Pompeo’s Tough Diplomacy on Display in Europe

Europeans routinely complain about being neglected by U.S. administrations.

As much as Europeans doted on then-President Barack Obama, he indeed treated them with benign indifference, taking their support for granted.

But now, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo having made his way through their capitals last week, Europeans have gotten a taste of a new and tougher style of engagement that is making some bristle.

Pompeo had several priorities to

  • Re-establishing the close relationship between the United States and Central Europe, which the George W. Bush administration had nurtured so successfully in the early years of the 21st century.
  • Pressing Europeans against doing business with Iran, which they persist in, even after the Trump administration walked away from the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Warning of the influence of Russia and China, as they seek to exploit and deepen differences between the United States and Europe.

Pompeo’s five-day visit, begun on Feb. 11, focused on reinforcing U.S. relations with Central Europe, with stops in Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.

A lack of U.S. engagement in the region under Obama opened the door to Chinese and Russian investment and influence.

It had been 20 years since Slovakia received such a high-level visit from the United States, and the last time Hungary received a U.S. secretary of state was with Hillary Clinton in 2011.

The U.S. government today is especially concerned about the expansion of China’s Huawei Technologies—the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker—into Hungary and Poland, as well as Hungary’s support for the TurkStream pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine and is the main conduit for Russian natural gas exports to Europe.

During his visit to Warsaw, Poland, Pompeo was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, who issued clear warnings to European governments at a security conference.

European companies are heavily invested in doing business with Tehran, and philosophically, they argue for positive engagement—a lucrative, but failed policy that has not produced any benign change in the Iranian regime’s behavior, particularly its human rights record and nuclear aspirations.

Pence reinforced Pompeo’s message, accusing Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union in general of defying U.S. sanctions.

A final stop on the continent for Pompeo was Brussels, Belgium, where Iran was the focal point of a breakfast meeting with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy commissioner.

Will Pompeo’s visit prove to heal or exacerbate divisions between the U.S. and European partners?

The most likely outcome will be a re-establishment of the close ties that were so carefully constructed under the Bush administration. That would be a major step in the right direction for U.S. foreign policy, particularly with Eastern European countries.

The Eastern and Central Europeans have been highly valued allies since the end of the Cold War. The United States and the rest of Europe remain deeply bound by economic and civilizational ties, yet political differences often get in the way.

Pompeo is navigating those differences through honest and principled engagement.

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Trump says he directed Pompeo not to let ISIS bride back in U.S.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he had directed the State Department not to allow the return of an Alabama woman who in 2014 joined the Islamic State terrorist group, days after the woman made public pleas to be let back into the U.S.

“I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” the president tweeted.

Muthana joined ISIS in Syria when she was 19, becoming a bride for three fighters. She went on to call for the killing of Americans on Twitter.

In recent days, however, Muthana, who is now 24, said she regretted her actions and wanted to return to the U.S, according to The Guardian. She is reportedly being detained in a Kurdish refugee camp.

Pompeo on Wednesday said Muthana was not a U.S. citizen and had no “legal basis” to be brought back to the United States.

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” he said in a statement issued before Trump’s post on Twitter. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States. We continue to strongly advise all U.S. citizens not to travel to Syria.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to questions about Muthana’s citizenship status and whether Pompeo’s statement was in response to a request from Trump.

Hassan Shibly, a family representative for Muthana, disputed the secretary of state’s assertion, saying that Muthana was born in New Jersey in 1994.

“The Trump administration continues its attempts to wrongfully strip citizens of their citizenship,” Shibly tweeted. “Hoda Muthana had a valid US passport and is a citizen. She was born in Hackensack, NJ in October 1994, months after her father stopped being diplomat.”

Shibly later tweeted a what appeared to be Muthana’s birth certificate, adding that she was born “months after her father informed the US Government he was no longer a diplomat.”

It is unclear whether Muthana is an American citizen, since the children of diplomats in the U.S. are not entitled to birthright citizenship.

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.

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Judge Napolitano Explains to Fox News Host: Covington Kid’s Lawsuit ‘Impossible’ to Prove

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano on Wednesday helpfully explained to Fox host Charles Payne that the $250 million lawsuit against the Washington Post filed by the family of Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann faces a tough road, adding that it is “impossible” to prove that level of damages claimed.

Noting that President Trump gave his support to Sandmann’s suit, which contends the Post targeted and bullied the MAGA hat-wearing teenager in an effort to embarrass the president, Payne asked Napolitano if Sandmann, 16, has a case.

The judge weighed both sides of the argument, claiming the teen “probably suffered” as a result of “false and erroneous” portrayals of his interactions last month with a Native American activist. On the other side, Napolitano pointed out, the student became a “limited purpose public figure” during the confrontation, adding that Sandmann’s lawyers would need to then prove the Post “published what they knew was false and reckless.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Andrew McCabe Reveals Part of Trump’s ‘Rambling’ Letter Firing Comey For the First Time

Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe says he saw the draft letter that Donald Trump reportedly wrote in advance of James Comey‘s firing, and revealed, for the first time, some of that letter’s contents.

On Wednesday’s edition of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House, McCabe sat for yet another lengthy interview in support of his new book, and somehow managed to roll out some new information.

