Trump Quotes Critical Blog to Attack 9th Circuit Judges Over His Muslim Ban

President Trump on Friday morning ripped into an appeals court’s decision to uphold a temporary restraining order on his immigration executive order, calling it “disgraceful.”

Citing a legal blog called Lawfare, Trump tweeted: “LAWFARE: ‘Remarkably, in the entire opinion, the panel did not bother even to cite this (the) statute.’ A disgraceful decision!”

The blog post on Lawfare that Trump quoted, while critical of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reasoning, said the court made the right decision in the end.

“The Ninth Circuit is correct to leave the [temporary restraining order] in place, in my view, for the simple reason that there is no cause to plunge the country into turmoil again while the courts address the merits of these matters over the next few weeks,” the post says.

It adds that the judicial system will eventually have to confront the clash between the president’s powers and “the incompetent malevolence with which this order was promulgated.”

Trump’s tweet came moments after MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” quoted the exact same passage from Lawfare’s blog post on TV.

Benjamin Wittes, the blog post’s author, reacted in Twitter, writing: “You decide whether the POTUS is quoting me in context. Here’s the article. For the record, I support the decision.”

The court ruled Thursday that a nationwide restraining order against Trump’s temporary travel ban may continue while a federal judge considers a lawsuit over the policy.

“We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay,” the court said.

The three-judge panel hearing the case included Judges William C. Canby Jr., a Jimmy Carter appointee; Richard R. Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee; and Michelle T. Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee.

The decision is narrowly focused on the question of whether the ban should be blocked while the courts consider its lawfulness — but the three-judge panel nevertheless issued a scathing takedown of almost all of the government’s arguments.

Trump immediately fired back on the ruling, tweeting: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

 

 

The White House Endorsed The President’s Daughter’s Business

Kellyanne Conway used her platform Thursday to urge Americans to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” prompting a wave of backlash for potentially violating ethics rules governing the executive branch.

Standing in the White House press briefing room, Conway, a counselor to the president, encouraged Americans to purchase Ivanka Trump’s products, one day after President Donald Trump himself lashed out at the luxury retailer Nordstrom for dropping his daughter’s clothing line.

“It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it,” Conway told “Fox & Friends.” “I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

Conway’s remark appears to violate the executive branch’s ban on staff endorsing products or companies. The regulation, from the Office of Government Ethics, also prohibits using public office for private gain of oneself or friends or relatives.

Under the regulation, OGE’s director can notify the employee of the violation and ask the agency to investigate. The director can recommend discipline, including suspension, loss of pay or termination, but would probably just issue a warning for a first offense.

At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Conway had “been counseled on that subject, and that’s it,” declining to further elaborate on whether the White House believed the counselor to the president had crossed a line.

But lawmakers suggested that it did. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, respectively, wrote in a letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub that Conway’s interview “raised extremely serious concerns.”

“As the director of OGE, you have authority to review potential ethics violations and notify the employee’s agency, which in this case is the White House,” they said. “In this case, there is an additional challenge, which is that the President, as the ultimate disciplinary authority for White House employees, has an inherent conflict of interest since Conway’s statements relate to his daughter’s private business.”

They asked that OGE “review Conway’s statement and act promptly on the basis of your findings,” as well as report back to the House panel with a recommendation for disciplinary action, if necessary.

Cummings earlier Thursday had said in a letter to Chaffetz, “This appears to be a textbook violation of government ethics laws and regulations enacted to prevent the abuse of an employee’s government position,” and asked for a committee “review and potential disciplinary action.”

Chaffetz seemed to agree, telling The Associated Press that Conway’s remark was “wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable.”

“It needs to be dealt with,” Chaffetz had said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

A host of liberal, progressive and nonpartisan advocacy groups filed complaints against Conway, including the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed its complaint with both OGE and the White House Counsel’s Office.

“Ms. Conway appears to have violated both the letter and the spirit of these rules when she used her position to endorse the accessories and clothing line of Ms. Trump, the daughter of the president,” the CREW complaint says. “Furthermore, we are concerned about what appears to be a pattern developing of the use of official offices, particularly the White House and the Executive Office of the President, to benefit business interests of relatives and supporters of the president; Ms. Conway’s comments appear to be just the latest example of this trend.”

