Trump, citing politics, looking to revoke security clearances

President Donald Trump is considering stripping a half-dozen former national security officials of their security clearances, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday, calling their public commentary about the ongoing Russia probe inappropriate.

The list of former officials under consideration includes former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, according to Sanders.

“They’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service,” Sanders said during a press briefing. “Making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russia is inappropriate.”

Sanders would not say when the President would make the decision; she said only that the White House would provide updates when it had them.

The announcement came after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted that he planned to speak with Trump about removing Brennan’s security clearance. Brennan declared last week that Trump’s performance following a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.”

A decision to strip a former official of a security clearance would prove a striking use of presidential power. Even Michael Flynn, Trump’s onetime national security adviser who was fired during the Obama administration, maintained his clearance when he was acting as a campaign surrogate for Trump, often leading “lock her up” chants at political rallies.

Sanders did little to mask the political nature of Trump’s threat, indicating the President was frustrated by the former officials’ criticism of him.

“When you have the highest level of security clearance, when you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the President on the United States, he says that’s something to be concerned with,” Sanders said.

“We’re exploring what those options are and what that looks like,” she said of the process for removing the officials clearances.

When they leave government, national security officials routinely maintain their security clearances, partly to consult with those who replace them about ongoing situations or issues.

Officials also use their clearances to obtain high-paying consulting positions in the private sector.

“I think this is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that’s about all I’ll say about it,” Clapper said on CNN in the immediate wake of Sanders’ announcement.

“There is a formal process for doing this,” he added. “But, you know, legally the President has that prerogative and he can suspend and revoke clearances as he sees fit. If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that’s a terrible precedent and it’s a really sad commentary and its an abuse of the system.”

Hayden indicated being stripped of his clearance would be of little consequence to his commentary.

“I don’t go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write,” he tweeted.

It is the President’s prerogative to revoke security clearances, a former senior intelligence official said on Monday, who added that instances of such an occurrence were rare.

Usually former senior officials retain clearances so their successors can consult with theem on a pro bono basis, the former official said.

[CNN]

Trump levels false attacks against The Post and Amazon in a pair of tweets

President Trump on Monday used his Twitter account to make false and misleading attacks against The Washington Post and Amazon, the behemoth online retailer whose founder owns The Post.

In the first of his tweets, Trump said the “Amazon Washington Post has gone crazy against me ever since they lost the Internet Tax Case in the U.S. Supreme Court two months ago.”

The president was apparently referring to a Supreme Court case decided last month that will allow state governments to compel retailers beyond their borders to collect sales tax revenue from consumers.

Amazon, the nation’s biggest online retailer, took a small hit in its stock price after the decision, even though it already collects taxes on its sales in all states. The company, whose founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Post, does not collect taxes on third-party purchases. The Post and Amazon are independently operated.

It’s not clear what Trump meant by “gone crazy against me,” though he was critical in a separate tweet Monday of media coverage of his efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. The Post reported over the weekend that Trump has privately fumed about a lack of progress even as he has publicly touted his administration’s efforts.

In his first tweet on The Post and Amazon, Trump also complained that the U.S. Postal Service is “the delivery boy” for Amazon, which he said pays only “a fraction of real cost.”

Trump has previously said that Amazon costs the Postal Service billions of dollars in potential revenue, even though officials have explained to him that Amazon’s contracts with the Postal Service are profitable for the agency.

In a second tweet, Trump said that The Post “is nothing more than an expensive (the paper loses a fortune) lobbyist for Amazon.”

Trump has made the false claim about The Post serving as a lobbyist for Amazon multiple times.

Responding to a similar tweet in March, Post publisher Frederick J. Ryan Jr. said: “The Washington Post operates with complete independence in making all news and editorial decisions. We alone decide what to publish. It is preposterous and disingenuous to suggest that The Post is used to advance Jeff’s other commercial interests.”

Post editors have also rejected Trump’s accusation that The Post has supported Amazon’s interests.

