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Trump Is 'Obsessed' with Pardons—And Top Aides Are 'Disturbed' by His Deliberation Process: Report

June 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump has clearly become even more enthusiastic about his pardon power in recent weeks.


A White House official told the Washington Post this week that President Donald Trump has recently become “obsessed” with pardons, and he may be preparing to sign at least a dozen in the coming months, according to a new report.

But not everyone at the White House appears to be thrilled with the direction he's taking, as top aides are reportedly “disturbed” by his deliberation process with regard to at least one potential pardon, which was brought to Trump's attention by Kim Kardashian.

Kardashian has advocated on behalf of a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old serving a life sentence for drug possession and money laundering. She met with Trump in the Oval Office last week to discuss the issue.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn are both skeptical about the case for the pardon, according to the Post report — but Trump's mind may already be made up.

Trump reignited debates about pardons last week when he pardoned conservative provocateur Dinesh D'Souza and floated the idea of pardons for Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich. Then, on Monday morning, he said on Twitter that he could even pardon himself if he wanted — though he added that he wouldn't have to. (The practice of a self-pardon had not been tested in the United States, so it remains a debated constitutional proposition.)

Trump has circumvented the traditional Justice Department pardon office procedures in issuing his pardons so thus far. While he maintains the constitutional authority to do this, the purpose of the office is to guard against claims that the pardon power is being used improperly or for political purposes. Many observers and critics fear the president may use pardons to obstruct the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

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Dennis Rodman Could Be a Part of Trump's Negotiations with North Korea: Report

June 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Rodman, who has a relationship with Kim Jong-un, could play the role of a goodwill ambassador, according to the New York Post.


Dennis Rodman, a retired professional basketball player, will be in Singapore on June 12 during President Donald Trump's scheduled summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to the New York Post — and he may even be involved in the negotiations as a “goodwill ambassador.”

“One thing’s for sure the ratings will be huge,” an anonymous source told the Post. “A lot of times in situations that involve complex diplomacy countries like to identify ambassadors of goodwill and whether you agree with it or not Dennis Rodman fits the bill.”

While it is certainly bizarre to have a former basketball player involved in one of the tensest international disputes in decades, the idea is not entirely out of left field. Rodman is known to have a relationship with Kim after he visited North Korea in 2013.

The Post notes that Rodman has said he gave Kim a copy of Trump's book The Art of the Deal in 2017.

The move wouldn't be entirely unprecedented either in terms of American history. Athletes have played role in international relations before, most famously when ping-pong players helped lay the groundwork for President Richard Nixon's overtures to China.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Fox News' Shep Smith Nails How Trump Twists the Truth to Sow Distrust in U.S. Institutions: 'Dangerous to Our Young Republic’

June 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet

“This is not normal in America,” Shep Smith said.


Fox News host Shepard Smith on Tuesday explained how Donald Trump’s attacks on intelligence services and the judicial branch are borne out frustration with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, wondering the president’s behavior is “dangerous to our young republic?”

Smith was speaking with Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge, who reported that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been accused of witness tampering by Mueller. That accusation comes as Trump continues to lash out at NFL players, disinviting Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday from attending an event at the White House.

“So where are we, big picture?” Smith asked, introducing Wall Street Journal associate editor John Bussey. “There's a lot here, there are a lot of lies. There are some that have pleaded guilty to items regarding Russians, there are others who are charged with items regarding Russians, there are others who have, on the record, lied with items regarding Russians. And now all of these investigations and the push backs and the national anthem and the Philadelphia Eagles. This is not normal in America, we’ve not seen this in my lifetime, what is this?”

“It's an argumentative president who today got stood up on a date at the White House so cancelled the date, and did so in a way that diminished the Eagles—essentially accused them of not being patriotic, suggested that they weren't standing for the flag, for the anthem,” Bussey explained. “Regardless of where you are on that issue, it's simply wrong. They did stand for the anthem in their game. But the way of twisting the truth and leaving behind ill feeling, I think is the strategy of the president across the board here.”