Ordinarily, a violation in the White House would be dealt with by the White House counsel. But it’s not clear how the regulation will be enforced under a president who, based on his own statement Wednesday, seems likely to approve of what Conway said. (The president himself is technically exempt from the regulation, but White House policy has long applied it to him.)

Likely sparked by Conway’s remark, web traffic to the OGE’s website surged Thursday to the point that it became inaccessible for much of the day. On Twitter, the office wrote that “OGE’s website, phone system and email system are receiving an extraordinary volume of contacts from citizens about recent events.” The office later added that it “does not have investigative or enforcement authority.”

An OGE spokesman said the agency was “looking at ways to redirect traffic and add capacity” to make its website accessible again.

Citing declining sales for Ivanka Trump’s label, Nordstrom announced earlier this month that it would no longer carry her line, a move that sparked anger from Donald Trump, who tweeted Wednesday that his daughter had “been treated so unfairly” by the department store.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have been highly visible members of the administration since Donald Trump took office just under three weeks ago. The president’s daughter accompanied him to Dover Air Force Base last week for the return of the remains of a Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen and has advised him on policy issues, including the environment and parental leave.

Conway told Fox News she found it “ironic that you’ve got some executives all over the internet bragging about what they’ve done to [Ivanka] and her line.”

“Yet, they’re using the most prominent woman in Donald Trump’s — you know, most prominent — she’s his daughter, and they’re using her, who has been a champion for women empowerment, women in the workplace, to get to him,” she continued. “I think people could see through that. Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you. I hate shopping. I’m going to go get some myself today.”

While Nordstrom claimed that the decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing and shoes was based solely on business, at least some of the decline in sales of her products could be attributed to the #GrabYourWallet campaign urging consumers to boycott Trump products.

Nordstrom also hasn’t shied away from voicing opposition to Trump’s policies, releasing a statement in support of immigrants in the wake of the president’s executive order temporarily banning individuals from certain Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. in the name of national security. The retailer announced its decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s line three days after releasing that statement.

On Fox News, Conway called Ivanka Trump a “very successful businesswoman” and an “incredibly confident, creative, talented woman” and indicated that should be welcomed into a role at the White House to work on women’s empowerment issues, if she so chooses.

“Obviously, she’s stepped away from it now, but in the past she’s helped to run her family’s real estate empire, and on the side she developed another fully, unbelievably, entrepreneurial, wildly successful business that bears her name,” Conway added. “And I think she’s gone from 800 stores to 1,000 stores or 1,000 places where you can buy — you can certainly buy her goods online. She’s just at a very good place.”

(h/t Politico)

CNN Fact Checks Trump Lie Within Seconds Of His Twitter Attack On Chris Cuomo

President Trump on Thursday blasted CNN, saying host Chris Cuomo didn’t ask Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) during an earlier interview about the Connecticut senator’s “long-term lie” of serving in the Vietnam War.

“Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam,” the president tweeted.

“FAKE NEWS!”

Cuomo immediately addressed Trump’s tweet on the air, with the network re-broadcasting the beginning of Cuomo’s interview with Blumenthal, when Cuomo asked Blumenthal about misrepresenting his military record in the past.

In response to the question, Blumenthal defended his statements that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, expressed concern to him about the president’s attacks on federal judges.

“Really, the first point that I made in the interview,” Cuomo said on CNN.

“The president, with all due respect, is once again off on the facts. And that’s not something that any of us have any desire to say on a regular basis, but it keeps being true,” Cuomo continued.

“Fake news is the worst thing that you can call a journalist. It’s like an ethnic disparagement. We all have these ugly words for people. That’s the one for journalists.”

Cuomo said the president keeps doubling down when the facts “don’t favor his position.”

“Once again, he doubles down when he’s wrong,” he said.

Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t watch CNN, but his tweet came shortly after the Blumenthal interview aired Thursday morning.

Trump was referring in his tweet to a controversy during Blumenthal’s 2010 Senate campaign.

In 2010, Blumenthal held a press conference during which he said he had misspoken about his service in the Vietnam War. He was in the Marine Corps Reserves for six years during the war. He said during the news conference in 2010 he meant to say “during Vietnam” but instead said he served “in” Vietnam.

