Trump Used the Phrase ‘My Military’ – Defense Community Not Amused

President Donald Trump ruffled some feathers on Thursday with his choice of words when describing an overseas military operation.

The comments came when a White House press pool reporter asked Trump if he had personally authorized the deployment of the 21,000-pound bomb that was dropped on an ISIS tunnel complex.

“Everybody knows exactly what happened. What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump said. “We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. So we have given them total authorization.”

The phrase “my military” stuck out to members of the defense community, some of whom did not appreciate Trump’s use of the possessive pronoun. Chief among them was Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director who served under President Barack Obama.

“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,” Panetta said on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

“He has responsibility obviously, as commander in chief, to be able to make decisions with regards to our military. But I think if you ask the men and women in uniform who they are responsible to, I think their answer would be, ‘We’re responsible to the United States of America.'”

(h/t Business Insider)

Media

Trump Shifts Course on Egypt, Praising Its Authoritarian Leader

Ever since he seized power in a military takeover nearly four years ago, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt has been barred from the White House. But President Trump made clear on Monday that the period of ostracism was over as he hosted Mr. Sisi and pledged unstinting support for the autocratic ruler.

“We agree on so many things,” Mr. Trump said as he sat beside Mr. Sisi in the Oval Office. “I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing.”

In that one moment, Mr. Trump underscored a fundamental shift in American foreign policy since he took office. While his predecessors considered authoritarians like Mr. Sisi to be distasteful and at times shied away from them, Mr. Trump signaled that he sees international relations through a transactional lens. If Egypt can be a partner in the battle against international terrorism, then in Mr. Trump’s calculation, that is more important to the United States than concerns over its brutal suppression of domestic dissent.

Nothing could have made Mr. Sisi happier. He arrived from Cairo with a list of financial, security and political requests, but effectively he got what he really wanted in the six minutes that news media photographers were permitted in the Oval Office to record the visit that President Barack Obama had denied him. The picture of the general-turned-president in the White House, hosted by an American leader lavishing praise on him, was the seal of approval he had long craved, the validation of a strongman on the world’s most prominent stage.

That big hug was just what Mr. Sisi’s government sought, said Eric Trager, a scholar on Egypt at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It wants to see the White House legitimate it, and set it on a new course.”

The scene provided a powerful counterpoint to Mr. Sisi’s many critics, in Egypt and abroad, who know him as the leader of the military takeover that removed an elected president, oversaw a vicious security operation in which hundreds of protesters were gunned down in the streets of Cairo and has cemented his authority by filling prisons with his opponents while strangling the free press.

It was the first visit by an Egyptian president to Washington since 2009, when the guest was the autocratic former president Hosni Mubarak, then in the waning years of his rule — an era now viewed by many Egyptians as a time of relative freedom, prosperity and security. Mr. Mubarak was pushed out in 2011 by a wave of street protests and succeeded, in a democratic election, by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. Taking advantage of popular discontent with Mr. Morsi two years later, the military, led by Mr. Sisi, then a general, took power and Mr. Sisi became president in a pro forma election that awarded him 97 percent of the vote.

Little of that seems to matter to Mr. Trump, though, who has showcased his determination to reshape America’s relationship with a number of Middle Eastern countries, regardless of human rights concerns. In his public remarks on Monday, Mr. Trump made no mention of such issues; aides said he believed discussing them in private might be more effective.

“I just want to say to you, Mr. President, that you have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Sisi.

Mr. Sisi responded in kind, sometimes in language mimicking a Trumpian sales pitch. “You will find Egypt and myself always beside you in bringing about an effective strategy in the counterterrorism effort,” he said. He also vowed to support Mr. Trump’s effort to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians, calling it an effort to “find a solution to the problem of the century in the deal of the century.”

While Egypt has long been a crucial American ally in the Middle East, Mr. Trump’s admiration for Mr. Sisi seems to mirror in some ways his appreciation for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as a fellow tough figure. After their first meeting in September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly when Mr. Trump was running for president, he hailed Mr. Sisi as “a fantastic guy” and spoke admiringly of his iron-fisted methods. “He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

Mr. Sisi has rejected suggestions that he rules like a dictator. Speaking to The Financial Times in December, he said he was “building love between Egyptians, a wave of respect for the other that will start in Cairo and spread across the region.”

