Trump criticizes Lisa Page after she breaks silence

President Trump criticized former FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Monday in a tweet, a day after she broke her silence in an interview about the attacks she has withstood from the president.

“When Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being ‘crushed’, and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter’s ‘Insurance Policy’ text, to her, just in case Hillary loses,” Trump tweeted Monday while traveling to the United Kingdom for a NATO meeting.

“Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller. Where are they Lisa?” the president continued, accusing former special counsel Robert Mueller of deleting text messages between Page and Strzok without offering evidence. 

Trump and his allies have long eviscerated Page and Strzok — another former FBI official — for text messages they sent criticizing then-candidate Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The messages exchanged by the pair, who had an affair and who both worked on the FBI’s original Russian interference probe, were unearthed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation last year.

In one August 2016 exchange, Strzok compared the Russia investigation to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

Trump has pointed to the text messages as evidence that Page and Strzok were laying the groundwork for an effort to undermine him in the event he won the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Page subsequently told congressional investigators that the two were discussing how strongly to push forward in investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Page broke years of public silence in an interview with The Daily Beast published Sunday, likening Trump’s attacks on her to being “punched in the gut.”

“My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening,” Page told The Daily Beast. 

The Justice Department inspector general said last year that the text messages had been deleted from the individuals’ FBI phones due to technical glitches but had been recovered.

[The Hill]

Trump attacks Pence aide who called Ukraine call ‘inappropriate’

President Trump railed against Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and staffer to Vice President Pence, after she told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the center of the impeachment inquiry was “inappropriate.”

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” the president tweeted Sunday afternoon. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Trump also used the label “Never Trumpers” to attack diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent after they testified in the impeachment inquiry last week.

He also took aim at what he called “Crazed, Do Nothing Democrats” in a tweet moments later, accusing them of “turning Impeachment into a routine partisan weapon. That is very bad for our Country, and not what the Founders had in mind!!!!”

“Republicans & others must remember, the Ukrainian President and Foreign Minister both said that there was no pressure placed on them whatsoever,” he wrote in another tweet. “Also, they didn’t even know the money wasn’t paid, and got the money with no conditions. But why isn’t Germany, France (Europe) paying?” 

On Saturday, House Democrats released a transcript of Williams’s closed-door testimony with lawmakers as part of the chamber’s ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

During her deposition, Williams testified that she has firsthand knowledge of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky as one of the officials on the call.

Williams testified that she found a few references made in the phone call — during which Trump asked Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden as well as the hack of the Democratic National Committee server in 2016 — to be “unusual, and more of a political nature.”

When pressed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on her feelings about the concerns raised by Trump during the call, Williams testified that she “found them to be more political in nature and, in the context of a foreign policy – or an engagement with a foreign leader, to be more political than diplomatic.”

“Some people would say that diplomacy itself is inherently political, and so everything diplomatic is, by definition, political also, but you had a strong reaction to that. Can you spell out what you saw improperly political about those mentions?” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked Williams during her testimony.

“I believe I found the specific mentions to be – to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal agenda … as opposed to a broad foreign policy objective of the United States,” Williams responded.

“I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” she added.

Williams is expected to testify publicly next week as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

[The Hill]

Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: ‘I have freedom of speech’

President Trump on Friday defended his tweet earlier in the day attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her public testimony in the House impeachment hearing, insisting he has the right to speak out.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,” Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he’s “allowed to speak up” if others are speaking about him.

Pressed on whether his words can be intimidating, as Yovanovitch and Democrats have said, Trump said no.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said.

The remarks were Trump’s first public comments of the day, which has largely been dominated by testimony from Yovanovitch. As the former ambassador testified about a smear campaign by Trump’s allies to oust her from her post in Kyiv, the president took aim at her on Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” Trump tweeted. “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a stunning moment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) interrupted questioning from his staff counsel to read the president’s tweet aloud to Yovanovitch and asked for her reaction.

“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch said with a slight laugh. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places.”

