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Bannon and Kushner agree to ‘bury the hatchet’ after White House peace talks

Trumps chief of staff Reince Priebus tells the feuding pair to end the palace intrigue after weeks of damaging infighting

White House aides Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner have met and agreed to bury the hatchet over their differences, a senior administration official said, in a bid to stop infighting that has distracted from Donald Trumps message.

Bannon, the presidents chief strategist, and Kushner, an influential adviser and Trumps son-in-law, met on Friday at the request of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus who told them that if they have any policy differences, they should air them internally, the official said.

The development at the presidents Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, came at the end of what has been a relatively smooth week for Trump.

Trump ordered airstrikes against Syrian targets that drew praise in many parts of the world and staged an error-free summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping, complete with his wife, Melania, wearing a red dress to symbolise the Chinese flag.

Priebus message to Bannon and Kushner was to stop with the palace intrigue and focus on the presidents agenda, the official told Reuters.

Both aides left having agreed that it was time to bury the hatchet and move forward, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Four former advisers to the president said Trump is accustomed to chaos in his decades-long career as a real estate developer but that even he has grown weary of the infighting.

Hes got a long fuse for that kind of thing, said one former adviser. I imagine he has gotten tired of this.

The White House dismissed persistent talk that Trump might be on the verge of a staff shakeup. The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the presidents aggressive agenda forward, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

The Trump White House has been a hotbed of palace intrigue since he took office on Jan. 20. But the drama has intensified after the failed effort to get healthcare legislation approved by the House of Representatives and the rocky rollout of an executive order attempting to temporarily ban citizens of six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States.

Bannon, former chief of the conservative news organisation Breitbart News, has been at odds with Kushner and Gary Cohn, the head of the White House national economic council, an administration official and the four former advisers said.

The former Trump advisers said Kushner, husband of Trump daughter Ivanka Trump, is trying to tug the president into a more mainstream position, while Bannon is trying to keep aflame the nationalist fervor that carried Trump to his unexpected election victory in November.

Bannon is getting some of the blame for the administrations early stumbles because, one former adviser said, the president demands results.

In what was viewed as a sign of Bannons declining influence, he was removed from his seat on the national security council this week. Administration officials said this was done at the urging of national security adviser HR McMaster, with whom Bannon had clashed.

Some of the former Trump advisers said Priebus is at fault for not gaining control of the feuding and said Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, would be a candidate to replace him.

Priebus is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and bucked many in his party by putting the weight of the RNC behind Trump when it was clear he would be the partys presidential nominee. Reince is chief of staff, said a source familiar with the issue. Hes not going anywhere.

Republican strategist Charlie Black, who has known Trump for 30 years, said he did not think a shakeup was imminent and that Trumps White House reflects his traditional approach to running his business.

Hes always had a spokes-to-the-wheel management style, said Black. He wants people with differing views among the spokes.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/09/bannon-and-kushner-agree-to-bury-the-hatchet-after-white-house-peace-talks


Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and the Mao factor

Beijing (CNN)When US President Donald Trump greets his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in person for the first time in Florida this week, the two men may find an unlikely historical figure looming large as they attempt to rebalance the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

On the surface, and politics aside, Xi and Trump appear a world apart.
A real estate mogul turned reality television star before winning the White House race in a major upset, Trump relishes the spotlight and combats his political enemies — including the news media — through bouts of insulting tweets shared with his millions of Twitter followers.
    Xi is Communist royalty thanks to his father’s stature as a comrade-in-arms of Mao Zedong, whose ironclad reign over the People’s Republic lasted for nearly three decades until his death.
    The Chinese president rarely strays from jargon-filled scripts and has no presence on any global social media platforms, many of which — including Twitter — are blocked in China by his internet censors.
    Yet, in an ironic twist, some observers say Trump, the world’s ultimate capitalist leader, seems to have adopted the kind of populist language or even tactics that were once hallmarks of Chairman Mao, Communist China’s founding father whose ideology many say Xi has been increasingly embracing.
    “Trump and Mao have a very similar anti-establishment and also anti-intellectual tendency,” said Orville Schell, a leading US scholar on China who has been visiting the country since the Mao era and now heads the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York.
    “They have the same kind of concepts like ‘overturning society,’ the same kind of idea of ‘you can’t have construction without destruction.'”
    Both men also view politics as something extremely personal, yearning to be respected while having little idea how to act respectfully, Schell added.
    “I think Trump, like Mao, has a kind of very visceral antipathy or antagonism toward people who don’t agree with him or cannot be bullied,” he said.
    “He’s very much in the Maoist tradition, bypassing educated people, the media, artists and, in many ways, even bypassing science, resisting any kind of restraint on him.”
    Both He and Schell see a silver lining in Trump’s “Maoist” mentality when it comes to recalibrating US-China relations, which have been strained by China’s stubborn trade surplus over the US and Beijing’s increasingly assertive military stance in territorial disputes with American allies in Asia.
    For too long, they argue, the Communist leadership in Beijing has been taking advantage of successive administrations in Washington — benefiting from an open global trade system advocated by the US, and then using its rising economic might to reinforce an authoritarian political system at home and fund its strategic expansion abroad — all at the expense of American interests.
    “Such an imbalanced relationship is simply terrible,” said He. “Trump may be …illogical or clueless about politics, but he knows that things have to change — and the only way to do so is through unconventional means.”
    “As he turns the world upside down, China must feel nervous.”

