Trump Accuses Obama of Having Ties to Russia

President Trump launched new attacks on his predecessor and Democrats on Sunday, suggesting Barack Obama also has shady Russian ties.

At 6:40 a.m., Trump insinuated that Obama acted improperly in March 2012 when the then-president told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the US would have more “more flexibility” in talks about a missile defense treaty after November elections.

The “more flexibility” remark was picked up on a hot mic that Obama and Medvedev apparently did not know was on.

“Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, `Tell Vladimir that after the election I’ll have more flexibility,’” tweeted Trump, under fire for his administration’s ties to Moscow.

That tweet came after a 6:32 a.m. missive that suggested Democrats didn’t want to help the FBI investigate cyberattacks now linked to Russia.

“Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?” Trump tweeted.

The president’s Sunday morning tweets came 23 ½ hours after he made sensational – and uncorroborated – claims that Obama had his phones at Trump Tower tapped during the 2016 campaign.

Obama’s spokesman denied the former president ordered any such covert action against Trump.

Democrats and some Republicans roundly criticized Trump for making such a wild, unsubstantiated claim.

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) comically took Trump’s side and said maybe he was put under surveillance – for good reason.

“Mr. President: If there was a wiretap at Trump Tower, that means a fed judge found probable cause of crime which means you are in deep sh–,” Lieu tweeted.

(h/t New York Post)

Trump, Without Evidence, Accuses Obama of Wiretapping Trump Tower

President Trump on Saturday claimed President Obama had his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower before Election Day, tweeting the accusation without offering evidence.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he wrote.

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” he added in subsequent tweets. “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

A spokesman for Obama issued a statement denying that his White House had interfered in Justice Department investigations or ordered surveillance on any American, much less Trump.

“A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said.

“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” he added. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump had any proof or was referencing a report. Breitbart News on Friday reported on conservative radio host Mark Levin’s claim that Obama executed a “silent coup” of Trump via “police state” tactics. White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart before joining Trump’s team.

Observers have noted the president’s tendency to tweet things — including a 2003 photo tweeted Friday of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) with Russian President Vladimir Putin — shortly after they were published on pro-Trump blogs like Gateway Pundit or conservative websites like Drudge Report.

Moments earlier, Trump had also linked Obama to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s meetings last year with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

“The first meeting Jeff Sessions had with the Russian Amb was set up by the Obama Administration under education program for 100 Ambs,” he tweeted.

Sessions on Thursday said he would recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s links to Trump’s team, after massive outrage over the revelations that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign, then denied doing so during his confirmation hearings.

Trump on Saturday also blasted Obama for meeting with Kislyak 22 times while president, tweeting: “Just out: The same Russian Ambassador that met Jeff Sessions visited the Obama White House 22 times, and 4 times last year alone.”

Trump’s team has sought to push back on accusations of coziness with Russia by pointing out instances of Democrats meeting with Kislyak. Critics have responded that the issue isn’t that Sessions met with the ambassador, but that he falsely told Congress he hadn’t while under oath.

Former national security advisor Michael Flynn was ousted last month after revelations that he misled top White House officials about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak.

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

Donald Trump appears to have read this in an article from Breitbart news, who repeated claim from right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin. Both offered zero evidence for this claim.

If this is true then Trump’s claim would be important for two reasons:

  1. Presidents do not have the authority to wiretap a private citizen’s phone, Barack Obama would be the first.
  2. Since federal judges are the only once with the authority to wiretap a phone, and they can’t do it without probable cause, that means Trump did something very wrong and is under investigation.

Trump: Ayotte Would Have Won Senate Reelection If Not For Voter Fraud

President Trump has long claimed, without presenting any evidence, that he would have won the popular vote if it weren’t for widespread voter fraud. Now he’s using that same assertion to explain why former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s lost her seat in November, Politico reported Friday.

During a closed-door meeting with a group of senators from both parties on Thursday, Trump digressed from a planned discussion of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to talk about the elections, arguing that he and Ayotte both should have won the vote in New Hampshire, according to Politico.

According to Trump, Ayotte’s reelection bid was foiled by “thousands” of people from Massachusetts illegally casting ballots in the Granite State, meeting participants told Politico. One source said that the room fell silent after the remark.

Ayotte, who is currently serving as a “sherpa” liaison between the White House and senators for Gorsuch’s nomination, was at the meeting.

Though he has cited unsubstantiated voter fraud in the presidential race before, this is the first time he has mentioned it in connection with down-ballot contests.

Trump began making claims of voter fraud before the 2016 general elections but doubled down on the idea after his Electoral College win. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots.

Trump revived the illegal-voting claims just days after he took the oath of office last month, allegedly saying in a meeting with congressional leaders that he lost the popular vote because “3 to 5 million ‘illegals’ ” cast ballots.