Yet as he was preparing to meet Mr. Trump on Monday, a court in Cairo sentenced 17 people to jail terms of five years each for taking part in street protests in January 2015.

In Rome, the parents of Giulio Regeni, an Italian postgraduate student found dead in Cairo last year, held a news conference to press their longstanding accusations that Egyptian security officials had abducted, tortured and killed their son, probably on suspicion that he was a spy. The family’s lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini, said they had identified two high-ranking Egyptian national security officials said to be implicated in the case, but declined to give further details.

Beyond a shared love for harsh rhetoric warning against the dangers of jihadist Islam, Mr. Trump has striking similarities with Mr. Sisi’s brand of authoritarianism in Egypt, according to Middle East analysts. Both leaders came to power promising splashy projects derided by experts — an expensive extension of the Suez Canal for Mr. Sisi, and a giant wall along the Mexico border for Mr. Trump. In speeches, both leaders have been ridiculed for making exaggerated claims, embracing conspiracy theories and speaking in a limited rhetorical style.

Egyptians also often mock Mr. Sisi for speaking in a rustic form of Arabic that contrasts with the formal version usually favored by national leaders. Mr. Trump has the grammar and vocabulary of a fifth-grade student, one study last year found.

Both leaders are notoriously thin-skinned and project a sense of unfiltered self-regard. In recent months, Mr. Trump branded critics in the “fake news” media as the “enemy of the American people”; last year, in a fit of exasperation, Mr. Sisi told Egyptians, “Please, do not listen to anyone but me!”

Yet in many other ways there are vast differences between their styles. While Mr. Trump wrestles with a hostile media and recalcitrant factions in his Republican party, Mr. Sisi’s government has imprisoned dozens of journalists — fewer only than China and Turkey, according to press freedom groups — while the national Parliament is stuffed with his supporters.

It remains far from clear what the two leaders can offer each other in concrete terms. Mr. Sisi has resisted loud appeals to release Aya Hijazi, an American aid worker imprisoned in Egypt, while Mr. Trump’s White House is considering slashing foreign aid to countries including Egypt’s $1.3 billion in military assistance. The Trump administration also appears to have gone cold on proposals to designate the country’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

While human rights advocates criticized Mr. Trump, a lawyer for Ms. Hijazi said her supporters had been working with his administration to highlight her case and those of others held. “We are confident that the case is being prioritized at the highest levels of the United States government,” said the lawyer, Wade McMullen, managing attorney at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, an advocacy center.

One thing Mr. Sisi desperately wants, according to Western officials in Cairo, is for Mr. Trump to reinstate a military financing deal, suspended under Mr. Obama in 2015, allowing Egypt to effectively buy, on credit, the tanks, warplanes and other large-ticket military items it desires. Such a deal would give Mr. Sisi something to bring home to his backers in the military.

But experts say that while a military finance deal might please American defense contractors, it could frustrate American counterterrorism goals by making Egypt less likely to pour resources into smaller weapons that are better suited to battling Islamic State insurgents in Sinai.

“If Trump is really interested in getting the Egyptians to fight radical Islam, giving them more tanks will not help our goals,” said Amy Hawthorne of the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington nonprofit that has been sharply critical of Mr. Sisi.

Some experts worry that Mr. Sisi’s hard-knuckled approach to Islamism — banning all forms of political Islam, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as fighting jihadist violence — could ultimately feed a new wellspring of radicalism that could blow back on the United States.

“The authoritarian bargain the U.S. has struck with Egypt might seem to be the right thing, but it never pays off in the long run,” Ms. Hawthorne said. “It’s not just about being on the wrong side of history, but about over-investing in a regime that is fueling radicalization that will ultimately harm U.S. interests.”

(h/t New York Times)

Reality

This isn’t the first time Donald Trump praised other authoritarian leaders while calling the democratically elected officials in Congress and the White House “weak.”