    Hands off

    Despite Trump’s fiery attacks on the campaign trail — accusing China of “raping” the US economy and stealing millions of American jobs, among other things — his administration has taken a relatively hands-off approach in dealing with Beijing so far.

    Golf diplomacy won’t cut it with Xi

    Opinion: China won’t buy Trump’s bluster

    Trump’s key diplomatic week

    Tough talk meets hard reality

    Trump has not followed through on campaign promises to label China a “currency manipulator” on day one of his presidency or to impose steep tariffs on all Chinese imports.
    After initially questioning it, he has since endorsed the so-called “one China” policy, which for decades has governed delicate relations between the United States, China and Taiwan — a self-ruling island that Beijing regards as a rebel province that must be reunited with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary.
    One of the few areas that Trump still keeps poking China on seems to be Beijing’s inability or unwillingness to rein in its unruly neighbor North Korea, as the Pyongyang regime continues to defy UN Security Council bans with its missile launches and possibly a new nuclear weapon test.
    Xi has compelling reasons to work with Trump, as the Chinese leader prepares to start his second five-year term as the head of the ruling Communist Party in the fall.
    As he focuses on further consolidating power, Xi may find external distractions like a flare-up in US-China relations undesirable as he, like Trump, tries to address myriad domestic challenges. In Xi’s case, these range from a slowing economy and widening income gap, to persistent political corruption despite his crackdown.
    “All of Trump’s contradictory rhetoric has put China somewhat off balance and that’s not a bad thing,” Schell said.
    “If he plays his cards right, if (US Secretary of State Rex) Tillerson and (US Secretary of Defense James) Mattis play their cards right, they could restore some sort of balance to the relationship — and make it more stable and more functional.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/03/asia/china-us-trump-xi-mao-analysis/index.html


    Aide asks voters to unseat Republican congressman critical of Trump

    White House director of social media called on voters to defeat big liability Justin Amash in new sign of division between the president and the party

    A top aide to Donald Trump has called for a primary challenge to a Republican member of Congress.

    In a tweet on Saturday, Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, called on voters to defeat congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

    Scavino wrote: @realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.

    The libertarian-leaning Amash, who was first elected to the House in 2010, is a member of the hardline Freedom Caucus and has long been critical of Trump.

    The direct intervention by Scavino, who has worked for Trump since caddying for the then-real estate developer as a teenager, is however a new sign of division between Trump and congressional Republicans.

    The president this week used Twitter to criticize members of the Freedom Caucus for their role in blocking the American Health Care Act, the House bill that aimed to replace Barack Obamas healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

    The AHCA was pulled from the House floor shortly before a scheduled vote, due to insufficient support from all corners of the Republican party.

    Many members of the Freedom Caucus thought the bill, which was widely criticised for its likely removal of insurance from millions of Americans, in fact left government with too prominent a role in the provision of healthcare.

    In a reference to rightwing descriptions of supposedly self-serving Washington DC, Amash derided the AHCA as Swampcare.

    In tweets on Thursday, Trump criticized three members of the Freedom Caucus: chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Ral Labrador of Idaho.

    Meadows and Labrador stumped for Trump in 2016, and Labrador was considered for a cabinet post.

    In a tweet of his own on Thursday, the Idaho Republican wrote: Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. Were trying to help u succeed.

    Trump has yet to criticize Amash by name. The maverick Michigan Republican is however used to primary challenges. In 2014, he fended off a self-funding establishment Republican who was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

    However, a competitive primary in Amashs district, which includes the city of Grand Rapids, could have political consequences. Obama won the district in 2008 and Trump ran 8% behind Amash there in 2016.

    Spokesmen for the White House did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Scavinos tweet.

    However, Amash tweeted in response: Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.

    Justin Amash (@justinamash)

    Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers. https://t.co/ALcV59iHXx

    April 1, 2017

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/01/justin-amash-republican-challenge-freedom-caucus-trump-dan-scavino


    How to explain the TrumpRussia controversy without sounding like a liberal conspiracy theorist

    President Donald Trump‘s first 10 weeks in officeyes, it’s only been 10 weekshave been embroiled in scandal, controversy, failed legislative efforts, and sinking poll numbers.

