Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen found it "offensive" to suggest President Trump's administration intended to split up immigrant families, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders thought it was "absolutely ridiculous" to ask whether Trump would step down, and now United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is refuting the notion that the U.N. should concern itself with American poverty.
Haley on Thursday said it was "patently ridiculous" that the U.N. was interested in analyzing poverty in the U.S., writing a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that denounced his suggestion that Trump review a recent U.N. report that blamed poverty on "political will," reports The Hill.
"The Special Rapporteur wasted the U.N.'s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world's worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world," wrote Haley, who withdrew the U.S. from the U.N.'s Human Rights Council on Tuesday. "It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America."
The report, which Haley criticized without evidence as "misleading and politically motivated," concluded that American democracy "is being steadily undermined" by politics that allow poverty and wealth inequality to continue. "With political will, it could readily be eliminated," the report reads. Sanders wanted the Trump administration to work with the U.N. to craft new policies based on the conclusions of the report, but Haley accused the researchers of "purposely [using] misleading facts" to publish a "biased" document. Summer Meza
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced the White House press corps for 20 minutes Monday afternoon to defend the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" border policy and the resulting separation of at least 2,000 children from their parents. Her at times contradictory responses, The Washington Post says, "offered evidence that the administration — and perhaps Nielsen herself — was still struggling to formulate a message to counter critics who have accused the Trump White House of creating a humanitarian disaster."
In fact, inside the administration, Nielsen "is not seen as a supporter" of the policy, Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni report at Politico. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a mentor to Nielsen, urged her not to do Monday's press conference. But Nielsen is under tremendous pressure from President Trump, who blames her for the rise in illegal immigration and drove her to the brink of quitting in a Cabinet meeting berating that "several of those present at the meeting" tell Politico was "the most uncomfortable scene they have witnessed in their professional lives."
At the same time, Kelly "and the president are now seen as barely tolerating one another," Politico reports, throwing in this anecdote:
According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured. While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment — at least this chapter of American history would come to a close. [Politico]
"It wasn't a joke, according to my source," Johnson tweeted, "who said his attitude is let the sh-t hit the fan, make Corey [Lewandowski] chief of staff, instruct Cabinet secretaries to do things that are illegal — so be it." Read the entire article at Politico. Peter Weber
In her first comments on the Trump administration's policy of separating parents from their children at the border, first lady Melania Trump said she "believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN on Sunday that the first lady "hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform."
The Trump administration is arresting every adult found crossing the border illegally and charging them with a federal crime, resulting in their children being taken and placed in government custody. People who are following legal procedure and trying to seek asylum are also being arrested at the border and separated from their children. Catherine Garcia
President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, spent Thursday night and Friday morning calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia to be "suspended," CNN reports. Giuliani's demand was prompted by the Justice Department inspector general's report, released Thursday, which revealed that FBI agent Peter Strzok assured FBI lawyer Lisa Page in a 2016 text message that "we'll stop" Trump from becoming president. Strzok had briefly worked for Mueller, but was removed after other messages to Page surfaced earlier.
The inspector general's report notably said that while Strzok and Page "cast a cloud" over the FBI, there was no evidence that they "directly affected" decisions made in the investigation, contrary to Giuliani's insinuation. Speaking Friday morning on Fox News, Giuliani nevertheless insisted: "Let's take a halt to the Mueller investigation. Let's stop that and get rid of all the agents doing the Mueller investigation." The night before, he'd also urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "redeem themselves" by suspending Mueller. Giuliani additionally said Strzok should be "in jail by the end of next week."
Responding to Giuliani's comments, The New Yorker's John Cassidy notes: "Rather than focusing on [the Justice Department's] conclusion, which runs counter to what Trump has been saying for almost two years, the president's supporters, with Giuliani in the lead, are cherry-picking from the report to try and scuttle the Mueller investigation, which didn't even start until May of 2017, after Trump had fired [former FBI Director James] Comey." Watch Giuliani's appearance on Hannity on Thursday below. Jeva Lange
Giuliani: Rosenstein and Sessions have one day to redeem themselves. Mueller Must Be Suspended Tomorrow. Strzok Must be Imprisoned with a Week. pic.twitter.com/HUNdzsiqmc
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) June 15, 2018
If you give him a chance, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — a former Texas solicitor general and, as his former Harvard Law professors Alan Dershowitz and Lawrence Tribe will attest, a brilliant constitutional law student — will tell you that he has argued before the Supreme Court nine times. According to his campaign site, Cruz "is dedicated to upholding the rule of law and preserving the Constitution." But if you ask him, as The Weekly Standard's Haley Byrd did on Monday, if the president of the United States has the legal right to pardon himself, as Trump claims, Cruz might wait a full, awkward 18 seconds to tell you that "this is not a constitutional issue I've studied, so I will withhold judgment at this point."
