- Sep 8
The "Federal G" is ready for "epic" Irma, Trump says
Photo: LucasFilm via AP
I chat with industry leaders about their quirks and life hacks for Axios' My 6 Big Things series. This week features Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, tells us a worthy part of her morning routine.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands" of Trump transition emails, including emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios.
Why it matters: The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes.
How it happened: The sources say Mueller obtained the emails from the General Services Administration, the government agency that hosted the transition email system, which had addresses ending in “ptt.gov," for Presidential Transition Team.
Taking fight public: Charging "unlawful conduct," Kory Langhofer, counsel for the transition team, wrote in a letter to congressional committees Saturday that "career staff at the General Services Administration ... have unlawfully produced [transition team] private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel's Office."
The Special Counsel's office said: "We will decline to comment."
The transition sources said they were surprised about the emails because they have been in touch with Mueller's team and have cooperated.
The twist: The sources say that transition officials assumed that Mueller would come calling, and had sifted through the emails and separated the ones they considered privileged. But the sources said that was for naught, since Mueller has the complete cache from the dozen accounts.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with details from the Langhofer letter to congressional committees.
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Pope Francis. Photo: Franco Origlia / Getty Images
Pope Francis warned journalists about committing the "very serious sin" of sensationalizing the news and providing one-sided reports, per AP:
Why it matters: The Pope is planning to dedicate his annual communications message to "fake news," the AP reports. This is one of several instances of Trump's "fake news" message making its impact around the globe.
Sanctions against North Korea could increase cases of acute malnutrition among children, and hamper humanitarian efforts, according to a Washington Post report.
Why it matters: While sanctions were enforced with the intent of punishing the regime for its nuclear threats and missile launches, an American neurosurgeon who operates in North Korea, Kee Park, told the Post "they're hurting the wrong people."
The Pentagon has officially confirmed the existence of its $22 million program to investigate unidentified flying objects (UFOs), reported by Politico and the New York Times almost simultaneously today.
Why it matters, per Politico's Bryan Bender: "The revelation of the program could give a credibility boost to UFO theorists, who have long pointed to public accounts by military pilots and others describing phenomena that defy obvious explanation, and could fuel demands for increased transparency about the scope and findings of the Pentagon effort, which focused some of its inquiries into subjects such as next-generation propulsion systems."
The details of the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program:
The program's funding ended in 2012, though some of the program's backers say it continues to operate. A Pentagon spokesman, Thomas Crosson, told NYT: “It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding, and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change."
Why now: Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence officer who helped run AATIP, resigned in October because he said there wasn't sufficient time and effort put into the UFO investigation, according to his resignation letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis.
"[A]mid worries about endemic binge drinking, sexual assault and a startling spate of deaths, schools are going beyond the old practice of shutting down individual [fraternity] houses to imposing broad restrictions on all Greek life," the N.Y. Times' Anemona Hartocollis reports atop column 1:
Go deeper: The state of college Greek life.
Americans are pessimistic about Washington and think the country is on the wrong track (69%), but are optimistic about their local communities.
That's the encouraging finding of an AP-NORC (University of Chicago) poll:
As part of an assertive "America First" national security strategy that President Trump will unveil Monday, he will accuse China of "economic aggression," the Financial Times' Demetri Sevastopulo and Shawn Donnan scoop:
Winner: Steve Bannon. When I texted him the FT article, he replied: "#winning."
Losers: Several top officials within the Trump adminstration's national-security apparatus, who opposed adding what one called a "political lens" to the strategy.
CFR President Richard Haass — author of "A World in Disarray" (paperback out Jan. 2) — tells Axios from in-flight Wi-Fi that slapping Beijing could be costly:
The Mexican military will be granted more control in the fight against the country's drug war, which has increasingly become more violent under President Enrique Peña Nieto, after a law passed in Mexico's Congress yesterday.
Why it matters: Critics of the law — including United Nations officials and human rights groups — argue that it would "will vastly expand military authority without checks and balances and offers no exit strategy to cede eventual leadership of the campaign to combat drugs to an effective police force," per NYT.
Why now: Violence from Mexican drug cartles has gotten worse under President Peña Nieto's tenure — NYT notes that 2017 has been "the deadliest in two decades." And since troops were first sent to combat the drug gangs in 2006, "more than 200,000 people have been killed in the drug war and 31,000 people have gone missing," according to official statistics cited by NYT.
A White House document circulating within the Trump administration lays out a case for imposing new trade restrictions on imports of solar panel equipment from Asia, according to a report in Politico.
Why it matters: It's the latest sign that President Trump's hawkish trade stance toward China will soon lead to tariffs that U.S. solar energy developers fear will sharply drive up costs and curtail new project development.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) concluded in September that low-cost imports — many of which come from Chinese owned companies operating in Asia — were a cause of "serious injury" to domestic panel manufacturers.
The finding came in response to a petition from two financially distressed manufacturing companies, Suniva and SolarWorld.
What's next: The White House is slated to make a decision as soon as next month on whether to impose tariffs or perhaps some other forms of solar trade restrictions.
In November the ITC recommended tariffs that are less aggressive than what the petitioners sought. But the White House has wide latitude to decide what form of penalties, if any, to impose.