Trump threatens to reveal classified info to punish political enemies: They’re ‘going crazy — wow!’

President Donald Trump threatened to declassify government documents to expose alleged “corruption” by his political enemies.

The president lashed out at the “Deep State” and the “Fake News Media” after the New York Times published an extraordinary op-ed by an anonymous senior administration official revealing what amounts to a coup within the White House.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

[Raw Story]

Trump Says He’s Going to Tell Sean Hannity to Stop Airing His Critics

During a rally in Montana Thursday night, President Donald Trump gave a shout out to a Fox News host.

“Do we love Sean Hannity, by the way?” Trump asked the raucous crowd.

He then suggested that he’s going to tell the Fox News host not to air his critics anymore.

“I love him. But here’s the only thing,” Trump said. “He puts up all these losers that say horrible things. I’ve got to talk to him.”

Then pointing to the media pen, he told the crowd, “And by the way, look at all the fake news back there.”

[Mediaite]

Trump demands NYT turn anonymous source over to government ‘for National Security purposes’

President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at The New York Times in a tweet over the paper’s publishing an op-ed by an anonymous Trump administration official.

Hours after the piece was published, Trump questioned whether the official exists and demanded that the paper turn the author over to the government, saying it is a national security issue.

“Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source?” he tweeted. “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

Trump also appeared to question earlier Wednesday whether the official had committed “treason” by writing the piece.

The op-ed was written by an anonymous source claiming to be part of the “resistance” inside the Trump administration. The individual describes in the piece internal efforts among aides and cabinet officials to combat Trump’s “misguided impulses.”

The blistering article sent shockwaves through Washington and frustrated the administration.

The Times published the piece along with an editor’s note stating that the person’s identity was known to the Times, and that publishing the column anonymously was “the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.”

[The Hill]

Trump is accusing his administration’s anonymous op-ed writer of treason. That’s nonsense.

Early Wednesday evening, the president issued the following official statement:

While, in isolation, the tweet is maddeningly enigmatic, most observers immediately recognized that President Trump was referring to a New York Times op-ed written by an anonymous senior official in his administration.

In the op-ed, the official describes themselves and their colleagues as “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” decries the president’s decision-making as “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless,” and says that early in the Trump presidency, there were “whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”

The last part, presumably, is why Trump is calling the author a traitor.

Treason has a very specific constitutional definition

While there’s obviously a colloquial sense in which “traitor” is used as a general descriptor of disloyal people, the term also has a formal legal definition in the Constitution, and as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was swift to note, the op-ed doesn’t qualify:

Graham is right. The op-ed author isn’t guilty of treason. Nor is Trump or any member of his administration or 2016 campaign guilty of treason because of their ties to a Russian election meddling operation.

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as follows:

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. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

As UC Davis’s Carlton Larson, one of the few experts on treason law in academia today, explained to me in 2013, this language provides for two types of treason prosecutions.

The first is an “aid and comfort” prosecution, in which the defendant is accused of aiding the war effort of a country presently at war with the United States. Not just “rivals” but literally at war. Aldrich Ames, the CIA officer turned Soviet spy, got at least 10 people killed through his actions, and FBI Russian spy Robert Hanssen indirectly got at least three killed, but neither was charged with treason because the US was not at war with the Soviet Union/Russian Federation at the time of their actions.

By contrast, successful aid-and-comfort prosecutions include those of American Nazi propagandist Robert Henry Best and of Iva Toguri, who was accused of being “Tokyo Rose,” an English-language Japanese propaganda broadcaster meant to lower American service members’ morale in the Pacific (she was later exonerated and received a presidential pardon).

The second type of treason involves “levying war,” in which the defendants themselves waged war against the United States or an individual state. Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s first vice president, was prosecuted for treason on these grounds and acquitted, after being accused of assembling forces to create an independent state in the center of North America. John Brown, the abolitionist revolutionary, was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia on levying war grounds after his raid on Harpers Ferry.

The anonymous senior administration official doesn’t meet either standard

Now, the op-ed author is obviously not going to be prosecuted for levying war. That leaves the claim that he or she provided aid and comfort to our enemies by undermining Trump in print.

For that to be the case, though, one would have to determine that the op-ed was designed to aid a specific foreign enemy with whom the US is at war, and there is no such country in the world right now.

Attempting to help al-Qaeda or any associated violent extremist groups might qualify under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9/11, and indeed, an American-born al-Qaeda operative was indicted for treasonin 2006 for aiding the organization. The indictment cites the AUMF as well as Osama bin Laden’s statements that al-Qaeda is at war with the United States to demonstrate that by adhering to al-Qaeda, the operative in question, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, was helping a group with which the US was at war.

