donald trump

Iran general: Trump quiet on military ​threat because he ‘realizes our power’


The deputy head of Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) mocked US President Donald Trump Tuesday, saying that his omission of military options in his recent rhetoric threatening to cancel the Iran nuclear deal proves he is scared of engaging the Islamic Republic.

“Unlike the past, the new US president didn’t speak of the military option against Iran because Iran’s power is credible and the enemy has realized and accepted Iran’s power,” said General Hossein Salami, in remarks quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency.

In a much-anticipated White House speech on Friday, Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the accord, but “decertified” his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear control accord reached between Iran and the so-called P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — was signed in 2015 and saw economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for limitations place on it nuclear program to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons. Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposed the deal, saying it did not go far enough to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future.

Outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter Tehran’s “aggression” in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile program.

But unlike his predecessor Barack Obama who said during the negotiations for the 2015 agreement that “all options are on the table,” Trump made no threat of using military force against Iran if they fail to comply.

“Trump’s remarks, which seemed threatening on the surface, admitted emergence of an uncontrollable power,” Salami said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran. “It’s clear that he realizes our power.”

Salami said that Trump’s speech was “US defeats, failure and inability,” according to Fars.

Trump, however did announce targeted sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards, a key instrument of Tehran’s military and foreign policy that the president described as “the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.”

He said he is authorizing the US Treasury Department to “further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates.”

But the US leader backed away from designating the Guards Corps as a terror group, a move that would have triggered a slew of sanctions and almost certain Iranian retribution.

Irani Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that Trump’s speech outlining an aggressive new strategy against Iran violated Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.

The virulent speech contravened three articles of the 2015 deal, Zarif said in televised remarks broadcast late on Saturday.

They include the requirement to implement the accord “in good faith” and for the US to “refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing” sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.


Has Trump Cut a Deal with the CIA and FBI to Keep Concealing Key JFK Assassination Documents?

An unknown number of U.S government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 54 years ago may remain secret after the legal deadline of October 26, the National Archives said Monday.

“While we continue to plan for an online release by the deadline, it is unclear what will be part of the release,” the Archive’s communications staff said in a statement to AlterNet. “Things are in flux.”

The Archive’s statement is the first official acknowledgement that President Trump is considering—or has approved—formal requests from the Central Intelligence Agency and other federal agencies to keep long-secret JFK files out of public view.

Earlier this month, a group of senior congress members challenged the continuing secrecy around the government’s JFK records, some of which are more than 50 years old.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), introduced House and Senate resolutions calling on Trump to order the release of all the government’s JFK files. The resolution urges the president to “reject any claims for the continued postponement” of the records.

The non-binding resolutions, offered by two conservative Republicans, were also endorsed by four veteran liberal Democrats: Sen. Pat Leahy, and Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) and Louise Slaughter (N.Y.).

“I am proud to cosponsor Chairman Grassley’s resolutions calling on the Trump administration to publicly disclose all government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—as required by a 1992 law authored by my good friend, the late Sen. [John] Glenn,” Leahy said in a statement. “The assassination of President Kennedy was one of the most shocking and tragic events in our nation’s history.  Americans have the right to know what our government knows.”

Federal judge John Tunheim, who chaired a civilian board that oversaw the release of four million pages of JFK records in the 1990s, told a Minnesota radio station last week,” it’s time to release everything.”

With the Archives’ plans “in flux,” that time might not yet have come.

Law and Loophole

The JFK Records Act, approved unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in October 1992, requires all government records related to the assassination be made public within 25 years. But one provision of the law exempts from mandatory disclosure any JFK records for which the president certifies that

  • continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations;
  • and the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

So if the Archives staff is uncertain which JFK documents will be released later this month, the agencies have advised the president that release of specific documents would cause “identifiable harm” to U.S. interests that outweigh any interest in public disclosure.

As Politico’s Bryan Bender has explained, the last of the JFK records “may embarass the CIA.”

What Are They Hiding?

Researchers for the Mary Farrell Foundation, which has the largest online repository of JFK assassination records, scraped the National Archives database of JFK records earlier this year. Our keyword analysis, published in Newsweek, yielded new insight into what the government is stlll concealing, including:

  • Approximately 700 pages of secret material from the files of two high-ranking CIA officers, William K. Harvey and David Phillips, who ran assassination operations in the 1960s. Both men were open in their contempt for JFK’s Cuba policy.
  • The records of two undercover officers, Howard Hunt and David Morales, both of whom later made statements to family members that seemed to implicate themselves (and CIA personnel) in the murder of the liberal president in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
  • A transcript of the closed-door testimony of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton to Senate investigators in September 1975. As I document in my forthcoming biography of Angleton, his staff monitored the movements of  accused assassin Lee Oswald from November 1959 through November 1963.

Oswald denied shooting Kennedy; 24 hours later, he was killed in police custody.

The assassination of President Kennedy, one of the most shocking and enigmatic events in American history, remains the subject of continuing popular fascination. The story has generated countless conspiracy theories, most of them easily disproved, while a handful remain quite plausible.

What Have We Learned?

The Archives statment to AlterNet did not identify which agencies are seeking to keep JFK records under wrap or which documents will remain secret.

“In regards to any possible postponement requests, because agency appeals are not public, we cannot share that information,” the Archives statement said.

