Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pence’

NFL Accuses Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones of Damaging the League

November 16, 2017

In a letter sent Wednesday, the league escalated its feud with the prominent owner in a dispute over commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract


The National Football League accused Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of trying to sabotage its contract negotiations with commissioner Roger Goodell, calling his conduct “detrimental to the league’s best interests.”

The tension has grown so severe that the topic of removing Mr. Jones has been discussed by at least some owners, according to people familiar with the matter. That type of drastic action would require the league showing conduct detrimental to the league—which is exactly the language the league used in a letter sent to Mr. Jones’s attorney, David Boies, on Wednesday.

The letter, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, says Mr. Jones’s “antics, whatever their motivation, are damaging the League.”

That letter was shared with all of the league’s 32 owners. It was in response to a Tuesday letter from Mr. Boies, who wrote that “Mr. Jones is in possession of a document that shows that certain statements made about those negotiations are not accurate.”

In a radio interview Tuesday, Mr. Jones described any chatter about his ouster “ridiculous.” A spokesman for the Cowboys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The conflict marks a dramatic reversal for Mr. Jones, who in a matter of weeks has gone from being one of football’s most influential figures to one who is effectively ostracized from the league. It also raised the specter of a protracted civil war within the league, which has been largely unified since a series of legal battles with the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis a generation ago.

Throughout the season, Mr. Jones has sharply criticized Mr. Goodell’s discipline of Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott over violations of the league’s personal conduct policy related to alleged domestic violence. Mr. Jones and the NFL Players Association have called the suspension unfair and criticized how the investigation was conducted.

Mr. Elliott has denied the allegations and after a protracted legal battle that kept him on the field served the first game of that six-game suspension last Sunday.

Mr. Jones pivoted against Mr. Goodell after Mr. Elliott’s suspension, according to executives from around the league. They said as recently as two days before Mr. Elliott’s suspension was announced in August, Mr. Jones expressed his continued support for extension of Mr. Goodell’s contract as commissioner.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones arrives for the NFL owners meeting in New York City in October. Photo: brendan mcdermid/Reuters

Although the league’s owners voted unanimously in May to proceed with negotiations for a Goodell contract extension, Mr. Jones has in recent weeks stepped up efforts to halt the process. He hired one of the country’s most prominent litigators, Mr. Boies, and threatened to sue the league and its owners over the issue. That resulted in his banishment from the compensation committee, where he served as an ad hoc member.

Mr. Jones has said he isn’t out for vengeance, but rather has been concerned about the structure of the contract and the rush to get it done when there is still about a year and a half left on Mr. Goodell’s current deal.

Throughout Mr. Jones’s history as an owner, he has been successful in not only expanding the league’s business but getting his way. His decisions have driven the league’s television deals to unprecedented heights and his opinions have typically carried outsize weight among the owners.

It is unclear how many other owners support Jones. Two of the executives from around the league said Redskins owner Dan Snyder may be the only one who steadfastly supports Mr. Jones’s efforts, and that if there are others it is only a handful. A spokesman for Snyder declined to comment.

Also angering some owners was their view that Jones was behind remarks from Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter earlier this month that were critical of the NFL. If Jones encouraged Schnatter to attack the league that could qualify as detrimental conduct, the executives said.

Papa John’s is an NFL sponsor and on a recent earnings call Schnatter said the NFL has “hurt us” and expressed disappointment that the league had not resolved the player protests during the national anthem.

Jones has said he’s a joint owner of more than 100 Papa John’s stores and that Schattner’s points have “tremendous credibility.”

In a series of tweets yesterday, Papa John’s walked back those comments, apologizing to anyone who thought the comments were divisive. “We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change,” the company tweeted.

Jones’s tactics thus far have backfired and rallied support around finishing Goodell’s extension, said the league executives. The framework for that new deal has been agreed upon.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is negotiating with the league over a contract extension.Photo: brendan mcdermid/Reuters

Goodell’s new contract, which would begin in 2019, would have a base salary under $5 million, with the vast majority of his compensation contingent on incentives in different categories, according to the tentative framework in place. More than half of the league’s owners would determine annually to what extent Goodell reached those benchmarks. Goodell earned more than $34 million in 2014, according to a tax filing, and has reportedly made more than $200 million since becoming commissioner in 2006.

“The Committee is continuing its work towards finalizing a contract extension with the Commissioner,” said Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who is chair of the compensation committee, in a statement Monday. “The negotiations are progressing and we will keep ownership apprised of the negotiations as they move forward. We do not intend to publicly comment on our discussions.”

Boies’s Nov. 14 letter says that “Mr. Jones believes it is important that the owners know the truth about the negotiations” and plans to send an Aug. 16 memo from a consultant hired by the compensation committee.

