Trump to roll back Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules on vegetables, fruits

The Trump administration on Friday announced plans to roll back school lunch standards on vegetables and fruits originally promoted by Michelle Obama, unveiling the proposal on the former first lady’s birthday.

The new standards will allow schools more flexibility “because they know their children best,” the Agriculture Department said in a press release.

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

The proposed rules build on previous steps taken by the Trump administration to unwind the controversial school lunch rules championed by Obama as part of her “Let’s Move!” healthy living campaign. Those rules were implemented through an executive order signed by former President Obama.

Under the new rules, schools would be allowed to reduce the number of fruits and vegetables required at each meal. The latest change follows a 2019 rollback of restrictions on milk and sodium content in school lunches.

Critics said the change will pave the way for greasier, more unhealthy foods such as pizza, french fries and burgers.

“[It] would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day,” Center for Science in the Public Interest’s deputy director of legislative affairs, Colin Schwartz, said in a statement Friday.

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Dr. Rachel Borton, the director of the Family Nurse Practitioner online program at Bradley University, said healthy school meals are essential to both good physical and mental health, especially for low-income students who are more likely to receive their only healthy meal of the day while at school.

“If those students don’t have access to the nutritious options provided by the school, they may turn to low cost, processed foods that are high in calories but sparse in nutrients. Immediate effects of this type of diet include weight gain and poor physical health,” Borton wrote. “Long-term impacts range from increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of other unfortunate health outcomes.”

The Obama administration’s school lunch plan increased the requirement for fruits and vegetables in meals, cut trans-fat and reduced sodium levels in food. It also required cafeterias to serve only skim or low-fat milk.

In 2019, the first comprehensive analysis of the Obama administration’s lunch plan by the Department of Agriculture found the updates “had a positive and significant influence on nutritional quality” as students ate more whole grains, greens, and beans, as well as fewer “empty calories.”

The report found evidence of food waste, but the levels were not substantially higher than food waste under previous lunch regulations.  

[The Hill]

Trump Retweets Image of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer in Traditional Islamic Clothing Before Iranian Flag

President Donald Trump took his attacks on Speaker Nancy Pelosi Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to a whole new level Monday morning, by retweeting a photoshopped image of the two in traditional Muslim garb before an Iranian flag.

The tweet came in a flurry of frenzied presidential tweets (and retweets) critical of Speaker Pelosi’s criticism of the Trump administrations handling of Iranian foreign relations, in particular, that following the deadly drone strike that took the life of Quds force leader and Iranian Republican Guard Major General Qasam Soleimani.

In the days that followed Soleimani’s death, a million Iranians reportedly flooded the streets of Teheran to protest the U.S. killing of the number two leader of Iran. But as Iran eventually admitted to shooting down a Ukranian airliner and killing 167 civilians, protests have started against the Iranian regime.

[Mediaite]


Trump hits Senate for giving impeachment ‘credibility’ by holding trial

President Trump on Sunday tweeted that Republicans risked lending credibility to the impeachment inquiry brought by the House by holding a trial in the Senate.

The president said any proceedings in the Senate would be based on “no evidence,” and appeared to urge Senate Republicans to reject the idea of holding a trial at all.

“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, “no pressure” Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!” Trump tweeted.

Trump spent much of Sunday tweeting about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, which, he wrote in one message, “should not even be allowed to proceed.”

“Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?” he added in another tweet. “Read the Transcripts! A totally partisan Hoax, never happened before. House Republicans voted 195-0, with three Dems voting with the Republicans. Very unfair to tens of millions of voters!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have battled for weeks over the scope of the Senate impeachment trial, with Pelosi holding firm in her demands for McConnell to guarantee that witnesses will be called before she presents the Senate with the House-passed articles of impeachment.

Last week it was reported that McConnell had signed on to a measure that would allow the Senate to dismiss the House articles of impeachment without a trial.

[The Hill]

Trump endorses tweet comparing top Senate Democrat to Iranians

President Trump on Friday endorsed a tweet comparing the top Senate Democrat to Iran, the United States’ longtime adversary, suggesting neither could be trusted, as Democratic leaders criticized the White House for ordering a military strike to kill a powerful Iranian commander without congressional input.

Amid a flurry of reactions from U.S. lawmakers, Trump retweeted conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who, in response to a headline about Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) not receiving advance notice of the military operation, wrote: “Neither were the Iranians, and for pretty much the same reason.”