On Monday, a CIA spokesperson deflected questions about the postponement of the CIA’s JFK records with the same boilerplate statement issued two weeks ago: “CIA continues to engage in the process to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to the any previously unreleased CIA information.”

In July, the National Archives released the first batch of longest-held JFK files, which generated a bumper crop of revelations about the CIA’s role in the JFK story, published in AlterNet, WhoWhatWhy, the Washington Post, and Politico.

As I wrote on AlterNet, four revelations collectively pour cold water on the “KGB did it” conspiracy theory, while raising questions about the “Castro done it” theory. Mostly, the new files illuminated how the CIA resisted investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald and his Cuban connections after JFK was killed.

What Happens Next?

If Trump and White House counsel Donald McGahn have agreed to requests from the CIA and other federal agencies to keep some JFK records secret, they will have to explain why,

The JFK Records Act requires the government to publish “an unclassified written description of the reason for such postponement” in the Federal Register, the daily newspaper of the U.S. government.

The CIA spokesperson did not answer a question about whether the CIA would comply with this provision of the law.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017).

2 Senators Strike Deal on Health Subsidies That Trump Cut Off

WASHINGTON — Two leading senators, hoping to stabilize teetering health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, reached a bipartisan deal on Tuesday to fund critical subsidies to insurers that President Trump moved just days ago to cut off.

At the White House, virtually as the deal was being announced, Mr. Trump voiced support for it while insisting that he would try again to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

The plan by the senators, Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, would fund the subsidies for two years, a step that would provide at least short-term certainty to insurers. The subsidies, known as cost-sharing reduction payments, reimburse insurance companies for lowering deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs for low-income customers.

Without them, insurance companies said, premiums for many customers purchasing plans under the Affordable Care Act would shoot up, and with profits squeezed, some of the companies would probably leave the market.

“In my view, this agreement avoids chaos,” Mr. Alexander said, “and I don’t know a Democrat or a Republican who benefits from chaos.”

Mr. Trump appeared to back the deal, even as he berated insurance companies, declared the Affordable Care Act “virtually dead” and promised the demise of the health law in due time.

“It’ll get us over this intermediate hump,” the president said at a Rose Garden news conference, describing it as “a short-term solution so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period.”

Passage of the deal negotiated by Mr. Alexander and Ms. Murray is still far from assured. If approved, the agreement could provide a reprieve for the Affordable Care Act that would prevent 2018 premiums from increasing as much as they might otherwise have gone up. But consumers in many states will still face double-digit rate increases, and in many counties, health plans will be available from only one insurance company.

Moreover, Mr. Trump and other Republicans are still intent on repealing much of the Affordable Care Act, and an executive order issued last week by Mr. Trump could destabilize markets in 2019 and later years by encouraging sales of health plans that skirt the coverage requirements of the health care law.

“For a period of one year, two years, we will have a very good solution,” Mr. Trump said. “But we’re going to have a great solution, ultimately, for health care.”

Mr. Alexander, the chairman of the Senate health committee, said that in addition to funding the payments to insurers, the deal would also give states “more flexibility in the variety of choices they can give to consumers” — a change that should appeal to Republicans eager to give states more say over health care.

“This takes care of the next two years,” Mr. Alexander said. “After that, we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long-term on health care.”

The agreement bears the hallmarks of bipartisanship. For Republicans, state governments would find it easier to obtain waivers from certain requirements of the Affordable Care Act. But there would be explicit protections for low-income people and people with serious illnesses.

Consumers of any age would be allowed to obtain catastrophic insurance plans that typically have low monthly premiums but high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. Catastrophic plans provide protection against serious illnesses and injuries, but consumers must pay most routine medical expenses themselves.

Under current law, catastrophic plans are available only to people who are under the age of 30 or have received an exemption from the federal coverage requirement because they cannot afford other insurance.

For Democrats, not only would the cost-sharing reductions be brought back, but millions of dollars would be restored for advertising and outreach activities that publicize insurance options available in the health law’s open enrollment period, which starts next month. The Trump administration had slashed that funding.

“We will spend about twice as much or more than President Trump wanted to expend,” Mr. Alexander promised.

Accusing Mr. Trump of taking steps to “sabotage health care in our country,” Ms. Murray said, “I’m really glad that Democrats and Republicans agree it’s unacceptable, and that the uncertainty and dysfunction cannot continue.”

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, hailed the agreement as a model for how the two parties could work together on other issues, such as taxes.

“I don’t expect the Republicans to give up their goal of repealing A.C.A.,” Mr. Schumer said. “But in the meantime, stabilizing the system, preventing chaos and stopping the sabotage is in everybody’s interest.”

The fate of the cost-sharing subsidies has been in doubt since a federal district judge ruled in 2016 that the payments to insurers were unconstitutional, because Congress had never appropriated money for them. Mr. Trump, whose administration has been taking steps to undermine operation of the health law, declared last week that he would stop the payments.

If the cost-sharing payments were cut off and premiums increased, many low-income people would receive more financial assistance, in the form of larger tax credits, to help pay the higher premiums. But many middle-income people who do not receive such assistance would have to bear the additional cost on their own.

A coalition of state attorneys general filed suit on Friday, and Congress immediately came under pressure to take action to ensure that the payments would continue. Doctors, hospitals and insurers, as well as the National Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged lawmakers to provide the funding.

Mr. Alexander said that he spoke with Mr. Trump over the weekend, and that the president encouraged his efforts with Ms. Murray. But it remains to be seen whether conservative-leaning Republicans will get on board with the agreement, and whether the House will accept it.