  • After receiving praise from Vladimir Putin, Trump showed lots of love for the authoritarian Russian President in return saying he’ll get along fine with him.
  • Praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on how well he killed all of his uncles in order to take power.
  • In the midst of a brutal civil war where authoritarian Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, Trump was kind enough to give Bashar a grade of ‘A’ for leadership.
  • During the CNN-Telemundo Republican candidates’ debate in February that while Gaddafi was “really bad,” his tactics were effective and we would be so much better off if Gaddafi were in charge.
  • Trump tweeted a quote from former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. When asked about being associated with a fascist Trump responded what difference does it make if it was Mussolini or somebody else — it’s a very good quote.
  • And Trump has a history of praising Saddam Hussein in interviews and at rallies.

Gadhafi, Hussein, Bashar, Un, and Putin all have committed atrocities against their own people and were among the world’s worst human rights abusers.

Trump Has Political Aides Monitoring the Loyalty of Cabinet Secretaries

As President Trump recently reminded us, when someone has been disloyal to him, he never forgets it. But now that he’s president, it’s become more difficult to keep track of those who have defied him — or who may potentially defy him. That’s why, according to the Washington Post, Trump has embedded political appointees in every cabinet agency and tasked them with keeping tabs on the secretaries’ fealty to the president. Unsurprisingly, this is not going over well with some cabinet members.

The Post is not the first to note the existence of these monitors. Last month, Politico reported that the Trump administration had created the new position of “senior White House adviser” within each agency, placing many former campaign aides in those jobs. Records obtained by ProPublica show that there are at least 16 of these advisers, with Trump loyalists stationed in all the major departments, as well as in some smaller agencies, such as NASA.

There’s some disagreement over who the advisers answer to. The Post says they report to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn. An anonymous White House official said the advisers technically report to the head of each agency, but the White House would not discuss the matter on the record.

The advisers’ ostensible mission is to act as a go-between on policy issues for the White House and the agencies, but eight officials tell the Post their primary task is to make sure agency staffers are carrying out the president’s agenda. Concerns about the president’s authority over the executive branch are not unusual, but no recent president has had such an arrangement.

As New York’s Ed Kilgore noted last month, “People like that can be described as political commissars, to use the term made famous in the Soviet Union for the agents sent to impose ideological discipline, particularly in military units.” Sure enough, the former Marine and fighter pilot assigned to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is privately referred to as “the commissar” within the Pentagon.

But the attitude toward the senior White House advisers varies by agency. Aides at the Departments of Transportation and the Interior described the advisers as part of their teams, and some advisers are picking up the slack in understaffed departments. However, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt has reportedly banned former Washington state senator Don Benton, who ran Trump’s Washington state campaign, from meetings. Per the Post:

These officials said Benton piped up so frequently during policy discussions that he had been disinvited from many of them. One of the officials described the situation as akin to an episode of the HBO comedy series Veep.

Behaving like a member of Selina Meyer’s team doesn’t sound so bad when the alternative is an episode out of Soviet history.

Trump on ‘New York Times’: ‘The Intent is So Evil and So Bad’

President Trump got specific in his latest discussion about the “fake news media,” singling out The New York Times for scorn, while heaping praise on Breitbart News and an individual Reuters reporter.

As in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president explained that he is not calling all media the “enemy of the American people” during an Oval Office interview with Breitbart Monday. Rather, it is only the “fake media” that he considers the “opposition party.”

“There’s a difference,” Trump said. “The fake media is the enemy of the American people. There’s tremendous fake media out there. Tremendous fake stories. The problem is the people that aren’t involved in the story don’t know that.”

“I didn’t say the media is the enemy — I said the ‘fake media,'” the president explained. “They take the word fake out and all of a sudden it’s like I’m against — there are some great reporters like you. I know some great honorable reporters who do a great job like Steve [Holland] from Reuters, others, many others. I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about the ‘fake media,’ where they make up everything there is to make up.”

Trump has included some of the country’s most widely-consumed and well-respected news organizations in his definition of “fake media.” All three major television networks (NBC, ABC and CBS), CNN, MSNBC and The Washington Post are among the outlets Trump has slapped the label on.

But no news media organization has drawn the president’s ire like the Times.

“If you read The New York Times, it’s — the intent is so evil and so bad,” Trump told Breitbart. “The stories are wrong in many cases, but it’s the overall intent.”