But the op-ed author rather obviously did not write the New York Times piece with the express purpose of aiding al-Qaeda. Even if he did want to help al-Qaeda (a claim that, again, is preposterous), the treason allegation would be iffy. Consider the Supreme Court case of Cramer v. United States, in which Anthony Cramer, an American man who met with Nazi agents in the US, saw his treason conviction overturned on the grounds that merely meeting the enemy isn’t enough to count as treason.

In his opinion in that case, Justice Robert Jackson asserted that only a defendant who can be found to have “adhered to the enemy” and “intended to betray” the US could be found guilty of treason — even if he did provide aid and comfort to the enemy.

Proving that the op-ed author not only provided aid and comfort to al-Qaeda by the mere act of writing the op-ed, but also consciously intended to betray the United States of America, would be basically impossible. That holds even in the incredibly unlikely world where those were the intentions of, say, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley or White House chief economist Kevin Hassett or Russia Ambassador John Huntsman or any of the many other officials floated as being the op-ed author.

Treason is a very limited crime. It’s rarely prosecuted outside of wartime; Gadahn was the first person charged with treason since World War II. And it definitely doesn’t apply to this case.

[Vox]

Trump throws tantrum at Woodward: He published ‘work of fiction’ to derail Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused author Bob Woodward of releasing a tell-all White House book in order to derail confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump was asked about Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” during a pool spray at the White House.

According to tweets from reporters who were in the room, Trump called Woodward’s book a “work of fiction” and said that it was designed to interfere with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“We run a strong White House, no doubt about it,” the president was quoted as saying.

Read some of the tweets from reporters below.

[Raw Story]

Donald Trump maintains attacks on Bob Woodward, calls for changes in libel laws

Stung by the latest tell-all book to hit his White House, President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on author Bob Woodward by suggesting Wednesday that the government tighten libel laws – though the president’s role in doing that is probably nonexistent.

“Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”

Later, during a photo op with Amir of Kuwait, Trump said: “The book means nothing; it’s a work of fiction.”

Trump also suggested changing the libel laws back during his presidential campaign – in response to news stories he didn’t like – but has made no specific proposals in that area since moving into the White House in January 2017.

There probably isn’t anything Trump, or Congress, can do about libel laws in any event.

For one thing, there is no federal libel statute. States set their own libel statutes, and a series of court rulings have shaped them.

It’s difficult for public figures to win a libel suit; the Supreme Court says they must prove actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth – a high legal bar – and writers and speakers have wide latitude under free speech protections in the First Amendment to criticize and report on elected officials.

The catalyst this time is Woodward’s new book – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – in which aides describe the president as an unhinged “liar” who does not seem interested in learning the details of the issues he has to face.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly described Trump as an “idiot” who is running “Crazytown,” while Defense Secretary James Mattis is quoted as saying Trump acted like a “fifth- or sixth-grader” at one meeting.

“Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses,” Woodward writes, according to a leaked excerpt. “It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

The book is scheduled for public release on Tuesday.

Woodward also reports that Trump tends to berate aides, conduct that the president defended in a separate tweet on Wednesday morning.

Claiming that “my Administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country,” Trump tweeted that “I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!”

Trump is seeking to undermine Woodward even though he has praised the author in the past, and told him in a phone conversation just last month that he has always been fair.

Back in 2013, as members of the Barack Obama administration criticized a Woodward book about them, Trump tweeted out: “Only the Obama WH can get away with attacking Bob Woodward.”

As details of the book began to leak out Tuesday, the White House hastily put together  a series of responses.

Kelly denied calling Trump an “idiot,” while Mattis denied uttering “the contemptuous words” attributed to him by Woodward.

The White House denials echoed those made about previous critical books, particularly those by journalist Michael Wolff and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.

As he did Tuesday night, Trump tweeted out the statements by Kelly and Mattis on Wednesday morning, while adding some denials of his own. In one of his missives, Trump said: “Thank you General Kelly, book is total fiction!”

While Trump has frequently attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he denied Woodward’s reporting that he has called the former Alabama senator “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner.”

“I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing,” Trump tweeted, claiming that Woodward “made this up to divide!”

As for changing libel laws in the wake of Woodward, it’s highly unlikely.

“There is no federal libel law for President Trump to bully Congress to change, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws,” said Brian Hauss, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern.”

[USA Today]

Trump: I never called Sessions ‘mentally retarded’

President Donald Trump denied late Tuesday night that he called Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and made fun of his Southern heritage, his latest push back to Bob Woodward’s upcoming book on the Trump White House.

“The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner,” the president wrote on Twitter. “I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!”

