Politics Roundup: April 10 – 16, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 4/10/17:

Mixed signals?

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday on Fox News Sunday that the US might take further military action against the Syrian government, but would not try to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on its own.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said President Donald Trump’s Administration’s top priority in Syria was still defeating the Islamic State.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said defeating ISIS is the top priority, but “we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there.”

Which is it?

Or is it both?

Then today in his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on three occasions mentioned that not only chemical weapons, but the barrel bombs, commonly used by the Syrian regime and Russian aircraft on rebels and civilians, were also a red line to the President.

Spicer indicated the US may act if the barrel bombings continue.

Thoughts turned to Russia ahead of Tillerson’s meeting in Russia tomorrow.

I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility,” Tillerson said on ABC’s This Week.

I think what we should do is ask Russia, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?” McMaster said on Fox News.

History was made today with the swearing in of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.

Another bit of history was made with Gorsuch taking the bench since he is the first Justice who once served as a law clerk for a sitting Justice, Anthony Kennedy, and also serve with that Justice, who mentored the new Justice.

Gorsuch promised to be a “faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.”

The Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget are deep and wide-ranging.

It seeks to shrink spending by 31 percent, to $5.7 billion from $8.1 billion, and to eliminate a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 jobs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today he is ending an Obama-era partnership with independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science, as longstanding concerns remain about the quality of such evidence in court cases.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney will this week send a memo to federal agencies instructing them to prepare for future cuts to funding and staff, according to a new report.

State Politics: New York will soon be the first state in the nation to make college tuition free for middle class students at two-year and four-year public colleges.

Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed for the plan earlier this year, finding success in the budget passed over the weekend by the State Legislature.

With the federal government vastly expanding who is considered a priority for deportation, the California State Senate approved a bill last week that increased protections for immigrants.

The measure prohibits local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest people for immigration violations.

Supporters say the law, essentially making California the country’s first “sanctuary state,” would prevent immigrants, who face no criminal charges, from being turned over for deportation.

If approved, the law could directly contradict federal directives, putting local law enforcement agencies in the difficult position of deciding whether to obey Sacramento or Washington.

Legal battles are considered likely.

Other states are considering similar legislation.

Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings today of Governor Robert Bilbray over his alleged adulterous affair with a former top political adviser.

Global Politics: Protesters in Venezuela want all seven Justices of the Supreme Court gone, after the court issued a ruling (later reversed) that would have transferred power from the National Assembly to the court.

The Islamic State warned that it planned more attacks, following taking credit for the dual church bombings in Egypt Sunday, saying: “The Crusaders and their tails from the apostates must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God willing.”

A bombing Sunday in Somalia came three days after the country’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmajo), declared war on al-Shabab, and shook up the leadership of the army, police, and national intelligence service to go after the Islamist extremist organization.

The target was Somalia’s newly installed Army Commander, General Ahmed Mohamed Jimale, outside the Defense Ministry in Mogadishu. The General escaped unscathed, but a minibus was hit, killing 15.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the isolated communist nation was “not frightened” by the US Tomahawk missile strike against Syria, or by the Navy carrier strike group the US has redirected toward the Korean Peninsula.

What happened in Syria once again taught a bitter lesson that…one can defend oneself from the imperialist aggression only when one has one’s strength,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said according to state media. “Any aggression should be countered with force only and we were entirely just when we have bolstered our nuclear force remarkably.”

Israel has closed its Taba border crossing to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula following intelligence suggesting an “imminent” terrorist attack, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said today.

We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was not originally scheduled to attend a wreath laying ceremony at a site where Nazi Germany committed a war crime, wiping out an entire village during World War II, but wanted to be present at the with the Foreign Ministers of Italy, Germany and the European Union.

This place will serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Tillerson’s remarks came after the US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase where chemical weapons are believed to have been launched last Tuesday in violation of international law.

France’s far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen has prompted a major outcry by denying that the French government was responsible for the roundup of Jews in World War II.

Le Pen said Sunday on RTL radio “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,”— a reference to the stadium where thousands of Jews were rounded up before being sent to Nazi death camps.

