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Early in the morning of Thursday, May 10, 2018 (US time), three American citizens arrived on US soil after having been held captive in North Korea.

It was a stunning, historic event not only for them, but also for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, certainly, President Donald Trump:

CNN reported (emphases mine):

The Americans — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kimwere freed while Pompeo was on a visit to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to discuss President Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

The three men issued a joint statement thanking Trump.

“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” the trio said in the statement which the State Department supplied to journalists traveling with Pompeo.

Kim Dong Chul has been in North Korean custody since late 2015, but the other two detainees were arrested last spring, after Trump’s inauguration as tensions between Washington and Pyongyang were beginning to ramp up.

The White House has often brought up their cases when discussing North Korea issues. As both sides began laying the groundwork for the Trump and Kim’s meeting — which would be the first-ever between a sitting US President and North Korean leaderthe Trump administration made it clear that releasing the three Americans would be viewed as a gesture of good will.

Aboard the plane leaving North Korea, Pompeo said he was “thrilled to have them back.”

Pompeo told the small contingent of reporters traveling with him that the detainees appear to be in good health, or at least as healthy as can be considering the circumstances surrounding their detention

The state-run Korea Central News Agency said that Kim decided to release the Americans at Trump’s suggestion. It added that Pompeo and Kim “reached a satisfactory consensus on the issues discussed” and described the talks as “very beneficial.”

Press pool releases, courtesy of Hunter Walker White House Correspondent Yahoo News, were as follows.

This was the order of arrival:

According to staff, at about 2:00 a.m., Vice President Pences helicopter will arrive at Andrews first followed by POTUS. Mike Pompeos plane will come next followed by a medical plane bearing the freed Americans.

The President and First Lady arrived shortly after 2 a.m. on May 10:

Marine One landed at Andrews Air Force Base at approximately 2:18 a.m.
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembarked at about 2:22 am and walked into the terminal. The President didnt respond to shouted questions about whether he had any message ahead of the returnees arrival or whether he had spoken with Kim Jong Un.
Mike Pompeos plane is due to land imminently. —

Trump waited for the appropriate time to leave Marine One. Note the Tylenol® and Diet Coke on the cabinet:

As for the returning Americans:

After coming to Andrews and meeting with the President, the returnees will be going on to Walter Reed for further evaluation and medical treatment. The White House is referring any questions about their medical condition to the State Department.

Reuters has a 41-minute video of the planes landing and the subsequent welcome home for the three men.

The event was carried live around the world, especially South Korea:

Going back to the landings, Mike Pompeo energetically dashed down the steps:

Later, one of the released prisoners gave him a heartfelt hug:

In another tweet, the Washington Post‘s Anna Fifield added:

Kim Dong-chul … was detained a year before the 2016 election so he probably didn’t know until yesterday that Donald Trump is president.

President and Mrs Trump boarded the plane carrying the three men:

They spoke to the men:

And helped guide them to the door:

 

Then it was time to disembark:

I cannot begin to imagine the joy and relief they must have felt:

Afterwards:

Not to be forgotten was someone Obama’s State Department — under John Kerry — did not care much about and told his parents there was not much they could do. Thanks to Rex Tillerson and President Trump, North Korea released Otto Warmbier, who had been in a coma for over a year in prison. He died on June 19, 2017, six days after he arrived back home in Ohio:

Who can say better than this? This is a short, excellent White House video compilation, by the way:

Vice President Mike Pence received three insights into the detainees’ experience.

The first was his and his wife Karen’s conversations with the men:

Another came from Mike Pompeo:

The third came when one of the three handed Pence a note with verses from Psalm 126 on the reverse. Note that their faith never faltered. Below is the index card (full image courtesy of The Conservative Treehouse):

The Conservative Treehouse has more (emphasis in the original):

Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk, Kim Hak Soon are the names of the three detainees who were released.  Two of the captives, Hak-Soon and Sang Duk, belong to the Pyongyang Univ of Science & Technology and were detained in Apr & May 2017: they had been held for a year. The third, Kim Dong Chul, is an ordained minister held since 2015 when he was commuting from China and was serving a 10-year sentence on espionage charges.

In closing, the White House released a pleasantly bi-partisan set of statements applauding the release of the detainees. Media kudos are also included.

I’ll leave you with the first statement:

The Family of Freed American Tony Kim: “We are very grateful for the release of our husband and father, Tony Kim, and the other two American detainees. We want to thank all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home. We also want to thank the President for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we thank God for Tony’s safe return.”

May God bless the three released Americans and their families richly.

May He also abundantly bless all those who secured their release.

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Yesterday’s post was about Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to the White House.

This is the first state visit of the Trump presidency. The first state dinner, honouring Emmanuel Macron, took place on Tuesday, April 24.

Much was made of the fact that First Lady Melania Trump did not hire an event planner. Instead she worked with a closely-knit group of ten staff in the East Wing:

This was the menu. Note that President Trump agreed to have wine served. Every other event has been tee-total. I expect that an exception was made for the French, for whom wine with dinner is a must. The wine is not included on the press tweet below. The one served with the main course came from French vines planted in Oregon generations ago.

 

The day’s schedule was as follows:

History lover Macron understood the importance of everything happening that day:

Official welcome and meetings

The official arrival ceremony took place on the South Lawn (41-minute White House video here).

Hail to the Chief was played as the Trumps emerged from the White House to await the Macrons.

This is a great photo:

During the ceremony, both nations’ national anthems were played.

Both gave short speeches and spoke of the history between the two countries dating from the Revolutionary War. I am positive that the incomparable Stephen Miller had a hand in Trump’s:

Selected members of the public were invited, with local schoolchildren in attendance:

Once again, Macron sought out his father figure, who indulged him with a kiss this time:

Gateway Pundit‘s Jim Hoft enjoyed it:

Afterwards, the Trumps and the Macrons greeted members of the French delegation:

Then it was time for the restricted bilateral meeting, the topic of which was Iran. Trump rightly wants to re-negotiate the deal, Macron doesn’t.

Papa Trump led his young subject away after their public remarks:

The next meeting, the expanded bilateral one, was held in the Cabinet Room. Before it began, Trump and Macron discussed the restricted bilateral meeting. Excerpts follow:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Please. We were going to have a short little meeting, and it turned out to be a long meeting, and it could have gone on for another two hours.

We discussed a lot of things, a lot of problems in the world, a lot of problems that we think can be solved. But we’ve come a long way, just the two of us, I think, as understanding. We talked about Iran; we talked about Syria. We talked about a lot of subjects that really are big, big, hard situations. And we think we have solutions to a number of them.

So we’re going to continue that now, and then Emmanuel and myself will meet again, I think, after this meeting. But we wanted to get the opinion of some of the experts in the room. We have great experts on both sides, so we wanted to get the opinion of some of the experts …

PRESIDENT MACRON: Thank you, Mr. President, for these words. We will have this large meeting with (inaudible) together again before the press conference, just to say we have had very good discussion, indeed, on Syria, on Iran, the overall region, and some other very important topics regarding our security.

And I think we have to work together because we’ve always worked together on these issues, and it’s very important to preserve the stability of this region. And I think what we want to do in the interest of our people is precisely to preserve stability of sovereign states, without any hegemon.

As for the trade issue, you presented your perception of the situation and you were fair to remind everybody that bilateral relationship is balanced between France and the U.S.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s true.

PRESIDENT MACRON: And I think it’s very important to bear in mind that, between allies — I mean, regarding so important security issues, it’s impossible to make any trade war …

After the expanded bilateral meeting, the two presidents held a joint press conference (full White House video here), which began with this:

President Trump was thorough in his remarks, enumerating not only current international challenges but also France’s helpful contributions. Excerpts follow:

France and the United States also agree that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and that regime must end its support for terrorism all over. No matter where you go in the Middle East, you see the fingerprints of Iran behind problems.

I also want to thank President Macron for France’s vital contribution to our very successful campaign against ISIS. As we drive these ISIS killers from Syria, it is essential that the responsible nations of the Middle East step up their own contributions to prevent Iran from profiting off the success of our anti-ISIS effort. Very rich countries are in the Middle East. They have to make major contributions. They have not been doing it as they should. A major topic that we discussed a little while ago: They have to step up tremendously — not a little bit, but tremendously — their financial effort …

Both the United States and France are dealing with a challenge that has gone on for a long, long time. It’s uncontrolled migration. In the United States, we are taking strong action to regain control over our borders and over our sovereignty. It’s gone on for too long. And we’ve slowed it down very substantially, but we’re going to stop illegal immigration. I know that you face similar challenges in France. And, Mr. President, I admire the leadership you have shown in addressing them in a very honest and direct fashion, and not always popular.

Macron began his remarks by discussing the Iran deal:

Mr. President, please allow me to go back to a number of issues, which are fundamental for not only our relationship, but beyond. The first topic is Iran. You said once again, in front of the press, what your position was during the campaign and as well as the President of the United States. It’s not a mystery we did not have the same starting positions or stances, and neither you nor I have a habit of changing our stances or going with the wind.

That being said, I can say that we’ve had very a frank discussion on that, just the two of us. You consider that the Iranian deal, the JCPOA — the one negotiated in 2015 with Iran — is a bad deal. For a number of months, I’ve been saying that this was not a sufficient deal, but that it enabled us, at least until 2025, to have some control over their nuclear activities.

We therefore wish, from now on, to work on a new deal with Iran. What we need — and I believe that on that, our discussions allowed us to shed light on our convergence of views — is that we need to cover four topics.

