Trump Slams His Own DOJ Over Response to Document Requests: ‘An Embarrassment To Our Country!’

President Donald Trump has his daggers out, getting this week off to a rollicking start.

Today’s targets: DACA, the Democrats, and yes, of course, the DOJ.

Trump is going after his own Justice Department once again in his crusade to turn the tides of public opinion in his favor.

The Commander in Chief this morning shot off a tweet slamming the DOJ and FBI for not giving Congress the “unredacted documents” they requested:

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte recently subpoenaed the DOJ for documents regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation and potential FISA abuses.

[Mediaite]

Trump keeps up Twitter assault on Amazon, this time criticizing its U.S. Postal Service contract

President Trump on Monday doubled down on his criticism of the U.S. Postal Service’s arrangement with Amazon, saying he would change how much the country’s largest online retailer pays in shipping fees.

“Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon,” he tweeted Monday morning. “THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed.”

The tweet marked the third time since Thursday Trump has lashed out against Amazon. The retailer’s stock was down 4.9 percent in morning trading.

Last week he attacked the retailer for paying “little or no taxes to state & local governments” and said the company uses “our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.)”

Two days later, he asserted the USPS loses an average of $1.50 on each Amazon delivery. “This Post Office *scam* must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” he tweeted.

Amazon collects local taxes in the 45 states that require it, although third-party sellers may have other arrangements.

Trump also incorrectly said The Washington Post is a lobbyist for the retailer. (The Post is personally owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. The newspaper operates independently of Amazon.)

Amazon and USPS declined to comment on Trump’s tweet Monday morning.

The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent federal agency, oversees the Postal Service’s pricing structure and reviews its contract with Amazon annually.

Amazon does receive a discount from the Postal Service, though the details of that arrangement have not been disclosed. An independent regulator reviews the contract every year to make sure it continues to be profitable for USPS.

Although Monday’s tweet was the first time the president implied he would try to change how much USPS charges Amazon, he has railed against its pricing structure in the past. In December, Trump attacked the company’s arrangement with the U.S. Postal Service and said the agency should raise the shipping rates it charges Amazon.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” he tweeted. “Should be charging MUCH MORE!”

A fast rise in parcel deliveries — many of them from Amazon — has helped offset some of the Postal Service’s losses in recent years. In 2017, USPS delivered 589 million more packages than it did a year earlier, amounting to an 11.4 percent growth in volume and $2.1 billion increase in revenue. (Mail volume, meanwhile, decreased by about 5 billion pieces, or 3.6 percent.) Overall, the Postal Service reported a $2.7 billion loss last year on revenue of $69.6 billion.

[Washington Post]

Trump Defends Sinclair Amid Controversy: ‘Far Superior to CNN and Even More Fake NBC’

In response to the controversy surrounding Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which went viral over the weekend, President Donald Trump came to the company’s defense, claiming on Twitter that “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC.”

Scrutiny of the company began after Deadspin video showed local anchors working at stations owned by Sinclair repeating the exact same anti-media talking points that echoed Trump’s attacks on the mainstream press. The segment was part of a new intuitive on “fake stories” that Sinclair is forcing their stations to air.

Trump predictably sided with Sinclair in the controversy, tweeting this morning, “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter, who first broke the Sinclair story, responded to the president on Twitter by thanking him for watching CNN.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump continues attacks on Amazon, Washington Post

President Donald Trump is continuing his attack against Amazon, accusing the company of scamming the US Postal Service.

“While we are on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

“The Failing N.Y. Times reports that ‘the size of the company’s lobbying staff has ballooned,’ and that……does not include the Fake Washington Post, which is used as a ‘lobbyist’ and should so REGISTER,” the President wrote. “If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.'”

He added, “This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now.”

Is it a ‘scam’?

The Postal Service is losing money, but its package delivery service is profitable, unlike its letter delivery.

The Postal Service is required by law to cover its costs for delivering competitive products, such as packages for Amazon, and the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the service, set the appropriate share of those costs at 5.5% a little more than a decade ago.

Since then, the service’s deliveries of those products have grown substantially, and the United Parcel Service argued in a submission to the commission in 2015 that a realistic appropriate share of costs for delivering packages should be about 24.6%.

A Citigroup analysis last year found that that difference would amount to about $1.46 per parcel, which might serve as the basis for Trump’s $1.50 figure. An op-ed penned in July by Josh Sandbulte in the Wall Street Journal cited that analysis in arguing the Postal Service’s estimate of costs for delivering packages should be revised. Sandbulte is co-president of Greenhaven Associates, a money management firm that owns FedEx common stock.

