Trump labels US justice system ‘laughing stock’

President Donald Trump called for “quick justice” and “strong justice” for terror suspects in the wake of the deadly New York City attack.

We have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They’ll go through court for years. At the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens. We need quick justice, and we need strong justice. Much quicker and much stronger than we have right now, because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughing stock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.

Tuesday’s terror attack in New York was the city’s deadliest since 9/11. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov drove a rented van down a bike path, law enforcement sources have said. The attack killed six victims instantly, while two others died later. New York politicians and officials quickly labeled the incident a terror attack.

[CNN]

Reality

As Vox points out, this is verifiably false pretty much from top to bottom.

There is no evidence that US courts are unable to prosecute terrorism suspects in a timely fashion. The opposite: Since 9/11, more than 620 individuals have been convicted on terrorism charges in 63 separate federal courts, according to a May 2017 count by Human Rights First. None of these terrorists have broken out of prison, and none of the courts have suffered retaliatory attacks.

Moreover, the US already tried to set up an alternative system — the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that George W. Bush established after 9/11 — and it was a disaster.

Military courts are well equipped to try US service members who violate military laws, but aren’t set up to deal with complex and wide-ranging constitutional and classification issues raised by major terrorism prosecution. This makes them slower and puts verdicts on less sure legal footing. In the same time span that civilian courts convicted 620 individuals on terrorism charges, military commissions convicted a grand total of eight people.

Trump Blames Generals for Niger Ambush That Got Four U.S. Soldiers Killed

Did President Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief, just blame U.S. generals for the deadly October 4 ambush in Niger?

When asked by reporters on Wednesday if he authorized the mission in Niger that left four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers dead, Trump said, “No, I didn’t, not specifically.” The generals have “decision-making ability,” he added.

“I have generals that are great generals,” he said during an impromptu press conference outside of the White House before heading off to Dallas. “These are great fighters; these are warriors. I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win. And we’re going to win.”

Trump referred to the leaders as “my generals” and “my military.” He’s used such phrasing before, which has angered the military community.

“When it comes to the military, the military belongs to the country. Our defense system belongs to the country. And it’s not the president’s military, it’s the military of the United States of America,” Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and director of the CIA, said in April.

This is also not the first time Trump has seemingly placed responsibility for a deadly military incident on the generals. After a botched raid in Yemen resulted in the death of U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens in late January, Trump said, “My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

During his presidential campaign, Trump said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” His actions since becoming president, however, suggest Trump doesn’t believe this at all.

Trump has delegated far more autonomy to the Pentagon in conducting military operations than was offered by his predecessor, Barack Obama. He’s also filled his cabinet with military men. Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis are both retired Marine generals.

“What I do is I authorize my military…. We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said in April. The president argued this is why the military has been “so successful” under his watch compared to “what has happened over the last eight years.”

The military seems to appreciate this newfound independence under Trump.

“It has freed us up a bit to prosecute the war in a more aggressive manner, I think,” said Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria from August 2016 to September 2017, during an interview with Time over the summer.

But some have argued that the lack of restrictions has only made the military more trigger-happy, which could help explain the extreme rise in civilian deaths from U.S. air strikes under Trump. The rules the president has rolled back were designed to prevent civilian casualties.

Does the military’s increased autonomy also place troops in greater danger? This is less clear. But some argue that Trump has skirted portions of his responsibility as commander-in-chief, and that on more than one occasion this has allowed him to point to his generals when things have gotten messy.

Meanwhile, many questions remain about what exactly happened in Niger on October 4, and an investigation is ongoing.

[Newsweek]

Media

Sarah Huckabee Sanders warns reporter not to question a 4-star general amid mounting John Kelly controversy

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sidestepped questions about the validity of chief of staff John Kelly’s claim that Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida had bragged about securing funds for an FBI field office in 2015.

“[Kelly] said there was a lot of grandstanding,” Sanders said during Friday’s White House press briefing. “He was stunned she had taken that opportunity to make it about herself.”

When pressed as to whether Kelly could elaborate further, Sanders said he “addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday.”

But the reporter noted that the money was secured before Wilson was in Congress, which prompted Sanders to invoke Kelly’s military career.

“If you want to go after General Kelly that’s up to you but I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate,” Sanders said.

After Wilson suggested that President Donald Trump was inappropriate on a phone call with the widow of a US Special Forces soldier killed in Niger, Kelly criticized the Democratic congresswoman in an attempt to clarify the White House’s account of the call.

