Is This News? (02/16/17): Trump’s Russian Contacts, Secretary of Labor Position, WH Leaks, and “That” Trump Press Conference

With so much going on in the Trump presidency, there has been a glut of news out there in the last week. But we ask the question, are these stories worth paying attention to?



While there has been very little legislative action coming from the White House this past month, that doesn’t mean the Trump administration hasn’t kept us busy. Let’s just say things have been hectic!


“A visual representation of the media in the last month.”


But the question we ask, is it all news? We decided to dive into some recent headlines and find out!



The New York Times has reported that the Trump campaign team had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials before the November vote. So the question, is this news? 




Since Donald Trump had announced his intentions of running for president, the question of Russian influence has always lingered in his campaign. Now that Trump is president, that question of Russian influence has only intensified! Now granted, that same New York Times report does stress that they don’t know if these conversations talked about the interference of the presidential election or if any of those individuals that had contact with Russia are now working in the White House. But regardless, the story still matters for a variety of reasons!


While the obvious one of the Trump organization having contact with a foreign actor that has been aggressive against the United States is worth concern, for now let’s push that aside for the moment. So even if you were to not take that into account, the fact is, the potential of the Trump administration having connections to Russia is alone causing chaos within the executive branch. Whether it’s the resignation of President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn or the report from the Wall Street Journal claiming that intelligence agencies are withholding information from the White House because they don’t trust them, this has become a deterrence to doing basic functions of the executive branch. Not only that, it has also been a distraction to the legislative branch as well, because even when Congressional Republicans try to push the legislative agendas like repealing the ACA (aka Obamacare) or pushing their border tax initiative, Trump’s connections to Russia constantly overshadow it!


It’s also important to note that President Trump has done very little, if anything, to calm fears of his team’s connection to Russia. Even at his press conference today – which we’ll get to in a bit – he repeatedly declined to say if officials in his campaign were communicating with Russia. And worse, he kept trying to pivot the message from Russia to leaks in the White House.


Considering the non-answers that President Trump has given regarding ties to his campaign and Russia, this story looks to have some real staying power.



The Associated Press is reporting that Andrew Puzder is out as President Trump’s pick as Labor Secretary and Alexander Acosta is in! Is this news?          


Yeah, we think it’s news.


So last night, the Associated Press reported President Trump’s original pick for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, had withdrew his nomination and this afternoon during his press conference, President Trump had announced that Alexander Acosta would be his replacement pick.


Before we get into Acosta, let’s first talk about Puzder. From the beginning Democrats and more specifically labor rights organizations had a real problem with Puzder due to allegations of hiring undocumented workers and failing to pay employer taxes while he was CEO of CKE Holdings (ie the corporate-conglomerate that owns fast-food establishments Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s). Yet that originally didn’t look like it would deter his nomination. A lot like President Trump’s other cabinet nominees, Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos, GOP backing looked to be enough so the nomination would be able to get through.


Now of course, that wasn’t the case.


What looked to be the tipping point for many GOP Senators regarding Puzder was the disturbing allegations from his ex-wife, in which she accuses him of assaulting and threatening her. Many Republican Senators were worried that a Puzder confirmation would come back and haunt them in their re-election efforts as David Drucker of the Washington Examiner reported.



The first major take-away of Puzder withdrawing his nomination is that Senate Democrats finally got a win in blocking one of Trump’s more controversial cabinet nominees. While it isn’t as big of a senate victory as the blocking of DeVos would have been, making Trump rethink his pick for Labor Secretary is still a pretty decent consolation prize.


From the looks of it, Acosta looks to be a much easier pill to swallow for both the Democrats and pro-labor groups. From his resume, he looks to be a fairly typical, well qualified bureaucrat that attain high-level government positions like Secretary of Labor. In this case, having a fairly traditional Labor Secretary pick like Acosta is as good of a win as Senate Democrats can ask for.



This morning, the Washington Post reported that President Trump said the leakers within his administration are “going to pay a big price.” Is this news?


It has the potential to be news.


It honestly depends of what President Trump meant by “going have to pay a big price.” Now for the record, President Trump isn’t the first US president to complain about White House leaks to the press. Yet at the same time, we can’t remember news organizations being so aggressive in asking for government leaks from federal bureaucrats and a presidential administration openly threatening against the practice!


There are reports that President Trump is considering bringing on a third-party outsider in New York financier Stephen Feinberg to lead a broad review of US intelligence agencies to see where the leaks are coming from, but nothing has been set-in-stone yet. Regardless, bringing in an outside, third-party element, that isn’t affiliated with the intelligence agencies just sounds like a bad idea, for multiple reasons, including the compromising of classified information and not understanding the intelligence community enough to creating false-positives.


From what people have been saying, this is just a reaction to the frustration, that President Trump has felt about the intelligence communities’ findings of Trump’s ties to the Russian government. The hope is that this is just tough talk from President Trump and that there is no real action towards this.



Politico’s headline this afternoon reads, “Trump Unleashes Fury After Four Long Weeks”, in which the story goes on to talk about how President Trump unloaded on the media after a “extraordinary” press conference. So… is this news?


Well… there was definitely tidbits of news within that press conference. Or President Trump’s rant. Honestly either phrase can be used in this case.



Politico definitely nailed the vibe of the entire press conference with that headline. President Trump just looked to be celebrating Festivus early this year, with his airing of grievances at the media! But the pervading question many were having was this.



It’s a fair question, because on the campaign trail, President Trump was able to use that outsider mentality to turn that into an electoral college win. But that mentality might not fly when you’re actually governing. And while there were bits of information to come out of the hour-plus press conference – his new Labor Secretary pick, what his administration plans to do with his Executive Order on immigration, ect – the biggest question many had, he continued to dodge throughout; giving a clear answer to his ties with the Russian government.


And because of that, the press conference will most definitely dominate the news cycle, but it was nothing more than empty political jargon.



(Photo Credits:, New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Politico)


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