Donald Trump’s highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for May – VICE News

Donald Trump's highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for May
President Donald Trump speaks during a school choice event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. President Trump's latest hire has been accused of sexual assault not once, not twice, but five times, according to ProPublica.
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Donald Trump made it clear at the beginning of his campaign that he wasn’t going to follow the normal rules or tone of politics. We’re keeping track of all the ways his presidency veers from the norm in terms of policy and rhetoric.

See earlier updates from NovemberDecemberJanuaryFebruary, March, and April.

Day 104 May 3

President Donald Trump speaks during a school choice event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017.

President Trump’s latest hire has been accused of sexual assault not once, not twice, but five times, according to ProPublica. And the allegations has been reported back in 2012, raising serious questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process. 

Steven Munoz, a staffer on Trump’s campaign and his Inaugural Committee, will now serve as assistant chief of visits for the State Department, a role that includes arranging for foreign heads of states’ visits to the U.S to meet with the president.

While Munoz was studying at The Citadel military college in 2010, an underclassman accused him of sexual assault. A year after he graduated, in 2011, four other students came forward. All five accusers said they were willing to press charges, and The Citadel turned the case over to police. After reviewing the case, however, the local prosecutor declined to seek an indictment.

Munoz’ accusers said he used his status as an upperclassman, class president, and head of the campus Republican Society to forcibly fondle them.

“Munoz coerced, threatened, and convinced me to allow inappropriate touching, grabbing, and kissing by leading me to believe it was what I needed to do to gain acceptance in the corps of cadets,” one accuser said in their statement. He threatened to call my upperclassmen who would be upset if I did not comply with him.”

Though an investigation by The Citadel later found that “certain assaults likely occurred,” the school only issued Munoz a warning and gave him an award for “leadership, sound character, and service to others” upon graduating in 2011.

The Trump administration is no stranger to allegations of assault. Aside from his “grab ’em by the pussy” comment, the president himself has been formerly accused of sexual assault in court. In the 1980s, Trump’s former pick for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder ,was accused of domestic abuse, and Steve Bannon was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in 2001, although the case was later dropped.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by his daughter Ivanka Trump, talks via video conference with International Space Station Commander Peggy Whitson on the International Space Station.

Until this week, President Donald Trump and his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka were the faces of another Trump Tower in the Philippines. And the CEO of the development firm handling construction is the country’s special envoy to the U.S.

The website for the new $150 million real estate venture — which is set to open near the capital, Manila, later this year — featured a video of Trump saying the building would be “something very, very special, like nobody’s seen before,” The Washington Post reported. Ivanka also made an appearance in the promotional video, calling the building a “milestone in Philippine real estate history.”

The material is no longer available online as of Monday, according to the Post.

Though filmed before Trump was elected, the video shines a fresh light on the conflicts of interest between the business investments of the Trump Organization, the use of the Trump name as a moneymaker, and the international diplomatic strategy of the White House — especially with his children, with business ties of their own, as members of the administration

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte appointed the chief executive of the new building’s development firm, Jose E.B Antonio, to serve as a special envoy to the United States last October. Additionally, Antonio told Bloomberg News back in November that he visited Trump Tower in New York just days after the U.S. presidential elections.

Day 103 May 2

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner watch the press conference of German chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump are no strangers to business arrangements that present ethics complications for their jobs as top advisers to Donald Trump. The latest snag: Kushner failed to disclose his stake in the real estate startup Cadre, which is  partly owned by George Soros, Peter Thiel, Goldman Sachs, and other investors.

The trouble with this, of course, is that big banks like Goldman Sachs and investors like Soros are exactly who the federal government is supposed to regulate without conflicts of interest.

Kushner’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal that Kushner previously disclosed his stake in Cadre’s parent company and that he has “resigned from Cadre’s board, assigned his voting rights, and reduced his ownership share.”

Kushner and Ivanka remain enmeshed in their estimated $740 million real estate and finance business empire, which includes a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, loans from banks currently under investigation by the U.S. government, and a troubled Manhattan real estate venture that was the subject of recently concluded talks with a group of Chinese investors.

President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he walks to the Oval Office of the White House.

Donald Trump, perhaps feeling left out of the weekend deal struck in Congress to keep funding the federal government through September, tweeted on Tuesday morning that the “country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September.”

Without an agreement, the government will partially shut down, which has historically dealt the most damage to federal workers, veterans, and others who rely on checks and aid from the federal government.

