Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, took to Fox News Thursday night to debunk speculation that national security adviser H.R. McMaster would be fired, and she bashed media reports on the Trump White House in the process.
“The president makes the personnel decisions and announcements in this White House, Sean,” Conway told Sean Hannity. “He was elected, after all. His name was on the ballot.”
Conway went on to slam the media for its “rampant speculation” surrounding personnel changes in the Trump administration. After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s ouster, many media outlets have reported rumors of a slew of other top White House staff who have supposedly lost favor with the president.
“They won’t cover policy, they cover personnel. They won’t cover principle, they cover palace intrigue and they keep on recycling rumors and stories constantly that have no basis in fact and I think they figure ‘Hey, if a stopped clock is at least right twice a day, eventually I’ll get this right,’” said Conway.
But Conway stopped short of explicitly denying the reports of McMaster’s imminent departure, opting instead to stress her faith in Trump’s decision-making capability.
“This president has every right to put the team around him that he thinks aligns with his vision, his values,” she said. “But he is the one who controls the timing, the tone, and content of all substantive and personnel decisions and I respect that enormously.”
Conway also denied critics who’ve called out chaos in the Trump White House, arguing that the president’s latest personnel decisions reflect “streamlining” and “sophistication” in the administration.
She even thought it pertinent to stress that Trump has plenty of “joy on the job,” pushing back on claims that he’s often angry and belligerent.
Despite Conway’s effort to set the record straight, there doesn’t seem to be much of a chance that the rumors and drama coming out of the Oval Office will be quelled.
But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went a step further Thursday, stating in a tweet that there would be no changes at the National Security Council and that McMaster has “a good working relationship” with the president:
Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.
Ever since President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum, there’s been talk of trade deficits between the U.S. and other countries. But there are conflicting statements coming from the White House and Canada about trade numbers between the two countries.
So what’s fact and what’s fiction?
The U.S. has a significant trade deficit with Canada.
The president made that claim in a tweet on Thursday:
We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn’t like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S.(negotiating), but they do…they almost all do…and that’s how I know!
The tweet came after Trump reportedly admitted he made up facts about trade during a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada.
So, what do the facts say?
There’s a lot of reports about the numbers involved with trade between the U.S. and Canada, and it can get complicated.
According to the U.S. Trade Representative, total goods and services trade between the two countries in 2016 was $627.8 billion.
The data from 2016 shows that the U.S. did, in fact, have a trade deficit for goods of $12.1 billion. But that’s for goods.
When it comes to services, though, the U.S. had a trade surplus of $24.6 billion with our northern neighbor.
When the total trade balance between both goods and services is calculated, it comes to a U.S. surplus of $12.5 billion. That number is confirmed by Canada as well, which reports a similar number according to Statistics Canada.
Now, that number varies from year to year and depends on specific industries. In 2017, Canadian data reported that the U.S. has a trade deficit of about $17 billion in merchandise goods, primarily fueled by huge exports from Canada of oil and timber.
But when services — which is a huge sector in the U.S. — are factored in, the number for 2017 comes to a U.S. surplus of almost $2.8 billion, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
So, let’s boil it all down.
Fact or Fiction
Fiction, for sure.
This looks like a classic case of selectively picking and choosing certain numbers while ignoring others.
Trump has thrown out the $17 billion number regarding energy and timber, but when taken in the context of both goods and services, that number really doesn’t matter.
Even with deficits in goods, the massive exports of services from the U.S. more than compensate, making for a net surplus.
The exact amount of trade balance between the U.S. and Canada changes over time and depends on specific industries, but when looking at total trade, there’s no question the U.S. has a surplus north of the border.
A hearing date as been set for Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump to get out of a nondisclosure agreement relating to an alleged affair.
The hearing has been set for July 12 in Los Angeles, according to CNN.
The adult film star’s lawsuit says that the nondisclosure agreement meant to silence Daniels about a sexual encounter with Trump before the 2016 election is invalidated since it was never signed by Trump.