Later that week, he followed up on the claim, announcing in a string of tweets that he would launch a “major investigation” of voter fraud, including cases of individuals registered to vote in multiple states and deceased people who have not been taken off state voting rolls.

(h/t The Hill)

Trump Stands by Unsubstantiated Voter Fraud Claims: ‘It’s Really a Bad Situation’

President Trump in a new interview seemingly defends his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election, maintaining that illegal immigrants and “dead people” around the U.S. were registered to vote.

“Well, many people have come out and said I am right, you know that,” Trump told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly in an interview slated to air Sunday.

When O’Reilly notes that Trump needs data to back up his claim that three million undocumented immigrants voted in the election, Trump insisted “a bad situation” exists regarding voter fraud.

“Let me just tell you — when you see illegals, people that are not citizens and they are on registration rolls … look, Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have this, it’s really a bad situation. It’s really bad.”

Trump threatened last month to launch “a major investigation” into voter fraud in order to “strengthen up voting procedures,” though the White House has since not provided details on such an effort.

“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and….even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time),” Trump wrote last month.

“Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” he added at the time.

(h/t The Hill)

Media

WH: No Mention of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day Because Others Were Killed Too

The White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism because “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN on Saturday.

Hicks provided a link to a Huffington Post UK story noting that while 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, 5 million others were also slaughtered during Adolf Hitler’s genocide, including “priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters.”

Asked if the White House was suggesting President Donald Trump didn’t mention Jews as victims of the Holocaust because he didn’t want to offend the other people the Nazis targeted and killed, Hicks replied, “it was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day.”

The presidential reference to the “innocent people” victimized by the Nazis without a mention of Jews or anti-Semitism by the White House on International Holocaust Remembrance Day was a stark contrast to statements by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the “@WhiteHouse statement on #HolocaustMemorialDay, misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people'” and “Puzzling and troubling @WhiteHouse #HolocaustMemorialDay stmt has no mention of Jews. GOP and Dem. presidents have done so in the past.”

Asked about the White House explanation that the President didn’t want to exclude any of the other groups Nazis killed by specifically mentioning Jews, Greenblatt told CNN that the United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day not only because of Holocaust denial but also because so many countries — Iran, Russia, Poland, and Hungary, for example — specifically refuse to acknowledge Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews, “opting instead to talk about generic suffering rather than recognizing this catastrophic incident for what is was: the intended genocide of the Jewish people.”

Downplaying or disregarding the degree to which Jews were targeted for elimination during the Holocaust is a common theme of nationalist movements like those seen in Russia and Eastern Europe, Greenblatt said.

Initially, after being asked about the ADL criticism and the omission of any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism, Hicks provided a statement from Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress that seemed to criticize Greenblatt and the ADL.

“It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” the Lauder statement read in part. “Any fair reading of the White House statement today on the International Holocaust Memorial Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history.”

(h/t CNN)

Reality

The language used by the Trump White House echos antisemetic white power groups who try to de-Judiify the Holocaust.

Trump Seeks ‘Major Investigation’ Into Unsupported Claims of Voter Fraud

President Trump plans to ask for a “major investigation” into allegations of widespread voter fraud as he continues to claim, without providing evidence, that he lost the popular vote in November’s election because millions of illegal votes were cast, according to tweets posted Wednesday.

The White House has yet to provide details, but Trump said in back-to-back tweets that the investigation into “VOTER FRAUD” — Trump used all capitals for emphasis — would cover “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal” and “those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

“Depending on results,” Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

Trump did not indicate who would lead such an investigation or what ground it would cover. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether it would now launch an investigation.

Trump continues to face scrutiny, along with some mockery, for insisting during a private reception with congressional leaders Monday that there were between 3 million and 5 million ballots illegally cast in the election, allowing his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, although she lost the electoral-college vote to Trump. The president and his aides have yet to provide any verifiable facts to back up his claim, and analyses of the election found virtually no confirmed cases of voter fraud, let alone millions.

Trump’s campaign attorneys fought recount attempts in several states by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and stated in a recent court filing, “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

A Trump adviser told The Washington Post on Wednesday that Trump has been stewing about his popular-vote count for weeks and insisting to friends that Clinton benefited from illegal votes in Democratic-leaning states such as California. He has mentioned to several of them his interest in launching an investigation into possible voter fraud, said the adviser, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The adviser went on to frame Wednesday’s tweets as a deeply personal move by Trump reflective of his thinking on the election and did not have details on whether congressional leaders had been briefed on Trump’s desire to have an investigation, although the adviser said Trump did tell them Monday about his broader concerns regarding the election count during a reception at the White House.

Trump also tweeted that he will make his pick to fill the Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court on Feb. 2. Scalia died last February.

