Trump admin tightens media access for federal scientists

The Trump administration is directing federal scientists in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to get approval from the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to reporters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

USGS employees interviewed by the L.A. Times said the policy is a departure from decades of past media practices that allowed scientists to quickly respond to media requests. The employees said that the new policy will significantly undermine this.

A spokesperson for Interior disputed this description of the policy to the L.A. Times, saying that “the characterization that there is any new policy or that it for some reason targets scientists is completely false.”

Deputy press secretary for the Department of the Interior, Faith Vander Voort, told the outlet that Interior had only asked the USGS public affairs office to follow 2012 media guidelines established under former President Obama.

The guidelines say Interior’s communications office must be notified ahead of some types of interviews but does not say that scientists must get approval before speaking with reporters as an internal email obtained by the L.A. Times indicates.

The employees said that they believe the new policies were established to control the voices of Interior employees. They believe the move is a part of larger efforts to quell discourse about climate change, which the agency has produced research on.

[The Hill]

Trump Touts Mueller Poll Numbers ‘Plummeting’ While Watching Fox & Friends: ‘Rigged’ Witch Hunt!

President Trump this morning touted dropping poll numbers for special counsel Robert Mueller after watching Fox & Friends cover it.

Yes, the morning show today covered Mueller’s poll numbers, and the President subsequently tweeted about it:

[Mediaite]

Trump: Democrats Have Created A ‘Massive Child Smuggling Industry’

President Donald Trump blamed human trafficking on Democrats’ immigration policies during a Cabinet meeting Thursday.

“We have come up with a lot of solutions but we have Democrats that don’t want to approve anything because that’s probably, they think, bad for the election that’s coming up,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of people suffering and that’s unfortunate.”

“My administration is also acting swiftly to address the illegal immigration crisis on the southern border,” he continued. “Loopholes and our immigration laws all supported by extremist open border Democrats. That’s what they are, extremist, open border Democrats.”

He then specifically named House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and (of course) Hillary Clinton as leading a “con job” on immigration by saying they wanted closed borders, and then that they wanted open ones.

“We’ve created –– they’ve created and they’ve let it happen, a massive child smuggling industry,” Trump insisted. “That’s exactly what it’s become. Traffickers, you think about this, human traffickers are making a fortune. It’s a disgrace.

“They’re the worst immigration laws in the history of the world,” he later said. “The whole world is laughing at the United States and they have been for years. These alien minors were separated and sent all the way up here alone. But they really came up with coyotes — do you know what a coyote is? Not good. These are not good people.”

“They were set up here with human traffickers because the Democrat-supported policies that have allowed this to happen,” he reiterated.

So, yeah, just FYI, Trump’s accusation is inaccurate as hell. Immigration policy is not the work of the Democrats. It is the result of failed policies across the aisle and over many years. Everyone agrees the immigration system is broken and no one knows entirely how to fix it. (Except Donald Trump, clearly.)  As for the specific people he calls out for flip-flopping, we’ll let you be the judge of what they have or haven’t done.

[Mediaite]

Trump: Democrats Want Immigrants to ‘Pour In’ From the Middle East

President Donald Trump went on a tear against Democrats at his rally in Minnesota Wednesday night regarding his topic du jour — immigration — and made sure to include a painfully xenophobic quip about the Middle East.

“So the Democrats want open borders,” Trump told his rowdy crowd at a Duluth, MN stadium. “Let everybody come in. Let everybody pour in, we don’t care, them come in from the Middle East, let them come in from all over the place.” The crowd booed.

“We don’t care, we’re not going to let it happen,” Trump said.

He then commented on the executive order he signed today the put an end to his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separated migrant children from their parents at the southern border.

“We will keep families together but the border is going to be just as tough as it has been,” he said.

Later in the rally, Trump referenced his infamous remarks that the Mexico government is “sending rapists” to the United States, and doubled down on the absurdly false claim.

[Mediaite]

Trump suggests immigrant kids he’s holding hostage are crisis actors

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that the immigrant children being held at detention facilities in the United States are being trained to lie in order to gain unlawful entry into the country.

While speaking at the National Federation of Independent Business, Trump defiantly said that he would not be changing his administration’s policies on separating immigrant children from their families.

Specifically, Trump said that immigrant children were coached to make false statements about the reasons they are fleeing their home countries to gain entrance to the United States.

“They tell these people exactly what to say,” Trump alleged. “They say, ‘Say the following.’ They write it down. ‘I am being harmed in my country. My country is extremely dangerous. I fear for my life.’”

Trump then said that such statements were “given to them by lawyers who are waiting for them to come up” to the United States.

Finally, Trump said that refugees fleeing violence in their home countries were simply lying about the reasons for wanting to come to the United States.

