Sarah Huckabee Sanders Calls Kelly Sadler’s John McCain Remarks A “Leak” & She Won’t Discuss It

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had quite the controversy to answer for on Friday. It was less than 24 hours after an administration official reportedly made a deeply offensive joke about cancer-stricken Arizona senator John McCain, but as it turned out, she wasn’t willing to get into any sort of specifics about it. Sanders ducked questions about Kelly Sadler’s “dying” John McCain joke during the press briefing, insisting that she wasn’t going to “validate a leak” about an internal administration meeting.

Sanders, who’s been the press secretary since the departure of Sean Spicer from the job last July, did not seem very pleased to be fielding the questions. It was on Thursday that Sadler, a special assistant to President Donald Trump, reportedly joked during an administration meeting that McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel was irrelevant, because “he’s dying anyway.”

McCain, 81, was diagnosed with glioblastoma last summer, a rare and highly aggressive form of brain cancer. It’s the same type of cancer that former Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy died from back in 2009, and McCain has been straightforward about just how poor his prognosis is.

“They said that it’s very serious, that the prognosis is very, very serious,” McCain told CBS’ 60 Minutes last year. “Some say 3 percent, some say 14 percent. You know, it’s a very poor prognosis.”

When repeatedly asked about Sadler’s remark ― and more specifically, whether Sadler still has a job at the White House ― Sanders more or less stonewalled, declining to address the substance of the reports.

“I’m not going to comment on an internal staff meeting,” she said. “I’m not going to validate a leak, one way or another, out of an internal staff meeting.”

Sadler’s reported remark has stirred controversy and outrage on social media, and in the mainstream media too. In particular, both McCain’s daughter Meghan and his wife Cindy have responded publicly, with Cindy sending a tweet to Sadler reminding her that he has a loving family.

Meghan, for her part, responded to the comment on Friday’s episode of The View, remarking that her father is actually “doing really well right now” before addressing Sadler directly.

“Kelly, here’s a little news flash, and this may be a little intense for 11 o’clock in the morning on a Friday, but, we’re all dying,” she said. “And it’s not how you die, it is how you live.”

According to reports, Sadler’s joke was met largely with silence, and a few uncomfortable laughs. The White House subsequently put out a statementexpressing “respect” for McCain’s service to his country, although it did not address Sadler’s remark.

The news came the very same day that a Fox Business on-air guest sparked controversy by voicing support for American use of torture, claiming it worked on McCain. Specifically, former Air Force officer Thomas McInerney told Fox Business’ Charles Payne that McCain, who was captured and held as a prisoner for more than five years during the Vietnam war, was proof that torture worked, derisively calling him “songbird John.”

For the record, there’s no evidence McCain ever surrendered valuable information to the Vietnamese throughout the years he was tortured and beaten, although that’s not even very relevant to the cruelty of the remark. Payne ultimately issued an apology over the incident, and it similarly drew a stern response from McCain’s wife, Cindy.

In short, McCain’s name has been in the press a lot the past few days, and not necessarily for happy reasons. For what it’s worth, however, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan chimed in on the conversation on Friday, calling the Arizona senator a “hero” who “gave his entire adult life for this country.”

[Bustle]

Media

Kelly says undocumented immigrants ‘don’t have the skills’ to assimilate into US society

White House chief of staff John Kelly said he believes the vast majority of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border into the US do not assimilate well because they are poorly educated.

“Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS13,” Kelly told NPR in an interview released late Thursday, referring to the criminal gang. “But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society.”

The former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said the undocumented immigrants don’t speak English and are “overwhelmingly rural people” from countries where “fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm.”

don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws,” he went on to say.

According to NPR, Kelly supports DHS’ decision in ending temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan, and more recently Honduras.

However, he floated the idea of finding a path to citizenship for the more than 425,000 immigrants, many of whom have lived in the US legally for decades under TPS.

“I think we should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time and find a way for them to be on a path to citizenship,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who is seen inside the Trump administration as a “hardass” on immigration, was previously accused of degrading undocumented immigrants in February, when he suggested that some were “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the President sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said on Capitol Hill after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to audio posted by The Washington Post.

“The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly added.

After another meeting on Capitol Hill, Kelly later said some people who were DACA eligible but didn’t sign up had reasons but most probably “needed to get off the couch.”

