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May 23, 2019

If you've paid any attention to President Trump, you know he's obsessed with golf and he golfs a lot. HuffPost tried to discern what Trump's roughly 175 president golf trips have cost in added travel and security costs, and on Wednesday they reported their conservative estimate: $102 million. That includes $81 million for his 61 days at his golf courses in Florida, $17 million for his 58 days at his New Jersey resort, $1 million for him to visit his club in Los Angeles, and $3 million to tack a trip to his Scottish golf course onto a visit to London. A planned golf trip to Ireland will cost millions more.

For perspective, HuffPost says, $102 million "represents 255 times the annual presidential salary he volunteered not to take," and former President Barack Obama at this point in his presidency had racked up about $30 million in out-of-town golf expenses.

At The Washington Examiner, Tom Rogan scolds HuffPost for "hyperventilating" about Trump's golf expenses, noting, reasonably, that president need vacations and have to travel with large, expensive entourages "Too many conservative commentators unjustly attacked Obama's travel costs," he said, and "liberals are wrong to complain about President Trump's golfing costs."

But cost was only part of HuffPost's concerns. All but one of Trump's 175 golf outings have been at Trump-owned courses — the exception was in Japan — and "on top of the publicity value of a presidential visit, each trip also results in many thousands of taxpayer dollars flowing to Trump resorts for hotel rooms, golf carts, and food and drink for Secret Service agents," HuffPost notes. "Because Trump continues to profit from these businesses ... a portion of that taxpayer money ends up in Trump's own pocket." A recent government report found that Trump's Mar-a-Lago earned about $60,000 from just four of Trump's 24 presidential visits. Read more at HuffPost. Peter Weber

6:58 p.m.

Federal authorities seized 33,000 pounds of cocaine Tuesday from a ship at Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said.

This was one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history, with the cocaine having a street value of more than $1 billion. The U.S. attorney's office said several crew members were arrested and will face federal charges. There have been several major cocaine busts on the East Coast this year, with authorities finding 3,200 pounds at the Port of New York and New Jersey in February and drug dogs sniffing out 1,185 pounds just a month later in Philadelphia.

The drugs were found on a vessel called the MSC Gayane, The Associated Press reports, which made stops in the Bahamas, Panama, Peru, and Colombia. The ship's owner, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., said in a statement it "takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services." Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m.

President Trump's 2020 reelection bid is attracting a questionable crowd.

Trump is holding a Tuesday night rally in Orlando that officially launches his 2020 campaign, and hours before it began, thousands of supporters were already out waiting in the rain. Those supporters notably included swaths of white supremacists and believers in the often-destructive QAnon conspiracy, who marched in groups to wait for Trump's arrival.

In the hours before the rally, Trump backers in "Q" merchandise were everywhere. QAnon believers think Trump is discretely overthrowing entrenched government forces, Democrats, and Hollywood elites, and that there's an anonymous high-level government agent who goes by "Q" constantly updating followers on his progress.

Groups of white supremacists calling themselves "Proud Boys" also donned matching polos and marched toward anti-Trump protesters outside the rally, flashing "okay" hand gestures that reportedly represent a "W" and a "P" to make "white power." Orlando police stopped them from getting too close to the protesters.

And as The New York Times' Maggie Haberman spotted, one person waiting outside the Trump rally combined both those ideologies into one sign.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board issued a very timely opinion ahead of the campaign launch, saying they haven't decided on a certain 2020 candidate to endorse, but that it certainly won't be Trump. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:24 p.m.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) teamed up from across the aisle on Tuesday to raise concerns over President Trump's decision on Monday to deploy 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East.

The two senators wrote a letter to the president, asking him to clarify several aspects of the decision, including where, specifically, the troops will be deployed, what their mission is, and if they'll be used to apply pressure on Iran. They also asked Trump to relay to them what the "new, specific imminent threat from Iran is."

The senators were joined by a bipartisan group of fellow senators, including Jeff Merkley (D-Or.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in signing the letter. Together, they emphasized that Congress has not authorized war with Iran and "no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the government of Iran." The letter concludes with a request for a joint Defense, State, and Intelligence community briefing by the end of June to address the situation. Read the full letter here. Tim O'Donnell

4:28 p.m.

Don't count Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) among those who support reparations.