Host Nicolle Wallace asked McCabe to respond to an attack that Trump made earlier Wednesday during an Oval Office photo op, in which he called McCabe a bunch of names, including a “fool” and a “poor man’s J. Edgar Hoover.”

McCabe began by noting that “I have been listening to the president lie about me since October 2016, and he somehow finds new ways to do it.”

He then suggested that Trump’s public campaign against him affected the outcome of the investigation that resulted in his firing. When asked to clarify, McCabe explained that Trump seemed to have had a vendetta against him from the start.

“It was curious and certainly concerning to me when the president brought me up to Jim Comey on three separate occasions in those private meetings, and say things to Jim like ‘What’s the story with that deputy director of yours? Does he have a problem with me?’” McCabe said. “From the very beginning I got the sense that the president wanted me out of there.”

McCabe then said he wanted to reveal “something I have not discussed before, and I have to be careful in the way I talk about this, but I have seen the letter that the president wrote, purportedly himself, justifying the firing of Jim Comey.”

“What does it say?” Wallace asked.

“In a rambling four-plus pages, it goes through all of the different reasons why he’s firing the director of the FBI,” McCabe said, referencing a draft letter whose existence was reported in September of 2017, and which was reportedly dictated to Stephen Miller by Trump himself.

“I am not going to go through all of those with you,” McCabe continued, “but I will tell you one of them is, he claims to want to fire the director of the FBI because of his failure to fire me.”

That letter was never sent, but is currently in the possession of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Watch the clip above, from MSNBC.

[Image via screengrab]

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Even After Sanders, Harris, and Others Enter Race, Bookies Have Donald Trump as Massive 2020 Favorite

Although there are now twelve (twelve!) already-declared candidates opposing Donald Trump in 2020, the nation’s gambling gurus are still heavily favoring him for the win in the next election. In fact, as the Washington Examiner reported Wednesday, the entry of Bernie Sanders as #12 in the race didn’t even budge the numbers.

In the latest batch of odds, released just after Bernie’s announcement, Trump is overwhelming 3-2 favorite for reelection, writes the Examiner’s Washington Secrets columnist Paul Bedard, who spoke with sportsbook manager at BetOnline.ag, Dave Mason.

“There were no changes to Sanders’ odds following the announcement. We had it as a foregone conclusion that he will be in the Democratic mix,” he said.

Sanders’ odds were as high as 28-1 in April 2017. “We did take some bets on Sanders this morning — he has the fourth highest bet count out of the Democrats behind Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke,” he added.

However, it should be noted that the generic Democrat vs. Republican slightly favors the Democrat. So a bigger payout on Republican if you’re betting. Still, after two years of rough polling for Trump, it’s a remarkably resilient showing.

For the record, Kamala Harris is showing 8 to 1 at the moment, while Dwayne “The Rock’ Johnson is at 80-to-1…For now.

[Featured image via screengrab]

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Harris hires ex-Clinton aide Ruiz and several other women of color

Sen. Kamala Harris is adding several women of color to her presidential campaign team, an aide told POLITICO.

Emmy Ruiz, a political strategist who served as Hillary Clinton’s state director in Nevada and Colorado in 2016, will be a senior adviser to Harris. Ruiz will counsel the campaign on electoral, political and field strategy.

Ruiz was a field director for the Democratic National Committee in Texas and Nevada in 2012 before serving as President Barack Obama’s Nevada state director during the general election. Her experience includes serving as political director of Annie’s List in Texas and campaign manager for comprehensive immigration reform at Organizing for Action.

Missayr Boker and Julie Chávez Rodriguez will serve as co-national political directors. Boker was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s campaign director in 2018, helping Senate Democrats’ campaign arm pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona. Boker has also served as assistant political director and PAC director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, where she managed issue advocacy campaigns and electoral strategy, and for an advocacy organization in Liberia that focused on reducing maternal mortality rates.

Rodriguez, the granddaughter of civil rights leader Cesar Chávez, is moving over from Harris’ Senate office, where she had worked as California state director since 2017. She was a special assistant to the president and senior deputy director for public engagement for Obama, overseeing the White House’s engagement with LGBT, Latino, veteran, youth, education, labor and progressive leaders.

Amanda Bailey, who raised money for now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s finance director for the West, will be Harris’ deputy national finance director. Bailey previously served on finance teams for former Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and former Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-Md.) Senate campaign.

Rosa Mendoza and Joyce Kazadi will serve as Harris analytics and advance directors, respectively. Mendoza was the DCCC’s head of analytics and senior strategist. Kazadi was Axios’ partner engagement director and events director for Axios360. Kazadi was also national advance lead on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, producing events and executing trips in more than 20 contested states in the primary and general elections.

These women are among more than a dozen women of color in senior roles in Harris’ campaign, including campaign chair Maya Harris, finance director Jalisa Washington-Price, senior adviser Laphonza Butler and deputy national press secretary Kirsten Allen.

The campaign said each woman will be involved in key decisions that are made throughout the race and that the hires reflect the California senator’s commitment to diversity.

“We value diverse backgrounds and experiences because they give our campaign vibrancy and fresh perspectives about the many challenges all Americans are facing,” said campaign manager Juan Rodriguez. “Senator Harris has a history of elevating and amplifying all voices to ensure that nothing is seen through only one narrow point of view.”

Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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