Lawyer claims donations fall far short of high costs of defamation suit against Trump

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” said on Jan. 17 that she has filed a defamation lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump. (Reuters)

Facing questions about how a defamation suit against President Trump is being funded, a lawyer for plaintiff Summer R. Zervos has issued a statement saying that the Internet fundraising appeal she has hosted on her website has brought in only a fraction of what it will take to pursue the case.

“To date the fund has received donations of just under $30,000,” wrote prominent women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred in a statement published Sunday on her Facebook page.

“We anticipate that the costs alone in this case will be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” wrote Allred, who said that she is not charging any fees for her own legal work, that neither of the two law firms involved in the case has been paid fees, and that “the donated funds have not and will not be used to personally benefit Ms. Zervos in any way.”

The statement comes as the #metoo movement continues to roil the spheres of show business, media and politics, and in the immediate wake of an article published in the Hill alleging that Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, “sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump.”

Bloom responded in a statement, saying, “This is just the latest effort to try and discredit my clients and me.” Few law firms, Bloom said, are willing to represent women who come forward with allegations against powerful men. “Why? Because it is not only very challenging work, where lawyers will immediately be subjected to frequent threats of violence and waves of hate, but because it’s an economic challenge to keep the doors open for business in a civil rights firm.”

The Bloom Firm is separate from Allred’s law firm, Allred, Maroko and Goldberg.

In the immediate run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Bloom said, her firm received unexpected offers of financial support after an unnamed Trump accuser backed out of a planned news conference after receiving “multiple death and rape threats.”

Bloom said many donors then reached out “with offers to ensure the safety of women who might still come forward.”

On Monday, the New York Times published an article saying the movement has become politicized, with activists across the political spectrum offering to help support cases that might bring down a rival. “Political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation,” wrote Ken Vogel.

Zervos is one of more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior. In the wake of the October 2016 release of the Access Hollywood video, in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, Zervos alleged that in December 2007, Trump kissed her forcibly and thrust his genitals in an encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Trump immediately denied the allegations and subsequently called his accusers “liars.”

In January, shortly before Trump’s inauguration, Zervos filed a defamation suit against him. Trump’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case, which is being brought in a state court. A New York judge is expected to rule soon on whether the case can proceed.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Allred declined to comment on funding strategies employed by other law firms, and said this was the first time she had sought financial support for the victim of alleged sexual misconduct.

“I’ve been doing sexual harassment cases for 42 years, and we have never sought funding for any of those cases,” Allred said. “In the thousands of victims, we have never sought funding, public or private,” she said.

The reason for the change, Allred said, is “because we’ve never sued the president of the United States previously.”

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2018/01/03/lawyer-claims-donations-fall-far-short-of-high-costs-of-defamation-suit-against-trump/

Trump to North Korean leader Kim: My ‘Nuclear Button’ is ‘much bigger & more powerful’

President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Dec. 20, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump escalated his war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday evening, asserting that his “nuclear button” is “much bigger & more powerful” than the North Korean leader’s and threatening that the U.S. arsenal “works.”

Trump was responding to Kim’s annual New Year’s Day speech on Monday, during which the North Korean leader boasted that the United States is “within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office.”

Trump said in his Tuesday tweet, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018

The exchange represents a ratcheting up of rhetoric, after Trump in recent months had adopted a measured approach to North Korea — relative to last summer, when he warned of “fire and fury” — at the urging of his national security team.

Earlier Tuesday, however, Trump revived his derisive nickname for Kim — “rocket man” — in response to signs of relaxed tensions between South Korea and North Korea. South Korea agreed to an offer from North Korea for the two countries to talk ahead of next month’s Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Kim said in his Monday address that he was willing to send a delegation of North Korean athletes to the Olympics.

North Korean leader Kim Jong had warned Jan. 1 that he had a nuclear button on his desk and that the entire United States was within range of his weapons — but he also vowed not to attack unless threatened. (Reuters)

In his Tuesday tweet, Trump wrote: “Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!”

