Trump Claims His SOTU Had The Highest Ratings In History. It Didn’t.

In a tweet, President Trump claimed the largest audience ever tuned in for his State of the Union address. That’s not true.

“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” Trump tweeted just after 7 a.m. ET Thursday. “45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history. @FoxNews beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!”

Though the specific numbers he cites in his tweet are correct, Trump’s audience on Tuesday night wasn’t close to being the highest in history for a State of the Union.

Quick note: The speech a president gives just after taking office looks like a State of the Union but is actually a joint address to Congress. But just for the purposes of this article, we will call those big speeches early in the first year of a presidency SOTUs, too, as a shorthand.

Let’s look at the numbers. Nielson counts the number of people who watch the speeches on broadcast networks, cable and PBS, either live or on the same day.

Nielson reported yesterday that an estimated 45.6 million people tuned in to Trump’s address on Tuesday night. Compared with other SOTUs since 1993, that total puts Trump’s speech in ninth place.

The SOTU with the largest audience was Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech, which drew a whopping 66.9 million viewers.

And if you look at the combined household rating, rather than combined number of viewers, Trump’s 26.9 rating nets him 16th place, tied with G.W. Bush’s 2006 address. (Clinton’s 1993 speech also wins on the rating front, with a 44.3.)

But despite the president’s obsession with ratings, it’s worth remembering that methods for counting television viewers are imperfect. The New York Times notes that the figures don’t include streaming.

Obama’s first official State of the Union, a year into his presidency, drew 48 million viewers and a 29.8 rating — higher on both metrics than Trump’s speech on Tuesday.

It’s not clear where Trump got the notion that his SOTU numbers were the highest. But CNN’s Brian Stelter notes that a segment on “Fox and Friends,” which Trump reportedly watches, Thursday morning mentioned the 45.6 million total, and that Fox had a record number of viewers.

Following the president’s morning tweet, Fox News Research tweeted Nielson’s viewership numbers for SOTUs back to 1993, along with a photo of Trump.

[NPR]

Trump Hails Poll That Credits Obama for Booming Economy

Donald Trump hailed a new poll on the economy Thursday, despite the full results being a less than resounding endorsement of his presidency.

“In new Quinnipiac Poll, 66% of people feel the economy is “Excellent or Good.” That is the highest number ever recorded by this poll, Trump tweeted.

While Trump is right that these numbers are the highest positive rating in Quinnipiac poll on the economy since 2001, the survey also found that 49 percent of American voters believe former President Barack Obama is responsible for the economy’s current state. Only 40 percent of voters said Trump was responsible.

The Quinnipiac poll, which was published Wednesday, also asked about Trump’s intelligence, his level-headedness and his fitness to serve as president.

Asked to grade President Trump’s first year in office, 56 percent of those polled gave him a failing grade of F or D. Just 16 percent of respondents gave him an A.

As for Trump’s performance so far in office, only 36 percent said they approved, while 59 percent voiced disapproval.

“No one’s been this low at this point,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, told Newsweek, speaking of Trump’s 36 percent approval rating.

Meanwhile, the number of American voters giving former President Barack Obama credit for the state of the economy has increased since November.

Forty-three percent of respondents credited Obama in Quinnipiac’s November 22 poll. That percentage rose to 45 in December and 49 in January.

Trump’s numbers have been more stagnant. Forty-one percent gave him credit for the economy’s state in November. That percentage rose to 43 in December and fell to 40 in January.

“It’s been a very tough freshman year for President Donald Trump, by any measure,” Malloy said in a statement.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted from January 5 to 9 via cellphones and landlines. The poll surveyed 1,106 voters nationwide and has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

[Newsweek]

Reality

Also in the same poll:

  • 49 percent of voters say former President Barack Obama is more responsible for the state of the economy
  • 36% job approval rating, a historic low for any president at this point.
  • 69% say Trump is not level-headed
  • 57% say he is not fit to serve as president
  • 63% say he is not honest
  • 59% say Trump does not have good leadership skills
  • 59%say he does not care about average Americans
  • 65% say he does not share their values
  • 39% gave Trump an ‘F’ grade,  and 17% gave him a ‘D’ grade.

