North Korean Propaganda Video Threatens Destruction Of White House

North Korea has released a propaganda video promising the destruction of the White House, and threatening that “the enemy to be destroyed is in our sights.”

The film, complete with cheesy production values and music straight out of a 70s action flick, includes an aircraft carrier in crosshairs and the threat that,  “We will show you what a strong country that leads the world in nuclear and missile technology is capable of.”

The release of the video comes on the heels of escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States and South Korea, both of whom promised “swift punitive measures” against the Communist country.  The video made its debut on Thursday, just a few days after another similar video played before a concert in Pyongyang with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un in attendance.

North Korea is known for its bombastic rhetoric and exaggerated propaganda, but it has ramped up its output in recent weeks as tensions have risen.

During a concert held April 16 and attended by Kim, a video was broadcast showing missiles arcing over the Pacific and leaving a U.S. city in flames, followed by images of a burning American flag and a cemetery filled with white crosses.

Similar videos showing attacks on U.S. cities were broadcast last year and in 2013.

American officials have promised to prepare a military response to North Korea, along with sanctions against the country. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will arrive at the Korean Peninsula this weekend, and the submarine USS Michigan arrived off the coast of South Korea earlier this week.

South Korea is working with both the United States and United Nations to put the heat on its neighbors to the north.

“The two sides pledged that in the event of additional strategic provocation by the North to swiftly take punitive measures including a new UN Security Council resolution that are unbearable for the North,” the South’s presidential office said, following the call.

China has also offered to help pressure Pyongyang to stand down and back off its rhetoric, but officials in Beijing are unhappy about the THAAD missile defense system the U.S. has begun installing in South Korea.

Stay tuned as we keep our eyes on the growing tensions in this part of Asia.

BREAKING: Ted Cruz Takes on White House Critics of the House Freedom Caucus

Speaking in Texas tonight, Senator Ted Cruz came out swinging for the House Freedom Caucus, noting that the critics of the conservatives who are in the White House are “profoundly damaging our prospects of success.” He also noted, “If we screw all this up, you better believe the American people could elect President Warren.”

Cruz has unabashedly been defending conservatives for their refusal to preserve Obamacare under the Republican health care plan. I am told he has relayed to those close to the President that the conservatives and, in particular, the House Freedom Caucus members, are the good guys in this fight intent on making the GOP keep its promises.

The fact is, President Trump got terrible advice on the Obamacare repeal and needs to work with the House Freedom Caucus on a real repeal effort.

Everybody Knows What Sean Spicer Meant

So the perpetual outrage machine that is the internet has turned its attention back to Sean Spicer, the man who has what is probably the toughest job in politics, aside from Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail.  It seems that Spicer got caught being human and saying something that, while inartfully spoken in an epic way, doesn’t come anywhere near being spew of evil that his detractors will spend the next week making it out to be.  Let’s roll the clip:

Someone as despicable as Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.  You have to ask yourself if you are Russia, is this a country and a regime you want to align yourself with?

Yeah, I know.  Major face palm.  Then, like a man caught in flagrante delicto with the boss’s wife, he made things worse by attempting to say the equivalent of, “This really isn’t what it looks like.”

He was not using his gas on his own people the same way Assad was.

Which naturally led to responses like this on Twitter:

Even Chelsea Clinton (or whichever unpaid intern runs her Twitter account this week) got in on the action:

 

So in the blink of an eye, we’ve gone from a foot-in-mouth moment to Spicer being a Holocaust denier in bad need of a history lesson.  Even the United Airlines PR guy is probably shaking his head right now and saying, “Sucks to be that guy.”

I realize that stupid travels at the speed of light across the World Wide Web, but this has quickly reached a level of mendaciousness that is astonishing even for the mainstream media.  Everybody knows that Spicer was in no way trying to go easy on Adolph Hitler, or deny that he used chemical weapons to gas people to death in concentration camps.  What he meant to say was that even Hitler– unlike Bashar al-Assad–never deployed chemical weapons against civilian or military targets in the course of combat.  He was only trying to portray Assad as a really, really bad dude–not diss the millions of souls who perished during the Holocaust.

Spicer just did it badly.  And I do mean badly.

