Stop The Donald Trump

He’s a fascist, authoritarian, racist, sexist, and your Republican President of the United States of America.

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Trump claims vindication, eyes vengeance

Donald J. Trump has twice gone to war with Democrats and most of the American media — and won both times, dramatically and consequentially.

The big picture: The one-two gut punch to his critics — first, beating Hillary Clinton, and now, vindication from Robert Mueller — won’t just define his first term in office. It’ll shape and sharpen his argument for re-election — and his war against the anti-Trump media.

“Within an hour of learning the findings,” the WashPost reports, “Trump called for an investigation of his critics and cast himself as a victim.”

  • “Aides say Trump plans to … call for organizations to fire members of the media and former government officials who he believes made false accusations about him.”

Attorney General William Barr writes in his summary for Congress that Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”

  • The summary leaves many open questions that could be answered by a full airing of the report, which will be Dems’ main focus this week at least.
  • On obstruction of justice, Mueller wrote that while his report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Why it matters: The outcome is a huge political victory, and Trump will use it to bludgeon the media and Democrats for the next 18 months.

  • Much of the country will probably agree with him.
  • The president will use it to cast doubt on investigations by House Democrats, or by other state and federal officials.

Now, the vengeance: Trump allies are already pushing to investigate the investigators and attack the media.

  • Don Jr., the president’s eldest son, tweeted: “How this farce started and snowballed … into one the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the America should be discovered. Those responsible should be held accountable.”
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said: “The public deserves to see the interviews, documents, and intelligence that ‘justified’ this investigation in the first place.”
  • And Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News: “[T]here has to be a full and complete investigation, with at least as much enthusiasm as this one, to figure out where did this charge emanate, who started it, and who paid for it.”

Trump on Mueller report: ‘Complete and total exoneration’

President Trump on Sunday claimed “complete and total exoneration” after the Justice Department announced special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence of collusion with Russia and criticized the probe as an “illegal takedown that failed.”

In his first response to the conclusion of the investigation, a seemingly angry Trump went on the offensive, bemoaning that “so many people have been so badly hurt” by Mueller’s investigation and calling for a new probe to “look at the other side.”

“It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this,” Trump told reporters in West Palm Beach, Fla. before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington.

“This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody’s going is to be looking at the other side,” the president added. “So it’s complete exoneration. No collusion, no obstruction.”  

Trump’s 87-second statement, which he delivered on the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport, came minutes after he tweeted: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

The president’s comments broke an unusually long period of silence, as Trump’s attorneys and advisers urged him to keep a low profile until Mueller’s conclusions were announced after the investigation ended last Friday.

But Trump and his allies were eager to take a victory lap after Attorney General William Barr released a four-page letter on Sunday afternoon summarizing Mueller’s findings from his 22-month probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which had cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency.

White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Emmet Flood briefed Trump on Barr’s letter inside his private quarters at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he spent the weekend surrounded by a larger-than-usual cadre of advisers in anticipation of the report’s release. The White House has not been given access to Mueller’s full report, aides said.

Despite his gruff demeanor while speaking to reporters, spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president was in a “really good mood” and spent the flight to Washington watching television, making calls and talking to staff.

“He’s just very happy with how it all turned out,” Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One.

In a paper statement issued minutes after the letter was sent to Congress, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Mueller “did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction” and called the findings “a total and complete exoneration of the president of the United States.”

While Barr’s summary said Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with” Moscow’s efforts, the special counsel did not determine whether the president obstructed justice during the probe.

Barr wrote that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and he decided there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump violated obstruction laws.

Nonetheless, Trump’s lawyers and political supporters called the end of the investigation a clear-cut vindication.

“As we have stated from the very beginning, there was no collusion and no obstruction,” Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow, Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin said in a statement. “This is a complete and total vindication of the president.”

Asked why Trump claimed total exoneration when Barr’s letter was ambiguous on the question of obstruction, Gidley said “prosecutors don’t exonerate, they prosecute. They don’t prove a negative. That’s just silly.”

Trump’s complaints about a lengthy investigation that “hurt” many people also renewed questions about whether he may pardon Mueller’s targets who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of crimes, namely his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The president has repeatedly refused to rule out a pardon for Manafort, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for a raft of financial and lobbying-related crimes.

