POLITICS

Trump's Diplomacy Is Inappropriate, Delicious

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President Trump discussed bombing Syria with China’s president over “a beautiful piece of chocolate cake”, which made us wonder if Mary Berry ever discussed war crimes on “Great British Bake Off.” Trump flip-flopped by refusing to call China a “currency manipulator,” so expect a few fawning profiles about the moderating effect of Jared Kushner. And the president says he will induce Democrats into supporting Obamacare repeal by tying it to infrastructure — okay, so maybe people *will* die in the streets, but they’ll be *great* streets. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, April 12th, 2017:

MANAFORT RECEIVED PAYMENTS FROM PRO-RUSSIA PARTY, AP CONFIRMS - Na zdorovye! Jack Gillum, Chad Day and Jeff Horowitz: “Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity. Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States.” [AP]

FARA you kidding me: “A spokesman for Paul Manafort said the former Trump campaign manager has consulted with federal authorities about whether he should register as a foreign agent because of his past political work in Ukraine, and will now take ‘appropriate steps in response to the guidance.’” [NBC News’ Tom Winter]

REX TILLERSON STAYS AWAKE LONG ENOUGH TO HAVE AWKWARD VISIT WITH RUSSIAN LEADERS - Nice of the secretary of state to take a break from falling asleep in a duck blind while reading a novel about a man and his dog (we assume this is what he does).  Peter Graff: “Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday trust had eroded between the United States and Russia under President Donald Trump, as Moscow delivered an unusually hostile reception to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a face-off over Syria…. Tillerson started a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin after talking to his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov for around three hours. The Kremlin had previously declined to confirm Putin would meet Tillerson, reflecting tensions over the U.S. strike on Syria. Just as Tillerson sat down for talks with Lavrov earlier on Wednesday, a senior Russian official assailed the ‘primitiveness and loutishness’ of U.S. rhetoric, part of a volley of statements that appeared timed to maximize the awkwardness during the first visit by a member of Trump’s cabinet.” [Reuters] 

TRUMP FLIPS ON CHINA CURRENCY MANIPULATION - That sound you hear is 1,000 different journalists gearing up for another round of stories about diehard Trump supporters still being diehard Trump supporters. Gerard Baker, Carol E. Lee and Michael C. Bender: “Mr. Trump, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal...said his administration won’t label China a currency manipulator in a report due this week. He left open the possibility of renominating Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen once her tenure is up next year, a shift from his position during the campaign that he would ‘most likely’ not appoint her to another term…. Mr. Trump said the reason he has changed his mind on one of his signature campaign promises is that China hasn’t been manipulating its currency for months and because taking the step now could jeopardize his talks with Beijing on confronting the threat of North Korea. ‘They’re not currency manipulators,’ Mr. Trump said.” [WSJ]

Haircuts: Arthur Delaney (h/t Arthur Delaney), Eliot Nelson (h/t Tiger Beat).

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YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT, TOO, AND ALSO KILL SOME CIVILIANS  - Sadly, most modern presidents have probably discussed bombing civilians over dessert. Igor Bobic: “President Donald Trump said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping about his decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria while the men ate dessert at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, last week. During the interview, Trump seemed to dwell on the fact that the two world leaders were enjoying some delicious cake. ‘I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen, and President Xi was enjoying it,’ Trump recalled in an interview with Fox News Business host Maria Bartiromo that aired on Wednesday.” [HuffPost]

Then there was the part of the interview where Trump confused Iraq with Syria, but whatever!

GOP’S TALKING POINTS VEIN NOT TERRIBLY RICH - Matt Fuller: “In a document sent to all House Republicans and obtained by The Huffington Post, the House GOP conference offers some tips on how to frame the past few less-than-spectacular months. ‘Republicans promised the American people we’d have an aggressive agenda, and we do,’ the document begins, in an over-promise/under-deliver tone that Republicans are probably familiar with at this point. ‘Using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), we’re working every day with President Trump to roll back harmful Obama-era regulations ― more than any other time in history ― so we can grow our economy and create jobs.’ If you begin your talking points by touting your aggressive agenda, and then bring up all the stuff you plan to get done with the Congressional Review Act ― which allows Congress to block regulations from government agencies with just a simple majority in the House and Senate ― perhaps it is time to rethink how you begin your talking points.” [HuffPost]

YEAH, THIS ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN - Well, maybe Joe Manchin will support this. Andrew Soergel: “During an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump said his tax reform plans would ultimately ‘be better’ if he could first get his desired Affordable Care Act repeal and replace legislation through Capitol Hill…. ‘I see it as part, perhaps, of the health care plan,’ Trump said of his promised infrastructure overhaul. ‘Because phase 2 of the health care plan, in order to get the votes, I need 60 percent for that. And if I put that in, the Democrats are actually going to love the infrastructure plan.’” [U.S. News]