In his response, the league’s outside counsel, Brad Karp, wrote that Boies’s letter is “yet another effort by your client to disregard and interfere” with the owners’ unanimous resolution in May to give Goodell a contract extension. The letter says “there is no legitimate basis for Mr. Jones to circulate to the full ownership a three-month-old document” that “Mr. Jones personally knows to be an outdated, historical artifact of no relevance whatsoever in the context of these lengthy negotiations.”

“With due respect,” the letter says, “we urge Mr. Jones to drop his misguided litigation threats and media campaign to undermine the Committee’s mandate.”

This clash only adds fuel to a season that has in many ways already been defined by unprecedented tensions. In addition to continued ratings declines the league has grappled with its players continued protests during the national anthem, which became the source of a feud between the country’s most popular sport and the White House, when President Donald Trump encouraged fans to boycott games if the demonstrations continue. Trump and some fans have called the protests unpatriotic, while sponsors have expressed concerns too.

Trump called for NFL owners to fire or suspend players for their protests, which began a year ago to draw attention to social issues. Vice President Mike Pence later walked out of a game because of protesting players.

The topic became the focus of the league’s October owners’ meetings, where they ultimately decided not to implement a policy that would require players to stand. Jones, meanwhile, has said he would bench any Cowboys player who took a knee during the anthem.

Write to Andrew Beaton at


‘My Kevin’ Emerges as Bridge Between Trump and GOP

November 5, 2017

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bond with president makes him critical to success of tax plan

On the same day that Republican lawmakers unveiled their plan for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code, President Donald Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, laugh along with Hock Tan, chief executive of Singapore-based Broadcom, during a news conference to announce his company is moving its global headquarters to the U.S., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 2, 2017. (R-Calif.). (Tom Brenner/The New York Times) Photo: TOM BRENNER, NYT

WASHINGTON—When President Donald Trump hosted leaders of a communications company moving their headquarters from Singapore to the U.S. in the Oval Office on Thursday, a single lawmaker was present: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Mr. Trump later hosted other Republican leaders to officially congratulate them on the release of the House GOP tax bill. But he celebrated early with Mr. McCarthy.

“He’s working very hard on tax cuts, in fact, so hard, I’m surprised to see you here,” Mr. Trump said, praising the California Republican for zipping over from a “great press conference.”

Two years ago, Mr. McCarthy’s political career appeared to be flatlining. In the wake of a television interview in which he implied political motives in the House hearings into an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya, Mr. McCarthy pulled out of the race to replace Rep. John Boehner as speaker.

These days, Mr. McCarthy has regained his influence, buoyed by what many Republicans describe as the strongest personal connection with Mr. Trump and his top advisers of any GOP leader.

And while the GOP tax plan unveiled Thursday was crafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas), its passage will depend in large part on Mr. McCarthy.

“We lean on Kevin constantly for understanding where his conference is,” including on the coming tax-overhaul debate, as well as an immigration policy fight to come, said Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs. Mr. Short’s relationship with Mr. McCarthy dates back almost a decade to his time as chief of staff for the House Republican Conference — headed by then-Rep. Mike Pence, now the vice president.

The six-term congressman, who once used a $5,000 lottery winning to open a deli, has carved out a niche on Capitol Hill by capitalizing on his interpersonal skills. His ability to take the temperature of the House GOP has helped defuse some of its tensest moments, even if the group is still searching for a major legislative win this year. While he’s never been considered a policy heavyweight, the less-scrutinized, second-in-command post is turning out to be the best position to maximize his other strengths.

“He feels to some degree empowered and freed by his determination not to run for speaker,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), his Democratic counterpart.

Mr. McCarthy, 52 years old, has already been involved in helping the House GOP clear key hurdles that threatened to clutter the tax bill’s path.

Last week, the entire California GOP delegation voted for the Republican budget, despite unresolved concerns over how the party’s tax plan will treat the state and local tax deduction. That is a big issue for lawmakers in states with high taxes and living costs, including the most affluent parts of California, New York and New Jersey.

Mr. McCarthy’s ability to deliver all his home-state votes — 14 including him — was important as the budget measure passed on a 216-212 vote. It isn’t clear whether the California GOP, which gathers in Mr. McCarthy’s office for a weekly lunch, usually Mexican food, will splinter on the tax legislation itself, a much tougher vote.

On Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy sought to shift the blame onto the governors of high-tax states for creating the tax burden in the first place.

“I was happy to hear about the governors’ newfound concerns for the ridiculous high-tax burdens we have,” Mr. McCarthy said on a call with reporters.

The president and majority leader talk frequently, with Mr. McCarthy walking Mr. Trump through the House’s legislative process and working to establish reasonable expectations on how quickly the chamber can move, according to House GOP lawmakers and aides. Mr. McCarthy’s experience in the California State Assembly working with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has left him better equipped than most to deal with a celebrity president, lawmakers said.

“Kevin’s a relationships guy, which is exactly what Donald Trump is,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), an early supporter of the president. “The relationship comes before the policy.”

