Trump Defends Abandoning Syria’s Kurds: “They’re not angels”

President Trump addressed Turkey’s invasion of Syria in the Oval Office on Wednesday, telling reporters that the Syrian Kurds — who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS — are “not angels,” and that the Syrian government and Russia will protect them.

“[O]ur soldiers are not in harm’s way, as they shouldn’t be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now. But the Kurds know how to fight, and as I said, they’re not angels. They’re not angels. … Syria probably will have a partner of Russia, whoever they may have. I wish them all a lot of luck.”

Driving the news: Trump has sent a delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said on Wednesday that he would “never declare a ceasefire,” which Trump disputed. On Monday, Trump authorized sanctions punishing Turkey for its military operation.

  • Erdogan views the primarily-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a militant group designated as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and Turkey.
  • The SDF, which is also guarding detention camps with thousands of captured ISIS fighters and families, has struck a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to protect the border from Turkey’s military assault. This has allowed Russian forces who back Assad to move into areas that had been under Kurdish control for 7 years.

The big picture: During the fight against ISIS, the SDF — trained and armed by the U.S. — lost more than 10,000 troops. Republicans and Democrats have condemned Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it a “very dark moment in American history,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Trump will have “blood on his hands” if ISIS returns.

“If the President did say that Turkey’s invasion is no concern to us I find that to be an outstanding—an astonishing statement which I completely and totally reject. … If you’re not concerned about Turkey going into Syria why did you sanction Turkey?”

Sen. Graham

[Axios]

Trump Rages at Pelosi, Mattis, and Communists During ‘Meltdown’ in White House Meeting

President Donald Trump invited Democratic Party leaders to the White House on Wednesday and proceeded to have what those leaders described as a “meltdown” in front of them. Before the lawmakers left early, Trump managed to rail against communists, his own former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he called “a third-rate politician,” according to the Democratic leaders and sources’ descriptions of the meeting.

Shortly after the brief, cross-partisan meeting with the president in the Cabinet Room—which was convened to discuss Syria- and Turkey-related matters—Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) emerged to give a readout to reporters on what was, in Schumer’s words, Trump’s “nasty diatribe.”

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown—sad to say,” Pelosi told reporters. “I think that vote, the size of the vote—more than two-to-one of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did [on troops in Syria]—it probably got to the president, because he was shaken up by it [and] that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.”

Schumer asserted that Pelosi “kept her cool completely” even while Trump sniped that “there are communists involved [in Syria] and you guys might like that.”

The president even took a shot at his former defense secretary—who quit late last year over policy disagreements—when the conversation on Wednesday afternoon touched on foreign policy and a potential rejuvenation of ISIS fighters in Syria.

According to a Democratic source familiar with what happened in that meeting, Schumer at one point pulled out a piece of paper featuring quotes from Mattis’ interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. The Democratic leader began reading to the president the statement that Mattis made on that Sunday show, that “if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”

Trump, this source said, then interrupted Schumer, and insisted that Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general.”

“You know why?” the president continued, according to the source. “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.” Trump also repeatedly claimed that of the ISIS prisoners who escaped when Turkish forces invaded northeast Syria (an invasion Trump all but greenlit), only the “least dangerous” individuals got out.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, asked to confirm the president’s assertion that those ISIS prisoners who escape were the “least dangerous,” told Schumer he didn’t know, according to the source.

At one point, Trump is said to have claimed that “someone wanted this meeting so I agreed to it,” despite the White House having called the meeting.

Pelosi, for her part, told Trump that Russia has long wanted a “foothold in the Middle East,” adding that because of the president’s actions, the Russian government now has it. “All roads with you lead to Putin,” the House speaker jabbed, according to one senior Democratic aide.

“I hate ISIS more than you do,” Trump shot back at Pelosi, this aide noted, with Pelosi replying, “You don’t know that.”

Later in the day, Pelosi, in the escalating round of insults hurled between the West Wing and Capitol Hill, told reporters, “I think now we have to pray for [Trump’s] health. Because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.”

There was even a point in this meeting, the Democratic aide said, that President Trump distributed to attendees the Oct. 9 letter he sent to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the one that read, “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy—and I will.” Trump’s letter also includes the lines, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

This was taken as an attempt by the president to demonstrate to all the Republicans and Democrats in the room that he was being sufficiently tough on Erdogan, and as an effort to convince those present that he did not greenlight the Turkish invasion, which is currently causing political backlash at home, and slaughter and mayhem abroad.

