Trump Boasts, Lies, and Attacks the Media in Solemn CIA Setting

President Trump traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday to make peace. But as he spoke in front of a wall with 117 stars marking spies who died while serving, Trump quickly shifted back to campaign mode — boasting about his achievements, lodging grievances against the media and making off-the-cuff observations.

The new president bragged that “probably everybody in this room voted for me,” told agents, “Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person,” and said his many appearances on the cover of Time magazine surpassed those of quarterback Tom Brady. He warned that the television networks would pay a “big price” for coverage that showed empty fields on Inauguration Day.

He blamed the media for ginning up his fight with the intelligence community, though Trump had, a week earlier, compared agents’ tactics to those of the Nazis while accusing them of leaking an unsubstantiated report about him.

“There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” he assured a crowd of about 400 employees at the CIA’s Langley, Va., headquarters in suburban Washington.

The free-form speech at such a  location and occasion underscored that though Trump has taken the oath of office, he will not restrain his style to meet traditional expectations for presidential behavior.

His habit of bragging and lashing out at enemies helped Trump build loyal support in his election run, but may also have contributed to his record-low approval ratings for an incoming president.

But Trump was consistently applauded by rank-and-file CIA employees. Senior staffers sitting near the front became more subdued as the president began to veer from topic to topic and charge that the media underestimated the crowd size at his swearing-in.

“Maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted,” he said at another point. “You’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you are going to say, ‘Please, don’t give us so much backing.’”

The CIA speech came on a day that started with Trump and his family attending a traditional ecumenical prayer service at the National Cathedral. He refrained from taking on millions of people attending women’s marches around the world during their protests Saturday, suppressing his tendency to retaliate against those he perceives as challenging his authority.

But Trump’s team has been obsessing over its own crowd sizes. Pictures of large crowds were placed in the White House briefing room as Press Secretary Sean Spicer chastised the media for what he labeled irresponsible, reckless and false reporting about the inauguration that he said sowed division. He pointed out that no official crowd estimates were given, yet insisted, improbably, that it was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.

Overhead photos and subway ridership statistics showed smaller crowds than in recent inaugurations, especially compared with former President Obama’s 2009 swearing-in as the nation’s first African American president.

Spicer did not take questions but issued a strong warning to the media that the new administration would be holding it accountable.

While Trump kept a handful of events on his public schedule, aides continued setting up the White House. Among the crucial housekeeping items: The Justice Department published an opinion stating that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could work as a top White House advisor, notwithstanding a 1967 anti-nepotism law. The 14-page opinion, written by Daniel Koffsky, a career attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel with decades of experience, concluded that the law grants the president broad hiring authority.

Spicer said Trump had spoken with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. He said Trump would meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington at the end of the week and with Peña Nieto at the end of the month.

Trump’s visit to the CIA building’s white marble lobby followed months of mocking the agency and questioning its conclusions on Russian hacking during the election. In addition to sending a message to agents, Trump wanted to show his support for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), his pick to run the CIA, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate early in the week. Trump met with senior CIA leaders who highlighted the agency’s counterterrorism efforts before he spoke to the larger group.

The CIA is expected to play a major role in increasing attacks on Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, a top priority for Trump. During his inaugural address Friday, Trump promised to “eradicate from the face of the earth” Islamic terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda. On Saturday, he told agents they would be at the forefront of those efforts and asserted that the intelligence community had not been fully used to help win wars.

“This group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again,” Trump said.

The CIA split with Trump last fall when the agency’s analysts concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered intelligence officials to launch an operation to influence the U.S. election to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump win.

Trump has acknowledged that Russia hacked Democratic files in an effort to interfere with the election. But he praised Putin, denied the effort was aimed at helping him win, and suggested the hacked information may have helped voters.