Mr. McCarthy also had played a key role in accurately conveying legislative realities to the president, Mr. Short said. He identified wavering lawmakers who could be effectively cajoled by the White House at various stages during the GOP’s bid to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which passed the House on a second attempt but failed to secure majority support in the Senate.

“It’s just another phone call for him in a way,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.), who has been with Mr. McCarthy when he has fielded calls from Mr. Trump. But he said that the tax bill would be a political burden even for Mr. McCarthy. “Now I hope he fails, but he’s good at what he does,” Mr. Welch said.

One reflection of Mr. McCarthy’s ties to the White House is the access he has been granted.

In September, he was the only other lawmaker present at a meeting of the top four Hill leaders with Mr. Trump where a deal on raising the government’s borrowing limit was struck. In early October, he traveled with Mr. Trump on Air Force One to Las Vegas after the mass shooting.

Days later, Mr. McCarthy took Mr. Pence on a swing through California, where they raised $5 million in three days. During that trip, Mr. McCarthy worked with Mr. Pence to arrange private meetings with California Republicans and for some of them to ride on Air Force Two, Mr. Short said.

He has tapped those connections, as well as his relationship with Ivanka Trump, a daughter of the president, and her husband Jared Kushner, to try to bring a wider circle of House Republicans into contact with the administration.

“To have a seat at the table, to know it’s our agenda that we want to move forward, is great,” said Rep. Mimi Walters (R., Calif.) who attended a meeting with Ms. Trump in Mr. McCarthy’s office in early June.

Conservatives who have long tangled with GOP leaders say they appreciate Mr. McCarthy’s willingness to hear their concerns. Still, Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly three dozen conservative GOP lawmakers, said they would like more input in the shaping of major legislation. The tax bill, for instance, had been closely held by Messrs. Ryan and Brady.

“We ought to have a lot more specifics a lot earlier in the process — on any major piece of legislation,” Mr. Meadows said. But Mr. McCarthy, he said, is “an honest broker.”

Mr. McCarthy’s grasp of the personal details of lawmakers’ lives, families and district dynamics is considered unparalleled within the House. He not only follows Mrs. Walters’ children on Instagram, but comments on their posts, the lawmaker said.

Although Mr. Ryan speaks often to Mr. Trump as well, Mr. McCarthy has a less-complicated back story with the president. Back in March 2016, Mr. McCarthy was predicting in speeches that Mr. Trump could help the House GOP pick up seats that fall. In fact, the House GOP lost six seats, but that was fewer than many expected.

And while Mr. McCarthy called for Mr. Trump to apologize after video from 2005 was released last October showing Mr. Trump, then the GOP presidential nominee, talking about kissing and groping women without their consent, he still believed Mr. Trump could win the election. Mr. Ryan was deeply offended by the video and said days later that he wouldn’t defend or campaign with Mr. Trump.

Later, Mr. Trump acknowledged the support of “my Kevin” in a speech just days before his inauguration.

“Kevin would call me in the heat of battle… and I’d be fighting with Paul [Ryan.]” Mr. Trump said. “Kevin during the heat was there for us and I appreciate it.”

Report: Trump administration officials urged furious Tillerson not to quit (Tillerson later tried to “clarify”)

October 4, 2017


The Hill

Image may contain: 2 people, suit and closeup

Key Trump administration officials urged Secretary of State Rex Tillersonnot to resign this summer amid increased tensions with President Trump, according to NBC News.

Vice President Mike Pence, along with Trump’s then-Homeland Security Chief John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis worked to reassure Tillerson, sources told the network.

Pence reportedly asked Tillerson to remain at least until the end of the year.

Tensions reportedly came to a head in late July after Trump delivered a highly controversial speech to the Boy Scouts of America, which was once led by Tillerson.

The secretary of State also referred to the president as a “moron” a few days earlier during a meeting with key Cabinet officials, according to NBC.

State Department spokesman R.C. Hammond disputed the report, telling the network that Tillerson never called Trump a “moron,” and never considered quitting this summer.

This would not be the first time Trump and Tillerson appeared to have clashed.

When asked to comment about Trump’s remarks on the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., in August, the secretary of State told Fox News’s Chris Wallace that the president “speaks for himself.”

Trump in a series of tweets on Sunday also appeared to jab at Tillerson for looking to engage in direct talks with his North Korean counterparts.


US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: US ‘not looking to the total annihilation’ of North Korea, but can do it

September 3, 2017

BSteven Nelson | 
The Washington Examiner

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned Sunday of a “massive military response” if North Korea makes “any threat to the United States or its territories.”Mattis gave a brief statement outside the White House after meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear weapon test.

“We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them,” he said.

“We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among the allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies will be met with a massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming.”

“Kim Jong-un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice,” Mattis added. “All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Before walking off, Mattis said: “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.”

U.N. Secretary General  António Guterres condemned the nuclear test, saying through a spokesperson that “[t]he DPRK is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions.” The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting.

Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters “we’ll see” in response to a shouted question about whether he would attack North Korea.

In an afternoon tweet, Trump suggested he was considering “in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called his South Korean counterpart and other officials in the region to discuss the nuclear test.

Full Mattis statement: ‘we have many options’ to annihilate North Korea

Updated at 3.40pm EDT

Trump heads to Texas to show support for Harvey flood victims

August 29, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Jim Watson, AFP | US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk to Air Force One in Maryland on August 29 en route to Texas.


Latest update : 2017-08-29

Confronting Harvey’s fury, President Donald Trump made an all-out push Tuesday to show the federal government’s responsiveness to the massive storm that has lashed the Texas coast and caused catastrophic flooding.

Trump is visiting Texas to observe the federal government’s work to help the state recover after Harvey’s devastation. The storm, bringing torrents of rain and all but paralyzing Houston, marks the first time Trump has been tested by a major natural disaster.

The president was scheduled to receive briefings on the relief efforts in Corpus Christi, Texas, and later meet with state officials at the emergency operations center in Austin. The president was joined by first lady Melania Trump and other officials.

“Conditions haven’t cleared in Houston yet so probably not appropriate for him to go up there, probably not safe for him to go up there,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. “But I do think having your own eyes on the devastation that I have seen is important.”

Trump has appeared to relish the role of guiding the nation’s response to Harvey, which made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Friday night as a Category 4 storm near Corpus Christi, and moved northeast along the Texas coast over Houston. The storm has dumped more than 30 inches of rain in parts of Texas and authorities have rescued thousands of people left stranded by the storm.

“Recovery will be a long and difficult road and the federal government stands ready, willing and able to support that effort,” Trump said Monday.

Trump promised that Congress would act swiftly to approve a large recovery package to help the Gulf Coast region and said he was likely to return to Texas, and make a stop in Louisiana, during the weekend. But visiting the region only days after Harvey struck allowed Trump’s critics to question whether his presence would complicate efforts by emergency responders.


Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that Harvey’s relentless nature and size were “frustrating.” In a pair of interviews with radio stations serving Corpus Christi and San Antonio, Pence urged listeners to continue to follow instructions from local and state authorities, saying the storm remains dangerous and that life-threatening flooding will continue. He said he and his wife, Karen, would visit the region later this week.

Trump was likely to see a largely functioning city when he stops in Corpus Christi, a city of 325,000 where damage was minimal. Power has largely been restored, particularly in commercial areas. Some restaurants have reopened, but with limited menus, and stores are restocked. Hotels are jammed with evacuees from hard-hit areas to its northeast, including Houston.

Residents have been advised to boil drinking water because authorities cannot guarantee the integrity of the city’s lead and steel water system.

As Trump left Washington, he tweeted that he’d be OK leaving some senior federal jobs open. He didn’t say which ones.

Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham noted Tuesday on “Fox & Friends” that FEMA administrator Brock Long is without a deputy as he directs Trump’s response to Harvey.

From looking at photos of flooded Houston, she said: “We can conclude that a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this.” She mentioned other vacant senior positions in the government as it faces down other potential crises, such as with North Korea.

Moments later, Trump used the Twitter handle for the show and Ingraham, tweeting: “@foxandfriends We are not looking to fill all of those positions. Don’t need many of them – reduce size of government. @IngrahamAngle.”

Hurricanes have often presented American presidents with the potential for political advantage – and in some cases, peril.

President George W. Bush struggled to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when he declared that then-Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown was doing “a heckuva job,” comments that appeared to clash with reality once the full scope of the devastation became clear.

Images of Bush looking down at the flooding in New Orleans from Air Force One also gave the impression that he was detached from the horrific conditions on the ground.

In 2012, President Barack Obama oversaw the government’s response to Superstorm Sandy along the East Coast just before the 2012 election. Obama’s trip to the hard-hit New Jersey coast allowed him to join with Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who lavished praise on the president, a helpful boost in Obama’s partisan clash against Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

Trump has had some practice in the art of the natural disaster visit. In August 2016, Trump and Mike Pence, his campaign running mate, traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to survey flood damage that had killed more than a dozen people and displaced thousands more. Trump was greeted warmly as he toured the damage and consoled residents with hugs.

The typically brash and spotlight-seeking billionaire offered restrained remarks as he viewed the waterlogged wreckage and expressed solidarity with residents struggling to clean up.

“Nobody understands how bad it is,” Trump told reporters at the time after briefly helping unload a truck of supplies. “It’s really incredible, so I’m just here to help.”