Trump cited a May 2016 story titled “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved Badly With Women in Private,” as an example of what he considers bad reporting by the newspaper. One of the women interviewed in the story, Rowanne Brewer Lane, went on cable news after the piece ran to criticize the Times‘ story, saying her words were taken out of context.

“They did a front page article on women talking about me, and the women went absolutely wild because they said that was not what they said,” Trump said. “It was a big front-page article, and the Times wouldn’t even apologize and yet they were wrong. You probably saw the women. They went on television shows and everything.”

The Times stood by the story.

Annonymous sources have been a particular source of consternation for Trump. FactCheck.org points out that the use of unnamed sources has been the subject of ongoing debate within the media. But despite Trump’s tirades against the practice, he has often used anonymous sources himself, according to FactCheck.org.

Citing “oligopolies in the media,” the Breitbart interviewer suggested that Trump might consider blocking the pending merger of AT&T with Time Warner because Time Warner is the parent company of CNN.

“I don’t want to comment on any specific deal, but I do believe there has to be competition in the marketplace and maybe even more so with the media because it would be awfully bad after years if we ended up having one voice out there,” Trump replied.

(h/t USA Today)

White House Blocks Major News Organizations From Press Briefing

CNN and other news organizations were blocked Friday from a White House press briefing.

There was no immediate explanation from the White House.

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the televised Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room.

The Associated Press and Time magazine boycotted the briefing because of how it was handled. The White House Correspondents Association is protesting.

The conservative media organizations Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were allowed in.

Hours earlier, at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, President Trump mocked and disparaged the news media. He said that much of the press represents “the enemy of the people.”

“They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources,” Trump said. “They just make them up when there are none.”

He also said reporters “shouldn’t be allowed” to use unnamed sources.

(h/t CNN)

Trump Again Calls Media ‘Enemy of the People’

President Trump turned his speech before a conservative convention into a full-throated attack on journalism Friday, saying some reporters make up unnamed sources for “fake news” and again describing them as “the enemy” of the American people.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”

The president did not elaborate on what that “something” might be, beyond general criticism.

It was the latest in a series of attacks that, critics said, are designed to undermine coverage of Trump’s troubles in office, including investigations into possible links between his campaign associates and Russians during last year’s presidential election.

The sustained attacks show “how worried he is about the repeated reports of chaos, incompetence, and potential wrongdoing inside his administration,” said Matthew Miller, a spokesman for President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. “His problem, though, is with the facts, not the media, and he’s only making his problem worse the more he runs away from it.”

In his speech to the annual gathering of conservative activists known as CPAC, Trump also thanked them for their support and touted an agenda that includes tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks, a military build-up, a still-to-be-defined replacement for Obama’s health care law, and “border security” that includes travel restrictions from Muslim countries and a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our victory was a win for everyone who believes it’s time to stand up for America, to stand up for the American worker and to stand up for the American flag,” Trump said.

The crowd also lapped up his attacks on the media, which came on the same day that he and aides disputed a CNN story that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus spoke to the FBI about media reports on the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

In assailing anonymous sources and so-called “fake news,” Trump discussed specific stories and news organizations in general terms, at one point describing CNN as the “Clinton News Network.”

The White House also deploys anonymity from time to time. Less than two hours before Trump criticized the use of anonymous sources and said all sources should be named, an administration official provided a briefing on condition he not be identified.

Some analysts said Trump’s constant attacks on the press are designed to undermine the public’s faith in institutions in general and the media in particular, as well as to generate doubt about negative stories regarding the administration.

Liz Mair, a Republican consultant involved in a “Never Trump” campaign last year, said attacking the media at a forum like the Conservative Political Action Conference is the easiest way for Trump to unite conservatives who might otherwise oppose him over issues like entitlement spending, free trade, and limited government.

“CPAC has been trying to normalize Trump as a ‘conservative’ for years now, but the fact is, Trump continues to have precious little in common, philosophically, with Burke, Kirk, Reagan, Goldwater or Thatcher,” Mair said.

William McRaven, the retired admiral who planned the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said this week that Trump’s attacks on the media may also be undermining democracy itself.

“The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people,” McRaven, now chancellor of the University of Texas system, said in a speech. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”

Trump first made the “enemy” claim in a tweet a week ago, and he criticized coverage of that incident during his remarks Friday at CPAC.