Trump’s Coal Bailout Is Dead

One of the Trump administration’s most ambitious plans to buoy the struggling coal and nuclear power industries has been shot down.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected a proposal to subsidize coal-burning and nuclear power plants on Monday. Its defeat hands a victory to the motley coalition—of environmental groups, natural-gas companies, free-market advocates, and Democratic state attorneys general—who had opposed the rule and promised to fight it in court.

The 5-0 rejection was all the bitterer for the administration because four of the five commissioners who lead the agency were appointed by President Trump, and three are Republicans.

As proposed, the rule aimed to improve the resilience and stability of the electrical grid. Citing some electricity problems that struck during the “polar vortex”-induced cold snap of 2014, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry proposed that utility companies should pay coal and nuclear plants to keep weeks of extra fuel on hand.

The Department of Energy, which Perry leads, doesn’t have the power to force utilities to follow such a rule itself. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is charged by Congress with regulating interstate electricity sales and some power utilities. Perry asked FERC’s five commissioners to adopt his proposed rule within 60 days.

The plan was always controversial. Critics argued that Perry’s bailout would harm natural-gas plants, slow the growth of solar and wind energy, and introduce new and costly distortions to U.S. energy markets.

They also doubted the logic of the rule, saying that power plants rarely went down because they didn’t have enough fuel on hand. The Rhodium Group, an economics-research firm, found that only 0.00007 percent of U.S. power-outage hours between 2012 and 2016 were caused by a lack of available fuel.

Energy economists and environmental groups also maintained the rule would effectively subsidize carbon-dioxide pollution, which causes global warming. “Doing nothing [about climate change] is already not merited by economics,” Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, said in October. “This is like doubling down.”

Worst of all, critics said, the plan would spike Americans’ electricity bills. The energy-consulting group ICF estimated that the rule would cost ratepayers an extra $800 million to $3.8 billion every year.

In a statement on Monday, FERC thanked Perry for his attention to grid resiliency and said it would continue to research and pay attention to the issue. But individual commissioners were more cutting in their replies.

“The proposed rule had little, if anything, to do with resilience, and was instead aimed at subsidizing certain uncompetitive electric generation technologies,” said Richard Glick, a Trump-appointed FERC commissioner, dubbing the plan “a multi-billion dollar bailout targeted at coal and nuclear generating facilities.”

He added that he was sympathetic to the plight of coal miners and nuclear workers, but that helping them was outside the agency’s legal power. “We have a history in this country of helping those who, through no fault of their own, have been adversely affected by technological and market change. But that is the responsibility of Congress and the state legislatures. It is not a role that the Federal Power Act provides to the commission,” he said.

Though Perry could use the same mechanism to propose a new rule, FERC’s decision on this one is final.

In a statement, Perry said that he only wanted to start a conversation. “As intended, my proposal initiated a national debate on the resiliency of our electric system,” he said. “I appreciate the commission’s consideration and effort to further assess the marketplace distortions that are putting the long-term resiliency of our electric grid at risk.”

Thus ends one of the biggest policy initiatives of Perry’s first year as energy secretary. Perry had been pushing for the rule since the first months of the Trump administration, commissioning a high-speed study on grid resilience in the spring before proposing the new rule in September.

But from the start, even conservatives noted the proposal was out of step with virtues that Perry had long extolled. “Secretary Perry didn’t sound very much like Governor Perry that I remember back here in Texas, because Governor Perry, of course, was a big fan of free markets in electricity,” Josiah Neeley, the energy-policy director of the conservative R Street Institute, told me in October.

By the end of the year, the plan’s opponents speculated that Perry was embracing the rule merely to please the coal industry, which had supported President Trump during the election and lashed itself to him politically afterward.

Robert Murray, the CEO of the coal-mining company Murray Energy—which appeared to benefit more than any other firm from the rule—told reporters in November that he “had nothing to do” with the proposal.

“This was done by the Trump administration,” he said. “I didn’t have any involvement.”

