The Slatest
Your News Companion

March 26 2017 8:24 PM

Trump Has Gone to a Golf Course at Least 13 Times in Nine-Week Presidency

President Donald Trump used to love to criticize then-president Obama for his golf games. If he were president, he’d be way too busy for golf, Trump used to say. Well, now he’s president and it seems he has more than enough time for golf—more than once a week, in fact.

On Sunday, Trump went to the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, marking his 13th trip to a golf course since he took office on Jan. 20. The White House has often said that Trump uses his trips to golf courses to have meetings with people and just because he’s there doesn’t actually mean he hits the links. That seemed to be the case on Sunday when he was at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia for less than an hour. But he’s played golf in at least 12 of those visits.

Advertisement

The commander in chief doesn’t hit any old golf course, of course. He likes going to golf courses bearing his name. And that’s part of a pattern. On 21 of the 66 days he has been president, Trump has visited a property that has his name in the entrance, reports the Washington Post. These properties then end up getting mentioned in the media and entry is suddenly more desirable with the allure of maybe, possibly being able to run into the president of the United States.

“It is normal for presidents to get out—and it can be a boost for small businesses across the city and the country,” the head of Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit group, tells the New York Times. “But with President Trump, he spends his down time as a walking advertisement for his businesses. It is a major departure from historic norm and degradation of the office.”

March 26 2017 7:39 PM

Freedom Caucus Loses Member Amid Trump Criticism for Health Care  

At least one member of the House Freedom Caucus seems to agree with President Donald Trump that the conservative coalition was at least partly responsible for the embarrassing failure of Trumpcare. Rep. Ted Poe of Texas publicly stepped down from the House Freedom Caucus on Sunday with words that were likely music to the president’s ears.

"In order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years, we must come together to find solutions to move this country forward," Poe said in a statement. "Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead."

Advertisement

Some Republican leaders are betting that others will follow Poe’s lead. "I feel like they've ostracized themselves like they haven't ever done before," a “GOP leadership aide” told CNN. "I think this could be a breaking point for the membership of the Freedom Caucus."

Poe’s resignation came mere hours after Trump took to Twitter to blame the Freedom Caucus, along with other conservative groups, for having “saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

Trump was hardly alone. Rep. Pete King of New York also blamed the Freedom Caucus for the president’s first big legislative failure. The conservative group was insisting on virtually a total repeal of ObamaCare, which sounds good," King told radio host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York. "You can't end that overnight." Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia got more personal, saying the group’s chairman “betrayed Trump and America and supported [House Democratic leader Nancy] Pelosi and Dems to protect Obamacare.”

March 26 2017 6:40 PM

Hundreds Arrested at Huge Anti-Corruption Protests Across Russia

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Moscow and other major cities across Russia on Sunday to protest against official government corruption in what certainly looked like the largest show of anti-Kremlin defiance since 2012. Hundreds of people were arrested, including prominent opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who was one of the main organizers of the rally. Navalny fueled outrage by releasing a video that alleged the country’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, had amassed a huge fortune as a public servant.

Navany downplayed his detention and called on people to keep on marching. “Today we are discussing (and condemning) corruption, not the detentions. Well, I was detained. So what. It ok. There are things in life that are worth being detained for,” Navalny tweeted. He was not the only one who apparently felt that way. One group said that at least 800 people were arrested in Moscow alone, although figures were hard to come by. Police officially said that 7,000 people took part in the rally in Moscow, but photos suggest the real number was much higher. One independent Moscow radio station estimated some 60,000 people took part in 82 protests across the country.

Advertisement

Although Russian opposition is often derided by the Kremlin as nothing more than Western puppets who live in urban centers, on Sunday protesters gathered in towns far from the cities. The protests are taking place a year before a presidential election in which Vladimir Putin is expected to win a fourth term in office.

Guardian reporter Alec Luhn was among those arrested in Moscow, detained while he was photographing the police detaining other protesters. The paper reports:

Police searched him, confiscated his phone and put him in a police bus, where he was held for two hours before being driven to a police station on the outskirts of Moscow with 16 other detainees. He was told he would be charged with “participating in an unsanctioned protest”, despite repeatedly telling police he was a journalist and showing Russian foreign ministry accreditation. He was released after more than five hours in detention, after the foreign ministry intervened.

