Trump criticizes national security advisor HR McMaster’s comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 election

President Donald Trump, in a late-night tweet, criticized remarks his national security advisor made earlier Saturday about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

H.R. McMaster, who is also a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, told a conference in Germany that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election.

He was citing Friday’s federal indictments, stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, that said Russian operatives conducted a sophisticated internet campaign to sow chaos in the American political scene.

Trump eventually responded to his national security advisor by saying McMaster left out some details from his comments.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted late Saturday night.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday that these particular indictments did not include allegations that the Russian efforts affected the election’s results. Trump saw the latest development in the case as a vindication.

The indictments released Friday allege, in part, that the Russians sought to disparage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help Trump win. The Russian operatives, according to the charges, attempted to convince some Americans to vote for third-party candidate Jill Stein over Clinton, and also sought to discourage minority turnout at the polls.

McMaster’s comments Saturday were part of a testy exchange with a Russian delegate at the conference.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday dismissed reports of interference as “blather.”

Trump has repeatedly denied that his campaign colluded with Russians to sway the election in his favor, and has often called the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” Russian authorities have also rejected claims of collusion.

The president’s tweet targeting McMaster came soon after he suggested in another tweet that the Russia probe had somehow distracted the FBI from seeing warning signs leading to Wednesday’s shooting massacre at a high school in south Florida.

[CNBC]

 

Trump called intel analyst a ‘pretty Korean lady’ — and asked why she wasn’t negotiating with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump’s latest outburst about immigrants from “sh*thole” African countries is far from his first time making racist statements.

In fact, sources tell NBC News that Trump made a career U.S. intelligence officer uncomfortable last year when he grilled her on her Korean heritage and demanded to know why she wasn’t being used to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to NBC News, Trump first asked the officer where she was from after she had finished delivering an intelligence briefing. She replied that she originally hailed from New York City, but Trump pushed her by asking where “your people” originally came from.

At that point, she admitted that both of her parents were from Korea — at which point Trump turned to an adviser and asked them why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t being used as an asset to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal.

“The officials who told NBC News of the fall exchange between Trump and the intelligence briefer in the Oval Office in the fall said the president likely meant no harm with his inquiry, but it raised concern of a lack of cultural sensitivity and decorum,” NBC notes, while also adding that a source close to the president claims that his advisers regularly try to get him to stop talking about people’s race — but to no avail.

[Raw Story]

Trump says he trusts Putin’s denials of election meddling

U.S. President Donald Trump said he believed President Vladimir Putin when he denied accusations Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election despite U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion of Russian interference.

Trump made the comment after he and Putin met briefly at a summit in Vietnam on Saturday and agreed on a statement supporting a political solution for Syria.

It was their first encounter since July and came during a low in U.S.-Russia relations and at a time Trump is haunted by an investigation into accusations that Putin influenced the election that brought him to the White House.

Putin reiterated the denials of interference, Trump said.

“Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after leaving the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the resort of Danang.

“I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country,” Trump said.

Trump, who has called allegations of campaign collusion with Moscow a hoax, has faced questions from Democrats about the matter since he took office. A special counsel, Robert Mueller, is conducting a probe that has led to charges against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded Russians interfered to tip the election in Trump’s favor through hacking and releasing emails to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and spreading social media propaganda.

Russia has repeatedly denied meddling.

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, which is investigating the issue, harshly criticized Trump’s comments and accused him of siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.

“The President fools no one. He understands that the Russians intervened through the hacking and dumping of his opponent’s emails, the fruits of which he exploited time and again on the campaign trail,” Adam Schiff said in a statement.

“He understands all this and more. He just doesn’t understand how to put country over self. Or to put it in terms he is more familiar with – Mr. Trump simply can’t bring himself to put America first,” the Democrat said.

[Reuters]

Trump slams former US intel leaders as ‘political hacks’

President Trump on Saturday lashed out at U.S. intelligence leaders for their conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, calling them “political hacks” and slamming the investigations into Russian interference as a “Democratic hit job.”

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump blasted former U.S. intelligence officials by name, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey.

“I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks,” Trump said, according to White House pool reports. He was discussing the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

“So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey,” he continued. “Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker.”

“So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them,” he continued, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Trump said that the investigation into Russian interference in the election was a “Democratic-inspired thing” and a “pure hit job.”

Trump went on to say that he wasn’t going to “argue” with Putin about whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump said, according to pool reports.