The first one is to block any nuclear activity of Iran until 2025. This was feasible thanks to the JCPOA. The second is to make sure that, in the long run, there is no nuclear Iranian activity. The third fundamental topic is to be able to put an end to the ballistic activities of Iran in the region. And the fourth one is to generate the conditions for a solution — a political solution to contain Iran in the region — in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Lebanon.

On these topics, I did not change. I constantly said that we needed to find the framework so that, together, and with the powers of the region, and with the Iranian leaders, manage to find a deal. I therefore would like us to commit to that effect in the weeks and months to come.

This is the only way to bring about stability. France is not naïve when it comes to Iran. We have also a lot of respect for the Iranian people, which, through their history — its history — has always shown its strength.

But we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. Each time we tried to unilaterally replace the sovereignty of the people, we brought about some more terror. But for our allies, we want sustainable stability …

After the press conference, the two gripped hands (Trump probably did not want another kiss):

Afterwards, President Trump went to a private lunch with the Secretary of Defense.

Lunch honouring Macron

Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan and Vice President Mike Pence hosted a lunch for President Macron at the Harry S Truman Building. Afterwards, Sullivan gave a short speech:

Then Pence spoke and offered a toast. Macron responded with a speech and a reciprocal toast. (Full transcript here.)

Presidents’ wives visit National Gallery of Art

The White House published a précis of what the presidents’ wives did during the day, excerpted below:

In tradition with State Visits, First Lady Melania Trump hosted Mrs. Macron for a spousal event, choosing to visit the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. this morning. Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Macron were met by Frank Kelly, Deputy Director of the museum. The tour of the National Gallery of Art was crafted to particularly note the incredible work of French artists to complement the long-standing friendship between the United States and France.

“Everyone understands the language of art,” said Mrs. Trump. “The historically famous and beautiful works that currently live in the National Gallery of Art are breathtaking.”

The Macrons at JFK’s grave

That afternoon, the Macrons paid a reverent visit to John F Kennedy’s grave:

The linked tweet has an excellent photo and the same text in French. The responses are very anti-Macron.

French Embassy presentation to American veterans

At the French Embassy that afternoon, Macron presented Legion of Honour medals to three American veterans of the Second World War.

The News Virginian has the story:

William Barr, who currently lives at The Legacy at North Augusta in Staunton, was honored Tuesday along with two other veterans at the French Embassy in Washington …

After personally awarding the medals to Barr and the other two men, Robert Ewald and Stanley Rzucidio, at Tuesday’s ceremony, President  Macron praised the three veterans and all of those who helped defeat tyranny during World War II.

“My generation has the opportunity to defend these values today because your generation, and especially people like you, decided to take all the risks to protect these values, to protect my country,” Macron said. “[I am] also paying tribute to the blood shed by all your comrades.”

Barr was a World War II Army Air Forces airplane mechanic who participated in the Battle of the Bulge and other key campaigns …

“Robert, Stanley, William, those are names of heroes. During World War II, your generation decided to take all the risks to protect France. You fought for freedom. Eternal gratitude from the French people,” Macron tweeted.

The article states that the Legion of Honour, which Napoleon established in 1802, is the highest French order of merit.

The State Dinner

The climax of the Macrons’ visit was the state dinner that evening, the Trumps’ first.

Laura Dowling, former chief floral designer at the Obama White House, wrote an excellent article for Fox News, describing the symbolism not only in floral decorations but also the particular symbolism that goes into a state dinner. A short video is also included, with amazing photos and statistics on this particular dinner (emphases mine):

I was honored to help design décor and flowers for two visits by heads of state from France: the private dinner that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted for President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, in 2010; and the state visit of President Francois Hollande in 2014.

For both events, the flowers were designed to carry out diplomatic, cultural and historical themes – with the goal of honoring France and the individual leaders, as well as to celebrate cherished American traditions and ideals …

Some of the most beautiful and historic pieces in the White House collection have a French provenance – the 18th century gilt mirrored Monroe Plateau, the early 19th century marble-topped table in the Red Room by a French-American cabinetmaker, and the French Blue Room furniture acquired by President Monroe are just a few examples …

In addition to highlighting the White House collection of French decorative arts, the first lady is paying tribute to former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush by selecting their china for this inaugural state visit.

Additional décor includes the large urns of cherry blossoms lining the Great Hall. Cherry blossoms are not only the quintessential emblem of spring in Washington, but also in Paris, where they are currently in bloom in the Jardin de Tuilieries near the Elysses Palace, the home of the French first couple.

The Daily Mail has an article on the dinner with excellent photos.

This was the menu in full, with the wines from Oregon listed. The gold rimmed plate, an edge of which can be seen underneath is a Clinton plate:

There’s a story behind this china:

The Conservative Treehouse posted on this and included the above tweets as well as a link to the 2001 ABC story, excerpted below:

Former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have sent $28,000 worth of household goods back to Washington after questions arose over whether the items were intended as personal gifts or donations to the White House.

“We have been informed that it is being shipped back, and the National Park Service is ready to receive it, take possession of it and take custody of it,” Jim McDaniel, the National Park Service’s liaison to the White House, said Wednesday.

“The property is being returned to government custody until such time that the issues can be resolved. It may well turn out that that property is rightly the personal property of the Clintons.”

After they were criticized for taking $190,000 worth of china, flatware, rugs, televisions, sofas and other gifts with them when they left, the Clintons announced last week that they would pay for $86,000 worth of gifts, or nearly half the amount.

Their latest decision to send back $28,000 in gifts brings to $114,000 the value of items the Clintons have either decided to pay for or return.

On that subject, one of the commenters at The_Donald had an anecdote about the Clintons:

I personally know one of the White House Interior Decorators that was at The White House when Clinton’s arrived. She said it was like The Beverly Hillbillies come to town. They ruined so much historical stuff, decorated things totally trashy and they did try to and did take tons of stuff out of there. They personally ruined things, broke things trashed things that had been around a long time that had history behind them. I didn’t hear much about Bill from my friend, but she said Hillary was a piece of work and nasty. This from someone that lived through it.

Back to the present now and America’s current first couple. For interested ladies — Mrs Trump wore Chanel:

A light rain fell as the Trumps greeted the Macrons.

This video shows you how grand it was, with the military escort. The first couples pose for a photo at the 1:15 mark:

As for the guests, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was the first to arrive:

Here is the only Democrat invited — the governor of Louisiana:

The following links have photos of other notable guests: the Vice President and Mrs Pence, the Speaker of the House and Mrs Ryan, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, the Chief of Staff and Mrs Kelly, the Press Secretary and Mr Sanders, the Director of the CIA and Mrs Pompeo, the Surgeon General and Mrs Adams, the Secretary of the Treasury and Mrs Mnuchin, the Chief Justice and Mrs Roberts, Henry and Nancy Kissinger (must see) and Rupert and Jerry (Hall) Murdoch. More guests are listed here and here.

Toasts were made before dinner (full transcript here):

Then it was Macron’s turn:

Knowing how much hard work went into the event, President Trump tweeted his appreciation to his First Lady:

Wednesday, April 25

Early the next day, Trump tweeted:

The video of Macron’s speech is here. He laid out his international policies and perspectives, which are very different to Trump’s. He received a standing ovation from both houses of Congress.

Macron then went to speak at George Washington University on a variety of topics …

… including religion, which is a hot topic for him right now in France:

He also held a press conference there:

President and Mrs Macron left for Paris later that day.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania hosted their first state visit by welcoming President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte to the White House.

The Macrons arrived on Monday, April 23 and left on Wednesday, April 25.

Emmanuel Macron is the Western leader who likes President Trump the most. The US president also wanted to reciprocate the warm welcome and Bastille Day visit in July 2017 (here and here).

Oh, the irony. Macron was Obama’s pet in 2017 during the French presidential campaign. They were on the phone to each other at least once:

State visits

In 1997, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty posted an article on the various types of visits made to the White House by heads of state. It is well worth reading. An excerpt follows about the state visit, the most important one (emphases mine):

According to official State Department guidelines, there are five types of visits to be accorded to a ranking member of a foreign government. They are: a “state visit,” an “official visit,” an “official working visit,” a “working visit,” and a “private visit.”

The guidelines say that the “state visit” is the highest ranking visit and can only be offered to a chief of state — such as the president of a country or a reigning monarch like Britain’s Queen Elizabeth — and must be at the invitation of the U.S. president.

During a state visit, the guest is offered a room for four days and three nights at Blair House, the President’s official guest house, located within walking distance of the White House.

A state visit ensures a meeting with the U.S. president, a state dinner at the White House, a full honors arrival and departure ceremony on the south grounds of the White House, and a 21 gun salute. Gifts may be exchanged and spouses can attend the ceremonies and dinners. Press availability and photo opportunities are plentiful

Mel French, the Director of Protocol at the U.S. State Department, says there is a practical reason why the White House ranks the visits of foreign guests.

“Ranking the visits gives a level to what the [U.S.] president wants to do when he invites someone to this country,” she says. “Often they really need an official working visit where they can sit down and work through problems or things that they need to talk about. An official working visit is really a visit of substance and policy. A state visit and an official visit are more of a ceremonial type thing where we are honoring a country.”

French adds that there are limits on state visits.

A country can only have one state visit during a [U.S.] president’s four-year term,” she says.

French says that the decision of what kind of rank to accord each visitor is made jointly by the National Security Council and the State Department.

When asked if foreign heads of state are ever invited to stay at the White House instead of Blair House, French says that can happen occasionally, but only under unusual or important circumstances.

