Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned on Friday after denouncing chaos in the West Wing and telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.

After offering Mr. Scaramucci the communications job Friday morning, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Spicer to stay on as press secretary. But Mr. Spicer told Mr. Trump that he believed the appointment of Mr. Scaramucci was a major mistake and said he was resigning, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange.

In one of his first official acts, Mr. Scaramucci, who founded the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is a Fox News contributor, joined Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Spicer’s chief deputy, in the White House briefing room and announced that she would succeed Mr. Spicer as press secretary.

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He said he had great respect for Mr. Spicer, adding, “I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.” But he acknowledged the awkwardness of Mr. Spicer’s resignation. “This is obviously a difficult situation to be in,” Mr. Scaramucci said.

Ms. Sanders said Mr. Trump was grateful for Mr. Spicer’s service and that the president believes Mr. Spicer will succeed going forward. “Just look at his great television ratings,” Mr. Trump said in a statement read by Ms. Sanders.

Mr. Spicer’s rumored departure has been one of the longest-running internal sagas in an administration brimming with dissension and intrigue. A former Republican National Committee spokesman and strategist, Mr. Spicer was a frequent target of the president’s ire — and correctives — during the first few months of the administration.

His turbulent tenure as the president’s top spokesman was marked by a combative style with the news media that spawned a caricature of him on “Saturday Night Live.” He had hoped to last a year. He lasted six months and a day.

The resignation is a serious blow to the embattled White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former Republican Party chairman who brought Mr. Spicer into the West Wing despite skepticism from Mr. Trump, who initially questioned his loyalty. Mr. Scaramucci described his relationship with Mr. Priebus as a brotherly one where they “rough each other up.” He called Mr. Priebus a “good friend.”

Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has grown critical of both Mr. Spicer and Mr. Priebus, whom he regards as party establishment figures who operate out of self-interest.

Mr. Kushner also supported Mr. Trump’s decision to supplant Marc Kasowitz as his lead attorney on matters pertaining to Russia, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Scaramucci was to meet with Mr. Priebus on Friday, according to a West Wing official — and applause could be heard in the second-floor communications hallway when Mr. Scaramucci was introduced. Mr. Priebus denied that there is friction with Mr. Scaramucci.

For his part, Mr. Spicer said it had been an “honor” and “privilege” to serve Mr. Trump.

Senior officials, including Ms. Sanders, Mr. Spicer’s top deputy, were said to be stunned by the sudden shuffle.

Mr. Spicer has agreed to stay on for two weeks to a month, and Mr. Trump has told his advisers he is open to rotating new people into the briefing room, including one of the president’s personal favorites, Sebastian Gorka, a blustery foreign policy official who has been accused of having ties to far-right groups in Europe.

During the transition, Mr. Trump had planned to appoint Mr. Scaramucci, a 52-year-old Harvard Law graduate from Long Island, as director of his office of public liaison, but the offer was pulled at the request of Mr. Priebus over concerns about Mr. Scaramucci’s overseas investments.

His appointment Friday came two months after the previous communications director, Mike Dubke, stepped down. Mr. Trump was frustrated with Mr. Priebus over the slow pace of finding a replacement, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Trump made the appointment over the objection of Mr. Priebus, who thought Mr. Scaramucci lacked the requisite organizational or political experience. But the president believed Mr. Scaramucci, a ferocious defender of Mr. Trump’s on cable television, was best equipped to play the same role in-house, and he offered him a role with far-reaching powers independent of Mr. Priebus’s.

Mr. Spicer flatly rejected the president’s offer of a position subordinate to Mr. Scaramucci, according to two administration officials familiar with the exchange.

The appointment of Mr. Scaramucci, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s earliest campaign supporters, was backed by the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and adviser Mr. Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the officials said.

Ms. Sanders will inherit one of the toughest public relations jobs in modern political history. The job of press secretary, once regarded as among the most coveted slots in Washington, a steppingstone to fame and a big post-government payday, has lost much of its allure under a president who tweets his opinions and considers himself to be his best spokesman.