Top CIA leaders were eager to put the public spat with the commander in chief behind them Saturday. Meroe Park, who is leading the agency until Pompeo is approved, said Trump’s decision to visit on his first full day as president meant a lot. The hall was only able to accommodate 400 CIA employees, but hundreds more wanted to attend, Park said.
“CIA’s relationship with the president has been essential,” said Park, who has been at the agency for nearly three decades.

But Trump’s first appearance at the agency was panned by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“While standing in front of the stars representing CIA personnel who lost their lives in the service of their country — hallowed ground — Trump gave little more than a perfunctory acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice,” Schiff said in a statement that criticized Trump’s speech as frivolous and meandering.

“He will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world,” Schiff added.

New Trump Agency Memo Gags Staff Communications

The Trump administration is circulating a memo ordering federal employees not to communicate with Congress, a demand that Democrats are calling an illegal gag order.

“The Trump administration has issued restrictions at multiple agencies on employee communications, including, in some instances, communications with Congress,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote in a letter Wednesday to new White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II. “These directives appear to violate a host of federal laws.”

Cummings’ letter cited a memo — dated Jan. 20 — circulating at the Department of Health and Human Services from Acting Secretary Norris Cochran that tells agency division heads that “no correspondence to public officials (e.g., members of Congress, governors) … unless specifically authorized by me or my designee, shall be sent between now and Feb. 3.”

Within the last two days, Cochran, in a follow-up message to staff that was provided to ABC News by an agency spokesperson, sought to “clarify” his earlier memo, telling employees the “memorandum should not be interpreted or implemented in any way that would preclude or in any way interfere with our HHS staff addressing their concerns to their elected representatives in person or in writing.”

He said that the language in his memo was simply intended “to coordinate the Department’s policy positions with the appropriate policy staff on agency business.”

Staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency earlier in the week told The Los Angeles Times that their new bosses ordered a media blackout, quoting one directive as telling them, “Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.”

Cummings accused the administration of imposing a widespread ban on agency communication.

White House aides did not immediately respond to request for comment about alleged efforts to block employees from communicating with Congress, broadly, or about the latest in a series of letters from Cummings about the way they are handling the transition. The Associated Press reported that White House press secretary Sean Spicer said no directives to silence communication from agencies came from the White House.

A call and an email to HHS requesting comment was not immediately returned.

Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, refers to a memo circulating in the federal health agency that appears aimed at halting any effort to finish work on regulations that began during the prior administration. It is in that context that the acting agency head prohibited employees from talking with Congress.

Cummings and co-signer Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., cite a series of laws meant to protect open communication between federal employees and members of Congress, including one that ties agency funding to the free flow of information.

That provision, Cummings wrote, specifically prohibits agencies from issuing any order that “threatens to prohibit or prevent any other officer or employee of the federal government from having any direct oral or written communication or contact with any member, committee or subcommittee of the Congress in connection with any matter.”

(h/t ABC News)

Interior Department Banned From Twitter After Retweet of Smaller-Than-Usual Trump Inauguration Crowd

The Interior Department was ordered Friday to shut down its official Twitter accounts — indefinitely — after a National Park Service employee shared two tweets that noted President Trump’s relatively small inaugural crowds compared to the numbers former President Obama drew in 2009.

‘‘All bureaus and the department have been directed by incoming administration to shut down Twitter platforms immediately until further notice,’’ said an e-mail circulated to Park Service employees Friday afternoon.

The e-mail described the stand-down as an ‘‘urgent directive’’ and said social media managers must shut down the accounts ‘‘until further directed.’’

Interior has dozens of official Twitter accounts at its multiple offices and 10 bureaus, which include the Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Geological Survey.

As Trump’s inauguration ceremony got underway Friday, a Park Service employee involved in social media officially retweeted a tweet from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) that pictured the crowd at Obama’s inauguration next to Friday’s gathering on the Mall.

‘‘Compare the crowds: 2009 inauguration at left, 2017 inauguration at right,’’ Appelbaum wrote. The Park Service Twitter account then shared a second tweet from someone else with a similar message.