Democrats in Congress on Sunday vowed they would push to make public more information related to the investigation, ensuring the political battle over the probe will continue for weeks, if not months longer as the 2020 election nears.

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. “He is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”

Pelosi and Schumer added that “the American people have a right to know” the contents of Mueller’s full report, and not just Barr’s summary.

Trump’s reelection campaign manager, Brad Parscale, accused Democrats who said there was collusion of taking the nation “on a frantic, chaotic, conspiracy-laden roller coaster for two years, alleging wrongdoing where there was none.”

“Democrats lied to the American people continually, hoping to undo the legitimate election of President Trump,” said Parscale.

Trump’s campaign sought to capitalize politically on the Barr letter, blasting out a video message attacking Democrats for their collusion allegations and urging supporters in a text message to donate to the campaign.

“Congratulations @POTUS @realDonaldTrump Today you won the 2016 election all over again. And got a gift for the 2020 election. They’ll never get you because they’ll never ‘get’ you,” tweeted White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Congressional Democrats demanded that the Justice Department release Mueller’s full report, along with underlying evidence, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he would call on Barr to testify before Congress.

Nadler tweeted Barr’s testimony was important to hear “in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department,” related to the obstruction question.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller wrote in his report, according to Barr.

[The Hill]

Trump Overrules Own Experts on Sanctions, in Favor to North Korea

President Trump undercut his own Treasury Department on Friday with a sudden announcement that he had rolled back newly imposed North Korea sanctions, appearing to overrule national security experts as a favor to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

The move, announced on Twitter, was a remarkable display of dissension within the Trump administration. It created confusion at the highest levels of the federal government, just as the president’s aides were seeking to pressure North Korea into returning to negotiations over dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”

The Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Friday against Iran and Venezuela, but not North Korea.

However, economic penalties were imposed on Thursday on two Chinese shipping companies suspected of helping North Korea evade international sanctions. Those penalties, announced with news releases and a White House briefing, were the first imposed against North Korea since late last year and came less than a month after a summit meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim collapsed in Hanoi, Vietnam, without a deal.

It was initially believed that Mr. Trump had confused the day that the North Korea sanctions were announced, and officials said they were caught off guard by the president’s tweet. Asked for clarification, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to give specifics.

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” she said.

Hours later, two officials familiar with Mr. Trump’s thinking said the president was actually referring to additional North Korea sanctions that are under consideration but not yet formally issued.

That statement sought to soften the blow that Mr. Trump’s tweet had dealt to his most loyal aides. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, personally signed off on the sanctions that were issued on Thursday and hailed the decision in an accompanying statement.

“The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Mr. Mnuchin said in the statement. He described the sanctions as part of an international campaign against North Korea that “is crucial to a successful outcome.”

Sanctions are one of America’s most powerful tools for pressuring rogue nations. Mr. Mnuchin has taken great pride in bolstering Treasury’s sanctions capacity and often says that he spends half of his time working on sanctions matters.

Tony Sayegh, a Treasury Department spokesman, referred questions about Friday’s sanctions confusion to the White House.

John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, had also hailed the earlier action against North Korea in a tweet on Thursday: “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.”

Mr. Trump has been eager to strike a deal for North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons arsenal and, in turn, hand him a signature foreign policy achievement that has eluded his predecessors. Hawks in the administration, such as Mr. Bolton, have been wary of trusting Mr. Kim despite Mr. Trump’s professed strong personal connection to the North Korean leader.

Last month, Mr. Trump was criticized for defending Mr. Kim over the death of Otto F. Warmbier, an American college student who died in 2017 after being imprisoned in North Korea. Mr. Trump said he believed Mr. Kim’s claim that he was not aware of Mr. Warmbier’s medical condition.

But in recent weeks there have been increasing signs that the thawing relations between the two countries could again turn frosty.

This month, a vice foreign minister of North Korea, Choe Son-hui, accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr. Bolton of creating an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” despite the chemistry between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.

In another sign of hardening on Friday, North Korea withdrew its stafffrom the joint liaison office it has operated with South Korea since September. The office was viewed as a potential first step toward the Koreas establishing diplomatic missions in each other’s capitals. But North Korea has expressed frustration with how South Korea has been handling its role as a mediator with the United States.

The talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim broke down because North Korea wanted the United States to roll back some of its most economically painful sanctions without the North immediately dismantling its nuclear program.

As the linchpin of the global financial system, the United States relies on sanctions as one of its most powerful tools for international diplomacy. Officials at the Treasury and State Departments, including career staff members and political appointees, spend months carefully drafting sanctions based on intensive intelligence gathering and legal research.

The North Korea sanctions were no different, and the White House held a formal briefing on Thursday afternoon to explain the rationale behind the actions.

During the briefing, senior administration officials pushed back on the idea that the sanctions sought to increase pressure on North Korea. Instead, they said, the new measures were meant to maintain the strength of existing sanctions.

But one of the senior administration officials strongly rebutted any suggestion that the administration would ease some sanctions as confidence building, or in return for smaller steps by North Korea.

“It would be a mistake to interpret the policy as being one of a step by step approach, where we release some sanctions in return for piecemeal steps toward denuclearization” said the administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. “That is not a winning formula and it is not the president’s strategy.”

While it is not unusual for the White House to have comment and even final approval of major sanctions, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed doubts about Mr. Trump’s ability to execute sanctions policy responsibly.

In 2017, Congress passed legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and limiting the president’s authority to lift them. Under pressure from his own party, Mr. Trump reluctantly signed the bill.

The reversal on the North Korea sanctions drew swift condemnation on Friday from Democrats, who accused the president of being reckless with national security.

“Career experts at the Treasury Department undertake a painstaking process before imposing sanctions,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee. “For Donald Trump to overturn their decision via tweet because he has an inexplicable fondness for one of the world’s most brutal dictators is appalling.”

He added, “Without a well-conceived diplomatic strategy, Trump is simply undermining our national security by making clear that the United States is not a trusted foreign policy partner.”

Some Republicans also pushed back against the president, with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado saying that North Korea sanctions should be imposed. “Strategic Patience failed,” he tweeted. “Don’t repeat it.”

Mr. Trump’s decision stunned current and former Treasury Department officials, some of whom wondered if the move was planned in advance as a gesture to Mr. Kim. Others feared that America’s vaunted sanctions regime had been compromised.

“For an administration that continues to surprise, this is another first — the president of the United States undercutting his own sanctions agency for imposing sanctions on Chinese actors supporting North Korea,” said John E. Smith, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who left the department last year. “It’s a win for North Korea and China and a loss for U.S. credibility.”

Sarah Bloom Raskin, who was deputy Treasury secretary under President Barack Obama, said the sudden backtracking on a decision that would normally be made with comment from intelligence agencies and the National Security Council was perplexing.

“Reversing sanctions decisions within hours of making the announcement that you would impose them in the first place is a head-spinner,” she said. “This reversal signals the injection of some peripheral consideration or factor that only the president seems to know about and that may have nothing to do with national security.”

The Trump administration did issue some new sanctions on Friday. The Treasury Department announced sanctions against Iran, targeting a research and development unit that it believes could be used to restart the country’s nuclear weapons program. It also imposed sanctions on Bandes, Venezuela’s national development bank, and its subsidiaries, as part of its effort to topple the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

[The New York Times]

Pompeo says it’s ‘possible’ President Trump raised to ‘save the Jewish people’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it’s possible that President Donald Trump may exist to “save the Jewish people” from what an interviewer called “the Iranian menace.”

The statement came during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Networkpublished Thursday. During the interview, CBN’s Middle East bureau chief Chris Mitchell referenced the Jewish celebration of Purim, in which adherents commemorate the Jewish people being saved from genocide in Persia, which is modern day Iran.

Mitchell compares Trump to Queen Esther, who saved the Jews according to The Old Testament story.

“Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace?”

“As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo answered. 

The U.S. has placed sanctions on Iran for what the administration has claimed is their funding of violent and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East. The U.S. placed more sanctions on Iran on Friday just as Pompeo said the U.S. will continue to curb the influence of Iran and Hezbollah.

The secretary of state is overseas for a Middle East swing, having visited Israel and Lebanon. On Thursday, he visited the Western Wall with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit is seen as a show of support for Israel. 