State dinners

On April 18, Jennifer Boswell Pickens, White House East Wing historian, wrote an excellent article for The Daily Caller about previous presidents’ state dinners and her anticipation of this one:

I predict the Trumps’ first State Arrival Ceremony and State Dinner will truly be a meaningful event for the Macrons, as even the smallest details are coming from Mrs. Trump’s appreciation for American History and respect for her French guests … Not since Jackie Kennedy will we have a First Lady able to speak fluently to her guests creating that timeless “Melania Trump je ne sais quoi” that will help the president create deeper bonds, and closer diplomatic ties with our French neighbors.

The White House also issued an interesting history of state visits. The first one was held in 1874, when President Ulysses S Grant welcomed King David Kalakaua of Hawaii:

The White House had never hosted a foreign head of state—Hawaii would not be annexed by the United States until 1898—largely because travel overseas during the 18th and 19th centuries was long and hazardous.

No matter how the visit went, King Kalakaua’s trip would set a precedent.

The result was America’s first State Dinner with a foreign head of state, an intimate but elaborate meal consisting of more than 20 courses and 36 guests. The President, Vice President, and a host of other U.S. dignitaries were in attendance.

The reason for King Kalakaua’s visit and the primary topic of discussion? A trade deal.

Preparations

Everything was planned well in advance, from the security and the dinner to Macron’s speaking engagements.

Meanwhile, Macron gave interviews on both sides of the Atlantic prior to his visit. Chris Wallace travelled to Paris to interview him for Fox News:

The 40-year-old Macron said Sunday that he has a “very special relationship” with Trump, suggesting they’re political “mavericks” mutually committed to fighting terrorism and reducing the influence of rogue nations and dictators …

He said he and Trump “have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides. I think President Trump’s election was unexpected in your country, and probably my election was unexpected in my country. And we are not part of the classical political system. … We are very much attached to the same values …. especially liberty and peace,” he said. “And I think the U.S. today has a very strong role to play for peace in different regions of the world and especially the Middle East.”

No doubt Macron was looking forward to getting away from the fray for a few days. He has been facing active opposition in France for some time. The Express had more on the Chris Wallace interview:

Furious protests are regularly held against French Government’s reforms, with up to 200,000 people attending some marches. 

These protests have often spilled over into violence and riots, including tense clashes with police.

On this, Mr Macron said: “If I stop here, because of some protests, they are legitimate but in a minority, then I will never be able to reform again.”

Wallace followed this up: “Your popularity is falling. You were elected with 66 percent of the vote.

“The latest polls show that 58 percent of French people disapprove of your presidency, with only 40 percent approval rates.”

The French president responded: “If you follow the polls, you never reform, you never fix the situation, you never transform.

“You are always obsessed with following where you want to go. I will look at the polls in due time, not now.”

There was also the matter of an immigration bill which caused rifts in the French parliament.

On Sunday, the First Lady was putting the finishing touches on Tuesday’s state dinner:

She tweeted:

After months of preparations, and I are looking forward to hosting our first State Dinner with France! Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this visit a success. 🇺🇸 🇫🇷

ZeroHedge gave us an insight into the planning (bold emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

To prepare for Tuesday night’s State Dinner – the Trump administration’s first – Melania went all out, curiously doing so without the help of an event planner as previous first ladies have used

Preparation began seven months ago, when Melania began cooking up gift ideas – such as a framed section of upholstery from one of the chairs in the White House Blue Room, created by French designer Pierre-Antoine Bellangé as one of 53 pieces commissioned for the room by President James Monroe. 

The Macrons will also receive a photo album upon their departure, full of pictures of their visit – along with an engraved Tiffany & Co. silver bowl which bears the presidential seal and the signatures of both Trumps …

To pull off the event, Melania has assembled a “close-knit” team of 10 people in the East Wing. “The team is small, but mighty” says the first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham.

The Trumps are opting for a slimmed-down dinner of around 150 people – with no invites going to Congressional Democrats or members of the press

In fact, there was one Democrat who attended: the governor of Louisiana. It is customary for Louisiana’s governor to be invited to state events honouring the French head of state.

Monday’s schedule

This was the White House schedule for Monday, April 23:

The US military and various dignitaries welcomed the Macrons upon their arrival at Joint Base Andrews. Macron made a brief statement of thanks to Trump and said the two of them would discuss various bilateral issues, including trade and security (around 7:00):

Macron mentioned the mutual responsibility both countries have in the face of mounting international challenges. As a political commentator pointed out on France’s RMC talk radio, France is the EU nation the US will look to for military presence when needed once the UK completes Brexit:

A motorcade then took the couple to Blair House, where visiting heads of state reside during their visits. There, they were able to rest and prepare for the afternoon’s tree planting and dinner at Mount Vernon. Transport to and from George Washington’s homestead was via Marine One.

That afternoon, the president and first lady officially greeted the Macrons at the White House (longer version here):

They got a tour of the White House. Here they are in the Oval Office. Brigitte Macron admired the Resolute desk:

The Macrons gave the United States an oak tree sapling as a gift. The Conservative Treehouse explains that the sapling is an important one. It was (emphases mine):

taken from Bellau Wood, about 60 miles northeast of Paris in the Champagne region. The site is where a famous World War One battle took place, where the U.S. Marine Corps repelled a German offensive in the final year of the conflict almost exactly a century ago.

The sapling grew close to the so-called “Devil Dog” fountain, a spot that has become legendary within Marines ranks. It is where U.S. soldiers are said to have gathered after the battle. The “dog” in the fountain’s name refers to its spout, which resembles the head of a bull mastiff. But the nickname also stems from the German moniker “Teufelhunde”, or “devil dogs”. That term is said to have been used by the Germans to describe the U.S. Marines due to the ferocity with which the Americans fought.

As a consequence, “Devil Dog” soon became a common nickname for U.S. Marines.

The tree was already planted on the White House lawn, so the two presidents conducted a ceremonial ‘planting’ on the South Lawn:

I rather enjoyed this photo of the wives:

Then it was time to board Marine One:

This was the view:

They arrived a short while later. Macron cannot keep his hands off Trump, whom he sees as a father figure (see 3:10). You can see the exterior of the Mount Vernon mansion at 4:47:

This clip gives a closer view. The outer doors are particularly intriguing (3:00):

After dinner:

Before leaving:

The choice of the venue has historic significance for the two countries. George Washington had a close friendship with General Lafayette, who helped the colonies greatly in the Revolutionary War:

The media stated a more pedestrian reason for the choice of Mount Vernon:

In a statement issued that day, President Trump made it abundantly clear that the historical bonds between the United States and France are significant. An excerpt follows (emphasis in the original):

A LONG AND ENDURING FRIENDSHIP: President Trump is continuing the legacy of French-American cooperation that stretches back to America’s independence and working with President Macron to build the already strong ties between the United States and France.

  • President Trump has made clear that the bond between the United States and France is unbreakable.
    • The relationship between the two countries dates back to the days of the American Revolution, when thousands of French soldiers fought alongside American troops and provided crucial support in our fight for freedom and liberty.
  • Presidents Trump and Macron have reaffirmed and strengthened the U.S.-France relationship. They have met in person and spoken on the phone numerous times.

As dusk fell, the couples boarded Marine One for the White House.

Upon arrival, conversation was lively, as if between friends:

The top left photo shows Macron holding Papa Trump’s left arm (click to enlarge):

The Macrons left for Blair House:

Trump managed to secure an increase in France’s NATO contribution that day. Early that evening, The Daily Caller reported:

President Donald Trump secured a commitment from French President Emmanuel Macron Monday to increase the country’s NATO defense spending by more than a third.

Trump hosted Macron in Washington, DC Monday, after which the White House announced France’s commitment to meet NATO’s two percent GDP defense spending minimum, an increase of 35 percent.

Ah. The Art of the Deal.

Promises made, promises kept.

Tomorrow: The Trumps’ first state dinner

This will be my last political post before Easter.

Below are useful memes and a brief news update which can be discussed with family, friends and — for those online — readers.

Memes

This one is for those who don’t understand how they are being conned by the Uniparty:

If I’d done that photo, I would have replaced ‘Conservatives’ with ‘Deplorables’ (i.e. Trump supporters), but no matter. Not all Trump supporters are conservatives, and a number of conservatives are not Trump supporters.

Some Republican legislators are also part of the Uniparty in terms of preserving the status quo with regard to personal enrichment. They are called RINOs — Republicans In Name Only. Below are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin):

Here’s more about those two Swamprats:

The next one is for people who are upset at Trump’s signing the Omnibus bill on Friday, March 23:

It is essential to know that Obama (D) did a great job of hollowing out the military, work which began in 2004 under his predecessor Bush II (R): two sides of the same coin. See how the Uniparty works?

As for the anti-Trumpers (D) and never-Trumpers (R), the normally sensible people who are angry about the Omnibus bill would do well to focus instead on the mid-terms this year:

By the way, the Wall will get built. The Omnibus bill provides funding for chain link fence to complete the existing border reinforcement and repair existing parts. The Army Corps of Engineers is likely to build the new construction from Department of Defense funds:

The Swamp approaches drainage

Concerning the Swamp, we can thank Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) for his dogged pursuit of the truth as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Chad Pergram of Fox News posted two important tweets on March 22:

Spare a prayer for Melania Trump

First Lady Melania Trump must be going through hell with the media pounding on women who supposedly had affairs with President Donald Trump.

Notice that these women all claim their dalliances happened in 2005 or 2006. Interesting. Melania got married in 2005 and gave birth to Barron in 2006.

One could say that the media are bullying her with this constant onslaught of alleged infidelity. To turn on the television and find them interviewing these women — the latest being 60 Minutes on March 25 — and reporting on them day after day is unconscionable. The media are trying to break the First Lady down, get her to look depressed and, best of all (for them), file for divorce.

