Trump Sides With ISIS Supporters in Middle East Sectarian War

Dan Wright

In a speech that contradicted numerous public statements, President Donald Trump praised the rulers of Saudi Arabia and other gulf state autocracies for fighting Islamic terrorism in his first foreign trip as president. Despite irrefutable evidence (that he himself previously referenced) that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the primary source of support for Sunni jihadist terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, Trump celebrated the Saudi government’s commitment to combating Islamic extremism.

Beyond support for terrorism, Trump had slammed Saudi Arabia in the past for wanting to “enslave women and kill gays.” But, in another reversal, Trump characterized the country as a wonderful place to live, saying, “I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your people, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this sacred place.”

While some of the complete rhetorical flip-flops could arguably be attributed to diplomatic niceties, the actual substance of President Trump’s speech addressing the Islamic world was both absurd and dangerous.

Trump not only praised one of Al Qaeda and ISIS’ chief backers as a leader in the fight against Islamic extremism, he essentially blamed Iran and Shiite Islam for the instability in the Middle East. He even praised the government of Bahrain whose Sunni minority government has been engaging in a brutal crackdown of the Shiite majority post-Arab Spring.

His condemnation of Iran as an authoritarian regime was particularly hollow, given the audience was made up of autocrats working to suppress domestic democratic movements and Iran had successfully conducted an election two days earlier. While it was by no means an open or substantially fair process, the Iranian people did get to offer a limited voice in deciding their future—an influence not granted in the slightest by the other governments represented in the room, especially the Saudis who rule under literal feudalism.

Putting aside the hypocrisy of the moral claims, President Trump blew a major opportunity to address one of the leading causes of Sunni jihadist extremism today: the export of Wahhabist/Salafist ideology by the Saudis to the rest of the world. That poison helped inspire both Al Qaeda and ISIS as well as the wealthy gulf state officials who fund them.

Rather than confront the roots of the terrorism that has savaged the U.S. and Europe, Trump praised its benefactors and took a side in a sectarian war that continues to rip apart the Middle East. The position is fundamentally counterproductive if your primary concern is American security.

The strategy is not good for America, but it is good for Saudi Arabia and Israel. Trump’s first foreign trip included a visit to Israel and the Vatican as well as Saudi Arabia. According to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, he spoke with Trump about his proposal for a “right wing peace” across the region, which relies on the Sunni gulf states allying with Israel against Shiite Iran and its allies, such as the government of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

President Trump ran on getting the United States out of the Middle East and away from stupid wars. But his actions and rhetoric so far as president indicate he is ready to double-down on dumb.

Wolf signs Real ID law, expects new licenses in 2019

Michael Bryant
Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG – Gov. Wolf on Friday signed legislation that brings Pennsylvania into compliance with the 2005 Real ID law enacted following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

That law requires driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and to be issued to people who prove they are legally in the United States. That means Pennsylvania drivers or ID card holders will eventually have to obtain the more secure certificates to board commercial airliners or enter certain federal facilities.

Wolf signed the Pennsylvania Real ID Compliance Act at a ceremony at Harrisburg International Airport. The law, which takes effect in 90 days, allows PennDot to create an optional driver’s license or state ID that will match the Real ID requirements to access airports, military bases, federal courthouses and other facilities in 2018 and beyond.

The legislation, however, doesn’t require residents to obtain a driver’s license or ID that meets federal Real ID standards. People without Real ID will still be able to use a passport to board commercial airliners or enter certain federal facilities.

Wolf’s office said Pennsylvania Real ID should be available in early 2019. In the meantime, existing state IDs or passports will work at airports and federal facilities.

PennDot does not have a cost estimate, but making the current driver’s license compliant will require a mark, or symbol, on the license as well as upgrades to back-office operations and systems, said PennDot spokesman Rich Fitzpatrick. The law also requires drivers to present documentation, such as a birth certificate and Social Security card, the first time they get an ID-compliant license.

The federal Real ID Act stemmed from a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission to help curb the use of fake identification by terrorists by setting minimum standards all states should follow when issuing ID cards such as driver’s licenses. Among the things the act required that licenses and IDs have are: full legal name; features that prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication; and an RFID chip or machine readable technology that can be used to pull up biographical or biometric data.

Before Friday, Pennsylvania was the largest state that has not complied with the law, passed by Congress after the 2001 terror attacks.

