Tape Shows Trump Contradicting Himself (Again) on Putin Meeting

President-elect Donald Trump told a radio interviewer in October 2015 that he had met Vladimir Putin “one time … a long time ago” and that he “got along with him great” — a statement that conflicts with his later denials during the campaign that he had ever met or spoken with the Russian president.

The newly surfaced audiotape, uncovered by a political opposition-research group, could fuel new questions about the precise nature of Trump’s past relations with the Russian president — a subject about which he has made multiple contradictory comments. It was released just hours after Putin, speaking from Moscow, denounced officials in the Obama administration as “worse than prostitutes” for circulating “nonsense” personal allegations about Trump that were allegedly collected by Russian intelligence.

On the newly uncovered audiotape, released by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, Trump discusses Putin with conservative radio host Michael Savage, telling him “it’s wonderful” that the Russians were “really hitting ISIS hard” in Syria.

“Have you ever met Vladimir Putin?” Savage asks.

“Yes,” Trump answers, emphatically.

“You have?” Savage follows up.

“Yes, a long time ago. We got along great, by the way.”

Savage then asked, “If you win the presidency, do you feel you can do business with Vladimir?”

“Yes, I do. I think I would get along very well. I had the Miss Universe pageant, believe it or not, in Moscow two years ago. I got many of the Russian leaders, the top people in Russia, honestly. … These are people, they are looking to do things.”

Trump’s responses to Savage add to the confusing, flatly contradictory comments the president-elect has made about his past dealings with the Russian president. While in Moscow during the Miss Universe content, Trump gave an interview to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts — who was co-hosting the event — in which, when asked whether he had a “relationship” with Putin, he replied: “I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.” He later said in a National Press Club speech in November 2015 that while in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest: “I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”

But later, when repeatedly pressed last July 31 by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Trump gave a very different answer about Putin. “I’ve never met him,” Trump said then. “I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. … I mean if he’s in the same room or something. But I don’t think so.”

“You’ve never spoken to him on the phone?” Stephanopoulos followed up.

“I have never spoken to him on the phone, no,” Trump replied. “Well, I don’t know what it means by having a relationship. I mean, he was saying very good things about me, but I don’t have a relationship with him. I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t go hiking with him. I don’t know — and I wouldn’t know him from Adam, except I see his picture and I would know what he looks like.”

During the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump sought to clarify comments he made about Putin during a November 2015 debate on the Fox Business channel. In the debate, when discussing Putin and the Ukraine crisis, Trump said, “I got to know him [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”

In the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump explained what he meant. “We did ’60 Minutes’ together,” Trump said. “By the way, not together-together, meaning he was probably shot in Moscow. … And I was shot in New York.”

Trump’s comments prompted Politifact, the fact-checking website, to give Trump a “full flop” last August for his comments about Putin. The surfacing of the Savage audio seemingly adds to the confusion. Its discovery comes just a few days after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it will be conducting a full-scale investigation — including the use of subpoenas — into the Russian hacking of the election, including “any intelligence” about “links” between the Russian government and any political campaigns in the United States.

A spokesman for the Trump transition did not respond to a request for comment.

(h/t Yahoo News)

Trump Still Questions Intelligence on Russia Hacking After Briefing

President-elect Donald Trump said he had a “constructive” meeting with intelligence officials on Friday, but still had questions about assertions that Russia hacked Democrats during last year’s election in order to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Claiming that Russia, China and other countries and organizations are always launching cyber-attacks against the United States — “including the Democratic National Committee” — Trump said in a written statement that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

He added: “There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.”

The intelligence community outlined its findings in a declassified report issued a few hours after the Trump briefing.

Among them: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

A statement from the office of the Director of National Intelligence said that investigators “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election, and DHS assesses that the types of systems the Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

While criticizing aspects of the Russia investigation just hours before a special briefing, Trump said in his statement, “I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this (intelligence) community to our great nation.”

Saying all Americans need to “aggressively combat and stop cyber-attacks,” Trump said that as president he would appoint a team to develop a new defense plan.

“The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” the president-elect added. “Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”

Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, said on Twitter: “Why. Can’t. He. Just. Say. He. Accepts. The. Conclusion. Of. The. Intel. Agencies? It is seriously weird he won’t just admit Russia did it.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who also attended the briefing, called it “a constructive and respectful dialogue.” He said Trump has pledged “aggressive action in the early days of our new administration to combat cyber attacks and protect the security of the American people from this type of intrusion in the future.”