Therefore, please spare a prayer for Mrs Trump. The past few years, from 2015 to the present, must have been and continue to be very difficult for her.

She is making good on her 2016 promise to help tackle cyberbullying. Her critics are attacking her because they deem her husband to be a cyberbully. (He’s actually telling the truth about bad people.) On March 20:

Melania Trump pushed back against critics Tuesday, declaring her commitment to combating cyberbullying despite the hits she has endured for taking on the issue while her husband routinely goes on Twitter to berate foes and call them names.

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic,” the first lady said. “I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right. I am here with one goal: helping children and our next generation.”

Mrs. Trump commented as she convened executives from major online and social media companies at the White House to discuss cyberbullying and internet safety. The meeting came more than a year after she announced that cyberbullying would be her cause if Trump were elected president.

The choice was immediately assailed. On Tuesday, a defiant sounding Mrs. Trump said she’s not backing down.

The first lady said she gets many letters from children who have been bullied or who feel threatened on social media. She told the executives “I believe together we can make a real difference in encouraging positive behaviors on social media.”

Amazon, Snap, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft sent representatives, as did the Internet Association and the Family Online Safety Institute.

I wish her much success. A year from now, Barron Trump will turn 13, at which point he will be eligible for social media.

More to come after Easter.

The Revd Billy Graham departed this mortal coil on February 21, 2018, aged 99.

Only the good Lord knows how many people he converted or awakened to Christianity. If he spoke in person to 250 million people around the world during his ministry, imagine the hundreds of millions of people watching his televised Crusades and specials or listening to him on radio. What he accomplished over his 80 years as a preacher was so extraordinary that it might not be repeated for generations to come.

CBS News reported that Graham was (emphases mine):

the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history

Spokesman Mark DeMoss said Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning.

Tributes from American presidents

President Donald Trump tweeted and followed up with a formal statement later that day:

President Trump’s statement reads as follows:

Melania and I join millions of people around the world in mourning the passing of Billy Graham. Our prayers are with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all who worked closely with Reverend Graham in his lifelong ministry.

Billy’s acceptance of Jesus Christ around his seventeenth birthday not only changed his life—it changed our country and the world. He was one of the towering figures of the last 100 years—an American hero whose life and leadership truly earned him the title “God’s Ambassador.”

Billy’s unshakeable belief in the power of God’s word to transform hearts gave hope to all who listened to his simple message: “God loves you.” He carried this message around the world through his crusades, bringing entire generations to faith in Jesus Christ.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, America turned to Billy Graham at the National Cathedral, who told us, “God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.”

Reverend Graham would be the first to say that he did not do it alone. Before her passing, his wife Ruth was by his side through it all—a true partner, a wonderful mother, and a fellow missionary soul. He also built an international team and institution that will continue to carry on Christ’s message.

Melania and I were privileged to get to know Reverend Graham and his extraordinary family over the last several years, and we are deeply grateful for their love and support.

Billy Graham was truly one of a kind. Christians and people of all faiths and backgrounds will miss him dearly. We are thinking of him today, finally at home in Heaven.

George H W Bush also issued a statement:

Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world,” Bush said. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend. He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life. He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States. We will miss our good friend forever.

It’s true. There was never a whiff of scandal around Billy Graham. God blessed him abundantly, and the Holy Spirit worked through him until the end.

CBS News discussed the long line of past presidents Graham met with:

from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, but always denied any role in setting policy saying, “I don’t advise them, I pray with them,” CBS News reported. Lyndon Johnson looked up to his close friend, the pastor. Richard Nixon asked for his counsel during Watergate. The elder Bush called Graham to the White House the night before he launched the first Gulf War. Younger President Bush has credited Graham with turning him away from drinking and towards embracing God.

These are the names of those 12 past presidents from at least the early 1950s through to the present day: Harry S Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M Nixon, Gerald R Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama. That’s a mighty long list.

And he met with President Trump.

That’s 13 presidents in all.

Obama was the first sitting president to visit Graham at his home in North Carolina. That was in 2010, three years after Graham’s wife Ruth went to her heavenly rest.

CBS reported that Graham also became friends with Martin Luther King Jr about a decade before the civil rights movement took root:

In 1952 he stopped segregating his crusades and began a friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“All the problems of America tonight and of the world stem from the fact that we as the human race have sinned against Almighty God,” he said in May 1997.

Such was the impact of Billy Graham’s life that flags flew at half mast in Washington DC from February 21 to March 2, the day of his funeral and burial:

Tributes from clergy

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, remembered his family’s respect for Graham’s ministry:

As anyone growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s can tell you, it was hard not to notice and be impressed by the Reverend Billy Graham,” Dolan said in a statement. “There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God. Whether it was one of his famous Crusades, radio programs, television specials, or meeting and counseling the presidents, Billy Graham seemed to be everywhere, always with the same message: Jesus is your Savior, and wants you to be happy with Him forever. As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement. May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest.

One of Graham’s grandsons, the Revd Tullian Tchividjian, noted his grandfather’s universal appeal:

My granddad wasn’t just Christian-famous, he was famous-famous, he was crossover famous.

Unfortunately, Tchividjian succumbed to temptation in his own ministry. He resigned his pastorate at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale after admitting to an extramarital affair. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed him from their South Florida Presbytery as being ‘unfit for Christian ministry‘. A subsequent pastorate and outreach ministry also failed because of more sexual impropriety. In 2015, Tchividjian divorced his first wife Kim after 21 years of marriage. He married his second wife Stacie the following year. Hmm. What a contrast to his grandfather.

Honour of lying in state in Capitol Rotunda

Billy Graham was honoured greatly prior to his funeral:

This is a good photo of the exterior of the Capitol Building from Billy’s son’s — Franklin Graham’s — Samaritan’s Purse ministry:

A memorial service took place. Pictured is one of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughters, Lynda Bird. I remember when she and her husband married in 1967:

President Trump spoke at the service:

What follows is the text of President Trump’s address. It’s very moving — probably written by the incomparable Stephen Miller — and really expresses not only who Billy Graham was but how much he appealed to his audiences. I remember watching his Crusades when I was a child. During the first one I watched at the age of seven, I approached the television set when he made his call for people to come forward!

11:21 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell. And, most importantly, thank you to the entire Graham family for honoring us with your presence here today. Thank you.

In the spring of 1934, Billy Graham’s father allowed a group of Charlotte businessmen to use a portion of the family’s dairy farm to gather for a day of prayer.

On that day, the men prayed for the city. They prayed that, “Out of Charlotte, the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.”

We are here today, more than 80 years later, because that prayer was truly answered.

Billy Graham was 15 years old at the time. Just a few months later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That choice didn’t just change Billy’s life — it changed our lives. It changed our country, and it changed, in fact, the entire world.

The North Carolina farm boy walked out of those fields, into a great and beautiful history.

And I remember that, because my father said to me, “Come on, son” — and, by the way, he said, “Come on, mom. Let’s go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium.” And it was something very special.

But Americans came in droves to hear that great young preacher. Fred Trump was a big fan. Fred Trump was my father.

In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg, and scores of other places all over the world, Reverend Graham shared the power of God’s word with more than 200 million people, in person, and countless others through television and radio where people loved to watch and listen.

In 1978, with the support of the Catholic Bishop who would soon become Pope John Paul II, Reverend Graham went to Poland and spoke of the meaning of the cross to a people suffering under the soulless oppression of communism.

Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, was always in America.

He took his message to the poorest places, to the downtrodden and to the brokenhearted, to inmates in prison, and to the overlooked and the neglected. He felt a great passion for those that were neglected.

Everywhere he went, Reverend Graham delivered the same beautiful message: God loves you. That was his message. God loves you.

We can only imagine the number of lives touched by the preaching and the prayers of Billy Graham –- the hearts he changed, the sorrows he eased, and the joy he brought to so many. The testimony is endless.

Today, we give thanks for this extraordinary life. And it’s very fitting that we do so right here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where the memory of the American people is enshrined.

Here in this room, we are reminded that America is a nation sustained by prayer. The painting to my left is of the pilgrims as they embarked for America, holding fast to the Bible and bowing their heads in prayer.

Along these walls, we see the faces of Americans who prayed as they stood on the Lexington Green, who prayed as they headed west, prayed as they headed into battle, and prayed as they marched for justice, and always marched for victory.

Around us stand the statues of heroes who led the nation in prayer during the great and difficult times, from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much.

END

11:28 A.M. EST

That evening, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted a dinner for the Grahams. Franklin Graham is sitting to the left of Mrs Trump (her right):

The funeral

Billy Graham’s funeral took place in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday, March 2.

His grandson Roy provided the story behind the evangelist’s simple wooden casket. Recommended video:

This was the scene under a tent at the Billy Graham Library before the funeral:

The Trumps and the Pences walked together:

The Charlotte Observer reported:

His funeral service under a massive tent at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte drew more than 2,000 guests, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, governors, senators, religious leaders, celebrities and longtime Graham family friends. It was the kind of star-studded turnout that would have made Graham blush, suggested some of the speakers, who lauded this pastor to presidents and everyday people for always trying to steer the attention away from himself and toward Jesus Christ.

Family members escorted Graham’s plain wooden casket into the 28,000-square-foot tent, which was meant to harken back to Graham’s 1949 crusade in a “canvas cathedral” in downtown Los Angeles that shot him to national attention.

The service lasted the planned 90 minutes. Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — BGEA — as well as his own Samaritan’s Purse, gave the address:

My father’s greatest longing has been granted,” the younger Graham said. “He’s in the presence of God” …

Franklin Graham recalled his father’s love of his late wife, Ruth, his sense of humor and joy in his grandchildren. “The Billy Graham that the world saw on TV, and in the big stadiums, is the same Billy Graham we saw at home,” he said. “There weren’t two Billy Grahams.”