Trump made similar insinuations about Democrats’ trustworthiness after the October raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. At that time, Trump said he didn’t tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former member of the Intelligence Committee, because “he wanted to make sure this kept secret.”

Trump ordered the U.S. drone strike that killed Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, whom the United States regarded as a war criminal responsible for hundreds of American deaths.

Republicans and Democrats were united in calling Soleimani an enemy of the United States and a terrorist.

‘This morning, Iran’s master terrorist is dead,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in remarks on the Senate floor. “The architect and chief engineer for the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism has been removed from the battlefield at the hand of the United States military.”

Schumer called Soleimani a “notorious terrorist,” and added: “No one should shed a tear over his death.”

But as Republicans celebrated what they described as Trump’s decisive action, Democrats criticized the president’s order to act unilaterally while expressing grave concern that this action would move the United States closer to an in­trac­table war with Iran.

“No matter how good it may feel that Qasem Soleimani is no longer alive, he likely will end up being more dangerous to the United States, our troops and our allies, as a martyr than as a living, breathing military adversary,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Trump, in brief remarks Friday afternoon about the attack, said he targeted Soleimani to “stop a war,” not to start one.

Presidents typically inform the so-called Gang of Eight — the House speaker and minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking minority-party members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — about high-level military operations.

Top Democratic leaders in Congress received no advance notification of the strike, aides said. Pelosi spoke to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper after the attack for about 13 minutes, said an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

“I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations of this level of significance. We were not,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor, adding that the administration must be “asked probing questions not from your inner and often insulated circle, but from others, particularly Congress, which forces an administration before it acts to answer very serious questions.”

It was unclear which congressional leaders were given advance notice of the strike.

[Washington Post]

Trump Retweets Attack Article That Names Alleged Whistleblower

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account retweeted on Thursday a tweet by the president’s re-election campaign account, the official “Trump war room” that allegedly names the whistleblower whose complaint led Democrats to launch the impeachment inquiry. 

“It’s pretty simple. The CIA ‘whistleblower’ is not a real whistleblower!” says the tweet Trump retweeted, which includes a link to a Washington Examiner piece, published Dec. 3, the alleged whistleblower’s name in the headline.

While some right-wing news outlets have named the alleged whistleblower, no major news agency has and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the president pro tempore of the United States Senate, has argued that the whistleblower’s name must remain private to protect his safety.

[Haaretz]

Trump mocks Greta Thunberg after she wins Time Person of the Year

President Donald Trump mocked teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter on Thursday after she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, calling her win “ridiculous” and suggesting she take anger management classes.

“So ridiculous,” Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Trump, who was Time’s Person of the Year in 2016, was a finalist for the 2019 nomination.

Thunberg soon updated her Twitter bio to reflect Trump’s comment, writing: “A teenager working on her anger management problem.”

“Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend,” she added.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also weighed in on Thunberg’s selection, blasting the magazine’s decision.

“Time leaves out the Hong Kong Protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms to push a teen being used as a marketing gimmick,” he wrote. “How dare you?”

It was not the first time the president has made a mention of Thunberg.

In September, after she made an emotional speech at the United Nations, Trump appeared to mock the 16-year-old by tweeting that she “seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Thunberg did not respond directly to the president but hours later updated her Twitter bio to mimic his tweet.

Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was asked to speak on climate change in front of several high-profile entities, such as the United Nations and Congress.

“I shouldn’t be up here,” she said in her September U.N. speech.

“I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” the teen from Sweden said. “Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Democrats responded to Trump’s barb throughout the day, criticizing him for taking aim at the teenager.

“What kind of president bullies a teenager?” tweeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic contender, adding that Trump “could learn a few things from Greta on what it means to be a leader.”

“Does the President really not have anything better to do today than attack a 16 year old?” tweeted Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Trump’s tweet even came up at Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against the president.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., mentioned Trump’s mocking of Thunberg while listing individuals who Trump has blasted.

“Are you here to defend that as well?” Jeffries asked Republicans of Trump’s post.

[NBC News]

Trump, Macron hold tense meeting: ‘Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you’

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron held a tense meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit, with Trump at one point telling the French leader he could send him some “ISIS fighters” if he wanted them.

“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said with a slight smile at the meeting, which was carried live on cable news. “You can take every one you want.”