According to the lawsuit, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen signed the agreement, but both Cohen and Trump deny the allegations of an affair.
But Cohen admitted to paying Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 before the election, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged the existence of past arbitration between Trump and Daniels during a press briefing last week.
The lawsuit also says that Cohen has continued a campaign of pressure and intimidation to keep Daniels quiet by starting new arbitration without notifying her.
Daniels has been adamant that she will find a way to tell her story. Despite the nondisclosure agreement, Daniels’ account has been widely covered minus certain details.
In interviews, Daniels’ has been coy about the incident, offering conflicting accounts and stressing her intent to dissolve the agreement completely so she is free to share her story.
But the Trump campaign has refused to acknowledge the alleged affair or any proceedings against the actress.
Earlier this week, Daniels offered to return the $130,000 in order to dissolve the hush agreement, and she had since started a fundraising drive to help pay for her legal fees.
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has called out the president for ignoring her settlement offer and insists that the arbitration is not over:
The President and Mr. Cohen have purposely ignored our settlement offer, thus doubling down on their efforts to muzzle Ms. Clifford and prevent her from telling the American people what happened. Time to buckle up. #basta
Hosts of “Outnumbered” hashed it out on Wednesday after talking about Hillary Clinton’s penchant for disparaging comments that fuel negative media coverage and harm fellow Democrats running for election.
But the debate really heated up after they suggested that President Donald Trump doesn’t suffer from the same toxic presence in the media and on the campaign trail.
During an event in India, Clinton suggested that Americans who didn’t vote for her are backwards and ignorant, pressured to vote a certain way based on their surroundings.
“I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward,” said Clinton at the event. ”[Donald Trump’s] whole campaign, ‘Make America Great Again,’ was looking backwards.”
The hosts took exception to Clinton’s remarks, calling them “patronizing” and suggesting they disregard the variety of opinions held by American women in particular.
Lisa Kennedy stressed that Clinton’s comments are an obstacle to other Democrats and will be used to target candidates aligned with the Clinton agenda in attack ads.
“She’s talking about Republican women only vote how their husbands tell them. Therefore they are victims,” Kennedy said. “They can’t think for themselves because of their political party. But what she is saying, the subtext there, is ‘They should have voted for me, so I can make decisions for them.’”
But when Harris Faulkner suggested that Trump isn’t “putting out a treasure trove for the opposite party” to use against him, Democratic commentator Jessica Tarlov wasn’t having it.
“He said innumerable things that you can run in an ad until the end of time,” an incredulous Tarlov said. “I could cut 50 ads right now before the end of this segment.”
Co-host Melissa Francis disregarded the comments about Trump, saying attempts to attack his message obviously didn’t work.
Tarlov took it upon herself to remind the panel of the myriad of controversies faced by Trump, including alleged payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
The panel concluded by debating the effect Trump and Clinton have on congressional races, and whether they are an asset or a liability for candidates hoping to win in November’s midterm elections.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) on Wednesday talked about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s sudden ouster and made it clear that he’s not too happy about the change-up in the State Department.
“Rex Tillerson is a good man,” Dent told CNN’s “New Day” host Alisyn Camerota. “He was dealt a very bad hand. He didn’t play it particularly well. He was really never set up for success. He walks into the office, and he gets a 30 percent proposed cut to his budget, he can’t hire anybody, he gets undercut by the president on diplomatic issues like North Korea. So he was always in a tough spot.”
Tillerson, who left the business world to join the Trump administration, was long rumored to be on the outs at the White House. He differed with President Donald Trump on several key foreign policy issues, including Russia, and was reported to have called the president a “moron.”
Dent added that the State Department is in bad shape, dealing with staffing issues and low morale while facing huge foreign policy conundrums, from North Korea to Syria.
“The State Department right now, we don’t have enough qualified people there because many of the top Republican foreign policy officials and national security establishment types are disqualified from serving because of comments they made about candidate Trump,” Dent said.