[CNN]

Trump lauds Indiana GOP Senate candidate, knocks Donnelly as ‘Sleepin’ Joe’

President Trump on Thursday night heaped praise on newly minted Indiana GOP Senate nominee Mike Braun while escalating attacks on his opponent, incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

During a campaign rally in Elkhart, Ind., Trump lauded Braun as an effective businessman and someone who will be a loyal backer of the president’s agenda while characterizing Donnelly as simply awaiting marching orders from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“This November Indiana will face an important choice: you can send a really incredible swamp person back to the Senate like Joe Donnelly, or you can send us a Republican like Mike Braun to drain the swamp,” Trump said, adding Donnelly “will do whatever Chuck Schumer and [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi tell him what to do.”

“If Joe Donnelly, Sleepin’ Joe and the Democrats, get back into power, remember what I said: they will raise your taxes, they will destroy your jobs, and they are going to knock the hell out of your borders,” he added.

Trump took repeated jabs at Donnelly as Republicans target the vulnerable incumbent, one of 10 Senate Democrats running for reelection this year in states that Trump carried in the 2016 election.

The president on Thursday railed against the Democratic senator for his opposition the GOP’s tax plan and efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare while underscoring Braun’s business experience.

“Mike Braun will be a great, great representative of the people of Indiana,” Trump said. “He’s a winner and very successful businessman.”

Trump invited Braun up to the stage, where the Republican nominee touted his support for the president, an issue that dominated the contentious Senate GOP primary that ended Tuesday.

“I’m a businessman and outsider just like our president, and you can count on me to be a true reinforcement and the guy who’s going to retire Joe Donnelly,” Braun said.

The decision to hold a rally two days after Braun won is seen as a way to unify Republicans after a brutal primary.

Republicans see Donnelly’s seat as a top pickup opportunity and a chance to expand their slim 51-seat majority.

But Braun, a former state legislator, endured attacks about his business record and self-funding during the primary that Democrats have already seized on ahead of the general election.

And Democrats sought to neutralize the president’s attacks ahead of his Thursday rally. Hours before Trump’s visit to Indiana, Donnelly’s campaign launched a TV ad that highlights his bipartisan work in Washington.

“It’s okay that the President and Vice President are here today for politics, but problems only get solved when you roll up your sleeves and put in the hard work,” Donnelly said in a statement after the rally. “I’m Indiana’s hired help in the Senate because I don’t work for any president or any political party – I work for Hoosiers, and that will never change.”

Vice President Pence, a former Indiana governor, touted Braun at the rally Thursday night, lauding the Senate nominee as a job creator and a stronger supporter of Trump’s agenda. The vice president also ticked through a list of votes where Donnelly didn’t align with Trump.

“Hoosiers … deserve to know when the president asked Joe Donnelly to support policies Indiana needs, Joe Donnelly voted no,” Pence said Thursday night. “Mike Braun will stand up for Hoosiers, and Mike Braun will stand with President Trump.”

Trump and Republicans are facing strong headwinds ahead of November. The president’s party historically loses seats in the first midterm election. Plus, Trump’s underwater approval ratings could hurt GOP incumbents running in competitive districts and states.

But Trump has expressed confidence that Republicans will do well in the November midterms. And he’s made repeated overtures to voters to not get “complacent” in the fall so that Republicans can protect their majorities in the House and Senate.

“It’s all at stake in November,” Trump said. “The strides that we’re making—it can also disappear if you put fools and if you put the wrong people in.”

“You have to work everyday from now and until November to elect more Republicans to continue making America great again.”

[The Hill]

Pence calls on Mueller to wrap up’ Russia probe

US Vice-President Mike Pence has urged special counsel Robert Mueller to “wrap up” his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He said the White House has “fully co-operated” with the probe, which is looking at whether US President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Mr Trump and the Kremlin have repeatedly denied the allegations.

His remarks came as he and Mr Trump greeted three Americans returning from North Korea after being held there.

“In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up,” he told NBC News early on Thursday morning at Joint Base Andrews.

The vice-president added the administration had provided more than a million documents to Mr Mueller’s investigation team.

“And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”

Mr Pence dismissed reports about Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, receiving millions of dollars in payments from companies as a “private matter” and “something I don’t have any knowledge about”.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Mr Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants LLC, last year received half a million dollars from Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment company affiliated with a firm controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

It was one of several businesses – including major corporations like AT&T – which paid a shell company set up by Mr Cohen after the 2016 election.

Following the vice-president’s comments, top Democrat Adam Schiff tweeted that Mr Pence “has now brought his sycophancy to a whole new level”.

Mr Schiff’s tweet centers around lingering concerns over Michael Flynn, the former US national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia last December.

Mr Trump sacked Mr Flynn last February, saying he had lied to Mr Pence about meeting the Russian envoy to the US.

