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On the roster: Papa don’t preach - Trump fumes over senator’s leak of Gorsuch slam - I’ll Tell You What: Weird, dude - Sessions vows to fight ‘rise in crime’ at Justice - Tell Hootie
PAPA DON’T PREACH
The argument from the White House about the ethical tangles surrounding President Trump’s business holdings and personal finances has been essentially this: We won anyway, so get over it.
And there is actually quite a bit to commend that point of view.
If Trump got elected without disclosing his tax returns or promising to divest himself of his business holdings, one can infer some degree of assent on the part of the voting public – but not a grant of permanent immunity.
Trump was also elected with voters knowing about some ghastly things he had said about women before. His election may cover past transgressions, but if he were found to still be making such comments, it would certainly matter.
And so it is with his and his family’s businesses and personal finances.
For two days, top government officials, as well as the president himself, have been waging war against a prominent U.S. retailer for dropping the clothing line of the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka.
Appearing on “FOX & Friends” this morning, top Trump talker Kellyanne Conway urged the president’s supporters to go purchase apparel from Ivanka Trump’s line at the remaining shops where it is available.
This followed a Wednesday tweet from the president denouncing the $13 billion dollar retailer as “terrible!” for dropping his daughter’s line. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer then took the Seattle-based department store chain to task calling its decision “a direct attack” against the president and his policies.
Spicer today said that Conway “has been counseled” on the subject of making product endorsements for the first family, presumably that means counseled on not doing so.
Nordstrom, for its part, says it was a purely business decision based on poor performance of the line over the past year.
Using the power of the presidency to settle a business feud on behalf of the chief executive’s offspring is not exactly public service at its finest. But does it matter?
Trump can certainly say that voters elected him with knowledge that he was a businessman. He cannot say, however, they elected him knowing he would use the power of the government to try to bully his children’s business associates for more favorable dealings.
Ethics experts and at least one former Obama ethics office official said that Conway’s pitch is in violation of federal rules. That probably doesn’t add up to much, since such regulations tend to be toothless.
But Peter Schweizer, whose investigations into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s self-dealing helped deny the family a return trip to the White House, raises the more material issue.
As Schweizer told the WaPo: “They’ve crossed a very, very important bright line, and it’s not good. To encourage Americans to buy goods from companies owned by the first family is totally out of bounds and needs to stop.”
Presidents defending their family members in the face of professional setbacks isn’t anything new.
In 1950, President Harry Truman wrote a letter to Washington Post critic Paul Hume, who had delivered a brutal review of a concert by the president’s daughter, Margaret, who was then an aspiring singer.
“There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is to end the song,” Hume deadpanned.
Truman, who likened Hume to “a gutter snipe” wrote, “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need to a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
Just think if he’d have had Twitter…
What Truman didn’t do was read his letter on the radio or dispatch Charlie Ross to the microphones to denounce the Post for the crummy review and call it a direct attack on Truman’s policies nor did he have Clark Clifford go tell people to buy tickets to the first daughter’s concerts to show their support for the government.
What Trump and his aides are trying to do for his daughter is perhaps simply a reflection of proper paternal pride expressing itself in improper ways. But, it reinforces what would be a crippling narrative for the new administration: that they are in it for themselves.
One of the points of praise for former Sen. Jay Rockefeller when he first got into West Virginia politics was that he may have been a rich carpetbagger, but he was “too rich to steal.” And the same went for Trump in the minds of many of his supporters. Trump’s wealth, he argued, would allow him to rise above the grubby business of cashing in on the presidency like the Clintons did.
But once Trump took office, having pledged to utterly separate himself from his family business in order to focus on the business of the people it became incumbent upon him to live up to his promise.
Having claimed broad ethical privileges to accommodate his past life as a businessman, Trump must make good on those things he said he would do.
The 2016 election can be said to cover Trump’s life before assuming office, but not after.
THE RULEBOOK: SENSIBLE
“Man is very much a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses will generally have but little influence upon his mind.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 27
TIME OUT: EFFORTING MINDFULNESS IS THE BOTTOM LINE
What’s up with office jargon? Atlantic: “Over time, different industries have developed their own tribal vocabularies. Some of today’s most popular buzzwords were created by academics who believed that work should satisfy one’s soul; others were coined by consultants who sold the idea that happy workers are effective workers. The Wall Street lingo of the 1980s all comes back to ‘the bottom line,’ while the techie terms of today suggest that humans are creative computers, whose work is measured in ‘capacity’ and ‘bandwidth.’ Corporate jargon may seem meaningless to the extent that it’s best described as ‘bullshit,’ but it actually reveals a lot about how workers think about their lives.”