March 26 2017 5:27 PM

Watch Ted Koppel Tell Sean Hannity He’s Bad for America

Veteran journalist Ted Koppel didn’t hide his true feelings toward President Donald Trump’s No. 1 media cheerleader, Sean Hannity, telling him in no uncertain terms that his brand of “journalism” is hurting the country. During a CBS Sunday Morning segment on the polarization of the United States, Koppel explores why it is that 81 percent of voters say they can’t agree with the other side on even basic facts. Little wonder then, he ends up sitting face-to-face with Hannity, who often seems as though he’s living in his own alternative universe.

Hannity, however, defended himself by accusing Koppel of treating viewers as if they’re dumb. “We have to give some credit to the American people that they are somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show,” Hannity said. But it was clear to the Fox News host that Koppel was not buying it: “You’re cynical,” he added.

Advertisement

“I am cynical,” Koppel agreed.

“Do you think we’re bad for America? You think I’m bad for America?”

Koppel didn’t hesitate: “Yeah.” He then went on to explain himself. Or try to at least, which was a bit difficult with Hannity’s constant interruptions:

“Really? That’s sad, Ted. That’s sad.”
“No, you know why? Because you’re very good at what you do, and because you have attracted a significantly more influential—”
“You are selling the American people short.”
“No, let me finish the sentence before you do that.”
“I’m listening. With all due respect. Take the floor.”
“You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.”

Sean Hannity was not happy with the clip, which ended up spreading like wildfire on social media. The Fox News host took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to criticize the “fake ‘edited’ news,” saying he sat down for a 45-minute interview that was whittled down to less than two minutes. He also called on CBS to release the entire interview so viewers could judge it for themselves.

March 26 2017 4:02 PM

Relax, You Can Wear Leggings on United (but Airline Still Says It Has Right to Police Clothing)

United Airlines suddenly found itself on the receiving end of mass social media outrage on Sunday morning when a Twitter user sounded the alarm that young girls wearing leggings were not allowed to board a domestic United flight. United Airlines took to Twitter to repeatedly defend the right of the gate agent to refuse boarding to anyone deemed no to be dressed appropriately. But then the company came out to clarify that the girls prevented from boarding were what are known as “pass riders,” or those who fly for free or sharply reduced rates because they’re employees or their relatives.

The company insisted regular paying customers are more than welcome to wear leggings on United flights, but there are special rules for pass riders. “Our regular passengers are not going to be denied boarding because they are wearing leggings or yoga pants,” a spokesman said. “But when flying as a pass traveler, we require this pass travelers to follow rules, and that is one of those rules.

Advertisement

The whole controversy began when Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, wrote that two girls were barred from boarding a Denver-Minneapolis flight Sunday morning because they were wearing leggings. Another girl was allowed to board once she put on a dress. “She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board,” Watts wrote on Twitter. “Since when does @united police women’s clothing?”

United’s immediate response? Since always. As outrage grew on social media, United Airlines took to its own Twitter account and repeatedly defended the gate agent’s actions. “United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage,” the company wrote on Twitter to people who asked about the policy. When pressed, the company directed people to Point 21 of its “contract of carriage” that notes passengers can be refused if they’re “barefoot or not properly clothed.”

Seemingly realizing it had a PR disaster of its own making in its hands, the company quickly changed tack and started to clarify that the passengers in question were pass riders who had to adhere to stricter rules. Flip flops, for example, aren’t allowed for pass riders either, a company spokesman said.

Many of those who raised their initial concerns insisted the company was applying a sexist rule. Watts, for example, quickly pointed out that the man flying with the two girls was wearing shorts.

Although United refused to release a copy of its dress code rules for pass travelers, one found online specifically notes that shorts are allowed as long as they “are no more than three inches above the knee.” If the dress code posted online is authentic, it seems many of the rules are specifically directed at women and are particularly vague, forbidding “form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses” and “attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through.”