“In covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the ‘fake news’ the enemy of the people,” he said. “The ‘fake news.’ They dropped off the word ‘fake.’ And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy.”

In that Feb. 17 tweet, Trump said: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Trump said he is not “against the media,” and “there are some great reporters around,” but there are also “terrible, dishonest people” in the business.

“I love the First Amendment — nobody loves it better than me,” Trump said at one point. “Nobody — I mean, who use its more than I do?”

(h/t USA Today)

Media

Terror Expert Critical of Trump Advisor Was Threatened Legal Action By White House

An embattled White House terrorism advisor whose academic credentials have come under widespread fire telephoned one of his main critics at home Tuesday night and threatened legal action against him, Newsweek has learned.

Sebastian Gorka, whose views on Islam have been widely labeled extremist, called noted terrorism expert Michael S. Smith II in South Carolina and expressed dismay that Smith had been criticizing him on Twitter, according to a recording of the call provided to Newsweek.

“I was like a deer in the headlights,” Smith, a Republican who has advised congressional committees on the use of social media by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, tells Newsweek. “I thought it was a prank. He began by threatening me with a lawsuit.”

Gorka apparently used his personal cell phone, with a northern Virginia area code, rather than making the call from his White House office or government-issued cell phone, where it would be officially logged, Smith says. The terrorism expert says he suspected Gorka “was trying to conceal the call.”

Smith says he did not begin recording the call until after Gorka allegedly threatened to sue Smith. In an email to Newsweek, Smith said that, “Gorka asserted my tweets about him merited examination by the White House legal counsel. In effect, he was threatening to entangle me in a legal battle for voicing my concerns on Twitter that he does not possess expertise sufficient to assist the president of the United States with formulating and guiding national security policies.”

Gorka did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Smith has been a regular contributor to think tank and TV discussions on terrorism, particularly the use of social media by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group. Last year Foreign Policy magazine included him in its list of “100 Leading Global Thinkers.”

Smith has kept up a steady stream of jabs at Gorka since he learned that the Hungarian born, British-educated terrorism specialist had been hired by President Donald Trump’s top adviser Steve Bannon. Both Bannon and Gorka came from the far-right Breitbart News, where Bannon was editor-in-chief and Gorka was national security editor. On his Twitter page, Gorka describes himself as “deputy assistant to the 45th president of America” and an “Irregular Warfare Strategist.”

His views on the “global jihadist movement,” as he calls it, align with a small cadre of right-wing observers who depict Islamist militants and extremists as being driven principally by passages from the Koran, rather than by government repression, or sectarian, tribal, political or economic factors.

On Tuesday, Smith tweeted that Gorka “doesn’t know the enemies’ ideologies well enough to combat them.” In an earlier tweet directed at Trump, Smith wrote: “You are endangering the lives of Americans by hiring fake ‘terrorism experts.’”

Gorka earned his doctorate from a Hungarian university in 2008 and “a few months later landed a faculty job at the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), a new Pentagon-funded school that was still working toward accreditation,” The Washington Post reported. According to an online biography, he is also an associate fellow at the Joint Special Operations University, at the U.S. Special Operations Command, and holds the Major General Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University Foundation, which was funded by Thomas Saunders III, a major Republican Party donor and chairman of the conservative Heritage Foundation. The program’s current director, James Howcroft, also a retired Marine colonel, told Politico that Gorka only “periodically delivered lectures or served as a seminar leader.”

The White House advisor was clearly wounded by Smith’s taunts. “Why is this vitriol popping out of you, every day now?” Gorka asked Smith in his call. ”I look at your Twitter feed once or twice a day and it’s half a dozen tweets about me, and I’ve never even met you.”

“Wow,” Smith responded. “Are you defeating jihad by monitoring or trolling my Twitter feed?”

Gorka expressed puzzlement several times that he was being attacked “by someone who’s never met me.”

“I’ve never met you and I’ve never attacked you,” he said to Smith, his voice rising in frustration and anger. “And your Twitter feed is an incessant berating of my professional acumen. Put yourself in my shoes, Mr. Smith. Have you done that? How would you like it if someone you’ve never met, daily and professionally attacked you?”

