President Trump is known for his snap judgments of people's character (as well as reversing those judgments at random), and he will not stray from his usual way of appointing someone when he is making his pick for the Supreme Court, Axios reports. A White House official involved in the process said Trump's ultimate decision will come down to "who he feels most comfortable with in a personal setting."
Despite aides worrying that Trump's gut instinct might not be the wisest way to pick a nominee, the official added by way of explanation that Trump's decision is "not going to be an analysis of Pennsylvania politics."
Trump is expected to name his pick on Monday, with The Associated Press reporting he has three finalists: judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge. "Aides wouldn't be surprised if he jumped the gun and appeared with his nominee in the next few days," though, Axios reports. Jeva Lange
Trump reportedly defended Putin's annexation of Crimea to the G7 leaders — using Putin's same reasoning
President Trump parroted a line used by Russia to defend its annexation of Crimea when speaking with G7 leaders at a dinner in Quebec, Canada, last week, BuzzFeed News reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by claiming that the people who live in that region are Russian-speakers, and that Moscow has the right to protect its own citizens. Trump allegedly told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian because the people who live there speak Russian, a diplomat who was present told BuzzFeed News, although "it is unclear whether Trump's comments were throwaway remarks said in jest, or whether he was signaling a radical departure from current U.S. foreign policy."
Trump also told reporters that he believes Russia should be readmitted to the G7 group. Russia was kicked out of what was then the G8 after its 2014 territorial aggression, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shut down speculation about Moscow rejoining, saying: "Unfortunately we are not there yet." Jeva Lange
Fox & Friends' Ainsley Earhardt ponders aloud if bombing Syria would possibly bury the Comey news cycle
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but missiles can conveniently distract from a story you don't want out there. That, at least, is the apparent thinking of Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt, who just happened to wonder aloud Friday if bombing Syria "would be a bigger story than [James] Comey's book that is released on Tuesday."
The Republican National Committee has been fighting to discredit "Lyin' Comey" ahead of the release of A Higher Loyalty, the former FBI director's account of his brief stint in the Trump administration. It's like the old saying goes: If you can't beat 'em ... bury them under a bigger story. Watch below. Jeva Lange
Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt is just asking if bombing Syria "would be a bigger story that Comey's book that is released on Tuesday." pic.twitter.com/YKCMoWtTUZ
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) April 13, 2018
Trump apparently congratulated Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on winning re-election by 97 percent
Egyptian media reports that President Trump has apparently offered his "sincere congratulations" to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who won re-election Monday with 97 percent of vote:
Trump just called Sisi to express his "sincere congratulations" on the election victory according to Egypt's MENA.
— Eric Knecht (@EricKnecht) April 2, 2018
Egypt is considered "not free" by independent watchdog organization Freedom House, which monitors the state of global democracies. In elections in 2015, the organization observed "low turnout, intimidation, and abuse of state resources." In the recent Egyptian presidential election, The Guardian writes that there were "no public debates" and "Sisi crushed all dissent in his bid to seek a second term in office, with five potential opponents prevented from getting on the ballot." He ultimately faced just one opponent, with Foreign Policy describing the contest as "neither free nor fair."
The U.S. State Department issued a mild statement on the Egyptian elections, noting "reports of constraints on freedoms of expression and association in the run-up to the elections." Trump controversially met with Sisi in Washington, D.C., in April 2017, becoming the first president to welcome the Egyptian leader to the White House in eight years. Trump had also praised Sisi in 2016, claiming that the Egyptian ruler, who came to power in a military coup, "took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it."
Trump similarly called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent re-election. Putin won 75 percent of the vote in an election critics have dismissed as a "charade," The Washington Post reports.
President Trump has been telling friends for months that he loves the drug policies in Asian countries that kill drug traffickers and "would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system," Axios reports. "He says that a lot," one source who has spoken with Trump about drugs at length tells Jonathan Swan at Axios. "He says, 'When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] 'No. Death penalty.'"
