Trump Opens National Prayer Breakfast Asking to Pray for ‘The Apprentice’ Ratings

At an event attended by thousands from countries around the world, President Donald Trump opened his Thursday remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast with talk of TV ratings.

The president noted his “tremendous success” as star of the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice.” Trump hosted the show for 14 seasons, and followed up the fact of his success by noting the show’s drop in ratings since his departure.

“We know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster,” Trump said. Actor and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger has since rebooted the show.

“And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings,” he joked.

The Austria native was quick to respond to the president’s remarks, suggesting they swap jobs:

Trump Vows to Overturn Ban on Political Activity by Churches

President Trump promised faith leaders Thursday that he would “totally destroy” the law that prohibits churches from engaging in political activity, a move that would upend 63 years of settled tax law.

In an appearance at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Trump said he would make good on his promise to overturn the so-called Johnson Amendment, which bans public charities — including churches — from campaigning for or against a candidate for for elected office. Those who do risk losing their tax exemption.

“Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said. “I will do that, remember.”

The statement was met by enthusiastic applause from the religious leaders.

The 1954 law is named for its author, then-senator Lyndon Johnson. Because it’s in the tax code, any change would have to come from Congress.

Campaign watchdogs criticized Trump’s call, saying it would open up another conduit for unlimited — and anonymous — money in elections. Religious groups can accept sums of any size and do not have make public their donors’ identities.

“This is a way to convert religious organizations, charities and educational groups into dark money organizations,” said Robert Weissman, president of the left-leaning group Public Citizen. Allowing groups that are exempt from paying taxes to engage in political activity would force the government to subsidize secret money in politics, he said.

The position is not a new one for Trump, who used it as a selling point to evangelical voters during his campaign. In a speech to the Values Voters Summit in Washington last September, Trump said, “The first thing we have to do is give our churches their voice back. It’s been taken away.”

Trump argued that the Johnson amendment has restricted not just political speech, but religious speech as well. “If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so,” he said in September. “All religious leaders should be able to freely express their thoughts and feelings on religious matters.”

(h/t USA Today)

Trump Threatens Funding Cut If UC Berkeley ‘Does Not Allow Free Speech’

President Trump early Thursday threatened to cut federal funding to the University of California, Berkley after violent protests broke out on its campus Wednesday in response to a planned appearance by a far-right commentator.

“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” the president tweeted Thursday morning.

A scheduled appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled Wednesday night about two hours before the Breitbart editor was scheduled to speak.

The university said in a statement the violence was “instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest,” according to NPR.

“This was a group of agitators who were masked up, throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers,” U.C. Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennet told The Associated Press.

More than 1,500 people had showed up to protest Yiannopoulos’s appearance on campus.

At least six people were injured, according to CNN.

Yiannopoulos called what happened “an expression of political violence,” according to CNN.

“I’m just stunned that hundreds of people … were so threatened by the idea that a conservative speaker might be persuasive, interesting, funny and might take some people with him, they have to shut it down at all costs,” he said in a Facebook Live video.

(h/t The Hill)

Millions in Campaign Funds Went to Trump Firms

President Trump’s campaign spent a total of $12.7 million at businesses run by him and his family members over the course of the 2016 presidential election, according to a tally of newly filed campaign-finance reports.

The largest sums went to Trump’s airline, TAG Air, which received $8.7 million as the Republican used his own jet to fly around the country, according to a USA TODAY analysis of year-end reports filed this week. Another $2 million went to Trump Tower, the Trump Organization skyscraper that housed his campaign headquarters.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, which Trump dubbed the Winter White House last month, received more than $435,000 during the campaign.

The spending at Trump properties, which continued after he won the election, underscores how much Trump was willing to mingle his political and business operations – from buying meals at his own Trump Grill to renting space at his own golf clubs.

More than $3,000 went to Trump ICE LLC, Trump’s bottled-water brand, for “office supplies,” according to Federal Election Commission filings.

In all, the amount spent at Trump businesses by his political operation represent a little more than 19% of the $66.1 million Trump himself donated to the campaign and less than 10% of the $133.6 million that flowed into his main campaign account from other donors.

