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Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has launched a consulting firm offering international clients access to the President, Vice President, and other key members of the administration, Politico reported Friday.

In a document offered to an Eastern European politician by Lewandowski’s Washington East West Political Strategies and obtained by Politico, the firm promises to secure “meetings with well-established figures” and “key members of the U.S. Administration,” including Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Clients, the document reportedly says, will benefit from their “trusted relations with the U.S. Administration.”

Lewandowski’s firm was co-founded with former Trump campaign adviser Barry Bennett, an executive at Azerbaijan’s state oil company and a U.S. political consultant who works in Russia, and is focused on getting new political clients in Eastern Europe, according to Politico. Bennett and Lewandowski have established a small cluster of geographically targeted firms, built in coordination with their D.C.-based Avenue Strategies, that leverage their friendly relationship with the White House to secure clients.

Lewandowski did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Bennett told Politico he had not seen the Washington East West Political Strategies document but that their primary focus was policy consulting, not lobbying.

The pair founded Avenue Strategies roughly one month before Inauguration Day. The firm’s D.C. office is located a stone’s throw from the White House, and their biographies heavily advertise their connections to the Trump campaign and administration.

After a hectic day in which he rattled an entire continent with his threat to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump made the seemingly contradictory claim: “I’m a nationalist and a globalist.”

The terms are often situated opposite each other: nationalists favor protectionist measures like tariffs and border walls, both of which Trump has advocated. Globalists support the free movement of people and capital. 

Trump’s threat to terminate NAFTA — he was eventually convinced not to pursue the matter, in favor of simply renegotiating the deal — was another example of nationalist muscle-flexing. In his closing campaign ad before the 2016 election, widely criticized as anti-Semitic, Trump decried “global interests,” and “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

But Trump, especially since taking office, has projected U.S. economic and military power globally himself. His administration is teeming with billionaire bankers. After endlessly pledging to label China a currency manipulator, he said he would rather have their cooperation in dealing with North Korea. He recently voiced support for the export-import bank, which finances businesses to sell their products overseas. He ordered a missile strike against a Syrian airfield.

There is a reported split in Trump’s administration between nationalists (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller) and globalists (Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus).

Asked about that split in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Thursday, Trump dismissed the idea.

“Hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist,” he said. “I’m both. And I’m the only one who makes the decision, believe me.”

April 28, 2017

Top Stories


All Bark, No Bite: Trump Ain’t The Negotiator He Bragged About

The Gist: On the campaign trail, Donald Trump marketed himself as an expert negotiator who would draw on his years of cutting deals in the boardroom to deliver the best terms for the American public. Almost 100 days into his Oval Office tenure, this high-stakes, take-no-prisoners style has proven to be more of a hindrance than a help for the President—and failed to secure a single legislative victory.

The White House’s Creeping Fear About Michael Flynn

The Gist: Is the White House covering up? Of course they are. Maybe it’s because they know the truth is that explosive. Or maybe it’s because they simply don’t know what a real investigation would find.

Trump Says He Thought Presidency ‘Would Be Easier’

The Gist: In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, President Donald Trump acknowledged that being president is tougher than he had imagined. “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” he told Reuters. “This is more work than in my previous life.”

From The Reporter’s Notebook


President Donald Trump tried a new negotiating strategy on Thursday as the deadline to avert a government shutdown loomed, according to TPM’s Esme Cribb. In a scattershot tweetstorm, he accused Democrats — whose support Republicans need to pass a spending measure and keep the lights on — of “bailing out insurance companies,” “blocking” miners’ health care, “jeopardizing the safety of our troops” and “Politics!”

Agree or Disagree?


Josh Marshall: “By going back to the repeal trough again and again, Republicans are allowing Democrats to plausibly argue in 2018 that Republicans will keep coming after your health care coverage as long as they’re in power. This is now demonstrably the case. With Republicans trying to do this again and again, Democrats will be able to say: They tried to take away your care, kill pre-existing conditions protections etc. And they’re going to keep trying. My moderate GOP opponent here, do you trust him/her?”

Say What?!


“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”

– President Donald Trump said Thursday that he would like to diffuse the standoff with North Korea over nuclear weapons with diplomacy, but he warned that “major” conflict is possible.

BUZZING: Today in the Hive


From a TPM Prime member: “I get that it sucks that not everyone can make $400K doing something ‘easy.’ There are major league pitchers who make more per inning thrown than I made in my first job out of college in a year. Capitalism is weird and sorta sucks in the ‘fairness’ department. But it’s actually a skill to be able to speak the way Obama does and his eight years (!!) as president of the United States is worth something, if not just bragging rights for a company to be able to say ‘we had Obama come speak to our people’ and I’m sure the employees love it. These companies are swimming in cash and they might as well pay up. I think this all is a lot less insidious than people make it out to be. His spokesperson said he’d make a variety of speaking engagements, including paid and unpaid. I’m not saying this as someone who loves WS or is a big defender of this sort of thing on principle but I am just so tired of hand-wringing about this issue when there are grifters and criminals and neo-Nazi sympathizers in the White House.”

