May 16, 2018

Why hoard the drama in Washington when you can engage in a very public fight on foreign soil?

In China earlier this month for trade negotiations, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Peter Navarro got into an expletive-filled fight on a lawn after Mnuchin held a private, solo meeting with his Chinese counterpart, excluding the other U.S. officials, The Daily Beast reports. When Navarro heard about the meeting, he confronted Mnuchin, and they spent several minutes screaming, cursing, and throwing insults, administration officials said.

Navarro and Mnuchin are at odds over trade with China, with Navarro concerned that Mnuchin will talk Trump into a deal that gives up punishing Beijing for stealing U.S. intellectual property, Axios reports. China's top trade negotiator, Liu He, will meet with U.S. officials Thursday in Washington; scheduled to attend are Navarro, Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow. Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m.

President Trump's 2020 reelection bid is attracting a not-too-surprising crowd.

Trump is holding a Tuesday night rally in Orlando that officially launches his 2020 campaign, and hours before it began, thousands of supporters were already out waiting in the rain. Those supporters notably included swaths of white supremacists and believers in the often-destructive QAnon conspiracy, who marched in groups to wait for Trump's arrival.

In the hours before the rally, Trump backers in "Q" merchandise were everywhere. QAnon believers think Trump is discretely overthrowing entrenched government forces, Democrats, and Hollywood elites, and that there's an anonymous high-level government agent who goes by "Q" constantly updating followers on his progress.

Groups of white supremacists calling themselves "Proud Boys" also donned matching polos and marched toward anti-Trump protesters outside the rally, flashing "okay" hand gestures that represent a "W" and a "P" to make "white power." Orlando police stopped them from getting too close to the protesters.

And as The New York Times' Maggie Haberman spotted, one person waiting outside the Trump rally combined both those ideologies into one sign.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board issued a very timely opinion ahead of the campaign launch, saying they haven't decided on a certain 2020 candidate to endorse, but that it certainly won't be Trump. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:24 p.m.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) teamed up from across the aisle on Tuesday to raise concerns over President Trump's decision on Monday to deploy 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East.

The two senators wrote a letter to the president, asking him to clarify several aspects of the decision, including where, specifically, the troops will be deployed, what their mission is, and if they'll be used to apply pressure on Iran. They also asked Trump to relay to them what the "new, specific imminent threat from Iran is."

The senators were joined by a bipartisan group of fellow senators, including Jeff Merkley (D-Or.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in signing the letter. Together, they made clear that Congress has not authorized war with Iran and "no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the government of Iran." The letter concludes with a request for a joint Defense, State, and Intelligence community briefing by the end of June to address the situation. Read the full letter here. Tim O'Donnell

4:28 p.m.

Don't count Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) among those who support reparations.

McConnell was asked about the matter at his weekly news conference on Tuesday, responding that he doesn't think "reparations are a good idea." Among McConnell's reasons were the fact that slavery ended over 150 years ago, no one alive was responsible for it, and it would be too difficult to figure out whom to compensate. He added that the U.S. has already made several efforts to reconcile with its "original sin," including fighting the Civil War, passing civil rights legislation, and electing former President Barack Obama.

A Democratic-led House subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on reparations on Wednesday. Several Democratic presidential candidates have voiced support for reparations. Tim O'Donnell

4:10 p.m.

Katharine Gorka may not be as well-known as her husband Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to President Trump. But that might be about to change.

On Tuesday, Acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders told CNN that Katharine Gorka is slated to become the next Customs and Border Protection press secretary. The job will come after Gorka's time at the Department of Homeland Security, during which critics called her out for quietly cutting funding to anti-hate groups that combated anti-Muslim bias.

Gorka wrote for the far-right outlet Brietbart before securing a job under Trump, implying in several articles that Islam is inherently violent and terroristic, CNN documents. She's since brought that stance to a role as an adviser to the secretary of homeland security and tried "to instill her anti-Islamist philosophy throughout the department," BuzzFeed News reported in August 2017. "She played a significant role in denying CVE grant funding to groups that work to de-radicalize neo-Nazis and other far right extremists and Muslim-American groups," former State Department official Eric Rosland told BuzzFeed News, saying that made her "much more dangerous than Sebastian."