Turks will go to the polls on Sunday, April 16, to vote on constitutional amendments that would transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential system.

The Trump Administration will move forward with the sale of high-tech aircraft to Nigeria for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists despite concerns over abuses committed by the African nation’s security forces, according to US officials.

Tuesday, 4/11/17:

Policy?

What policy?

That’s the question around the world today.

What exactly is President Donald Trump’s policy on the situation in Syria?

Central Command’s General Joseph Votel said today that 57 of 59 targets were hit in the Tomahawk missle strike on the al Shayrat airbase.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said that 20 Syrian aircraft were destroyed in the attack.

Mattis said there is “no doubt” that the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack.

Mattis also emphasized that defeat of the Islamic State is still the main goal of US involvement in Syrian.

The missile attack was separate and dealt only with violation of the 1925 Geneva Accord that outlawed use of chemical weapons, of which Syria was a signatory.

The President took to Twitter this morning to warn China that if it did not put the brakes on North Korea, the US would stop Kim Jung Un’s nuclear threat.

I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” the Prez also tweeted.

The independent investigative unit of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, is reviewing the conduct of Trump’s transition to the presidency, including whether there were conflicts of interest or violations of protocol or security precautions.

During a visit to the US-Mexico border today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over.”

President Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico will kick off in the San Diego, California border community of Otay Mesa, Customs and Border Protection confirmed Monday.

The Trump Administration has temporarily suspended the publication of weekly reports detailing cities and counties that fail to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement directives over concerns about the accuracy of those lists.

Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino is expected to step down from his seat to take on a new role in the Trump Administration.

Multiple sources told CBS News that Marino will head up the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) also known as the nation’s Drug Czar.

A group of 55 House lawmakers have delivered a letter to President Trump telling him he should get congressional approval if wants to expand US involvement in the Yemen civil war.

As U.S. Representatives, we take seriously the right and responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of force, or to refuse to do so, as mandated by the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution,” the bipartisan group of Representatives wrote. “We expect that any direct military actions pursued by the administration against the Yemeni Houthis be brought before Congress for consideration and authorization for approval before they are executed.”

The lawsuit between the Prez and a chef, who backed out of his contract to open a restaurant at Trump’s Washington hotel, has been settled.

President Trump is reportedly on pace to spend more on travel during his first year in office than former President Barack Obama spent on travel during all eight years he served.

OOPs!

Allusions or comparisons to Adolph Hitler are never a good move by politicians.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer is learning this first hand today following his attempt to say that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad was more evil than Hitler by using chemical weapons on his own people.

Social media blew up even as Spicer made his remarks at today’s White House briefing.

First Spicer tried to say not even Hitler used chemical weapons in World War II, ignoring the Holocaust and the six million Jews gassed along with gays and Gypsies throughout Europe.

Then when in trying to worm his way out of the remarks, Spicer not only stepped in it deeper, but fell down, rolled in it and stood up with a stench that reached to high heavens by saying Hitler did not use the chemicals on his own people.

Spicer said that Assad was worse because he dropped chemical bombs in the middle of village.

Sean, hate to tell you, but those gassed in the concentration camps – NOT Holocaust centers – many happened to be Germans.

OOPs!

Let’s hope members of Congress, the members Allegheny College has already honored – Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain – the women of the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham – let’s hope that they and others of goodwill will lead in restoring harmonious work ways,” said 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an address at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania on Monday as she accepted the Prize for Civility in Public Life, honoring her and late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Lindsey, we had no clue! LOL

State Politics: Alabama’s Governor Robert Bilbray resigned from office last night as he faced impeachment and was booked into jail on charges of corruption over an alleged affair with a former top staffer.

Kansans are voting today to fill the vacancy in Congress when Congressman Mike Pompeo moved to the Central Intelligence Agency to be its Director.

President Trump even weighed in with a robocall to keep the seat in GOP hands even though Pompeo won by 2 to 1 and the Prez won by over 30% points.

Georgians are also voting next week to fill the vacancy left by Dr. Tom Price from Representative to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

A Federal judge in Texas ruled for second time Monday that Republican lawmakers designed the state’s strict voter ID law to discriminate against Democratic-leaning minority voters.

