Trump Campaign Sends Out Anti-CNN Fundraising Email Shortly After Bomb Scare

Hours after CNN’s New York headquarters were evacuated when an explosive device was found mailed to the building, President Donald Trump‘s campaign sent out a fundraising email blasting the network.

Reporter Yashar Ali tweeted out a screenshot of the fundraising email, signed by Lara Trump, which included a “Media Accountability Survey.”

“It’s time for us to give the media another wake-up call from the American people,” the email says.

The first question of the survey is: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?”

[Mediaite]

Trump admin official displayed a portrait of the KKK’s first grand wizard because he thought it was ‘nice’

A senior Veterans Affairs official displayed a portrait of Confederate general and KKK grand wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest prominently in his taxpayer-funded office — and claimed he didn’t know about the figure’s sordid past.

The Washington Post reported that David J. Thomas Sr., the deputy executive director of VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, had the portrait hanging with a spotlight on it in his office until he was informed of Forrest’s history.

“It was just a beautiful print that I had purchased, and I thought it was very nice,” Thomas said, noting that he thought of Forrest “as a southern general in the Civil War” and nothing more.

He claimed that the portrait titled “No Surrender” had been languishing in his basement until he moved to a larger office a few months ago. Michelle Gardner-Ince, a manager who reports to the deputy executive director, disputed his account and said it was in his previous office since at least 2015.

“Racial tensions have flared between Thomas and several of his employees, at least three of whom have pending claims of racial discrimination against him,” the report noted. “An attorney representing two of these employees said the portrait is evidence that Thomas is not comfortable around African Americans.”

Gardner-Ince, a program manager who has a pending case against Thomas before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was the person directed to install the spotlight onto the portrait.

None of the employees with pending cases against Thomas recognized the significance of the Forrest portrait until last week, the report noted, when a union steward recognized the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard depicted in it and was “aghast.”

The local VA chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees has since circulated a petition demanding the portrait’s removal to present to Secretary Robert Wilkie. Although it was taken down, AFGE Local 17 president Douglas Massey told the Post that Thomas’ claim to not know about Forrest’s history was “hard to believe.”

The report also noted that nine of the 14 managers who report to Thomas are black.

[Raw Story]

Inspector general: Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for his wife

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated department travel policies by bringing his family members in government-owned vehicles, the agency’s internal watchdog concluded on Thursday.

The Interior Department’s inspector general (OIG) found in a new report that Zinke and his wife Lolita brought a Park Police security detail on a vacation, costing more than $25,000, though there was no policy prohibiting it.

Despite a policy stating that people not engaged in government business cannot ride in Interior vehicles, “we found that Secretary Zinke’s wife and other family members had occasionally ridden with him in government vehicles,” OIG investigators said in a their report late Thursday.

The report said that despite the prohibition, the Interior solicitor’s office approved Zinke’s family’s travel “on a case-by-case basis.”

OIG investigators also found that Zinke had asked Interior employees to designate Lolita Zinke as a volunteer for the agency, which would allow her to travel in official vehicles without approval or reimbursement.

Zinke decided against the appointment due to the “optics,” but denied that it was to get around travel rules, OIG said.

The OIG report came the same day that Interior denied that the Trump administration planned to install a political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to oversee the inspector general’s office. HUD Secretary Ben Carson had previously said that the appointee, Suzanne Israel Tufts, would be the new acting inspector general at Interior, which would effectively demote Mary Kendall, the current highest-ranking employee in the watchdog office.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift framed the Thursday report as an exoneration.

“The Inspector General report proves what we have known all along: the secretary follows all relevant laws and regulations and that all of his travel was reviewed and approved by career ethics officials and solicitors prior to travel,” she said.

“Additionally, the secretary received the same exact legal advice from the solicitors as previous secretaries and he acted consistently. The report even said so.”

After investigators started looking into the issue, Interior changed the travel policy to allow family members on official trips.

In the four official trips that investigators probed, Lolita Zinke and another family member reimbursed Interior for the costs of her travel.

