Trump's decision to use fallen troops 'for his own momentary personal gain' isn't normal, Anderson Cooper says
On Tuesday, President Trump dragged White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's son Robert Kelly, a Marine lieutenant killed in Afghanistan in 2010, into his evolving explanation for why it took him 12 days to acknowledge the deaths of four Green Berets in Niger or contact their families. On Tuesday night's AC360, Anderson Cooper began his analysis with Kelly's documented reluctance to politicize his son's death.
"In everything he said and did not say back then, and everything he's said and done since then, Gen. Kelly has refused to make the shared sacrifice of so many about his own personal loss," Cooper said. "Well, this morning, President Trump took Gen. Kelly's deeply private, searing, and eternal loss and made it about his own momentary personal gain." Trump had suggested that former President Barack Obama had not called Kelly with condolences, a point the White House aggressively pursued with the media.
"President Obama, like Presidents Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan, and others before them honored the fallen in many ways — phone calls, letters, witnessing the caskets coming home, visiting the wounded," Cooper noted. "They did so frequently, often without bringing reporters along. None of them, Republicans and Democrats alike, wanted it to be about themselves, until now." Trump, "in his mind, simply cannon be wrong," he added, suggesting a motive for Trump stooping to this new level. "And that gives him license, it seems, for a lot," including bringing "his chief of staff's profoundest personal loss into the public realm." Watch below. Peter Weber
President Trump surprised White House officials Tuesday morning when he invoked one of Chief of Staff John Kelly's sons, Marine 1st Lt. Robert M. Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, The Washington Post reports. Trump was speaking on Fox News Radio, responding to criticism over his untrue comments Monday that former President Barack Obama never called the families of fallen troops, a comment he walked back when challenged, saying he was "told" Obama didn't call, and "all I can do is ask my generals."
"For the most part, to the best of my knowledge, I think I've called every family of somebody that's died, and it's the hardest call to make," Trump told Fox News Radio on Tuesday. "I mean, you could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? You could ask other people."
White House officials then anonymously told Fox News, NBC News, The Associated Press, and The Washington Post that Obama did not call Kelly, then a Marine general, upon the death of his son. Robert Kelly, 29, was married, and typically the president would call the widow, not the parents, of a fallen service member. Gen. Kelly, who has been very careful that his son's death not be politicized and reportedly recoils at any grieving family being used for political points, did attend a May 2011 breakfast Obama hosted for Gold Star families, and he sat at first lady Michelle Obama's table. Kelly, unusually and without explanation, did not attend a Trump news conference Tuesday afternoon.
About two dozen service members have died during Trump's presidency, and AP found at least a few whose widows or parents said they never got a call or letter from Trump, though they said the military and other White House officials were very warm. Trump called the families of the four solider killed in Niger on Tuesday, after 12 days of silence. Peter Weber
Congressional Democrats are not supporting efforts to fund President Trump's much-promised wall along the southern border, a White House representative said Tuesday, purely out of petty, political malice.
"Many Democrats, don't forget, many Democrats in 2006 voted for the Secure Fence Act," Marc Short, Trump's director of legislative affairs, argued on Fox News. "But now they don't want to fund it for political reasons," he continued. "They don't want the president to have a win." Short said that because the wall is key to national security, funding "will happen at the end of the year."
Trump's border wall is supposed to be see-through, up to 55 feet high, and possessed of a "big, beautiful door." Its price tag — depending on what features are included and, at this stage, whose estimate you use — would be in the tens of billions of dollars. The 2006 bill Short mentioned is part of the reason much of the border is already fenced. The places without a barrier tend to have mountainous terrain and extreme heat that together make both wall construction and illicit border crossings very difficult. Bonnie Kristian
Pope Francis leveled an oblique criticism at President Trump while speaking Monday at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization offices in Rome. The pope addressed the Paris Agreement, the 2016 climate accord from which Trump withdrew the United States in June.
"We see consequences of climate change every day," the pope said, and "thanks to scientific knowledge, we know how we have to confront the problem and the international community has also worked out the legal methods, such as the Paris accord, which sadly, some have abandoned."
"We can't be satisfied by saying 'someone else will do it,'" Francis added, condemning the "negligence toward the delicate equilibria of ecosystems, the presumption of manipulating and controlling the limited resources of the planet, and the greed for profit" of those who reject policy measures, like the Paris deal, to address man-made climate change.
