Trump complains he can’t execute drug dealers after ‘quick trials’ like they do in China

President Donald Trump on Tuesday complained that he can’t oversee the quick execution of drug dealers — and suggested that the United States should start taking its cues from China.

During a talk at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, Trump said that authoritarian dictatorships do a better job of stopping illicit drug use in their countries because defendants don’t have all the constitutional protections that they’re entitled to in the United States.

“You go into China, you say, ‘How’s your drug problem,’ they don’t even know, President Xi doesn’t even know what you’re talking about!” the president said. “They have quick trials, and I won’t even tell you what the punishment is, but let me just say it’s very swift.”

The president then said he didn’t believe American citizens were ready to be “tough” on drug dealers like China was.

“I just don’t know whether or not this country is ready for that, but the only countries that don’t have drug problems are countries where the retribution is unbelievably tough,” the president said.

[Raw Story]

Trump Openly Claims Authority to Direct Attorney General To Investigate Anyone He Wants

President Donald Trump addressed the latest kerfuffle-cum-constitutional crisis in a Friday morning tweet following Attorney General Bill Barr’s apparent intervention in the sentencing of Roger Stone.

Stone was found guilty of seven felony counts last November, including lying to Congress and witness tampering during the investigation into Russian intelligence and interference in the general election. As such, prosecutors recommended a seven to nine-year prison sentence, which Trump criticized vocally. Barr eventually intervened to recommend a lighter sentence, to which Trump tweeted his thanks.

In an interview with ABC News, Barr claimed that he would never be bullied by anyone (including the president) and criticized Trump’s tweets for creating a distraction. It is worth noting that, despite his claims otherwise, Barr appeared to do exactly what Trump had asked, eventually earning Trump’s praise. So that’s the context… still with me?

Ever one to jump on a news cycle, and get ahead of a story, Trump addressed this story obliquely, saying that he has the “legal right” to ask his attorney general to do anything in a criminal case.

“Trump just openly and explicitly stated that it’s perfectly within his authority to direct his Attorney General to open criminal investigations into anyone he wants,” offered Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, in as a pure expression of what many will see as an open flouting of checks and balances in the U.S. government.

This is the very point made Thursday night on CNN by Jeffrey Toobin following a Washington Post report about this very concept. “The idea [James Comey] committed a crime is absurd. The person in a really perilous condition right now is the CNN contributor Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation from the U.S. Attorney’s office right now. And, you know, has had his case dangling out there. The president obviously wants Andy McCabe prosecuted and it’s just grotesque that you have the President of the United States behaving this way with the power of prosecution exercised in this way.”

The attorney general IS appointed by the president, then confirmed by Congress. And it’s not unusual for the top law enforcement official to work hand in glove with the sitting president. Many might read Trump’s tweet, however, as a rather foreboding omen of what may come to Trump’s political foes.

If he feels that someone has done him wrong, and he can direct the AG to serve as his own personal henchman (of which there is an abundance of evidence) then what is to keep him from seeking investigations into those he feels might threaten his reelection? Oh wait, he’s already done that.

[Mediaite]

Trump Says He Has the ‘Absolute Right’ to Tell DOJ What to Do – but Claims He Didn’t in Stone Case Despite Angry Tweet

President Donald Trump says he has the “absolute right” to direct the Dept. of Justice in who and how it prosecutes, but claims that he didn’t, despite his furious tweet overnight attacking the DOJ and calling prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation of Roger Stone a “miscarriage of justice.”

Trump also called the 7 to 9 year recommendation of jail time for Stone, his ally, confidant, and former campaign advisor, an “insult to our country.” Trump often conflates himself and the nation, as if he is the country.

Saying he did not speak to anyone at DOJ Trump then said, “I’d be able to do it if I wanted I have the absolute right to do it.”

Calling the sentencing recommendation “ridiculous” Trump added, “I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous.”

“That was a horrible abberition,” he concluded, apparently meaning “aberration.”

[New Civil Rights Movement]

Media


As others stand at attention for anthem, Trump fidgets, points, pretends to conduct the band

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said all Americans should “stand proudly” during the national anthem, and publicly chastises those who don’t as disrespectful of the troops and the flag.

But during the national anthem at his own Super Bowl watch party Sunday night, a brief video posted to Instagram shows Trump greeting guests, adjusting his chair, and straightening his suit jacket as other attendees — including first lady Melania Trump and their teenage son — stand with their hands over their hearts. As “The Star Spangled Banner” crescendoes, Trump raises both of his hands in the air, and twirls them around as if conducting the music.

The video was included in an Instagram story by a real estate agent for a Russian-American firm who frequents Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties and events.

Trump entered his party at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach as Demi Lovato was introduced to sing the national anthem at Hard Rock Stadium, videos of the moment show. It’s unclear from the video of Trump “conducting” whether the anthem you hear is Lovato, projected on screens around the room, or if a live performer is singing at the club.

(The video appears flipped, or mirrored, likely because it is an Instagram video recorded with a phone’s selfie camera. That is why Melania Trump appears to have her left hand across her chest and there is a backward numeral 4 in the video. The Herald chose to retain the original orientation as it was posted on the social media site.)