The president tweeted on Thursday that “it is time” the U.S. recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights, a disputed piece of land that Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Trump argued the decision, which was welcomed by Netanyahu, is critical for Israel’s security. However, critics say it could further inflame Middle East tensions

[USA Today]

Trump attacks McCain again, saying he didn’t get a ‘thank you’ for approving late senator’s funeral

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his unrelenting attacks on the late senator from Arizona and former GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who even in death has remained one of Trump’s top targets for abuse as fellow Republicans have repeatedly begged him to stop.

In a five-minute diatribe during an appearance at a General Dynamics tank factory in Lima, Ohio, Trump argued that McCain, a lifelong Pentagon booster and former prisoner of war in Vietnam, “didn’t get the job done” for veterans while also grousing that he did not receive proper gratitude for McCain’s funeral last September.

“I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” Trump said inaccurately, an apparent reference to allowing the use of military transport to carry McCain’s body to Washington. “I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank-you, that’s okay. We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

He added, “I have to be honest, I never liked him much. Hasn’t been for me. I’ve really, probably, never will.”

The full-throated repudiation of a deceased and revered member of his party was remarkable even for a president constantly at war with his rivals, and it came amid an outpouring of statements in recent days praising McCain in the face of Trump’s attacks.

“It’s deplorable what he said,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in an interview with Atlanta-based Georgia Public Broadcasting earlier Wednesday, referring to previous Trump attacks on McCain. “It will be deplorable seven months from now, if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out. . . . We should never reduce the service that people give to this country, including the offering of their own life.”

Trump’s comments are part of a longtime pattern in which he lashes into those he sees as challenging him — whether prominent or obscure, alive or dead.

In recent days, the president has also attacked George Conway, the husband of senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway, calling him a “stone cold loser,” “a whack job” and a “husband from hell” after Conway raised questions about the president’s mental health on Twitter. Others who have drawn the president’s ire in recent days have included weekend Fox News hosts and “Saturday Night Live” writers and performers.

Some close to the president have attributed his frustrations to worrying over the looming report on Russian election interference from the special counsel’s office — which he mocked Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House en route to Ohio — while others said he simply has fewer advisers to restrain him from airing his grievances.Trump: ‘I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be’

President Trump lashed out at late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on March 19. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Animosity between Trump, who received draft deferments from military service, and McCain stretches back decades and came to a head during the 2016 campaign when Trump declared that McCain was “not a war hero” because he had been captured after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam.

Aides say the new round of frustrations over McCain was fueled by a news report Trump saw recently about McCain’s role in handing over a copy of an intelligence dossier to the FBI after the 2016 election. Trump inaccurately blames the disputed document for kicking off the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the campaign to help Trump.

Trump has regularly railed about McCain in the nearly seven months since his death, complaining about the dossier and the senator’s vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act. Exasperated advisers have encouraged him repeatedly to drop the issue, but his grudge against McCain is particularly visceral, according to current and former aides.

Some of McCain’s supporters said the criticism would amuse McCain, who would have appreciated that the president was still tormented by his legacy. Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime friend and co-author, said that at first he was angered by the president’s mischaracterizations.

“It’s reaching a point of boredom for all of us. McCain is getting some kind of amusement out of it that he’s still in the guy’s head somewhere,” Salter said. “It doesn’t help him, but he can’t control himself. He obviously resents John. He obviously craves the admiration that John received in life. He may excoriate the establishment and fake news and everything else, but he craves its approval.”

At Trump’s event in Lima, Fred Creech, a 61-year-old welder from Wapakoneta, Ohio, said he was a Trump supporter who appreciated the president’s visit but said he was not thrilled by the extended anti-McCain diatribe.

“I can understand what he was saying, but I don’t know that it was totally necessary to explain all that to every single person out here,” Creech said.

Mike Phillips, 58, of Lafayette, Ohio, who works as a forklift driver at the plant, said he was a Trump supporter who appreciated the president’s political incorrectness. “We’ve got a president up there right now that has backbone,” he said. “And we’re sorry if we hurt a few feelings, if that’s the way it is, but we’ve got to be strong again.”

But Phillips was not eager to wade into the McCain controversy: “I do not have a comment on his comment. I’m not going there.”

Republicans have privately urged Trump to be more decorous about their late colleague, but most have done little in response to the continued attacks, aside from veiled criticisms. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) posted a tweet before Trump’s Ohio speech that praised McCain but did not mention the president.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who was close to McCain and remains close to Trump, said at an event in South Carolina on Monday that he had repeatedly counseled the president against attacking his late friend, to no avail.