But in December, the reporter Kate Aronoff of In These Times obtained photos of Rick Perry and Robert Murray meeting in a Department of Energy office in March 2017. In the photos, Murray appears to be presenting a thick “coal action plan” to Perry. At the top of this apparent policy wishlist? A bullet point that new FERC policies should favor “base-load generating assets, especially coal plants.”

[The Atlantic]

 

Trump: I’m a ‘very stable genius’

President Donald Trump slammed reports questioning his mental stability in a series of tweets Saturday morning, writing he’s a “very stable genius” after the publication of an exposé about his first year as President put the White House into damage-control mode.

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence … ” Trump wrote, referring to questions raised about the mental fitness of the former President, who disclosed in 1994 that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” the President continued. “Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”

After his tweets Saturday morning, Trump told reporters at Camp David that Wolff is a “fraud” who doesn’t know him.

“I went to the best colleges, or college,” he told reporters. “I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for President one time and won. Then I hear this guy that doesn’t know me at all, by the way, didn’t interview me, said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. Didn’t exist, it’s in his imagination.”

Trump continued: “I never interviewed with him in the White House at all; he was never in the Oval Office.”

Wolff told “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie on Friday that he “absolutely spoke to the President” while working on “Fire and Fury.”

“Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record,” Wolff said. “I’ve spent about three hours with the President over the course of the campaign, and in the White House. So, my window into Donald Trump is pretty significant.”

The remarkable spectacle of Trump defending his mental stability comes after the President and some of his top officials spent the last few days countering claims in author Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury,” about Trump’s mental fitness to serve as President. The book, which went on sale Friday, also paints the picture of a President who neither knows nor cares about policy and doesn’t seem to perceive the vast responsibilities of his role.

CNN has not independently confirmed all of Wolff’s assertions.

Trump’s tweets also come after reports surfaced that a dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate received a briefing from Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee on Capitol Hill in early December about Trump’s fitness to be president.

“Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the President’s dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation,” Lee told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, “They know the concern is universal among Democrats, but it really depends on Republicans, they said. Some knew of Republicans that were concerned, maybe equally concerned, but whether they would act on those concerns was their worry.”

The briefing was previously reported by Politico. Lee, confirming the December 5 and 6 meeting to CNN, said that the group was evenly mixed, with House and Senate lawmakers, and included at least one Republican — a senator, whom she would not name.

[CNN]

Trump falsely takes credit for record year in airline safety

2017 was a lot of things, including, as it turns out, the safest year on record for commercial air travel. And the president of the United States is, perplexingly, taking credit for it.

There was an estimated 3 percent growth in air traffic from 2016 to 2017. And the fatality rate was 0.06 fatalities per million flights — in other words, one fatal accident for 16 million flights.

“2017 was the safest year for aviation ever,” Adrian Young of the Dutch consulting firm To70 told Reuters.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday took to Twitter to celebrate the year in airline safety:

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday on two analyses that both found 2017 was a great year for airline safety. One was from To70, which found no consumer passenger jet fatalities in 2017. Its Civil Aviation Safety Review, an annual analysis of airplane safety, found there were 13 lives lost on airplanes in 2017. They occurred on two regional airlines, both of which were small turboprop (propeller-powered) planes.

To70’s analysis examines accidents, whether caused by technical failure, human error, or unlawful interference, involving larger passenger aircraft. In 2017, there were 111 accidents, two of which included fatalities: an October crash of a Brazilian-built Embraer flight in Angola, and a November crash of a Czech-made plane in eastern Russia.

The Aviation Safety Network also reported that there were no commercial jet deaths in 2017. It recorded 10 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 44 deaths of passengers on board and 35 people on the ground. It records passenger and cargo flights.

The group’s president, Harro Ranter, said in a statement that the average number of airliner accidents has shown a “steady and persistent” decline since 1997, thanks in large part to sustained efforts by international safety organizations to improve safety — not President Trump, who has been in office for less than a year.

As the Hill’s Jordan Fabian points out, there hasn’t been a fatal passenger airline crash in the US since 2009, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, and the last deadly commuter plane crash took place in Hawaii in 2013.