The White House declined to provide an on-the-record response to requests for comment. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond. Copies of the video were sent along with the Herald’s inquiries.

For years, Trump has publicly attacked NFL players who chose to kneel in protest during the anthem.

The protest movement was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in August 2016 when he refused to stand during the pregame ritual. He described his choice as a protest against racism and police brutality. Within months, other players joined Kaepernick, taking a knee and bowing their heads during the anthem.

Kaepernick is no longer in the league and claims he was blackballed for his actions.

Trump and many others called the protests disrespectful to the flag and to the troops. In 2018, the NFL announced it would begin to fine players on the field for not standing during the anthem, but would allow them to stay in the locker room if they preferred.

Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. Women’s World Cup team, refused to participate in the anthem during the 2019 World Cup, provoking Trump’s ire. At Sunday’s Super Bowl in Miami Gardens, Beyonce and Jay-Z stayed seated during the anthem, drawing rebukes from many, especially conservative pundits.

“Maybe they should try another country that allows them a little more freedom & success?” Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren wrote on Twitter.

The Super Bowl watch party at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, just miles from Mar-a-Lago, is a tradition that predates the Trump presidency. It has taken on a new price tag in recent years due to the need for presidential security and travel budgets. Taxpayers will shell out $3.4 million for Trump’s visit to Palm Beach this past weekend, according to an analysis by the HuffPost.

Last year’s party stirred controversy when Trump inadvertently posed for a selfie with a woman who turned out to be Li “Cindy” Yang, founder of the massage parlor where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paid for sex.

[Miami Herald]

Media

‘Maybe we will, maybe we won’t’: Trump doubles down on threat to take oil from Syria

Donald Trump has renewed his threats to forcibly steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.

The president defended his decision to leave a small number of American troops in the war-torn nation after a general withdrawal in October by claiming they were only there to secure Syria’s oilfields.

“They say he left troops in Syria… do you know what I did? I took the oil,” he said during a Fox News interview.

“The only troops I have are taking the oil, they are protecting the oil.”

When the interviewer, Laura Ingraham, attempted to correct Mr Trump by insisting the soldiers were not there to take the oil but to guard the facilities, the president cut her off.

“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil. Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”

This is not the first time the erratic former business tycoon has publicly mused about stealing Syria’s oil reserves.

In October, shortly after his abrupt withdrawal of US forces and abandoning of their Kurdish allies in the region, Mr Trump said he wanted an American oil firm to fly in to tap Syria’s oil on behalf of the government.

“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he said.

However, such a move would likely constitute pillage and looting, actions which have long been designated as illegal under international law and the rules of war.

The Geneva Convention, which the US is a signatory to, explicitly prohibits the looting of property during conflict, defining it as a war crime.

“The president appears to believe that the US can sell the oil, based on his statements in the past about Iraqi oil and Libyan oil … thinking that we can loot countries,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director at think tank Defence Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, told The Independent last year.

“I am sure people in the White House have tried to explain to him that is not how it works.

“Taking the profits from the sale of Syrian oil for the US treasury would be illegal. That would probably qualify as pillaging under the law.”

Ironically, experts say Syria’s oil fields are not much of a prize anyway. Even before the country descended in a chaotic civil war, it only produced about 380,000 barrels of poor-quality oil a day.

In 2018, after its production was several hampered by the conflict, it produced about the same amount of oil as the state of Illinois.

Before he entered the White House, Mr Trump had said several times that the US should have “taken the oil” from the other Middle Eastern nations its armed forces had intervened in, including Iraq and Libya.

Some commentators have speculated that defence officials desperate to persuade the president to permit some US forces to remain in Syria as a counter-balance to Isis and the Assad regime were forced to appeal to his oil obsession to gain his approval.

[The Independent]

Trump tells evangelical rally he will put prayer in schools

 U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said his Democratic opponents would tear down crosses and pledged to bring prayer to public schools at a re-election rally to shore up evangelical support.

Trump spoke on the outskirts of Miami at the King Jesus International Ministry, a “prosperity gospel” church that teaches that the faithful will be rewarded with health and wealth on earth. 

“We are defending religion itself, it’s under siege,” Trump said. “A society without religion cannot prosper.”

More than 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump in the 2016 election. But a crack in evangelical support opened up last month when the magazine Christianity Today wrote a blistering editorial on Trump’s “grossly immoral character.” 

Attendees, some of them wearing Trump’s signature red campaign hats, nearly filled the room, which the church says holds 7,000. Some raised their hands in a sign of praise and swayed while music played loudly over the speakers before the president entered the room. 

Pastors gathered around Trump on the stage for an opening prayer, while much of the audience remained standing with their hands aloft. 

In his speech, Trump mocked Democratic challenger Pete Buttigieg, the Indiana mayor, for having what he said was an unpronounceable last name, and told attendees Democrats were waging war against religion. 

“These angry radicals want to impose absolute conformity by censuring speech, tearing down crosses and symbols of faith and banning religious believers from public life.” 