March 26 2017 2:10 PM

Trump Reportedly Handed Merkel a $374 Billion Invoice for NATO

We all knew that the White House meeting between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been awkward. But things were even more uncomfortable than we thought. Turns out Trump’s version of diplomacy with one of the country’s most important allies in Europe involves handing over a bill for billions of dollars that the White House believes it owes NATO, according to the Times of London.

One German minister did not hesitate to qualify the invoice as “outrageous,” saying the intent was clear. “The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.

Advertisement

Although no one confirmed how much the total invoice was for, a calculation by the Times suggests the total was around $312 billion for the shortfall in spending and around $62 billion in interest.

Trump has long criticized Germany and numerous other NATO countries for failing to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, as they had pledged to do in 2014. So how did the White House get to $374 billion? It went further back, taking 2002 as a starting point, noting that was when Merkel’s predecessor vowed to boost spending on defense.

“The president has a very unorthodox view on NATO defense spending,” an official tells the Times. That is one polite way of putting it, others have flat out said that Trump’s statements on NATO suggest he really does not understand how the alliance is funded.

Merkel reportedly “ignored the provocation.” She appears to be a bit more adept at diplomacy than her U.S. counterpart.

March 26 2017 1:02 PM

Shooting at Cincinnati Nightclub Kills One, Injures 15

A packed nightclub with a history of violence in Cincinnati, Ohio erupted into chaos early Sunday morning when several people reportedly opened fire after an altercation. The shooters escaped.

"Several local men got into some type of dispute inside the bar and it escalated into shots being fired from several individuals," Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said. One person was killed and 15 others were injured, including one who was “in extremely critical condition.” Law enforcement officials say there is no sign that the shooting at the Cameo Nightlife club was in any way related to terrorism.

Advertisement

"At this point it's unclear exactly what instigated the shooting," Captain Kimberly Williams said at a briefing. "Just a lot of chaos when the shots went off." Although the local police chief first said there were several gunmen involved, a top official later took to Twitter to say that so far there was only one reported gunman.

Police are having trouble obtaining a description of the suspects because witnesses are reluctant to cooperate. "We need people to come forward," Mayor John Cranley said. "We need people to have courage to come forward to identify the shooter or shooters in this case."

Williams said there had been “multiple problems” at Cameo in the past. There had last been a shooting inside the club on New Year’s Day in 2015, and another shootout broke out in the club’s parking lot in September.

March 26 2017 11:45 AM

Fox News Host Calls on Paul Ryan to Step Down Hours After Trump Plugged Her Show

President Donald Trump sent out two tweets on Saturday morning, after the collapse of his first big legislative effort. First, he repeated a message from the night before, gleefully telling people not to worry because “ObamaCare will explode” and then “we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE.” Shortly thereafter, the commander in chief called on followers to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News that evening.

Ten-and-a-half hours later, Pirro called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to step down for the failure to pass health care reform.

Advertisement

"Ryan needs to step down as Speaker of the House. The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill, the one trumpeted to repeal and replace Obamacare, the one that he had seven years to work on, the one he had under lock and key in the basement of Congress, the one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarrassment of not having enough votes to pass,” Pirro said. “But this bill didn’t just fail, it failed when Republicans had the Senate, the House and the White House. The timing? It failed in the first 70 days of Donald Trump’s administration.”

As far as Pirro is concerned, none of this is Trump’s fault. After all, he’s new to Washington. “No one expected a business man to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process,” the Fox News host said. Ryan, however, is a different story. "You come in with all your swagger and experience and sell them a bill of goods which ends up a complete and total failure and you allow our president, in his first 100 days, to come out of the box like that, based on what?" Pirro said.

Since the Friday collapse of health care, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have repeatedly said they continue to support Ryan as speaker. And Pirro, well aware that people would make a connection between the president’s tweet and what she was saying, assured viewers she had not discussed her opening statement with Trump. "When he tweeted, 'Watch Judge Jeanine tonight,' he and I had absolutely no conversation, no discussion, no email, nothing," she said.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied there was any coordination between the White House and Pirro. “First of all, I will go on record, we do love Judge Janine, and so does the president,” Priebus said. “I think it was more coincidental.” Host Chris Wallace seemed to have a hard time believing that: “Come on.” Although Priebus acknowledged that he had not talked to the president about his tweet, he insisted “there is no preplanning here.” And when he was asked directly whether Trump wanted Ryan to resign, Priebus didn’t hesitate: “No, he doesn’t.”