But Graham said the late evangelist also believed in heaven and hell, and in the Bible as the infallible word of God: “He didn’t understand it all, but he sure believed it all.”

In an era of political correctness, he added, some “want you to believe there are many roads to God. It’s just not true.

“Daddy, I won’t see you on this earth again,” he ended, gazing at the casket before him, “but I will see you again, and maybe soon.”

The article concludes by stating that the Graham family and the BGEA consider the funeral to be the Last Crusade. They hope it will stimulate new interest in the Gospel.

The videos of the funeral service follow:

More on Billy Graham to follow.

President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 30, 2018.

Last year, he gave a presidential address to both houses of Congress on February 28. The format was very similar to the State of the Union address.

Here is his address in full:

The White House site has a transcript. Stephen Miller, his speechwriter, did a formidable job once again. Miller is highly inspirational.

Most of President Trump’s speech follows. I have interspersed it with tweets of text and reactions, especially from Democrats.

Special guests

Beforehand, Trump welcomed his special guests privately in the Oval Office. He mentioned all of them in his address. They were ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Supervisory Special Agent Celestino Martinez, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert for her work during Hurricane Harvey, Staff Sergeant Justin Peck who rushed to save an officer stricken by an IED blast in the Middle East, police officer Ryan Holets and his wife Rebecca for adopting a baby born to a drug addict, three employees from Staub Manufacturing to highlight the new tax plan, two sets of parents who lost children to gang violence, Otto Warmbier’s parents who suffered deeply after their son needlessly died shortly after returning from North Korea, Ji Seong-ho who also suffered at the hands of the North Koreans, firefighter David Dahlberg who rescued 60 children from a California wildfire and 12-year-old Preston Sharp who has organised the decoration of 40,000 veterans’ graves with American flags and red carnations.

The guests sat with First Lady Melania Trump:

The address

Early in his address, President Trump set the tone for his review of 2017:

He said (emphases mine below):

Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success. We have faced challenges we expected, and others we could never have imagined. We have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine.

Each test has forged new American heroes to remind us who we are, and show us what we can be.

We saw strangers shielding strangers from a hail of gunfire on the Las Vegas strip.

We heard tales of Americans like Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert, who is here tonight in the gallery with Melania. Ashlee was aboard one of the first helicopters on the scene in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. Through 18 hours of wind and rain, Ashlee braved live power lines and deep water, to help save more than 40 lives. Thank you, Ashlee.

We heard about Americans like firefighter David Dahlberg. He is here with us too. David faced down walls of flame to rescue almost 60 children trapped at a California summer camp threatened by wildfires.

To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.

Some trials over the past year touched this chamber very personally. With us tonight is one of the toughest people ever to serve in this House — a guy who took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three and a half months later: the legend from Louisiana, Congressman Steve Scalise.

We are incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts of the Capitol Police Officers, the Alexandria Police, and the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who saved his life, and the lives of many others in this room.

In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people. But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.

Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew: that no people on Earth are so fearless, or daring, or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it.

So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our Union is strong because our people are strong.

And together, we are building a safe, strong, and proud America.

Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history.

Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.

And just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.

Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.

To lower tax rates for hardworking Americans, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone. Now, the first $24,000 earned by a married couple is completely tax-free. We also doubled the child tax credit.

A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000 — slashing their tax bill in half.

This April will be the last time you ever file under the old broken system — and millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month.

We eliminated an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year — forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they could not afford government-ordered health plans. We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.

We slashed the business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent, so American companies can compete and win against anyone in the world. These changes alone are estimated to increase average family income by more than $4,000.

Small businesses have also received a massive tax cut, and can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.

Here tonight are Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger of Staub Manufacturing — a small business in Ohio. They have just finished the best year in their 20-year history. Because of tax reform, they are handing out raises, hiring an additional 14 people, and expanding into the building next door.

One of Staub’s employees, Corey Adams, is also with us tonight. Corey is an all-American worker. He supported himself through high school, lost his job during the 2008 recession, and was later hired by Staub, where he trained to become a welder. Like many hardworking Americans, Corey plans to invest his tax‑cut raise into his new home and his two daughters’ education. Please join me in congratulating Corey.

Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonusesmany of them thousands of dollars per worker. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.

So to every citizen watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time.

Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of Nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family.

We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag.

Together, we are rediscovering the American way.

In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is “in God we trust.”

And we celebrate our police, our military, and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support.

Here tonight is Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old boy from Redding, California, who noticed that veterans’ graves were not marked with flags on Veterans Day. He decided to change that, and started a movement that has now placed 40,000 flags at the graves of our great heroes.

Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston’s reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why …

For the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their Government.

Working with the Senate, we are appointing judges who will interpret the Constitution as written, including a great new Supreme Court Justice, and more circuit court judges than any new administration in the history of our country.

We are defending our Second Amendment, and have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.

And we are serving our brave veterans, including giving our veterans choice in their healthcare decisions. Last year, the Congress passed, and I signed, the landmark VA Accountability Act. Since its passage, my Administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve — and we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do.

I will not stop until our veterans are properly taken care of, which has been my promise to them from the very beginning of this great journey.

All Americans deserve accountability and respect — and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers — and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.

In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.

In Detroit, I halted Government mandates that crippled America’s autoworkers — so we can get the Motor City revving its engines once again.

Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are unaccustomed to hearing — for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us. But now they are coming back.

Exciting progress is happening every day.

Trump then spoke about healthcare:

He then spoke about the importance of getting trade deals that are fair to the United States, ending with:

He outlined his plan for infrastructure:

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.

Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.

Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.

Together, we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

The next topic was safety, security and gangs:

Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th Birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors ‑- and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school.

Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain.

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again

He spoke of America being compassionate:

Then came the sentence everyone will remember:

Here tonight is one leader in the effort to defend our country: Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez — he goes by CJ. CJ served 15 years in the Air Force before becoming an ICE agent and spending the last 15 years fighting gang violence and getting dangerous criminals off our streets. At one point, MS-13 leaders ordered CJ’s murder. But he did not cave to threats or fear. Last May, he commanded an operation to track down gang members on Long Island. His team has arrested nearly 400, including more than 220 from MS-13.

CJ: Great work. Now let us get the Congress to send you some reinforcements.

The next topic was immigration. Trump explained that his plan has four pillars: 1) an amnesty for 1.8 illegals whose parents took them to the US at a young age, 2) the wall and more border agents, 3) an end to the visa lottery and 4) an end to chain migration.

These four pillars represent a down-the-middle compromise, and one that will create a safe, modern, and lawful immigration system.

For over 30 years, Washington has tried and failed to solve this problem. This Congress can be the one that finally makes it happen.

Most importantly, these four pillars will produce legislation that fulfills my ironclad pledge to only sign a bill that puts America first. So let us come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done.

These reforms will also support our response to the terrible crisis of opioid and drug addiction.

As we have seen tonight, the most difficult challenges bring out the best in America.

We see a vivid expression of this truth in the story of the Holets family of New Mexico. Ryan Holets is 27 years old, and an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. He is here tonight with his wife Rebecca. Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she did not know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.

In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: “You will do it — because you can.” He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.

Then it was on to defence:

As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression. Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck is here tonight. Near Raqqa last November, Justin and his comrade, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, were on a mission to clear buildings that ISIS had rigged with explosives so that civilians could return to the city.

Clearing the second floor of a vital hospital, Kenton Stacy was severely wounded by an explosion. Immediately, Justin bounded into the booby-trapped building and found Kenton in bad shape. He applied pressure to the wound and inserted a tube to reopen an airway. He then performed CPR for 20 straight minutes during the ground transport and maintained artificial respiration through 2 hours of emergency surgery.

Kenton Stacy would have died if not for Justin’s selfless love for a fellow warrior. Tonight, Kenton is recovering in Texas. Raqqa is liberated. And Justin is wearing his new Bronze Star, with a “V” for “Valor.” Staff Sergeant Peck: All of America salutes you.

Also:

So today, I am keeping another promise. I just signed an order directing Secretary Mattis to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay.

And:

I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends.

As we strengthen friendships around the world, we are also restoring clarity about our adversaries.

When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.

I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal.

Then, Trump discussed North Korea:

We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies.

Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia. On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea. At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June — horribly injured and on the verge of death. He passed away just days after his return.

Otto’s Parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are with us tonight — along with Otto’s brother and sister, Austin and Greta. You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all.

Here is a photo of Otto Warmbier before he left North Korea. (Background: Warmbier’s parents had contacted the Obama administration, which claimed to have been trying to do something to get him released. Mr Warmbier rightly thought that much more could have been done.)

Trump had one more North Korean story. This, too, is incredible:

Finally, we are joined by one more witness to the ominous nature of this regime. His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho.

In 1996, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea. One day, he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food. In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger. He woke up as a train ran over his limbs. He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain. His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves — permanently stunting their own growth. Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he had met any Christians. He had — and he resolved to be free.

Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. Most of his family followed. His father was caught trying to escape, and was tortured to death.

Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most ‑- the truth.

Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom.

It was that same yearning for freedom that nearly 250 years ago gave birth to a special place called America. It was a small cluster of colonies caught between a great ocean and a vast wilderness. But it was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea: that they could rule themselves. That they could chart their own destiny. And that, together, they could light up the world.

That is what our country has always been about. That is what Americans have always stood for, always strived for, and always done.

Atop the dome of this Capitol stands the Statue of Freedom. She stands tall and dignified among the monuments to our ancestors who fought and lived and died to protect her …

And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument to the American people.