On Friday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel released a video of Wilson’s speech, which showed that she did not brag about securing the buildings funds, but did boast about rushing through Congress the renaming of the building in honor of two fallen FBI agents, Jerry L. Dove and Benjamin P. Grogan.

[Business Insider]

Reality

Old tweets posted by President Trump in which he attacked generals resurfaced Friday after the White House said it was “inappropriate” to criticize them.

Media

 

Trump threatens NBC, then says it’s ‘disgusting’ press can ‘write whatever it wants’

President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon that he found it “frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”

Asked later whether he believed there “should be limits on what the press should write” — which would likely conflict with the First Amendment, which guarantees both free expression and a free press — Trump said, “No. The press should speak more honestly.”

Still, his comment raised eyebrows, especially because it was the latest remark in a string of heightened attacks Trump has leveled against the press in recent days.

Just Wednesday morning, Trump had tweeted that media companies which report critically on him should be punished by having their television station licenses revoked.

In a tweet, the president decried the supposed “fake news coming out of NBC and the Networks.” He asked, “At what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

Trump seems to have been furious over an NBC News report that said he wanted a tenfold increase in the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal. Earlier in the morning he claimed the story was “pure fiction” and “made up to demean.”

Trump’s veiled threat may contribute to the increasingly chilly atmosphere journalists in the U.S. are working under during his administration. But his threat is essentially toothless.

First of all, there is no single license for NBC or any other national television network. Licenses are granted to individual local stations — and NBC doesn’t even own most of the stations that broadcast its content across the country. And it is extremely unusual for any station’s license to be taken away for any reason, much less for a political vendetta.

The licenses for local television stations are subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission every eight years.

It would not be possible for Trump or his allies to challenge all of the licenses held by NBC in one fell swoop. Individuals who reside in the areas the local channel airs would have to submit complaints to the FCC.

There is precedent for political allies of a president challenging local licenses. It happened under Richard Nixon in the 1970s, when a friend of Nixon’s tried to take over a license held by the Washington Post. Nixon’s ally did not succeed in his bid.

Short of gross misconduct on the part of a challenged station, it’s unlikely any other such attempt now would be successful either.

“Whatever other legal problems [NBC parent] Comcast may have, this is not one of them,” Andrew Jay Schwartzman, an attorney who works at the Georgetown University Law Center and specializes in telecommunications law, told CNN. “Comcast knows full well that the FCC will never, ever, deny its license renewal applications.”

The FCC is technically an independent body, not subject to the president’s orders. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — who is a Republican appointed to his current post by Trump — said in March that his job is not to be a “political actor.”

“It is simply to be somebody at the FCC who, as I said, is administering the laws of the United States,” Pai said. “I’m simply not going to wade into that kind of political debate.”

Neither Pai nor an FCC spokesperson immediately responded to requests for comment about Trump’s tweet. But former FCC officials were quick to skewer the president.

“To me it’s just incomprehensible that because of the content of NBC News that somehow their license would be at risk,” Alfred Sykes, a Republican who served as chairman of the FCC under George H.W. Bush, told The Wrap.

“This madcap threat, if pursued, would be blatant and unacceptable intervention in the decisions of an independent agency,” echoed Michael Copps, a Democrat who served as FCC commissioner under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in a statement to HuffPost. “The law does not countenance such interference. President Trump might be happier as emperor, but I think the American people would strip him of his clothes on this issued.

A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment.

Trump has increased his attacks on the media in the past week. Last week, he urged the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate news outlets for publishing supposed “fake” stories. Over the weekend, he hinted it was perhaps time for a law that would require broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of the political debate when discussing public policy.

“At what point are we going to silence media critical of the President?” tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “When we cease to have a First Amendment and a democratic government.”

[CNN]

Media

A college professor criticized Trump. Now the White House wants an investigation

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants the University of Las Vegas to investigate one of its professors after she strongly criticized President Donald Trump and the consequences of his election as the city reeled from the mass shooting.

Recordings of assistant professor Tessa Winkelmann showed her speaking to her class about the president’s violent rhetoric and the power of his words.

“Right when he got elected, I told my classes, three semesters ago, that some of us won’t be affected by this presidency, but others are going to die,” Winkelmann said in the video, obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Other people will die because of this.”

One student was “dumbfounded” and said the professor’s comments were “appalling,” in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the Review-Journal reported.

“He’s [Trump] threatened to declare violence against North Korea and other places,” the professor added. “And words, especially if they’re coming from someone who is the president, have consequences. . . I don’t know that these events would have inevitably happened whether or not he got elected, but he has rhetorical powers every president has to encourage or to discourage (violence). So far all he’s done is to encourage violence.”