    None of these is more baffling than the ongoing investigations intoRussia’s attempts to sway the 2016 election and potential collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

    Amid an endless barrage of headlines and 24-hour news coverage around Trump, Russia, and its dizzying array of moving parts,Trump’s supporters see an outsider commander-in-chief besieged by a hypocritical political and corporate media establishment hell-bent on destroying the one leader with the guts to shake up the status quo and return America to its elusive greatness. All this Russia talk is a deliberate distraction and an impediment to what really matters: Jobs, security, law, and order.

    Trump’s critics, meanwhile, have watched with growing morbid glee over the possibility that their worst suspicions about America’s 45th president are realthat he’s the dumb, tactless gangster-traitor theythought he was from the beginning.

    On both sides, the temptation to hunker down in partisan bunkers stocked with wild tales of conspiracy is all too real.

    There’s good reason for this unraveling view of reality: The TrumpRussia controversy is very, very weird. Historically weird. And given this weirdness, it’s hard to talk about what’s going on without sounding like you’ve jumped ship for Nonsense Land.

    Here is my attemptand it will probably failto explain what’s happeningwith regards to Team Trump and Russia without diving into speculation, exaggeration, or willy-nilly dot-connecting.

    Russia’s election meddling

    This is where it all begins.

    The U.S. intelligence communityconcluded in a 25-page public report released on Jan. 6 that operatives working for the Russian government attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. The efforts, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), included stealing emails from Democratic National Committee staffers and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, then leaking the emails to WikiLeaks, spamming the internet withanti-Clinton messaging, and engaging in other influence campaigns.

    ODNI’s report found that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved, and the primary goal was to hurt Clinton.

    Trump maintained that the focus on Russia’s election hacking, as it confusingly came to be knownMoscow is not accused ofliterally hacking voting machines, but is instead accused of doing things to influence American voterswas simply part of a political witch-hunt and he consistently downplayed Russia’s efforts.here was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines, Trump said in early January, prior to the release of ODNI’s report.

    The House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are all investigating what happened and who was involved. FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that its investigation includes looking into ties between Trump associates and Russia.

    The White House, meanwhile, maintains that leaks of classified informationnot Russia, which Trump called fake newsis the real story, as the president once put it.

    That’s basically where we’re at as of the beginning of April 2017: Some concrete information about Russia’s efforts to screw with the presidential election, a lot of investigating, and the Trump administration’s efforts to deflect the conversation.

    Trump’s ties to Russia

    President Trump’s connections to Russia date back to 1987, but the president himself is generally at least one step removed from most of the activities people are talking about when they say Trump’s ties to Russia. (Yes, including me right here. See, I’m already failing.) However, no fewer than 14 people in Trump’s administration or inner circle have known connections to Russia, to one degree or another.

    Three former Trump adviserscampaign manager Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynnall resigned due to various improprieties involving Russia and its interests. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice and national security adviser on Trump’s campaign, recused himself from all investigations involving Russia and Trump’s teamon March 2 after reports revealed that he lied during his confirmation hearing about meeting with Russian officials prior to the inauguration. (A former U.S. senator from Alabama, Sessions met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice during the 2016 campaign season.) Other Trump associates linked to various Russian officials or oligarchs include: Son-in-law Jared Kushner, son Donald Jr., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, friend and adviser Roger Stone, former campaign adviser J.D. Gordon, campaign adviser Michael Caputo, Manafort business associate Rick Gates, and Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

    For a detailed overview of how these Trump associates are linked to Russia, check out the Washington Post‘s excellent explainer.

    Trump’s treatment of Russia and Putin

    Amid Russia’s hack of the DNC and Podesta, WikiLeaks publishing their stolen emails, and multiple Trump advisers resigning for Russia-related scandals, Trump maintained a friendly view of Russia and Putin, whomhe’s called both a really, really bad guy and a strong leader. When Putin praised Trump in 2015, Trump said it was a great honor. To see everything Trump has said about Putin and Russia over the past few years, check out CNN’s thorough timelineit’s worth the read.

    Trump has also spoken out repeatedly against the NorthAtlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an international military alliance formed after World War II that Russia’s government opposes. And the Republican Party under Trump changed its official platform during the party’s convention in July 2016 to water down the GOP’s stance on defending Ukraine from Russian aggression.

    When asked to explain why he departed from the GOP’s historically hardline stance on Russia, Trump simply says that it’s better to for the U.S. and Russia to work together than to be enemies.

