Thursday, April 27, 2017

Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter

By now many if not most people have heard that "conservative" columnist Ann Coulter's planned speech at the University of California at Berkeley has been cancelled.  Liberals on and off the campus acted to shut down the speech.  Fox News now reports on the latest development, support from a prominent actor:
Rob Schneider attacked UC Berkeley for cancelling conservative commentator Ann Coulter's speech, saying the university should "add burning
Ann Coulter
books to the curriculum." 
"UC Berkeley, after you done eliminating speech you don't like & words you don’t like what’s next?" the comedian wrote on Twitter adding, "Maybe add burning books to the curriculum." 
The outspoken star also tweeted, "Freedom of thought, speech, conscience & informed consent to medical risk taking. There's no greater calling for Americans in the 21st Century." 
... 
Earlier this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists. 
... 
In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans.
I am no fan of Coulter.  I find her to be utterly repulsive, an ideological faud who has hijacked the "conservative" label to promote ideas that are full of hate and not at all conservative.   It is people like her, and President Trump, who are destroying the once great conservative movement that convinced me to become a Republican.

Nonetheless, college campuses should be venues where the open exchange of ideas is welcomed, even when those ideas are an anathema to many who study and work at the school.  One of the most unfortunate trends in recent years is the increasing lack of tolerance for free speech by people on the left, particular at our colleges and universities.  If you want to read a great book on the subject, written by a liberal Democrat no less, pick up The Silencing by Kirsten Powers.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Shopping Malls Try Gimmicks to Fend Off Their Inevitable Death At Hands of Online Commerce

The Indianapolis Business Journal has an interesting article on how shopping malls are trying desperately to survive as online commerce increasingly takes over:
Malls are fighting for shoppers with one thing their web rivals can’t offer: parking lots.
With customer traffic sagging, U.S. retail landlords like Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. are using their sprawling concrete lots to host events such as carnivals, concerts and food-truck festivals. They’re aiming to lure visitors with experiences that can’t be replicated online—and then get them inside the properties to spend some money.
“Events draw people to come to the shopping center,” said Craig Herkimer, whose company, KevaWorks Inc., is working with big landlords including GGP Inc. and Simon to produce outdoor events. “They generate revenue for the owner and offer a chance for cross-promotion, so they can try and drive more customers into the stores.”
Mall owners across the country are grappling with store closings and declining rents. Retail property values are down 3 percent in past six months, as all other types of commercial real estate showed gains, according to the Moody’s/Real Capital Analytics indexes. A Bloomberg gauge of publicly traded mall landlords has tumbled 15 percent in the past year through Thursday, the worst performance among U.S. real estate investment trusts.
Amazon.com Inc. and other internet retailers continue to grow, while department stores including Sears Holdings Corp. and Macy’s Inc. have been closing hundreds of locations. Payless Inc., the discount shoe seller, is among the latest to announce a massive shuttering—of 400 stores—as part of a bankruptcy plan.
The article notes that the United States is home to approximately 1,100 malls.  The structure that is the mall, as well as the large parking lots surrounding the building, consume a considerable amount of real estate.  When those malls fail, they become extremely difficult to repurpose.  They often end up being a blight on the neighborhood for years.

Photo of Simon Shopping Mall
It would appear that in searching for gimmicks to drive foot traffic to the retail stores, mall owners are fighting a losing battle.   With the exception of certain consumer items, consumers prefer the convenience of shopping from the convenience of their homes.  That is a niche that Amazon has cornered, although even that company faces growing competition when it comes to online retail.

But as one looks to the future of retail, one wonders if even the Amazon model might be outdated.  The Amazon approach right now is for wholesalers and manufacturers to ship goods to the company which it then stores in incredibly large "fulfillment centers."  Then when a customer orders the item from the Amazon website, it gets shipped once again, this time to the customer.  Amazon became popular because it enhanced customer convenience by eliminating the need to visit a brick and mortar store to shop.  But the Amazon retail approach, which requires considerable overhead, doesn't provide much in the way of cost savings to the consumer.  Eventually Amazon may be replaced with a web-based shopping approach that links customers with wholesalers and manufacturers so that items may be purchased directly, saving consumers a substantial amount of money while cutting out brick-and-mortar online retailers such as Amazon.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Indy Star Columnist Praises Broad Ripple "Improvements" While Ignoring Challenges Residents Face

Generally once a week I make the trip to Broad Ripple to visit my friend and local attorney Mark Small. These occasions often, okay "always", involve tossing back a few beers while we discuss life and politics. Even though Mark is a whacked out liberal, we do share the same opinion on Broad Ripple, where he has lived for several years, i.e.  the new development and resulting congestion in the "Village" has cause it to lose its charm.

Indianapolis Star Matthew Tully doesn't agree.  In today's column he sings the praises of Broad Ripple development.
Broad Ripple looks a little different these days. 
You can perhaps see that best from the patio of Three Sisters Café on Guilford Avenue. As I sat there the other day, I looked north toward the heart of the village, at a strip of colorful bars, restaurants and stores on Broad Ripple Avenue. Behind them stood a brand new development —  a sprawling grocery store and high-end apartment complex that recently opened. That taller development doesn’t just stand behind the heart of the village, it seems to hover over it. 
Matthew Tully
You can see a lot of other change throughout Broad Ripple, from the much-debated parking garage that popped up a few years ago on College Avenue, to so many small businesses that have come or gone, to the bustling area that south Broad Ripple has become. And then there is the change to come: A tortured redevelopment project at College and Kessler and, of course, the red line transit expansion.
Anyone who has followed Tully's writing career knows he has never once written in opposition to corporate welfare. He is perfectly fine with taxpayer money being diverted from such things as roads and schools to the pockets of developers.. Not once did Tully utter a negative word about the Broad Ripple parking garage at the intersection of College and Broad Ripple Avenue, a structure built with tax dollars then simply given away to one of former Mayor Greg Ballard's biggest contributors.

 Of course if you drive by the structure now you discover what was going on.  The building contains a number of business establishments with parking only a secondary thought.  Bottom line is that we taxpayers built a commercial building for a politically-connected developer.  That's what it was about.
And yet to this day Tully cannot bring himself to say a negative word about how taxpayers were mislead and ripped off about the purpose of the structure.

In Tully's column he doesn't make the slightest effort to talk to any of the long time residents of Broad Ripple, people like Mark Small.  If he did, he would find a different story.  People in Broad Ripple are unhappy with the congestion which has added considerable time to any commute.  They are unhappy about the high rise buildings that have caused Broad Ripple to lose its "village" feel.  As far as the red line transit expansion going up congested College Avenue, resulting in the loss of desperately needed traffic lanes, pretty much any Broad Ripple resident will tell you that mistake.

Of course, Tully doesn't live in the Broad Ripple Village area any more.  A few years ago, he moved to Carmel.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

President Trump Defends Fox's Bill O'Reilly: "I Don't Think Bill Did Anything Wrong"

A few days ago, the New York Times broke news about  sexual harassment lawsuit settlements involving Fox "The Factor" host Bill O'Reilly:

For nearly two decades, Bill O’Reilly has been Fox News’s top asset, building the No. 1 program in cable news for a network that has pulled in billions of dollars in revenues for its parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Behind the scenes, the company has repeatedly stood by Mr. O’Reilly as he faced a
Bill O'Reilly
series of allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.
An investigation by The New York Times has found a total of five women who have received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.
Two settlements came after the network’s former chairman, Roger Ailes, was dismissed last summer in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, when the company said it did not tolerate behavior that “disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”
The women who made allegations against Mr. O’Reilly either worked for him or appeared on his show. They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.
The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.
O'Reilly has tried to dismiss the settlements as merely payoffs for nuisance suits. As an attorney, I've seen many nuisance suits.  Settlements for nuisance suits are generally a few thousands of dollars, certainly never millions.  These suits would not have been settled for such sums if there wasn't serious wrongdoing involved.

President Trump, however, disagrees.  In an interview with the New York Times, Trump stated:

“Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office with Times reporters. “Because you should have taken it all the way; I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Mr. Trump said.
President Trump likewise thought the sexual harassment suits against former Fox News Chief Roger Ailes were also baseless:
"I think they are unfounded just based on what I've read," Trump said of the accusations against Ailes. "Totally unfounded, based on what I read."
I guess we shouldn't be surprised by Trump's reaction considering his own history with women.


Monday, April 3, 2017

More Flynn Foreign Payments Revealed; Trump-Friendly National Enquirer Labels Flynn a "Russian Spy"

A few weeks ago it was revealed that General Michael T. Flynn, who advised President Trump on foreign policy, and briefly served as National Security Adviser in the Trump administration, was acting as an agent of of a foreign government, namely Turkey.  Flynn's company received $530,000 for 90 days of work to investigate and undermine a political opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who engaged in a political crackdown after surviving a military coup.

That's $5,889 a day that Flynn's firm was being paid by Turkish interests, all the while traveling around
General Michael T. Flynn
the country with the Donald Trump campaign.  It's a good gig if you can get it.

But it turns out, there were more payments. Recently, Flynn amended federal disclosure documents to show payments from Russian outfits, i.e. Volga-Dnepr Airlines and Kapersky Government Security Solutions, Inc, each of which paid him $11,250.  Flynn was also paid $45,000 by RT, the state Russian news agency, for a speech he gave in 2015, another payment he failed to disclose.

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, indicated the payments might result in a referral to the General Accounting Office, which might ask for a return of all the money.  As Rep. Chaffetz notes, former military officers simply are not allowed to take these type of payments.  It is not a stretch to think there might be criminal liability involved with the payments, which might further explain why Flynn is requesting immunity for his testimony.