Sanctions and “other” pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018

Trump’s North Korea comments came on a busy day of tweeting for the president, who called for the Justice Department to prosecute and perhaps jail Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and former FBI director James B. Comey; threatened to strip funding for the Palestinians; encouraged protesters in Iran; took credit for the safety record of commercial airlines; and attacked the news media.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2018/01/02/trump-to-north-korean-leader-kim-my-nuclear-button-is-much-bigger-more-powerful/

Trump urges Justice Department to ‘act’ on Comey, suggests Huma Abedin should face jail time

In an interview with the New York Times last week, Trump asserted that he has the “absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.” (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, should face jail time, days after the State Department posted emails found on her estranged husband’s computer that included confidential government information.

In a tweet, Trump also urged the Justice Department to act in prosecuting Abedin and former FBI director James B. Comey, whom the president fired in May amid the mounting investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and contacts between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018

The president’s tweet comes just days after the State Department posted online thousands of Abedin’s emails, which were captured on the computer of Anthony Weiner, her estranged husband.

Those emails — some of which contained classified information — spurred the FBI in October to reopen its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, although the bureau would ultimately conclude that the messages gave them no reason to change their conclusion not to recommend charges against Clinton or any of her aides.

The tweet also follows a Daily Caller report that Abedin had “forwarded sensitive State Department emails, including passwords to government systems, to her personal Yahoo email account.”

President Trump mounts increasing pressure on the Justice Department to investigate his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, criticisms that have grown amid the charges against Trump’s three campaign officials. (Joyce Koh/TWP)

Comey had said, even as he recommended they not be charged, that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information, and the president’s tweet seizes on that theme. Comey has said, too, that while the FBI did not find evidence that Clinton’s personal email domain was hacked, it would not be likely to see such evidence, given those who might make such attacks, and that hostile actors had gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Clinton was in contact.

Asked if Trump was urging the Justice Department to investigate Abedin, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied: “The facts of that case are very disturbing. The president wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law. In terms of any investigation, that would be something the Department of Justice would need to decide.”

A Clinton spokesman did not reply to a request for comment. Dan Schwerin, a former Clinton campaign speechwriter, defended Abedin on Twitter.

[email protected] said it best back in 2012: Sliming Huma is an “unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant” https://t.co/Qxy4U7uRlB https://t.co/4YTSHf0MZs

— Dan Schwerin (@DanSchwerin) January 2, 2018

Trump has long suggested that Clinton be prosecuted for her use of the private server and, while he backed off that sentiment soon after his election, he has renewed the calls in recent months as he has repeatedly attacked his own Justice Department.

His comment on the “sailors pictures” seems to be a reference to 30-year-old Kristian Saucier, who was sentenced to a year in prison for taking photos in a classified area of a nuclear submarine. Trump has previously compared that case to the Clinton email probe, suggesting that Clinton was given leniency that others weren’t. Saucier, though, tried to destroy evidence — which is a critical indication of bad intent that investigators found lacking in the Clinton case.

Trump has previously accused Comey of leaking sensitive information after the former director testified that he had asked a friend to pass on notes he had taken of his interactions with Trump to a reporter for the New York Times in hopes of securing a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation. Ethics experts said Comey’s actions appeared to be legally protected, provided he did not disclose classified information.

In his tweet, Trump referred to the “Deep State Justice Dept,” an apparent reference to the president’s contention that some elements of the U.S. intelligence apparatus have attempted to undermine his election. Trump has said there is no evidence that he colluded with Russian agents during the campaign.

Sanders said Trump “obviously” does not consider all members of the Justice Department to be among a “deep state” conspiracy to sabotage his presidency. She emphasized that Trump appointed Christopher A. Wray to run the FBI because the president “wants to change the culture of that agency and he thinks he’s the right person to do that.”

In a tweet, Sally Yates, the former acting Attorney General whom Trump fired in January after she refused to defend his travel ban on immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries, accused the president of slandering Justice Department employees and called his pronouncements “dangerous.”

POTUS on 12/28: “I have the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.” Today he slanders career DOJ professionals as “deep state,” calls for prison for a political opponent, and tries to sic DOJ on a potential witness against him. Beyond abnormal; dangerous. https://t.co/eW4MCIEOGB

— Sally Yates (@SallyQYates) January 2, 2018

After Comey was ousted, the Justice Department appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is handling the ongoing investigation and brought charges against former Trump aides, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

While leaders at the Justice Department answer to Trump, that institution has traditionally enjoyed a measure of independence from the president — especially when it comes to particular criminal investigations. A president meddling in such investigations and suggesting that someone working for a former political rival face “Jail!” is considered a serious breach of normal protocol; even former attorney general Michael Mukasey, a frequent Clinton critic, said Trump’s campaign-trail idea to have a special prosecutor reinvestigate and jail Clinton “would be like a banana republic.”