Related: Elizabeth Warren Says She’s ‘Troubled’ By Reports Of Obama’s $400K Speaking Fee

Have something to add? Become a Prime member and join the discussion here.

What We’re Reading


Cecile Richards To Ivanka Trump: Words Don’t Matter. Women Want To See Action. (Huffington Post)

Dogs Are Wearing Legwarmers Because We’re Not Having Babies. (Racked)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republicans who control Congress and the White House have promised to slash the size of the federal government while easing regulations on guns, the environment and energy production. But in the nation’s largest conservative state of Texas, it may not be enough.

A proposal in the GOP-led Legislature would allow Texas to ignore federal law and court rulings and forgo enforcing national regulations. Arizona already has approved a similar policy, and other states want to follow suit, despite the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which stipulates federal laws and treaties take precedence.

State Rep. Cecil Bell’s Texas Sovereignty Act allows for overriding federal laws through the same process as passing a bill. First a legislative committee, then the whole Legislature, would vote for nullification, and then the governor would sign his approval.

“This is an effort to establish how states can say, ‘No, you can’t do that in our state,” said Bell, a Republican from Magnolia, about 45 miles north of Houston.

Bell is “very thankful” Republicans control Washington but says he wants to prohibit future overreach from the federal government.

One key target could be legalization of gay marriage. In 2015, Bell introduced a bill prohibiting Texas from enforcing court orders sanctioning gay marriage — a pre-emptive strike against the landmark Supreme Court decision later that year. The bill died on the last day to pass House legislation, but only amid Democratic stalling tactics.

The Texas Sovereignty Act is an even longer shot. Democratic Rep. Chris Turner, Bell’s colleague on the committee hearing the bill, said he cannot imagine it even making the House floor because it’s “not a serious bill.”

“It proposes a structure for state nullification of federal laws which is clearly unconstitutional,” said Turner.

Constitutionality questions haven’t stopped the Texas Legislature before. Federal courts have savaged the state’s strictest-in-the-nation voter ID law, and the U.S. Supreme Court voided nearly all of its tough 2013 abortion law.

“If Texas has to live under California’s environmental regulations because the court says, ‘Oh no, Texas can’t be Texas, Texas has to be identical to California,’ this would make a legislative process to address that,” Bell said.

But rather than liberal California imposing its will on other states, some have suggested a “Calexit,” hoping that state might secede to escape President Donald Trump. The notion of Texas secession has popped up periodically over the years on the far right, but mostly quieted under Trump — and Bell isn’t looking to go that far.

The Arizona law passed in 2014 would allow the state to withdraw its resources from enforcing federal laws it deems unconstitutional, though it has been little used since then and hasn’t prompted major legal challenges. Oklahoma, Maine, and Idaho have proposed similar legislation this year.

Only Maine’s has won significant legislative support, but it is far narrower than Texas’ bill.

“In the Maine scenario, there is no determination of constitutionality involved, and it probably wouldn’t cover something like a Supreme Court ruling,” said Mike Maharrey, a spokesman for the 10th Amendment Center, which advocates for states’ rights.

Maine is also a far cry politically from Texas, which hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. Trump snagged one of Maine’s four, proportionately awarded electoral votes in November.

Maharrey, who has recently seen a flurry of such legislation, said it’s grounded in anti-commandeering doctrine, meaning the federal government cannot force states to use their resources implementing federal programs. It’s also been used by blue states to promote things such as “sanctuary city” laws excusing police from enforcing federal immigration law.

“There are a number of bills based on this same concept, including bills pending in California and New York legislatures to create state sanctuaries,” Maharrey said.

Sandy Levinson, a University of Texas professor specializing in constitutional law, said that while states have the right to refuse to cooperate with the federal government by reserving resources, the only way they can contest the constitutionality of a federal law is to sue. Texas sued the Obama administration nearly 50 times but has been less-litigious so far under Trump.

“What would be special is if the Texas Legislature really and truly believes that Texas can decide on their own, ‘this is unconstitutional we’re not going to do it,'” Levinson said. “That’s just bonkers.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Ruy Teixeira (pronounced Tush-aira) and I have been friends since the early 1970s when we were members of a socialist group, the New American Movement, that was supposed to perpetuate the saner parts of the new left. (It merged later with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to form the Democratic Socialists of America.) I didn’t see him for 15 years or so until we both turned up in Washington, D.C. In 2001, we co-authored “The Emerging Democratic Majority.”  Radio and television producers would sometimes call me to do interviews because, one TV person explained, they wanted someone who could speak English clearly. In fact, Ruy, the son of a Portuguese diplomat, was born and raised in Silver Spring. Ruy has worked with various think tanks in Washington and most recently has been a fellow at the Center for American Progress. His new book is titled “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century will be Better Than You Think.” It’s a potentially tough subject, but Ruy writes clearly and persuasively, and it’s surprisingly easy to read. As readers will note from this interview, I don’t quite share Ruy’s optimism, but I certainly hope that he is right.

