Trump: Media’s ‘Approval Ratings Are Correctly at Their Lowest Levels In History’

President Donald Trump is back on Twitter. And guess what? He’s taking aim at the “Fake News Media” again.

In his first tweet of the day, the president complained that the media is not paying attention to all of the positive stuff going on in the country and instead churning out the “same negative stories.”

[Mediaite]

Kellyanne Conway Says Sen. Gillibrand, Who Was First Elected in ’06, ‘Protected’ Clinton During Impeachment

Following White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s resignation amid allegations that he abused two ex-wives, President Donald Trump told reporters that he wished Porter well and that Porter has said the accusations are false. He also stated that Porter was “very sad” over the situation and hoped the ex-aide had a “wonderful career.”

During today’s broadcast of ABC’s This Week, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was pressed on the president’s response to the controversy and his weekend tweet seemingly doubling down on it in which he cited due process. Host George Stephanopoulos brought up reaction from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who said that Trump has shown that he “doesn’t value women.”

Conway brushed off Gillibrand’s criticism by invoking President Bill Clinton’s indiscretions with women and late ’90s impeachment. After noting that Trump’s accusers had “their day” when they were “trotted out” on television, Conway said the following:

“I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand on anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying. I don’t need a lecture from her or anybody else.”

Only one problem with Conway’s counterpoint to Gillibrand — Gillibrand was first elected to Congress in 2006 and didn’t actually get to Washington until January 2007, years after Clinton was impeached over the Lewinsky affair. This fact wasn’t lost on some media figures.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump’s DACA Tweet Gets it All Wrong

Donald Trump seemed to spend most of his day on Saturday glued to Twitter, and following a morning of tweets musing about the “unfairness” of abuse accusations to the men accused and playing up his own victimhood, the president went on the offensive attacking both Democrats and facts, all in one Tweet (the new 240 character limit goes a long way).

There are multiple problems with this, beginning with the fact that DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that offers legal status to undocumented immigrants who arrived to the US as children—did not exist until 2012.

Some quick background that Trump did not seem to have access to before he tweeted: since the early 2000s, several variations of a bill known as the DREAM Act, which was designed to offer temporary legal status to individuals who were children when they arrived in the United States, were introduced in Congress. It wasn’t until September 2007, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate, but notably not the White House, that the bill seemed to have any real shot. It passed the House and won a majority of votes in the Senate but was blocked by a Republican filibuster. In 2010, when the Democrats did control all three branches, the bill was supported by a majority of both houses and President Barack Obama, but, again, blocked by a Republican filibuster. Notably, while some Republicans crossed party lines to support that version of the bill, the current top three House Republicans did not support it, and the current GOP Senate leadership cadre, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted against killing the filibuster that Democrats needed to beat to make the bill a law.

The DACA program itself was created in 2012 when Obama issued an executive order to enforce the provisions of what had been proposed in the legislation.

[Mother Jones]

Reality

So many things wrong:

  1. The White House, the Senate and the House are not the three branches of government.
  2. Obama wasn’t president in 2008.
  3. Republicans blocked DACA legislation in 2010.
  4. DACA executive order didn’t exist until 2012.
  5. It was Trump who unilaterally broke the program.

Trump Touts Comments from Fox & Friends Guest Who Says POTUS Was ‘Victimized’ by Obama Admin

President Trump watched Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton on Fox & Friends this morning and touted his comments this afternoon.

Fitton has defended Trump on the Russia probe, and on the Fox News morning program today, he talked about the dossier and ties between Hillary Clinton and the Russians.

At one point, he said the following remarks, tweeted by POTUS:

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump administration just yanked press access of a journalist who wouldn’t censor his story

This story, in which the Trump-appointed administrator of a federal agency apparently summarily banned an American journalist from participating in news conferences after the reporter refused to remove sentences in one of his stories that the administrator wanted removed, is striking, and not just because it represents a direct Trump administration attempt to censor what is reported in the press.

The short version is that Modern Healthcare reporter Virgil Dickson was removed from an agency telephone-held press conference and told he was not allowed to participate after someone within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, now headed by Seema Verma, a Pence-tied conservative whose healthcare vision primarily consists of Americans getting less of it, took issue with his reporting on the “abrupt” resignation of a top Medicaid official.