“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility,” Blumenthal said at the 2010 press conference, according to a Washington Post report. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

A report last year found that Trump has received five deferments from the military draft during the Vietnam War. He was granted one medical and four education deferments, which kept him out of the conflict.

(h/t The Hill)

Media

Despite Denials, Russians Were in Contact with Trump Campaign

Weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed American sanctions against Russia, as well as areas of possible cooperation, with that country’s ambassador to the United States, according to current and former American officials.

Throughout the discussions, the message Mr. Flynn conveyed to the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak — that the Obama administration was Moscow’s adversary and that relations with Russia would change under Mr. Trump — was unambiguous and highly inappropriate, the officials said.

The accounts of the conversations raise the prospect that Mr. Flynn violated a law against private citizens’ engaging in diplomacy, and directly contradict statements made by Trump advisers. They have said that Mr. Flynn spoke to Mr. Kislyak a few days after Christmas merely to arrange a phone call between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Mr. Trump after the inauguration.

But current and former American officials said that conversation — which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor — ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues.

The officials said that Mr. Flynn had never made explicit promises of sanctions relief, but that he had appeared to leave the impression it would be possible.

Mr. Flynn could not immediately be reached for comment about the conversations, details of which were first reported by The Washington Post. Despite Mr. Flynn’s earlier denials, his spokesman told the Post that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

During the Christmas week conversation, he urged Mr. Kislyak to keep the Russian government from retaliating over the coming sanctions — it was an open secret in Washington that they were in the works — by telling him that whatever the Obama administration did could be undone, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified material.

Days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Vice President-elect Mike Pence also denied that Mr. Flynn had discussed sanctions with Mr. Kislyak. He said he had personally spoken to Mr. Flynn, who assured him that the conversation was an informal chat that began with Mr. Flynn extending Christmas wishes.

“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Mr. Pence said on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

Some officials regarded the conversation as a potential violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government, according to one current and one former American official familiar with the case.

Federal officials who have read the transcript of the call were surprised by Mr. Flynn’s comments, since he would have known that American eavesdroppers closely monitor such calls. They were even more surprised that Mr. Trump’s team publicly denied that the topics of conversation included sanctions.

The call is the latest example of how Mr. Trump’s advisers have come under scrutiny from American counterintelligence officials. The F.B.I. is also investigating Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.

Prosecutions in these types of cases are rare, and the law is murky, particularly around people involved in presidential transitions. The officials who had read the transcripts acknowledged that while the conversation warranted investigation, it was unlikely, by itself, to lead to charges against a sitting national security adviser.

But, at the very least, openly engaging in policy discussions with a foreign government during a presidential transition is a remarkable breach of protocol. The norm has been for the president-elect’s team to respect the sitting president, and to limit discussions with foreign governments to pleasantries. Any policy discussions, even with allies, would ordinarily be kept as vague as possible.

“It’s largely shunned, period. But one cannot rule it out with an ally like the U.K.,” said Derek Chollet, who was part of the Obama transition in 2008 and then served in senior roles at the State Department, White House and Pentagon.

“But it’s way out of bounds when the said country is an adversary, and one that has been judged to have meddled in the election,” he added. “It’s just hard to imagine anyone having a substantive discussion with an adversary, particularly if it’s about trying to be reassuring.”

(h/t New York Times)

Trump Falsely Accused Senator of Misrepresenting Gorsuch Criticism

President Donald Trump falsely accused a Democratic senator Thursday of misrepresenting his Supreme Court nominee’s words, according to several familiar with the incident.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee, told him he found Trump’s attack on a federal judge on Twitter “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Within a half-hour, Gorsuch spokesman Ron Bonjean, who was tapped by the White House to head communications for Gorsuch, confirmed that the nominee, Gorsuch, used those words in his meeting with Blumenthal. Several other senators, including Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, later relayed similar accounts of Gorsuch forcefully criticizing Trump’s public attacks on the judiciary branch.

And on Thursday, Blumenthal said on MSNBC Gorsuch specifically told him he “should feel free to mention what I said about these attacks being disheartening and demoralizing.”

But none of that stopped Trump from firing off a shot against Blumenthal — and at the same time raising questions about the coherence of the White House’s messaging.

