Trump Promotes Fox & Friends Segment With ‘Jexodus’ Activist Claiming Democratic Party is Anti-Semitic

President Donald Trump touted the Fox & Friends appearance of an activist calling for Jewish Americans to walk away from the Democratic party.

“Jexodus,” clearly inspired by Candace Owens‘s “Blexit” gimmick, was announced in the wake of controversial comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) that were condemned by members of her own party as anti-Semitic.

Elizabeth Pipko, a former Trump campaign staffer and a spokesperson for Jexodus, joined Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy in criticizing Democrats for passing a general anti-hate resolution instead of a specific resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

“They are the party of anti-Semitism,” Pipko said, echoing the president.

And the president was watching. He tweeted a fake quote from Pipko, which was really just a selective collection of her comments poorly transcribed and smashed together:

In Pipko’s interview, Doocy pointed out that in 2016, Hillary Clinton got 71% of the Jewish vote, while Trump got 24%. He asked if she saw that changing in 2020.

Pipko replied that Jexodus is realistic but optimistic. When pressed by Ainsley Earhardt as the why Jews don’t support Trump, Pipko made a confession about Jewish Democrats: “I don’t think they’re going to change.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says he intentionally called Apple’s Tim Cook ‘Tim Apple’

President Trump on Monday claimed he intentionally referred to Apple CEO Tim Cook as “Tim Apple,” seeking to push back on media coverage of his remark, which was mocked online.

Trump wrote on Twitter that he just tried “to save time & words” by referring to the tech industry titan by the wrong name last week at a White House meeting with business leaders.

“The Fake News was disparagingly all over this, & it became yet another bad Trump story!” he tweeted.

Trump made the slip of the tongue while he thanked Cook for investing in his company’s U.S. operations.

“I mean, you’ve really put a big investment in our country. We really appreciate it very much, Tim Apple,” Trump said at the time.

Cook reacted playfully, changing the name on his Twitter profile to Tim with an Apple logo emoji.

While the encounter was a viral moment for only short amount of time, it has stuck with Trump, who is sensitive about the way he is portrayed in the media.

Axios reported Sunday that Trump told a group of Republican donors over the weekend he actually said “Tim Cook, Apple” very quickly but that the “Cook” was said quietly.

A video recording of the event, however, shows Trump said “Tim Apple” and not “Tim Cook, Apple.”

[The Hill]

Media

Trump Denies Calling Tim Cook ‘Tim Apple.’ It Happened on TV.

Last week, President Trump made a small, comic gaffe when he called Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, “Tim Apple.” Friday night, at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, Trump called the reports “fake news.” Jonathan Swan reports that Trump told the donors he actually said “Tim Cook, Apple,” very quickly, with the “Cook” part under his breath, so it sounded like “Tim Apple.”

That is not what happened. Here is the video:

“I just thought, why would you lie about that,” one of the donors told Swan. “It doesn’t even matter!”

Trump has consistently generated anxiety among the Republican elite through his habit of lying about absolutely everything, rather than just the things Republicans want him to he lie about (tax cuts don’t increase deficits, greenhouse gas emissions don’t warm the planet, repealing Obamacare won’t take away anybody’s coverage, etc.). Part of it has to do with the fact that Trump has far more things he actually needs to lie about due to his extreme shadiness. But another part is that Trump is simply a pathological liar, who tells weird and obviously made-up stories in his campaign speeches for no apparent reason.

You might think a Trump donor watching this could have some misgivings about handing money to help a pathological liar keep the most powerful job in the world — at a fundraiser held at Trump’s privately owned club, in order to guarantee that his campaign work lines his own pockets, no less. Instead the prevalent attitude is, It would be great if the president was not a pathological liar, but what are you gonna do?

[New York Magazine]

State Dept. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump

Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist, has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. In January, the U.S. State Department took notice, telling Aro she would be honored with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, to be presented in Washington by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Weeks later, the State Department rescinded the award offer. A State Department spokesperson said it was due to a “regrettable error,” but Aro and U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations tell a different story. They say the department revoked her award after U.S. officials went through Aro’s social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized President Donald Trump.