“The reality is he didn’t present any evidence that we were lobbying for Amazon,” Post Executive Editor Martin Baron has said in response to a previous Trump attack. “The reason is because there is no evidence.”

Contrary to Trump’s assertion, Ryan has also said that The Post is positioned for “continued profitability.”

[Washington Post]

Trump Claims Obama Did Nothing About Russian Election Meddling Because ‘It is All a Big Hoax’

On Sunday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on his way home from his golfing weekend in New Jersey to claim that President Barack Obama didn’t do anything about Russian election meddling because it is “all a big hoax.”

“So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election,” Trump opined.  “Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!”

Trump’s tweet follows a busy morning of tweets where he claimed he had a “great” meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putinand quoted Fox News’ Pete Hegseth saying, “Source #1 was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump.”

Trump’s comments also elicited a strong reaction from news pundits, who were quick to point out that Trump’s comments come after a week of playing cleanup after he refused to denounce Russian meddling to Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s face.

[Mediaite]

Reality

The reality is the entire United States intelligence community concluded Russia did interfere with our election with the express purpose of making Donald Trump our president. And the FBI did tell Trump as a candidate Russia was trying to infiltrate his campaign.
The fact is Obama was ready to do more to stop Russian election interference, but was blocked personally by Mitch McConnell.

Trump: Cohen taping me ‘totally unheard of & perhaps illegal’

President Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that he “did nothing wrong” after reports surfaced that Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, secretly recorded him shortly before the 2016 presidential election talking about buying the rights to the story of a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump.

In his first public comments since a series of explosive reports in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump said it was “inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

The recording was seized in April when the FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel rooms in Manhattan, The Times reported, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

Laws on taping private conversations differ from state to state, and it is not clear where Cohen recorded Trump. New York state, for example, has a “one-party consent” law, which makes it a crime to record an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party participating in the conversation consents.

The Journal reported the conversation took place in September 2016, a month after American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had purchased the rights to ex-Playmate Karen McDougal’s story of the alleged extramarital affair.

Cohen suggested that he and Trump consider buying the rights to her story themselves, which would have effectively reimbursed the Enquirer for its payments to McDougal. It is unclear why they didn’t, The Journal said.

McDougal has said that AMI agreed to pay her $150,000 for her story but then did not publish it.

David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of AMI, is a Trump supporter who reportedly described the president as a “personal friend.” Former AMI employees told The New Yorker that Pecker often buys the rights to a story in order to bury it — a tabloid-industry practice called “catch and kill.”

McDougal says she had an year-long affair with Trump more than a decade ago, which Trump has denied.

McDougal also has filed a lawsuit seeking the right to speak publicly about her alleged affair with Trump. Adult film star Stormy Daniels has also sued the president to nullify a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged affair, which the White House also has denied.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, said the recording demonstrated no wrongdoing by Trump.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.”

Trump was “unaware” that Cohen was recording him, CNBC reported on Friday, citing a source familiar with the matter. The source also said other tapes exist, but the president’s legal team is not aware of any other “substantive tapes.” NBC News has confirmed that report.

The White House declined to comment.

Often described as Trump’s “fixer,” Cohen is the subject of a probe by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said, “Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that. But suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape.”

Barbara Jones, the special master overseeing the review of evidence seized from Cohen, said on Friday she was provided with 4,085 items that Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization marked as attorney-client privilege. But Jones pushed back on the designation of 1,452 of those items, so those will be handed over to government investigators.

Cohen’s lawyers found the recording when reviewing the seized materials from the raid and shared it with Trump’s lawyers, The Times said, citing three unnamed sources.

[NBC News]

Reality

New York is a “one-party consent” state, meaning as long as one party of the conversation, most likely you, agree to be recorded then it’s totally legal.

And of course Trump never heard of Michael Cohen’s secret tapes, that’s why they were secret tapes!

Trump wants suspensions for NFL players who kneel during anthem

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that National Football League (NFL) players who do not stand for the national anthem should be suspended for the season without pay.

The comments come a day after the NFL and the union representing its players said they were working on a resolution to the league’s national anthem policy.

