Trump Praised Philippines President Duterte For Drug War That Has Killed 9,000 People

President Donald Trump opened a brief April phone call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte by commending the strongman’s bloody war on drugs, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post and the The Intercept.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” said Trump. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

Trump then criticized former President Barack Obama, who had spoken out against Duterte’s violent anti-drug offensive that has killed an estimated 9,000 people, including many small-time users and dealers.

“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that, but I understand that and we have spoken about this before,” Trump said, according to the transcript.

A senior Trump administration official told the Post the transcript is accurate, but would not speak on the record about a “leaked” document.

The transcript, provided to the outlets by a source in the Philippines and authenticated by Rappler, a Philippines news outlet that partnered with the Intercept, is further confirmation of Trump’s uncharacteristic friendliness toward autocratic world leaders. It also is likely to raise fears that harsh rhetoric from Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on what they call the scourge of drug abuse and addiction may give way to more militant action in the future.

In his call with Trump, Duterte similarly called drugs “the scourge of my nation,” according to the transcript.

White House officials initially characterized the April call as “a very friendly conversation,” during which Trump had invited Duterte to visit Washington. That development reportedly surprised White House staffers and drew widespread condemnation from human rights groups, which have accused Duterte of condoning a lawless drug war that has terrorized the nation with a campaign of extrajudicial killings carried out by vigilantes and police officers. Duterte has seemingly embraced this barbaric depiction, comparing himself with Adolf Hitler on a mission to kill millions of drug addicts.

“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” John Sifton, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times in April. “Although the traits of his personality likely make it impossible, Trump should be ashamed of himself.”

Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that supports the progressive reform of drug laws, called Trump’s remarks “a new low.”

“It fills me with disgust to see the U.S. president congratulate someone who has overseen the massacre of thousands of his own people in the name of the war on drugs,” Collins said in a statement to HuffPost. “The U.S. government should be urging restraint and respect for human rights; instead Trump gives Duterte’s deadly drug war his seal of approval.”

Trump’s support for Duterte’s tactics also mark a significant departure from the policies of Obama’s administration, which had shown a willingness to confront the Philippines president on the issue of drug enforcement. Ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in September, Obama said he’d bring up the drug war during a planned meeting with Duterte, because he believed in the need to “have due process and to engage in that fight against drugs in a way that’s consistent with basic international norms.”

Duterte responded by calling Obama a Taglog phrase for “son of a bitch,” and the meeting was canceled.

Trump and Duterte, during their call, also discussed escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, and expressed concerns about North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, whom Trump called a “madman with nuclear weapons.” Days later, Trump said he’d be “honored” to meet with the North Korean dictator.

Trump and Duterte agreed that China would play a pivotal role in keeping North Korea in check, and warding off the possibility of military action.

“We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines – the best in the world – we have two nuclear submarines – not that we want to use them at all,” said Trump, according to the transcript. “I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this but he could be crazy so we will see what happens.”

Trump Brags to Russians About Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey

President Donald Trump bragged to two top Russian officials last week that firing “nut job” FBI Director James Comey eased “great pressure” on him, The New York Times reported Friday.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not refute the Times story but said it was Comey’s “grandstanding and politicizing” of the Russia investigation that put pressure on the administration’s ability to engage Moscow.

“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said in a statement to CNN. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”

He added, “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”

Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he kill an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing.

“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.

Even before Friday’s report, news about Comey and the newly named special counsel for the Russia investigation has threatened to overshadow Trump’s trip.

Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was controversial before news of talk about Comey ever came out. No United States media were invited in for the meeting, but a photographer from TASS, the Russian state media organization, was in the room for at least part of the gathering. The meeting was also personal request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

[CNN]

Reality

The White House did not refute the report, but instead tried to claim “pressure” Trump was referring to was the FBI’s investigation gave Trump an inability for diplomatic negotiations with Russia But how is that any better? The White House is still admitting Comey was fired for political reasons.

DOJ Retaliating Against Immigration Lawyers Who Fought Trump’s Travel Ban

The Department of Justice is instructing lawyers to stop representing immigrants in need of legal assistance for President Donald Trump’s travel ban and for ICE deportations.

According to an investigative report from The Nation, four weeks ago the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in Seattle received a “cease and desist” letter from the DOJ demanding they drop their clients and close down programs or face disciplinary action. The DOJ is accusing the NWIRP of requiring clients pay them and then dropping the cases after receiving the money.

