Trump accuses NYT reporter of breaking the law by alerting FBI to Kushner meetings with Russians

President Donald Trump accused a New York Times reporter of breaking the law by tipping off the FBI to developments in the Russia investigation.

Times reporter Michael Schmidt alerted the FBI’s assistant director for public affairs in March 2017 that he and some colleagues had found out Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn had met in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who then set up a meeting between Trump’s son-in-law and a Russian banker.

Schmidt’s email was then forwarded to FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who was leading the bureau’s Russia investigation, and Jonathan Moffa, an FBI counterintelligence officer, reported the Washington Examiner.

Trump reacted with a pair of tweets suggesting that Schmidt had fed false information to the FBI.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?”

[Raw Story]

Trump calls into Sean Hannity’s show, revives debunked wiretapping claim

Fox News host Sean Hannity dedicated most of his show on Wednesday night to another phone interview with President Donald Trump.

While most of the talking points were familiar to anyone who bothered to tune into Trump’s reelection kickoff speech Tuesday night or any of his other recent interviews on Fox News, Trump did let slip that he still believes his phones were wiretapped during the 2016 campaign.

Repeating his claim that intelligence agencies were “spying” on his campaign, Trump said, “We will have to find out if they were listening on my calls, that would be the ultimate. If they spied on my campaign, and they may have, it will be one of the great revelations in history of this country.”

Trump assured Hannity, who often pushes baseless conspiracy theories himself, that Attorney General William Barr was working very hard to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing during the lengthy investigations into Trump’s campaign. At no point did the conversation address the fact that six Trump campaign officials were indicted as a result of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year long investigation, five of whom pleaded guilty, nor did it address the many outside investigations referred by the special counsel’s office.

Two months into Trump’s administration, he declared on Twitter, without any evidence, that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer even suggested at the time that British intelligence may have wiretapped the Trump Tower phones at President Barack Obama’s request.

Since then, the Department of Justice has said on at least two different occasions that it has no records of such wiretapping while Trump was a candidate.

Trump said earlier this year that his 2017 wiretapping claim was based “just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe.” He appeared to believe that because the brazen accusation received so much attention, that actually proved that he was onto something.

“It blew up because they thought maybe I was wise to them,” he said, speaking to Hannity at the time, once again without presenting any evidence to back his claim. “Or they were caught. And that’s why. If they weren’t doing anything wrong it would’ve just gotten by, nobody would’ve cared about it.”

In his interview with Hannity, Trump reiterated Spicer’s claim that “other countries were involved.” Admitting it was pure speculation, he said, “I think perhaps, just based on what I’m seeing, they used other countries because they didn’t want to get caught doing what they were doing in this country.”

It is true that U.S. investigators wiretapped Carter Page and Paul Manafort, former officials on Trump’s campaign, to investigate potential wrongdoing and their connections with foreign governments. But Trump seems to think that there was some greater conspiracy that targeted him directly, and he expects Barr to find proof that he was the real victim.

“I think he’s a very honorable gentleman who wants to do the right thing,” Trump said Wednesday night.

[ThinkProgress]

Reality

Trump’s DOJ admitted in a “court filing notes two separate instances in which the Trump administration has rubbished the claims made by its own executive.”

The DOJ also admitted it has “no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets” in a September 2017 court filing.

Trump said earlier this year that his 2017 wiretapping claim was based “just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe.” He appeared to believe that because the brazen accusation received so much attention, that actually proved that he was onto something.

Media

Emails show Trump official consulting with climate change deniers to challenge scientific findings

A Trump administration official consulted with advisers to a think tank skeptical of climate change to help challenge widely accepted scientific findings about global warming, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.

William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, made the request to policy advisers with the Heartland Institute this March.

Happer and Heartland Institute adviser Hal Doiron discussed Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down climate change as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership” in a March 3 email exchange.

Happer also said he had discussed the work with another Heartland Institute adviser, Thomas Wysmuller, according to the emails obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The National Security Council declined to comment on the emails. 

Jim Lakely, interim president of Heartland Institute, told The Hill that the government’s stances on climate change are not above question.

“As for Wysmuller and Doiron, they are unpaid policy advisors and friends of The Heartland Institute and have known Dr. Happer for many years,” he said.