    The Nunes twist

    Everything up to this point is well-trod territory, and a reasonable person can write off all of the above as the byproduct of a longtime real estate mogul with a knot of international business ties and no prior political experience running for president.

    Enter Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

    Before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees began their investigations, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of having his wires tapped at Trump Tower ahead of Election Dayan explosive allegation of political corruption.To date, neither the White House nor Trump himself offered evidence that this is true. Instead, they called on Congress to investigate.

    Soon after Trump accused Obama of spying on him, the House Intelligence Community began its investigation into Russia’s election meddling. On the first day of the hearing, March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the bureau was investigating Russia’s activitiesand that the investigation includes any links between the Trump campaign and an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

    Two days later, on March 22, Nuneswho, remember, is leading the House Intelligence investigationannounced thatthe intelligence community had incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition, potentially including Trump himself. He said that this was not the wiretap of Trump Tower that the president mentioned, and that he believed the incidental surveillance was obtained legally but that it was not connected to Russia. However, he also mentioned that the names of American citizens, which are usually redacted from surveillance of foreign targets, had been unmasked,meaning they were uncensored for some reason. Why they were unmasked is part of what Nunes wanted to find out.

    Nunes also said, in response to a reporter’s question, that the administration isnt aware of this, so I need to make sure I go over there and tell them what I know. Because it involves them. Nunes later told a Bloomberg reporter that his sources did not work in the White House.

    After the press conference, Nunes went to the White House to do just thatand he did all this without first briefing other members of the House Intelligence Committee.The surveillance of Trump associates and their unmasking would become the issue pushed by the White House as the most important.

    Turns out, Nunes viewed the classified intelligence documents on the White House grounds(likely at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) on the night of March 21, and his unnamed sources, according to the New York Times and Washington Post, were, in fact, White House staffers.

    Nunes’ sources reportedly includeMichael Ellis, a White House attorney who used to work with Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee, andEzra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director of intelligence on the National Security Council (NSC), which serves the president. Ellis is the person who reportedly met with Nunes. Cohen-Watnick, who was brought on by Michael Flynn, is notable becauseNational Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attempted to fire him but Trump wouldn’t allow it afterCohen-Watnick got the support of Kushner and Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon. According to thePost, Cohen is the person who gathered the intelligence materials, which he reportedly discussed with top NSC attorney John Eisenberg.

    This is where things get tough for us non-conspiracy theorists.

    So, let’s just sum up what we know, assuming the relating reports are accurate: Nunes went the White House grounds, got handed classified intelligencecompiled and shared by White House officials, held a press conference about what he found out without telling members of the House Intelligence Committee first, went back to the White House to brief President Trump on what the president’s own staff had revealed to him, and repeatedly lied to reporters about the sources of his information.

    Oh, and right around the time that theTimes andPost unveiled Nunes’ alleged sources on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Flynn would testify before the House, Senate, and FBI if he received immunitya move even Trump believes implies guilt.

    This is where we stand as of Saturday. The House Intelligence Committee investigation has all but fallen apart as critics call for Nunes to recuse himself, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is ongoing, as is the FBI’s. Where this all leads next, well, we’ll just have to watch and see.

    Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/trump-russia-nunes-conspiracy-theory/


    Ivanka Trump to become White House employee instead of informal adviser

    Presidents daughter decides to assume official role as unpaid government employee in attempt to mitigate ethical controversy over administration position

    Following criticism from ethics experts, Ivanka Trump will become an official government employee, working as an unpaid adviser to her father in the White House, alongside her husband.

    Last week the presidents daughter came under fire after announcing she would become an adviser without a specific title, but with an office in the West Wing, a government-issued phone and computer and security clearance to access classified information.

    While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees, she said at the time.

    Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who served as chief ethics lawyer for George W Bush between 2005 and 2007 and has frequently spoken out about the Trump familys various ethical controversies, told the Guardian: She has a West Wing office, she has equipment, she has a White House email address, shes going to be doing policy work. For purposes of the conflict of interest statute, I believe she is a government employee.

    Now Ivanka Trump has responded to such criticism by taking on a formal role.

    She said in a statement: I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees.

    Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told the New York Times, which first reported the news, that Trump had changed her mind because of her commitment to compliance with federal ethics standards and her openness to opposing points of view.

    The Times quoted a spokeswoman for Donald Trump as saying: Ivankas service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously.

    Painter told the Guardian on Wednesday: I think she made the right decision because her lawyers told her what Ive been saying all along … that she is a government employee.

    He added: And I think she understands that and I think she told the White House, Stop screwing around and playing games and let her be an employee.

    Referring to conflict of interest statutes, he said: Im glad they sorted this out, because the last thing we need is the presidents daughter committing a crime that could be a felony.