Asked what effect Trump’s tweet might have on future witnesses facing pressure from the White House not to testify, Yovanovitch described it as “very intimidating.”

Democrats on the committee and elsewhere in the House equated Trump’s tweet to witness intimidation and suggested that it could be considered when mulling articles of impeachment later in the process.

The White House on Friday morning issued a statement that Trump would not be watching Yovanovitch’s testimony beyond opening statements. But Trump himself said that he had tuned in.

“I watched a little bit of it today. I wasn’t able to yesterday because we had the president of Turkey here, and I wasn’t able to watch much,” Trump said. “I watched some of it this morning and I thought it was a disgrace.”

Trump complained that Republicans were not given a fair shake, referencing an instance where Schiff stopped Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) from questioning Yovanovitch because the rules stipulated that only the ranking member or Republican counsel could ask questions during that period.

“It’s a disgrace and it’s an embarrassment to our nation,” Trump said.

Yovanovitch is the third witness to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry. Several other current and former administration officials are scheduled to give public testimony next week.

[The Hill]

Trump attacks ambassador on Twitter as she testifies that his words in Ukraine call made her feel threatened

President Donald Trump lashed out at former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday as she testified in a public impeachment hearing that his words about her in a phone call with the Ukraine president “sounded like a threat.”

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump claimed in a two-part tweet blast.

“She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” the president wrote.

The time stamp on the tweet is 10 a.m., 30 minutes after Yovanovitch started her opening statement at the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing.

Yovanovitch, whose career of service to the U.S. spanned more than three decades, was asked at the hearing about the tweets.

“I actually think that where I served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I served in,” she said.

“It’s very intimidating,” she added when asked again about the president’s tweets.

“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Yovanovitch had served the U.S. in Ukraine from August 2016 until May 2019, when Trump ousted her. She testified that she “had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals” during her tenure and said she was the victim of a “smear campaign” pushed in part by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump, in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called Yovanovitch “bad news” and offered the cryptic remark that “she’s going to go through some things.”

That call is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused his office by asking Zelenskiy to announce investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Yovanovitch, who was already removed as ambassador by the time of Trump’s July 25 call, said that Trump’s remark about her “didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat.”

“It’s not a very precise phrase,” she added. “It kind of felt like a vague threat.”

[NBC News]

Trump knocks testimony from ‘Never Trumpers’ at Louisiana rally

President Trump on Thursday attacked Democratic lawmakers in personal terms and ridiculed the first two witnesses to testify publicly in the House’s impeachment inquiry as “Never Trumpers.”

In his first campaign rally since the Wednesday hearing, Trump riffed about the spectacle and insisted to a crowd of adoring supporters that he had done nothing wrong.

“The absolutely crazed lunatics, the Democrats, radical left and their media partners standing right back there are pushing the deranged impeachment witch hunt for doing nothing wrong,” Trump said during the event in Bossier City, La.

Trump briefly addressed the testimony of diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent, who told the House Committees about their concerns regarding Trump’s policy in Ukraine, the focus on investigations into his political rivals and the actions of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

“You saw yesterday how about when they asked these two Never Trumpers, ‘what exactly do you think you impeach him for?'” Trump said. “And they stood there and went like, ‘what?'”

“But they’re unraveling and their sinister plans will fail,” Trump added. “They’ve already failed as far as I’m concerned.”

The president avoided addressing any specific claims in the testimony from Taylor and Kent. Instead, he turned his ire toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whom he mocked at length.

“He’s got the little 10-inch neck,” Trump said of the Democratic lawmaker, who is overseeing the impeachment hearings.

“He will not make the LSU football team, that I can tell you,” Trump added.

The president also read aloud from a post on The Daily Wire, a conservative publication that published quotes from a Ukrainian official that distanced the country from allegations against Trump.

Trump rallied in Louisiana for the second time in a week and the third time in a month as he makes a final push for Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone. Thursday’s event came one day after the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry. 

