White House claims Trump was 'being sarcastic' when he thanked Putin for expelling American diplomats
The White House on Friday insisted that President Trump wasn't actually being serious when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of American diplomats from Russia. "He was being sarcastic," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Trump extended his gratitude to Putin when pressed by reporters Thursday for a statement on Putin's latest move, a response to U.S. sanctions. "As far as I'm concerned I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump said, noting this will "save a lot of money." Trump also said that there is "no real reason" for the 755 expelled American diplomats "to go back."
Trump's alleged sarcasm didn't go over well in Washington, especially in the midst of the ongoing investigation into Russia's election meddling and the Trump team's potential ties to it. A State Department official said that Trump's comments were "really quite sad," as they underscore the growing sense that Trump "just doesn't get it." A former U.S. ambassador remarked: "For reasons we do not yet know, the president cannot bring himself to criticize Putin." Becca Stanek
President Trump may prefer war heroes who were not captured, as he infamously said of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2015, but McCain apparently prefers presidents who did not avoid serving in Vietnam because of bone spurs — a condition Trump says kept him out of the war after his college deferments ran out. In a C-SPAN interview about the Vietnam War broadcast Sunday night, McCain talked about the strategic failings of Vietnam and the social upheaval it unleashed in the U.S., then pointedly criticized economic disparities in the draft:
One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve. [McCain, on C-SPAN]
— American History TV (@cspanhistory) October 22, 2017
McCain did not mention Trump by name. And "plenty of wealthy Americans avoided being drafted into Vietnam," with bone spurs "a somewhat common reason for such deferments," Aaron Blake notes at The Washington Post. "But it would be a pretty big coincidence for McCain to bring up that particular ailment — especially in light of his regular criticisms of Trump and his clear allusion to Trump's 'half-baked spurious nationalism' in a speech two days before taping this interview."
That speech, delivered Monday night, was actually aimed more at Stephen Bannon than Trump, McCain's coauthor Mark Salter tells The New York Times. But Trump took it personally, responding in a radio interview: "People have to be careful, because at some point, I fight back. ... I'm being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won't be pretty." McCain laughed that off, telling reporters, "I have faced tougher adversaries." Peter Weber
Fidelity Investments dismissed two high-level executives in the past few weeks amid sexual harassment complaints, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post reported Sunday, and the Los Angeles Times and New Orleans Times-Picayune published reports of serial sexual harassment against a Hollywood writer/director and a New Orleans celebrity restaurateur, respectively. The investigations of sexual misconduct in some cases predated the revelations of alleged sexual assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but they were published after a Weinstein-prompted #MeToo campaign in which women shared their harassment stories over social media.
At Fidelity, portfolio manager C. Robert Chow resigned earlier in October after colleagues accused him of making in appropriate sexual comments, and tech fund manager Gavin Baker was fired for allegedly harassing a 26-year-old female employee, the Post reports. Both men worked in Fidelity's stock-picking unit, and after an emergency meeting last week, Fidelity reportedly hired an outside consultant to audit behavior in the powerful division.
At least 38 women, meanwhile, told the Los Angeles Times that director James Toback had sexually harassed them, usually involving some form of aggressive masturbation. Toback has been making movies since 1974 and got an Oscar nomination for his Bugsy screenplay, but since he wasn't a household name, "Toback always kept his credentials handy when he introduced himself to women" around Manhattan, typically saying he could advance their careers, writes Glenn Whipp at the L.A. Times.
Twenty-four women told The Times-Picayune, meanwhile, that they were victims of sexual harassment at restaurants tied to celebrity chef and restaurateur John Besh. One women filed a federal employment discrimination complaint saying Besh himself coerced her into a sexual relations — he said it was consensual. The women collectively "described a company where several male coworkers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance, and — in a few cases — tried to leverage positions of authority for sex," The Times-Picayune says. Peter Weber
The first half of President Trump's two-part interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo aired Sunday and saw the president suggesting the difficulty he has had in repealing and replacing ObamaCare will somehow make major tax law revisions happen more smoothly.
"I do believe we have the votes for health care at the appropriate time," Trump said, "and I think we're going to have the votes for taxes, and I will say the fact that health care is so difficult, I think, makes the taxes easier." He did not explain why delays on health-care reform would make taxes easier other than to add that "Republicans want to get it done, and it's a tremendous tax cut." There is, at present, no completed tax reform bill.
Later in the conversation, in an exchange that came under scrutiny as soon as an advance transcript of the interview was available, Trump described himself as "representing rich people" in the tax reform process:
This is an exchange between Donald Trump and Maria Bartiromo on tax cuts for upper earners. pic.twitter.com/qJDC1a4jz3
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 20, 2017
The second half of the interview will air Monday. In the meantime; you can read a full transcript here, check out The Week's selection of Trump's seven most noteworthy comments about his own social media habits; or watch today's segment below. Bonnie Kristian
Actor Tom Hanks weighed in Saturday night on President Trump's allegedly insensitive condolence call to the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger earlier this month.
"I'm only knowing what I read in the newspapers and what have you, and it just seems like it's one of the biggest cock-ups on the planet Earth, if you ask me," Hanks said to CNN. "This is a tragedy of the utmost consequence, and it goes much longer beyond who's going to come out on top of the news story. I think it's very sad."
Hanks was in Washington, D.C., to be honored at the National Archives Foundation gala with the annual "Records of Achievement Award." In a speech at the event, he struck a more positive note. "As we continually move towards a more perfect union, [the U.S. Constitution] might be the only self-correcting, open-ended document anywhere on the planet Earth [that] keeps us going," Hanks said, "that keeps saying that we're going to learn how to do that one thing we've already sort of done. We're going to become better and better and better." Bonnie Kristian
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a resounding victory in Sunday's snap election. His Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition is set to retain its two-thirds supermajority in Japan's lower house of parliament, and Abe is likely to secure a record-setting third term next fall.
With a fresh mandate from voters, Abe is expected to push for changes to Japan's "pacifist" constitution, in which Article 9, drafted by the United States government in the wake of World War II, prohibits the maintenance of armed forces. In practice, the clause has served as a mandate for a strictly defensive military; Abe wants to move toward a more interventionist pose.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for his decision to leave his base in Afghanistan in 2009, said in an exclusive interview published in Britain's Sunday Times that coming home to the United States was as difficult as his years spent as a prisoner of war in Taliban hands.
"At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, 'I'm the guy who's gonna cut your throat,'" he said. "Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who's going to sign the paper that sends me away for life."
Bergdahl's goal in leaving his base was to alert other officers of perceived mismanagement; instead he was kidnapped and held captive for five years until the Obama administration negotiated his release. His homecoming has been marked by vicious political controversy, including attacks from President Trump, who has suggested Bergdahl should be thrown from a plane without a parachute. Bonnie Kristian
McConnell is prepared to schedule a vote on the Senate's bipartisan health-care bill with 60 supporters
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on CNN Sunday he is prepared to call a vote on the bipartisan health-care proposal negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) if President Trump is prepared to sign it.
The proposal has the support of all 48 Senate Democrats plus 12 Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC Sunday. "This is a good compromise," Schumer argued. "It took months to work out. It has a majority."
The Murray-Alexander bill would appropriate funds for two years of the insurance subsidies Trump recently ended while loosening some ObamaCare rules, including allowing "insurance companies to sell less comprehensive plans to all customers, not just those under age 29 as is the case under current law."