Trump Says He’s Giving Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom After ‘His Incredible Success & Comeback’

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that he plans to give Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor — in recognition of his “incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE.”

On Sunday Woods, 43, won the Masters Tournament for the fifth time, a surprising reversal of what had been a years-long slide for the country’s most famous golfer.

He walked off the course to an ecstatic response from assembled fans and his friends and family, including his two young children.

“It’s hard to comprehend right now. I mean, honestly, it’s only been a few hours out of winning the tournament,” Woods told CNN later Sunday. “I’m still trying to enjoy it and figure out that I actually won it.”

“I know I have the green jacket on but it’s just, it’s still, I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to sink in,” he added, referring to the iconic jacket awarded to the Masters winner each year.

In his Monday tweet, President Trump said he and Woods had spoken after the Masters win and Trump congratulated him on his “great victory.” The two have been friendly over the years and golfed together earlier this year.

Last summer, Woods said he and Trump have known each other “a number of years.”

“He’s the President of the United States,” Woods said. “You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is customarily awarded to a range of figures including artists, business leaders, philanthropists and politicians. Last year Trump awarded medals to, among others, Sen. Orrin Hatch and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Woods was a trailblazing figure in golf in the ’90s and well into the ’00s where he racked up major win after major win. But the revelation that a series of women said they had affairs with him while he was married to Elin Nordegren seriously damaged his image, and a series of back problems and surgeries imperiled his athletic performance.

In 2017 he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida and subsequently pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

His Masters win on Sunday bumped him from No. 12 in the world rankings to No. 6, according to Golf.com. In December 2017, in the wake of his guilty plea and various surgeries, he was ranked No. 1,999.

[Yahoo]

Reality

Tiger Woods works with Donald Trump, is a member of Mar-a-Lago which Trump still owns, and was golfing with Trump a few days before the Masters.

Trump earmarks $20 million for golfer Jack Nicklaus’ pet project in new proposed federal budget

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal has come under much scrutiny. A portion of the budget requests $20 million to go towards Trump’s golf buddy Jack Nicklaus’s mobile children’s hospital project.

The money will go towards expanding Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to offer mobile services, which Nicklaus has long lobbied for.

“The $20 million increase will continue support for the pediatric disaster care pilot initiative which aims to improve pediatric care during emergencies,” the budget proposal reads.

“Nicklaus had lobbied Trump on the golf course in Florida, and he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, D.C., to request funds. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds to help Nicklaus develop mobile children’s hospitals, one individual said,” Politico reported.

Trump and Nicklaus have constantly golfed together since November the report said.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and HHS did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment.

Read the full report here.

[Raw Story]

Trump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary

President Trump reportedly passed along a handwritten policy pitch from a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to then-Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkinaccording to a ProPublica report Wednesday.

The note was penned by Trump’s friend Albert Hazzouri, a cosmetic dentist in Scranton, Penn., on Mar-a-Lago stationery after the two saw each other in late 2017.

The letter, which was obtained by ProPublica, is addressed “Dear King” and appears to propose the government pay for more dental care for veterans.

It reportedly was sent on behalf of the American Dental Association (ADA), though ProPublica noted that details of the pitch were murky.

Scrawled at the top of Hazzouri’s note is a message from the president, written in black marker, ProPublica reported.

It says “Send to David S at the V.A.,” referring to Shulkin.

A Trump aide stamped “The president has seen” on the note as well.

The White House and the ADA did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Hill.

The proposal did not advance, according to ProPublica. Shulkin, who was fired in March 2018, told the publication that he does not recall receiving the message. Hazzouri said neither he nor the ADA ever met with the agency.

Hazzouri told the outlet that he had only a vague idea of the proposal he was vouching for on behalf of the ADA, noting that he passed along the note as a favor to the organization.

“I’m really not involved in any politics. I’m just a small-time dentist,” he said. “I guess there’s a lot of money spent on veterans’ care and American Native Indians’ care, and I guess they wanted to have a little hand in it, the American Dental Association, to try to guide what’s going on or whatever.”

