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February 13, 2018

President Trump's 2019 budget proposal and infrastructure plan, both unveiled Monday, have something in common: Sell! Sell! Sell!

In the infrastructure plan, which envisions leveraging $200 billion in federal funds into $1.5 trillion in investment, "the Trump administration is pushing federal officials to sell off, privatize, or otherwise dispose of a broad array of government assets," The Washington Post reports, including Dulles and Reagan National airports, freeways, aqueducts, and electrical facilities in the South, West, and Pacific Northwest. The budget also sets aside $150 million to explore privatizing the International Space Station.

"The federal government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by state, local, or private entities," the Trump infrastructure plan says. Federal agencies would gain new "authority to divest of federal assets" and keep the proceeds of such sales, incentivizing the privatization of public property.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called this "a much more collaborative and creative way" of funding projects when "unfortunately, there's not enough money to be able to pay for all the infrastructure needs of our country." (Chao's husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, just pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut.) "We should also not discriminate" against private firms wanting to partner with public entities, Chao said. Norman Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute had a different view of the proposal:

The budget's proposal to "encourage commercial development" of the ISS, with the goal of at least partially privatizing the orbiting research and exploration facility after 2024, was not fleshed out. And it's prospects are murky. Private aerospace firms seemed cool on the idea, and Congress did not seem enthusiastic. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the rumored proposal fiscally irresponsible and blamed it on "numskulls" at the Office of Management and Budget. Peter Weber

11:57 a.m.

Sumo wrestling and trade negotiations make for an unlikely combination. But Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping the two mesh well.

During his visit to Japan on Sunday, President Trump presented a special "President's Cup" trophy to the winner of a sumo wrestling tournament, one of Japan's most significant cultural institutions. The winner, Asanoyama, became the first recipient of a winner's trophy awarded by a United States president.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump sat in ringside armchairs during the bouts, The Guardian reports, as opposed to the traditional form of viewership — sitting cross-legged on thin cushions.

The gesture, orchestrated by Abe, is widely viewed as a diplomatic attempt to flatter Trump as the two countries gear up for trade negotiations, which Trump tweeted would likely develop more fully after Japan's elections in July.

In the short term, at least, it appears Abe made the right call — Trump seems to have enjoyed the moment. Tim O'Donnell

11:31 a.m.

Felix Klein, Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner, on Saturday warned the country's Jewish population about the potential dangers of donning the kippa, a traditional Jewish skullcap.

Klein said his position on the matter has changed over time, citing a rise in anti-Semitic activity in Germany, mostly on the far right of the political spectrum, including from leaders of the Alternative for Germany Party who have openly questioned Germany's policy of atonement for the Holocaust and other World War II atrocities, France 24 reports. "The internet and social media have largely contributed to this," he said in an interview published by the Funke regional press group. "But so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance."

Official figures show there were 1,646 hate crimes committed against Jews in Germany in 2018, a sharp increase from the year prior. Klein also suggested police, teachers, and lawyers should receive better training to recognize anti-Semitic behavior.

Recently, Berlin's top legal expert on anti-Semitism, Claudia Vanoni, told Agence France-Presse that while the issue has always been "deeply rooted" in German society, "it has become louder, more aggressive and flagrant." The Week Staff

11:05 a.m.

President Trump's appeal against an order from a federal judge which allowed for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over financial records to Democratic lawmakers was successful in delaying the process, a Southern District of New York court filing revealed on Saturday.

Until a final decision is reached on the appeal, the two banks will not have to immediately comply with the subpoenas, which call for financial records of Trump, three of his children, and the Trump Organization. The delay is the result of what Reuters calls a "rare accord" between Trump's attorneys, the banks, and the House Intelligence and Financial Services Committees.

Trump's legal team has argued the subpoenas exceed the authority of Congress, but U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos found they do, in fact, fall under Congress' authority to conduct investigations to further legislation, Reuters reports. Tim O'Donnell

10:49 a.m.

Norway's foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday that delegates from both Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's government and the country's opposition led by Juan Guaidó will meet in Oslo next week to negotiate an end to Venezuela's political crisis.

Both sides met separately with Norwegian mediators last week for preliminary talks. Guaidó has been hesitant about sending representatives to meet with the government, arguing Maduro has used negotiations as nothing more than a stalling tactic in the past. But as the opposition continues to lose momentum, he confirmed he would support the Oslo talks during a rally on Saturday, though he insisted his side would maintain that a transfer of power is necessary. The U.S. State Department shares that sentiment. "As we have stated repeatedly, we believe the only thing to negotiate with Nicolás Maduro is the conditions of his departure," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Maduro has also publicly endorsed the Norway talks, but has shown no indication he would step down.

Norway has a history of successfully mediating foreign internal conflicts, including situations in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Tim O'Donnell

7:52 a.m.

A likely tornado struck in El Reno, Oklahoma, a city of 16,700 residents west of Oklahoma City, on Saturday night, causing significant damage to the area.

While no details were immediately made available, the police department in nearby Union City announced in a Facebook post that "serious injuries and fatalities" occurred and El Reno's mayor and the county's emergency manager confirmed that there were two deaths. An unknown number of people are reportedly missing. The tornado hit a motel, a mobile home park, and other buildings.

"You could hear the roar and everything when it came through," Richard Griffin, a resident of the mobile home park, said. The tornado followed a series of severe weather in the Southern Plains in the last week; 104 tornadoes were reported across eight states between Monday and Thursday.

El Reno also suffered damage and fatalities during a tornado outbreak in 2013. Tim O'Donnell

7:19 a.m.

President Trump is not worried about North Korea, even though some of his "people" might be.

Trump on Sunday dismissed the idea he was concerned about North Korea's recent ballistic weapons tests in an early morning tweet from Tokyo. Trump wrote that he was not disturbed by the weapons testing, although others in his administration were. The Washington Post reports the tweet was a "direct rebuke" of national security adviser, John Bolton, who said on Saturday that North Korea's tests "no doubt" violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Trump said he has confidence North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "will keep his promise," to Trump, referring to an agreement between the two heads of state in which Kim said North Korea would not test intercontinental-range ballistic missiles — the recent tests were reportedly short-range missiles.

Trump also cited Kim's recent criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden, who could face off with Trump in the 2020 presidential election, as further reason to trust him. "Perhaps that's sending me a signal?," Trump wrote. Tim O'Donnell

May 25, 2019

People love a good mystery, and President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, provided the public with an Italian restaurant-themed enigma that remains unsolved.

Giuliani told his Twitter followers late on Friday night to check out a Yelp review for a restaurant called Mama Lisa. There was just one problem — the former mayor of New York forgot to include a link, leaving everyone in the dark.

Giuliani didn't seem to notice his mistake, however, sending an unrelated tweet shortly after. But the fact that it slipped Giuliani's mind doesn't mean others missed it. This is the internet, after all, which means several people hopped right on it, relishing the opportunity to try out some of their best political humor.

It remains to be seen which review, exactly, Giuliani was referring to, but — for what it's worth — customers generally seem to agree with him about the high quality of Mama Lisa's food and service. Tim O'Donnell

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