Trump’s Speech to the Muslim World

Trump ‘evolving’ on climate action, pressured by Europeans

FOX News

Forceful face-to-face talks this week with fellow world leaders left President Donald Trump “more knowledgeable” and with “evolving” views about the global climate accord he’s threatened to abandon, a top White House official said Friday. Trump also was impressed by their arguments about how crucial U.S. leadership is in supporting international efforts.

The president’s new apparent openness to staying in the landmark Paris climate pact came amid a determined pressure campaign by European leaders. During Friday’s gathering of the Group of 7 wealthy democracies — as well as at earlier stops on Trump’s first international trip — leaders have implored him to stick with the 2015 accord aimed at reducing carbon emissions and slowing potentially disastrous global warming.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G-7 leaders “put forward very many arguments” for the U.S. sticking with the agreement. And by Friday evening, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said Trump’s views were indeed “evolving.”

“He feels much more knowledgeable on the topic today,” Cohn said. “He came here to learn, he came here to get smarter.”

While those comments were remarkable given Trump’s fierce criticism of the Paris deal as a candidate, they were also in keeping with his emerging pattern as president. A novice in international affairs, Trump has been surprisingly candid about the impact his conversations with world leaders have had in shaping his views on numerous issues.

He backed away from his tough campaign talk about trade with China after a summit with President Xi Jinping. And he abandoned his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record following his warm welcome in the desert kingdom this week.

On Friday, G-7 leaders appeared to take a page out of the playbook other countries have followed, emphasizing America’s unrivaled influence on the world stage. Cohn told reporters that Trump was struck by “how important it is for the United States to show leadership” and how even in massive international agreements, there’s “a big gap when you take the biggest economy out.”

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster quickly jumped in to assert that Trump would make his decisions based “on what’s best for the American people,” hewing to the “America First” policy that energized the president’s supporters during last year’s election campaign.

Nearly 200 countries are part of the Paris accord, and each sets its own emissions targets, which are not legally binding. The U.S. has pledged to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons of annual emissions.

The Trump administration has argued that the U.S. standards are tougher than those set by China, India and others, and therefore have put American businesses at a disadvantage.

After more than a week abroad, Trump will close his international trip Saturday with additional G-7 meetings and an address to U.S. troops at a nearby air base. Unlike many of the leaders, he does not plan a news conference, meaning he’ll end his trip without a formal question-and-answer session with journalists that could have included queries about the investigation back home into contacts between Russia and his election campaign.

The G-7 marked Trump’s final stop on a grueling nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe. While the president was warmly received in Saudi Arabia and Israel, his reception in Europe was been more tepid given his campaign criticisms of NATO and the European Union, the continent’s most powerful institutions.

In Brussels on Thursday, Trump excoriated fellow NATO leaders whose countries don’t meet the military alliance’s financial goals. The president also raised eyebrows with his comment in a private meeting that Germans are “bad” for having a large trade surplus with the U.S.

The gap between Trump and other G-7 leaders on climate underscored his isolation from Europe on some major issues. The other G-7 nations — Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan — were weighing whether to issue a statement at the close of the summit reiterating their support for the Paris accord, even if the United States was not included.

The White House’s slow decision-making on the issue led to the European leaders’ persuasion campaign. Multiple White House meetings on the matter were delayed in recent weeks, and Trump advisers ultimately said he would not make a decision until after he returns to Washington this weekend.

In fact, discussions over the climate deal have sown divisions within the White House, splitting the nationalists and the globalists — including Cohn — who are competing for influence within Trump’s administration. One potential compromise that’s emerged involves staying in the climate accord but adjusting the U.S. emissions targets.

Even before arriving in the picturesque Sicilian coastal town of Taormina for the G-7 summit, Trump was facing pressure on Paris during his trip.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with him at length about the climate deal during a meeting Thursday in Brussels. The Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, made his own pro-Paris pitch to Trump and his advisers.

Pope Francis, who has framed climate change as an urgent moral crisis and blamed global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor, also appeared to be sending a message to Trump during their meeting. Among the three documents the pope presented as a gift was his 2015 encyclical on the need to protect the environment.

Five Things That Happened During Oklahoma’s 2017 Legislative Session

Jacob Mccleland & Nomin Ujiyediin

Oklahoma’s legislative session came to a close on Friday, as lawmakers passed a nearly $7 billion budget.