Washington Will Impose Greater Sanctions On Venezuela

August 22, 2017


I cover business and investing in emerging markets.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Pro-government activists hold Long Live Chavez signs in Caracas on August 14, 2017. The ruling Socialists United Party will have no problem convincing loyal Chavistas (adherence to the political philosophy of Venezuelan God, er um, former president, Hugo Chavez) that the U.S. is out to overthrow their government again. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Wait for it: Washington will impose greater sanctions on the embattled government of Venezuela.  President Trump has already announced more names to Treasury’s individual sanctions list, including Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. But more sanctions are right around the corner, especially if October elections look rigged.

In the war of words battle, Washington has been much more explosive of late.

On Aug. 14, vice president Mike Pence called Venezuela a “failed state” and that its downfall “threatened the security of the hemisphere and the people of the United States of America.” Pence was doing what all VEEPs do in this case, reiterate what the Commander-in-Chief said just days prior. On Aug. 12, Trump played his usual strongman hand and said, “by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option.” While this is highly unlikely unless Maduro’s military begins overtly cracking heads in the streets of Caracas, or the government breaks down completely and needed some for of foreign military support to maintain order, the foreign policy press were quick to point out the poison in the president’s words. U.S. military intervention into Latin America is toxic history. If Latin Americans had statues of American statesmen dotting their landscape, they’d probably call for them to be removed. Memories of CIA-backed coup d’etats are not conspiracy theories, and so threats of sending the Marines into Venezuela would drive a wedge between Washington and its allies in South America, as everyone has now pointed out.

But on the other hand, Trump’s belligerence, coupled with some rank and file military members in Venezuela growing tired of civil strife, may have calmed Maduro down.

That said, what’s the latest stress in Venezuela and what is the likelihood of Maduro and his Socialists United Party (PSUV) rearranging the deck chairs to allow for majority rule, and get the country moving forward again

For starters, local elections won’t tip the power scales in Caracas. And PSUV is about as likely to give the majority opposition in the National Assembly a voice as Trump is likely to stop tweeting.

There is some good news worth noting: daily protests have become less violent. Venezuela has not retaliated against U.S. sanctions, and Maduro has signaled a willingness to talk with Trump (even though this Latin American crisis is not the fault of Washington). He also remains open to the normal presidential election cycle in 2018. All positives.

The president of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, offers a press conference after holding a meeting with the new Truth Commission at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas on August 19, 2017.Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro accuses the United States of wanting to overthrow him. The Truth Commission will get to the bottom of this…  AFP PHOTO / Federico PARRA

There is still no clarity on the agenda from the new PSUV-centric Constituent Assembly (which replaces the legislative powers of the National Assembly, or congress) and there are mixed signals now as to whether this new political body represents an outright power grab by PSUV or was just a distraction designed to give them a breather from the opposition in congress. The opposition parties have all boycotted the Constituent Assembly, and they agreed to participate in the local elections in October 2017. They mostly stood down and did not vote for the Constituent Assembly because they felt their vote would not matter. As a result, pro PSUV voters, which represent a little under a third of the population, voted to give Maduro the rights to avoid congress completely.

The upcoming mayoral races won’t tip the scales of power and some see it as another rigged deal.

“We assume it’s a rigged process again,” says Siobhan Morden, a managing director at Nomura in New York, with regards to the upcoming local elections. “The opposition needs to defend whatever is possible in terms of representation across the institutions,” she says. “It’s also curious that President Maduro didn’t rule out the prospect for presidential elections in 2018. There has been a more conciliatory tone perhaps to discourage retaliation from the U.S. or breakaway dissidents from the military ranks.”

The market is watching Venezuela as closely as Latin America political junkies. Goldman Sachs recently forked over a billion dollars to buy the bonds of Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. Numerous hedge funds who love distressed assets have taken a buy and hold strategy on PDVSA’s long dated bonds, maturing beyond 2018, in hopes that Venezuela’s long democratic tradition trumps Maduro’s ideological push towards Havana-style politics. In such a free and open election, Maduro is expected to lose hands-down, sending bond prices soaring. PSUV ‘s base would continue to shrink, or barely hold water, following years of economic misery. The party is dependent on three types of voters: government employees (namely PDVSA workers), the poor (increasingly dependent on government hand-outs for survival and easily convinced an ant-PSUV party will take it all away) and communist ideologues fighting the good fight against Yankee imperialists from the bygone Cold War era.

A Citgo oil refinery stands in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company is owned by the Venezuelan government, with major equity stakes owned by Russian oil firm Rosneft. (Photo by Eddie Seal/Bloomberg)

Nomura Securities has been watching these developments closely. Morden thinks that the sanctions program will intensify next year.

“The Maduro administration has already crossed the line with an illegitimate Constituent Assembly that further consolidates power and undermines the opposition-controlled legislature,” she says. So much for majority rule in Venezuela. “The rigged local elections and consistent persecution of the opposition politicians should further motivate retaliation from the U.S. on their sanctions policy with the latent threat of sector sanctions next year the main constraint against a sustainable recovery in PDVSA bond prices.”

Analysis: Trump vows to win the seemingly unwinnable war

August 22, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is vowing to win what has seemed to be an unwinnable war.

