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July 22 2017 11:11 AM

Trump Affirms He “Has Complete Power to Pardon” in Another Unhinged Twitter Rant

President Donald Trump apparently couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted to tweet about Saturday morning, so he decided to tweet about everything. In a long string of tweets, Trump ranted against the news media, leaks, and Hillary Clinton while defending his son, Donald Trump Jr, and his newly appointed communications director, Anthony Scarmucci. And those are just the highlights in the series of 10 tweets.

At a time when the president’s power to pardon is in the news following a report that the issue is coming up in White House meetings, the president seemed to confirm that it's at least on his mind.  Even though everyone agrees the “President has the complete power to pardon,” Trump insisted the issue is irrelevant: “Why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.”

The president began his Twitter rant by complaining of a “new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,” referring to a piece that claims Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked about the campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. He used the opportunity to once again push his oft-repeated lie that fired FBI director James Comey was guilty of leaking classified information.

The commander in chief then went on to blast the “Failing New York Times,” accusing the newspaper that he gave an interview to earlier in the week of foiling “U.S. attempt to kill the singlemost wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi.” It was unclear exactly what the president was referring to but the New York Times has an idea:

Mr. Trump did not specify what he meant, but he may have been referring to a Fox News report, a version of which aired about 25 minutes before the president tweeted, about comments by a top commander at a conference on Friday. Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, said on Friday at the Aspen Security Forum that American forces were “particularly close” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, after a 2015 raid recovered information about the militant group.
“That was a very good lead,” General Thomas said, according to the Fox report. “Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead.”
Fox reported that the general appeared to be referring to a Times report in June 2015 that said American intelligence agencies had “extracted valuable information” from the raid. The story reported that American forces recovered “laptops, cellphones and other materials,” including four to seven terabytes of data. It also said that Mr. Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders had used their wives to pass information to one another to avoid electronic surveillance.
The Pentagon raised no objections with the Times before publishing the story in 2015 and no senior American official ever complained publicly about it until now.

The president then took a break from complaining to write a simple tweet announcing that he'll be attending a “commissioning ceremony for the largest aircraft carrier in the world.”

That didn’t last long though as Trump quickly followed up with his tweet about pardons before jumping straight into criticizing his opponent in the presidential race. How is Hillary Clinton relevant? Well it turns out that “many people are asking” why the attorney general “or Special Council” looking at the “many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes.” Specifically, Trump once again raised questions about Clinton’s deleted emails and “all of the Clinton ties to Russia.” Trump continued criticizing Clinton by comparing her to his son, noting that Donald Trump Jr. gave his emails to “media & authorities” while Clinton “deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!”

Merely 10 minutes later, the president jumped to another topic, seemingly defending his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, from claims that he wasn’t always a Trump supporter.

And then seven minutes later, the commander in chief was changing topics yet again, switching to health care reform and calling on GOP senators to “step up to the plate and after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace.” Even though “ObamaCare is dead,” the president said Democrats “are obstructionists” so “it is solely up to the 52 Republican Senators!”

July 22 2017 8:55 AM

Despite Earlier Denial, Sessions Reportedly Did Discuss Trump Campaign With Russian Ambassador

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, told his bosses in Moscow that he discussed issues relating to President Donald Trump’s campaign during two conversations he had with now Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. The ambassador’s accounts were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies that regularly monitor the communications of senior Russian officials, reports the Washington Post.

Sessions, who at the time was a top foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump, had earlier said his conversations with Kislyak last year were not about the presidential campaign but rather as part of his work as a U.S. senator. “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way,” Sessions had said in March. Yet one U.S. official who is familiar with the intercepted communications told the Post that Sessions has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

This marks the latest chapter in the controversial meetings that Sessions didn’t even disclose at first, but then corrected the record after news reports revealed he had in fact met with Kislyak during the campaign. Although the attorney general has tried to play down the meetings, Kislyak’s account claims the two discussed substantive issues, including some related to policy that were of particular interest to Moscow. Officials did caution that Russian officials sometimes exaggerate or mischaracterize things in communications with Moscow in order to make themselves look better or even to throw off U.S. intelligence agencies. But Kislyak “has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington,” reports the Post.