The president’s aides, meanwhile, sought to place the blame for the derailed meeting on the Democratic leaders’ decision to walk out over Trump’s “nasty” words directed at Pelosi.

“Her decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham emailed The Daily Beast shortly after the Democrats’ comments to White House press. “Speaker Pelosi had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues.  While Democratic leadership chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine, everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country.”

Trump later tweeted a flurry of photos from the meeting that he claimed showed the Democrats had tanked the meeting, including one in which he accused Pelosi of having an “unhinged meltdown.”

This wouldn’t be the first time this year that a meeting at the White House involving Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer completely degenerated so quickly. Early this year, during a Friday meeting on the government shutdown, President Trump started the gathering by launching a 15-minute, profanity-encrusted rant that included him demanding his border wall, and, unprompted, complaining about Democratic lawmakers who want to impeach him. 

At the time, Trump told attendees that he was, simply put, too popular a president to impeach.

Today, Trump and his administration are currently fighting back against an ongoing, rapidly accelerating impeachment inquiry, with Democrats on Capitol Hill hoping to hold a vote on his impeachment before the end of the year.

[The Daily Beast]

Gruesome Video of Fake Trump Killing Media in Mass Shooting Played at One of His Resorts

At a time when our nation is facing an epidemic of mass shootings, supporters of President Donald Trump showed a violent depiction of a fake Trump massacring members of the news media using a gun and other weapons at a conference held at one of the president’s resorts, the New York Times reported Sunday night.

American Priority, a group that supports the president, hosted the conference at Trump National Doral Miami. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Governor Rick DeSantis were all scheduled to speak at the event. But Huckabee Sanders and a source close to Trump Jr. denied either saw the video.

Bloomberg technology reporter William Turton surfaced a video matching the description from the Times on YouTube. The video appears to have been uploaded by YouTube account TheGeekzTeam in July 2018, and the account has posted other videos doctored to make it look like Trump is violently killing his enemies. Although Turton said he has not yet been able to confirm the YouTube video was the same one played at the conference, the details in the video as described by the Times line up, although portions like the Barack Obama interview at the end of the video were not reported to have been shown.

In the video,a man with Trump’s head superimposed on his body goes into a building labeled the “Church of Fake News” where people inside are labeled with logos of major news outlets including Vox, Politico, the Washington Post, HuffPost, ABC and NBC covering their heads. Trump then opens fire, killing numerous media outlets including Vox, Politico and NPR, in addition to activist group Black Lives Matter. The fake Trump begins his rampage using a gun but later switches to a wooden stake and a knife. Also in the video are Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rosie O’Donnell — all of them are slaughtered by the killer Trump. The mass murder ends with the president driving a wooden stake into the head of a person depicted as the church’s minister with a CNN logo covering their face as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” plays in the background.

The footage, the Times said, was taken and doctored from a church massacre scene in the dark comedy “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Trump’s presidency has been marked by criticism of the news media, and recently he has even been vocally critical of his beloved Fox News. The president himself has shared a video depicting himself as violent toward the media, tweeting out a doctored video of him body slamming a man with a CNN logo over his head in 2017. Trump has also turned his ire toward reporters during his political rallies, spurring his supporters to taunt and threaten members of the media covering him.

When we are barely a year out from the tragic Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland that killed five of the newspaper’s staff not to mention other recent mass shootings in churchessynagogues and mosques, videos like this are particularly dangerous, especially when they are broadcast at events even loosely affiliated with the president and on property he owns.

[Rolling Stone]

Media

Trump hits Fox News’s Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage

President Trump on Sunday hit Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for his coverage of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president that is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry.

“Somebody please explain to Chris Wallace of Fox, who will never be his father (and my friend), Mike Wallace, that the Phone Conversation I had with the President of Ukraine was a congenial & good one,” Trump tweeted.

“It was only Schiff’s made up version of that conversation that was bad!” he added.

House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry after details of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky became public.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son Hunter Biden while discussing U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Trump has defended the call as “perfect” and sought to frame the impeachment inquiry as a political move orchestrated by Democrats, including House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Wallace has said that the call and the intelligence community whistleblower complaint that brought attention to it show Trump pressing Zelensky.

Trump has in recent months ramped up attacks against several Fox News anchors, including Wallace, Ed Henry and Shepard Smith, who left the network this week.

Sunday was not the first time that Trump has criticized Wallace by invoking his father, veteran broadcaster Mike Wallace.