The policy, which was announced in May, followed Trump’s denunciation of pregame protests which were intended to call attention to what critics say is often brutal treatment of minorities by U.S. law enforcement.

Trump and others have blasted the gesture as a sign of disrespect to the U.S. flag and the military.

“The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it!,” Trump said on Twitter.

“First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay.

“The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand,” he said in reference to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The players union, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), recently filed a grievance over the league’s new requirement that players stand for the national anthem or wait in their dressing rooms.

The NFLPA claimed the new policy was inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringed on player rights.

The NFL and NFLPA said on Thursday no new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while the confidential discussions are ongoing.

[Reuters]

Reality

Two days prior, Fox News begged Donald Trump to tweet something out to distract everyone from his failure in Helsinki. Trump took their advice.

Trump Says Obama was a ‘Total Patsy’ for Russia

In an excerpt of an interview with CNBC that was published Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump says that he will be Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s “worst enemy” if their relationship and their dealmaking doesn’t work out, unlike President Barack Obama who he called Putin’s “patsy.”

Speaking to CNBC in an interview that will air in full on Friday, Trump said this about Putin if the dealings don’t work out: “I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had.”

He also said in the same interview, according to CNBC, that Obama had been a “total patsy” on Russia.

“Obama didn’t do it, Obama was a patsy for Russia, Obama was a total patsy,” Trump opined.

Trump also insisted that as the current president he has been “far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years” and the toughest president on Russia “maybe ever.”

Trump’s tough talk was somewhat mitigated, however, by Trump’s desire to make things work out between him and the Russian leader which he insisted was a positive thing.

“Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia, is positive, not a negative,” he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen, in the released excerpts before his warning about turning enemy if the relationship sours.

[Mediaite]

White House: Trump will consider letting Russia question investor, former ambassador

President Donald Trump will consider allowing Russian investigators to question U.S.-born investor Bill Browder, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and others after President Vladimir Putin floated the idea, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.

“He said it was an interesting idea. He didn’t commit to anything,” Sanders said at the daily press briefing. “He wants to work with his team and determine if there’s any validity that would be helpful to the process…It was an idea they threw out.”

Later in the day, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the concept “absolutely absurd.”

“The fact that they want to question 11 American citizens, and the assertions that the Russian government is making about those American citizens — we do not stand by those assertions,” Nauert said.

In a joint press conference with Trump Monday, Putin proposed that the U.S. allow Russian officials to interview Americans in exchange for Russia allowing U.S. officials to interview Russians, such as the 12 people recently indicted for their role in hacking Democratic computer systems in 2016.

“This kind of effort should be a mutual one,” Putin said Monday. “We would expect that the Americans would reciprocate.”

The idea was “an incredible offer,” Trump said.

The Russian leader mentioned Browder, whom, he said, “we have an interest of questioning” over tax issues. Browder has been at odds with the Kremlin for years, including because of his advocacy for efforts to sanction Russians suspected of committing human rights violations.

On Tuesday, the Russian Prosecutor General’s office released a wishlist of potential people to extradite, including members of the State and Homeland Security departments and members of the CIA. McFaul, a former ambassador who had strained relations with the Kremlin and has since said he was banned from traveling to Russia, was also included.

“I hope the White House corrects the record and denounces in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin,” McFaul tweeted Wednesday. “Not doing so creates moral equivalency between a legitimacy US indictment of Russian intelligence officers and a crazy, completely fabricated story invented by Putin.”

It would be an extraordinary step to allow Russian investigators access to current or former U.S. officials. Browder, though born in the U.S., is now a British citizen, so it is unclear how a deal involving him would work.

[Politico]

Furious Trump unleashes unhinged tweet against ‘Ex-FBI LAYER Lisa Page’

Lisa Page has ignored a subpoena from Congressional investigators who have abandoned the Russia investigation and pivoted to investigating the FBI instead.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) threatened Page that he would enforce the subpoena, but has yet to do so.