They work in every trade. They sacrifice to raise a family. They care for our children at home. They defend our flag abroad. They are strong moms and brave kids. They are firefighters, police officers, border agents, medics, and Marines.

But above all else, they are Americans. And this Capitol, this city, and this Nation, belong to them.

Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them

It is hard to see what people object to in that speech. I will have reactions from both sides of the aisle and the media on Friday. Here’s an interesting fact:

For now, it is easy to see why Trump won the 2016 election.

He really does care about Americans and America.

It makes no sense other than to people who are sick in the head. More on the Democrats on Friday.

President Donald Trump attended his first Davos meeting, arriving in the Swiss resort on Thursday, January 25.

Only a few media outlets have reported that his attendance is thanks to President Emmanuel Macron of France. On Thursday, the London Evening Standard reported:

It emerged that Mr Macron was instrumental in Mr Trump’s decision to attend a gathering to which he was never invited when a businessman.

Mr Macron told RTS that he had “strongly recommended” that Mr Trump attend during a recent phone conversation “because I think it’s a good thing for president Trump to explain his strategy for the US and the world here in Davos. And that he encounters some form of confrontation and dialogue.”

Recall that Macron couldn’t let go of his new buddy — daddy? — when the Trumps were ready to leave Paris on Bastille Day 2017.

I heard soundbites of Macron’s address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and he said pretty much the same thing about France as Trump did about the US. Essentially, France is open for business.

By the way, there was a lot of snow in Davos, which begs the question about global warming. Oh, silly me, it’s climate change. Hmm. Snow during winter. Who would have expected that?

Trump arrives

Here is a video of Trump’s arrival:

Everywhere in the media — including the Evening Standard — journalists and pundits predicted a huge flop for the ‘America First’ president. Although protests took place about a variety of issues, including Trump, the reality inside was very different:

(I wonder if Macron saw that tweet. 😉 )

The evil Soros was his usual antagonistic self in his address to the WEF, accusing Trump of setting the United States on the course for nuclear war:

Anyone who thinks Soros is a good guy should read more about the man. He has meddled in US politics for ages and is now targeting at state level with huge donations to pro-Democrat groups and causes:

But I digress.

That evening, the American delegation had dinner with the heads of 15 European companies.

The head of SAP paid President Trump great compliments on what he accomplished in his first year:

The White House has a transcript of President Trump’s conversation with his guests.

Trump’s ideas catching on in Western Europe

Earlier that day, Ireland’s finance minister said Trump was making an excellent case for lower taxes:

The CNBC article says (emphases mine):

Asked if he believed Trump was setting an example on tax policy, Donohoe was positive.

Do I believe the mood is changing on corporate tax globally? The answer is yes,” he said.

You have to look at what President Trump has done, you have to look at the state of the U.K., you have to look at what President Macron said earlier in the week,” he said, referencing the French president’s Davos speech in which he proposed cutting some of France’s infamously high taxes.

In late December, a Republican-led U.S. Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs act, overhauling the U.S. tax system and slashing corporate taxes from 35 to 21 percent. The move, Donohoe said, was making European leaders think again about their own corporate tax propositions.

Bilateral meetings

Trump held a number of bi-lateral meetings.

On Thursday, he met with Prime Minister Theresa May:

I know a lot of Trump supporters are angry with Theresa May. Similarly, a lot of Britons loathe Donald Trump. Both groups should read the following.

To my fellow Britons, Trump did not know about the Britain First group. He gave an interview to Piers Morgan, co-host (and friend from Celebrity Apprentice) on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Friday:

In an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Trump said he had known nothing about the organisation when he made the social media postings.

He told interviewer Piers Morgan that he believed the videos showed “radical Islamic terror”, but if it was the case that they had been produced by “horrible racist people”, then he “would certainly apologise” …

Pressed by Morgan about the Britain First tweets during his first international TV interview since becoming president, Mr Trump said: “I knew nothing about them and I know nothing about them today other than I read a little bit.

“Perhaps it was a big story in Britain , perhaps it was a big story in the UK, but in the United States it wasn’t a big story.

“If you are telling me they’re horrible people, horrible racist people, I would certainly apologise if you’d like me to do that.”

He said he had made the retweets because he was concerned about the threat posed by radical Islamic extremists.

“They had a couple of depictions of radical Islamic terror. It was done because I am a big believer in fighting radical Islamic terror. This was a depiction of radical Islamic terror,” he said.

Now, for my American readers, Trump told Morgan that he and May get on very well:

On his relations with Mrs May, he told Good Morning Britain: “We actually have a very good relationship, although a lot of people think we don’t.

“I support her, I support a lot of what she does and a lot of what she says.”

The White House has a transcript of their meeting with the media following their discussion.

My message to both sides: stop the hate! Now!

Good things came out of the meeting (same link):

During their 40-minute meeting in Davos, Mrs May also raised the issue of aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, which has a major plant in Northern Ireland and is at the centre of a US trade dispute.

The trade dispute with Bombardier was resolved during that meeting. The Press Association reported early Friday morning:

Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier has won its case against United States proposals to impose massive tariffs on the import of its jets in a ruling which should safeguard thousands of jobs in Belfast.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) said rival manufacturer Boeing did not suffer injury from Atlanta-based Delta Airlines’ order of Bombardier’s C Series passenger jets.

The ruling means tariffs of 292% duties will not be imposed on the jets’ import to America.

The move could safeguard thousands of jobs in Belfast, where the C Series wings are produced, and unions said workers would be “breathing a huge sigh of relief” at the news.

The decision comes after Theresa May raised the issue with US president Donald Trump during a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

He met with his friend Bibi Netanyahu afterwards:

The White House’s statement says, in part:

The two leaders reviewed their ongoing cooperation across a range of issues and stressed their goal of countering Iran’s malign influence and threatening behavior in the region. They also discussed prospects for achieving an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

On Friday morning, Trump held a short press briefing:

His first meeting that day was with President Alain Berset of the Swiss Federation (i.e. Switzerland):

Excerpts from the White House transcript of their public remarks made beforehand:

PRESIDENT BERSET: So I want to welcome President Trump and his delegation here to Davos. It’s the first time that President Trump visits Davos and Switzerland. And it has been 18 years since the last visit from a U.S. President here.

And we appreciate the significance of the gesture, Mr. President. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being here

Switzerland and the U.S. — that’s a longstanding, excellent relationship. We share a deep, historic commitment to freedom, to democracy, to human rights, to free markets. And there is one more point I want to highlight to you, one aspect: our mutual economic footprints.

We have very strong economic relations. They are very strong, and they are growing very fastly. This is really interesting: More than 500 Swiss firms in United States and more than 3,500 business locations with a (inaudible) — creation of a half a million jobs.

And I think, I believe, we can even deepen these relations to strengthen our economies, and to build up, together, solutions to global issues

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Mr. President, it is a great honor to be with you. Davos has been exciting. And in addition to that, I think we’re bringing a lot of things back to our country, including tremendous goodwill.

I yesterday and last night — dinner with some of the great business leaders of the world, as you know. And it was very interesting to see and hear. They’re very happy with what’s happening in the United States …

But I just want to thank you for honoring us. We have tremendous respect for you — and congratulations on the election — and tremendous respect for your country. And it’s an honor to be here. Thank you.

He then met with President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda:

The White House has a transcript of their remarks afterwards. President Kagame said, in part:

Rwanda has benefitted tremendously from the support of the United States. In many areas where there is (inaudible) support operations we have carried out in different parts of the world, we had the United States, on our side, supporting us.

You have supported our economy, with trade, investment. We see a lot of tourists from United States to visit us — coming to Rwanda.

And, President, I wanted to thank you for the support we have received from you, personal, and your administration. And we’re looking forward to also working with the United States at the level of the African Union, where we are tightening out reforms of the African Union, so that we get our act together to do the right things. That helps — in cooperating with the United States, it would be more beneficial when we are organized, to know what we want from the United States —

Trump’s Davos address

Then came the moment everyone was waiting for, Trump’s address to the WEF:

The day before, CNBC’s Joe Kernen interviewed Trump.

The two men have known each other for several years. The transcript gives a flavour of what Trump wanted to communicate in his address. Excerpts follow:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So when I decided to come to Davos I didn’t think in terms of elitists or globalists. I think I thought in terms of lots of people that want to invest lots of money, and they’re all coming back to the United States, they’re coming back to America. And I thought of it much more in those terms. After I said that I was going there were massive stories about the elite, and the globalists, and the planes flying in, and everything else. It’s not about that. It’s about coming to America, investing your money, creating jobs, companies coming in. We’re setting records every week, every day we’re setting records …

KERNEN: Yes. You’ve moved a little towards the center. But so Macron’s saying that globalism doesn’t solve problems. Suddenly other countries are saying, you know, “We need to take care of, you know, our own country to some extent.” So it’s almost like the differences between America First and Davos. I think there’s plenty of room for you …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: There’s a lot of room. And we love global, but we love home. We have to take care of our home.

KERNEN: Right. It’s not usually exclusive.

Now back to Friday, before his address:

This was Trump’s message in a nutshell — please note the teal blue box:

The president spoke for around 17 minutes:

The White House has a transcript, excerpts of which follow:

America is the place to do business. So come to America, where you can innovate, create, and build. I believe in America. As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first also.

But America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe, and the drive for excellence, creativity, and innovation in the U.S. has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and far healthier lives.

As the United States pursues domestic reforms to unleash jobs and growth, we are also working to reform the international trading system so that it promotes broadly shared prosperity and rewards to those who play by the rules.