Mr. Spicer, according to several people close to him, was tired of being blindsided by Mr. Trump, most recently this week when the president gave a lengthy interview to The New York Times in which he questioned his appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was also weary of the daily dressings-down and instituted the highly contentious practice of holding off-air briefings, less so to snub reporters than to avoid Mr. Trump’s critiques of his performance, according to one of Mr. Spicer’s friends.

Shortly after Mr. Spicer’s resignation became public, the White House press office announced Ms. Sanders would hold the first on-air briefing since June 29.

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US State Department to clamp ban on travel to North Korea – Reuters

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Friday said it will bar Americans from traveling to North Korea due to the risk of “long-term detention” in the country, where a U.S. student was jailed while on a tour last year and later died.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has authorized a “Geographical Travel Restriction” on Americans to forbid them from entering North Korea, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea,” Nauert said.

The move was due to “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,” she said.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American was sentenced last year to 15 years hard labor in North Korea for trying to steal a propaganda sign while on a tourist visit.

He returned to the United States in a coma on June 13 after being released on humanitarian grounds and died June 19. The circumstances surrounding his death are not clear, including why he fell into a coma.

North Korea has said through its state media that Warmbier’s death was “a mystery” and dismissed accusations that he had died as a result of torture and beating in captivity.

North Korea is currently holding two Korean-American academics and a missionary, a Canadian pastor and three South Korean nationals who were doing missionary work. Japan says North Korea has also detained at least several dozen of its nationals.

It was not known how many Americans were currently in North Korea and the State Department said it was not its practice to give numbers of U.S. citizens living in or travelling to a particular country.

U.S. officials say North Korea will become the only country in the world Americans are banned from visiting.

The department said it plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week, starting a 30-day clock before the restriction takes effect, Nauert said.

FILE PHOTO: The 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel, the highest building under construction in North Korea, is seen from inside another hotel’s room in Pyongyang, North Korea May 7, 2016.Damir Sagolj/File Photo

She said Americans who wanted to travel to North Korea “for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes” could apply for special passports to do so.

North Korea allows foreign tourists to visit but their travel is strictly limited.

Hundreds of Americans are among the roughly 4,000 to 5,000 Western tourists who visit North Korea each year, according to U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina.

This year, Wilson introduced a bill with Democratic Representative Adam Schiff to ban Americans from travelling to North Korea as tourists, following the detention of at least 17 U.S. citizens in the past decade.

FILE PHOTO: A guide wearing a traditional dress speaks to visitors at the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, North Korea May 4, 2016.Damir Sagolj/File Photo

Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former U.S. Treasury official, said the State Department action was important as it would limit North Korea’s ability to use detained Americans as bargaining chips with Washington as it has in the past.

Tom Bodkin, managing director of the UK-based adventure travel company, Secret Compass, said the travel ban was “a bit of a shame.”

“Travel between different cultures breaks down the preconceptions that you have about different cultures and breaks down the stereotypes that you have,” he said.

Secret Compass has brought three Americans among the 19 people it took to North Korea since launching tours there last fall, he said.

U.S. Army veteran Brian Sayler, 40, who traveled to North Korea for six days in May, said he opposed the pending ban.

“We’re telling our own people, essentially, you can’t go where you want to go, I don’t really understand it,” said Sayler, a resident of West Pittston, Pennsylvania, who works as a police officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting U.S. President Donald Trump, who has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear warhead.

North Korea this month test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts believe has the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Additional reporting by James Pearson in Seoul and Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Yeganeh Torbati and Jack Kim; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Tom Brown

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Yes, Trump Could Pardon Himself. Then All Hell Would Break Loose – Politico

This week’s eye-popping constitutional question: Can President Trump pardon himself for criminal wrongdoing? With the Russia scandal swirling more intensely around the White House every week, the Washington Post reported Friday morning that the president might be considering pardoning himself and members of his family as a way of fending off legal consequences for whatever special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation turns up.

A self-pardon would be something new in American history — and just the kind of departure from prior norms that typifies Trump. The Constitution doesn’t specify whether the president can pardon himself, and no court has ever ruled on the issue, because no president has ever been brazen enough to try it. Among constitutional lawyers, the dominant (though not unanimous) answer is “no,” in part because letting any person exempt himself from criminal liability would be a fundamental affront to America’s basic rule-of-law values.