The NWIRP disputes the DOJ’s accusations.

Viewers of TV crime shows are familiar with the police recitation, “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you by the court.” Any immigrant facing deportation is not entitled to such an attorney because they haven’t technically been charged with a crime. This results in crowded immigration courts in which few defendants have attorneys.

Non-profit groups work to ensure those in the hearings have access to attorneys through volunteers at big law firms. At the same time, there are thousands of dishonest attorneys who do take money from immigrants promising to help defend them before walking off with their money. NWIRP isn’t one of those, according to The Nation, yet under Attorney General Jeff Sessions the DOJ intends to pursue a disciplinary review of them and other non-profits.

They’re not entitled to an attorney or provided with one but can accept the work of an attorney that will agree to help if the case ends up being a long one. If it’s short they’re not allowed to have any help in filling out legally binding documents. Any attorney that tries to help will be sanctioned.

NWIRP, however, has worked with immigration officials to ensure they can run programs to help people fill out forms or assist with legal proceedings with advice and explanation.

The organization has been on the frontline of fighting Trump’s travel ban with volunteer lawyers at Seattle’s SeaTac airport. There are many other groups who did the same.

Sending the cease and desist letter frightened employees volunteering for the cases and concerned the firm that they might become a target by the DOJ for other projects. If the pro-bono lawyers stop providing the service it’ll result in silencing the bar and diminishing the work of the groups providing people with important services around the U.S.

Lawyers sprang into action when airports began restricting access to citizens on planes arriving in the U.S. from countries on Trump’s ban list. Their stories dominated the news cycle and it’s assumed that Trump took offense to defying the order. Other institutions like the FBI, Justice Department, and courts all seem to be under attack, according to The Nation.

[Raw Story]

Trump Told Comey to Consider Jailing Reporters Publishing Leaks

President Trump reportedly told now-ousted FBI Director James Comey to consider jailing reporters who publish leaked classified information, according to The New York Times.

One of Comey’s associates told the newspaper that the conversation occurred shortly after a joint meeting on Feb. 14 that included Vice President Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Following a terrorism threat briefing, Trump reportedly told everyone to leave the room except for the FBI director.

The source told The Times that Trump then began discussing the leaks to the news media and asked Comey to consider jailing reporters for publishing classified information.

According to the report, Trump also asked Comey to end the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Following the meeting, Comey wrote in a memo that Trump told him, Flynn “is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

[The Hill]

President Trump Meets With Turkish President Amid Tensions

President Donald Trump is welcoming Turkey’s president to the White House for their first face-to-face meeting Tuesday, even as Turkish officials fumed over a U.S. decision to arm the Syrian Kurds.

Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to address the Syrian civil war, the refugee crisis and the fight against the Islamic State group.

Shortly after Erdogan arrived in Washington, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his party members that U.S. cooperation with Syrian Kurds “is not something acceptable” for Turkey.

Turkey is determined to “root out terror,” Yildirim said, if “necessary guarantees for Turkey’s sensitivities and issues pertaining to Turkey’s security are still not given.”

The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to respond to the crisis in Syria, taking unprecedented action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government over its use of chemical weapons against civilians.

But with Iran and Russia working to bolster Assad’s government, the Trump administration is turning to regional allies, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for help as it crafts its Syria policy.

Complicating that effort, however, was an announcement by the Trump administration that it plans to arm Kurdish Syrian fighters in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey has been pressuring the U.S. to drop support for the Kurdish militants in Syria for years and doesn’t want them spearheading the Raqqa effort.

Turkey considers a Turkish Kurdish group, known as the PKK, a terrorist group because of its ties to the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party inside Turkey. The United States, the European Union and Turkey agree the PKK is a terrorist organization.

Trump’s deal-making skills will be put to the test as he works to assure Erdogan that the decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria will not result in weapons falling into the wrong hands.

Erdogan arrived Monday in Washington, the Turkish flag hanging prominently outside the Blair House, a historic presidential guesthouse across the street from the White House.

The meeting is considered high stakes for the nascent Trump administration as it looks to engage regional allies in delicate security matters while enforcing international standards for human rights.

