Trump urged postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

President Trump has reportedly urged the U.S. postmaster general to double shipping rates for Amazon.com and other companies amid months of his continued criticism that the online retailer is costing the Postal Service “billions” of dollars in revenue.

Trump has personally met with Postmaster General Megan Brennan multiple times since 2017 to petition her for a hike on rates for Amazon and other firms that ship packages, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing officials familiar with the conversations.

The president’s demands came despite counsel from close advisers and top Postal Service employees that Amazon, the largest shipper of packages through USPS, actually helps keep it afloat financially.

According to the Post, Brennan explained to Trump in their conversations that the Postal Service is bound by its contracts with retail companies, noting that to change them would require a review by the independent regulatory agency that oversees the USPS.

Trump signed an executive order last month to create a task force to look into the Postal Service’s “unsustainable financial path.”

USPS has given Amazon a shipping discount due to the volume of packages it ships, but has not released details on its agreement with the retailer. Analysts have estimated that the company uses the Postal Service for about 40 percent of its shipping.

Trump also reportedly met with different groups of senior advisers including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn on the service’s financial dealings and whether Amazon was in fact costing the USPS “massive amounts of money,” as he once claimed in a tweet.

The president has frequently taken aim at The Washington Post, which Amazon owner Jeff Bezos purchased in 2013.

[The Hill]

Trump Accuses FBI of Spying on His Campaign on Mueller Anniversary: ‘If So, This is Bigger Than Watergate!’

It has been 365 days since Robert Mueller was appointed to head up the special counsel investigation into Russia’s 2016 election-meddling campaign.

Trump took to Twitter to ring in the first year, by suggesting the FBI spied on his campaign. He referenced a story by Andrew McCarthy — who appeared on Fox & Friends earlier — in the National Review saying Barack Obamaopened an FBI investigation in 2016 that targeted the Trump campaign for suspicion of working with Russian cyber-espionage efforts. This comes after New York Times released a separate report detailing how the FBI was looking into Trump’s campaign ever since George Papadopoulos rambled about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton during a chat with an Australian diplomat.

Trump’s tweet also comes after Rudy Giuliani appeared on Fox & Friends Thursday morning to speculate about the FBI placing a spy in the Trump campaign — which the lawyer said “would be the biggest scandal in the history of this town.”

Oh course, the since the investigation has prompted lingering questions about national security and the nature of Trump’s relationship with Russia, the president also took a moment to mark the anniversary:

[Mediaite]

Reality

The tweet refers to the claim, increasingly popular among Trump’s most ardent defenders, that the FBI had a spy in his campaign. The theory was given more fuel Wednesday by a line in a New York Times story, which said “at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos,” referring to Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

After the Times piece was posted, Breitbart News ran a headline that said “Leakers to NYT Confirm FBI Ran Spy Operation Against Trump Campaign.” On Wednesday night, Trump’s newest lawyer Rudy Giuliani was talking about it on Fox News, telling Laura Ingraham that the FBI “possibly plac[ed] a spy in the Trump campaign.”

Then on Thursday morning former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy appeared on Fox & Friends to talk about the informant, which he’d previously written about for The National Review.

“What happened here is that they did not have a criminal predicate to open an investigation on Trump,” McCarthy said. “And what they did was use their counterintelligence powers covertly to investigate the Trump campaign, during the stretch run of the campaign, under circumstance where they did not have evidence that anyone had actually committed a crime.”

Giuliani also appeared on Fox & Friends Thursday morning to stoke the flames, saying that if the FBI had spied on the Trump campaign, “That would be the biggest scandal in the history of this town, at least involving law enforcement.” This morning’s Trump tweet confirms that the intended audience for that statement was watching.

Trump Tweets ‘Nothing Has Happened With ZTE Except As It Pertains To The Larger Trade Deal’

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the reversal on trade policy around ZTE Corp. does not indicate a slackened position on China trade negotiations.

Here’s what Trump said in a series of tweets:

“The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China. Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal. Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China…We have not seen China’s demands yet, which should be few in that previous U.S. Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating. China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe, the meetings…haven’t even started yet! The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!”

Why It’s Important

The president’s support of trade with ZTE had driven a spike in optical stocks exposed to the Chinese business. Some shares traded lower Wednesday on the clarified policy.