Still, Trump has made a habit of taking credit for things that don’t exactly correspond to him — including claiming he invented the phrases “prime the pump” and “fake news,” touting business deals reached under the Obama administration as attributable to him, and saying quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent because NFL owners are afraid of “a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”

Trump in June proposed privatizing the US air traffic control system. The proposal would place the safety of millions of US airline passengers under a private nonprofit corporation instead of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and could potentially cost more.

That’s not to say that flying is a risk-free affair — as To70 notes, there were several serious non-fatal accidents in 2017, including an Air France Airbus plane carrying 520 people from Paris to Los Angeles last fall that had to make an emergency landing after suffering serious damage to one of its four engines. The firm also points to the risk that the growing prevalence of lithium-ion batteries in electronics poses for fires aboard planes.

“There is no room for complacency,” To70’s report warns.

[Vox]

Reality

The Aviation Safety Network also reported that there were no commercial jet deaths in 2017. It recorded 10 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 44 deaths of passengers on board and 35 people on the ground. It records passenger and cargo flights.

The group’s president, Harro Ranter, said in a statement that the average number of airliner accidents has shown a “steady and persistent” decline since 1997, thanks in large part to sustained efforts by international safety organizations to improve safety — not President Trump, who has been in office for less than a year.

Trump Promotes Antisemitic, Conspiracy Website: I ‘Wish the Fake News Would Report’ Like This

President Donald Trump shared an article about the website magapill.com showcasing his “accomplishment list” — though, aside from including a faulty link, the Twitter account associated with the site frequently posted content that was antisemitic or conspiratorial in nature.

“Wow, even I didn’t realize we did so much. Wish the Fake News would report! Thank you,” tweeted the president — promoting an article from a site that believes Seth Rich was “murdered” by Hillary Clinton and banking is corrupted by “certain bloodlines.”

The front page of the website is titled “President Donald Trump’s Accomplishment List.” This page touts articles — in a Drudge Report style format — that supposedly reflect the president’s successes on the economy, crime, and business.

However, things get significantly stranger and disturbing when examining MAGAPill’s Twitter account, as the site obsesses over conspiracy theories — including the idea that Luciferianism, in part, controls the world, along with George Soros and the Vatican.

In the same wild flow chart, the account shares the theory that “banking families” — a seeming reference to the Jewish community — control all of the world’s financial institutions for their gain. “Banking families, Certain bloodline families have dominated global financial institutions, including: BIS, FED, IMF, World Bank, Wall Street,” states the chart.

Ironically, Trump’s tweet praising the work of MAGAPill came just after a post in which he attacked CNN as “fake news.”

[Mediaite]

Trump calls Hillary Clinton the ‘worst’ loser ever, after she says he’s ‘disgraced’ the office

President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are at it again.

Trump lashed out at his former rival on Saturday, calling Clinton “the worst (and biggest) loser of all time,” after the ex-Democratic nominee made pointed criticisms in a series of interviews about Trump’s political and moral legitimacy.

The president tweeted: “Give it another try in three years,” in an apparent attempt to bait Clinton to run for president again.

The president’s remarks followed two interviews on Friday, in which the former Democratic nominee differentiated between sexual assault accusations against GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and Democratic Sen. Al Franken. Clinton questioned why Trump was never hurt by past allegations from women that he behaved improperly, and tried to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s win by invoking Russia’s suspected meddling in the 2016 general election.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Clinton said she can’t explain why Trump’s candidacy was not affected by the allegations or his bullying of his rival candidates on the campaign trail.

“I don’t understand a lot about how he got away with so many attacks and insults and behaviors that allowed him to win the presidency,” the publication reported Clinton as saying.

Trump has always denied allegations made by several women to the New York Times before the election, and around the time of the release of the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape. In the second presidential debate, Trump admitted to bragging on the tape about kissing and groping women, but said he actually never did any of those things.

On WABC radio, Clinton said the Franken situation differs from Moore because the Minnesota senator apologized, and said he would “gladly cooperate” with an ethics investigation. “I don’t hear that from Roy Moore or Donald Trump,” Clinton said. “Look at the contrast between Al Franken, accepting responsibility, apologizing, and Roy Moore and Donald Trump who have done neither.”

The president has been blasting Franken, while trying to stay out of the Moore situation. Trump’s has said the voters of Alabama should decide on whether to elect Moore in next month’s special election.