We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others. We support free trade, but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal. Because, in the end, unfair trade undermines us all

Represented in this room are some of the remarkable citizens from all over the world. You are national leaders, business titans, industry giants, and many of the brightest minds in many fields.

Each of you has the power to change hearts, transform lives, and shape your countries’ destinies. With this power comes an obligation, however — a duty of loyalty to the people, workers, and customers who have made you who you are.

So together, let us resolve to use our power, our resources, and our voices, not just for ourselves, but for our people — to lift their burdens, to raise their hopes, and to empower their dreams; to protect their families, their communities, their histories, and their futures.

That’s what we’re doing in America, and the results are totally unmistakable. It’s why new businesses and investment are flooding in. It’s why our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in so many decades. It’s why America’s future has never been brighter.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Even CNN had to acknowledge it as a win:

CNN’s Chris Cilizza had to admit he was wrong. He expected Trump to go in all guns blazing (sigh):

More broadly — aside from any specific piece of rhetoric — Trump’s framing and tone in the speech was more kumbaya than confrontational.

No kidding. As if a successful businessman is going to berate other successful businessmen.

These media people are all the same — terrible, disingenuous and dim.

Trump’s cabinet

Members of Trump’s cabinet arrived a day ahead to participate in meetings regarding the economy and trade. They included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn and Secretary for Transport Elaine Chao.

The Conservative Treehouse noted that, on Wednesday, January 24:

… we saw U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross commanding around 80% of panelist discussion, and factually 100% of all questions and attention from the Davos audienceTeam U.S.A. is the epicenter of the economic universe and Secretary Ross was well prepared for the severity of attention.

On Thursday, Steven Mnuchin participated in a panel discussion, The Remaking of Global Finance. The Conservative Treehouse (same link) says:

If the dollar is strategically lowered by policy, the U.S. can suck money directly out of China (or any large economic multinational) because their vaults hold dollars as an outcome of trade surpluses with the U.S.  The globalists are scared shitless that POTUS Trump and Secretary Mnuchin will start crushing their global goals by utilizing this inherent trade leverage.

There is a potential for POTUS Trump and Secretary Mnuchin to weaponize the U.S. reserve currency if they don’t get the deals they want.  That looming threat exists and is an existential threat to the entire construct and worldview of ideological globalists.

The globalists, multinational corporations and banks, and those who gain by exporting U.S. economic wealth, always want a high dollar valuation.  They spend billions on lobbying efforts because they are used to controlling U.S. policy by influencing DC politicians; and using Wall Street finance constructs to purchase influence on U.S. monetary policy.

Probably why Soros was talking about Trump and nuclear war. Anything to obfuscate the reality.

Prior to Trump’s arrival, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao gave an eloquent answer to someone objecting to Trump’s and his cabinet’s presence at Davos. The video clip does not include the question, and the answer was not aggressive as the tweet below suggests. Essentially, Chao said — politely and calmly — that those who do not wish to hear what they have to say can leave. She said that Davos is a forum where different ideas and perspectives are discussed. Worth watching to hear her words:

Melania Trump

Meanwhile, amidst salacious accusations, which have been debunked

… First Lady Melania Trump visited the Holocaust Museum on Thursday, January 25, just before Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Saturday, January 27:

January 25 was also the Trumps’ wedding anniversary.

Mrs Trump is garnering empathy from the American public. Here is a reply to her communications director, Stephanie Grisham:

I couldn’t agree more.

Back home on schedule

The president planned to be back mid-evening on Friday, January 26:

And duly was (if you cannot get the video from the tweet, click on the Periscope link — in the tweet — to see the landing):

I hope that the Trumps were able to finally enjoy a belated presidential anniversary and wedding anniversary celebration at the weekend!

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump left the White House for Mar a Lago on Friday, December 22, 2017.

Earlier that day:

Crowds welcomed him upon his arrival in Florida:

On December 24, the Trumps fielded telephone calls from American children eager for the arrival of Father Christmas. The Daily Mail has a report with spectacular photos:

… the first couple surprised kids who had called in to NORAD to find out where Santa Claus is.

The president and first lady were patched in to a handful of NORAD’s expected 150,000 Christmas Eve calls from the living room at Mar-a-Lago where the Trumps are celebrating their first Christmas in office.

‘What would you like more than anything?’ Trump was overheard asking a child named Casper from Virginia as members of the media briefly listened in.

Reporters were unable to hear Casper’s response, but the president gave the request away in his answer.

‘Building blocks. That’s what I’ve always liked too,’ said the president, who was a successful real estate developer before jumping into politics. ‘I always loved building blocks,’ Trump continued.

‘Well, I predict Santa will bring you building blocks. So many you won’t be able to use them all,’ said the president, using his trademark bombastic language.

Speaking to another child, Trump was impressed by the boy’s Santa request.

‘So you want your grandma to get out of the hospital?’ Trump said. ‘That’s what your wish is?’

‘That’s great,’ the president continued. ‘That’s better than asking for some toy or something, that’s better right?’

He then assured the young boy that grandma would be alright.

‘So your grandma’s gonna be good, OK? She’s gonna be good,’ the president said.

At another moment he told a child, ‘When you’re in Washington, you’ll come and see me.’

In total, the president chatted with 11 kids, while the first lady talked to ten.

This video — trending at No. 27 on YouTube on December 28 — has the conversations:

Trump held a teleconference with various branches of the military to send Christmas greetings:

The US Navy and the crew of the USS Sampson tweeted their appreciation.

The military sent some exceptional tweets this year. I especially liked the Navy’s video. Open in new tab, if necessary:

Trump tweeted another seasonal message later on Christmas Eve:

His friend in Israel sent customary Christmas greetings to the American people. This year, however, is a special one for Benjamin Netanyahu:

The president and Mrs Trump attended the 10:30 p.m. service at the Episcopal church they go to, Bethesda-by-the-Sea.

The Palm Beach Post reported:

Bethesda-by-the-Sea is just under a five-minute drive up the Atlantic Ocean from the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club. The historic sanctuary — it is the oldest Protestant church in the region — has played a major role in the first family’s lives: The president and first lady married there in 2005. Their son, Barron, was christened there the following year. And the couple, occasionally joined by other family members, have attended Christmas Eve and Easter services there.

When Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April, first lady Melania Trump took Mrs. Abe to Bethesda-by-the-Sea. “Proud to share part of my family history with Mrs. Abe at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea where @POTUS & I were married, where we celebrate and we pray,” the first lady said in a post on her @FLOTUS Instagram account accompanied by a photo of the church’s garden.

Security was tight:

Since his election, the president and first lady enter Bethesda-by-the-Sea from the south side of the building, a side entrance that allows more direct access to the seats set aside for them toward the front of the church.

The service was not on Trump’s schedule released to the media, and church officials have declined in the past to confirm whether Trump would attend.

But regular attendees are becoming familiar with the security practices put in place ahead of Trump’s arrival: Worshippers are ushered through metal detectors. Women’s purses are searched. Men in dark suits with earpieces walk the line of parishioners waiting to enter the 500-person capacity sanctuary.

Once inside:

The church was standing room only, but the Palm Beach Post article stated that a few people in the congregation managed to make contact with Trump:

During the greeting, several people gathered around the president to shake his hand. As Communion was offered, people who lined up next to Trump — who was seated on the center aisle — paused to say, “Merry Christmas,” offer words of encouragement or, as one woman did, mouth, “Thank you.”

The Gateway Pundit had a great write up with videos and tweets that I’ve used here, including one of the service. The article says that the choir’s version of Silent Night is ‘hauntingly beautiful’:

I won’t include any of the sermon, as it was the usual Social Justice Warrior material we have come to expect from a once-great denomination.

On December 25, Mrs Trump released a selfie:

Trump tweeted a brief video of the White House — along with a special greeting:

The Palm Beach Post reported:

“Melania and I are delighted to wish America and the entire world a very Merry Christmas,” Trump says in the video. 

Trump also quotes a verse from the bible in the book of Isaiah, noting what the celebration of Christmas is about.

Melania speaks about celebrating our blessings as Americans and “prays for peace all over the world.”

Fox News had more:

… the president and first lady Melania Trump released a video message, with Mrs. Trump saying “at this time of year, we see the best of American and the soul of the American people.” President Trump added his own remarks, calling on Americans to “renew the bonds of love and good will between our citizens —and most importantly we celebrate the miracle of Christmas.”

“For Christians we remember the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that began more than 2,000 years ago. As the book of Isaiah tells us, for to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. This good news is the greatest Christmas gift of all, the reason for our joy and the true source of our hope.”

Here is the YouTube version, which, even on December 28, is No. 8 in YouTube trends:

The same Fox News article also reported that Trump laid on a grand Christmas dinner for people often taken for granted:

… administration sources confirmed to Fox News that the president also provided and paid for hundreds of Christmas dinners served up to the U.S Secret Service agents and officers, military service members and Palm Beach County sheriff deputies who were working Christmas Day at Mar-a-Lago.

Described as a “Christmas feast,” served in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, the buffet meal included a menu of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and dessert. The buffet was offered from the early afternoon into the evening, in an effort to cover two of the shifts for security personnel working the holiday.

Christmas is a one-day celebration for President Trump:

The Trumps are still at Mar a Lago. On December 27, the president visited firefighters and first responders in West Palm Beach:

Meanwhile, although the president has to be the most people-oriented and transparent for generations, Trump Derangement Syndrome continues unabated.

And I’m still getting Christmas card messages from across the pond denigrating a man who truly loves his country!

What on earth is wrong with people?

The week of December 11, 2017 has been chock-a-block with news.

It’s unlikely Big Media have reported the bulk of it. What follows are a few stories people might have missed.