Although there isn’t anything inherently inappropriate about a senator discussing things with a foreign diplomat, the key is how detailed the conversations got. “The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified information or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the U.S. or had dirt on Secretary Clinton,” an official familiar with the intercepts tells Reuters. "His memory is another matter." In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, Sessions repeatedly told senators he could not remember certain details of the conversations with the Russian ambassador.

The Justice Department declined to comment. “Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said. “But the attorney general stands by his testimony from just last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when he specifically addressed this and said that he 'never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election’.” The Post report doesn’t claim Sessions discussed interference with the election, as the Department of Justice seems to suggest.

A source close to Sessions told ABC News that the attorney general has no plans to resign following the report that comes during a week in which Trump harshly criticized him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. In the interview with the New York Times, Trump made it clear he regretted choosing Sessions as his attorney general and said he gave “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing. The White House later emphasized Trump still has confidence in Sessions.

Trump turned his fire toward the Post on Saturday, taking to Twitter to blame “illegal leaks” for the story published by the “Amazon Washington Post,” a reference to Jeffrey Bezos, who owns both Amazon and the Post. The president also took the opportunity to refer to fired FBI director James Comey in his tweet, making the claim that he also is guilty of illegal leaks (even though he isn’t).

July 21 2017 6:13 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Scaramucci Can Talk, but What Does He Really Believe?

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservatives were abuzz Friday about Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, who impressed many with a slick performance in the day’s White House press briefing. “Hedge fund manager and new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has never held a press job before,” the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Egger wrote. “But he has repeatedly demonstrated the key qualifying characteristics: a willingness and ability to carry water for the president.”

On Twitter, a number of conservative media personalities and writers uncovered old tweets from Scaramucci indicating his evidently dramatic political evolution:

Other conservatives praised his performance.

In other news:

The Daily Caller and NewsBusters ran posts on a Gallup poll released Thursday showing that nearly half of Americans believe abortion is morally wrong. NewsBusters’ Katie Yoder:

New poll findings reveal that the liberal media, who applaud abortion “healthcare” as “moral,” are out of touch with nearly half of the United States. And so, while the media readily cite polls supporting their agenda, it’s doubtful they’ll report this one.
While only 20% of Americans say abortion should be “totally illegal,” 48% of Americans agree that abortion is “morally wrong,” according to Gallup findings released Thursday.
When researching the difference between Americans’ “views of the moral acceptability” of an issue and their “views on making it illegal,” Gallup found that “abortion provides the most striking example of the disparity.”

“Gallup noted that few Democrats think abortion is morally wrong but should be legal, because most liberals find the practice ‘morally acceptable,’ ” the Daily Caller’s Grace Carr wrote. “Even fewer Democrats believe that abortion is both morally wrong and should be illegal.”

July 21 2017 5:35 PM

Anthony Scaramucci Attacked Trump in 2015 for Being Spoiled and Un-American, but Says They Made Up

On Friday, Donald Trump appointed former hedge fund manager Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci as White House communications director. Scaramucci’s support of Trump is longstanding—he worked on the campaign’s national finance committee and often appeared on cable news as a surrogate during the 2016 campaign. But before he supported Trump, Scaramucci worked as a fundraiser for the Scott Walker and Jeb Bush campaigns—and in September 2015, delivered a two-minute rant assailing Trump as a “hack politician” on the Fox Business Network show Mornings With Maria.

In the segment, Scaramucci, the founder of SkyBridge Capital, took offense to Trump’s charge, made on Fox and Friends, that “the hedge fund guys are paying nothing [in taxes].” He sniped that Trump “is probably going to make Elizabeth Warren his vice presidential nominee” and went so far as to call the comments “un-American.” Said Scaramucci: “You’re an inherited-money dude from Queens County; bring it, Donald.” When a panelist pointed out that he should also be disturbed by Trump’s misogyny, Scaramucci obliged and said, “I don’t like the way he talks about women. I don’t like the way he talks about Megyn Kelly.” Reflecting the view of many pundits at the time, he ended his tirade by declaring, “This nonsense [the Trump campaign] is going to end, and I predict it’ll end before Thanksgiving.”