“He’s an American hero, and nothing will ever change that in my eyes. I want to help this president, I want him to be successful,” he said. “ . . . I think the president’s comments about Senator McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Senator McCain.”

A number of Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday sharply criticized Trump’s attacks on McCain, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said Trump “faked a disability in order to avoid serving,” a reference to the president’s disputed medical deferment for bone spurs.

Beto O’Rourke, appearing at a campaign stop in Conway, N.H., pointed to McCain’s disavowal of racial attacks in the 2008 presidential race against Barack Obama.

“I think that kind of dignity and civility and mutual respect in our politics is missing right now,” O’Rourke said. “I hope that we go back to his example. Instead of focusing on the president’s comments I want to focus on Senator McCain and his example.”

The president is unlikely to change his posture toward McCain, aides say. He takes particular pride in the idea that GOP voters prefer him over McCain, and aides say he has bragged that Republicans might cringe but not punish him over the attacks.

On the day of McCain’s death, he scuttled issuing a statement drafted by White House aides honoring his life. He reluctantly lowered the U.S. flags over the White House briefly before they were raised — then under a fierce backlash, lowered them again.

The president also fumed about the wall-to-wall news coverage of McCain’s death and that he was not invited to the funeral at Washington National Cathedral, current and former administration officials said.

Trump said in Lima that he did not like McCain because he received a “fake and phony” dossier and handed it over to the FBI, “hoping to put me in jeopardy.” McCain had said he handed over the document after it was provided to him on the sidelines of a security conference because he thought it was important for law enforcement to investigate.

The president said, without providing examples or evidence, that McCain “didn’t get the job done for our great vets at the VA and they knew it.”

And he attacked McCain’s status as a longtime defense hawk who advocated a robust U.S. presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan. “We’re in a war in the Middle East that McCain pushed so hard,” Trump said.

After about five minutes of complaining about McCain, Trump seemed to realize he had flown to Ohio for another reason. Explaining his jeremiad, he said the news media had asked him about McCain — but only after he tweeted attacks on the late senator.

“Not my kind of guy, but some people like him and I think that’s great,” he said. “Now, let’s get back and get onto the subject of tanks and this economy.”

[Washington Post]

Trump: George Conway ‘A Wack Job’

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his attacks on George Conway, calling him a “whack job” who is doing a “disservice” to his wife, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

“I don’t know him. He’s a whack job, there’s no question about it,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before traveling to Ohio.

The president added that Conway’s Twitter attacks are “doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife.”

“Kellyanne is a wonderful woman and I call him Mr. Kellyanne,” Trump continued, repeating what he appears to believe is an insult to refer to Conway by his wife’s first name.

“It isn’t—except perhaps to the extremely juvenile and boorish,” Conway responded to a reporter who asked why it is an insult. “What I really wouldn’t want to be called is “Individual-[ ].”

Federal prosecutors made apparent references to Trump as “Individual-1” in its indictment of former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

The comments came just hours after Trump tweeted that Conway is a “stone cold LOSER” and a “husband from hell” who is “jealous of his wife’s success.”

“You. Are. Nuts,” Conway tweeted in response before repeating his claim that the president suffers from mental illness or a personality disorder. “You seem determined to prove my point.  Good for you! #NarcissisticPersonalityDisorder.”

This week’s back-and-forth between Trump and George Conway has elevated what had previously been a family feud watched by Washington insiders into the mainstream consciousness.

Kellyanne Conway defended the president’s attacks on her husband, telling Politico that Trump is within his rights to respond when accused of having mental problems.

“He left it alone for months out of respect for me,” Conway said. “But you think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a non-medical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?”

Despite Trump’s claim he does not know George Conway, the two men do have a personal history that pre-dates their Twitter feud.

Trump considered tapping Conway, a high-powered appellate lawyer, to lead the Justice Department’s civil division in 2017 but Conway said he took himself out of consideration, citing the president’s attacks on the department over the Russia investigation.

In a 2006 letter obtained by The Washington Post, Trump praised Conway’s legal skills used in a dispute at Trump World Tower in New York.

“I wanted to thank you for your wonderful assistance in ridding Trump World Tower of some very bad people,” Trump to Conway. “What I was most impressed with was how quickly you were able to comprehend a very bad situation.”