The spending could well continue if he decides to seek re-election. Trump filed a statement of candidacy for the 2020 election on Inauguration Day because he had already surpassed the $5,000 fundraising threshold to require reporting contributions for the next election, he noted in a letter to the Federal Election Commission. That doesn’t mean he’s definitely running in 2020, Trump said in the filing.

Kellyanne Conway Blames Refugees For ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ That Never Happened

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Donald Trump, has come in for criticism and ridicule after blaming two Iraqi refugees for a massacre that never happened.

Conway, the US president’s former campaign manager who has frequently faced the press to defend his controversial moves, cited the fictitious “Bowling Green massacre” in an interview in which she backed the travel ban imposed on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball programme on Thursday evening, Conway compared the executive order issued by Trump in his first week in the White House to what she described as a six-month ban imposed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

This claim has been debunked by commentators who have pointed out that the 2011 action was a pause on the processing of refugees from Iraq after two Iraqi nationals were arrested over a failed attempt to send money and weapons to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Conway told Matthews: “I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalised and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.

“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

It didn’t get covered, many are now pointing out, because there was no such massacre.

The two Iraqi men arrested in 2011 did live in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and are currently serving life sentences for federal terrorism offences. But there was no massacre, nor were they accused of planning one. The US department of justice, announcing their convictions in 2012, said: “Neither was charged with plotting attacks within the United States.”

Analysis by the Cato Institute of terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and 2015 found that foreign nationals from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s travel ban – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – have killed no Americans.

Following the Conway interview, some social media users pointed out that false rumours about a Halloween massacre had circulated in several universities, including Ohio’s Bowling Green state university, in 1998.

But the likelihood that Conway had Kentucky in mind was bolstered when that state’s senator Rand Paul also made a variation of her false claim. In a separate interview with MSNBC, Paul referred to “the attempted bombing in Bowling Green, where I live”.

Conway had already prompted astonishment by describing comments by White House spokesman Sean Spicer that Trump’s inauguration crowd “was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period” as “alternative facts”.

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving – Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” Conway told NBC last week.

Matthews did not press Conway on her Bowling Green massacre claim in the interview, and she has not yet responded to reports that she misrepresented the events of 2011.

(h/t NBC News)

Media

 

Trump on Phone with Australian Leader: ‘This Was the Worst Call By Far’

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief – a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Donald Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day – including Russian President Vladimir Putin – and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

Trump returned to the topic late Wednesday night, writing in a message on Twitter, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia – countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.

The depictions of Trump’s calls are also at odds with sanitized White House accounts. The official readout of his conversation with Turnbull, for example, said that the two had “emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment. A senior administration official acknowledged that the conversation with Turnbull had been hostile and charged, but emphasized that most of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders – including the heads of Japan, Germany, France and Russia – have been both productive and pleasant.

Trump also vented anger and touted his political accomplishments in a tense conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, officials said. The two have sparred for months over Trump’s vow to force Mexico to pay for construction of a border wall between the two countries, a conflict that prompted Peña Nieto to cancel a planned meeting with Trump.

Even in conversations marred by hostile exchanges, Trump manages to work in references to his election accomplishments. U.S. officials said that he used his calls with both Turnbull and Peña Nieto to mention his election win or the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

One official said that it may be Trump’s way of “speaking about the mandate he has and why he has the backing for decisions he makes.” But Trump is also notoriously thin-skinned and has used platforms including social-media accounts, meetings with lawmakers and even a speech at CIA headquarters to depict his victory as an achievement of historic proportions, rather than a narrow outcome in which his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote.

The friction with Turnbull reflected Trump’s anger over being bound by an agreement reached by former President Barack Obama’s administration to accept refugees from Australian detention sites even while Trump was issuing an executive order suspending such arrivals from elsewhere in the world.

The issue centers on a population of roughly 2,500 people who sought asylum in Australia but were diverted to facilities off that country’s coast at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Deplorable conditions at those sites prompted intervention from the United Nations and a pledge from the United States to accept about half of those refugees, provided they passed U.S. security screening.

Many of the refugees came from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, countries now listed in Trump’s order temporarily barring their citizens entry to the United States. A special provision in the Trump order allows for exceptions to honor “a preexisting international agreement,” a line that was inserted to cover the Australia deal.

