G-7 Summit To Be Held At Trump’s Miami Golf Resort

Next year’s Group of Seven gathering of the leaders of the world’s biggest economies will take place at President Trump’s Doral golf resort outside of Miami,acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced on Thursday.

“We used a lot of the same criteria used by past administrations,” Mulvaney said. He later said it was almost as though the resort had been built for the event.

The Trump administration’s decision to host the high-profile international summit at Doral is sure to stoke the ongoing controversy about Trump’s decision to maintain his ownership of his businesses while serving as president.

“We know the environment we live in,” Mulvaney said, adding that Trump was willing to take the scrutiny.

Mulvaney noted that Doral was Trump’s suggestion that staff followed up on. He said “no” when asked whether it was better to avoid the appearance of self-dealing, pointing repeatedly to potential cost savings. He said he would not share documents on the decision-making process.

Trump made his interest in holding the summit at Doral known in August, while attending this year’s gathering in Biarritz, France.

“We haven’t found anything that could even come close to competing with it,” Trump told reporters. He mentioned the resort’s proximity to Miami International Airport, abundant parking and private cabanas to host each country’s delegation. “It’s got tremendous acreage, many hundreds of acres, so we can handle whatever happens.”

According to Trump’s financial disclosures, he earned $76 million in income from Doral in 2018. But in a sign of how the Trump brand has struggled since he became a political figure, that’s a substantial drop from the nearly $116 million the resort earned for him in 2016.

Reaction from Democrats was swift and negative.

“The Administration’s announcement that President Trump’s Doral Miami resort will be the site of the next G7 summit is among the most brazen examples yet of the President’s corruption,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., in a statement. “He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain.”

When asked whether it was appropriate to hold the international summit at Trump’s property, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters at the Capitol, “No.”

While Trump stepped away from running the Trump Organization before becoming president, he never gave up his stake in his various businesses, which include golf clubs, hotels and office buildings around the world.

There are several lawsuits moving through the courts that allege Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bans the president from accepting gifts and payments from foreign and state governments.

Noah Bookbinder — the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is one of the groups suing Trump over the emoluments issue — described the announcement as “unbelievable.”

“Given the potential consequences the president is facing for abusing the presidency for his own gain, we would have thought he would steer clear of blatant corruption at least temporarily; instead he has doubled down on it,” said Bookbinder.

Since Trump secured the GOP nomination in 2016, his properties have become favored places for Republicans to hold fundraising and political events. Federal Election Commission records indicate that Trump’s reelection campaign, GOP committees and candidates have spent millions at Trump properties.

Mulvaney said on Thursday that he himself was initially skeptical of the idea but said the event would be “dramatically cheaper” if held at Doral. He said Trump had “made it very clear” that he would not profit from having the resort host the summit.

Trump’s international properties also have come under scrutiny. This summer, the U.S. Air Force acknowledged that hundreds of service members had stayed at Trump’s Scottish resort during refueling stops there. Vice President Pence also came under scrutiny for staying at Trump’s Irish golf resort during an official visit to Ireland.

[NPR]

Mulvaney Acknowledges Quid Pro Quo In Trump Ukraine Call, Says ‘Get Over It’

The acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted on Thursday that President Donald Trump withheld foreign aid in order to get Ukraine’s help in the U.S. election.

“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney responded when a reporter pointed out that withholding funding from Ukraine “unless the investigation into the Democrats’ server happens” is a “quid pro quo.”

“Get over it,” he added later. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy. … That is going to happen. Elections have consequences.”

[Huffington Post]

Trump Defends Abandoning Syria’s Kurds: “They’re not angels”

President Trump addressed Turkey’s invasion of Syria in the Oval Office on Wednesday, telling reporters that the Syrian Kurds — who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS — are “not angels,” and that the Syrian government and Russia will protect them.

“[O]ur soldiers are not in harm’s way, as they shouldn’t be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now. But the Kurds know how to fight, and as I said, they’re not angels. They’re not angels. … Syria probably will have a partner of Russia, whoever they may have. I wish them all a lot of luck.”

Driving the news: Trump has sent a delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said on Wednesday that he would “never declare a ceasefire,” which Trump disputed. On Monday, Trump authorized sanctions punishing Turkey for its military operation.