In an interview with the New York Times last week, Trump asserted that he has the “absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump criticized for recusing himself in the Russia probe given his own contact with Russian officials while serving as a surrogate for Trump during the campaign, has been somewhat sympathetic to GOP legislators who want matters they consider troubling to be investigated, including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia.

Late last year, Sessions directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of the matters and report back to him and his top deputy. The Justice Department’s inspector general is also investigating the handling of the Clinton email investigation.

Asked to comment on the president’s tweet, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said she could not “confirm or deny the existence of any ongoing investigations.”

 

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2018/01/02/trump-urges-justice-department-to-act-on-comey-suggests-huma-abedin-should-face-jail-time/

Trump signs sweeping tax bill into law

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Friday signed the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, delivering on a pledge to finish work on the long-standing Republican priority by Christmas.

Trump signed the $1.5 trillion measure in the Oval Office shortly before he was scheduled to head to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays.

“It’s going to a tremendous thing for the American people,” Trump said from his desk as reporters looked on. “It’s going to be fantastic for the economy.”

He walked through various provisions of the bill, which he touted as “a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs,” adding that “corporations are literally going wild.”

The measure is the most significant legislative accomplishment for Trump in his first tumultuous year in office. Passed with only Republican votes, it will affect nearly every household and business in the country.

Corporations will see a massive tax cut, while most Americans will see temporary savings of various sizes. And in a move that may prove politically perilous in the coming 2018 midterms, Republicans delivered the biggest gains to the wealthy.

Polls have showed the bill is unpopular, but Republicans argue Americans will view it more favorably once they start to see savings in their paychecks.

Trump said he was going to wait until January to sign the bill in a larger, more ceremonial setting until he saw television news coverage Friday morning speculating about whether he’d sign it before Christmas.

“I called downstairs and said, ‘We have to get it ready now,’” Trump said.

Trump also pointed to a number of companies that have said they are using part of their savings to give bonuses to their employees.

Trump also praised the work of Republican lawmakers who worked on the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R- Wis.), none of whom were present.

“Mitch McConnell has been fantastic, he worked so hard,” Trump said. “And the exact same thing could be said of Paul Ryan.”

The president then took a swipe at Democrats who didn’t support the bill.

“Democrats don’t like tax cuts,” Trump said. “They want to raise your taxes and spend money foolishly … in many cases.”

Trump said his next priorities will include an infrastructure bill aimed at spurring investment in the nation’s ailing roads, bridges, airports and waterways.

“I really believe infrastructure can be bipartisan,” Trump said, saying “Infrastructure is the easiest of all. … People want it, Republicans and Democrats.”

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/22/trump-signs-sweeping-tax-bill-into-law/

Trump says ‘at some point’ he might work with Democrats

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Still celebrating passage of a tax bill with only Republican votes, President Trump on Friday took to Twitter to predict that “at some point” he would start working with Democrats “for the good of the country.”

Trump said that infrastructure would be “a perfect place to start,” referring to an initiative the White House is preparing to unveil as early as mid-January that is designed to spur $1 trillion in new spending over the coming decade on the nation’s ailing roads, bridges, airports and waterways.

At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a Bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2017

The White House plan would reward states and localities that raise taxes or come up with other sources of new revenue to pay for such projects. Washington would kick in about $200 billion, with local jurisdictions and the private sector picking up the rest of the tab.

Such a plan would need at least some Democratic support to pass the Senate. Traditionally, Democrats have advocated spending on transportation projects and other infrastructure, but it’s unclear whether they will embrace Trump’s approach or be eager to work with a president who has frequently attacked them.

Just Thursday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter that Democrats wanted to shut down the government “for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts.” Polls show that the tax bill is not popular.

Later Thursday, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill, averting a partial government shutdown.

Trump’s other major accomplishment on Capitol Hill this year — the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch — came primarily with Republican votes.