Before the meeting, Trump continued to attack what he called an over-emphasis on claims that the Russians hacked Democratic Party officials in an election operation authorized by Putin.

“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” Trump told The New York Times. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”

Before his high-profile briefing at Trump Tower, the president-elect also announced he has asked Congress to investigate what he believes to be the leak of a secret intelligence report on the Russians to the news media. He tweeted: “I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.”

The president-elect had a nearly two-hour briefing that included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey, all of whom have cited evidence pointing to a Russian plan to hack Democrats backing Clinton, perhaps in an effort to aid Trump.

Trump and aides have questioned the government’s position that the Russians engineered the hacking in order to undermine Clinton, a conclusion officials reaffirmed during a Senate hearing Thursday.

Changing rhetoric

In recent days, the president-elect has also softened his rhetoric about the intelligence agencies.

“The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!” Trump said during a Thursday tweet storm.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House did not leak the report that Trump cited — and said he found it ironic that the president-elect was complaining about the disclosure. Just days ago, Earnest noted, Trump tweeted his approval of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has published classified information in addition to the Democratic emails that surfaced during the election.

Trump’s situational disapproval of leaks, Earnest said, “leads me to believe that his concerns are something other than protecting classified information.”

Lawmakers have criticized Trump for seeming to defend the Russians.

“I think it’s dangerous,” Vice President Biden told PBS NewsHour. “For a President not to have confidence in, not to be prepared to listen to the myriad of intelligence agencies from defense intelligence, to the CIA, et cetera, is absolutely mindless. It’s just mindless.”

DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile, meanwhile, pointed out that, “for the first time ever,” Trump “is not disputing the fact that Russia was behind the targeted attack on the DNC and the Clinton campaign.”

(h/t USA Today)

Reality

In a written statement Trump said that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” however Trump is lying. The report never waded into the territory of if there was an effect, just that the Putin-ordered hack and ensuing propaganda from Russia existed.

Trump Praises Putin Over US Sanctions From Election Interference

After the Obama administration’s tough new sanctions against Russia put the president-elect in a vulnerable political position at home, in his own party and abroad, Donald Trump chose to respond in familiar fashion – with praise for Vladimir Putin.

The president-elect has repeatedly spoken approvingly of Putin and called for closer relations with Russia. On Friday, he used Twitter to applaud Putin’s restrained response to the expulsion by the US of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds.

The tweet, like many from Trump that seem calculated to shock and offend, caused a predictable media furore. However, it probably will have done nothing to alleviate the difficult political position in which Trump now finds himself.

The president-elect has been consistently skeptical about the US intelligence consensus that Russia ordered cyber-attacks on Democratic party targets as a way to influence the 2016 election in his favor – the reason for Obama’s new sanctions. At one point, he suggested the culprit might have been China, another state or even a 400lb man in his bedroom.

On taking office in January, Trump might therefore be expected to simply end the Obama sanctions. And as president, he could do so; presidential orders can simply be repealed by the executive branch.

But the situation is not that simple. If Trump did choose to remove the sanctions, he would find himself at odds with his own party. Senior Republicans in Congress responded to the Obama sanctions by identifying Russia as a major geopolitical foe and criticizing the new measures only as a case of too little too late. Some promised a push for further measures in Congress.

Trump may therefore choose not to reverse the new sanctions. If so, he will find himself at odds with the man he so constantly praises.

On Friday, the Kremlin responded to the moves, including the expulsion of 35 suspected intelligence operatives and the closing of two Russian facilities in the US, with a shrug. Putin, it seems, is willing simply to wait until Trump moves into the Oval Office. Trump’s tweet suggested he is too.

But such provocative words could not distract the media and public from another domestic concern for Trump – the growing perception that his predecessor has acted to his disadvantage.

“The sanctions were clearly an attempt by the Obama administration to throw a wrench into – or [to] box in – the next administration’s relationship with Russia,” said Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Putin, in part, saw through that and sidestepped it by playing good cop to [Russian foreign minister Sergey] Lavrov and the [state] Duma, who were calling for a reciprocal response.”

Trump will also face pressure from intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Moscow ordered the election cyber-attacks.

“There is now a public record of what Russia did and why they did it,” said Zachary Goldman, executive director of New York University Law School’s Center on Law and Security, referring to a joint Department of Homeland Security and FBI report issued on Thursday.

“Even if the sanctions can be unwound, you can’t make that public statement go away.”