A senior administration official tells Axios that Trump "often jokes about killing drug dealers. ... He'll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem. They just kill them.'" But five sources tell Swan that Trump isn't joking, and often "leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty." White House counselor and de facto opioids czar Kellyanne Conway told Swan that Trump is talking about high-volume drug dealers, especially those who traffickers deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl — though that isn't the standard in the Asian countries whose drug policies Trump apparently envies.
In lieu of mandatory execution for drug dealers, Trump will likely back mandatory minimum sentencing legislation for traffickers who sell as little as 2 grams of fentanyl, Conway says, as well as ramped-up anti-drug messaging in schools. Peter Weber
President Trump's in-laws may have benefited from one of his least favorite immigration policies.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Melania Trump's parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, are green card-holders with legal permanent resident status, which they very possibly received through their daughter's sponsorship. The sponsorship policy is known as family reunification — but the president prefers to call it "chain migration."
Under current U.S. immigration law, U.S. citizens can sponsor close relatives like their parents or siblings for green cards. President Trump, however, wants to restrict green card sponsorship to only the spouses and non-adult children of U.S. citizens. "Chain migration," the president recently tweeted, is an "outdated [program] that [hurts] our economic and national security."
Although the Knavses could have been sponsored for permanent residence by an employer, this is "unlikely," the Post reported, given that the first lady's father, 73, and mother, 71, are thought to be retired. Immigration lawyer David Leopold told the Post that sponsorship through Melania Trump, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006, would have been "possibly the only way" to get the Knavses their green cards.
Neither the White House nor a spokesperson for the first lady commented to the Post. An attorney for the first lady and her family confirmed to the Post that the Knavses had obtained permanent legal status, but declined to elaborate on how that status was obtained, citing privacy concerns. Kelly O'Meara Morales
The White House reportedly wants to use the death of Russian mercenaries in Syria as proof of Trump being hard on Russia
President Trump's administration apparently sees political opportunity in the deaths of Russian mercenaries.
Bloomberg Politics reported Wednesday that the White House is thinking about touting the deaths of "scores" of Russian fighters, who were recently killed by U.S.-backed forces in Syria, as proof that the president is, in fact, hard on Russia. The U.S.-backed forces reportedly killed the Russian troops in self-defense in an encounter on Feb. 7, after they were attacked by a "battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars."
However, the attack by the Russians "may have been a rogue operation," Bloomberg reports, and the U.S. apparently believes that this attack was not done with the permission or prior knowledge of the Russian military. It is also "unclear when the White House learned of the attack," Bloomberg notes — all of which could make it difficult to claim the counterattack as proof of the president's tough stance towards Russia. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referenced a vague "incident" in her Tuesday press briefing that was "another way that this president was tough on Russia," but she did not offer details.
The strategy reportedly stems from the fact that the Trump administration is feeling the squeeze to stand up to Russia after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians last week for meddling in the 2016 election. The president has long called the idea of Russian meddling "a hoax" and has been reluctant to criticize Russia. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano claimed Thursday that a well-trained slingshot marksman could stop a shooter with a semiautomatic weapon. During a segment on Fox & Friends the morning after 17 people were killed in a high school shooting in Florida, Napolitano suggested that the U.S. could prevent school shootings by moving towards "the Israeli model" where certain schoolteachers "are armed and quietly trained" to use firearms effectively.
Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt then asked Napolitano to opine on the specific gun used by the Florida suspect: the semiautomatic AR-15. The same weapon was used by the perpetrators of massacres in Las Vegas last year and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, Earhardt pointed out.
"Yes," Napolitano replied. "It's a very powerful weapon." He insisted, however, that "you could stop a person with an [AR-15] with a slingshot if you know to use it." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy replied, "Sure." Watch the exchange below, courtesy of Media Matters. Kelly O'Meara Morales