A government official familiar with the stand-down said the agency is investigating whether the retweets were purposeful, ‘‘errant,’’ or ‘‘whether we’ve been hacked.’’

‘‘They were not reflective of Park Service policy,’’ said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the directive. The stand-down was ‘‘precautionary’’ until the agency completes a review of its Twitter accounts, the official said. The Park Service tweeting ban was first reported by Gizmodo.com.

A retweet is a sharing of another person’s tweet. Seen straightforwardly, it’s a way to share an interesting piece of information. In the government’s case, the agency doing the retweeting must have a policy that agrees with the information.

In this case, the Park Service didn’t. Or someone was nervous that the retweets would be seen as endorsements of a relatively low crowd estimate and rankle the new administration.

It was unclear who at Interior made the decision to ban tweeting for now. The agency is being led temporarily by a team of career civil servants while the Senate considers Representative Ryan Zinke, Republican of Montana, as Trump’s nominee for secretary.

It was unclear Friday if the retweeting Park Service employee had been identified. But the offending shares from @NatlParkService had been removed from the agency’s Twitter feed.

National Park Service spokesman Thomas Crosson declined to comment on the tweeting ban. But he said that it is against Park Service policy to estimate the size of crowds at events, because they are often inaccurate.

‘‘Due to the difficulty in accurately assessing crowd estimates for large events, most notably following 1995’s Million Man March, the National Park Service no longer makes it a practice to provide crowd estimates for permitted events,’’ Crosson said in an e-mail.

‘‘While we make internal estimates for staffing, security, and emergency response purposes, it is left to the discretion of event organizers to make a determination of the event attendance.’’

(h/t Boston Globe)

Update

New photos released via a FOIA request absolutely prove Trump’s crowd sizes were drastically smaller that Obama’s inauguration.

White House Press Secretary Attacks Media for Accurately Reporting Inauguration Crowds

“That’s what you guys should be writing and covering,” new White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily lectured reporters on Saturday during his first remarks from the podium of the press briefing room.

He was referring to the delay in Senate confirmation for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Congressman Mike Pompeo, but the comment came after a long digression about how many people had shown up to watch Trump be sworn in as president.

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

Aerial photos have indicated that former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience.

Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.

He also expressed objections to specific Twitter posts from journalists. And he said, “we’re going to hold the press accountable,” partly by reaching the public through social networking sites.

His statement included several specific misstatements of fact in addition to the overarching one.

“This is the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall,” Spicer said, claiming that this “had the effect of highlighting areas people were not standing whereas in years past the grass eliminated this visual.”

In fact, coverings were used for Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

“This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past,” Spicer said.

In fact, a United States Secret Service spokesperson told CNN, no magnetometers were used on the Mall.

And Spicer said, “We know that 420,000 people used the D.C, Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 for president Obama’s last inaugural.”

Spicer’s number for ridership on Friday was actually low — the correct number, according to Metro itself, was 570,557. But there were actually 782,000 trips taken for Obama’s second inaugural in 2013.

Spicer, at times almost yelling while reading a prepared statement, took no questions. CNNMoney called his cell phone a few minutes later; he did not answer.

Some longtime White House correspondents were stunned by the tirade.

Glenn Thrush of The New York Times wrote on Twitter, “Jaw meet floor.”

“I’ve run out of adjectives,” wrote Chuck Todd, the moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post said Spicer’s assertion about “what you guys should be writing” was “chilling.”

Reactions were overwhelmingly negative, and not just from journalists.

Ari Fleischer, who had the same job as Spicer during the George W. Bush administration, tweeted, “This is called a statement you’re told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching.”

And Brian Fallon, who was in line to become press secretary if Hillary Clinton had won, wrote, “Sean Spicer lacks the guts or integrity to refuse orders to go out and lie. He is a failure in this job on his first full day.”

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol said “it is embarrassing, as an American, to watch this briefing by Sean Spicer from the podium at the White House. Not the RNC. The White House.”