  • Erdogan views the primarily-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a militant group designated as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and Turkey.
  • The SDF, which is also guarding detention camps with thousands of captured ISIS fighters and families, has struck a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to protect the border from Turkey’s military assault. This has allowed Russian forces who back Assad to move into areas that had been under Kurdish control for 7 years.

The big picture: During the fight against ISIS, the SDF — trained and armed by the U.S. — lost more than 10,000 troops. Republicans and Democrats have condemned Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it a “very dark moment in American history,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Trump will have “blood on his hands” if ISIS returns.

“If the President did say that Turkey’s invasion is no concern to us I find that to be an outstanding—an astonishing statement which I completely and totally reject. … If you’re not concerned about Turkey going into Syria why did you sanction Turkey?”

Sen. Graham

[Axios]

Trump Administration Moves To Expand Logging In Nation’s Largest National Forest

The Trump administration is proposing to exempt Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from long-standing protections against logging and development, opening the door for potential timber harvesting on 165,000 acres of old-growth forest.

The proposal, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, comes in response to a request from the state, which wants to be fully exempted from a Clinton-era rule that limits road construction and timber harvesting in tens of millions of acres of national forest.

State officials, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have asked the Trump administration for a “full exemption” from the 2001 Roadless Rule, which limits road construction and timber harvests. They argue that the protections are stifling the local economy.

“We have to be able to have a plan that is specific to us,” Murkowski told Alaska Public Radio in August, explaining that she spoke with the Trump administration early on about addressing the Roadless Rule.

Owen Graham, President of Alaska Forest Association, tells Alaska’s Energy Desk that Tuesday’s announcement a “great thing.”

“What we want is year-round manufacturing jobs and a lot more stability,” he says.

But, he says, this is just one step in the right direction. Retaliation tariffs placed on logs shipped to China have been hitting some sectors of the small industry hard. Graham is uncertain how long it will take to see big systemic changes in how the Tongass National Forest is managed.

“Right now the industry’s just crumbling apart. There’s hardly anybody left,” he says. “Every year we lose more of our loggers because there’s not enough to keep everyone going.”

But conservation groups say that removing protections would hurt the region’s fishing and tourism industries, while also worsening the effects of climate change.

The Tongass National Forest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America. Temperate rainforests sequester huge amounts of carbon dioxide, keeping the climate-warming gas out of the atmosphere.

“By seeking to weaken the Roadless Rule’s protections, the Forest Service is prioritizing one forest use — harmful logging — over mitigating climate change, protecting wildlife habitat, and offering unmatched sight-seeing and recreation opportunities found only in southeast Alaska,” said Josh Hicks of The Wilderness Society in a statement.

Tribal governments in Alaska also oppose lifting protections against logging.

Joel Jackson is President of the Organized Village of Kake, a remote village that depends on the wild food the Tongass provides. Historically, large-scale industrial logging damaged salmon streams.

“You know it’s sad that we have to continue to fight our own government to protect our forests and streams,” Jackson tells Alaska’s Energy Desk.

He says the Organized Village of Kake is considering filing a lawsuit against the Forest Service. “We don’t throw our hands up in the air,” he says. “We just buckle down and start talking [about] what’s the next step.”

The Forest Service’s proposal outlines six potential paths forward for the Tongass National Forest, ranging from doing nothing to removing protections for all of the forests 9.2 million acres of roadless area.

The agency says it prefers the latter, more extreme option. It would convert 165,000 acres of old-growth forest and 20,000 acres of young-growth that had been “previously identified as unsuitable timber lands to suitable timber lands.”

A formal notice is expected to be published in the Federal Register later this week.

The Forest Service says it will hold a series of public meetings on the proposal and open it to public comment through Dec. 17, with a final decision by 2020.

[NPR]

Trump Claims ISIS Fighters in Syria Were Released From Prison ‘Just For Effect’

President Donald Trump has claimed that ISIS fighters who escaped from jail in northern Syrian were released “for effect” to compel U.S. re-entry into the region.

During his Oval Office press spray with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Trump called the withdrawal of troops from Syria “strategically brilliant,” even as America’s Kurdish allies have come under attack by the Turkish military’s invasion.

After insulting the Kurds, Trump handed the fight against ISIS off to Syria and Russia, saying “you have a lot of countries over there that hate ISIS as much as we do…So they can take care of ISIS.”

“We have them captured. The United States captured them,” Trump continued. “Some were released just for effect to make us look a little bit like ‘oh gee, we have to get right back in there.’ You have a lot of countries over there that have power and that hate ISIS very much, as much as we do.”