    The role of billionaire investor Carl Icahn, another of Donald Trumps informal advisers, needed to be similarly formalised, Painter said.

    Several attorneys and government watchdog leaders last week wrote a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn asking him to reconsider his approval of Ivanka Trump serving her father without becoming an official government employee.

    Norman Eisen, who was Barack Obamas ethics counselor, was among those who signed the letter. He said that for a change in what has largely been an ethics disaster, the White House came to their senses. Lets hope it doesnt turn out to be an isolated moment of sanity.

    Fred Wertheimer, president of the government watchdog group Democracy 21 and a co-writer of the letter to McGahn, said he commended Ivanka Trump for formalizing her status. Democracy 21 praises Ms Trump for her decision, which recognizes that it would have been wrong for her to function as a White House employee and not be subject to the same rules that apply to other White House employees, he said in a statement.

    There is no precedent for someone whose father is president to work in the White House, although two presidents Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan had their nieces serve in the role of first lady since Jackson was a widower and Buchanan a bachelor.

    Ivanka Trump has handed control over the day-to-day running of her eponymous clothing business to an executive and its assets are maintained by a trust managed by two of her husbands siblings.

    As part of the trust rules, outlined in the New York Times, Trump can veto any potential business deals for her clothing company that might create a conflict with her political work meaning she will continue to know about any new deals.

    Trumps marriage to her fathers senior adviser, the real estate developer Jared Kushner, poses additional potential problems, because both could benefit financially from each others businesses.

    Kushner was appointed to an additional role this week at the helm of Donald Trumps White House Office of American Innovation, which is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector.

    The same day it was revealed that Kushner would testify before a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in last years election. Kushners offer to appear before the Senate panel stems from his meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US whose contacts with former national security adviser Michael Flynn led to the latters resignation.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/29/ivanka-trump-white-house-government-employee-ethics


    Teed off by Trump? Why protests to move the US Women’s Open miss the mark

    A campaign calling for Julys US Womens Open from Trump National Golf Club to be moved has reached critical mass. But the author, a former LPGA Tour pro, insists that moving the tournament isnt as simple as it seems

    A few years ago, when the United States Golf Association announced that it would hold the US Womens Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, it was business as usual.

    Except no one anticipated that Donald Trump, who built Trump National just 13 years ago, would be president of the United States. Nor did anyone at the USGA forecast that Trumps infamous grab [women] by the pussy tape would make international headlines. And really, how could they?

    When that tape surfaced, people immediately denounced the USGA, asking them to move the US Womens Open to a different course. This led to calls for the Ladies Professional Golf Association to get involved, asking players and the LPGA itself to boycott the US Open and demand a change of venue.

    With the US Womens Open less than four months away, UltraViolet, a US-based womens advocacy group, has gathered over 100,000 signatures for their petition to move the tournament, writing: The USGA and LPGA need to send a clear signal to young golfers, including women, people of color and people with disabilities that it stands for inclusiveness, and move the upcoming US Womens Open from Trump National Golf Course.

    Most recently, UltraViolet held a protest at the LPGA Founders Cup last week, handing out golf balls that said with the imprint, LPGA: Dump Trump.

    So why arent the protests working?

    The protests are futile and heres why: UltraViolet and its protesters seem to be unaware of the fact the USGA and the LPGA are do not function under the same umbrella. Specifically, the LPGA serves a different function than the USGA. The protesters are going after the wrong people.

    Each organization has its own governing body that makes decisions with respect to to the US Womens Open, just because you play on the LPGA does not mean you automatically get into the US Open. For instance, just under 100 players with status on the LPGA are exempt to play in the US Open without having to compete in a sectional qualifier, leaving about 60 spots open for non-LPGA members.

    Those qualifiers are open to any woman or girl who dreams of playing in the US Open, like Lucy Li, who played in the US Open at 11 years old in 2015.

    So targeting the LPGA and its players within the organization is a waste of protesters time. Why target players who may not even qualify for the US Open, or better yet the LPGA who had no decision making power in where the tournament was held?

    In response to the protests, the LPGA released this statement: Regarding the US Womens Open, the USGA not the LPGA owns and operates the event and we are delighted to have so many of our LPGA members qualify to participate each year. When it comes to decisions regarding venue, purse, TV, etc, those are solely made by the USGA.

    So as protesters troll LPGA players online and disrupt LPGA tournaments, what they need to be doing is targeting all female golfers who have signed up for the sectional qualifiers taking place in May and June. In 2015, over 1,800 women signed up to play in the US Open sectionals qualifiers, so it looks like theyll need to enlist more protesters.

    Do the protesters understand how golf tournaments work?