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But as a practical matter, it’s not a panel of legal experts that will decide this issue. It probably won’t be a court, either. Instead, the answer will be fought out at the highest levels of American politics. And in real life, if the president signed a document with the words “I pardon myself”—which he certainly could—it’s impossible to know what would happen next.

Given the political firestorm that a self-pardon might provoke and the broader norm-smashing context of the Trump administration, an attempted self-pardon could do anything from keeping Trump out of jail to bringing down his presidency and landing him in the dock. Or it could do nothing at all—which would be troubling, too. All we can know for sure is that it would take our system, once again, into uncharted territory.

Here’s one possible scenario. Suppose the president announces a self-pardon, and Republicans in Congress follow the script they’ve used until this point: They express concern at the behavior but make no serious move to punish the president for it. The legal effect of the pardon would then go untested for years. A pardon is a shield against a prosecution, and in the absence of a potential prosecution it has no work to do. As long as Trump is president, there won’t be any prosecution to put it to the test, because a sitting president probably can’t be prosecuted for a crime. Again, this isn’t a certainty—the Supreme Court has made clear that a sitting president can be sued in a civil suit, as Bill Clinton was by Paula Jones—but the dominant view on the criminal side is that a President must be impeached and removed from office before he can be a criminal defendant. So while Trump remains president, an attempted self-pardon would be like an umbrella that hasn’t been taken out in the rain: We don’t know yet whether it works, or how well.

After Trump leaves office, the self-pardon would be tested only if the next administration were inclined to prosecute Trump. And this raises a potentially momentous but highly speculative question: How much might Trump’s prosecution be a campaign issue in 2020? Or 2024? Unlike many countries, in America there’s a strong norm that the winners of elections don’t go out and prosecute the losers, as many Trump opponents noted when Trump threatened to prosecute Hillary Clinton last fall. But if Trump pre-emptively pardons himself, he puts that issue on the table: A would-be successor almost has to answer the question. Surely a Trump-friendly successor wouldn’t consider it, and even a seriously anti-Trump candidate might care more about preserving American norms than delivering a comeuppance. But for the past year and a half, behavioral conventions that seemed well-settled have been crumbling almost weekly, and trying to predict how officials might act after four or eight more years like this is like trying to see beyond some constitutional event horizon. And it’s no easier to predict whether—if Trump were subjected to an unprecedented prosecution after his presidency—a court would block the prosecution on the equally unprecedented grounds that the president had pardoned himself.

There’s another possible future, if Trump announces a self pardon: It could be the moment that Republicans in Congress decide he has finally stepped over the line. To be sure, Congress has shown no inclination to remove the president to this point, and maybe it never will. But as the Supreme Court noted long ago, a pardon suggests the existence of illegal behavior—and a self-pardon itself would represent such flagrant disrespect for rule-of-law values that if anything could push Congress toward impeaching and removing the president, this might.

In that case, Congress wouldn’t just be stripping Trump of his presidency: In all likelihood, it would be converting his ostensible pardon from a shield against prosecution into one more reason to move against him. After all, the decision to impeach would, in itself, all but establish that self-pardons are inconsistent with American constitutional norms. So if ex-President Trump were subsequently prosecuted, the courts would be substantially less likely to see his self-pardon as a valid defense. The defendant would be a disgraced rule-breaker, and the self-pardon would be among his sins—indeed, Congress would have deemed it a “high crime and misdemeanor” under the constitutional provision governing impeachments.

So even if Trump announces a self-pardon, the question of whether that announcement “really” created a valid pardon is one that might never be answered. But if it is settled, it’s more likely to be answered by elected officials rather than in court. Either they’ll punish him or they won’t, and if they don’t, the pardon might never matter one way or the other.

So for Congress to play its role in the constitutional system responsibly, its members might need to confront the basic legal question: Whether the constitution is best interpreted as giving the president a power to pardon himself. There are good reasons to arrive at the conclusion that self-pardon is not acceptable. And the very fact that the issue can’t reach a court anytime soon is a further reason why Congress needs to take its constitutional responsibility seriously. If the president announces a self-pardon, the Republican congressional leadership will either let a chief executive with no evident respect for the rule of law trash yet another constitutional norm, or it will finally decide to confront a reckless president who still commands the loyalty of their own party’s voting base. It’s bang or whimper, and it isn’t pretty either way.