Goldman also noted an international element to the situation facing Trump. It is important to note, he said, that the new executive order enables Obama and his successors to take retaliatory action against efforts to influence elections held by “allies and partners”. Germany and France will hold elections in 2017.

On a call with reporters on Thursday, a senior White House official said the US had “every indication” that Russia would continue to pursue such cyber-attacks.

‘All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions’
On the same call, officials expressed confidence that the political risk of appearing to cave in to Moscow would prevent any future administration from unwinding the sanctions.

“If a future president decided that he wanted to allow in a large tranche of Russian intelligence agents, presumably a future president could invite that action,” a senior official said.

“We think it would be inadvisable. As my colleague just said, these diplomatic compounds were being used for intelligence purposes. That is a direct challenge to US national security, and I don’t think it would make much sense to reopen Russian intelligence compounds.”

 

Trump Sides With Putin to Insult Americans

President-elect Donald Trump late Friday publicly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for attacking Trump’s former Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In a striking statement that seems to further align Trump with Putin, the incoming U.S. president tweeted that he agreed with the Russian leader’s assessment that Clinton and the Democratic Party generally have not shown “dignity” following widespread losses in the November election.

“So true!” Trump tweeted of Putin’s comments, apparently referencing statements the Russian made at his year-end news conference.

Trump’s expressed admiration of Putin came only hours after he released to the media a warm letter the Russian sent him. The Friday night tweet sparked cries of alarm from former U.S. officials and other Trump critics on social media.

In Putin’s letter, dated Dec. 15, the Russian leader wrote that he hopes he and Trump can act “in a constructive and pragmatic manner” following the Jan. 20 inauguration. Trump was pleased with the correspondence, saying in a statement Friday, “A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct.”

Trump has long spoken admiringly of Putin and what he considers the Russian president’s strong leadership qualities. Some of Trump’s incoming advisers have past connections to Putin and the Russian government, including Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the White House national security adviser designee.

Trump has so far rejected the conclusions of the CIA, FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the 2016 campaign in part to help Trump secure the White House. The agencies believe Russia is responsible for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails as well as the private emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Evan McMullin, a Republican former CIA operative who ran unsuccessfully against Trump as an independent candidate, called Friday night for Republican leaders to condemn Trump’s “alliance” with Putin.

(h/t Washington Post)

 

Donald Trump ‘supports policy’ that has killed 4,500 people in the Philippines in five months

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to “kill all” the country’s suspected drug users and dealers has many foreign critics, including the United States, the European Parliament and the International Criminal Court. It now has at least one high-profile supporter: President-elect Donald Trump, at least according to Duterte.

In a statement on Saturday, Duterte shared details of a seven-minute conversation that took place on Friday. He said that during the call, Trump endorsed his campaign against drug users and dealers — a campaign that has left at least 4,500 Filipinos dead in about five months. Trump told Duterte that he was doing it the “right way,” according to Duterte’s account.

“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump,” he added. “And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.”

The comments, which have not been confirmed by Trump’s team, could signal another significant twist in U.S.-Philippine ties.

The Philippines is a former U.S. colony that has been a close U.S. partner for decades. Since sweeping to power last spring, Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at his longtime ally, threatening to ditch the United States for China and Russia.

In September, when President Obama raised questions about the bloody anti-drug crusade, Duterte lectured him on colonialism, referring to him with a slang term that translates, roughly, as “son of a whore.”

In the weeks that followed, he made several surprise announcements on U.S.-Philippine military ties, calling for the ouster of U.S. Special Operations forces from the southern island of Mindanao and the end of joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises — only to backtrack repeatedly.

But Trump’s triumph in the US presidential race saw Duterte switch direction again. Weeks after railing against “uncivilized” Americans, Duterte greeted the U.S. president-elect with an enthusiastic “long live” Trump. Duterte also mused that they might get along — because they both like to swear.

For the Philippine president, an expression of support from Trump could help reset ties with the United States. But endorsing Duterte’s crackdown may put Trump at odds with allies such as the European Union, whose parliament issued a resolution urging the Philippines to halt “extrajudicial executions and killings” in connection with the drug war.

(h/t Independent)

Reality

Duterte, also an authoritarian, threatens political rivals and other enemies with baseless claims that they too are drug dealers in order to intimidate into submission or move them aside, even having one political rival murdered under police custody.