Alright, folks. Here's the audio pic.twitter.com/3UhsX3f8Jh
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) June 4, 2018
According to the Nixon Justice Department, the president cannot, in fact, pardon himself — and in fact, if Trump and his lawyers were correct that he can neither be indicted nor barred from pardoning himself even if he committed cold-blooded, politically motivated murder, the president would be above the law, an idea that Cruz would probably not agree with. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters on Monday that if he "were president of the United States and I had a lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer." Still, if we are using former President Richard Nixon as a precedent, nobody really disputes that President Mike Pence could pardon Trump. Peter Weber
In an interview published Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told Breitbart London that he wants to encourage Europe's resurgent right, specifically calling himself a "big fan" of Austria's conservative chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who, Breitbart points out, recently "stood up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel" over Europe's immigration policies. "I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders," Grenell said. "I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left."
Grenell called his new job — he was confirmed by the Senate, 56-42, in April — "an exciting time for me," saying: "I look across the landscape and we've got a lot of work to do but I think the election of Donald Trump has empowered individuals and people to say that they can't just allow the political class to determine before an election takes place, who's going to win and who should run." Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), criticized Grenell's comments, teeing off a summary tweeted by Tom Wright at the Brookings Institution:
When I raised concerns to Grenell about politicizing this post, he personally assured me that once he became Ambassador he would stay out of politics. This interview is awful - Ambassadors aren't supposed to "empower" any political party overseas. https://t.co/i8oOhqEk5k
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 3, 2018
Grenell rejected the criticism of his comments, mostly:
Absurd. I condemn those comments completely. Don’t put words in my mouth. The idea that I’d endorse candidates/parties is ridiculous. I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority - those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump. https://t.co/DjSX4SL3bf
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) June 4, 2018
U.S. diplomats, especially ambassadors, traditionally don't publicly pick sides in the internal politics of the countries where they are stationed, especially in close U.S. allies with healthy democracies. Peter Weber
Critics of President Trump saw Thursday's full pardon of admitted campaign-finance-law violator and conservative provocateur Dinesh D'Souza as yet another signal that Trump will use his pardon power to protect and reward his allies.
"While it is nothing new for a president to use clemency to reward friends and family, there is something unique and darker taking shape," law professor and former federal prosecutor Mark Osler argues at CNN. "Trump seems to be using the pardon power not only for the sodden purpose of helping buddies, but also to hurt those who have opposed him." On Friday morning's New Day, Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton's former press secretary, said Trump is clearly promising "get of our jail free" cards "in order to survive the special counsel probe."
"Traditionally, presidents do controversial pardons near the end of their term," says President Clinton's former press secretary @JoeLockhart. "Trump is using it differently. He understands that in order to survive the special counsel probe, he has to keep his base together" pic.twitter.com/5fp3XbPTot
— New Day (@NewDay) June 1, 2018
But Roger Stone, an ally and longtime confidante of Trump's, said basically the same thing to The Washington Post. "It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III: Indict people for crimes that don't pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen," Stone said. "The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers."
"The constitutional pardon power is a rare and remarkable thing: It gives the president nearly unchecked power to relieve the burdens of a criminal conviction," Osler writes. "It was meant to be a tool of mercy; Alexander Hamilton described it as such in Federalist 74." But Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe explained on New Day that like all presidential powers, it isn't absolute: "Every power of the president is limited by the impeachment clause." Peter Weber
In the midst of comments to reporters about the economy and the status of his on-again, off-again summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Trump described his Thursday trip to meet victims of Texas' Santa Fe High School shooting in incongruously upbeat manner.
"Other than that, the economy is good, stock market's up, lotta jobs, best unemployment we've had in many, many decades, actually," Trump said, "and we're going to Dallas, we're going to Houston, and we're gonna have a little fun today. Thank you very much." The "fun" Texas trip he references is the visit with the grieving families of those who were killed and injured in the school attack.
The president has previously been criticized for appearing inappropriately cheery on somber occasions. While meeting with Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico, he told them to "have a good time" while tossing paper towel rolls. And when visiting Parkland, Florida, shooting victims in the hospital, he posed for photos with a broad grin and a big thumbs up.
Watch Trump's comments in context — not that the context really makes it better — below. Bonnie Kristian
"We are going to Dallas, we are going to Houston. We are going to have a little fun today. Thank you very much," President Trump says as he head to Texas to meet with the families of Santa Fe school shooting victims https://t.co/LJJOcM4YsX pic.twitter.com/2sDFcgdoCX
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 31, 2018