John T. Bennett

White House, North Korea still don‘t define ‘denuclearization’ the same way
Trump and aides downplay expectations for summit with Kim Jong Un next week

Just days before President Donald Trump will be face-to-face again with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two sides remain divided on one of the biggest issues at the heart of their second summit.

Among the many unresolved issues as Trump and Kim prepare for another meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam is a common definition of what “denuclearization” would mean for the reclusive Asian country. A senior Trump administration official told reporters on a call Thursday morning that one of the top agenda items for the leaders’ second meeting is trying to agree to a “shared understanding of what denuclearization is.”

3 Takeaways: There’s a big 2020 hue within Trump’s anti-socialism push
'I am not a democratic socialist,' says Dem presidential candidate Kamala Harris

ANALYSIS | President Donald Trump is vowing to rid the Western Hemisphere of socialist governments, but the early days of his push appear as much about his own re-election fight than anything happening in Central and South America.

“The twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere,” Trump said to applause from an audience of Venezuelan-Americans Monday in Miami. “And, frankly, in many, many places around the world. The days of socialism and communism are numbered - not only in Venezuela, but in Nicaragua and in Cuba, as well.”

Trump says Mueller report release timing ‘totally’ up to Barr
The president was asked after CNN reported Wednesday Mueller’s report could be finalized next week

During a Wednesday meeting with his Austrian counterpart, President Donald J. Trump said the release of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report would be “totally” up to Attorney General William Barr.

The president was asked after CNN reported Wednesday that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report could be finalized next week.  Trump said releasing it — perhaps while he is in Vietnam — would be “totally” up to Attorney General William Barr.

After contentious border moves, stakes only get higher for Trump
‘The real rough water for President Trump still lies ahead,’ GOP insider says

ANALYSIS — “Stay tuned” is a common refrain from White House aides when asked about the many cliffhangers created by President Donald Trump. But remarkably, even after three topsy-turvy months that culminated Friday in a wild Rose Garden appearance, that West Wing mantra will apply doubly over the next few weeks.

Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency at the southern border to unlock Pentagon funds for his proposed border wall came wrapped in an announcement press conference during which he veered from topic to topic, undercut his own legal position, often appeared dispassionate when discussing the emergency declaration, and made more baseless claims. That matter is already embroiled in court fights, putting perhaps his biggest campaign promise in legal limbo, and has appeared to created new distance between him and some Senate Republicans.

Trump to nominate Jeffrey Rosen as Rosenstein replacement
Deputy attorney general has come under frequent criticism from the president

The White House announced Tuesday night that President Donald Trump plans to nominate Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general.

Rosenstein has been overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russia’s 2016 election meddling and related actions by the president and his associates. He said earlier Tuesday he plans to leave in mid-March.

Trump denies asking Whitaker if ally could oversee Cohen probe
Trump also discusses North Korean summit, Sanders’ presidential run and China tariffs during space policy event

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied a report that he asked then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if an ally could undo his recusal in an investigation of his former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen.

Longtime Trump ally Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, had already recused himself from the Cohen case at the point of Trump’s request. But the president wanted him to oversee an investigation into Trump, Cohen, and payments made during the 2016 campaign to several women to keep them quiet about extramarital affairs with Trump.

Trump denies calling Andrew McCabe's wife a ‘loser’ as feud intensifies
Former acting FBI boss is under president’s skin ahead of Kim summit, China tariffs deadline

Donald Trump is at war with Andrew McCabe, accusing the former acting FBI director of “Treason!” and accusing him of a “lie” by claiming the president once called his wife a “loser.”

Even during and after a long weekend at his South Florida resort after a chaotic mid-December to mid-February stretch, Trump was unable to ignore claims McCabe, who ordered a counterintelligence investigation into Trump and his possible coordination with Russians, is making as he peddles a new tell-all book.

Marc Short, who quit in July, is coming back to the White House
Short will return as Pence’s chief of staff, giving him even more influence within the administration

Marc Short, President Donald Trump’s former top liaison to Congress, is returning to the administration as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, a source familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

His July departure from the White House did not last long, and his return will give him even more influence within the administration.

Trump wings it in feisty, combative Rose Garden emergency announcement
POTUS berates reporters, slams Dems as policy event morphs into campaign rally

ANALYSIS  — A testy and combative President Donald Trump winged it Friday in the Rose Garden, turning an often-rambling defense of his border security emergency into a 2020 assault on Democrats.

Trump has redefined the presidency around his unique style and penchant for unpredictable and unprecedented moves, as well as the sharp rhetoric he uses both at the White House and his rowdy campaign rallies. But there was something different during Trump’s remarks Friday, with the president leading off his remarks by talking about anything but the compromise funding measure and border security actions he signed later that day.

Trump defends signing national emergency to build border wall
‘Walls work 100 percent,’ Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference

President Donald Trump defended his executive action to access $6.6 billion in Pentagon and Treasury Department funds for his southern border barrier, accusing Democrats of opposing it as part of a “big con” and “a lie.”