“They’re not coming for that reason,” he said. “They’re coming up for many other reasons.”

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump Says Democrats Want Immigrants to ‘Infest’ the U.S.

One of the paradoxes of modern-day American politics is that white identity politics can be a potent political platform, as long as you don’t call it that. Policies with racist effects are often popular; explicit racism is verboten.

Thus Donald Trump can win the presidency while running, as my colleague Adam Serwer documented, on a program of discrimination, but when Corey Stewart, a Republican politician in Virginia, makes his white-identity politics too explicit he gets shunned by the GOP.

Sometimes, however, the president’s mask slips, usually at moments of national crisis, and he says the quiet part loud, as The Simpsons memorably put it. This happened after race riots in Charlottesville, when Trump insisted there were good people among the white-supremacist marchers. And it’s happening again now in the context of separating families at the borders.

After days of insisting, falsely, that the separations were the result of some Democratic-passed law, the president has partially shifted gears, defending the policy in a series of tweets. The most shocking is this one, with its description of unauthorized immigrants as an “infestation”:

[The Atlantic]

Trump busted lying about Germany

President Donald Trump on Monday made clearly false claims about Germany — which will likely only buttress support for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump made three claims about Germany.

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition,” Trump tweeted.

Jeremy Cliffe, the Berlin bureau chief for The Economist, reminded that, “Merkel remains the most popular politician in Germany.”

Ironically, Trump tweeting against Merkel actually shores up her domestic political support.

“The US president’s intervention could be useful domestically for Ms Merkel because of his unpopularity; just 11 per cent of Germany has a favourable view of Mr Trump, according to research by pollster Pew for the Germany public broadcaster DW,” The Independent noted.

In fact, Trump may have just thrown Merkel a life preserver.

“Nice of the president to help Angela Merkel by giving her exactly what she needed politically : a Trump endorsement of her opponents,” explained Hudson Institute fellow Benjamin Haddad.

Trump’s second claim was that, “crime in Germany is way up.”

Reuters national security correspondent Jonathan Landay explained how thoroughly Trump had misrepresented crime in Germany.

“This is another lie by Trump,” Landay reported. “Crime is at a 30-year low in Germany.”

Trump’s third claim was that it was a “big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

“Under Merkel, Germany opened its borders to welcome around 1 million asylum-seekers in 2015. At times more than 10,000 people were arriving daily in the country, which had a population of around 81 million,” NBC News reported Monday. “But according to official figures released last month, Germany last year recorded its lowest number of criminal offenses since 1992, with figures showing the crime rate is falling more quickly among non-German suspects.”

CNN political contributor Keith Boykin reminded how this particular lie has been used in the past.

“Germany last month reported its lowest crime rate since 1992,” Boykin reminded. “Austrian-born Adolf Hitler also used lies and misinformation about crime to complain about groups of people in Germany who had ‘changed their culture.’”

The host of the Michelangelo Signorile Show on SiriusXM had even hasher words.

“Crime is not up. This is another lie. And the last line is a chilling call to white supremacists,” Signorile observed. “He’s gone full on Nazi.”

[Raw Story]

Reality

Trump used his false claims to assert Europe is losing it’s white European culture, making a very clear appeal to white nationalism.

Trump Attacks FBI Agent Peter Strzok Who Wants to Testify on Firing as ‘Sick Loser’

President Donald Trump called Peter Strzok a “sick loser” after the FBI agent said he’s willing to testify to Congress about his removal from the Russia probe for sending anti-Trump text messages. Special counsel Robert Mueller removed Strzok from his team last summer after an investigation revealed texts in which the agent said the FBI would stop Trump from becoming president. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said Friday he wanted to issue a subpoena for Strzok to testify as part of the House GOP investigation into the FBI’s actions in the 2016 election, but Strzok’s lawyer said his client “intends to voluntarily appear and testify before your committee and any other congressional committee that invites him.” Trump tweeted about Strzok late Sunday: “Why was the FBI’s sick loser, Peter Strzok, working on the totally discredited Mueller team of 13 Angry & Conflicted Democrats, when Strzok was giving Crooked Hillary a free pass yet telling his lover, lawyer Lisa Page, that ‘we’ll stop’ Trump from becoming President? Witch Hunt!”

[The Daily Beast]

Trump told 4 lies about the inspector general report in one short Fox News hit

President Donald Trump went on Fox & Friends to talk about the inspector general report on the FBI’s handling of the 2016 election on Friday. His comments contained at least four significant and demonstrable lies.

Let’s go through them.

Lie 1: the FBI was working against him during the campaign

“They were plotting against my election,” Trump said, in perhaps the biggest of the four lies.