It is not clear how the agreement might move through Congress. Supporters of funding the subsidies could push to have the deal included in a measure to keep the government open past Dec. 8. Democratic votes will be needed to fund the government, and the health care deal could come to fruition when Democratic leverage is particularly strong.

Some Republicans have already said they do not wish to provide what they describe as a bailout to insurers.

“I think it would be a mistake for Congress to provide billions in bailouts to insurance companies without providing meaningful relief to the millions of Americans who have been hurt by Obamacare,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said Tuesday before the deal was announced.

Mr. Alexander said the agreement would include “the strongest possible language” to guarantee that money provided for cost-sharing payments goes to the benefit of consumers, not insurance companies. “I want that, Senator Murray wants that, the president wants that,” he said.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, gave no indication on Tuesday about when — or whether — the chamber might move ahead with the plan drawn up by Mr. Alexander and Ms. Murray.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, said there would be “a sense of urgency to move a bill,” since Mr. Trump intended to stop the payments right away.

The House is away for a weeklong recess, and a spokesman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin declined to comment.

A leading conservative in the House, Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, immediately declared the deal to be “unacceptable.”

“Obamacare is in a ‘death spiral,’ ” Mr. Walker said. “Anything propping it up is only saving what Republicans promised to dismantle.”

Another leading conservative, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, described the agreement as a “good start,” but said “much more work needs to be done.”

“Most importantly,” he added, “it bears repeating: Republicans cannot allow short-term solutions to become a distraction to repealing and replacing Obamacare — something we’ve promised to do for seven years.”

Trump Channels His Inner Gangster in Latest Threat to John McCain

President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired back at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who on Monday delivered a speech slamming Trump’s brand of “half-baked nationalism.”

Appearing on talk radio station WMAL in Washington DC, Trump was asked about the criticism McCain leveled at him this week, in which he lashed out at “half baked, spurious nationalism” that’s being “cooked up by people who had rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

“People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump told WMAL radio host Chris Plante. “You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

Trump has regularly attacked McCain after the senator was a key vote against the Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this past summer. In addition to McCain, Trump has also regularly picked fights with Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).



Brad Reed is a writer living in Boston. His work has previously appeared in the American Prospect Online, and he blogs frequently at Sadly, No!.

Donald Trump’s Very Own Benghazi Scandal Is Exploding in His Face

Nearly two weeks after an attack on U.S. troops in the West African nation of Niger, President Donald Trump was forced to admit on Monday that he had still not spoken to the families of the soldiers killed in action.

When the final coffin carrying a Green Beret soldier killed after his unit was ambushed earlier this month — one of the four who died in Niger — arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Trump was not there. Nor did he bother to call the soldier’s grieving family. He was playing golf, at a golf course he owns.

There have been 11 American combat fatalities in Afghanistan and 14 in Iraq so far this year, after more than a decade of combat in both countries. But while the Trump administration, and its aides in right-wing media, have pushed a narrative touting a successful war against ISIS, an outgrowth of the terrorist network attacked the Third Special Forces Group and more than 40 Nigerien soldiers on Oct. 4, near the country’s southwestern border with Mali.

The Trump administration’s notable silence after the Oct. 4 ambush has drawn increasing scrutiny. During an impromptu press conference on Monday, the president was finally pressed on his apparent neglect.

The unscheduled press conference in the Rose Garden was the first time the White House has publicly addressed the four Green Berets killed in Niger — 12 days after it happened. In that time, Trump has hit the golf links seven times.

Offering what appeared to be an uncharacteristic awareness of shame and guilt, Trump retreated into his defensive default mode before ultimately backing down a bit. He said he would “at some point during the period of time call the parents.” In explaining the delay, he said, “Now it gets to a point where you know, you make four of five of them in one day, it’s a very, very tough day. For me, that’s by far the toughest.”

When pressed about why he had not spoken out earlier, Trump attempted to shift the blame, as usual, to the president before him. Specifically singling out Barack Obama, Trump falsely claimed that previous presidents hadn’t even bothered to call the families of fallen soldiers.

“So the traditional way — if you look at President Obama and other presidents — most of ’em didn’t make calls, a lot of ’em didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate when I think I’m able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call,” the president told reporters at the White House.

Multiple former staffers for both Obama and George W. Bush quickly rushed to social media to reject this outrageous falsehood.

The president was also challenged to defend his claim by NBC reporter Peter Alexander.

“Earlier you claimed President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers,” Alexander said. “How can you make that claim?”

Without an apology or admitting a mistake, Trump actually appeared to back down.

“I don’t know if he did. No, no, no,” Trump stammered. “I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t, they write letters.”

Too busy playing golf? @BarackObama sends form letters with an electronic signature to the parents of fallen SEALs 

Photo published for Obama Honored Fallen SEALs By Sending Their Parents a Form Letter Signed By Electric Pen

Obama Honored Fallen SEALs By Sending Their Parents a Form Letter Signed By Electric Pen

On August 6, 2011, 30 US service members were killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter they were being transported in crashed in Wardak province, Afghanistan. It was the deadliest single loss for U.S….


He continued to flop around in the mess of his own creation.

“President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes. Maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals,” he added. “Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. Some presidents didn’t do anything. But I like the combination. When I can, I like the combination of a call and also a letter.”

This was an exceedingly rare example of Trump being pressed on one of his lies in real time and forced to back down.