The withdrawal process Trump initiated is scheduled to be completed one day after the 2020 election. Bonnie Kristian
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) continued his critique of President Trump in a Washington Post interview published Friday evening, this time targeting the president's tweets undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his diplomatic efforts pertaining to North Korea:
[A]s Corker sees it, the biggest problem is that Trump is neutering his own chief diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and thereby inviting "binary" situations in which the United States will have to choose between war and a North Korea or Iran capable of threatening the United States with nuclear weapons.
"You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice," Corker told me in a phone interview Friday. "The tweets — yes, you raise tension in the region [and] it's very irresponsible. But it's the first part" — the "castration" of Tillerson — "that I am most exercised about." [The Washington Post]
Corker praised Trump during the 2016 election and sought a position within his administration. Since Trump took office, however, he has grown reproachful of the president, calling him childish, incompetent, and dangerous. The castration comments mark the latest escalation in the Trump-Corker war of words since since the president attacked the senator on Twitter last weekend.
A worrying Vanity Fair report claims President Trump is increasingly "unstable" and "unraveling," with even his closest advisers expressing concern that the president might not make it a full term. In addition to Trump's unrestrained tweet storms and his alleged feuds with his own Cabinet, Trump reportedly vented to his security chief Keith Schiller: "I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!"
Stephen Bannon, Trump's onetime campaign adviser and recently ousted top aide, has reportedly expressed his own doubts about Trump being allowed to continue in the White House much longer: "According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term," Vanity Fair writes.
Chief of Staff John Kelly is additionally scrambling to contain Trump, Vanity Fair reports, and "outside calls to the White House switchboard aren't put through to the Oval Office." While there is not much anyone can do to wrest Trump's phone away from him to keep him off Twitter, insiders are allegedly relieved that the president is staying off air.
The White House offered a different version of the story: "The president's mood is good and his outlook on the agenda is very positive," an official reassured. Read the full report at Vanity Fair. Jeva Lange
Mike Ditka gives cringe-worthy interview claiming 'there has been no oppression in the last 100 years'
NFL Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka dismissed athletes' protests during the national anthem by claiming, "I don't see all the social injustice that some of these people see," during a cringe-worthy interview with Westwood One's Jim Gray on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
"There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of," Ditka, 77, went on. "Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people."
Controversy has surrounded players' decisions to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality since the NFL season began, drawing in even President Trump. Ditka, though, seemed particularly unsympathetic, apparently writing off the entire civil rights movement in his comments Monday.
"I don't know what social injustices [there] have been," Ditka said. "Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. Is everything based on color? I don't see it that way."
He added that if he was still a coach today, he would bench players who knelt during the anthem. "You have an obligation to the game … I don't see a lot of respect for the game. I see respect for their own, individual opinions. Opinions are like noses, we all have one."
But "if you don't respect our country, then you shouldn't be in this country playing football," Ditka concluded. "Go to another country and play football." Listen to the interview below. Jeva Lange
Senate Republicans were flabbergasted on Monday that President Trump would pick a fight with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a crucial vote on tax cuts and other Trump priorities, while the White House argued that Corker forced Trump's Sunday morning Twitter attack by suggesting that Trump's chief of staff, secretary of state, and defense secretary were the only thing standing between the U.S. and "chaos." Later Sunday, Corker explicitly said that Trump needs managing so he doesn't start "World War III."
Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement Monday decrying the "empty rhetoric and baseless attacks" against Trump, while Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that Corker's tweeted counter-punches were "incredibly irresponsible." But inside the White House, Trump's "flashes of fury" have left his aides "scrambling to manage his outbursts," which have "torched bridges all around him," The Washington Post reports, citing "18 White House officials, outside advisers, and other Trump associates."
Trump's tweet-attack on Corker caught staffers by surprise, but the president has reportedly been fuming about Corker's comments and reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a "moron," hurt that he hasn't gotten enough credit for handling three major hurricanes, and frustrated with his Cabinet, the Post reports. He is also isolated and feeling penned in by the stricter Oval Office access controls enforced by Chief of Staff John Kelly:
One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. "I think we are in pressure cooker territory," said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly. [The Washington Post]