April 23, 2018

The temperature reached near 70 degrees in Washington, D.C., on Monday, so Sen. Rand Paul broke out his flip-flops.

The Kentucky Republican had long maintained his opposition to Mike Pompeo, President Trump's nominee for secretary of state, stating repeatedly that he intended to vote against Pompeo because of his hawkish instincts. During Pompeo's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Paul pressed Pompeo over whether Trump's use of military force in Syria without congressional approval was constitutionally sound, and said that Pompeo's view of the war in Afghanistan is at odds with Trump's desire to withdraw from the country.

But on Monday, Paul said that after speaking to Trump and Pompeo, he had "received assurances" that Pompeo does not in fact want to prolong America's presence in Afghanistan. Trump "believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan," Paul wrote on Twitter, and on Monday he "received confirmation that [Pompeo] agrees" with Trump.

For that reason, Paul announced that he would vote to confirm Pompeo after all. With Paul's support, plus the backing of three moderate Senate Democrats, Pompeo seems poised for confirmation by the full Senate later this week. Kimberly Alters

April 23, 2018

James Shaw Jr., 29, acknowledges that if he hadn't disarmed the gunman who murdered four people at a Waffle House in Nashville early Sunday, more people would have died, but he said in a news conference on Sunday that he isn't comfortable with the "hero" label. "On my Instagram and Facebook, everybody's calling me a hero, but I want people to know that I did that completely out of a selfish act, I was completely doing it just to save myself," Shaw said. "Now, me doing that, I did save other people, but I don't want people to think that I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that. ... I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it."

Shaw explained that when he realized somebody was shooting, he ran behind an unlockable swinging door. "He shot through that door; I'm pretty sure he grazed my arm," Shaw said, and "at that time I made up my mind ... that he was going to have to work to kill me. When the gun jammed or whatever happened, I hit him with the swivel door." The gunman, identified by police as Travis Reinking, 29, had the gun pointed down, and Shaw said he grabbed the hot barrel of the AR-15. "When I finally got the gun he was cussing like I was in the wrong," he said. "I grabbed it from him and threw it over the countertop and I just took him with me out the entrance."

Waffle House CEO Walter Ehmer disregarded Shaw's request. "You don't get to meet too many heroes in life," he said, nodding to Shaw. "We are forever in your debt." Shaw's father, James Shaw Sr., had mixed feelings. "I take no pride in him charging a loaded gun," he told The Associated Press. "I do take pride in him helping save the lives of other people." Peter Weber

April 19, 2018
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President Trump entered office believing that his legacy-defining deal would be Middle East peace, but he doesn't talk about that anymore — "the peace deal looks dead and cremated," so "there's very little point," says Jonathan Swan at Axios. Instead, Trump now sees the North Korea situation as his "great man" moment, Swan reports, and "sources close to him say he genuinely believes he — and he alone — can overcome the seemingly intractable disaster on the Korean Peninsula."

Trump "definitely thinks it's a duel of personalities," a source familiar with the president's thinking on North Korea tells Axios. Another added, "He thinks, 'Just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong Un] and I'll figure it out.'" People close to Trump told Swan that Trump viewed his Twitter brinkmanship with Kim as "pretty intentionally calibrated," though one source said, "I'm not sure people thought it was a coherent strategy, and certainly I don't think the Pentagon signed off on it." And Trump's aides are much more skeptical than the president about the chances of success in the Trump-Kim summit, if it happens.

All "great men" probably faced skeptics, too, and personally tackling the North Korea standoff is a high-risk proposition for Trump that promises high rewards, if successful. If not, North Korea is a burgeoning nuclear power. "If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting," Trump said at a press conference Wednesday. Peter Weber

April 16, 2018
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President Trump is slowly moving away from his uncharacteristic docility toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, but in private and on Twitter, he continues to hold out hope for a better relationship — a tension that has occasionally escalated into anger, The Washington Post reports. When Trump's aides briefed him in March on the plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats to protest a Russian nerve attack in Britain, he reportedly told them the U.S. will "match" the number of diplomats expelled by America's European allies. "We're not taking the lead. We're matching."

