In brief

Trump kicks off 2020 campaign at Orlando rally

ORLANDO, Fla. — Jabbing at the press and poking the eye of the political establishment he ran against in 2016, President Donald Trump officially kicked off his reelection campaign Tuesday with a grievance-filled Florida rally that focused more on settling scores than laying out his agenda for a second term.

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Addressing a crowd of thousands at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, Trump complained he had been “under assault from the very first day” of his presidency by a “fake news media” and “illegal witch hunt” that had tried to keep him and his supporters down.

And he painted a disturbing picture of what life would look like if he loses in 2020, accusing his critics of “un-American conduct” and telling the crowd that Democrats “want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”

The apocalyptic language and finger-pointing made clear that Trump’s 2020 campaign will probably look a whole lot like his improbably successful run three years ago. While Trump’s campaign has tried to professionalize, with shiny office space and a large and growing staff, and despite two-and-a-half years occupying the Oval Office as America’s commander-in-chief, Trump nonetheless remained focused on energizing his base and offering himself as a political outsider running against Washington.

And he appeared eager for a rerun of 2016, spending considerable time focused on former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, whose name elicited “Lock her up!” chants, even though she is not on the ballot.

Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down Tuesday before his formal nomination ever went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal.”

President Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s departure in a tweet, and said Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief.

“I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal,” Shanahan said in a statement. “Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.”

His withdrawal from one of the most critical positions in the government comes at a time of escalating tensions in the Middle East, a day after the U.S. authorized sending additional troops to the region, and after months of unexplained delays in the confirmation process.

The acting defense secretary did not provide specifics, but court records show a volatile family history around the time of his 2011 divorce. The couple had been married since 1986.

33K pounds of cocaine seized in one of biggest US drug busts

PHILADELPHIA — U.S. authorities seized 33,000 pounds, or 15,000 kilograms, of cocaine from a ship at Philadelphia’s port in what they described as one of the largest drug busts in American history.

They said the haul could have been worth more than $1 billion on the street.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, saying that law enforcement agents found the cocaine on a ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. Two members of the crew were arrested and face federal charges.

Agents with dogs swarmed the colossal ship Tuesday afternoon, including one officer who could be seen climbing into the back of a large red container on wheels. Court documents said the bust began Monday.

An affidavit alleged that crew members helped load the cocaine onto the MSC Gayane while it was at sea off the west coast of South America. Citing an interview with one of the crew members, authorities said a total of 14 boats approached the vessel on two separate occasions during its voyage. Several crew members allegedly helped transfer bales of cocaine.

AP FACT CHECK: In 2020 debut, Trump exaggerates growth

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump officially opened his 2020 campaign Tuesday with a speech exaggerating what he’s done for the economy.

From his rally in Orlando, Florida:

TRUMP: “It’s soaring to incredible new heights. Perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country.”

THE FACTS: The economy is not one of the best in the country’s history.

The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That growth was the highest in just four years for the first quarter.

With Hope Hicks interview, Dems breach Trump’s inner circle

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee will interview former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks behind closed doors on Wednesday, the first time lawmakers will hear from a person linked to the president’s inner circle since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Obtaining the testimony from Hicks, a close and trusted former aide to President Donald Trump, is a significant victory for Democrats as Trump has broadly stonewalled their investigations. The committee originally subpoenaed Hicks to give public testimony, but agreed to the closed-door interview after negotiations. A transcript of the session will be released in the days afterward.

Still, it is unclear how much new information Hicks will provide. She already cooperated extensively with Mueller’s probe, and a White House lawyer who will be in the room for the interview is expected to try and block her from answering certain questions.

In a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Tuesday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that Trump had directed Hicks not to answer questions “relating to the time of her service as a senior adviser to the president.”

Cipollone cited executive privilege, or the power to keep information from the courts, Congress and the public to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process. Democrats say they disagree that her answers are covered by such privilege, especially since she has already cooperated with Mueller.

Trump could have tough time meeting his deportation threat

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump could have a tough time making good on his threat to deport millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. But maybe that wasn’t his point.

Trump’s late-night messages promised that starting next week his administration “will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they can.”

That was a pronouncement likely to excite his political base just as he was formally announcing his reelection bid Tuesday night. It also scared immigrants in the U.S. illegally — and could deter others from coming.

But it came at a cost.

Trump blatantly exposed an upcoming enforcement operation, potentially jeopardizing the kind of sensitive effort that takes months to plan and relies on secrecy. The president’s tweets put new, fresh demands on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency in charge of removals, which is already overwhelmed, lacking staff, funding and detention space for its current work. And any massive roundup that includes deportation of families would be sure to spark outrage.

US, Iran voice resolve in brinkmanship, say war not sought

WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran said Tuesday they were not seeking war with each other as tensions simmered between the two in the Persian Gulf and President Donald Trump vowed the U.S. would respond to any attack.

“We have a lot of things going with Iran,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a campaign event in Florida. “We’ll see what happens. Let me just say this: We are very prepared.”

Trump’s comments came just hours after he announced the sudden departure of acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan, jolting the Defense Department only a day after he signed off on sending an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran.

On a visit Tuesday to U.S. Central Command in Florida, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was confident the U.S. is taking the necessary steps to confront any challenge from Iran. He said the military is ready to respond to any attack by Iran on U.S. interests or Iranian disruption of international shipping lanes through which much of the world’s oil supplies flow.

Pompeo said Trump only wants to reestablish a deterrent to Iranian threats.

Facebook’s currency Libra faces financial, privacy pushback

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is getting a taste of the regulatory pushback it will face as it creates a new digital currency with corporate partners.

Just hours after the social media giant unveiled early plans for the Libra cryptocurrency, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted that only governments can issue sovereign currencies. He said Facebook must ensure that Libra won’t hurt consumers or be used for illegal activities.

“We will demand guarantees that such transactions cannot be diverted, for example for financing terrorism,” he said on Europe-1 radio.

Facebook unveiled its much-rumored currency Tuesday and said it will launch publicly early next year with such partners as Uber, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.

Libra could open online purchasing to millions of people who do not have access to bank accounts and could reduce the cost of sending money across borders. It’s easy to see how attractive an alternative like Libra could be to people in countries beset with hyperinflation such as Venezuela.

Harvard case offers reminder of perils of online misbehavior

The racist social-media posts were originally shared only among friends — in text messages and a Google document. But someone took screenshots, which led Harvard University to revoke an offer of admission to a Parkland high school survivor.

The decision announced Monday serves as a reminder to aspiring college students and all young people that online comments, even those considered private, can resurface and be used against them.

It’s relatively unusual for colleges to rescind admission offers. When they do, it’s more often for a slip in academic performance or disciplinary issues than social media posts. But experts say it’s not uncommon for offers of admission to be jeopardized by the emergence of damaging communications, sometimes because of people motivated by competition or jealousy.

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Parents of students rejected by a college on many occasions have reported the social-media posts of other students who were accepted, said Jeff Fuller, former admissions officer at the University of Houston and now director of college counseling at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, also in Houston.

“The unfortunate thing is that this may be your best bud, but tomorrow it might not be,” Fuller said. Anything communicated in writing “is subject to somebody using it in a negative way against that individual.”

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