News & Politics

The Morning Briefing: 'Radical Islamic Terrorism,' Budget Slashing, More Comey News and Much, Much More

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk during welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv, Monday, May 22,2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Happy Monday Morning!

Here is what’s on President Trump’s agenda today:

  • In the morning, President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will depart Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, en route to Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • The President will then participate in a bilateral meeting with President Reuven Rivlin of Israel.
  • In the afternoon, the President will give remarks with President Rivlin.
  • The President and the First Lady will then visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
  • Later in the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will visit the Western Wall.
  • In the evening, the President will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. The President will then give remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
  • Later in the evening, the President and the First Lady will have dinner with Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu.

We’ll be covering the latest developments on President Trump’s Israel visit.

Choice of words

President Trump raised some eyebrows when he slipped up during a speech in Saudi Arabia.

A senior White House official said Sunday President Trump mixed up the wording of his prepared remarks in Saudi Arabia because he was “exhausted.”

“He’s just an exhausted guy,” the official told reporters on background, after many pointed out that Trump avoided the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” during the speech to leaders of more than 50 Muslim-majority nations.

Trump diverted slightly from his prepared remarks in using “Islamic” rather than “Islamist.”

“That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism, and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians,” Trump said.

Even without the slip, ABC News’s Jonathan Karl was critical of President Trump’s choice of words in his speech

The images were striking and so were the words, including the words that were not said.

There was Donald Trump standing before leaders of about 50 Muslim nations — the same Donald Trump who, as a candidate, declared, “I think Islam hates us” and who proposed a “total and complete shutdown” that would have prohibited every person in that audience from stepping foot in the United States.

But where the Donald Trump of the campaign portrayed the war on terror as a clash of civilizations, this Donald Trump, speaking in mostly subdued tones, explicitly said it was not.

Trump’s foreign trip is designed to isolate and squeeze Iran, and the Israelis are reportedly unnerved by the $100B+ arms deal the U.S. just made with Saudi Arabia. Did you like his speech or do you think Trump has gotten softer?

The budget is around the corner

You had me at “big cuts.”

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

Excellent. Let’s send these programs back to the states and let them handle them. The liberals always freak out when this kind of discussion starts, but its much easier to influence one’s state than it is to influence the federal government.

The WaPo has a long (biased) discussion that has one important point:

Michael Tanner, a welfare expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the U.S. government spends between $680 billion and $800 billion a year on anti-poverty programs, and considering wholesale changes to many of these initiatives is worthwhile, given questions about the effectiveness of how the money is spent.

“We’re not seeing the type of gains we should be seeing for all that spending, and that would suggest its time to reform the system,” he said.

Keep your eye out tomorrow for the full budget release. Remember, the budget has to make it through the House and the Senate.

Comey to chat with Chaffetz

On Sunday, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz said he expects to meet with fired FBI Director James Comey on Monday.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said Sunday that he expects to speak Monday with former FBI Director James Comey, as lawmakers look into the extent to which his firing was related to an investigation of Russia’s ties with President Donald Trump’s associates.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” the Utah Republican, who will step down from Congress next month, said he had not yet spoken directly with Comey.

Chaffetz reminded: “It’s important to remember nobody’s actually seen these documents.” He was referring to basically anything suggested by the questionably sourced reports from leaking “current and former administration officials.”

Ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings said, “There have been so many lies, so many contradictions.” Well, that’s certainly true. “And I think documents will help us to ferret out exactly what’s the truth and what’s a lie. And so I’m hoping that the chairman will issue subpoenas so that we can get every document.”

It is curious that none of the accompanying proof has leaked out among the whispers. I’m still waiting to see the transcript of the incriminating phone call between Michael Flynn and Russian official Kislyak.

Argument: mutilating female genitals is a “religious” right

Nope.

Defense lawyers plan to argue that religious freedom is at the core of the case in which two physicians and one of their wives are charged with subjecting young girls to genital cutting. All three are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small Indian-Muslim sect that has a mosque in Farmington Hills.

The defense maintains that the doctors weren’t engaged in any actual cutting — just a scraping of the genitalia — and that the three defendants are being persecuted for practicing their religion by a culture and society that doesn’t understand their beliefs and is misinterpreting what they did.

The Detroit Free Press writes: And perhaps more historic, a question will be raised in the American legal system that has never been raised before: Does the U.S. Constitution allow for genital cutting, even if it’s just a minor nick or scraping, in the name of religion?

“It is hard for me to imagine any court accepting the religious freedom defense given the harm that’s being dealt in this case,” said First Amendment expert Erwin Chemerinsky, who called the religious claim in the Detroit case a “losing argument.”

“You don’t have the right to impose harm on others in practicing your religion,” said Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine.

Mary Chartier, who is a defense lawyer in the case, thinks “fair-minded” people will conclude her clients didn’t genitally mutilate the girls.

“Will jurors have an initial bias on what happened here? They probably will. … But most jurors will really want to do what’s right,” Chartier said. “I think we can convince 12 people that they did not violate the law. … They just didn’t commit the crime.”

I don’t think you can, lady.

Other morsels:

Illegal immigrant collared in Trump-bashing graffiti on campus

You can pay $50 to drink coffee with rats

Melania, Ivanka talked women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia

Melania praised for looking fabulous in Saudi Arabia

The World Heath Organization spends more on travel than AIDS

Snowflakes walk out of Pence’s commencement speech

An Air Force Academy cadet created a bullet-stopping goo to use for body armor

And that’s all I’ve got, now go beat back the angry mob!