Faked Conspiracy Travels From Russian Propaganda to Donald Trump’s Mouth

At an October 10 campaign rally, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed Clinton family friend and adviser Sidney Blumenthal told Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, that “one important point has been universally acknowledged by nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable.” Trump alleged Blumenthal said that “if the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate”:

However, Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald found the alleged Blumenthal comments “really, really familiar.” Eichenwald found the comments “so familiar” because, in fact, “they were something I wrote.”

In an October 10 article, Eichenwald revealed that Sputnik, a news organization “established by the [Russian] government controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya,” discovered in a WikiLeaks dump of Podesta’s hacked emails “a purportedly incriminating email from Blumenthal” calling the Benghazi attacks a “legitimate” talking point against Clinton.

In reality, Sputnik’s declared “‘October surprise’” quoted “two sentences from a 10,000 word piece” Eichenwald wrote for Newsweek “which apparently Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta.” Contrary to the lies from Sputnik and Trump, Eichenwald’s article is not about how the Benghazi attacks are Hillary Clinton’s fault, but rather “the obscene politicization of the assault that killed four Americans” and “the Republican Benghazi committee which was engaged in a political show trial disguised as a Congressional investigation.”

Even though “once they realized their error, Sputnik took the article down,” Trump continued to use Russian state media’s lie as a weapon against his political opponent. This fits Trump and his campaign’s pattern of questionable relations with Russia, including calls for the Kremlin to commit a cyberattack against Hillary Clinton.

Reality

So how did Donald Trump end up advancing the same falsehood put out by Putin’s mouthpiece?

On the internet a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on, and this incorrect story was clearly shared enough in the areas of the internet where conspiracy theories and pro-Russian views thrive. Trump must have seen this story on Sputnik or shared on a site that uses Russian propaganda as a source.

If the dark areas of the internet where conspiracy theories are incubated is where Trump and his campaign go looking for information then this should be a major concern.

Media

Trump Defends Putin and Blasts US Media on Putin Propaganda TV Network

Donald Trump gave an interview Thursday that aired on a television station funded by the Kremlin, arguing that the Russian government was “probably” not meddling in the American presidential race.

Speaking to Larry King on RT America, which is an arm of government-funded news outlet Russia Today, Trump said it would “not be appropriate” if Russian forces were looking to influence the race, which is suspected by some investigators and has been fanned by Hillary Clinton’s campaign as recently as Thursday morning.

He also suggested that the allegation was politically motivated.

“I think it’s probably unlikely. Maybe the Democrats are putting that out — who knows,” Trump told King. “If they are doing something, I hope that somebody’s going to be able to find out so they can end it. Because that would not be appropriate at all.”

Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, told CNN the interview was recorded as a podcast and was a favor to King, adding, “Mr. Trump was never told it would be shared anywhere else.” Miller later said Trump wouldn’t have agreed to do the interview had he known it would be aired on RT.

The interview was striking given that Trump spent Thursday on the defensive over some of his laudatory comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Clinton attacked Trump for praising Putin on Wednesday evening at the “Commander in Chief Forum” as a stronger leader than President Barack Obama, and her campaign has for weeks pointed out the alleged ties between Trump’s associates and Russian interests.

Yet the Republican nominee’s operation on Thursday indicated no discomfort with the mounting criticism, with Trump running mate Mike Pence echoing the distinction made between Putin and Obama. And the appearance on Russian television suggested no hesitation from Trump to dive into the controversy.

Putin has called the hack of Democratic officials’ email accounts a “public service” but has denied Russian involvement. Asked by King if he agreed with Putin’s assessment, Trump declined to pass judgment.

“I don’t know who hacked. You tell me: Who hacked?” Trump said, claiming he had not heard Putin’s statement. “I have absolutely no opinion on that.”

Asked during the RT America interview what has surprised him most about the political process, Trump unloaded on the American press.

“Well, I think the dishonesty of the media. The media has been unbelievably dishonest,” Trump responded. “I mean they’ll take a statement that you make which is perfect and they’ll cut it up and chop it up and shorten it or lengthen it or do something with it.”

“And all of a sudden it doesn’t look as good as it did when you actually said it. But there’s tremendous dishonesty with the media. Not all of it, obviously, but tremendous dishonesty,” he said.

Trump also weighed in on domestic politics, declining to criticize Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson for a gaffe he made earlier on Thursday and saying unequivocally that Johnson should not be in the general election debate later this month. Johnson would need to earn 15% support in polls to make the stage, an effort seemingly hampered when he failed to identify the war-torn city of Aleppo, Syria, in a live television interview.