Interior said an unidentified person in the solicitor’s office approved the family travel, despite knowing that internal policies prohibited it.

“She explained that other DOI employees could use personal vehicles for government travel, but because Secretary Zinke had a security detail that used government vehicles, he did not have that option. She said she generally deferred to a secretary’s security detail to decide who should be allowed in the vehicles,” the report said, paraphrasing the solicitor’s office employee.

In addition, Zinke brought a number of non-government travelers on a National Park Service boat for a trip to California’s Channel Islands. Interior designated them as “stakeholders,” meaning they did not have to reimburse the agency for travel.

Two of those travelers had hosted a fundraiser for Zinke’s congressional campaign in 2014, and the family of one used to own property on one of the Channel Islands, investigators said, facts that ethics officials were not aware of prior to the trip.

[The Hill]

National Security Council Chief Of Staff To Leave WH, Lead Anti-Muslim Hate Group

National Security Adviser John Bolton’s chief of staff Fred Fleitz is leaving after just a few months on the job, CNN confirmed Monday

“Fred Fleitz is a longtime friend and adviser. He’s been a valuable member of the National Security Council team. I wish him the best with his next endeavor,” Bolton told CNN.

Fleitz, a longtime Bolton associate, joined the Trump administration in May after working for five years at the Center for Security Policy, an Islamaphobic group run by Frank Gaffney. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers CSP a “hate group.” Fleitz joined Gaffney and others from CSP in March 2016 when they went to work on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign.

According to CSP, Fleitz will take over for Gaffney as the group’s President and CEO in January 2019. Yet he will begin the leadership transition in just a few days, on Nov. 1 — a day after he leaves the White House, an unnamed administration official told CNN. Gaffney, the group said, will become executive chairman.

In 2017, per CNN, Fleitz complained that CSP had only been placed on the SPLC’s list of hate groupsdue to our principled stand against the Global Jihad Movement.”

[Talking Points Memo]

Senate confirms climate skeptic to head DOJ environment office

The Senate voted Thursday to confirm a climate change skeptic and former industry attorney to lead the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) environment division.

Lawmakers voted 52 to 45 to confirm Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be the assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), both running for reelection GOP states, joined all Republicans present in voting to confirm Clark.

Clark is and attorney at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he has represented numerous industry clients, including oil giant BP in its efforts to fight certain claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and spill, and the Chamber of Commerce. He’s said climate change science is “contestable.”

“Jeff Clark is one of the leading environmental litigators in the country, and has been counsel in many of the most significant environmental and natural resource cases of the past two decades, both here at the Department of Justice and in private practice,” Attorney General Jeff Sessionssaid in a statement welcoming Clark to the department.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said before the Thursday vote that Clark is imminently qualified for the position.
“Mr. Clark’s legal colleagues describe him as one of the most capable lawyers with whom they’ve ever worked, and no fewer than seven former assistant attorneys general for the environment and natural resources division tell the Senate that his well-rounded background and prior experience in the division make him an excellent choice for this position,” he said.
Clark’s past experience includes a stint as deputy assistant attorney general in the same DOJ division.

Democrats said Clark’s history shows he would further President Trump’s pro-industry environmental record, to the loss of the climate and public health.

“He is a favorite of the Federalist Society, having chaired that  group’s environmental law and practice group. But his nomination is  strongly opposed by groups that care about protecting the environment,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

“He is exactly the  wrong person to be in this job of enforcing regulations to protect our  environment.”

Clark’s responsibilities at the DOJ will include being the top law enforcement official in pursuing claims against polluters and companies that violate environmental laws. He’ll also be responsible for defending Trump’s aggressive deregulatory agenda against an onslaught of lawsuits.

“Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”

Trump nominated Clark to the post in June 2017, but the full Senate didn’t act on the nomination until this week.

Sessions both thanked senators for confirming Clark and criticized the length of time it took.
“He is ready to lead this division — and it should not have taken us 16 months to get him confirmed,” he said.

Clark will replace Jeffrey Wood, who has been acting assistant attorney general in the environment division since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

[The Hill]

Trump’s new EPA chief caught liking racist and conspiratorial social media posts

The acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency was caught liking racist and conspiratorial social media posts using his personal accounts — some as recently as in the past month.