A spokeswoman for the ADA declined to elaborate on the reported pitch to the president by Hazzouri, according to ProPublica.

Michael Graham, who leads the ADA’s lobbying arm in Washington, told ProPublica that one of his staffers had raised the topic with Hazzouri. 

“The ADA has been looking into how we can get involved in veterans’ issues,” Graham said. “Lots of vets may not be eligible but need care.”

Hazzouri received a shoutout from Trump during a campaign event in 2016, according to ProPublica. 

“Stand up, Albert. Where the hell are you, Albert? Stand up, Albert. He’s a good golfer, but I’m actually a better golfer than him. Right?” Trump said. 

Addressing the president as “King” was an inside joke with Trump from before the New York business mogul became president, Hazzouri said.

“I call other people King,” he explained. “It’s a very personal thing.”

This is not the first time a Mar-a-Lago club member has appeared to influence the Trump administration, according to ProPublica.

Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month reportedly opened an investigation into whether three associates of Trump, including a Mar-a-Lago club member, influenced hiring decisions at the VA.

[The Hill]

Trump directed Gary Cohn to pressure DOJ to block AT&T-Time Warner deal

President Trump reportedly directed his former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, to pressure the Justice Department to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, according to a report in The New Yorker.

In an explosive new investigation into the relationship between the Trump White House and Fox News, the magazine reported new details that contradict the administration’s assurances that Trump had no role in the Justice Department’s lawsuit trying to stop the merger.

Citing an unidentified “well-informed source,” The New Yorker reported that in summer 2017, months before the Justice Department filed its antitrust lawsuit, Trump called Cohn and then-chief of staff John Kelly into the Oval Office and told them that he wanted to “make sure” the Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to block the merger was filed.

“I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened!” Trump told Kelly, according to the report. “I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”

Trump repeatedly criticized the $85 billion deal on the campaign trail and as president, vowing to block the merger and saying that it was “not good for the country.”

But, according to The New Yorker, many saw Trump’s opposition to the deal as motivated by his disdain for CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. But the Justice Department has insisted that the president’s unhappiness with CNN, which he often targets in tweets and at rallies as “fake news,” did not influence the case.

After Trump’s direction in the 2017 meeting, The New Yorker reported, Cohn refused to follow the instruction, knowing that it would be “highly improper” for Trump to involve himself in stopping the merger.

“Don’t you f—ing dare call the Justice Department,” he reportedly told Kelly. “We are not going to do business that way.”

A spokesperson for Cohn declined to comment to The New Yorker, and Kelly did not respond to request for comment.

A former White House official who was not named in the report told The New Yorker that Trump often “vented” in “frustration” about the AT&T-Time Warner deal and his desire to block it.

“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” the former official said. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”

A federal judge ruled against the Justice Department last June, allowing the merger to go forward. The Trump administration appealed the decision, but a federal appeals court last month upheld the lower court’s decision.

The anecdote about Trump’s instruction to Cohn appears in The New Yorker’s report as an example of how the Trump administration’s actions have been “pro-Fox.”

The New Yorker reported that Trump’s effort to have Cohn push to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, in addition to the administration’s approval of the Disney-Fox merger and opposition to the Sinclair-Tribune merger, would all have benefitted the Murdoch family and Fox News.

The Hill has reached out to 21st Century Fox and the Department of Justice for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump praises his Scottish golf course for its beauty and diplomatic links with UK

President Donald Trump’s seemingly out-of-the blue praise Saturday for his Aberdeen golf course in Scotland — and its purported contribution to British relations with the United States — comes only days after he was ordered to pay the legal fees in his losing effort to an offshore wind farm in sight of the course.

“Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world,” he tweeted. “Also, furthers U.K. relationship!”

Trump’s tweets — which reach 59 million people — will likely have less impact on the British foreign office than his golf business, although he says he has stepped down from running the Trump Organization to avoid potential conflict of interests.