The two eventually smoothed things over, and Scaramucci joined the Trump campaign in April 2016. In an interview with Slate's Jacob Weisberg at the Republican National Convention, Scaramucci explained the previous beef: “I’m sort of sick and tired of people saying mean things about the hedge fund industry. ... As in every industry there are nefarious players ... but I don’t like every apple in the basket being decried rotten.” Yet the hedge fund manager chalked up the spat to a “difference of opinion;” he rhetorically asked Weisberg, “Have you met a politician that you line up with 100 percent on? Because I haven’t.” Scaramucci’s rant is now a running joke, as Scaramucci told Weisberg: “[Trump] teases me about it to this day.” And in an apparent about-face from his criticisms of Trump’s bigotry, Scaramucci wrote off the then-candidate’s history of questionable comments as “rhetorical flourishes.”

July 21 2017 5:12 PM

Trump Impeach-O-Meter: Mooch Madness Edition

 

In the tradition of the Clintonometer and the Trump Apocalypse Watch, the Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Two big developments in Trumpland in the last 24 hours:

Scaramucci will be more entertaining than Spicer was, but is probably more likely to create problems for Trump with Republicans given that he has no filter and has said in the past that he is socially liberal, believes that climate change is real, and supports gun control. Meanwhile, pardoning himself/his cronies won't stop Trump from being investigated, and it doesn't mean he can't be impeached. It would also look pretty bad. Let's tick this meter back up.

 
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July 21 2017 4:57 PM

The Coach From The Blind Side Just Resigned Over a Scandal Involving Escorts, Bongs, and a Man Named Houston Nutt

 

Hugh Freeze was the high school coach featured in Michael Lewis' book The Blind Side, the remarkable story of a Memphis football prospect named Michael Oher. In the Sandra Bullock movie version of The Blind Side, the character inspired by Freeze was played by actor Ray McKinnon, while Freeze himself appeared in a brief cameo. In real life, Freeze moved onward and upward to become the high-powered head coach at the University of Mississippi—but, on Thursday, he was forced to resign amid an escort-service scandal that involves 1) a bong photo posted on a hacked Twitter account and 2) a lawsuit filed by a man who appeared in the same Blind Side scene as Freeze. That man's name: Houston Nutt.

Let's start from the beginning.

  • Freeze coached Oher—who ended up playing in the NFL; he's currently a free agent—at Briarcrest Christian School, a high school in Memphis. From there, he became an assistant coach at the University of Mississippi (aka Ole Miss), a head coach at Arkansas State, and ultimately the head coach at Ole Miss.
  • Ole Miss's typically mediocre football team became a national contender under Freeze's leadership, recruiting top players from across the country in such a way that it was extremely obvious to anyone with a brain that someone/everyone at Ole Miss was paying under the table for top talent. (To be clear, I am not suggesting that college football players don't deserve payment above and beyond their scholarships. But it's sleazy and counterproductive to the cause of fair compensation for coaches like Freeze to give out cash via unenforceable under-the-table agreements while sanctimoniously denying that they've done so. Freeze reportedly once compared the suggestion that he paid players to the crucifixion of Jesus.)
  • An investigation into rule-breaking by college football's governing body, the NCAA, was completed in early 2016. The NCAA alleged that university employees and/or affiliated "boosters" had arranged sweetheart car loans for players, distributed cash and other "impermissible benefits" of value, and in one case helped recruits cheat on their ACTs. Ole Miss responded—both formally and via anonymous leaks—that most of the misbehavior that had taken place could be blamed not on the Freeze regime but on previous Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt (the one who also appeared in The Blind Side before getting fired and replaced by Freeze).
  • Minutes before the NFL Draft began in April 2016, the Twitter and Instagram accounts of Ole Miss star and NFL prospect Laremy Tunsil—who played under Freeze—were hacked. The hacker (who has never been publicly identified, although a disgruntled "former financial adviser" of Tunsil's is suspected) posted a video on Twitter of Tunsil smoking marijuana out of a gas-mask bong, then posted screenshots on Instagram of text exchanges in which Ole Miss employees arranged payments to Tunsil. The investigation into Ole Miss's conduct was reopened, and more alleged violations were uncovered. Among them: That a store owned by a booster had given recruits $2,800 in free merchandise and that boosters had given one recruit more than $10,000 in cash.
  • Just weeks ago, Nutt sued Ole Miss for what he says was its dishonest effort to scapegoat him for the football program's breaking-the-rules-all-the-time problem. And here is where things get insanely good.
  • Nutt's attorneys reviewed Freeze's cell records (which are available for public review through freedom-of-information laws because Ole Miss, a public institution, paid for his phone) and found he had placed a call to a number used by an escort service. Somehow, this discovery made its way into the press. Freeze, who is known for tweeting Bible passages, said he must have dialed it by mistake. Except that ...
  • ... Ole Miss conducted its own review of Freeze's phone records and found a "pattern of conduct" which was apparently so pattern-y and conduct-tastic that Freeze resigned when he was confronted with it.