Trump added that Conway had “a truly great voice,” which he said is “certainly not a bad asset for a top trial lawyer!”

[The Hill]

Trump retweets QAnon conspiracy theorist, via Larry the Cable Guy, to slam the TSA

From a QAnon conspiracy theorist to actor James Woods to comedian Larry the Cable Guy to the leader of the free world. Thus travels information in the age of Twitter and President Trump, who took a late-night swing at a familiar punching bag — the Transportation Security Administration — via a nearly two-year-old video spread by a character on the far fringes of the Internet.

“Not a good situation!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday just before midnight about the clip of a young man subjected to a very thorough pat-down by a TSA agent.

Trump’s critique of the TSA, an agency he has lashed out at repeatedly on the campaign trail, is hardly extreme. The video he retweeted garnered millions of views and sparked outrage back in March 2017 after a woman named Jennifer Williamson filmed her son, who she said had a sensory processing disorder, at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

But the source who belatedly brought the video to Trump’s attention, through a winding path of Twitter celebrities, is likely to raise new questions about where a president fond of spreading conspiracy theories gets his information.

The video was reshared on Monday by a Twitter account called Deep State Exposed, which is operated by Jeremy Stone, a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Stone’s twitter bio includes the phrase “WWG1WGA,” shorthand for “Where We Go One We Go All,” a rallying cry for the bizarre theory that ties together the Pizzagateconspiracy and a supposed “deep state” plot to control American politics. Stone soon added a follow-up tweet to the viral video claiming that “TSA goes out of their way to hire high school dropouts with an inclination for sexual perversion. It’s mind control!!!”

On his Twitter feed, Stone regularly mixes fake Hillary Clinton quotes with truly odd conspiracies. The next clip posted after the video retweeted by the president was a piece of shaky cellphone footage suggesting that empty Walmarts are being used as “CONCENTRATION CAMPS SET TO HOUSE AMERICAN CITIZENS!!”

Tuesday night was not Trump’s first brush with that account’s particular brand of paranoia. The Twitter bio for Deep State Exposed boasts of nine retweets from the president. The feed made headlines in September 2017 when Trump reshared a meme from the account about Hillary Clinton’s book “What Happened.”

Stone’s latest presidential nod of approval tapped into a long-simmering point of anger for Trump: the TSA and the American airport experience in general. In May 2016, Trump complained that the TSA was “falling apart.” At the Republican National Convention two months later, Trump called the agency a “total disaster”and promised that he would “fix TSA.” Yet, among Trump’s budget moves was a proposal in 2017 to slash TSA’s funding to help pay for his border wall.

At rallies and in interviews, Trump also routinely complains that America’s airportsare “like from a third-world country.”

So it’s no surprise that the video of the young man in Dallas undergoing an intense body search would resonate. James Woods, an actor turned conservative social media activist who has been suspended from Twitter in the past for sharing a hoax, helped spread the clip by tweeting it with the simple phrase, “Uh…”

Larry the Cable Guy, a stand-up comedian famed for his “Git-R-Done” catchphrase, then weighed in, calling the video “Absolutely ridiculous!”

“How many times do you have to feel a kid up to figure out he’s not a threat? This is infuriating and hard to watch,” the comedian tweeted, which caught the president’s eye hours later. Donald Trump Jr. also joined in the outrage, calling the video “sickening.” (Deep State Exposed quickly thanked the president’s son for the retweet, adding in a fake Hillary Clinton quote for good measure.)

As for TSA, the agency in 2017 defended its handling of the viral pat-down at the Texas airport, noting that the procedure took “approximately two minutes” and “was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother.” The agency even wrote a lengthy blog post titled “TSA Mythbuster: The Rest of the DFW Pat-down Story” to combat blowback from the incident.

“TSA allows for a pat-down of a teenage passenger, and in this case, all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop,” spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told The Post at the time. “The passengers were at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.”

[Washington Post]

Trump Touts CNN Poll With 71% Saying the Economy Is in Good Shape: ‘Is CNN Becoming a Believer?’

President Donald Trump regularly denounces CNN as “fake news,” but this afternoon he touted a poll released by the network this week showing a notable positive result for him.

