Kelly Says He’s Willing to Resign as Abuse Scandal Roils White House

By MAGGIE HABERMAN, JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDTFEB. 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, told officials in the West Wing on Friday that he was willing to step down over his handling of allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned in disgrace this week over the accusations, according to two officials aware of the discussions.
The officials emphasized that they did not consider a resignation imminent, and that Mr. Kelly — a retired four-star Marine general who early in his tenure often used a threat of quitting as a way to temper President Trump’s behavior — had made no formal offer. In comments to reporters at the White House on Friday, Mr. Kelly said he had not offered to resign.
But his suggestion in private that he would be willing to step down if the president wanted him to reflected the degree to which the scandal surrounding Mr. Porter has engulfed the White House, touching off a bitter round of recriminations that could result in a shake-up at the highest levels.
Two West Wing advisers and a third person painted a picture of a White House staff rived and confused, with fingers pointed in all directions and the president privately expressing dissatisfaction with Mr. Kelly.
Some complained that Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who learned last January that Mr. Porter was concerned about potentially damaging accusations from two ex-wives, had not been forthcoming enough about what he knew. Others faulted Hope Hicks, the communications director, who had been romantically involved with Mr. Porter, for soliciting statements of support for him when the accusations became public.
And many, including the president himself, have turned their ire on Mr. Kelly for vouching for Mr. Porter’s character and falsely asserting that he had moved aggressively to oust him once his misdeeds were discovered.
For all the turmoil, Mr. Trump on Friday warmly praised Mr. Porter, saying it was a “tough time” for his former aide and noting that Mr. Porter had denied the accusations.
“We wish him well,” Mr. Trump said of his former aide, who was accused of physical and emotional abuse by two ex-wives. The president added, “He also, as you probably know, says he is innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
“He worked very hard,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked for a comment about Mr. Porter. The president said he had only “recently” learned of the allegations against his former aide and was surprised.
“He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and he will have a great career ahead of him,” Mr. Trump said. “But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.”
The glowing praise of a staff member accused of serial violence against women was in line with the president’s own denials of sexual impropriety despite accusations from more than a dozen women and his habit of accepting claims of innocence from men facing similar allegations. Among them was Roy S. Moore, the former Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, who is accused of molesting teenage girls.
But later in the day, the White House dealt far more aggressively with another allegation of abuse. A spokesman confirmed that a second White House staff member, David Sorensen, a speechwriter, had resigned over allegations by his former wife that he had abused her during their marriage. The spokesman said that officials confronted Mr. Sorenson on Thursday night when they learned of the accusations and that he had denied them.
Mr. Sorensen’s resignation, first reported by The Washington Post, came as a new timeline emerged indicating that top officials knew much earlier than previously disclosed that Mr. Porter faced accusations of violence against women.
Shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Mr. McGahn, the White House counsel, first learned from Mr. Porter himself that there could be allegations against him, according to two people briefed on the situation. Mr. McGahn’s knowledge of the accusations in January was first reported by The Washington Post.
Mr. Porter told him about the possible allegations because he was concerned that what he characterized as false charges from aggrieved women who were out to destroy him could derail his F.B.I. background check, according to one of the two people briefed on the matter.