Per a list of questions leaked to US media, it appeared that special counsel Robert Mueller will look into Mr Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and what exactly the president knew about the situation.

[BBC]

Trump: We didn’t pay for release of prisoners from North Korea

President Trump on Thursday evening touted the release of three Americans prisoners from North Korea who arrived home this week, noting that the U.S. did not pay for their release.

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un did a great service to himself and to his country by doing this. But those hostages came out, with respect, we didn’t pay for them,” Trump said during a rally in Elkhart, Ind.

“What he did was the right thing, but they came out for nothing and the others came out for $1.8 billion in cash,” Trump added.

Trump appeared to be referring to a January 2016 deal in which the Obama administration agreed to pay Iran $1.7 billion to settle a case related to the sale of military equipment before the Iranian revolution.

The payment coincided with the release of five imprisoned American citizens who were released in exchange for seven Iranians detained in the U.S.

The White House at the time disputed that it was a ransom payment.

Trump early Thursday morning greeted the three Americans who were freed from captivity in North Korea earlier this week. He has touted their release as an act of good will by Kim ahead of a planned summit between the two leaders on June 12 in Singapore.

“The relationship is good, and hopefully, I mean for all of us, for the world, hopefully something very good is going to happen,” Trump said at Thursday’s rally.

[The Hill]

Reality

In 1979, Iran’s then-monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid $400 million to the United States government to purchase military parts. But that year’s revolution toppled the shah, and the military parts were never delivered.

To regain its funds, Iran filed a claim against the United States in 1981 in the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between the two nations. The body, located at the Hague, was established amid negotiations to end the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, in which pro-revolution students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The $1.7 billion dollars Trump mentioned was a settlement of claims, and was announced by the State Department months before Iranian detainees were transferred back home to America.

Media

Trump Threatens to Pull Press Credentials from ‘Fake News’ Media Over Negative Coverage

You know how this works. President Trump receives critical press coverage, he gets on Twitter to complain about it, the White House’s relationship with the media deteriorates further, queen to E5.

As you can see, the president is threatening to take press credentials away from “fake news” media outlets until they give him the coverage he approves of it. Trump previously yanked press credentials from multiple news organizations during the 2016 election, and as NYT‘s Maggie Haberman points out, it seems he still doesn’t get that the press isn’t supposed to be his cheerleading squad:

[Mediate]

Trump suggests legal action coming against Mueller’s team

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that “angry Democrats” on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team could face legal action over alleged “conflicts of interest.”

“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ’till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” Trump said.

Trump did not provide proof of the alleged conflicts. Although CNN has reported that several members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election also has been the subject of several Republican-led congressional inquiries. Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush, and the man who appointed him as special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was appointed by Trump.

The President also weighed in on other recent developments in the Russia investigation. He denied that he’s obstructed the probe, instead defending his actions and rhetoric as “fighting back” against “the Russia Witch Hunt.”

“There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back,” the President tweeted, later suggesting that the investigation was being dragged out so it could damage Republicans in the midterm elections.

Trump also asked why FBI special agent Peter Strzok is still at the bureau. Strzok’s text messages with Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer who resigned last week, became fodder for conservatives who believed they revealed bias at the bureau.

Several leaked questions that Mueller is interested in asking Trump are related to possible obstruction of justice actions. Trump said last week that such questions amount to a “setup and trap” and that it would “seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened!”

Last month, Trump hinted to “Fox & Friends”that he might “at some point” step in and take action against the Justice Department, which is overseeing the special counsel investigation.

[CNN]

Trump slams Mueller Russia probe, accuses team of having ‘unrevealed conflicts of interest’

President Donald Trump on Monday railed against the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of having “unrevealed conflicts of interest” and insisting that obstruction of justice is a “made-up phony crime.”

“The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination or anything else with Russia. So now the Probe says OK, what else is there? How about Obstruction for a made up, phony crime.There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back,”

It wasn’t immediately clear what conflicts of interest Trump was referring to, although the president has repeatedly slammed the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.” Mueller, a Republican, was appointed FBI chief by GOP President George W. Bush in 2001 and served until 2013.

The tweets come just days after a U.S. federal judge, T.S. Ellis, said he is skeptical about Mueller’s ability to bring charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Ellis, a Reagan appointee, hammered the special counsel’s office Friday, suggesting that the charges against Manafort have nothing to do with Russian election interference and that the special counsel is only interested in squeezing Manafort for information “that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his impeachment.”