Trump said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Charles E. Schumer “know” border walls work, but they are resisting his proposal purely for political reasons.

Trade talks with China ‘intensive’ but tariffs still set to balloon on March 1, White House says
‘Much work remains,’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders said ahead of new round next week

The White House on Friday said “intensive” trade talks this week with Chinese officials yielded “progress,” but there was no indication President Donald Trump is ready to delay a substantial ballooning of tariffs on Chinese-made goods set to take effect March 1.

“These detailed and intensive discussions led to progress between the two parties,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Much work remains, however.”

White House: Wall funds would be ‘back-filled’ in 2020 budget request
Trump will take money from Pentagon and Treasury that would bring total wall funding to $8 billion

Senior White House officials said Friday that the funds President Donald Trump will take from the Pentagon and the Treasury Department to pay for his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would be “back-filled” in his 2020 budget request.

That means U.S. taxpayers would pay for every penny of the wall in fiscal 2019 — even though Trump long promised that Mexico would pay for it.

Legal fight expected for Trump’s national emergency declaration
Experts predict high court will back his power to do so, but maybe not accessing military monies

President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency at the southern border to redirect military funds to his border wall project after lawmakers gave him $4.3 billion less than his $5.7 billion ask. But the move is expected to bring court fights that could sink his plan. 

A House-Senate conference committee could only agree to give the president just shy of $1.4 billion for the barrier project as conferees struck a deal needed to avert another partial government shutdown. The president — who earlier this week said he couldn’t say he was happy about the contents of the compromise — reluctantly agreed to sign it into law after the Senate and House sign off during floor votes Thursday.

Trump’s cryptic ‘funding bill’ tweet momentarily casts doubt over border bill
President tweeted, then deleted but still hasn’t signaled if he’ll sign funding bill as shutdown looms

Washington lost its collective breath Thursday morning when President Donald Trump fired off a cryptic tweet that read simply: “funding bill.”

U.S. trade team ‘soldiering on’ in China ahead of high-stakes Xi meeting
Kudlow downplays deficit growth as experts, lawmakers sound alarms

U.S. officials on the ground in China for high-stakes trade talks are “soldiering on” and will get facetime with Chinese President Xi Jinping, something a top aide to President Donald Trump calls a positive sign as a key deadline approaches.

“I’ve talked to the group [in China]. They’re covering all the ground,” said Lawrence Kudlow, the White House’s chief economic official. “They’re hard at it. They are going to meet with President Xi, so that’s a very good sign.”

Trump has yet to make final decision on border bill as shutdown looms
Conservatives blast legislation on Fox morning show as White House staff evaluates it

President Donald Trump has not yet made a final decision about signing a massive spending measure needed to avert another government shutdown that includes far less for his southern border than he demanded, a White House official said.

“POTUS has not made a final decision. We are still reviewing the bill,” said the White House official, who has knowledge of the president’s decision-making.

3 Things to Watch: ‘Trump Show, Shutdown II’ heads to climactic scene
Will he or won’t he? Not even GOP lawmakers, WH staff seem to know

If Yogi Berra, the New York Yankees hall of fame catcher, was around to gaggle with reporters at the White House or in a Capitol hallway about the ongoing border security spending and government shutdown drama, he would likely note that it feels “like déjà vu all over again.”

Washington has entered a time warp of sorts as President Donald Trump and his top aides tiptoe up to the edge of declaring he will sign a bipartisan compromise package that would hand him $4.3 billion less for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall than he has for months demanded. By Wednesday morning, it became increasingly difficult to be sure whether it was December 2018 or February 2019.

Trump: ‘A shutdown would be a terrible thing’
But president says he’s looking for ‘land mines’ in deal with Democrats

President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to be inching toward supporting a compromise border security spending measure, saying another government shutdown would be “terrible.”

“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing,” he said in the Oval Office alongside his Colombian counterpart.

Trump field tests 2020 campaign attack lines amid latest shutdown drama
‘We have to stop politicking every minute,’ Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey shoots back

President Donald Trump tested a new 2020 script Monday night during a raucous rally in El Paso, slamming some new Democratic faces and policy proposals to the delight of a rowdy crowd.

But that doesn’t mean familiar targets and chant-encouraging lines were missing from the campaigner in chief’s roughly 80 minutes on stage in the West Texas border city. The president appeared to be field-testing which 2016 campaign lines to keep in his arsenal and which new ones might keep the conservative base energized — and angry at Democrats.

Trump calls on Rep. Ilhan Omar to resign
Criticism of Omar’s tweet was amplified when Democratic leaders released a statement condemning it as 'deeply offensive'

President Donald Trump called on Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar to step down Tuesday after the Muslim-American congresswoman made remarks about an Israeli political organization that drew rebukes from her own caucus.

“I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting. The president alleged Omar has anti-Israeli views “deep seeded in her heart” and labeled her Monday apology “lame.”