Trump concluded by saying “we’re in a very strategically good position,” before blaming the criticism for his decision on the “fake news” media once again.

“I know the fake news doesn’t make it look that way but we’ve removed all of our 50 soldiers but much less than 50 soldiers.”

[Mediaite]

Trump pick for education board writes Illuminati self-help books

President Trump‘s pick for a federal education board authors self-help Illuminati books.

The Commission of Presidential Scholars awards high school seniors in the country annually, and its board is comprised of education experts like the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. Trump’s nominee to this board, George Mentz, was announced last week, The Denver Post reported

Mentz, a lawyer and online professor of wealth management at the Texas A&M University School of Law, has written books called “The Illuminati Secret Laws of Money,” “The Illuminati Handbook,” “50 Laws of Power of the Illuminati” and “100 Secrets and Habits of the Illuminati for Life Success.”

“If you conceive of your desire, you can then imagine that your goal will take place with belief, and then you will be able [to] retrieve the opportunity from the world’s storehouse of riches,” he wrote in his book “Spiritual Wealth Management.”

The nominee said he uses the word “Illuminati” in his books about money and wealth partly for marketing reasons.

“Just because I use the word Illuminati, don’t let that get you too excited,” Mentz told The Denver Post. “If you look the word up, it means ‘illumination.’ How to be more aware, conscious, a better person.”

Mentz has donated thousands of dollars to Trump’s campaign and political action committee, after supporting him for three decades, The Denver Post report said.

[The Hill]

Trump Tweetstorms Amid Mounting Syria Criticism: Anyone Helping Protect Kurds Good With Me, Whether It’s ‘Russia, China, or Napoleon’

President Donald Trump went on a tweetstorm this afternoon standing by his Syria withdrawal decision amid mounting criticism from Republicans and the atrocities witnessed in northern Syria in the past few days.

Many Republicans have been critical of the decision (some blaming Trump, others going a slightly different route), and just yesterday a harrowing report from Fox News said there’s evidence of war crimes, as well as “civilians being targeted, and ISIS prisoners escaping.”

This morning the president hit back over comments from Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, and this afternoon he went on a tweetstorm defending his decision, asking, “why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?”, and invoking Napoleon for some reason.

[Mediaite]

Gruesome Video of Fake Trump Killing Media in Mass Shooting Played at One of His Resorts

At a time when our nation is facing an epidemic of mass shootings, supporters of President Donald Trump showed a violent depiction of a fake Trump massacring members of the news media using a gun and other weapons at a conference held at one of the president’s resorts, the New York Times reported Sunday night.

American Priority, a group that supports the president, hosted the conference at Trump National Doral Miami. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Governor Rick DeSantis were all scheduled to speak at the event. But Huckabee Sanders and a source close to Trump Jr. denied either saw the video.

Bloomberg technology reporter William Turton surfaced a video matching the description from the Times on YouTube. The video appears to have been uploaded by YouTube account TheGeekzTeam in July 2018, and the account has posted other videos doctored to make it look like Trump is violently killing his enemies. Although Turton said he has not yet been able to confirm the YouTube video was the same one played at the conference, the details in the video as described by the Times line up, although portions like the Barack Obama interview at the end of the video were not reported to have been shown.

In the video,a man with Trump’s head superimposed on his body goes into a building labeled the “Church of Fake News” where people inside are labeled with logos of major news outlets including Vox, Politico, the Washington Post, HuffPost, ABC and NBC covering their heads. Trump then opens fire, killing numerous media outlets including Vox, Politico and NPR, in addition to activist group Black Lives Matter. The fake Trump begins his rampage using a gun but later switches to a wooden stake and a knife. Also in the video are Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rosie O’Donnell — all of them are slaughtered by the killer Trump. The mass murder ends with the president driving a wooden stake into the head of a person depicted as the church’s minister with a CNN logo covering their face as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” plays in the background.

The footage, the Times said, was taken and doctored from a church massacre scene in the dark comedy “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Trump’s presidency has been marked by criticism of the news media, and recently he has even been vocally critical of his beloved Fox News. The president himself has shared a video depicting himself as violent toward the media, tweeting out a doctored video of him body slamming a man with a CNN logo over his head in 2017. Trump has also turned his ire toward reporters during his political rallies, spurring his supporters to taunt and threaten members of the media covering him.