Trump wrote in the first of two Monday morning tweets on the topic. Mueller’s team is reportedly probing whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing James Comey as FBI director last year.

Trump, referring to Mueller’s team, added, “The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice.”

“And just wait ’till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” Trump said.

Trump’s tweets, however, could also be part of a more combative legal strategy that the president’s newly reshuffled legal team is said to be taking against the Mueller probe.

Last week, Trump tapped Emmet Flood, who advised Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings, to assist in the Russia investigation after Ty Cobb, the lead White House attorney handling the probe, announced plans to retire. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a longtime Trump ally and ex-federal prosecutor in New York, also recently joined Trump’s legal team to provide advice on how to deal with the special counsel’s probe.

Mueller reportedly wants to question Trump in detail about his ties to Russia, the president’s firing of Comey and whether he tried to interfere with the investigation, according to a list of questions published by The New York Times last week.

In less than a year — Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017 — his team’s work has resulted in 19 individuals being charged with crimes. That number includes 13 Russian nationals and five people who pleaded guilty (among them Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos).

[NBC News]

Trump Denounces ‘Witch Hunt’ Again as He Touts Judge Who Criticized Mueller’s Office

President Donald Trump used his appearance at the National Rifle Association annual convention Friday to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation into possible Russia collusion during the 2016 campaign.

The president spoke at the gun lobby group’s annual gathering in Dallas, but while the event was about the 2nd Amendment and guns, the president apparently saw it as the perfect platform to go after America’s justice system. Trump specifically seized upon the news from earlier Friday, when a federal judge, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, voiced concern over the idea of a special counsel in general.

“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” Judge T.S. Ellis told federal prosecutors during one of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort‘s first court appearances. The comment prompted speculation that, perhaps, Manafort’s charges, which include money laundering and tax evasion, could be dropped. Most experts, however, still say that’s unlikely.

Regardless, Trump took the judge’s remarks as a win. The president partially quoted an article from CNN, an outlet he says he regards as “fake news,” to the crowd of thousands gathered for the NRA annual convention in Dallas.

“Judge T.S. Ellis, who is really something special I hear from many standpoints – he is a respected person – suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part of the Mueller team’s designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or Russia’s involvement in the campaign,” Trump said, appearing to read from a separate news report.

“I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt,” Trump said before tossing a piece of paper behind him.

“Then,” Trump continued reading, “none of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government or coordination with the campaign of Donald Trump.” The president kept quoting from an article, saying, “Then, ‘how does this have anything to do with the campaign?’ the judge asks.”

While I am no lawyer or legal expert, I have listened to and read the works of other highly regarded lawyers who say that even though the president and his team claim the money-related charges against Manafort are outside the scope of Mueller’s jurisdiction, the fact of the matter is that the crimes were still uncovered. Thus, they are prosecutable. To say that just because a possible crime was discovered as the result of an investigation into unrelated matters is to abandon the U.S. justice system and the rule of law, which Trump claims he wants to protect.

So long as the appropriate permissions were gathered to obtain evidence in a case (and I have no information to suggest those permissions were not granted in Manafort’s case), a legal charge such as the one against Manafort is valid. It may not be politically convenient. In fact, the Russia investigation is nothing short of a nightmare for the Trump administration. That said, the president cannot have it both ways. Either he supports the rule of law, whether or not it directly affects him and his presidency, or he doesn’t.

[Mediaite]

Trump touts unemployment drop — but a ‘WITCH HUNT’ remains on his mind

In a single tweet Friday, President Trump simultaneously hailed news of the lowest U.S. unemployment rate since 2000 and derided the ongoing special counsel probe of possible ties between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

“JUST OUT: 3.9% Unemployment. 4% is Broken! In the meantime, WITCH HUNT!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The tweet was the president’s first public comment on the unemployment rate falling to 3.9 percent — a development that Trump allies argued was evidence of his strong stewardship of the economy.

But the tweet belied the fact that the president remains irritated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing investigation, which has dominated headlines, along with a payment made by Trump’s personal attorney to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump has repeatedly called the Russia probe a ‘WITCH HUNT,” saying that Mueller has no evidence of collusion and is trying to trap him into committing perjury.

The president and his aides have sought to highlight the progress Trump is making on multiple fronts, including in negotiations over the denuclearization of North Korea, while Democrats and the media focus on issues Trump claims are less important to real people.

Trump’s latest tweet came shortly before he was scheduled to leave the White House en route to Dallas, where he is speaking to an annual gathering of the National Rifle Association.

[Washington Post]

Reality

Wow, it’s almost like a trend thanks to Democratic policies.

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