Trump accuses Twitter of targeting Republicans, offers no evidence

U.S. President Donald Trump accused Twitter Inc on Thursday of restricting the visibility of prominent Republicans on its platform, without providing evidence, and he promised to investigate.

“Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once!” the Republican president wrote in a Twitter post.

The practice involves limiting the visibility of a user in search results, specifically in the auto-populated dropdown search box on Twitter.

Trump’s comments followed a Vice news report on Wednesday that Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and other Republicans including Donald Trump Jr’s spokesman were being “shadow banned.”

“The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American. Twitter owes the public answers to what’s really going on,” McDaniel wrote on Twitter.

Twitter did not have a comment on Trump’s tweet but a spokesperson said the company does not “shadow ban.”

“We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and we’re shipping a change to address this,” the spokesperson said in a statement.” Twitter said the technology used is based on user behavior not political views.

Twitter instituted a policy change on July 12 to increase the service’s credibility and reduce suspected fraud. That change cost its 100 most popular users about 2 percent of their followers, on average, according to social media data firm Keyhole.

The change cost former President Barack Obama 2 million followers by the morning after the change and singers Katy Perry and Justin Bieber each lost 3 million, The Washington Post reported, citing analytics company Twitter Counter.

The report said Trump’s account lost more than 200,000 of its 53 million followers.

Twitter shares, already lower in premarket trading after Facebook Inc’s disappointing earnings late Wednesday damped enthusiasm for technology and social media stocks, dipped a bit further and volume rose slightly after Trump’s tweet at 7:46 a.m. The stock was last down 3.2 percent. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bangalore; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas)

[USA Today]

Trump says he’s worried about Russian meddling … to elect Democrats

President Donald Trump would like you to believe that Russia, which targeted the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 and whose president, Vladimir Putin, said just last week that he wanted Trump to win, are interfering in American politics to boost … Democrats.

Trump is also “very concerned” about Russian meddling, despite, also last week, telling a reporter he doesn’t think Russia is still targeting the US and publicly doubting Russian interference on multiple occasions.

The president has faced mounting criticism over his handling of relations with Russia in the wake of his disastrous performance at a press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, last week. After a one-on-one meeting with Putin, whose contents remain unknown to US officials, Trump failed to publicly denounce the Russian leader for his country’s efforts to interfere in US politics in 2016 and beyond and said he wasn’t so sure about the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia was and is meddling.

The White House’s cleanup efforts have largely centered on one strategy, which is, basically, gaslighting.

Trump claimed he misspoke at the Helsinki press conference and that when he told reporters, “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia]” who meddled in the 2016 election, he meant to say he didn’t see why it wouldn’t have been Russia. And when he told a reporter later in the week, “No,” when asked if Russia was still targeting the US, the White House claimed he was just saying he didn’t want to answer questions.

On Tuesday, Trump was at it again with another counter-reality tweet, this time claiming that Russians are interfering — but that they’re doing it to boost Democrats because Russia is so afraid of him.

[Vox]

Trump tries to spin Justice Department documents outlining Carter Page’s Russia contacts

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to try and hit back against the Justice Department’s release of documents outlining Carter Page’s contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, the Justice Department released a warrant application the FBI had made to get permission to conduct surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, made in October 2016, alleged that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

The non-redacted portions of the 400-page FISA document make serious claims about Page’s ties to the Russian government. The Justice Department alleges in the documents that the former adviser “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.”

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant says. After a redacted line, the document then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Trump responded to the documents Sunday morning, relying on his claim of “witch hunt” to describe the investigation into his campaign.

“As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts,” Trump tweeted about the FISA documents Sunday. “Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump hit back against the Steele dossier, which alleges the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and that the Russians have compromising information on the now-president. Trump quoted Fox News as saying, “Source #1 [for the FISA warrant] was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign …”

The president then tied the FISA warrant to the outcry sparked by his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming he “had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!”

Page himself has denied the allegations, describing the FISA application as “spin” and a “complete joke” in an interview Sunday on CNN.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Page alleged Sunday.