Six months later, the F.B.I. told Mr. McGahn that accusations of domestic abuse had indeed surfaced in Mr. Porter’s background check. Mr. McGahn opted at that time to let the F.B.I. complete its investigation into any incidents. Mr. Porter assured Mr. McGahn, another person briefed on the matter said, that the accusations from the former wives were lies.
The emerging timeline illustrates the degree to which Mr. Porter, a clean-cut and ambitious former Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School-educated lawyer, concealed troublesome episodes from his past that would normally be considered disqualifying for a senior White House aide.
Those efforts appear to have succeeded for months, at least in part because of the willingness of a virtually all-male staff in the top echelons of the West Wing to believe a talented male colleague over women they had never met.
Lawyers in the counsel’s office believed that the bureau — with its vast investigative powers — was best positioned to look into the accusations, the two people briefed on the matter said, and that it was not their job to investigate conduct that took place long before an official began working in the administration.
That represents a sharp break with past practice, in which White House counsels undertook elaborate vetting of senior advisers before they were hired — and looked into any serious allegations that surfaced thereafter.
In November, the White House heard back from the F.B.I. Senior White House officials, including Mr. Kelly, Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff, and Mr. McGahn received word from the bureau that the allegations were credible and that Mr. Porter was not likely to pass his background check.
But while Mr. McGahn privately informed Mr. Porter and encouraged him to consider moving on, according to one of the two people briefed, no action was taken to immediately terminate him. Rather, Mr. McGahn requested that the F.B.I. complete its investigation and come back to the White House with a final recommendation, a process that could take months.
On Friday, several White House aides described confusion among the staff about why Mr. Kelly and others had initially rallied to defend Mr. Porter, and some suggested that Mr. Kelly had tried to cover up what he knew. Others insisted that while he was aware of the broad strokes of accusations against Mr. Porter, and while he could have made more of an effort to learn more, he trusted the staff secretary’s denials.
Mr. Kelly began telling people at the White House on Thursday that he had learned the details of Mr. Porter’s situation only “40 minutes before he threw him out” two days earlier, before pictures of Mr. Porter’s bruised ex-wife began circulating.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, and other aides had maintained to reporters that the White House fully backed Mr. Porter, who they said was leaving of his own accord. She issued a statement saying that both the president and Mr. Kelly had “full confidence” in his performance.
In a meeting with senior staff members on Friday morning, Mr. Kelly appeared to be trying to paint his handling of the matter in a more favorable light. At the end of the session, according to people with knowledge of his remarks, Mr. Kelly volunteered that he had something he wanted to “clarify.”
Mr. Kelly went on to say that he had learned of Mr. Porter’s true situation less than an hour before he removed him from his job. Two people familiar with the comments said that most of the staff appeared incredulous; one person said several people in the room knew that the timeline Mr. Kelly had presented was false.
As the meeting broke up, Ms. Hicks loudly complained about what had transpired, using an expletive, a person briefed on the meeting said.
The infighting unfolded amid signs of a brewing shake-up in the West Wing.
The president has now sounded out several people as possible replacements for Mr. Kelly. Those possible replacements include Mick Mulvaney, the budget director; Representative Kevin McCarthy of California; and Gary D. Cohn, Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser. He has also returned to a notion he has raised privately in the past, telling people he would like Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a close friend and confidant, to take the job.
Mr. Kelly is not ready to explicitly offer a resignation, according to a person familiar with his thinking. But people close to Mr. Trump said the president had begun the process of making the job so unpleasant for Mr. Kelly that it might hasten his departure, the same sort of ritual humiliation to which he subjected Reince Priebus, his first chief of staff, before his departure in July.
Despite his warm words on Friday, two advisers said, Mr. Trump was livid when he learned of the allegations against Mr. Porter, and referred to his disgraced former aide in one phone call as “bad garbage.” He also expressed his frustration with both Mr. Kelly and Ms. Hicks.
On Friday evening, the White House announced new posts for 31 officials, including elevating to acting staff secretary Derek Lyons, another Harvard Law School-educated lawyer, who formerly worked on Capitol Hill and had been Mr. Porter’s No. 2. Also included on the list was the departure of Jim Carroll, a lawyer in the counsel’s office who had only recently been designated to be Mr. Kelly’s deputy, but will now become acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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Apple’s Huge Announcement Just A PR Move (Video)

Apple's Huge Announcement Just a PR Move

It turns out Apple's huge announcement to invest $350 billion into the U.S. economy was just a PR move.

Posted by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Friday, February 9, 2018

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Trump just made his decision on the Democratic memo rebuttal to Nunes

By Vinnie Longobardo

Published on February 9, 2018

Apparently, classified information only matters if you’re a Democrat.
How else could you explain President Trump’s decision not to approve the public release of the memo composed by the Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee in rebuttal to Rep.Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) flawed partisan screed that he approved for release last week over the objections of the FBI because of its inclusion of classified material.
Trump instructed his White House Counsel Don McGahn to write a letter to the House Intelligence Committee transmitting his decision, according to a report in The Huffington Post.