“It would be hard to find a group of men with more qualifications or experience to criticize NASA’s alarmist public statements on the climate than Happer, Doiron, and Wysmuller.”

The Trump administration is reportedly considering creating a new panel headed by Happer to the question the broad scientific consensus that climate change is driven by human activity and is potentially dangerous.

Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns over the proposed panel, saying it would fly in the face of scientific evidence.

Happer is a well-known climate change skeptic, having argued that carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and gas, is good for humans and that carbon emissions have been demonized like “the poor Jews under Hitler.”

[The Hill]

White House blocked State official’s written testimony over climate references

White House officials blocked a State Department intelligence agency from submitting written testimony warning Congress that human-caused climate change could be “possibly catastrophic,” The Washington Post reported Friday.

The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research prepared testimony for the House Intelligence Committee and declined to take out the document’s mentions of scientific data on climate change.

Rod Schoonover, who works in the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues, was prepared to present his testimony in person during a Wednesday hearing, the newspaper reported.

Officials from the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, and National Security Council all raised objections to his remarks, the Post reported.

They wished to cut several pages because the descriptions on climate science did not match the Trump administration’s official stance, according to senior administration officials who spoke with the newspaper on the condition of anonymity.

Schoonover, a former professor of chemistry and biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, was given permission to appear before the House panel but was not allowed to submit his office’s statement for the record. He ultimately did not submit his testimony to the committee, an aide said.

White House officials reportedly objected to the document’s scientific citations, which refer to work conducted by federal agencies including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

One Trump official said it did not “jibe” with the Trump White House’s goals on climate change, a source told the Post.

The president has long cast doubt on the existence and effects of climate change, previously suggesting that climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese.

He pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris climate accord in 2017 and downplayed a U.S. government report on the environment.

Just this week, Trump said he dismissed Prince Charles’s concerns about the negative impact on climate change and insisted that weather “changes both ways.”

“Don’t forget: It used to be called ‘global warming.’ That wasn’t working. Then it was called ‘climate change.’ Now it’s actually called ‘extreme weather’ because with extreme weather you can’t miss,” Trump told British commentator Piers Morgan.

The Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s 12-page prepared testimony, reviewed by The Washington Post, detailed how rising greenhouse gas emissions raise global temperatures and acidify oceans.

“Climate-linked events are disruptive to humans and societies when they harm people directly or substantially weaken the social, political, economic, environmental, or infrastructure systems that support people,” the statement reads, noting that while some populations may benefit from climate change. “The balance of documented evidence to date suggests that net negative effects will overwhelm the positive benefits from climate change for most of the world, however.”

[The Hill]

Trump, pressed on the environment in U.K. visit, says climate change goes ‘both ways’

His eldest daughter, Ivanka, could not change his mind.

His former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, could not change his mind.

Scores of international scientists could not change his mind.

And now, President Trump, who has called global warming a “Chinese hoax” and pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, appears similarly unmoved by an appeal from British royalty.

The president left a 90-minute meeting this week with Charles, Prince of Wales, unconvinced that the climate is warming, which it is, according to overwhelming scientific consensus. The Earth’s average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth-highest since 1880, when record-keeping began. That means that the past five years have been the warmest in recorded history.

But the president has other beliefs.

“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan on “Good Morning Britain” that aired Wednesday morning. “Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”

Trump cited severe conditions from long ago as evidence for his views, even though scientists say extreme events are becoming more common, driven by climate change. 

“Forty years ago, we had the worst tornado binge we’ve ever had,” Trump said. “In the 1890s, we had our worst hurricanes.”

He said he was impressed by the passion displayed by the Prince of Wales, who has been an outspoken advocate on climate issues. The two were supposed to meet for 15 minutes, Trump said, but ended up speaking for an hour and a half. He said he shared the prince’s desire for a “good climate as opposed to a disaster.” 

But the president blamed China, India and Russia for polluting the environment and said the United States was responsible for “among the cleanest climates.”

Carbon dioxide emissions by the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter, rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, according to findings published in January by the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group. And as the White House gears up to counter the consensus on climate change, it has tapped William Happer, a National Security Council senior director, to lead the effort. Happer once said, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

In the interview with Morgan in the Churchill War Rooms, Trump also weighed in on his administration’s standoff with Iran, saying he would prefer not to take military action while maintaining, “There’s always a chance.” He said he understood the “terrible responsibility” that comes with access to the country’s nuclear arsenal. 