After the article appeared, Dickson received an email from Brett O’Donnell, a communications contractor working for CMS. O’Donnell called reports of a disagreement or workload problems “false speculation” and said it was “irresponsible” to mention them without more details. […]
The next day, O’Donnell wrote to Dickson’s editor, Matthew Weinstock, asserting that the article was inaccurate and demanding that the references to workload and the disagreement be excised. O’Donnell’s email also stated: “Short of fully correcting the piece we will not be able to include your outlet in further press calls with CMS.”

Dickson and his editor stood their ground—and at the next press call with CMS, Dickson was indeed removed from the call.

So we have a federal agency curtailing press access to reporters whose stories contain unpleasantries, which is off the bat not what we are supposed to be doing. But that’s only half of it.

The person to call Dickson to make this demand is a curious character:

O’Donnell, the consultant who threatened to blackball Modern Healthcare, is not a member of the media affairs offices for CMS or for HHS.He is a Republican strategist who has helped GOP candidates in their political campaigns. In 2015, O’Donnell pleaded guilty to lying to U.S. House ethics investigators about how much campaign work he did with money that came from office accounts rather campaign accounts.

O’Donnell, reached by email, declined to answer questions from AHCJ.

So he is apparently a consultant for the agency rather than an employee because he was too crooked for the post? Or does the Republican “strategist” find it more strategic to be off-payroll?

And what idiot hired a man fresh off a guilty plea for lying to investigators? Oh. Right. These clowns. And these clowns have apparently enlisted a consultant fresh off a guilty plea for lying to government investigators to help administrator Seema Verma purge the nation’s papers of … reporting she doesn’t like?

[Daily Kos]

Trump prefers oral report to reading daily intel briefing

President Trump is declining to read his daily brief and is instead having officials orally brief him on certain issues, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Trump is breaking with precedent set by seven past presidents in choosing to rarely read the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), which includes what officials have deemed to be the most important U.S. intelligence from hot spots around the globe.

Reading the report is not Trump’s chosen “style of learning,” one source told the Post.

Administration officials told the Post that Trump still receives full briefings and that different presidents get the intelligence in different ways.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Post that “any notion that President Trump is not fully engaged in the PDB or does not read the briefing materials is pure fiction and is clearly not based on firsthand knowledge of the process.”

He added that Trump “engages for significantly longer periods than I understand many previous presidents have done.”

However, top experts — including former CIA Director Leon Panetta — said that Trump could be missing valuable context by not reading the full briefing, which could put himself and the U.S. in a more vulnerable position.

“Something will be missed,” Panetta told the Post. “If for some reason his instincts on what should be done are not backed up by the intelligence because he hasn’t taken the time to read that intel, it increases the risk that he will make a mistake.”

Trump’s intelligence briefings have been a point of interest since he took office. Intelligence analysts have been recommended to keep their daily briefings with Trump short, limiting them to three topics and keeping their findings to a single page.

The briefings have also reportedly been structured in a way that won’t upset Trump, including having information about Russia only included in the written version of the briefing.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo praised Trump last month for his understanding of the intelligence briefings, comparing Trump’s grasp of the information to 25-year intelligence professionals.

[The Hill]

Trump Defends Rob Porter: ‘He … Says He’s Innocent’

President Donald Trump on Friday praised former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House Thursday amid a domestic abuse scandal involving allegations from two ex-wives.

“We wish him well, he worked very hard. We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House.”

Despite images handed over to media outlets from his first wife showing her with a black eye she says Porter gave her on their honeymoon in the early-2000s, the president said White House officials “hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”

The president, breaking his silence on the matter, said he was “very sad” when he learned about the charges, which Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly knew about months ago.

Porter also is “certainly … also very sad now,” Trump said.

The president again defended Porter near the end of his remarks about the former staffer.

“He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” said the president, who has faced sexual assault accusations from multiple women. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House.”

On Thursday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah announced Porter had left the White House staff for good. “His last day was yesterday,” Shah said. “I know he came in today to clean out his stuff.”

Shah called the assault allegations “serious and disturbing,” ramping up the White House’s reaction after defending Porter much of Wednesday.

“They’re upsetting,” Shah said.

He described the allegations as still being reviewed as part of an extensive background check process that Porter was still in the midst of when reports made the charges public this week.

Asked what caused the White House to change its tone on Porter, Shah replied the images of one of Porter’s ex-wives’ black eye were “upsetting.”

He declined to say whether Kelly knew about the allegations long before the reports were published.