MEANWHILE, THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IS IN TROUBLE - Trump still hasn’t decided whether to help save it or kill it. Jonathan Cohn: “President Donald Trump and his congressional allies could still wreak havoc with the Affordable Care Act’s private insurance markets, even though the effort at full repeal has stalled. They could do so through some combination of neglect and sabotage ― and it could all start more quickly than most people realize. Right now, insurance companies that sell individual policies through the law’s exchanges are trying to figure out what premiums to charge next year and, in some cases, whether to keep selling on the exchanges at all. They’re making these decisions without key information, because the Trump administration has sent mixed signals about its intent to enforce the law and to continue paying critical subsidies to insurers.” [HuffPost]

GOP EKES OUT WIN IN KANSAS SPECIAL ELECTION, TRUMP BUNGLES MESSAGING - “Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes,” Trump tweeted last night, “easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!” Igor Bobic with how wrong that (mostly) is: “The only thing Trump got right in his tweet, however, is the outcome of the race. Estes did not ‘easily’ win on Tuesday, as the president said. In an ultra-conservative district that Trump won by 27 points in November, Estes won by only 7 points. That’s a 20-point swing toward the Democrats ― and it could bode well for the party in coming special elections, as well as the midterms. Democrats did not spend heavily on the race. In fact, they barely spent anything at all. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not begin running live calls urging residents of the district to vote for Thompson until Monday, the eve of the race.” [HuffPost] 

TRUMP TO SCREW HIS OWN VOTERS, PART 8,303,913 - Arthur Delaney: “Donald Trump won the presidency largely by turning out rural voters whose economic woes had allegedly been forgotten by the Washington establishment. The federal government runs a plethora of programs designed to ease those economic woes, but Trump wants to cut them. His administration has proposed deep reductions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several federal programs that help small businesses in rural areas…. A president’s budget generally serves as an ideological statement and an opening bid with Congress, which actually sets spending levels. But after Trump released his budget, his administration followed up with a list of domestic spending cuts it would like to see in upcoming legislation to fund government operations beyond April 28.” [HuffPost]

THESE BROS AIN’T LOYAL - Michael Goodwin: “Washington’s rumor mill is working overtime on the fate of presidential aide Steve Bannon, who is said to be at the center of the rampant White House infighting. When I asked the president Tuesday afternoon if he still has confidence in Bannon, who took over the campaign in mid-August, I did not get a definitive yes. ‘I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,’ Trump said…. He ended by saying, ‘Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.’” [NY Post]

KELLYANNE CONWAY, LADIES AND GERMS - “I’m not the darkness” is also our favorite Liz Phair album. Nick Wing: “White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday offered an impressively ironic defense against media allegations that she is an agent of misinformation. Speaking at a Washington D.C. forum on President Donald Trump’s first 100 Days, Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Wolff told Conway that she’s viewed as ‘the darkness’ for many reporters.... ‘I’m not the darkness,’ Conway responded, accusing the media of exhibiting ‘presumptive negativity’ in its coverage of Trump. ‘It’s what I tell small children: Just because somebody says something doesn’t make it true,’ she said. ‘It’s a great lesson for everyone.’” [HuffPost]

GUT GRIEF - Or, “that time the German government had to talk to Sean Spicer about Godwin’s Law.” Willa Frej: “Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration had to remind White House press secretary Sean Spicer of this on Wednesday after he suggested a day earlier that as monstrous as Hitler was, even he didn’t ‘sink to using chemical weapons.’ … Spicer’s comment ‘only shows what is in any case the German government’s position — any comparison of current situations with Nazi crimes leads to nothing good,’ Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said, according to the Associated Press.” [HuffPost]

ADMINISTRATIVE STATE ASKED TO DECONSTRUCT ITSELF - Lisa Rein and Damian Paletta: “The White House on Wednesday will instruct all federal agencies to submit a plan by June 30 to shrink their civilian workforces, offering the first details on how the Trump administration aims to reduce the size and scope of the government. A governmentwide hiring freeze the president imposed on Jan. 23 will be lifted immediately. But Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Tuesday that agency leaders must start ‘taking immediate actions’ to save money and reduce their staffs. Mulvaney also said they must come up with a long-term blueprint to cut the number of federal workers starting in October 2018.” [WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s Sean Spicer failing to pronounce Bashar al-Assad’s name.

VOTERS CAN EVEN - It’s just reporters who can’t even. Ariel Edwards-Levy: “The idea that recent news cycles have become uniquely grueling has taken hold in much of the media. ‘It feels as if we are living in a Superconducting Super Collider of news, with information bombarding us at a head-spinning velocity,’ The New York Times’ Christopher Mele wrote in February. But among respondents who say they generally try to stay informed on what’s happening in politics, just 30 percent say that they feel political news is changing so quickly that they can’t keep up. Sixty percent say they don’t have any problems doing so.” [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- Cat is the player of the game.

- Dad photoshops daughter into dangerous day-to-day situations in effort to give grandmother a heart attack.

- We are very into this Japanese woodworking.

TWITTERAMA

@EmilyRPeck: I give it 2-3 weeks before we get a “I Ate The Chocolate Cake At Mar-A-Lago. It Was Not Beautiful” story

@emilybell: podcast genres : 1. Men going on about things. 2. Whispery crime 3.Millennials talking over each other 4. Should be 20 minutes shorter 

@MEPFuller: I like coffee with chocolate cake, but Tomahawk missiles prob also pair well. 

What’s your favorite missile after a meal? Let us know in th

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