In response, US Postal Service executive Joseph Corbett wrote that the op-ed provided an “inaccurate and unfair account,” and that the Postal Regulatory Commission has determined each year that the service is covering its costs for package deliveries.

Corbett asserted the Postal Service’s financial insolvency is the result of its inability to overcome “systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints,” such as a price cap on revenue-producing products that doesn’t take changes in delivery volumes and costs into account.

The Postal Service’s biggest money problem is that it has billions in retirement obligations to its workers that it can’t afford.

So what does Amazon pay?

Amazon pays the US post office to deliver packages to customers’ doors, including on Sundays, and because Amazon ships so many packages though the post office, it’s charged at a lower rate than most customers, CNN has reported. But Amazon does not receive a special rate; it pays the rate that the post office charges other bulk shippers.

Neither Amazon nor the post office has disclosed the details of its agreement, but the Postal Service says the deal is mutually beneficial.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted another accusation about Amazon not paying “taxes to state & local governments” and “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.”

Amazon collects sales tax in every state that charges one and remits it to the states, which is nearly every state. Amazon also pays local property taxes on its distribution centers as well as on the Whole Foods stores it purchased last year.

Amazon maintains it helps small businesses in a tough retail climate, helping vendors reach a mass audience.

This isn’t the first time Trump has accused The Washington Post of being a lobbying arm of Amazon. While both companies are owned by Jeff Bezos, Amazon does not have a stake in The Washington Post.

[CNN]

Trump escalates attack on Amazon, slams it on taxes, shipping

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday blasted Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) with a list of complaints, a day after news website Axios reported that Trump wants to curb the mega retailer’s growing power using federal antitrust laws and led its shares to fall almost 5 percent.

“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Trump said in a post on Twitter early on Thursday.

Amazon founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, also privately owns the Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize last year for its investigation of Trump’s donations to charities. The probe found that many of Trump’s philanthropic claims were exaggerated and often were not charitable donations.

Still, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah shot down the notion that Trump’s criticism was part of a personal grudge.

“A lot of people have made this, with respect to Amazon, about personalities and the CEO at Amazon – we’re talking about Jeff Bezos here,” he said on Thursday on the Fox News Channel. “It’s really about policy.”

Shah reiterated that Trump was not making specific policy changes.

“There are a number of proposals that have worked their ways through the House and the Senate or have been considered by the House and the Senate. He’d be supportive of such efforts,” he said.

Trump’s claims about Amazon’s state and local tax payments have been met with skepticism. While the company was once criticized for attempting to skirt state sales taxes, it currently has a reputation as a leader in collecting the levies, which can vary from state to state.

Legally pursuing Amazon could affect more than its share price, which was largely steady after Trump’s tweet. Amazon is currently in the process of establishing a $5 billion second headquarters which could bring 50,000 new jobs to the location it selects. In January, it winnowed the list of possible locations down to 20 metropolitan areas.

Apart from nationwide goods deliveries, Amazon’s services include video streaming, a digital home assistant known as Alexa, and an online payments program.

[Yahoo]

Reality

Trump was informed many times that the Postal Service actually makes money from Amazon, a lot, but he refuses to accept this information

Trump rips ‘so much fake news’ after Stormy Daniels interview

President Trump on Monday ripped “so much fake news” in a tweet following the highly anticipated “60 Minutes” interview with adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

“So much Fake News. Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“But through it all, our country is doing great!”

Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump before he was president and was paid a sum of money before the 2016 election to keep quiet. A lawyer for Trump has denied the alleged affair.

Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer, on Monday questioned why Trump is not tweeting about his client.

“Isn’t it interesting that we have a president that will tweet about the most mundane matters, but he won’t tweet about my client, the affair, the agreement or the $130,000 payment?” Avenatti told “CBS This Morning.”

“You know why he won’t tweet about it? Because it’s true. It’s 100 percent true.”

Trump earlier Monday tweeted about the economy, saying it is “looking really good.”

[The Hill]

Trump Goes After the ‘Crazed’ Media Over Russia Call, Defends His ‘Congratulations’ to Putin

President Trump this afternoon tweeted an attack on the media (again) over its “crazed” coverage of his call with Vladimir Putin.

“I called President Putin of Russia,” POTUS tweeted, “to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Some Republicans were critical of Trump congratulating Putin as well––particularly John McCain––but the President is standing by his message and dinging the media for getting worked up about it.

Oh, and he wasn’t done:

“They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race,” he continued. “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!”

[Mediaite]

Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway.