The heavily redacted FISA documents, which enabled the government to surveil Page, were released Saturday after news organizations including the New York Times and USA Today filed lawsuits to obtain them through the Freedom of Information Act. Its release marks the first time a FISA application for surveillance has been released, the Washington Post noted, and such documents are considered to be highly classified.

The application previously made waves in February, as Republicans alleged in a memo that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain the FISA warrant — which Democrats then rebutted in a separate report.

Republicans have previously pointed to the warrant’s reliance on the Steele dossier — which was initially commissioned by a firm that had been contracted by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — as evidence that the warrant was improperly granted, due to the dossier’s alleged bias. An initial Republican memo about the FISA warrant also claimed that the dossier’s origins were not mentioned in the warrant.

The now-released document, however, does disclose that the “U.S. person” who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” and added that the FBI believes Steele’s reporting “to be credible.” Some details of the Steele dossier have been corroborated, although the document’s most salacious claims remain unverified.

David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security and associate deputy attorney general, wrote in a post for the Lawfare Institute that the page-long footnote dedicated to the potential bias behind the Steele dossier means “there is literally no way the FISA court could have missed it.”

“The FBI gave the court enough information to evaluate Steele’s credibility,” Kris wrote, also noting that the judges who signed off on the FISA applications were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Democrats are pointing to the now-released application as evidence that the FBI’s investigation into Page and the Trump campaign was legitimate. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post that the FISA documents “underscore the legitimate concern [the] FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and improperly and illegally influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’

“The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies,” Pelosi added.

[Mic]

Trump Claims Obama Did Nothing About Russian Election Meddling Because ‘It is All a Big Hoax’

On Sunday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on his way home from his golfing weekend in New Jersey to claim that President Barack Obama didn’t do anything about Russian election meddling because it is “all a big hoax.”

“So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election,” Trump opined.  “Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!”

Trump’s tweet follows a busy morning of tweets where he claimed he had a “great” meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putinand quoted Fox News’ Pete Hegseth saying, “Source #1 was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump.”

Trump’s comments also elicited a strong reaction from news pundits, who were quick to point out that Trump’s comments come after a week of playing cleanup after he refused to denounce Russian meddling to Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s face.

[Mediaite]

Reality

The reality is the entire United States intelligence community concluded Russia did interfere with our election with the express purpose of making Donald Trump our president. And the FBI did tell Trump as a candidate Russia was trying to infiltrate his campaign.
The fact is Obama was ready to do more to stop Russian election interference, but was blocked personally by Mitch McConnell.

Trump: Strzok’s testimony ‘a disgrace to our country’

President Trump in an interview broadcast Sunday called the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok “a disgrace to our country.”

“I watched some of the testimony, even though I’m in Europe, of Strzok. And I thought it was a disgrace to our country. I thought it was an absolute disgrace,” Trump told CBS News.

“Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it,” Trump added. “And you know, talking about shutting it down and ‘we, we.’ And he says ‘oh I meant the American people’ all of a sudden you know, he came up with excuses.”

Strzok’s hearing last Thursday quickly devolved into rancorous partisan bickering after he declined to answer questions about special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation.

Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, exchanged text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation when the messages came to light, but Republicans have zeroed in on him as key to uncovering what they allege was systemic FBI bias against Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats, meanwhile, have cast the effort as a politically driven charade.

The controversial FBI agent was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s private email server.

“He was a disgrace to the FBI,” Trump told CBS News. “So when I look at things like that and he led that investigation or whatever you call it. I would say that yeah, I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries.”

[The Hill]

Furious Trump unleashes unhinged tweet against ‘Ex-FBI LAYER Lisa Page’

Lisa Page has ignored a subpoena from Congressional investigators who have abandoned the Russia investigation and pivoted to investigating the FBI instead.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) threatened Page that he would enforce the subpoena, but has yet to do so.

“Ex-FBI LAYER [sic] Lisa Page today defied a House of Representatives issued Subpoena to testify before Congress! Wow, but is anybody really surprised! Together with her lover, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, she worked on the Rigged Witch Hunt, perhaps the most tainted and corrupt case EVER!” Trump ranted.

About an hour later, Trump tweeted out another accusation on what he now calls a “Rigged Witch Hunt,” as opposed to a regular witch hunt he previously called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is unclear if by saying the investigation is rigged Trump believes the investigation should be restarted. That would mean it would continue for many more years.