Taylor in particular laid out in rich detail the timeline of events that led him to believe the president’s policy in Ukraine was inappropriate.

He delivered a damning new piece of testimony when he told the House Intelligence Committee that one of his staffers overheard a call between Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in which the president asked about investigations. The Associated Press reported earlier Thursday that a second staffer overheard the call as well.

But Trump and his allies have landed on a clear talking point in the aftermath of the hearing, noting that neither Taylor nor Kent had direct interactions with the president or first-hand information about potential wrongdoing.

Trump is facing a gauntlet of upcoming witness testimony that could produce more damaging revelation. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is set to testify in public on Friday morning. She has previously told lawmakers behind closed doors that Giuliani led a concerted effort to smear her and remove her from her post.

Several more witnesses, including Sondland, will testify in public next week. The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry will also hear private deposition from additional administration officials in the coming days.

Earlier on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) portrayed Trump’s actions as a clearly impeachable offense.

“What President Trump has done on the record — in terms of … [asking] a foreign power to help him in his own election and the obstruction of information about that, the cover up — makes what Nixon did look almost small,” she said at a press conference. “Almost small.”

Trump reiterated his belief that the impeachment process will ultimately benefit Republicans at the polls, despite public polling showing an even split among those in favor of impeachment and those opposed to it.

But in what appeared to be a more sincere moment from the free-wheeling president, Trump indicated to the crowd that the process has been difficult for his family and that he’d be happy to see it conclude.

“What a life I lead,” Trump said to the crowd. “You think this is fun, don’t you? But it’s been very hard on my family.”

[The Hill]

Trump Wants Whistleblower’s Lawyer Sued ‘Maybe for Treason,’ Which Definitely Isn’t a Thing

President Donald Trump tried his hand at tort law on Friday by suggesting the intelligence community whistleblower “should be revealed” and that their lawyer should be sued “maybe for treason.”

“So the whistleblower is a disgrace to our country” Trump said. And the whistleblower, because of that, should be revealed. And his lawyer who said the worst things possible two years ago, he should be sued and maybe for treason. Maybe for treason, but he should be sued. His lawyer is a disgrace.”

It appears that Trump was referring to attorney Mark Zaid. The comments were made during a press assemblage on the White House lawn where the president also addressed the closed-door impeachment hearings and the state of the 2020 presidential race.

The suggestion of treason as a civil action, however, quickly sent legal commentators into a tailspin of eyebrow-raising ridicule.

First Amendment attorney and legal commentator Adam Steinbaugh noted: “you… you can’t be sued for treason.”

That’s true. Treason is a criminal charge. Suing someone is an action taken in a civil court. Criminal charges are leveled by the state. Civil actions–which we usually call lawsuits–are usually filed by the state or private individuals in an effort to obtain money or information.

Treason, in other words, is a suggestion that simply makes no sense whatsoever under the present circumstances. This isn’t an issue that’s subject to debate. There’s plainly and clearly no cause of action known as “treason” under any state or federal law in the United States. (And this probably shouldn’t even have to be explained.)

Under the laws of the United States, treason has a very specific and very limited definition. Per the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

There’s also a separate codification of treason under at 18 U.S. Code § 2381 which barely tweaks the constitutional definition and also assigns specific penalties for committing the criminal act.

No concept, provision or sleight of legalese that exists in the U.S. legal order would be capable of transmogrifying the above potential crimes into something that anyone could sue anyone else for. The point, now a bit belabored, is basically the end of the story.

Except for maybe the jokes.

“Treasonous infliction of emotional distress, dude,” offered Reason‘s criminal justice reporter C.J. Ciaramella. “Look it up.”

On Thursday, it should be noted, one of the intelligence community whistleblower’s attorneys sent White House Counsel Pat Cipollone a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Trump stop calling for their client’s identity to be exposed and to stop using “rhetoric that may endanger their life.”

“I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” attorney Andrew P. Bakaj wrote.

