Spicer: Diplomats Opposed to Immigration Ban Should ‘Either Get With the Program or They Can Go’

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had a stern message for State Department employees opposed to President Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: “Either get with the program or they can go.”

Dozens of career diplomats have signed on to a “dissent channel” document, which is a mechanism by which State Department employees can express policy disagreements privately without fear of retribution. The memo has been circulating in the agency and it expresses the view that the immigration ban “will not achieve its aim of making our country safer.”

Asked to respond to the document, Spicer suggested that the “career bureaucrats” who disagreed with the executive order should not continue to serve in the government.

“This is about the safety of America, and there’s a reason that a majority of Americans agree with the president,” Spicer said. “They should understand it’s his number one priority.”

Asked to clarify whether he was suggesting that public servants who disagree with the president should leave their posts, Spicer doubled down.

“If somebody has a problem with that agenda, then that does call into question whether … they should continue in that post or not,” Spicer said. “I know the president appreciates the people who serve this nation and the public servants.

“That’s up to them to question whether or not they want to stay,” he added.

(h/t The Washington Post)

WH: No Mention of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day Because Others Were Killed Too

The White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism because “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN on Saturday.

Hicks provided a link to a Huffington Post UK story noting that while 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, 5 million others were also slaughtered during Adolf Hitler’s genocide, including “priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters.”

Asked if the White House was suggesting President Donald Trump didn’t mention Jews as victims of the Holocaust because he didn’t want to offend the other people the Nazis targeted and killed, Hicks replied, “it was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day.”

The presidential reference to the “innocent people” victimized by the Nazis without a mention of Jews or anti-Semitism by the White House on International Holocaust Remembrance Day was a stark contrast to statements by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the “@WhiteHouse statement on #HolocaustMemorialDay, misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people'” and “Puzzling and troubling @WhiteHouse #HolocaustMemorialDay stmt has no mention of Jews. GOP and Dem. presidents have done so in the past.”

Asked about the White House explanation that the President didn’t want to exclude any of the other groups Nazis killed by specifically mentioning Jews, Greenblatt told CNN that the United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day not only because of Holocaust denial but also because so many countries — Iran, Russia, Poland, and Hungary, for example — specifically refuse to acknowledge Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews, “opting instead to talk about generic suffering rather than recognizing this catastrophic incident for what is was: the intended genocide of the Jewish people.”

Downplaying or disregarding the degree to which Jews were targeted for elimination during the Holocaust is a common theme of nationalist movements like those seen in Russia and Eastern Europe, Greenblatt said.

Initially, after being asked about the ADL criticism and the omission of any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism, Hicks provided a statement from Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress that seemed to criticize Greenblatt and the ADL.

“It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” the Lauder statement read in part. “Any fair reading of the White House statement today on the International Holocaust Memorial Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history.”

(h/t CNN)

Reality

The language used by the Trump White House echos antisemetic white power groups who try to de-Judiify the Holocaust.

Kellyanne Conway: Reporters Who ‘Talked Smack’ About Trump Should Be Fired

Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, on Sunday continued the administration’s attack against the media by claiming that network television reporters and commentators who “talked smack” about Trump before the election should be fired.

“Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go,” Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m too polite to mention their names, but they know who they are, and they are all wondering who will be the first to go. The election was three months ago. None of them have been let go.”

She added that the networks should be “cleaning house,” firing “these people who said things that just weren’t true.”

Conway accused the media of focusing too much attention on her attempt last week to defend press secretary Sean Spicer flagrantly lying to reporters — by claiming he was stating “alternative facts.”Trump and his administration spent much of his first week in office antagonizing the media. In his first White House press briefing on Monday, Spicer spent several minutes on what he deemed “demoralizing” coverage, and continued to defend his lying by claiming that “we can disagree with the facts.”

In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, chief strategist Steve Bannon, who previously ran Breitbart, a site that traffics in white nationalism, called the media “the opposition party” and said it should be silenced.

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Bannon said.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Media

Merkel ‘Explains’ Refugee Convention to Trump in Phone Call

Donald Trump’s executive order to halt travel from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – has provoked a wave of concern and condemnation from international leaders and politicians.

A spokesman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted Trump’s decision to ban citizens of certain countries from entering the US, adding that she had “explained” the obligations of the refugee convention to the new president in a phone call on Saturday.

“The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

“She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.

“The … refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”

Seibert said the German government would examine what consequences the ban would have for German citizens with dual citizenship, and would “represent their interests, if necessary, before our American partners”.

A summary of the phone call between Merkel and Trump, jointly issued to the press on Saturday, had made no mention of the travel ban, emphasising merely the “fundamental significance” of Nato and the intention to “further deepen the already excellent bilateral relations in the coming years”.

