Trump says public will find out about U.S. response to Iran downing American drone

177 0 20 Jun 2019

WASHINGTONPresident Donald Trump on Thursday said the public will “find out” about a U.S. response to Iran shooting down an American military drone in the Persian Gulf that the president insisted was in international territory.

Asked at the White House about a U.S. response, Trump said, “Obviously, you know were not going to be talking too much about it,” before adding, “You’re going to find out.”

“Iran made a very bad mistake,” the president continued. “The drone was in international waters clearly. We have it documented.”

Trump has invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to a briefing at the White House at 3:00 p.m. Thursday on Iran, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed, D-R.I., and multiple congressional sources told NBC News.

Trump’s comments, made at the White House during an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came hours after Iran said it downed drone and claimed it was in Iranian air space.

While Trump said the Iranian action was “a new fly in the ointment” and a “very foolish move,” he also said it might have been a “mistake.”

“I have a feeling that someone under the command of that country made a big mistake,” he said. “I find it hard to believe it was intentional. It could have been someone who was loose and stupid who did it.”

Trump added that it would have made a “big difference” if there had been a person in the drone.

The president’s earlier statement on Twitter that Iran had made a “big mistake” was the first official White House response to the downing of the drone, which occurred around 4 a.m. Thursday morning in Iran (just after 7:30 pm ET Wednesday evening).

A meeting was set at the White House for Thursday morning to discuss the U.S. response, according to two administration officials. Outgoing acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his replacement, Mark Esper, were among those expected to attend.

At roughly the same time, House and Senate leaders and key committee chairs were scheduled to attend an Iran briefing to discuss their concerns and hear about the situation from officials, Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

Later in the day, Pelosi planned to hold a briefing for the House Democratic caucus with Wendy Sherman, who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear agreement that Trump withdrew from, and former CIA Director John Brennan.

Pelosi said Thursday that “high-tension wires are up in the region” and cautioned against any “reckless” moves by the U.S.

“We have to be strong and strategic about how we protect our interests. We also cannot be reckless in what we do. I don’t think the president wants to go to war. There’s no appetite for going to war in our country,” she said at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill. “This is a dangerous neighborhood. A miscalculation on either side could provoke something that could be very bad in terms of security and our interests.”

Although both nations have acknowledged that the U.S. military drone was downed, they disagreed on whether it had violated Iranian airspace: Iranian’s Revolutionary Guard said it did, but U.S. officials disputed that, saying it was in international airspace.

Rebecca Shabad, Kasie Hunt, Frank Thorp V and Alex Moe contributed.

Putin sides with China over U.S. on Huawei, as Russias relations with Beijing grow warmer

192 0 20 Jun 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday slammed American measures against Chinese tech giant Huawei as a means to “hold Chinese development back.”

His comments, in an annual televised “direct line” with the Russian public, come as relations between Moscow and Beijing have been blossoming, to the alarm of some U.S. policymakers.

In the Russian president’s TV event, which usually runs for hours and is heavily censored, he also addressed many questions about internal affairs, including falling real incomes, corruption, Internet freedom, healthcare and utility tariffs.

When he was asked about sanctions that have been imposed on Russia since 2014 when it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and was accused of backing pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donbass, Putin said that even if Russia “totally surrender[ed] and spit on our fundamental interests” to reverse the sanctions, nothing would fundamentally change.

He compared the situation to tariffs imposed on China by the United States, saying they are “essentially sanctions.”

Negotiations between Beijing and Washington took a turn for the worse in early May with a tariff hike on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods exported to the U.S., and an effective ban on American companies doing business with Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

The U.S. has also begun investigating whether $300 billion of other Chinese goods could be subject to tariffs.

Beijing responded with tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.

A million questions from across the country were sent in for Russian President Vladimir Putin to tackle in an hours-long press televised event on Thursday. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin / Reuters

“Look at China,” Putin said Thursday. “It has nothing to do with Crimea or Donbass. You know how we are being blamed for occupying Donbass, which is absurd and a lie. China has nothing to do with that, but the tariffs on their goods — consider them sanctions — are growing and growing.”

He also addressed U.S. restrictions against Huawei.

“Where did that come from and what is the reasoning behind it,” Putin said. “The reasoning is holding Chinese development back. [China] has become a global competitor of another global empower — the United States. The same is happening towards Russia and will be happening in the future.”

During the televised event, a moderator mentioned that there was a hacking attempt “from abroad” on the call center taking in questions for the president. There was no immediate information about where exactly the alleged attack came from.

