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.

The US Department of Justice is Literally Prosecuting a Woman for Laughing at Jeff Sessions

It is hard to believe this is happening, but it’s real: The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at now–Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year.

According to Ryan Reilly at HuffPost, Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz was arrested in January after she laughed at a claim from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that Sessions’s history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”

Sessions, in fact, has a long history of opposing the equal treatment of all Americans under the law. He has repeatedly criticized the historic Voting Rights Act. He voted against hate crime legislation that protected LGBTQ people, arguing, “Today, I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.” And his nomination for a position as a federal judge was rejected in the 1980s after he was accused of making racist remarks, including a supposed joke that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.”

Given this history, Fairooz laughed at Shelby’s claim.

But federal prosecutors have pushed forward with the case against Fairooz. As Reilly reported, prosecutors argue that “the laugh amounted to willful ‘disorderly and disruptive conduct’ intended to ‘impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct’ of congressional proceedings.” In court, they have tried to emphasize that the laugh was extraordinarily disruptive, with a US Capitol Police officer claiming that Fairooz laughed “very loudly” and people in the hearings turned around when they heard it.

Fairooz’s defense, meanwhile, has argued that her laughter was a reflex and not meant to disrupt the hearings. Fairooz was also in the back of the room, and her laughter had no noticeable impact, based on video of the hearings, on Shelby’s introductory speech for Sessions.

The trial will continue at the Superior Court in DC this week. If convicted, Fairooz faces a fine up to $500 and up to six months’ imprisonment for the laugh-related charge. She is also charged with another misdemeanor for “allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room,” Reilly reported.

Fairooz has a history of disruptive protests. During protests over the Iraq War, she put fake blood on her hands and confronted then–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

This time, however, Fairooz claims she was not trying to be disruptive — but merely laughing.

These details are all salient for the legal case, but it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture here: The federal government is literally prosecuting someone for laughing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Justice Department — which Sessions now leads as attorney general — is doing the prosecuting when the laughter was directed at its leader. At the very least, it’s not a good look for the top law enforcement agency in the country.

(h/t Vox)

Trump Throws a Fit After ‘Fake News Station’ CNN Refuses to Air His 100-Day Campaign Ad

President Donald Trump’s campaign apparatus on Tuesday lashed out at CNN for allegedly refusing to air a commercial touting accomplishments made in the president’s first 100 days.

The 30-second ad, which began airing on Monday, praises Trump for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and for proposing the “biggest tax cut plan in history.” It also blasts the media, flashing the words “FAKE NEWS” over the faces of anchors, reporters and broadcasters.

A memo from the Trump-Pence campaign announced on Tuesday that CNN had refused to air the commercial.

“FAKE NEWS STATION REFUSES TO RUN AD HIGHLIGHTING THE PRESIDENT’S FIRST 100 DAYS,” the document’s headline shouted.

“It’s absolutely shameful to see the media blocking the positive message that President Trump is trying to share with the country,” an anonymous quote in the memo complained. “It’s clear that CNN is trying to silence our voice and censor our free speech because it doesn’t fit their narrative.”

There was no immediate confirmation from CNN to back up Trump’s claim, but a CNN fact check of the ad noted that “the bulk of Trump’s accomplishments have been made through executive action or memorandum, something Republicans decried former President Barack Obama for doing during his second term.”

“Americans also are far from convinced that Trump’s first 100 days have been a success,” CNN said. “A CNN/ORC poll found that the President reached the milestone with the lowest approval rating of any newly-elected president at this stage amid sharp partisan divides and a failure to capitalize on post-election strengths.”

Update: According to Politico’s Hadas Gold, CNN is refusing to air the spot until the Trump campaign removes the words “fake news” from the faces of network anchors.

“CNN requested that the advertiser remove the false graphic that the mainstream media is ‘fake news’,” a statement from the network said. “The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false and per policy will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.”

(h/t Raw Story)

Media

 

Trump: The US Government Needs a Good ‘Shutdown’ If Senate Rules Don’t Change

President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to call for a government shutdown later this year in response to a bipartisan spending deal that looks set to pass Congress this week.

In tweets, the president contended that the agreement — which funds the government through Sept. 30 — shows that Republicans must get more senators elected or change the Senate’s rules so they can push spending through with only a majority vote, rather than 60. He then wrote that the country “needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September” to fix a “mess.”

The tweets came after Congress reached a compromise to keep the government open that they appear set to pass with Trump’s signature this week. The deal did not include funding for a wall on the Southern border, which Trump initially called for, and includes less money for border security and defense than Trump sought, according to NBC News.

Republicans need Democratic votes to pass the spending bill even though they control both chambers of Congress.

Trump later Tuesday cast the “hotly-contested” budget as a win for the White House, highlighting a military funding increase without a corresponding rise in non-defense spending and a boost in funding for border security.