While there is no long-held White House tradition for contacting the families of fallen service members, recent presidents have made many such phone calls and also sent letters to the families of those killed while deployed. Both Obama and former Bush have described how difficult those calls were to make.

Bush reportedly met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action towards the end of this presidency. Obama, meanwhile, made a late-night visit to Dover Air Force base during his first year in office to receive the bodies of fallen soldiers. His White House frequently hosted Gold Star families during the holidays.

Trump merely claimed he had written “personal letters” to the families of the soldiers over the weekend, which would be mailed later on Monday or Tuesday. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week that any suggestion that the administration wasn’t taking the deaths of the soldiers seriously was false. On Monday, she followed up the president’s flippant falsehoods with a statement claiming that Trump was simply “stating a fact.”

The president frequently manages to say something so inflammatory that it serves as an effective deflection, often obstructing the original subject of criticism. His first public comments on the Niger ambush did little to clarify what happened or why U.S. soldiers were in that country to begin with, despite the fact that no military action there has been authorized by Congress as required by the Constitution. He didn’t answer when asked when he might he make the calls to the grieving families.

Exactly which generals are we meant to believe told him that his predecessors couldn’t be bothered to reach out to Gold Star families?

Of course, Trump won’t have to answer such tough questions anytime soon. But the lesson that should be apparent from his bizarre response to criticism is that his lies don’t hold up under face-to-face criticism. Reporters have a responsibility to use every follow-up question as an opportunity to create the real-time fact-checking that’s been missing as this president has blazed new frontiers in political mendacity.


Sophia Tesfaye is the Deputy Politics Editor at Salon.

Trump Is Now Exploiting John Kelly’s Dead Son to Push His Deranged New Lie About Obama

Donald Trump is now exploiting the death of Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, to prop up his recent lie about President Obama’s record of calling bereaved families of fallen soldiers. Trump made the statement during an interview with Fox News Radio on Tuesday morning.

“You could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said. “I don’t know what Obama’s policy was.”

The cynical remark came just one day after the White House attempted to blame the Pentagon for Trump’s failure to call the families of four Green Beret soldiers killed in Niger two weeks ago. According to a New York Times report, a “senior official said Mr. Trump had planned to speak sooner to the families, but the White House had to wait until the Pentagon’s paperwork was completed.”

The statement suggests the Pentagon was unable or unwilling to release the names of the deceased for 12 days. Actually, the agency shared the names of those killed in action immediately after the incident.

The deflections follow a lie-filled press conference on Monday during which the president falsely suggested Obama neglected to contact the families of fallen soldiers in the war. When pressed on his falsehood, Trump blamed his generals for possibly giving him bad information, stating, “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t, I don’t know, that’s what I was told…All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call, they would write letters, and some presidents didn’t do anything.”

CNN notes that Kelly “has tried to keep his son’s death private.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

Judge Temporarily Halts New Version of Trump’s Travel Ban

President Trump’s attempts to block travelers from a handful of countries — most of them predominantly Muslim — from coming to the United States hit another legal snag on Tuesday, when a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order freezing most of Mr. Trump’s third travel ban the day before it was to take effect.

At least for now, the judge’s order will prevent the Trump administration from stopping almost all travel to the United States indefinitely from most of the countries named in the ban.

The ban, now in its third iteration, was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest and most controversial decisions after taking office in January, and it has also been one of the most legally troubled. Both previous versions were ordered halted by federal district judges who said they violated the Constitution or exceeded the president’s authority, and those orders were upheld on appeal.

The Supreme Court was scheduled to review the second version of the order when Mr. Trump issued the third. Given the litigation surrounding the travel bans, the Supreme Court seems likely to take an interest in the current version as well.

Citing his campaign promises to keep terrorists and criminals out of the country, Mr. Trump initially ordered an immediate suspension of travelfrom seven predominantly Muslim countries, a move that plunged airports across the country into confusion and protest in January. That order was eventually blocked by a federal judge in Seattle. Mr. Trump’s second attempt narrowed the scope of the ban, but still struggled to survive judicial scrutiny; it was blocked in March by the same Hawaii judge who issued Tuesday’s order, Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu.

The third travel ban, Judge Watson wrote on Tuesday, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” Among those flaws, he wrote, was that the ban “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that undercut “the founding principles of this Nation,” and that the government had not shown that the United States’ national interests would be harmed by admitting travelers from the affected countries.

The Trump administration swiftly denounced the judge’s order, saying that the latest travel restrictions were issued after an “extensive worldwide security review” by Homeland Security officials.

The judge’s order “undercuts the President’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” the White House said in a statement. “These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.” The statement called the ban “lawful and necessary” and expressed confidence that the courts would “swiftly restore its vital protections.”

The third version of the ban went further than the original, imposing permanent restrictions on travel instead of the original 90-day suspensions. Most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain Venezuelan government officials and their families, were to be excluded from entering the United States at all, while citizens of Iraq were to face extra barriers to entry. The ban was scheduled to go into effect on Wednesday.

Judge Watson’s order blocks the administration from shutting the country’s doors to people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. It does not prevent the administration from barring North Koreans or Venezuelans or from subjecting Iraqis to stricter scrutiny.

