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Trump lashes out at Rex Tillerson for saying Putin out-prepared him

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump lashed out at Rex Tillerson on Thursday morning after his former secretary of state reportedly told a House committee that the president was ill-prepared for a 2017 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany,” Trump tweeted. “I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

The tweet followed a Washington Post report that Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Putin out-prepared Trump for the meeting at the 2017 G-20 summit. Tillerson said Putin’s higher level of preparation put Trump at a disadvantage during the meeting.

The U.S. had anticipated a shorter meeting between the two leaders, but it instead turned into a two-hour plus discussion of geopolitical issues, committee aides told the Post. Tillerson spoke before the committee for seven hours in a closed-door session on Tuesday.

“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a committee aide told the Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”

Tillerson spoke with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and staff at the request of the panel’s chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the newspaper reported. Unlike Trump’s solo meeting with Putin in Helsinki last summer, advisers — including Tillerson — were present alongside him at the meeting with the Russian president in Germany.

Tillerson and Trump had sparred for months before the president fired him in March of last year. The former secretary of state nearly resigned in the summer of 2017 amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House, NBC News reported, citing senior administration officials. As tensions came to a head, Tillerson called Trump a “moron” following a meeting at the Pentagon with Cabinet officials and members of Trump’s national security team, three officials familiar with the incident said.

In December, Tillerson told CBS News that Trump was “undisciplined,” didn’t read much and tried to do things that would violate the law. In response, Trump said Tillerson “didn’t have the mental capacity needed” to be secretary of state.

“He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough,” Trump tweeted. “He was lazy as hell.”

In hiring Tillerson to run the State Department, Trump pointed to the former Exxon Mobil executive’s “vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments” and called him “a world class player and dealmaker.”

“He will be a star,” Trump tweeted after Tillerson was sworn in.



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Politics

Trump leans on his greatest hits in campaign kickoff

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WASHINGTON — Like an aging rock star, President Trump played all of his greatest hits at his re-election rally last night in Orlando, Florida.

And he offered little that was new.

Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton multiple times.

“If you want to know how the system is rigged, just compare how they came after us for three years with everything they have versus the free pass they gave to Hillary and her aides after they set up an illegal server.”

He talked about his crowd size and criticized the news media.

“You know, I said this is a very big arena for a Tuesday night. I said, you know if we have about three or four empty seats, the Fake News will say, headlines, he didn’t fill up the arena.”

And he had nicknames for his current political opponents.

“Well, tell Sleepy Joe that we found the magic wand. Sleepy guy!”

“More than 120 Democrats in Congress have also signed up to support Crazy Bernie Sanders’ crazy socialist takeover of health care.”

Don’t get us wrong: Old rock bands can still pack arenas — and make big bucks in the process.

But the problem with keeping all of the old fans happy by playing the greatest hits is that you don’t work on anything new.

That’s arguably Trump’s biggest vulnerability heading into 2020: Are there any new fans to win over after getting just 46 percent of the popular vote in 2016?

And it creates a dilemma for Democratic voters — fight Trump with your own aging rock star who’s leading in the polls with 500-plus days until the general election.

Or fight him with something that’s entirely new?

Don’t stop believin’…

UN investigator says Saudi crown prince could be liable for Khashoggi murder

“The United Nations extrajudicial executions investigator said there was ‘credible evidence’ that high-level Saudi officials, including powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, could be liable for the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” NBC News writes.

“In an 101-page report into the journalist’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, Agnes Callamard called on U.N. bodies or the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to ‘demand’ a follow-up criminal investigation.”

2020 Vision: Biden says “rich people are just as patriotic as poor people”

At a Manhattan fundraiser with bold-faced Wall Street types last night, Joe Biden said he opposed demonizing rich Americans.

“By the way, you know, remember I got in trouble with some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side, because I said, ‘You know what I’ve found is rich people are just as patriotic as poor people,’” he said, per a pool report of the fundraiser.

More Biden: “Not a joke. I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money. The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done.”

And: “We can disagree in the margins, but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.”

Over to you, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

On the campaign trail today

Jill Biden stumps for her husband in New Hampshire… And Marianne Williamson also is in the Granite State.

Data Download: The number of the day is … six

That’s the number of months that have passed since the Trump administration last had a confirmed secretary of defense — James Mattis.

On Tuesday, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down and withdrew from consideration for the Cabinet position.

Trump named Army Secretary Mark Esper to replace Shanahan as acting secretary.

“The announcement came within minutes of a report published in The Washington Post that outlined a series of alleged domestic violence incidents within Shanahan’s family,” per NBC News.

Remember when Trump said, “I alone can fix this”?

Well, he’s pretty much alone governing right now.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Florida Man

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a look at why the president formally kicked off his re-election campaign in central Florida.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Mitch McConnell says that reparations are not “a good idea.” And McConnell also suggested that the Democratic push for D.C. statehood is part of their “full-bore socialism on the march.”

Here’s the latest on the back-and-forth after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared migrant detention centers to “concentration camps.”

After withdrawing from the confirmation process for Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan is speaking out about incidents of domestic violence in his family that have recently come to light.

The New York Times has a long read on the whole Michael Cohen/Jerry Falwell/Trump endorsement storyline.

Trump agenda: Hope floats

Democrats are pinning new hopes on Hope Hicks’ congressional testimony.

The Washington Post reports on the internal debate within the administration over whether the U.S. is being too aggressive with Iran.

Trump suggested that he might move to remove Jerome Powell as chief of the Fed.

2020: Kamala’s HBCU push

POLITICO writes that Elizabeth Warren may be consolidating support among some Democratic centrists.

The Orlando Sentinel endorsed “not Trump” hours before the president’s re-election rally.

Joe Biden mentioned two segregationist senators when talking about “civility” in the United States Senate.

Kamala Harris is making a big push into HBCUs.

Is Sarah Sanders really going to run for governor of Arkansas?



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Tory leadership race tracker: How Boris Johnson and Rory Stewart fared after BBC debate

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TORY leadership candidate Rory Stewart has suffered a massive drop in support following the BBC debate on Tuesday evening – whilst Boris Johnson is looking more popular than ever.

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Hope Hicks testifies before House committee behind closed doors

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former aide Hope Hicks arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats planned to focus their questions on what they say are five crimes of obstruction of justice established by the Mueller Report against Trump, as well as campaign finance violations involved with alleged election-year hush money payments.

Her appearance marks the first time a former Trump aide has come in to answer questions before that panel as part of Democrats’ obstruction of justice investigation. A transcript of the interview will be released, though it may not appear for several days.

Other issues Democrats plan to question Hicks about include Trump’s conduct and attitude towards former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s reaction when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, among others.

In a letter sent to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Tuesday evening, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone asserted that Hicks was not legally required to provide testimony regarding her time working in the White House.

“Ms. Hicks is absolutely immune from being compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters occurring during her service as a senior adviser to the President,” he wrote.

Nadler dismissed those claims. “I reject that assertion” regarding blanket executive privilege, he said in a response released late Tuesday night, adding that after the panel poses questions to her, “we will address privilege and other objections on a question by question basis.”

Hicks’s testimony comes after the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena last month for her appearance. She previously served as White House communications director and the White House director of strategic communications after a stint as a senior aide on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The White House directed Hicks and another former White House aide earlier this month not to hand over any documents to the House Judiciary Committee related to their time at the White House.

Mike Memoli contributed.



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