Read More →

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that nobody could have been expected to catch ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s failures to disclose payments from foreign governments.

That’s a departure from White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who noted Thursday that Flynn’s security clearance was last issued during the Obama administration.

“We need to do a good job of vetting that, but that’s a complex issue, and I’m not sure anyone could be expected to find that,” Sessions told “Good Morning America.”

He told “Today” the same on Friday: “They do the best they can,” referring to the Trump transition team who vetted Flynn. “It’s impossible to know everything. I don’t know what they did in that case.”

Sessions noted to both programs that he didn’t expect to be involved in any potential investigation of Flynn, and he would not confirm that one existed. Flynn was forced to resign in February after revelations he had misled the Vice President about his discussions of sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

The chair and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday that Flynn could have broken the law by not disclosing payments from the Russian state-owned network RT, whose anniversary gala Flynn addressed in late 2015.

Flynn also retroactively filed paperwork after his ouster declaring that he had worked as a foreign agent on behalf of the Turkish government during the presidential campaign.

During his press briefing Thursday, Spicer was asked if “General Flynn came in with just the Obama administration vetting?” without any additional vetting from the Trump transition team.

“Why would you re-run a background check on someone who is the head of the Department of the Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level security clearance?” Spicer replied.

“Are you comfortable with the level of vetting that was done?” Robach asked Sessions Friday.

“I’m comfortable that they’re working hard to do vetting, but it’s obvious that, often times, you don’t catch everything that might be a problem,” he replied. “I don’t know the facts of this case, and maybe there’s an explanation for it.”

Watch below via ABC:

VARNER, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas executed its fourth inmate in eight days Thursday night, wrapping up an accelerated schedule with a lethal injection that left the prisoner lurching and convulsing 20 times before he died.

Kenneth Williams, 38, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m., 13 minutes after the execution began at the Cummins Unit prison at Varner.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the lethal injection said Williams’ body jerked 15 times in quick succession, then the rate slowed for a final five movements. J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson who did not witness the execution, called it “an involuntary muscular reaction” that he said was a widely known effect of the sedative midazolam, the first of three drugs administered.

Williams’ attorneys are calling for an investigation into the execution.

Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before one of its lethal injection drugs expires on Sunday. That would have been the most in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, but courts issued stays for four of the inmates.

The four lethal injections that were carried out included Monday’s first double execution in the United States since 2000.

“I extend my sincerest of apologies to the families I have senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones,” Williams said in a final statement he read from the death chamber. “… I was more than wrong. The crimes I perpetrated against you all was senseless, extremely hurtful and inexcusable.”

Williams also spoke in tongues, the unintelligible but language-like speech used in some religions. But his prayer faded off as the sedative midazolam took effect. His final words were, “The words that I speak will forever be, will forever …” before he fell silent.

The inmate breathed heavily through his nose until just after three minutes into his execution, when his chest leaped forward in a series of what seemed like involuntary movements. His right hand never clenched and his face remained what one media witness called “serene.”

After the jerking, Williams breathed through his mouth and moaned or groaned once — during a consciousness check — until falling still seven minutes into the lethal injection.

Williams was sentenced to death for killing a former deputy warden, Cecil Boren, after he escaped from prison in 1999. At the time of his escape in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop, Williams was less than three weeks into a life term for the death of a college cheerleader.

“Any amount of movement he might have had was far less than any of his victims,” said Jodie Efird, one of Boren’s daughters, who witnessed the execution.

State officials have declared the string of executions a success, using terms like “closure” for the victims’ families. The inmates have died within 20 minutes of their executions beginning, a contrast from midazolam-related executions in other states that took anywhere from 43 minutes to two hours. The inmates’ lawyers have said there are still flaws and that there is no certainty that the inmates aren’t suffering while they die.

“The long path of justice ended tonight and Arkansans can reflect on the last two weeks with confidence that our system of laws in this state has worked,” Hutchinson said in a statement issued after the execution. “Carrying out the penalty of the jury in the Kenneth Williams case was necessary. There has never been a question of guilt.”

Arkansas scheduled the executions for the final two weeks of April because its supply of midazolam, normally a surgical sedative, expires on Sunday. The Arkansas Department of Correction has said it has no new source for the drug — though it has made similar remarks previously yet still found a new stash.

Williams’ lawyers said he had sickle cell trait, lupus and brain damage, and argued the combined maladies could subject him to an exceptionally painful execution in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Arkansas’ “one size fits all” execution protocol could leave him in pain after a paralytic agent renders him unable to move, they’d argued to state and federal courts, which all rejected his claims.