The White House alerted the press corps to Spicer’s statement more than an hour ahead of time.

The CNN television network made a choice not to broadcast the Spicer statement live. Instead, the statement was monitored and then reported on after the fact.

Former Democratic congressman Steve Israel, who recently joined CNN as a commentator, said, “This isn’t a petty attack on the press. It’s a calculated attempt to delegitimize any questioning of @realDonaldTrump by a free press.”

Spicer’s statement came two hours after Trump spoke at CIA headquarters and described his “running war with the media.” Trump spent several minutes of that speech complaining about news coverage.

In his remarks, Spicer suggested Trump would bypass traditional media outlets he believes are unfairly reporting on his presidency.

“The American people deserve better, and so long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people, where his focus will always be,” Spicer said.

Spicer was joined in the Brady Press Briefing Room by members of his new White House press and communications staff, who are still moving into their offices and learning the way around the West Wing.

He tellingly led off his short statement with his tirade against the media, leaving announcements about phone calls with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, and announcing that Trump would meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, to the end.

During those announcements, Spicer incorrectly referred to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as “prime minister.”

(h/t Boston Globe)

Update

New photos released via a FOIA request absolutely prove Trump’s crowd sizes were drastically smaller that Obama’s inauguration.

Media

Trump Likes Intel Briefings to Be “Short”

President-elect Donald Trump is expressing concern about what he has heard during his intelligence briefings on global threats.

“I’ve had a lot of briefings that are very … I don’t want to say ‘scary,’ because I’ll solve the problems,” he said in an interview with Axios.

“But … we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies — very big and, in some cases, strong enemies.”

He also talked about the importance of making the right decisions while in office.

“You also realize that you’ve got to get it right,” Trump said, “because a mistake would be very, very costly in so many different ways.”

The president-elect also told the news outlet he prefers his briefings to be short.

“I like bullets or I like as little as possible,” he said.

“I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”

Last month, Trump pushed back against criticism that he does not receive intelligence briefings daily.

“I get it when I need it,” Trump said in an interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday.”

(h/t The Hill)

Trump Accuses NBC of “Fake News” For Questioning His Job-Creation Claims

President-elect Donald Trump says NBC News was “totally biased” and producing “more fake news” in a report it published Tuesday that pointed out that many companies are pre-emptively, or in many cases retroactively, announcing job-creation plans to avoid being targeted by a man set to become president Friday.

His tweets aren’t well-founded.

The NBC News report spotlighted instances in which companies themselves announced large-scale additions of jobs without mentioning Trump as a reason for their increased investments in the U.S., despite Trump’s having taken credit.

That list includes Amazon.com Inc., with its press release last week promising 100,000 new U.S. jobs, as well as the automobile makers Fiat Chrysler and General Motors . Often the corporate plans had been in the works long before Trump’s election on Nov. 8 or were among annual expansion goals that had been on the companies’ road maps for years.

MarketWatch, similarly, reported last week that Alibaba Group Holding’s claim, after a meeting at Trump Tower between CEO Jack Ma and the president-elect, that it will create a million U.S. jobs, doesn’t include full-time jobs or actual Alibaba jobs at all. MarketWatch also pointed out that Sprint Corp.’s decision to bring 5,000 jobs back to the U.S. from other countries, a move for which Trump took credit, were actually related to a previously announced commitment by Japan’s SoftBank Group to invest $50 billion in the U.S. as part of the global technology fund it announced with a Saudi sovereign-wealth fund in October. IBM Corp., which pre-emptively announced a 25,000-jobs growth plan in mid-December before ever meeting with Trump, falls into this category, as well.

The president-elect went as far, in a separate tweet, as to quote a Wall Street Journal story about Bayer AG’s pledge to invest and add jobs in the U.S. However, as CNN Money pointed out, those jobs aren’t directly tied back to Trump either, but to Bayer’s move to buy Monsanto, announced in September. When Bayer announced the Monsanto deal, it said St. Louis would remain the North American headquarters of Monsanto while San Francisco would serve as the base for their combined farming assets.