Trump’s relations with locals near the Aberdeen course have long been strained. Environmental and planning authorities objected to plans for an additional 18-hole course as a threat to the delicate 14-mile sand dunes systems and sought to block a project to develop 550 luxury homes and lodges near the course.

The Herald Scotland newspaper said local critics view Trump as an “international pariah” with a brand so toxic it can only damage the reputation of Aberdeenshire. 

Trump, however, had his own concerns about disturbing the North Sea coastline when he strongly opposed the construction of 11 offshore turbines that he said would spoil the view from his course at Menie, about 9 miles north of Aberdeen.

“I am not thrilled — I want to see the ocean, I do not want to see windmills,” he said in 2006, according to the BBC.

In 2015, he lost that battle over the wind project, which began generating power last July. 

While losing on the merits of the case, Trump took a second hit last week when the Court of Session ruled that Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd. should also pay legal fees over the lawsuit, the BBC reports.

In his tweet, Trump, perhaps, was also touting the course as part of a current two-week recruitment drive to hire 100 additional staff for the resort.

The course, which Trump built from scratch on 1,800 acres in 2005, has proved to be a divisive force within the local community. Legal challenges have sought to block the development of the second course as well as the sprawling housing development nearby that was to include luxury homes and resort lodges. The Scotsman newspaper reported last week that the Trump Organization has quietly agreed to relocate some of the lodges.

Sarah Malone, executive vice-president of Trump International, told Scotland on Sunday that such readjustments are “standard practice” and that the organization is “entirely satisfied and confident in our plans.”

The Aberdeen course, one of Trump’s biggest investments, lost $4.5 million in 2017, its fourth consecutive year in the red, The Washington Post reported.

Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, has proved a magnet for protesters when he visits his Scottish properties. Thousands of demonstrators turned out for Trump’s appearance at his other Scottish club, Turnberry, last July, including a paraglider bearing a banner that read “Trump well below par,” The Herald reports.

[USA Today]

Trump calls to save coal plant supplied by major supporter

His missive came just days before the TVA board is slated to vote on the future of Paradise Unit 3, a 49-year-old coal plant that the federally owned utility has said would be too expensive to keep operating.

The 1,150-megawatt plant gets the bulk of its coal from a subsidiary of Murray Energy, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Robert Murray, the CEO of the mining company, is a major Trump supporter who has personally lobbied the president to take other actions to help the ailing coal industry, particularly in regions where he sells coal. The White House has shelved a proposed coal bailout plan that has been among Murray’s top priorities, although the Trump administration has rolled back numerous other environmental rules the magnate has criticized.

Murray is a prolific GOP donor, and his company gave $1 million from his company to the Trump-supporting super PAC America First Action in the last election cycle, among other big contributions. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, lobbied for Murray Energy among other clients before joining the Trump administration, including joining the CEO and other company officials in a 2017 meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to discuss Murray’s policy proposals. Wheeler has said he did not write the action plan Murray presented to the Trump administration.

In a statement, Murray said he has not lobbied the White House to intervene on behalf of the plant.

“We have had no such contact,” Murray said in a statement. “In the interest of the TVA ratepayers, the remaining coal-fired unit at the Paradise Plant must remain in operation. The power will be more reliable and lower cost.”

Murray later acknowledged in an interview that he has responded to several members of Congress who have asked about “the devastation” that would be caused by the loss of the Paradise coal plant, and he said that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin asked about the plant when the two met late last week to discuss another subject. But he told POLITICO he had nothing to do with the president’s tweet.

[Politico]

Update

Trump failed. The TVA closed the plant.

Trump tweets ex-Starbucks CEO Schultz lacks ‘guts’ to run for president

President Donald Trump wrote online on Monday that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz “doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to be president,” lashing out at the coffee mogul who said over the weekend that he is weighing an independent 2020 bid for the White House.

“Howard Schultz doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for President! Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the ‘smartest person.’ Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!” the president wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

During a pre-taped interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Schultz told journalist Scott Pelley he was “seriously thinking of running for president.” Though he characterized himself as “a lifelong Democrat,” Schultz said he would run as a “centrist independent outside of the two-party system,” criticizing both Democrats and Republicans for failure to meet the needs of the American people.