But U.S. officials said that Trump continued to fume about the arrangement even after signing the order in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

“I don’t want these people,” Trump said. He repeatedly misstated the number of refugees called for in the agreement as 2,000 rather than 1,250, and told Turnbull that it was “my intention” to honor the agreement, a phrase designed to leave the U.S. president wiggle room to back out of the deal in the future, according to a senior U.S. official.

Turnbull told Trump that to honor the agreement, the United States would not have to accept all of the refugees but only to allow them each through the normal vetting procedures. At that, Trump vowed to subject each refugee to “extreme vetting,” the senior U.S. official said.

Trump was also skeptical because he did not see a specific advantage the United States would gain by honoring the deal, officials said.

Trump’s position appears to reflect the transactional view he takes of relationships, even when it comes to diplomatic ties with long-standing allies. Australia troops have fought alongside U.S. forces for decades, and the country maintains close cooperation with Washington on trade and economic issues.

Australia is seen as such a trusted ally that it is one of only four countries that the United States includes in the “Five Eyes” arrangement for cooperation on espionage matters. Members share extensively what their intelligence services gather and generally refrain from spying on one another.

There also is a significant amount of tourism between the two countries.

Trump made the call to Turnbull about 5 p.m. Saturday from his desk in the Oval Office, where he was joined by chief strategist Stephen Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn and White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

At one point, Turnbull suggested that the two leaders move on from their impasse over refugees to discuss the conflict in Syria and other pressing foreign issues. But Trump demurred and ended the call, making it far shorter than his conversations with Shinzo Abe of Japan, Angela Merkel of Germany, François Hollande of France or Putin.

“These conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull said at a news conference Thursday in Australia. “If you see reports of them, I’m not going to add to them.”

(h/t Chicago Tribune)

Trump-Ordered Raid in Yemen That Killed US Navy SEAL Was Approved ‘Without Sufficient Intelligence’

The US military said on Wednesday it was looking into whether more civilians were killed in a raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen on the weekend, in the first operation authorized by President Donald Trump as commander in chief.

US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens died in the raid on a branch of Al Qaeda, also known as AQAP, in al Bayda province, which the Pentagon said also killed 14 militants. Medics at the scene, however, said about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

US Central Command said in a statement that an investigating team had “concluded regrettably that civilian noncombatants were likely killed” during Sunday’s raid. It added that children may have been among the casualties.

Central Command said its assessment “seeks to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight.”

US military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations.

As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced Al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger-than-expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

The Pentagon directed queries about the officials’ characterization of the raid to US Central Command, which pointed only to its statement on Wednesday.

The US officials said the extremists’ base had been identified as a target before the Obama administration left office on January 20, but President Barack Obama held off approving a raid ahead of his departure.

A White House official said the operation was thoroughly vetted by the previous administration and the previous defense secretary had signed off on it in January. The raid was delayed for operational reasons, the White House official said.

The military officials who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity said “a brutal firefight” took the lives of Owens and at least 15 Yemeni women and children. One of the dead was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant killed by a 2011 US drone strike.

Some of the women were firing at the US force, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

Intelligence gathered

The American elite forces did not seize any militants or take any prisoners offsite, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Wednesday the raid yielded benefits.

“Knowing that we killed an estimated 14 AQAP members and that we gathered an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil — is something that I think most service members understand, that that’s why they joined the service,” Spicer said.

A senior leader in Yemen’s Al Qaeda branch, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, and other militants were killed in the gunfight, Al Qaeda said.

One of the three US officials said on-the-ground surveillance of the compound was “minimal, at best.”

“The decision was made … to leave it to the incoming administration, partly in the hope that more and better intelligence could be collected,” that official said.

As Sunday’s firefight intensified, the raiders called in Marine helicopter gunships and Harrier jump jets, and then two MV-22 Osprey vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft to extract the SEALs.

One of the two suffered engine failure, two of the officials said, and hit the ground so hard that two crew members were injured, and one of the Marine jets had to launch a precision-guided bomb to destroy it.

Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday in an unexpected visit to meet with the family of Owens, who had been a chief special warfare operator.

