Donald Trump cancels G-20 news conference “out of respect” for George H.W. Bush

President Trump canceled a planned press conference at the G-20 summit in Argentina on Saturday, citing respect for former President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday at the age of 94. Mr. Trump’s planned unilateral news conference for Saturday afternoon was expected to cap an eventful trip, amid domestic legal concerns and troubled international relations.

“I was very much looking forward to having a press conference just prior to leaving Argentina because we have had such great success in our dealing with various countries and their leaders at the G20,” Mr. Trump said in the first of two tweets. “However, out of respect for the Bush Family and former President George H.W. Bush we will wait until after the funeral to have a press conference.”

Mr. Trump and the first lady will attend Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. next week.

The press availability was supposed to occur after Mr. Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day.

Mr. Trump was expected to be asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid new developments in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump canceled his meeting with Putin, which was intended for Saturday morning, on Thursday via Twitter, citing Russian aggression against Ukraine. His announcement came shortly after Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former private lawyer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress as part of the special counsel investigation.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Mr. Trump’s decision to cancel the news conference was in no way influenced by Cohen’s plea deal.

“The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is doing very well. Unfortunately, it probably does undermine our relationship with Russia. However, the reason for our canceled meeting is Ukraine. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon so that productive conversations can begin,” Sanders said.

[CBS News]

Trump leaves press pool behind at National Christmas Tree lighting

President Trump on Wednesday departed the National Christmas Tree lighting event without White House staff notifying a pool of reporters assigned to monitor the president’s movements of his whereabouts following a logistical mixup.

Members of the protective press pool – a group of reporters assigned to remain with the president and document his activities – indicated shortly after 6:30 p.m. that Trump had returned to the White House without any warning or comment from staffers.

Reporters were briefly held at the Ellipse outside the White House without any immediate indication of where the president had gone. They were later notified that Trump had returned to the White House via motorcade without the press pool in tow.

Members of the press pool protested the situation on Twitter.

[The Hill]

Trump suggests, without evidence, that Mueller is encouraging witnesses to lie in Russia probe

Donald Trump suggested without evidence on Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are bullying witnesses into lying about collusion in order to be spared punishment, marking the president’s latest attempt to discredit the Russia probe.

The president on Wednesday complained in a tweet that “While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief.”

Though Trump did not specify to whom he was referring, Jerome Corsi, an associate of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, has been in the news in recent days for his refusal to agree to a plea deal with Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s team has investigated Corsi, who is known for his right-wing birther conspiracies, for possibly acting as a conduit between Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In a late-in-the-campaign bombshell, Assange published the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that were determined to be stolen by Russian hackers.

Corsi said the special counsel’s team sought to strike a deal on one count of perjury, but Corsi has insisted that he hasn’t lied to investigators and suggested that Mueller’s prosecutors were attempting to coerce him into a plea deal.

Another major player in the Russia investigation, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, saw his plea deal put in danger this week after Mueller’s team accused him of lying to investigators. Manafort had entered into the deal and agreed to become a government witness following his first trial, but his subsequent lack of cooperation with investigators has renewed murmurs of a possible pardon from Trump.

There is no hard evidence that Trump’s claims are accurate and he neglected to provide proof of his accusations. But he invoked in his tweet the time period when Americans were falsely accused and investigated without evidence of being communists, calling this moment “our Joseph McCarthy Era!”

[Politico]

Trump suggests creating U.S. ‘worldwide network’ to compete with CNN

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested the United States should create a “worldwide network” to combat the “unfair” way the country is treated by the media, saying CNN doesn’t have enough competition overseas.

“Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair….” the president tweeted. “….and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!”

CNN has both a domestic and international network.

The U.S. government currently funds Voice of America, an international radio broadcast source. Congress in 2017 eliminated the board of directors for the organization, with a new CEO position created, which is appointed by the president.

Trump has had a tense relationship with the press, including a brief legal battle with CNN after the White House revoked reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass.

