Trump Casually Suggests He Could Blackmail a U.S. Senator, But Will Save It For His Next Book

October 1, 2018, was your typical day for the Trump administration and its various hangers-on. Donald Trumpbragged about a “historic” achievement—in this case, the “new” NAFTA agreement—while failing to mention that the pact, which he wrecked diplomatic relations with Canada to secure, is essentially a rebrand with some minor changes cribbed from Barack Obama. Sarah Huckabee Sanders ripped a reporter’s head offand used it for batting practice. Donald Trump Jr. proved once and for all that he’s a sentient bottle of Axe body spray. Oh, and the president of the United States suggested he has incriminating dirt on a U.S. senator that could be used for blackmail, if he so chooses.

During a press conference in the Rose Garden to discuss the deal struck with Canada and Mexico last night, the conversation naturally turned to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh,who, in retrospect, showed enormous restraint not showing up to last Thursday’s hearing wearing a beer helmet. Asked if he would empower the F.B.I. to widen its investigation into allegations against the judge, Trump initially responded that “the F.B.I. should interview anybody that they want within reason.” But, of course, he wasn’t finished. Trump claimed that if Kavanaugh were really guilty of the things he’s been accused of, they would have come up “over the last 20, 30 years of his career,” and that it’s just so unfair that people are “going back to high school and . . . saying he drank a lot one evening” (fact-check: they’re saying he spent most of high school and college blackout drunk and engaged in sexual assault). The president then told the press that he’s got way, way worse dirt on a Democratic member of Congress, and seemed to suggest that he might have to air said dirt if Democrats don’t lay off his pal Brett.

“I happen to know some United States senators,” Trump said, “one who is on the other side, who is pretty aggressive. I’ve seen that person in very bad situations. O.K.? I’ve seen that person in very, very bad situations. Somewhat compromising. And you know, I think it’s very unfair to bring up things like this.”

Later, because he’s extremely presidential, Trump declined to identify the senator in question, saying he’d save it for his post–White House memoir.

And in case you were wondering, yes, this all happened during the same press conference in which the president both insulted a female reporter, telling her, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do,” and accidentally admitted that anyone watching the Kavanaugh hearing came away with the impression that Tobin, P.J., and Squi’s buddy was a raging drunk, at least during his Georgetown Prep and Yale years. All in all, a red-letter day for POTUS!

[Vanity Fair]

Media

 

Now Trump is targeting Vietnamese refugees

In its insatiable quest to rid the U.S. of immigrants, the Trump administration has been rounding up Vietnamese refugees who have been in the country for more than a quarter of a century and trying to send them back to Vietnam — despite a formal bilateral agreement that refugees who arrived here prior to the 1995 normalization of relations between the two countries would not be sent home.

In a number of cases, the refugees have been held in detention centers for months as the government sought to obtain travel documents from the Vietnamese government, and despite a Supreme Court decision that said the government could not detain someone for an extended period of time if it was unlikely the home country would accept the deportee.

After the end of the Vietnam War, and after the North Vietnamese communist government unified the country, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese — many of whom fought alongside or cooperated with American forces — fled for safety, often boarding rickety boatsto cross the South China Sea. In many cases, the refugees were stateless, because they were citizens of South Vietnam, a country that dissolved with the end of the war.

Nearly 1.3 million eventually settled in the U.S., some 200,000 in and around Orange County’s Little Saigon.

That large a population is bound to include some people who break the law, and upward of 10,000 Vietnamese have been ordered deported by immigration judges after being convicted of often serious crimes in American criminal courts. But for more than three decades after the war ended, the Vietnamese government refused to accept deportees from the U.S., viewing the refugees as political enemies or possible American spies.

That changed in 2008, when the George W. Bush administration reached an agreementunder which Vietnam would accept the return of deportees who had arrived in the U.S. after July 12, 1995. The wording of the pact is significant:

“Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam under this Agreement if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, the date on which diplomatic relations were re-established between the U.S. Government and the Vietnamese Government. The U.S. Government and the Vietnamese Government maintain their respective legal positions relative to Vietnamese citizens who departed Vietnam for the United States prior to that date.”