(h/t Business Insider)

Judge Orders Trump Golf Club to Reimburse Members

A federal judge has ruled that Trump National Jupiter Golf Club in Florida will pay just under $6 million to some members who were denied access to the club, Politico reported.

The judge found that the club violated its contracts by holding deposits from members on a “resignation waiting list.” Those members were denied access to the club.

The members who took part in the class-action lawsuit claimed membership rules were altered when now-President Donald Trump took over the club in 2012 and contracts were violated, according to CNNMoney.

Brad Edwards, the attorney for the former members, said the club was ordered to pay more than $4.8 million in damages and almost $1 million in interest, the amount the plaintiffs requested.

The club “created their own contorted reading of a contract that allowed them to avoid the refundability of the deposits,” he said.

The Trump Organization’s lawyer, Alan Garten, told the news outlet the decision will be appealed.

“The members who resigned were all members under Ritz-Carlton who resigned prior to Trump taking ownership. Trump purchased the club from Ritz and effectively saved it because it was in financial ruin. Notwithstanding the foregoing, we disagree with the judge’s ruling and intend to appeal it,” said Garten.

Trump owns the club, but was not a defendant in the suit.

(h/t The Hill)

Trump’s Private Security’s Use of Force Questioned

Trump security punch protester

Donald Trump’s private security lacked basic procedures and policies — including for the use of force — giving guards free rein during the campaign and transition to physically confront protesters and journalists they found objectionable, according to hours of deposition transcripts in a civil lawsuit that were reviewed by POLITICO.

For instance, during a September 2015 protest outside Trump Tower, Trump security guard Gary Uher forcibly escorted a protester away from the building’s entrance because he believed — incorrectly — that the adjacent sidewalk was Trump’s property, according to his testimony. Uher said he was authorized by the campaign to use force to move the protesters, but in a separate deposition, Trump’s security director at the time, Keith Schiller, said Uher had no such authorization.

Yet Schiller, who joined Trump’s White House staff last month, explained that he decided to place his hands on Univision’s Jorge Ramos while ejecting him from an August 2015 press conference because Ramos was “not listening or not being cordial or respectful to Mr. Trump or his colleagues, because he spoke out of term (sic).”

And Trump Organization executive Matthew Calamari, to whom Trump testified in an affidavit he had delegated “full responsibility and authority for the hiring and supervision of all security personnel,” said the last time Trump’s operation produced a “security procedures” document was during the 1990s, and that it’s long been out of use. “I haven’t seen it in many, many years,” testified Calamari in his deposition. While he claimed that all of Trump’s security personnel are licensed as security guards by New York state, Uher, Schiller and another security official said in their depositions that they did not have such licenses when they responded to the September 2015 protest.

The sworn testimony was ordered in connection with a lawsuit brought in New York State court against the guards, the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign and Trump himself by participants in the September 2015 Trump Tower protest. The protesters claim they were “violently attacked” by Trump’s security “for the express purpose of interfering with their political speech.”

Schiller, Uher and the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. In their depositions, the security officers claim that they were just trying to keep the sidewalk clear for pedestrians and got physical only when protesters refused to clear the sidewalk and one accosted Schiller.

Yet the depositions paint a picture of a security operation guided more by instinct than procedures, where employees were not subject to background checks or regular evaluations, and where lines were blurred between Trump’s campaign, his corporation and even the United States Secret Service.

All of the officials deposed in the lawsuit continued working for Trump in some capacity after his Election Day victory, and at least two remained involved in some facet of Trump’s operations after he was sworn in as president last month.

Schiller, a retired New York City detective, began work last month as Trump’s director of Oval Office operations while Calamari continued as the Trump Organization’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, a position from which he oversees the company’s security apparatus. Uher suggested in his deposition that he too had gone to work for the company after the election.

Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications, stressed that Schiller’s new White House job “does not entail any security-related functions” and that he “is in compliance with all rules applied to White House staff.” She referred questions about security personnel and functions to the Trump Organization and the Secret Service.

The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A Secret Service spokesperson stressed that the agency has sole authority to protect the president and his family but explained that it would coordinate with Schiller and other members of the president’s staff as well as “any private security organization responsible for the protection of facilities where a USSS protectee will be present.”