Trump’s willingness to partner with authoritarian rulers and overlook their shortcomings on democracy and human rights has alarmed U.S. lawmakers of both parties. That puts added pressure on him to get results.

Trump has gone out of his way to foster a good relationship with Erdogan. After a national referendum last month that strengthened Erdogan’s presidential powers, European leaders and rights advocates criticized Turkey for moving closer toward autocratic rule. Trump congratulated Erdogan.

But Erdogan may not be amenable to accepting the U.S. military support for the Kurds in a quid pro quo. Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with American forces only about six miles (10 kilometers) away. His government has insisted it may attack Syrian Kurdish fighters again. The U.S., whose forces are sometimes embedded with the Kurds, has much to fear.

Washington is concerned by rising anti-Americanism in Turkey that Erdogan’s government has tolerated since the July coup attempt. The U.S. also has pressed unsuccessfully for the release of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, and other detained U.S. citizens.

[TIME]

Reality

Trump has a property in Turkey, Trump Towers Istanbul, so we can’t be sure if this visit is to benefit the country or his own pocketbook.

Unhappy with Comey Coverage Trump Threatens to Cancel Press Briefings

In a flood of angry tweets Friday morning, President Trump threatened to cancel press briefings as he continues to grapple with the fallout from his abrupt firing of his FBI director and the conflicting stories he and his aides have told about it.

“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” Trump said. “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”

In a striking reversal one day earlier, Trump told NBC News that he planned to fire Comey even before meeting with top-ranking Justice Department officials and soliciting their recommendations on his performance.

“I was going to fire regardless of (their) recommendation,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, calling Comey a “showboat” and “grandstander” who led the agency into turmoil.

He also specifically brought up the ongoing Russia investigation. “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself – I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” Trump told NBC. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

These reasons contradicted the White House’s assertions — and even the widely disseminated termination letter Trump sent Comey — that the dismissal was based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who criticized Comey’s handling of the email investigation into Hillary Clinton last year.

Trump’s statements raised even more questions about his decision to fire the FBI director who was running an investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election.

That coverage of the Comey story prompted the Friday tweetstorm from the president, who also continued to loudly deny that he or his team had anything to do with Russia’s hacking Democrats during the 2016 election.

While Democrats continue to decry the timing of Comey’s firing was a way to short-circuit the ongoing counterintelligence probe, Trump tweeted that is is all politics: “Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.”

In yet another tweet, Trump called the investigation into his campaign associates’ ties to Russia a “witch hunt,” insisting that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said there was no collusion.

[USA Today]

 

 

 

Trump: Dem Senator ‘Should Be the One Who is Investigated’

President Trump on Wednesday morning attacked Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), calling for him to face an investigation over a 2010 campaign controversy about his military service.

Trump took to Twitter to slam Blumenthal shortly after the senator appeared on morning cable news shows to criticize Trump for firing FBI Director Jamed Comey, warning of a “looming constitutional crisis.”

“Watching Senator Richard Blumenthal speak of Comey is a joke. ‘Richie’ devised one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

“For years, as a pol in Connecticut, Blumenthal would talk of his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam — except he was never there. When caught, he cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness and now he is judge & jury. He should be the one who is investigated for his acts.”

Trump was referring to a controversy in Blumenthal’s 2010 Senate campaign in which he admitted misspeaking about his military service.

Blumenthal held a press conference during the campaign to clarify that he had said he served “in” the Vietnam War when he meant to say he served “during” the war, as a reservist and not overseas.

Trump attacked Blumenthal earlier this year over the 2010 controversy, during debate about then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, accusing the senator of a “long-term lie.”

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

Trump once overstated his military credentials telling Don Lemon he received an award in April 2015, saying it came from the United States Marines Corps when it was actually the unconnected charity The Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation.

Reporter Arrested After Repeatedly Questioning Health Secretary

Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, said he was arrested at the West Virginia State Capitol after trying to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the House-passed healthcare bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare as the secretary was entering the building.

In a press conference held shortly after posting bail, Heyman said he asked Price repeatedly about whether domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition under the new GOP healthcare bill.

According to Heyman’s account, he waited for Price to come into the building and then reached past those accompanying Price with his phone and repeatedly asked his healthcare question, adding that a number of other reporters wanted to bring up the issue of pre-existing conditions.

He said capitol police at some point “decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me.”