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

Gorsuch’s criticism came in response to Trump’s recent criticism of federal judges who have ruled against his immigration ban or appear poised to do so, in particular in reference to one of the President’s tweets slamming one of those judges as a “so-called judge.”

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted last Saturday.

But White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday Trump “absolutely” stands by his selection of Gorsuch, as well his own past comments about the federal judges who are hearing arguments over the legality of his immigration executive order.

“No, the President doesn’t have any regrets,” Spicer said during his daily press briefing.

“He has no regrets,” Spicer repeated, saying that Gorsuch’s remarks weren’t referring to any specific federal judge or court.

Bonjean had confirmed Gorsuch called Trump’s tweet about the “so-called judge” “disheartening” and “demoralizing” in his conversation with Blumenthal.

Blumenthal, meanwhile, stood by his accounting of Gorsuch’s comments, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” Thursday morning he “absolutely and accurately” stated what Gorsuch told him.

“I think that the President needs to hear from Judge Gorsuch about exactly what he is saying to myself and Senate colleagues,” Blumenthal said. “Maybe he simply hasn’t been informed and that’s the reason for his tweet.”

Former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping shepherd Gorsuch’s nomination on the Hill said in a statement Thursday Gorsuch has told senators “he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing.”

Ayotte added the judge has made clear he “could not comment on any specific cases and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters.”

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska also confirmed Thursday that Gorsuch criticized Trump’s attacks on the federal judge in a meeting with him as well.

Sasse said Gorsuch “got pretty passionate” about the topic, particularly when he asked Gorsuch about Trump’s “so-called judge” tweet.

“This is a guy who welled up with some energy. He said any attack on any brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges. He believes in an an independent judiciary,” Sasse said Thursday morning on MSNBC.

(h/t CNN)

Trump Aide Derided Islam, Immigration And Diversity, Embraced An Anti-Semitic Past

A senior national security official in the Trump administration wrote under a pseudonym last year that Islam is an inherently violent religion that is “incompatible with the modern West,” defended the World War II-era America First Committee, which included anti-Semites, as “unfairly maligned,” and called diversity “a source of weakness, tension and disunion.”

Michael Anton, who served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, joined President Donald Trump’s administration earlier this year as a staffer on the National Security Council. But in the year leading up to the 2016 election, Anton operated as an anonymous booster of then-candidate Trump. Using the pen name Publius Decius Mus (the name of a self-sacrificing Roman consul), Anton promoted Trump’s anti-Islam, anti-immigration platform on fringe websites. The Weekly Standard revealed Publius to be Anton last week.

As Publius, Anton is best-known for his September 2016 article, “The Flight 93 Election,” which argued that, like the passengers on the aircraft hijacked by al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans in 2016 needed to “charge the cockpit” and prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the election — or die. The article, which ran in the Claremont Review of Books, was circulated widely on conservative and white nationalist websites. The New Yorker declared it “the most cogent argument for electing Trump” but cited the responses by Ross Douthat of The New York Times that he’d “rather risk defeat at my enemies’ hands than turn my own cause over to a incompetent tyrant” and by Jonah Goldberg of National Review that its central metaphor is “grotesquely irresponsible.”

“The Flight 93 Election” wasn’t Anton’s only — or most provocative — defense of his future boss. In March, six months before the Flight 93 piece began circulating, Anton published a longer and lesser-noticed essay, “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism,” in the Unz Review, a website that hosts both far-right and far-left commentary. Journal of American Greatness, a blog that closed last year, republished the 6,000-word piece, and Breitbart, a news site known for promoting white supremacist and anti-Semitic views, which openly supported Trump’s election, ran an excerpt. (American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group, noted the Journal of American Greatness version of the essay in an email to The Huffington Post.)

According to an editor’s note on the Journal’s website, a “(semi-)prominent conservative think-tank” — presumably the Claremont Institute—rejected the piece because its arguments against immigration were grounded in emotion rather than logic. (The institute’s Claremont Review of Books did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Anton devoted 1,000 words of the March essay to defending Trump’s “America first” slogan, which is eerily reminiscent of the America First Committee, a group that urged the U.S. to stay out of World War II, sometimes by invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes. When American Jews urged the U.S. to intervene on behalf of Jews facing genocide in Nazi Germany, AFC spokesman (and famed aviator) Charles Lindbergh accused them of “agitating for war.” Jewish Americans’ “great danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” Lindbergh said in 1941.

