Change of plans
October 30, 2020

"President Trump has called off plans to appear at the Trump International Hotel on election night and is likely to be at the White House instead," Maggie Haberman reports at The New York Times, citing a person familiar with the plans. Trump's campaign has been heavily promoting an election night party at the hotel, and advisers had said Trump would make an appearance, the Times reports.

It isn't clear why Trump won't attend the election party, but there are several reasons he might have changed his mind, Haberman reports. First, it would look bad for him to once more mingle official business and his family's business, especially while violating Washington, D.C.'s COVID-19 crowd restrictions. Also, he is trailing by a wide margin in national and key state polls, and there's a good chance the winner of the presidential race won't even be known by Wednesday morning.

For the past few days, too, "Trump, who is deeply superstitious, has tried to recreate as many of the conditions that obtained during his successful 2016 campaign as possible," Haberman reports. He has surrounded himself with people from the final days of his race four years ago and he is trying to raise questions about Democratic challenger Joe Biden's son Hunter in ways that "parallel how he attacked Hillary Clinton in 2016," she adds. "Trump's approach to politics has always been to treat it as something of a mystical proposition, governed by otherworldly forces in a world in which things generally work out in his favor." As one of Trump's favorite campaign songs goes, "You can't always get what you want." But if you try sometimes, you can read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

February 20, 2020

Former GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher says he actually did offer WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a presidential pardon — and that he told the Trump administration all about it.

The Trump administration denied Wednesday that it had sent Rohrabacher to offer Assange a pardon, with White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham saying Trump "barely knows Dana Rohrabacher" and has "never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject." But Rohrabacher provided a different story in a Thursday interview with Yahoo News, saying he floated a pardon if Assange could prove Russia didn't hack the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Rohrabacher met with Assange for three hours in August 2017 at the Ecuardorian embassy where he was claiming asylum. The ex-congressmember was looking to prove his conspiracy theory and claim Russia didn't actually hack DNC emails and provide those emails to WikiLeaks, Rohrabacher told Yahoo News. If Assange could do so, Rohrabacher assured Assange he would get a presidential pardon — "He knew I could get to the president," Rohrabacher said. Rohrabacher called then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after the meeting and mentioned the possible pardon, though he said Kelly didn't even commit to discussing the matter with Trump.

Rohrabacher was a high-profile representative for 30 years before Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) beat him in the 2018 midterms. Assange was ousted from the embassy about a year ago and has since been charged in the U.S. with illegally publishing government secrets. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 12, 2019

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has dropped his plans for an impeachment lawsuit, saying he'll defy a congressional subpoena.

Mulvaney after receiving a subpoena for testimony had been trying to join in a lawsuit that essentially meant, as The New York Times reported, he aimed for the courts to "tell him whether to listen to his own boss, who wants him to remain silent, or to comply with a subpoena from the House, which wants his testimony." Mulvaney later decided he would file his own lawsuit.

The acting chief of staff "finds himself caught in that division, trapped between the commands of two of its co-equal branches — with one of those branches threatening him with contempt," his attorneys said in a filing, per The Hill. "He turns to this court for aid."

But now, Mulvaney has dropped this effort entirely, deciding to listen to his boss.

"After further consideration, Mr. Mulvaney does not intend to pursue litigation regarding the deposition subpoena issued to him by the U.S. House of Representatives," his attorneys said, CNN reports. "Rather, he will rely on the direction of the President, as supported by an opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice, in not appearing for the relevant deposition."

Mulvaney already skipped his scheduled impeachment deposition last week, as two witnesses testified he was involved in tying a White House meeting with Ukraine's president with investigations Trump wanted. Brendan Morrow

October 30, 2019

Two summits scheduled to take place in Chile, including one where President Trump aimed to sign phase one of a trade deal with China, have just been called off.

Chile announced Wednesday it will no longer host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the trade event that had been scheduled for mid-November and where Trump was set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, The Washington Post reports. Chile also called off the United Nations Conference of the Parties climate change summit it was set to host. This latter event was set to include more than 100 international delegations, the Post notes.

These cancellations were due to the ongoing demonstrations in the country sparked by a hike in public transportation fares, with a state of emergency having previously been declared in Santiago. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said Wednesday, "This has been a very tough decision ... but it is based on the wise principle of common sense."

