Trump turns attention to Comcast over alleged antitrust violations

President Trump on Monday lashed out at Comcast after a group representing small cable providers asked the Department of Justice to investigate the company over antitrust concerns.

“American Cable Association has big problems with Comcast. They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws,” Trump said in a tweet, adding that the group believes Comcast’s merger with NBC poses greater anticompetitive concerns than the recent AT&T-Time Warner merger.

The ACA wrote to the Justice Department last week arguing that vertical mergers where pay-TV providers like Comcast and AT&T combine with companies that offer programming give the merged firms the “incentive and ability to disadvantage rival distributors by raising the prices it charges these rivals for programming.”

“ACA expects – and there is every reason for DOJ to expect — Comcast-NBCU to act on its natural incentives and use its capabilities to harm rivals, unless the government somehow, either through structural or behavioral remedies, deals with them,” the group wrote.

The president’s attack comes after a Fox Business article suggested the Justice Department could be following through with an investigation.

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the president’s tweet.

Comcast said in a statement that the American Cable Association’s complaint is “without merit” and “constitutes an inappropriate attempt to gain leverage in the commercial marketplace.”

“The video programming and distribution markets are incredibly competitive. New programmers and distribution platforms are offering consumers increasing choices on what and where to watch,” the company said in a statement to The Hill.

“At Comcast NBCUniversal, we are competing in this dynamic environment the way we always have — by continuing to innovate and conducting our business in compliance with antitrust laws and other legal requirements.”

Trump’s Justice Department is currently appealing a federal judge’s decision to approve the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

But the agency chose not to renew a set of behavioral restrictions it imposed on the Comcast-NBC tie-up in 2011 that expired in September.

The Justice Department said it would be monitoring Comcast now that the conditions were no longer in effect.

The president has routinely lashed out at the Comcast-owned NBC News over its coverage of his administration, even going so far as to suggest that it’s “license” should be revoked.

But the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t issue broadcasting licenses to networks, only to individual stations, and it doesn’t revoke them based on the content of the licensee’s programming.

Trump has no public events scheduled on Monday, and has tweeted on a number of subjects, including the heated Florida elections, the stock market and the deadly wildfires ravaging California.

[The Hill]

Trump Baselessly Continues Florida Voter Fraud Claims: ‘Honest Vote Count No Longer Possible’

President Donald Trump declared that “an honest vote count is no longer” in the controversial Florida midterm elections for the state’s governor and U.S. Senate positions, claiming without evidence that many of the ballots are “missing or forged.”

The two races, Florida Governor Rick Scott Scott versus Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for the Senate seat and former Rep. Ron DeSantis verses Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor, appeared to be going for Republicans on election night. As more ballots were counted in Democratic-leaning areas, like Broward County and Palm Beach, additional votes started going to Democrats, which narrowed the GOP’s lead and triggered a recount.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

The president did not include any evidence to back up his claims of voter fraud.

Florida does offer military and overseas voters “a 10-day extension exists for overseas voters” extension for their ballots to be counted, which is what the president may be talking about in his line about “new ballots” showing up “out of nowhere.”

“The overseas voter’s vote-by-mail ballot must be postmarked or dated by Election Day and received within 10 days of the election in order to be counted, provided the ballot is otherwise proper,” states Florida’s election information site. “This 10-day extension only applies in presidential preference primary elections, general elections, and special elections and special primary elections (by operation of section 100.191, F.S.)”

Florida officials have also noted that they have not seen any evidence of voter fraud taking place.

[Mediaite]

Trump to African American reporter: ‘You ask a lot of stupid questions’

President Trump on Friday criticized a question from CNN reporter Abby Phillip as “stupid” while speaking with reporters on the White House lawn on Friday.

In a gaggle with reporters, Trump was asked by Phillip if he was hoping that Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general appointed on Wednesday and a past critic of Robert Mueller‘s special counsel investigation, would “rein in” the Russia probe.

“Do you want [Whitaker] to rein in Robert Mueller?” Phillip asked.

“What a stupid question that is,” Trump responded. “What a stupid question.”