An interested and related development comes from of all places, the National Enquirer.  Last week's edition of the supermarket tabloid had blazened across the front page the headline:  "TRUMP CATCHES RUSSIAN'S WHITE HOUSE SPY!"    Here is a summary:

Add caption

Here is the start of the article inside the paper:




National Enquirer's CEO David Pecker is a good friend of President Trump.   Pecker's publication has enthusiastically supported his campaign for President.  During various points in the campaign, the National Enquirer published scandalous (and unverified) stories about Trump's opponents which Trump then used on the campaign stump.  These National Enquirer stories includes the bizarre piece claiming that Sen. Ted Cruz's father was involved in the plot to assassinate President Kennedy.  Despite the absurd stories that regularly appear in the magazine, President Trump has on several occasions said the Enquirer is a credible source of information..

While the Enquirer has zero credibility as a news source, the story calling Flynn a Russian spy is noteworthy for this reason:   The story almost certainly didn't go to print with Trump's direct or indirect blessing.  The story represents the beginning of the new spin that Trump wasn't personally complicit with Russian meddling in the campaign, that he was instead a victim from unscrupulous Russian agents like Flynn.

General Flynn take a look at the Trump bus.  You're going to soon find yourself underneath it.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Governor May Consider Imposing Tolls on Indiana Roads

WIBC reports:
Tolls are in and cigarette taxes are out if Governor Holcomb gets his way in a final road funding bill. 
Gov. Eric Holcomb
Holcomb is offering his most specific ideas so far on the final shape of a road funding plan. He says the cost of building and maintaining roads should fall on those who drive on them, and says provisions in both the House and Senate bills calling for the state to apply for federal tolling approval probably have to be part of a final plan. 
Neither the House nor the Senate package reaches the one-point-two-billion dollars a year the state says it needs in order to fully fund roads, but Holcomb says their combinations of gas taxes and tire and vehicle fees would be enough to pay for road maintenance for the next 20 years. He says in six or seven years, the state will have to take "a hard look" at imposing tolls to raise money for new construction. But he says he doesn't want tolls on urban bypasses -- he's thinking more of truckers going state line to state line.
Hopefully the legislature and the Governor will come to their collective senses and not inflict toll roads on Hoosiers.  I'm confident that most drivers loathe tolls and would rather pay for roads through taxes.   Personally I cannot imagine ever voting for a politician who imposed tolls on Indiana highways.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Democrats Strengthen Domination of Indianapolis Northside Townships

I finally got around to looking at the Marion County (Indianapolis) election results from November.  I may write a few columns on the subject. Today's is about changing party fortunes in the nine Marion County townships.


At the turn of the century,  Republicans dominated the township boards in 8 of the 9 townships, i.e. all the townships except Center Township.  Now the story is that the Democrats dominate all the townships with the exception of the three southernmost, Decatur, Perry and Franklin.

This year, the number of township board seats changed from 7 to 5.  That didn't help Republican prospects any, however .  While the Democrats lost a seat in Pike, the party increased its domination in Washington, Warren and Lawrence Township.  Below are the results:

YEAR 2016
Township Republican Democrat
Center 0 5
Decatur 5 0
Franklin 5 0
Lawrence 1 4
Perry 5 0
Pike 0 5
Warren 1 4
Washington 1 4
Wayne 1 4
19 26
YEAR 2012
Township Republican Democrat
Center 1 6
Decatur 7 0
Franklin 7 0
Lawrence 3 4
Perry 6 1
Pike 0 7
Warren 2 5
Washington 3 4
Wayne 1 6
30 33

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump Campaign May Have Coordinated with Russians on Release of Information Damaging to Clinton Campaign

CNN reports:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN.   
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, according to one source.   
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel,
business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.   
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power."  
... 
One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial. 
The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.   
The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page -- for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.
Yesterday in a bizarre turn of events House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefed President Trump on intelligence he had seen in which names of the Trump transition team (of which Nunes himself was a member) had appeared in intelligence intercepts relating to foreign targets, intercepts he didn't bother to share with anyone else on the committee.   While this was in fact old news, Nunes held a press conference to claim that the information somewhat supported Trump's claim that Trump Tower phones were wiretapped by President Obama.  In the next breath, however, Nunes said that the information did not show Trump's claim was true.
The big development though may well be that Nunes has shown himself to be an agent of President Trump and, thus, unable to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of matters relating to the Trump campaign.  Nunes might lose his chairmanship as a result of the stunt he pulled yesterday. At the very least he made the appointment of a independent committee much more likely.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A "Big, Gray Cloud" Descends Over the Trump Presidency

Today, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that there exists a current FBI investigation into possible coordination between members of Trump's campaign team and Russian officials in the latter's interference into the 2016 election.  Fox News reports:
FBI Director James Comey said during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee today that there is an ongoing investigation into possible "coordination" between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016
FBI Director James Comey
presidential election. 
"That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," he stated.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who was a member of the Trump transition team, complained that Comey's testimony created a "big, gray cloud" over the White House and urged a quick conclusion to the investigation. 

Comey also confirmed that Trump's tweets claiming former President Trump had ordered his phones "wiretapped" at the Trump Tower were simply not true.  Also confirmed as inaccurate was the new claim that British intelligence had wiretapped Trump at President Obama's request.

When the media begins examining more closely Trump campaign connections to Russian officials, , expect a few names to come to the forefront quickly, most notably Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page.  In an apparent attempt to head off damaging association, administration spokesman Sean Spicer today incredulously noted that Manafort had only a "limited role" with the Trump campaign.  A mighty strange way to characterize the former MANAGER of the Trump campaign.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Soccer Goaltender Signed After Conviction for Having Girlfriend Killed, Fed to His Dogs

I guess the next time the NFL is criticized for not taking domestic violence seriously enough, the league can say it is not as bad as soccer.  The New York Daily News reports on an incredible story out of Brazil:
Bruno Fernandes de Souza
Second-tier Brazilian soccer club Boa Esporte has come under fire for signing goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was convicted for ordering the 2010 killing of his ex-girlfriend and having her body fed to his dogs, to a two-year contract shortly after his release from prison, according to a report from The Guardian.
Bruno's lawyer was able to get the soccer player released from prison after serving seven years of a 22-year sentence because the courts had failed to rule on his appeal.
...
The victim of Bruno's brutal crime, Eliza Samudio, had been suing him for child support. Samudio then went missing, and Bruno admitted to his involvement in the plan that resulted in her death. 
Boa Esporte's president, Rone Moraes da Costa, said in a statement that the club was helping Bruno return to society by giving him the "dignity of work." The statement did not mention Samudio or the murder of her.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Carmel and Indianapolis Go Round and Round About Roundabouts

The Indianapolis Star reports:
An Indianapolis City-County councilwoman is trying to stop Carmel from building several roundabouts along the border between the two cities. 
Christine Scales has refused to sign an interlocal agreement to allow Carmel to build roundabouts at 96th Street's intersections with Hazel Dell Parkway, Gray Road, Delegates Row and Randall Drive. As the local district representative, Indianapolis is following her lead. 
Scales doesn't think traffic is congested enough along the corridor to warrant the roundabouts, and she is concerned that area businesses will lose customers if they are
Carmel Roundabout at 126th Street and Keystone (www.carmel.in.gov)
built. She thinks motorists are more likely to shop on the commercial corridor if they have time to look around while waiting at traffic signals. 
Her stance has led to a clash with Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard that was highlighted in an email exchange between the two obtained by IndyStar. 
"My opinion, which is shared by many, is that while (roundabouts) may serve well in some locations, it doesn't mean they serve well as replacements for each and every stop sign or light," Scales wrote in an email to Brainard. "The existence of 100 roundabouts (and counting) in a city the size of Carmel is a lot of roundabouts."
I have said before that the creation of roundabouts by Mayor Brainard has been the best thing he did in office. Prior to the roundabouts traffic flow in and around Carmel was dreadful. However, after two recent trips to Carmel, I find myself agreeing with Councilor Scales. It seemed like every Carmel intersection I drove through had a roundabout, including ones that would have been much better served with traditional traffic devices.

Meanwhile Mayor Brainard indicates he may try to proceed with the roundabouts anyway, despite opposition by Scales and the City of Indianapolis. The Star article continues:
Brainard thinks he can build the roundabouts without Indianapolis' permission because state law places Carmel in control of improvements on its southern border. Carmel also isn't asking for any help from Indianapolis with funding. 
Scales, though, said Indianapolis officials disagree that he can move forward without an interlocal agreement and will fight him if he tries.
Brainard hopes to convince Scales and Indianapolis to sign on. But he says he'll find a way to build the roundabouts regardless. 
"If necessary," he wrote in an email to Scales obtained by IndyStar, "we would simply move the roundabouts a few feet north."

Monday, March 6, 2017

VP Pence Shows Pres. Trump How Conservatives Can Successfully Handle The Liberal Media

The Indianapolis Star reports:
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence joked Saturday night that the most embarrassing part of the recent news that he used a personal email account while Indiana’s governor is that millions of Americans learned he was one of the few people in the country to still have an AOL account. 
Vice President Mike Pence
“My wife said it was good for my image,” Pence said at the Gridiron Club dinner, a white-tie dinner of speeches, skits and songs put on by Washington's oldest journalism organization. “She said now America knows I’m not stuck in the ‘50s. I’m just stuck in the ‘90s.” 
Pence also read some of the comments made on Twitter after IndyStar broke the story Thursday that raised questions about the security and government transparency of the AOL account, which was hacked last summer.  
Among the social media slams: “Your grandma is hipper than Mike Pence.” Another said: “This is the most I’ve heard about American Online since I last saw the free disks on a counter at Blockbuster. #MakeAOLGreatAgain.” 
Pence was the headline speaker at the dinner, which takes a humorous look at the political scene.  He wore a black tie to the white-tie event, which he said he thought he could get away with until House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked him to refill her coffee.  
... 
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who represented the Republicans, said she’s impressed that Pence never needs a teleprompter. “Maybe that’s because every speech begins with, `Let me explain what the president meant to say,’” Ernst said. “And thank you for that. 
The Mike Pence I remember from law school was an outspoken, unapologetic conservative. But he also had an engaging personality and a wonderful sense of humor that won over even die-hard liberals at that school.  I am not sure where Pence's personality and sense of humor went during his four years as Governor (I blame his advisers who didn't know how to use Pence's greatest assets), but they appear to have returned as Vice President.  It is good that they did.  He will need those tools given the train wreck that the Trump presidency appears to be.