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin Tuesday on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

The president’s conversation with Putin, which Trump called a “very good call,” prompted fresh criticism of his muted tone toward one of the United States’s biggest geopolitical rivals amid the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials.

Although the Trump administration has taken a tougher stance toward Russia recently — including new sanctions last week on some entities for election meddling and cyber attacks — the president has declined to forcefully join London in denouncing Moscow for the poisoning of Sergie Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury this month. They remain critically ill.

Trump told reporters that he had offered his well wishes on Putin’s new six-year term during a conversation on a range of topics, including arms control and the security situations in Syria and North Korea. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Skripal’s case was not discussed. Information on Syria and North Korea were also provided to the president in writing before the call, officials said.

“We’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future,” Trump said of Putin, though Sanders emphasized that nothing was planned.

The White House press office declined to comment on the briefing materials given to Trump. Two people familiar with the notecards acknowledged that they included instructions not to congratulate Putin. But a senior White House official emphasized that national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not mention the issue during a telephone briefing with the president, who was in the White House residence ahead of and during his conversation with Putin.

It was not clear whether Trump read the notes, administration officials said. Trump, who initiated the call, opened it with the congratulations for Putin, one person familiar with the conversation said.

The president’s tone drew a rebuke from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who wrote on Twitter: “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election.”

But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared less concerned, noting Trump has also offered congratulations to other leaders of more totalitarian states. “I wouldn’t read much into it,” Corker said.

Putin’s latest consolidation of power came in what foreign policy analysts said was a rigged election in which he got 76 percent of the vote against several minor candidates. Some world leaders have hesitated to congratulate Putin, since his reelection occurred in an environment of state control of much of the news media and with his most prominent opponent barred from the ballot.

[Washington Post]

Trump congratulates Putin on winning sham election

President Donald Trump spoke to Vladimir Putin over the phone Tuesday morning, after the Russian leader’s overwhelming re-election victory.

“I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory,” Trump said later Tuesday. He added that the two leaders “will probably get together in the not-too-distant future” to discuss the international arms race.

Trump and Putin will also talk about North Korea, Ukraine and Syria, among “various other things,” the U.S. said.

The election win keeps Putin in office as Russia’s president for another six years. His closest rival in the election, which was held Sunday, scored nearly 12 percent of the vote, while his most vocal opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running in the race.

Putin’s overwhelming victory and the circumstances leading to it have prompted criticism from Russia watchers. The White House, however, skirted the issue Tuesday.

“We’re focused on our elections. We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Tuesday’s White House press briefing. “What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country.”

The arms race

Trump’s comment on the arms race came as the top nuclear commander for the U.S. made a case Tuesday for America adding another nuclear weapon to its arsenal.

“I strongly agree with the need for a low-yield nuclear weapon,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said of the Pentagon’s request for a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“That capability is a deterrence weapon to respond to the threat that Russia in particular is portraying,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Late last month, Putin made waves by boasting about an arsenal of new nuclear weapons, including an underwater drone, a new hypersonic missile and a cruise missile that has a “practically unlimited range.”

Hyten has previously called Russia the “most significant threat” to the U.S. because the the nation poses “the only existential threat to the country right now.”

Sanctions and election meddling

The call between Trump and Putin also comes as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election intensifies. Trump has denied that his campaign colluded with Russia, and Putin has rejected accusations that the Kremlin had anything to do with any election interference.

The Trump administration announced last week that it was sanctioning several Russians and entities linked to the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 election as well as for cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure, such as the energy grid.

Trump had resisted calls to punish Russia for its malfeasance, despite U.S. intelligence agencies’ claims that Kremlin-backed operatives did interfere in the campaign.

On Tuesday, Sanders told reporters Tuesday that she doesn’t believe the subject of 2016 election meddling came up in the Putin-Trump phone call. “But it is something that we’ve spoken extensively about,” she said.

The war in Syria

Trump has expressed admiration for Putin dating back to the years before he ran for president, but he is not the only U.S. commander in chief to call the Russian leader after an election victory.

President Barack Obama called Putin in 2012 to congratulate him for his win that year, although Russia-U.S. relations were especially contentious during Obama’s administration due in large part to the conflict in Syria. Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal war.

Trump, for his part, has criticized Obama over his handling of the Syrian war. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Trump said in August after a suspected chemical attack in Syria. “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”

The war in Syria continues to rage, and a Russian military leader recently threatened action against U.S. forces there if Americans target Russian servicemen.