Military official says no U.S. drones in Iranian airspace after report of downed aircraft

177 0 20 Jun 2019

Iran’s state-run news agency claimed that the Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone Thursday, but a spokesman for the U.S. military denied that any U.S. drone was operating in Iranian airspace.

“No U.S. drone was operating in Iranian airspace today,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday that the drone, which it said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed was a RQ-4 Global Hawk, was hit Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province, according to the Associated Press.

The report comes amid rising tensions in the region, with U.S. officials blaming Iran for what they said was an attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied any involvement.

Central Command has called the incident a limpet mine attack. The U.S. military said Wednesday that one of the tankers sabotaged in the Middle East was attacked with limpet mines that “bear a striking resemblance” to devices in Iran’s arsenal.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced Monday that the Trump administration would send 1,000 additional troops to the region.

Shanahan said that the decision to increase forces was a response to a request from Central Command to address air, naval and ground-based threats.

Shanahan stepped down Tuesday and withdrew his name from consideration for the Cabinet position, President Donald Trump said. The president said Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, will take Shanahan’s place as acting defense secretary.

That announcement came within minutes of a report published in The Washington Post that outlined a series of alleged domestic violence incidents within Shanahan’s family. Shanahan said in a statement that it was “unfortunate” that details from the Post story were “dredged up.” He said that continuing with the confirmation process would harm his children. NBC News has not confirmed The Post’s report.

Alabama man denies pet is methed-out attack squirrel

181 0 20 Jun 2019

An Alabama man wanted on drug and gun charges, who authorities said kept an “attack squirrel” in his apartment, denied allegations that he fed his squirrel meth to “keep it aggressive.”

“Narcotics investigators arrested one man and are looking for another after they executed a search warrant Monday that yielded meth, drug paraphernalia, body armor, and a squirrel,” said a statement from the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.

Investigators searched an Athens, Alabama, apartment Monday after getting a tip that Mickey Paulk, 35, was keeping a methamphetamine-fueled “attack squirrel” at the residence, the statement said.

Ronnie Reynolds and Mickey PaulkLimestone County Sheriff’s Office

Ronnie Reynolds, 37, was found in the apartment and charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and loitering at a known drug house. He was released on $4,000 bond, according to the sheriff’s office.

The deputies also found a squirrel in a cage, and after confirming with Alabama Game and Fish that Alabama residents cannot legally keep a pet squirrel, they released it. As to the tip the squirrel was fed drugs, police could not confirm.

“There was no safe way to test the squirrel for meth,” the sheriff’s department statement said.

Paulk — although still wanted for possession of an illegal firearm, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia — appeared in a video on Facebook with a squirrel Tuesday night.

In the video he says he no longer lived at the residence that was raided, but went there after the search, whistled, and the squirrel settled on his shoulder.

Stephen Young, a spokesman for the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office, told NBC News Wednesday that the man in the video was the man investigators were still looking for. Young said Paulk had a criminal record.

In the video, Paulk acknowledge that the squirrel is aggressive and had bitten people, but denied that the rodent was trained to attack.

“The public isn’t in danger from the methed-out squirrel in the neighborhood,” Paulk said, with a chuckle. “He’s not on meth, I’m pretty sure. Better not find out he’s on meth anyway. I don’t think he likes that sh–.”

He wrote on Facebook that he had been bottle-feeding the animal since it was hours old and raising it “like it was my own.”

“He does not know how to live in the wild. So all they really did was try to kill him,” Paulk said. “He’s a little shook up by the whole incident.”

Ex-Scientology member sues church and its leader alleging abuse, human trafficking

183 0 20 Jun 2019

LOS ANGELES — A former Scientologist has filed the first of what her attorneys say will be multiple lawsuits against the Church of Scientology International and its leader, alleging retaliation, child abuse, human trafficking and forced labor against her and other members who have left the church.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks unspecified general, special and compensatory damages, well as unpaid wages, from the church, its Religious Technology Center and its “ecclesiastical leader,” David Miscavige, and 25 unnamed co-respondents at a jury trial.

Allegations in the lawsuit include libel, slander, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seek double or triple damages on claims the plaintiffs violated California labor and human trafficking laws.

The woman who filed the lawsuit, identified in court papers as “Jane Doe,” said she was raised in the church from birth and at age 15 became a personal steward to Miscavige, whose formal title is chairman of the church’s Religious Technology Center.

The church identifies Miscavige as the “ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion,” which was started in 1952 by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology asserts in its official statements of beliefs that man is an immortal spiritual being with unlimited capabilities, and it offers, for a price, one-on-one “auditing” and classes designed to help members achieve a “clear” spiritual state. It strongly opposes the science of psychiatry as “disastrous.”