Richard Primus is the Theodore J. St. Antoine Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. He is also co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a privacy lawsuit against the Trump campaign, Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @Richard_Primus.

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Spicer resigns as White House press secretary, Scaramucci to be communications director – Washington Post

By , Ashley Parker and Damian Paletta,

White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned Friday, following the appointment of wealthy financier Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director, according to a White House official.

Spicer’s abrupt and angry departure — which caught even senior West Wing staffers by surprise — reflects the latest upheaval in a White House that has been consumed by chaos and staff infighting since almost the day President Trump took office.

 Scaramucci has previously had a tense and fraught relationship with both Spicer and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who both vehemently objected to Trump’s decision to install Scaramucci in the top communications job. Scaramucci has coined a particularly crude nickname for Priebus, and Priebus previously blocked the financier from several other top White House roles. 

Scaramucci had been in talks with the president and senior staff all week. But the shake-up comes amid intensifying tumult at the White House as Trump moves to respond to the widening special counsel probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government and searches for ways to revive the administration’s stalled legislative agenda.

“The President wanted to bring on some folks, to add to the team. They were great,” Spicer said in a brief interview on Friday. “This is something you dream of. I can’t thank the president enough.”

Spicer said that he resigned to give the president a “clean slate” moving forward. In a message on Twitter, he added that he will serve in his post until the end of August.

Asked if he had any regrets, Spicer answered: “None.”

Trump officially offered the position to Scaramucci, whom he has become closer to in recent weeks, at a meeting with senior staff in the Oval Office on Friday morning. And Thursday, Trump, Vice President Pence, Scaramucci and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, also huddled privately in the Oval Office to discuss Scaramucci’s new role.

On Friday morning, the West Wing scrambled to present a united public front. Priebus called a private meeting of the White House communications staff, and made clear that Spicer, who is expected to help Scaramucci transition into the role, is leaving to give the new communications director “a clean slate,” according to someone briefed on the meeting. 

Priebus also tried to play down any tensions with Scaramucci, saying the two have known each other for a long time, and Scaramucci told his new team that he is not a “top down” manager, this person said.

Scaramucci and Spicer also hugged.

Later in the day, Scaramucci told reporters that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will replace Spicer as press secretary.

But bringing Scaramucci into the White House is likely to increase the backbiting and tension among Trump’s senior staff, especially with Priebus, with whom he has clashed in the past. The communications post has remained open since it was vacated by Michael Dubke in May.

Scaramucci said Friday that he has a good relationship with Priebus and has known him for years. He said the fact that there has been tension at times between the two doesn’t mean they can’t work well together.

“We’re a little bit like bothers,” he said. “We rough each other up a bit.”

Bringing Scaramucci into the fold represents the most significant shake-up yet for a communications shop that has struggled to amplify the president’s message on the administration’s core economic and national security priorities.

Scaramucci, a Trump campaign loyalist backed by Trump’s children, was slated to join the White House in another capacity early on, but he had challenges resolving ethical conflicts associated with his fund, SkyBridge Capital, which he sold to a Chinese conglomerate with ties to the government just before Trump’s inauguration. Trump has also been impressed by Scaramucci’s frequent appearances as a defender on cable news.

At the same time, Trump’s legal team is also in flux. Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, will step back from his central role in the president’s outside legal team with John M. Dowd, a seasoned Washington attorney with a focus on white-collar crime, now taking the lead in managing the president’s defense. Mark Corallo, a longtime GOP operative who had served as a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, resigned Thursday.

The president has become agitated by the possibility that special counsel Robert Mueller might begin looking into Trump and his family’s personal finances. In an interview this week with the New York Times, the president issued a warning to Mueller that such a move would be a “violation.”

“Let’s go back to what the purpose of the investigation was: Russian interference in our election,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, speaking on Fox News Friday morning. She added, “Where is this going and are Americans comfortable with that — with the taxpayers funding this, with this going off all types of chutes and ladders?”

Trump’s legal team has begun working to undermine the special counsel probe, including investigating ways to highlight conflicts of interest on Mueller, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. The president has also inquired about his pardon authority.

