Second Thoughts
October 26, 2019

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has some regrets.

Kelly said he believes if he were still running the show in the White House, President Trump would not be the subject of an impeachment inquiry, The Washington Examiner reports. Kelly, who left the post in January, said he warned Trump a few days before he left not to replace him with a "yes man" or else he would be on a path toward impeachment.

"That was almost 11 months ago, and I have an awful lot of, to say the least, second thoughts about leaving," Kelly said during the Sea Island Summit, a political conference hosted by the Examiner. "It pains me to see what's going on because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place."

Kelly's point was that Trump needs someone to check his impulses rather than just do his bidding, which does not sound like a ringing endorsement of acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who may be on the hot seat. Kelly didn't endorse the impeachment inquiry, but he did indicate the White House bears some responsibility for it, the Examiner reports. Read more at The Washington Examiner. Tim O'Donnell

August 25, 2019

That's a first.

President Trump changed course slightly about the United States' trade war with China on Sunday while attending the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.

Trump, just days after hiking tariffs on Chinese imports and ordering (via Twitter) U.S. businesses to begin cutting ties with China, said he does indeed have second thoughts about how the trade war has played out. "Might as well," he said. "Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything." He also said he has no plans to invoke a 1977 law that would grant him more authority to intervene with U.S. business practices in China.

Still, Trump said he believed the other leaders at the summit "respect the trade war," adding that "it has to happen," signaling that he has no intention of reversing the tariffs despite his recent comments.

As for his fellow G-7 leaders respecting Washington's trade policy? That doesn't seem to be the case, at least not entirely. Almost immediately after Trump said so far no foreign leader had challenged him on trade, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson did just that. "Just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we're in favor of trade peace on the whole," Johnson said. "We think that on the whole the U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade." Read more about the G-7 summit at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

April 6, 2019

President Trump on Friday rescinded the nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Ron's a good man, but we're going in a tougher direction," Trump said.

The decision reportedly took U.S. lawmakers and Homeland Security officials by surprise, per The Washington Post. Vitiello, in fact, was supposed to accompany the president on his trip to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday, but was alerted on Thursday that he would not be making the journey. ICE leadership at first believed there was a clerical error in the trip's itinerary.

But Trump reportedly had been going back and forth on his decision to nominate Vitiello in the first place for months. He was influenced by complaints from senior adviser Stephen Miller and ICE union boss Chris Crane, White House aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. Per CNN, Miller told Trump that Vitiello was not in favor of fully shuttering the southern border as Trump has threatened to do.

Vitiello has advocated for Trump's immigration policies, but he has refrained from making "bombastic" public statements about enforcement matters.

In a letter to agency employees, Vitiello thanked the president, the Senate Homeland Security Committee chair Ron Johnson, and members of Congress. Tim O'Donnell

February 11, 2019

The studio that planned to go forward with a movie by Bryan Singer in spite of the sexual abuse allegations against him may be getting cold feet.

Red Sonja, a fantasy film Singer was to direct, is no longer on Millennium Films' slate, and it is not expected to shoot this year as previously planned, Deadline reports. The project has not been canceled nor has Singer been fired, but this would seem to be a reaction to the allegations against him, and Deadline notes that the movie has been repeatedly delayed over the past decade.

Singer faced new allegations of sexually abusing underage boys in an exposé published by The Atlantic. He denied the allegations, as he has denied past allegations of rape and sexual assault. Singer was already signed on to Red Sonja when this Atlantic article was published, and Millennium Films CEO Avi Lerner said in a stunning statement that Singer wouldn't be fired because "I know the difference between agenda driven fake news and reality." Lerner later said this statement "came out the wrong way" and that he didn't even write it. He also said, however, "I have got a reason why I doubt that [Singer] has done it." Brendan Morrow

December 1, 2017

The July 2015 shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle at San Francisco's Pier 14 was a staple of President Trump's campaign, an emotional punch to attack "sanctuary cities," so Trump criticized a jury verdict Thursday evening that acquitted the shooter, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, of homicide charges and convicted him of a lesser gun offense.

An illegal immigrant, Garcia Zarate will be deported (again). At RedState, Sarah Rumpf writes that after reading local newspaper accounts of the case, "the facts here are far more complicated than any campaign slogans would lead you to believe," and "the trouble with a politically charged case like this is that there are many who seek to benefit from twisting, if not outright lying, about what really happened." Lots of people "wanted Kate Steinle's killer's head on a platter, even before Donald Trump ever tweeted her name," and Trump isn't the only one incensed by the outcome, she says, but the jury reached a defensible verdict:

We have a defendant with zero connection to Steinle. He had a history of drug crimes but no known violent crimes. The bullet that killed Steinle hit the ground and then ricocheted upwards. There was a video possibly showing another group of people disposing of the gun where Garcia Zarate said he found it. ... All of this adds up to the defense presenting a plausible explanation for how Garcia Zarate could have fired the gun and killed Steinle by accident. That's reasonable doubt. [Rumpf, RedState]

"What's not an accident," she adds: "the many political figures and media personalities who have distorted this case for various reasons. These misrepresentations are a disservice to our justice system, and to Kate Steinle's family as well." You can read her entire synopsis of the case at RedState. Peter Weber

June 12, 2017

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May's office denied a newspaper report that President Trump's state visit in the fall had been put on hold after Trump angered many Britons with his tweets about London and its mayor, Sadiq Khan, after last week's terrorist attack. "The queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the U.K. and there is no change to those plans," a May spokesman said, and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the idea of postponing Trump's visit "never came up" when the two leaders spoke last week, adding, "The president has tremendous respect for Prime Minister May."

But whether or not the invitation stands, Trump is "considering scrapping or postponing" the visit anyway, after expressing "increasing skepticism to aides about the trip," The New York Times reports, citing two administration officials. The trip was tentatively scheduled for the fall, probably in October, and Trump "has not definitively ruled out going," the Times reports, "but he has told his staff that he wants to avoid a marathon overseas trip like his nine-day trek to the Middle East and Europe, which he found exhausting and overly long," and he prefers that foreign leaders visit him.

But optics and politics are major considerations, too. Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular in Britain, and any visit by him — let alone a state visit with all its pomp — would probably be met with wide-scale protests. Recent polls have found that more than half of the British public views Mr. Trump as a threat to global stability. [The New York Times]

Trump did not discuss his tentatively scheduled visit on the phone last week, the officials say, but he and May have "discussed the potential difficulties of a trip to Britain." Peter Weber

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