John T. Bennett

Trump jets to Japan to wing it at G-20 summit as Iran tensions build
Official unable to lay out agenda for high-stakes meetings with Xi, Putin and MBS

After a week of brinksmanship and backing down, President Donald Trump  heads to a G-20 summit in Japan on Wednesday for talks with other world leaders amid a volatile confrontation with Iran and stalled trade talks with China.

Senior administration officials made clear this week that Trump, who admits his negotiating style is based on gut feelings and big bets, will largely wing it at the meeting. Officials declined to describe any set agenda for the president’s talks with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Trump admits he lacks exit strategy for an Iran war
Candidate Trump harshly criticized ‘stupid wars’ in Middle East that U.S. couldn’t untangle

President Donald Trump admitted Tuesday he has no plan for how to get out of war with Iran if one breaks out, even though he campaigned on ending protracted American wars in the Middle East that he long has called “stupid.”

Hours after he responded to insults by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by warning him of “obliteration” if a shooting conflict starts, CQ Roll Call asked Trump this during an unrelated event in the Oval Office: “Do you have an exit strategy for Iran, if war does break out?”

Melania Trump aide Grisham to be White House press secretary and communications director
Grisham replaces Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose last day is Friday

Stephanie Grisham, who has been a top aide to first lady Melania Trump, will be the next White House press secretary and communications director.

The first lady announced the move in a tweet a week after Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that she would leave the post. Friday will be Sanders’ last day.

U.S.-Iran confrontation escalates as Trump threatens ‘obliteration’ after Rouhani’s insult
Schumer: ‘The danger of bumbling into war is acute‘

Responding to Iranian officials calling his White House “mentally retarded,” President Donald Trump called their latest statement “ignorant and insulting” before warning them he is prepared to use “great and overwhelming force” against their country.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani used the same televised Tuesday address that included an insult for Trump and his staff to say new sanctions the Trump administration slapped on some of their top leaders “useless.” He sharply criticized Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, as “a source of belligerence and aggression” in the region. (Bolton for years has advocated a U.S. policy of seeking regime change in Tehran.)

Trump repeats warnings and imposes new sanctions on Iran amid tension
The president said the U.S. does not ‘seek’ a conflict with Iran, but warned Tehran his recent restraint is not guaranteed

President Trump on Monday said the United States does not “seek” a conflict with Iran, but warned Tehran his recent restraint is not guaranteed to continue as he prepared to slap new sanctions on the Middle East power.

“We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country,” Trump told reporters at the White House, according to a pool report.

Trump’s 2020 re-election rally signals 2016 strategy may be used again
President used digs at Obama, Clinton to fire up supporters in key battleground of Florida

Donald Trump repeatedly railed against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as a friendly Florida crowd cheered and jeered. Only it wasn’t 2016 — it was just six days ago.

The president took a crowd of supporters in Orlando on a journey through time last Tuesday as he formally announced his re-election bid. He dropped his now-familiar attack lines that elicited chants of “Lock her up” for Clinton and boos for Obama.

Trump delays ICE raids hoping for bipartisan plan — but doesn’t say what he’ll support
Operation to round up undocumented migrants had been scheduled to start Sunday

President Donald Trump announced Saturday that “at the request of Democrats” a planned roundup of undocumented immigrants will be delayed.

In a tweet from Camp David, Trump said he ordered the delay for two weeks “to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the asylum and loophole problems at the southern border.”

With Iran reversal, did Trump break pledge to never ‘telegraph’ military ops?
‘He basically called them up and told them what he was going to do,’ military expert says

Iran’s military got a glimpse of how President Donald Trump would attack their country despite his years-old pledge never to “telegraph” U.S. military operations to an enemy.

My administration will not telegraph exact military plans to the enemy,” then-candidate Donald Trump said on Aug. 15, 2016 — less than three months before he was elected president.

Trump says he aborted strike against Iran because it wouldn’t have been ‘proportionate’
President says U.S. forces were ‘cocked & loaded’ to hit targets but he called off operation 10 minutes before strike

President Donald Trump on Friday defended his decision to abort strikes on three Iranian targets involved in shooting down a U.S. military drone, saying U.S. forces were “cocked & loaded,” but the expected 150 deaths would not have been a “proportionate” response.

The New York Times first reported that Trump ordered strikes on Iranian targets but then canceled the mission with U.S. aircraft en route to take out Iranian missile and radar sites.

White House threatens to veto resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales
Senate sends 22 resolutions disapproving of sales to Saudis and UAE to the House where they have good prospects for passage

The White House said Thursday it would veto Senate-passed measures to block its proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.

“The transfer of these capabilities and services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan directly supports the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of friendly countries that continue to be important forces for political and economic stability in the Middle East,” according to a statement of administration policy memo.

