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May 19, 2019

It's well-documented that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) does not get along with President Trump.

The two have feuded for years, and Romney even singled out the president when he said he was "sickened" by the findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into 2016 Russian election interference (though he does not support impeachment). Romney told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday's State of the Union that Trump "has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character." Not very flattering.

But Romney set aside his personal grievances in the very same interview, telling Tapper that the path Trump has chosen to take in regards to trade with China is the right one. Romney said China "has gotten away with murder for years" by skirting around foreign commerce rules and regulations, allowing Beijing to steal technology and intellectual property, all while harming U.S. businesses. So, while Romney said he understands Americans will bear the brunt of the sanctions, he believes it's a crucial sacrifice.

At the same time, Romney made clear that China is the only case where he supports tariffs. He said he thought Trump's recently lifted tariffs on metal imports from Mexico and Canada were a bad idea, and he doesn't support potential taxes on Japanese and European automobile imports. Tim O'Donnell

8:08 p.m.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton turned a private lunch into a roast of President Trump, several attendees told Politico.

Bolton was asked to speak by the conservative think tank Gatestone Institute, with the invitation coming before he resigned (or was fired, depending on who you ask). The lunch, held Wednesday in Manhattan, was attended by billionaire Rebekah Mercer, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, and former Fox News host John Stossel, and Bolton made it clear he thinks Trump's foreign policy is the pits, two attendees said.

He took umbrage at Trump inviting the Taliban to Camp David, saying it sent a "terrible signal" and was "disrespectful" to the victims fo the Sept. 11 attacks, as the Taliban let Osama bin Laden hide out in Afghanistan. He said negotiations with North Korea and Iran were "doomed to fail," and all they are worried about is easing sanctions so they can have a bit of economic relief. Bolton, one attendee told Politico, "ripped Trump, without using his name, several times."

Bolton is a longtime hardliner on Iran, and attendees said he mentioned several times that because Trump did not retaliate against Iran for shooting down an American drone in June, it emboldened Tehran. This, Bolton suggested, could be one of the reasons why Iran allegedly attacked Saudi oil facilities over the weekend. Read more about Bolton's criticisms, and how the audience received them, at Politico. Catherine Garcia

7:18 p.m.

Documents and figures released by the Pentagon show that since August 2017, the U.S. military has spent close to $200,000 on about three dozen separate stays at President Trump's Turnberry resort in Scotland.

The information was provided to the House Oversight Committee. The Pentagon said that on average, from August 2017 to July 2019, the cost of a room at Turnberry for service members was $189. The total amount of expenditures was $124,578.96, plus $59,729.12 in unspecified charges to government travel credit cards, Politico reports.

In a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent Wednesday, Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said that if these numbers are correct, "it appears that U.S. taxpayer funds were used to purchase the equivalent of more than 650 rooms at the Trump Turnberry just since August 2017 — or the equivalent of one room every night for more than one-and-a-half years."

Earlier this month, Politico reported that the committee began investigating in April whether this was a violation of the domestic emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from the federal government that is not a salary. Last week, the Air Force confirmed that since 2015, crews have stayed at Turnberry up to 40 times, and an internal review is now underway. Catherine Garcia

5:43 p.m.

The drone strikes on two of Saudi Arabia's major oil facilities over the weekend have dominated the news cycle in the U.S., but they seemingly haven't altered how European leaders are approaching their continued diplomatic efforts with Iran.

As things stand, The New York Times reports, Europe appears cautious about jumping aboard the blame-Iran bandwagon, even after Saudi Arabia doubled down on its accusations that Tehran, not Yemen's Houthi rebels, were behind the attacks. And there are no signs that Europe's largest powers, such as Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, are reneging on their endeavors to once again get Iran to comply with the terms of the 2015 nuclear pact, which is now in jeopardy.

Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as recently as Tuesday called for a return to the nuclear deal and added that "Germany will always be in favor of de-escalation" even after "tensions in the region rose" last weekend. Germany on Wednesday also extended its ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia, which, while not necessarily related, certainly does not appear to be a call to war with Iran.

The other possible reason Europe has stayed silent so far, aside from evading angering Iran, is that the continent's leaders aren't keen on blindly falling in line with President Trump as Washington seemingly strengthens its stance against Tehran. In fact, the Times reports that Ellie Geranmayeh, a scholar of Iran at the European Council on Foreign relations, said the European powers blame Trump for creating the environment that led to the attacks as much as the Iranians, even if the latter do turn out to be responsible for them. Tim O'Donnell

4:28 p.m.