“Happens all the time,” Smith responded. Generally speaking, academics and journalists laboring in the field of public policy expect to be criticized for their views.

“It’s not happened to me,” Gorka said, “I can tell you. Maybe you can show me some trick on how you deal with it. This is the first time ever.”

In fact, questions about Gorka’s views and credentials to speak authoritatively on Islam and terrorism were severely criticized in lengthy feature articles in The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in recent days. He also received a wave of unfavorable publicity in January 2016 when he was arrested for trying to pass through a TSA checkpoint at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. carrying a loaded handgun. He was charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to six months probation.

One of his most influential critics is Cindy Storer, a leading former CIA expert on the relationship between religious extremism and terrorism.

“He thinks the government and intelligence agencies don’t know anything about radicalization, but the government knows a lot and thinks he’s nuts,” Storer was quoted as saying in the Post.

Smith asked Gorka why he didn’t telephone Storer, “who called you nuts in the Washington Post,” to complain. Gorka responded that Storer’s remark wasn’t “in a Twitter feed that is being sent to people on Capitol Hill.”

Gorka’s scholarship has also come under scrutiny by Mia Bloom, an expert on “transcultural violence” at Georgia State University. “He doesn’t understand a fraction of what he pretends to know about Islam,” Bloom was quoted as saying by the Journal. Bloom has participated in TV appearances with Gorka and at a panel last year at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Nor has Gorka—who does not speak Arabic and has never lived in a Muslim-majority nation, according to news accounts—submitted any of his articles for review in scholarly journals, says Lawrence P. Rubin, associate editor of Terrorism and Political Violence, the leading journal in that field.

“Gorka has not submitted anything to the journal in the last five or so years, according to my records and we have never used him as a reviewer,” Rubin tells Newsweek. “We would not have used him as a reviewer because he is not considered a terrorism expert by the academic or policy community.”

A government expert on Middle East radical movements, who asked not to be named for fear of being fired, tells Newsweek she was disturbed to hear Gorka suggest at a talk he gave in Israel a few years ago that he knew of a “specific person in the [Obama White House] who was deliberately misleading the government” on terrorism issues. “He said he wouldn’t name the person on stage but would provide the particulars” privately to anyone there who wanted to know, she said. Noting the audience was full of potential adversaries, she called Gorka’s remark “‘beyond the pale.”

Several times during his call with Smith, Gorka invited him to the White House to hash out their differences “face to face, man to man,” as he put it in one exchange. They set a tentative date for March 8.

But Smith warned Gorka that “in absolute fairness to you, what you will hear is that I have very serious concerns about our national security,” and in particular Gorka’s role “as an adviser to the president of the United States.”

“If you make a devastating case, then so be it,” Gorka said.

“So be it?” Smith answered. “Then what, you’ll acknowledge you’re out of your league?”

Yeah, absolutely,” Gorka said. “Bring it on.”

Late Wednesday, Gorka withdrew his invitation.

“Given your statements for the latest attack piece and continued disparaging Tweets against not only myself but the administration and the President,” Gorka wrote Smith, “consider your invitation to meet withdrawn.”

Media

Senior Trump Appointee Fired After Critical Comments

A senior Trump administration official was fired following criticism in a private speech of President Donald Trump’s policies and his inner circle of advisers.

Craig Deare, whom Trump appointed a month ago to head the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere division, was on Friday escorted out of the Executive Office Building, where he worked in Washington.

A senior White House official confirmed that Deare is no longer working at the NSC and has returned to the position he previously held at the National Defense University. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an incident not otherwise made public, and provided no further details.

But current and former administration officials say Deare’s termination was linked to remarks he made Thursday at a private talk at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

According to one person who attended the discussion, Deare slammed the Trump administration for its policies on Latin America, specifically its rocky start to relations with Mexico. That person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private event.

Trump signed an order in the first week of his presidency to build a border wall with Mexico, jumpstarting a campaign promise. The move prompted Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel his trip to Washington in late January.

The person who attended the Wilson Center discussion also said that Deare openly expressed frustration over being cut out of most of the policy discussions about Mexico, saying that members of Trump’s inner circle, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, have not consulted with NSC directorates as the White House formulates policy.

