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Morning Reads: Trump Threatens, Insults World Leaders; Would Stop Sending Law Enforcement After White Supremacists

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Morning Reads: Trump Threatens, Insults World Leaders

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is just the latest world leader to have had a belligerent, threatening phone call from President Trump. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

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Not here to make friends, apparently –> Vivian Salama for the AP: “President Donald Trump warned in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart that he was ready to send US troops to stop ‘bad hombres down there’ unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.”

And Greg Miller and Philip Rucker for The Washington Post: “It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week. Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his Electoral College win, according to senior US officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

“At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that ‘this was the worst call by far.'”

Never mind the radical white people –> Reuters: “The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a US government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters. The program, ‘Countering Violent Extremism,’ or CVE, would be changed to ‘Countering Islamic Extremism’ or ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,’ the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.”

And Sarah Posner for The Nation: “A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled ‘Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,’ obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination. The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers ‘any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,’ and protects ‘religious freedom’ in every walk of life: ‘when providing social services, education or health care; earning a living, seeking a job or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square or interfacing with federal, state or local governments.'”

Tillerson confirmed –> The former Exxon CEO is now secretary of state. Three Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to support his nomination, Zahra Hirji reports for InsideClimate News. “Tillerson, the sixth Trump Cabinet member to be approved by the Senate, was confirmed by the closest margin so far: 56 to 43. All Republicans, along with Angus King (I-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Warner from (D-VA), approved him over objections by many Democrats to his hedging on climate change and doubts about his ability to avoid conflicts of interest on diplomatic issues relating to his former employer. Chris Coons (D-DE) did not participate in the vote.”

Who’s in charge here? –> Many elected Republicans may like where this train is going, but it’s clear that they aren’t driving it. Trump’s advisors, however, are starting to become disconcerted by how little the president has turned to them for advice before issuing policies that seem largely designed by Steve Bannon and former Jeff Sessions aide Stephen Miller. Timothy L. O’Brien reports for Bloomberg View that Secretary of State Tillerson is “baffled” that the White House didn’t seek his advice on the Muslim ban; Secretary of Defense James Mattis is “particularly incensed” that he, too, was not consulted. “They may be in for more surprises, however, because there’s a good chance that Trump merely sees them as hood ornaments atop the little engine of state he’s building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” O’Brien writes.

DeVos hits a speed bump –> Two Republican senators now say they won’t vote for Betsy DeVos; they’ve decided, as have most Democrats, that she does not support public schools and does not understand the public education system well enough to lead it. “Mrs. DeVos is the product of her experience,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told the AP. “She appears to view education through the lens of her experience promoting alternatives to public education in Detroit and other cities.” Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also said she would vote against DeVos. Their decision comes as a billionaire philanthrapist who, like DeVos, pushes charter schools, came out against her, too. “We must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public,” Eli Broad wrote in a letter to the Trump administration (via the Los Angeles Times).

Democrats take a stand –> All 10 Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee decided not to show up to vote on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt repeatedly sued the EPA in his previous role as Oklahoma attorney general, and has waffled on his opinions about humans’ role in global warming. Given this history, Democrats want to see Pruitt be more forthcoming in answers to their questions.

Silicon Valley revolt –> Kara Swisher reports for ReCode that Google’s parent company Alphabet, as well as Apple, Facebook, Uber and the payment processing company Stripe are drafting a letter to Trump urging him to rethink his Muslim ban. Both Google and Stripe were founded by immigrants, and the others have immigrants in key roles. (Standing up to Trump also doesn’t hurt sales among one demographic that uses these products — millennials who overwhelmingly dislike the new president.) In a draft of the letter, companies say they “stand ready,” to help Trump come up with better ways to screen refugees and keep in America immigrants who don’t pose a threat.

Awkward –> Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch attended an elite Catholic prep school in the Washington, DC, area and, while there, founded a “Fascism Forever” club, according to the British tabloid The Daily Mail. The name was a tongue-in-cheek way to troll fellow classmates and teachers Gorsuch thought were too liberal, but given that he’s up for a seat on the high court at a moment of escalating national concern about a government that many (in the center, on the left and on the right) worry is increasingly displaying tendencies toward actual fascism, he may wish that a few decades ago he had chosen to make a different joke.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.