    Perhaps not all of them do. Moving a major championship to a different golf course is not as easy as finding another restaurant to eat at simply because all the tables are reserved. Putting on a major tournament takes time and a lot of people power. This year, almost 2,500 people will have volunteered to help host the US Womens Open. The USGA is a non-profit organization, so their reliance on people who are flying in from all over the world who have made prior arrangements to help the golfers have a great US Open, is crucial.

    Moving a venue would mean losing many of those volunteers, and perhaps having to reimburse them for their plane tickets. It would also mean finding another golf course that meets the standards of holding a major championship. It takes months to prepare a course for a major and involves a lot more than just watering the greens. Play at the host club is limited. Often areas are renovated to host the major at the cost of the club, and getting the putting greens ready takes more dedication and time than outsiders realize.

    Moving the tournament could result in 1) not having enough volunteers and 2) a new venue not up to major championship quality.

    Who would be most affected if sponsors pulled out of US Open?

    While UltraViolet is claiming that theyre doing this for the greater good of women, they would actually hurt women in the process should sponsors pull out of the US Open. The tournament is the largest purse of the year for womens golf, at $5m. For the athletes, the winnings could change their lives.

    Heres why.

    Players on the LPGA dont make a lot of money unless they finish top 40 on the money list for the year. The breakdown of costs to play golf professionally is as follows:

    • Tournament entry fees: $250 to enter an LPGA event x 30 events a year = $7,500 annually
    • Paying a caddie weekly fee: $1,500 x 30 events a year = $45,000 annually
    • Average flights: $700 x 30 events a year = $21,000 annually
    • Hotel: $100 per night for a week-long event x 30 events a year = $21,000
    • Total: $94,500

    This does not include the cost of paying for instructors, trainers, golf course membership fees, food during the week of travel, and also being able to afford to pay your rent or mortgage back home.

    The vast majority of players on the LPGA do not have lucrative sponsorship deals, nor do they have their expenses covered by a team like players in the NBA or NFL. They are independent contractors whose living is based on performance. So if some of these players have a good week at the US Open, it could mean earning enough money to play the following year.

    If sponsors were to boycott the US Open, the women on tour who work extremely hard to earn their way into the tournament would essentially be punished for something they have no power over.

    So the fault is with the protestors then?

    Not at all. Golf most certainly has a long way to go in supporting female players. Ive written about this issue in the past, and I anticipate that I will have to continue writing about it in the future. Male-only golf clubs still exist, women golfers continue to receive barely a fraction of coverage in the media, and female golfers earn just under a third of what their male counterparts make.

    What golf needs to focus on a whole is how to engage women and make sure they are properly represented in positions of power.

    In all honesty, the USGA could have said and done more to decry Trump. The USGA could have said, Hey, we dont like what Donald Trump said in the very least, but we are begrudgingly contractually obligated to hold the US Open at his course, or we will lose millions of dollars and could face a major lawsuit.

    The USGA and the LPGA could have come together and proposed to hold a forum at the US Open to discuss what their future plans for womens golf are to help grow the game with women, to make women feel more included, to help close the pay gap, and to help fight sexist attitudes in the sport.

    Had the USGA and LPGA been more proactive in finding a way to engage people who had concerns with the US Open being held at Trumps course, they could have shown that they are interested in a better future for women overall, rather than releasing standard PR statements that are surface level at best.

    Lastly, what is the dream scenario for the US Womens Open this year?

    The best thing that could happen at this point would be for an ultra-feminist golfer to win the US Open this year, and while accepting her trophy and giving her speech, she says, As a feminist, this is a great moment in my life. And to Donald Trump, despite your attitudes towards women, despite thinking were just objects merely to be ogled and degraded when we dont agree with you, I hope that I can use my platform as a US Open winner to elevate and lift women up, and encourage them to fight the patriarchy.

    Then Donald Trump will no doubt tweet: This so-called golfer is overrated, and on her best day is not even a 7. SAD!

    Nothing would get under Trumps skin more than a woman using her major championship win at his golf course to speak out against him.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/28/us-womens-trump-national-move-protest


    As Jared Kushner ascends White House ladder, Senate Russia inquiry adds scrutiny

    Trumps son-in-law will lead Office of American Innovation to privatize certain government functions, as he agrees to testify in Russia election investigation

    Jared Kushner, Donald Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser, found himself back in the spotlight for better and for worse on Monday.

    As the US president appointed him to a new White House role, it was revealed that Kushner would testify before a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in last years election.