He also said he wanted to look into the issue of suppressors that muffle the sound of gunfire, one of which was used in the shooting that left 12 people dead last week in Virginia Beach. ADVERTISING

“What’s happening is crazy,” Trump said of the scourge of gun violence. Yet he also pointed to knife crime in Britain and 2015 attacks at the Bataclan theater in Paris — carried out by Islamic State-inspired gunmen, whom Trump termed a “wacky group of people” — in an apparent suggestion that brutality was not a uniquely American phenomenon. Morgan replied, “More people were shot dead in America last week than died from guns in Paris since the Second World War.”

So, too, Trump discussed several personal feuds. Morgan, the “Good Morning Britain” host and former champion of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” told Trump he thought his continued attacks on John McCain, the late Republican senator from Arizona, were “beneath” him. 

“No, I don’t attack him,” Trump said. “People ask me, like you’re asking me. I didn’t bring his name up; you did.” Of the directive to obscure the USS John S. McCain warship while Trump was visiting Japan, the president said he bore no responsibility for it, adding, “I’m not even sure it happened.” 

He also blamed the media for stoking conflict between him and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. When he said he had not realized she had been “nasty” toward him, he was not labeling her “nasty,” he asserted, instead only observing that she had criticized him. In fact, when asked about Meghan Markle’s criticism of him before the 2016 election, he told the Sun newspaper, “I didn’t know that she was nasty.”

Trump remarked to Morgan: “Hey, join the crowd, right?” He said of the American member of the British royal family, “I hope she enjoys her life.”

As for himself, Trump said being hosted in Britain, including for a lavish state banquet in Buckingham Palace, was among the highlights of his life.

As the interview was airing Wednesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to play down protests that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of London, suggesting falsely that the crowds had gathered in support of him. 

[Washington Post]

Media

EPA chief attacks the media in speech to agency science advisers

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Andrew Wheeler, chose to go “off script” Wednesday morning when he warned the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) against trusting the media.

“I caution you to be careful what you read in the media,” Wheeler said, concluding his remarks to the public meeting — the first time the SAB has meet in a year.

Wheeler was specifically referring to a tweet by Yahoo News journalist Alexander Nazaryan on Monday which quoted Wheeler telling the National Press Club, “‘The media does a disservice to the American public’ by reporting on global warming, says EPA head Andrew Wheeler. Wants more positive coverage.”

And indeed, on Monday, Wheeler did take time to list five things he believes the press “consistently gets wrong” — this included reporting that the environment is getting worse. Instead, the press should be talking more about how it’s been getting better since the 1970s, Wheeler argued.

Nazaryan’s tweet was quickly circulated around the internet, including by a New York Times journalist and the Sierra Club. In response, the EPA sent out a press release stating that the tweet was “misleading,” and accused the Yahoo journalist of choosing to “deliberately spread false information on Twitter.”

This argument was reiterated on Wednesday by Wheeler, who said the fact that the Sierra Club started promoting the tweet made him wonder whether the media and environmental groups were “colluding” for fundraising purposes.

Under the Trump administration, however, the EPA has actively worked to rollback environmental protections, often in line with fossil fuel or other industry interests. Most recently this includes challenging the underlying risk calculations that support clean air rules.

The media has played a critical role in reporting on, and investigating, not just these various policy decisions but also potential ethics controversies and conflicts of interest plaguing the agency.

But Wheeler urged scientists not to trust the media and come to him or other top EPA officials if they had questions or concerns.

This isn’t the first time that the Trump administration’s EPA has “fact-checked” the media or been antagonistic toward reporters. Last year, reporters from major news outlets, including the Associated Press and CNN, were banned from attending a summit on harmful chemicals; one journalist was even forcibly removed by security.

And in September 2017, the EPA’s press office sent out a press release titled “EPA Response To The AP’s Misleading Story,” which accused AP reporter Michael Biesecker of writing an “incredibly misleading story” about Superfund sites and Hurricane Harvey. (The EPA did not, however, contradict any facts in Biesecker’s story.)

Meanwhile, the EPA has used articles written by climate science deniers, including the Heartland Institute and the Daily Caller, as their own press releases rather than citing expert staff members — a move which the National Association of Science Writers labeled “unprofessional” and “unethical.”