And so that's why the ostentatiously Christian coach from The Blind Side is now unemployed: Because he placed at least one call to an escort service on his state-provided work phone, and a man named Houston Nutt found out. How about that?

July 21 2017 4:39 PM

Anthony Scaramucci Loves All of You, Even You Hacks in the Press

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, loves the president. Loves him. He said this at least three times on Friday, in his spectacularly entertaining inaugural appearance before the White House press corps.

He loves Sean Spicer, the press secretary who quit the instant Scaramucci was hired. “I love the guy, I wish him well, and I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money,” Scaramucci said.

People call Scaramucci “the Mooch,” and he doesn’t push back on this. He loves getting his chops busted—loves it. He also loves busting chops. Once he busted the president's chops by calling him a "hack." Does the president ever let him forget about that? Whatta you think? He busts the presidents chops, president busts him right back. It's love.

He loves Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff who came right up to the point of quitting before remembering that unflinching, hackish loyalty is his lodestar in life. “We are a little bit like brothers,” Scaramucci said, “where we rough each other up once in awhile, which is normal for brothers, lot of people have brothers and you get that.” Scaramucci revealed that he even offered Priebus a job at his hedge fund, SkyBridge Capital, six years ago, but the poor mook didn’t take it. Coulda made a lot of money, had all the choice steaks, the best champagne, the cars, the women.

Mooch loves Steve Bannon, who also nearly quit once Scaramucci was hired. But Scaramucci thinks Bannon's a genius—I mean, the brains on this guy. They both worked at Goldman Sachs, so you know they’re both good guys. “We didn’t really overlap at Goldman Sachs,” Scaramucci said, “but we both worked there for a period of time. And there was something great about that culture back in yesteryear. Maybe it’s true today.” (It definitely isn’t the same, Mooch. Those chuckleheads working there now, they have no idea.)

Did you know Scaramucci went to Harvard Law School, too? "A little name-dropping there," he said. This guy. You can read about that and more, in his book.

There was a lot of love at Friday's press briefing. But Scaramucci's heart belongs to the big guy, the main man, the president.

“I think he’s got some of the best political instincts in the world, and perhaps in history, if you think about it,” Scaramucci said.

I mean, this president, is he something or is he something?

“[Trump] is the most competitive person I have ever met,” he said. “I have seen him throw a dead spiral through a tire. I’ve seen him at Madison Square Garden, with a topcoat on, standing in the key and he’s hitting foul shots and swishing them.” The Mooch illustrates each of these feats of athletic domination with the appropriate hand gestures.

“He sinks three-foot putts,” Scaramucci glowed.

This is why the president is going to get a health care "win" in the end, the Mooch predicted.

"The president has really good karma."