“But I watch you a lot,” the president continued. “You ask a lot of stupid questions.”

Declining to answer, Trump then walked away from the gaggle as Phillip and other reporters shouted questions in response.

Trump’s comments aimed at Phillip come as he increasingly feuds with CNN, the cable news network he has long battled.

Trump also called April Ryan, a contributor to the network, a “loser” on Friday. And he again criticized CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta, with whom he is feuding.

On Wednesday night, the White House suspended Acosta’s press pass after the reporter pressed Trump on his statements about a migrant caravan at a press conference earlier that day.

The White House then tweeted out an apparently doctored video first posted by the conspiracy site InfoWars to claim that Acosta physically struck a White House intern who was attempting to take his microphone.

Acosta’s arm briefly brushed the White House aide’s arm as she reached in to take his microphone, but Acosta did not put his hands on the aide.

“We will … never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.”

CNN responded in a statement, stating that Sanders “lied” about the incident between Acosta and the intern, and used a “fraudulent” explanation to justify rescinding Acosta’s press pass.

“It was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference,” the network said. “This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better.”

[The Hill]

Trump Suggests He Will Call For New Election in Arizona: ‘SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH’

The President of the United States is floating the possibility of throwing out the results of an entire Senate election and calling for a new vote — alleging electoral corruption.

In a Friday afternoon tweet sent from somewhere over the Atlantic — as he’s currently on board Air Force One en route to France — President Donald Trump floated the possibility of a new election in Arizona, where the votes are still being tabulated in the Senate contest between Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSally (R). The reason for the drastic action, according to Trump? “Electoral corruption.”

“Just out — in Arizona,” Trump wrote. “SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!”

The presidential dispatch was sent at 3:33 p.m. ET. Twenty-seven minutes earlier, a report on the Arizona Senate contest aired on Fox News. In it, correspondent Dan Springer stated the following:

“There are still just under 500,000 votes to count. Nearly all are in Maricopa [County]. And that’s where a legal drama is brewing. The Republican party sued over the handling of ballots where the signature either wasn’t there or didn’t match…a short time ago, the Republican Party chairman accused the Maricopa County recorder — a Democrat — of destroying evidence by mixing in disputed ballots in with all the others.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Baselessly Alleges Florida Election Fraud in Wild Rant: ‘You Notice the Votes Never Go the Other Way…’

During a White House pool spray on Friday morning, President Donald Trump went off on a wild rant baselessly floating the idea of foul play in the narrow elections in Florida for Senate and Governor — which soon spun off into a rant about corruption at large.

Speaking with reporters before departing for Paris, Trump baselessly claimed that votes tend to go for Democrats in contested elections.

“You notice the votes never go the other way?” Trump said. “They hire lawyers, and the votes don’t ever seem to go the Republican way…I don’t know. You tell me. It’s always the Democrats.”

Those comments led to the rant about “crooked stuff.”

“It’s always GPS Fusion,” the president said. “It’s always crooked stuff. Look at what happened. How many FBI are gone, how many Justice Department people are gone that I found out?…There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in this country, and we’re finding out. And I’m getting to the bottom of it. And I’ve done a hell of a job.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Blasts ‘Disgrace’ Jim Acosta, ‘Loser’ April Ryan, Suggests More Reporters Could Lose Credentials

President Donald Trump ripped Jim Acosta on Friday, after the CNN chief White House correspondent had his press pass suspended over false allegations he acted inappropriately with an intern.

“I think Jim Acosta’s a very unprofessional man,” Trump said. “He does this with everybody. He gets paid to do that, you know he gets paid to burst in. He’s a very unprofessional guy, whether it’s me or Ronald Reagan or anybody else, he would’ve done the same thing. I don’t think he’s a smart person, but he’s got a loud voice.”

Trump said he hasn’t made a decision on the fate of Acosta’s press credentials, adding “there could be others also” that could lose their access.

“This is a very sacred place, this is a very special place,” Trump continued. “You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.”

Trump called Acosta a “disgrace,” before turning his ire towards another White House reporter, April Ryan.