Acacia Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: ACIA) fell 4.3 percent and Oclaro Inc (NASDAQ: OCLR) 1.1 percent, while Applied Optoelectronics Inc(NASDAQ: AAOI) and Lumentum Holdings Inc(NASDAQ: LITE) dipped marginally.

What’s Next

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington Tuesday for a five-day visit packed with trade talks. Reuters reported that several U.S. lawmakers U.S. lawmakers rejected any planby Trump to ease restrictions on ZTE Corp., calling the company a security threat and vowing not to abandon legislation clamping down on the company.

[Yahoo News]

Trump contradicts himself in a single tweet about leaks he claims are fake news

President Donald Trump went off on the “fake news” that claims leaks are coming out of the West Wing of the White House. First, he called it fake news, and then he denounced the leaks that were coming out.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” Trump tweeted Monday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was bothered by the leak of the comment top aide Kelly Sadler made about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). It has been reported that the communications department is searching for the leak.

When it was revealed that first lady Melania Trump underwent a procedure Monday on her kidney, pundits remarked that no one knew the procedure was coming. They compared the leaks in the East Wing, the first lady’s office, to the sieve in Trump’s West Wing.

[Raw Story]

Trump Blasts ‘Fake News Media’ for Not Reporting on AT&T’s Planned Merger With Time Warner

On Friday, President Donald Trump blasted the “fake news media” for not reporting on litigation revolving around AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner in a tweet that seemed to come out of nowhere.

“Why doesn’t the Fake News Media state that the Trump Administration’s Anti-Trust Division has been, and is, opposed to the AT&T purchase of Time Warner in a currently ongoing Trial,” Trump wrote. “Such a disgrace in reporting!”

While his exact intent was not clear, Trump was likely reacting to reports that his lawyer Michael Cohen was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by AT&T for a consulting gig that actually amounted to Cohen peddling his access to Trump.

The AT&T payment was also significant because Essential Consulting, the shell consulting firm Cohen set up to receive payments, also happens to be the firm that paid Stormy Daniels the $130,000 in hush money.

AT&T has since said it regretted hiring Cohenand claimed the damage to their reputation will not hurt their planned merger.

So far, Trump, not known for clarification,  has not issued a follow-up tweet.

[Mediaite]

Pence calls on Mueller to wrap up’ Russia probe

US Vice-President Mike Pence has urged special counsel Robert Mueller to “wrap up” his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He said the White House has “fully co-operated” with the probe, which is looking at whether US President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Mr Trump and the Kremlin have repeatedly denied the allegations.

His remarks came as he and Mr Trump greeted three Americans returning from North Korea after being held there.

“In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up,” he told NBC News early on Thursday morning at Joint Base Andrews.

The vice-president added the administration had provided more than a million documents to Mr Mueller’s investigation team.

“And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”

Mr Pence dismissed reports about Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, receiving millions of dollars in payments from companies as a “private matter” and “something I don’t have any knowledge about”.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Mr Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants LLC, last year received half a million dollars from Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment company affiliated with a firm controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

It was one of several businesses – including major corporations like AT&T – which paid a shell company set up by Mr Cohen after the 2016 election.

Following the vice-president’s comments, top Democrat Adam Schiff tweeted that Mr Pence “has now brought his sycophancy to a whole new level”.

Mr Schiff’s tweet centers around lingering concerns over Michael Flynn, the former US national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia last December.

Mr Trump sacked Mr Flynn last February, saying he had lied to Mr Pence about meeting the Russian envoy to the US.

Per a list of questions leaked to US media, it appeared that special counsel Robert Mueller will look into Mr Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and what exactly the president knew about the situation.

[BBC]

Trump Threatens to Pull Press Credentials from ‘Fake News’ Media Over Negative Coverage

You know how this works. President Trump receives critical press coverage, he gets on Twitter to complain about it, the White House’s relationship with the media deteriorates further, queen to E5.

As you can see, the president is threatening to take press credentials away from “fake news” media outlets until they give him the coverage he approves of it. Trump previously yanked press credentials from multiple news organizations during the 2016 election, and as NYT‘s Maggie Haberman points out, it seems he still doesn’t get that the press isn’t supposed to be his cheerleading squad:

[Mediate]

Trump suggests legal action coming against Mueller’s team

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that “angry Democrats” on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team could face legal action over alleged “conflicts of interest.”

“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ’till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” Trump said.

Trump did not provide proof of the alleged conflicts. Although CNN has reported that several members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election also has been the subject of several Republican-led congressional inquiries. Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush, and the man who appointed him as special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was appointed by Trump.