One of Williams’ attorneys, Shawn Nolan, described the accounts of Williams’ execution as “horrifying.”

“We tried over and over again to get the state to comport with their own protocol to avoid torturing our client to death, and yet reports from the execution witnesses indicate that Mr. Williams suffered during this execution,” Nolan said.

Williams was sentenced to death for killing Boren after escaping from the Cummins Unit prison in a barrel holding a mishmash of kitchen scraps. He left the prison — where the execution chamber is located in another part of the facility — less than three weeks into a life prison term for killing University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff cheerleader Dominique Hurd in 1998. At the conclusion of that trial, he had taunted the young woman’s family by turning to them after the sentence was announced and saying “You thought I was going to die, didn’t you?”

After jumping from the barrel, he sneaked along a tree line until reaching Boren’s house. He killed Boren, stole guns and Boren’s truck and then drove away to Missouri. There, he crashed into a water-delivery truck, killing the driver. While in prison, he confessed to killing another person in 1998.

At the time of Boren’s death, investigators said it did not appear Boren was targeted because of his former employment by the Arkansas Department of Correction.

___

Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo and Kelly P. Kissel at www.twitter.com/kisselAP

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Neat certainties are rare in the North Korean nuclear crisis, which for decades has simmered and occasionally boiled over, without resolution.

So it was jarring to see the absolute confidence with which America’s top Pacific commander described the ability of a contentious U.S. missile defense system, scheduled to be up and running in days in South Korea, to shoot down North Korean missiles.

“If it flies, it will die,” Adm. Harry Harris Jr. told U.S. lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday.

Like nearly everything associated with the world’s last Cold War standoff, the truth is muddier.

To test the admiral’s assertion, The Associated Press asked a handful of specialists to weigh in on one of the biggest points of friction in Northeast Asia.

___

THAAD HAS LIMITS, UNKNOWNS

Harris does have some data to back up his bold statement.

After an early redesign, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, was reportedly successfully tested 12 times, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

A controlled test, however, is a much different matter than an actual war, where large numbers of missiles will be fired with little or no warning.

“Things that work well at home on the test range don’t always go as smoothly when deployed,” McDowell said.

A salvo of multiple North Korean short-range missiles, for instance, could overwhelm THAAD, said David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program.

THAAD will also be deployed about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Seoul, whose greater metropolitan area, about an hour from the heavily armed border, is home to 25 million. “It cannot engage missiles fired at Seoul, so it offers no additional protection of the city,” Wright said.

Some scientists are even blunter.

Harris’ comments about THAAD’s capabilities “are technically incorrect,” said Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The THAAD interceptor is very easily defeated by either causing a missile to tumble end over end, or by intentionally fragmenting a rocket into pieces.”

THAAD’s capabilities as a defense system “can be expected to be very low, probably zero or close to that,” Postol said.

___

THE POLITICAL ANGLE

Viewed one way, Harris’ declaration of confidence makes perfect sense.

A senior military official briefing lawmakers beholden to American taxpayers must show complete confidence in the very expensive piece of hardware that’s about to be deployed in a skittish U.S. ally living in direct range of North Korean missiles.

“Just imagine an Air Force general saying that his new jetfighters, designed for air superiority, will not stand a chance against the enemy fighters,” said Markus Schiller, a missile specialist in Germany. “The same is true for a missile defense system — once deployed, the commanding officer has to say it will work.”

The U.S. admiral may also have been looking to soothe South Korea.

THAAD is a big issue ahead of the May 9 presidential election, with the leading candidate, liberal Moon Jae-in, vowing to reconsider the deployment if he wins.

Some South Koreans wonder why the United States and the caretaker government that took over for recently removed President Park Geun-hye rushed key parts of THAAD into place before dawn this week, prompting violent clashes between local villagers and police.

___

THE CHINA ANGLE

Another subtext to the admiral’s comments on THAAD is China.

Beijing says THAAD’s powerful radar can be reconfigured to peer deep into its territory and monitor its flights and missile launches.

Seoul already sees moves by Beijing to retaliate, including limits on Chinese tour group visits to South Korea, which is increasingly dependent on Chinese tourism and demand for its industrial products.

Some experts are sympathetic with China’s argument.

Postol said THAAD’s radar can track Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles flying below the curved earth horizon of U.S. missile defense radars in Alaska. It could then send and receive critical missile defense information to U.S. monitors.

“This makes it possible for the THAAD radar to quickly acquire ICBMs launched from China well before the ICBMs rise over the horizon where they could be then seen by U.S. national missile defense radars,” Postol said.

___

Klug, AP bureau chief in Seoul, has reported on the Koreas since 2005. Follow on Twitter: www.twittter.com/@apklug

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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