Trump sees displaced, proclaims his leadership and fitness, swipes at media
Developments on Day 226 of the Trump Administration:
Trump Makes 2nd Trip After Hurricane Harvey
Trying to repair his image after PR stumbles, Donald Trump makes a second trip to Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Widely criticized for his failure to acknowledge victims in his initial tweets and then in his first visit to officials on Tuesday — as well as an impromptu rally where he exulted, “What a crowd! What support!” — Trump tried to project compassion as well as his leadership yesterday.
But the tone was often awkward. At a convention center turned into a shelter for almost 1,200 people, Trump was pictured handing out cardboard boxes with hot dogs and potato chips to displaced residents. He then exulted, “Have a good time, everybody!”
He told reporters, “They’re really happy with what’s going on. It’s something that’s been very well received. Even by you guys, it’s been very well received.”
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 2, 2017
Trump also used the trip to swipe at the press. He praised the Coast Guard for rescuing about 11,000 people “by going into winds the media would not go into…unless it’s a really good story”.
Pres. Trump praises Coast Guard for saving people "by going into winds that the media would not go into…unless it's a really good story." pic.twitter.com/6JFH45o0wn
— ABC News (@ABC) September 2, 2017
One journalist noted, “We were literally on the helicopter with them.”
Trump may also be taking a political risk by declaring victory in recovery efforts, as he has done soon after Harvey made landfall last Sunday.
Federal officials have yet to inspect swamped, highly toxic Superfund sites in the Houston area. Several have petrochemical residue and could be leaking contaminants. Many Houston streets remain four or more feet underwater, and flooding has knocked out the water systems of Beaumont, with a population of nearly 120,000.
But Trump’s concern, as he noted, “The cameras are blazing”, appeared to be with projecting his command and fitness. At a church where he loaded the boxes into pickup trucks and cars, he said, “That was good exercise.”
Trump Budget to Eliminate Agency Investigating Houston Chemical Plant
A federal agency investigating a flooded chemical plant outside Houston is being elminiated under the Trump Administration’s proposed budget.
The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board announced an inquiry into the fires at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas on Thursday afternoon. Burning organic pesticides at the plant sent dense clouds of black smoke into skies which had been clearing after Hurricane Harvey.
The board, part of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, has 40 staff and a budget of $11 million and 40 staff. It played a major part in investigations of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and has conducted more than 130 inquiries since 1998.
Trump Names Non-Scientist, Climate Change Sceptic to Head NASA
For the first time in its history, NASA may be led by a non-scientist.
Donald Trump has nominated GOP Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, to head the space agency.
Bridenstine is an advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA’s programs. He also opposed the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change and, in 2013, denounced the Obama Administration for “30 times as much money on global warming research as…on weather forecasting and warning”.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bridenstine will be the first politician to lead NASA.
NASA’s previous administrator, Charles Bolden, stepped down on January 20 as Trump took office. The 225-day hiatus was the longest that the agency has been without a permanent head.
Obama's NASA appointee was a Navy test pilot who served as an astronaut for 14 years, received 16 military awards & 10 honorary doctorates. https://t.co/SSOX6LKJXf
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) September 2, 2017
Trump Orders Withdrawal from South Korea Trade Agreement
Donald Trump tells advisors to prepare withdrawal from the free-trade agreement with South Korea.
“Several people close to the process” said Trump is proceeding, despite a growing crisis over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. He has issued the order against opposition from National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn.
Officials said the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this week.
On Sunday, North Korea announced its sixth nuclear test, soon after proclaiming it has an “H-bomb”. The blast was recorded at 6.3 magnitude, indicating a weapon of 1 megaton.
South Korea is the sixth-largest US trade partner. American companies exported $42.3 billion in goods to South Korea and imported $69.9 billion in goods last year.
Trump spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in late Friday, but the White House mentioned only a discision on national security issues.
Justice Department: No Evidence Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower
The Justice Department has effectively said that Donald Trump lied in March when he said President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower in summer 2016.
“Both FBI and NSD [Justice’s National Security Division] confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” the department said.
Trump had asserted:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
White House advisor Kellyanne Conway even claimed that the Obama Administration might have carried out the surveillance through microwave ovens.
FBI Director James Comey, later to be fired by Trump because of the Trump-Russia inquiry, told the House Intelligence Committee later in March, “We have no information to support those tweets.”
Wife of NRA Leader LaPierre Appointed to Board of National Park Foundation
Susan LaPierre, co-chair of the National Rifle Association’s Women’s Leadership Forum and wife of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, has been appointed to the National Park Foundation’s Board of Directors.
LaPierre was appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, although none of the four new board members was announced by either the Interior Department or the Park Foundation.
LaPierre’s appointment comes as the Interior Department orders the National Park Service to reconsider regulations to protect wildlife, through limited on hunting and trapping enforced by the State of Alaska. In late June, Zinke pushed aside concerns by the National Park Service over a bill backed by the NRA.
The NRA pressed for Zinke’s confirmation after he was nominated by Donald Trump.
Posting a photo of her meeting with Zinke, LaPierre called it her “mountaintop moment”.
Essential Reading: Kushner’s Debt of Hundreds of Millions — and a Possible Russian Connection
David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby of Bloomberg detail how Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, is facing debt of hundreds of millions of dollars because of a troubled New York City skyscraper project.
The debt may have led Kushner into discussions with the head of a Russian State bank in mid-December 2016, just over a month before Trump was inaugurated as President.
Kushner’s wayward venture was the purchase in 2007 of a 41-story office building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, financing through the sale of hundreds of thousands of apartments and extensive borrowing.
But the Kushner Company has been unable to attract foreign investment, including from China and Arab states, so they are having to pull out of major projects and taking cash from others.
The company still holds half of a $1.2 billion mortgage, on which it hasn’t paid a cent. The full amount is due in February 2019.
The authors note:
Federal investigators know that Kushner met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Trump Tower last December and later met with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Kremlin-controlled VEB bank in two meetings that he didn’t, at first, disclose publicly or on his application for his national-security clearance. After those meetings became public, Kushner and the White House said the contacts were made in his role as a Trump adviser and didn’t involve discussion of his family business. But VEB and a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin described the meetings quite differently, noted Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. They said that Kushner was there in his capacity as head of his family’s real estate business. Investigators say they are studying those accounts with keen interest.