[Politico]

Trump Lies in Tweet Ripping ‘Fake 60 Minutes’ Episode on Child Separation: ‘I Tried to Keep Them Together’

On Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a report on Trump’s family separation policy.

Trump quickly replied by calling the segment “fake news.”

“60 Minutes did a phony story about child separation when they know we had the exact same policy as the Obama Administration,” Trump wrote. “In fact, a picture of children in jails was used by other Fake Media to show how bad (cruel) we are, but it was in 2014 during O[bama] years. Obama separated children from parents, as did Bush etc.. because that is the policy and law.”

He added: “I tried to keep them together but the problem is, when you do that, vast numbers of additional people storm the Border. So with Obama separation is fine, but with Trump it’s not. Fake 60 Minutes!”

Trump’s tweet repeats a claim made by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other Trump officials to defend the child separation policy.

Yet, the administration cannot provide statistics to back up their claim that Trump’s policy was the same as Obama’s or other presidents.

In addition, Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center noted to FactCheck.org that previous administrations used “family detention facilities, allowing the whole family to stay together while awaiting their deportation case in immigration court, or alternatives to detention, which required families to be tracked but released from custody to await their court date,”  making it clear Trump’s policy is indeed not the “exact same” policy as Trump claimed in his Sunday night tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump Thanks Saudi Arabia for…Making America Great Again With Lower Oil Prices?

After more or less excusing Saudi Arabia’s alleged murder of a journalist, President Trump is showing praise on them over lower gas prices.

In his first tweets of the day, Trump celebrated the fact that oil prices are falling on the market amid fears of a global slowdown in economic growth. In any case, he’s giving thanks to the Saudis over this news and finishing it off with “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” for good measure.

Trump’s tweets come a day after he released a statement declaring he will take Saudi Arabia’s side over the controversy of whether their royal family was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi‘s gruesome murder in Turkey. Trump justified his decision by declaring “America first,”embraced Saudi Arabia’s smears of Khashoggi for being a political dissident, and he also ignored reported evidence collected by the intelligence community that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

[Mediaite]

Reality

We only get 10% of our imported oil from Saudi Arabia, which is already a fraction of the oil we generate ourselves.

OPEC has recently called for a drop in oil production because of a looming glut on the market and a fear that oil prices were going to fall lower. There are also links to the economy that a possible slow down in economic growth has been signaled by a drop in oil prices.

These are things that have nothing to do with the US government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Trump, When Asked Why He Sided With Saudi Arabia Over CIA: ‘Because It’s America First!

President Donald Trump was asked by a reporter on Tuesday why he sided with Saudi Arabia over his own intelligence agencies regarding who is responsible for the murder or Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump issued a bizarre statement on Tuesday announcing the U.S. would stand by Saudi Arabia regardless of whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of the Washington Post writer in Turkey, as the CIA has reportedly concluded.

“It’s a shame, but it is what it is,” Trump told reporters as he made his way from Washington D.C. to his Mar-a-Lago resort for Thanksgiving.

“Why are you siding with Saudi Arabia over your own intelligence community?” a reporter asked.

“Because it’s America First,” Trump replied. “It’s all about American First. We’re not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders, and let Russia and China have them.”

(The Washington Post called Trump’s claims about the jobs and revenue created by Saudi investment in the U.S. a “fantasy” in their report on his statement.)

“We are with Saudi Arabia, we’re staying with Saudi Arabia,” Trump added.

Trump’s statement drew criticism for its apparent defense of Saudi Arabia’s actions and questioning of its leader’s culpability in the gruesome murder of a dissident who resided in the United States.

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump wrote in his statement. “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says U.S. will stand by Saudi Arabia, despite CIA’s conclusion about Khashoggi killing

President Trump vowed to stand by Saudi Arabia, whatever the CIA concludes about the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Trump released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying, “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

He added, “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi…the United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”

The CIA has intelligence substantiating an assessment that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing. The CIA’s assessment appeared to be largely based on the control held by bin Salman. In other words, the thinking is the murder could not have been carried out without the knowledge of bin Salman, often referred to by his initials, MBS.