“Ex-FBI LAYER [sic] Lisa Page today defied a House of Representatives issued Subpoena to testify before Congress! Wow, but is anybody really surprised! Together with her lover, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, she worked on the Rigged Witch Hunt, perhaps the most tainted and corrupt case EVER!” Trump ranted.

About an hour later, Trump tweeted out another accusation on what he now calls a “Rigged Witch Hunt,” as opposed to a regular witch hunt he previously called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is unclear if by saying the investigation is rigged Trump believes the investigation should be restarted. That would mean it would continue for many more years.

[Raw Story]

Reality

This was, of course, a complete mis-characterization of Page’s lawyer’s answer to the subpoena. They requested more time to read the documents sent over by Congress, and will testify the following day.

Trump: Statue of Liberty protester was a ‘clown’

President Trump on Thursday went after the female demonstrator who scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty to protest his administration’s immigration policies, calling her a “clown.”

“You saw that clown yesterday on the Statue of Liberty, you saw those clowns that went up there,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Montana on Thursday. “I wouldn’t have done it.”

“I would have said let’s get some nets ,we’ll wait ’til she….just get some nets,” he said.

A woman was taken into custody on Wednesday, the Fourth of July, after she scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty during a protest at the statue over Trump’s immigration policies.

Police went after the woman and brought her down in a harness.

Protesters had unveiled a banner reading “Abolish I.C.E.” at the demonstration earlier Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers have adopted calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after backlash over Trump’s since-ended policy to separate immigrant families at the border.

“We want tough, strong, powerful borders and we want no crime. And want to protect ICE,” Trump said at the rally Thursday. “They protect us and we protect them.”

[The Hill]

Media

Dubious Fox News article appears to have sparked Trump attack on Obama

President Donald Trump appeared to rely on a dubious Fox News report Tuesday morning to unleash an attack on his predecessor, accusing President Barack Obama, without any real evidence, of granting citizenship to 2,500 Iranians as part of nuclear deal negotiations.

“Just out that Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians – including to government officials,” Trump tweeted. “How big (and bad) is that?”

Jeff Prescott, the former senior director on Obama’s National Security Council, called Trump’s allegation “absurd and entirely false.”

Prescott shared with CNN immigration data from the Department of Homeland Security which showed that the number of Iranians naturalized in the United States over the course of the Obama and Bush administrations was relatively consistent.

“There was no connection between the Iran nuclear deal and immigration policy,” Prescott added.

The unsubstantiated claim first gained attention with a Monday story on Fox News’ website that relied on the word of an Iranian cleric who is also a member of the country’s parliament.

The article, written by Chris Irvine, a Fox News senior editor, cited an Iranian news agency that cited an Iranian newspaper that quoted the single Iranian cleric, who said the Obama administration provided citizenship to 2,500 unidentified Iranians during nuclear deal negotiations.

The article itself quoted, toward the end of the story, the network’s own commentator, former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, saying, “This sounds like totally made up BS.” The story said the Department of Homeland Security and State Department declined to comment, and that a representative for former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson could not be reached.

Prior to the Fox News article, the claim had not received any noticeable attention from the US media.

But after Fox News published its story, other outlets, primarily in the conservative media space, published similar stories. Those outlets included The Daily Mail, The Gateway Pundit, and TownHall.

The claims were also shared on Twitter by Fox News host Sean Hannity and frequent Fox guests David Clarke and Charlie Kirk.

On Tuesday morning, just hours before Trump’s tweet, the story made its way to Fox News’ airwaves on “Fox & Friends First,” the network’s early morning show. It also later aired on “America’s Newsroom,” a late-morning news program on Fox News.

“It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this is a case of Donald Trump parroting Fox News, which is peddling the claims of an Iranian hardliner,” Prescott told CNN.

Jake Sullivan, a former Obama official who was involved at the start of the Iran nuclear negotiations, also skewered Trump for relying on Fox News’ thin report to make what he called a “completely false” claim.

“What is interesting about this is that what happened is a hardline crank in Iran just randomly made this comment, Fox News writes a story on it, and then Trump tweets it,” Sullivan said on “The Situation Room.”

[CNN]

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