According to the suit, Jane Doe joined the Sea Organization, described as an association of the church’s “most dedicated members,” who sign 1 billion-year contracts with the quasi-naval group. The lawsuit says she moved to the church’s Gold Base in San Jacinto, California, southeast of San Bernardino.

She remained there for 11 or 12 years until 2015, when she was removed as a steward and placed in an isolation program called “the Hole” because, according to the suit, she knew too much about what it describes as marital problems between Miscavige and his wife.

Banished to Los Angeles to work on church publicity, the woman escaped in late 2016 in the trunk of a car driven by a non-Scientologist actor with whom she was assigned to produce promotional videos, according to the complaint.

Scientology actively recruits celebrities to advocate for it. After she left the church, Jane Doe went to work for the actor Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, whose documentary TV series, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” has chronicled the stories of former Scientologists who allege the church abused them as members and harassed them after they left.

The Church of Scientology International has mounted a vigorous, often scathing public campaign against Remini and the TV series. It has posted websites condemning both Remini and Jane Doe, which NBC News confirmed were still active at the time of publication but which it isn’t linking to in order to protect Jane Doe’s identity.

The Church of Scientology International didn’t respond to emails and a phone call seeking comment. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the church said: “The Church of Scientology International has not received the complaint, but from what we have seen in the press, this is another shameful publicity stunt by Leah Remini and one of her employees.”

Brian Kent, an attorney for Jane Doe, said that for decades, the church “has sought to quash dissension, cover up its long history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of its members, including its most vulnerable members, its children, and weaponize its doctrine against those who escape and find the courage to speak up.”

“This is just the beginning, and we are not going to stop until they do,” Kent said.

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes Scientology as a tax-exempt religion, a status it won in 1993 after years of litigation. But another of Jane Doe’s attorneys, Marci Hamilton, academic director of Child USA, a nonprofit children’s advocacy group, argued that religious liberty defenses don’t apply in this case.

Church members “have the right to believe anything they want,” Hamilton said. “But they cannot do whatever they want. This lawsuit continues the important work of the #MeToo era to bring institutions and individuals to account for child abuse, trafficking and neglect.”

David Ortiz was not the intended target of murder plot, officials say

159 0 19 Jun 2019

Former Red Sox star David Ortiz was not the intended target of a murder plot and was accidentally shot in the Dominican Republic, officials said Wednesday.

The bullet that struck Ortiz in the back at the Dial Bar and Lounge on June 9 in the eastern part of Santo Domingo last week was meant for Sixto David Fernandez, in what authorities have described as a murder-for-hire plot. Fernandez, a friend of Ortiz’s who frequents the bar, was sharing a table with the baseball star at the time.

Jean Alain Rodríguez, the country’s attorney general, said Wednesday he personally interviewed Ortiz. The baseball icon, known as “Big Papi,” told Rodríguez he had no idea who would want him dead.

The attorney general said that authorities believe Victor Hugo Gómez Vasquez, a fugitive believed to be part of the Del Golfo drug cartel in Mexico, orchestrated the alleged hit.

Rodríguez claimed that the shooter confused Ortiz with Fernandez because they were both in light colored pants. In video shown by the police, however, the man identified as Fernandez appears to be wearing dark jeans.

It is still unclear why Fernandez was targeted.

Dominican officials have arrested 11 suspects in the alleged plot, including the alleged shooter. At least three of the suspects in custody met Vasquez in prison, officials said Wednesday.

Surveillance footage released by authorities showed Ortiz crumpled to the ground after a gunman came up from behind and opened fire at close range.

Ortiz is conscious and has been able to walk, according to his wife, Tiffany Ortiz. Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital upgraded Ortiz’s condition to “good” on Tuesday after surgeons on the Caribbean island removed his gallbladder and part of his intestines.

At least 10 of the suspects in custody have already been ordered to spend a year in preventive detention as the investigation continues. Authorities are still looking for three other people who may be involved in the alleged hit, including the man they think paid almost $8,000 for the hit. U.S. are aiding in tracking down the remaining suspects, Rodríguez.

Six historical New York City LGBTQ sites given landmark designation

126 0 19 Jun 2019

The Stonewall Inn is no longer the only historical LGBTQ site given landmark designation by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. As of Tuesday, six other locales have been granted the same status.