Just last week, Trump blamed Democrats for what he called a desire to shut down the government, a charge that Democratic leaders denied. He called the possibility of national parks getting closed “terrible.”

Since he took office in January, Trump has faced hurdles in pushing his broad agenda, most notably replacing the Affordable Care Act, as he hits the realities of the government’s legislative branch. In a Fox News interview Friday, he called congressional rules “archaic.”

Earlier this year, Senate Republicans voted to end the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, allowing them to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch with only a majority voter. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that most senators do not want to kill the 60-vote threshold needed to stop filibusters on most legislation.

“There is an overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis that is not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to Trump’s tweets at a news conference, saying that “bipartisanship is best summed up by the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want.” Trump played the band’s song to close many campaign rallies.

At a news conference Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress has a “long ways to go” before September but added that he shares Trump’s “frustration” with the appropriations process. However, he highlighted what he considered good provisions for Republicans in the bill, including defense and border security spending increases.

“I feel good about the wins we got with the administration in this bill,” Ryan said.

It is unclear if Trump truly wants a shutdown, as he has often taken extreme positions on issues before backing off.

(h/t CNBC)

Reality

What is truly ironic is Trump falsely blamed the Democrats just four days prior of wanting to shut down the government over the budget.

Trump: I Would Be Honored to Meet Kim Jong-Un

US President Donald Trump has said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in the right circumstances.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would – absolutely. I would be honoured to do it,” he told news organisation Bloomberg on Monday.

The previous day he described Mr Kim as a “pretty smart cookie”.

The comments come amid escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme.

The White House issued a statement following Mr Trump’s remarks, saying North Korea would need to meet many conditions before any meeting between the two leaders could take place.

Spokesman Sean Spicer said Washington wanted to see the North end its provocative behaviour immediately.

“Clearly conditions are not there right now,” he added.

In Sunday’s interview with CBS, President Trump noted Mr Kim had assumed power at a young age, despite dealing with “some very tough people”.

He said he had “no idea” whether Mr Kim was sane.

The North Korean leader had his uncle executed two years after he came to power, and is suspected of ordering the recent killing of his half-brother.

President Trump, asked what he made of the North Korean leader, told CBS: “People are saying: ‘Is he sane?’ I have no idea… but he was a young man of 26 or 27… when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others.

“And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”

On Saturday North Korea conducted its second failed ballistic missile test in two weeks.

(h/t BBC News)

Donald Trump Blames Constitution for Chaos of His First 100 Days

On his 100th day in office on Saturday, facing historically low popularity ratings, a succession of intractable foreign crises and multiple investigations of his links with Moscow, Donald Trump reminded the nation that 1 May was Loyalty Day.

The day is a US tradition dating back to the cold war, when it was a bolster to stop May Day becoming a rallying point for socialists and unionised workers, but for an embattled president learning politics on the job it has an added resonance.

In an interview with Fox News to mark the 100-day mark, he declared himself “disappointed” with congressional Republicans, despite his many “great relationships” with them.

He blamed the constitutional checks and balances built in to US governance. “It’s a very rough system,” he said. “It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country.”

The Loyalty Day announcement came amid a flurry of other proclamations to mark the milestone at which the early stages of American presidencies are traditionally measured. The coming seven days were named both National Charter Schools Week and Small Business Week. May has been burdened with being simultaneously: National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Older Americans Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, National Foster Care Month, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Such announcements help a president look busy, especially at such heavily scrutinised milestones as the 100-day mark, and particularly for an inexperienced politician rapidly learning the limits of presidential power, even with a solid Republican majority in Congress.

He has failed to get any of his priorities turned into legislation in the face of party disunity, and his attempt to rule by executive order has been largely hollow. His decrees have been either meaningless, like his one-page, detail-free tax reform plan, or have been blocked by the courts, such as his travel ban for Muslim countries and refugees.

Trump’s approval ratings have remained mired at historic lows for a presidency in what is supposed to be a honeymoon period, hovering around – and frequently below – the 40% mark, well below his recent predecessors at this stage in their presidencies.

But his core supporters have remained faithful, choosing to believe that the mainstream media are purveyors of fake news, rather than accept that the Trump presidency has not been the unrivalled success the president has claimed. They have also accommodated Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin. The percentage of Republicans who see Russia as an unfriendly state has fallen from 82% in 2014 to 41% now, according to a CNN/ORC poll.

On his 100th day, Trump turned to this loyal base to sound off on the issue that bonds them most tightly – economic nationalism. On an otherwise leisurely Saturday, during which his only other engagement was a call with the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, the president was due to attend an evening rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where disenchanted workers defected from the Democrats in droves in the 2016 election. While visiting the town, he was also due to sign an executive order to establish an office of trade and manufacturing policy, which will help push his drive for import substitution.