In May, Trump chastised Chris Wallace and Fox for giving airtime to Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, tweeting, “I like Mike Wallace better.”

A spokesperson for Fox News did not directly comment on Trump’s latest attack on Wallace, but pointed to a recent panel where the anchor responded to Trump saying he likes Mike Wallace better.

“To which my reaction is always: One of us has a daddy problem, and it’s not me,” Chris Wallace said.

[The Hill]

Barr criticizes LGBT curriculums without opt-outs

Attorney General William Barr expressed opposition to LGBT curriculums that do not provide opt-out provisions for those who oppose it on religious grounds. 

He also expressed his belief that religious schools should be allowed to turn away teachers who are in same-sex marriages in a speech on Friday at Notre Dame’s law school

“Many states are adopting curriculum that is incompatible with traditional Judeo-Christian principles. … They often do this without any opt-out provision for religious families,” Barr said.

He particularly cited laws in New Jersey, California and Illinois requiring an LGBT curriculum. 

“The Orange County Board of Education in California issued an opinion that ‘parents who disagree with the instructional material … may not excuse their children from this instruction,'” he said, lamenting that in some cases parents are not “warned” about the material. 

“For anyone who has a religious faith, the most important part of exercising that faith is teaching that religion to your children,” he said. “For the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.”

Barr also cited support for schools that do not hire teachers in an LGBT marriage, citing the example of a teacher who sued Indianapolis’s Catholic Archbishop.

“Right here in Indiana a teacher sued the Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis for directing the Catholic schools within his diocese that they could not employ teachers in same-sex marriages,” he said. “This lawsuit clearly infringes on the First Amendment rights of the archdiocese by interfering both with its expressive association and with its church autonomy.”

[The Hill]

Trump Gloats About Shep Smith’s Fox News Exit

The question from a reporter to President Donald Trump on Friday night was, “Did you or your administration pressure Fox News to get rid of Shepard Smith?” 

Trump did not answer directly, but rather took the opportunity to gloat over his least-favorite Fox News anchor’s departure, saying, “No, I don’t know, is he leaving? Oh, that’s a shame.” 

“Did I hear Shepard Smith is leaving?” the president asked, soundly almost gleeful. “Is he leaving because of bad ratings? He had terrible ratings, is he leaving because of his ratings? If he’s leaving, I assume he’s leaving because he had bad ratings.” 

Smith, who has been the rare critical voice against the president on Fox, announced on Friday that he had requested to get out of his contract on leave the network, effective immediately. “Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day,” Smith said in his final broadcast. “That the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive.”

The move comes just two days after Attorney General Bill Barr met privately with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, prompting some speculation that the Trump administration had something to do with Smith’s exit. 

“Well, I wish him well,” Trump concluded. “I wish Shepard Smith well.” 

[The Daily Beast]

Media

Trump appears to do bizarre impression of FBI agent having sex

Donald Trump appeared to perform an impression of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page having sex while the president was in the middle of a speech during a rally in Minnesota on Thursday.

Mr Trump slammed his hand on the podium and shouted “I love you, Lisa,” and “I love you too, Peter” before moaning “Lisa, I love you, Lisa! Lisa! Oh, God, I love you Lisa!”

The president had previously called Mr Strzok a “sick loser” amid investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in US elections. Mr Mueller removed Mr Strzok from his team after discovering anti-Trump text messages between Mr Strzok and Ms Page, who had an affair.

The president has falsely claimed that the texts had been deleted and has frequently argued that the messages amount to “corruption” within an investigation that followed Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election.

At his Minnesota rally, Mr Trump continued to mock the text messages: “And if she doesn’t win, Lisa, we’ve got an insurance policy, Lisa: we’ll get that son of a bitch out.”

[The Independent]

Media

Trump says Fox News ‘doesn’t deliver for US anymore’ after poll shows rising impeachment support

President Trump said on Thursday that Fox News “doesn’t deliver for US anymore” after the network’s latest poll showed growing support for his impeachment and removal from office.

“From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,” Trump tweeted. “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck. But @FoxNews is also much different than it used to be in the good old days.”

A Fox poll released Wednesday found 51 percent of respondents supported Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. Four percent of participants said the president should be impeached but not removed, and 40 percent were completely against impeachment. 

Trump on Thursday also lashed out at prominent Fox News employees who have been critical of him and his interactions with the president of Ukraine, which is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats. 