Trump’s defense of the alleged wife abuser comes after he encouraged “lock her up” chants about 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal server while secretary of state. He also has called on other political foes and some of those looking into potential collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to be the subject of federal probes and possible prosecution.

The president did not comment on the fate of his embattled chief of staff. Some women’s organizations, for instance, have called on Kelly to step down for reportedly knowing about the Porter allegations for months but keeping him on staff — even allowing him to become his right-hand man.

Kelly’s repeated defenses of Porter earlier this week and his allowing Communications Director Hope Hicks, Porter’s current girlfriend, to craft a number of Thursday statements about the matter has again made the chief of staff a lightning rod for Democrats. (He has caught their ire also over his hard-line comments about illegal immigrants.)

For instance, Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington called Kelly’s role in keeping Porter on as a White House staffer even after learning of the allegations “very, very disturbing.”

“Clearly, WH Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about Rob Porter’s history of abuse directly from FBI and chose to ignore it,” Jayapal tweeted Thursday morning. “#MeToo is as much about those who protect the abusers with their silence as the abusers themselves.”

[Roll Call]

White House takes dig at Omarosa after she makes negative Trump comments

The White House had a pretty shady response to Omarosa Manigault’s remarks about working for President Donald Trump’s administration.

On Thursday, CBS released a clip from tonight’s Celebrity Big Brother episode in which Manigault — who left her job at the White House in January — said she tried to stop Trump from tweeting, but failed because everyone around him “attacked” her.

Shortly after the clip made the rounds on the internet, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters that the administration wasn’t taking Omarosa’s comments very seriously. “Omarosa was fired three times on The Apprentice, and this was the fourth time we let her go,” said Shah during a press conference. “She had limited contact with the president while here. She has no contact now.”

“I was haunted by tweets every single day,” says Manigault, who served as the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, on Celebrity Big Brother. “It’s bad.”

The second episode of Celebrity Big Brother airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

[MSN]

Media

President Trump calls new FBI texts ‘bombshells’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said hundreds of newly disclosed text messages exchanged between two FBI officials in 2015 and in the runup to the 2016 presidential campaign are “bombshells.”

Those texts were released Tuesday night by a Senate committee probing the FBI‘s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton‘s email practices. The committee said in a report that the texts confirm a need for further inquiry.

The texts include messages expressing disdain for then-presidential candidate Trump, references to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch allegedly knowing in advance that Clinton would not face criminal charges and comparisons of possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia with the Watergate scandal.

That tweet came 10 minutes after the scheduled start of Trump’s intelligence briefing at the White House.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the FBI’s investigation of possible coordination between officials in his campaign and Russian interests, and its probe of the Clinton emails.

The texts released were exchanged between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Strzok was removed last summer from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation of Russian meddling after Mueller was made aware of his texts with Page.

Strzok had headed the Clinton email investigation before it was closed — temporarily, as it turned out — in July 2016 without criminal charges being filed.

He then was tasked with investigating Russian efforts to influence that year’s elections.

On Sept. 2, 2016, Page texted Strzok confirming his suspicion that a scheduled meeting he was to have Sept. 7 was in connection with talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey.

“Yes, bc potus wants to know everything we are doing,” Page texted, referring to then-President Barack Obama.

It is not clear, however, if Obama wanted to know about the Clinton email probe, the Russia investigation or something else.

The text was sent more than a month after the FBI first closed its probe of Clinton’s email practices without recommending criminal charges. That probe was reopened temporarily in late September 2016 after the FBI learned that Clinton aide Huma Abedin had forwarded emails to a computer belonging to her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner.

And the Sept. 2 text came in the midst of the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the upcoming presidential election.

Obama met three days after the Sept. 2, 2016, text with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in China.

In a December press conference, Obama said that at that summit he had confronted Putin about interference in the election.

“I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn’t happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, and there were going to be some serious consequences if he didn’t,” Obama told reporters at that time.

“And, in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.”

The Republican majority of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on Tuesday said the raft of text messages raises “several important questions that deserve further examination.”

Those questions include if and to what extent any personal animus or political bias affected the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s emails, whether the Obama administration influenced that investigation and if any political bias affected the FBI’s actions toward Trump and his campaign.

“This report is not intended to answer these questions, but to demonstrate that the information received warrants further inquiry to examine possible bias and wrongdoing within the FBI and the Justice Department,” the GOP majority said.