“Pressure from the Mueller investigation continues to mount,”  Bussey later said. “This is like a siege engine rolling up to the castle. You imagine him sort of attacking [Jeff] Sessions because of that frustration. You imagine him speaking this way about the Eagles to try to make this a patriotic issue, when it's not a patriotic issue.”

“You can argue just as effectively …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump Appears to Struggle with the Lyrics of 'God Bless America' at his 'Celebration of America' Event

June 5, 2018 in Blogs

By AlterNet

The president just nodded along at the lyric “through the night with the light from above.”


President Donald Trump has been quick to wrap himself in the trappings of patriotism as he denounces the NFL players who protest during the national anthem — and even those that don't — but he often struggles with the basic performance of rituals concerned with revering the flag.

There was that time that First Lady Melania Trump had to nudge him as a reminder to put his hand over his heart at the national anthem. Then there's the well-documented fact that he doesn't seem to know all the lyrics to the national anthem itself, despite his fierce defense of the song.

On Tuesday, Trump had a similar struggle — he appeared not to know the lyrics to “God Bless America” during, of all events, his “Celebration of America” gathering, which replaced his hosting of Super Bowl winners the Philadelphia Eagles. Trump had said he disinvited the team over disagreements about kneeling during the national anthem, even though none of the team's players kneeled in the past season.

While Trump sang along with the choir at first, he seemed to become less confident at the lyric “through the night with the light from above.” So he just nods along instead.

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Sarah Sanders Snaps After CNN's April Ryan Educates Her on Origin of NFL Anthem Protests: ‘I Let You Rudely Interrupt’

June 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet

Sarah Huckabee Sanders sparred with veteran White House reporter April Ryan over the president's NFL fight.


CNN’s April Ryan on Tuesday confronted Sarah Huckabee Sanders over Donald Trump’s mangled interpretation of NFL players kneeling, prompting the White House press secretary to lecture Ryan on her decorum in the press briefing room.

“Is the president aware it's not about disrespecting the flag?” Ryan asked. “I's an underlying issue. There are black and brown soldiers that fight in the military as well who feel that taking a knee, bringing an attention to police-involved shootings, is something that this White House should deal with. Is the president aware that taking the knee is about police-involved shootings?”

“The president has made his position crystal clear and that it's about—” Huckabee Sanders replied, as Ryan protested. “I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague. I'm going to ask that you allow me to finish my answer. I would be happy to answer it if you would stop talking long enough to let me do that.”

“The president has made his position crystal clear on this topic,” Huckabee Sanders repeated. “He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do, something that matters to what makes our country special and unique and what sets us apart. He's not going to waiver on that. He's not going to apologize for it. And, frankly, more than 70 percent of Americans agree with him on that matter. If you go back to what the original intent was, this has been made a political argument of which the president is not going to back down from and he's been clear on it.”

As Sanders tried to move on, Ryan continued to hammer the press secretary.

“April, I've addressed your question, I'm not going to continue to engage with you,” she said.

“Will the president deal with the issue of police-involved shootings?” Ryan asked.

“I'm going to deal with the issue of addressing your colleage's question,” Huckabee Sanders snarked.

Watch the exchange below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Masterpiece Cakeshop Dodge Sets up an Epic Fight for the Next Supreme Court Vacancy

June 5, 2018 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

There were many ways to slice Masterpiece Cakeshop: the
Supreme Court chose an exceedingly narrow cut that leaves all the big
questions for another day. While it’s gratifying that, by a 7-2
vote, the court reversed Colorado’s persecution of Jack
Phillips—the baker who had no problem serving gay people but
wouldn’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding—it did so only on
the basis that the state commission that enforces
antidiscrimination law displayed overt hostility to religion and
treated secular refusals to bake religious messages differently.
That’s an unusual circumstance, and one not typically in play in
these wedding-vendor cases.