“It created a shitstorm of getting her unceremoniously kicked off the list,” said one U.S. diplomatic source familiar with the internal deliberations. “I think it was absolutely the wrong decision on so many levels,” the source said. The decision “had nothing to do with her work.”

The State Department spokesperson said in an email that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she had been chosen for the award and that it was a mistake that resulted from “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.”

“We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” the spokesperson said. 

Aro received a formal invitation to the award ceremony not from the embassy but from the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol on Feb. 12. 

There is no indication that the decision to revoke the award came from the secretary of state or the White House. Officials who spoke to FP have suggested the decision came from lower-level State Department officials wary of the optics of Pompeo granting an award to an outspoken critic of the Trump administration. The department spokesperson did not respond to questions on who made the decision or why. 

To U.S. officials who spoke to FP, the incident underscores how skittish some officials—career and political alike—have become over government dealings with vocal critics of a notoriously thin-skinned president. The Trump administration has barred the hiring of prominent Republican foreign-policy experts who publicly denounced the president during the 2016 election season, including some who have since walked back their criticisms. As another example, Trump himself last year revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who regularly castigates the president on Twitter, and threatened to follow suit with other former national security officials who did the same. 

In the minds of some diplomats, this has created an atmosphere where lower-level officials self-censor dealings with critics of the administration abroad, even without senior officials weighing in.

Aro said the decision to cancel her award and corresponding trip to the United States caught her completely by surprise.

“[When] I was informed about the withdrawal out of the blue, I felt appalled and shocked,” Aro told FP. “The reality in which political decisions or presidential pettiness directs top U.S. diplomats’ choices over whose human rights work is mentioned in the public sphere and whose is not is a really scary reality.”

Aro is a prolific Twitter user and was originally chosen for the award because of her investigative work exposing Russian troll factories. She often debunks misinformation spread online and comments on major news events related to propaganda and election interference, including Brexit and the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into links between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign. She has regularly tweeted criticism about Trump’s sharp political rhetoric and attacks on the press. Aro also helped organize a demonstration in Helsinki when the Finnish capital hosted a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018.

“I use Twitter to exchange ideas and share information freely,” Aro said. “I find the idea of U.S. government officials stalking my Twitter and politicizing my perfectly normal expressions of opinion deeply disturbing.”

After first being notified she would get the award, Aro filled out forms and questionnaires at the request of officials and cancelled paid speaking engagements to travel to Washington to attend the March 7 ceremony in Washington. The State Department also sent her an official invitation to accept the award and planned an itinerary for a corresponding tour of the United States, complete with flights and high-profile visits to newspapers and universities across the country.

Since 2007, the State Department has held an annual award ceremony honoring women around the world who “have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice,” according to the department’s website.

This year, the award is being given to Razia Sultana of Bangladesh; Naw K’nyaw Paw of Myanmar; Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti; Magda Gobran-Gorgi (“Mama Maggie”) of Egypt; Col. Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan; Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland; Olivera Lakic of Montenegro; Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru; Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka; and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.

The awards “demonstrate the United States commitment to gender equality, social inclusion, and advancing the global status of women and girls from all backgrounds across sectors as part of our foreign policy,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Pompeo will host the ceremony honoring the awardees on Thursday morning. First lady Melania Trump is also expected to attend and speak at the ceremony.

In 2014, Aro pursued reporting on a Russian troll factory in St. Petersburg that aimed to alter western public opinions. Long before the U.S. elections in 2016, which propelled Russian disinformation campaigns to the spotlight, she unearthed evidence of a state-sanctioned propaganda machine trying to shape online discourse and spread disinformation. After she published her investigation, Russian nationalist websites and pro-Moscow outlets in Finland coordinated smear campaigns against her, accusing her at times of being a Western intelligence agent and drug dealer, and bombarding her with anonymous abusive messages. She also received death threats.

Aro won the Finnish Grand Prize for Journalism in 2016 for her investigative work, and in 2018, she successfully sued the founder of MV-Lehti, a far-right, pro-Russian website in Finland, for defamation and negligence after it published offensive content about her following her initial investigation.