“Let’s be serious,” Macron replied sternly, reasoning that most ISIS fighters came from Syria, Iraq and Iran and disputing Trump’s common refrain that the terrorist group had been defeated.

Trump has complained that European countries have been unwilling to accept ISIS fighters the U.S. had captured.

The French president insisted that the number of European ISIS fighters was a “tiny” part of the overall problem of addressing destabilization in the region. He was also adamant that the terrorist group had not entirely been defeated, a break with a common declaration from Trump.

“I think [the] No. 1 priority, because it’s not finished, is it to get rid of ISIS,” Macron said.

“That was one of the greatest nonanswers I ever heard,” Trump said after Macron had concluded. “And that’s OK.”

If the meeting was tense, the days leading up the the one-on-one session were equally so. 

A day before the meeting, the Trump administration announced it was prepared to impose 100 percent tariffs on wine and other products from France in response to complaints about a French tax that has hit U.S. technology companies.

A myriad of disagreements between the two leaders played out in public over the course of the 40 minute meeting, which came hours after Trump called Macron’s comments critical of NATO “insulting.” The icy tone was a far cry from the warm embraces and state visit the two men have shared over the past two years. 

Trump emphasized his “very good relationship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after Macron noted disagreements between Turkey and the rest of the alliance on their definition of terrorism. 

“I can only say we have a very good relationship with Turkey and president Erdoğan,” Trump said when asked about Turkey’s standing in NATO. “We have a very good relationship.” 

Macron interjected shortly thereafter: “We have lost cooperation with Turkey.” 

The French president demanded “clarification” from Ankara on how it could be a member of the NATO alliance and also purchase Russian S-400 missile systems amid NATO opposition. Macron also said Turkey wanted to “blow up” the summit if the other alliance members did not recognize Ankara’s view of groups that are terrorists. 

When Trump suggested that his predecessor, former President Obama, pushed Turkey toward purchasing the Russian missiles by refusing to sell Ankara the Patriot missile, Macron shot back, saying it was Turkey’s “own decision” to purchase the missiles after Europe offered another option that was compliant with NATO.  

Trump was noncommittal on reaching a deal to avert U.S. tariffs set to be imposed on $2.4 billion in French imports. He expressed frustration with the French tax, which he sees as targeting U.S. companies.

“They’re American companies,” he said. “The tech companies you’re talking about, they’re not my favorite people because they’re not exactly for me, but that’s OK. I don’t care, they’re American companies. And we want to tax American companies. We want to tax them. That’s not for somebody else to tax them.”

Tuesday’s icy meeting underscored the evolution of the Trump-Macron relationship.

The two men came into office within months of each other and enjoyed a close relationship. They famously shared a lengthy and intense handshake at one of their first meetings, and Trump later hosted Macron at the White House for a state visit.

But Macron has become more outspoken as he seeks to take the mantle in Europe in the face of changing governments there and Trump’s unpredictability.

On Tuesday, the French president stood by his controversial comments about NATO, Macron said he was a supporter of a stronger European component in the alliance and agreed with Trump that the U.S. was overinvested compared with other countries, but he said there was more to the alliance than discussions about money and burden sharing.

“When you speak about NATO, it’s not just about money,” Macron said. “We have to be clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be.”

[The Hill]

Trump criticizes Lisa Page after she breaks silence

President Trump criticized former FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Monday in a tweet, a day after she broke her silence in an interview about the attacks she has withstood from the president.

“When Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being ‘crushed’, and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter’s ‘Insurance Policy’ text, to her, just in case Hillary loses,” Trump tweeted Monday while traveling to the United Kingdom for a NATO meeting.

“Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller. Where are they Lisa?” the president continued, accusing former special counsel Robert Mueller of deleting text messages between Page and Strzok without offering evidence. 

Trump and his allies have long eviscerated Page and Strzok — another former FBI official — for text messages they sent criticizing then-candidate Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The messages exchanged by the pair, who had an affair and who both worked on the FBI’s original Russian interference probe, were unearthed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation last year.

In one August 2016 exchange, Strzok compared the Russia investigation to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

Trump has pointed to the text messages as evidence that Page and Strzok were laying the groundwork for an effort to undermine him in the event he won the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Page subsequently told congressional investigators that the two were discussing how strongly to push forward in investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Page broke years of public silence in an interview with The Daily Beast published Sunday, likening Trump’s attacks on her to being “punched in the gut.”