The French president, François Hollande, said on Saturday that “when [Trump] rejects the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we should respond to him”.

Hollande said that in an unstable and uncertain world, “withdrawal into oneself is a dead-end response”, adding that defending democratic principles required compliance with “the principles on which it is founded, in particular the acceptance of refugees”.

In a tweet, Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, said his country was committed to the values that bind Europe: “Open society; plural identity; no discrimination.”

However, the leader of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party expressed admiration for Trump’s entry ban.

“What Trump’s doing on the other side of the ocean, I’d like it done here, too,” said Matteo Salvini. Referring to the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and economic migrants brought to Italy in the last few years after being rescued in the Mediterranean, Salvini said there was “an invasion under way which needs to be blocked”.

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, Charlie Flanagan, said that while US immigration policy was a matter for the US government, “it is clear that the most recent decisions could have far-reaching implications – both on humanitarian grounds and on relations between the US and the global Muslim community”.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, tweeted:

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Sarif, said Trump’s decision would be recorded in history as “a great gift to extremists and their supporters … Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening faultlines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks.”

Margot Wallström, the Swedish foreign affairs minister, said she was “deeply concerned” by a decision that “creates mistrust between people”.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said the government would continue to work closely with the Trump administration to implement “strong border policies”. She said: “We share a common view on many issues so we will continue to work very closely with the Trump administration,” adding: “The very best days of the Australia-US relationship lie ahead.”

(h/t The Guardian)

Sean Spicer Retweets An Onion Article That Says He Lies For a Living

Last night, Sean Spicer retweeted a video from satirical news publication the Onion. “You nailed it,” Spicer tweeted, along with the video which listed “Five Things to Know About Sean Spicer.” Except it seems like maybe Spicer — who remember, as White House Press Secretary, is partially in the business of watching videos and reading tweets — didn’t watch the video or read the Onion’s tweet as carefully as he could have … since they declare Spicer’s “role in the Trump administration will be to provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation.”

The video’s “things to know” also include Spicer’s former role as a senior correspondent for NPR (false), his “defensive” speaking style (slightly less false), and his questionable pocket squares (style is subjective, I guess). Thing-to-know number four is “whether or not Spicer has ever knowingly lied to the press.” “One’s own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of one’s experience,” the Onion explains in its answer.

To quote Sean Spicer, “nailed it.”

(h/t New York Magazine)

 

 

Trump Attacks NY Times, Washington Post in Tweets

President Trump took to Twitter early Saturday morning to attack two of the nation’s most prominent newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post.

“The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted just after 8 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.

“Thr coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its … dwindling subscribers and readers.They got me wrong right from the beginning and still have not changed course, and never will. DISHONEST,” he added.

It was not immediately apparent what prompted Trump to launch his attacks. He frequently attacks the media in general and has specifically singled out both the Times and Post before, as well as CNN, NBC News, Fox News, BuzzFeed and others.

Both newspapers closely covered Trump’s Friday signing of an executive order suspending refugee entry into the U.S. and barring immigration from seven Muslim nations.

Despite his regular attacks, he granted an interview to the Times days ago.

(h/t The Hill)

 

 

Trump Signs Muslim Ban Order Limiting Refugee Entry

President Trump signed an executive order Friday instituting “extreme vetting” of refugees, aimed at keeping out “radical Islamic terrorists.”

“I’m establishing a new vetting measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” Trump said during his signing of the order. “We don’t want them here. We want to make sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”

According to drafts of the executive action, the order bars people from the Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen from entering the United States for 30 days and suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. The program will be reinstated “only for nationals of countries for whom” members are vetted by Trump’s administration.

In an interview Friday with the Christian Broadcast Network, Trump said he plans to help persecuted Christians.

“Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States?” Trump said. “If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair.”

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union declared Trump’s action “just a euphemism for discrimination against Muslims.”

From both legal and historical perspectives, the plan to ban refugees from specific countries is within the powers granted to the president under current law and historical precedent, according to Charles Haynes, vice president of the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center. However, whether the president can limit the ban to one religious group is another question.

Many Muslims, especially Shiites, are among the religious minorities under attack, Haynes said. This “raises moral and humanitarian concerns about excluding them from entrance to the U.S. while permitting people of other faiths,” he said. “Whether this policy rises to the level of a constitutional violation is uncertain and will be debated by constitutional scholars in the coming weeks.”

Issues related to the Constitution and religion are usually associated with matters of sex, such as contraceptives and LGBT discrimination, but some observers said they expect Trump’s actions on immigration to raise new challenges for religious freedom, according to Chelsea Langston Bombino of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance at the Center for Public Justice. Several organizations, she noted, are speaking out against orders that “will hurt the very people that their organizations were established, out of a religious calling, to serve,” she said.