In late February, Aro submitted a letter drafted by her lawyer to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki asking for justification about why her award was rescinded at the last minute and who made the decision. The letter also reserved the right to seek damages, due to Aro having to cancel paid speaking events that would have conflicted with Thursday’s award ceremony.

Aro said the embassy has not yet responded to the letter.

[Foreign Policy]

Trump: I did not break campaign finance laws

President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his assertion he did not break the law when he involved himself in a scheme to pay two women who alleged in the lead-up to the 2016 election that they had extramarital affairs with him.

“It was not a campaign contribution, and there were no violations of the campaign finance laws by me. Fake News!”  Trump tweeted.

The comments come after The New York Times reported Trump signed checks to reimburse his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, while he was serving as president.

Cohen last year pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, in addition to other financial crimes, and lying to Congress. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen implicated Trump in the scheme in court and in congressional testimony.

Federal prosecutors in December alleged that Cohen acted at the direction of “Individual-1,” a person widely believed to be Trump, when he committed the campaign finance violations.

Prosecutors said the payments to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who said she slept with Trump, broke the law because they were meant to influence the outcome of the election. Cohen reached the agreement with Daniels in October 2016, one month before Election Day.

During his explosive testimony last week to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cohen presented several checks signed by the president he said were meant to reimburse him for payments to Daniels.

The Times reported Wednesday that Trump authorized one of the checks for $35,000 in October 2017, nine months after his inauguration.

While the checks do not prove Trump committed a crime, they could be used as evidence by prosecutors should they pursue a case alleging that the president directed an illegal hush money scheme while in office.

Trump initially denied any knowledge of the payments to Cohen, but then shifted his explanation after Cohen pleaded guilty, saying the payments did not violate the law because they “didn’t come out of the campaign.”

Then in December, Trump said he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law” while repeating his assertion that Cohen’s actions in the hush money scheme were not illegal.

[The Hill]

Trump begs GOP to ‘stay united’ in support of border wall measure

President Trump on Wednesday implored Senate Republicans to “STAY UNITED!” and vote for his wall on the southern border, dismissing arguments raised to support blocking his national emergency declaration.

“Senate Republicans are not voting on constitutionality or precedent, they are voting on desperately needed Border Security & the Wall,” Trump posted on his Twitter page. “Our Country is being invaded with Drugs, Human Traffickers, & Criminals of all shapes and sizes. That’s what this vote is all about. STAY UNITED!”

The Democrat-controlled House voted last month to block Trump’s emergency declaration, a move the White House says would allow the president to divert money from the Pentagon construction fund for barrier construction.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber will vote on the resolution before lawmakers go on recess on March 15, but he said there aren’t enough votes to pass it.

Four Republicans have announced that they will vote against it – Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.

[New York Post]

Trump slams Democrats over probe he calls harassment

President Donald Trump is claiming Democrats “have gone stone cold CRAZY” with their investigations of him and his surrogates.

Trump has been grumbling about “harassment” a lot lately, but obviously, his newest tweet is a response to the new investigation House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has launched against his administration. Between the scope of the probe and the number of people who’ve been asked to turn over documents of interest, it seems the increased levels of oversight could become a new, lasting source of frustration for Trump.

[MarketWatch]

Trump Quotes Tucker Carlson to Bash ‘Fake News’ as ‘Enemy of the People’ Again

President Donald Trump quoted Tucker Carlson‘s opening monologue on how far the media has fallen tonight to bash the “fake news” as the “enemy of the people” once again.

Carlson tonight opened by blasting BuzzFeed, mocking their cat coverage, ripping their Russia reporting after Michael Cohen‘s testimony last week, and facing off with editor-in-chief Ben Smith, but before all that he said this:

“We’ve seen an awful lot of change during the two years Trump has been president. American politics has been completely reordered. But also the American media has changed forever. News organizations that seemed like a big deal just five years ago are now extinct. Some of them are totally forgotten. Those that remain have either degraded themselves beyond recognition––like the New Yorker––or they’ve been purchased like Jeff Bezos to conduct unregistered lobbying for Amazon.com, like the Washington Post. It’s hard to remember that not so long ago, America had prestige media outlets.”