Many, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, a Democrat who announced his own 2020 campaign on Jan. 12, warned that an independent candidate like Schultz could boost Trump’s reelection chances by siphoning voters away from a Democratic candidate.

In recent decades, candidates running independent campaigns for president have caused a stir, but never come close to winning. Billionaire Ross Perot placed third in 1992 with 19 percent of the vote, enough that many have credited him with drawing support from then-incumbent President George H.W. Bush, allowing President Bill Clinton to unseat him.

In 2000, Consumer advocate Ralph Nader ran as the Green Party’s presidential candidate, pulling enough votes from Democrat Al Gore to help President George W. Bush secure the presidency in that year’s razor-thin election.

[Politico]

Trump Says He Stands By MBS the Same Day Murdered Khashoggi Makes Time Person of the Year Cover

President Donald Trump sat down with Reuters’ White House reportersfor a robust Oval Office interview on the same day that the politically assassinated Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was featured on TIME’s Person of the Year issue.

Despite CIA findings that strongly suggest the Saudi Crown PrinceMohammed bin Salman was behind the murder, and a recently entered bipartisan Senate Resolution condemning MBS’s alleged role in Khashoggi’s death, Trump is standing by the burgeoning leader of the Saudi Royal family, close political ally and suspected business partner for the Trump family business.

Reuters journalists Roberta RamptonJeff Mason, and Steve Hollandsat with the Commander in Chief, and among the many news items to emerge is Trump’s steadfast support of MBS.

report with bylines of Rampton and Holland claimed: “Trump refused to comment on whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder, but he provided perhaps his most explicit show of support for the prince since Khashoggi’s death more than two months ago.”

Trump is quoted as defending his position, saying “He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally.”

The White House and State Department have shown consistent support of the Saudi leader despite political pressure from leaked CIA reports and Congressional leaders of both parties. The article reports that, when asked “if standing by the kingdom meant standing by”  the Crown Prince, Trump responded: “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”

Reuters reporters followed by asking if Trump believes that his continued support is critical to MBS ascension to King, as some in the Saudi Royal family are reportedly “agitating to prevent MBS from becoming king, sources close to the royal court have told Reuters, and believe that the United States and Trump could play a determining role.”

Trump responded that he was unaware of that adding, “Honestly, I can’t comment on it because I had not heard that at all. In fact, if anything, I’ve heard that he’s very strongly in power.”

[Mediaite]

Trump’s 2020 Campaign Has Reportedly Funneled Over $1 Million Into His Own Businesses

Federal election filings analyzed by Forbes say that Trump’s 2020 campaign has raked in millions of dollar from donors while Trump himself has converted at least $1.1 million of those donor funds into his own money by charging “the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting.”

Trump Tower Commercial LLC is a New York State-based entity owned by the 45th president. As of the latest campaign finance filing, the entity had charged Trump’s re-election campaign at least $665,000 in rent. An additional $225,000 in rent payments have been made to this entity through a similar arrangement with the Republican National Committee (RNC).

The extent of the space currently being rented by the 2020 campaign and the RNC is currently unknown but reporter Dan Alexander‘s reporting suggests one of two things: an extreme amount of real estate is currently being occupied–or the Trump Tower business is heavily inflating real estate prices.

Per Forbes:

Leading up to the 2016 election, the president’s campaign paid an average of $2,700 in monthly Trump Tower rent for every person listed in campaign filings as receiving a “payroll” payment. The 2020 operation, by contrast, is shelling out an average of $6,300 in monthly rent for every such person.

And that’s not all.

There’s also the matter of a separate Trump-owned and New York State-based entity known as Trump Plaza LLC. This entity currently controls a retail space, a parking garage, and two medium-sized apartment buildings.

According to federal filings, the Trump 2020 campaign has paid Trump Plaza LLC at least $42,000 in rent since November 2017–but, according to Forbes, there doesn’t appear to be any campaign activity occurring on any such property owned by the entity.