McConnell was asked about the matter at his weekly news conference on Tuesday, responding that he doesn't think "reparations are a good idea." Among McConnell's reasons were the fact that slavery ended over 150 years ago, no one alive was responsible for it, and it would be too difficult to figure out whom to compensate. He added that the U.S. has already made several efforts to reconcile with its "original sin," including fighting the Civil War, passing civil rights legislation, and electing former President Barack Obama.

A Democratic-led House subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on reparations on Wednesday. Several Democratic presidential candidates have voiced support for reparations. Tim O'Donnell

4:10 p.m.

Katharine Gorka may not be as well-known as her husband Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to President Trump. But that might be about to change.

On Tuesday, Acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders told CNN that Katharine Gorka is slated to become the next Customs and Border Protection press secretary. The job will come after Gorka's time at the Department of Homeland Security, during which critics called her out for quietly cutting funding to anti-hate groups that combated anti-Muslim bias.

Gorka wrote for the far-right outlet Brietbart before securing a job under Trump, implying in several articles that Islam is inherently violent and terroristic, CNN documents. She's since brought that stance to a role as an adviser to the secretary of homeland security and tried "to instill her anti-Islamist philosophy throughout the department," BuzzFeed News reported in August 2017. "She played a significant role in denying CVE grant funding to groups that work to de-radicalize neo-Nazis and other far right extremists and Muslim-American groups," former State Department official Eric Rosland told BuzzFeed News, saying that made her "much more dangerous than Sebastian."

CBP hasn't had a press secretary since March, and Gorka's expected appointment comes as the situation on the southern border grows direr by the day.

Sebastian Gorka, meanwhile, also spent some time writing for Breitbart, and served as a White House national security aide before his ouster in mid-2017. He's since moved on to criticizing gay rat weddings on Twitter. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:09 p.m.

A judge is sanctioning Alex Jones after he ranted against the attorneys in his case and suggested one tried to frame him with child pornography, CNN reports.

Jones is currently being sued by families of Sandy Hook shooting victims over his false claims that the massacre was a hoax, which he later backed down from. On Monday, attorneys representing the families said they found child pornography in files Jones' team turned over to them. Plaintiffs said the pornography had "apparently been sent to Infowars email addresses," and Jones' attorney said that federal prosecutors determined there is "no indication anyone at Infowars knowingly possessed child pornography."

In a Friday broadcast, though, Jones suggested he was being framed and that the Sandy Hook families' attorneys were involved. He also pounded on a photo of one of lawyers in the case.

"You're trying to set me up with child porn," Jones said on the show as he offered a $1 million reward to "put your head on a pike," BuzzFeed News reports. Jones later said he is not accusing the attorneys of trying to frame him. The attorneys gave Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis footage of this broadcast, asking her to review it.

Bellis is now sanctioning Jones, CNN reports, blasting the Infowars host for his "indefensible," "unconscionable," and "possibly criminal behavior," also saying she wasn't "able to see an apology" from him in a followup Saturday broadcast and that she has "no doubt" that he was accusing the attorney of planting the child pornography. The judge has reportedly denied the defense the ability to pursue special motions to dismiss the case, and she awarded the families lawyers attorneys fees and filing fees. One of Jones' attorneys had previously argued his comments were not threatening while admitting they were "certainly inappropriate." Brendan Morrow

3:56 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided to ignore experts' findings and keep Saudi Arabia off a U.S. list of countries that recruit children as soldiers, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Although experts from the State Department recommended including Saudi Arabia the list based off news reports and assessments from human rights organizations which found that a Saudi-led coalition has hired children from Sudan to fight in Yemen's civil war, Pompeo decided to overrule them. The decision sparked immediate criticism, Reuters reports, from human rights activists and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Trump administration has received criticism for prioritizing its own security and economic interests through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, while allegedly overlooking the kingdom's human rights record, and it's likely the latest news will compound that stance.

The argument against including Saudi Arabia on the list was reportedly because it was not clear whether the children recruited from Sudan to fight in Yemen were under the command of Sudanese officers or the Saudi-led coalition. In December, The New York Times reported that Sudanese fighters in Yemen said they took orders from Saudi and United Arab Emirates commanders. The Saudi-led coalition has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused its foes of recruiting children as soldiers. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

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