In it, McGahn claims that Trump is “inclined to declassify” the Democratic memo, he won’t right now because it contains “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” Yeah, right. Just like the Republican memo that Trump claimed “vindicated” him of collusion and obstruction of justice that he declassified anyway.
Add your name to millions demanding Congress take action on the President’s crimes. IMPEACH TRUMP & PENCE!
Of course, since the Democrats memo purports to point out all of the ways that the central premise of the Republican memo is flawed by using cherry-picked details to support an unreasonable conclusion, it won’t be any more vindicating for Trump than Nunes’ memo which fell considerably short of the massive hype that the Republican’s touted.

Getting back to the question of how to rectify Trump’s decision to repress the Democratic response to a flawed assertion by the GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee with the ease with which he promulgated the Republican memo, there are several possibilities.
Firstly, because the rebuttal, written by the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), includes the details that explain why Nunes’ memo is misleading and factually faulty, it actually does include information that is classified and also part of the investigation still being conducted by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. If this is true, then the memo does need to be redacted before being published, as Nunes’ memo should have been as well.
A second possible explanation is that our credulous President really believes that the Nunes memo does absolve him of blame in the investigation and will do nothing that undermines that premise, such as releasing a memo that proves Nunes’ conclusions are false.

The third, and most likely, explanation is that Trump is continuing to obstruct justice by suppressing Schiff’s memo, desperately clinging to the fiction of innocence that he’s trying to sell the public while digging himself deeper into a morass of cover-ups and lies.
Given that Schiff has said that his document provides the missing context in the already public memo from the Republicans and that it lays out the “full facts” of the circumstances surrounding the FBI’s application for a FISA surveillance warrant on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page as he met with Russian agents, it’s not surprising that Trump doesn’t want to let it see the light of day.
What is surprising is that Trump still thinks he can get away with it without damage to him and his administration.

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Another Rout In The Stock Market, As Dow Drops More Than 1,000 Points

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

U.S. stock markets fell sharply Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average tumbling 1,033 points, or 4 percent, to 23,860.
Other major stock indexes also dropped Thursday. The S&P 500 fell 101 points, or 3.8 percent, and the Nasdaq index fell 275 points, or 3.9 percent.
With the latest drops, both the Dow and the broader S&P 500 are down more than 10 percent from their peaks on Jan. 26, which constitutes a market correction.
The market is still trying to find its footing after Monday’s huge meltdown, when the Dow fell 1,175 points — a one-day record.
Wall Street has been on a roller coaster ride. On Tuesday, the market regained close to half of its deep Monday loss, but on Wednesday the market ended down again.
At Thursday’s opening bell, it bounced from positive to negative, then headed down sharply.

The “sell-off has now corrected prices back to the level that preceded the passage of the tax bill” in December, said David Kotok, chairman of Cumberland Advisors. Enthusiasm about a corporate tax cut had helped drive the stock market to record levels.

White House Says Despite Stock Market Volatility, Economy Is Doing Well
Several factors are contributing to the return of neck-wrenching volatility this week after years of absence in the market. In fact, investors had devised very profitable investment products that allowed them to bet that volatility would remain low. Those bets against market volatility blew up on Monday.
As investors in those products ran for the exits and starting selling stocks to cover their bets, they triggered a cascade of automated selling. Kotok says it’s not clear but the sell-off of those positions may still be fueling the current market downdraft.

Worries about future inflation and rising interest rates also weighed on the market again Thursday. Investors are concerned that growing budget deficits caused by the big tax cut and the pending congressional budget deal are pushing rates up.
The Congressional Budget Office says the two-year budget deal will add $320 billion of spending. Investors worry stimulus from the tax cuts and the added government spending will overheat an already strong economy, pushing up wages and prices and sparking inflation. That would create a negative environment for stocks.

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