Lindbergh’s comments were shocking, even at a time when outright anti-Semitism was more publicly acceptable. “The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an editorial.

But the America First Committee, according to Anton, was “unfairly maligned” and the whole episode represents only “an alleged stain on America’s past.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Anton did not respond to a request for comment before publication. He addressed this article four days later in an interview with the editors of the website American Greatness, where he is a former contributing editor. The website appears to be run by the same team as the now-defunct Journal of American Greatness blog.

The America First Committee was “primarily an isolationist movement, but there were anti-semitic elements that supported it,” he told American Greatness in the interview published Sunday. “What the Left has tried to do ― with much success, unfortunately ― is retcon the committee as primarily an anti-Jewish group when that’s not what it was,” he continued.

Throughout the essay published last year, Anton argues that immigration inevitably hurts the U.S. Here’s one passage:

[One] source of Trump’s appeal is his willingness — eagerness — gleefulness! — to mock the ridiculous lies we’ve been incessantly force-fed for the past 15 years (at least) and tell the truth. “Diversity” is not “our strength”; it’s a source of weakness, tension and disunion. America is not a “nation of immigrants”; we are originally a nation of settlers, who later chose to admit immigrants, and later still not to, and who may justly open or close our doors solely at our own discretion, without deference to forced pieties. Immigration today is not “good for the economy”; it undercuts American wages, costs Americans jobs, and reduces Americans’ standard of living. Islam is not a “religion of peace”; it’s a militant faith that exalts conversion by the sword and inspires thousands to acts of terror — and millions more to support and sympathize with terror.

Anton acknowledged in the March essay that Trump may have gone too far proposing a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S. — surely business travelers from Dubai should be allowed in, he argued. But he praised Trump for his broader effort to limit the number of Muslims who are allowed to live in America. It is obvious, he wrote, that “Islam and the modern West are incompatible…. Only an insane society, or one desperate to prove its fidelity to some chimerical ‘virtue,’ would have increased Muslim immigration after the September 11th attacks. Yet that is exactly what the United States did. Trump has, for the first time, finally forced the questions: Why? And can we stop now?”

Pew estimated last year that about 1 percent of the U.S. population is Muslim.

Anton wrote that he accepts that “not all Muslims are terrorists, blah, blah, blah, etc.” But even so, he asked, “what good has Muslim immigration done for the United States and the American people?”

Over the past 20 years, immigration has had a positive effect on long-term economic growth in the U.S. and minimal effect on the wages and employment levels of individuals born in the U.S., a panel of prominent economists concluded last year.

In the American Greatness interview published on Sunday, Anton said that America has previously benefited from immigration, but that time has passed. “My view is that we long ago passed the point of diminishing returns and high immigration is no longer a net benefit to the existing American citizenry,” he said.

Anton’s heterodoxies aren’t limited to issues of immigration. It’s not America’s job to “democratize the world,” he argued in the March essay. “The Iraq War was a strategic and tactical blunder that destroyed a country (however badly governed), destabilized a region, and harmed American interests.” But like Trump, who initially supported the invasion of Iraq but has repeatedly claimed otherwise, Anton’s position on the war seems to have shifted over the years: According to The Weekly Standard, he was part of the team within the Bush administration that pushed for the invasion. (After this article was published, Anton told American Greatness that he supported the invasion of Iraq, but now believes it was a mistake. He added that he believes the subsequent troop surge was the right thing to do and that the U.S. withdrew too soon.)

“As the experience of Europe has decisively shown, we in the West don’t have the power to change Muslims,” he wrote last March. “The reverse is true: when we welcome them en masse into our countries, they change us — and not for the better.”

Anton’s apocalyptic warnings about Islam, immigrants and diversity echo the ideology of Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before becoming Trump’s chief strategist. Although Trump has also staffed his White House with establishment Republicans, including two former Republican National Committee leaders in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Sean Spicer — it is Bannon’s worldview that appears to guide high-level policy decisions.