The Huffington Post reported that Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler “liked” a Facebook post showing Barack and Michelle Obama looking at a banana — a racist archetype comparing the former president and first lady to monkeys.

Along with liking the image from an Italian meme page that translates to “My mom is a virgin,” the EPA chief also retweeted infamous Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec.

First uncovered by the liberal American Bridge 21st Century political action committee, most of the posts Wheeler engaged with were made before he came acting EPA administrator in July 2018 following Scott Pruitt’s resignation in the wake of his ethics scandal.

Wheeler retweeted Posobiec from his personal Twitter account in February of 2018 — months after the former Naval intelligence officer had been ousted from military service. The right-wing figure’s ouster followed his promotion of the conspiracy theory that the Democrats were involved in a child sex ring and used a DC pizza parlor as a front for their nefarious gains.

In late September, after taking over at the EPA, Wheeler liked a tweet made by Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson alleging that Twitter discriminates against conservatives.

In an email to HuffPost, the acting EPA chief defending his social media use.

“Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts,” Wheeler said. “Specifically, I do not remember the post depicting President Obama and the First Lady. As for some of the other posts, I agreed with the content and was unaware of the sources.”

[Raw Story]

Donald Trump Contradicts Brett Kavanaugh, Saying Nominee Admitted to ‘Difficulty’ With Drinking as Young Man

President Donald Trump appeared Monday to contradict the testimony and public comments by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about his drinking during his high school and college days, with the president stating Kavanaugh had noted he had “difficulty as a young man.”

Trump defended Kavanaugh, stating he had been forthright with the Senate Judiciary Committee despite attacks from Democrats. The president said that Kavanaugh had explained his drinking as having “difficulty as a young man with drink…He was very strong on the fact that he drank a lot.”

However, Kavanaugh had stated before the committee on Friday and during his interview with Fox News a week ago that his drinking was not overly excessive and was in line with his peers.

“And yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school—I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit, but that’s not what we’re talking about,” Kavanaugh told Fox.

Kavanaugh also told Fox that he never drank to the point of blacking out, which he also reiterated to the committee during his often combative testimony and defense.

“Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone,” Kavanaugh said in his statement.

The federal judge was also grilled by senators about his drinking and he repeatedly said he had never blacked out or did not drink to the point that he could not remember what happened the evening before.

Trump was also asked if the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh were proved to be true by the FBI’s current investigation would he consider pulling support for Kavanaugh.

The president said he was “open” but vehemently defended Kavanaugh. He challenged the way in which Democrats had conducted themselves during the confirmation process while blasting numerous senators like Diane Feinstein and Cory Booker, and even claimed to know of a Democratic senator in “very very bad situations … somewhat compromising.” Trump did not name the senator and said he would save the answer “for a book like everybody else.”

Trump’s press conference Monday was originally planned to discuss a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, and the president fought off questions about Kavanaugh until he could answer inquiries about the trade deal.

[Newsweek]

Media

Trump anti-discrimination official once called most hate crimes hoaxes

A senior Trump appointee responsible for enforcing laws against financial discrimination once questioned in blog posts written under a pen name if using the n-word was inherently racist and claimed that the great majority of hate crimes were hoaxes.

Eric Blankenstein, a policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, expressed those and other controversial views more than a decade ago on a political blog he co-authored with two other anonymous contributors.

In a 2004 post, Blankenstein wrote that a proposal at the University of Virginia to impose harsher academic penalties for acts of intolerance was “racial idiocy.” He questioned how authorities could know the motivation of someone using a racial slur.

“Fine . . . let’s say they called him n—– ,” he wrote, spelling out the slur. “. . . would that make them racists, or just a——-?”

Blankenstein also wrote that “hate-crime hoaxes are about three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes.”

The details about Blankenstein’s blog have not been previously reported. He wrote under the name “egb3r,” an alias built from his initials. The Washington Post verified the writer is Blankenstein by examining biographical details in the blog that include his age, his graduation from the University of Virginia, the date of his marriage and a reference to his father, a lawyer.