There’s no excuse for that, given that he’s a communications professional–and it does provide further proof that maybe doing Nazi comparisons during a press conference isn’t such a great idea.  Still, messing up and saying something sloppy is a far cry from actual malice, which his critics also know damn well.  Of course, that won’t stop them from kicking Spicer when he’s down (I can only imagine what SNL is going to do with this)–but I would defy anyone to speak to the press day after day, week after week, without screwing the pooch on occasion.

So have a drink on me, Sean.  You’ve earned it.

White House Set To Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

The White House is putting together an executive order expanding offshore oil drilling for President Trump to sign, turning back the Obama-era restrictions on drilling. Late last week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the National Ocean Industries Association conference to expect an order soon.

The coming order is set to push the Interior Department to schedule sales of new offshore oil and natural gas rights in U.S. Atlantic and Arctic waters, amending a five-year Obama administration leasing plan that left out auctions there, according to an industry representative who has discussed it with officials.

The order is also expected to begin the process of revoking former President Barack Obama’s decision to indefinitely withdraw most U.S. Arctic waters and some Atlantic Ocean acreage from future leasing. Environmentalists say it would be unprecedented for any president to rescind such a designation, and the reversal would almost certainly be challenged in court.

The executive order would set into motion a process for Arctic and Atlantic drilling that could take years before any actual drilling could begin. Such plans would require public hearings and environmental analysis from the Department of the Interior and would no doubt draw the ire of environmentalists.

The 125 million acres in the Arctic are said to hold around 27 billion gallons of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which makes them obviously attractive to the oil companies. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and industry experts agree that any order from the White House would need to be constructed in such a way as to overcome legal challenges – and environmentalists are already prepared to bring such challenges to the court.

“The administration can stare all day at the statute Obama used to protect large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic, but they won’t find a syllable allowing Trump to revoke those protections. Neither will the courts,” said Niel Lawrence, Alaska director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

It will be interesting to see if Trump plans to stand up to the environmentalists on this issue as stridently as he has faced down critics on a host of other issues.

Bannon and Priebus: Whole Lotta Shaking Going On?

Are they in?  Are they out?  The intrigue at the White House has all the makings of an Aaron Sorkin script–minus the reliably-liberal-yet-unthreatening president furrowing his brow thoughtfully as he struggles with making a monumental decision.

From Axios:

President Trump is considering a broad shakeup of his White House that could include the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the departure of chief strategist Steve Bannon, aides and advisers tell us.

 

A top aide to Trump said he’s contemplating major changes, but that the situation is very fluid and the timing uncertain: “Things are happening, but it’s very unclear the president’s willing to pull that trigger.”

This comes on the heels of Bannon having his role on the National Security Council being pared back, and the widely-reported rumors that he gave serious consideration to quitting the White House entirely.  It’s also no secret that things have been tense between Bannon and Priebus, who are reputed to have a chilly relationship in public and downright despise each other in private.  Bannon is also said to have butted heads with Jared Kushner, who is not only Donald Trump’s son-in-law but is also possibly Trump’s most trusted adviser next to his daughter Ivanka–who happens to be Kushner’s wife.  It’s only a matter of time before Netflix turns this all into a pretty wicked telenovela.

As always, we need to be careful because the story is based on unnamed sources–but given what we do know, it seems to make sense.  Bannon is a creature of the alt-right, while Kushner–who is officially unaffiliated with any political party–comes from a family of deep-pocketed Democrat donors, and himself has close ties to Democrat politicians.  Priebus, meanwhile, virtually embodies the very Republican establishment that Trump ran against during his unorthodox primary campaign, elements of which are still actively trying to undermine his presidency (yes, Evan McMullin and Bill Kristol, I’m talking about you).  At the beginning of his presidency, I thought that it might be a positive thing that Trump had such a diversity of viewpoints informing him, and that between all of them they could forge a consensus on policy that might serve to unify a politically splintered country.  Given how things have turned out, however, this now seems like it was too much to hope for.

If things really are this dysfunctional, then changes need to be made–and quickly.  Democrat resistance to Trump’s agenda is very well organized and even better funded, and this kind of infighting can only serve to help the opposition.  Nobody knows how much time Republicans will have the legislative majority they’ll need to make real conservative reforms, so time is of the essence.  Whatever happens, though, I’m certain that the president already knows where his loyalties lie.  Bannon, for his part, seems to have forgotten a very important piece of advice from The Godfather–you never take sides against the family.  If if comes down to a choice between him and Kushner, it’s a no-brainer who’s gonna go.