“He’s not too much of a factor,” Trump said. “I’d rather it be Hillary and myself, because we’re the only two with a chance of winning.”

Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, defended Trump’s appearance to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” on Friday, saying that Trump wasn’t criticizing the US to say the Iraq War was a failure.

“If you think that Donald Trump is the only person in this country that thinks we’ve had a feckless, anemic foreign policy in the last eight years, then that’s just not true,” Conway said.

She also clarified Trump’s comments on Putin the day before, in which Trump called Putin a stronger leader than Obama in his country.

“In the full clip he said, ‘That’s not the system I agree with, but he’s a strong leader there,'” Conway said. “I mean, nobody wants to play the full clip.”

King’s show, PoliticKing, is produced by Ora TV, which was founded by King and Mexican media magnate Carlos Slim in 2012. In June 2015, Ora announced it was dropping plans to work on a television project with Trump following his controversial remarks about undocumented Mexican immigrants.

(h/t CNN, Washington Post)

Reality

As Mediate points out, Trump likely didn’t think too much beyond just doing an interview with his longtime friend Larry King. And the Trump campaign spokeswoman said that they thought Larry King interview was going to be on King’s podcast, not Russia Today.

What would be worse, though? A U.S. presidential candidate agreeing to do an interview on Russia Today, or doing one by accident?

Media

Trump Praises Putin Again, ‘A Leader Far More Than Our President’

Donald Trump defended his admiration for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a forum on Wednesday focused on national security issues, even suggesting that Putin is more worthy of his praise than President Obama.

“Certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader,” Trump said. “We have a divided country.”

The Republican presidential nominee said that an alliance with Russia would help defeat the Islamic State, and when asked to defend some of Putin’s aggressions on the world stage, he asked, “Do you want me to start naming some of the things Obama does at the same time?”

Trump also said he appreciated some of the kind words Putin has had for him. “Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I think I’ll take the compliment, okay?”

(h/t Washington Post)

Reality

Donald Trump has engaged in an unsettling bromance with the Russian president, once saying Putin was was world leader he would “get along very well with,” and has since made a lot of pro-Russian stances.

  • Heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin saying, “I will tell you, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well. They did not look good together.”
  • Questioned the need for NATO, which was set up as a check against Russian aggression in Europe, calling it “obsolete.”
  • Declared he would not come to the aide of NATO allies when attacked by Russia if they do not pay.
  • Fought like mad during the Republican National Convention to change the GOP platform to no longer provide arms to Ukraine in their conflict with Russia.
  • Told a conference in Ukraine that their nation was invaded because “there is no respect for America.”
  • Invited Russian hackers to attack his political rival in order to influence the American election.
  • Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, left over revelations that he possibly received millions of dollars in illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russian ruling party.
  • Incorrectly stated that Russia would never go into Ukraine, when they have been intervening there for the past 3 years.

But in the larger context, make no mistake, Republicans love Russian President Vladimir Putin. No surprises here because in the past, conservatives have heaped massive praise on Putin. Here are just a few examples.

Never-mind that Putin is a human-rights-abusing, political-enemy-killing, tyrant. Putin became the strong authoritarian model they have long desired in a president after 2 terms of “weak” Obama.

Media

MSNBC

Trump Invites Russian Hackers To Influence the American Election

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday invited Russian hackers to find and publish Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing,” Trump said at a press conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be nice.”

The remarks came after Clinton’s camp said this week that Russian hackers were likely responsible for breaching the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year and leaking emails of top officials to WikiLeaks for publication.

The hack, which showed top staffers considering leaking negative information about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, led to chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announcing her resignation.

“Russia has no respect for our country,” Trump said at the press conference. “And that’s why, if it is Russia, nobody even knows it’s Russia, it was probably China. … It shows how weak we are. It shows how disrespected we are.”

Trump also slammed the DNC for what was seen as conspiring against Sanders to ensure that Clinton won the Democratic nomination.

“I’m not gonna tell Putin what to do. Why should I tell Putin what to do?” Trump said. “It’s not even about Russia or China or whoever it is that’s doing the hacking. It’s about the things they said in those emails. They were terrible things.”

He also accused Clinton of being in on the conspiracy.

“Believe me, as sure as you’re sitting there, Hillary Clinton knew about it,” Trump said. “She knew everything. Debbie Wasserman Schultz could not breathe without speaking and getting approval from Hillary Clinton.”