Pence's performance at the Gridiron shows how conservatives should handle the media.  No doubt most journalists have a liberal-bent and want to see conservative politicians fail.  But journalists also have many other things that influence their writing, even more so than political philosophy.  Pence appears to understand that and knows that winning them over as a "nice guy" goes a long way to developing more positive news coverage.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Met Twice With Russian Ambassador in 2016 While Member of Trump Campaign Team

In what appears to be a direct contradiction to his confirmation testimony, it is now being reported that Attorney Genera Jeff Sessions twice met with a Russian ambassador in 2016, while a member of the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reports:
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.   
When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
...
In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote. 
Sessions responded with one word:  "No."
It is difficult to conclude that Sessions' testimony was anything but untruthful.  To complicate matters, it appears Sessions' himself could be a focus of an investigation into Trump's Russian ties.   These developments will only increase the push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to probe the Trump campaigns' interaction with Russian officials leading up to the 2016 election.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Indiana's Government Ranks Best in the Nation

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Indiana's government is the best in the nation, according to a new U.S. News & World Report list of "Best States." 
The survey ranked the 50 states in seven key categories. Massachusetts' No. 2 ranking in health care and No. 1 ranking in education were key reasons why it's at the top of the list. Indiana ranked No. 22, just behind Delaware and Rhode Island. 
Indiana didn't do as well in health care (41) and education (27), but two areas where Hoosiers shone, according to the web-based media company, were in government (No. 1) and opportunity (No. 4). 
Indiana's excellent credit rating, low pension fund liability, budget transparency, use of digital technology and overall fiscal stability were key to its success in the government category. The opportunity category included areas such as economic opportunity, equality and affordability.
I've long had to listen to the nonsense from Hoosier critics that Indiana has the "worst legislature," a description often attributed to the late Nuvo editor Harrison Ullmann. As someone who worked at the Indiana General Assembly and taught about how state legislatures across the country operate, I have always known that what happens at our General Assembly is not unique to this state. The operational and substantive issues that arise in the Indiana General Assembly aren't any different from those dealt with by other state legislatures. Indiana's legislature and executive branches, for all their flaws, operate remarkably well when compared to other states. It is good to see the U.S. News and World Report set the record straight.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Trump Administration Vows to Crack Down on Pot, Enthusiastically Embraces Other Failed Criminal Justice Policies

The Hill reports:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.  
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.” 
It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.  
... 
Spicer telegraphed the administration won’t take a get-tough approach against medical marijuana, saying Trump believes in its ability to "comfort" people suffering from debilitating diseases.  
But he said he takes a different view of recreational marijuana, linking it to the abuse of opioid drugs in states across the U.S.  
There is little evidence showing a link between abuse of the two drugs. Some researchers believe medical marijuana could help reduce demand for opioid-based painkillers.  
Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty others have laws allowing medical marijuana. 
If revival of the failed War on Drugs (at least against marijuana) was not enough, Trump's administration appears ready to enthusiastically embrace other 1980s era criminal justice failures.  Trump has already signaled support for civil forfeiture, which has a well documented history of abuse.  His administration also appears ready to end the Obama-era moratorium on the feds renewing contracts for the use of private prisons, another enormous policy failure.  Is federal sentencing reform out the window as well?  Could be as Attorney General Jeff Sessions worked to block sentencing reform while in the U.S. Senate, despite widespread bipartisan support.
The sad thing was that pre-Trump the GOP was moving in the right direction on all these issues.  Reform though seems endangered by a "law and order" Republican President who seems oblivious to the failed history of the policies his administration supports.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Indianapolis Residents To Be Hit With Higher Taxes...Again

During the last administration, Republican Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard supported countless local and tax increases.  I stopped counting at 40 or so.  Many of them passed. Well it seems the Democrats taking over control over city government isn't slowing down local politicians desire to make working men and women pay higher taxes.  The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
Supporters of a proposal to raise income taxes to expand mass transit in Indianapolis have at least 11 of the 13 votes they need to implement the hike.
Only four city-county councilors have told IBJ or said publicly that they intend to vote no. Another four say they haven’t made up their minds. And six didn’t respond to IBJ’s request for comment.
Mark Fisher, vice president of government relations and policy development at Indy Chamber, which is pushing the tax increase, said he’s feeling confident it will pass. That
would enable the city’s transit system to buy more buses, hire more drivers, increase the frequency of pickups, and expand planned rapid-transit routes.
...
Councilors are considering a 0.25 percentage-point increase in the local income tax rate, which would cost a taxpayer with a $100,000 salary another $250 per year. The tax increase is projected to generate at least $54.4 million annually starting in 2018.
Already, Marion County voters have authorized the raise, but it won’t go into effect without approval from the City-County Council.
Interesting is the position of Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett. The IBJ article continues:
One person who hasn’t weighed in publicly is Mayor Joe Hogsett. The mayor does not have a vote in council matters, but he can veto its ordinances. 
Hogsett’s spokeswoman, Taylor Schaffer, wrote in an email to IBJ that the mayor won’t veto the tax increase if it passes but he also won’t take a position on the proposal. Instead, he “has made clear to council leadership that they should listen to the message sent by their constituents,” she said.
“Ultimately that decision is for the council, not him,” Schaffer said. “We’re going to allow the legislative process to play out.”
While Mayor Hogsett can, rightfully, be blamed for a lack of leadership on the issue, I'm not sure that's better than Republican Mayor Ballard who never saw a tax or fee increase that he wouldn't enthusiastically support.

The problem, of course, is the bipartisan pay-to-play nature of Indianapolis politics.  While taxes are often sold to the public as a way of improving public services, the extra tax money inevitably ends up in the pocket of government contractors and attorneys while the public service remains unimproved.  A perfect example is Indianapolis having two large local tax increases to hire new police officers...and both times ending up with fewer officers.

There should be little doubt that this large tax increase will do nothing more than, at best, marginally improving bus service in Indianapolis.  The underlying "build it and they will come" theory of increasing bus ridership has been shown to fail in other cities. Rather increased transit spending works when the money is going to meet demand for bus service, not to try to artificially create that demand. The bus system has not done well in Indianapolis because the city is one of the least dense major cities in the country and travel by automobile is easy.    That dynamic is not going to change with more transit spending.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Transcription of President Trump's "Unhinged" Press Conference

It was a press conference like none other.  President Trump, incoherent, unfocused, rambling, spouting "alternative facts" while airing a laundry list of grievances, particularly regarding the media spoke for 77 minutes, ostensibly to introduce his new nominee for Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta. Rather than end the rumor of "chaos" in the Trump administration, the President's unhinged performance did nothing but stoke it. Alarms were set off on Capitol Hill, even among Republicans, and in foreign capitols all over the world. Who is running the White House?  Is there someone in the President's inner circle who is willing to tell Trump the truth about what is going on? Is the Republicans' conservative agenda at risk due to a President who seems to perpetually live in an alternative reality?

Personally, I'm beginning to wonder more and more whether Trump might not just have obvious major character flaws, that he might be mentally ill.    Reading the transcript below, you have to wonder what is going on with the President:


