President Trump traveled to Alabama on Friday after directing federal emergency personnel to provide “A Plus treatment” in assisting the state’s recovery from tornadoes that killed 23 people last weekend, Bloomberg reports. “Trump has at times struggled in the role of consoler-in-chief after natural disasters… But the president will be on friendly ground in Alabama, a state he carried by nearly 28 percentage points in the 2016 election.”
I would hope every state gets A Plus treatment under Trump’s FEMA. I hope he is not implying that he gives some states less than A Plus treatment.
Job growth came to a near halt in February after a blistering start to the year, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by just 20,000 even as the unemployment fell to 3.8 percent, CNBC reports.
Miami Herald: “Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft, to victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.”
“Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him. The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.”
“Nineteen days after Trump and Yang posed together while rooting for the Patriots, authorities would charge Kraft with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded more than a decade earlier.”
“Former President Jimmy Carter — who once brokered a nuclear agreement with Kim Jong Un’s grandfather in the 1990s — is offering to travel to North Korea to try and break President Trump’s deadlock with the North Korean dictator,” Politico reports.
“The prospect that Trump would align himself with his Democratic predecessor seems remote. The normally reserved ex-president has challenged Trump, sayingthat he would ‘change all of the policies’ Trump has instituted if he could, and describing his presidency as a ‘disaster.’ And while Trump has not made Carter a target while in office, he has previously chided Carter for ostensibly being a pushover.”
“House Democrats are discussing investigating the cash infusion the Kushner Companies’ flagship New York office tower received in summer 2018,” Axios reports. “Jared Kushner’s family real estate business provides Democrats with a new opening to investigate a senior White House official’s indirect connection to foreign money. Kushner has been helping conduct Middle East policy on behalf of the U.S. government.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “who is bidding to be the policy pacesetter in the Democratic presidential primary, is set to announce another expansive idea on Friday: a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook,” the New York Times reports.
“The proposal — which comes on the same day Ms. Warren will hold a rally in Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood that was to be home to a major new Amazon campus — calls for the appointment of regulators who would ‘unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,’ as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.”
“From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide,” Axios reports.
“The White House this week rejected the committee’s request for documents on the process for granting security clearances to staffers. But the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances.”
“As Beto O’Rourke continues to hold off on an announcement about his political plans, people working closely with him have begun making inquiries in New Hampshire about matters that would be central to a mounting a presidential campaign in the leadoff primary state,” WMURreports.
“Key Democratic sources — who are not involved in any effort to draft O’Rourke — told WMUR that people close to O’Rourke have reached out to politically knowledgeable Granite Staters seeking advice on specifics concerning what a New Hampshire campaign would entail.”
Bloomberg: “The administration is drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil — plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them, according to a dozen administration officials and people briefed on the matter. In some cases, nations hosting American forces could be asked to pay five to six times as much as they do now under the ‘Cost Plus 50’ formula.”
Playbook: “23 House Republicans voted against a resolution Thursday evening that condemned hate against many groups, including Jews and Muslims, in the wake of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments that suggested supporters of Israel might have dual loyalty — remarks that were widely viewed as anti-Semitic. Every Democrat voted yes.”
“There is serious, serious anger — seething, it’s fair to say — at the top levels of the House GOP that Republicans muddled their message with a split on this vote. All week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s leadership team managed to keep his troops in line, allowing Democrats to spend days upon days tripping all over themselves. Now, they have taken a bit of the spotlight off Democrats for reasons that are clear to no one.”
“There were two options when it came to this vote, according to top lawmakers and aides: Either every single Republican had to be for the resolution, or everyone needed to be against it. Now that nearly two dozen Republicans voted no, the party is in the mushy middle, unable to define where it stood.”
“The House passed a massive voting rights, campaign finance and ethics reform package — a centerpiece of the new Democratic majority’s agenda,” Politico reports. “The measure makes far-reaching changes to the country’s electoral and campaign finance system, along with ethic reforms that targeted President Trump and his administration.”
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is pulling out all the stops to make sure not a single Republican senator backs the campaign finance and ethics reform bill that House Democrats are set to pass on Friday,” The Hill reports. “McConnell, a longtime opponent of campaign finance reform who battled the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) over the issue, made clear in December that the House proposal would never see floor time in the Senate.”
“He’s continued to pummel the legislation, sending a stern warning to any GOP colleague who may be thinking about supporting it.”
“Donald Trump’s inauguration received tens of thousands of dollars from shell companies that masked the involvement of a foreign contributor or others with foreign ties,” The Guardian reports. “The Guardian has identified the creators of three obscure firms that contributed money to Trump’s inaugural committee, which collected a record $107m as he entered the White House in 2017.”
“Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who joined the White House staff last summer to manage President Trump’s communications operation, has resigned and will move to the re-election campaign,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Shine’s service as deputy White House chief of staff was seen as emblematic of how closely Mr. Trump has aligned himself with Fox, using the network to talk with his most fervent supporters and embracing lines of argument that its hosts advance on behalf of his policies and presidency.”
“In an otherwise blameless life, he helped the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent. In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa… In otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power. In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.”
“In an otherwise blameless life, he attempted to phone a potential witness in his trial, so that they could align their stories… In an otherwise blameless life, he acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him… And with Ellis’s featherweight punishment, Manafort managed to bring his life’s project to a strange completion. He had devoted his career to normalizing corruption in Washington. By the time he was caught, his extraordinary avarice had become so commonplace that not even a federal judge could blame him for it.”