The sites include the Audre Lorde Residence in Staten Island, Caffe Cino and The LGBT Community Center in the West Village, the James Baldwin Residence in the Upper West Side, the Women’s Liberation Center in Chelsea and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse in SoHo.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an organization dedicated to documenting buildings tied to influential LGBTQ trailblazers across the five boroughs, curated a list of more than 200 sites in an initiative titled “Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York City.” The organization sent a truncated version of this list to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which then, along with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, identified the six places now designated as landmarks, according to Ken Lustbader, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“We’re thrilled that the city is recognizing these sites and establishing them as integral spaces in LGBT and American history,” Lustaber told NBC News. “Millions of people will be in New York City visiting Stonewall for its 50th anniversary, but while Stonewall marked a turning point, LGBT history predates Stonewall and the city is full of places that reflect that rich history.”

The Audre Lorde Residence on St. Paul’s Avenue in Staten Island was home to acclaimed writer, professor, activist and black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde from 1972 to 1987. Lorde, who lived in the home with her partner and two children, often worked in the house’s study and wrote numerous books there, including “Coal,” “The Cancer Journals” and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.”

Cafe Cino on Cornelia Street in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood is “widely recognized as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway theater,” according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Joe Cino rented a ground-story space in the building in 1958, intending to run a small coffeehouse. Yet soon enough, patrons began staging avant-garde performances there. Caffe Cino became known for elevating the works of unknown playwrights, including William M. Hoffman, who credits his career to the space. Many of Caffe Cino’s early productions featured gay characters and LGBTQ issues, and as a result, the space became a haven for gay men. Caffe Cino closed in 1968, a year after Cino’s death.

New York City’s LGBT Community Center has served as a hub for the community since 1983.Travis Mark / The LGBT Community Center

New York City’s LGBT Community Center has served as a hub for the community since 1983. Located in the West Village of Manhattan, the center is the birthplace of The Gender Identity Project, which is the longest running provider for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the state. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Dignity/New York and more than 400 other organizations have gathered in the center for meetings since it first opened its doors.

The James Baldwin Residence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side served as the iconic writer’s home from 1965 until his death in 1987. Though the civil rights activist and literary intellectual did not self-identify as gay, he spoke openly about LGBTQ issues and wrote several novels that featured gay and bisexual characters, including “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone” (1968) and “Just Above My Head” (1979), which were published while he lived in the 71st Street residence.

Founded in the 1970s, the Women’s Liberation Center was an integral meeting space for women’s groups, including several that specifically focused on the city’s lesbian community. The Lesbian Feminist Liberation, a group that sought to ensure lesbians were visible and heard at political and pride marches, and Lesbian Switchboard, a volunteer-led counseling hotline, were two of the many groups that met in the center. The Women’s Liberation Center closed in 1997.

The Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, a firehouse in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, served as the headquarters for the Gay Activists Alliance from 1971 to 1974. The group was considered the most influential American gay political activist organization in the early 1970s. The firehouse also brought together other LGBTQ groups, such as Gay Youth, the Lesbian Feminist Liberation and Gay Men’s Health Project, for social events.

“As people from around the world gather in New York to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride, now is the perfect time to preserve our unparalleled LGBTQ history,” Johnson wrote in an emailed statement. “New York City played such an important role in moving the LGBTQ civil rights movement forward and we owe it to those who fought in this movement to ensure that their legacy lives on.”

“These sites memorialize the diversity and intersectionality of the LGBTQ rights movement and will make excellent additions to the city’s amazing list of landmarks,” he added.


Election Confessions: Tell us how you really feel about the 2020 candidates

126 0 19 Jun 2019


Concept by Anna Brand. Design by Robin Muccari, Kara Haupt. Development by Jeremia Kimelman, Nigel
Chiwaya, Joe Murphy, Jiachuan Wu. Illustration by Chelsea Stahl / NBC News. Photography by Getty Images file, AP

5 exercises that target and tone the inner thighs

161 0 19 Jun 2019

We all have those areas of our body that we’re self-conscious about, that we would like to tone up. If the inner thighs are one of those areas for you, you’re not alone (hello, shorts season!).

While spot-reducing specific areas of fat on the body is near impossible, adding more muscle definition to certain areas is completely doable. Working the entire body and speeding up the metabolism through consistent cardio helps with overall fat loss. Combine that with exercises that specifically target the inner thighs, and you’re looking at stronger, more toned legs (and less of the “jiggle” that people are self-conscious about).

Appearance may be your main reason for wanting to show this area of the body some extra attention, but you will also be improving your body’s functionality and reducing risk of injury. The inner thighs actually are part of the core, so by strengthening them, you’ll be able to help prevent hip, knee and even low-back issues.