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP HOLDS A NEWS CONFERENCE TO
ANNOUNCE HIS NEW NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF LABOR
FEBRUARY 16, 2017
SPEAKER: PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
    [*]
    TRUMP: Thank you very much.
    I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for secretary of the
    Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta. He has a law degree from Harvard Law School, was a great student; former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito. And he has had a tremendous career. He's a member and has been a member of the National Labor Relations Board, and has been through Senate confirmation three times, confirmed; did very, very well.
    And so Alex, I've wished him the best. We just spoke. And he's going to be -- I think he'll be a tremendous secretary of labor.
    And also as you probably heard just a little while ago, Mick Mulvaney, former congressman, has just been approved weeks late, I have to say that, weeks, weeks late, Office of Management and Budget. And he will be I think a fantastic addition.
    Paul Singer just left. As you know, Paul was very much involved with the anti-Trump or as they say, "never Trump." And Paul just left and he's given us his total support. And it's all about unification. We're unifying the party and hopefully we're going to be able to unify the country. It's very important to me. I've been talking about that for a long time. It's very, very important to me.
    So I want to thank Paul Singer for being here and for coming up to the office. He was a very strong opponent, and now he's a very strong ally. And I appreciate that.
    I think I'll say a few words, and then we'll take some questions. And I had this time. We've been negotiating a lot of different transactions to save money on contracts that were terrible, including airplane contracts that were out of control and late and terrible; just absolutely catastrophic in terms of what was happening. And we've done some really good work. We're very proud of that.
    And then right after that, you prepare yourselves, we'll do some questions, unless you have enough questions. That's always a possibility.
    I'm here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration. We have made incredible progress. I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done.
    A new Rasmussen poll, in fact -- because the people get it -- much of the media doesn't get it. They actually get it, but they don't write it. Let's put it that way. But a new Rasmussen poll just came out just a very short while ago, and it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up. The stock market has hit record numbers, as you know. And there has been a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world, which is -- to me means something much different than it used to. It used to mean, "Oh, that's good." Now it means, "That's good for jobs." Very different.
    Plants and factories are already starting to move back into the United States, and big league -- Ford, General Motors, so many of them. I'm making this presentation directly to the American people, with the media present, which is an honor to have you. This morning, because many of our nation's reporters and folks will not tell you the truth, and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect that they deserve. And I hope going forward we can be a little bit -- a little bit different, and maybe get along a little bit better, if that's possible. Maybe it's not, and that's OK, too.
    TRUMP: Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what's going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.
    I ran for president to present the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking -- and really talking on this very entrenched power structure, and what we're doing is we're talking about the power structure; we're talking about its entrenchment. As a result, the media is going through what they have to go through too often times distort - not all the time - and some of the media is fantastic, I have to say - they're honest and fantastic.
    But much of it is not a - the distortion -- and we'll talk about it, you'll be able to ask me questions about it. But we're not going to let it happen, because I'm here again, to take my message straight to the people. As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country; you see what's going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places, low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The middle east is a disaster. North Korea - we'll take care of it folks; we're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.
    Beginning on day one, our administration went to work to tackle these challenges. On foreign affairs, we've already begun enormously productive talks with many foreign leaders, much of it you've covered, to move forward towards stability, security and peace in the most troubled regions of the world, which there are many. We have had great conversations with the United Kingdom, and meetings. Israel, Mexico, Japan, China and Canada, really, really productive conversations. I would say far more productive than you would understand.
    We've even developed a new council with Canada to promote women's business leaders and entrepreneurs. It's very important to me, very important to my daughter Ivanka. I have directed our defense community headed by our great general, now Secretary Mattis. He's over there now working very hard to submit a plan for the defeat of ISIS, a group that celebrates the murder and torture of innocent people in large sections of the world. It used to be a small group, now it's in large sections of the world.
    They've spread like cancer. ISIS has spread like cancer - another mess I inherited. And we have imposed new sanctions on the nation of Iran, whose totally taken advantage of our previous administration, and they're the world's top sponsor of terrorism, and we're not going to stop until that problem is properly solved. And it's not properly solved now, it's one of the worst agreements I've ever seen drawn by anybody. I've ordered plan to begin building for the massive rebuilding of the United States military. Had great support from the Senate, I've had great from Congress, generally.
    We've pursued this rebuilding in the hopes that we will never have to use this military, and I will tell you that is my - I would be so happy if we never had to use it. But our country will never have had a military like the military we're about to build and rebuild. We have the greatest people on earth in our military, but they don't have the right equipment and their equipment is old. I used it; I talked about it at every stop. Depleted, it's depleted - it won't be depleted for long. And I think one of the reason I'm standing here instead of other people is that frankly, I talked about we have to have a strong military.
    We have to have a strong law enforcement also. So we do not go abroad in the search of war, we really are searching for peace, but its peace through strength. At home, we have begun the monumental task of returning the government back to the people on a scale not seen in many, many years. In each of these actions, I'm keeping my promises to the American people. These are campaign promises. Some people are so surprised that we're having strong borders.
    Well, that's what I've been talking about for a year and a half, strong borders. They're so surprised, oh, he having strong borders, well that's what I've been talking about to the press and to everybody else. One promise after another after years of politicians lying to you to get elected. They lied to the American people in order to get elected. Some of the things I'm doing probably aren't popular but they're necessary for security and for other reasons.
    And then coming to Washington and pursuing their own interests which is more important to many politicians. I'm here following through on what I pledged to do. That's all I'm doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. They said there's no way to get 222, 230's impossible.
    270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before so that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan. In other words, the media's trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made and they're not happy about it for whatever reason.
    And - but a lot of people are happy about it. In fact, I'll be in Melbourne, Florida five o'clock on Saturday and I heard - just heard that the crowds are massive that want to be there. I turn on the T.V., open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine- tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved.
    And they're outstanding people like Senator Dan Coats who's there, one of the most respected men of the Senate. He can't get approved. How do you not approve him? He's been a colleague - highly respected. Brilliant guy, great guy, everybody knows it. We're waiting for approval. So we have a wonderful group of people that's working very hard, that's being very much misrepresented about and we can't let that happen.
    So, if the Democrats who have - all you have to do is look at where they are right now. The only thing they can do is delay because they screwed things up royally, believe me. Let me list to you some of the things that we've done in just a short period of time. I just got here. And I got here with no cabinet. Again, each of these actions is a promise I made to the American people.
    I'll go over just some of them and we have a lot happening next week and in the weeks - in the weeks coming. We've withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as Trans Pacific Partnership. We're going to make trade deals but we're going to have one on one deals, bilateral. We're going to have one on one deals.
    We've directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and call for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure and that means plant, equipment, roads, bridges, factories. People take 10, 15, 20 years to get disapproved for a factory. They go in for a permit, it's many, many years. And then at the end of the process -- they spend 10s of millions of dollars on nonsense and at the end of the process, they get rejected.
    Now, they may be rejected with me but it's going to be a quick rejection. Not going to take years. But mostly it's going to be an acceptance. We want plants built and we want factories built and we want the jobs. We don't want the jobs going to other countries. We've imposed a hiring freeze on non-essential federal workers. We've imposed a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations.
    We've issued a game-changing new rule that says for each one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. Makes sense. Nobody's ever seen regulations like we have. You go to other countries and you look at indexes (ph) they have and you say "let me see your regulations" and they're fraction, just a tiny fraction of what we have. And I want regulations because I want safety, I want environmental - all environmental situations to be taken properly care of. It's very important to me. But you don't need four or five or six regulations to take care of the same thing.
    We've stood up for the men and women of law enforcement, directing federal agencies to ensure they are protected from crimes of violence. We've directed the creation of a task force for reducing violent crime in America, including the horrendous situation -- take a look at Chicago and others, taking place right now in our inner cities. Horrible.
    We've ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs. We're becoming a drug infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We are not going to let it happen any longer.
    We've undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation to keep our nation and our tax dollars safe. And are now in the process of beginning to build a promised wall on the southern border, met with general -- now Secretary Kelly yesterday and we're starting that process. And the wall is going to be a great wall and it's going to be a wall negotiated by me. The price is going to come down just like it has on everything else I've negotiated for the government. And we are going to have a wall that works, not gonna have a wall like they have now which is either non-existent or a joke.
    We've ordered a crackdown on sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal law and that harbor criminal aliens, and we have ordered an end to the policy of catch and release on the border. No more release. No matter who you are, release. We have begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety. We are saving American lives every single day.
    The court system has not made it easy for us. And are even creating a new office in Homeland Security dedicated to the forgotten American victims of illegal immigrant violence, which there are many. We have taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country. No parts are necessary and constitutional actions were blocked by judges, in my opinion, incorrect, and unsafe ruling. Our administration is working night and day to keep you safe, including reporters safe. And is vigorously defending this lawful order.
    I will not back down from defending our country. I got elected on defense of our country. I keep my campaign promises, and our citizens will be very happy when they see the result. They already are, I can tell you that. Extreme vetting will be put in place and it already is in place in many places.
    In fact, we had to go quicker than we thought because of the bad decision we received from a circuit that has been overturned at a record number. I have heard 80 percent, I find that hard to believe, that is just a number I heard, that they are overturned 80 percent of the time. I think that circuit is -- that circuit is in chaos and that circuit is frankly in turmoil. But we are appealing that, and we are going further.