“I can’t stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria, I would rather get to work with him on the Ukraine,” he added.

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA and FBI, have concluded that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, and several congressional investigations are currently underway to determine the scale and scope of Russia’s interference.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is also leading an investigation into potential ties between President Trump’s election campaign and Russian officials.

Trump is in the middle of a five-nation, 12-day trip to Asia, and is currently in Vietnam. Trump participated overnight in the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang.

[The Hill]

Trump Unloads On GOP Leaders, Clapper and Media in Typo-Riddled Twitter Rant

President Trump fired off a series of tweets on Thursday morning, attacking Republican leaders in Congress, defending the wildly shifting tones in his recent speeches and retweeting a crude photo collage of him “eclipsing” former President Barack Obama in a typo-riddled tirade.

Trump began by accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan of not following his advice on debt-ceiling negotiations.

“I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval,” the president tweeted. “They didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!”

Those tweets came just hours after the White House issued a statement saying Trump and McConnell “remain unified on many shared priorities” and will meet when Congress returns from its August recess.

The statement seemed to be in response to a New York Times report that the relationship between the president and McConnell has “disintegrated” to the point where the Senate majority leader is now privately questioning whether Trump can even save his presidency.

According to the Times, Trump “berated” McConnell during an Aug. 9 phone call “that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.”

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue,” the Times reported. “He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

The president also criticized the media’s scrutiny of the shifting tone of his back-to-back-to-back speeches, misspelling the words “there” and “too.”

“The Fake News is now complaining about my different types of back to back speeches. Well, their was Afghanistan (somber), the big Rally (enthusiastic, dynamic and fun) and the American Legion – V.A. (respectful and strong),” Trump tweeted. “To bad the Dems have no one who can change tones!”

He wasn’t done.

Trump then ripped James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, who told CNN on Tuesday that the president’s fiery speech in Phoenix left him questioning the commander in chief’s fitness for office.

“James Clapper, who famously got caught lying to Congress, is now an authority on Donald Trump. Will he show you his beautiful letter to me?” Trump tweeted.

Amid the barrage, the president paused to retweet a meme-like photo of his face crossing in front of Obama’s, above the message “Best Eclipse Ever.”

[Yahoo News]

Update

Jerry Travone, whose meme Trump retweeted, turns out to be another white supremacist. Trump has a pattern of retweeting them.

Trump Sides With Putin on Election Hacking, Repeating His Claims

Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Trump that Russian hackers wouldn’t have gotten caught if they did hack Democratic groups because they’re too skilled at spying, The New York Times reported Monday.

Trump has since repeated the claim, according to White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Scaramucci told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that someone told him that if Moscow hacked the Democratic National Committee, “you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they’re super-confident in their deception skills and hacking.”

Pressed by host Jake Tapper on who told him that, Scaramucci said it was Trump himself.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded last year that Russia hacked the DNC and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s campaign chairman as part of an effort to help Trump win the presidential election.

The Justice Department, FBI and House and Senate Intelligence committees are investigating Russian interference as well as links between Trump’s team and the Kremlin, which Trump has denied.

“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

Trump met with Putin multiple times at the Group of 20 summit in Germany earlier this month, with each of the meetings lasting more than an hour.

The first was a planned, formal talk while the other was an informal meeting that was not immediately reported. The second meeting was not confirmed until last week, when it was announced that they talked for more than an hour at a dinner for heads of state.

[The Hill]

Trump Says Election Meddling ‘Could Be Russia’ But ‘Nobody Really Knows for Sure’

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he thinks Russia was behind 2016 election meddling, but added that he feels “it could have been other people in other countries” and that “nobody really knows for sure.”

“I think it very well could be Russia but I think it could very well have been other countries,” Trump said during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in which he also slammed the news media, including CNN and NBC. “I think a lot of people interfere.”

Trump, asked about the fact the United States intelligence community has said it was Russia, compared that assessment to the eventually debunked claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

“I think it was Russia but I think it was probably other people and or countries. I see nothing wrong with that statement,” Trump said. “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.”

He added, “I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, how everybody was 100% certain that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess.”

The intelligence community assessment spans both Obama and Trump administrations, however. Intelligence officials nominated by Trump have publicly said they have no doubt that Russia was behind the election meddling.