Trump calls Iran move ‘loose and stupid,’ suggests retaliation possible
Trump called the strike "foolish," but declined to say whether he is questioning whether Iranian leaders have lost control of their military personnel

Updated 1:11 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested Iran’s shootdown of an American military drone was just a mistake likely carried out by someone who is both “loose and stupid.” But he also warned Tehran he might retaliate as tensions continue to escalate.

Asked if he intends to respond, Trump for the second time within the hour told reporters, “You’ll find out.”

3 things to watch: Before any Iran conflict, Trump faces war within his own team
'Iran made a very big mistake,' president warns in cryptic tweet after U.S. drone shot down

ANALYSIS | Donald Trump is facing one of the biggest tests of his presidency after Iran shot down a U.S. military aircraft, prompting him to declare the islamic republic “made a very big mistake.”

His tweet at 10:16 a.m. Thursday broke the nearly 15 hours of essential White House silence on the missile takedown of the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft. But the U.S. commander in chief did not suggest he is ready to respond — even after a top Iranian official admitted the shootdown was meant as a “clear message” to Washington.

Congressional leaders, White House give spending caps talks another try
Fall government shutdown looms if both sides can’t agree on a deal

White House officials plan to meet with congressional leaders Wednesday — for the second time in as many months — to reach a deal on spending limits that would prevent another government shutdown this fall.

The first meeting, on May 21, produced some initial hopes that a bipartisan deal could be reached relatively quickly, avoiding a breakdown in the appropriations process when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Trump kicks off re-election bid that could extend key legal protections into 2025
Federal statute of limitations on Mueller’s findings would expire in second term, ex-U.S. attorney says

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night started his re-election bid, ending years of speculation that he might return to private life and opt out of seeking a second term that could provide him legal protections into 2025.

Political operatives since before he took office have suggested the 73-year-old former real estate mogul and reality television host might tire of the grueling job of president, choosing to enjoy running his businesses alongside his children in Manhattan and his various resort properties around the world. He put an end to that talk Tuesday during a raucous campaign rally in Orlando, Florida.

Trump again pressures Fed to cut rates with lukewarm comment about its chairman
President says he wants a ‘level playing field’ from central bank

President Donald Trump on Tuesday opted against giving a public vote of confidence to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as the central bank mulls a possible interest rate cut in coming weeks.

“Let’s see what he does,” the president said, appearing to suggest Powell’s future as chairman could be linked to whether the Fed answers his call and slashes rates.

Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan gives up post, withdraws name from nomination
Shanahan was to succeed Mattis, who had differences with President Trump

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has given up his post and withdrawn his nomination to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted, announcing yet another Cabinet change.

Army Secretary Mark Esper will be the new acting Pentagon boss, Trump said. Shanahan, a former defense industry executive, replaced retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis when he stepped down, citing differences with Trump.

Spending talks between White House, Hill leadership to resume Wednesday
A round of meetings on May 21 with the same principals involved got off to a positive start, but then petered out in the afternoon

The four top congressional leaders from both parties plan to sit down again Wednesday morning with senior Trump administration officials to try to hammer out an agreement on next year’s spending levels.

The talks at the Capitol will include acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and acting budget director Russell Vought, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Trump targets Florida electoral haul with Orlando campaign kick-off
Booming and diverse state presents challenge, and is key to re-election bid

President Donald Trump will pull out all the stops Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, when he announces his re-election bid in a state he narrowly won in 2016 and needs again as he tries to reconfigure the electoral map that put him in the White House.

But Democrats are already countering his expected message of a strong economy and tough trade tactics, arguing that Trump’s tariffs are hurting middle-class voters and causing battleground states to shed jobs. That’s the message the party and many of its 2020 candidates are pushing in hopes of reversing Hillary Clinton’s 1-point loss in the Sunshine State three years ago. 

Could Donald Trump replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders with John Barron?
President never replaced his last communications director, prefers to drive own messaging

ANALYSIS | Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ voice cracked Thursday afternoon as she described her reasons for giving up her White House press secretary gig.

“I feel like it’s important for the president to be able to put somebody in place as he moves into the campaign season,” Sanders said in an impromptu gaggle in her office, also saying she wants to spend time with her three young kids. 

Trump: No doubt Iran was behind attacks on tankers
President says he won't fire Kellyanne Conway despite findings of Hatch Act violations

President Donald Trump on Friday said U.S. officials are confident Iran is behind attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East.

During a wild 50-minute interview with "Fox & Friends," the president defiantly said he will not fire White House counselor Kellyanne Conway despite findings from a federal investigator that she broke the law, refused to endorse any future presidential run by Vice President Mike Pence, and tried to walk back comments from a controversial television interview by claiming he would contact the FBI if another government tried to meddle in a U.S. election.