How he plans to do so is still murky despite the months of internal deliberations that ultimately persuaded Trump to stick with a conflict he has long opposed.

In a 26-minute address to the nation Monday, Trump alluded to more American troops deploying to Afghanistan, but refused to say how many. He said victory would be well-defined, but outlined only vague benchmarks for success, like dismantling al-Qaida and preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan. He said the U.S. would not offer Afghanistan a “blank check,” but provided no specific timetable for the end of an American commitment that has already lasted 16 years.

Instead, Trump projected an “I got this” bravado that has become a hallmark of his presidency.

“In the end, we will win,” he declared of America’s longest war.

Victory in Afghanistan has eluded Trump’s predecessors: President George W. Bush, who launched the war after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and President Barack Obama, who surged U.S. troop levels to 100,000, but ultimately failed in fulfilling his promise to bring the conflict to a close before leaving office.

President Donald Trump gave a prime time address Monday announcing a policy shift on Afghanistan and South Asia. Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues Trump’s announcement marked little change. (Aug. 21)

As Trump now takes his turn at the helm, he faces many of the same challenges that have bedeviled those previous presidents and left some U.S. officials deeply uncertain about whether victory is indeed possible.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest countries and corruption is embedded in its politics. The Taliban is resurgent. And Afghan forces remain too weak to secure the country without American help.

“When we had 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, we couldn’t secure the whole country,” said Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Trump offered up many of the same solutions tried by his predecessors. He vowed to get tough on neighboring Pakistan, to push for reforms in Afghanistan and to moderate ambitions. The U.S. will not be caught in the quagmire of democracy-building abroad, he said, promising a “principled realism” focused only on U.S. interests would guide his decisions.

Obama promised much of the same.

By simply sticking with the Afghan conflict, Trump’s plan amounts to a victory for the military men increasingly filling Trump’s inner circle and a stinging defeat for the nationalist supporters who saw in Trump a like-minded skeptic of U.S. intervention in long and costly overseas conflicts. Chief among them is ousted adviser Steve Bannon, whose website Breitbart News blared criticism Monday of the establishment’s approach to running he war.

After Trump’s speech, one headline on the website read: “’UNLIMITED WAR.” Another said: “What Does Victory in Afghanistan Look Like? Washington Doesn’t Know.”

Now Trump leads Washington and that question falls for him to answer. As a candidate, he energized millions of war-weary voters with an “America First” mantra and now faces the challenges of explaining how that message translates to U.S. involvement in a war across the globe, likely for years to come.

In a rare moment of public self-reflection, Trump acknowledged that his position on Afghanistan had changed since taking office and sought to sway his supporters who would normally oppose a continuation of the war.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump said. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re president of the United States.”

Trump pointed to “three fundamental conclusions” about U.S. interests in Afghanistan — all of which appeal to patriotism and nationalistic pride.

The president said the nation needs to seek “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices” made by U.S. soldiers — a line that harkened back to promises made by Richard Nixon during the 1968 campaign to bring “an honorable end” to the war in Vietnam.

Trump also warned that a rapid exit would create a vacuum that terrorists like the Islamic State group and al-Qaida would fill, leading to conditions similar to before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And he noted that the security threats in Afghanistan are “immense,” and made the case that it is key to protecting the U.S.

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials proposed plans to send in nearly 4,000 more to boost training and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate trying to gain a foothold in the country.

To those U.S. service members, Trump promised nothing short of success.

“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” he said. “They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”


EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 2007. Follow her at .

Ken Thomas has covered the White House and national politics for the AP since 2011. Follow him at .


Trump Takes New Tack in Afghanistan Fight

August 22, 2017

President, heeding advisers, will add more troops and increase pressure on Pakistan

Image result for Trump, henderson hall, photos

Updated Aug. 21, 2017 11:48 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said Monday he would expand the U.S. role in Afghanistan while taking a new approach that is tougher on neighboring Pakistan and doesn’t telegraph American military strategy.

In a 30-minute nationally televised speech, Mr. Trump acknowledged that his initial instinct as president had been to pull out of Afghanistan. But, concluding he must bow to realities, he outlined a new South Asia strategy…

ABC News
Aug 22, 2017, 12:51 AM ET

President Donald Trump announced on Monday night his administration’s plans to continue the engagement of the United States military in Afghanistan, a strategy meant to combat the influence of the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in the country that will forgo a formal timetable and instead rely upon “conditions on the ground” to guide U.S. activities.

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“We must acknowledge the reality I’m here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after the September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory,” said Trump in an address from Virginia’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

The president’s announcement follows meetings with military advisers and his national security team at Camp David on Saturday. In June, he gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan, after providing the defense chief with similar authority in Iraq and Syria.

Though Trump avoided specific reference to an increase in the number of service members in his remarks, Mattis indicated that the U.S. would heightening its involvement.

