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John Bolton Accuses Trump of Catering to Dictators and Asking for Interference in 2020 Election

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  • Former National Security Adviser John Bolton made several major accusations in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened.”
  • Among some of his claims, Bolton said President Donald Trump asked China to interfere in the 2020 election and would do favors for authoritarian governments.
  • Bolton also confirmed that Trump asked Ukraine for investigation materials in exchange for military aid.
  • The Department of Justice has moved to block the book’s release, meanwhile, the President and other officials deny the book has any legitimacy.

The Room Where it Happened

A flurry of reports have come out over the last several days detailing major claims National Security Adviser John Bolton made in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened.”

The book was originally set to release on March 17 but was blocked pending a review by the National Security Council. It’s now set to come out June 23 and is supposed to be a tell-all of Bolton’s time as National Security adviser to President Donald Trump.

Media outlets have been given advance copies of the book to look over and based on their reports, the allegations within the book paint a picture of a president who was unsure for many policy decisions while granting favors to authoritarian leaders.

Accusations

Bolton claims that President Trump doe not really know some of the basics that those in a political leadership position are expected to know. For instance, he says Trump did not realize the UK was a nuclear power and asking if Finland is part of Russia.

He also accused of the president of releasing a letter in November of 2018 to distract from reports that his daughter used a personal email to conduct government business; the exact same conduct the president accused former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of doing. The letter in question defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman after he ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to Bolton, Trump said, “this will divert from Ivanka. If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”

The author also gave details revealing Trump was allegedly mocked by staff, including people seen as loyal to Trump. In one incident, during a 2018 meeting with Kim Jong-Un, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allegedly slipped Bolton a note that said “[The president] is so full of shit.”  A month later, Pompeo said that the president’s efforts with North Korea had “zero probability of success.”

Bolton says he only joined the administration because he felt that he could manage the President. He even goes so far as to call himself, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the “axis of adults” in the administration. Together, they allegedly tried to minimize the damage caused by the President.

Authoritarian Friendships

It’s also being reported that Bolton accuses Trump of being friendly to authoritarian leaders and making concerning, dictatorial-like comments. For example, Trump once allegedly said of journalists, “These people should be executed, they are scumbags.”

Bolton also claims that in 2019, when President Xi Jinping was explaining to Trump why China was building concentration camps for the country’s Uyghurs, Trump, “said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

Bolton added that Matt Pottinger, a National Security Council official, said Trump made a similar comment in 2017.

In another incident, Trump pressured Attorney General William Barr to prosecute former Secretary of State John Kerry for talking to Iran back in 2019. something Trump has publicly stated he felt was a violation of the 1799 Logan Act. Kerry has never faced charges, likely because what he did wasn’t out of the norm for a Secretary of State.

Regarding being friendly with dictators, the book states that the U.S. president would help out authoritarian leaders “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked… The patterns looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept.”

Such incidents include Trump allegedly trying to interfere with sanctions against the Chinese firm ZTE, as well as Turkey’s Halkbank. 

That bank is Turkey’s second largest state-owned bank and was being investigated by the Department of Justice for helping Iran evade sanctions. In May 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pleaded for Trump to help out Halkbank, claiming they were innocent.

Of this Bolton says, “Trump then told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”

This is backed up by a public statement Erdogan made to journalists at the time in which he said Trump had promised to instruct cabinet members to follow through on the matter.

Charges were eventually brought against the bank anyways, but they were seen as a response to the administrations abrupt departure from Syria and Trump’s approval of Turkey getting involved. The administration wanted to backtrack from that public image, so they cracked down on the bank after stalling for months.

Impeachment

When looking at what Bolton revealed, many raised questions about Trump’s Impeachment trial. At the time, Bolton wouldn’t testify before the House until a court case said whether former White House officials should testify despite objections from the President. He did agree to testify in front of the Senate, however, nearly every Senate Republican refused to hear his testimony.

Regarding the incident around the impeachment, an alleged quid-pro-quo, Bolton gave his first-hand accounts of the Ukraine deal and says that Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

He wrote that on Aug 20th, “I took Trump’s temperature on the Ukraine security assistance, and he said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” 

He added that he, Pompeo, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried eight to 10 times for Trump to release the aid.

In a blow to Democrats though, he was critical of the impeachment process. He said Democrats rushed the process and ran investigations that were too narrow, detailing issues like Trump allegedly pressuring Xi to buy American agricultural products to help him win farm states in the upcoming election.