Trump’s actions have been decried by several religious groups this week. “The expected cutbacks to U.S. refugee programs and funding will compromise our ability to do this work and the infrastructure needed to serve refugees in the years to come,” evangelical ministry World Relief said in a statement.

And in a strongly worded statement, Rabbi Jack Moline, the Interfaith Alliance president, noted that this decision was announced on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“For decades, the United States has prided itself as a safe bastion for refugees around the globe escaping war and persecution,” he said. “President Trump is poised to trample upon that great legacy with a de facto Muslim ban.”

(h/t Washington Post)

CEO of Russia’s State Oil Company Offered Trump Adviser, Allies a Cut of Huge Deal If Sanctions Were Lifted

A dossier with unverified claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia contained allegations that Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company, offered former Trump ally Carter Page and his associates the brokerage of a 19% stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia.

The dossier says the offer was made in July, when Page was in Moscow giving a speech at the Higher Economic School. The claim was sourced to “a trusted compatriot and close associate” of Sechin, according to the dossier’s author, former British spy Christopher Steele.

“Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft president was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft,” the dossier said. “In return, Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.”

Four months before the intelligence community briefed Trump, then-President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and the nation’s top lawmakers on the dossier’s claims — most of which have not been independently verified but are being investigated by US intelligence agencies — a US intelligence source told Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff that Sechin met with Page during Page’s three-day trip to Moscow. Sechin, the source told Yahoo, raised the issue of the US lifting sanctions on Russia under Trump.

Page was an early foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He took a “leave of absence” in September after news broke of his July trip to Moscow, and the campaign later denied that he had ever worked with it.

Page, for his part, was “noncommittal” in his response to Sechin’s requests that the US lift the sanctions, the dossier said. But he signaled that doing so would be Trump’s intention if he won the election, and he expressed interest in Sechin’s offer, according to the document.

In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump suggested the sanctions could be lifted if Moscow proved to be a useful ally. “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us,” Trump asked, “why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”

Page has criticized the US sanctions on Russia as “sanctimonious expressions of moral superiority.” He praised Sechin in a May 2014 blog post for his “accomplishments” in advancing US-Russia relations. A US official serving in Russia while Page worked at Merrill Lynch in Moscow told Isikoff that Page “was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did.”

Page is also believed to have met with senior Kremlin internal affairs official Igor Diveykin while he was in Moscow last July, according to Isikoff’s intelligence sources. The dossier separately claimed that Diveykin — whom US officials believe was responsible for the intelligence collected by Russia about the US election — met with Page and hinted that the Kremlin possessed compromising information about Trump.

It is unclear whether Isikoff’s reporting is related to the dossier, which has been circulating among top intelligence officials, lawmakers, and journalists since mid-2016.

A scramble for a foreign investor

After mid-October, the dossier said, Sechin predicted that it would no longer be possible for Trump to win the presidency, so he “put feelers out to other business and political contacts” to purchase a stake in Rosneft.

Rosneft then scrambled to find a foreign investor, holding talks with more than 30 potential buyers from Europe, the US, Asia, and the Middle East. The company signed a deal on December 7 to sell 19.5% of shares, or roughly $11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is Glencore’s largest shareholder.

The “11th hour deal” was “so last minute,” Reuters reported, “that it appeared it would not close in time to meet the government’s deadline for booking money in the budget from the sale.”

The purchase amounted to the biggest foreign investment in Russia since US sanctions took effect in 2014. It showed that “there are some forces in the world that are ready to help Russia to circumvent the [West’s] sanction regime,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an associate fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House.

“In Russia we have a marriage between power and business, and that is why all important economic deals need approval and the endorsement of the authorities,” Shevtsova said. “This was a very serious commercial deal that hardly could have succeeded without the direct involvement of the Kremlin.”

The privatization deal was funded by Gazprombank, whose parent company is the state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Page holds investments in Gazprom, though he claimed in a letter to FBI Director James Comey in September that he sold his stake in the company “at a loss.” His website says he served as an adviser “on key transactions” for the state-owned energy giant before setting up his energy investment fund, Global Energy Capital, in 2008 with former Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko.

There is no evidence that Carter played any role in the Rosneft deal. But he was back in Moscow on December 8 — one day after the deal was signed — to “meet with some of the top managers” of Rosneft, he told reporters at the time. Page denied meeting with Sechin, Rosneft’s CEO, during that trip but said it would have been “a great honor” if he had.

The Rosneft deal, Page added, was “a good example of how American private companies are unfortunately limited to a great degree due to the influence of sanctions.” He said the US and Russia had entered “a new era” of relations but that it was still “too early” to discuss whether Trump would be easing or lifting sanctions on Moscow.