All of this is part of the larger confrontational relationship with the press promoted by President Donald Trump, who consistently calls media “fake news” and has repeatedly encouraged violence against the media.

[ThinkProgress]

Trump Plugs Hannity’s Program: ‘DEEP STATE SHOW’ Tonight With ‘Tremendous Guests’

President Donald Trump once again plugged Sean Hannity’s show on Twitter today, promising “tremendous guests” on a “must see” episode.

Hannity talks nightly on his show about the real corruption that will come to light, but Trump tweeted that the Fox host’s show tonight will be a big “DEEP STATE SHOW”:

On Wednesday, after Robert Mueller spoke, Hannity said the special counsel is “full of crap.” That night, before Hannity’s TV show aired, Trump tweeted praise for a “great show tonight” and said, “That’s why you’re Number One (by far)!”

Sean Hannity assembled a big panel of regular guests to rail against the “deep state” and the investigation into President Donald Trump, saying the “day of reckoning” is coming for the real criminals.

Hannity asked where the “media hysteria” is over “real obstruction, real crime” from Hillary Clinton, said there must be equal application of the law, and brought up the infamous Steele dossier.

“Night after night, we have literally been unpeeling the layers of this onion and ripping the mask off all of this corruption trying to get to the truth to expose what has happened here,” he said. “This was an attempt to literally fix a presidential election and destroy a duly-elected president. There is a deep state, and now their day of reckoning has come.”

Hannity then brought on his big panel, which included several familiar faces: Gregg JarrettSara CarterJohn SolomonVictoria ToensingJoe diGenovaMatt SchlappPam BondiGeraldo RiveraTom Fitton, and Doug Schoen.

Hannity started by telling them, “We wouldn’t be here today––they probably would have succeeded had it not been for every single one of you, and I applaud all of you for your deep digging, your investigative reporting, the hard work, the tough analysis.”

[Mediaite, Mediaite]

US Department of Energy is now referring to fossil fuels as “freedom gas”

Call it a rebranding of “energy dominance.”

In a press release published on Tuesday, two Department of Energy officials used the terms “freedom gas” and “molecules of US freedom” to replace your average, everyday term “natural gas.”

Rick Perry says carbon dioxide is not a primary driver of climate changeThe press release was fairly standard, announcing the expansion of a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at the Freeport facility on Quintana Island, Texas. It would have gone unnoticed had an E&E News reporter not noted the unique metonymy “molecules of US freedom.”

The press release was fairly standard, announcing the expansion of a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at the Freeport facility on Quintana Island, Texas. It would have gone unnoticed had an E&E News reporter not noted the unique metonymy “molecules of US freedom.”

DOE Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg is quoted as saying, “With the US in another year of record-setting natural gas production, I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of US freedom to be exported to the world.”

Also in the press release, US Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes refers to natural gas as “freedom gas” in his quote: “Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.”

Slate notes that the term “freedom gas” seems to have originated from an event with DOE Secretary Rick Perry. Earlier this year, the secretary signed an order to double the amount of LNG exports to Europe, saying, “The United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent. And rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it’s in the form of liquefied natural gas.”

A reporter at the order signing jokingly asked whether the LNG shipments should be called “freedom gas,” and Perry said, “I think you may be correct in your observation.”

If the DOE is still running with the term as a joke, then the wit in the Energy Secretary’s office is bone dry. Ars contacted the DOE to see if “freedom gas” and “molecules of US freedom” are now going to be standard in department communication with the public. We are also curious if any potential drop in LNG exports could result in patriotism bloat. The DOE has not responded, though we’ll update the story if it does.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and Japan were the top importers of freedom gas last year. China, India, and the UK buy a smaller number of molecules of US freedom.

White House claims without proof that FBI has ‘outrageous’ corruption Barr will uncover

The White House on Sunday brushed aside congressional Democrats’ concerns about Atty. Gen. William Barr being handed extraordinary powers to declassify sensitive intelligence as part of a probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election.

Reflecting his anger over unflattering depictions of his actions in the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, including several episodes that might have constituted obstruction of justice, President Trump has authorized the attorney general to investigate the investigation. Trump and his allies have long insisted that the FBI improperly “spied” on his campaign.