A look at a few of the press releases and CEO interviews cited by Trump and NBC News as well reveals varying levels of Trump involvement, from no linkage at all to a direct and causal connection.

On Tuesday, General Motors announced that it would invest an additional $1 billion in U.S. manufacturing and create 7,000 jobs, while moving some axle-producing jobs to the U.S. from Mexico. GM made no mention of the incoming administration or its policy priorities and instead said these latest steps follow similar investments it has made annually since 2009 — a period beginning shortly after the U.S. auto industry bailout. “GM’s announcement is part of the company’s increased focus on overall efficiency over the last four years,” the company said in a statement.

The GM investment commitment, in fact, is nearly $2 billion smaller than the investment in U.S. manufacturing that GM said it announced last year.

And the vast majority of GM’s investment will go to fund new vehicles and advanced technologies, as the company continues to invest in the resources to respond to increased competition from Silicon Valley amid the advent of autonomous-vehicle technology.

Fiat Chrysler, meanwhile, said its plan for a new $1 billion investment in the U.S. and the creation of 2,000 jobs is “a continuation of the efforts already underway to increase production capacity in the U.S. on trucks and SUVs to match demand.” As gasoline prices have tumbled, demand for gas-guzzling trucks and sport-utility vehicles has rebounded, a theme that predates Trump’s election.

Walmart’s press release Tuesday announcing 10,000 new U.S. jobs also excluded any Trump mention and was more tied to the company’s longer-term strategy to expand its retail locations globally and improve its e-commerce services to better compete with the likes of Amazon.

Amazon, for its part, has said it is adding tens of thousands of jobs to staff new but previously announced fulfillment centers in Texas, California, Florida and New Jersey.

Other job announcements, though, were more directly linked to Trump, at least in the sense that they were reacting to him, which was part of the point NBC News was trying to make.

Ford Motor Co. F, -0.40% told reporters in so many words that its decision to cancel plans for a new plant in Mexico and create 700 jobs in Michigan were related to Trump’s pro-business policies.

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s LMT, -0.08% decision to add 1,800 positions and lower the cost of its F-35 program arose following a meeting at Trump Tower. It also followed Trump public statements blasting the company over its prices.

(h/t Market Watch)

Trump Threatens German Carmaker Buyers with 35 Percent U.S. Import Tax

U.S President-elect Donald Trump warned German car companies he would impose a border tax of 35 percent on vehicles imported to the U.S. market, a plan that drew sharp rebukes from Berlin and hit the automakers’ shares.

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, published on Monday, Trump criticized German carmakers such as BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen for failing to produce more cars on U.S. soil.

“If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax,” Trump said in remarks translated into German.

“I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars to the USA, without a 35 percent tax, then you can forget that,” Trump said.

Volkswagen (VW) shares closed down 2.2 percent, while BMW and Daimler’s shares ended 1.5 percent lower.

Under pressure to deliver on campaign promises to revive U.S. industrial jobs, Trump has turned his fire on carmakers that use low-cost Mexican plants to serve the U.S. market. He has also warned Japan’s Toyota it could be subject to a “big border tax” if it builds its Corolla cars for the U.S. market at a planned factory in Mexico.

All three German carmakers have invested heavily in Mexico, but also pointed out on Monday that they manufacturer in the United States as well.

BMW executive Peter Schwarzenbauer told reporters the company was sticking to plans to invest around $1 billion in a new plant in Mexico, which is due to go into production in 2019 and create at least 1,500 jobs.

SERIOUS WARNING

“The president’s powers are considerable. He can legally impose tariffs of up to 15 percent for 150 days. Trump is not constrained by Congress,” said Simon Evenett, professor of international trade at Switzerland’s University of St Gallen.

“Even if foreign companies object and seek to challenge the legality of tariffs, it will take at least 18 months to get decided. Corporate strategies will be disrupted by then.”