Russian meddling in the 2016 election is the subject of numerous investigations in Washington, casting a pall over the White House. The swirl of Russia investigations — and possible connections between Trump’s orbit and Russian officials — has caused friction on Capitol Hill, hampering Trump’s ability to score a number of legislative victories.

Trump slammed former President Barack Obama’s handling of Russian interference as he stood next to Duda, arguing that the former president “did nothing” to combat the interference.

“Why did he do nothing about it? He was told it was Russia by the CIA … and he did nothing about it,” Trump said. “They said he choked. I don’t think he choked. Well, I don’t think he choked. I think what happened was he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and he said let’s not do anything about it. Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it.”

Obama confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin over election meddling, though, during the 2016 G20 meeting in Hanghzhou, China. Photos of the meeting showed a stern Obama staring down Putin.

Obama later revealed that he told Putin “to cut it out” in his meddling in the 2016 election or “there were going to be serious consequences if he did not.” The Obama administration also later expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the United States and shuttered Russian compounds in Maryland and New York.

Trump’s comments come during the first day of his foreign trip to Poland and Germany, the second international trip of his presidency. Trump did not formally take questions from reporters on his first trip, so the bilateral press conference with Duda on Thursday was Trump’s first official conversation with reporters on foreign soil.

Attacks news coverage

Trump, standing next to Duda, also slammed American media, particularly CNN and NBC.
Trump, as he has done many times before, criticized CNN as “fake news” after being asked about CNN’s coverage by David Martosko of the Daily Mail.

Trump’s critique — which came during his first formal press conference in nearly a month — came in response to CNN’s coverage of the video the President tweeted that showed him body-slamming a man with the CNN logo over his head.

“I think what CNN did was unfortunate for them. As you know, they now have some pretty serious problems. They have been fake news for a long time. They have been covering me in a very dishonest way,” Trump said.

Martosko met with Trump to pitch him the idea of writing a book about the President, CNN has reported. Numerous reports have also indicated that the reporter was considered for a press job in the White House. Martosko later tweeted a statement pulling him out of consideration for any White House job.

“Since you started the whole wrestling video thing, what are your thoughts about what has happened since then? CNN went after you and has threatened to expose the identity of a person,” Martosko asked before being cut off by Trump.

CNN did not threaten to expose the identity of anyone behind the video, but did contact the Reddit user who originally posted the video that Trump tweeted.

A spokesman for the news network said CNN decided not to publish the name of the Reddit user out of concern for his safety and that “any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false.” The user, who had a long history of posting anti-semitic, racist and anti-Muslim content, apologized for his posts after being contacted by CNN but before speaking to the network.

Martosko was standing directly behind a number of smiling Trump aides when he asked the question. Martosko shook hands with Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media, after the news conference.

After slamming CNN as fake news, Trump turned to Duda and asked, “Do you have that also, Mr. President?”

Duda has been accused of curbing press freedoms in Poland. Though he denies the criticisms, the fears of curbs being put on reporters have led to protests throughout the country.

[CNN]

White House Didn’t Act on Sally Yates’ Warning Because She’s a “Political Opponent”

The White House has a new explanation for its decision not to immediately fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after learning that he could be the target of Russian blackmail efforts: The acting attorney general, who supplied that information, was a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

On January 26, Sally Yates, then acting attorney general, met with White House Counsel Donald McGahn to warn him that Flynn could be compromised by the Russians. He had lied to the Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversations with the Russian ambassador, and the Russians knew he had lied. But President Donald Trump waited 18 days before showing Flynn the door for lying to Pence.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the administration’s decision to keep Flynn on as national security adviser for more than two weeks after Yates’ warning by implying that Yates, a Barack Obama appointee, could not be trusted because she was “a strong supporter of Clinton.”

“One thing that I think is important to note is, let’s look at, again, how this came down,” Spicer said. “Someone who is not exactly a supporter of the president’s agenda, who a couple days after this first conversation took place refused to uphold a lawful order of the president’s…she had come here, given a heads up, told us there were materials, and at the same we did what we should do. Just because someone comes in and gives you a heads up about something and says I want to share some information, doesn’t mean that you immediately jump the gun and go take an action.”

Spicer continued, “I think if you flip this scenario and say, what if we had just dismissed someone because a political opponent of the president had made an utterance, you would argue that it was pretty irrational to act in that manner.”

After being asked multiple times if the White House took any steps to reduce Flynn’s role or access to classified information after receiving Yates’ warning, Spicer finally said, “I’m not aware of any.”