    We're issuing a new executive action next week that will comprehensively protect our country. So we'll be going along the one path and hopefully winning that, at the same time we will be issuing a new and very comprehensive order to protect our people. That will be done sometime next week, toward the beginning or middle at the latest part. We have also taken steps to begin construction of the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipelines. Thousands and thousands of jobs, and put new buy American measures in place to require American steel for American pipelines. In other words, they build a pipeline in this country, and we use the powers of government to make that pipeline happen, we want them to use American steel. And they are willing to do that, but nobody ever asked before I came along. Even this order was drawn and they didn't say that.
    TRUMP: And I'm reading the order, I'm saying, why aren't we using American steel? And they said, that's a good idea, we put it in. To drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C., I've started by imposing a five-year lobbying ban on White House officials and a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government.
    We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It is's disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.
    So we've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare, and are deep in the midst of negotiations on a very historic tax reform to bring our jobs back, to bring our jobs back to this country. Big league. It's already happening. But big league.
    I've also worked to install a cabinet over the delays and obstruction of Senate Democrats. You've seen what they've done over the last long number of years. That will be one of the great cabinets ever assembled in American history.
    You look at Rex Tillerson. He's out there negotiating right now. General Mattis I mentioned before, General Kelly. We have great, great people. Mick is with us now. We have great people.
    Among their responsibilities will be ending the bleeding of jobs from our country and negotiating fair trade deals for our citizens.
    Now look, fair trade. Not free, fair. If a country is taking advantage of us, not going to let that happen anymore. Every country takes advantage of us almost. I may be able to find a couple that don't. But for the most part, that would be a very tough job for me to do.
    Jobs have already started to surge. Since my election, Ford announced it will abandon its plans to build a new factory in Mexico, and will instead invest $700 million in Michigan, creating many, many jobs.
    Fiat Chrysler announced it will invest $1 billion in Ohio and Michigan, creating 2,000 new American jobs. They were with me a week ago. You know you were here.
    General Motors likewise committed to invest billions of dollars in its American manufacturing operation, keeping many jobs here that were going to leave. And if I didn't get elected, believe me, they would have left. And these jobs and these things that I'm announcing would never have come here.
    Intel just announced that it will move ahead with a new plant in Arizona that probably was never going to move ahead with. And that will result in at least 10,000 American jobs.
    Walmart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives. There will be many, many more, many more, these are a few that we're naming.
    Other countries have been taking advantage of us for decades -- decades, and decades, and decades, folks. And we're not going to let that happen anymore. Not going to let it happen.
    And one more thing, I have kept my promise to the American people by nominating a justice of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is from my list of 20, and who will be a true defender of our laws and our Constitution, highly respected, should get the votes from the Democrats. You may not see that. But he'll get there one way or the other. But he should get there the old-fashioned way, and he should get those votes.
    This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country. Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time. And we have not even started the big work yet. That starts early next week.
    Some very big things are going to be announced next week. So we are just getting started. We will be giving a speech, as I said, in Melbourne, Florida, at 5:00 p.m. I hope to see you there.
    And with that, I just say, God bless America, and let's take some questions.
    Mara (ph), Mara (ph), go ahead. You were cut off pretty violently at our last news conference.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
    TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given.
    He didn't have to do that, because what he did wasn't wrong -- what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That's the real problem.
    And, you know, you can talk all you want about Russia, which was all a, you know, fake news, fabricated deal, to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and the press plays right into it. In fact, I saw a couple of the people that were supposedly involved with all of this -- that they know nothing about it; they weren't in Russia; they never made a phone call to Russia; they never received a phone call.
    It's all fake news. It's all fake news. The nice thing is, I see it starting to turn, where people are now looking at the illegal -- I think it's very important -- the illegal, giving out classified information. It was -- and let me just tell you, it was given out like so much.
    I'll give you an example. I called, as you know, Mexico. It was a very, very confidential, classified call. But I called Mexico. And in calling Mexico, I figured, oh, well that's -- I spoke to the president of Mexico; I had a good call. All of a sudden, it's out there for the world to see. It's supposed to be secret. It's supposed to be either confidential or classified, in that case.
    Same thing with Australia. All of a sudden, people are finding out exactly what took place. The same thing happened with respect to General Flynn. Everybody saw this. And I'm saying -- the first thing I thought of when I heard about it is: How does the press get this information that's classified? How do they do it?
    You know why? Because it's an illegal process and the press should be ashamed of themselves. But more importantly, the people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves, really ashamed.
    Yes, go ahead.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
    TRUMP: Because when I looked at the information, I said, "I don't think he did anything wrong; if anything, he did something right." He was coming into office. He looked at the information. He said, "Huh, that's fine." That's what they're supposed to do. They're supposed to -- he didn't just call Russia. He called and spoke to both ways, I think there were 30-some-odd countries. He's doing the job.
    You know, he was doing his job. The thing is, he didn't tell our vice president properly, and then he said he didn't remember. So either way, it wasn't very satisfactory to me. And I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position. And that also helps, I think, in the making of my decision.
    But he didn't tell the vice president of the United States the facts. And then he didn't remember. And that just wasn't acceptable to me.
    Yes?
    QUESTION: (inaudible) clarification here. During your campaign, did anyone from your team (inaudible) Russian government or Russian intelligence? And if so, what was the nature of those conversations (inaudible)? TRUMP: The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It was -- it's a joke. And the people mentioned in the story, I notice they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia. They weren't even a part, really -- I mean, they were such a minor part. They -- I hadn't spoken to them.
    I think the one person -- I don't think I've ever spoken to him. I don't think I've ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don't think I ever met him. Now, it's possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don't think I ever met him. I didn't talk to him ever. And he thought it was a joke.
    The other person said he never spoke to Russia; never received a call. Look at his phone records, et cetera, et cetera. And the other person, people knew that he represented various countries, but I don't think he represented Russia, but knew that he represented various countries. That's what he does. I mean, people know that.
    That's Mr. Manafort, who's -- by the way, who's by the way a respected man. He's a respected man. But I think he represented the Ukraine or Ukraine government or somebody, but everybody -- people knew that. Everybody knew that.
    So, these people -- and he said that he has absolutely nothing to do and never has with Russia. And he said that very forcefully. I saw his statement. He said it very forcefully. Most of the papers don't print it because that's not good for their stories.
    TRUMP: So the three people that they talked about all totally deny it. And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election.
    He then, called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all of the country. So that's the extent.
    Russia is fake news. Russia -- this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration because they're there, because we have our new people going in place, right now.
    As you know, Mike Pompeo has -- has now taken control of the CIA, James Comey at FBI, Dan Coats is waiting to be approved, I mean he is a senator and a highly respected one and he's still waiting to be approved. But our new people are going in.
    And just while you're at it, because you mentioned this, Wall Street Journal did a story today that was almost as disgraceful as the failing New York Time's story, yesterday. And it talked about -- these are (ph) front page.
    So director of national intelligence just put out, acting a statement, any suggestion that the United States intelligence community, this was just given to us, is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.
    So they took this front page story out of The Wall Street Journal top and they just wrote the story that its not true. And I'll tell you something, I'll be honest, because I sort of enjoy this back and forth that I guess I have all my life but I've never seen more dishonest media than frankly, the political media. I thought the financial media was much better, much more honest.
    But I will say that, I never get phone calls from the media. How did they write a story like that in The Wall Street Journal without asking me or how did they write a story in The New York Times, put it on front page?
    That was like the story they wrote about the women and me, front page, big massive story. And it was nasty and then they called, they said we never said that, we like Mr. Trump. They called up my office, we like Mr. Trump, we never said that.
    And it was totally -- they totally misrepresented those very wonderful women, I have to tell you, totally misrepresented. I said give us the retraction. They never gave us a retraction and frankly, I then went on to other things.
    OK, go ahead.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) said today that you have big intellectual margins (inaudible) 300 or more (ph), or 350 (ph) electoral (ph) votes. President Obama about 365 (OFF-MIKE).
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Yeah.
    QUESTION: Obama (OFF-MIKE) 426 on (OFF-MIKE). So why should Americans...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: ...I'm skipping that information, I don't know, I was just given (ph) we had a very, very big margin.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) why should Americans trust you (OFF-MIKE) the information (OFF-MIKE)?
    TRUMP: Well, I don't know, I was given that information. I was given -- I actually, I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that? OK thank you, that's...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Go ahead Sir, yes?
    QUESTION: Can you tell us in determining that Lieutenant General Flynn did -- whether there was no wrongdoing in your mind, what evidence was weighed? Did you ask for transcripts of these telephone intercepts with Russian officials, particularly the Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who he was communicating with?
    What-- what evidence did you weigh to determine that there was no wrongdoing? Further to that, Sir, you said on a couple of locations this morning, you are going to aggressively pursue the source of these leaks.
    TRUMP: We are.
    QUESTION: Can we ask what you're going to do and also, we've heard about a -- a review of the intelligence community headed up by Steven Feinberg, what can you tell us about that?
    TRUMP: Well, first of all about that, we now have Dan Coats, hopefully soon, Mike Pompeo and James Comey and they're in position so I hope that we'll be able to straighten that out without using anybody else.
    The gentleman you mentioned is a very talented man, very successful man and he's offered his services and you know, it's something we may take advantage of. But I don't think we're need that at all because of the fact that you know, I think that we are gonna be able to straighten it out very easily on its own.
    As far as the general's concerned, when I first heard about it, I said huh, that doesn't sound wrong. My counsel came, Don McGahn, White House Counsel, and he told me and I asked him, he can speak very well for himself. He said he doesn't think anything is wrong, you know, really didn't think.
    It was really, what happened after that but he didn't think anything was done wrong. I didn't either because I waited a period of time and I started to think about it, I said "well I don't see" -- to me, he was doing the job.
    The information was provided by -- who I don't know, Sally Yates. And I was a little surprised because I said "doesn't sound like he did anything wrong there." But he did something wrong with respect to the vice president and I thought that was not acceptable. As far as -- as far as the actual making the call, fact I've watched various programs and I've read various articles where he was just doing his job.
    That was very normal. You know, first everybody got excited because they thought he did something wrong. After they thought about it, it turned out he was just doing his job. So -- and I do. And by the way, with all of that being said, I do think he's a fine man.