He wrote, “[Trump] stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

During a G20 meeting in Osaka, Bolton adds that Xi allegedly told Trump unnamed figures in the U.S. were trying to start a Cold War with China. \

“Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton wrote.

Bolton said he reported these issues to Attorney General Bill Barr, who allegedly shared his concern. Bolton did not say these are necessarily impeachable offenses, but he does think they were likely abuses of power in some way.

“A president may not misuse the national government’s legitimate powers by defining his own personal interest as synonymous with the national interest, or by inventing pretexts to mask the pursuit of personal interest under the guise of national interest. Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump’s confusion of his personal interests [then] there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ had been perpetrated.”

In an ABC interview aired Wednesday, he told the outlet, “I don’t think he’s fit for office, I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job. There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern; other than, ‘what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection?’”

Reactions to Bolton’s Claims

The excerpts have caused major reactions across the political spectrum. Many online are calling Bolton a ‘coward’ for not testifying during the impeachment.

At the same time, others, like former Trump administration official Anthony Scaramucci tweeted out in defense of Bolton. He wrote that releasing this info closer to the election is more likely to yield results.

Current Trump administration members denied many of the accusations laid out. Kerri Kupec, the Department of Justice’s spokesperson, tweeted a statement on Tuesday disputing aspects of Mr. Bolton’s account.

“There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.”

“If this is truly what Mr. Bolton has written, then it seems he is attributing to Attorney General Barr his own current views — views with which Attorney General Barr does not agree.”

The President himself had many opinions about the matter. He went on Twitter and sent out a series of tweets admonishing his former National Security adviser, who he called a “Wacko.” He mainly called the book a “compilation of lies and made up stories” and said that Bolton was incompetent for comments he made about North Korea.

Currently, the Department of Justice is trying to block the book’s release. They filed an emergency restraining order saying, “To be clear: Defendant’s manuscripts still contain classified information, as confirmed by some of the Government’s most senior national-security and intelligence officials.”

Although Bolton’s publisher Simon & Schuster doesn’t seem to worried.

“Tonight’s filing by the government is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility. Hundred of thousands of copies of John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened have already been distributed around the country and the world,” it said in response.

So will the book actually get released? It’s unclear at this time, but it seems like a version might surface at some point if what Simon & Schuster said is true.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (Washington Post)

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U.S. Cracks Down on Flying With Emotional Support Animals

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  • The Department of Transportation announced new rules Wednesday that only allow dogs to be considered “service animals” for the purposes of flying on a plane.
  • This means airlines will soon no longer need to accommodate emotional support animals and can block them from getting free airfare as well as cabin space.
  • In the past, the department treated service animals and emotional support animals largely the same, despite there being a difference.
  • The rule change has been celebrated by airline groups and passengers who argue that emotional support animals are often used as a way to game the system and transport an animal for free.
  • However, critics of the rule said it would be better to more strictly regulate what qualifies as an emotional support animal and to require training that is more in-line with what service animals go through.

No More Peacocks on Planes

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced new rules on Wednesday that more clearly define what qualifies as a service animal, allowing airlines to turn away hundreds of thousands of animals classified as emotional support animals.

In the past, the Department of Transportation (DOT) treated service animals and emotional support animals largely the same, despite there being a difference. Service animals are trained to help someone with a disability; with certain types of animals being defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Emotional support animals are prescribed by a mental health professional and have no training requirements.

For U.S. airlines, there will now be a fundamental difference. According to the DOT’s new rules, airlines will only be required to allow “a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

This means no more turkeys, cats, peacocks, parrots, squirrels, or any other animal being allowed, free-of-charge and outside a secure carrier in the cabin of the plane.

Rule Has Long Been in the Works

This new rule wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. For years airlines have asked the DOT to regulate the issue out of concern that people were passing off their pets as emotional support animals. With the lack of regulation about what an ’emotional support animal’ actually is, there was little recourse for airlines.

Rules around emotional support animals have proven to be much more relaxed. In fact, there are mental health companies that will give such a classification online without ever physically seeing the patient or the animal. On top of people trying to get their pets onto flights for free, according to the DOT, airlines were fed up with “requests to transport unusual species of animals onboard aircraft.”

These animals often lacked specific training to be transported in planes, in a cramped space, and surrounded by people for hours on end, leading to animals misbehaving on planes.

According to American Airlines, between 2016 and 2017, the number of emotional support animals being brought on planes went from 481,000 to over 750,000.

The new rule isn’t a blank check for service animal owners.