Protesters marched at a rally in downtown Los Angeles in October in response to President Trump’s most recent travel ban. CreditMark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The White House took pains to emphasize that the latest version was extensively vetted, with each of the affected countries subject to its own set of restrictions tailored to its security capabilities. The rollout of the third version of the executive order was supposed to avoid all the chaos of the first one: Legal permanent residents who were barred from the United States under the first travel ban would not be affected by the third, and people who already hold valid visas, including students now in the United States and employees of American businesses, would not have their visas revoked, as could have happened under the earlier ban. (Once their visas expired, however, they would be subject to the ban.)

Administration officials noted that non-Muslim countries were included in the order. But critics of the ban said that the addition of North Koreans and a small number of Venezuelans did little to disguise the ban’s targeting of Muslims.

Judge Watson appeared to find few substantial differences between Mr. Trump’s second effort and his third.

“Professional athletes mirror the federal government in this respect,” he wrote. “They operate within a set of rules, and when one among them forsakes those rules in favor of his own, problems ensue.”

The judge found that the government’s rationale for barring people from certain countries from entering the United States — that doing so would bolster national security — did not make sense, writing that the administration had failed to show a clear link between a person’s nationality and the threat he or she posed.

“The categorical restrictions on entire populations of men, women, and children, based upon nationality, are a poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of ‘public-safety and terrorism-related information’ that the president identifies,” the judge wrote. Meanwhile, he added, dangerous people of other nationalities could fall outside the scope of the ban: “This leads to absurd results,” he wrote, adding that the executive order was “simultaneously overbroad and underinclusive.”

The judge also said that the order contradicted the administration’s public rationale by applying fewer restrictions to people from Iraq and Venezuela, which the administration said had failed to clear the security standards it had set, than it did on Somalia, which had met the baseline requirements. The administration also provided no coherent explanation for many of the carve-outs for certain categories of people in the ban, such as Iranian students, the judge wrote.

While the administration’s national security goals were important, Judge Watson said, the government had failed to prove that letting people affected by the ban into the country would directly harm the interests of the United States.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Ian Prior, said the judge’s order failed to “properly respect the separation of powers” between the executive branch and the judiciary, and said the administration would appeal. The government has consistently argued that the president has broad powers to determine who may enter the country.

The judge’s ruling came in a suit filed by the state of Hawaii. The state’s attorney general, Douglas Chin, said in a statement: “This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion. Today is another victory for the rule of law. We stand ready to defend it.”

Judge Watson’s earlier ruling on the second version of the travel ban was upheld by an appeals court, but the Supreme Court ultimately allowed portions of that travel ban to take effect. It also allowed Mr. Trump to continue controlling the flow of refugees into the country. Administration officials said last month that Mr. Trump would cap refugee admissions at 45,000 over the next year.

Trump to declare national emergency on opioids months after initial promise


Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump told reporters Monday that he would officially make a national emergency declaration to fight the opioid epidemic next week, a move he billed as a “major announcement.”

The measure comes after Trump, on the steps of his golf club in New Jersey, pledged in August to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. The President, though, never backed up that statement by officially doing so, thus far depriving the fight against the deadly drugs a designation that would offer states and federal agencies more resources and power.
“We are going to have a major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem and I want to get that absolutely right,” Trump said, billing the official declaration as a large step that took time.
During an impromptu news conference in the White House Rose Garden alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump said he would declare a national emergency when asked why he had not followed through with his initial pledge.
His August statement was heralded by local and state drug treatment advocates who had worried Trump wouldn’t follow through on campaign rhetoric to fervently combat the opioid epidemic. Those advocates have largely felt let down by the Trump administration, especially because his failed health care plan would have stripped money for treatment and let state decide whether to cover such services.
Trump’s former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned last month after it was revealed that he had booked extensive private jet travel in his role as secretary, had originally suggested that declaring a national emergency was unnecessary.
“We believe that at this point, the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crises can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency,” Price said in August, “although all things are on the table for the President.”
The White House commission examining the nation’s opioid epidemic had told Trump that declaring a national public health emergency would be an immediate help in combating the ongoing crisis.
“Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it,” the commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said in its interim report. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency.”
Christie told The Associated Press earlier this month that it was “not good” that Trump had not declared the opioid crisis a national emergency.
Since 1999, the number of American overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died of drug overdoses, and opioids account for the majority of those. New government data show an increase in opioid overdose deaths during the first three quarters of last year, an indication that efforts to curb the epidemic are not working.
Declaring a public health emergency makes the opioid epidemic the government’s top priority, infusing much-needed cash into hard-hit areas and bolstering resources.
It is not often that a public health emergency is declared for something other than a natural disaster. The Department of Health and Human Services declared one in Puerto Rico last year after more than 10,000 Zika cases were reported there. Before that, the last emergency declaration, unrelated to a natural disaster, was during the 2009-10 flu season, when there was widespread concern over a potential pandemic.

Trump bashes Schumer for not backing his Iran moves


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump chided Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the senior Jewish lawmaker in Congress, for not backing his proposal to amend the Iran nuclear deal.

“Dem Senator Schumer hated the Iran deal made by President Obama, but now that I am involved, he is OK with it,” Trump said Monday morning on Twitter. “Tell that to Israel, Chuck!”

Dem Senator Schumer hated the Iran deal made by President Obama, but now that I am involved, he is OK with it. Tell that to Israel, Chuck!

Schumer, D-N.Y., is a leading pro-Israel voice in the U.S. Senate, calling himself a “guardian of Israel” because of his name, which is rooted in the Hebrew for guard.