For a decade that has been interpreted as a flat protection for the refugees. But the Trump administration argues in court filings — immigrant rights organizations are suing to halt the detentions and deportations — that the second sentence in effect negates the first, so the U.S. can deport Vietnamese refugees if they have committed acts that render them ineligible to remain in the U.S.

“The agreement does not in fact prohibit such removals,” the government argued in court documents. “Rather, it provides merely that pre-1995 aliens cannot be removed under the terms of the agreement itself.”

That’s a specious argument. Until the agreement, Vietnam would not accept any deportees from the U.S.; after the agreement, it began accepting what are called post-1995 deportees. So the only mechanism for returning people to Vietnam falls under the agreement, regardless of U.S. laws. The Trump administration is simply trying to break the terms of the deal — and so far has been successful in at least 11 cases, though it’s unclear why Vietnam agreed to let the deportees in. According to reports, the deportees have had trouble finding places to live and getting permission to work in Vietnam.

News accounts of the efforts have focused on refugees who arrived here as young (usually) men with limited social or family structure. A number of them fell in with gangs or individually committed crimes of varying seriousness, from drug possession to robbery and a few rare murders. Yet the issue here isn’t the crimes some refugees committed, but the circumstances of their arrival in the U.S., and the letter of the agreement with Vietnam.

This is yet another instance in which the Trump administration has just bulled its way forward to try to reduce the number of immigrants living in the U.S. If the government believes that it is in the nation’s best interest to deport Vietnamese refugees convicted of crimes, then it should reopen the 2008 agreement and create a lawful mechanism to do so.

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump Weighs in on New Kaepernick Ad: Nike is a ‘Tenant’ of Mine Paying ‘A Lot of Rent’

President Donald Trump appeared to explain why he hasn’t attacked Nike yet for partnering with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernicktoday, as he told the Daily Caller that “Nike is a tenant of mine.”

Over the weekend, Nike announced that it’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign would focus on Kaepernick, who claims he was forced out of the league for protesting police brutality by kneeling during pregame national anthems. Conservative were quick to attack Nike for the advertisement push — which shows Kaepernick alongside the quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” — with some even burning their Nike shoes and cutting the swoosh logo off their socks and shorts.

Surprisingly, Trump did not immediately join in on the attacks, but told the Daily Caller today, “I think it’s a terrible message. Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent.”

The former real estate investor remark about Nike paying him rent is a reference to the location of Niketown New York.

Trump continued:

“But I think it’s a terrible message that they’re sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it, but I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it… As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it.”

“In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do,” he added. “But I personally am on a different side of it.”

Trump sparked a mini culture war last year after he attacks NFL players for protesting police brutality while in uniform, calling the athletes that do kneel for the anthem sons of bitches.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Donald Trump is breaking the law. Specifically 18 U.S. Code § 227, “Wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch,” which includes the President or anyone else in the Executive Branch.

Trump Warned Evangelical Leaders: If GOP Loses Midterms, Left Will ‘Violently’ Overturn Everything

President Donald Trump hosted evangelical leaders at the White House last night and, apparently rather bluntly, laid out high stakes for the midterm elections.

Despite Trump’s personal background and style, these religious leaders are mostly on the President’s side. Robert Jeffress said last night on Fox News, after the White House event, “We don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush money payments, but what we do support are these president’s excellent policies.”

Per NBC News, Trump talked to these leaders about being on the same side and laid out the midterm stakes in dramatic fashion:

“The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable,” he said. “Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my family, but I’ve done them….This November 6th election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment.”

If the GOP loses, he said, “they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people.”

The New York Times‘ report on the meeting confirms these quotes, and notes that he also encouraged religious leaders to be vocal ahead of the midterms:

“You have people that preach to almost 200 million people — 150 to, close, depending on which Sunday we are talking about, and beyond Sunday, 100, 150 million people,” he said.

And in addition to the midterms, Trump also took a moment to address an issue he has exploited politically since the campaign days:

“Little thing – Merry Christmas. You couldn’t say Merry Christmas,” Trump said. “I’m telling you — when I started running I used to talk about it and I hate to mention it in August, but I used to talk about it. They don’t say Merry Christmas anymore.”