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TRUMP FUMES OVER SENATOR’S LEAK OF GORSUCH SLAM
Fox News: “President Trump on Thursday struck back at Sen. Richard Blumenthal a day after the Connecticut Democrat leaked alleged details of a conversation he had with Trump’s Supreme Court pick. Blumenthal on Wednesday told reporters that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said previous comments made by Trump about a federal judge were ‘demoralizing’ and ‘disheartening.’ ‘Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?’ Trump tweeted. He later added: ‘Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!’ The supposed comments from Gorsuch to Blumenthal came in response to Trump’s tweet calling a federal judge a ‘so-called judge.’ …But White House sources told Fox News that, while Gorsuch had indeed used the words ‘disheartening’ and ‘demoralizing’ during his meeting with Blumenthal, he was not specifically talking about Trump's public spat with the federal judge, and was instead speaking in generalities about attacks on the judiciary.”
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: WEIRD, DUDE
Political news is so 2016. Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt talk euthanasia, loungewear and, of course, food plus some “barelegged bacon cooking.” Oh, and some chatter about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recent dustup on the Senate floor, just for good measure. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE.
TRUMP ON DEFENSE OVER DEADLY YEMEN RAID
The Hill: “President Trump on Thursday morning tore into Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Twitter, saying McCain’s concerns with a raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL ‘emboldens the enemy.’ ‘Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy!’ Trump tweeted. ‘He's been losing so … long he doesn't know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in — bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero… Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!’ he added. The White House has sharply criticized McCain since the senator on Tuesday called the Yemen raid a ‘failure’ after a classified briefing…White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday described the raid as a ‘huge success’ and said any criticism of the raid was a ‘disservice’ to [Chief Petty Officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens.].”
SESSIONS VOWS TO FIGHT ‘RISE IN CRIME’ AT JUSTICE
WashEx: “Former Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn in by President Trump as the nation's new attorney general on Thursday morning, and said in brief remarks that he's ready to tackle a surge in crime across the country as attorney general of the United States. Sessions said he worries that the recent spike in crime is a ‘dangerous, permanent trend.’ Sessions added that as leader of the Justice Department, he will ‘deploy the talents and abilities [of the agency] in the most effective way possible to confront this rise in crime.’ Flanked by the president, Sessions also spoke of the need to combat terrorism and end ‘lawlessness’ immigration.”
[Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange named to Sessions’ seat through the term ending in 2020.]
Trump issues trio of executive orders on crime, law enforcement deaths - Fox News: “President Trump on Thursday signed three executive orders setting up task forces as part of a broader effort to reduce crime – orders Trump said are ‘designed to restore safety in America.’ …The orders establish three Department of Justice task forces to fight drug cartels, reduce violent crime and reduce attacks against police. The White House did not immediately release copies of the orders. Trump said he was seeking ‘to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth.’ The cartel task force would partner the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security.”
UNIONS PRESSURE TRUMP TO DUMP PUZDER
The Hill: “President Trump should withdraw Andrew Puzder’s nomination to lead the Labor Department, the AFL-CIO said Thursday in a letter obtained by The Hill. The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor organization, raised concerns about Puzder hiring a housekeeper who was an illegal immigrant — an issue that has also generated criticism of the Trump nominee from the right. The letter was signed by 128 left-leaning organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Communications Workers of America, United Steelworkers (USW), Fight for $15, Good Jobs Nation, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).”
JUDGE’S RULING: WASHINGTON HAD NO STANDING
Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano argues that the case of Washington State suing the federal government should have been immediately dismissed because there was no standing: “Standing means that the plaintiff has alleged and can most likely show that the defendant has caused the plaintiff an injury in fact, distinct from all others not in the case…Hence, it is curious that the plaintiffs in the Seattle case were not people whose entry had been barred by Trump’s order but rather the governments of two states, each claiming to sue in behalf of people and entities resident or about to be resident in them. The court should have dismissed the case as soon as it was filed because of long-standing Supreme Court policy that bars federal litigation alleging harm to another and permits it only for the actual injury or immediate likelihood of injury to the litigant.” More here.
AUDIBLE: PILLOW TALK
Reince Priebus: “We talk a lot, pretty much all day long…And then we communicate at night…”
Steve Bannon: “Until we fall asleep.”