Unmasking Susan Rice

The walls are closing in on Susan Rice, or so it would seem based on reports that have been popping up in the news.  And in spite of CNN’s refusal to cover the story, the numerous questions that have recently arisen about Barack Obama’s national security adviser aren’t going away anytime soon.

Like many Washington scandals, this one started out as something completely different–the allegation that the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia to manipulate the 2016 election.  It was a meme that popped up immediately after Donald Trump unexpectedly won the presidency, and had three main purposes:  First, it would deflect attention away from how terrible a candidate Hillary Clinton was, and provide an explanation as to why she lost what was supposed to be easily-winnable election.  Secondly, it would delegitimize Trump’s victory, and immediately force his administration to spend valuable time and political capital defending against a manufactured scandal.  Finally–and most importantly–it would slow and hopefully halt the Trump agenda, which consisted largely of dismantling Barack Obama’s legacy.

The media eagerly pushed this narrative by publishing materials leaked from the intelligence community, purporting to show illicit contacts between Russian nationals and members of the Trump campiagn, and later his transition team.  For some reason, however, the media and their sources never seemed to think that anybody would raise the question of how the intelligence community knew about these contacts in the first place.  That is, until Donald Trump issued his now infamous tweet:

All of a sudden the narrative changed, and the media had to change gears and prove that Trump’s accusation was more than false–it was downright crazy, and yet another example of how he was unfit for office.  But a funny thing happened on the way to impeachment.  It turned out that while there was no evidence that Trump Tower had been bugged, there was evidence that Trump and his associates had indeed been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies.  The initial spin was that the monitoring had been incidental, and only happened because foreign nationals (i.e., Russians) who had contacts with the Trump team happened to be under routine surveillance.

But the leaks published by the media called out Trump associates by name.  That information is supposed to be redacted to protect the identities of American citizens caught up in surveillance of foreigners–so how did it end up in the leaked materials?

Somebody unmasked them.  And that somebody, as it turned out, was Susan Rice.

Even though she initially denied knowing anything about Trump and his associates being monitored, she later admitted to Andrea Mitchell on NBC news that she did in fact request that their identities be unmasked.  She denied, however, that she leaked that information to the media, employing the rather unusual double-negative, “I leaked nothing to nobody.”  Make of that what you will, but it sounds to me like parsing words to give herself an escape hatch just in case she ever needs one.

And that day might be coming sooner than later.  Fox News is now reporting that the surveillance went way beyond intercepted phone calls:

“This is information about their everyday lives,” Rep. Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence committee said. “Sort of like in a divorce case where lawyers are hired, investigators are hired just to find out what the other person is doing from morning until night and then you try to piece it together later on.”

This isn’t incidental surveillance. This is looking more and more like the Obama administration used the intelligence resources of the United States to spy on a political rival. Even Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is expressing openness to inviting Rice to testify before Congress on the matter.  Wheather he really wants answers is debatable–but when the guy who has been running point on the “Russian hacked the election” story wants her in for questions, you know that the whole thing has gotten too big to ignore.

One thing’s for sure, though.  This scandal has taken on a life of its own.

[NEW DEVELOPMENT] What’s Going On With The Secret Service?

UPDATE: Within the past hour, another yahoo has tried to penetrate the White House.

This is what happens when the Secret Service invites people to try by not doing their job.


Two embarrassing near back-to-back lapses have plagued the normally square-jawed U.S. Secret Service since President Trump took office. A laptop containing highly sensitive data including floor plans of Trump Tower and files on the pope was stolen from an agent’s vehicle in New York City. And it was revealed that last week, a man spent nearly 17 minutes roaming the White House grounds after jumping the fence before he was apprehended.

This adds to the last embarrassment when the agent-in-charge of the agency’s Denver district wrote that she would endure “jail time” rather than “taking a bullet” for Trump–a clear violation of the Hatch Act.

The Secret Service is not bullet-proof, of course. During the Obama administration, agents were caught with their pants down, figuratively, soliciting both male and female prostitutes in places like Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Every agency where testosterone is the office currency and travel is part of the culture has those kinds of problems. “What goes TDY, stays TDY” is a nearly-unbreakable military mantra for that very reason–although there’s always the chance of getting caught. But at protecting the president and White House, the USSS’s record is pretty good.