Dr. Steven Struhl, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, says “Working on strengthening inner thighs, also known as adductor muscles, is extremely important for both men and women, and has many unexpected benefits.” He explains that the adductors themselves are made up of five main muscles whose primary goal is to adduct or pull the legs toward the mid-line of the body and stabilize the outward rotation of the knees. “Unbeknownst to many, a strong core begins with strong inner thighs, as they serve as a foundation for the hips,” he says. Dr. Struhl explains that strong inner thighs can also keep ankles healthy and less prone to injury by providing better mobility. “Likewise, stronger inner thighs can help to take some of the pressure off of the knees, helping to protect the knee from injury,” he says.

Ready to start toning and strengthening? Perform this workout three times a week (every other day is a good schedule to aim for), along with 20 minutes of cardio three times a week, to reduce fat and build muscle in your inner thighs.

Leg raises

Lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, extend the right leg straight. Turn the toes out to the right and squeeze your right quad. Lift the leg up off of the ground, point it up towards the ceiling and then lower it down. Repeat this 15 times on the right leg, and then switch to the left leg.

Bridge and squeeze

Lying on your back with your knees bent, reach your fingertips towards your heels so that they almost touch. Make sure your feet are as hip-width apart, and then slowly pull the naval in towards the spine as you lift the butt, lower back, and finally your middle back up off of the ground, towards the sky. Hold this position for a few seconds, squeezing the inner thighs in towards each other. Lower back down and repeat this 10 times.

Leg lifts

Lying down, turn onto your right side. Prop yourself up on your forearm and stack the legs, shifting them out on a slight diagonal from your hips. Step your left foot over in front of the right leg, planting the foot in front of the knee. This is your starting position. From here, lift your right leg up off of the ground as high as you can, then lower it down. Repeat 10 times.

Leg circles

After completing the leg lifts, hold the right leg up and make a forward circle with the leg 10 times. Then reverse the circle backward 10 times.


Still lying on your right side, bend both knees, and place the left foot on top of the right. Open the left knee up towards the ceiling, and then close the clam by squeezing the right knee up to meet the left knee. Release down and repeat 10 times.

Then, turn over onto your left side and repeat these 3 exercises on your left side

Gear that will work your inner thighs

Looking to take your workout up a notch? If you’re in the market for a new piece of fitness gear, these are great options to challenge the inner thigh muscles:

Exercise Ball

While lying on your back in the bridge position (or while performing any ab exercise on your back), squeeze a ball in between your legs to activate the inner thighs even more.

Pilates Ring

Similarly, you can place the Pilates ring either in between your inner thighs or between your ankles to help activate the inner thighs more during abdominal or leg exercises (like bridges, crunches or leg raises).


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Biden touts past work with segregationists, de Blasio attacks with photo of his interracial family

176 0 19 Jun 2019

Joe Biden, recalling the “civility” of the Senate in the 1970s and ’80s, on Tuesday touted his experience working with two segregationist Southern senators to get “things done” – drawing an immediate rebuke from Bill de Blasio, who is married to an African American and has an interracial family.

Speaking at a fundraiser at New York City’s Carlyle Hotel, Biden brought up the names of Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both Democrats who were staunchly opposed to desegregation. Eastland chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden entered the Senate — a committee he would later chair.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.'”

Of Talmadge, Biden said he was “one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys.”

“Well guess what?” Biden continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition — the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

de Blasio, the New York City mayor and a presidential contender, struck back on Twitter on Wednesday.

On the campaign trail, Biden, who has previously mentioned both Eastland and Talmadge in appearances, cautions against those who believe it’s not worth the time to even try and persuade those across the aisle or with lawmakers who have morally different views on divisive issues.

“You know I got (to the Senate) and all the old segregationists were there for Lord’s sake,” Biden said last month at a Nashua, New Hampshire, house party. “But after the fight was over, then you moved on and this is, like I don’t consider the opposition my enemy, they’re the opposition and no one has brought the vitriol to American politics who has won.”

Biden, who is leading the Democratic primary field in the polls, said Tuesday he believes “one of the things I’m pretty good at is bringing people together,” before citing negotiations he took part in with Mitch McConnell, now the Senate majority leader.

“I know the new ‘New Left’ tells me that I’m — this is old-fashioned,” Biden said. “Well guess what? If we can’t reach a consensus in our system, what happens? It encourages and demands the abuse of power by a president. That’s what it does. You have to be able to reach consensus under our system — our constitutional system of separation of powers.”