The former secretary of State — appearing to promote her new book “What Happened” — also told WABC radio that Trump has “disgraced the office” of the presidency. “I didn’t think he’d be as bad as he turned out to be,” she added.

Clinton, also a former senator from New York and first lady, called the GOP tax reform plan “bad policy” that’s “downright cruel” to working Americans. “I will predict to you that a number of Republican members of Congress who voted for it, will lose their seats in 2018.”

[CNBC]

Trump distances himself from Ed Gillespie after Virginia election loss

President Trump tried to distance himself from Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie on Twitter late Tuesday, after Democratic candidate and Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the state’s highly contested governor’s race.

Both parties poured money and staff into the Virginia election, which was seen as a potential bellwether for Trump’s impact on mid-term elections across the country next year.

“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” Trump tweeted after the election. “Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”

Trump, who is traveling in South Korea, had been a vocal supporter of Gillespie but had never hit the campaign trial for the former Republican National Committee chairman.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “.@EdWGillespie will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA.” Last month, Trump first came out to support Gillespie on Twitter by bashing Northam.

[USA Today]

Trump reportedly wanted nearly 10 times more nuclear weapons

President Donald Trump wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal by nearly 10 times, NBC News reported Wednesday.

The president brought up his desire for a buildup during a meeting with top national security advisors in July, according to the report, which cited three officials at the gathering. Advisors told Trump about treaties that would be endangered and other hurdles preventing such a move. There is no planned expansion of nuclear weapons, NBC reported.

After the meeting ended, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was heard calling Trump a “moron.” That comment reportedly sparked more tensions between Tillerson and Trump following an NBC News report last week. Tillerson denied the piece of the report that said he was close to resigning this summer, but did not refute calling the president a “moron.”

The report on the July meeting comes as the U.S. pushes for the denuclearization of North Korea.

Trump has made public statements before about boosting the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In December, he tweeted that the “United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

The White House and Pentagon could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a Wednesday morning tweet, the president claimed “fake” NBC “made up” the story. He called it “pure fiction, made up to demean.”

In a second tweet, he suggested that the NBC coverage is “bad” for the country. He asked: “At what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?”

Trump is apparently referencing the licenses granted to individual television stations by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC does not license news originations or television networks.
NBC Universal, through its television stations division, owns 28 NBC and Telemundo local television stations.

The licensing of television stations dates back to the early days of radio, when the government set regulations based on the idea that the spectrum belonged to the public. Radio and television stations are required to renew their licenses periodically, and those licenses can be revoked if the station’s owner violates FCC regulations or other laws.

But as recently as December, the commission made clear that individual broadcasters have “broad discretion” in what they choose to air.

“The Commission will not take adverse action on a license renewal application based upon the subjective determination of a listener or group of listeners that the station has broadcast purportedly inappropriate programming,” the FCC commissioners wrote in a recent decision challenging a local radio station license.

[CNBC]

Trump: I want to focus on North Korea not ‘fixing somebody’s back’

President Trump praised health care block grants on Saturday, saying they allow the states to focus on health care, but said he would rather focus his energy on tensions with North Korea than “fixing somebody’s back or their knee.”

“You know in theory, I want to focus on North Korea, I want to focus on Iran, I want to focus on other things. I don’t want to focus on fixing somebody’s back or their knee or something. Let the states do that,” the president told Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Huckabee.”

“The block grant concept is a very good concept, and if you have good management, good governors, good politicians in the state, it’ll be phenomenal,” he continued.
“I could almost say we are just about there in terms of the vote, so I expect to be getting health care approved,” he said.

Trump’s comments come after Senate Republicans failed twice this year to fulfill a seven-year campaign promise of repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

The latest repeal and replace failure was the Graham-Cassidy bill, which included block grants to states.

However, the legislation failed after Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Susan Collins (Maine) announced their opposition to the bill last month, effectively killing it.

Trump has expressed frustration in his Republican colleagues in the Senate for their health care failure, so much so that he called Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday to discuss the issue.

The move is likely to unsettle Republicans on Capitol Hill who have been working with Trump on tax reform in recent weeks.

[The Hill]

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