[NBC News]

Reality

Trump joins authoritarians, Xi Jinping, Rouhani, Mohammed bin Salman, Nicolas Maduro,  Evo Morales, Raul Castro, al-Sisi

  • China’s Xi Jinping
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
  • Bolivia’s President Evo Morales
  • Cuban President Raul Castro
  • Egyptian President Fatah al-Sisi

Trump presses GOP to use “nuclear option” and change Senate rules for judicial nominees

The Trump administration is putting pressure on Senate Republicans to crack down on Democratic efforts to delay its agenda, fueling talk about the need for rules reform among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Republicans are in discussions with Democrats about bipartisan changes to Senate rules to speed up consideration of President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees, but if that effort flounders — as similar ones have in the past — they’re not ruling out unilateral action.

White House patience with the Senate’s backlog of nominees is wearing out, as Vice President Pence made clear during a private meeting with the Senate Republican Conference on Tuesday, according to lawmakers who attended the discussion.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short on Friday accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of “weaponizing” the rules to keep executive and judicial branch positions vacant.

Short noted that Democrats have required Republicans to hold 79 cloture votes on nominees during Trump’s first 14 months in office.

“That’s roughly five times the number of the last four administrations combined,” he said.

A cloture vote ends dilatory action on a bill or nominee and is often used to end filibusters. It requires 60 votes to pass.

During the first 14 months of the past four administrations — a span of 56 months under Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton and George H.W. Bush — the Senate held 17 such votes, according to Short.

He promised that Trump would begin to speak out aggressively in response to what he called “historic obstruction.”

“I think that perhaps I’m a warm-up act for him making a larger foray into this,” Short told reporters.

He said Trump would “make his case to the American people that the objection has gotten ridiculous.”

A spokesman for Schumer on Friday blamed the administration and Senate Republicans for the backlog of nominees.

“This administration has been historically slow in submitting nominations and has withdrawn more nominees in the first year than any of the past four administrations,” said the Schumer aide.

The Democratic aide also noted there are currently 145 nominees awaiting action from Republican-controlled committees.

Trump has withdrawn more than 20 nominees and failed to submit nominations for State Department posts such as the ambassadorships for Cuba, Egypt, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Sweden.

Senate Republicans are reaching out to Democrats in hopes they might agree to changing the Senate rules to shorten the amount of time it takes to process nominees.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) is spearheading that effort.

“We’re desperately behind on judges and noms,” Lankford told The Hill. “We’ve had a cloture vote 80 times. That’s more than the last four presidents combined.”

A Republican aide said Lankford “has had some positive private conversations about this with Democrats, many of who realize that this trend is really, really bad.”

But such bipartisan efforts have fallen short in the past, prompting speculation among some GOP senators that changing the rules with 51 votes — a controversial tactic known as the “nuclear option” — may be the only way to get something done.

“We need to reduce the amount of post-cloture time for nominees. The amount of time we now spend is ridiculous,” said one GOP senator who requested anonymity to discuss Tuesday’s conversation with Pence.

Senate rules require 30 hours to elapse on the floor once the Senate votes to end dilatory debate on a nominee, which empowers the minority party to eat up the calendar by refusing to yield back time.

The use of the nuclear option — which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) employed last year to eliminate the Democrats’ power to filibuster then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch — wouldn’t likely happen until the next Congress.

Republicans control only 51 seats and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, hasn’t voted since early December, reducing their effective majority to 50.

A single GOP defection would scuttle any attempt to change Senate precedent through a ruling of the chair, which needs to be sustained by a majority vote.

Republicans, however, hope to expand their majority. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, pointed to an Axios poll this week showing that if the election were held today, Republicans could capture as many as five Democratic-held seats.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in August, Lankford argued for shrinking the amount of time required to elapse after cloture has been filed on executive nominees from 30 hours to eight or less.

He pointed out that the Senate adopted this expedited process for a short time in 2013 under then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who also invoked the nuclear option to eliminate filibusters for executive branch nominees and judicial nominees below the level of the Supreme Court.

“It worked then and it would work now,” Lankford said.

There is strong support among junior Republican senators for changing the rules.

“The intention of the original filibuster and cloture was to allow for extended debate of issues, not for obstruction of a party’s administration by delaying of nominee votes, so Sen. Perdue would like to see these rules changed,” said Caroline Vanvick, a spokeswoman for Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).

Democrats argue that Republicans slow-walked Obama’s nominees once they gained control of the Senate.

Senate Republicans forced cloture votes on 168 of Obama’s nominees in 2015 and 2016, even though 62 of those nominees were later confirmed unanimously or by voice vote.

Democrats also argue that McConnell broke Senate tradition under Obama by holding up his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, for 10 months, until Trump took office.

The action left the high court shorthanded for most of 2016.

[The Hill]

 

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