In his weekly presidential address, he also focused on jobs, pointing to evidence of an economic revival that has been previously contested as a result of corporate decisions made before Trump came to office. He claimed that car companies were “roaring back in”, an apparent reference to General Motors’ plans and Ford’s decision to expand in Michigan, which both appeared to be part of their long-term strategy.

Trump also claimed that his approval of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada would create tens of thousands of jobs. That will be true in the short term, during the construction phase, but after that keeping the pipeline going is expected to employ 35 people on a permanent basis.

The gap between the extreme bravado of Trump’s claims and the daily realities of governing has deepened public cynicism. In a new Gallup poll, just 36% declared him honest and trustworthy, down from 42% in early February. His general approval rating stood at 40%.

There is strong evidence, however, that the fact-checking of presidential claims is having a small and dwindling impact on true Trump loyalists. His support remains strong in traditional blue collar areas and evangelical strongholds, where there is more trust in the president than the mainstream media. The president has relentlessly assaulted the media, launching an attack per day on average since he took office, denouncing negative news as fake news, and there are signs the relentless offensive has inflicted wounds. One poll released on Friday found that more people trusted the White House than political journalists.

Against that background there were reports yesterday that Steve Bannon, the champion of economic and ethnic nationalism, was making a political comeback in the White House, and that he remained a bulwark of Trump’s strategy to secure his core support and win again in 2020.

His hand has been seen behind the rapid-burst issue of protectionist moves in the run up to the 100th day, picking fights with Canada over milk and softwood imports, and measures to shield the aluminium industry from foreign competition.

“All of these people who say the president doesn’t have an ideology, they’re wrong,” one unnamed Bannon ally told political news site The Hill. “He does have an ideology, and it’s Bannon’s ideology. They are just now figuring out how to implement it.”

Bannon was also said to have drafted an executive order withdrawing the US from the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta), but on Thursday Trump decided simply to issue a call for its renegotiation reportedly after having been shown a map showing it would cost the most jobs in states that had supported him in the election. The battle between countervailing factions in the Trump White House continues to ebb and flow, but the president’s reflexes in times of adversity lead him to fall back on the “America First” narrative that got him elected in the first place.

(h/t The Guardian)

Media

White House Official Says ‘We’ve Looked At’ Changes to Libel Laws That Would Restrict Press Freedom

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the Trump administration has “looked at” changes to libel laws that would curtail press freedoms, but said “whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”

President Trump frequently slams the press for its coverage of him and in March suggested changing libel laws.

Libel is when defamatory statements about someone are published. But the American press enjoys some protection from lawsuits claiming libel because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights.

When Priebus was asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl if the president would really want to pursue a change in libel laws, the White House chief of staff said it’s been considered.

“I think it’s something that we’ve looked at,” Priebus told Karl in an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday. “How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”

Priebus said the media needs “to be more responsible with how they report the news.”

He also addressed another First Amendment issue on flag burning. Priebus hinted that the Trump administration may look at punishing flag burners, as Trump suggested in a tweet during the transition.

(h/t ABC News)

Reality

Trump is Being Sued for Saying ‘Get ’Em Out of Here’ at a Rally. He Just Did it Again.

“Get them out of here.”

Those five words have already led to a lawsuit against President Donald Trump. But Trump continued to use them Saturday night at a rally celebrating his first 100 days in office.

According to CNN, Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah and Henry Brousseau attended a Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky in March 2016 to protest. When they did so, however, Trump took notice and said from the podium, “Get them out of here.”

The protesters then say they were pushed out of the venue as Trump supporters yelled at them, per the Washington Post. In a suit filed this year, the three are accusing several supporters of assault and battery and Trump himself of incitement to riot, negligence, gross negligence and recklessness. They say Trump should have known that his words would have sparked violence.

That case is still making its way through the legal system, but on April 1, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that it was plausible that Trump’s words has incited violence and ruled that the lawsuit could proceed, a defeat for Trump’s legal team, per the Louisville Courier-Journal.

On Saturday, however, Trump was hosting another rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when another protest seemed to break out. Trump stopped his speech to say, “That’s right, get him out of here. Get him out.” The crowd then began to chant, “USA!” as Trump watched. Trump resumed by saying “Thank you” and then praising law enforcement.

Another social media post showed multiple law enforcement officials restraining a protester on the ground. A key argument of Trump’s legal team in the current lawsuit is that his comments were clearly directed at law enforcement officials, not supporters, but Hale rejected that claim.

Two of the original protesters who are being sued for the events of the Louisville rally have since filed claims saying they took Trump’s words as a directive towards them to remove the protesters. Because of this, the two supporters say, Trump should be held liable for their actions, not them, according to the Associated Press.

(h/t McClatchy)
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