Under the new rule, airlines are allowed to block certain service dogs from being on a plane if they’re obnoxious to passengers – a rare occurrence considering how well-trained the dogs are.

Additionally, they can ask that owners fill out a new form “attesting to the animal’s training and good behavior, and certifying the animal’s good health.”

Another stand-out in the new ruling was the decision to exclude other highly trained service animals. The DOT considered expanding the rules to allow more than just dogs to be qualified as service animals, which are by far the most common type of service animal.

However, The American With Disabilities Act (ADA) also includes miniature horses as service animals. Those horses can often be smaller than some of the largest breed of dogs. Still, there’s nothing in the ADA that conflicts with the DOT’s decision, as it allows for some restrictions to be placed on miniature horses.

While the ADA only recognizes dogs and miniature horses, there are other intelligent animals that have been used as service animals, such as Capuchin monkeys. These monkeys are increasingly used as service animals because of their dexterity for people with mobility impairments.

Airlines and Services Speak Out

Airlines for America, a trade group for U.S. airlines, was happy with the new rule.

“The Department of Transportation’s final rule will protect the traveling public and airline crewmembers from untrained animals in the cabin, as well as improve air travel accessibility for passengers with disabilities that travel with trained service dogs,” it said in a statement.

American Airlines made a similar statement, with a spokesperson telling outlets: “This new rule reflects a respect for individuals with disabilities who travel with legitimate service animals, which we share while providing clear and practical guidelines that will eliminate the abuse of the system that has been a source of concern for our team members and customers.”

CertaPet, a company that will screen animals and provides letters saying they are emotional support, said in a statement that the rule is “a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal.” 

The company thinks a better approach would have been to more strictly regulate what qualifies as an emotional support animal and to require training more in-line with what service animals go through.

We understand that there have been incidents that have discredited emotional support animals and the service they provide, but those situations could be prevented by increased regulation,” CertaPet added.

“We think emotional support peacocks are ridiculous too.”

The new rules aren’t in place quite yet. They’re set to go into effect 30 days after they enter the Federal Registrar, which still hasn’t happened. Additionally, this ruling doesn’t preclude airlines from freely allowing emotional support animals on their flights.

It’s recommended to check with your airline before expecting your emotional support animal will get free airfare.

See What Others Are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (BBC)

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Former Presidents Pledge To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Publicly To Prove It’s Safe

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  • Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have pledged to take a coronavirus vaccine once it is made available to the general public.
  • Their promise comes as a vaccine is on the horizon, but many are unwilling to take it. According to a Gallop poll, 42% of Americans do not want to take the vaccine, with many feeling uneasy about how quickly it has been developed and others wanting to wait and see how safe it is.
  • The three former presidents hope their willingness to take it will boost public trust in the vaccine. Facebook is also engaging in efforts to promote that trust by removing posts with misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.
  • The timing for a vaccine could not be any more crucial. On Wednesday the U.S. broke two devastating records, reporting over 2,800 deaths in a day and 100,000 hospitalizations.

Presidents Pledge To Take Vaccine

The three most recent former U.S. presidents have pledged to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to the general public. 

During an interview Barack Obama did on the Joe Madison Show that was published Wednesday, the 44th president said that as long as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases thinks it’s safe, so does he. 

“I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it,” he added. “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science.” 

Representatives for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton told CNN that both would be willing to participate in any effort to encourage people to vaccinate themselves against the deadly coronavirus, which has sickened 14 million Americans and killed over 274,000.

“A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated,” Bush’s Chief of Staff Freddy Ford told CNN. “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”

Angel Urena, Clinton’s press secretary, said that he will “definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials. And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”

Americans Skeptical of Vaccine

This comes as a vaccine for COVID-19 is on the horizon. Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted their vaccines for FDA approval and expect to get the go-ahead in just a few weeks. Healthcare workers and vulnerable populations could get shots this month, but many Americans are unwilling to get this vaccine. 

A mid-November Gallup poll asked participants: “If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus/COVID-19 was available right now at no cost, would you agree to be vaccinated?”

In response, 58% said they would, and 42% said they would not. This shows slightly more interest in the vaccine now than in the fall, when Americans were at a 50/50 split on the subject. However, it shows less enthusiasm than in the summer, when 66% of people said they would get the vaccine and only 36% said they would not. 

As far as why so many people would turn down the vaccine, 37% of those who said ‘no’ claimed they felt the vaccine timeline and development was rushed. Another 26% said they wanted to wait to confirm it was safe, while 10% said they wanted to wait to see how effective it is. Many of these people could likely come around and choose to take the vaccine later on. Still, 12% of those who responded ‘no’ said that they do not trust vaccines in general.

