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If there’s one upside of the impending nuclear war, it’s the hilariously understated New York Times headlines we’ll get about it (“Radioactive Detonations Present New Challenges”). We’re 99 percent certain Senate Republicans have spent more time strategizing how to defend Mitch McConnell than they have coming up with even a moderately coherent health care package. And manchild Jared Kushner has been ordered to hammer out an Israeli-Palestinian peace, though we’re not sure if anecdotes about making out on a coach bus during a 1990s Birthright trip is the best way to end hostilities in the Holy Land. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, August 11th, 2017:
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY SHALL ESCAPE FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS FOR A FEW DAYS - Would that Ron Howard could narrate this whole damn thing. Jeff Mason: ”President Donald Trump is sending his son-in-law Jared Kushner and negotiator Jason Greenblatt to the Middle East soon to meet regional leaders and discuss a ‘path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks,’ a White House official said on Friday. Deputy national security adviser Dina Powell will also be on the trip, which will include meetings with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the official said. ‘While the regional talks will play an important role, the president reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress towards that goal,’ the official said.” [Reuters]
THIS SORT OF LANGUAGE WORKED OUT REALLY WELL FOR W - LOL, who are we kidding? No one remembers anything about the second Bush administration. Alana Horowitz Satlin: “President Donald Trump tweeted a dire new warning to North Korea on Friday, saying that the U.S. military is ‘locked and loaded’ in case its mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un, decides to ‘act unwisely.’” [HuffPost]
Maybe we won’t get to use that “Here Today, Guam Tomorrow” headline. “China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first. The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy, experts said. China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and strongly reiterated that idea Friday.” [WaPo’s Simon Denyer]
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT - David B. Larter: “If you watch cable news or follow the president’s Twitter feed, you might be under the impression that the U.S. is heading to war with North Korea. But somebody, it seems, forgot to loop in the U.S. military…. ‘This may come as a shock, but the rhetoric doesn’t match reality,’ a U.S. official said. ‘[I’m] worried about a “Guns of August” scenario, where we stumble into a conflict,’ referring to the popular history book of World War I that argued the war happened because of a series of diplomatic miscues. Out at U.S. Pacific Command, or PACOM, the command that would lead any attack on North Korea, its situation normal, according to a source familiar who spoke on background. ′Nobody at PACOM is setting their hair on fire; it’s calm and professional,′ the source said. ”It‘s really D.C. rhetoric that’s driving this whole thing.’” [Defense News]
TRUMP VS. THE STATE DEPARTMENT - This thing where federal officials have to ignore the president in order to do their jobs is bad all around. Nahal Toosi, Austin Wright and Bryan Bender: “The Trump administration has been pursuing backchannel talks with North Korea, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter, even as the president himself threatens to undermine such efforts with his off-the-cuff and inflammatory rhetoric toward the emerging nuclear power. The two officials confirmed to POLITICO that the State Department has been involved in diplomatic communications with North Korea, with one official adding that the National Security Council staff had also explored backchannel discussions. The Associated Press reported earlier on Friday that Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, has been in regular contact with Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s mission at the United Nations.” [Politico]
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MCMASTER OF NONE - Considering tenures in the Trump administration should be measured in dog years given their intense briefness, Bannon ― should he be let go soon ― will have served roughly 521 years. Tara Palmeri: “The conservative news site Breitbart has waged a nonstop campaign against national security adviser H.R. McMaster, but so far it seems to have done the most damage to someone else: Steve Bannon…. The attacks on McMaster have put Bannon in an especially awkward position with his new boss, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, who has been increasingly defensive of McMaster, a longtime friend and fellow general, according to interviews with 10 administration officials and people close to the White House. McMaster, who pushed Bannon off the National Security Council principals’ committee, hasn’t spoken to Bannon in weeks, one senior administration official said…. Bannon has grown more isolated without his ally Priebus [editor’s note: what?!?] in the West Wing. He remained in Washington this week while the president and other top staff have decamped to the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and spends his days either holed up in his office or attending meetings.” [Politico]
YOUR DAILY DOSE OF HMMMMMMMMM - Can a thinky face emoji be one’s spirit animal? Jonathan O’Connell: “Donald Trump’s company turned a $1.97 million profit at its opulent Trump International Hotel so far in 2017, dramatically beating its expectations and giving the first hard numbers to critics who charge that Trump is profiting from his presidency. The Trump Organization had projected that it would lose $2.1 million during the first four months of 2017 as it established a new hotel and convention business in the nation’s capital, according to newly released federal documents. Instead the hotel, with its namesake in the White House down the street, is already turning a hefty profit and charging more for its rooms than most or all of the city’s other hotels.” [WaPo]
SENATE REPUBLICANS COME TO MCCONNELL’S DEFENSE - We’re still waiting for Jeff Flake and his newfound sense of independence to take the lead on this one. Paige Lavender: “Senate Republicans are showing their support for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) amid a downpour of criticism from President Donald Trump. GOP Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) were among those to tweet their support for McConnell…. Antonia Ferrier, who as staff director of the Senate Republican Communications Center forms part of McConnell’s press operation, retweeted many of the lawmakers’ posts on Friday. (Ferrier has not responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.) But Matt Whitlock, communications director for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), denied there was any kind of organized effort to get behind the Senate majority leader. ‘If you think some email went out to Senators yesterday to speak up for Leader McConnell, you’d be mistaken. They did that all on their own,’ [Whitlock tweeted].” [HuffPost]
CONGRESS ACTUALLY DOES THING - Trump learns about this and then immediately takes credit for it, right? Kellie Mejdrich: ”The House during a pro forma session Friday cleared a bipartisan bill aimed at paring down a massive backlog of appeals for veterans’ disability benefits. Passage of the measure brings to three the number of major veterans’ bills that now await President Donald Trump’s signature. In addition to the appeals bill, Congress before leaving for the August recess cleared a $2.1 billion funding patch for a private medical care access program, and the ‘Forever GI Bill,’ which extends education benefits to future veterans for an entire lifetime instead of the current 15-year window.” [Roll Call]
GONE FISHIN’ - Lots of empty desks in the federal government these days. Elana Schor: “The Senate ended its bitterly partisan health care debate last week with little-noticed harmony on confirmations, as more than five dozen picks by President Donald Trump were cleared for senior posts across the government. But that spree of approvals still leaves the president with 147 nominees awaiting Senate action — significantly more than the previous four administrations had as of early August, according to a tally kept by the independent Partnership for Public Service…. Trump also lags in naming advisers to critical positions, with 354 of the 577 top jobs tracked by the Partnership still unfilled more than six months after his inauguration.″ [Politico]
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a very chill otter.
NEGOTIATION EXPERTS NOT IMPRESSED BY TRUMP - We give it a few hours before the White House releases reaction comments from “Professors of Speaking Strongly” at a heretofore unknown university. Jennifer Bendery: “Last week, The Washington Post released transcripts of two phone calls Trump had with foreign leaders in January — one with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and another with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull…. We asked experts in business and diplomatic negotiation to weigh in. ‘His skills are few,’ John Oesch, an associate professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said in an email. ’He has relied on power (or perceived power), threats, and treating people very poorly to get what he wants. Most negotiation scholars agree that power is an unsustainable way to resolve conflict and a poor negotiating technique, unless you want only to take from the other party and not create any value for either side″” [HuffPost]
- An island in New York no one can visit ― and no, that isn’t a comment about the cost of life in Manhattan.
- How to make a sandwich with year-old ingredients.
- Making a flip book out of tattoos.
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