The White House condemned the comments and said the school should “look into” the professor’s actions.

“It is sad she is teaching students such divisive, inaccurate and irresponsible rhetoric,” Sanders said. “She should be ashamed of herself, and the university should look into it. What a terrible example to set for students.”

Winkelmann apologized in an emailed statement to the Review-Journal and said she wished she had been “more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

“This week has been very difficult for members of our community, and we have allowed students space in our classes to discuss how they have been affected and to openly convey their feelings,” she wrote. “I regret that my comments caused more pain during this difficult time. Emotions were running high and I wish I would have been more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

UNLV issued a statement that said Winkelmann’s comments were insensitive, but did not announce any potential disciplinary action against her.

“While we respect academic freedom in the classroom and the right to free speech, we believe the comments were insensitive, especially given the series of events this week and the healing process that has begun in the community,” university spokesman Tony Allen said, according to the Review-Journal.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the White House has commented on civilians who are outspoken in their criticism of the president. On Tuesday morning the president once again attacked the recently suspended ESPN anchor Jemele Hill as part of his long-running crusade against NFL players who have knelt during the national anthem in protest of social and racial injustice.

Press secretary Sanders also previously said Hill had committed a “fireable offense” when the anchor called the president a white supremacist on Twitter.

Conservatives have long advocated for free speech on college campuses, yet have remained quiet when the White House suggested disciplinary action be taken against a professor who was well within her free speech rights.

[Salon]

Trump threatens to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license for reporting he wants tenfold increase in nukes

President Donald Trump angrily lashed out at NBC News over its report that he wanted to dramatically increase the United States’ nuclear arsenal by threatening to go after the network’s broadcasting license.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “Bad for country!”

The president also said that NBC “made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold” increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal,” which he described as “pure fiction, made up to demean.”

According to the original NBC report, Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders.” The president was reportedly incensed by a chart showing that the U.S. has actually been reducing its nuclear arsenal since the late 1960s.

According to NBC’s sources, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after this particular meeting. Additionally, the sources claim both Tillerson and the joint chiefs of staff pushed back against Trump, and told him why it would be unwise to start a massive nuclear arms race.

[Raw Story]

Reality

The president’s and the government’s power in this area could be limited anyway. According to the FCC’s own guidelines, the commission only licenses individual broadcast stations, not entire “TV or radio networks (such as CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox).”

Trump calls for tax law changes for NFL over protests

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for changes to U.S. tax law affecting the National Football League, fueling a feud with the league and its players over protests that he says disrespect the nation.

“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

The world’s top-grossing sports league gave up its tax-free status two years ago. Its owners are preparing to address the anthem issue at their fall meeting in New York Oct. 17-18, NFL chief spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.

“Everyone at this point is frustrated by the situation,” Lockhart said. “The commissioner and the owners do want the players to stand. We think it is an important part of the game.”

The protests, in a league where African Americans make up the majority of players, have continued through the season, with some players taking a knee when the anthem is played and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity.

Current policy calls for players to stand for the anthem and face the flag, but no player has been disciplined for a protest, Lockhart said.

“We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to team owners.

The White House supported the idea of asking players to stand, said spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

“We are glad to see the NFL taking positive steps in that direction,” she said at a news briefing.

Asked to explain Trump’s comment on the NFL and taxes, Sanders said, “The federal tax law doesn’t apply here, but certainly we know that they receive tax subsidies on a variety of different levels.”

Trump last month called on NFL team owners to fire players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violence against black Americans.

Critics contend Trump is fanning the controversy to distract from issues including devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, tensions with North Korea and difficulties in pushing healthcare and tax overhauls through the U.S. Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a NFL game on Sunday after some players knelt, an action some critics called a publicity stunt.

Trump won the presidency with less support from black voters than any other president in at least four decades.

Trump has squared off against the NFL before, having owned a team in the upstart United States Football League in the 1980s. That league folded in 1985 after an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL failed.

Trump has refused to disclose his own tax history, departing from a practice of U.S. presidents going back more than 40 years. Trump has said nobody cares about his tax returns, but critics say they could show conflicts of interest.

[Reuters]

Trump’s chilling escalation of his war with the media

On Thursday, President Donald Trump escalated his ongoing one-sided war with the media.

He did it, of course, via Twitter. “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up – FAKE!” Trump tweeted.