While investing in Mexico, German carmakers have quadrupled light vehicle production in the United States over the past seven years to 850,000 units, more than half of which are exported from there, Germany’s VDA automotive industry association said.

“In the long term, the United States would be shooting itself in the foot by imposing tariffs or other trade barriers,” VDA President Matthias Wissmann said in a statement.

German carmakers employ about 33,000 workers in the United States and German automotive suppliers about 77,000 more, the VDA said.

Speaking in tabloid newspaper Bild, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that rather than trying to penalize German carmakers, the United States should instead respond by building better and more desirable cars.

Norbert Roettgen, head of Germany’s foreign affairs committee, said Berlin needed to take Trump’s comments seriously. “He seems to be absolutely focused on short-term job interests and security interests … not that he is looking for free trade so much, but more for protection,” he told Reuters.

MEXICAN PLANS

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and BMW already have sizeable factories in the United States where they build higher-margin sports utility vehicles (SUVs) for export to Asia and Europe.

Around 65 percent of BMW’s production from its factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is exported overseas. BMW builds the X3, X4, X5 and X6 models in the United States.

“It is surprising that Trump singles out the carmaker that exports more vehicles from the United States than any other manufacturer,” Evercore ISI analysts said.

A BMW spokeswoman said the planned plant in the central Mexican city of San Luis Potosi would build the BMW 3 Series from 2019, with the output intended for the world market. The plant would be an addition to existing 3 Series production facilities in Germany and China.

In June last year, BMW broke ground on the plant, pledging to invest $2.2 billion in Mexico by 2019 for annual production of 150,000 cars.

Daimler has said it plans to begin assembling Mercedes-Benz vehicles in 2018 from a $1 billion facility shared with Renault-Nissan in Aguascalientes in Mexico. A spokesman for Daimler declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.

Last year, VW’s Audi division inaugurated a $1.3 billion production facility with 150,000 vehicle production capacity near Puebla, Mexico. Audi said it would build electric and petrol Q5 SUVs in Mexico.

Audi declined to comment on Monday. VW also declined to comment on Trump’s remarks but noted it was investing another $900 million in its U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Trump called Germany a great car producer, saying Mercedes-Benz cars were a frequent sight in New York, but claimed there was not enough reciprocity. Germans were not buying Chevrolets at the same rate, he said, calling the business relationship an unfair one-way street.

Chevrolet sales have fallen sharply in Europe since parent company General Motors (GM.N) in 2013 said it would drop the Chevrolet brand in Europe by the end of 2015. Since then, GM has focused instead on promoting its Opel and Vauxhall marques.

Asked by Reuters whether Trump could take any steps to make it easier for GM to sell more American-made cars in Europe, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said the company aimed to build cars in markets where they are sold.

“We’re a global company so we’re going to continue that focus just because from an economic perspective that generally turns out to be the best framework,” she said. “I think there is a lot that we can work on with President-elect Trump.”

(h/t Reuters)

Tape Shows Trump Contradicting Himself (Again) on Putin Meeting

President-elect Donald Trump told a radio interviewer in October 2015 that he had met Vladimir Putin “one time … a long time ago” and that he “got along with him great” — a statement that conflicts with his later denials during the campaign that he had ever met or spoken with the Russian president.

The newly surfaced audiotape, uncovered by a political opposition-research group, could fuel new questions about the precise nature of Trump’s past relations with the Russian president — a subject about which he has made multiple contradictory comments. It was released just hours after Putin, speaking from Moscow, denounced officials in the Obama administration as “worse than prostitutes” for circulating “nonsense” personal allegations about Trump that were allegedly collected by Russian intelligence.

On the newly uncovered audiotape, released by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, Trump discusses Putin with conservative radio host Michael Savage, telling him “it’s wonderful” that the Russians were “really hitting ISIS hard” in Syria.

“Have you ever met Vladimir Putin?” Savage asks.