    With Kushner at its helm, Trumps White House Office of American Innovation is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector, it was announced on Monday. The venture, which will bring together a team of former executives to privatize certain government functions, will follow through on the presidents business-minded approach to running the country.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/jared-kushner-white-house-office-trump-russia


    Eric Trump says he will keep father updated on business despite ‘pact’

    Middle son says he is deadly serious about fathers separation from business before saying president will get updates probably quarterly

    Eric Trump has said he will give his father quarterly updates on the familys businesses which the president has refused to divest from in spite of the sons promises to separate the private companies from their fathers public office.

    In an interview with Forbes magazine, Donald Trumps middle son at first said the family honored kind of a steadfast pact we made not to mix business interests with public ones.

    There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise, he said. I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us.

    But he went on to say that he would keep the president abreast of the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, thats about it.

    He said those reports would be probably quarterly.

    My father and I are very close, he added. I talk to him a lot. Were pretty inseparable.

    Since their father handed day-to-day management of the Trump Organization to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr, the family has insisted they do not discuss the business with president. Ethics attorneys of both parties and the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics have called the arrangement a failure to prevent potential conflicts of interest for instance, Trump hotels selling rooms to foreign diplomats.

    Eric Trumps statement alarmed ethics experts, including Lisa Gilbert, a director at the not-for-profit watchdog Public Citizen. It confirms our worst assumptions about the lack of separation between his business and current office, she said. Theres no way to reconcile quarterly updates from your son.

    Gilbert said there were signs that the Trump family was already profiting from the presidency, including increased business at his golf clubs. His south Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, doubled its entrance fee to $200,000 in January, and in February the first lady, Melania Trump, filed court documents arguing that the White House was an opportunity to develop multimillion-dollar business relationships.

    Its not a single thing, Gilbert said. Their businesses are doing better because there is more cachet around them.

    The watchdog released a report this week analyzing the first two months of the Trump presidency. It concluded that Trump had broken several promises to isolate himself from the business, that his White House was clouded by corruption and conflicts, and that he had surrounded himself with the same major donors and Wall Street executives he claimed he would fight if elected.

    A Washington DC wine bar sued Trump and his new hotel this month, alleging that his ownership provides an illegal competitive advantage. The president still holds direct ties to his businesses, DC liquor board documents show, as the sole beneficiary of a revocable trust.

    The White House and Department of Homeland Security have declined to answer questions about whether taxpayer dollars have profited the Trump family, for instance through Secret Service rental payments to Trump properties.

    Eric Trump and his father the president are doing what we thought they would do all along, said Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics attorney for George W Bush. This of course makes no difference for conflict of interest purposes because it is his ownership of the businesses that creates conflicts of interest, regardless of who manages them.

    Painter added that Trumps remarks show that the businesses is an important concern for the president.

    Gilbert compared the arrangement to other possible conflicts in the White House. Trump has appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser, despite anti-nepotism laws, and the presidents daughter, Ivanka, has acquired a security clearance and an office in the White House, although she has no official role. In November, Trump denied that he had sought security clearances for his children.

    We dont really have a mechanism to enforce the ethics rules, Gilbert said. Its left us without a lot of ground to stand on.

    Like the president, Kushner and his wife have said they will separate themselves from their family businesses, but have only done so partially, if at all. Kushner retains parts of his billionaire familys real estate empire, White House documents show, and Ivanka Trump has so far failed to resign, as promised, from the family business, according to documents acquired by ProPublica.

    Possible conflicts have already arisen for both of the presidents family confidantes: Kushners family is negotiating a $400m deal with a Chinese firm connected to Beijings leadership, and one of Ivanka Trumps brands was promoted, in violation of ethics rules, on national television by another of the presidents advisers.

    In Dallas this month, Donald Jr told Republican fundraisers that he had basically zero contact with his father. His brother, similarly, told Forbes that he tries to minimize fluff calls that you might otherwise have because I understand that time is a resource.

    But he also echoed an earlier boast about the family brand being the hottest it has ever been.

    Were doing great in all of our assets, he said, before arguing that being the family in the White House also entailed great sacrifices for the business, especially when you limit an international business to only domestic properties, when you put hundreds of millions of dollars of cash into a campaign, when you run with very, very tight and strict rules and the things that we do every single day in terms of compliance.

    I dont know, he concluded. You could look at it either way.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/24/eric-trump-business-conflicts-of-interest


    Will Trump be impeached or is it just a liberal fantasy?

    Only two presidents in history have been impeached, but murmurs continue to surround Trump. Heres how the process would work if it would at all

    On 21 July 2007, George W Bush underwent surgery to have five polyps removed after what was described as a routine colonoscopy. The date may have been lost to history, but for the rare invocation at the time of a constitutional amendment laying out how the transfer of power to the vice-president works in cases of presidential disability.

    For 125 minutes as long as it took for Bush to enter and emerge from partial anesthesia, eat breakfast and display possession of his native wit Dick Cheney held all the powers attached to the office of the presidency. (Some wags have suggested that Cheney wielded that authority, unofficially, over a much longer time span.)

