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Today in Trump: February 15, 2017

Flynn fallout
Flynn fallout 05:25

Today in the Trump Administration

Labor secretary pick withdraws 

Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s pick for labor secretary, officially withdrew his name from the Cabinet nomination, following a drawn-out confirmation process plagued by scandal.

The fast food executive announced his withdrawal in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor,” Puzder wrote. “I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”

Former adviser to three GOP presidents questions Trump’s motivations on Russia

President Donald Trump has insulted everyone from federal judges, to fellow Republicans, to Meryl Streep. He’s even taken a shot at the Pope.

But he’s seemed to bend over backward to avoid criticizing Vladimir Putin.

“Obviously there is something going on here,” said Peter Wehner, and he wants to know why.

Wehner worked for Ronald Reagan and both Bush administrations writing speeches and generating policy ideas. Wehner is now with the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Analyst: “Stunning” amount of classified information being leaked against Trump administration

When the president spoke of illegal leaks of classified information, he was right, of course. 

“These people have committed a potential federal felony in talking to the reporters, and that ought to disturb us,” says CBS News senior national security analyst Fran Townsend, who was Homeland Security Adviser under President George W. Bush. “There’s sort of a base level of this we’ve come to expect out of Washington.”

But the amount of classified information that’s being leaked right now? Townsend says “frankly, I find it stunning.” 

Secretary Tillerson meets with Russian counterpart

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has embarked on his first official trip to Bonn, Germany for the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit where he will dive into diplomacy with a series of group sessions and one-on-one meetings. 

As President Trump has repeatedly cast his administration as one that will ring in a new era for U.S.-Russian relations, all eyes will be watching as Tillerson meets with with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time.

In meeting with Lavrov, Tillerson will advocate for pragmatic and constructive cooperation where interests overlap, according to senior State Department officials. Countering ISIS and terrorism are possible avenues for cooperation. 

National security adviser

President Trump has offered the job of national security adviser to Vice Admiral Robert Harward, according to sources close to the situation, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports.

Trump slams intel community after Russia report

President Trump launched a Twitter offensive against the U.S. intelligence community, following a report released Tuesday night that some campaign officials had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officers before the 2016 presidential election.

The president pilloried the New York Times report, which cited intelligence sources, as “non-sense” and a “cover-up” for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. He also accused members of the intelligence community of “illegally” handing over information to the news media.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators planned an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the latest Russia reports and Michael Flynn’s resignation.

The Cabinet

Sources tell Major Garrett that Mr. Trump has offered the post of National Security Adviser to Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL and former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command. Harward has not yet accepted the job.

Garrett also reports that Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder is expected to withdraw.

Trump on Israel: he calls on Netanyahu to “hold back a little bit” on settlements

President Trump called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday to temporarily freeze construction of settlements, which its government has been rapidly expanding in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

At a joint news conference between the two leaders from East Room of the White House, Mr. Trump said that he is asking Israel to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Netanyahu responded, “we’ll try.” Mr. Trump then commented that his reaction didn’t sound too optimistic. The prime minister was later asked to respond to Mr. Trump’s request, and he said that the issue of settlements is “not the core of the conflict, nor does it drive the conflict.”


President Trump welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. They’ll held a joint news conference at noon, shortly after Netanyahu arrived. 

What’s at stake in Trump and Netanyahu meeting

Iranian aggression in the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear deal, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the conflict in Syria are issues that will likely dominate the agenda when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Trump at the White House Wednesday.

The visit will be key in reviving the U.S.-Israel relationship, which experienced one of its lowest points less than two months ago when the Obama administration abstained during a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution that demanded an end to Israeli settlement construction. --By Rebecca Shabad

Trump administration suggests retreat from two-state solution in Middle East is possible

The Trump administration suggested Tuesday that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians may not come in the form of a two-state solution - a position that could represent a dramatic shift from former President Barack Obama, who said he saw no alternative.

Speaking to reporters ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a senior White House official said Mr. Trump is eager to begin facilitating a peace deal between the two sides and hoping to bring them together soon.

Palestinians are puzzled by this suggestion.

Trump/Netanyahu schedule:

11:50 a.m. Netanyahu arrives

12 p.m. Joint news conference

12:40 p.m. Oval Office meeting

1:45 p.m. Lunch

Marco Rubio 

The president host the Rubios for dinner this evening. This comes a day after the Christies came for lunch.


The president met with retailers to talk about the challenges facing them. He told them he’s cutting regulations “by massive amounts” and “in just about every industry.” He also mentioned a plan to change the tax code would be coming soon.

“We’re doing a massive tax plan that is coming along really well,” he told the retailers. “It will be submitted in the not too distant future. It will be not only good and simpler, it will be, you’re talking about big numbers of savings.”  And, he added that he planned to lower rates “very, very substantially for virtually everybody in every category. Including personal and business.”