President Trump was unsurprisingly disappointed by the Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to lightly trim interests rates by another quarter of a percentage point for the second time this year instead of hacking away at them. And he let Chair Jerome Powell know it.

Trump has never been quiet about his desire for the Fed to slash rates to zero or even below, so his criticism is really just more of the same. Powell, for his part, didn't seem any closer to caving to those demands from Trump. "I do not think we'd be looking at using negative rates, I just don't think those will be at the top of our list," Powell told reporters. "If we were to find ourselves at some future date again at the effective lower bound, again not something we were expecting, then I think we would look at using large scale asset purchases and forward guidance."

Wall Street, meanwhile, wasn't too perturbed by the Fed's decision, one way or the other. "There isn't too much new to digest in today's Fed announcement, although it's interesting to see an increasingly divided Fed," Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment at E-Trade Financial, told Bloomberg, referring to the fact that three bank presidents dissented — two wanted to keep rates steady, while a third wanted to bring them down by a half point. The major indexes, while topsy-turvy throughout the day, ended up rebounding by closing time. Tim O'Donnell

3:11 p.m.

President Trump suggested Wednesday he may do "some dastardly things" in response to attacks on Saudi Arabia oil production facilities, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling an "act of war."

Trump spoke after Saudi Arabia doubled down on its claims that Iran is responsible for strikes on its oil production facilities last weekend. In response to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) arguing that Trump's "measured response" to Iran this year has been seen as a "sign of weakness," Trump argued Wednesday his response has actually been a "sign of strength" while asking Graham how "going into the Middle East" worked out.

"It's very easy to attack," Trump said, Bloomberg reports. "...There's plenty of time to do some dastardly things. It's very easy to start, and we'll see what happens."

Trump added that "if we have to do something, we'll do it, without hesitation." This statement came after Trump announced his administration will "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran, although he provided no further details. Asked Wednesday about the options he's considering, Trump would not specify but said "there are many options," including ones that are "a lot less" than "the ultimate option," meaning "war." Brendan Morrow

2:03 p.m.

WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is a simple man. All he wants out of life is to become a trillionaire president of the world who also lives forever. Nothing major.

That's according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal stuffed with bizarre details about the WeWork founder, including that after having previously expressed interest in becoming Israel's prime minister, he reportedly said in a recent conversation that "if he ran for anything, it would be president of the world."

Neumann, who founded the workspace company in 2010, also evidently "hopes to live forever," having invested in a life-extension startup company to make that dream a reality, and he has told numerous people he's aiming to be the world's first trillionaire. He's got quite a long way to go, as Forbes estimates his net worth is currently $2.2 billion. WeWork in 2018 lost $1.6 billion.

Other odd anecdotes in the piece include that Neumann reportedly once left employees "stunned and confused" when he brought out trays of tequila shots and had Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels perform "It's Tricky" immediately after firing 7 percent of the staff, that he once had a private jet recalled by its owner after leaving a cereal box filled with marijuana on it, and that his wife has "ordered multiple employees fired after meeting them for just minutes, telling staff she didn't like their energy."

Neumann didn't comment for the article, but expect to hear plenty more from him as his campaign for world president is presumably launched any day now — or, if his life-extension efforts are successful, anytime within the next several hundred years. Read the full, strange look into Neumann's world at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

1:53 p.m.

Why become your own state when you can join an existing one? That's what David Krucoff is trying to convince Washingtonians who are hoping the nation's capital will land on a path to statehood, DCist reports.

Krucoff announced Tuesday that he's challenging incumbent D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton for her seat, the same week as the first D.C. statehood hearing in the House in more than 25 years. Krucoff is opposed to D.C. statehood in the traditional sense, but he does advocate for the district gaining representation on Capitol Hill — he just wants to join up with neighboring Maryland, instead, in which case the city would transform into Douglas County, retaining its initials in the process.

It's an idea called retrocession, and it's reportedly not particularly popular among residents of the nation's capital or those who live in Maryland. Some statehood advocates view it as an attempt by Republicans to prevent the district, which leans heavily blue, from electing their own senators. Krucoff, however, is running as an independent.

Krucoff isn't expected to be a major threat to Norton. He said his cell phone serves as his campaign headquarters, and he's not even sure he can get the 3,000 signatures needed to get on the November 2020 ballot. But if he goes down, it appears he'll go down fighting. "What's harder?" Krucoff said. "Advocating here where we live or advocating around the country for a position that is clearly game-changing in terms of the make-up of the U.S. Senate? I'm saying, 'Join us, reunion, merger, regionalism, everything to do with working together.'" Read more at DCist. Tim O'Donnell

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