“I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy,” Mattis said Monday in a statement from Jordan, where he is traveling this week.

“I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of NATO and our allies — several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers,” he added. “Together, we will assist the Afghan Security Forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”

Though the deepening of U.S. participation would amount to a reversal of the position he held prior to his bid for the presidency, Trump has also demonstrated a willingness to engage militarily in the region through the first seven months of his presidency.

“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” said Trump Monday night. “But all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

Despite official combat operations ceasing in 2014, the U.S. continues to guide and train the Afghan military, and in April dropped a 22,000 pound “mother of all bombs” on ISIS-occupied caves there.

Currently, about 8,400 American troops are stationed in Afghanistan in an advisory capacity. Several thousand U.S. personnel are also engaged in counterterror operations against al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan, the group’s affiliate in Afghanistan.

Top U.S. military officials, including Mattis, support sending as many as 4,000 additional soldiers as part of a broader revamp of regional strategy, though Trump continued to tout the advantages of secrecy — a position he took during last year’s presidential campaign.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops, or our plans for further military activities,” said the president, later adding, “America’s enemies must never know our plans, or believe they can wait us out.”

“I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will,” he said.

In February, Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. official leading the international coalition in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the mission had a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops.

In his first formal address since his speech in February to a joint session of Congress, Trump commented upon the role he expects nations in the region surrounding Afghanistan to play, placing particular emphasis on the actions of Pakistan, which he accused of “harbor[ing] terrorists.”

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” he said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.”

But while Trump promised Monday to support the armed forces with “every weapon to apply swift, decisive and overwhelming force,” he also said that the U.S. commitment was “not a blank check.”

“The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden,” said the president. “The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited.”

“Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future,” he added on Monday night. “We want them to succeed but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are over.”

In a statement released Monday night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the new strategy signals clear support for the Afghan people and government.

“We will continue to support the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against terrorists and prevent the reestablishment of safe havens in the country,” he said. “Our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial calendar-based deadlines. We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war.”

The Taliban issued a statement responding to President Trumps’s remarks, saying the “the U.S. didn’t show any interest in finishing its long war in Afghanistan & they still insist on continuing fighting in Afghanistan & presence of American forces. But we want to say until one American soldier is remain in Afghanistan we will continue our struggle & fight against them.”

The president’s decision to increase the U.S. military posture in Afghanistan contrasts sharply with his position from as early as 2012, four years prior to his election, when he said with frequency on social media that the U.S. should “get out of Afghanistan” and that it has “wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure.”

How many more of our soldiers have to be shot by the Afghanis they are training? Let’s get the hell out of there and focus on U.S.

We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!

As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly criticized past administrations’ handling of the Afghanistan conflict, but said it would be a mistake for the U.S. to pull all troops out of the country.

“At this point, you probably have to stay because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave,” Trump said in a CNN interview in 2015.

Less than two weeks ago, addressing the possibility of sending additional troops to the country, Trump expressed confidence in the eventual outcome, though did not yet reveal his ultimate determination on what his administration will do there.

“It’s a very big decision for me,” he said on August 10. “I took over a mess, and we’re going to make it a lot less messy.”

So far this year, 11 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. More than 2,250 Americans have died in the country since 2001.

ABC News’ Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.


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Impact of Bannon-McMaster fight

The months-long debate that preceded Trump’s decision on the war’s fate frequently burst into public view, pitting two top White House advisers against each other: national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Steve Bannon, the President’s chief strategist who was pushed out on Friday, shortly before Trump huddled with his national security team at Camp David.
While McMaster has pushed more hawkish proposals, Bannon has led the internal pushback against those options, arguing that the US should not increase its military and financial commitments after 16 years of war in Afghanistan.
Bannon’s arguments in internal deliberations often echoed Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign, when he argued against US military interventionist policies and argued the US should instead focus its resources on domestic projects.
It was unclear how Bannon’s ouster affected the final round of deliberations.
But as Trump mulled a final decision on Friday, he relied on the counsel of several current and former military officers.
Beyond McMaster and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Trump also relied on a pair of retired Marine Corps four-star generals: Mattis along with his newly installed chief of staff John Kelly.
Kelly’s son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, a Marine, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, making Kelly the highest-ranking military officer to suffer the loss of a child in combat.
Several of the President’s advisers on the Afghanistan war have children currently enlisted in the US military, including Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence.
Mattis told reporters on Sunday that Trump reconvened his national security team several times before arriving at a decision on Afghanistan because he “kept asking questions on all of them, and wanting more and more depth on it.”
“It caused us to integrate the answers more. In other words, the more pointed he became about what he would look at with that option versus this one, meant we could better define what are the relationships with allies or what are the level of effort needed and what’s the cost, the financial cost, and so we just kept sharpening those,” Mattis said.