“My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening,” Page told The Daily Beast. 

The Justice Department inspector general said last year that the text messages had been deleted from the individuals’ FBI phones due to technical glitches but had been recovered.

[The Hill]

Trump repeats Ukraine conspiracy theory and more debunked lies on 53-minute “Fox & Friends” call

President Trump spent 53 minutes of his Friday morning on the phone with the hosts of “Fox & Friends” — his latest call-in to one of his favorite TV shows.

Driving the news: President Trump spent a chunk of the interview repeating a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election. “That’s what the word is,” he claimed without evidence.

  • The debunked conspiracy theory — frequently referred to as CrowdStrike, the security firm at its center — is based on the idea that Ukraine was complicit in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee to create false electronic records that Russia was behind the hacking.
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, said during his impeachment hearing that the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory is “a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted.”
  • Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, said during her impeachment hearing that the conspiracy theory is “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Worth noting: Trump also said that Crowdstrike is owned by “a very wealthy Ukrainian,” but it’s actually a publicly-traded company. Its largest outside shareholder is Warburg Pincus, a New York City private equity firm from which Trump plucked one of his top economic advisors.

Impeachment-related highlights:

  • The president once again slammed former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, claiming she was “not an angel.” During her impeachment testimony , she agreed that it was Trump’s prerogative to fire ambassadors at will, but asked, “What I do wonder is why was it necessary to smear my reputation also?”
  • Trump said that during a Senate impeachment trial he only wants House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to testify more than Hunter Biden.
  • Trump said that he knows “exactly” who the Ukraine whistleblower is — and insinuated that the “Fox & Friends” hosts did as well — prompting them to attempt to steer the conversation away from the topic live on air.

Other highlights:

  • Trump predicted that Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t pass the USMCA trade deal, despite it being a priority for some Democratic lawmakers ahead of 2020.
  • He tried to find a middle ground between supporting pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong and not offending Chinese President Xi Jinping as the U.S. attempts to close a “phase one” trade deal with China. “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” he said.
  • Trump denied rumors surrounding his health after a surprise visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center last weekend, calling it “fake, disgusting news.”

2020 lightning round:

  • Joe Biden: “I don’t know if Joe can make it mentally. He’s off.”
  • Pete Buttigieg: “I don’t see him dealing with President Xi. I don’t see him dealing with Kim Jong-un. But maybe he is.”
  • Elizabeth Warren: “I think Pocahontas has come up from the embers.”
  • Michael Bloomberg: “I think his time has come and gone.

[Axios]

Reality

There was multiple fact checks some could only refer to this call as “bananas.”

Media

Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: ‘I have freedom of speech’

President Trump on Friday defended his tweet earlier in the day attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her public testimony in the House impeachment hearing, insisting he has the right to speak out.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,” Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he’s “allowed to speak up” if others are speaking about him.

Pressed on whether his words can be intimidating, as Yovanovitch and Democrats have said, Trump said no.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said.

The remarks were Trump’s first public comments of the day, which has largely been dominated by testimony from Yovanovitch. As the former ambassador testified about a smear campaign by Trump’s allies to oust her from her post in Kyiv, the president took aim at her on Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” Trump tweeted. “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a stunning moment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) interrupted questioning from his staff counsel to read the president’s tweet aloud to Yovanovitch and asked for her reaction.

“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch said with a slight laugh. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places.”

Asked what effect Trump’s tweet might have on future witnesses facing pressure from the White House not to testify, Yovanovitch described it as “very intimidating.”

Democrats on the committee and elsewhere in the House equated Trump’s tweet to witness intimidation and suggested that it could be considered when mulling articles of impeachment later in the process.

The White House on Friday morning issued a statement that Trump would not be watching Yovanovitch’s testimony beyond opening statements. But Trump himself said that he had tuned in.

“I watched a little bit of it today. I wasn’t able to yesterday because we had the president of Turkey here, and I wasn’t able to watch much,” Trump said. “I watched some of it this morning and I thought it was a disgrace.”

Trump complained that Republicans were not given a fair shake, referencing an instance where Schiff stopped Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) from questioning Yovanovitch because the rules stipulated that only the ranking member or Republican counsel could ask questions during that period.

“It’s a disgrace and it’s an embarrassment to our nation,” Trump said.

Yovanovitch is the third witness to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry. Several other current and former administration officials are scheduled to give public testimony next week.

[The Hill]

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