Trump and the White House have already issued a litany of criticisms against Woodward’s latest tome, “Fear.” Excerpts indicate the president is depicted as increasingly erratic and his staff allegedly is forced to resort to the type of tactics sometimes used to control children — like stealing problematic papers off of his desk — to try to thwart him.

Known for his Pulitzer-Prize winning reporting on the Watergate scandal, Woodward has remained adamant that the eyebrow-raising anecdotes in his book are accurate. Even so, Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis have issued statements denying portions of Woodward’s reporting.

In the reported excerpt in question, Trump allegedly told then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter that Sessions was “mentally retarded” and was a “dumb Southerner.”

Trump’s tweet Tuesday night was a rare bit of defense for his beleaguered attorney general, who has weathered intense criticism from Trump. This past weekend, the president vented about the Justice Department’s prosecution of two GOP congressmen, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, and how the timing of the announcement of those charges has prevented the GOP from finding others to run in their place.

[Politico]

Reality

Responding to legendary journalist Bob Woodward’s book that he called Jeff Sessions a “retard,” Donald Trump tweeted he absolutely never called Sessions or anyone else a “retard” in his entire life.

Here is audio of Donald Trump calling someone a “retard” at the 19 minute mark.

Here is another audio of Donald Trump calling a reporter “retarded”.

Trump Responds to Chuck Todd Op-Ed on Anti-Media Rhetoric: I Fought the Press and ‘WON’

Donald Trump attacked Meet the Press host Chuck Todd tonight on Twitter after the NBC correspondant penned an op-ed condemning anti-press rhetoric, as the president told the NBC News reporter that he “won” in the fight against the media.

“Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake NBC News said it’s time for the Press to stop complaining and to start fighting back,” the president tweeted at around 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday night. “Actually Chuck, they’ve been doing that from the day I announced for President. They’ve gone all out, and I WON, and now they’re going CRAZY!”

In Todd’s piece for the Atlantic, the reporter called out the late Roger Ailes and Fox News for fanning the flames of anti-media hatred:

“From the very beginning, Ailes signaled that Fox News would offer an alternative voice, splitting with the conventions of television journalism. Take the word balanced. It sounded harmless enough. But how does one balance facts? A reporting-driven news organization might promise to be accurate, or honest, or comprehensive, or to report stories for an underserved community. But Ailes wasn’t building a reporting-driven news organization. The promise to be “balanced” was a coded pledge to offer alternative explanations, putting commentary ahead of reporting; it was an attack on the integrity of the rest of the media. Fox intended to build its brand the same way Ailes had built the brands of political candidates: by making the public hate the other choice more.”

Todd also named Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and other conservative media figures as being part of a “new kind of campaign” designed “to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Unleashes on Woodward, Accuses Him of Making Up Quotes and Being a ‘Dem Operative’

resident Donald Trump is accusing veteran journalist Bob Woodwardof running a “con” and being a “Dem operative.”

Earlier tonight, Trump tweeted out the statements from the White House, John Kelly, and James Mattis pushing back against claims in Woodward’s upcoming book Fear:

But, of course, Trump himself could not resist going after Woodward himself, accusing him of “a con” and even suggesting he’s a “Dem operative.”

“The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?”

It’s worth noting here that back in 2013, Trump tweeted that “only the Obama WH can get away with attacking Bob Woodward”:

[Mediaite]

Trump Calls Access Hollywood Tape ‘Illegal,’ Claims He Prepped Lawsuit Against NBC After It Leaked

President Donald Trump claimed NBC broke the law by recording his infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he can be heard bragging about groping women without their consent, as he told the Daily Caller today that it “was illegal what they did.”

Trump said that he believes NBC’s release of the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was “worse than CNN with Harvey Weinstein,” though it appears that the president meant to say NBC instead of CNN, as the Peacock Network is still in hot water for botching one of the biggest Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct stories last year.

“NBC is very dishonest in its reporting of me,” Trump added — though, he would not call for the NBC chairman Andy Lack’s job, nor would he demand NBC lose it’s licensing. “[Lack] runs an organization which as far as its reporting on me is very dishonest.”

He went on to call into question the legitimacy of the tape, which was released just weeks before the end of the 2016 presidential race.

“There’s even questions about the tape, there’s many things going on.” Trump said — claiming that it was both “done in a trailer secretly” and “illegal.”

“I had a lawsuit prepared, a lawsuit that was prepared to be filed against NBC because they leaked that tape,” he added.“I had a lawyer hired to bring a suit right after the election ended, but one problem arose. I won the election.”

Trump concluded his thoughts on the subject by saying that he couldn’t sue them because he “won the election,” so there were no damages caused to him.

However, the president did not provide any evidence to back these claims and did not explain why the recording was “illegal.”

[Mediaite]

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