The APEC cancellation is especially significant because after Trump announced a "phase one" trade agreement with China, he said the two countries agreed "in principle" but that a "formal signing" would take place within the next few weeks, with the goal being for it to happen at the November conference in Chile. Earlier this week, Trump said the trade deal was coming along "ahead of schedule" and that "I imagine" they'll sign it in Chile. It's unclear when or where that will happen now; CNBC's Eunice Yoon observes this "could mean some relief for both sides" but also that China can "push off" the deal "especially if [Trump] doesn't agree to lift" the tariffs scheduled to take effect in December. Brendan Morrow

September 30, 2019

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is expected to swap his not guilty plea on insider trading charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Vernon Broderick on Monday scheduled a change of plea hearing for Collins on Tuesday, where he's expected to drop the "not" from his previous plea. His son Cameron Collins and Cameron Collins' soon-to-be father-in-law Stephen Zarsky also had change of plea hearings scheduled for Thursday, The Buffalo News reports.

Collins was arrested more than a year ago on charges of securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI, to which he pleaded not guilty. He was on the board of Australian biotech firm Innate Immunotherapeutics, and was accused of telling his son and Zarsky to make "timely trades" on their investments that saved them more than $768,000 in losses. Collins himself lost millions when the firm's drug failed clinical trials. A trial on the charges was scheduled for early 2020.

Despite the ongoing indictment, Collins was still re-elected in his conservative western New York district, albeit narrowly. He ended up losing his spots on his congressional committees, but has continually been a vocal supporter of President Trump. Collins provided Trump's first endorsement in Congress. Collins' 2018 Democratic challenger has already announced he's challenging Collins again next year. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 13, 2019

The wife of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has just pleaded guilty to conspiring to misuse campaign funds.

Margaret Hunter in court on Thursday pleaded guilty to one count and withdrew her previous not guilty plea, The Associated Press reports. The California congressman and his wife were indicted in August for allegedly putting $250,000 worth of campaign funds to personal use from 2010 through 2016.

“I am deeply remorseful and I apologize,” she said in court on Thursday while accepting full responsibility. She faces up to five years in prison.

The California congressman has pleaded not guilty in his own case and previously said that his wife was responsible for the violations because she is in charge of the finances, CNN reports. "I didn't spend any money illegally," he said in August. The Associated Press reports Margaret Hunter has agreed to testify against her husband.

On Thursday, the congressman responded to his wife's guilty plea by saying, "It's sad that they were able to bludgeon her into submission," per NBC News' Alex Moe. He went on to say that "we've got some Hillary lawyers there in San Diego" and that "I look forward to going to trial." That trial will take place in September. Brendan Morrow

June 1, 2019

Israel's new elections could alter Jared Kushner's Middle East peace plan, The New York Times reports.

President Trump will reportedly make a significant effort to help Benjamin Netanyahu retain his post as Israel's prime minister after he was unsuccessful in forging a coalition government by Wednesday's deadline. That failure triggered the country's second national election of 2019, which is set for September 17. But, the Times reports, if Trump is to fully support Netanyhau, his son-in-law Jared Kushner will likely have to tilt his secretive peace plan more heavily in Israel's favor, isolating Palestinians in the process.

Kushner has now suggested that the plan will not call for a creation of a Palestinian state, which the Times reports has long been America's policy goal for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

While Trump and Netanyahu enjoy a strong relationship, that is not necessarily the reason Kushner's plan could shift. Instead, the 2020 U.S. presidential election also factors into play. The Trump administration does not intend to reveal the political portion of their plan until after Israel's elections in September — and, subsequently, the formation of a new government in October. That's a bit too close to the first primaries of the 2020 election in November for the White House's comfort, the Times reports. To avoid alienating evangelicals and influential pro-Israel donors stateside, then, it is unlikely the administration will present a plan that would put Israel or Netanyahu in an uncomfortable situation, the Times reports. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

May 17, 2019

President Trump apparently prefers golf courses to castles.

While it hasn't been publicly announced, Trump has considered stopping in Ireland between his June visits to Britain and France and meeting with its Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Yet the prime minister has so far refused to meet at Trump's requested golf course venue, and it has led Trump to consider skipping the visit altogether, The Irish Times reports.

When discussions first started between the U.S. and Irish governments, Varadkar said he'd like to meet Trump in the western County Clare's Dromoland Castle, sources in Dublin tell The Irish Times. But Trump apparently noticed that's just a short drive away from his Doonbeg golf club, and requested that the two leaders meet there. The Irish government has still pressed for the original hotel location, leading Trump to consider bowing out of the meeting and heading to Scotland instead, a White House source says.

Varadkar has publicly disagreed with Trump on a number of issues, and recently struggled to find any overlap in their policy preferences. Varadkar also affirmed Thursday that during the yet-unscheduled visit, protests would be "allowed" and "welcome" because "peaceful protest is part of democracy," per The Irish Times. The manager of Dromoland Castle, now a hotel, says the U.S. and Irish governments have checked out the space for a possible visit, but oddly hadn't booked anything for a trip presumably just a month away. Kathryn Krawczyk

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