On Friday evening, after Trump earlier in the day had asked Congress to effectively amend the 2015 nuclear deal, Schumer said on Twitter he favored preserving the deal. The senator also implicitly chided Trump for ignoring the counsel of top advisers who favor keeping it including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Military Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

“The @SenateDems agree with #SecDef Mattis and General Dunford,” Schumer said. “We won’t allow the Iran deal to be undone.”

In 2015, Schumer voted against the deal, which trades sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program. But like virtually every other Democratic opponent at the time, he now adamantly supports preserving it, joining the others in saying the pact remains the best means of building an international alliance to pressure Iran and pulling out of it would damage U.S. credibility.

In a statement to JTA following Trump’s tweet attacking him, Schumer said that there were existing tools outside the deal to pressure Iran.

“President Trump’s own Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals Mattis and Dunford, both said that it’s in our national security interest to keep the JCPOA in place and I agree,” he said. “I believe Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, will heed their recommendation. If the President is serious about countering Iran, his first step can be to implement the tough sanctions Congress passed in July and urge the House to pass the Hezbollah sanctions legislation that recently passed the Senate.”

Trump wants Congress to mandate sanctions should Iran fail to meet conditions not covered in the deal. They include maintaining restrictions on enrichment past the deal’s deadlines, which begin to kick in within the next decade, and allowing more ready access for inspectors to military facilities.

If Congress does not amend the agreement to Trump’s liking, the president has said he will pull out of it. Other partners to the deal, including close U.S. allies in Europe, oppose amending the deal, instead favoring increased pressure on Iran outside the context of the deal.

The ex-Bush staffer whose ‘Jewish sensibility’ made him a leading Trump critic

WASHINGTON — Like most self-professed neocons, Eliot Cohen was an unabashed “Never Trumper” throughout the 2016 campaign. His was a signature found on two open letters from former GOP foreign policy officials warning against a Donald Trump presidency.

“We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office,” one of those missives said.

But when Trump shocked the world and won the election last November, Cohen’s initial reaction was to encourage young conservatives to serve in the administration.

“It was the basic instinct that anybody who served in government has, which is that if the president asks you to serve, you serve; it’s about the office, not the man; it’s that you do your bit; and then a natural belief, which is part of the freedom of self-deception, that you can ameliorate it, that you can modify it, that you can temper it — and the belief that he’ll learn, he’ll grow. People do adjust to the office. Its constraints will bind him in there,” he recently told The Times of Israel during a lengthy interview.

Within a week, however, he changed his mind. “Quite early on, I figured out, no,” he said. “This is just a different breed of cat.”

Cohen, 61, then wrote a column for The Washington Post explaining the conclusion he had reached. Ever since, he’s remained one of Trump’s most piercing critics from the right, and has joined the The Atlantic as a contributing editor, where he’s since churned out a fusillade of forceful denunciations of the White House since January.

In his first piece for the august publication, he said of Trump: “Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better.” To be associated with his presidency, he went on, will be for most “an exercise in moral self-destruction.”

Now the director of the Strategic Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of International Studies, Cohen served in the George W. Bush administration, as a State Department counselor under Secretary Condoleezza Rice from April 2007 through January 2009.

From that perch, he has been doing his academic work. Earlier this year, he published a book, The Big Stick, which argues that hard power and the use of military force remain necessary instruments for US foreign policy — positions that practically form the nucleus of neoconservative thinking.

Cohen’s ascension to Foggy Bottom came after he transformed himself from a strong proponent of the Bush-led 2003 Iraq invasion into a fierce detractor. For that, he gives the Bush administration credit. In his recent Atlantic cover story, he said it reflected “their awareness that expressing criticism or dissent was an act of patriotism, not personal betrayal.” He then added: “Trump lacks that spirit.”

Beyond his experience working in government, Cohen cites his “Jewish sensibility” as a lodestar for why he harbors such dire fears about the havoc Trump could wreak — especially by means of damaging global stability and disrupting the liberal, democratic order.

Growing up in Boston, his mother and father came from a secular Jewish background. But his father became more interested in observance as Eliot was an adolescent, and sent Cohen to the Maimonides School, a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in one of Boston’s bucolic suburbs.

Cohen’s elaborate Jewish education may be one of the reasons he’s able to extemporaneously delve into an impassioned exegesis of passages from Pirkei Avot, but according to him, it’s also one of the reasons he thinks Trump poses such a unique threat to the world.

Below is an edited and condensed version of our interview, in which he explains why he finds Trump so dangerous, why he’s unimpressed with his efforts to solve Mideast peace with the help of his son-in-law (and senior adviser) Jared Kushner, and more.

The Times of Israel: What do you make, at this point, of the president’s attempts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace?

Eliot Cohen: It’s ridiculous. It is simply absurd. I’ve always thought that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was — I mean, I’m all in favor of it, if I were an Israeli, I’d probably be some kind of dove — but I just don’t think the basic ingredients are there.

I mean, the rest of the Middle East is up in flames. The Israelis are not prepared to take serious risks to cut a deal with the Palestinians. And you just don’t have any Palestinian leadership in place willing to say, “Yeah, we’re willing to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state, we’re willing to divide Jerusalem, we’re willing to have a mini-state, which has limited sovereignty in a whole bunch of limited areas, that’s fine.”

If I were a Palestinian, I probably wouldn’t accept it. So I just don’t see any of the preconditions there.

