Trump attacks Wall Street Journal for quoting him accurately on North Korea, as audio confirms

This weekend, the White House has been lashing out at the Wall Street Journal, quibbling over a quote President Donald Trump made about his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The Journal reported that Trump said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” while the White House contends that Trump said “I’d probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out Saturday evening that the Journal’s reporting was “fake news.”

Though the Journal had released its audio the day before, Sanders then released the “official” White House audio at midnight Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted his own attacks about the interview, claiming the Journal “stated falsely” that he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.

But the Journal stands by its reporting, as well as the transcription provided by an independent transcription service. Neither version of the audio provides any audible or contextual indication that Trump said “I’d” in a line of comments about foreign relationships that were otherwise not conditional. Moreover, the transcript of the interview shows that the Journal’s own reporters clearly heard “I” — not “I’d” — and asked a follow-up question, which the President refused to answer:

TRUMP: …I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.

WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—

TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—

WSJ: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un…

TRUMP: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.

It’s unclear exactly what this quibbling is designed to accomplish, though it certainly draws more attention — not less — to the possibility that the White House has a relationship with North Korea of a different nature than it has previously indicated.

It may, however, also be a form of retaliation against the Journal for something totally unrelated. The Journal published its story about Trump’s Kim Jong Un comments on Thursday, then on Friday published a report that shortly before the 2016 election, the Trump Organization paid an adult film star, Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels), $130,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. It was only after this report that the White House began criticizing the Journal’s reporting on the relationship with North Korea.

[ThinkProgress]

Media

Trump cancels UK visit and blames Obama

US President Donald Trump has cancelled his visit to the UK in February, during which he was to open a new embassy in London. He tweeted that he was not a “big fan” of the $1bn (£738m) building in Vauxhall, in the south of the city, commissioned by his predecessor Barack Obama. The ceremony may now be overseen by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump had enraged politicians in the UK in November when he retweeted several inflammatory videos from far-right group Britain First – a move that Mrs May said was “wrong” and which prompted British MPs to describe Mr Trump as “fascist”, “stupid” and “racist, incompetent or unthinking”.

This planned trip was not the full state visit agreed between the UK and the US, but for which no date has yet been set.

[BBC, Financial Times]

Reality

The president is claiming he’s not going to visit a top ally because he’s unhappy about a real estate decision by the Obama administration, however the decision to build a new embassy was made in October 2008 during the George W. Bush administration.

Trump renews call for internet tax, making a veiled threat against Amazon

President Donald Trump repeated an earlier call for an internet tax, in a thinly veiled shot at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.

“The internet — they’re going to have to start paying sales tax because it’s very unfair what’s happening to our retailers all over the country that are put out of business,” Trump said Wednesday.

Trump also reiterated concerns about Amazon’s effect on the U.S. Postal Service as it struggles to keep up with online orders.

The comments mirror tweets from the president in December that named the e-commerce giant.

“There’s always been a fear for players like an Amazon or a Google that something like this could actually get through,” Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, told CNBC. “We believe it’s more noise than a real threat.”

There’s been speculation that the president’s shots at Amazon are aimed at Bezos, whose newspaper has published stories critical of the president.

Amazon already collects sales tax on products it sells directly to consumers, but has faced challenges from states over its policy of allowing third-party vendors to charge varying levels of sales tax.

In June South Carolina filed a complaint against the online retailer, and Amazon agreed in November to take on additional third-party tax burden in its home state of Washington.
The issue has garnered more attention as Amazon continues to take a bigger share of overall retail sales. Amazon celebrated its “biggest holiday” shopping season at the end of last year.

There is an underlying movement among traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to more heavily tax Amazon, Ives said, so the discussion is “something you have to keep an eye on.”

But the likelihood that an internet tax would pass is small, he said.
“Listen they’ve [Amazon] significantly changed the retail landscape across the world,” Ives said. “I think it’s more of the same where they’re getting in the crosshairs.”
Trump spoke before media and members of the administration Wednesday evening during the signing of the Interdict Act, which seeks to reduce drug smuggling through the purchase of opioid sensors.
Amazon did not immediately return a CNBC request for comment.

[CNBC]

Trump Calls For ‘Strong Look’ at Libel Laws to Stop People Saying ‘Knowingly False’ Things

Before holding a cabinet meeting earlier today, President Donald Trump sat in front of reporters and delivered a series of remarks.

For the most part, he touted all of the accomplishments he pulled off throughout the past year, including passing that tax bill, getting rid of Obamacare’s individual mandate and, oddly, even repeatedly stating that multiple news anchors sent him “letters of congratulations” for yesterday’s immigration meeting.

It wasn’t all 2017 naval-gazing. Trump did, eventually, discuss his administration’s plans for 2018.

Great! Did he dig into infrastructure, long thought to be the GOP’s tentpole issue for the rest of the year? Nope.

Instead, he talked about libel reform. Wait, libel reform?!

Yeah.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” he said.

“If somebody says something that is totally false, and knowingly false, that person that has been abused, defamed, libeled will have meaningful recourse.”

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness.”

One wonders what got libel reform in his head. It couldn’t possibly have been Michael Wolff’s abusive, defaming and libelous tell-all, right? Right.