In a statement, Blankenstein acknowledged that he had written the posts but said they have no bearing on his work today. “The insight to be gained about how I perform my job today – by reading snippets of 14 year old blog posts that have nothing to do with consumer protection law — is exactly zero,” he said.

“Any attempt to do so is a naked exercise in bad faith, and represents another nail in the coffin of civil discourse and the ability to reasonably disagree over questions of law and policy,” he said. “The need to dig up statements I wrote as a 25 year old shows that in the eyes of my critics I am not guilty of a legal infraction or neglect of my duties, but rather just governing while conservative.”

Blankenstein, 39, is one of several Trump appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency created by President Barack Obama following the 2008 financial meltdown. He is among the highest paid employees in the government, earning $259,500, records show.

He is responsible for supervising lenders and enforcing an array of consumer protection laws, including the four-decade-old Equal Credit Opportunity Act, landmark civil rights legislation aimed at protecting blacks and other minorities from discriminatory practices and promoting “fair lending.”

[Washington Post]

FBI Director Christopher Wray becomes the latest target of Trump’s ire

In recent conversations with confidants, President Donald Trump has added FBI Director Christopher Wray to his list of key members of his administration whom he complains about, three people familiar with the discussions tell NBC News.

Trump has criticized Wray as another figure in the Justice Department who is not protecting his interests — and is possibly out to undermine his presidency, these people said.

Trump is “in the worst mood of his presidency and calling friends and allies to vent about his selection of (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions and Wray,” said one person familiar with the president’s thinking. This person said the president was particularly focused on both men over the Labor Day weekend.

Trump has frequently tweeted about the Russia probe and more than once has criticized the Justice Department, the FBI and Sessions by name. But until now, the president has been cautious about publicly criticizing the person he appointed after firing former FBI Director James Comey.

Now he’s increasingly grouping Wray with Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the special counsel’s Russia investigation, all subjects of relentless criticism from the president.

Trump nominated Wray for the FBI post last summer, weeks after the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and months after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Since then, Wray has largely avoided the president’s public ire. While Trump has criticized the FBI generally, saying the bureau is biased against him, he has not gone after Wray personally.

That has changed, the people familiar with the president’s thinking said, as Trump’s frustration with his Justice Department has escalated. He’s pointed to issues such as the resistance by the FBI to turn over documents to congressional Republicans. The FBI declined to comment for this story. NBC News has reached out to the White House for comment.

Wray has defended the FBI against Trump’s attacks. In December, after Trump said the FBI’s reputation was in “tatters,” Wray pushed back publicly.

“The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran,” he said during a congressional hearing.

Trump has at times been wound up by Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch, and a regular commentator on Fox News, who has been sharply critical of Wray and what he describes as corruption at the FBI.

Wray has reportedly threatened to resign at least once over potential pressure from the president to fire his then-deputy Andrew McCabe. Asked in July by NBC’s Lester Holt whether he’d ever reached a point where a line had been crossed and he threatened to resign, Wray did not deny he had.

“I’m a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I’ll just leave it at that,” Wray said.

[NBC News]

Trump Rages Against ‘Gutless’ White House Official Who Wrote Stunning NYT Op-Ed

President Donald Trump tore into the anonymous source who penned the shocking New York Times op-ed from a senior White House official who admitted to trying to “stop” the president.

Speaking at a White House event on Wednesday, Trump raged against the unnamed person.

“Nobody has ever done in less than a two-year period what we have done,” he said. “So when you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who’s failing, and probably here for all the wrong reasons…”

Trump pivoted from there to blast the Times. But later, he doubled back to what he termed the “gutless editorial.”

“So if the failing “The New York Times” has an anonymous editorial — can you believe it?” Trump said. “Anonymous. Meaning gutless. A gutless editorial.”

In the Times op-ed, the unnamed official wrote that they and others within the Trump administration are working to “stop” the president.

“The dilemma — which [Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the official wrote. “I would know. I am one of them.”

[Mediaite]

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