Scaramucci's a big-hearted guy, so he's determined to love the hacks in the press, too. He’s gonna use a little Wall Street magic to get the media to see things his way. “To use a Wall Street expression,” he told the reporters, “there might be an arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we are doing, and we’re going to work hard to close that spread.” And maybe make a few bucks doing it, eh?

The problem with these hacks—and he loves them—is they’ve just gotta trust the president a little more, maybe stop overthinking it quite so much. Say you’ve got a question about those 3–5 million people the president says voted illegally. Some jerk—just joking, just having some fun here, we like to bust chops—did in this in the Q&A.

“So, if the president says it—let me do more research on it—my guess is that there’s probably some level of truth to that,” Scaramucci said. See? Closing that arbitrage spread already.

The big guy in the Oval Office, love him to death, really has done it. He’s hired a smoother version of himself to run his communications stop. This is going to be fantastic. And if you don’t like it, Spicer, Bannon, Priebus, whoever? Then you can vamoose. Love you to death.

July 21 2017 3:49 PM

The Resistance Is Already Planning for When Trump Fires Mueller

It feels like our democracy is hurtling toward a cliff. Trump is hinting that he might try to shut down Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia. If he did so, he’d be following in the footsteps of Richard Nixon, who forced the resignation of both his attorney general and his deputy attorney general before he found a Justice Department lackey—Robert Bork—willing to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Yet Nixon’s power grab was constrained by a Democratic Congress. Trump has a Republican one. And if the only thing standing between the American public and outright authoritarianism is the civic integrity of congressional Republicans, we’re in an inconceivably dangerous place.

Various resistance groups have started contingency planning for what happens if Trump attempts to kill the Mueller probe. “No one’s going to do anything prematurely, or accept the idea that Trump is going to or can fire Mueller,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of the government watchdog group Democracy 21. “But if that should happen, or if he issues pardons, then a large number of groups that have been coordinating their efforts are going to be ready to help take the issue to the country and the Congress.”

If news breaks that Trump has forced Mueller out, Wertheimer believes that “the country will explode.” For the resistance, the trick is making sure the explosion is sustained. “That means people in the streets, demonstrations, marches, folks coming to Washington, a massive lobbying effort in Congress,” he said.

Yet everything keeps coming back to pushing a Congress that has so far been supine before the president and often hostile to dissenting constituents. “If Trump were to fire Mueller, that is to me the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu told me. “I think at that point you’re going to have large numbers of Republicans saying we need to start impeachment proceedings.”

This should be true, but I’m not sure it is. Certainly, Republicans have been expressing horror about the idea of Mueller’s firing. Friday, Congressman Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Andrea Mitchell that if Trump moves against Mueller, it would lead to a “tremendous backlash response” from House Republicans. Still, over the past six months, Republicans have shown themselves adept at tolerating the intolerable; one longtime Republican operative recently told me that no one has any idea where the tipping point might be.

For now, absent a plan to overthrow an illegitimate government, members of the resistance have no choice but to work through their representatives. “If Congress does nothing, that means the pressure ratchets up more in response,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen. “We’re hoping to do everything we can to make that impossible.” Looking back to Nixon, she said, “There was a moment when it became too much and pressure had to be relieved, and Congress had to act. Similarly to the special counsel being appointed in the first place in this situation. We wouldn’t have thought that the Trump administration would do that, but they had to do something. In every situation, there’s a moment when it’s just too much.”

And if that moment doesn’t come for House Republicans, the midterms will become a referendum on impeachment. “We do need the people to rise up and say this is so wrong, we need to have a complete change in course of our government, or we need to remove the president,” Lieu said. “I go back to Lincoln’s famous quote: ‘Public sentiment is everything.’”

Of course, if public sentiment were everything, Trump wouldn’t be president. Yet it’s striking, in talking to progressive activists, how optimistic they feel about eventually meeting Trump’s challenge to our democracy. Wertheimer lived through Watergate, and says the feeling is familiar. “For many people it felt terrifying,” he said. “People were afraid, they were furious, they were upset, they were angry, but they were not about to take it.”