“You talk about somebody that’s a loser, she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing,” Trump said. “She gets publicity, and then she gets a pay raise, or she gets a contract with, I think CNN.

“But she’s very nasty and she shouldn’t be,” he added.

[Mediaite]

Media

President Trump signs order denying asylum to illegal border crossers

President Donald Trump on Friday invoked extraordinary national security powers to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States.

Trump is using the same powers he used to push through a version of the travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The proclamation puts into place regulations adopted Thursday that circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country.

“We need people in our country but they have to come in legally and they have to have merit,” Trump said Friday as he prepared to depart for Paris.

The measures are meant to funnel asylum seekers through official border crossings for speedy rulings, officials said, instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border. But the busy ports of entry already have long lines and waits, forcing immigration officials to tell some migrants to turn around and come back to make their claims.

The move was spurred in part by caravans of Central American migrants slowly moving north on foot but will apply to anyone caught crossing illegally, officials said Thursday. It’s unknown whether those in the caravan, many fleeing violence in their homeland, plan to cross illegally.

Administration officials said those denied asylum under the proclamation may be eligible for similar forms of protection if they fear returning to their countries, though they would be subject to a tougher threshold. Those forms of protection include “withholding of removal” — which is similar to asylum, but doesn’t allow for green cards or bringing families — or asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The announcement was the latest push to enforce Trump’s hardline stance on immigration through regulatory changes and presidential orders, bypassing Congress. But those efforts have been largely thwarted by legal challenges and, in the case of family separations this year, stymied by a global outcry that prompted Trump to scrap them.

The new changes were likely to be met with legal challenges, too. Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said Thursday they were clearly illegal.

“U.S. law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree,” he said.

Curbing immigration has been a signature issue for Trump, who pushed it hard in the days leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, railing against the caravans that are still hundreds of miles from the border.

He has made little mention of the issue since the election but has sent troops to the border in response. As of Thursday, there are more than 5,600 U.S. troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas. The military is expected to have the vast majority of the more than 7,000 troops planned for the mission deployed by Monday, and that number could grow.

Trump also suggested he’d revoke the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil and erect massive “tent

The administration has long said immigration officials are drowning in asylum cases partly because people falsely claim asylum and then live in the U.S. with work permits.

The asylum section of the Immigration and Nationality Act says a migrant is allowed to make a claim up to a year after arriving in the U.S., and it doesn’t matter how they arrive — illegally or through a border crossing.

Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court. Generally, only about 20 percent of applicants are approved.

Trump has long said those seeking asylum should come through legal ports of entry. But many migrants are unaware of that guidance, and official border crossings have grown clogged.

Officials have turned away asylum seekers at border crossings because of overcrowding, telling them to return later. Backlogs have become especially bad in recent months at crossings in California, Arizona and Texas, with some people waiting five weeks to try to claim asylum at San Diego’s main crossing.

In 2017, the U.S. fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, nearly double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.

It’s unclear how many people en route to the U.S. will even make it to the border. About 4,800 migrants are sheltered in a sports complex in Mexico City, some 600 miles from the U.S. border. Several smaller groups were trailing hundreds of miles to the south; officials estimated about 7,000 in all were in the country in the caravans. The migrants are largely poor people and many say they’re fleeing violence; more than 1,700 were children under 18, and more than 300 were children under age 5.

Similar caravans have gathered regularly over the years and have generally dwindled by the time they reach the southern border. Most have passed largely unnoticed.

[Chicago Tribune]

Trump and Rick Scott Spread Claims of Fraud Without Evidence

Days after midterm voting, as ballots are still being counted, Republican lawmakers holding onto tight leads in midterm states are alleging foul play and voter fraud. The claims were amplified by President Trump, without evidence, on Friday morning.

“You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia — but the Election was on Tuesday?” he wrote in a tweet. “Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!”

Current Florida Gov. Rick Scott, locked in a tight Senate race, said in a press conference Thursday night that “the people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency and the supervisors are failing to give it to us.”

“Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant voter fraud in Palm Beach and Broward Counties,” he said. “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.”