March 25 2017 6:09 PM

Will Reince Priebus Become the Fall Guy for Trumpcare’s Failure?

As Washington starts to digest the spectacular failure that was President Donald Trump’s first big agenda item, the inevitable question becomes who will be blamed for essentially assuring that the administration won’t have any big legislative victories in its first 100 days. An obvious candidate? Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Sure, House Speaker Paul Ryan may be the most clear choice, but Trump has at least publicly expressed support for the lawmaker. Inside the White House, some are saying that Trump is looking at his own staff, blaming them for steering him down the wrong path.

CNN reports:

The source close to Trump described a president who felt bamboozled by Ryan and his own staff, duped into thinking that passing health care would be the quick victory he needed to make good on a campaign promise central to his election and push forward on other policy fronts.
Trump is likely to blame Ryan and his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the source said, since he "bought" into Ryan’s plan and helped convince Trump to get on board, according to another senior administration official.
Advertisement

The New York Times also hears a similar message:

Increasingly, that blame has fallen on Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, who coordinated the initial legislative strategy on the health care repeal with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, his close friend and a fellow Wisconsin native, according to three people briefed on the president’s recent discussions.

Priebus would also be the most convenient fall guy, notes T.A. Frank in Vanity Fair:

Trump needs Ryan … and there’s no obvious replacement for him, either. Pence remains important as an emissary, even if his counsel will suffer a drop in value. So, if Trump needs someone to abuse, it’s going to be Reince. Perhaps Priebus will be instructed to bend over when approached by Trump, to allow for easier kicking.

With all this talk, it’s hardly surprising that some are already starting to hear that Trump could be considering getting rid of Priebus. “Source close to @POTUS says he’s being advised to replace @Reince45 & is open to possibility,” wrote Politico’s Tara Palmeri on Twitter.

Some are hearing a different message though. BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo, for example, says that a “senior White House official” told him that the “Reince Priebus job is not in jeopardy.”

Others also point out that some Trump loyalists inside the White House have been wanting to get Priebus fired for weeks. (Case in point: Earlier this month, Politico published a story under the headline “Knives are out for Reince.”) So it should hardly be surprising that some are taking the opportunity to push that angle more after the health care debacle. Whether Trump will suddenly be willing to listen to the anti-Priebus faction inside the White House after the health care failure remains to be seen.

March 25 2017 3:45 PM

Bannon Pushed Trump to Use Health Care Vote to Write Up “Enemies List”

Following the embarrassing collapse of Trumpcare, everyone is asking the same question, What went wrong? And while there are several different angles to answer the question, there seems to be one constant, the president’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has no patience for negotiating with Congress and is more comfortable with threats than compromise. The New York Times reports that Bannon kept on pushing President Donald Trump to pressure the health care vote to move forward so that an “enemies list” could be compiled of all those who voted against the measure. The president’s legislative affairs director, Marc Short, was also pushing the same idea.

Unsurprisingly, Speaker Paul Ryan repeatedly told the president that making enemies out of fellow Republicans in the House was not the smartest idea considering that he would need them for other pieces of legislation in the future. In the end, Trump decided to listen to Ryan and back down.

Advertisement

The Times story appears to confirm earlier reports from the Daily Beast that quoted an official saying that Bannon called on the president “to keep a shit list on this.” The unnamed official added: “Not sure if I’d call it an ‘enemies list,’ per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.” Another aide described it as a “hit list” for Republicans who were not loyal to the president.

Earlier, Bannon had basically told Republican lawmakers they had no choice but to vote for the bill. In Axios, Mike Allen writes that when members of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, Bannon had a very undiplomatic opening line: “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill,” Bannon said. Needless to say, the lawmakers were decidedly unimpressed. “The last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn't listen to him, either,” one lawmaker answered.

READ MORE STORIES