He went on to deride BuzzFeed as a “New York-based cat blog.”

And after Carlson’s show finished tonight, the president approvingly quoted him to once again bash the “enemy of the people”:

This morning the New Yorker––one of the news outlets Carlson name-dropped––published a report on the president’s relationship with Fox News, including how he “frequently posts about points that he agrees with” while watching.

[Mediaite]

Trump Quotes Ari Fleischer on Fox: Trying to ‘Switch from Collusion’ Makes Dems Look Like ‘Sore Losers’

President Donald Trump quoted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer blasting Democrats on the issue of collusion this afternoon.

Fleischer spoke with Harris Faulkner on Outnumbered Overtime today, talking about the document requests from the House Judiciary Committee and saying the investigations may end up backfiring on the Democrats.

He said Democrats are showing “policy is secondary, getting Trump is primary.”

Faulkner asked if this will continue to be a “distraction” for POTUS. Fleischer said it will, arguing, “Democrats cannot keep using the words ‘crime crime crime’ without setting in motion an impeachment path that they cannot avoid. That’s going to backfire.”

Faulkner showed a clip of Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) saying that Democrats are launching investigations “in search of a crime,” before Fleischer said Democrats are trying to change lanes:

“Now that the Democrats are going to try and switch from collusion to some other reason, it makes the continue to look like sore losers who didn’t accept the will of the people in the last election. So they’ll do anything to get rid of the president. So I think the president is doing the right messaging on collusion, and then let Mueller report.”

And the president was clearly watching:

[Mediaite]

Trump directed Gary Cohn to pressure DOJ to block AT&T-Time Warner deal

President Trump reportedly directed his former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, to pressure the Justice Department to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, according to a report in The New Yorker.

In an explosive new investigation into the relationship between the Trump White House and Fox News, the magazine reported new details that contradict the administration’s assurances that Trump had no role in the Justice Department’s lawsuit trying to stop the merger.

Citing an unidentified “well-informed source,” The New Yorker reported that in summer 2017, months before the Justice Department filed its antitrust lawsuit, Trump called Cohn and then-chief of staff John Kelly into the Oval Office and told them that he wanted to “make sure” the Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to block the merger was filed.

“I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened!” Trump told Kelly, according to the report. “I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”

Trump repeatedly criticized the $85 billion deal on the campaign trail and as president, vowing to block the merger and saying that it was “not good for the country.”

But, according to The New Yorker, many saw Trump’s opposition to the deal as motivated by his disdain for CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. But the Justice Department has insisted that the president’s unhappiness with CNN, which he often targets in tweets and at rallies as “fake news,” did not influence the case.

After Trump’s direction in the 2017 meeting, The New Yorker reported, Cohn refused to follow the instruction, knowing that it would be “highly improper” for Trump to involve himself in stopping the merger.

“Don’t you f—ing dare call the Justice Department,” he reportedly told Kelly. “We are not going to do business that way.”

A spokesperson for Cohn declined to comment to The New Yorker, and Kelly did not respond to request for comment.

A former White House official who was not named in the report told The New Yorker that Trump often “vented” in “frustration” about the AT&T-Time Warner deal and his desire to block it.

“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” the former official said. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”

A federal judge ruled against the Justice Department last June, allowing the merger to go forward. The Trump administration appealed the decision, but a federal appeals court last month upheld the lower court’s decision.

The anecdote about Trump’s instruction to Cohn appears in The New Yorker’s report as an example of how the Trump administration’s actions have been “pro-Fox.”

The New Yorker reported that Trump’s effort to have Cohn push to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, in addition to the administration’s approval of the Disney-Fox merger and opposition to the Sinclair-Tribune merger, would all have benefitted the Murdoch family and Fox News.

The Hill has reached out to 21st Century Fox and the Department of Justice for comment.

[The Hill]

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