Trump, Angry Over Mattis’s Rebuke, Removes Him 2 Months Early

President Trump said on Sunday that he would remove Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who issued a stinging rebuke of the president when he announced his resignation last week, from his post by Jan. 1, two months before he had planned to depart.

Mr. Trump, in a Twitter post, said that Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy, would serve as the acting defense secretary.

Aides said that the president was furious that Mr. Mattis’s resignation letter — in which he rebuked the president’s rejection of international allies and his failure to check authoritarian governments — had led to days of negative news coverage. Mr. Mattis resigned in large part over Mr. Trump’s hasty decision to withdraw American forces from Syria.

When Mr. Trump first announced that Mr. Mattis was leaving, effective Feb. 28, he praised the defense secretary on Twitter, saying he was retiring “with distinction.” One aide said that although Mr. Trump had already seen the resignation letter when he praised Mr. Mattis, the president did not understand just how forceful a rejection of his strategy Mr. Mattis had issued.

The president has grown increasingly angry as the days have passed, the aide said. On Saturday, Mr. Trump posted a tweet that took a jab at Mr. Mattis, saying that “when President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should.”

Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star general, led the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, from 2010 to 2013. His tour there was cut short by the Obama administration, which believed he was too hawkish on Iran.

Mr. Shanahan, who, like Mr. Mattis, is from Washington State, is a former Boeing executive. Aides say that Mr. Trump likes him in part because he often tells the president that he is correct to complain about the expense of defense systems.

[The New York Times]

Trump Downplays US Envoy Brett McGurk Quitting Over Syria Pullout: ‘A Nothing Event’

President Donald Trump said on Twitter Saturday night that he doesn’t even know Brett McGurk, the US envoy who resigned over Trump’s planned Syria pullout. He also downplayed reports that McGurk quit over Syria, claiming he was supposed to leave anyhow.

In an email announcing his resignation to his colleagues and obtained byThe New York Times, McGurk called the recent decision by the president “a shock” and “a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us.”

McGurk added: “I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout but — as many of you heard in my meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.”

Yet, in an attempt to rewrite the narrative of McGurk’s exit, Trump claimed he did not even know McGurk and insisted that the Obama appointee was supposed to leave in February anyhow.

“Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015,” Trump wrote. “Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander?”

The president then blamed the media for stirring the pot: “The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!”

[Mediaite]

Trump lashed out at Whitaker after explosive Cohen revelations

President Donald Trump has at least twice in the past few weeks vented to his acting attorney general, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced the President’s actions in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Trump was frustrated, the sources said, that prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made Trump look bad. None of the sources suggested that the President directed Whitaker to stop the investigation, but rather lashed out at what he felt was an unfair situation.

The first known instance took place when Trump made his displeasure clear to acting attorney general Matt Whitaker after Cohen pleaded guilty November 29 to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Whitaker had only been on the job a few weeks following Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions.

Over a week later, Trump again voiced his anger at Whitaker after prosecutors in Manhattan officially implicated the President in a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of women around the 2016 campaign — something Trump fiercely maintains isn’t an illegal campaign contribution. Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue.

The previously unreported discussions between Trump and Whitaker described by multiple sources familiar with the matter underscore the extent to which the President firmly believes the attorney general of the United States should serve as his personal protector. The episodes also offer a glimpse into the unsettling dynamic of a sitting president talking to his attorney general about investigations he’s potentially implicated in.

Whitaker and William “Bill” Barr, Trump’s nominee to replace Sessions, are facing increased scrutiny this week for their criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Whitaker refused to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe. And a memo from Barr came to light in which he wrote that Trump’s decision to fire former FBI director James Comey did not amount to obstruction.

Trump has already shown a willingness to use the Justice Department to settle political scores. As CNN previously reported, the President questioned Whitaker about the progression of the investigation against Hillary Clinton when Whitaker was Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.

“It seems very clear that the only reason that Matt Whitaker was ever appointed to this role was specifically to oversee the Mueller investigation,” Mueller biographer Garrett Graff said on Friday in an interview on CNN’s Newsroom.

With Sessions, Trump ranted publicly about how he did nothing to curtail the Mueller investigation. Sessions had recused himself from oversight because of his role on the Trump campaign.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now,” the President tweeted in August.

The Justice Department declined to comment on any discussions between Whitaker and the President.

The President’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, could not confirm the conversations with Whitaker but said the President views the SDNY prosecutors as out of control. “The president and his lawyers are upset about the professional prosecutors in the Southern District of New York going after a non-crime and the innuendo the president was involved,” Giuliani said in a statement to CNN Friday.

One source close to Whitaker pushed back on the notion that the Cohen situation caused tension between the two, emphasizing that Whitaker and the President have a “great relationship.”

[CNN]

Donald Trump Tweets Picture of Himself at His Desk Signing a Blank Sheet of Paper

On December 21, Donald Trump posted a tweet to his official Twitter account: “Some of the many Bills that I am signing in the Oval Office right now. Cancelled my trip on Air Force One to Florida while we wait to see if the Democrats will help us to protect America’s Southern Border!”

Trump has been butting heads with Democrats over his demand for $5.7 billion to fund a 215 mile wall along the Mexican border.

He accompanied the tweet with a picture of himself in the Oval Office, surrounded by a massive stack of black folders, signing his name to a piece of paper.

The problem? The paper appeared to be completely blank.

[Second Nexus]

Trump pushes McConnell to use “nuclear option” to get his wall funded

The U.S. government-shutdown drama is running high Friday morning as the midnight deadline looms, with President Donald Trump saying Democrats will be to blame and warning that a closure, if it happens, will “last for a very long time.”