    QUESTION: Sir, if I could, on the leaks -- on the leaks, sir...
    TRUMP: ...Go ahead. Finish off then I'll get you.
    QUESTION: I'm sorry. What will you do on the leaks? You've said twice today...
    TRUMP: ...Yes, we're looking at them very -- very, very serious. I've gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies and we're -- I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. They're put out by people either in agencies -- I think you'll see it stopping because now we have our people in. You know, again, we don't have our people in because we can't get them approved by the Senate.
    We just had Jeff Sessions approved. Injustice, as an example (ph). So, we are looking into that very seriously. It's a criminal act. You know what I say, when I -- when I was called out on Mexico, I was shocked because all this equipment, all this incredible phone equipment -- when I was called out on Mexico, I was -- honestly, I was really, really surprised.
    But I said "you know, it doesn't make sense. That won't happen" but that wasn't that important a call, it was fine, I could show it to the world and he could show it to the world, the president who's a very fine man, by the way. Same thing with Australia. I said "that's terrible that it was leaked" but it wasn't that important. But then I said to myself "what happens when I'm dealing with the problem of North Korea?"
    What happens when I'm dealing with the problems in the Middle East? Are you folks going to be reporting all of that very, very confidential information, very important, very -- you know, I mean at the highest level? Are you going to be reporting about that too? So, I don't want classified information getting out to the public and in a way that was almost a test.
    So I'm dealing with Mexico, I'm dealing with Argentina, we were dealing on this case with Mike Flynn. All this information gets put into the "Washington Post" and gets put into the "New York Times" and I'm saying "what's going to happen when I'm dealing on the Middle East? What's going to happen when I'm dealing with really, really important subjects like North Korea?
    We got to stop it. That's why it's a criminal penalty.
    QUESTION: I just want to get you to clarify this very important point. Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign? And on the leaks, is it fake news or are these real leaks?
    TRUMP: Well the leaks are real. You're the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake. So one thing that I felt it was very important to do -- and I hope we can correct it. Because there's nobody I have more respect for -- well, maybe a little bit but the reporters, good reporters.
    It's very important to me and especially in this position. It's very important. I don't mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true and, you know, over a course of time, I'll make mistakes and you'll write badly and I'm OK with that. But I'm not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.
    I don't watch it any more because it's very good -- he's saying no. It's OK, Jim (ph). It's OK, Jim (ph), you'll have your chance. But I watch others too. You're not the only one so don't feel badly. But I think it should be straight. I think it should be -- I think it would be frankly more interesting. I know how good everybody's ratings are right now but I think that actually -- I think that'd actually be better.
    People -- I mean, you have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that's right. I don't know, Peter (ph), is that one right? Because you know I think they have lower -- I heard lower than Congress. But honestly, the public would appreciate it, I'd appreciate it -- again, I don't mind bad stories when it's true but we have an administration where the Democrats are making it very difficult.
    TRUMP: I think we're setting a record or close to a record in the time of approval of a cabinet. I mean, the numbers are crazy. When I'm looking, some of them had them approved immediately.
    I'm going forever and I still have a lot of people that we're waiting for. And that's all they're doing, is delaying. And you look at Schumer and the mess that he's got over there and they have nothing going. The only thing they can do is delay. And, you know, I think that they'd be better served by, you know, approving and making sure that they're happy and everybody's good.
    And sometimes -- I mean, I know President Obama lost three or four, and you lose them on the way, and that's OK. That's fine. But I think it would -- I think they would be much better served, John, if they just went through the process quickly. This is pure delay tactics.
    And they say it, and everybody understands it. Yeah, go ahead, Jimmy.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
    TRUMP: Well, I had nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there, I have no anything. Now, when WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they're not giving classified information. They're giving stuff -- what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates.
    Which, by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates. Can you imagine -- seriously -- can you imagine if I received the questions? It would be the electric chair. OK, he should be put in the electric -- you would even call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, OK. Maybe not you John. Yes? We'll do you next Jim, I do you next(ph).
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) clarify --
    TRUMP: Yes, yes, sure
    QUESTION: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador --
    TRUMP: No, I didn't.
    QUESTION: -- prior to your -- TRUMP: No, I didn't.
    QUESTION: -- inauguration.
    TRUMP: No, I didn't.
    QUESTION: And then fired him --
    TRUMP: Excuse me.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
    TRUMP: No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So, it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it.
    I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him because that's his job. And it came out that way -- and in all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night say he was doing his job and I agreed with him. And since then, I've watched many other people say that.
    No, I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him if he didn't do it. OK? Jim?
    QUESTION: Thank you very much, and just for the record, we don't hate you. I don't hate you.
    TRUMP: OK.
    QUESTION: So, pass that along --
    TRUMP: Ask -- ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job. OK?
    QUESTION: If I may follow up on some of the questions that have taken place so far here, sir --
    TRUMP: Well, that's -- well, you know, we do have other people. You do have other people and your ratings aren't as good as some of the other people that are waiting.
    QUESTION: It's pretty good right now, actually.
    TRUMP: OK, go ahead, John.
    QUESTION: If I may ask, sir, you said earlier that WikiLeaks was revealing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the election cycle. You welcomed that. At one time --
    TRUMP: I was OK with it.
    QUESTION: -- you said -- you said that you loved WikiLeaks. At another campaign press conference you called on the Russians to find the missing 30,000 e-mails. I'm wondering, sir, if you -- TRUMP: Well, she was actually missing 33 and then that got extended with a pile after that.
    QUESTION: Then(ph), your(ph) numbers(ph) were off too.
    TRUMP: No -- no, but I did say 30. But it was actually higher than that.
    QUESTION: If -- if I may ask you, sir, it -- it sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes to leaking if that is something that you encouraged during(ph) the campaign --
    TRUMP: OK, fair question. Ready?
    QUESTION: Well, if I may ask you that --
    TRUMP: No -- no, but let me do one at a time.
    QUESTION: If I may as a follow up?
    TRUMP: Do you mind?
    QUESTION: Yes, sir.
    TRUMP: All right. So, in one case, you're talking about highly classified information. In the other case, you're talking about John Podesta saying bad things about the boss. I will say this, if John Podesta said that about me and he was working for me, I would have fired him so fast your head would have spun.
    He said terrible things about her. But it wasn't classified information. But in one case, you're talking about classified -- regardless, if you look at the RNC, we had a very strong -- at my suggestion -- and I give Reince great credit for this -- at my suggestion, because I know something about this world, I said I want a very strong defensive mechanism.
    I don't want to be hacked. And we did that. And you have seen that they tried to hack us and they failed. The DNC did not do that. And if they did it, they could not have been hacked. But they were hacked and terrible things came in. And, you know, the only thing that I do think is unfair is some of the things were so -- they were -- when I heard some of those things I picked up the papers the next morning and said, oh, this is going to be front page, it wasn't even in the papers.
    Again, if I had that happen to me, it would be the biggest story in the history of publishing or the head of newspapers. I would have been headline in every newspaper. I mean, think of it. They gave her the questions to a debate and she -- and she should have reported herself.
    Why did Hillary Clinton announce that, "I'm sorry, but I have been given the questions to a debate or a town hall, and I feel that it's inappropriate, and I want to turn in CNN for not doing a good job." QUESTION: And if I may follow up on that, just something that Jonathan Karl (ph) was asking you about. You said that the leaks are real, but the news is fake. I guess I don't understand. It seems that there's a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?
    TRUMP: The reporting is fake. Look, look...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: You know what it is? Here's the thing. The public isn't -- you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved. I've been involved with this stuff all my life. But I'm involved. So I know when you're telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things.
    And I'll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word "tone." The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such -- I do get good ratings, you have to admit that -- the tone is such hatred.
    I watched this morning a couple of the networks. And I have to say, Fox & Friends in the morning, they're very honorable people. They're very -- not because they're good, because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show. That's all I can say. It's the most honest.
    But the tone, Jim. If you look -- the hatred. The, I mean, sometimes -- sometimes somebody gets...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o'clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn't have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth; the hatred coming from other people on your network.
    Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I'm amazed by it. And I just think you'd be a lot better off, I honestly do. The public gets it, you know. Look, when I go to rallies, they turn around, they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN. You know.
    I -- I think you would do much better by being different. But you just take a look. Take a look at some of your shows in the morning and the evening. If a guest comes out and says something positive about me, it's -- it's brutal.
    Now, they'll take this news conference -- I'm actually having a very good time, OK? But they'll take this news conference -- don't forget, that's the way I won. Remember, I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was like every day. OK?
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: No, that's how I won. I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people listening to you people. That's for sure. But I'm having a good time.
    Tomorrow, they will say, "Donald Trump rants and raves at the press." I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people. But -- but I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it.
    But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, "Donald Trump rants and raves." I'm not ranting and raving.
    Go ahead.
    QUESTION: If I may, just one more followup...
    TRUMP: Should I let him have a little bit more? What do you think, Peter? Peter, should I have -- let him have a little bit more?
    Sit down. Sit down. We'll...
    (CROSSTALK)
    QUESTION: Just because of the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I just want to ask you, sir...
    TRUMP: I'm changing it from fake news, though.
    QUESTION: Doesn't that under...
    TRUMP: Very fake news.
    QUESTION: ... I know, but aren't you...
    (LAUGHTER)
    TRUMP: Go ahead.
    QUESTION: Real news, Mr. President, real news.
    TRUMP: And you're not related to our new...
    QUESTION: I am not related, sir. No. I do like the sound of Secretary Acosta, I must say.
    TRUMP: I looked -- you know, I looked at that name. I said, wait a minute, is there any relation there? Alex Acosta.
    QUESTION: I'm sure you checked that out, sir.
    TRUMP: OK. Now I checked it -- I said -- they said, "No, sir." I said, "Do me a favor, go back and check the family tree."
    QUESTION: But aren't you -- aren't you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, the press in this country, when you call stories you don't like "fake news"? Why not just say it's a story I don't like.
    TRUMP: I do that.
    QUESTION: When you call it "fake news," you're undermining confidence in our news media (inaudible) important.
    TRUMP: No, no. I do that. Here's the thing. OK. I understand what you're -- and you're right about that, except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. And sometimes I'll say, "Wow, that's going to be a great story." And I'll get killed.
    I know what's good and bad. I'd be a pretty good reporter, not as good as you. But I know what's good. I know what's bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive -- sometimes something that should be very positive, they'll make OK. They'll even make it negative.