Democrats already have accused Barr of trying to put the best possible face on Mueller’s findings and say they fear he will selectively release documents in an effort to undermine public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies and Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s report itself documents activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including information passed along by Australian officials concerning a Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who told an Australian diplomat that Democratic emails had been stolen by the Russians before the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system became public knowledge.

Democrats already have accused Barr of trying to put the best possible face on Mueller’s findings and say they fear he will selectively release documents in an effort to undermine public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies and Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s report itself documents activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including information passed along by Australian officials concerning a Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who told an Australian diplomat that Democratic emails had been stolen by the Russians before the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system became public knowledge.

When Republicans had the majority in the House, Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) spent nearly two years investigating the same issues without producing evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Sunday that the administration is not prejudging Barr’s findings, but expressed confidence, without offering proof, that he would be able to document “outrageous” corruption at the FBI.

“I’m not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is, but we already know that there was a high level of corruption that was taking place,” Sanders, in Tokyo with the president on a state visit to Japan, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Questioned by host Chuck Todd about whether Barr could be trusted not to cherry-pick information, Sanders defended the decision to give Barr declassification powers that have traditionally been jealously guarded by intelligence agencies.

“That’s the reason that he’s granted the attorney general the authority to declassify that information – to look at all the documents necessary…so that we can get to the very bottom of what happened,” she said. “Once again, we already know about some wrongdoing.”

Congressional Democrats have sharply questioned whether the administration is acting in good faith. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who presently chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the president’s decision, announced on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend, allowed Trump and Barr to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.”

Trump allies denied that the president’s actions in any way undermined the core missions of the intelligence community.

“We’re not compromising national security here,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has emerged as one of Trump’s staunchest congressional defenders. Graham, interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” said that he believed Barr “can be trusted” not to manipulate information in the president’s favor.

“The people who are worried about this are worried about being exposed for taking the law into their own hands,” said Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump himself defended Barr’s review, saying before he left for Japan that it was not meant to avenge himself on political opponents.

“It’s not payback – I don’t care about payback,” he told reporters. “I think it’s very important for our country to find out what happened.”

The push by the White House to investigate those who investigated the president comes against the backdrop of across-the-board resistance by Trump to congressional oversight. At least a dozen separate battles are playing out over congressional subpoenas of documents and individuals on matters including the Mueller report and Trump’s tax returns.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco so far has resisted calls by some Democratic lawmakers to open impeachment proceedings against the president, especially if he continues to reject Congress’ authority to carry out investigations of the president’s conduct and finances. She argues that impeachment remains premature, although she has accused Trump of a “cover-up.”

An early backer of impeachment, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said Sunday she believed that Pelosi eventually would relent.

“I think it’s moving toward that,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding that “the traditional congressional oversight process isn’t working.”

The chairman of the Democratic caucus, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, defended Pelosi’s go-slow approach, saying that for now, investigating Trump “methodically yet aggressively” was the best approach, while simultaneously working to advance the Democrats’ legislative agenda.

“Democrats can sing and dance at the same time, just like Beyonce,” he said on NBC. “We will not overreach. We will not over-investigate,” he added.

On the Republican side, however, there was increasing willingness to echo Trump’s call for drastic punishment of law enforcement figures who helped move the investigation forward.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” said the origins of Mueller’s investigation were suspect because statements by FBI agents during the 2016 campaign sounded “a whole lot like a coup.”

She was referring in part to texts critical of Trump that were exchanged by two bureau officials, including former agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from the Mueller probe when the messages came to light and subsequently forced out, and lawyer Lisa Page, who has also left the FBI.

“It could well be treason,” Cheney said.

Cheney’s comments drew an irate riposte on Sunday from Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Legal experts have pointed out that the Constitution says treason consists of “levying war against” the United States or giving “aid and comfort” to its enemies.

“Elected officials keep making casual, ignorant, idiotic accusations of ‘treason.’ … Just saw Liz Cheney do it,” Bharara wrote on Twitter. “Read the Constitution.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump gives Barr sweeping new powers to undercut Mueller probe

President Trump has handed off his own intelligence powers to a man who increasingly looks like the most powerful figure in the Trump administration, Attorney General Bill Barr.

MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent, Ari Melber, breaks down how the White House is not even claiming this move is for national security purposes, but admitting this is all about strengthening Barr’s hand in reviewing the Mueller probe.

1 2 3 35