Bannon reportedly played a key role in creating Trump’s travel ban. When the Department of Homeland Security concluded that the ban shouldn’t apply to legal permanent U.S. residents, Bannon pushed back, CNN reported. (Days later, the White House announced that green card holders were exempted from the travel ban.)

The Journal of American Greatness, the blog that republished Anton’s essay, was taken down in mid-2016, but its posts are still viewable using a digital archive tool.

“The inspiration for this journal was a profound discomfort with the mode of thought that has come to dominate political discourse — an ideological mode that makes nonsense of the reality of American life,” the journal’s editors wrote in a farewell note to readers. “The unanticipated recognition that we have received, however, also makes clear that many others similarly felt the desirability of breaking out of conservatism’s self-imposed intellectual stagnation.”

The blog had started as “an inside joke,” they noted. But at some point, they wrote, it “ceased to be a joke.”

(h/t Huffington Post)

 

Trump Attacks Federal Judges Weighing Travel Ban

President Trump on Wednesday went after a panel of federal judges weighing whether a court order blocking his travel ban should be lifted.

Speaking to a gathering of law enforcement officials, Trump argued the judges should immediately reinstate the executive order in the name of national security.

“I don’t want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased,” the president said at a gathering of the Major Cities Chiefs Association in Washington. “Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they could read a statement and do what’s right.”

He vented his frustration at the legal arguments made by judges and attorneys on both sides of the case, even reading aloud a portion of immigration law he believes backs up his executive order barring the intake of refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Trump argued the law gives him broad powers to control who enters and leaves the U.S.

“A bad high school student would understand this. Anybody would understand this,” he said.

“They were talking about things that just had nothing to do this,” he said of the judges.

“But I have to be honest that if these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in terms of respect for the court, they do what they should be doing,” he added. “It’s so sad.”

It’s highly unusual for presidents to publicly comment on court cases dealing with their policy proposals — particularly as a court is weighing a case. But Trump has repeatedly proven he’s willing to break longstanding political norms.

Trump said on Tuesday evening that he watched the oral arguments in front of a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which was broadcast live on cable news.

The judges aggressively questioned a Justice Department lawyer about the evidence Trump was using to bar people from the countries included in the executive order and the national security powers of the president.

The solicitor general of Washington state, which is suing to block the order, was also grilled over whether the nationwide temporary restraining order handed down by a lower court was too broad and whether his contention the ban amounted to religious discrimination.

Trump appeared to take issue with media coverage of the hearing, which centered on the government lawyer’s struggle to make the administration’s case, as well as any skepticism of the order itself.

“I listened to a bunch of stuff on television last night that was disgraceful,” he said.

Trump argued that the country is in danger of being attacked by terrorists as long as the order is on hold.

“I think it’s sad, I think it’s a sad day,” he said. “I think our security is at risk today. And it will be at risk until such time that we are entitled and get what we are entitled to as citizens of this country. We want security.”

(h/t The Hill)

Media

 

Melania Trump Plans to Cash-in on Trademarks, Files New Lawsuit

First lady Melania Trump said in a lawsuit Monday that her lucrative personal brand was damaged by an online article that alleged she worked as an escort in the 1990s.

The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court, said the Mail Online, in its August article hit just as Trump was about to enter the White House and embark on a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person.”

More explicitly, the suit claims the article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”

It references several pending “multi-million dollar business relationships” for clothing, shoes, jewelry cosmetics and perfume.

Indeed, records show the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a trademark to “MELANIA” in 2013 for cosmetics.

On Jan. 17, just days before the inauguration, the office signed off on protecting “MELANIA” for a line of jewelry. Both are held by solely by Melania Trump and registered to her address in Trump Tower.

Trademarks protect words, names and symbols for goods and services that are tied to the source of those goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.

The Mail Online retracted its article and faced another defamation suit from Trump, which was dismissed in Maryland last week.

Trump also sued Maryland blogger Webster Tarpley, who made similar claims about the first lady’s past. Tarpley agreed to apologize and provide a “substantial sum” in a settlement reached Tuesday, said Donna McBride, Trump’s Maryland-based attorney.