Republicans, who hold a large majority in both the House and Senate, needed Democratic support to pass revenue-raising measures, but negotiations crumbled over the weekend. To fill a $878 million budget gap, lawmakers needed to pass several measures that could still be challenged in court.

Below are five big takeaways that happened during the session.

The budget passed and filled a $878 million shortfall

Oklahoma faced a budget shortfall for the third consecutive year, a result of the energy downturn and income tax cuts, among other causes.

Lawmakers passed a budget on the final day of the session and found ways to raise new revenue and avoid large cuts to most state agencies.

Speaking on the House floor, budget chairwoman Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, closed debate by celebrating the accomplishment.

“One billion–with a ‘B’–dollar hole, we fixed it. There’s no perfect anything, but it’s as good as it’s going to get and it kept our core services harmless,” Osborn said.

In order to fill the budget hole, legislators need to pass several pieces of legislation to bring in more money. During the final days and hours of the session, they approved a measures to impose a $1.50 fee per pack of cigarettes, increase the gross production tax on oil and gas production and increase the motor vehicle sales tax.

However,  the measures may wind up in court. Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment in the 1990s that requires a three-quarters vote threshold for revenue-raising bills. Additionally, they were approved during the final five  days of the session, when bills that raise revenue are prohibited.

Even though Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of the legislature, a large group of them vowed to not approve any tax increases. Therefore, House leader Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate president pro tem Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, needed votes from Democrats to pass bills that would generate additional revenue. When negotiations with Democrats broke down over a rare weekend session, Republicans produced a plan to raise revenue through simple majority votes (see below).

Most state agencies will receive flat budgets or cuts between 4 and 5 percent of appropriations. Kathryn McNutt writes in The Oklahoman that even though a summary sheet of appropriations listed the State Regents for Higher Education to receive a cut of 4.5 percent, it will actually be closer to 6.1 percent, according to vice chancellor for budget and finance Amanda Palliotta.

“Our debt service obligations for the upcoming year total about $62.6 million,” Paliotta said in a report to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

“We had been told the GA (general appropriations) bill in this amount had shielded the $62 million from cuts and that we would not have to absorb any additional cuts internally to make the payments. That is not the case.”

That means each of the 25 public colleges and universities and all the agency’s operations and programs will be cut 6.1 percent, she said.

As in previous years, the budget was released in the final days of the legislative session and prompted complaints about transparency. This year’s budget drew similar complaints. He was released to the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget on a Tuesday night, just before midnight, without a summary sheet.

Cigarettes will cost more

In the last week of the session, lawmakers approved a $1.50 cessation fee per pack of cigarettes.

Republican leaders chose to refer to the increase as a “fee” instead of a “tax” because they need three-quarters approval for revenue-raising measures. Democratic House minority leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, offered to deliver his caucus’s 26 votes in the House for a cigarette tax increase if Republicans would increase the gross production tax on oil and gas to 5 percent. When Republicans wouldn’t meet Inman’s requests, Democrats vowed not to support the cigarette tax.

But Republicans did have enough votes to secure a simple majority. They changed it from a “tax” to a cessation “fee,” and it is estimated to bring in about $258 million.

Questions remain about its constitutionality as a revenue-raising measure that did not pass with three-quarters of the vote. Furthermore, it passed during the final five days of the session, when revenue-raising measures are prohibited.

Republicans say the bill is designed to improve health outcomes. Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City,  argued the bill will reduce the state’s smoking rate by deterring smoking and encouraging tobacco users to quit.

“Is the court going to uphold it? I think there’s a solid argument to make there’s enough policy in here that the intent of this bill is to stop people from smoking, to save lives,” Treat said on the Senate floor.

Senate minority leader Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, argued the bill could produce a “financial trainwreck” if courts rule against it because agencies will depend on the funding.

“When this fails in the courts, we will be in trouble. And some might say it might not fail. Well, I’m not sure that this is what we want to roll the dice on,” Sparks said.

Gross production tax increase

Republicans passed a measure that will increase the gross production tax on oil and gas for certain wells. About 5,700 wells are currently taxed at a discounted rate of 1 percent instead of the standard rate of 7 percent for the first 48 months the wells are in production. The measure will increase the rate to 4 percent. It will generate nearly $95 million. $74 million will go into general revenue.