Trump doubled down on his Russian hacker comments in a tweet after the press conference, but revised his language to say that if Russia already has emails, they should hand them over:

But his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, released a statement after the press conference that discouraged Russian involvement in a US election.

“The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking,” Pence said in the statement. “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement after the press conference pushing back on Trump’s comments.

“Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” Brendan Buck said, according to the statement. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

Clinton’s campaign also responded.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

(h/t Business Insider)

Reality

This is a curious comment at a time when Trump’s Russian connections are being scrutinized. His campaign manager Paul Manafort, had worked as a consultant for the now-ousted pro-Russian government in Ukraine. And the Trump campaign worked like mad to include a more pro-Russian stance towards arming Ukraine to be added in the GOP platform.

Here’s what Trump is up to with the “Russia, please release Hillary’s 30,000 emails.” He’s intentionally conflating the State Department server with the DNC email hack so that in the minds of Americans, Hillary already had her emails hacked by Russia. But they’re two different email scandals.

Trump is trying to make them into one thing so he can say Hillary endangered national security when Russia hacked her email (which there’s no evidence they did.)

But… But… But… He was just joking!

I mean, this might have been an attempt at humor. At best one could argue Trump was half-joking, since a Russian hack would greatly benefit him and his chances of becoming president.

And if the argument really is that he is joking then to that we would say to even publicly joke that a foreign government spy on his political rival is in poor taste because it is rooting against an American, which is all beneath the office he is seeking.

But in the end… what is the punchline?

Media

Trump Praises Saddam Hussein’s Approach to Terrorism — Again

Donald Trump praised former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein Tuesday night, allowing that he was a “really bad guy” but had redeeming qualities when it came to his handling of terrorists.

Trump lauded the former U.S. adversary for how “well” he killed terrorists, recalling that he “didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were terrorists, over.” Now, Trump assessed, “Iraq is Harvard for terrorism. You want to be a terrorist, you go to Iraq.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign seized the opportunity to once more paint Trump has unfit for office. “Donald Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds,” Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an emailed statement. “Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has cast the brutal dictator in a positive light — or called Iraq an Ivy League locale for aspiring terrorists. Throughout the primaries Trump glossed over Hussein’s violent history in favor of what he viewed as a more stable Middle East ruled by Saddam’s viciousness.

In an October exclusive with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Trump asserted that the Middle East would be better off today if Moammar Gadhafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein were still in power. “It’s not even a contest,” Trump told Meet the Press. Trump continued to push this idea at a rally in Franklin, Tennessee, telling the crowd that despite Hussein’s “vicious” rule in Iraq “there were no terrorists in Iraq” while he ruled.

“You know what he used to do to terrorists?” Trump polled the Tennessee crowd. “A one day trial and shoot him…and the one day trial usually lasted five minutes, right? There was no terrorism then.”

Trump didn’t just praise Hussein for keeping terrorists at bay, but seemed to tacitly accept the dictator’s use of chemical weapons. During a December rally in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Trump took a cavalier attitude toward Iraq’s use of chemical weapons under Saddam.

“Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘oh he’s using gas!'” Trump said. Describing the way stability was maintained in the region during that time, Trump said “they go back, forth, it’s the same. And they were stabilized.”

Trump lamented how the United States intervened in the region during a speech in South Carolina late last year. “if you go after one or the other, in this case Iraq, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. That’s what’s going to happen,” he said.

On Tuesday night, at rally focusing heavily on Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, Trump revived the old riffs from his primary playbook. “We shouldn’t have destabilized Saddam Hussein, right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”

Trump’s statements were noteworthy for the company he made them in. At Trump’s side Tuesday: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who was on the trail with Trump for the day. Corker is being vetted for vice president and his trail time in North Carolina was considered by many to be an audition.

(h/t NBC News)

Reality

What Trump is praising Saddam Hussein for here isn’t justice against the evil terrorists. Saddam Hussein used this tactic of labeling political dissenters and ethnic minorities as “terrorists” and disappearing them, many times without trial. This is a violation of human rights, crimes against humanity, and murder. Hussein’s atrocities are all documented at organizations like Human Rights Watch.

So this is what Trump is praising when comparing Hussein against our “weak” justice system. And if applied in the United States it would be a clear violation of the 5th and 14th amendments of the Constitution should it be applied here in the United States.

Also this isn’t the first time Donald Trump praised Saddam Hussein and 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.

Media

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