Trump added, to applause:

“They say merry Christmas a lot right now. It’s all changed. It’s all changed.”

Trump brought up the “war on Christmas” talking point again just last month at a rally.

[Mediaite]

Trump: Cohen’s hush-money payouts didn’t break campaign finance laws

President Trump on Wednesday insisted there was no violation of campaign finance laws when his longtime lawyer paid a porn star and Playboy centerfold hush money — and blamed his predicament on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Asked by “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt if he knew about the payments, Trump claimed he only found out about the payments made by admitted tax cheat Michael Cohen after the fact.

“Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did. And they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing, that’s a much bigger thing,” the president said in a 50-second snippet of an interview that will air on the show Thursday morning beginning at 6 a.m.

“Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me. I tweeted about it. You know, but I tweeted about the payments. But they didn’t come out of campaign,” the president said, suggesting that since his personal or his company’s money was involved, no laws were broken.

“In fact my first question, when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign? Because that could be a little dicey and they didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big. But they weren’t. It’s not even a campaign violation,” he continued.

In the “Fox & Friends” clip, Trump also made an oblique reference to purported wrongdoing by former President Barack Obama.

“If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation, but they had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently,” he said, an apparent reference to either Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch, Obama’s two attorneys general.

The feds fined Obama’s 2008 campaign for failing to expeditiously report last-minute contributions.

“It is, ethically and morally, entirely of a different character,” said Dan Petalas, former acting general counsel and head of enforcement at the Federal Election Commission.

Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a series of charges and said Trump had directed him to arrange the payments to influence the election.

Corporations are not permitted to contribute to campaigns, and money intended to influence an election must be reported.

[New York Post]

Media

Trump says he knew about hush payments ‘later on,’ contradicting audio

President Donald Trump said in an interview released Wednesday that he found out “later on” that his former personal attorney Michael Cohen paid two women to keep quiet about alleged affairs with Trump, contradicting Cohen’s statements in court a day earlier.

Cohen said in a statement while formally pleading guilty to fraud charges and campaign finance violations that he oversaw one payment to porn film actress Stormy Daniels and another to former Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” widely understood to be Trump.

But when asked by “Fox & Friends” anchor Ainsley Earhardt in an interview, a clip of which was released Wednesday, whether he knew about the payments, Trump responded that “later on I knew … later on.”

Trump argued that, because the payments did not come from the campaign itself, there was no violation of campaign finance laws. He also told Earhardt he personally paid back Cohen, though prosecutors said Cohen was reimbursed by the Trump Organization.

“They didn’t come out of the campaign. In fact, my first question, when I heard about it, [was] ‘Did they come out of the campaign because that could be a little dicey,’” Trump said. “It is not even a campaign violation.”

Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said in an interview on MSNBC that Trump was “misstating the law.”

“Donald Trump tweeted that it only is illegal if it’s campaign funds, not if it’s personal funds. That is completely false under the law,” Davis said.

“The interviewer didn’t say, wait a minute, Mr. President, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a campaign contribution, which you said is dicey, or whether you write a personal check,” he said. “The campaign limitations under the law apply the same.”

The documents describing the charges to which Cohen pleaded guilty say that he broke federal law by exceeding the limit of $2,700 for personal campaign contributions because the hush money was intended to influence the election.

[Politico]

Reality

Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt embarrassed herself and her network in the mother of all softball interviews with Donald Trump, who claimed he only knew of illegal hush payments “later on,” even though Trump is on tape directing Cohen to make the payments.

Trump cites ‘massive’ Obama campaign finance violation.

President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that the campaign finance violations his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to in federal court are equivalent to campaign finance violations committed by Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.

“If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation, but he had a different attorney general, and they viewed it a lot different,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business.

Earlier Wednesday the president had tweeted: “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”

But there is no comparison, experts told NBC News. Cohen’s admitted campaign finance law violations are indeed a crime, and they are not similar to the campaign finance violations made by Obama’s 2008 campaign. Election law experts said that more minor violations are treated as regulatory or civil matters, while egregious and willful campaign finance violations are treated as criminal acts — no matter who the attorney general is.

“What Michael Cohen has admitted to doing is absolutely a crime,” said Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who is now of counsel at Rottenberg Lipman Rich P.C.