When Trump learned that France and Germany were only expelling four Russian officials each, "Trump erupted," the Post reports:

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia. His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. number. "I don't care about the total!" the administration official recalled Trump screaming. ... Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. "There were curse words," the official said, "a lot of curse words." [The Washington Post]

Trump was initially reluctant to believe the intelligence that Russia was responsible for the attack, "a fact that some aides attributed to his contrarian personality and tendency to look for deeper conspiracies," the Post said. "To persuade him, his advisers warned that he would get hammered in the press if he was out of step with U.S. allies," and one senior White House official told the Post that Trump asked British Prime Minister on the phone, "Why are you asking me to do this?"

"The United States essentially has three Russia policies," Angela Stent, a professor at Georgetown University, told the Post: "The president's, the executive branch's, and Congress'." Peter Weber

April 13, 2018
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Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said Friday that despite reports that talks between President Trump's legal team and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office have deteriorated in the wake of the FBI raid of Michael Cohen's office earlier this week, it is still imperative that the president sit for questioning. "I don't understand how he would have the moral authority to lead this country if he didn't answer those questions," she said at the Women in the World conference in New York City, as reported by The Associated Press' Steve Peoples.

Yates was fired in early 2017 after she refused to defend Trump's executive order banning travelers from majority Muslim countries.

Prior to the FBI raid on Monday, Trump and Mueller's teams were reportedly finalizing the timing, length, and scope of the interview. "Trump's legal team is now re-evaluating what, if any, interview the President should offer," CNN reported Friday, with one person claiming the president's lawyers considered the raid a "major breach of trust." Trump has aimed to silence multiple reports claiming he has attempted to fire Mueller, or will soon, tweeting Wednesday: "if I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him." Jeva Lange

April 10, 2018

A new interview excerpt of Queen Elizabeth speaking with David Attenborough for ITV shows the pair walking the grounds of Buckingham Palace, their conversation frustrated by the noise of a loud helicopter buzzing overhead. "Why do they always go round and round when you want to talk?" the queen jokes. "Sounds like President Trump — or President Obama."

Whether she meant the presidents themselves or their aircraft is up for interpretation: The Hill reads it as a swipe at Trump's speaking style, with Obama mentioned as an afterthought to avoid political commentary. Politico, however, sees the queen poking fun at the presidents' noisy means of transportation during state visits.

Watch the clip below to reach your own conclusion. Bonnie Kristian

April 5, 2018
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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) needs only one word to describe President Trump's announcement that he's considering imposing an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese products: "Nuts."

Earlier this week, in response to the U.S. hitting China with tariffs on $50 billion in products, Beijing decided to raise import duties on $50 billion in American goods. On Thursday, Trump called this an "unfair retaliation," and announced he was contemplating the additional tariffs. This was all too much for Sasse.

In a statement Thursday night, Sasse said he hopes Trump is "just blowing off steam again, but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts." In justifying the tariffs, Trump has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, and Sasse said that while "China is guilty of many things," Trump has "no actual plan to win" a trade war. "He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire," Sasse continued. "Let's absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this." Catherine Garcia

April 5, 2018

President Trump made a qualitative assessment of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Thursday, appraising him as "definitely the biggest governor." The odd comment followed Trump affectionately calling Justice "Big Jim" multiple times.

Justice is more than six-and-a-half feet tall; Trump is around 6 feet 3 inches. For scale:

Embed from Getty Images

As the Los Angeles Times points out in an article about a 6-foot-11-inch gubernatorial candidate in Oregon in 2010, "Republicans are no strangers to tall leaders, Abraham Lincoln was a lean 6'4" and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee towered at 6'6"." Watch Trump's comments about Justice's size via CSPAN, here. Jeva Lange

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