CNN’s report:


Trump says many decisions made on Afghanistan and beyond

August 19, 2017


© AFP/File | US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (L to R) were among those attending Friday’s talks at Camp David

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump tweeted early Saturday that “many decisions” had been made in a meeting with his top military advisers, including on the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.The Trump administration, wary of international involvements but eager for progress in the grueling Afghan war, has been weighing a range of options. It had originally promised a new plan by mid-July.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted about the meeting a day earlier at the presidential retreat in Maryland, saying: “Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.”

It was unclear how far-ranging those decisions might be, or when they would be announced.

But Trump is said to be dissatisfied by initial proposals to add a few thousand more troops in the country, and advisers were studying an expanded strategy for the broader South Asian region, including Pakistan.

There are now about 8,400 US and 5,000 NATO troops supporting Afghanistan’s security forces in the fight against Taliban and other militants. But the situation has remained as deadly as ever, with more than 2,500 Afghan police and troops killed from January 1 to May 8.

Trump again puts off Afghanistan war decision

August 19, 2017

The Hill

Trump again puts off Afghanistan war decision
© Getty

President Trump on Friday again deferred on choosing a path forward for the 16-year-old Afghanistan war, despite a high-level meeting at Camp David to discuss options with his core national security team.

The meeting included Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Vice President Pence cut short a trip to South America to attend the meeting.

This is not the first time the president was widely expected to make a decision on an updated strategy for the war in Afghanistan but held off, frustrating top national security and defense officials as well as lawmakers.

Administration officials expected Trump to pick a path in May prior to attending the NATO summit in Belgium. And Mattis in June promised lawmakers that a decision would likely come in July.

A variety of reasons are driving the delay, including the complexity of the conflict and the president’s hesitation to make a decision that may ultimately prove to be the wrong move, according to James Carafano, a defense policy expert at the Heritage Foundation

“We need a strategy that’s going to be sustainable maybe eight years. There is no short answer here,” said Carafano, who was a member of the Trump transition team.

“The burden really is on the national security team to show Trump they have the most effective strategy to do that, because this is then going to be his war, his responsibility.”

Members of the administration still hold disagreements on the best path forward for Afghanistan, which will include how to handle conflicts along the border of Pakistan. Military leaders are pushing for additional U.S. troops, but Trump has reportedly been wary of continued American presence in the region.

Mattis and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. HR McMaster want to send 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops to the country to combat the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al Qaeda. Recently ousted chief strategist Stephen Bannon, however, had urged against it, saying that would amount to nation building.

Other options on the table include using private contractors, withdrawing altogether or keeping the current strategy, which consists of the existing 8,400 U.S. troop continuing to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions.

In July, Trump showed his reluctance to side with his military advisors by increasing troop numbers.

“We’ve been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going, and what we should do in terms of additional ideas,” Trump told reporters.

When asked about a possible troop increase, Trump only said, “We’ll see.”

The immobility on a plan also has bothered lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who earlier this month unveiled his own strategy for Afghanistan.

“Now, nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened,” McCain said in a statement. “The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander-in-chief.”

Anthony Cordesman, a military strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the president is deeply frustrated with his list of military options, a complex formula that depends upon the backing of the Afghan government.

Foreign policy experts have expressed doubt that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will be able to stop corruption and effectively use American aid to bolster the Afghan National Security Forces. Pentagon leaders would depend on the forces to keep out terrorist groups once U.S. troops leave.

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President Ashraf Ghani

“The Afghan government is very divided, it’s weak,” Cordesman said. “Even if [Trump] does all the military recommends, there is a 50-50 chance that the Afghanistan response is going to be effective enough. Everything we’re doing depends on the Afghans.”

Cordesman also suggested that Trump’s reported criticism of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, “likely stems from Nicholson told him the truth and the truth is unpleasant.”

Trump in July 19 meeting with his national security team pushed to fire Nicholson, NBC News reported earlier this month.

“We aren’t winning,” Trump complained during the meeting. “We are losing.”

“The options are so uncertain and so complex and confusing,” Cordesman said. “Not the kind of forward, positive proposal that [Trump] may be used to.”

Cordesman added that the longer Trump waits to make a decision, the worse it will be for soldiers on the ground. Afghanistan’s fighting season lasts into the fall. With no plan yet given as of late August, “nothing you do now is going to be effective, you lost pretty close to a year to actually influence the situation on the ground.”

Even with no decision yet made, Carafano said it was significant that Trump and his national security team went off site to Camp David to discuss options.

“Obviously I wish the process had gone on sooner, I think part of that is the difficulty of the decision. Afghanistan involves a lot of moving pieces and you have to make a commitment that will stick longer over time,” he said.

Mattis, meanwhile, promised again Thursday that the administration is “coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future.”

Earlier this month, Trump assured reporters of the same thing at his club in New Jersey.

“We’re getting close. We’re getting very close,” Trump said. “It’s a very big decision for me. I took over a mess and we’re going to make it a lot less messy.”


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