Beverly Hills attorney Charles Harder issued a statement on behalf of Trump, along with the retraction from Tarpley on Tuesday:

“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her. I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs. Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”

In a bid to dismiss the case, attorneys for Tarpley mounted a SLAPP defense — arguing it was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation since it inhibited Tarpley’s First Amendment rights to free speech. Maryland, like many other states, has an anti-SLAPP law to prevent those suits.

That law became an issue for Donald Trump in his threats against outspoken critics before and during the campaign.

Tarpley’s attorney’s argued since Melanie Trump is a public figure, the bar for defamation is much higher and requires “actual malice.”

(h/t USA Today)

Trump Blasts Nordstrom for Dropping Ivanka’s Clothing Line

President Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted luxury department store Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka Trump’s label, a move that drew immediate criticism for further blurring the line between Trump’s administration and his family’s businesses.

“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Nordstrom had announced on Feb. 3 that it would stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s label due to its performance.

“We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance,” Nordstrom said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We’ve got thousands of brands— more than 2,000 offered on the site alone. Reviewing their merit and making edits is part of the regular rhythm of our business.”

While Nordstrom contends the decision was solely a business one, the publicly traded company has delved into the Trump administration’s controversial moves.

Nordstrom had issued an internal statement in support of immigrants following Trump’s executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries just three days before dropping Ivanka Trump’s line.

The move also comes amid a broader #GrabYourWallet hashtag calling for a boycott of all Trump products.

Some Trump critics immediately pounced on Trump’s tweet, holding it up as further evidence that Trump is not respecting what should be a firewall between the White House and his sprawling business empire.

Norm Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics czar, called the move “outrageous” on Twitter and said Nordstrom should consider suing under the California Unfair Competition Law, which forbids “any unfair” business act.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) also replied to Trump’s tweet, by “CC”ing the Office of Government Ethics.

Casey’s press secretary Jacklin Rhoads said in an emailed statement that the senator “feels it is unethical and inappropriate for the President to lash out at a private company for refusing to enrich his family.”

The Office of Government Ethics and Nordstrom did not immediately return calls for comment.

Executive branch employees are forbidden from using their positions to promote any corporation, although the president is technically exempt. There does not appear to be an applicable rule that addresses the president impugning a company.

Trump also retweeted his tweet on his official @POTUS account, which reaches 15.1 million followers. By comparison, Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account reaches 24.2 million followers.

The president had pledged to fully step away from his private businesses, but he has also said he will not sell the companies nor will he place his assets in a blind trust while serving as president.

Instead, Trump has said his company will not enter into new foreign deals and will appoint an ethics adviser who must approve any new domestic deals in writing.

The president has also proven his desire and ability to influence companies through Twitter. He has regularly blasted corporations including Carrier, General Motors and Toyota, accusing them of moving jobs and production overseas. Lockheed and Boeing have also drawn his ire over the price tag associated with their defense contracts.

On Wednesday, Nordstrom’s stock took a brief fall following Trump’s tweet, from $42.69 per share at 10:50 a.m. to $42.50 at 10:55 a.m. However, it has since risen to $43.14 as of 12:30 p.m.

(h/t Politico)

CNN Shoots Down Sean Spicer’s Latest Lie About Kellyanne Conway

CNN’s corporate public relations department rebutted White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer just 12 minutes after he falsely claimed that the network had “retracted” its claim about the “credibility” of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

In a statement to The New York Times and other publications earlier this week, CNN said that it had refused to interview Conway on a recent Sunday morning program due to “serious questions about her credibility.”

On Tuesday, Spicer falsely insisted that CNN had “retracted” that claim.

“Frankly, my understanding is that they retracted that,” Spicer told reporters at Tuesday’s White House press briefing. “They walked that back or denied or however you want to put it, I don’t care.”

“Kellyanne is a very trusted aide of the president,” he added. “I think for any characterization otherwise is insulting. If they choose not to work with someone, that’s up to them.”

Within 12 minutes, CNN had posted a statement refuting Spicer’s claim.

“CNN was clear, on the record, about our concerns about Kellyanne Conway to the New York Times and others,” a statement posted to Twitter read. “We have not ‘retracted’ nor ‘walked back’ those comments. Those are the facts.”

(h/t Raw Story)

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