    Even before the FBI director announced on Monday that the bureau is investigating possible collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 presidential election, the precise rules for how the powers of the presidency might be transferred or simply rescinded in case of criminality or emergency had become the subject of newfound and intense focus in the United States.

    Whispers about impeachment, the most familiar constitutional procedure for removing a president, began to circulate even before Trump had taken the oath of office. But two months into Trumps presidency, those whispers and the search for any other possible emergency exit have grown into an open conversation that has moved well beyond the realm of a Democratic party daydream. Get ready for impeachment, an influential, 13-term Democratic congresswoman tweeted after the bombshell FBI announcement.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/22/donald-trump-president-impeached-liberals-history-process


    I was sent Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return. We need the rest right now | David Cay Johnston

    Only the full release of his tax records can help shed light on whether Trump is a crook or compromised

    Why do we need to see Donald Trumps tax returns? Thats the number one question asked by critics of the story I broke last week on DCReport.org, after the presidents 2005 tax return summary pages showed up on 13 March in the mail at my home in Rochester, New York. Its a question Im happy to answer as a longtime tax reporter, a Trump biographer and a citizen who has known Trump for almost 30 years.

    We need to see years of tax returns from every major-party candidate for president and vice-president because, as Richard Nixon said during Watergate, people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Nixon, it turned out, was a crook. While he was not indicted, his tax lawyer went to prison.

    Among major-party candidates and presidents since then, only Trump has refused to release any tax information. The obvious question is: what is he hiding?

    Plenty.

    Without his complete tax returns since the 1970s, we have no way of knowing whether he is a crook or compromised by his extensive dealings with Russian oligarchs; with authoritarian regimes in Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Turkey; or by massive loans from a bank owned by the Chinese government and the Trump Tower space rented by its largest tenant, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China.

    We do know from court records that Trump was embroiled in a sales tax scandal. He was named as one of the celebrities who bought items at the Bulgari jewellery store in Manhattan without the necessary taxes being paid. Ed Koch, when he was mayor of New York, suggested those involved should have served 15 days behind bars for this. Yet then, as now, Trump was bullish in his own defence. His spokesman said Trump was never part of the scam and only made bona fide purchases.

    The Form 1040 I received tells us how much Trump made and how much tax he paid but not his sources of income, the interest he has paid, the depreciated values of his real-estate assets and many other details. But from his complete returns I and others could determine his sources of income and payments to banks and consultants, and calculate the value of his real estate.

    Imagine if, as president, Trump gets financially squeezed as he was in 1990, when he had a negative net worth, and in 2008, when he claimed he could not repay a $40m debt. What leverage could Bank of China, to which Trump owes many millions of dollars, bring to bear?

    It is owned by a communist government in Beijing. On the other hand, what if they forgave Trump debts to seek favourable foreign policy and military objectives?

    During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said he would release his returns once the audits were complete. After assuming office he said he had no intention of ever making them public, despite mounting questions about his relationships with Russian oligarchs, involving at least one wildly lucrative deal at a time when he said the entire US real estate market was in collapse.

    That same year, Trump sold a Florida estate he bought for less than $41m four years earlier to an oligarch for $95m (plus commission). Today the land sits vacant, the mansion bulldozed. According to Reuters, Russians have invested more than $100m in other Trump buildings. These are matters of public record, cited in my book The Making of Donald Trump. By his own account, Trump has had extensive dealings with Russian oligarchs over 30 years, so we should know more about their relationship.

    A 2007 document Trump authorized what an active lawsuit says was a quarter-billion-dollar tax fraud that involved one of the oligarchs. The deal allowed a refinancing in which the profits vanished, for tax purposes. Trump and the defendants say it was a routine recapitalisation, and are trying to get the case dismissed in state court. How much did Trump get from it? His tax returns will tell.

    These facts are more than enough to show why we need to know Trumps sources of income, who he is indebted to, who his business partners and associates are and who was paid supposed consulting fees. His tax returns would put a spotlight on this and much more.

    Trump spent years in court fighting to not pay undocumented immigrants their $4 an hour pay. He refused to pay small business vendors over years too, putting many out of business. Lawsuits accuse him of swindling investors from Hawaii to Mexico to Florida. Are these the signs of an honest businessman?

    Now Trump is the president, Americans need to know not only if their president is a crook but whether he is disloyal, can be leveraged by foreign interests or be bribed by them. Thats why we need to see his full tax returns.

    David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter, is the author of The Making of Donald Trump. He is founder and editor of DCReport.org

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/donald-trumps-2005-tax-return-we-need-the-rest-right-now


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