And his failed attempts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act were driven by Republican plans that no Democrats in Congress were willing to support.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/22/trump-says-at-some-point-he-might-work-with-democrats/

With tax bill headed to his desk, Trump and his Cabinet celebrate a ‘middle-class miracle’

President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

In grand spirits with the Republican tax plan headed toward his desk, President Trump declared at the outset of a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that it would be “one of celebration.”

It certainly lived up to the billing.

Over the course of the first 20 minutes or so, which the media was allowed to witness, Trump crowed about “a historic victory for the American people.” His housing secretary, Ben Carson, offered a prayer in which he praised the president’s courage. And Vice President Pence turned up the dial even further, saying his boss deserved a hearty “congratulations and thank you.”

“I want to thank you, Mr. President,” Pence said. “I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.”

The meeting, held around a conference table in the Cabinet room of the White House, took place shortly before the House voted to send the tax bill to the president.

It came a couple of hours before Trump was scheduled to appear with Republican lawmakers on the South Lawn of the White House for what a Trump aide called a “bill passage event.” (The actual signing will come at a later date.)

Trump noted that no Democrats would be joining him at the afternoon event because none of them had supported the measure.

“Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t like to see tax cutting, they like to see tax increases,” the president asserted.

He took credit for branding the legislation a “tax cut,” suggesting that multiple other efforts over the years had failed because it was described using the opaque language of  “tax reform.”

And, while Republicans have repeatedly said that the tax bill is aimed at helping the middle class, Trump said the cut in the corporate tax rate — from 35 percent to 21 percent — is “probably the biggest factor in our plan.”

During his remarks, Trump also touched on several topics, including his disdain for several current immigration practices, including a “visa lottery.”

“They’re not putting their best people in the lottery,” he said of some unspecified countries. “It’s common sense . . . They put their worst people into the lottery.”

As he wrapped up, Trump relayed that his Cabinet would next be hearing a prayer by Carson, and he said that members of the media would be allowed to stay.

“You need the prayer more than I do, I think,” Trump said, adding: “A good solid prayer, and maybe they’ll be honest.”

As Trump and his Cabinet bowed their heads, Carson thanked God for “a president and Cabinet members who are courageous” and willing to “face the winds of controversy … to guide a better future for those who come behind us.”

“We’re thankful for the unity in Congress that has presented an opportunity for our economy to expand so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future,” Carson continued. “And we hope that that unity will spread even beyond party lines so that people recognize that we have a nation that is worth saving, and recognize that nations divided against themselves cannot stand.”

In remarks that followed, Pence also thanked the “outstanding team” from the Trump administration that helped usher the tax bill to completion, including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

“I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here,” Pence said. “Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle-class miracle.”

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/20/with-tax-bill-headed-to-his-desk-trump-and-his-cabinet-celebrate-a-middle-class-miracle/

White House glosses over disagreement with ally Britain over Jerusalem

British Prime Minister Theresa May aired her differences with President Trump over the U.S. policy on Jerusalem during a phone call Tuesday, but you wouldn’t know it from the White House account of the conversation.

“The President and Prime Minister discussed next steps in forging peace in the Middle East,” the White House said in a written statement.

Hours earlier, No. 10 Downing Street had issued a polite but unmistakably more pointed version of events.

“They discussed the different positions we took on the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and agreed on the importance of the US bringing forward new proposals for peace and the international community supporting these efforts,” a spokesman for May said in a written statement.

Britain has spoken against the U.S. decision earlier this month to recognize the divided holy city as the capital of Israel and to announce a renewed intention to move the U.S. Embassy there. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967, as the capital of a future state.

Britain was also among the 14 other nations that voted at the United Nations Security Council to order President Trump to rescind his decision. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed the measure, sponsored by U.S. ally Egypt, and angrily denounced what she called an “insult” to U.S. sovereignty.

The U.N. measure would have affirmed that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

It is unusual for Britain to break with the United States, and No. 10 usually goes to lengths to paper over any policy disagreements. The U.S.-U.K. Jerusalem disagreement, however, followed others over Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and to back away from the international nuclear deal with Iran.

May also rebuked Trump last month over his sharing of anti-Muslim propaganda videos from a far-right British political faction.

“I am very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” May said then.

Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, tweeted that he had raised the video tweets directly with the White House.

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which seek to divide communities & erode decency, tolerance & respect,” Darroch wrote.

British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which seek to divide communities & erode decency, tolerance & respect. British Muslims are peaceful and law abiding citizens. And I raised these concerns with the White House yesterday.

— Kim Darroch (@KimDarroch) November 30, 2017

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson went a bit further in condemning the group Trump had amplified on Twitter, although he did not call out Trump directly.

Britain First is a divisive, hateful group whose views are not in line with our values. UK has a proud history as an open, tolerant society & hate speech has no place here

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 29, 2017

Trump has accepted May’s invitation to visit Britain, most likely early next year. The trip has been in limbo in part because of the threat of large public protests in Britain.

“That invitation has been extended and accepted,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday. “We’re working with them to finalize the details, which we expect to announce soon, and we’ll keep you guys posted on that once that’s finalized.”

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/19/white-house-glosses-over-disagreement-with-ally-britain-over-jerusalem/

Pence’s Middle East trip will now focus heavily on smoothing things over with Egypt

During his trip to the Middle East, much of Vice President Pence’s messaging will be focused on the United States’ relationship with Egypt and their partnership to fight terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

When Vice President Pence travels to the Middle East next week, there is one message that the Trump administration wants to convey loud and clear: Egypt continues to be an “incredibly important” partner in the region.

In a Friday morning phone call with reporters who will travel with Pence next week, senior administration officials kept adding superlatives as they described the United States’ partnership with Egypt, which has been strained following President Trump’s decision earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there. At the time of the announcement, the Egyptian government said that President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi spoke with Trump and “reiterated Egypt’s unwavering position with regard to maintaining the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant U.N. resolutions.”

Many U.S. allies disagreed with Trump’s decision, as no other country has its embassy in Jerusalem, under a long-standing international consensus that the city’s status should be decided in a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Several countries have warned that the move could inflame Muslims and disrupt progress toward a peace deal. On Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would not meet with Pence, and the pope of the Egyptian Coptic church, who leads the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, also canceled his planned meeting in Cairo with the vice president.

Pence had originally planned to visit Israel first, but he has rearranged his schedule and will now travel first to Cairo, where he is expected to have a bilateral meeting with Sissi on Wednesday. The change was made, an administration official said on Thursday, because in the wake of the Jerusalem decision, the vice president felt it was important to address the entire Muslim and Arab world — and Egypt was a natural venue. Pence will then continue on to Israel for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and give formal remarks at the Knesset. On his way home, Pence will visit troops at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

A senior administration official said Friday that they hope the vice president’s trip will end the chapter of emotional backlash to the president’s decision and start a new chapter, refocusing on priorities like fighting terrorism.

In Egypt, aides said that Pence plans to address a range of issues in addition to the peace process: reaffirm a strong U.S.-Egyptian security relationship and continue their joint fight against terrorism, recognize Sissi as an “important partner” in the region, encourage Egypt to release American citizens detained in Egypt and discuss North Korea, Russia and foreign aid.

Trump’s Middle East peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt will travel to the region ahead of the vice president early next week and plans to meet with Fernando Gentilini, the European Union special representative for the Middle East peace process. A senior administration official said Friday that the Trump administration understands that “the Palestinians may need a cooling-off period” and does not plan to put any pressure on them during Pence’s trip.

When Pence first announced this trip, he had planned to focus heavily on the persecution of Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East. While the vice president will still bring that up in his public remarks and private conversations, aides said Friday that much of his messaging will be focused on the United States’ relationship with Egypt and their partnership to fight terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere. The vice president does not plan to meet with any Christian groups during the trip or to visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity.

The vice president was originally supposed to leave this weekend, but he delayed the trip by three days to remain in Washington in case he is needed to cast a tiebreaking vote on Republican tax legislation. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate and are desperate to push through their tax plan — which, if successful, would mark Trump’s only major legislative achievement this year — before the holiday break. The vice president can cast a deciding vote in the case of a tie in the Senate, and Pence has already done so several times this year.

 Ashley Parker and Loveday Morris contributed to this report.  