The House passed a temporary spending bill Thursday that included more than $5 billion for Trump’s border wall, which the president has demanded as a condition for him to sign the bill to keep the government open — even though there’s little support for it except from his diminishing base.

However, the legislation is unlikely to pass the Senate Friday where Republicans need Democratic votes. If there’s no deal reached, then parts of the government will shut down as of midnight Friday, affecting thousands of workers at the Justice Department, Commerce Department and Internal Revenue Service, among other agencies.

Democrats “will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED,” Trump tweeted.

“If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!’”

The president also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to blow up the Senate filibuster rule, known as the “nuclear option,” to pass the legislation. That tool allows a budget to pass by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 usually needed per Senate rules, but McConnell has firmly resisted it in the past.

Trump praised House Republicans, who voted in favor of wall funding by 217-185 votes.

“Republican House Members should be very proud of themselves,” Trump said. “They flew back to Washington from all parts of the World in order to vote for Border Security and the Wall. Not one Democrat voted yes, and we won big. I am very proud of you!”

[Vice]

Trump Reacts to Ingraham’s Claim He Gets ‘No Credit’ for Middle East Wins: ‘So True, Thank You Laura!’

President Donald Trump was watching Fox News Wednesday night and liked what he heard so much, he decided to tweet about it.

During a segment on the Middle East, Fox host Laura Ingraham was joined by Col. Jim Carafano, who heaped praise on Trump for his work to help defeat ISIS while the chyron below him read, “Left freaking out over Syria Troop Withdrawal.”

“When Trump came into office, ISIS was still running amuck in the Middle East. When Trump came into to office, there were over a million refugees that had poured into Western Europe and none of that is happening today and that’s all due to Trump,” he said.

Ingraham replied by saying its a “smart use of military power” before the conversation continued with pro-Trump talking points and Barack Obama blame.

Then, a little while later,  Ingraham lamented that Trump gets “no credit” for what he has done in the Middle East.

The president approved  and tweeted out both quotes from the Fox News show, adding after Ingraham’s remarks, “So true, thank you Laura!”

Trump’s tweet comes just hours after not only the left but Republicans — including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham — slammed Trump’s decision to announce he was withdrawing troops from Syria via a tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump: ‘Unfair’ coverage should be tested in courts

President Trump early Sunday ripped “one sided” and “unfair” media coverage, saying it should be tested in courts.

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live,” he tweeted.

“It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?”

Trump posted the tweet after NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” pondered a world in which the president was not elected in its latest cold open.

The president also knocked the sketch comedy show after its season premiere earlier this year, saying it was “just a political ad for the Dems.”

Trump often labels negative coverage “fake news” and calls the media the “enemy of the people.”

In October, he blamed what he deemed unfair media coverage for causing “great anger” in the country.

The president said in a pair of tweets following a violent week of mail bombs and a shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue that the “Fake News Media” is “the true Enemy of the People.”

“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly,” Trump wrote.

“That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony,” he added.

Trump in September repeated his suggestion that NBC’s “license” should be challenged. In a tweet, he attacked the network’s “journalistic standards” following reports that it had passed on a damning exposé about Harvey Weinstein.

“NBC FAKE NEWS, which is under intense scrutiny over their killing the Harvey Weinstein story, is now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct,” the president wrote.

“I have long criticized NBC and their journalistic standards-worse than even CNN. Look at their license?” he added.

Broadcasting licenses are granted to individual stations instead of networks like NBC,  however.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai repeatedly said last year that the FCC would not revoke those licenses on the basis of a station’s content.

Satire is also protected by the First Amendment.

[The Hill]

Trump and Rudy Giuliani tweeting bogus claims about missing texts from ex-FBI agents Strzok and Page

President Donald Trump tweeted out a blatantly false claim intended to undermine the federal investigation of his campaign ties to Russia.

The president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani each passed along bogus claims that 19,000 texts between two former FBI officials had been destroyed by investigators — which contradicted new findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

“How can Mueller’s gang get away with erasing over 19,000 texts of Trump haters Stroyk and Page?” Giuliani tweeted early Saturday, misspelling former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s last name. “They say it was DOJ policy to destroy evidence? I guess Mueller’s angry Democrats fall under the Hillary exception to obstruction of justice. She erased over 30,000 emails.”

Giuliani continued tweeting misleading claims about the story, citing conservative media reports, throughout Saturday morning, and then Trump chimed in.

“Wow, 19,000 Texts between Lisa Page and her lover, Peter S of the FBI, in charge of the Russia Hoax, were just reported as being wiped clean and gone,” Trump tweeted, taking a pass on spelling out Strzok’s name. “Such a big story that will never be covered by the Fake News. Witch Hunt!”

[Raw Story]

Trump Dances On The Grave Of The Weekly Standard

President Donald Trump celebrated the closing of the Weekly Standard Saturday, a conservative outlet which often published harsh pieces about the President and his administration.

[Talking Points Memo]

Trump Says Media Is Ignoring the “REAL Story on Russia”

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York continue racking up convictions and guilty pleas in the ever-widening scandals connected to Donald Trump, the president is lashing out—at Hillary Clinton, at the Democratic National Committee, and, of course, at the media. Just hours after announcing the departure of his scandal-plagued Interior secretary Saturday, Trump tweeted that “never in history” had the US press been “more dishonest than it is today.”

“Stories that should be good, are bad,” Trump complained. “Stories that should be bad, are horrible.”

[Mother Jones]

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