– White House Chief of Staff Priebus and Senior Adviser Bannon in an interview with NY Magazine explaining that they are in fact friends despite the rumors.
Over 600 positions still left to fill in Trump’s administration - AP
Senate votes on procedural step to confirm Price Friday - The Hill
Spicer says he meant Orlando terror attack after citing an unknown Atlanta attack - Daily Beast
Reporters say this is not the Spicer they’re used to dealing with - Vanity Fair
Ryan: Trump’s Russia outreach isn’t “going to work” - PBS
Trump says air traffic control ‘out of whack’ after meeting with airlines - Dallas News
Fiorina confirms ‘certainly looking’ at 2018 Va. Senate run - Politico
GOP pushing for voter ID laws in at least 20 states - AP
Taking a page from GOP Tea Party playbook Dems pump up grassroots efforts on ObamaCare - Fox News
Republican Arizona senators push to break up 9th Circuit Court - Fox News
Hollywood looks like it’s bailing on White House Correspondents Dinner - THR
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I completely give you mad props for taking the time to New Edition in the Audible section. (Who else could get away with that but you?) But to be fair, the song is, ‘Cool It Now,’ and not, ‘Cool It Down.’ But hey, they rhyme, right? Keep on keepin’ on, m’man.” – Troy Sageser, Tulsa, Okla.
[Ed. note: It was close enough for me, but I had better slow, watch out, before I…make further puns about early 1980s R&B.]
“I’m always happy to hear when you are going to appear on one of the nightly shows, and enjoy your podcasts with Dana. And since I live in western PA, your West Virginia references are always welcome. I’ve noticed that the Dems are still sticking to the story that they didn’t get their message out to working class people and that’s why they lost PA, OH, MI and WI. They think their policies are fine. But a big part of their message did actually get through. As the daughter of a 40-year member of Local 12 Sheet Metal Workers, I know what he would have heard if he were still with us…So thousands and thousands of workers did hear the message - and they didn’t like it at all.” – Diane Balcom, Pittsburgh
[Ed. note: Yinz know what you’re talking about! Watching the shift from Democrat to Republican in our little corner of Appalachia has been one of the remarkable political stories of the past generation. My hometown was the birthplace of the Reuther brothers, Walter and Victor, the patron saints of the UAW. Now, it is a bastion of Republicanism. What I am mulling, however, is how much the people changed verses how much the people changed the parties. We may not be able to yet fully appreciate the tectonic shifts we have seen. I think it’s something I will be writing about soon…]
“The [Democratic] leadership has age to it and in need of new young ideas and people. The conundrum is to achieve that end the current leadership has to make an unselfish decision that the greater good of the party is served by turning over power to someone better suited to connect with their base. The longer it takes to make this choice the longer it will take for the Democratic Party to become relevant again.” – Jim Hain, Omaha, Neb.
[Ed. note: One of the best indications of strong leadership is successorship. Great leaders strengthen institutions and develop the talents of subordinates in such a way that their own inevitable departures are not traumatic events. History holds special honor for men like George Washington who voluntarily cede power after using that authority to build durable institutions. I have sympathy for Democrats in that rebuilding after a two-term presidency is bound to be challenging. Democrats struggled in the early Bush years and Republicans were a mess as the beginning of Obama’s term. But my sympathy is limited by the fact that so many of the party’s senior leaders especially in Congress are unwilling to step aside to allow the marketplace of ideas to flourish. The next step for Democrats in that regard is the election for Democratic National Committee chairman later this month.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WA Today: “In what can only described as a dolphin youngsters doing the ‘puff, puff, pass’, West Australian dolphins may be using blowfish - or ‘blowies’ - to get high, scientists have found. Murdoch University researcher Krista Nicholson, who monitors dolphins occupying the Peel-Harvey coastal waters off Mandurah, said there were several records of dolphins interacting with blowfish in estuaries and coastal waters around the world…She said in Australia scientists had seen juveniles mouthing blowies in the Leschenault estuary in WA’s South West and a sub-adult dolphin carrying an inflated blowie for a few hours in the Kimberley…Some scientists think the blowfish toxins may be used recreationally by dolphins…A BBC documentary, Dolphins - Spy in the Pod, filmed dolphins chewing on a blowie and ‘passing the puffer fish around,’ she said…According to the documentary, small doses of the toxin have a narcotic effect and it considered it recreational drug use by dolphins…Many dolphins around the world have been sighted playing with blowfish.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.