3 Stories You Should Read 3/10/2019: Homeland Security Department, Mt. Vernon, William Barr
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In the category of: A pawn talking about spying…
“I think spying did occur,” Barr said, though he declined to provide the basis for his concern. “The question is whether it was . . . adequately predicated.”
The news will likely be viewed as a welcome development to the President, who has regularly called for an investigation and, as recently as last week, told reporters more should be done to examine the origins of the Russia probe.
It will also likely raise concerns of politicization of the department’s work at an already tense time, as Democrats worry that Barr is bending to the President’s demands and have called on Barr to release an unredacted version of the special counsel’s confidential report on the Russia investigation to Congress.
In the category of: History matters.
The 45th president — no student of history — marveled at the first president’s failure to name his historic compound after himself.
America’s 45th president is open about the fact that he doesn’t read much history. Trump said in July 2016 that he had never read a presidential biography — and had no plans to do so. Though he is an avid fan of George Patton, the flashy, tough-talking World War II general, he has shown less interest in learning about his presidential predecessors or about the office he now occupies. Former White House aides say Trump initially did not know the history of the Resolute Desk, which has been used by presidents since Rutherford B. Hayes, though he now enjoys showing it off to visitors to the Oval Office.
Trump’s lack of interest in presidential history, said the historian Jon Meacham, means that he has “basically thrown out the one data set available to him. We don’t have anything else to study. It’s all you got.” It also stands in contrast to the fascination of other presidents with their predecessors. Even former President George W. Bush — not known as a tweedy intellectual — consumed several presidential biographies while in office.
In the category of: Housecleaning got mad.
Will the Republican Party and President Trump attempt to use their midterm playbook in next year’s elections? A major change at the Homeland Security Department this week makes it all but certain that immigration will once again get the most attention in the Democratic primaries, all of it aimed at the president and his get-tough policies. And upcoming confirmation fights in the Senate will force Republicans on Capitol Hill to either defend Trump or try to position themselves as internal critics in a party that hasn’t tolerated them.
The catalyst for the showdown was the departure of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whose tenure would be considered relatively brief in any other administration. Nielsen served in the position less than two years after her mentor and predecessor John Kelly gave up the job to become White House chief of staff. Nielsen endured public and private criticism from Trump during her term at DHS as border crossing attempts peaked. Nielsen worked hard to project unity with Trump on immigration enforcement, but it became apparent that Trump didn’t think Nielsen had taken a tough enough approach to the job.
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