast," as he put it in an initial tweet on the subject earlier this month, has produced widespread confusion given his adversarial stance toward foreign manufacturers on the campaign trail. Some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have suggested they may attempt to block the new arrangement on national security grounds. Bonnie Kristian

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