Once one of the nation’s most popular, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is now the most unpopular governor in the US, a new poll finds.

Global Politics: North Korean state media warned today that the isolated communist nation might launch a nuclear attack on the US over any indication of a preemptive attack by a US Navy strike heading toward nearby waters in the western Pacific.

Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the US invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theatre but also in the US mainland,” North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” a spokesman for the North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, according to state news agency KCNA.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is comparing the current accusations on the Syrian regime using chemical bombs on its own citizens a false claim similar to the US claim of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Putin said the accusation is a pretext to go after dictator Bashar al Assad.

The US is countering that the Russian are covering up chemical weapons and attacks for the Syrian regime and even insinuating Russia was complicit in last week’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.

However, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed out there is no consensus in the intelligence community on Russian complicity at this time.

Facing growing pressure from the US and the western world, Syria and North Korea are renewing their ties of friendship saying in a message, the two rogue nations were “conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy and deprive them of their rights to self-determination,” KCNA reported.

The two peoples of Syria and the DPRK are as ever struggling for their rights to self-determination and national sovereignty and the security and prosperity of their countries,” it added, using the initials for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Iran joined the Russians in rejecting the US version of why it attacked a Syrian airbase last week and doubling down on their expressions of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows.

Wednesday, 4/12/17:

In or out?

Are the days numbered for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Political Strategist Steve Bannon?

Will Spicer’s apology for his comparison of Bashar al Assad being worse than Adolph Hitler be enough to save his bacon?

I let the President down,” Spicer lamented.

Did Bannon lose out to First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner?

A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was issued to keep tabs on former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, when President Donald Trump was running to become President.

Page was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a possible agent for Russia.

Page never met with Trump nor did he have a formal role in the Trump campaign. Page was, however, cited by then candidate Trump as being one of his advisers on world affairs.

Page, who previously worked as an investment banker in Moscow, Russia has not been charged with a crime, but the investigation into his contacts offered a clear sign of early suspicions that Trump associates were in contact with Russian agents at a time when US officials believe Russia was trying to tip the election to Trump.

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.

In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today. The meeting was not scheduled and was not expected to occur.

Tillerson is in Russia meeting with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging the Russians to drop support for Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad and show the evidence that Syria was behind the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria one week ago today.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaking to the Security Council today, warned Russia that it was isolating itself from the rest of the world every time it continued supporting Assad when he “dropped another barrel bomb” on his own people.

The Prez earlier in an interview mentioned the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime as well.

Earlier this week Spicer had said that barrel bombs also crossed the President’s personal red line on retaliation.

Haley also said that Iran was “dumping fuel on the fire” of the Syrian civil war, which has raged for six years now.

Haley demanded Russia “get chemical weapons out of Syria.”

There are actions by the Assad regime we will simply not tolerate,” Haley said.

The President said about Assad, “This is an animal.”

Are we going to get involved with Syria? No,” the Prez said. But, he added, “I see them using gas…we have to do something.”

Point – Counterpoint:

LevrovWe have seen no proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people
TillersonWe have incontrovertible proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people

Both Tillerson and Levrov said that the relations between the two nuclear powers were at their lowest in decades.

There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said candidly.

Still, the Russians agreed to reinstate the deconfliction agreement to prevent an accidental confrontation as both countries fly over Syria.

President Trump said he will be taking action after North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un threatened to nuke US war ships.

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier,” Trump told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: he is doing the wrong thing.”

The President met in the White House today with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Prez said that NATO is “no longer obsolete.”

A change of mind, the President has decided not to label China as a currency manipulator.

The federal hiring freeze imposed by President Trump in January is slated to be lifted Wednesday, but agencies won’t be allowed to hire willy-nilly, the President’s chief budget officer said.

What we’re doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that we put into place on day one in office and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan,” said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

FYI: Under an obscure Internal Revenue Service rule, the tax returns of the President and Vice President are automatically audited, every year, no exceptions.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson was trapped in an elevator while touring a housing project in Miami, Florida for about 15 minutes today.

Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is registering as an agent of a foreign government for work he did a few years ago for the Ukrainian government.