Page’s extensive business ties to state-owned Russian companies were investigated by a counterintelligence task force set up last year by the CIA. The investigation, which is reportedly ongoing, has examined whether Russia was funneling money into Trump’s presidential campaign — and, if it was, who was serving as the liaison between the Trump team and the Kremlin.

The dossier claims that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort asked Page to be the liaison. That claim has not been verified. Manafort served as a top adviser to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine from 2004 to 2012 and emerged as a central figure in both the dossier and the intelligence community’s early inquiries into Trump’s ties to Russia.

(h/t Business Insider)

Contractor Files $2 Million Lawsuit Against Trump For Unpaid Bills

A Maryland-based electrical company is suing President Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel for than $2 million, Politico reports.

AES Electrical, also called Freestate Electrical, alleged that its employees had to work “nonstop” to complete electrical and fire alarm systems before the hotel’s “soft opening” in September and its grand opening in October. It says it never received payment for its work.

The lawsuit also argues that without Freestate, the real estate mogul would not have been able to hold an event at the hotel in September.

“At the time of the ‘soft opening,’ Donald J. Trump, President of Defendent, Trump Old Post Office, LLC, was a U.S. presidential candidate and the ‘soft opening’ had to occur to permit Mr. Trump’s nationally televised campaign event from the Hotel on September 16, 2016, which was to honor U.S. veterans,” the lawsuit says. “But for Freestate’s acceleration of work and performance of extra work on the project, this event would not have been able to occur.”

Freestate also noted that its work before the hotel’s “grand opening” on Oct. 26 was timed just before the Nov. 8 election in order to generate “positive press coverage.”

Freestate isn’t the first contractor to accuse Trump’s businesses of not paying the bills. Two other companies that worked on the Washington hotel — A&D Construction Inc. and plumbing company Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. — filed liens for unpaid bills.

Trump on Waterboarding: ‘We Have to Fight Fire With Fire’

President Donald Trump said he wants to “fight fire with fire” when it comes to stopping terrorism, suggesting that he could be open to bringing back torture because he “absolutely” believes it works.

By reinstating enhanced interrogation, Trump would violate a US law ratified by the Senate in 2015 and go against the view of Defense Secretary James Mattis. CIA Director Mike Pompeo told senators earlier this month that he wouldn’t sanction the use of torture, though he later said he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.

In an interview with ABC News, Trump said “people at the highest level of intelligence” have told him that torture does work, something military experts have refuted. He went on to say, however, that he will listen to what his Cabinet secretaries have to say about the issue.

“When ISIS is doing things that no one has ever heard of, since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?” Trump said. “As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.”

Trump’s argument was that ISIS is beheading people and posting the videos online, but that the United States is “not allowed to do anything.”

“We’re not playing on an even field,” Trump said. “I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”

Democrats and Republicans alike have shot down the idea of bringing back torture methods that were used by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Pompeo said earlier this month that he would “absolutely not” restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation tactics that fall outside of Army Field Manuals.
“Moreover, I can’t imagine I would be asked that by the President-elect,” Pompeo said during his confirmation hearing.

But in a series of written responses to questions from members of the Senate intelligence committee, Pompeo later said that while current permitted interrogation techniques are limited to those contained in the Army Field Manual, he was open to making changes to that policy.

The Senate voted overwhelming to ban torture across the US government in 2015, codifying a ban President Barack Obama issued by executive order shortly after he was sworn in in 2009. Obama then signed the updated defense authorization bill into law.
Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said the use of torture is “settled law” and that “Congress has spoken.”

The Senate intelligence committee produced a nearly 7,000-page classified report on torture, detention and interrogation after the George W. Bush administration brought back the practice. The authors of the report found the practice was ineffective and did not produce actionable intelligence.

“Reconstituting this appalling program would compromise our values, our morals and our standing as a world leader — this cannot happen,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We can’t base national security policies on what works on television — policies must be grounded in reality.”

(h/t CNN)

Reality

Trump’s proposed reliance on tactics used by Bond villains as a practical response to the terrorist acts of the Islamic State should be leaving people feeling aghast and concerned.

Unlike fictional TV shows, like 24 where Jack Bauer runs around and tortures his way to the bad guy or movies like Zero Dark Thirty who include torture scenes that never happened which lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden, reality is quite different.

Waterboarding, and other forms of torture, is considered a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions and is not reliable for obtaining truthful, useful intelligence.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” There was no proof, according to the 6,700 page report, that information obtained through waterboarding prevented any attacks or saved any lives, or that information obtained from the detainees was not or could not have been obtained through conventional interrogation methods.”

In-fact, we’ve know for centuries that torture is not effective. Here is Napoleon’s own words on the subject:

“It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.”

Instead, rapport-building techniques are 14 times more effective in extracting information than torture and has the upside of not being unethical.

Media

ABC GO

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