CBP hasn't had a press secretary since March, and Gorka's expected appointment comes as the situation on the southern border grows direr by the day.

Sebastian Gorka, meanwhile, also spent some time writing for Breitbart, and served as a White House national security aide before his ouster in mid-2017. He's since moved on to criticizing gay rat weddings on Twitter. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:09 p.m.

A judge is sanctioning Alex Jones after he ranted against the attorneys in his case and suggested one tried to frame him with child pornography, CNN reports.

Jones is currently being sued by families of Sandy Hook shooting victims over his false claims that the massacre was a hoax, which he later backed down from. On Monday, attorneys representing the families said they found child pornography in files Jones' team turned over to them. Plaintiffs said the pornography had "apparently been sent to Infowars email addresses," and Jones' attorney said that federal prosecutors determined there is "no indication anyone at Infowars knowingly possessed child pornography."

In a Friday broadcast, though, Jones suggested he was being framed and that the Sandy Hook families' attorneys were involved. He also pounded on a photo of one of lawyers in the case.

"You're trying to set me up with child porn," Jones said on the show as he offered a $1 million reward to "put your head on a pike," BuzzFeed News reports. Jones later said he is not accusing the attorneys of trying to frame him. The attorneys gave Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis footage of this broadcast, asking her to review it.

Bellis is now sanctioning Jones, CNN reports, blasting the Infowars host for his "indefensible," "unconscionable," and "possibly criminal behavior," also saying she wasn't "able to see an apology" from him in a followup Saturday broadcast and that she has "no doubt" that he was accusing the attorney of planting the child pornography. The judge has reportedly denied the defense the ability to pursue special motions to dismiss the case, and she awarded the families lawyers attorneys fees and filing fees. One of Jones' attorneys had previously argued his comments were not threatening while admitting they were "certainly inappropriate." Brendan Morrow

3:56 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided to ignore experts' findings and keep Saudi Arabia off a U.S. list of countries that recruit children as soldiers, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Although experts from the State Department recommended including Saudi Arabia the list based off news reports and assessments from human rights organizations which found that a Saudi-led coalition has hired children from Sudan to fight in Yemen's civil war, Pompeo decided to overrule them. The decision sparked immediate criticism, Reuters reports, from human rights activists and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Trump administration has received criticism for prioritizing its own security and economic interests through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, while allegedly overlooking the kingdom's human rights record, and it's likely the latest news will compound that stance.

The argument against including Saudi Arabia on the list was reportedly because it was not clear whether the children recruited from Sudan to fight in Yemen were under the command of Sudanese officers or the Saudi-led coalition. In December, The New York Times reported that Sudanese fighters in Yemen said they took orders from Saudi and United Arab Emirates commanders. The Saudi-led coalition has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused its foes of recruiting children as soldiers. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

2:59 p.m.

As President Trump heads to Florida for the official launch of his 2020 campaign, a new poll shows him trailing several of his potential Democratic opponents in the key state.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by 9 points among Florida voters in a survey released by Quinnipiac on Tuesday, with Biden scoring 50 percent to Trump's 41 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also leads Trump by six points, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) leads him by four points.

Several other potential Democratic contenders were within the margin of error of Trump, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg beating Trump by one percentage point. During the 2016 election, Trump carried Florida by a slim margin of just over one percent.

In this poll, 44 percent of Florida voters said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, with 51 percent disapproving. It's not all bad news for the president, though, as 62 percent of Florida voters said Congress shouldn't begin impeachment proceedings against him, and 54 percent of voters said they're better off financially today than they were in 2016.

This comes after Trump fired three pollsters following reports of poor internal polling, including one reportedly showing Biden beating Trump by seven points in Florida. Biden during an event on Monday predicted he will beat Trump in Florida, also saying he hopes to compete in traditionally-red states like Texas and South Carolina. Still, he cautioned at an event on Tuesday per CNN that "I don't believe the polls right now, guys."

Quinnipiac's poll was conducted from June 12 through June 17 by speaking to 1,279 Florida voters over the phone. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points. Read the full results at Quinnipiac. Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads