Trump’s 2020 Budget Includes $8.6 Billion for Border Wall

The White House on Monday is unveiling a more than $4 trillion government spending plan for 2020, a request that includes President Donald Trump’s call for another $8.6 billion for his signature project, construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart illegal immigration.

Trump’s request for border wall funding presages a new fight with lawmakers over the issue in the coming months during the third year of the Trump presidency. Key opposition Democratic lawmakers immediately vowed to block wall funding.

Trump lost the first round in his battle with Congress over wall construction money, with lawmakers rejecting any appropriation for the wall, while offering nearly $1.4 billion in money for barriers. That led Trump to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and tap funds already allocated for other projects to build the wall.

The Senate this week could join the House of Representatives in revoking Trump’s emergency declaration although Congress appears to lack the two-thirds majorities needed to override Trump’s expected veto of the vote against the wall. Numerous lawsuits are also challenging Trump’s emergency declaration.

Trump’s new request for wall funding comes just weeks after he ended a record 35-day partial government shutdown, a dispute that centered on his request for $5.7 billion for wall construction money. When lawmakers refused, he declared the national emergency.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement Sunday they hoped the president had “learned his lesson” from the shutdown.

Trump “hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall,” their statement said. “Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.”

But White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday that Trump has justified his call for the wall’s construction, even though polls show a majority of voters oppose it.

“I would just say that the whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance,” Kudlow said. “We have a crisis down there. I think the president has made that case effectively. It’s a crisis of economics, it’s a crisis of crime and drugs, it’s a crisis of humanity.”

The budget also calls for a big boost for the Pentagon and a 5 percent cut in nonmilitary spending, while sparing popular programs providing health care and pensions for older Americans.

Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Trump’s spending plan “embodies fiscal responsibility.”

Vought said the administration has “prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending” and shows “we can return to fiscal sanity.” But it would not balance the budget between spending and expected taxpayer funds for 15 years, long after Trump leaves office, even if he does win re-election next year.

In an interview with the Fox News Sunday show, Kudlow said, “It will be a tough budget. We’re going to do our own [spending] caps this year and I think it’s long overdue. … Some of these recent budget deals have not been favorable towards spending. So, I think it’s exactly the right prescription.”

U.S. presidents and Congress have traditionally squabbled over budgets, which spell out how to spend taxpayer dollars and the size of annual deficits.

The current 2019 budget is more than $4.4 trillion, with a deficit of about $1 trillion expected, largely because of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.

There are signs the U.S. economy, which grew at a 2.9 percent pace last year, is slowing.

But Kudlow said he was not worried by some predictions the American economy will only advance a little in the first three months of this year and not much more than 2 percent this year.

 

“I’m not going to score it just yet,” Kudlow said. “I’ll take the over on that forecast. As long as we keep our policies intact, low tax rates for individuals and businesses, across the board deregulation, lighten the paperwork, let small businesses breathe and get a good rate of return. … Our policies are strong and I think the growth rate this coming year will exceed these estimates just as they have last year.”


White House: Trump Wants $8.6 Billion for Border Wall in 2020 Budget

President Donald Trump plans to seek another $8.6 billion for a border wall in his new budget to be released Monday, White House officials say.

This new request would be on top of the nearly $7 billion Trump has ordered to be used to build a wall under his state of emergency declaration.

The budget also calls for a big boost for the Pentagon and a 5 percent cut in nonmilitary programs.

Trump’s third budget proposal during his presidency, for the year starting in October, is expected to draw wide opposition from Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans, setting off months of debate just weeks after a record 35-day government shutdown over government spending in the current year was ended.

“It will be a tough budget,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox Television Sunday. “We’re going to do our own (spending) caps this year and I think it’s long overdue. … Some of these recent budget deals have not been favorable towards spending. So, I think it’s exactly the right prescription.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement Sunday they hoped the president had “learned his lesson” from the shutdown, caused partly by Congress’ refusal in December to pay $5 billion toward Trump’s border wall.

​Trump “hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall,” the joint statement said. “Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.”

Kudlow said he expects a new fight over border wall funding.

But he contends Trump has justified his call for the wall’s construction, even though polls show a majority of voters oppose it.

“I would just say that the whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance,” Kudlow said. “We have a crisis down there. I think the president has made that case effectively. It’s a crisis of economics, it’s a crisis of crime and drugs, it’s a crisis of humanity.”

The White House will release Trump’s budget the same week the Senate will likely vote to throw out his emergency declaration. The House already voted it down. Trump has said he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

U.S. presidents and Congress have traditionally squabbled over budgets, which spell out how to spend taxpayer dollars and the size of annual deficits.

The current budget is more than $4.4 trillion, with a deficit of about $1 trillion expected, largely because of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.

There are signs the U.S. economy, which grew at a 2.9 percent pace last year, is slowing.

But Kudlow said he was not worried by some predictions the American economy will only advance a little more than 2 percent this year.

“I’m not going to score it just yet,” Kudlow said. “I’ll take the over on that forecast. As long as we keep our policies intact, low tax rates for individuals and businesses, across the board deregulation, lighten the paperwork, let small businesses breathe and get a good rate of return. … Our policies are strong and I think the growth rate this coming year will exceed these estimates just as they have last year.”

Kudlow said the U.S. is “making good progress” in ongoing trade talks with China, although an agreement has not yet been reached.

“As the president said, across the board, the deal has to be good for the United States, for our workers and our farmers, and our manufacturers, got to be good,” Kudlow said. “It’s got be fair and reciprocal. It has to be enforceable. That’s an important point.”


Washington Boosts Focus on Venezuela

Washington is increasingly focused on Venezuela, where a power struggle rages between embattled President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by more than 50 nations, including the U.S., as interim president. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports U.S. officials believe Maduro’s days are numbered but are downplaying the possibility of U.S. military intervention in oil-rich Venezuela, where economic collapse has triggered hunger, privation and mass migration


Many Religious Leaders See No Heresy in Trump’s Bible Signings 

President Donald Trump was just doing what he could to raise spirits when he signed Bibles at an Alabama church for survivors of a deadly tornado outbreak, many religious leaders say, though some were offended and others said he could have handled it differently.  

Hershael York, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary School of Theology in Louisville, Ky., said he didn’t have a problem with Trump signing Bibles, like former presidents have, because he was asked and because it was important to the people who were asking.   

“Though we don’t have a national faith, there is faith in our nation, and so it’s not at all surprising that people would have politicians sign their Bibles,” he said. “Those Bibles are meaningful to them and apparently these politicians are, too.”   

But the Rev. Donnie Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said she was offended by the way Trump scrawled his signature Friday as he autographed Bibles and other things, including hats, and posed for photos. She viewed it, she said, as a “calculated political move” by the Republican president to court his evangelical voting base. 

Not unprecedented  

Presidents have a long history of signing Bibles, though earlier presidents typically signed them as gifts to send with a spiritual message. President Ronald Reagan signed a Bible that was sent secretly to Iranian officials in 1986. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the family Bible his attorney general used to take the oath of office in 1939.  

It would have been different, Anderson said, if Trump had signed a Bible out of the limelight for someone with whom he had a close connection.  

“For me, the Bible is a very important part of my faith, and I don’t think it should be used as a political ploy,” she said. “I saw it being used just as something out there to symbolize his support for the evangelical community, and it shouldn’t be used in that way. People should have more respect for Scripture.”  

York said that he, personally, would not ask a politician to sign a Bible, but that he had been asked to sign Bibles after he preached. It feels awkward, he said, but he doesn’t refuse.   

“If it’s meaningful to them to have signatures in their Bible, I’m willing to do that,” he said.    

A request for comment was left with the White House on Saturday, a day after Trump visited Alabama to survey the devastation and pay respects to tornado victims. The tornado carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide, killing 23 people, including four children and a couple in their 80s, with 10 victims belonging to a single extended family.  

At the Providence Baptist Church in Smiths Station, Ala., the Rev. Rusty Sowell said, the president’s visit was uplifting and will help bring attention to a community that will need a long time to recover.  

Before leaving the church, Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grade volunteer and signed the child’s Bible, said Ada Ingram, a local volunteer. The president also signed her sister’s Bible, Ingram said. In photos from the visit, Trump is shown signing the cover of a Bible.  

Trump should have at least signed inside in a less ostentatious way, said the Rev. Dr. Kevin Cassiday-Maloney.  

Almost a ‘desecration’ 

“It just felt like hubris,” said Cassiday-Maloney, pastor at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Fargo, N.D. “It almost felt like a desecration of the holy book to put his signature on the front writ large, literally.”   

He doesn’t think politicians should sign Bibles, he said, because it could be seen as a blurring of church and state and an endorsement of Christianity over other religions.   

It would have been out of line if Trump had brought Bibles and given them out, but that wasn’t the case, said James Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. 

“Too much is being made out of something that doesn’t deserve that kind of attention,” he said.   

Bill Leonard, the founding dean and professor of divinity emeritus at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C., woke up to Facebook posts Saturday morning by former students who were upset about Trump signing the Bibles because they don’t view him as an appropriate example of spiritual guidance.  

But, Leonard said, it’s important to remember that signing Bibles is an old tradition, particularly in Southern churches.  

Leonard said he would have viewed it as more problematic if the signings were done at a political rally. He doesn’t see how Trump could have refused at the church.  

“It would’ve been worse if he had said no because it would’ve seemed unkind, and this was at least one way he could show his concern along with his visit,” he said. “In this setting, where tragedy has occurred and where he comes for this brief visit, we need to have some grace about that for these folks.” 


Manafort’s Sentence Reignites Debate Over Criminal Justice Disparities

A federal judge’s unexpected sentencing of Paul Manafort to less than four years in prison has been decried by some critics as a mere slap on the wrist, reigniting a debate over racial and class disparities in the American criminal justice system.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis sentenced Manafort to 47 months in prison, months after the former Trump campaign chairman and international political consultant was found guilty of eight counts of bank and tax fraud involving millions of dollars he made while working for Ukrainian politicians.

The sentence fell well below the 19.5 years to 24.5 years recommended under federal sentencing guidelines. But Ellis said he found the recommended sentence excessive and considered other factors in imposing a much lower sentence, including support letters by Manafort’s prominent well-wishers.

​Talk of social media, late night TV

The penalty instantly became the subject of mockery on social media and late night talk shows and sparked criticism of the often disparate outcomes of criminal cases involving white defendants with an army of high-powered lawyers and those of minority defendants aided by overworked public defenders.

Scott Hechinger, a New York-based public defender, took to Twitter to provide what he called some context to the Manafort sentence.

“… my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room,” he wrote in a post that was retweeted 54,000 times.

In an interview with VOA, Hechinger said he was not advocating a harsher sentence for Manafort.

“My reaction was one of outrage not because how relatively lenient his sentence was, I don’t want more time for Paul Manafort,” he said. “It was an outrage at the fact that my clients don’t get the same kind of mercy and individualized justice on a mass scale that he got.”

Hechinger, who is senior staff attorney and director of policy for Brooklyn Defender Services, represents predominantly black and Latino defendants.

US accustomed to long sentences

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization, said criticism that Manafort got off easy underlines the degree to which Americans have grown accustomed to seeing people spend decades behind bars, sometimes for a third-time drug offense.

“In many other industrialized nations to get a sentence of 20 years, you’d have to kill someone, possibly several people,” Mauer said.

In recent years, racial disparities in sentencing have been on the rise. A 2014 University of Michigan study found that black defendants receive sentences nearly 10 percent longer than those of comparable whites convicted of the same crimes. A 2017 survey the U.S. Sentencing Commission put the black/white sentencing disparity in the federal system at 20 percent.

“While the laws themselves are not directly racist, what we know is that defendants of color are more likely to be sentenced to prison and more likely to do greater time in prisons,” Mauer said.

​Sentencing Commission and Supreme Court

To remove disparities in sentencing in federal cases, Congress created the Sentencing Commission in the 1980s. Sentencing guidelines adopted by the commission allowed judges little leeway.

But in a landmark decision in 2005, the Supreme Court made the guidelines advisory, giving judges wide latitude in handing down harsher or more lenient sentences depending on the circumstances of a case.

“In many cases, federal judges sentence within those guideline ranges, but they’re also free to depart either above or below the range,” Mauer said.

In recent decades, however, both the federal government and states have adopted mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, giving prosecutors enormous power to slap stiff criminal charges against defendants in hopes of prompting guilty pleas. In 95 percent of cases, defendants plead guilty. The vast majority of them are people of color “not because they commit more crimes but because they’re targeted more for arrest,” Hechinger said.

In addition, research shows that prosecutors are more likely to give white defendants a better plea offer than black or other minority defendants, Mauer added.

Every aspect of system to blame

According to the Sentencing Project, people of color make up 67 percent of the U.S. prison population while they represent only 37 percent of the population. There are currently 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails.

Jonathan Blanks, research associate at the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, said that while racial bias is “a very real and major problem in almost every aspect of our criminal justice system,” it is a mistake to read prejudice into every lower-than-expected sentence in a high profile case.

“Moreover, it is difficult to at once argue for less-severe sentences to reduce mass incarceration and simultaneously reflexively condemn lower-than-recommended sentences just because the public has strong feelings about a given defendant,” Blanks said via email.

As for Manafort, the relatively light sentence is not the end of his legal woes. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next week in a separate case in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy last year. Federal guidelines call for a sentence of more than 17 years.


President’s Budget Lands Monday With a Shrug

When President Donald Trump proposes his 2020 federal budget Monday, official Washington will likely have a quick look, shrug and move on, marking another stage in the quiet decay of the U.S. government’s traditional policy-making processes.

There was a time when the release of the president’s budget was a red-letter day on the calendar of Washington wonkery, with policy experts and fiscal hawks delving into spreadsheets and expounding upon new spending plans and the national debt.

But the hoopla of budget day is gone, a relic of a time when politics were less polarized, the federal deficit drove political decisions and the White House and Congress still took the budget process seriously.

Budget day hoopla fades

“It has seemed to me that budget day ain’t what it used to be,” said Robert Bixby, who has pored over the budget for more than 25 years at the Concord Coalition, a fiscal responsibility advocacy group.

Last year’s budget weighed in at a whopping $4.4 trillion.

It was not balanced and was panned for relying on rosy economic projections and for not doing enough to cut the federal deficit.

The 2020 Trump budget will land a month after a deadline established in law, a lag blamed on the recent five-week partial shutdown of the federal government over a funding dispute.

Congress, which controls federal spending, is likely to dismiss Trump’s proposal, if recent history is any guide.

The Democratic-ruled House of Representatives and Republican-majority Senate also are unlikely to agree on a joint budget resolution of their own. Instead, they probably will stumble forward until fiscal 2019 ends and a spending deadline arrives Oct. 1, forcing them to produce a last-minute deal or face another government shutdown.

Broken process

“The entire process has become one of missed deadlines, make-believe budgets filled with gimmicks and magic asterisks,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

MacGuineas remembers in years gone by “scurrying around” to read through the budget as fast as possible so that she could answer a flurry of calls from reporters. These days, the budget is a blip on the news cycle, a process that is neither serious nor effective.

“I think it feels like a bit of kabuki theater at this point, for everybody,” MacGuineas said.

The White House disagreed. The budget process helps the administration set priorities for agencies for the year ahead and lays down a marker on issues, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Of course, Congress has the power of the purse but the president’s budget plants a flag to define terms of the tax and spending debate in Washington,” the official said.

Budget on a stretcher

The traditional budget and appropriations process was limping along well before Trump took office.

One of former President Ronald Reagan’s budgets in the 1980s was brought out on a stretcher as a stunt to show the document was alive and well, ahead of it being declared dead-on-arrival in Congress, recalled Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“What we have right now is essentially government by automatic pilot and that’s not healthy,” Moore said, describing the cycle of last-minute massive omnibus spending bills agreed on only when deadlines loom.

The budget and spending process has been further hobbled by lawmakers’ unwillingness to compromise and tendency to put off hard decisions while hoping for a shift in the next election cycle, said Kenneth Baer, an associate director in the Office of Management and Budget under former President Barack Obama.

Trump’s budget office has accelerated the downward slide of the process by using more gimmicks to make up for shortfalls, Baer said. 

“All the normal ways of operating the government have just been thrown out of the window,” he said.

Spending cuts, caps

Trump’s acting budget director, Russell Vought, has said the budget aims to cut non-defense spending and cap spending under levels set in the 2011 Budget Control Act, a feat made possible only with an increase in an emergency account called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to cover Trump’s plan to increase defense spending.

The tactic makes a mockery of the budget process, said Bixby of the Concord Coalition.

“It’s nothing but an astronomical gimmick! It’s over the top! It’s so over the top, it’s clownish!” Bixby said.

With the national debt now topping $22 trillion and the deficit at $900 billion in 2019, it is unlikely that Washington will find its way to fiscal discipline without an overhaul of the process, Bixby said.

He said he is frustrated and worried that it could take a crisis to jolt change, like a recession or a failure to raise the government’s debt limit, something that needs to happen in coming months to avoid stumbling into a first-ever default.

“If they act as dysfunctionally this fall as they did last fall and throw the debt limit into the mix, it’s very, very toxic,” Bixby said.


House OKs Election Overhaul Package, but Senate to Slam Door

The Democratic-controlled House on Friday approved legislation aimed at reducing the role of big money in politics, ensuring fair elections and strengthening ethics standards. But it stands little chance in the Republican-run Senate, where the GOP leader has pledged it will not come up for a vote, and the White House issued a veto threat.

The House measure would make it easier to register and vote, and would tighten election security and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

Election Day would become a holiday for federal workers, and a public financing system for congressional campaigns would be set up. The legislation approved 234-193 would bar voter roll purges such as those seen in Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere, and restore voting rights for ex-prisoners. It was a straight party-line vote, with all Democrats voting “yes” and all Republicans voting “no.”

Republicans called the bill a Democratic power grab that amounts to a federal takeover of elections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the proposal was dead on arrival in that chamber.

The White House said in a statement that the Democrats’ plan would “micromanage” elections that now are run largely by states and would establish “costly and unnecessary program to finance political campaigns.”

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill “restores the people’s faith that government works for the public interest, the people’s interest, not the special interests.”

Trying to turn Republicans’ words against them, Pelosi said, “Yes it is a power grab — a power grab on behalf of the people.”

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California said the legislation would undermine the integrity of elections by allowing convicted felons to vote, and would apply a one-size-fits-all standard to elections now run by states and local governments.

Democrats called that a mischaracterization.

To Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the bill “grabs power away from the elites and the power brokers and gives it to the people.”

She and other Democrats disputed the claim that taxpayers will pay for campaigns, noting that money for political campaigns would come from a surcharge on federal settlements made with banks and corporations that run afoul of the law.

This bill would allow “everyday Americans to become power brokers” with small contributions of $50 or $75 that would be matched at a 6-to-1 rate by the government, said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., the bill’s main author.

Still, Republicans warned that the price tag could run into the billions.

“Regardless of what they disguise it as, make no mistake that the position of Democrats is to fund politicians’ campaigns using taxpayer funds,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

The bill also “weakens safeguards to voting and registration practices that open the door to fraud” and attempts to limit free speech, said Davis, citing disclosure requirements for political donations.

The bill would create automatic national voter registration while expanding access to early and online registration. It would increase federal support for state voter systems, including paper ballots to prevent fraud.


Trump Claims Vindication in Former Campaign Manager’s Sentencing

U.S. President Donald Trump is claiming vindication in the sentencing of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, after a U.S. federal judge ruled Manafort should serve 47 months in prison for tax and bank fraud.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it’s been a very, very tough time for him,” said Trump as he departed the White House early Friday, en route to the state of Alabama to view damage from this week’s deadly hurricane.

“But, if you notice, both his lawyer, a highly respected man, and a very highly respected judge — the judge said there was no collusion with Russia,” the president said.

Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that the Russia probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is a “collusion witch-hoax” and again denied that he colluded with Russia.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III stated that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election,” pointing out that Manafort was not on trial for the main focus of the Mueller probe — whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

In the sentencing, the judge did not specifically rule out the potential of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Substantially less sentence

Manafort’s 47-month sentence is substantially less than the 19 to 21 years prosecutors wanted, which would have likely meant the 69-year-old Manafort would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Ellis said the federal sentencing guidelines — and harsh punishment that Mueller recommended — were excessive.

Manafort was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair and supported himself with a cane. He appeared more worn and haggard than he did just a few years ago when he was one of the most influential Republicans in Washington.

While not apologizing for his crimes, Manafort told the judge Thursday that his life “professionally and financially is in shambles.”

“To say I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said.

Along with the nearly four years in prison, Ellis also fined Manafort $50,000.

Additional charges

Manafort was charged with hiding from the government millions of dollars he earned as a lobbyist for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych — meaning that was millions of dollars on which he paid no taxes.

Manafort also lied to banks in Virginia to secure loans for his luxurious lifestyle, including large homes and designer clothes.

In addition, Manafort was convicted of separate federal charges of conspiracy and witness tampering. He is set to be sentenced next week.

The sentence for Manafort is a bit surprising because Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller in the Russia probe, hoping for a lighter punishment.

But another judge had ruled that Manafort lied to prosecutors in the Russia probe and violated his plea deal, saying he was no longer entitled to leniency.


Shine Resigns White House Communications Post

White House communications director Bill Shine has resigned as Donald Trump’s top White House communications aide, the White House said Friday.

Shine, a former Fox News executive, resigned Thursday and will serve as a senior campaign adviser to Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential election, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

A source close to Trump, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president had lost confidence in Shine and was relying heavily on Sanders to run the communications operation. 

Shine was the latest in a string of communications directors who have had short tenures in the Trump White House, where the president in many ways serves as his own communications chief. 

His was one of several high-profile departures from the president’s staff during Trump’s two years in office.

The president, traveling in Alabama and Florida on Friday, said Shine had done an “outstanding” job. “We will miss him in the White House, but look forward to working together on the 2020 presidential campaign, where he will be totally involved,” Trump said in a statement released by Sanders that included quotes from others praising Shine. 

‘Rewarding’ position

Shine said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family. 

“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life. To be a small part of all this president has done for the American people has truly been an honor,” he said in the statement.

Shine did not respond to an email requesting further comment.

He was named to the top White House communications job in July, 14 months after he left the network amid charges he failed to take effective steps to deal with sexual misconduct at the organization. Although not accused of harassment, Shine was named in a number of lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and accused of not doing more to prevent it.

Shine served as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications. The job had been vacant since Hope Hicks, the president’s campaign confidante, left in February 2018.

Previous communications directors included Mike Dubke, who held the post for roughly three months, and Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted less than two weeks, getting fired after making obscene comments in an interview published by The New Yorker magazine. Trump’s first White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, also served in the role for a time. 

Close ties between the White House and Fox News drew additional scrutiny this week in a New Yorker piece that cited an expert on presidential studies saying the television network founded by Rupert Murdoch is the “closest we’ve come to having state TV.” 

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Shine received an $8.4 million severance package from Fox and was to get a bonus and options worth $3.5 million from 21st Century Fox both in 2018 and 2019. 


As Trump Faces Investigation, Echoes of Watergate Grow Louder

The recent congressional testimony of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, transfixed Washington at a time when the president is under increasing scrutiny. To some, Cohen’s moment in the national spotlight harkened back to dramatic moments from another time, the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, which eventually forced President Richard Nixon from office. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.



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