July 21 2017 1:02 PM

Sean Spicer Resigns Over Hiring of Loudmouth Wall Street Creep to Be His Boss

White House press secretary Sean Spicer has resigned over Donald Trump's appointment of hedge fund executive Anthony Scaramucci to the position of White House communications director, the New York Times reports—a position in which Scaramucci would have become Spicer's boss.

Scaramucci does not have the traditional background of a political communications operative, but he was one of Trump's earliest and most vocal backers on Wall Street and has long been rumored to be in the mix for a White House role. Spicer is reportedly not alone in the West Wing in believing that bringing Scaramucci aboard is a mistake, though:

It makes sense that chief of staff Priebus, the former director of the Republican National Committee, would object to Scarmucci's hiring; Priebus is the White House's foremost advocate of a conventional-wisdom "let's try to make things operate somewhat normally" strategy, and Scaramucci is a loose cannon. To wit, here's a riff he went on in front of New York magazine reporter Jessica Pressler in January:

And the other thing I have learned about these people in Washington ... is they have no money. So what happens when they have no fucking money is they fight about what seat they are in and what the title is. Fucking congressmen act like that. They are fucking jackasses.

Scaramucci subsequently complimented Pressler for not looking "old":

“How old are you?” he asked. “You look good. No lines on your face. What are you, a Sagittarius?"

"Don’t say I was drinking," he later told her while drinking a margarita.

Scaramucci also made headlines in October for comparing an Obama-era rule requiring financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients to the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott ruling, which held that black people could not be American citizens:

“It's about like the Dred Scott decision,” Mr. Scaramucci said.
He made the analogy because he views the DOL rule as discriminatory, Mr. Scaramucci wrote in a follow-up email.

Incidentally, White House senior adviser Steve Bannon also apparently despises Scaramucci:

Despite coming from the crude/bombastic school of public discourse himself, Bannon believes that "globalist" Wall Street bankers (like Scaramucci, presumably, but also Jewish ones) have stolen America's wealth from the white working man, so this makes sense as well.

It appears that in the end, though, Bannon and Priebus were up against Trump's most important adviser, Any Working Television:

And that's how things get done in the White House these days! USA #1.

Update, 1:45 p.m.: The White House's briefing Friday will be conducted by deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

July 21 2017 11:25 AM

U.S. to Ban Citizens From Travel to North Korea

The Trump administration is planning to ban Americans from visiting North Korea, according to U.S. officials and two tour groups that specialize in travel to the isolated dictatorship. The ban reportedly will be announced Thursday and go into effect 30 days later, though the U.S. government has not confirmed this yet.

[Update 11:45 a.m. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert has confirmed the new policy, saying in a statement. "Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorized a Geographical Travel Restriction on all U.S. citizen nationals’ use of a passport to travel in, through, or to North Korea." A notice of the ban will be published in the Federal Register next week.] 

The move had been expected since the death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was arrested by North Korean authorities and charged with stealing a propaganda poster in 2016 while on a tour organized by one of the companies, China-based Young Pioneer Tours. Warmbier was in a coma when he was released and flown back to the United States in June, dying six days later.

Warmbier’s death prompted several members of Congress to push for legislation banning travel to the country, arguing that tourism brings revenue to the regime and that Americans like Warmbier could be arrested and used as hostages to prompt U.S. concessions. Three American citizens are currently in North Korean custody, though none of them entered as tourists.

The AP notes that the secretary of state has the authority to bar U.S. passports from being used to travel to certain countries, but this is pretty rare. The U.S. has previously instituted bans on U.S. citizens travelling to a number of countries including Lebanon, Libya, and Iraq, but none is currently in place. So while the State Department strongly advises Americans against travel to a number of countries, there’s nothing legally stopping you from traveling to places Iran, Syria, or Yemen. Restrictions of a totally different sort forbid private tourism to Cuba, a ban that was recently tightened by the Trump administration after being loosened under Obama.

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