For one, the retail space simply has nothing campaign-related going on whatsoever. Same goes for the parking garage–which appears to be sub-leased to a non-Trump company at present. As for the apartment buildings? It doesn’t look like there’s any campaign-related activity happening there either.

Again, Alexander’s report:

Forbes staked out the buildings, arriving at 7:15 a.m. one November morning and staying for the next 14 hours, with the exception of an 18-minute break around 3 p.m. By our count, seven people went in and out of the twin, four-story brownstones over the course of the day. One refused to talk, and six said they had not seen any sign of the campaign in the buildings. Nor had a man behind the front desk at Trump Plaza. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” he said. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.”

The report goes on to speculate that it’s “unlikely” Trump’s 2020 campaign would simply hand cash over to the president for “nothing in return,” and cites an unnamed Trump 2016 staffer who said that Trump Plaza apartments would occasionally serve as crash pads for Trump campaign staff. If that’s the case, of course, it would be a lot cheaper to occasionally rent hotel rooms, but, Alexander notes, “that would not guarantee a steady stream of rent for the president.”

Breaking down that revenue stream is also illustrative.

Since Trump Plaza LLC began charging Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign “rent” in November 2017,  such payments have averaged out to some $4,200 per month. Those amounts appear to be quite a bit above market value.

According to Forbes‘ recent perusal of real estate website StreetEasy, recent rents in the same brownstone apartments have gone for $3,700 and $3,850–substantially lower prices (especially in the fiercely competitive Manhattan real estate market) than what Trump’s campaign has been paying the president’s own business for alleged campaign use of those circumspect properties.

And even if it doesn’t seem like much of up-charge? According to Federal Election Commission rules, campaigns are supposed to pay “fair market value” for all goods and services they use–especially when they use and pay their own businesses.

[Law and Crime, Inquisitr]

EPA announces new plan to weaken Obama-era greenhouse gas rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday plans to roll back a 2015 rule that put strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions coming from coal plants — a tweak the agency is labeling closer to “reality.”

The change will significantly weaken the Obama-era rule in part as an effort to help jump-start new coal plant construction in the U.S.

The proposed revisions to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) would no longer mandate that plants meet the strict emissions goals of achieving emissions equal to or less than what plants would have achieved with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Obama administration at the time saw CCS as a feasible future technology that was important to pulling carbon out of coal plant emissions at their source. Today the technology is not generally used commercially and is pricey.

EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler called the Obama administration’s focus on CCS “disingenuous.”

“Their determination was disingenuous. They knew the tech was not adequately demonstrated, which is what was required under the law. This rule sets high yet achievable standards rooted in reality,” Wheeler said at a press conference at EPA headquarters.

EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum called the old rule “wishful thinking.”

“Today’s actions reflect our approach of defining new, clean coal standards by data and the latest technological information, not wishful thinking,” he said in a statement. “U.S. coal-fired power will be a part of our energy future and our revised standards will ensure that the emissions profiles of new plants continue to improve.”

The new changes would limit coal plant emissions to 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour produced, a level they say can be met with modern technology including efficient boilers.

The original rule had set the limit at 1,400 pounds.

Despite the higher level of carbon being allowed into the air under EPA’s latest change, Wheeler told reporters that their study found it would “not result in significant [carbon dioxide] changes or costs.”

When asked whether the new rule means the EPA is ignoring the Trump administration’s latest report that declared that effects from climate change would result in unavoidable economic harm to the U.S, Wheeler pushed back.

“We’re not ignoring the government report. We’re still looking at the government report ourselves. We just got a briefing on it this morning from some of our career scientists,” he said.

The report was released two weeks ago.

The EPA chief said the new rule would actually be beneficial to human health because it would provide cheaper electricity to households.

“Having cheap electricity helps human health. If you have cheaper electricity, people are able to afford electricity for their house — that is one aspect of protecting human health,” he said, specifically referring to lower income populations.

[The Hill]

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