“Any serious and impartial reader of this material should find it hard to deny the need for further inquiry.”

The committee, chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., concluded that its report found:

The FBI did not use a grand jury to compel testimony and obtain the vast majority of evidence, choosing instead to offer immunity deals and allow fact witnesses to join key interviews.

There were substantial edits to former FBI Director James Comey’s public statement that served to downplay the severity of Secretary Clinton’s actions, and that the first draft of the memo was distributed for editing two months before key witnesses were interviewed.

Director Comey stated that he had not consulted with the Justice Department or White House, when text messages among FBI agents involved in the investigation suggest otherwise. Two key investigators discuss an “insurance policy” against the “risk” of a Trump presidency, and “OUR task.”

Messages discuss “unfinished business,” “an investigation leading to impeachment,” and “my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.” The messages strongly underscore the need to obtain still-missing text messages and other information regarding the FBI’s actions and investigations into the Clinton email scandal and Russian involvement in the November 2016 election.

Senior FBI officials — likely including Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — knew about newly discovered emails on a laptop belonging to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner for almost a month before Director Comey notified Congress.

Spokesmen for both the FBI and for Obama declined to comment on the report.

CNBC has requested comment from the Democratic members of the Senate committee.

[CNBC]

 

Kellyanne Conway’s ‘opioid cabinet’ sidelines drug czar’s experts

President Donald Trump’s war on opioids is beginning to look more like a war on his drug policy office.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a “just say no” campaign.

Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the “drug czar” office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.

“It’s fair to say the ONDCP has pretty much been systematically excluded from key decisions about opioids and the strategy moving forward,” said a former Trump administration staffer, using shorthand for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has steered federal drug policy since the Reagan years.

The office’s acting director, Rich Baum, who had served in the office for decades before Trump tapped him as the temporary leader, has not been invited to Conway’s opioid cabinet meetings, according to his close associates. His schedule, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, included no mention of the meetings. Two political appointees from Baum’s office, neither of whom are drug policy experts, attend on the office’s behalf, alongside officials from across the federal government, from HHS to Defense. A White House spokesperson declined to disclose who attends the meetings, and Baum did not respond to a request for comment, although the White House later forwarded an email in which Baum stressed the office’s central role in developing national drug strategy.

The upheaval in the drug policy office illustrates the Trump administration’s inconsistency in creating a real vision on the opioids crisis. Trump declared a public health emergency at a televised White House event and talked frequently about the devastating human toll of overdoses and addiction. But critics say he hasn’t followed through with a consistent, comprehensive response.

He has endorsed anti-drug messaging and tougher law enforcement. But he ignored many of the recommendations from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential commission about public health approaches to addiction, access to treatment, and education for doctors who prescribe opioids. And he hasn’t maintained a public focus. In Ohio just this week, it was first lady Melania Trump who attended an opioid event at a children’s hospital. The president toured a manufacturing plant and gave a speech on tax cuts.

Much of the White House messaging bolsters the president’s call for a border wall, depicting the opioid epidemic as an imported crisis, not one that is largely home-grown and complex, fueled by both legal but addictive painkillers and lethal street drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

“I don’t know what the agency is doing. I really don’t,” said Regina LaBelle, who was the drug office’s chief of staff in the Obama administration. “They aren’t at the level of visibility you’d think they’d be at by now.”

Conway touts her opioids effort as policy-driven, telling POLITICO recently that her circle of advisers help “formalize and centralize strategy, coordinate policy, scheduling and public awareness” across government agencies.

That’s exactly what the drug czar has traditionally done.

Conway’s role has also caused confusion on the Hill. For instance, the Senate HELP Committee’s staff has been in touch with both Conway and the White House domestic policy officials, according to chairman Lamar Alexander’s office. But lawmakers who have been leaders on opioid policy and who are accustomed to working with the drug czar office, haven’t seen outreach from Conway or her cabinet.

“I haven’t talked to Kellyanne at all and I’m from the worst state for this,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, which has the country’s highest overdose death rate. “I’m uncertain of her role.” The office of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), another leader on opioid policy, echoed that — although Portman’s wife, Jane, and Conway were both at the event with Melania Trump this week.

Some drug abuse experts and Hill allies find a silver lining, noting that Conway’s high rank brings White House muscle and attention.

