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Inside Trump (Dec 4th, 2017)

President Trump has fully endorsed Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. Trump tweeted on Monday that "we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama," citing numerous issues on which the GOP would require his support, including tax cuts, "illegal immigration, border wall, military, pro life" and others. Trump also referred in the tweet to Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, as "a Pelosi/Schumer puppet." Moore's wife, Kayla Moore, claimed in a Facebook post that Trump had also called the candidate to offer his "full support." Moore has been accused of molestation and sexual assault by a number of women over the past month, following a report in the Washington Post that was corroborated by interviews with more than 30 sources. One woman alleges that Moore instigated a sexual relationship with her when she was 14; another claims to have been assaulted by Moore when she was 16. Moore has denied the allegations. Though Trump had not fully endorsed Moore previously, he has defended him against the sexual assault charges, telling reporters last Tuesday that "he denies it. Look, he denies it." – CNN

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According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, President Trump plans to considerably reduce two Utah national monuments in size, and will announce the change during a visit to the state on Monday. According to the Tribune, citing sources familiar with Trump's plans, the President will shrink the boundaries of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Bears Ears, a sprawling region defined by red rock canyons, could be reduced in size by between 77% and 92%. The Trump administration could be planning to open up both areas for development as well as for oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities. A collection of five Native American tribes - the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe - announced plans to sue the Trump administration, arguing that the move violates the 1906 Antiquities Act. – TRIBUNE

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Reports that President Trump may move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have received a mixed reaction in that country. Trump is expected to formally announce the change - which he had initially proposed during his presidential campaign - in a speech on Wednesday, though many remain dubious that it will actually happen. The decision would represent a larger recognition from the US that the Israeli government is seated in Jerusalem, and that the Holy City sits within Israeli territory. Palestinians who want an independent state hope to make East Jerusalem the seat of their future government. A representative of Hamas warned the move would potentially "antagonize over a billion Muslims around the world," while a Palestinian Liberation Organization member said it symbolized the US declaring the end of the peacemaking process. There is also concern that, should the President recognize only West Jerusalem, it could imply that the Eastern portion of the city will be turned over to the Palestinians, potentially offending Israeli Jews. – NYT

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In a widely-shared op-ed in the New York Times, former "Access Hollywood" and NBC host Billy Bush confirmed that Donald Trump made the obscene remarks heard on a behind-the-scenes 2005 recording. Though Trump initially apologized for the remarks during the 2016 presidential campaign, after the tape was released, recent media reports claimed that he has suggested privately that the recording is a fake. In the piece, Bush accuses the President of "indulging in revisionist history" about his comments. Bush also claims that, at the time the recording was made, he and other witnesses assumed Trump was joking, and that it was "hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator," before hearing women come forward and confirm his account in the press. Bush also claims he reached out to Trump, hoping to conduct "a serious interview with him as a candidate," but was repeatedly rebuffed. – BBC

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FLYNN, YATES, COMEY AND TRUMP'S WEEKEND TWEETS

President Trump's tweets over the weekend have raised questions about his firing of both national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey. On Saturday, Trump's account tweeted that he was forced to fire Flynn "because [Flynn] lied to the Vice President and the FBI." Previously, Trump had only cited Flynn's lying to Vice President Pence as the reason for his termination. The tweet implied that Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he was fired, but failed to disclose this information. After Flynn's firing, Trump allegedly continued to request that then-Director Comey drop the investigation into Flynn's Russian ties, thus opening him up to a possible obstruction of justice charge.

Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, has since claimed to have written the tweet on Trump's behalf, and explained that it was just poorly worded. On Sunday, Trump once again tweeted about the case, claiming that he "never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn."

This puts the actions of then-acting attorney general Sally Yates into the spotlight once more. Dowd claims that Yates told White House counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn gave identical accounts of his conversations with Russian agents to both the Vice President and the FBI, and that the Justice Department at the time did not believe Flynn was lying. Unnamed sources familiar with Yates' actions deny that she ever shared information with the White House about the FBI's investigation into Flynn.

In an interview with Axios, posted Monday, Dowd makes the case that, because he is already the "chief law enforcement officer" under the Constitution's Article II, the President can not legally obstruct justice. Dowd argues that Trump, as President, "has every right to express his view of any case." He goes on to deny that the Saturday tweet does, in fact, admit to obstruction, calling that assertion "ignorant and arrogant." CNN notes that a similar claim - that the President is immune from obstruction of justice charges - was once forwarded by the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post spoke to a number of legal experts who dispute this interpretation of Article II. In Bloomberg, Noah Feldman argues that - regardless - a tweet should be considered a legal confession.

In other tweets and statements over the weekend, Trump continued defending Flynn, while accusing the FBI of a double standard in its investigation of Hillary Clinton. He told reporters at the White House that Clinton was not pursued even though she "lied many times to the FBI," while Flynn's life is being destroyed over his actions. In July of 2016, then-Director Comey denied that the FBI had any evidence Clinton had lied to them.

On Sunday, the President tweeted that the reputation of the FBI is "in tatters - worst in history!" Both Comey and Yates personally responded to the tweet by defending the bureau, as did former attorney general Eric Holder. Comey said "I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent."

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