Lawmakers from both parties have declined to embrace Trump’s version of the election. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that he has “seen no evidence to that effect.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a news conference Wednesday that she cannot understand why the newly installed president is “so insecure.”

“To suggest and to undermine the integrity of our voter system is really strange,” Pelosi said. “. . . On top of it, he wants to investigate something that can clearly be proven to be false, but he resists investigations of a Russian disruption of our investigation and any connection to his campaign. All we want is the truth for the American people.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he believes the “prime jurisdiction” to investigate alleged voter fraud is at the local and county levels. But he said there is a “federal function” since states set voting laws and certify the tallies.

“I don’t see the evidence [of fraud],” Chaffetz added. “But he’s the president and if he thinks it’s there, have at it.”

The National Association of Secretaries of State, which represents many of the country’s state elections officials, said in a statement Tuesday: “We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns.”

Given that studies have shown that cases of in-person voter fraud are exceptionally rare, voting rights activists and others are worried that Trump’s unfounded comments could lead to more voter-identification laws that they say disenfranchise poor or minority voters, such as the one in North Carolina that the Supreme Court declined to reinstate last summer.

Three congressional Democratic — Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Robert A. Brady of Pennsylvania and James E. Clyburn of South Carolina — say they are sending letters to 102 chief election officials and attorneys general in all 50 states and the District to request all cases of voters who tried to cast a ballot in the November election and were barred from doing so.

“Republicans in statehouses across America have passed restrictive laws that impair the ability of legitimate voters to participate, and they use the myth of voter fraud to justify their abuses,” Cummings said in a statement.

At the Tuesday briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s “long-standing belief” that large-scale voter fraud occurred and pointed to a study that did not contain the conclusion he said it did. Spicer said there were no plans for an investigation but left the option open.

“Maybe we will,” Spicer said. “We’ll see where we go from here, but right now the focus of the president has is on putting Americans back to work.”

When pressed again by reports on the possibility of an investigation, Spicer seemed to play down the prospect, saying “anything is possible.”

Such an investigation could be led by the president’s attorney general. Trump’s pick for the position, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has asserted in the past that voter fraud exists, but he has distanced himself from Trump’s claim of millions of fraudulent votes.

“I don’t know what the president-elect meant or was thinking when he made that comment or what facts he may have had to justify his statement,” Sessions said at his confirmation hearing this month. “I would just say that every election needs to be managed closely, and we need to ensure that there is integrity in it. And I do believe we regularly have fraudulent activities occur during election cycles.”

Sessions, who has yet to be confirmed, said he had not talked to Trump “about that in any depth or particularly since the election.” A spokeswoman for Sessions declined to comment beyond what the senator said at his confirmation hearing and referred questions about the investigation to the White House. Sessions has been questioned on his handling of a voter fraud case brought against black civil rights activists in Alabama in the 1980s, when he was a U.S. attorney.

The Justice Department can establish jurisdiction when a federal candidate’s name is on the ballot, though it is significantly harder when one is not. Although state law generally governs voter registration and other election-related matters such as the method of casting ballots, federal authorities are often seen as preferable to lead investigations into claims of irregularities. That is because federal authorities have more resources and are detached from local political interests and because their juries are generally drawn from a broader geographic area.

The Justice Department, though, looks at cases with an eye on whether they can be prosecuted — and does not intervene to attempt to improve voting systems. The investigation contemplated in the president’s tweet might be more akin to a study that broadly assesses the problem, or non-problem, of voter fraud, and how state and local systems might prevent it.

(h/t Washington Post)

Reality

His alternative fact originated from a flawed survey on the conspiracy theory website InfoWars, which Trump is known to read.

Trump Administration Tells EPA to Cut Climate Page From Website

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website, two agency employees told Reuters, the latest move by the newly minted leadership to erase ex-President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives.

The employees were notified by EPA officials on Tuesday that the administration had instructed EPA’s communications team to remove the website’s climate change page, which contains links to scientific global warming research, as well as detailed data on emissions. The page could go down as early as Wednesday, the sources said.

“If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one of the EPA staffers told Reuters, who added some employees were scrambling to save some of the information housed on the website, or convince the Trump administration to preserve parts of it.

The sources asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

A Trump administration official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The order comes as Trump’s administration has moved to curb the flow of information from several government agencies who oversee environmental issues since last week, in actions that appeared designed to tighten control and discourage dissenting views.

The moves have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change doubter, could seek to sideline scientific research showing that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, as well as the career staffers at the agencies that conduct much of this research.

Myron Ebell, who helped guide the EPA’s transition after Trump was elected in November until he was sworn in last week, said the move was not surprising.

“My guess is the web pages will be taken down, but the links and information will be available,” he said.