Great Britain’s Daily Mail and the Mail Online website today apologized to First Lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay her an undisclosed settlement over an article they published last year about her work as a professional model that suggested she had worked as an escort.

State Politics: From Alabama Lieutenant Governor to Governor, Kay Ivey saved the state $90,000 a year her first day on the job by accepting the resignation of the Director of Faith-Based Services.

That man is also happens to be the husband of the woman disgraced Governor Robert Bentley is accused of having an affair which led to his resignation this week and pleading guilty to misdemeanor corruption charges.

What is in the water in North Carolina?

After the big loss the Tar Heel State suffered over the “bathroom law,” you would think that Republican legislators would have learned.

Not so!

Three GOP lawmakers have submitted a bill to defy the Supreme Court ruling making marriage of same-gender couples legal in all 50 states.

The bill would not allow any marriage except man and woman, citing the Bible as authority, which in itself is a constitutional no-no.

By seven points, Ron Estes beat back his Democratic opponent in a Kansas special election to keep the seat in the House of Representatives, vacated by Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, in GOP hands on Tuesday.

An angry crowd in South Carolina chanted “you lie” to Representative Joe Wilson at a town hall Monday, using the Republican Congressman’s own infamous line against him, which he was rebuked for saying at a State of the Union Address to former President Barack Obama.

The Alabama Senate voted 24 to 4 on Tuesday to allow the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a megachurch located in suburban Birmingham, to break with precedent and establish its own police force. The bill now moves to the House.

Global Politics: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today unexpectedly filed to run in the country’s May election, potentially upending a race that many had predicted to be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said in an interview broadcast today by state television channel Mir.

We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said to Tillerson, referring to the 59 Tomahawk missiles Trump launched at a Syrian air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. “We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”

South Korea’s Acting President, Hwang Kyo-ahn, has warned of “greater provocations” by North Korea and ordered the military to intensify monitoring.

Lee Duk-haeng, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman, said South Korea, the United States and “other countries” were coordinating closely.

Japan announced two of its warships may join the US “armada” off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

For the eighth time today, Russia vetoed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning Syria for its war crimes – this time for last week’s chemical bombing.

However, following the meeting of Tillerson with both Putin and Levrov today, the United States and Russia agreed to work together on an international investigation of a Syrian chemical weapons attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.

Washington blames Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Moscow says Syrian rebels are responsible.

China abstained from the UN vote today.

In a phone call today on the North Korean nuclear threat, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed to President Trump that China “advocates resolving the issue through peaceful means,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

During the call, Xi told Trump that China remains “willing to maintain communication and coordination with the American side on the issue of the peninsula.”

Xi told Trump on the call that the Syria issue “must continue to move towards a political solution“, and that “any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said today it was “irresponsible and even dangerous to take any actions that may escalate the tension.”

All relevant parties should exercise restraint and keep calm, easing tensions instead of provoking each other and adding fuel to the fire,” he said at a regular press briefing.

China’s Global Times newspaper, which sometimes reflects the thinking of China’s leadership, said a new missile test by North Korea would be a “slap in the face of the US government” and that Beijing would not “remain indifferent.”

Presumably Beijing will react strongly to Pyongyang’s new nuclear actions,” it said, adding there was increasing popular support for “severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before.”

On Monday Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO.

Thursday, 4/13/17:

Key, “Changes” and enter President Donald Trump.

Change was the key word on Wednesday as several policies espoused on the campaign trail seemed to give way to the reality of world events.

OOPs!

The Prez during one of his interviews said the dollar was “too strong.”

This set off a firestorm of selling US currency, dropping the dollar’s value.

It’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency,” the President said.

Trump said he was open to reappointing Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The President praised the Export-Import Bank, which he mocked last year, telling The Wall Street Journal the agency is “a very good thing, and it actually makes money.”

To get Democrats to work with him on health care, President Trump threatened to withhold $7 billion in cost-sharing payments for the Affordable Care Act.

ObamaCare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said. “What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s strategy “cynical,” saying the President was “threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him.”

The Trump Administration is exploring ways to put together a nationwide deportation force, something President Trump promised during his campaign, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment.