Republicans were able to pass the bill with a simple majority instead of the three-quarters vote necessary for most revenue-raising measures. StateImpact’s Joe Wertz writes:

By using this tactic, Republican lawmakers say gross production legislation isn’t “revenue-raising,” which means it can be approved with a simple majority rather than the three-quarters supermajority constitutionally required of measures that raise taxes. Hardline Republicans have opposed many revenue-raising efforts, which means supermajority approval is impossible without Democratic votes, but negotiations between the parties stalled on this and other measures.

Democrats were holding out for a larger increase. They hoped for a 5 percent tax on all new wells during the first 36 months of production. House minority leader Rep. Scott Inman refused to release his party’s 26 votes in support of the cigarette tax increase without the 5 percent rate. Negotiations broke down, and Republican leaders had to pass the cigarette fee and the gross production tax increase with a simple majority.

The cigarette fee, gross production tax increase, and an increase in the state motor vehicle sales tax are open to questions about their constitutionality because they did not receive a three-quarters vote. They could also come under constitutional scrutiny for being considered during the final five days of the session, when revenue-raising measures are prohibited.

Long laterals

Another contentious issue in the state legislature was the drilling of horizontal oil and gas wells longer than a mile in non-shale rock formations–known as long lateral wells.

Horizontal wells can drill through shallow formations usually tapped by vertical wells. Horizontal drilling can possibly damage vertical wells or divert nearby oil, gas and minerals. StateImpact Oklahoma’s Joe Wertz reported on the issue earlier this year:

Under a legal doctrine known as “rule of capture,” horizontal drillers are allowed to produce oil and gas even if their well or completion technology — such as fracking — pulls in crude or natural gas that might otherwise migrate to a vertical well.

States have adopted laws and rules to balance such capture — which incentivizes mineral owners to drill lots of wells and pump quickly — with other concerns, including the impact of drilling on land, water and wildlife. Such conservation laws leave less waste and reduce the likelihood that too much drilling in an oil field can reduce flow and change pressures, which can  harm the entire pool of oil and gas and impede all owners’ ability to pump it out.

Smaller companies using vertical wells have complained that long lateral drilling could reduce the amount of oil and gas they produce by giving larger companies an advantage.

The legislature passed Senate Bill 867 in the last week of the session, allowing long lateral drilling in non-shale rock formations–horizontal wells in shale or similar rock has been legal since 2012.  The Oklahoman reported that the bill would bring $19 million in tax revenue to the state.

Fallin signs REAL ID bill

The first piece of legislation to receive Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature was a bill that brought Oklahoma into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. The new bill establishes two forms of identification in Oklahoma–one which is compliant with the REAL ID Act, and one which is not. Oklahomans can choose which type of identification they prefer when they get their driver’s license.

Without a REAL ID-compliant license, Oklahomans would need a passport or some other form of federal identification to board commercial aircraft, or to enter federal facilities like military bases.

Opponents were concerned about the collection of biometric data that could be shared with the federal government or other states.

Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, carried the bill on the Senate floor. He argued Oklahomans have been asking for a fix to the REAL ID issue. The state has been granted an extension to meet REAL ID compliance, but that extension expires in June.

“For several years now, I think most of our constituents have told us that they want an option that allows them to fly, to enter military bases and federal buildings,” Holt said.

Opponents, including Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, and Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, raised concerns about privacy and the additional $5 cost per license.

“Under the provisions of this existing bill, everyone will have their biometric data collected, whether they are requesting the REAL ID compliant, or noncompliant,” Dahm said. “They will still have their biometric data not only collected, but then shared with other states and potentially, then, with other foreign governments.”

The Federal REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 as a counterterrorism measure, and sets standards for issuing identification.

Fallin signed the bill on March 2, 2017. In a statement, Fallin said she appreciated the work of legislative leaders who crafted the bill and guided it to passage.

“Our citizens let us know they wanted action on this legislation so they wouldn’t be burdened with the  cost and hassle of providing additional identification to gain entrance to federal buildings, military bases or federal courthouse. And they most certainly didn’t want to have to pay for additional identification, such as a passport, in order to board a commercial airliner beginning in January,” Fallin said.

Melania Trump reveals she is Catholic: The First Lady shares her faith with the world after meeting the Pope as the first Catholic to live in White House since JFK

Daily Mail


Melania Trump recited The Lord’s Prayer before a Melbourne, Florida presidential rally in February, the Internet went hog wild.

Now we know one reason why the first lady began with ‘Let us pray’ and ‘Our Father who art in heaven‘ when she introduced the president that evening: She’s a practicing Roman Catholic.