Scott’s race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson seems to be headed toward triggering a mandatory recount. Florida law says any race within a 0.5 percent margin must go to a recount, and as of 9 a.m. Friday, Nelson trailed Scott by 0.18 percent.

Previous claims of widespread voter fraud, including Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016, are considered false by voting experts. One investigation, published in 2014, found 31 possible cases of in-person voter fraud out of more than a billion ballots cast over a 14 year period.

Scott claimed victory Tuesday night and has filed lawsuits against two county elections officials, in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, alleging their offices have withheld voting records.

Nelson’s election attorney Marc Elias tweeted Friday that “as the counties continue their work, I expect that margin will narrow further. And then the State will conduct an orderly recount.”

Trump has a history of calling out fraud, without providing evidence to back up his claims. No widespread claim of voter fraud by the president has ever been proven true. Trump even created a commission to investigate alleged fraud after the 2016 election, but it dissolved without releasing any findings.

“They’re finding votes out of nowhere, and Rick Scott who won by — it was close, but he won by a comfortable margin, he easily won but every hour it seems to be going down,” Trump said outside the White House Friday. “I think that people have to look at it very, very cautiously.”

In the case of Florida still counting ballots more than 48 hours after polls closed, David Becker, the executive director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, told NPR it is extremely common for a voting jurisdiction to be taking as long as Broward County is.

“Election officials are literally just counting the ballots. This isn’t corruption or fraud,” Becker said. “It is literally the best of democracy. Let election officials do their job and count the ballots.”

[NPR]

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a doctored video of the Jim Acosta mic-grab that was shared hours earlier by the far-right site Infowars

The White House is accused of using a video of CNN’s Jim Acosta doctored by the conspiracy-theory outlet Infowars as justification for suspending the journalist’s press pass on Wednesday.

Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for CNN, was engaged in a tense exchange with President Donald Trump during a press conference at the White House when a White House intern walked up and tried to take the microphone away from him. Acosta held on to the microphone and kept trying to question Trump.

Acosta was holding the microphone in his right hand. At one point, the intern reached under Acosta’s left arm to try to grab the microphone, and he appeared to gently block her with his arm. Here is the moment as broadcast live on NBC:

A video shared on Twitter by the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, makes Acosta’s movement appear more violent.

What appears to be the same video was shared two hours earlier by Paul Joseph Watson, the editor-at-large of Infowars.com, a far-right conspiracy outlet whose content has been barred from almost every major tech content distributor, including Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube, generally for violating their policies on hate speech.

The CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter asked Sanders for the source of the video. “Surely you don’t trust InfoWars…?” he said on Twitter.

Other Twitter users showed Sanders’ video side-by-side with the original broadcast to argue the one she posted had been doctored.

The White House suspended Acosta’s press credentials after the press conference, limiting his access to the White House grounds. Sanders said on Twitter that the White House would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” though no video evidence has so far supported that claim.

[Business Insider]

White House suspends credentials for CNN’s Jim Acosta

The White House has suspended the credentials of a CNN journalist hours after a testy exchange with US President Donald Trump.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders says a reporter’s access was removed because he put “his hands on a young woman”.

Mr Acosta, chief White House correspondent for CNN, was called a “rude, terrible person” by Mr Trump at a press conference on Wednesday.

A staff member tried to take his microphone during the exchange.

However, Mr Acosta refused to give it up as he attempted to ask the president a further question.

Video of the incident quickly appeared online.

What did the White House say?

Ms Sanders, in a statement posted in a Twitter thread, said the White House would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”.

“The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it’s an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration,” she said.

“As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”

Mr Acosta called Ms Sanders’ assertion that he placed his hands on the woman “a lie”.

He also posted a tweet saying he was stopped by the Secret Service from entering White House grounds.

What happened at the earlier press conference?

President Trump insulted Mr Acosta after the reporter challenged his recent assertions about a migrant caravan heading to the US from Central America.

It was during this exchange the female staff member attempted to take the microphone from Mr Acosta.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” the president said, before telling Mr Acosta to sit down and to put down his microphone.

“CNN should be ashamed of themselves, having you work for them,” he said. “The way you treat Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] is horrible.”

[BBC]

Media

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