[Raw Story]

Reality

This was, of course, a complete mis-characterization of Page’s lawyer’s answer to the subpoena. They requested more time to read the documents sent over by Congress, and will testify the following day.

HHS Official Called John Podesta a Pedophile and Claimed Liberals Abuse Children in Satanic Rituals

Health and Human Services official Ximena Barreto publicly apologized recently for her “heated and hyper-passionate” tweets on race and far-right conspiracies, after they were reported on by CNN.

She made her Twitter account private, and held on to her government job. But on that now-private account, she’s been unapologetic — recently calling the reports exposing her fringe views a “smear campaign.”

Mediaite conducted an extensive review of her social media posts and found that the HHS appointee pushed the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory even more than previously reported. Her tweets include smearing former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta as “a pedophile,” accusing Democrats of hosting “Pedophile dinners,” and claiming liberals abuse children during satanic rituals.

The Department of Health and Human Services is tasked with implementing health and welfare-related programs. Recently, the department came under fire for losing track of more than a thousand unaccompanied immigrant children that crossed the southern border and were placed with adult sponsors.

After her apology, Barreto, who worked as a far-right media personality before joining HHS in December 2017, was allowed to keep her Trump administration job — albeit, with a demotion from her old deputy director of communications post. But her private comment attacking CNN for reporting on her controversial posts suggests she is far from repentant.

“Locked my account after CNNs smear campaign,” Barreto wrote on June 14 in response to a follower asking why they can’t retweet her posts. “[I] received too many threats and packages delivered to my home.”

Barreto did not offer evidence to followers proving her claim that she was doxxed and is receiving threats. It is also not clear how making her Twitter private would deter these supposed threats, but a locked account certainly allows her to recant her public apology to her fan base without her employers at HHS seeing.

The Department of Health and Human Services and Barreto were contacted repeatedly via email and phone for comment, but did not respond. After this reporter asked for comment, Barreto shut down her private Twitter account and deleted her tweet calling the CNN articles on her views a “smear campaign.”

In past reports on Barreto’s extreme views, the right-wing media watchdog group Media Matters found that the HHS official made racist attacks against African-Americans, called Islam a “cult,” and pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy. An investigation from CNN’s KFile team found that Barreto had shared a picture calling for the hanging of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for “treason,” as well as pushed the Seth Rich murder conspiracy.

Mediaite obtained screenshots of Barreto’s Twitter feed that show she pushed Pizzagate — an absurd conspiracy theory that claims the Clintons, the Podesta brothers, and other Democrats ran a child sex trafficking ring in a D.C. pizza restaurant — far more than previously reported.

She continued this claim in other tweets, writing that“@AndrewBreitbart definitely knew of #PizzaGate before passing!” and quote tweeting an old Breitbart tweet with just the hashtag “#Pizzagate.”‘

The so-called “spirit cooking” conspiracy, which alleges — without evidence — that John Podesta, his lobbyist brother Tony Podesta, and other high profile Democrats practice Satanic rituals that involve preying upon young children, was another conspiracy that Barreto frequently pushed.

“@johnpodesta why have you not tweet since nov 7th? Having too much pizza at spirit cooking parties? Or playing dominoes? #PizzaGate,” Barreto tweeted in late November 2016.

In another tweet, Barreto claimed liberals use “children… in their #SpiritCooking parties.” She pushed the same claim when someone responded to one of her posts, writing, “Are u into the pedophile satanic stuff that podesta is in?”

She also connected the Pizzagate and spirit cooking conspiracies to the rapper Jay-Z, who was a Clinton supporter, tweeting, “Didn’t jay z sold crack? And shoot his brother? #BasketOfCriminals #SpiritCooking.”

Barreto attempted to combat the spirit cooking by using spiritual warfare.

“#SpiritCooking Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” tweeted the HHS official, alongside a meme that read, “There is no election in 2016. There is only the trial of Crooked Hillary. On November 8th, vote guilty.”

The official even tied the women’s health organization Planned Parenthood to satanic rituals, tweeting, “#SpiritCooking Planned parenthood spent 38 million for democrats #AbortionsForSatan.”