Indeed, the petition of a Washington florist who declined to
provide arrangements for a longtime gay client’s wedding, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, is
pending. With Monday’s narrow ruling, the justices can’t simply
send that case back to the state court for reevaluation, because
Monday’s rule of decision is fact-specific rather than announcing
some clarifying principle.

Even if they do (we should learn by Monday), all they could ask
of the Washington Supreme Court is to evaluate whether the state
showed any anti-religious animus in its proceedings against
Barronelle Stutzman. That perfunctory exercise would only buy a few
months until a renewed petition arrived back at the marble
palace.

The food fight over
Masterpiece Cakeshop shows how pivotal the next Supreme Court
vacancy will be.

That’s why this ruling is “narrow,”
effectively a ticket good for this confection only. You’re
simply not going to have too many cases where a government official
will, in a public hearing, liken orthodox Christian (and Jewish and
Muslim) beliefs about marriage to religious justifications for
slavery and the Holocaust. (I’m not exaggerating;
that’s why Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority
opinion, was so upset with Colorado’s lawyer during oral argument.) Cynics may even say the
rule is now that legislators and bureaucrats may indeed punish
those whose views they don’t like, but only if they hide
their motives.

Still, there’s plenty of resonance with Kennedy’s
majority opinion in Obergefell v, Hodges, the case that
struck down laws that didn’t allow same-sex marriage. He
wrote then that “[m]any who deem same-sex marriage to be
wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious
or philosophical premises,” just as he wrote now that
“gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social
outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”

Regardless, all this talk of “animus”—the
flipside to Kennedy’s jurisprudence regarding the right to
“dignity”—ignores the bigger questions that
Masterpiece Cakeshop raised and aren’t going
anywhere. Is a decision not to work a gay wedding no different than
a decision not …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump's Trade Adviser Fails the First Test of a Good Economist

June 5, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Next time someone advocates a new government policy, dear
reader, here’s a simple test to tell whether they are serious or
selling snake oil: are they willing to acknowledge the trade-offs
inherent in their proposal?

That might seem a banal — and low — hurdle to pass.
But it has a remarkable ability to separate wheat from chaff.

Any idea that changes incentives or re-allocates resources is
going to come with costs as well as benefits. So when we are told
that there is either all upside or all downside from a proposal, be
suspicious.

It is highly unlikely that regulations to reduce carbon
emissions are simultaneously good for the environment and for
economic growth, with no downside.

That sound you can hear
is the nineteenth century French economist Frederic Bastiat
spinning in his grave.

It is highly improbable that there are zero possible economic
benefits from Brexit — as the referendum Treasury analysis
insisted — or no potential risks.

Whenever we spend more taxpayer funds on something, families
have less money to spend on themselves and their own needs —
and this has consequences too, all too often neglected.

This week, President Trump’s Trade Council director, Peter
Navarro, would have failed the test.

In an article defending the President’s decision to not
renew exemptions on steel and aluminium tariffs for the EU, Canada
and Mexico, Navarro extolled how existing protectionism had
encouraged a new aluminium mill in Kentucky and restarted
steel-making facilities in Illinois.

Remarkably, he concluded that this was the first step in making
US manufacturing great again.

That sound you can hear is the nineteenth century French
economist Frederic Bastiat spinning in his grave.

“There is only one difference between a bad economist and
a good one,” Bastiat mused. “The bad economist confines
himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into
account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that
must be foreseen.”

What Navarro neglected to mention were the two key downsides
from the protectionist policy: higher costs for US steel consumers,
and other US exporting industries being hit by tariff
retaliation.

Yes, it would be churlish not to admit that protecting domestic
steel and aluminium industries might lead to more investment (at
least in the short-term) in those industries.

But a manufacturing boom? Steel and aluminium are key
intermediate goods in the production process of other
manufacturers. It’s difficult to see how raising the price of
steel, for example, will help the 300m customers and 6.5m workers
in industries which consume it, rather than produce it.

The impact is likely to be higher product prices for consumers
of these goods, or shrinking businesses.

For reference, there are …read more

Source: OP-EDS