Combatting Vaccine Hesitancy

Health officials are working hard on messaging that aims to limit vaccine hesitancy. During a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Dr. Fauci criticized the fast pace in which the U.K. approved Pfizer’s vaccine, claiming that a turnaround that fast will lead to people questioning whether or not they should take it. 

“If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated,” he explained. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA. The U.K. did not do it as carefully and they got a couple of days ahead, I don’t think that makes much difference.” 

Social media companies like Facebook are also working on vaccine messaging. On Thursday, the company put out a blog post promising to remove COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. This could involve taking down conspiracy theories and false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines.

The need for a coronavirus vaccine has never been greater. On Wednesday, for the first time since the pandemic began, hospitalizations for COVID-19 topped 100,000, which is a 26% jump from two weeks ago. The U.S. also reported over 2,800 deaths, another pandemic record. Some experts believe the country is on track to regularly surpass 2,000 or 3,000 deaths a day, and even approach 4,000.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (Axios)

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COVID-19 May Have Been in the U.S. December 2019, New Study Shows

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  • A new government report found that the coronavirus may have been in the United States in December 2019, weeks before the first confirmed case.
  • For the study, the CDC looked at over 7,000 blood samples taken in nine states between December 13, 2019 and January 12, 2020.
  • Researches found COVID-19 antibodies in 106 of those samples, with at least one sample per state having antibodies.
  • These findings are in line with several other studies in the U.S. and well other countries which have found that the coronavirus was likely spreading globally before health officials were aware of it.

Report Shows Potential U.S. Cases in December

COVID-19 may have made its way to the United States in December of 2019, weeks earlier than previously thought, according to a new government study. 

That study was published Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. The first coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan, China at the end of December. The first case in the United States was not reported until mid-January, but health experts have long wondered if the disease had been spreading sooner than that. 

For the study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross between December 13, 2019 and January 17, 2020 from donors across nine states.  Of those samples, antibodies showed up in 106. Antibodies came up from people in each state, with 39 coming from California, Oregon and Washington and the other 67 coming from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Connecticut or Rhode Island.

Further testing was done on a majority of these samples to confirm that these antibodies were related to this specific outbreak and not part of other common coronaviruses. The data showed that they “were obviously from SARSCoV-2 infected individuals.”

“The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the authors wrote. 

The study provides major context about the virus and the way it may have been spreading, completely unknown to public health officials for quite some time. The authors of the study believe this information will kelp experts better understand the pandemic, how it started, and how it can be mitigated. 

“Understanding the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic from early introduction throughout further progression will advance understanding of the epidemiology of this novel virus and inform allocation of resources and public health prevention interventions to mitigate morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19,” the report said.

While the study provides incredible insight into the start of the coronavirus, the authors did also note there are limitations to what can be learned from it. For example, the data in the study should not be used to measure the magnitude of infections on a state or national level. It also cannot determine if these people came into contact with the virus from traveling, community spread, or another means of transmission. Though, a previous study of blood donors indicated that only around 3% had traveled outside of the U.S. in the 28 days prior to their donation.

Other Studies Suggest Earlier Spread

This is not the first study to suggest that COVID-19 was spreading this widely so soon. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist explained on Twitter that this news matches up with a wastewater analysis, which found that the virus was potentially in Europe, specifically in Northern Italy, in mid-December. It also matches early indicator data that found excess flu illnesses in the province Wuhan is in during early December. 

Additionally, a separate report published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal last week found that the United States may have had significantly more COVID-19 cases than recorded. Since so many cases go unreported and undetected because many have no or mild symptoms, the study aimed to find the true number of cases the country may have seen at this point. 

“To estimate the cumulative incidence SARS-CoV-2 infections, symptomatic illnesses, and hospitalizations, we adapted a simple probabilistic multiplier model,” the study explained. “Laboratory-confirmed case counts that were reported nationally were adjusted for sources of under-detection based on testing practices in inpatient and outpatient settings and assay sensitivity.”

The authors found that only one out of every 2.5 hospitalized infections and one out of every seven non-hospitalized illnesses may have been nationally reported. This means that between February 27 and September 30, there may have been 52.9 million total infections in the U.S.

These cases, however, are unconfirmed and based on the model created. Currently, the U.S. has seen 13.6 million confirmed cases and lost 268,626 lives to the coronavirus.

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (NPR) (Bloomberg)

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