The depositions and the underlying lawsuit — one of at least three winding through federal and state courts brought by protesters against Trump, his campaign or its security — are likely to fuel scrutiny of Trump’s private security. It has drawn repeated complaints for excessive force and aggression, racial profiling and trampling free speech. And its relationship with the Secret Service has raised concerns among agency employees, outside law enforcement experts and members of Congress overseeing the agency, who worry that the private security may have complicated the service’s ability to protect Trump during the campaign and transition.

“I’m surprised that apparently these people have been around the Secret Service all along,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) during an interview on Washington’s NewsChannel 8 in December. “Who’s in charge if you have your long-term guards and the Secret Service?” she asked in response to a POLITICO article revealing that Trump had retained private security even after winning the presidency.

Norton, who sits on the House subcommittee that oversees the Secret Service, did not respond to a request for comment from POLITICO. But she told NewsChannel 8 that she intended to push the committee to investigate “how were they used during the campaign? Who was in charge then, because I understand that they had a role in the campaign that I did not know of, and I don’t believe the Congress knew of.”

POLITICO, in conjunction with the nonpartisan transparency organization the James Madison Project, on Monday sued the Secret Service under the Freedom of Information Act for public records detailing the agency’s relationship with Trump’s private security.

While the Secret Service assumed responsibility for Trump’s personal security in November 2015, some members of Trump’s private security detail continued traveling with him, while others continued providing security at rallies in conjunction with the service — highly unusual moves for a presidential campaign.

Schiller, in particular, appeared to continue acting as if he had a security function throughout the campaign. That raised concerns among Secret Service agents, who said Schiller bristled at their efforts to take charge and got in their way at times, according to a law enforcement official who communicates regularly with the agency’s agents.

The agency’s director, Joseph Clancy, suggested in a CNN interview last month that Trump’s private security stepped back when Secret Service assumed protection in November 2015. The private security wouldn’t have intervened if there were a threat to Trump, asserted Clancy, casting Schiller as a “conduit for information” between Trump and his agents.

Clancy told CNN that there was “no friction at all” between his agents and Trump’s private security. He declared that his agents “only work with the law enforcement partners” and “don’t interact with” Trump’s private security.

But some of Clancy’s own agents took umbrage at Clancy’s pushback, which they interpreted as an effort to minimize serious concerns about Trump’s private security in an effort to make nice with the new boss, according to the law enforcement official. Clancy’s comments on CNN “were in line with his efforts to try to keep issues out of the media and move on from an issue rather than address the matter,” said the law enforcement official.

In fact, Clancy’s assessment appears to be at odds with the depositions, as well as legal filings in other cases and POLITICO’s own reporting.

Eddie Deck, a former Marine and FBI agent, testified in the Trump Tower protest case that, after the Secret Service granted protection to Trump, Deck’s job changed from providing such protection to doing security at Trump events, including being a “liaison with the police and the Secret Service.”

In his deposition, Deck explained that his contract calls for him “to do the coordination with the police department or Secret Service for the safety and security at the Trump rallies.”

And Deck, whose policing of Trump rallies drew repeated complaints from protesters for using excessive force and ejecting people solely because they didn’t look like Trump supporters, suggested that he and the Secret Service were involved in a decision to cancel a March 2016 rally in Chicago amid raucous protests — both outside and inside the arena.

“It created such an unsafe environment, that Mr. Trump did not come due to my advisement and Secret Service’s advisement, because it would’ve been very, very, very unsafe,” said Deck.

Deck did not respond to a request for comment, while a Secret Service spokesperson said Deck was not involved in the agency’s security planning or decision-making. “During the campaign, Mr. Deck was considered a staff member,” the spokesperson said, adding “staff members serve different functions of which being a liaison with USSS or local police might be one.”

And although Clancy told CNN that the Secret Service wouldn’t get involved in ejecting protesters who weren’t a threat to Trump because “We want to make sure everyone has their First Amendment rights,” Trump’s own lawyers suggested he saw things otherwise.