Congress has been the burial ground for some of Trump’s biggest initiatives, including his failed repeal of Obamacare. While changing Senate rules to require just a simply majority to pass a budget might satisfy Trump’s short-term goals, Republicans and Democrats both quickly pooh-poohed any shutdown talk.

Day 102 May 1

The Trump administration’s idea of dinner and a show apparently includes a missile launch: On Monday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross called last month’s strike on Syria “after-dinner entertainment.”

Speaking at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in California, Ross described how a Mar-a-Lago dinner between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping ended with an unexpected announcement. “Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria,” Ross said, according to Variety. “It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.”

“The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment,” he added, apparently forgetting that each Tomahawk missile used in the strike reportedly costs about $1 million each to replace, and that Syrian officials said that the strike claimed up to 15 lives.

“In any credible administration, this kind of comment would be Ross’s last official act,” tweeted David Rothkopf, a leading foreign policy scholar and the editor-in-chief of the FP Group, which publishes Foreign Policy magazine.

But this isn’t the first time a Trump official has spoken casually about military maneuvers. While discussing the strike last month in an interview with Fox Business, Trump himself first mistakenly said that the strike was headed toward Iraq, not Syria. But he did clearly recall what he ate while ordering the strike:

“We had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you had ever seen,” Trump said, “and President Xi was enjoying it.”

The spending bill headed to President Trump’s desk includes an eye-popping number: $120 million in additional funding to protect the first family, including Trump’s adult jet-setting kids and at least three residences, according to the New York Times.

The bill sets aside almost $60 million for the Secret Service to protect the president as he travels between the White House and Trump Tower in New York City, where the first lady and their son live full-time, at least for now. The other half of the money will go toward reimbursing local jurisdictions in New York City and Palm Beach for costs they’ve incurred protecting Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago, respectively.

These costs — in addition to the travel expenses of Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., who run the Trump Organization, to places like Dubai, Uruguay, and Aspen — virtually guarantee the American taxpayer will spend more on travel for the Trumps in one year than in all eight years of the Obama administration. Trump spent $20 million in just his first 80 days as president, according to CNN.

President Donald Trump speaks as Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Just days after President Donald Trump ruffled feathers by publicly saying South Korea would cough up $1 billion to fund the U.S. missile defense system, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster calmly corrected his boss and confirmed the U.S. would, in fact, front the bill, according to a statement released by the South Korean government.

The system, also known as Terminal High-Altitude Defense or THAAD, is being deployed in South Korea in an effort to reduce nuclear threats from North Korea. The location incited controversy — including fierce protests in South Korea and a statement from China’s foreign ministry — over health concerns as well as its potential to destabilize the region.

According to the statement, McMaster assured his South Korean counterpart in a telephone call that the two countries’ alliance was at the top of his priority list and that the U.S. planned to shoulder the cost of THAAD, at least for awhile.

Trump’s comments about THAAD are the latest confusing directive to come from the president that a high-level official later needed to walk back. In mid-April, Trump said he’d sent an “armada” to North Korea, but the Navy released a photograph showing the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and its strike group heading away from the Korean Peninsula and toward Australia, where it was scheduled for training.

Donald Trump is curious why the North and the South didn’t just talk out the Civil War.  

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it: Why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not be worked out?” Trump inquired during an interview with The Washington Examiner’s  Salena Zito on Sirius XM radio.

Despite irreconcilable differences over the morality of slavery and the role it played in the economy of the agricultural South, Trump believes one man — a man who Trump has been compared to, in fact — could have sorted out the whole situation: Andrew Jackson.

“He [Jackson] was really angry when he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this,’” said Trump, who also described the seventh president of the United States as a “tough person with a big heart.”

Never mind that Jackson died more than a decade before the start of the Civil War, and largely made his wealth from a 1,000-acre plantation in Tennessee called The Hermitage, which relied on the labor of slaves. It’s unclear if the 150 people enslaved there at the time of Jackson’s death would agree with Trump’s characterization of him.

“OK, it’s enough.”

That’s how President Donald Trump reacted to a question about his still unsubstantiated wiretapping claims during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

During a prerecorded interview that broadcast Monday, “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson asked the president about his bombshell tweet from early March that accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of wiretapping him in Trump Tower.

“You don’t have to ask me,” Trump interjected before Dickerson could finish his sentence. “Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.”

And with that, Trump ended the interview.

Morgan Conley, Noah Kulwin, and Christina Sterbenz contributed to these reports.