After the story was published, one of Trump’s attorneys, Dowd, said it was “not true” and “nonsense.”

One Trump adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

The idea that Trump would proactively pardon people involved in the Russia investigation was immediately criticized by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian meddling in the election and possible Trump campaign collusion. 

“The possibility that the President is considering pardons at this early stage in these ongoing investigations is extremely disturbing,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement. “Pardoning any individuals who may have been involved would be crossing a fundamental line.”

The White House has struggled to remain focused on its agenda, amid the constant drumbeat of the Russia investigation. The president himself has only fueled the Russia frenzy, giving an interview on Wednesday in which he talked extensively about the probe.

Last week, the White House announced that another attorney, Ty Cobb, would join the White House to help manage the response to the investigation internally.

On Friday morning, when asked if Scaramucci would join the White House, Conway praised him but did not confirm that the decision was settled.

“All I can say is in speaking with the president and others that, you know, we have a great communications team already,” Conway said. “Anthony Scaramucci is somebody who has been an incredible asset to President Trump all during the campaign, the transition, and now he is one of the killers on TV who goes out there, thinks the president is being treated very unfairly, and we don’t get any of the economic news out there, even though our press and communications shop tries.”

“The president has confidence in all of the people who work for him, and we know that Anthony is someone who is a friend to the administration,” she added.

Ben Terris and Rosalind Helderman contributed to this report.

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Teenagers Recorded a Drowning and Laughed, but They Won’t Be Charged – New York Times

The video was shocking in Florida, where shocking videos seem like a genre. A group of teenagers laughed and watched as a man struggled in the water of a pond. The man drowned, and his body was not found for days.

The teenagers did nothing to help the man, not even call 911, but after an investigation the authorities said this week that they would not be charged.

The man, Jamel Dunn, 31, drowned on July 9, and his body was found five days later when the police received a report that it was floating near the edge of the pond in a local park in Cocoa, a town of 18,000 people near Orlando.

As detectives investigated the death over the weekend, a family member of Mr. Dunn’s alerted them to the video, which the teenagers had begun sharing with friends.

“As much as we tried, there wasn’t any law in the state of Florida that they violated,” said Yvonne Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Cocoa Police Department.

The police asked the office of Phil Archer, the state attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties, to review the footage. But the prosecutor’s office agreed it did not contain the evidence needed for a criminal prosecution.

In the statement, the prosecutor’s office said it was nonetheless “deeply saddened and shocked” by how Mr. Dunn died and the failure of the teenagers to help him in any way.

The low-quality, 2.5-minute cellphone video, provided to The Times by Mr. Archer’s office, shows a man flailing in the middle of a body of water as the teenagers describe his struggle and laugh at him from the shore of the pond.

One of the teenagers, using an expletive, calls Mr. Dunn a junkie. Someone tells him not to expect any assistance: “Ain’t nobody going to help you, you dumb bitch. You shouldn’t have got in there,” he says.

About a minute into the video, the man appears to let out a whimper before submerging, fully, underwater.

“He just died!” a voice can be heard saying, as the others laugh.

Later, one of the teenagers appears to suggest that they call the police, only to be rejected by another.

The police determined the identities of all five, and brought three in for questioning, Ms. Martinez said.

In a separate interview with Florida Today earlier this week, she said that one of the teenagers stared ahead during an interview as his mother cried beside him. “There was no remorse, only a smirk,” she said.

A Facebook user named Simone Scott, who identified herself online as Mr. Dunn’s sister, expressed frustration with the investigation and said “something should be done” in a video live-streamed on the social network on Thursday. A funeral service will be held a week from Saturday, Ms. Scott said on Facebook. She did not respond to a request for an interview.

“If they can sit there and watch somebody die in front of their eyes, imagine what they’re going to do when they get older?” she said about the teenagers.

She also said she wondered how Mr. Dunn, who she said was disabled and walked with a cane, ended up in the middle of the pond. She also expressed frustration with the investigation.

Surveillance footage obtained on Thursday from a neighbor showed that Mr. Dunn entered the pond on his own and did not appear to be coerced or forced to go in, Ms. Martinez said.

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