Cohen, who was Trump’s longtime lawyer, pleaded guilty to violating two campaign finance rules — willfully causing a corporate finance violation and making an excessive campaign contribution. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and involved hush-money payments to two women who said they had relationships with Trump.

[NBC News]

New York judge says Trump ‘authorized and condoned’ his security guards to rough up protesters

Trump security punch protester

A New York State judge has shot down an effort by President Donald Trump to dismiss a lawsuit against his private security guards for allegedly roughing up demonstrators who were protesting outside of Trump Tower months after he announced his presidential run.

The New York Law Journal reports that Bronx Supreme Court Justice Fernando Tapia on Tuesday declined to dismiss the suit filed by protesters who claim they were roughed up by the president’s security team back in 2015.

Specifically, Tapia said that Trump himself “authorized and condoned” his security guards to rough up the protesters, and he specifically cited the president’s statement that “maybe they deserved to be roughed up” on the grounds that “it was absolutely disgusting” what the protesters were doing.

The lawsuit was filed by five Latino activists who claim that they were roughed up by longtime Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller and two other men who were employed as part of the then-candidate’s security personnel.

[Raw Story]

Trump Continues to Hammer DOJ Lawyer Bruce Ohr: ‘A Total Joke!’

President Donald Trump is once again targeting DOJ lawyer Bruce Ohr, who reportedly had some connection to the compilation of the Steele dossier.

Trump went on to say that Ohr is “at the center of FALSE ALLEGATIONS” which led to the Russia investigation:

Trump singled out Ohr before in a press pool outside the White House, calling him a “disgrace” and saying he “suspect[s]” he will revoke Ohr’s security clearance “very quickly.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Threatens the Career of Another Official Involved in the Russia Investigation

President Donald Trump said Friday that he would likely strip the security clearance of a Justice Department official “very quickly,” opening a new front in his battle with figures related to the special counsel investigation into his campaign and Russian election interference.

The official, Bruce Ohr, is a longtime government prosecutor who up until this week had not been a household name.

That changed on Wednesday when press secretary Sarah Sanders listed Ohr from the White House podium alongside a list of former national security and law enforcement officials who have been critical of the President and are now having their security clearances reviewed. On Friday, Trump expanded on his targeting of Ohr, whose name stood out on the list as the only official currently serving in government.

“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.”

Ohr is currently an attorney within the DOJ’s criminal division, according to a source familiar with his position. He was demoted last year from a senior position within the deputy attorney general’s office, CNN reported, after it was discovered that he had communicated with Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who crafted the dossier of salacious and unverified information about Trump and Russia, and the founder of the US firm, Fusion GPS, that was hired to dig up that dirt.

Little is known publicly about the extent of the relationships between Ohr and Steele and Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS founder, but some House Republicans have seized on them as proof of an untoward connection between government officials and the roots of the Russia investigation that they criticize.

The President has also tweeted criticism about Ohr and his wife, who was an employee of Fusion GPS. Simpson disclosed in a court filing last year that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion on “research and analysis of Mr. Trump,” and that Simpson met with Bruce Ohr “at his request, after the November 2016 election to discuss our findings regarding Russia and the election.”

Neither Bruce nor Nellie Ohr have made public remarks about the President. CNN has reached out to Ohr’s personal attorney for comment.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in June, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described Bruce Ohr’s role in sober terms.

“Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. To my knowledge, he wasn’t working on the Russia matter,” Rosenstein said. “When we learned of the relevant information, we arranged to transfer Mr. Ohr to a different office.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said she could not comment on personnel matters when asked about Ohr’s position within the department and the President’s criticism of him.

It’s not clear what level of clearance Ohr possesses, but former officials say all Justice Department attorneys have a security clearance and its loss would be detrimental to agency work.

“Within the Department of Justice, every federal prosecutor has some level of security clearance because they’re dealing with sensitive information,” said Jodi L. Avergun, a former section chief at the DOJ’s criminal division who now heads the white collar defense and investigations group at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

“If someone in a sensitive position with the Department of Justice lost their security clearance it would likely make their job difficult to do,” Avergun said.

[CNN]

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