August 8, 2020

President Trump's fondness for Mt. Rushmore is well known, so it's likely South Dakota Kristi Noem (R) scored some bonus points with the gift she gave the president when he came to her state to give an Independence Day speech in front of the monument in July.

Noem spoke highly of Trump when introducing him before the speech, comparing him to former President Theodore Roosevelt and describing him as a leader who "brave the dangers of the arena." In private, The New York Times reports, the flattery went a little further when Noem apparently greeted Trump with a four-foot replica of Mt. Rushmore, with a twist. In addition to the four U.S. presidents whose faces are actually carved into the mountainside — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Roosevelt — the replica reportedly included Trump's likeness. Trump, after all, had previously told Noem it was his dream to have his face up there.

Eventually, per the Times, word circulated around the Trump administration that Noem was ingratiating herself with Trump, leading to suspicions that she was seeking to supplant Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate in November. Noem reportedly flew to Washington, D.C., a couple of weeks later to meet with Pence and reportedly made it clear she was not after his job. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

September 25, 2019

There's one thing for sure about the White House memorandum logging a rough transcript of the July phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky — Zelensky was very flattering toward his American counterpart.

Zelensky praised Trump's campaign strategy and even told him that his own, out-of-nowhere campaign emulated the Trump team. The two also made some digs at the European Union, agreeing that the U.S. was more helpful to Ukraine than their continental neighbors. But another moment that stood out is when Zelensky made sure to point out that he stayed at Trump Tower the last time he visited New York.

"I would like to tell you that I also have quite a few Ukrainian friends that live in the United States," Zelensky tells Trump in the memo. "Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower."

Some people have pointed out that the line could come back to hurt Trump, as several emoluments cases are working their way through the courts, though it's unclear when the stay actually occurred.

Ethically questionable or not, observers have pointed out that it serves as an example of a foreign leader deftly trying to leverage Trump by praising his personal business. Tim O'Donnell

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