The whistleblower’s attorney later laid it on the line:

In the best light, such statements seek to intimidate my client–and they have. As I am sure you are aware, my firm was in the process of coordinating with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to have my client deposed by congressional investigators. However, as a direct consequence of the President’s irresponsible rhetoric and behavior, my client’s physical safety became a significant concern, prompting us to instead state our willingness to only answer written interrogatories [questions].

Trump’s campaign to expose and smear the intelligence community whistleblower has, effectively, given the whistleblower pause about how and whether they should testify. Bakaj says that’s a crime.

“In light of this, it is reasonable to submit that your client’s activity constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant,” Bakaj continued. “Furthermore, because my client is a lawful whistleblower and a prospective congressional witness, any threats to influence, obstruct, or impede my client’s cooperation is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505, Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees. Finally, reprisal against my client for cooperating with a congressional inquiry would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513, Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant.”

Despite this warning, Trump once again called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed.

The 45th president is arguably skilled at asymmetric attempts to muddy the waters and that’s as good an explanation as any for what happened on the White House lawn Friday morning. That doesn’t mean necessarily mean any of this is well-advised. 

Those most recent attacks on these attorneys and their clients are exactly the sorts of statements cautioned against in the cease-and-desist missive. They’re also the sort of statements that congressional investigators are likely to add to any eventual articles of impeachment.

[Law and Crime]

Gruesome Video of Fake Trump Killing Media in Mass Shooting Played at One of His Resorts

At a time when our nation is facing an epidemic of mass shootings, supporters of President Donald Trump showed a violent depiction of a fake Trump massacring members of the news media using a gun and other weapons at a conference held at one of the president’s resorts, the New York Times reported Sunday night.

American Priority, a group that supports the president, hosted the conference at Trump National Doral Miami. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Governor Rick DeSantis were all scheduled to speak at the event. But Huckabee Sanders and a source close to Trump Jr. denied either saw the video.

Bloomberg technology reporter William Turton surfaced a video matching the description from the Times on YouTube. The video appears to have been uploaded by YouTube account TheGeekzTeam in July 2018, and the account has posted other videos doctored to make it look like Trump is violently killing his enemies. Although Turton said he has not yet been able to confirm the YouTube video was the same one played at the conference, the details in the video as described by the Times line up, although portions like the Barack Obama interview at the end of the video were not reported to have been shown.

In the video,a man with Trump’s head superimposed on his body goes into a building labeled the “Church of Fake News” where people inside are labeled with logos of major news outlets including Vox, Politico, the Washington Post, HuffPost, ABC and NBC covering their heads. Trump then opens fire, killing numerous media outlets including Vox, Politico and NPR, in addition to activist group Black Lives Matter. The fake Trump begins his rampage using a gun but later switches to a wooden stake and a knife. Also in the video are Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rosie O’Donnell — all of them are slaughtered by the killer Trump. The mass murder ends with the president driving a wooden stake into the head of a person depicted as the church’s minister with a CNN logo covering their face as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” plays in the background.

The footage, the Times said, was taken and doctored from a church massacre scene in the dark comedy “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Trump’s presidency has been marked by criticism of the news media, and recently he has even been vocally critical of his beloved Fox News. The president himself has shared a video depicting himself as violent toward the media, tweeting out a doctored video of him body slamming a man with a CNN logo over his head in 2017. Trump has also turned his ire toward reporters during his political rallies, spurring his supporters to taunt and threaten members of the media covering him.

When we are barely a year out from the tragic Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland that killed five of the newspaper’s staff not to mention other recent mass shootings in churchessynagogues and mosques, videos like this are particularly dangerous, especially when they are broadcast at events even loosely affiliated with the president and on property he owns.

[Rolling Stone]

Media

Trump Again Attacks Teenage Climate Activist Greta Thunberg

President Donald Trump is using his Twitter account to once again attack teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, this time to amplify a snide dismissal of her public appearances as “acting.”