Dent also bashed Trump for the way he chose to fire Tillerson and announce his successor, former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, via a morning tweet. He suggested that Tillerson’s departure, the latest in a long string of firings and resignations since Trump took office, has caused disarray in the White House and the State Department.
“I’m concerned,” he said. “I didn’t like the way Rex Tillerson was fired. I thought that was very deplorable and unfortunate the way it happened. So there is a lot of chaos and anarchy, and this is just more of it. This type of instability and uncertainty is really not helpful for America or for the administration.”
Tillerson addressed his firing Tuesday, thanking the diplomats of the State Department but making no mention of Trump. The decision to nominate Pompeo as his successor has been met with a range of reactions, and Dent isn’t the only person to call for stability in a White House many have called chaotic. But that hasn’t stopped reports that Trump is considering getting rid of David Shulkin as VA secretary.
President Donald Trump visited the U.S.-Mexico border in California on Tuesday to see a number of border wall prototypes, and he shared his thoughts and preferences for the design and features of the wall.
Appearing with border security agents near San Diego, Trump spoke about the effectiveness of border walls and the role current walls have had in transforming border communities.
“For the people that say ‘No wall,’ if you didn’t have walls over here, you wouldn’t even have a country,” Trump said while standing in front of a series of prototype wall sections showing different designs.
“And by the way, the state of California is begging us to build walls in certain areas,” he added. “They don’t tell you that. And we said, ‘No, we won’t do it until we build the whole wall.’ But there are certain areas, as you know, where they are really wanting us to build a wall. Because the people are complaining, people are pouring in. So, you know, they don’t talk about that.”
The president discussed important features of a border wall, including height, stability, and durability. Speaking with a border security officer, Trump stressed the importance of being able to see through the wall.
“The problem is, you have to have see-through,” he said. “You have to know what’s on the other side of the wall,” adding that “you could be two feet away from a criminal cartel, and you don’t even know they’re there.”
Trump described the effect the current wall system has on local communities and reiterated his intent to improve the system. After discussing other features designed to impede would-be climbers, reporters asked Trump what he thought about Gov. Jerry Brown’s policies in the state.
“I think Gov. Brown has done a very poor job running California,” he said. “They have the highest taxes in the United States. The place is totally out of control.
“You have sanctuary cities, where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities, and then the mayor of Oakland goes out and notifies when ICE is going in to pick them up,” he added. “Many of them were criminals with criminal records and very dangerous people.”
The president’s border wall proposal follows on campaign promises to secure the southern border and control immigration. But recent attempts to begin construction on the massive project have been complicated as debates stall in Congress on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and other immigration reforms.
“Fox & Friends” slammed other media outlets on Tuesday for devoting little time to the news that the House GOP investigation found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee announced that it would be ending its investigation into Russian election meddling after finding no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
But apparently, the nightly news didn’t want to talk about it, at least according to the hosts of the Fox News show.
“It’s just sad,” said Steve Doocy. “It’s called a news channel, do the news!”
As Brian Kilmeade tallied up the time devoted to the breaking news, the hosts weren’t too happy about the results. From the nightly programs of ABC, CBS and NBC combined, Kilmeade said that less than a minute of airtime was focused on the House investigation’s findings.
“How many times have you tuned in to one of the big nightly newscasts and they’ve talked about Russia, Russia, Russia,” Doocy asked. “Trump was in bed with the Russians about this and that. Many, many times. And, yet, when the news breaks that the Republicans on the House Intel committee have found there was no collusion, less than one minute on the big three. Which is extraordinary.”
The hosts discussed the findings of the House investigation, which found that Russian groups did interfere in the 2016 presidential election but said that the meddling wasn’t designed to benefit Trump and that no collusion was found in either the Trump or Clinton campaigns.
Kilmeade acknowledged that the news was discussed on MSNBC during Rachel Maddow’s interview with Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, but Doocy wasn’t satisfied.
The Fox hosts spent the rest of the segment slamming the networks over what they chose to cover instead of the Russia investigation news, including lottery winners and March Madness.