Her other contributions to fighting the nonexistent pedophile ring include accusing Hillary Clinton of “trying to distract us from #PizzaGate,” invoking the supposed “Pedophile dinners” of Democrats to excuse Russian election tampering, and stating that Clinton should still be held responsible for “#PizzaGate #BillsVictims and all the things she has done wrong.”

In total, Mediaite found that Barreto tweeted about variations of the Pizzagate conspiracy at least 17 times. Additionally, she spoke at length about Pizzagate in a Periscope video, as detailed by the Media Matters report.

Her other controversial posts include Barreto saying, “Islam [is] a cult that oppresses women, kills gays and wants us all dead,” as well as claiming all Muslims “practicing Islam” are terrorists because “their religion is barbaric.” Barreto also pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy in three separate tweets, using the hashtags “#KilledByTheDNC,” “#HillaryBodyCount,” “#ClintonBodyBags,” “#SethRich,” “#Hero,” and “#RIP.”

[Mediaite]

‘We don’t even talk about the uranium’: Trump wildly attacks FBI when asked if he will confront Putin on meddling

President Donald Trump on Sunday deflected blame for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to the FBI.

While speaking to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, Trump was asked if he was going to “mention the meddling” when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

Trump immediately changed the subject: “I would like to see some answers as to why we didn’t take the server, why the FBI didn’t take the server from the DNC.”

“Why didn’t the FBI take it? Look what they did to other people,” the president continued. “Why didn’t they take it? How can the DNC say get out of here. They threw them out of the office.”

Trump went on to complain about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, saying it would find “nothing wrong.” And then he invoked the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“[Y]ou go back, how about the e-mails — deleting 33,000 e-mails?” he asked. “We don’t even have to talk about the uranium and all the different — just tell me, you get a subpoena. And after getting the subpoena from the United States Congress, right? People go to jail for doing it on a civil case. They delete 33,000 e-mails.”

“Before the FBI even walked in, they are walking in and say you have — by the way, keep your laptops and then they even say destroy your laptops or something? In a week or something you can destroy your laptops?” he said.

[Raw Story]

Trump Demands Mueller Team Disclose Any Conflicts of Interest

Donald Trump wants Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to list any conflicts he and members of his team have in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest?” Trump said in a Twitter posting Thursday. “Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report…And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H? How many people will be sent to jail.”

In follow-up post, the president said allies were being “persecuted” and facing charges that are old or unrelated to the election. “What is going on in the FBI & DOJ with Crooked Hillary, the DNC and all of the lies? A disgraceful situation!”

While Trump and supporters often cite how many Democrats are on Mueller’s team, the special counsel is a longtime Republican.

Trump’s latest attacks on Mueller come as the White House announced that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold their first bilateral summit July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, as they try to reverse a downward spiral in relations that’s been exacerbated by findings of Russian election meddling.

The White House and the Kremlin disclosed details of the meeting in simultaneous statements issued a day after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was in Moscow for talks.

Trump has pushed for improving the relationship, inviting Putin to the White House in a March phone call after the Russian leader’s re-election to a fourth term as president. The mere fact of the summit is a boost to Kremlin efforts to ease its international isolation, though officials have played down hopes for any breakthrough.

[Bloomberg]

Trump casts doubt on Russian election meddling ahead of Putin summit

President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on US intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential contest, just as his aides announced details of his upcoming summit talks with President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. He went on to question why US law enforcement agencies weren’t investigating other perceived influences on the election, which he has repeatedly said was rigged for his opponent Hillary Clinton.

“Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” he wrote.

The President’s tweet was sent roughly a half hour before the White House announced the two leaders will meet on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, where they will “discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues.”

Trump’s summit with Putin is likely to draw criticism from the US President’s domestic critics, who accuse him of currying favor with Putin, and jitter US allies, who fear Trump will take a less hawkish position with Russia on issues like the annexation of Crimea and military exercises near the Russian border in eastern Europe.

The summit takes place four days after a NATO meeting in Brussels, where Trump will meet leaders of US military allies. NATO members were worried that if the summit with Putin had taken place earlier, Trump might have agreed to something with the Russian leader that they would have been forced to go along with.

[CNN]

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