The poll, released yesterday, finds 71 percent of people saying the economy is in good shape, “the highest share to say so since February 2001, and the best rating during Trump’s presidency by two points.” (26 percent say it’s “very good” and 45 percent say “somewhat good.”)

51 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the economy and his overall approval rating is at 42 percent.

[Mediaite]

State Department bars press corps from Pompeo briefing, won’t release list of attendees

The State Department on Monday said it would not be distributing a transcript or list of attendees from a briefing call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held that evening — a call from which the department’s press corps was excluded and only “faith-based media” allowed.

The afternoon phone briefing was to discuss “international religious freedom” with the secretary — who rarely participates in such calls — ahead of his trip to the Middle East. One member of the State Department press corps was invited, only to be un-invited after RSVPing. That reporter was told that the call was for “faith-based media only.”

CNN also RSVP’d to organizers, asking to be included, but received no reply.Despite repeated inquires and complaints from members of the press corps who are based at the department, the State Department on Monday night said they would not be providing a transcript of the call, a list of faith-based media outlets who were allowed to participate or the criteria to be invited.

Officials would not answer questions about whether a range of faiths was included.A reporter with EWTN Global Catholic Television told CNN they were not originally invited to take part in Monday’s call with Pompeo but had asked the State Department if they could take part. The reporter was then invited to a different call involving faith-based organizations and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback that took place Tuesday and was organized by an outside group.

An article from Religion News Service — which notes that it “is not a faith-based media organization, but rather a secular news service that covers religion, spirituality and ethics” — said participants in the Pompeo briefing “were not told that the call was limited to faith-based media.””While it was not clear which outlets were part of the call, questions were asked by Religion News Service, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Algemeiner, World Magazine and The Leaven, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. America Magazine also participated in the call,” according to RNS.On Tuesday evening, one of the participants shared a transcript of the call with the press corps. That transcript showed that Pompeo faced questions about the Israeli election, terrorism and the omission of the word “occupied” when describing the Golan Heights and the West Bank.Pompeo did take part in an on-the-record briefing with the traveling press en route to the Middle East, where he was asked similar questions and provided similar responses.The State Department told the press traveling with Pompeo that the department does not release transcripts for print roundtables. However, they typically release transcripts for all of the secretary’s public press engagements. Former State Department spokesperson John Kirby, who is a CNN Global Affairs analyst, said “it is typical practice that any on the record interview in which a Cabinet official participates is transcribed and published at the earliest appropriate opportunity.””These officials are public servants. What they say — in its entirety — is inherently of public interest. It’s inappropriate and irresponsible not to observe that obligation,” he told CNN.Kirby said he has “certainly seen times when particular journalists or columnists have been targeted for inclusion on given topics.” However, “to exclude beat reporters from something as universally relevant as religious freedom in the Middle East strikes me as not only self-defeating but incredibly small-minded,” he said. “It’s perfectly fine to ensure faith-based media have a seat at such a table. But it’s PR malpractice to cut off access to the broader press corps. I wish I could say I expected more from this crowd,” Kirby said.A State Department spokesperson said in a statement that some press engagements — “Department press briefings, teleconferences on a myriad of policy issues, briefings and sprays by the Secretary of State and other officials— are open to any interested domestic or international press.”

[CNN]

President Trump again blasts John McCain, says he was ‘never a fan’ and ‘never will be’

President Donald Trump again criticized the late Sen. John McCain Tuesday, pointing specifically to his vote against repealing Obamacare and saying was “never a fan” and “never will be.”

“I’m very unhappy that he didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare, as you know. He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years and then they got to a vote and he said thumbs down,” Trump said. “Plus there were other things. I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.”

The president’s comments came during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Brazil and after a series of weekend tweets in which Trump blasted the senator, who passed away battling brain cancer in last August.

Trump accused him of “spreading the fake and totally discredited dossier” and of sending it to the FBI and the media “hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election.” But the president’s claim is not accurate. McCain wasn’t made aware of the dossier until after the election when he passed it on to the FBI.

The dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Along with other explosive allegations, it alleged that Russians held compromising information about Trump that could be used to blackmail him.

On ABC’s “The View” on Monday, McCain’s daughter Meghan fired back at Trump, saying he “spends his weekend obsessing over great men” because “he will never be a great man” like her father.

[ABC News]

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