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White House Won’t Say If Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Active Or If Iran In Compliance With Nuclear Deal

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WASHINGTON, May 1 2018 — Despite acknowledging that a White House statement alleging Iran “has” a nuclear weapons program was incorrect, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say whether President Trump or his administration believes Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

“The problem is that the deal was made on a completely false pretense,” said Sanders. “Iran lied on the front end.  They were dishonest actors, and so the deal that was made was made on things that weren’t accurate.  And we have a big problem with that.”

Sanders explained that because information revealed Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu purported to show that Iran’s nuclear program had been farther along than previously acknowledged, it would be easier for Tehran to resume development of one once the deal “sunsets” in seven years.

International Atomic Entergy Agency inspectors, however, have said that Iran is not currently developing a nuclear weapon and is in compliance with the JCPOA, which was negotiated by the Obama administration along with the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

Foreign Policy

Kudlow Holds Administration’s Line On Turkey Steel Tariff — Says Increase Not Connected To Evangelical Pastor’s Plight Despite Evidence To Contrary

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WASHINGTON, August 16, 2018 — White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on Thursday that President Trump’s decision to subject steel imports from Turkey to a fifty percent tariff was not in any way connected to the president’s ire over the Turkish government’s treatment of Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor, despite the increase occurring shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions in retaliation for his continued detainment on terrorism charges.

“They [the tariffs] are not connected to that story — I think, basically, that the president was dissatisfied with Turkey on trade,” Kudlow said, noting that the tariffs are “subject to constant negotiations.”

Kudlow added that he personally thinks Turkey should release Brunson, but stressed that “policy-wise,” the decision to expand not connected. He declined to say whether the sanctions would be tightened if Brunson is not released, but said Trump “will keep everybody up to speed.”

Brunson, 50, had lived in Turkey for 23 years when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government arrested him in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt on accusations of being a follower of Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish pastor who lives in the United States as an expatriot.

Erdogan says Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, were the masterminds behind the attempted putsch. It is believed that Erdogan’s government continues to hold Brunson as a bargaining chip to force the United States to extradite Gulen, but the Trump administration has not as yet been receptive to the idea.

The White House announced the tariff increase in an August 10 presidential proclamation, shortly after the Trump administration announced it would impose economic sanctions on Turkey in response to the decision by Erdogan’s government to keep  Brunson, on house arrest rather than release him outright,  Both announcements came after both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence began tweeting about Brunson’s plight, and after Pence wrote in a tweet that his release on house arrest was “not good enough.”

Despite the clear appearance of of a connection, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said the sanctions would be lifted if Brunson is released, but the tariffs would remain.

The tariffs that are in place on steel would not be removed with the release of Pastor Brunson.  The tariffs are specific to national security.  The sanctions, however, that have been placed on Turkey are specific to Pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly,” said Sanders.

However, Sanders could not name a specific national security concern that prompted the tariff move.

“The President has been clear about the steel and aluminum industries — steel particularly in this case — that those are industries that must be protected.  And we must have the ability to reach certain levels of manufacturing of those products here in the United States for the purposes of national security,” she said.

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White House

Conway Denies Trump Used ‘N-Word’ Despite Recording Of Staffer Admitting ‘He Said It’

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WASHINGTON, August 14, 2018 — Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday said she knows nothing about a tape on which President Donald Trump is alleged to have used a racial slur referring to African-Americans.

“I know nothing about it, actually,” Conway said while speaking to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House.

Conway, who managed Trump’s 2016 campaign during the last months before the election, contradicted herself shortly after by admitting that she’d discussed the alleged recording with then-candidate Trump.

She explained that “it was [her] job to tell the president every rumor, innuendo, fact, fiction.”

But she maintained that during her tenure with Trump, she’d never heard him use language along those lines.

“I’ve worked alongside Donald Trump for two straight years, I’ve never heard him say anything about that,” she said.

Rumors of the so-called “N-word tape” had dogged Trump since his days as a candidate and reached a fever pitch after the release of a tape depicting an appearance by Trump on “Access Hollywood,” in which he boasted of grabbing women by the genitals. 

The days after the October 7 release of the “Access Hollywood” tape became a crucible for Trump’s long-shot campaign, and he has since divided Republicans into two groups — those who stuck with him after the tape’s release, and those who called for him to drop out of the race.

That tape gave rise to yet more talk of more tapes, with much of that talk coming from Actor Tom Arnold, a former contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Arnold has repeatedly suggested, during the campaign and afterward, that reality show producer Mark Burnett, who controls the master tapes of “The Apprentice” and its related shows, is in possession numerous recordings which document Trump’s routine use of insensitive and/or offensive language on the set of his show.

But Burnett has refused to release any such tapes, citing intellectual property concerns, and Arnold’s credibility was called into question after he falsely claimed to be working with ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen during a live TV interview.

But the same rumors began to look more credible Tuesday morning, after ex-Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released a recording of several Trump campaign aides, including current campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, discussing the tape.