President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania on Saturday evening, supporting Republican Rick Saccone for Tuesday’s House special election and looking forward to his 2020 reelection campaign:
The race for the 18th district in Pennsylvania has tightened, with some polls putting Democrat Conor Lamb over Saccone in the seat vacated by Tim Murphy (R).
The rally at an airport outside of Pittsburgh was designed as a way for the president to boost Saccone before the election that could offer a forecast of November’s midterm elections.
And while the president spent plenty of time praising the Republican candidate’s loyalty to the Trump agenda, the rally quickly took on the aspect of a campaign speech for the 2020 presidential election.
“But our new slogan, when we start running it, can you believe it, two years from now, is going to be: ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point. ‘Keep America great,’” Trump announced, looking ahead to 2020. “But we can only do that if we elect people who are going to back our agenda and fight for our values and that is why we have to defeat Nancy Pelosi.”
Trump spent most of the speech touting a wide range of issues, from North Korea and immigration (with chants of “Build that wall”) to taxes and tariffs.
He also spent a considerable amount of time slamming his opponents, including Lamb, who he dubbed “Lamb the Sham.”
“He’s weak on crime. He’s weak on the border. He’s weak on the Second Amendment,” Trump said of Lamb, adding that “Pelosi’s party in Congress is full of people who tell their voters one thing during the election and they go to Washington and vote lockstep.”
Trump made a point of emphasizing the effect of the tariffs on steel and aluminum he signed on Thursday, arguing that Pennsylvania will benefit as factories are reopened and steel industry employees go back to work.
But from the rock music blaring as he left the stage to his raucous shaming of the “Fake News” media, Saturday’s rally recalled the classic moments during Trump’s 2016 campaign, almost reducing the Saccone-Lamb race to an afterthought.
After South Korean officials announced on Thursday that Kim Jong Un was willing to meet with President Donald Trump and discuss denuclearization, many analysts are hopeful that permanent peace on the Korean peninsula may finally be on the horizon.
Not to stomp on your hopes and dreams, but that story is about as original as the last “Transformers” movie.
There’s a long history of supposed breakthroughs in relations between U.S. presidents and the Kim regime and — spoiler alert — none of them end with chummy handshakes between the two leaders.
Instead, North Korea has pretty much always been a bit of a tease, promising denuclearization, getting concessions from world leaders then turning around and going right back to muscle flexing and missile shooting.
Let’s go back to (recent) history class and take a look at how past presidents have dealt with North Korea.
President Bill Clinton v. North Korea
Under the Clinton presidency, the U.S. undertook the first major attempt to normalize relations with North Korea, then under the leadership of Kim Jong Il.
Signed in October 1994, the Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea sought to dismantle the nuclear weapons program of the DPRK in exchange for $4 billion worth of aid for nuclear energy.
The deal was pretty complicated, but the gist of it is that the U.S. believed that North Korea was building nuclear reactors to produce fuel for weapons. With the Agreed Framework, Clinton said that construction on the reactors had to stop, but the U.S. would help the regime build new nuclear power plants that would be used for energy only.
“This agreement will help achieve a longstanding and vital American objective – an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula,” Clinton said in 1994 according to The New York Times.
“This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” Clinton announced. “It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.”
Despite the ambitious deal, we all know what happened. North Korea didn’t, in fact, become a part of the “global community.” Instead, the DPRK sunk deeper into isolation and aggression, continuing to develop its nuclear program.
But the framework wasn’t useless. It set the template for future negotiations with the Kim regime and put on paper a general starting point on the concessions both countries might be willing to make. Someday.
So whatever could’ve gone wrong with such a carefully negotiated deal promising improved relations between the U.S. and North Korea and the dismantling of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program, you ask?
President George W. Bush v. North Korea
In 2000, as George W. Bush was preparing to take office, the White House announced that Clinton wouldn’t be able to meet with North Korean leaders, despite a lack of progress on implementation of the Agreed Framework.