A U.S. intelligence official says the president has been provided with the intelligence community’s assessment on the matter.

Mr. Trump conceded that the “crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone.” And he said the U.S. has taken “strong action” against alleged participants, pointing to the recent sanctions announced against 17 Saudis “known to have been involved.”

But he allowed that “representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.” However, he added, “[M]y decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.”

The president argued that the relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital to U.S. interests and national security and important to the U.S. economy. The president pointed to Iran as a force to be kept in check — and Saudi Arabia’s role in helping do that.

Mr. Trump also repeated assertions that the Kingdom agreed to spend $450 billion in the U.S., with $110 billion to be spent on military equipment from U.S. defense contractors.

“If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business,” the statement said. “It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”

The president also said that he understood there were lawmakers in Congress “who would like to go in a different direction — and they are free to do so.” He said he would consider ideas presented to him, “but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.”

On Saturday, the president had said his administration would release a “full report” on Khashoggi’s death in the next two days. But three days later, his administration has no details on what such a report will entail or when it would be released — or even confirmation that such a report exists.

[CBS News]

White House Tells CNN They’ll Revoke Acosta’s Press Credential Once Restraining Order Passes

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported in Sunday night’s Reliable Sources newsletter that the White House intends to revoke the Press Credential of CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta at the end of the month.

Judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered, on Friday, that Acosta’s “hard pass” be returned immediately. Kelly found that Acosta’s First Amendment rights superseded the White House’s right to hold orderly press conferences.

The ruling only represented a temporary “victory” for CNN and Acosta according to Stelter’s reporting (emphasis his):

After CNN won a temporary restraining order on Friday, forcing the White House to restore his press pass for 14 days, White House officials sent Acosta a letter stating that his pass is set to be suspended again once the restraining order expires.

From the looks of the letter, the W.H. is trying to establish a paper trail that will empower the administration to boot Acosta again at the end of the month.

CNN responded with this statement on Sunday: “The White House is continuing to violate the First and 5th Amendments of the Constitution. These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the President.”

Acosta’s press credential had been revoked, reportedly at the direction of President Donald Trump, after a contentious White House press conference in which the CNN reporter persisted in asking follow-up questions and refused to give up a microphone despite Trump’s direction.

Supporters of Trump’s banning of Acosta believe that his disruptive behavior flouted accepted standards of White House decorum, while CNN and Acosta supporters point out disruptive questions are a time-honored journalist tradition. Or put another way, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

So it seems the ongoing war over First Amendment rights versus accepted standards of behavior will feature another battle, which will bring another distracting topic for cable news pundits to discuss at length. It’s almost as its a designed distraction from stories that paint the Trump administration in a less than flattering light?

UPDATE: CNN has responded by filed a status report asking for the Court to intervene. BuzzFeed News’ Zoe Tillman reports:

[Mediaite]

Sarah Sanders: ‘If Certain Reporters Like Jim Acosta Can’t Be Adults,’ Then CNN Should Send Someone Who Can Be

Sarah Huckabee Sanders took another shot at CNN’s Jim Acosta tonight in an interview on Hannity with… Mike Huckabee.

The White House Press Secretary’s father began the interview by asking her about the protocol for decorum being worked on after the judge’s ruling in Acosta’s favor today.

Sanders said the White House supports a free press, but added that “freedom of the press doesn’t mean freedom to be disruptive, freedom to be rude, freedom to interrupt.”

She claimed that they sent CNN a letter tonight laying out “what we think were some of the missteps that their reporter made at the press conference… and we expect to see a response from that.”

In an interview today, the President himself said, after the ruling, if Acosta “misbehaves” they’ll throw him out again. And Sanders said they don’t want reporters to be “disruptive” and impede anyone’s ability to do their jobs.

When her father asked her about the protocol put in place, Sanders said there are “standard practices” they want addressed, and that “the very basic minimum is that if certain reporters like Jim Acosta can’t be adults, then CNN needs to send somebody in there who can be.”

[Mediaite]

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