October 17, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, probably, but signs aren't pointing to a warm reception for President Trump's delegation to Ankara. Erdogan has already rejected the demand for an immediate ceasefire in Syria that Pence and Pompeo are bringing from Trump, and he hinted Wednesday he may not even meet with the U.S. delegation. And then there's Trump's letter.

Trump agreed to pull U.S. forces out of northeastern Syria in an Oct. 6 phone call with Erdogan, effectively giving Turkey's president the green light to invade Syria and push out or kill America's Kurdish allies. In a contentious White House meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, shortly after the House overwhelmingly rebuked Trump's decision, Trump had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pass around copies of what he described as a "nasty" letter he had sent Erdogan on Oct. 9, starting with him urging Erdogan, "Let's work out a good deal" that doesn't involve "slaughtering thousands" of Kurds, and ending on the odd note: "Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I will call you later."

Erdogan launched his invasion of Syria Oct. 9, the same day Trump sent his missive. Did he get the letter? Yes, a Turkish presidential source tells BBC Turkish. "President Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it, and put it in the bin," the government official said, or in another translation: "The letter was rejected by Erdogan and thrown into the trash." Apparently, writes BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, "Trump's mixture of threats and locker-room banter infuriated" Erdogan. Peter Weber

September 30, 2019

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney "is on shaky ground in the wake of a bad week for President Trump," CNN reports, largely because he didn't immediately "have a strategy for defending and explaining the contents" of a reconstructed transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tried his hand Sunday with the White House's subsequent talking points. CNN's Jake Tapper wasn't having it.

Jordan alleged that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin to help out his lawyer son, Hunter Biden, who had recently gotten a seat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma. "That's not what happened," Tapper said, noting repeatedly that Shokin was ousted because he wasn't prosecuting people and the Ukrainian investigations related to Burisma's owner were dormant when Hunter Biden was hired. Shokin "wasn't going after corruption — do you understand what I'm saying?" Tapper asked.

Jordan kept hitting on the younger Biden's reported salary, and Tapper eventually stopped him. "If you want to push a law saying that the children of presidents and vice presidents should not be doing international business deals, I'm all for it," Tapper said. "But you're setting a standard that is not being met right now." He gave examples from Trump's children.

"I'm just telling you what happened," Jordan said. "No, you're not," Tapper said. "It's amazing the gymnastics you'll go through to defend what —" Jordan began, and Tapper brought up accusations from Ohio State wresters that Jordan turned a blind eye to sexual abuse by the team doctor: "Sir, it's not gymnastics — it's facts! And I would think somebody who's been accused of things in the last year and two would be more sensitive about throwing out wild allegations against people."

"I understand you want to change the subject," Tapper said, after Jordan began jumping down 2016 rabbit holes, "but the president was pushing the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival. I cannot believe that that is okay with you."

If you are interested in the Hunter Biden story, a former New York Times reporter runs down at The Intercept how Trump, Giuliani, and "the right-wing spin machine" inverted his 2015 reporting on the Bidens, and The Washington Post has a longer look at the Bidens in Ukraine and this helpful explainer. Peter Weber

September 27, 2019

Mother didn't like this.

Vice President Mike Pence is pretty darn close with his wife Karen Pence, the woman he reportedly calls "mother" and refuses to meet other women alone without. But when Pence buddied up with President Trump, whom Karen Pence reportedly despised, her displeasure culminated in the ultimate diss on Election Night 2016, Tom LoBianco reports in his forthcoming book Piety and Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House.

It's been reported before that Karen Pence was not thrilled with her husband joining Trump on the campaign trail. Things got even worse with Trump's Access Hollywood scandal, with Karen Pence reportedly telling her husband that she wouldn't appear in public anymore if he continued running alongside Trump.

Mike Pence obviously didn't let that threat get to him, but when Trump was eventually elected, Karen Pence reportedly still wasn't happy. "You got what you wanted, Mike," she reportedly told him that November night. She refused to kiss him, and said "leave me alone," Peter Baker details in The New York Times' review of LoBianco's book. Read more of LoBianco's reporting here. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 27, 2019

President Trump never quite fit in in his hometown of New York City. But in Los Angeles, especially before his time on The Apprentice, it was even worse. Here are five remarks and recollections from Hollywood insiders documenting Trump's unorthodox time in show business, as reported by Los Angeles Magazine.

1. Trump spent a lot of time running beauty pageants, but as Susan Winston, the producer of nine of them, put it, "No one cared about Donald Trump in Hollywood. ... There were people in Hollywood who had much more power, much more money."

2. A lot of Winston's negativity stems from how, as she put it, Trump would "show up on the day of the pageant" and, despite playing no role in its production, demand he "was seen on camera three times." Winston retaliated by making Trump shake her hand even though she "knew he didn't like to touch people," she said.

3. Jeff Klein, who owns the celebrity hot spot Tower Bar, recalled how Trump would march in with then film producer, now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and "demand a prominent table, the one everyone can see as you come in." "It's not where real movie stars sit," Klein added, but said Trump would say hello to everyone who walked in anyway.