The page includes links to the EPA’s inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, which contains emissions data from individual industrial facilities as well as the multiagency Climate Change Indicators report, which describes trends related to the causes and effects of climate change.

The Trump administration’s recently appointed team to guide the post-Obama transition has drawn heavily from the energy industry lobby and pro-drilling think tanks, according to a list of the newly introduced 10-member team.

Trump appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a longtime foe of the EPA who has led 14 lawsuits against it, as the agency’s administrator. The Senate environment committee held a tense seven-hour confirmation hearing for Pruitt last week. No vote on his nomination has been scheduled yet.

(h/t Reuters)

Update

After heavy criticism the Trump administration has back off their request… for now.

Without Evidence, Trump Tells Lawmakers 3 Million to 5 million Illegal Ballots Cost Him the Popular Vote

Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, even while he clinched the presidency with an electoral college victory.

Two people familiar with the meeting said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the start of the bipartisan gathering rehashing the campaign. He also told them that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.

The discussion about Trump’s election victory and his claim that he would have won the popular vote was confirmed by a third person familiar with the meeting.

The claim is not supported by any verifiable facts, and analyses of the election found virtually no confirmed cases of voter fraud, let alone millions.

Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes. Trump won 304 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 227.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) alluded to Trump’s comments as he returned to the Capitol from the meeting Monday night.

“We talked about different electoral college, popular votes, going through the different ones,” McCarthy said. “Well, we talked about going back through past elections. Everyone in there goes through elections and stuff, so everybody’s giving their different histories of different parts.”

Asked by reporters after the meeting if Trump made any surprising statements at the gathering, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) replied, “Well, I won’t even go into that.”

(h/t Washington Post)

Media

Trump Gagged the US Agriculture Department’s Research Arm From Publicly Sharing Its Work

The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration, BuzzFeed News has learned.

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.

Indeed, the last tweet from ARS’s official account was sent the day before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Though the terse internal note did not explicitly mention the new presidential administration, department scientists around the country interpreted it as a message from Trump that changes were coming to the department.

The memo was also met with some confusion. When asked if the notice constituted a halt on the publication of academic articles, one regional director told scientists that research papers could be published in academic journals and presented at conferences, but that all media interviews must be approved by the office of communications in Washington.

In a statement on Tuesday to BuzzFeed News, the department acknowledged sending an internal email that halted the release of “informational products like news releases and social media content” on Monday. “Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included,” he added.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America,” Christopher Bentley, a spokesperson for ARS, said in the statement.

Though some Agricultural Research Service work touches on sensitive subjects like pesticides and genetically modified food, its research is generally less politically charged than that conducted by other agencies, especially those focused on understanding climate change, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

But under the Obama administration, the Agriculture Department funneled research money into finding ways of cutting down the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from cows.

The nomination of former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia as agriculture secretary puts the fate of that and other department research touching on climate change into question. Like President Trump himself, Perdue has in the past bucked the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are warming due to human activity.

“It’s become a running joke among the public,” Perdue wrote in the National Review in 2014, “and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”

Other agencies are under lockdown as well since Trump moved into the White House.

Employees at the National Park Service were told to stop tweeting from official park accounts. The Trump administration has also imposed a freeze on grants and contracts from the EPA, the Huffington Post and ProPublica reported on Monday. The EPA, too, is no longer issuing press releases or posting on social media, according to the reports.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

 

Trump Administration Freezes All EPA Grants, Forbids Staffers From Talking to the Public

The oil-loving climate change critic President Trump picked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency still hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate, but troubling changes are already afoot at the EPA.

According to reports from ProPublica and The Huffington Post, the White House told the agency to immediately suspend its contract and grant programs on Monday and restricted all outgoing communication until further notice, measures a veteran staffer characterized as extraordinary.

The intended duration of the funding freeze was not immediately clear, but the former head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, confirmed that it had been put in place Monday night.

“They’re trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don’t want to have happen,” Ebell told ProPublica. “So any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first.”

Ebell conceded that the suspension “may be a little wider” than those instituted by previous administrations, but claimed it was still “very similar.” Whether or not that is true, however, is difficult to determine, as staffers were told to cease communicating with the public on Monday, The Huffington Post reports.

In an email obtained by site, EPA employees were instructed not to blog, post on social media, issue press releases or update agency websites “until further direction” by Trump officials. Still, some info managed to leak from the agency that, in the last year on record, awarded over $10 billion in grants and contracts across the country.

“Right now we are in a holding pattern,” wrote an EPA contracting officer in an email obtained by ProPublica. “The new EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, this includes task orders and work assignments.”

While the funding freeze has alarmed many in the scientific community, it’s sadly not a complete surprise. After all, the man Trump wants to head the EPA described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” on his resume.

(h/t Gizmodo)

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