Kushner’s Ties to Israel

Monday, January 8, 2018Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 8.41.05 AM

Good Monday morning. 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • An Israeli insurance company’s previously undisclosed $30 million investment in Jared Kushner’s family company could fuel the perception of conflicts of interest, as Mr. Kushner continues his prominent diplomatic role in the region.

  • Stephen K. Bannon, who is quoted in a new book calling Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians in 2016 treasonoussaid over the weekend that the president’s son was both a patriot and a good man. Mr. Bannon’s mea culpa came as the White House continued its assault on him, with Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Trump, saying on CNN that the comments were out of touch with reality.

  • Nearly a year after Mr. Trump took office, the world is still figuring out whether to take his fiery words on Twitter as policy pronouncements, or to simply ignore them.

  • The president will cast himself as a friend to farmers in a speech on Monday, but his position on trade and some parts of the new tax law threaten to undercut their interests.
  • The growing divide between California and Mr. Trump erupted last week over marijuana, immigration, taxes and the environment.
— The First Draft Team

How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, with the Hwasong-15 missile in a photo released by the government news agency in November.

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, with the Hwasong-15 missile in a photo released by the government news agency in November. Korean Central News Agency

At the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, American intelligence agencies told the new administration that while North Korea had built the bomb, there was still ample time — upward of four years — to slow or stop its development of a missile capable of hitting an American city with a nuclear warhead.
The North’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, faced a range of troubles, they assured the new administration, giving Mr. Trump time to explore negotiations or pursue countermeasures. One official who participated in the early policy reviews said estimates suggested Mr. Kim would be unable to strike the mainland United States until 2020, perhaps even 2022.
Mr. Kim tested eight intermediate-range missiles in 2016, but seven blew up on the pad or shattered in flight — which some officials attributed partly to an American sabotage program accelerated by President Barack Obama. And while the North had carried out five underground atomic tests, the intelligence community estimated that it remained years away from developing a more powerful type of weapon known as a hydrogen bomb.
Within months, those comforting assessments looked wildly out of date.
At a speed that caught American intelligence officials off guard, Mr. Kim rolled out new missile technology — based on a decades-old Soviet engine design, apparently developed in a parallel program — and in quick succession demonstrated ranges that could reach Guam, then the West Coast, then Washington.
Read more »

Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He’s a Very Stable Genius

President Trump this week at the White House.By PETER BAKER AND MAGGIE HABERMAN

President Trump, seeming to respond to revelations in a new book, issued an extraordinary defense of his fitness for office.

Christopher Steele, the former British spy, had repeated contacts before and after the election with F.B.I. counterintelligence agents who were investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russians.

Republican Senators Raise Possible Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier


The first congressional criminal referral in connection with Russian meddling targeted a former British spy, Christopher Steele, not anyone accused of conspiracy.

Susie Tompkins Buell preparing for a fund-raiser at her California home in 2004. She said Saturday that Senator Al Franken “was never given his chance to tell his side of the story” after allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Major Donor Reconsiders Support for Democrats Who Urged Franken to Quit


The donor, Susie Tompkins Buell, who has spent millions on liberal causes, said Al Franken’s fellow senators “moved too fast” in calling on him to resign.

A joking tweet about President Trump purportedly demanding a “gorilla channel” spread across the internet this week.

Let’s Talk About the Gorilla Channel for One More Day


A joking tweet claimed that the president had demanded a TV channel devoted to primates. Most got the gag, some didn’t, and it quickly became fodder for political and social commentary.

At a recent hearing, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee pressed scientists to explain exactly how gene editing technology could lead to new treatments for sickle cell anemia, H.I.V., cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Medical Research? Congress Cheers. Medical Care? Congress Brawls.


Lawmakers are pushing for billions in new funding for biomedical research, but sparring over health insurance and almost everything else related to the Affordable Care Act.

For Mr. Miranda, the end of the road is a freight company’s lot 20 minutes north of the border.

From Mexico to the U.S., a Nafta Tale of Two Truckers


Restricted from operating in the United States, most Mexican drivers must hand off their cargo. The Trump administration wants even tighter controls.

President Trump with top congressional Republicans and administration officials at Camp David on Saturday. Mr. Trump said that Republicans were looking at changes to the nation’s welfare laws, but that they would have to be done on a bipartisan basis.

‘Everything I’ve Done Is 100 Percent Proper,’ Trump Says of Russia Inquiry


Mr. Trump again insisted that he was not under investigation by the special counsel, adding that “there’s been no collusion, there’s been no crime.”

Steve Bannon spoke at a rally for the Senate candidate Roy S. Moore in Midland, Ala., on Dec. 11, a day before Mr. Moore lost his bid.

Bannon Needs Breitbart. Does Breitbart Need Bannon?


After he was quoted speaking critically of Donald Trump Jr., the former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon appears to be trying to stay at the right-wing news site.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
W. James Antle III in The Washington Examiner:
“Trump’s estrangement from the people who would put policy meat on his populist bones, figures like Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is bad news for those who wanted ‘Trumpism’ to be more than a barroom diatribe about Chinese depredations and American decline.”
Mr. Antle points out that those who wished to imbue this administration with a set of nationalist ideals, people like the writers Ann Coulter and Julius Krein, have cooled on the president and pushed him into the arms of the “dreaded Republican establishment.” The split with Mr. Bannon only proves that the adage “Let Trump be Trump” still holds true and that “letting someone else be Trump will not work.” Read more »
From the Left
David A. Graham in The Atlantic:
“Trump is unlikely to sue, and if he does sue, he is unlikely to win.”
In response to the excerpts from Mr. Wolff’s book, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mr. Bannon as well as a letter to the author and his publisher asking for an apology and a halt to the release of the book. Mr. Graham explains why such letters are foolish and work only to promote their targets. It is also difficult to win a libel suit against a publisher, he says. Moreover, Mr. Trump may not want to initiate a lawsuit that “would open himself up to defense lawyers poring through all sorts of information he probably doesn’t want made public.” Read more »
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