4. Klein also hit Trump with this zinger about his show business aspirations: "I don't think [Trump] could have been a mogul. Hollywood is like high school — they would have made fun of him."

5. Trump can't say the word "film," which seems like a hindrance to a life in Hollywood in itself. "He says 'fill-im.' He said, 'I can't say that word. I just can't say it. It doesn't come out," former Apprentice producer Jonathan Braun recalled.

Read more about Trump's Hollywood days at Los Angeles Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 8, 2019

Uber just had a really, really, really bad quarter.

On Thursday, the ride hailing company posted both its biggest quarterly loss and its slowest-ever revenue growth. This was Uber's first finance report since it went public in May with a dismal IPO, and is attributing $3.9 of the $5.2 billion loss to all the stock-based compensation it had to pay out to employees when it went public, The New York Times reports.

Uber started sharing its financial data — albeit very little of it — in 2017, and posted an overall loss of $878 million in Q2 of last year. That's about half of the $1.3 billion it lost this quarter when you don't count the stock payments. Still, Uber's adjusted loss turned out to be $656 million, less than the $979.1 analysts predicted, per Bloomberg. The company also did report a revenue jump to $3.1 billion, a 14% gain from a year ago. Its adjusted revenue ended up being below analysts' estimates.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told reporters that he expected 2019 to be a "peak investment year," and that losses would slow in "2020, 2021." But Uber didn't provide any forecasts in its report, or provide noteworthy explanations for staffing cuts it announced this week. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 6, 2019

Reality is knocking for these seven Democratic presidential candidates.

The twenty-something strong 2020 primary field has been desperate for a weeding since it hit double-digit territory, though even candidates who didn't make a single debate stage have so far been reluctant to drop out. If they're looking for a reason to do so, this new Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters might be the answer.

Unsurprisingly, former Vice President Joe Biden retains his top spot in this New Hampshire poll, gathering 21.4% support. Next up is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 16.8%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with 13.6%, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at 8%.

Yet down at the other end of the spectrum, seven Democrats didn't get a single survey respondent to declare they were their top primary choice: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Miramir, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam; Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton; Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan; and former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak. Inslee, Moulton, and Ryan at least got a few people to say they were their second choice for president. Still, a solid 20.8% of respondents said they're undecided on their top 2020 primary pick so far, and another 15.7% are undecided on their second choice, giving these seemingly hopeless candidates a slim chance to turn things around.

The Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll surveyed 500 likely Democratic New Hampshire primary voters from Aug. 1-4, and had a margin of error of 4.4%. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 16, 2019

Attorney George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and one of the most prominent conservative critics of President Trump, said he always viewed Trump as "boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic, and insensitive," but also thought he was an "equal-opportunity bully — in his uniquely crass and crude manner, he'll attack anyone he thinks is critical of him."

In an op-ed published Monday night in The Washington Post, Conway writes that because of Trump's tweets on Sunday, telling four Democratic lawmakers, all women of color, to "go back" where they came from, there is no doubt that "naiveté, resentment, and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear."

Conway's mother came to the U.S. from the Philippines, and while he remembers in the 1970s a woman approached her in a parking lot and said "Go back to your country," this never really bothered him, because "to my mind, most Americans weren't like that. The woman in the parking lot was just a boor, an ignoramus, an aberration." Now, he can see there are more people in the world who share this woman's point of view, and it horrifies him that Trump appears to be one of them.

"Trump is not some random, embittered person in a parking lot — he's the president of the United States," Conway said. "By virtue of his office, he speaks for the country. What's at stake now is more important than judges or tax cuts or regulations or any policy issue of the day. What's at stake are the nation's ideals, its very soul." Read the entire op-ed at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

July 11, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made enemies of a few more Democratic newcomers.

In an interview with The New York Times published Saturday, Pelosi pushed back against Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Ohmar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for their opposition to a largely bipartisan border spending bill, referring to them just "four people." Now, Ocasio-Cortez has suggested there's a racial motivation to Pelosi's words.

Pelosi has often rejected the will of progressive newcomers, and in an interview with The Washington Post published Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez said she "understood" that was "to protect more moderate members." But this "persistent singling out" has become "just outright disrespectful . . . the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color," Ocasio-Cortez added.

Ocasio-Cortez's comment comes after she and her self-described "squad" pushed for amendments to a Republican-led bill that directed emergency funding to the border, received some compromises, and still voted against it. The bill still passed because despite having "their public whatever and their Twitter world," the freshmen representatives are just "four people and that’s how many votes they got," Pelosi told The New York Times. Pelosi also reportedly told a closed-door meeting Wednesday that Democrats can't just "tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay," per the Post.

Yet as Politico Playbook describes it, Pelosi's words weren't meant as an insult. To Pelosi, "if you are one person who controls 20 votes, you're powerful," and everyone else is just a "normal member," Politico writes. Those supposedly offensive comments, as Politico puts it, are simply "a reflection of a reality under which [Pelosi] operates." Kathryn Krawczyk

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