“Yes,” Trump answers, emphatically.

“You have?” Savage follows up.

“Yes, a long time ago. We got along great, by the way.”

Savage then asked, “If you win the presidency, do you feel you can do business with Vladimir?”

“Yes, I do. I think I would get along very well. I had the Miss Universe pageant, believe it or not, in Moscow two years ago. I got many of the Russian leaders, the top people in Russia, honestly. … These are people, they are looking to do things.”

Trump’s responses to Savage add to the confusing, flatly contradictory comments the president-elect has made about his past dealings with the Russian president. While in Moscow during the Miss Universe content, Trump gave an interview to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts — who was co-hosting the event — in which, when asked whether he had a “relationship” with Putin, he replied: “I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.” He later said in a National Press Club speech in November 2015 that while in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest: “I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”

But later, when repeatedly pressed last July 31 by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Trump gave a very different answer about Putin. “I’ve never met him,” Trump said then. “I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. … I mean if he’s in the same room or something. But I don’t think so.”

“You’ve never spoken to him on the phone?” Stephanopoulos followed up.

“I have never spoken to him on the phone, no,” Trump replied. “Well, I don’t know what it means by having a relationship. I mean, he was saying very good things about me, but I don’t have a relationship with him. I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t go hiking with him. I don’t know — and I wouldn’t know him from Adam, except I see his picture and I would know what he looks like.”

During the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump sought to clarify comments he made about Putin during a November 2015 debate on the Fox Business channel. In the debate, when discussing Putin and the Ukraine crisis, Trump said, “I got to know him [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”

In the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump explained what he meant. “We did ’60 Minutes’ together,” Trump said. “By the way, not together-together, meaning he was probably shot in Moscow. … And I was shot in New York.”

Trump’s comments prompted Politifact, the fact-checking website, to give Trump a “full flop” last August for his comments about Putin. The surfacing of the Savage audio seemingly adds to the confusion. Its discovery comes just a few days after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it will be conducting a full-scale investigation — including the use of subpoenas — into the Russian hacking of the election, including “any intelligence” about “links” between the Russian government and any political campaigns in the United States.

A spokesman for the Trump transition did not respond to a request for comment.

(h/t Yahoo News)

Trump Rips ‘All Talk,’ ‘No Action’ Civil Rights Icon Lewis

President-elect Donald Trump harshly responded to civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis on Saturday, calling him “all talk” and “no action” after Lewis said Trump was not a “legitimate” president.

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad,” Trump tweeted Saturday, which happened to fall on the weekend of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.

Lewis — an ally of King who was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 while marching for civil rights — represents a Georgia district that includes most of Atlanta. On the campaign trail, Trump regularly decried crime in urban areas while pledging to revitalize neighborhoods primarily populated by black Americans.

A Hillary Clinton supporter, Lewis criticized Trump’s ascension to head of state due to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

“I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” the long-serving Democrat told NBC News’ Chuck Todd in a clip released Friday.

It was an astonishing rebuke by a sitting member of Congress toward an incoming President. Trump, however, largely launched his political career by calling into question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s presidency by repeatedly suggesting he wasn’t born in the United States.

(h/t CNN)

Reality

Here is a photo of a young John Lewis being beating by police at Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic march to Selma.

Here is a photo of a young John Lewis with a bloody nose.

Here is John Lewis being yanked from a “white’s only” diner.

Here is John Lewis being arrested for fighting for civil rights.

 

 

Trump Will Consider ‘Day One’ to Be Monday, Not His Inauguration

Donald Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, but he’ll consider his first day on the job to be Monday.

The detail emerged after he sat down with British and German journalists over the weekend and offered up his thoughts on a wide range of topics.

“I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration,” he said.

One of the first orders Trump said he’ll sign will cover “strong borders.”

The Times of London published the interview on its website Sunday, and CBS News posted part of the interview online.

(h/t The Boston Globe)

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