Let’s be clear about what Trump is suggesting here. He wants the Senate intelligence committee to open an investigation into the “Fake News Networks” to get to the bottom of why so much of the news is “just made up.” He offers no evidence of this claim. And yet, the President of the United States feels entirely comfortable urging the legislative branch to open an investigation into the Fourth Estate.

The reason? Because Trump doesn’t like what the media writes about him. That’s what he means when he uses the word “fake” — and he uses it a lot. “Fake” for Trump is rightly translated as “not fawning.” (The committee, by the way, is already investigating real fake news targeted by Russians on the US as part of their larger examination of Russian meddling in the run-up to the 2016 US election.)

The truth — as hundreds of fact checks have shown — is that the biggest purveyor of fake news in the country right now is Trump. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, Trump has made 1,145 false or misleading claims in his first 232 days in office. That’s 4.9 false or misleading statements per day.

Trump’s casual relationship with the truth makes his calls for the legislative branch to investigate the allegedly “fake news” industry all the more outlandish. Yes, the media — including me — do occasionally get things wrong. But, in virtually every case, those mistakes are honest ones — slip-ups made in an honest pursuit of the truth. And, when an error is found, steps are made to publicly remedy the mistake to keep misinformation from seeping into the public’s consciousness.

Can Trump say the same? The answer, of course, is no. He not only spreads falsehoods but does so long after it’s become clear that what he is saying is simply not true. Why does he do it? For the same reason he has made attacking the “fake news” media his primary daily duty. Because it works — or, at least, it works to motivate his political base, which believes whatever he says (facts be damned!) and is convinced the media is comprised primarily of liberals trying to push their agenda behind the guise of neutrality.

It’s worth noting here that Trump is far from the first president to have his issues with the media. Virtually every president has an adversarial relationship with the press. The difference with Trump is that he seems not to believe in the fundamental role that a free press plays in a democracy and spends a good chunk of his time working to discredit and disenfranchise the media.

[CNN]

Interior Secretary: One-third of employees ‘not loyal to the flag’

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reportedly said Monday that nearly a third of his department’s employees are not “loyal to the flag” or President Trump.

“I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag,” Zinke told the National Petroleum Council during a speech, according to The Associated Press.

“We do have good people” Zinke added. “But the direction has to be clear and you’ve got to hold people accountable.”

Trump and some of his allies have complained of an entrenched federal bureaucracy that they say has worked to stop — or at least slow — the president’s agenda.

The Interior secretary’s comments about the American flag came amid a feud between Trump and the NFL over the president’s criticism of players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

Trump sparked the controversy during a campaign rally in Alabama last Friday, saying that professional athletes who protest during the anthem should be fired.

Many NFL teams responded by asserting players’ right to free speech, and many players kneeled during the anthem during Sunday’s games. Some teams, like the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, refused to appear on the field for the anthem altogether.

Some critics have claimed that the president’s comments are racially motivated.

But Trump has stood by his criticism and sought to cast his rhetoric only as a defense of the U.S. and its flag.

“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” he tweeted Monday. “It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”

[The Hill]

Reality

This should be very troubling that a government department head who oversees tens of thousands of non-partisan positions claims that there will be a loyalty test, and people will lose their job if they do not swear loyalty to Donald Trump.

This is third-world authoritarian stuff.

Donald Trump calls for NFL to create rule mandating players stand for national anthem

An NFL spokesperson declined to address President Donald Trump’s latest tweet on Tuesday, which called for the league to create a rule that mandates players stand for the national anthem.

“I am little behind on his tweets,” NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart told reporters on Tuesday. “I may catch up by the end of the day.”

Around 9 a.m. ET, Trump tweeted: “The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!”

Earlier on Tuesday morning, Trump was tweeting about the Cowboys’ protest on Monday night, as well as NFL ratings. The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones took a knee before the national anthem played for a Monday Night Football matchup against the Cardinals in Arizona.

The Cowboys’ gesture took place after a Sunday of protests throughout the NFL.

Asked again about Trump calling for a rule change, Lockhart — on a conference call where he highlighted the NFL’s “Unity” message in response to the protests — didn’t engage.

“I guess I’d say he’s exercising his freedom to speak, and I’m exercising my freedom not to react,” Lockhart said.

[USA Today]

Reality

If you want to live in a country where patriotism is compulsory, to borrow a term from the right, then you should find another country. North Korea may be of your liking.

Here in America we value freedom of speech and each individuals ability to criticize their government. Trump did it for eight years as he lead the racist “birther” movement.

The 1943 Supreme Court decision in “West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette” found mandatory flag rituals to violate the constitutional requirements of democratic self-government.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation,” ruled the Court, “it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

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