“If I want technical advice, I’m going to work with Baum,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. “If I want to get a message to the president, Kellyanne is somebody that I know I can talk to.”

“It’s a really good sign that one of the president’s top advisers has been assigned to such an important topic,” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum.

Baum’s email called the drug office the “lead Federal entity in charge of crafting, publishing and overseeing the implementation of President Trump’s National Drug Control Strategy,” which multiple agencies review. He called Conway’s opioids cabinet an “interagency coordinating apparatus for public-facing opioids-related initiatives” and said that it was not overseeing national policy. But several administration officials did say her cabinet was indeed focused on a variety of policies.

Whatever Conway’s ties to the president, her career has been in polling and politics, not public health, substance abuse, or law enforcement.

Some of her “cabinet” participants do have a broad, general health policy background. But they don’t match the experience and expertise of the drug office’s professional staff. In her circle is Lance Leggitt, the deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council who was also chief of staff to former HHS Secretary Tom Price. Another top Price aide, Nina Schaefer, recently returned to the Heritage Foundation. The conservative think tank then touted her as having managed “the development of the HHS response to the opioid abuse crisis,” but when POLITICO recently tried to contact her, she said through a spokesperson she was not an expert on the topic.

Among the people working on the public education campaign that Trump promised is Andrew Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani’s 32-year-old son, who is a White House public liaison and has no background in drug policy, multiple administration sources told POLITICO. Nor has Conway spent her career in the anti-opioid trenches.

“Kellyanne Conway is not an expert in this field,” said Andrew Kessler, the founder of Slingshot Solutions, a consulting group that’s worked on substance abuse with many federal agencies. “She may be a political operative and a good political operative,” he added. “But look. When you appoint a secretary of Labor, you want someone with a labor background. When you appoint a secretary of Defense, you want someone with a defense background. The opioid epidemic needs leadership that ‘speaks’ the language of drug policy.”

The set-up befuddles other experts who’ve worked on substance abuse for prior administrations. Fresh ideas are fine, they say. But the drug office has a purpose.

“The whole reason we created ONDCP in 1988 was to be a coordinating force with power in the government and to bring together 20 agencies, many reluctant to be involved in drug control,” said Bob Weiner, who served in that office in both the George W. Bush and Clinton White Houses. “This is exactly when the agency should get maximum support from the White House,” he added.

An ONDCP spokesperson told POLITICO the office “works closely with other federal agencies and White House offices, including Kellyanne Conway’s office, to combat the opioid crisis” but declined to say whether the office’s career experts have attended any of her “opioids cabinet” sessions. The drug office is still crafting the annual drug control strategy, outside the Conway group, administration officials said.

A senior White House official confirmed that officials considered kicking off the media campaign with a big splash during the Super Bowl, but that fell through. Beyond that, many experts on drug policy and substance abuse say messaging alone won’t solve the problem anyway. People with addiction need treatment, and many people get addicted in the first place to painkillers their doctors have prescribed. An ad campaign won’t solve that.

One big test for the drug office will come when Trump releases his budget Monday, which is expected to slash the office’s budget, turning much of its work over to HHS and the Department of Justice. Both departments are developing their own opioid approaches; in past administrations, the drug czar would have coordinated. Lawmakers are already sounding the alarms over the budget plan.

A bipartisan group of senators last week wrote a letter to White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, urging him to reconsider and maintain the office’s programs that “prevent and fight against the scourge of drug abuse.”

Pushback to a similar proposal last year led the Trump administration to reverse the decision and maintain the office’s budget. Lawmakers hope that there will be a similar outcome this time — along with a smarter utilization of the drug policy office.

“What we haven’t seen is the kind of coordination of critical programs that ONDCP has traditionally done,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire, another state with one of the highest overdose death rates in the country.

Trump officials say it was the Obama administration that began undermining the drug policy office, demoting the director from the Cabinet, shrinking the staff and stressing the health aspects more than a law enforcement-focused “war on drugs.” They say the emergency requires a new approach.

Bob Dupont, who served as the second White House drug czar under President Gerald Ford, before the formal drug policy office was created, and still informally advises the Justice Department on drug policy, believes the White House will eventually realize it needs the expertise that ONDCP has to offer.

The West Wing doesn’t “have the staff or capability” to carry out drug policy work like ONDCP does, Dupont told POLITICO. “I don’t think swashbuckling your approach is going to last very long.”

[Politico]

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