In a filing in a case brought by three protesters roughed up and ejected by Trump supporters from a March 2016 rally in Louisville, Kentucky, after Trump barked “get ’em out!,” Trump’s lawyers wrote that “Mr. Trump was calling on the Secret Service, event security, and local law enforcement to enforce the law and remove hecklers who were ruining the event for others.”

The Secret Service spokesperson said that the agency “will not impede the First Amendment right of protesters and will only engage if a verbal or active threat is directed toward a protectee.” Decisions about whether to remove disruptive protesters are made “at the discretion of the host committee,” the spokesperson said, adding that agents “would not be involved in the removal of those individuals.”

The fact that the Kentucky rally was held in a private venue using Trump campaign funds meant that once the protesters voiced anti-Trump sentiments, they became trespassers, according to the filing by Trump’s lawyers. And that “gave Mr. Trump and the Campaign the legal right to remove the protesters by force,” Trump’s lawyers argued. Nonetheless, video shows the lead plaintiff, a young African-American woman named Kashiya Nwanguma, was mostly forced from the arena by Trump supporters who shoved and taunted her as she made her way toward the exit.

Nwanguma alleges in the suit that she was subject to racial epithets and other slurs during the ordeal. And her lawyer Daniel J. Canon argued in an interview that what happened to Nwanguma represented a failure of Trump’s private security and local police.

“Part of the problem here is that they weren’t removed by private security,” said Canon. “Instead, they just let this angry mob of white people attack this black person who was protesting,” said Canon, who brought the suit against Trump, his campaign and three attendees, one of whom is a well-known white nationalist.

“The idea that a presidential candidate goes on the road and makes campaign stops and asks or commands the crowd to turn on peaceful protesters who are in the audience is beyond the pale, especially when you know that you’ve got a powder keg on the ground of white supremacists and other violent people and groups,” he said.

The protesters who clashed with Trump’s security outside Trump Tower in September 2015 also contend that the security is a reflection of Trump himself.

The protest was motivated by Trump’s incendiary claims about Mexicans, and it included a pair of protesters dressed in paper facsimiles of Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods, while others carried signs declaring Trump a racist.

After mistakenly informing the protesters that the Trump Tower sidewalk was private property, Uher escorted one of the protesters in a KKK costume away from the building, inside of which Trump was holding a press conference to announce that he’d signed a loyalty pledge to support the Republican Party’s presidential nominee — even if it wasn’t him.

Uher argued in his deposition that the situation required him to put his hands on the protester. “Yeah, I’m sure I touched him… just to advise him that we had to keep moving,” said Uher, explaining “my hands weren’t on him the whole time. As I invaded his space, he was — he moved.”

Schiller demanded that protesters remove an 8-foot-long sign mimicking Trump’s campaign logo, but instead reading “Make America Racist Again.” When they didn’t comply, he aggressively grabbed and ripped the sign, turned and began walking with it toward Trump Tower.

One of the protesters, Efrain Galicia, pursued Schiller, grabbing him from behind in “an attempt to retrieve the [sign] before Schiller could abscond with it into Trump Tower,” according to a legal complaint filed by lawyers for Galicia and others who protested with him. Video shows Schiller quickly pivoting and striking Galicia in the head. Schiller explained in an affidavit that he did so “instinctively” and “based on … years of training” because he felt Galicia’s “hand on my firearm, which was strapped on the right side of my rib cage in a body holster.”

Though Schiller admitted in his deposition that his gun was concealed beneath a loose-fitting suit jacket, he contended that Galicia “could have seen the bulge” from the weapon through his jacket.

Deck quickly grabbed Galicia around the neck, holding him back, because, Deck argued in his deposition, Galicia “had already jumped and assaulted Mr. Schiller,” though Deck also conceded it was unclear whether Galicia knew Schiller was armed.

Deck, Schiller and Uher all explained in their depositions that they were trying to clear the sidewalk because the protesters were impeding foot traffic, though the protesters’ lawyers argue there was ample room for passersby to walk past.

“It was mayhem out there,” Deck said.

But Galicia suggested to reporters at the scene that Trump’s private security personnel were targeting protesters and “just acting like their boss.”