The commander-in-chief on Thursday jabbed at the Swedish 16-year-old: He retweeted and praised a Twitter user who criticized the passionate speech Thunberg gave at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City late last month.

A user by the name of @Opinion8dKellie shared video of Thunberg’s speech, in which the teen slammed world leaders for what she said was more interest in making money than in saving the planet by reducing carbon emissions.

“What an actress!” the user, @Opinion8dKellie, tweeted, adding, “I won’t be held hostage by someone who just got a learner’s permit. Sorry kiddo!”

Though the tweet was written on Sept. 23, Trump, 73, retweeted it Thursday morning.

“Keep up the great work Kellie!” he wrote.

In the original tweet, @Opinion8dKellie also referred dismissively to when a visibly aggrieved Thunberg said at the U.N.: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”

[People]

Trump targets ‘pathetic’ Federal Reserve after worst manufacturing reading in a decade

President Donald Trump again attacked the Federal Reserve on Tuesday after the weakest U.S. manufacturing reading in 10 years.

In a tweet, the president wrote Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the central bank “have allowed the Dollar to get so strong, especially relative to ALL other currencies, that our manufacturers are being negatively affected.” He contended the Fed has set interest rates “too high.”

“They are their own worst enemies, they don’t have a clue,” he wrote. “Pathetic!”

As his trade war with China rages on, Trump has repeatedly blamed the Fed’s interest rate policy for concerns about a slowing U.S. economy. He has contended the central bank has not moved quickly enough to ease monetary policy — though the Fed has cut its benchmark funds rate twice this year.

The Fed did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Trump’s tweet comes after the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing reading fell to 47.8 in September, down from 49.1 in August. A reading below 50 shows a manufacturing contraction.

The poor economic data contributed to major U.S. stock indexes sliding Tuesday.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of global currencies, has climbed more than 3% this year and sits near its highest level since mid-2017. A stronger dollar relative to global currencies is generally expected to reduce exports and increase imports, hurting manufacturers because it makes their products more expensive overseas.

While exchange rates may have contributed to the drag on manufacturing in September, trade also did, according to ISM.

“Global trade remains the most significant issue as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019. Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth,” Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a release announcing the data.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed any concerns about a looming American recession. He has also contended his trade conflict with the second-largest economy in the world will not harm businesses or consumers — despite indications that it has already started to hurt some companies and worry Americans.

Seeing concerns about a flagging economy as a ploy to discredit him before the 2020 election, Trump has claimed the central bank bears the blame for any slowdown rather than his own policies.

[NBC News]

Media

Trump: Why aren’t we entitled to ‘learn everything about’ the whistleblower?

President Trump on Tuesday reiterated his desire to meet with and question the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine ignited an impeachment inquiry.

The president, who in recent days attacked the whistleblower as a “fraud” and attempted to undermine their credibility, questioned why he doesn’t have the right to interview the anonymous individual.

“Why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him,” Trump tweeted. “This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer, or better. No pressure at all (as confirmed by Ukrainian Pres.). It is just another Democrat Hoax!”

Trump claimed the author of the complaint “has all second hand information” and that “almost everything” the whistleblower recounted about the president’s call with Ukraine was wrong.

But neither of those things is true.

The whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky aligns with a rough White House transcript that shows Trump urged Zelensky to “look into” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and asked him to investigate a company with ties to the 2016 election.

In addition, the intelligence community inspector general released a statement on Monday night clarifying that the whistleblower had firsthand information and information from other sources in their complaint about Trump.

Democrats and the whistleblower’s attorneys have expressed concerns that Trump is endangering the person’s safety by attempting to uncover their identity and questioning their motives.

The president has ramped up his attacks on the anonymous individual behind the whistleblower complaint in recent days, claiming he should be able to meet the complainant and alleging they are partisan despite not knowing their identity.

The Whistleblower Protection Act makes it a violation for federal agencies to threaten retaliation against individuals who come forward to raise concerns of wrongdoing within the government.

[The Hill]

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