And the idea that some 36-year-old kid with zero diplomatic experience — just because he’s the son-in-law of the president and happens to be Jewish — can pull this off is preposterous.

Why do you think this is such priority for Trump? It’s not the most important issue in the Middle East, let alone the world, and it’s not as if solving this conflict would have the regional reverberations people once thought it would. 

It’s a recurring temptation for American politicians to think that they will be the ones to bring peace to the Middle East. This is not at all uncommon.

But you’re right. It is not the most important thing. The question is: Why is Trump interested in it? I think this is a very incurious man — if he reads the newspapers, it’s to read about himself — but he doesn’t actually have a real idea of international politics.”

I think he’s vaguely known that this has been an issue for a long time. He conceives of everything in terms of deals, so he figures this is a really big deal to be had, and if there’s a really big deal to be had, well, who’s the obvious man to cut the really big deal?”

Do you see any positive signs of the way they are managing this issue thus far?

No. There’s nothing. It’s just blather. But to be fair, most of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been blather all along, with the exception of some quiet security arrangements and the kind of quiet support for Salam Fayyad when he was still in play. But there’s nothing.

Since you bring up [former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad, and since you served in the Bush administration, let me ask you about a criticism that has come from some foreign policy corners, including that of Dennis Ross. Did the US make a mistake in not seizing the opportunity presented with Fayyad, who specifically said the Palestinians should take a page out of the Zionist playbook and build their state institutionally — and that if they build their state institutionally, recognition will only be a formality? 

All I can tell you is that when I became counselor to the Department of State, in one of my many conversations with Secretary Rice, I said, “Madame Secretary, there’s only one issue I’d rather not deal with.”

“What’s that?” she said.

“The Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

“Really? Why?”

I said, “Well, first, it’s a black hole. You begin working on that, you have no time for anything else, because it’s all absorbent.”

She said, “Yeah, I get that.”

The second reason is that I don’t think it’s good for me personally or the United States government to have another highly identifiable American Jew deeply involved in this effort.

She said, “Okay, I understand that.”

And then I said, “Frankly, I don’t think this is going anywhere.”

And then she said, “Get out of my office.” [Laughs]

No, I think we worked as closely with Salam Fayyad as we could. The problem with Salam Fayyad was not Salam Fayyad. It’s that a warm embrace from the United States and, even more so from the Israelis, was a kiss of death for him domestically.

Some say the PA was too corrupt for him and he couldn’t survive.

Well, he was able to make some changes in terms of paying police and stuff like that. But from where Palestinian society was and is in terms of being ready for what would fundamentally be an agreement that would leave them with a state, but with very little sovereignty and without a right of return for refugees and without the things that they think they should have in Jerusalem, I understand that. I understand the emotional side of that.

But I think that as long as they are not really willing to accept that, there’s no way that the Israelis will give what the Israelis have to give: moving settlements and a certain degree of physical insecurity and all the rest.

Neither of the sides are willing to do what they have to do. That seems pretty obvious.

No, and from the Israeli side, there’s a perfectly workable solution, it seems, which is defense. I mean, I don’t think this is all workable in the long run. In the long run, I think this is tragedy.

But I was just in Israel over the summer. Life is good. Restaurants are open, the wall works, the [Shin Bet] can even stop stabbings to some extent. For Palestinians, I know a lot less, but I suspect that some of it is, “Well, we don’t particularly like this, but on the other hand, what would we prefer? Raqqa. I don’t think so.”

A moment ago you said that if you were a Palestinian, you wouldn’t take the deal.

I would probably be bitterly unhappy about the deal.

Can you explain why?

Because if I were a Palestinian, I’d probably be aspiring to a truly sovereign state, which is not in the cards.

To go back to something else you said, why has it been such a trend that Jews are the leading US diplomats in Arab-Israeli peace efforts? And why do you think that’s been a problem?

There is a certain kind of American Jew who thinks of it as their mission to rescue the Israelis from themselves. There’s a certain kind of Israeli who thinks this is somebody we can play on to achieve our ends — and there are people both on the left and right in Israel who feel that way.

I think from the point of view of the rest of the American government, it looked like, “Well, this way we know we’ll have somebody who will have instant credibility with the Israelis. Therefore, they can get the Israelis to make concessions that they might not otherwise make.”

It’s not good because it means that you’re going to immediately go in having somebody who’s going to be mistrusted by the Arab side, for perfectly good reasons; who will, whether you know it or not, in very short order end up having bitter conflicts on the Israeli side, because they are actually not Israeli agents. They’re actually acting on behalf of the United States government — and the United States government and the Israeli government don’t always agree.

And then, there is that danger that you think your job is to save Israel from itself  — and I don’t think it’s the job of any American government official, or any American Jew, to save Israel from itself. Israel has to save Israel from itself.

Your writings have been unceasingly critical of the Trump administration. One of the things you warn about in your recent Atlantic cover story is that surprises are what ultimately come to define international politics, and that one of the great dangers in Trump is how he will really manage a crisis and respond to a surprise. 

There are a whole bunch of places — the Korean Peninsula, China and the South China Sea, Russia and Eastern Europe — where something awful could happen and we could walk right into it.

This is particularly dangerous because I think a lot of foreign leaders have concluded that Trump is a bluffer and a blowhard. Therefore, they don’t think they have to take his threats seriously. Most of the time they’ll be right. But there will be a time when they’re wrong — for whatever reason.