“@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore,” Trump tweeted. “It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I’m President!”

He ripped retired Judge Andrew Napolitano, who argued that Trump had already confessed to a crime when he admitted to encouraging the Ukrainian president to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Trump claimed that Napolitano, Fox News’s senior judicial analyst, wanted to be on the Supreme Court but that he turned the judge down. Politico reported in 2017 that Napolitano had told friends he was on Trump’s shortlist of potential nominees.

The president also ripped Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and contributor Donna Brazile. Trump has targeted both before, as Smith regularly fact checks or rebuts statements from the president during his hourly program and Brazile is the former interim leader of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump has had a hot-and-cold relationship with Fox News in recent months. He has complained about several of the network’s polls that showed him trailing his Democratic challengers in potential 2020 matchups and regularly lashes out at employees who are critical of him.

He tweeted in August that the cable network “isn’t working for us anymore” and that his supporters “have to start looking for a new News Outlet.”

But the president still regularly tweets out quotes from Fox News programming, his aides appear on Fox for interviews and former White House staffers have taken jobs at the network.

Moments after his criticism of Fox on Thursday, the president retweeted posts from Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo multiple times.

[The Hill]

Trump Is Feuding With the Mayor of Minneapolis Over Security Costs for His Rally

The Trump campaign is locked in a battle with Minneapolis after the city insisted the president’s team cover $530,000 in security costs for a rally later this week.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that city officials told the Target Center, where Trump is planning to hold a re-election rally, that it would have to cover the security costs. The company that manages the arena, AEG, then reportedly passed those costs on to Trump’s campaign, which has now threatened legal action if it’s not assured by Tuesday that the arena would be available for the rally later in the week.

The Trump campaign also slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, saying he was using the rally to boost his profile.

“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their president, and no mayor looking to beef up his resume for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”

Frey has been a critic of Trump, and when it was announced that Trump would hold a rally in the city, he said the president’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”

Frey got into a spat with Trump on Twitter on Tuesday, after the president said the “lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters.”

“Yawn… Welcome to Minneapolis, where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors,” wrote Frey in response.

The Trump campaign has come under fire for not paying its costs in the past. A report from the Center for Public Integrity in June revealed that Trump’s campaign owed city governments at least $841,219 in unpaid bills for public safety–related expenses.

There’s no legal obligation for campaigns to cover the costs that cities incur during rallies, but they are allowed to use campaign funds to do so. Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal told the Star Tribune that “it’s not fair” for residents to have to cover security costs at events.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what the event is. If it’s anticipated that there will be a need for additional response … a source of revenue for that needs to be found,” she told the paper.

[Vice]

Trump suggests Pelosi committed treason, should be ‘immediately impeached’


President Trump
 late Sunday suggested that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was guilty of treason and should be “immediately” impeached.

“Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech knowingly delivered as a ruthless con, and the illegal meetings with a highly partisan ‘Whistleblower’ & lawyer,” he tweeted.

“This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!”

Members of Congress cannot be impeached, but the Constitution says each House of Congress “may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.” Members may also be censured.

Trump last week ratcheted up attacks targeting House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for exaggerating a partial transcript of the July 25 call between the president and Ukraine’s leader.

At the time, Trump suggested that Schiff should be arrested for treason, which is punishable by death or a prison term.

During a televised congressional hearing, Schiff said that Trump directed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “make up dirt on my political opponent” a full “seven times.”

The California Democrat defended his comments amid backlash from Republicans at the time, saying: “Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times,’ my point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.”

It was also reported last week that the whistleblower at the center of a House impeachment inquiry into Trump contacted Schiff’s committee before filing a complaint.

Trump’s attacks late Sunday came shortly after reports emerged of a second whistleblower said to have firsthand knowledge of some of the allegations detailed in the original complaint.

Mark Zaid, an attorney at the firm that represents the whistleblower who filed the original complaint regarding Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, said that he was representing the second whistleblower.

Zaid said the second whistleblower is also an intelligence official and has direct knowledge of some of the allegations detailed in the original complaint.

According to Zaid, the second whistleblower has already spoken to the head of the intelligence community’s internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson. However, they have not yet spoken with congressional committees investigating Trump’s communications with Ukraine.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump after reports surfaced of the second whistleblower and said “it doesn’t matter how many people decide to call themselves whistleblowers about the same telephone call.”

She also said that it “doesn’t change the fact that he has done nothing wrong.”

[The Hill]


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