Her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed that to on Wednesday, hours after Pope Francis blessed a rosary for her at the Vatican.

The last Catholics to live in the White House were John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie. Melania and her son Barron will move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over the summer.

Mrs. Trump did more than just show up for a Papal audience.

She spent time in prayer at the Vatican-affiliated Bambino Gesù (Baby Jesus) Hospital, and laid flowers at the feet of a statue of the Madonna.

She also prayed in the hospital chapel and read to a young Greek boy in need of a donor heart – holding his hand in the Intensive Care Unit while camera shutters snapped.

The almighty may have heard her.

‘Upon landing in Belgium, I learned a young boy and his family who had been waiting for a heart transplant was informed that the hospital has found a donor,’ she said in a statement.

‘I read a book and held hands with this special little one just a few hours ago, and now my own heart is filled with joy over this news.’

The first lady later tweeted about the development with the hashtags ‘#Blessings’ and ‘#Faith.’

In another tweet, she sent ‘blessings to all’ after her Papal audience.

Mrs. Trump told Pope Francis at the Vatican that she was looking forward to going to the hospital ‘for the bambinos.’ She later called the visit ‘very moving.’

‘To spend time speaking to and coloring with children who have such a positive spirit despite illness was an amazing gift,’ she said.

‘The time I spent with the little ones in the Intensive Care Unit is something I will never forget, and I will pray for each of them daily.’

It’s unclear when Mrs. Trump became a Catholic. The president is a life-long Presbyterian, and they were married in a Florida Episcopal church.

Growing up as the daughter of a Communist Party member in rural Slovenia, her family maintained the outward appearances of being atheists, according to people in her childhood village of Sevnica who spoke to in late 2015.

Accordingly, Melania and her sister were not baptized and did not make their First Holy Communion with other children their age.

It’s still not clear when Mrs. Trump was baptized into the Catholic faith. Grisham did not immediately respond to a question about that detail.

But the Trumps have been in a reflective religious mood since arriving in Saudi Arabia last Saturday. That frame of mind persisted throughout their time in Israel.

The president addressed 55 world leaders from Arab and other Muslim-majority nations in Riyadh, imploring them to be part of ‘a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.’

In Jerusalem he visited the famed Western Wall, slipping a written prayer between the centuries-old stones as custom permits.

He ‘marveled at the monument to God’s presence and man’s perseverance,’ he said Tuesday in a speech at the Israel Museum.

‘I was humbled to place my hand upon the wall and to pray in that holy space for wisdom from God,’ Trump told an audience of Jewish officials.

‘This city, like no other place in the world, reveals the longing of the human heart – to know and worship God.’

Trump issued a proclamation on Wednesday calling for a national ‘day of prayer for permanent peace’ on May 29, the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

‘On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights,’ he said.

‘I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time when people might unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance,’ Trump added.

President Trump Declares a National Day of Prayer for ‘Permanent Peace’

Bob Eschliman
Charisma News

Memorial Day was once meant to honor the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the service of their country.

While it remains that way for many Americans, for most in more recent times, it’s become the “unofficial start of summer,” and a day of picnics, barbecues and retail shopping sales. President Donald Trump is asking the country to take a step back and recognize the day as it was meant to be celebrated. Additionally, he’s asking the country to set aside one hour, beginning at 11 a.m. locally, for prayer for permanent peace.

The president signed his annual Memorial Day proclamation on Wednesday night. It states:

Memorial Day is our nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free. It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our nation. On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nation and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.

This year, we commemorate the centennial anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. More than 4.7 million Americans served during The Great War, representing more than 25 percent of the American male population between the ages of 18 and 31 at the time. We remember the more than 100,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives during “The War to End All Wars,” and who left behind countless family members and loved ones. We pause again to pray for the souls of those heroes who, one century ago, never returned home after helping to restore peace in Europe.

On Memorial Day we honor the final resting places of the more than one million men and women who sacrificed their lives for our nation, by decorating their graves with the Stars and Stripes, as generations have done since 1868. We also proudly fly America’s beautiful flag at our homes, businesses, and in our community parades to honor their memory. In doing so, we pledge our nation’s allegiance to the great cause of freedom for which they fought and ultimately died.

In honor and recognition of all of our fallen service members, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the president issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time when people might unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I further ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.

I also request the governors of the United States and its territories, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control. I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.