When we are barely a year out from the tragic Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland that killed five of the newspaper’s staff not to mention other recent mass shootings in churchessynagogues and mosques, videos like this are particularly dangerous, especially when they are broadcast at events even loosely affiliated with the president and on property he owns.

[Rolling Stone]

Media

Trump hits Fox News’s Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage

President Trump on Sunday hit Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for his coverage of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president that is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry.

“Somebody please explain to Chris Wallace of Fox, who will never be his father (and my friend), Mike Wallace, that the Phone Conversation I had with the President of Ukraine was a congenial & good one,” Trump tweeted.

“It was only Schiff’s made up version of that conversation that was bad!” he added.

House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry after details of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky became public.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son Hunter Biden while discussing U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Trump has defended the call as “perfect” and sought to frame the impeachment inquiry as a political move orchestrated by Democrats, including House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Wallace has said that the call and the intelligence community whistleblower complaint that brought attention to it show Trump pressing Zelensky.

Trump has in recent months ramped up attacks against several Fox News anchors, including Wallace, Ed Henry and Shepard Smith, who left the network this week.

Sunday was not the first time that Trump has criticized Wallace by invoking his father, veteran broadcaster Mike Wallace.

In May, Trump chastised Chris Wallace and Fox for giving airtime to Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, tweeting, “I like Mike Wallace better.”

A spokesperson for Fox News did not directly comment on Trump’s latest attack on Wallace, but pointed to a recent panel where the anchor responded to Trump saying he likes Mike Wallace better.

“To which my reaction is always: One of us has a daddy problem, and it’s not me,” Chris Wallace said.

[The Hill]

Pentagon sends new wave of troops to Saudi Arabia even as Trump calls for ending wars

The Pentagon is sending a fresh wave of troops to Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom against Iran, despite President Donald Trump’s repeated pledges to end the U.S. military’s commitments in the Middle East.

“I have ordered the deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of two additional fighter squadrons and supporting personnel,” including two batteries of soldiers manning Patriot air-defense missiles and another Army unit manning a larger air-defense missile system, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon today.

The latest deployment, which includes two squadrons of fighter jets and three air-defense units, will bring to 3,000 the number of troops the U.S. has sent to Saudi Arabia since Iran attacked the kingdom’s oil infrastructure last month. “The evidence recovered so far proves that Iran is responsible for these attacks,” Esper said, noting that Germany, France and the United Kingdom have reached the same conclusion.

Trump has repeatedly pledged to pull U.S. forces back from overseas entanglements. “We want to bring our soldiers back home. These are endless wars,” he said Monday, in an apparent reference to the continuing U.S. troop commitments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And yesterday, Trump falsely claimed that U.S. forces have been fully removed from Syria. Roughly 1,000 troops are deployed there.

Along with other deployments over the spring and summer “in response to Iranian provocations,” the new wave of units will push the total number of U.S. troops the Pentagon has added to the Middle East since May to 14,000, Esper noted.

Those earlier deployments included Air Force bombers, early-warning radar planes, drones, construction engineers to build up airbases, and warships. Some of the units deployed to existing U.S. bases in the region, while others, starting in July, reestablished an operational U.S. military presence at an airbase in Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon had pulled out of that airbase, leaving only an advisory presence in the kingdom, after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

An Air Force headquarters unit will also head to Saudi Arabia in the latest wave, the Pentagon noted in a statement. U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, requested the new deployments.

Esper has also delegated authority to move forces within the region to Gen. Frank McKenzie, who heads Central Command, added Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

The purpose of the deployment is to “send the message to the Iranians, do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American forces,” Milley said.

Esper, meanwhile, described the move as an example of “dynamic force employment,” a term the Pentagon has recently introduced for short-notice deployments around the world, either in response to crises or to flex the military’s muscles in training.

But the timing of the new orders suggests they are aimed at filling an airpower gap as the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group prepares to depart the region. Esper’s predecessor ordered Lincoln and its accompanying aircraft and warships to Middle Eastern waters in May, reversing a Pentagon initiative meant to free up carriers from their longstanding Middle East mission.

Esper wouldn’t comment on the aircraft carrier issue today, saying he wouldn’t “speak about operational deployments particularly with regard to assets like carriers.” But Esper has not signed an order authorizing an extension of the Lincoln’s deployment, Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesperson, said.

The deployment of Lincoln’s replacement, USS Harry S. Truman, has been delayed until next month due to problems with the ship’s electrical system, USNI News reported.

[Politico]

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