Media

Trump, Citing No Evidence, Suggests Susan Rice Committed Crime

President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were swept up in the surveillance of foreign officials by American spy agencies and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.

The president provided no evidence to back his claim. Current and former intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have said that nothing they have seen led them to believe that Ms. Rice’s actions were unusual or unlawful. When Americans are swept up in surveillance of foreign officials by intelligence agencies, their identities are supposed to be obscured, but they can be revealed for national security reasons, and intelligence officials say it is a regular occurrence.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

He declined to say if he had personally reviewed new intelligence to bolster his claim but pledged to explain himself “at the right time.”

When asked if Ms. Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by United States intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

Ms. Rice has denied any impropriety. In an interview on Tuesday with MSNBC, she said: “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false.”

Mr. Trump’s comment broke with normal presidential conventions. Presidents traditionally refrain from suggesting that anyone is guilty or innocent of a crime out of concern for prejudicing any potential prosecution or legal proceedings. When they have violated that unwritten rule, defense lawyers have sometimes used a president’s comments to undercut prosecutions.

Mr. Trump did not make clear what crime he was accusing Ms. Rice of committing. It is legal for a national security adviser to request the identities of Americans mentioned in intelligence reports provided to them, and former national security officials said any request Ms. Rice may have made would have been subject to approval by the intelligence agencies responsible for the report.

Leaking classified information could be a crime but no evidence has surfaced publicly indicating that Ms. Rice did that and she flatly denied doing so in the interview with MSNBC. “I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have and never would,” she said.

Mr. Trump criticized media outlets, including The New York Times, for failing to adequately cover the Rice controversy — while singling out Fox News and the host Bill O’Reilly for praise, despite a Times report of several women who have accused Mr. O’Reilly of harassment. The president then went on to defend Mr. O’Reilly, who has hosted him frequently over the years.

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” said Mr. Trump, who during the interview was surrounded at his desk by a half-dozen of his highest-ranking aides, including the economic adviser Gary Cohn and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, along with Vice President Mike Pence.

“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled,” said Mr. Trump. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Mr. Trump described the chemical attack in Syria as a “horrible thing” and “a disgrace.”

“I think it’s an affront to humanity,” he said, adding it was “inconceivable that somebody could do that, those kids were so beautiful, to look at those, the scenes of those beautiful children being carried out.”

Asked about what it meant for Russia’s role in terms of Syria, Mr. Trump said, “I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned, and in this case, all information points to Syria that they did this. Why they did this, who knows? That’s a level first of all they weren’t supposed to have this.”

Mr. Trump again pointed to President Barack Obama for drawing “the red line in the sand, and it was immediately violated, and it did nothing,” and he suggested reporters won’t focus on it.

The president declined to say whether he would speak personally to President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

(h/t New York Times)

White House Rejects FBI’s Denial Of Trump’s Wiretapping Claims

President Donald Trump’s administration continues to insist that former President Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower to be wiretapped during the presidential campaign, rejecting FBI Director James Comey’s denial of such activity despite not providing evidence to back up its claims.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday whether Trump accepts Comey’s reported request for the Department of Justice to “publicly reject” the president’s unfounded statement.

“No, I don’t think he does,” she replied.

Although he didn’t provide any evidence, Trump claimed over the weekend that Obama ordered wiretapping of his communications last year during his presidential campaign. On Sunday, Sanders even called for an investigation into the matter.

Obama, as well as numerous U.S. intelligence officials, have denied the allegation. James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, said Sunday that “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect, at the time, as a candidate or against his campaign.” He also denied that the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court warrant to investigate the Trump campaign’s alleged contact with Russian officials.

Later that day, The New York Times and other outlets confirmed that Comey told DOJ officials to “publicly reject” Trump’s claim, reportedly saying it was “false and must be corrected.”

The only evidence that the Trump administration has offered are reports from right-wing news sites, maintaining a pattern of spreading unfounded conspiracy theories.

Yet Trump’s team continued to dig into the claims on Monday, while still providing no definitive proof.

“This is a storyline that has been reported by quite a few outlets,” Sanders said Monday, citing mainstream outlets that have reported on the claims but have found no evidence to support them.

Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed her for evidence, but she had none.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, insisted on Fox News that Trump has “information and intelligence” to back up his claims.

“He’s the president of the United States,” she said. “He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not, and that’s the way it should be.”

(h/t Huffington Post)

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