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/15/pences-middle-east-trip-will-now-focus-heavily-on-smoothing-things-over-with-egypt/

Omarosa Manigault dismisses reports of dramatic firing

The White House announced Omarosa Manigault Newman’s resignation on Dec. 13. (Monica Akhtar,Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

Omarosa Manigault said Thursday that she was not fired and escorted off the White House grounds, blaming “one individual who has a personal vendetta against me” for the dramatic narrative of her departure as one of Trump’s top aides.

In her first comments since the White House confirmed that she was leaving, Manigault said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that her decision to leave came after she sat down for a candid conversation with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and shared her concerns about the job and the administration. Her resignation from her job as director of communications for the office of the public liaison is effective Jan. 20.

Manigault told host Michael Strahan that as “the only African American woman in this White House senior staff, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me and affected me deeply and emotionally and affected my people and my community.” She said that when she is able to share her thoughts and experiences of working in the Trump administration, it will be “a profound story that everyone will want to hear.”

Manigault, who earned the top-level staff annual salary of $179,700, was, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, one of two black officials among Trump’s more than three dozen Cabinet members and senior staffers.

Omarosa Manigault, was, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, one of two black officials among President Trump’s more than three dozen Cabinet members and senior staffers.  (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

She has had a close friendship with Trump for more than a decade, dating back to when she became the breakout star in the first season of “The Apprentice.” She was a tough competitor with sharp elbows, but in the end was “fired” in the first season. But she became a favorite of Trump, who invited her to participate in subsequent iterations of the show. When Trump launched his presidential campaign, she was one of few African Americans to campaign for him. She fiercely defended him against charges of racism and sexism, saying she owed her careers in entertainment and business to him.

“Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success,” Trump tweeted late Wednesday.

A White House official told The Washington Post that Kelly had grown frustrated with Manigault’s abrasive and attention-seeking style, which included a personal wedding photo shoot in the West Wing in the spring. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, has sought to impose more discipline among White House staffers and limit their communications with the president.

Manigault said in Thursday’s interview that she had “more access than most people” to the president, which rankled some of her colleagues. “People had problems with our 14-year relationship,” she said.

She pushed back against reports that she and Kelly had a blow up at a holiday event, saying they were “100 percent false.” Furthermore, she said, if there had been such a fight “where are the pictures or videos?” She did not offer, nor was she asked, the name of the person who she said was spreading the story about her being physically removed from the White House.

“The assertion that I would do that in front of 600 guests at a Christmas party . . . I have to tell you are completely false,” she said. Instead she said, she and Kelly sat down in the situation room  and had “a very straightforward discussion about concerns that I’ve had and issues that I’ve raised and as a result I resigned.”

Manigault’s supporters suggested she had grown increasingly frustrated with the administration’s handling of issues concerning race. Trump has sparked outrage with his responses to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and NFL players’ national anthem protests.  Acting in an ill-defined capacity, Manigault struggled to make a connection with African American constituencies to support Trump’s agenda and chafed at criticism that she had sold out her integrity for a White House job.

Armstrong Williams, a businessman and a longtime friend, said Manigault had told him that she was troubled by Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, who had a history of racially insensitive remarks and because of allegations against him of sexual improprieties with teenage girls.

When asked about her concerns, she demurred, saying that she was because she doesn’t leave her job until Jan. 20 she had to be “careful” about what she can say publicly.

David Nakamura contributed to this report.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/14/omarosa-manigault-dismisses-reports-of-dramatic-firing/

Alabama Democrats revel in victory after Doug Jones captures Senate seat

Supporters of Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12 celebrated his victory in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election over Republican Roy Moore. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

GADSDEN, Ala. — Five seconds before the polls closed, the crowd at Back Forty Brewing gathered around the TV and counted down.

“Five, four, three, two, one,” they shouted. When the “key race alert” flashed — “too early to call” — some of the five-dozen Democrats in the brewery let themselves cheer. Roy Moore, who had become Gadsden’s most famous former citizen, was locked in a close contest with their preferred candidate.

“I’m just so excited,” said Ann Green, the chairman of Etowah County’s Democratic Party. “But I’ve always been an optimistic person, and Roy Moore’s always been a bad candidate for Alabama.”

