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April 30, 2018

President Trump communicates with the public all the time, mostly over Twitter but also in the occasional TV interview, answer to shouted question from his press pool, or response to a question from a typically friendly news outlet at a joint news conference. But he hasn't held a solo press conference in more than a year, The Associated Press notes, which is "a dramatic departure from historic precedent, according to records kept by The American Presidency Project and dating back to Calvin Coolidge. In their first years alone, President Barack Obama held 11 solo news conferences, George W. Bush held five, and Bill Clinton a dozen. Trump held just one."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists Trump "is more accessible than most modern presidents and frequently takes questions from the press," and former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tells AP that "the public gets its accountability through other tactics beyond formal long-winded news conferences." But, AP notes, in the interactions Trump does have with the press, he "can easily ignore questions he doesn't like and dodge follow-ups in a way that would be glaring in a traditional news conference." And Trump would appear to agree with that assessment:

Trump seemed to actually enjoy his only presidential press conference, AP says. On Late Night in February, New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman, one of the journalists who knows Trump best, told Seth Meyers she thinks Trump would hate it most of all if the press simply stopped writing about him. "Even as president I still think he has that fear," she said. "I had an ex-aide say to me at one point that he can't go more than a few days without seeing his name in the news." Peter Weber

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

May 25, 2019

Maine became the fourth state — joining California, Mississippi, and West Virginia — to end most non-medical exemptions for mandatory childhood vaccines, The Hill reports.

The state's governor, Janet Mills (D), signed the bill, which eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions and will go into effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns. Now, only doctors and pediatric primary care givers can determine if there is need for a medical exemption.

Maine reportedly has one of the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions in the country. Last year, The Hill writes, the kindergarten vaccination opt-out rate was 5.6 percent, more than three times the national average. But with a confirmed case of measles in the state, it appears Maine's government was not taking any chances. "It has become clear that we must act to ensure the health of our communities," state Rep. Ryan Tipping (D) said.

Still, there are opponents to the new bill, who emphasize religious freedom. "We are pushing religious people out of our great state," state Sen. Lisa Keim (R) said earlier this month. "And we will be closing the door on religious people who may consider making Maine their home. We are fooling ourselves if we don't believe an exodus would come about." Tim O'Donnell

May 25, 2019

Intelligence officials are concerned about the new authority Attorney General William Barr holds concerning classified information, The Washington Post reports.

On Thursday, by way of executive order, President Trump granted Barr the power to reveal government secrets during the attorney general's review of what the White House calls "surveillance activities during the 2016 election." Trump has long maintained that the U.S. government was spying on his campaign in an attempt to undermine the election process.

It is reportedly unprecedented for an official who does not head an intelligence agency to have the ability to disclose such information, which has some people worried that Barr could selectively declassify information, distorting the roles of the FBI and CIA during their investigations into 2016 Russian election interference. Others are concerned that Barr could compromise sources "deep inside the Russian government."

The Post reports that Trump's decision stems from his greater sense of trust in Barr than in Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats. "This is a complete slap in the face to the director of national intelligence," James Baker, the former FBI general counsel, said. Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, described the situation as "another destruction of norms that weakens our intelligence community." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

May 25, 2019

President Trump has tapped Ken Cuccinelli as the new director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While Cuccinelli's hiring was reported as early as Tuesday, it remained unclear what exactly Cuccinelli's role in the Department of Homeland Security would be. He'll replace the agency's current director, L. Francis Cissna, whom The Washington Post describes as having "deep expertise" when it comes to immigration law, but was forced out following criticism from Trump senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller.

Cuccinelli is considered an immigration hardliner and is known for his "combative" television appearances and enthusiastic support for Trump's immigration proposals. He has, however, drawn ire from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reportedly vowed to block Cuccinelli from getting confirmed for any position. McConnell reportedly blames Cuccinelli for promoting insurgent candidates running against sitting Republicans during the 2014 midterm elections. Tim O'Donnell

May 25, 2019

Some of the momentum gathered by states seeking to implement more restrictive abortion measures in recent weeks was halted when a federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction, blocking a Mississippi law that bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Attorneys for the state's only abortion clinic said the law would effectively make all abortions illegal because most women are not yet aware of their pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is first discovered. The bill makes an exception when the mother's health is at risk. The law, which is one in a series of Republican-sponsored abortion bills across the United States, was scheduled to take effect in July.

The judge, Carlton Reeves, wrote that a woman's free choice "outweighs any interest the state might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat." Reeves also blocked a 2018 Mississippi law that would have banned abortion at 15 weeks. The state is still appealing that decision. Reeves added that the fact Mississippi lawmakers passed another ban after the first was struck down "smacks of defiance to this court." Tim O'Donnell

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