The President also weighed in on other recent developments in the Russia investigation. He denied that he’s obstructed the probe, instead defending his actions and rhetoric as “fighting back” against “the Russia Witch Hunt.”

“There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back,” the President tweeted, later suggesting that the investigation was being dragged out so it could damage Republicans in the midterm elections.

Trump also asked why FBI special agent Peter Strzok is still at the bureau. Strzok’s text messages with Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer who resigned last week, became fodder for conservatives who believed they revealed bias at the bureau.

Several leaked questions that Mueller is interested in asking Trump are related to possible obstruction of justice actions. Trump said last week that such questions amount to a “setup and trap” and that it would “seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened!”

Last month, Trump hinted to “Fox & Friends”that he might “at some point” step in and take action against the Justice Department, which is overseeing the special counsel investigation.

[CNN]

Trump slams Mueller Russia probe, accuses team of having ‘unrevealed conflicts of interest’

President Donald Trump on Monday railed against the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of having “unrevealed conflicts of interest” and insisting that obstruction of justice is a “made-up phony crime.”

“The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination or anything else with Russia. So now the Probe says OK, what else is there? How about Obstruction for a made up, phony crime.There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back,”

It wasn’t immediately clear what conflicts of interest Trump was referring to, although the president has repeatedly slammed the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.” Mueller, a Republican, was appointed FBI chief by GOP President George W. Bush in 2001 and served until 2013.

The tweets come just days after a U.S. federal judge, T.S. Ellis, said he is skeptical about Mueller’s ability to bring charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Ellis, a Reagan appointee, hammered the special counsel’s office Friday, suggesting that the charges against Manafort have nothing to do with Russian election interference and that the special counsel is only interested in squeezing Manafort for information “that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his impeachment.”

Trump wrote in the first of two Monday morning tweets on the topic. Mueller’s team is reportedly probing whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing James Comey as FBI director last year.

Trump, referring to Mueller’s team, added, “The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice.”

“And just wait ’till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” Trump said.

Trump’s tweets, however, could also be part of a more combative legal strategy that the president’s newly reshuffled legal team is said to be taking against the Mueller probe.

Last week, Trump tapped Emmet Flood, who advised Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings, to assist in the Russia investigation after Ty Cobb, the lead White House attorney handling the probe, announced plans to retire. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a longtime Trump ally and ex-federal prosecutor in New York, also recently joined Trump’s legal team to provide advice on how to deal with the special counsel’s probe.

Mueller reportedly wants to question Trump in detail about his ties to Russia, the president’s firing of Comey and whether he tried to interfere with the investigation, according to a list of questions published by The New York Times last week.

In less than a year — Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017 — his team’s work has resulted in 19 individuals being charged with crimes. That number includes 13 Russian nationals and five people who pleaded guilty (among them Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos).

[NBC News]

Trump Denies ‘Changing Any Stories’ About Stormy Daniels Payment. This Tape Proves Otherwise

During a heated exchange with reporters Friday, President Donald Trump insisted that he’s “not changing any stories” related to the $130,000 hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just days before the November 2016 presidential election.

“We’re not changing any stories. All I’m telling you is this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that’s all you want to talk about,” Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One to Dallas.

Moments later, the president instructed reporters to “take a look at what I said” in April when he took questions from reporters aboard Air Force One about the Daniels payoff. So, what did the president say less than one month ago regarding his knowledge of the $130,000 payment? Here’s the exchange from April:

Reporter: “Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”

Trump: “No, no. What else?”

Reporter: “Why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?

Trump: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”

Reporter: “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”

Trump: “No, I don’t know. No.”

The exchange left little room for interpretation as to whether Trump knew about the payment or not. Thus, it left no wiggle room for the president to now say that “we’re not changing any stories” after Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that Trump repaid the $130,000 hush money sum to his longtime attorney Michael Cohen.

Whether or not Giuliani had “his facts straight” when made that comment is irrelevant. Even if Giuliani was not correct, the fact remains that the Trump team’s story about the hush money payment did, in fact, change between April and this week. Trump cannot say one moment that he didn’t know about the payment, only for his lawyer to go on national television weeks later and say the exact opposite. Again, even if Giuliani was misinformed, he still changed the narrative in the national media and, like it or not, the narrative in the media is the story.

[Mediaite]

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