President Trump signed legislation today erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Americans are unsure of the President’s ability to deal with North Korea:

Sixty-four percent of Republicans think that President Trump should publicly release his tax returns, according to a survey conducted by Global Strategy Group.

Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!” the President tweeted today after noting yesterday that relations between the two nations are a low point.

Virginia Congressman Dave Brat, one of the conservative Freedom Caucus leaders whose resistance helped undermine the Republican health care proposal last month, says White House and congressional negotiators are close to a compromise that he predicts will pass the House in the next three weeks.

Within a few weeks, I think DC is going to be a little bit shocked,” he said in an interview with Capital Download. “We’re going to get to yes.”

State Politics: North Carolina Republican General Assembly member, Larry Pittman from Cabarrus County, this week called President Abraham Lincoln “the same sort (of) tyrant as Adolf Hitler,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

As I asked yesterday, what is in the water in the Tar Heel State?

Pittman made the comparison on Facebook while responding to a commenter who was critical of legislation the lawmaker has introduced that seeks to bring an end to same-sex marriage in North Carolina, the Observer reported.

And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?” he added. “Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Shaking My Head

Global Politics: There is a possibility that North Korea is already capable of delivering (via missile) a warhead containing sarin,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Parliamentary Diplomacy and Defence Committee, referring to the poison nerve agent.

Opinion polls show around a third of France’s 45.7 million voters might abstain, an unprecedented number in a country with a long tradition of high turnouts.

Even among those who intend to vote, about one third have yet to make up their mind on how to cast their ballot.

The presidential election is in May.

The detention of a prominent feminist academic for criticising the Ugandan President on Facebook has been widely condemned by human rights groups.

Friday, 4/14/17:

Brink of war?

All eyes are on North Korea as it commemorates its most sacred holiday, the birthday of the nation’s late founder and grandfather of the Young Leader, Kim Jung Un.

Did President Donald Trump send the right message to Un to keep the North Korean dictator from doing anything rash?

Or did the President prime the pump for an eruption of war?

The Prez is monitoring the global situation this Easter weekend from Mar-A-Lago along with some of the top people in his National Security Council.

The US is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior US intelligence officials told NBC News.

The White House is not commenting on the NBC report.

Talking about adding fodder to the fire, British spy agency GCHQ gave the US the first alert about possible ties between then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives, The Guardian reported Thursday.

GCHQ and other European intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Trump associates and known or suspected Russian agents as early as late 2015 and passed on the information to US officials.

The White House won’t make public the logs of visitors to the White House complex, breaking with the practice of President Trump’s predecessor.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $31 million in the first three months of the year, setting a record for the group’s typically sluggish early cash chase.

Observers say New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is already acting like a presidential candidate for 2020, increasingly positioning himself with party leaders, aiming his message at middle-class angst and touting measures such as free tuition as an example of the kind of big ideas he can accomplish.

He’s running. It’s pretty clear,” said University of Maryland political scientist Robert Koulish, who said the second-term governor appears to be positioning himself as a hybrid: a centrist in the mold of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who supports social policies championed by liberals like Sanders. “Maybe he’ll present himself as a progressive who gets things done.”

State Politics: Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake Thursday faced off with angry constituents at a town hall, fielding questions about repealing ObamaCare and the Supreme Court.

Senator, my question is: when are you going to choose your country over your party?” one attendee at the Mesa, Arizona event asked.

Global Politics: China warned today that rising tensions over North Korea must be calmed before they reach an “irreversible and unmanageable stage.”

Lately, tensions have risen…and one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.”

South Korea said that a nuclear test or intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea would be a “strategic provocation” that would provoke a “powerful punitive measure.”

North Korea accused the US of “seriously threatening peace” by sending “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to South Korea Easter Sunday.

We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad told Agence France-Presse in his first television interview since the bombing by US fighters in retaliation for last week’s regime chemical attack. “Were they dead at all?”

France’s presidential election race looked tighter than it has all year today, just over a week before voting opens as a new opinion poll put the four leading candidates only 3% points apart.

Sunday, 4/16/17:

Cooler heads seem to be prevailing on this Easter Sunday.