    So I understand it. So, because I'm there. I know what was said. I know who's saying it. I'm there. So it's very important to me.
    Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it's so important to the public to get an honest press. The press -- the public doesn't believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don't know. But they don't believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right?
    Of course, he had some questions also. But if you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me. But if you go - as an example, you're CNN, I mean it's story after story after story is bad. I won. I won. And the other thing, chaos because zero chaos. We are running - this is a fine-tuned machine and Reince happens to be doing a good job but half of his job is putting out lies by the press (ph).
    You know, I said to him yesterday this whole Russia scam that you guys are building so that you don't talk about the real subject which is illegal leaks, but I watched him yesterday working so hard to try and get that story proper. And I'm saying "here's my chief of staff," a really good guy, did a phenomenal job at RNC. I mean, he won the election, right?
    We won the presidency. We got some senators, we got some - all over the country, you take a look, he's done a great job. And I said to myself, you know - and I said to somebody that was in the room, I said "you take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires." I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on healthcare, he'd rather be working on tax reform, Jim (ph).
    I mean that. I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right. I sort of understand there's a certain bias maybe by Jeff (ph) or somebody, you know - you know, whatever reason. But - and I understand that. But you've got to be at least a little bit fair and that's why the public sees it. They see it. They see it's not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred.
    And the public is smart, they understand it. Go ahead.
    QUESTION: (inaudible) ...for those who believe that there is something to it, is there anything that you have learned over the last few weeks that you might be able to reveal that might ease their concerns that this isn't fake news? And second...
    TRUMP: ...I think they don't believe it. I don't think the public - that's why the Rasmussen poll just has me through the roof. I don't think they believe it. Well, I guess one of the reasons I'm here today is to tell you the whole Russian thing, that's a ruse. That's a ruse. And by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia, just so you understand that.
    Now tomorrow, you'll say "Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible." It's not terrible. It's good. We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.
    Nobody talks about that. I didn't do anything for Russia. I've done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember? With the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks. Here, take a look. He looked at her like, what the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?
    Hillary Clinton - that was the reset, remember it said reset? Now if I do that, oh, I'm a bad guy. If we could get along with Russia, that's a positive thing. We have a very talented man, Rex Tillerson, who's going to be meeting with them shortly and I told him. I said "I know politically it's probably not good for me." The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles off shore right out of the water.
    Everyone in this country's going to say "oh, it's so great." That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you've had a lot of presidents that haven't taken that tack. Look where we are now. Look where we are now. So, if I can - now, I love to negotiate things, I do it really well, and all that stuff. But - but it's possible I won't be able to get along with Putin.
    Maybe it is. But I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said "you know." He's sitting behind his desk and he's saying "you know, I see what's going on in the United States, I follow it closely. It's going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he's got with this fake story." OK?
    And that's a shame because if we could get along with Russia - and by the way, China and Japan and everyone. If we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.
    QUESTION: Is tax reform on the line (ph)?
    QUESTION: Mr. President? Mr. President? Mr. President, since you...
    TRUMP: Tax reform is going to happen fairly quickly. We're doing Obamacare. We're in final stages. We should be submitting the initial plan in March, early March, I would say. And we have to, as you know, statutorily and for reasons of budget, we have to go first. It's not like, frankly, the tax would be easier, in my opinion, but for statutory reasons and for budgetary reasons, we have to submit the healthcare sooner.
    So we'll be submitting healthcare sometime in early March, mid- March. And after that, we're going to come up, and we're doing very well on tax reform.
    Yes?
    QUESTION: Mr. President, you mentioned Russia. Let's talk about some serious issues that have come up in the last week that you have had to deal with as president of the United States.
    TRUMP: OK.
    QUESTION: You mentioned the vessel -- the spy vessel off the coast of the United States.
    TRUMP: Not good.
    QUESTION: There was a ballistic missile test that many interpret as a violation of an agreement between the two countries; and a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer.
    TRUMP: Not good.
    QUESTION: I listened to you during the campaign ...
    TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. When did it happen? It happened when, if you were Putin right now, you would say, "Hey, we're back to the old games with the United States; there's no way Trump can ever do a deal with us." Because the -- you have to understand. If I was just brutal on Russia right now, just brutal, people would say, you would say, "Oh, isn't that wonderful." But I know you well enough.
    Then you would say, "Oh, he was too tough; he shouldn't have done that." Look, all of the...
    (CROSSTALK)
    QUESTION: I'm just trying to find out your orientation to those...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Wait a minute. Wait, wait. Excuse me just one second.
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: All of those things that you mentioned are very recent, because probably Putin assumes that he's not going to be able to make a deal with me because it's politically not popular for me to make a deal. So Hillary Clinton tries a re-set. It failed. They all tried. But I'm different than those people.
    Go ahead.
    QUESTION: How are you interpreting those moves? And what do you intend to do about them? Have you given Rex Tillerson any advice or counsel on how to deal?
    TRUMP: I have. I have. And I'm so beautifully represented. I'm so honored that the Senate approved him. He's going to be fantastic.
    Yes, I think that I've already...
    QUESTION: Is Putin testing you, do you believe, sir?
    TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I think Putin probably assumes that he can't make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal. I can't believe I'm saying I'm a politician, but I guess that's what I am now.
    Because, look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we're not going to make a deal.
    Now, I don't know that we're going to make a deal. I don't know. We might. We might not. But it would be much easier for me to be so tough -- the tougher I am on Russia, the better. But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.
    If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along -- and don't forget, we're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There's no up-side. We're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we're allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.
    They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.
    QUESTION: So when you say they're not good, do you mean that they are...
    TRUMP: Who did I say is not good?
    QUESTION: No, I read off the three things that have recently happened. Each one of them you said they're not good.
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: No, it's not good, but they happened.
    QUESTION: But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine...
    TRUMP: They all happened recently.
    No...
    (CROSSTALK)
    QUESTION: ... this country's ability to work with Russia?
    TRUMP: They all happened recently. And I understand what they're doing because they're doing the same thing.
    Now, again, maybe I'm not going to be able to do a deal with Russia, but at least I will have tried. And if I don't, does anybody really think that Hillary Clinton would be tougher on Russia than Donald Trump? Does anybody in this room really believe that? OK?
    But I tell you one thing, she tried to make a deal. She had the re-set. She gave all that valuable uranium away. She did other things. You know, they say I'm close to Russia. Hillary Clinton gave away 20 percent of the uranium in the United States. She's close to Russia.
    QUESTION: Can we...
    TRUMP: I gave -- you know what I gave to Russia? You know what I gave? Nothing.
    QUESTION: Can we conclude there will be no response to these particular provocations?
    TRUMP: I'm not going to tell you anything about what response I do. I don't talk about military response. I don't say I'm going into Mosul in four months. "We are going to attack Mosul in four months." Then three months later, "We are going to attack Mosul in one month." "Next week, we are going to attack Mosul."
    In the meantime, Mosul is very, very difficult. Do you know why? Because I don't talk about military, and I don't talk about certain other things, you're going to be surprised to hear that. And by the way, my whole campaign, I'd say that. So I don't have to tell you. I don't want to be one of these guys that say, "Yes, here's what we're going to do." I don't have to do that. I don't have to tell you what I'm going to do in North Korea.
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Wait a minute. I don't have to tell you what I'm going to do in North Korea. And I don't have to tell you what I'm going to do with Iran. You know why? Because they shouldn't know. And eventually, you guys are going to get tired of asking that question.
    TRUMP: So when you ask me what am I going to do with a ship, the Russian ship as an example, I'm not going to tell you. But hopefully, I won't have to do anything, but I'm not going to tell you.
    OK.
    QUESTION: Could I just ask you -- thank you very much, Mr. President. The trouble...
    TRUMP: Where are you from?
    QUESTION: BBC.
    TRUMP: Here's another beauty.
    QUESTION: That's a good line. Impartial, free and fair.
    TRUMP: Yeah. Sure.
    QUESTION: Mr. President...
    TRUMP: Just like CNN right?
    QUESTION: On the travel ban -- we could banter back and forth. On the travel ban would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government...
    TRUMP: Yeah, I do. I do. Let me tell you about this government...
    QUESTION: Were there any mistakes...
    TRUMP: Wait. Wait. I know who you are. Just wait.
    Let me tell you about the travel ban. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision. We had a court that's been overturned. Again, may be wrong. But I think it's 80 percent of the time, a lot.
    We had a bad decision. We're going to keep going with that decision. We're going to put in a new executive order next week some time. But we had a bad decision.
    That's the other thing that was wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports. You had some people that were put out there, brought by very nice busses, and they were put out at various locations.
    Despite that the only problem that we had is we had a bad court. We had a court that gave us what I consider to be, with great respect, a very bad decision. Very bad for the safety and security of our country. The rollout was perfect.
    Now, what I wanted to do was do the exact same executive order, but said one thing. I said this to my people. Give them a one-month period of time. But Gen. Kelly, now Sec. Kelly, said if you do that, all these people will come in and (inaudible) the bad ones.
    You do agree there are bad people out there, right? That not everybody that's like you. You have some bad people out there.
    Kelly said you can't do that. And he was right. As soon as he said it I said wow, never thought of it. I said how about one week? He said no good. You got to do it immediately because if you do it immediately they don't have time to come in.
    Now nobody ever reports that. But that's why we did it quickly.
    Now, if I would've done it a month, everything would've been perfect. The problem is we would've wasted a lot of time, and maybe a lot of lives because a lot of bad people would've come into our country.
    Now in the meantime, we're vetting very, very strongly. Very, very strongly. But we need help. And we need help by getting that executive order passed.
    QUESTION: Just a brief follow-up. But if it's so urgent, why not introduce...
    TRUMP: Yes? Go ahead.
    QUESTION: Thank you. I was just hoping that we could get a yes or no answer on one of these questions involving Russia. Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?
    TRUMP: Well I told you, Gen. Flynn obviously was dealing. So that's one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.
    QUESTION: During the election?
    TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody...
    QUESTION: So you're not aware of any contact during the course..
    TRUMP: Look, look, look...
    QUESTION: ... of the election?
    TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question?
    QUESTION: Can you just say yes or no? TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.
    I know you have to get up and ask a question. It's so important.
    Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't. I just have nobody to speak to.
    I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago.