I’m somebody who over time has come to have a great deal of faith in the power of accident and stupidity and miscalculation.

Where does that comes from? 

Partly from being a historian, partly actually from having a Jewish sensibility.

What do you mean by that?

Look, I had a very good Jewish education at the Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts. I think to really be grounded in the history of the Jewish people, and also in a Jewish sensibility about the world, is to know that it’s a perilous place; to know that the worst can really happen; to know that the norm is frequently not people acting well and making terrible mistakes — even the good people.

If you think about it, who’s the heroic, monarchical figure of the Jewish tradition? It’s King David. Look what a hash he makes of his life. Look what a hash he makes, to some extent, of the politics, even though he expands the Kingdom of Israel. Look at the wreckage that he leaves behind. He’s a very fallible guy. That’s where you get the power and pathos of the psalms. That’s the world as it is.

How did serving in the Bush administration contribute to this view of the world? You were an early proponent of the Iraq invasion and then became a huge critic of the way it was conducted. 

I was a proponent of it. I was a critic of the conduct of it in the first few years. I’ve written a book called The Big Stick, which has a chapter that very much deals with the lessons of Iraq.

I guess my feeling about it is that the faulty intelligence is the faulty intelligence. There was an argument for doing it no matter what — given the threat that Sadam posed to the region. The execution of it in the first few years was, I think, quite poor for a variety of reasons. So there was needless blood and treasure expended.

My feeling was also that, in 2007 and 2008, we were on some sort of fragile trajectory to success. A lot of the mistakes had been redeemed to a certain point, but it was going to take an unremitting effort, and I don’t think the Obama administration did a particularly good job of handling that.

When we put up the tombstone for the Bush administration’s foreign policy, the top of that tombstone in capital letters will be the word: “Iraq.” But when they put up the tombstone for Barack Obama’s foreign policy, there will be only one word in capital letters at the top: “Syria.”

And that’s what comes from over learning the lessons of Iraq.

Obama believed that the use of force in Syria would result in even worse consequences.

There’s sometimes the belief that that was the case. I don’t think that that was the case. In general, Obama was very hesitant about the use of force and hesitant about the Middle East, and about the uses of American power.

To go back to our earlier theme, I don’t think anybody with a Jewish sensibility can possibly believe that the use of force is the worst possible thing.

I once had that argument in Germany, of all places, with somebody who was a middle-aged woman, saying that war is the worst possible thing. I said, “I had an aunt who passed through the Bergen-Belsen [concentration camp] and I’m going to tell you, ‘I don’t think war is the worst possible thing.’”

What do you make of the way Trump is acting toward Iran and signaling that he’s going to decertify the nuclear deal, which in itself isn’t backing out of it, but is a step toward potentially doing that?

I think it’s bluster. I thought it was a bad deal, and I do think it’s a bad deal. But you don’t just walk away from a deal that another American president has signed off on. That’s wrong.

The problem is this guy does not have an awareness of how important alliance relationships are. I think he doesn’t understand that the other countries involved in the deal will not be along with you for the ride after you do that.

Even the Unites States of America should try to avoid, whenever possible, being isolated in the world. It’s really not a healthy position for us to be in.

Okay, so if you were an adviser in the White House, what would you be advising the president to do on Iran? 

I always dodge that question. The reason why I dodge it is because there is no such thing as the platonic ideal of a policy. There’s only a policy that can be implemented by the people who are actually in charge at the moment.

In this case, I am so out of sympathy with the human being at the center of this. I have such a low opinion of his ability to make considered, prudent decisions, and then to implement them effectively, that I wouldn’t know what to say to him.

In your recent Atlantic piece, you say Trump will be president for either eight or four years, or he’ll be impeached, or he’ll be removed from office because the 25th Amendment is invoked. That last option depends on 14 members of his cabinet, including the vice president,to declare him unable to serve as president and then for Congress to approve it — and in the context being discussed now, because he’s mentally ill. So, A) Do you think he’s mentally ill? and B) Do you think that’s a viable option? 

I certainly don’t think he’s fit to be president. I tell people to read the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for narcissistic personality disorder. There’s like 13 different indicators. You just go check, check, check, check, check, check …

This is a classical narcissist who cannot take responsibility for anything and whose world is entirely who he is. So there’s no way in which I think he’s fit to be president.

The question of how you remove him constitutionally, under what circumstances, that’s a very difficult question.

It’s very hard to unseat a president.

Yeah, it is. It is.

What do you make of the anti-Semitism we’ve seen emerge in the last year?

It’s always there. It always will be there. Trump is not an anti-Semite, I don’t think. But there are things that he’s said, and just the way that he’s behaved, that has empowered those people a bit and enabled them some.

Obviously, I hate it, and I always react against it, but I’ve encountered the anti-Semitism of the left, too, and it’s worse, at the moment. My feeling is you fight it. But I’m not particularly afraid of it and I don’t think it’s the most pressing issue we’ve got to deal with.

American Jews are not in danger.

No. I know plenty of Israelis who would like to believe that, but it’s not true.

Did you learn anything new about Trump from his reaction to the Charlottesville violence or do you view it as a reaffirmation of what you already thought about him? 

I’m sure that people are learning new things about him all the time, but I don’t think anybody has an excuse for being surprised by anything after his inauguration.

Who he was became perfectly clear during the campaign. There’s nothing surprising. And there are no excuses for people enabling him or making excuses for him. We know who and what he is.