The White House itself has only been breached by an intruder four times since 1912. Two of those incidents happened during Obama’s terms. In 2009, uninvited guests Michaele and Tareq Salahi talked their way into a state dinner with the prime minister of India; in 2014, Omar Gonzalez jumped the fence, ran through the North Portico and overpowered a Secret Service officer before he was apprehended.

But it seems that 26-year-old Jonathan T. Tran’s time spent on the grounds a week ago Friday outdoes many of the other breaches. In fact, someone is probably going to get fired for the lapse, which happened while Trump was in residence, as CBS News’ Jeff Pegues tweeted.

Congress is concerned that the president’s protectors are losing their edge.

“I worry this is the worst one yet,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in an interview. “The time on the White House grounds really concerns me. With the president in the White House the intruder was evidently able to hide behind a pillar and get to a door undetected. The problem has persisted for years and is totally unacceptable. It scares me.”

In a letter sent to Acting U.S. Secret Service Director William J. Callahan before the Secret Service released its new timeline of events, Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said his panel had received potentially troubling allegations about undisclosed breakdowns.

The items Tran was carrying seem particularly worrisome, in this age of “fake news” and pizza parlor conspiracies.

  • 2 cans of Mace (which gives his felony a mandatory 10-year sentence)
  • a U.S. passport (of course, why not bring ID?)
  • a laptop computer containing a letter to Trump claiming Tran had “information of relevance” about Russian hackers

The laptop theft may turn out to be a worse lapse.

The Secret Service claims that the hard drive on the laptop was encrypted, but it appears that access cards were also stolen, which could help access the data. If the laptop were to access the Internet, agents could remotely wipe it. According to POLITICO, the thief also stole a set of lapel pins that grant agents entry to security perimeters around protected individuals, a secure encrypted two-way radio and a the agent’s personal laptop.

If this was just a random theft from an agent’s vehicle at a Brooklyn home, the devices will almost certainly turn up…or likely wash up from the East River. No thief in his right mind would try to fence that laptop or anything so high profile. But what if it wasn’t a random theft? This is what is probably keeping agents and intelligence analysts up all night.

The possibility this could be a black bag job by a foreign government or well-financed criminal ring has to be zinging around in their heads.

Obviously, there’s a problem here. Trump, by his own actions, is a magnet for nutcases from the left and the right. The USSS has to get back on the ball.

The White House Explores Cutting Funding To The United Nations, And – You Guessed It – The Left Is Freaking Out!

The Trump administration is preparing its budget proposal, and word is that State Department staffers have received warnings that the White House is looking at cutting up to 50 percent of the $10 billion a year in funding that the United States provides to the United Nations.

Just mentioning cutting UN funding get the Left to freaking out, as Colum Lynch over at Foreign Policy demonstrates. Read the breathlessness of some of his article on the cuts:

State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources.

The push for such draconian measures comes as the White House is scheduled on Thursday to release its 2018 budget proposal, which is expected to include cuts of up to 37 percent for spending on the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign assistance programs, including the U.N., in next year’s budget.

It remains unclear whether the full extent of the steeper U.N. cuts will be reflected in the 2018 budget, which will be prepared by the White House Office of Management and Budget, or whether, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed, the cuts would be phased in over the coming three years. One official close to the Trump administration said Tillerson has been given flexibility to decide how the cuts would be distributed.

Lynch continues his sky-is-falling quoting experts who lament that such “strong and disproportionate cuts” will “create ‘chaos.'” Apparently high on the list of areas ripe for cutting are UN services that offer “family planning” (read: abortions) and pro-Palestinian organizations.

Lynch even quotes a Heritage Foundation analyst who admits that 50-percent cuts to UN funding would be difficult, but the vast majority of the article’s analysis comes from a left-leaning perspective, including a dire warning against cutting funding from – big surprise – a former Obama administration staffer.

The fact of the matter is, drastic cuts to our United Nations funding face a tough road ahead in Congress – and even Lynch takes a breath long enough to admit it. Even if the cuts make it into the finished budget and Tillerson has the latitude to determine how the administration implements them, they’ll likely be more gradual than the worst fears. But that won’t stop the Left from freaking out over them, that’s for sure.