While the judge hearing the case ruled that Galicia’s lawyers could not depose Trump before the case went to trial, one of the lawyers, Roger Bernstein, suggested that the tactics of Trump’s security nonetheless reflected on Trump and his operation.

“Given Donald Trump’s policies and practices, we expect to prove that Donald Trump and his companies explicitly or implicitly authorized the assaults by their unlicensed security personnel,” Bernstein said.

Schiller, Deck and Uher all said in their depositions that they were led to believe that the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization would pay their legal fees if they lost the case, and all three are represented by lawyers for the Trump Organization. The three expressed some uncertainty at times during the depositions about whether they were working for the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, the campaign through the end of November had spent more than $1 million on private security, including $181,000 paid to Schiller, and $50,000 to a company called KS Global Group LLC. While the company, which was registered in Delaware in October 2015 without revealing the names of its principals, bears Schiller’s initials, neither he nor Trump’s representatives would comment on who is behind it. The biggest recipient of Trump security cash is a company called XMark LLC, which is owned by Deck and which lists Uher as vice president.

Deck, Uher and Schiller continued providing security after the election for rallies funded by Trump’s campaign as part of his post-election “Thank You Tour,” during which protesters were removed — sometimes roughly — at many stops. The funding and security for those rallies will be covered by campaign finance reports that were due to be filed with the FEC before midnight Tuesday.

When Bernstein during the depositions asked why XMark’s logo included St. George’s Cross, which is often associated with military causes, Deck appears to have become angry. Explaining the cross was “to honor the fallen dead of the soldiers and the military people that I worked with for three years in Joint Special Operations Command,” Deck accused the lawyer of “desecrating the memory of those heroes that I’ve worked with” and said “they gave their lives so you can question me about that.”

(h/t Politico)

Trump Tells Mexico: ‘I Might Send’ U.S. Military to Take Care of ‘Bad Hombres’

President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them itself, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not make clear who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” — drug cartels, immigrants, or both — or the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto‘s response.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remarks suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

A person with access to the official transcript of the phone call provided an excerpt to The Associated Press. The person gave it on condition of anonymity because the administration did not make the details of the call public.

The Mexican website, Aristegui Noticias, on Tuesday published a similar account of phone call, based on the reporting of journalist Dolia Estevez. The report described Trump as humiliating Pena Nieto in a confrontational conversation.

Mexico’s foreign relations department denied that account, saying it “is based on absolute falsehoods,” and later said the statement also applied to the excerpt provided to AP.

“The assertions that you make about said conversation do not correspond to the reality of it,” the statement said. “The tone was constructive and it was agreed by the presidents to continue working and that the teams will continue to meet frequently to construct an agreement that is positive for Mexico and for the United States.”

Trump has used the phrase “bad hombres” before. In an October presidential debate, he vowed to get rid the U.S. of “drug lords” and “bad people.”

“We have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out,” he said. The phrase ricocheted on social media with Trump opponents saying he was denigrating immigrants.

Trump’s comment was in line with the new administration’s bullish stance on foreign policy matters in general, and the president’s willingness to break long-standing norms around the globe.

Before his inauguration, Trump spoke to the president of Taiwan, breaking long-standing U.S. policy and irritating China. His temporary ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, aimed at reviewing screening procedures to lessen the threat of extremist attacks, has caused consternation around the world.

But nothing has created the level of bickering as the border wall, a centerpiece of his campaign. Mexico has consistently said it would not pay for the wall and opposes it. Before the phone call, Pena Nieto canceled a planned visit to the United States.

The fresh fight with Mexico last week arose over trade as the White House proposed a 20 percent tax on imports from the key U.S. ally to finance the wall after Pena Nieto abruptly scrapped his Jan. 31 trip to Washington.

The U.S. and Mexico conduct some $1.6 billion a day in cross-border trade, and cooperate on everything from migration to anti-drug enforcement to major environmental issues.

Trump tasked his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner — a real estate executive with no foreign policy experience — with managing the ongoing dispute, according to an administration official with knowledge of the call.

At a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May last week, Trump described his call with Pena Nieto as “friendly.”

In a statement, the White House said the two leaders acknowledged their “clear and very public differences” and agreed to work through the immigration disagreement as part of broader discussions on the relationship between their countries.

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