He got a big reaction from the crowd when he promised to bring religion into U.S. schools. A clause in the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from promoting one religion over the other, which means public schools don’t promote prayer or religious symbols. 

“Very soon I’ll be taking action to safeguard students and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools,” Trump said. “They want to take that right along with many other ones.”

According to a 2019 survey here by the Pew Research Center, 43% of U.S. adults, or some 110 million people, identify with Protestantism; 59% of those, or 64 million are born-again or evangelical Christians. 

Christian support for Trump remained relatively constant from his inauguration until March of 2019, Pew Research shows. Some Christians believe that support has frayed since. 

Friday’s rally “is Trump’s desperate response to the realization that he is losing his primary voting bloc — faith voters,” said Doug Pagitt, the executive director of Vote Common Good, a progressive Christian group, on Friday.


[Reuters]

Trump sides with Putin on impeachment in late Friday night tweet

President Donald Trump continues to side with Russia on questions of domestic politics.

On Friday, the commander-in-chief tweeted out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s views on impeachment, adding that it is “a total witch hunt.”

Trump has received a great deal of criticism for believing the Russian military intelligence conspiracy theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in the 2016.

The scandal is at the heart of the impeachment trial expected to start in January.

[Raw Story]

Trump suggests Schiff should be punished like ‘in Guatemala’ – laments ‘because of immunity he can’t be prosecuted’

President Donald Trump appeared to suggest House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff should be violently punished, and lamented that because the California Democratic Congressman has “immunity” he won’t be prosecuted.

The irony of the president’s hypocrisy appeared to escape Trump. In the Mueller report alone at least ten possibly criminal acts Trump appears to have committed were outlined, but because of a DOJ policy he cannot be prosecuted.

The president attacked Chairman Schiff for an early impeachment hearing in which the Chairman delivered opening remarks clearly summarizing via parody the effects of Trump’s infamous July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.  Trump and Republicans have latched on to those comments claiming Schiff was lying or somehow falsifying the record, which is untrue.

In his Tuesday remarks to reporters President Trump, meeting with the President of Guatemala, blasted Chairman Schiff.

“When you have a guy like Shifty Schiff go out and make up a statement that I made, he said, this is what he said but I never said it. He totally made it up. In Guatemala they handle things much tougher than that,” he said, referring to Schiff’s remarks.

[The New Civil Rights Movement]

Media

Trump praises Kennedy after Chuck Todd links senator’s Ukraine remarks to Putin

President Trump on Monday praised Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) for his appearance a day earlier on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where anchor Chuck Todd questioned the senator for pushing the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

“Thank you to Great Republican @SenJohnKennedy for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself against Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd on Meet the Depressed!” Trump tweeted.

The president tweeted his thanks as he flew to London for NATO meetings. He also praised two House Republicans for defending him against the impeachment inquiry in television interviews.

Kennedy has been part of controversial interviews each of the past two Sundays after making claims about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election.

Kennedy last week suggested that there was still a possibility that Ukraine was responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. He walked back those comments days later but has continued to insist Ukraine interfered in other ways. 

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kennedy asserted that reporting in outlets such as Politico and The Economist indicated that the former Ukrainian president favored Clinton over Trump.

“The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton,” he said.

Todd appeared exasperated with the senator and pushed back on his argument, suggesting Kennedy was furthering a narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” Todd asked. 

“No, just read the articles,” Kennedy said. 

The Intelligence Committee has concluded that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election and was seeking to aid the Trump campaign. Former special counsel Robert Mueller determined he could not establish that the Trump campaign worked with Russia.

In the aftermath of that investigation, Trump and some of his allies have continued to claim Ukraine meddled in the 2016 race despite the insistence to the contrary of national security officials. 

[The Hill]

Trump pardons and reinstates three more war criminals against his own DOD

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq, a move critics have said would undermine military justice and send a message that battlefield atrocities will be tolerated.

The White House said in a statement Trump granted full pardons to First Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Major Mathew Golsteyn, and ordered that the rank Edward Gallagher held before he was convicted in a military trial this year be restored.

“For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history,” the statement said.

A Pentagon spokesperson said the Department of Defense has confidence in the military justice system.

“The President is part of the military justice system as the Commander-in-Chief and has the authority to weigh in on matters of this nature,” the spokesperson said.

In recent weeks, Pentagon officials had spoken with Trump about the cases, provided facts and emphasized the due process built into the military justice system.

The White House said in a statement Trump granted full pardons to First Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Major Mathew Golsteyn, and ordered that the rank Edward Gallagher held before he was convicted in a military trial this year be restored.

“For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history,” the statement said.

A Pentagon spokesperson said the Department of Defense has confidence in the military justice system.

“The President is part of the military justice system as the Commander-in-Chief and has the authority to weigh in on matters of this nature,” the spokesperson said.

In recent weeks, Pentagon officials had spoken with Trump about the cases, provided facts and emphasized the due process built into the military justice system.

But presidents have occasionally granted pardons preemptively to individuals accused of or suspected of a crime.

The most famous such case was the blanket pardon President Gerald Ford bestowed on his predecessor, Richard Nixon, after Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate scandal in 1974.

[Reuters]

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