The anti-Trump FBI ‘insurance policy’

A series of text messages between FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page were released on Tuesday, December 12. The Daily Caller reports (emphases mine):

Two FBI officials who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation exchanged text messages last year in which they appear to have discussed ways to prevent Donald Trump from being elected president.

I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok wrote in a cryptic text message to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.

It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok wrote in the text, dated Aug. 15, 2016.

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Several congressional panels have been after these text messages since the beginning of December, when news emerged of their existence. However, Strzok was dismissed from the Mueller investigation four months ago.

The text messages, some of which The Daily Caller quotes, are anti-Trump. Some have four letter words. Most are cryptic:

“Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,” Page wrote.

“I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps,” Strzok replied.

Like many of the exchanges, the full context of the message is not entirely clear.

Strzok also offered praise for Clinton while suggesting that he planned to vote for her.

In a March 2, 2016 text Strzok said he would likely vote for Clinton. In another exchange he wrote that if Trump won the Republican primary, Clinton would likely win the presidency.

On Wednesday, December 13, the Department of Justice inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released more information about the texts. The Daily Caller has more on the story. Horowitz received the text messages on July 20:

A week later, he met with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to inform them of the politically-charged texts.

Strzok was “immediately” removed from the investigation after Mueller was told of the texts.

Strzok, who then served as the FBI’s No. 2 counterintelligence official, conducted many of the biggest interviews in the investigation, including with Clinton and her top aides, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills

The FBI handed over those messages on July 20, 2017. After reviewing those exchanges, Horowitz expanded the investigation to include all of the text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page from Nov. 30, 2016 to July 28, 2017.

Horowitz’s office received those messages on Aug. 10.

Strzok’s departure from Mueller’s team was reported by ABC News on Aug. 16. The network reported that Strzok had been placed in a job in the FBI’s HR department.

The reason for Strzok’s demotion remained a secret for nearly four months as the Justice Department and Mueller’s office declined media and congressional requests for an explanation. The levy finally broke on Dec. 2, when The Washington Post and New York Times simultaneously reported the existence of the text messages.

A sample of the texts were released Tuesday night ahead of Rosenstein’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee …

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee pressed Rosenstein on that text message, suggesting that Strzok was indicating that he planned to prevent Trump from being elected.

[Senator Charles] Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Rosenstein on Wednesday inquiring about the text message.

Rosenstein said Wednesday that the Justice Department and FBI plan to soon make Strzok available for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee.

Strzok’s cryptic Aug. 2016 text [re the insurance policy] was sent just after he was handpicked to supervise the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Horowitz’s letter leaves a few questions unanswered. For one, it is not clear whether Strzok sent politically-charged texts with anyone else. It is also not clear whether the messages contained in the second requested batch of Strzok texts contain any controversial remarks.

The Wall Street Journal has more (note final paragraph):

This is a developing story which has the potential for unveiling criminality — but ultimately:

Alabama special election

In a surprise upset, the Democrat candidate Doug Jones was elected to the Senate, defeating Roy Moore.

The background to the story is that Jeff Sessions vacated his Senate seat in Alabama to serve as Attorney General earlier this year. Sessions appointed Luther Strange to replace him. Alabama governor Kay Ivey directed that a special election take place. However, I read anecdotally that she did not need to hold a special election. Strange could have served until his term ran out.

In any event, Luther Strange ran against Judge Roy Moore in the Republican primary. Strange lost to Moore. Accusations of molesting a teenage girl in the 1970s — unproven — led by an attorney who tried to smear then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 — dogged Moore. Even so, Moore did not have any get-out-the-vote programme, whereas Jones and the Democrats did. Moore then lost to Jones — but only by 1.5%.

Could this have been a case of voter fraud in a state that votes overwhelmingly Republican?

Rumours are circulating that out-of-state voters were brought into Alabama and driven around from polling station to polling station — a classic Democrat strategy that works.

The Republican Party — specifically Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader — also refused to help Moore. McConnell’s detractors refer to him as Turtle.

Imperator_Rex has a good analysis, excerpted below:

He concludes that Trump surely has a game plan in mind.

The 2018 mid-terms require Republicans like McConnell to shape up or ship out.

However, as Imperator_Rex says, McConnell and his ilk don’t really care. They are all part of the Uniparty, so life continues for them much as before. Democrat dominance, especially when it comes to opposing Trump, is preferable to a Republican majority that might be persuaded to turn Trump policies into law.

Jones’s election nearly puts the number of Democrat senators on a par with Republicans. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

Message to the black electorate

On December 13, the Revd Leon Benjamin and his family were guests at the White House.

They are an example of the middle class families helped by Trump’s proposed tax reform. Trump spoke about the tax plan, then invited the pastor to speak.

Pastor Benjamin had an important message, which began with:

To God be the glory!

Former Milwaukee sheriff David A Clarke expressed similar sentiments the day before:

Happy news

On Wednesday, December 13, First Lady Melania Trump participated in a charity drive for toddlers, the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots, at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders received a verbal kicking after Thanksgiving from CNN’s April Ryan, an annoying journo at the White House press briefings. Ryan criticised Sanders’s pecan pies, accusing the press secretary of not having made them herself.

So (although the crusts look store-bought) …

Here’s what happened on the day. Food really does bring people together:

Never mind that. Sarah’s dad had a message for her:

This will be my last news-related item until after Christmas.

On Monday, November 27, 2017, First Lady Melania Trump welcomed a group of schoolchildren to the White House which she has transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland.

Ballet dancers performed selections from The Nutcracker Suite. The US Marine Corps band provided musical accompaniment. (Ignore the sarcasm from the CNN reporter’s caption.)

AP has a good video here of the dancers and Mrs Trump’s warm hugs for each child. She also sat down to talk and listen to their Christmas letters to the US military and helped them decorate Christmas wreaths:

This video shows more of Mrs Trump’s dress (see the back at 40 seconds in). There were two tables set up for the pupils, but the children at the second table quickly left to stand behind Mrs Trump at her table. One girl sat on her lap:

One child compared America’s first lady to an angel:

Indeed. Mrs Trump’s dress was perfect for the occasion:

The Gateway Pundit reported that the children are from Joint Base Andrews:

NBC News tweeted heartwarming footage of Melania Trump welcoming students from Joint Base Andrews at a White House Christmas event. The children were stunned as the angelic First Lady entered the room.

“Are you the first lady?!” a boy asked as he hugged Melania Trump.

“She seriously looks like an angel,” added another child.

Look at the kids run to her:

They clearly enjoyed being with her:

The White House issued a press release on this year’s Christmas decorations, excerpted below (emphases mine):

The First Family will celebrate their first Christmas in the White House with a nod to tradition. This year’s theme, “Time-Honored Traditions” was designed by First Lady Melania Trump to pay respect to 200 years of holiday traditions at the White House.

In the East Wing, visitors find a tribute to our service members and their families with the Gold Star Family Tree, which has been decorated with gold stars and patriotic ribbon. Visitors are encouraged to write a message to their loved ones who are on duty or abroad on the digital tablets provided.

After passing through the East colonnade, visitors will see the China Room, which honors the holiday traditions of dining and hospitality. The room is set up for a family Christmas dinner, with the table displaying the china from President Ronald Reagan. Then, visitors will see the Library, which features President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1866 edition of “A Christmas Carol,” as they recall the time-honored custom of reading Christmas stories to loved ones.

On the State Floor of the White House, the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall celebrate the first themed White House Christmas, which was the “Nutcracker Suite” in 1961. The Green Room honors the festivities of crafts, paper, and classic design. The Blue Room holds the official White House Christmas tree, which is decorated with glass ornaments depicting the seal of each State and territory. The Red Room hosts delightful holiday treats, and has been decorated with peppermints, candy, and cookies. The State Dining Room holds a traditional gingerbread house, which depicts the South facade of the White House and features Mrs. Trump’s signature Christmas wreaths.

I mentioned the gingerbread house last week. It is something to behold.

The White House will be receiving many visitors in the run up to Christmas:

the White House will host more than 100 open houses and many receptions. More than 25,000 visitors will walk the halls taking part in public tours.

Unlike presidential palaces, it is considered the People’s House, and the Trumps have opened the doors to tens of thousands of Americans, many for special recognition, in addition to those attending tours.

After many years in storage, the Nativity scene has reappeared:

You can see it from a distance in this video, at the end of a corridor full of brilliantly decorated Christmas trees:

This video shows the Nativity scene close up at the beginning of the following video (detail photo here). How beautiful:

In addition to views of the other rooms — including the Blue Room with the main Christmas tree (also see) — that video also has an excellent extended close-up of the gingerbread house, complete with portico and columns. How did they make that? Wow!

Mrs Trump also has Christmas booklets printed which explain a bit about the history of the White House rooms. The boy in the illustration is the First Son, aged 11:

Along with millions of Americans, I am so grateful for such a wonderful First Family.

No more Mao ornaments, as favoured by the Obamas. Thank goodness for that.

Compare and contrast the 2016 White House decorations with this year’s. (No Mao ornaments, but the difference is startling.)

Even worse were the Clintons’ White House displays. Please read the story at that link (content too indecent to summarise here).

In closing, here is another video.

I am also grateful that the Gateway Pundit‘s Jim Hoft gave special emphasis to the Nativity scene:

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are bringing Christ back to Christmas.

Melania released video of the beautiful White House decorations.

And this year a Nativity scene was included.

Yes! Christmas makes a comeback!

And the White House has never looked as beautiful as it does now.

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UPDATE: CNN announced they will be boycotting the Trumps’ White House Christmas party for the media. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is delighted, and Trump says we should turn off CNN.

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