On the recording, Pierson told fellow aide Lynne Patton: “He said it [the N-word]. No, he said it. He’s embarrassed.”

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"Game On"

Defense Secretary Mattis Weighing 2020 Bid, Predicts He’d ‘Kick Trump’s Ass’

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President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Defense Department Photo / U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2018 — Secretary of Defense James Mattis believes he would easily defeat President Donald Trump in a 2020 primary matchup and has been actively considering mounting a White House run for some time, according to sources close to the secretary.

Mattis, 67, has been weighing a run for the presidency since May of this year, when he began bankrolling the efforts of a presidential exploratory committee.

That effort has thus far stayed under the radar through the use of non-disclosure agreements with vendors, solidarity among the Mattis loyalists involved and because exploratory committees are not required to file any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Still, rumors of his possible ambitions have been whispered in high-level Republican circles.

Speaking more openly about a challenge to President Trump

The retired four-star Marine Corps general has recently begun speaking more openly about the possibility of challenging the president who convinced him to return to public service after six years in retirement.

Mattis, one of his senior aides said, raised the issue of his electoral potential last week during a high-level Pentagon meeting, in which he, along with 10-15 of the country’s top civilian and military defense officials, discussed ways to maintain continuity of Defense Department operations in the event that Mattis abruptly resigns or is fired from the cabinet.

“I’d kick Trump’s ass in 2020, and I just might have to!” Mattis said, according to a source.

A Mattis candidacy might make the 2020 election as unprecedented as the 2016 contest

A Mattis primary run might make the 2020 GOP primary as unprecedented as its 2016 predecessor, pitting a complete newcomer to electoral politics against a president who, with only one primary and one general election victory under his belt, is almost as inexperienced.

Trump rode to his 2016 victory over a massive slate of GOP hopefuls on the strength of widespread name recognition from years of hosting a hit television show, and further took advantage of natural divisions in the electorate with at least 17 candidates.

He was also able to successfully define and diminish the few candidates who might have stood out by perfecting his use of base insults and nicknames like “Liddle Marco [Rubio] and “Lyin’ Ted [Cruz]” before deploying the same tactic against “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.

Would a divide and conquer strategy work against Trump’s military chief?

However, the same divide-and-conquer strategy might not work against a single challenger. Further, Trump may have trouble finding traction for schoolyard taunts when confronted with an opponent like Mattis, someone on whom Trump has frequently lavished praise.

Mattis came out of retirement to become the 26th defense secretary, after having risen through the ranks of the Marine Corps to become a four-star general.

A Mattis confidante who holds a major role in his exploratory committee told BeltwayBreakfast that even at this early stage, there are plenty of reasons for optimism when it comes to his chances.

Despite the low public profile Mattis has kept as Secretary of Defense, the committee’s internal polling shows that he would start a campaign with significant support from a wide swath of the electorate, said the longtime Mattis aide.

The aide said their polling shows that even before any sort of campaign announcement or publicity, Mattis would begin with support from 50 to 60 percent of white men (depending on the state), a key GOP constituency and one of the demographic groups that normally make up the backbone of President Trump’s loyal base.

Mattis also polls at 45 to 50 percent support among urban and educated women, and has what the aide called “decent electability numbers” among minority groups, coming in at 35 to 40 percent.

Because both of the latter two groups make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party base, if that support is translated into votes, Mattis could garner enough significant crossover to give him a boost in states that hold open primaries.

Veterans are among Mattis’ most enthusiastic supporters, the aide noted, adding 80 percent of veterans on record as supportive of his candidacy.

Mattis could begin with a level of support among Republicans in Congress, too

Mattis could also start out with a level of support from Republicans in Congress that would be unheard of for a Republican challenger to an incumbent Republican president. Indeed, the aide said, some of the most senior Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed interest in his potential candidacy.

The same aide told BeltwayBreakfast that two even more senior Republicans are contemplating throwing their weight behind a Mattis run: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Neither father nor son were among Trump’s supporters in 2016, and the aide said the only two living Republican former presidents are “almost on board” with lending their support to help add Donald Trump to their ranks.

Another reason for optimism, the aide said, is that in the past three months, Mattis’ exploratory committee has put together the resources necessary to have an organization ready to go from the moment an official announcement is made.

“The day we launch we open up a field office in almost every state,” he said.

This will be possible, he said, because Republican donors would be behind Mattis in enough of a big way that the RNC and Trump’s campaign “are in big trouble if Mattis decides to run.”

Asked to elaborate further, the aide offered a bold prediction: “If Mattis were to announce that he decided to run for President, his war chest would be equal to that of Hillary Clinton by June of next year.”

As for when — or if — that announcement will come, Mattis’ longtime aide and confidante explained that whatever decision gets made, it’ll be made based on the defense secretary’s belief that a second White House term for his boss would be “devastating” for the country. 

Mattis “is ready to run,” he said, even if he may not yet have admitted it. “You can see it in his eyes.”

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