 Here’s the list of participants:

  • Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO, Target
  • Marvin Ellison, Chairman and CEO, J.C. Penney Company
  • Hubert Joly, Chairman and CEO, Best Buy
  • Art Peck, CEO, Gap Inc.
  • Bill Rhodes, Chairman, President and CEO, AutoZone
  • Stefano Pessina, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Walgreen Boots Alliance
  • Greg Sandfort, President and CEO, Tractor Supply
  • Jill Soltau, CEO and President, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores

Supreme Court

Nominee Neil Gorsuch meets more senators -- Johnny Isakson at 10:30 a.m., Patrick Leahy at 11:30 a.m. and Jeanne Shaheen at 2 p.m.

What you missed yesterday

Michael Flynn resigns

Late last night, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned

Flynn said in his resignation letter that during the course of his duties as incoming national security adviser he held “numerous” phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers and ambassadors that were “to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships” between President Trump, his advisers and foreign leaders.

“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” he said. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”

John Dickerson: Trump and Flynn and truth-telling habits

Sunday, on “Face the Nation” White House policy adviser Stephen Miller assessed the administration’s ability to handle the frantic pace: “to say that we’re in control would be a substantial understatement.” 

Today, National Security adviser Michael Flynn resigned. Sunday, a friend of the president, Newsmax editor Chris Ruddy who had just shared a late night drink at the White House, went on CNN’s Reliable Sources and said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was in over his head. Administration-friendly Breitbart reported Tuesday that a list of possible replacements for Priebus is being evaluated as a part of a staff shake-up. The reports of such a shakeup are not just appearing in administration-allied organs, but also hereherehere and here.

Michael Flynn timeline

A look at the developments in Flynn’s recent past -- from his travel to Russia months before the election through his resignation just over three weeks into his tenure as national security adviser

Who could replace Flynn as national security adviser?

The White House is considering three candidates to serve as President Trump’s national security adviser after Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation from that position Monday night.

Officials have floated three names, including retired Lt. General Joseph Keith Kellogg, Jr., who’s been named acting national security adviser in the interim.  Former CIA Director David Petraeus and Vice Admiral Bob Harward, who’s a retired Navy SEAL and a former deputy commander of CENTCOM, or U.S. Central Command, are the other two names.

Canadian Muslims denied entry to the U.S. after Arabic videos found on phone

Canadian citizens Fadwa Alaoui and her cousin Fadela Boutaleb were off on one of their quick shopping trips across the border, this time to celebrate Alaoui’s 5-year-old son’s last chemo treatment.

But when they arrived at the U.S. border in Highgate Springs, Vermont, the women say they were asked repeated questions about their religion, illegal under us law.

Hillary Clinton weighs in on Michael Flynn’s resignation

Hillary Clinton late Monday weighed in on Twitter on the resignation of Gen. Michael Flynn as President Trump’s national security adviser.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee retweeted a tweet from her longtime aide, Philippe Reines, who joked about Flynn’s situation, alluding to him and his son spreading the conspiracy theory known as “PizzaGate” that accused Clinton and her former campaign manager of running a child sex slave ring out of Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant near Washington, D.C.

GOP reaction to Flynn resignation

Sen. Armed Services chairman John McCain responded to “this Flynn situation” at the Capitol today.

“I think there is significant dysfunction in the national security apparatus of the Trump administration,” McCain said, according to CBS News’ Alan He. “When you see they don’t know who’s in charge, this Flynn situation, the whole environment is one of dysfunction in the Trump administration as far as national security concerned.”

Earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Mr. Trump made the right call on Flynn.

“I think the president made the right decision to ask for his resignation. You cannot have a national security adviser misleading the vice president and others,” he told reporters, according to CBS News’ Catherine Reynolds. “So I think the president was right to ask for his resignation, and I believe it was the right thing to do.”  


The president has lunch with Chris and Mary Pat Christie, 12:30 p.m.

On schedule

President Trump signs H.J. Resolution 41, which nullifies a Dodd-Frank SEC rule requiring oil and gas companies to disclose taxes, fees they pay to foreign governments, 2:30 p.m.

He’ll meet with parents and teachers for “listening session,” 10:30 a.m.

Supreme Court

10:30a.m. Neil Gorsuch meets with Sen. Joe Donnelly, then Sen. Mazie Hirono at 12:30 p.m.. He meets with Sen. Chris Coons at 2:30 pm. and Sen. Minority Whip Dick Durbin at 3:30 p.m.

The cabinet

Senate votes on Linda McMahon’s confirmation to be small business administrator, 11 a.m.     

Vice President Pence swears in David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs secretary, 3 p.m.

Report: White House reporter accuses Trump aide Omarosa Manigault of bullying her

A longtime White House reporter says that President Trump’s aide Omarosa Manigault “physically intimidated” her when they got into an argument in the West Wing last week, according to The Washington Post.

The reporter, April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks, said that the former star of “The Apprentice” intimidated her in a way that could have invited involvement by the Secret Service.

“She stood right in my face like she was going to hit me,” Ryan told the Post. “I said, ‘You better back up.’ . . . She thought I would be bullied. I won’t be.”

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