    We had a very good talk, especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time. I'm sure you probably get it because it was classified. So I'm sure everybody in this room perhaps has it. But we had a very, very good talk.
    I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.
    Now, Manafort has totally denied it. He denied it. Now people knew that he was a consultant over in that part of the world for a while, but not for Russia. I think he represented Ukraine or people having to do with Ukraine, or people that -- whoever. But people knew that. Everybody knew that.
    QUESTION: But in his capacity as your campaign manager, was he in touch with Russian officials during the election?
    TRUMP: You know what? He said no. I could only tell you what he -- now he was replaced long before the election. You know that, right?
    He was replaced long before the election. When all of this stuff started coming out, it came out during the election. But Paul Manafort, who's a good man also by the way, Paul Manfort was replaced long before the election took place. He was only there for a short period of time.
    QUESTION: Mr. President...
    TRUMP: How much longer should we stay here, folks?
    QUESTION: Mr. President...
    TRUMP: Five more minutes. Is that OK? Five?
    QUESTION: Mr. President, on national...
    TRUMP: Wait. Let's see. Who's -- I want to find a friendly reporter.
    QUESTION: Mr....
    TRUMP: Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait. Wait. Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...
    TRUMP: Go ahead.
    QUESTION: So first of all, my name is (Inaudible) from (Inaudible) Magazine. I (inaudible). I haven't seen anybody in my community, including yourself or any of the -- anyone on your staff of being (OFF-MIKE).
    Because (OFF-MIKE). However, what we've already heard about and what we (OFF-MIKE) is (OFF-MIKE) so you're general forecast (ph) like 48 (OFF-MIKE). There are people who are everything (ph) happens through their packs (ph) is one of the (OFF-MIKE)...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP:...he said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not, its not, not -- not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.
    So here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican -- quiet, quiet, quiet.
    See, he lied about -- he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.
    I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu (ph) yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I've known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it.
    So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.
    QUESTION: Thank you, I'm Lisa (ph) from the...
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: See, it just shows you about the press, but that's the way the press is.
    QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Lisa Dejardown (ph) from the PBS News Hour. On national security and immigration, can you give us more details on the executive order you plan for next week? Even its broad outlines?
    TRUMP: Yeah.
    QUESTION: Will it be focused on specific...
    TRUMP: It's a very fair question.
    QUESTION: ...countries? And in addition, on the DACA program for immigration.
    TRUMP: Right.
    QUESTION: What is your plan, do you plan to continue that program or to end it?
    TRUMP: We're gonna show great heart, DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids.
    In many cases, not in all cases. And some of the cases, having DACA and they're gang members and they're drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way -- it's a very -- it's a very, very tough subject.
    We're gonna deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don't forget and I have to convince them that what I'm saying is -- is right. And I appreciate your understanding on that.
    But the DACA situation is a very, very -- it's a very difficult thing for me because you know, I love these kids, I love kids, I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and you know, the law is rough.
    I'm not talking about new laws, I'm talking the existing law, is very rough, it's very, very rough. As far as the new order, the new order is going to be very much tailored to the what I consider to be a very bad decision.
    But we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways, more. But we're tailoring it now to the decision, we have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it.
    And the new executive order, is being tailored to the decision we got down from the court. OK?
    QUESTION: Mr. President...
    (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ...reopening of the White House Visitors Office?
    TRUMP: Yes.
    QUESTION: And she does a lot of great work for the country as well (ph). Can you talk a little bit about what's first for (ph) Melania Trump does for the country and (inaudible) so opening White House Visitors Office, what does that mean...
    TRUMP: Now, that's what I call a nice question. That is very -- who are you with?
    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
    TRUMP: Good, I'm gonna start watching, all right? Thank you very much. Melania's terrific, she was here last night, we had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife who is by the way, lovely.
    And we had a really good discussion about Cuba because we have very similar views on Cuba. And Cuba was very good to me in the Florida election, as you know the Cuban Americans. And I think that Melania's gonna be outstanding, that's right, she just opened up the visitors center, in other words, touring of the White House.
    She, like others that she's working with, feel very, very strongly about women's issue, women's difficulties. Very, very strongly, she's a very, very strong advocate. I think she's a great representative for this country.
    And a funny thing happens, because she gets -- she gets so unfairly -- Melania, the things they say. I've known her for a long time, she was a very successful person, she was a very successful model. She did really well.
    She would go home at night and didn't even want to go out with people. She was a very private person. She was always the highest quality that you'll ever find. And the things they say -- I've known her for a long time -- the things they say are so unfair. And actually, she's been apologized to, as you know, by various media because they said things that were lies.
    I'll just tell you this. I think she's going to be a fantastic first lady. She's going to be a tremendous representative of women and of the people. And helping her and working her will be Ivanka, who is a fabulous person and a fabulous, fabulous woman. And they're not doing this for money.
    They're not doing this for pay, they're doing this because they feel it; both of them. And Melania goes back and forth and after Barron finishes school -- because it's hard to take a child out of school with a few months left -- she and Barron will be moving over to the White House. OK, thank you, that's a very nice question.
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Go ahead. QUESTION: Mr. Trump?
    TRUMP: Yes, oh, this is going to be a bad question, but that's OK.
    QUESTION: It doesn't(ph) have(ph) to be a bad question.
    TRUMP: Good, because I enjoy watching you on television. Go ahead.
    QUESTION: Well, thank you so much. Mr. President, I need to find out from you, you said something as it relates to inner cities. That was one of your platforms during your campaign. Now you're --
    TRUMP: Fix the inner cities.
    QUESTION: -- president. Fixing the inner cities.
    TRUMP: Yep.
    QUESTION: What will be that fix and your urban agenda as well as your HBCU Executive Order that's coming out this afternoon? See, it wasn't bad, was it?
    TRUMP: That was very professional and very good.
    QUESTION: I'm very professional.
    TRUMP: We'll be announcing the order in a little while and I'd rather let the order speak for itself. But it could be something that I think that will be very good for everybody concerned. But we'll talk to you about that after we do the announcement. As far as the inner cities, as you know, I was very strong on the inner cities during the campaign.
    I think it's probably what got me a much higher percentage of the African American vote than a lot of people thought I was going to get. We did, you know, much higher than people thought I was going to get. And I was honored by that, including the Hispanic vote, which was also much higher.
    And by the way, if I might add, including the women's vote, which was much higher than people thought I was going to get. So, we are going to be working very hard on the inner cities, having to do with education, having to do with crime. We're going to try and fix as quickly as possible -- you know, it takes a long time.
    It's taken more a hundred years and more for some of these places to evolve and they evolved, many of them, very badly. But we're going to be working very hard on health and healthcare, very, very hard on education, and also we're going to be working in a stringent way, in a very good way, on crime.
    You go to some of these inner city places and it's so sad when you look at the crime. You have people -- and I've seen this, and I've sort of witnessed it -- in fact, in two cases I have actually witnessed it. They lock themselves into apartments, petrified to even leave, in the middle of the day.
    They're living in hell. We can't let that happen. So, we're going to be very, very strong. That's a great question and -- and it's a -- it's a very difficult situation because it's been many, many years. It's been festering for many, many years. But we have places in this country that we have to fix.
    We have to help African American people that, for the most part, are stuck there. Hispanic American people. We have Hispanic American people that are in the inner cities and their living in hell. I mean, you look at the numbers in Chicago. There are two Chicagos, as you know.
    There's one Chicago that's incredible, luxurious and all -- and safe. There's another Chicago that's worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk, and that you talk about, every night on the newscasts. So, we're going to do a lot of work on the inner cities.
    I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities. OK?
    QUESTION: Well, when you say the inner cities, are you going -- are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your -- your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as --
    TRUMP: Am I going to include who?
    QUESTION: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional --
    TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?
    QUESTION: -- Hispanic Caucus --
    TRUMP: Do you want to set up the meeting?
    QUESTION: No -- no -- no. I'm not --
    TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?
    QUESTION: I'm just a reporter.
    TRUMP: Well, then(ph) set up the meeting.
    QUESTION: I know some of them, but I'm sure they're watching right now.
    TRUMP: Let's go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it's great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it's great. I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited. And then he said, well, I can't move, it might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting.
    I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.
    QUESTION: I hear he wanted that meeting with you as well.
    TRUMP: He wanted it, but we called, called, called and can't make a meeting with him. Every day I walk and say I would like to meet with him because I do want to solve the problem. But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight. He was probably told - he was probably told "don't meet with Trump. It's bad politics."
    And that's part of the problem in this country. OK, one more.
    QUESTION: (inaudible)
    TRUMP: No, no, one question. Two we can't handle. This room can't handle two. Go ahead, give me the better of your two.
    QUESTION: (inaudible) ...not about your personality or your beliefs, talking about (inaudible), some of it by supporters in your name. What do you...
    TRUMP: ...And some of it - can I be honest with you? And this has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up. Some of it written by our opponents. You do know that. Do you understand that? You don't think anybody would do a thing like that. Some of the signs you'll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they're put up by the other side and you think it's like playing it straight?
    No. But you have some of those signs and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They'll do signs and they'll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you. OK.
    (CROSSTALK)
    TRUMP: Go ahead, go ahead.
    QUESTION: You're the president now. What are you going to do about it?
    TRUMP: Who is that? Where is that?
    QUESTION: What are you going to do about - what are you going to do about (inaudible).
    TRUMP: Oh, I'm working on it. I'm working on it very - no, no, look. Hey, just so you understand, we had a totally divided country for eight years and long before that. In all fairness to President Obama, long before President Obama we have had a very divided - I didn't come along and divide this country. This country was seriously divided before I got here.
    We're going to work on it very hard. One of the questions I was asked, I thought it was a very good question was about the inner cities. I mean, that's part of it. But we're going to work on education, we're going to work on - you know, we're going to stop - we're going to try and stop the crime. We have great law enforcement officials, we're going to try and stop crime.
    We're not going to try and stop, we're going to stop crime. But it's very important to me - but this isn't Donald Trump that divided a nation. We went eight years with President Obama and we went many years before President Obama. We lived in a divided nation. And I am going to try - I will do everything within my power to fix that. I want to thank everybody very much.
    It's a great honor to be with you. Thank you. Thank you very much, thanks.