As the Bush administration settled into power, foreign policy officials initially expressed their intent to complete the implementation of Clinton’s negotiations with North Korea.
But, long story short, problems came up in negotiations with verification as the countries didn’t agree on how to ensure that the Kim regime was playing by the rules of an agreement.
According to the Arms Control Association, North Korea in 2001 promised to “take thousand-fold revenge” on the United States “and its black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].”
It didn’t help the situation when Bush named North Korea as part of his so-called “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union address, and soon after, the DPRK admitted to a “clandestine nuclear-weapons” program and announced its intent to nullify the 1994 agreement.
Over the course of the Bush administration, relations between the two countries teetered between commitments to peace and disagreements over verification policies leading to renewed threats of aggression.
“Last night the government of North Korea proclaimed to the world that it had conducted a nuclear test,” Bush announced on October 9, 2006. “The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.”
That news came just a few days after North Korea said in a statement that it would “do its utmost to realize the denuclearization of the [Korean] peninsula.”
See a pattern yet?
By the end of Bush’s term in office, a campaign of increased sanctions from the U.S. and bombastic threats from North Korea had become commonplace.
President Barack Obama v. North Korea
This should seem familiar if you’re over the age of 10.
To put it simply, Obama took what his predecessors did about North Korea, and built a foreign policy dependent on avoiding the mistakes and keeping up the status quo of relations with the Kim regime.
Speaking of the Kim regime, it was under Obama’s first term when Kim Jong Il died, replaced by his son, Kim Jong Un. There were some who hoped the new leader might be more open to change, but that didn’t last long.
When it became clear that the new Kim was only more committed to his country’s nuclear program, the Obama administration adopted a policy of “strategic patience.”
Obama wouldn’t focus on regime change or deals that called for anything less than irreversible dismantlement of the DPRK’s nuclear program. Instead, under his watch, the U.S. upped the ante on sanctions and worked on improving relations with South Korea as a key ally in the region.
Unfortunately, less-than-ideal relations with China, which would often undercut North Korean sanctions, got in the way of the U.S.’ pressure campaign. But overall the Obama administration focused less on talks and negotiations, and more on containment of the aggressive nation.
Of course, President Trump’s approach hasn’t been quite so subtle.
Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Through (or perhaps despite) his bombastic and unpredictable way of dealing with threats from North Korea, as well as ramped up sanctions and cooperation from China, Trump has managed to create an opening where talks might continue.
If the meeting between Kim and Trump actually happens, he’ll be the first sitting president to ever sit down face to face with a North Korean leader.
When you look to North Korea’s behavior in the past though, it’s easy to see why some doubt Kim’s sincerity ahead of the negotiations.
But who knows? Maybe this time really is different. But don’t hold your breath.
South Korea unexpectedly announced on Thursday evening that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expressed his willingness to meet with President Donald Trump and to suspend nuclear missile testing.
The surprise announcement came after South Korean officials reportedly delivered a letter from Kim to the White House in which the North Korean leader extended an invitation to meet with Trump and discuss denuclearization:
CONFIRMED: A letter from Kim Jong Un was delivered by South Korean officials to President Trump, a NSC official tells me
In an address to reporters outside the White House, South Korea National Security Adviser Chung Eui-Yong, praised the national security policies of President Trump and explained that Kim Jong Un’s newfound willingness to cooperate.
“I told President Trump that in our meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he is committed to denuclearization,” said Chung. “Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. And he stressed his eagerness to meet president Trump as soon as possible.”
“President Trump appreciated the greeting and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization,” he added.
The news comes after a grueling campaign of tough talk and harsh sanctions placed on the Kim regime by the U.S.
But as South Korea seeks to renew diplomatic relations with their northern neighbor, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has shown his intent to serve as a peace broker between the U.S. and North Korea.
The Trump administration has not issued a statement on the meeting, but the president acknowledged that South Korea would make a “major announcement” prior to Chung’s address.
Chung did not stay for questions after the announcement, so further details are expected in the coming days.