The event concluded with a press conference at the end of Price’s visit, which Heyman reportedly could have attended but did not.

According to the criminal complaint by the capitol police, Heyman was “aggressively breaching the secret service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol. The defendant was causing a disturbance by yelling at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.”

The officer who filed the report said he and another officer “were able to detain the defendant before he tried aggressively to breach the security of the secret service.”

“As the criminal complaint explains, this is not about someone trying to ask questions,” said Lawrence Messina, the director of communication for West Virginia’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, which oversees the capitol police.

“The individual repeatedly tried to push his way past secret service agents who were providing for the safety and security for an event at the state capitol. There were other reporters present who asked questions without incident,” Messina continued.

Heyman said he couldn’t remember how many times he asked the question, but he added that it is his job to ask questions, expressing disbelief that he was arrested.

“First time I’ve ever been arrested for asking a question. First time I’ve ever heard of someone getting arrested for asking a question,” he said.

Heyman said he asked his question in a public space and received no warnings that he was in the wrong place or doing other activities to warrant his arrest.

“No police officer told me, ‘You’re in the wrong place,’ ” he said.

The police “put hands on me, although they didn’t hurt me, certainly,” he added.

Heyman asked them if he was under arrest, according to his version of events, and they said he was. He also said he told the police he was a member of the press.

The police didn’t immediately read him his Miranda Rights, he added, because they were not asking him questions.

“It’s dreadful. This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to find out if someone is going to be affected by this healthcare law. … I think it is a question that deserves to be answered,” he added.

Heyman had to pay a $5,000 bond and was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, a misdemeanor.

(h/t The Hill)

Media

 

Trump Uses Power of Office to Intimidate Witness Sally Yates

CNN’s Dana Bash and John King slammed President Trump on Monday for tweeting about former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, calling it “witness intimidation” ahead of her testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

“Before I covered politics all the time, I used to cover the courts a lot. A lawyer would call that witness intimidation,” King, the host of “Inside Politics,” said.

Bash agreed with that charge. “Completely. Look, I think that we have all been kind of desensitized, in some way, to his tweets and to his statements that are so out of the norm,” Bash, the network’s chief political correspondent, said. “This is beyond out of the norm. This is inappropriate.

“For the president of the United States to be this aggressive with somebody who used to work for him, who is coming before the United States Congress in sworn testimony hours later, is beyond the pale. It just is.”

Trump sent two successive tweets on Monday morning, including one directed at Yates urging lawmakers to ask “if she knows how classified information” was leaked to the press.

Yates, a former acting attorney general who was fired by Trump for her refusal to defend his travel ban, will testify during a Senate hearing on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

Yates is expected to testify that she warned the White House about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia, which would contradict the administration’s claims.

(h/t The Hill)

Media

FCC to Investigate, ‘Take Appropriate Action’ on Colbert’s Trump Rant

Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert’s controversial joke about President Trump drew the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The agency received “a number” of complaints about Colbert’s commentary earlier in the week, according to the FCC’s chief.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promised to “take the appropriate action” following a comprehensive investigation of Colbert’s remarks.

The FCC’s response will depend on whether Colbert’s remarks are considered “obscene.”

“We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” he told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Thursday.

“Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,” he said. “A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”

Broadcast television is governed by different rules depending on the time of day, Pai said Wednesday, prior to viewing Colbert’s comments.

The FCC flags speech it considers “indecent” before 10 p.m., he told Fox Business Network, and looks for “obscene” content after that point. Colbert’s “The Late Show” airs at 11:35 p.m. ET on CBS.

The agency’s website states that content must meet a three-tier Supreme Court test to be labeled “obscene.”

“It must appeal to an average person’s prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a ‘patently offensive’ way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” it reads.

Colbert on Monday unleashed a flood of insults at Trump, satirizing an interview with CBS news the president cut short the day before.

“The only thing your mouth is good at is being [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s c—k holster,” he said of Trump.

Colbert on Wednesday defended his joke amid fierce backlash online.

“I don’t regret that,” he said. “[Trump], I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight.”

Reality

Last week all Republican media, like Fox News, could stop talking about how the First Amendment is under attack because Ann Coulter wasn’t able to bring her racist hate speech to Berkley, CA. This week they want Stephen Colbert fired over jokes they didn’t like.

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