Officials at the State Department have expressed similar sentiments regarding the president and his administration’s take on diplomacy. Last week, when the president met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, no one from the State Department had been involved in those talks. Instead, Kushner, who had little diplomatic experience, had a greater role in the meeting than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Several staffers in the State Department have also been laid off.

Deare has been on the faculty of National Defense University in Washington since 2001. He joined the university’s College of International Security Affairs in 2010 and most recently served as dean of administration.

The person who attended the Wilson Center talk also noted that Deare made several remarks about how attractive Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, appeared, remarks that person described as “awkward.” Mr. Trump has also made several remarks in the past about how attractive his eldest daughter is, once commenting on a television talk show, that “if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.”

Deare did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials with the Wilson Center also declined a request for information, saying the discussion was off the record.

Deare is the second senior NSC official to leave in under a week. On Monday, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, resigned after revelations that he discussed sanctions with a Russian diplomat before Trump was sworn in, then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of those conversations.

(h/t CBS News)

Update

Since being fired from the National Security Counsel, Deare has been reassigned back to his old position at National Defense University.

Trump Tweets: The Media is the ‘Enemy of the American People’

President Trump blasted the media as “the enemy of the American people” in a tweet Friday, calling out several outlets specifically.

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” he wrote.

He had posted and then quickly deleted a slightly different version of the tweet just a few minutes earlier, which omitted ABC and CBS. He also included the word “SICK!” at the end of the original post.

The tweet came one day after Trump held an adversarial and lengthy news conference, in which he berated the media as “very fake news” and dismissed news reports about his and his associates’ ties to Russia as a “ruse.”

About an hour later, he posted a second tweet criticizing the media’s coverage of the press conference.

“‘One of the most effective press conferences I’ve ever seen!’ says Rush Limbaugh. Many agree.Yet FAKE MEDIA calls it differently! Dishonest,” Trump wrote.

Trump has long had an antagonistic relationship with the press, and often labels news stories he sees as unfavorable as “fake news.” Trump’s campaign issued a survey to supporters on Friday, asking them to gauge the trustworthiness of the media.

The news outlets singled out in Trump’s Friday afternoon tweet are not new targets for the president. He has often lambasted CNN and The New York Times, referring to them as “failing” and out of touch with voters.

In a rare interview with The New York Times last month, Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, the former chair of the far-right Breitbart News, called reporters the “opposition party” and said “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

“They don’t understand this country,” Bannon said. “They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Trump echoed Bannon’s comments shortly after, telling “The Brody File” that “the media is the opposition party in many ways.”

(h/t The Hill)

 

 

 

Trump Quotes Critical Blog to Attack 9th Circuit Judges Over His Muslim Ban

President Trump on Friday morning ripped into an appeals court’s decision to uphold a temporary restraining order on his immigration executive order, calling it “disgraceful.”

Citing a legal blog called Lawfare, Trump tweeted: “LAWFARE: ‘Remarkably, in the entire opinion, the panel did not bother even to cite this (the) statute.’ A disgraceful decision!”

The blog post on Lawfare that Trump quoted, while critical of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reasoning, said the court made the right decision in the end.

“The Ninth Circuit is correct to leave the [temporary restraining order] in place, in my view, for the simple reason that there is no cause to plunge the country into turmoil again while the courts address the merits of these matters over the next few weeks,” the post says.

It adds that the judicial system will eventually have to confront the clash between the president’s powers and “the incompetent malevolence with which this order was promulgated.”

Trump’s tweet came moments after MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” quoted the exact same passage from Lawfare’s blog post on TV.

Benjamin Wittes, the blog post’s author, reacted in Twitter, writing: “You decide whether the POTUS is quoting me in context. Here’s the article. For the record, I support the decision.”

The court ruled Thursday that a nationwide restraining order against Trump’s temporary travel ban may continue while a federal judge considers a lawsuit over the policy.

“We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay,” the court said.

The three-judge panel hearing the case included Judges William C. Canby Jr., a Jimmy Carter appointee; Richard R. Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee; and Michelle T. Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee.

The decision is narrowly focused on the question of whether the ban should be blocked while the courts consider its lawfulness — but the three-judge panel nevertheless issued a scathing takedown of almost all of the government’s arguments.

Trump immediately fired back on the ruling, tweeting: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

 

 

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