North Korean Young Leader Kim Jung Un did attempt to test fire a ballistic missile early today, but it exploded within five seconds of launch.

So far President Donald Trump has not ordered any type of retaliatory action for Un defying his warning and that of Un’s only real ally, China.

National Security Adviser General H.R. McMasters flew to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan officials today.

McMaster met President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials to discuss security, counter-terrorism, reforms, and development, according to a statement on the palace’s Twitter account.

The stakes are high,” said McMaster. “This is really the modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization.”

McMaster said, “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”

President Trump asserted today that China was working with the United States on “the North Korea problem.”

Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!” Trump tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence, in South Korea today, told American and South Korea service members that North Korea’s latest “provocation,” a failed missile launch shortly before his arrival in Seoul, laid bare the risks they face.

Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires the nation and inspires the world,” Pence told the troops.

Lamenting the election of President Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders had this to say today about the Democratic Party and the voter turnout in 2016:

So many of our people are giving up on the political process. It is very frightening. In the last presidential election, when Trump won, we had the lowest voter turnout over – in 20 years. And in the previous two years before that, in the midterm election, we had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years,” Sanders continued. “We’re going to be fighting to see that the Democratic Party becomes a 50-state party. You can’t just be a West Coast party and an East Coast party.”

Keep your eyes on Presidential Adviser Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs CEO and registered Democrat.

Tomorrow the traditional Easter Egg Roll will take place on the lawn of the White House.

President Trump and the Republican National Committee together raised $42.6 million toward the 2020 race in the first quarter of 2017, Federal Election Commission reports reveal.

State Politics: Republicans kept a Kansas seat in the House of Representatives this week and former Democratic presidential contender and independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders is not so happy.

Sanders said today that Democrats should’ve done more to support the party’s candidate, James Thompson, during the special House election in Kansas last week.

It is true that the Democratic Party should have put more resources into that election,” Sanders told host Jake Tapper on CNN‘s State of the Union. “But it is also true that he ran 20 points better than the Democratic candidate for president did in Kansas.”

This Tuesday, Democrats are trying to pick up a seat held by Republicans for decades in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Global Politics: Turks go to the polls today to approve or disapprove of granting the presidency more power, moving Turkey from a dominant parliamentary system to a strong presidential system of governance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing the measure which would ensure he remains in office for at least another decade.

Under the new proposal, the President would be able to dissolve the legislature, rule by executive order, and gain new authority over administrative and judicial appointments.

Erdogan celebrated what he said was a clear result in the referendum to grant him sweeping new powers, but opponents said they would challenge the vote count which gave a narrow 51.3% lead to Erdogan’s supporters.

China is seeking Russia’s help to cool surging tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s Foreign Minister has told his Moscow counterpart, after Beijing warned of possible conflict over North Korea.

The European Union is set to inflict a double humiliation on British Prime Minister Theresa May, stripping Britain of its European agencies within weeks, while formally rejecting the Prime Minister’s calls for early trade talks.

Odebrecht SA, the Brazilian engineering company at the center of a historic corruption scandal in that country, paid out a total of about $3.3 billion in bribes in the nine years through 2014, according to testimony cited by local media on Saturday.

A yellow fever outbreak is tearing through Brazil leaving thousands dead in its wake – thousands of monkeys, that is.

Thanks for viewing!

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Mark

Father, grandfather, political pundit - I am Mark Ivy. I am father to two wonderful sons, Dave and Kev, of whom I am very proud;two terrific daughters-in-law, Anna and Hailey; three beautiful granddaughters: Dylan, Alaina and Amelia. On September 2, 2014, I was diagnosed with disseminated histoplasmosis, a fungal infection, discovered by a biopsy of my larynx. The infection is fatal if left untreated. For 2 1/2 years I lived under a death sentence being misdiagnosed with a non-specific bacterial infection which left my right lung a "dried up sponge" and non-functioning. I was aggressively treated for the infection with antifungals. The treatment ended October of 2015 and fortunately did not take two years. I suffer from chronic Horton's Syndrome. The effects vary widely causing various problems. Statistically, Horton's affects only 0.1% of the population. Major depression also attacks me regularly.

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