Alabama Democrats, pushed into irrelevance during Barack Obama’s presidency, spent 11 dizzying weeks in the national spotlight. Gadsden, one of the cities jokingly referred to as a “blue dot in a red sea,” had been bathed in a particularly harsh light — it was here, in the early 1980s, that Moore allegedly made unwanted advances on young girls.

On Tuesday night, as Democratic nominee Doug Jones marched toward a historic upset over Moore, Etowah County’s beleaguered Democrats watched in disbelief. They gritted their teeth as election results rolled in. For much of the night, as the raw vote showed Moore, the Republican nominee, leading Jones, they discussed the Senate race as a galvanizing learning experience.

“I really think it’s given us an opportunity to build the Democratic Party,” said Kyle Pearce, a candidate for state representative from Gadsden. “Doug Jones was able to build a field operation throughout Alabama.

There are people who have never knocked on doors before who have been through a campaign now. That was a gift that I frankly did not expect at the start of the year.”

Alabama, one of the country’s most socially conservative states, had never struck national Democrats as the place for an upset. Democrats in Etowah had watched the party’s major figures avoid Alabama; Obama appeared in the race with an Election Day robo-call, saying nothing about Jones’s fight against Moore until then.

“I think Barack Obama hurt the Democratic Party all over the South,” said Maitland Adams, 75, the former chair of the party in Etowah. He’d had the unwelcome task of electing Democrats during the height of the Obama backlash, and until Jones climbed into the lead Tuesday night, he was full of worry.

“The abortion issue hurt us,” Adams said. “People simply don’t understand the position of the Democratic Party on abortion.”

Supporters of Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones celebrate in Birmingham, Ala., as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Other Democrats began talking about why they’d come off the sidelines to become activists. Carl Peterson, 36, said he had never canvassed for any candidate until Jones secured the Democratic nomination, and Moore became the Republican nominee.

“I wanted this to be a huge step forward for my state,” Peterson said. “We’re living in a time when every vote feels like it matters, more than it did before.”

Peterson was nervous. Two hours after the polls had closed, things started looking up. Bill Browning, 70, stared intently at one of the brewery’s TVs, as Moore’s lead kept falling.

“One point! One point!” he shouted late into the evening, as a surge of ballots from Dallas County — a buckle of Alabama’s “black belt” — tightened the vote count.

Browning had marched in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery campaign for voting rights. After that, he decamped for New York. He’d returned in August, and begun exploring a campaign for the area’s deep red Republican seat in Congress.

“I told Chuck Schumer, months ago, in a letter, to take this race seriously,” Browning said. “People thought this couldn’t happen, and it’s happening.”

A few hours into the night, as Jones moved closer to victory, Etowah County’s Democrats began to get rowdy. The brewery had two TV screens — one on a tape delay, one live. A rumor rumbled around the bar — something about the Associated Press calling the race — and the crowd gathered around the real-time TV. The cheers began as soon as the CNN broadcast began playing its dramatic election-projection music.

“I’m going to cry!” said Kim Hood, 62, wiping her eyes with one hand and cradling a cocktail with the other. “This is Alabama! We never win anything — anything!”

Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12 defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election. Here were the reactions. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

The call, which made Jones the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Alabama since 1992, turned the party into an emotional rave. Several women who said they had been personal friends of Moore’s accusers wept and hugged their fellow voters. Anthony Wilson, 62, found his son — brewery co-owner Jason Wilson — and gave him a high-five.

“I could not be more proud of my state,” Anthony Wilson said. “We showed the world what Alabama really is.”

Jason Wilson composed himself, and talked about an Alabama that could show its face to the rest of the country — something he had been worried about had Moore won.

“There’s just a wonderful group of progressive thinkers in Alabama who don’t get their due,” he said. “My joke for years has been, I want to make a T-shirt: Hey, America, Give Us 10 Years. You know — we’re gonna figure it out. Just give us time. We get such a bad rap, and tonight we draw a line and told people what we really stand for.”

The brewery was supposed to close hours earlier, but revelers kept it open long into the night. Jerry Vaughn, 35, settled his tab while admitting that Alabama had dodged a blow to its national reputation.

“You know, I’ve got a 7-year-old son,” said Vaughn. “I get to tell him: We’re staying here. We’re proud of being from Alabama.”

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/12/13/alabama-democrats-revel-in-victory-after-doug-jones-captures-senate-seat/

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