This is not true. Inspector General Michael Horowitz was quite clear on this point in the report, which reviewed the FBI’s handling of both the Clinton email investigation and the early stages of the Trump-Russia probe. “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative decisions we reviewed,” Horowitz concluded.

Trump did eventually confront this uncomfortable fact during the interview. He claimed the no bias conclusion was irresponsible, a throwaway line at the end of the report.

Lie 2: The IG “blew it” by concluding the FBI wasn’t biased

“It was a pretty good report, and then I say the IG blew it at the end,” Trump told Fox’s Steve Doocy. The IG report was a horror show. I thought that one sentence of conclusion was ridiculous.”

The conclusion said that the FBI wasn’t biased was not a throwaway conclusion at the end of the report, but a conclusion that’s examined in-depth and repeated with some frequency throughout the report. Chapters five and 12 of the more than 500-page report, for example, look at anti-Trump text messages sent by Peter Strzok, the FBI’s deputy director for counterintelligence, to see if Strzok had allowed his anti-Trump sentiments to affect the investigation.

Investigators took a deep look at Strzok’s conduct after they came across the texts that seemingly threatened the Trump campaign and examined internal FBI records of the meetings concerning Trump that Strzok was involved in. According to Horowitz, they found that “Strzok was not the sole decisionmaker for any of the specific investigative decisions examined,” nor was there any evidence that he exercised inappropriate influence over any investigative decisions.

The conclusion that there was no bias, in short, wasn’t “one line” — it was a conclusion they arrived at after examining a tremendous amount of evidence, and a major focus of the report.

Lie 3: Trump says the IG report says he did nothing wrong

The third Trump lie is that the IG report somehow exonerated him on the question of collusion with Russia during the campaign. “I did nothing wrong, there was no collusion, there was no obstruction. The IG report yesterday went a long way to show that,” Trump said. “I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.”

This is actually a number of different lies packed into three short sentences; a Russian nesting doll of lies, if you’ll pardon the metaphor.

The IG report did not come to any conclusions about the true nature of Trump-Russia ties. It only covered the appropriateness of the FBI’s conduct in 2016. It couldn’t come to any conclusions about obstruction of justice because Trump didn’t become president until 2017. Likewise, it couldn’t discredit the Mueller investigation because Mueller didn’t take over the investigation until President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last May.

Lie 4: James Comey is a criminal

And that brings us to our final lie. Fox’s Doocy asked Trump a leading question — “Should James Comey be locked up?” — and the president responded as expected:

Certainly, they just seem like very criminal acts to me. What he did was criminal. What he did was so bad in terms of our Constitution, in terms of the well-being of our country.

Once again, Horowitz’s report closely examined questions raised by Comey’s conduct. He was harshly critical of the former FBI director — “In key moments, then Director Comey chose to deviate from the FBI’s and the Department’s established procedures and norms and instead engaged in his own subjective, ad hoc decisionmaking” — but there’s no evidence in the report that Comey violated any kind of criminal statute, let alone acted unconstitutionally.

In fact, the report concludes, Comey’s decisions during the Clinton email investigation, while questionable, came from his professional judgment and were not the result of any malign intent.

“Comey’s decision was the result of his consideration of the evidence that the FBI had collected during the course of the investigation and his understanding of the proof required to pursue a prosecution under the relevant statutes,” as Horowitz puts it when discussing his closing of the Clinton email case.

Trump’s characterization of the IG report is thus basically wrong in every way.

[Vox]

Trump Blasts FBI’s Strzok and Page Over IG Report, Praises Himself For Firing Comey: ‘Good Instincts

President Donald Trump weighed in on the newly released inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigations during the 2016 election, focusing on the texts exchanged between agent-cum-paramours Peter Strzokand Lisa Page.

“FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that “we’ll stop” candidate Trump from becoming President,” Trump said on Twitter. “Doesn’t get any lower than that!”

The text exchange between Strzok and Page has been exhibit A for the FBI’s critics that the agency was rankled with anti-Trump bias during the 2016 election, and the latest text exchange is certainly explicit. A few months before the 2016 election, Page texted Strzok that she feared Trump would win, and he reassured her: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok was at the time serving as deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, and was working on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties as well as the Clinton email probe. But the inspector general concluded that despite Strzok’s clear and inappropriate bias, the was no evidence that he acted on his disdain for Trump.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump took aim at James Comey, calling the IG report “a total disaster” for the former FBI director and “his minions.”

“Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI,” Trump wrote, before praising his “good instincts” for “firing him.”

He also shouted out the current FBI director, Christopher Wray.

Comey brutalized Clinton’s campaign days before election day by publicly announcing the Clinton probe was being re-opened, while the FBI went to great lengths to keep the Trump-Russia probe quiet.

[Mediaite]

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