In other news, according to The Washington Post, Trump just hit 2,000 lies told since taking the oath of office.

There’s also a problem with his idea: Trump can’t actually change libel laws. Not even Congress can. Why? They are state laws, thus having been shaped by a series of state courts and state legislatures. He can’t touch them.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump suggests he wants US law to limit free speech in wake of publication of explosive new book

President Donald Trump has hit out at “very weak” libel laws in the US as he branded an explosive new book detailing the inner workings of the White House as “fiction”.

Suggesting he would like to see tougher laws on speech, Mr Trump said that if libel laws “were strong… you wouldn’t have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes into your head” – referring to Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

The book has caused a storm of controversy and has left the President facing questions about his mental state, with quotes in Fire and Fury – including from Mr Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon – suggesting that even those close to Mr Trump had questioned his capability.

Early on Saturday, Mr Trump wrote a string of messages on Twitter where he rejected such claims, saying he was a “very stable genius” whose two greatest assets are his “mental stability and being, like, really smart”.

Mr Wolff’s new book, which has shot to the top of the bestseller list on Amazon after being released four days early, has clearly riled the President and he used a rare news conference during a retreat with Republican leadership to reinforce what he sees as a stellar list of life achievements.

Answering a question about why he saw the need to tweet about his mental state, Mr Trump said that he had attended “the best college” and was an “excellent” student. He added that he came out of college and “made billions and billions of dollars… [and] became one of the best business people” before touting his “tremendous success” over a decade on television. He went on to add that he ”ran for President one time, and won”.

Mr Trump also called Mr Wolff a “fraud” and the book “a complete work of fiction”, saying that “he doesn’t know me at all” and said that he had not been interviewed in the White House as Mr Wolff had said. He later admitted that he had spoken to Mr Wolff during his presidential campaign.

The gathering at Camp David, with a number of members of his cabinet, is supposed to be a weekend for Mr Trump to concentrate on their agenda for 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan were also present for the two days of talks, with the Republican party facing a battle to keep control of the US Congress in November’s elections.

At the beginning of his remarks, Mr Trump described having some “incredible meetings” with colleagues, saying the party was readying its 2018 legislative agenda.

[The Independent]

Trump: I’m a ‘very stable genius’

President Donald Trump slammed reports questioning his mental stability in a series of tweets Saturday morning, writing he’s a “very stable genius” after the publication of an exposé about his first year as President put the White House into damage-control mode.

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence … ” Trump wrote, referring to questions raised about the mental fitness of the former President, who disclosed in 1994 that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” the President continued. “Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”

After his tweets Saturday morning, Trump told reporters at Camp David that Wolff is a “fraud” who doesn’t know him.

“I went to the best colleges, or college,” he told reporters. “I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for President one time and won. Then I hear this guy that doesn’t know me at all, by the way, didn’t interview me, said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. Didn’t exist, it’s in his imagination.”

Trump continued: “I never interviewed with him in the White House at all; he was never in the Oval Office.”

Wolff told “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie on Friday that he “absolutely spoke to the President” while working on “Fire and Fury.”

“Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record,” Wolff said. “I’ve spent about three hours with the President over the course of the campaign, and in the White House. So, my window into Donald Trump is pretty significant.”

The remarkable spectacle of Trump defending his mental stability comes after the President and some of his top officials spent the last few days countering claims in author Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury,” about Trump’s mental fitness to serve as President. The book, which went on sale Friday, also paints the picture of a President who neither knows nor cares about policy and doesn’t seem to perceive the vast responsibilities of his role.

CNN has not independently confirmed all of Wolff’s assertions.

Trump’s tweets also come after reports surfaced that a dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate received a briefing from Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee on Capitol Hill in early December about Trump’s fitness to be president.

“Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the President’s dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation,” Lee told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, “They know the concern is universal among Democrats, but it really depends on Republicans, they said. Some knew of Republicans that were concerned, maybe equally concerned, but whether they would act on those concerns was their worry.”

The briefing was previously reported by Politico. Lee, confirming the December 5 and 6 meeting to CNN, said that the group was evenly mixed, with House and Senate lawmakers, and included at least one Republican — a senator, whom she would not name.

[CNN]

Trump legal team blasts explosive Michael Wolff book in cease-and-desist letter

President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has demanded on behalf of his client that author Michael Wolff and his publisher immediately “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of a forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury, according to a letter obtained by ABC News.

The book is scheduled to be released next week but excerpts have caused a stir.

“We are investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements that you have made about Mr. Trump,” the lawyer wrote to Wolff.

The letter goes on to say they are looking into possible defamation of Trump and his family and invasion of privacy.

The lengthy letter to Wolff and Henry Holt and Co. Inc. goes on to accuse the author of actual malice.

It states, “Actual malice (reckless disregard for the truth) can be proven by the fact that the Book admits in the Introduction that it contains untrue statements. Moreover, the Book appears to cite to no sources for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump. Also, many of your so-called ‘sources’ have stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff and/or never made the statements that are being attributed to them. Other alleged ‘sources’ of statements about Mr. Trump are believed to have no personal knowledge of the facts upon which they are making statements or are known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr. Trump.”

Harder sent a similar letter to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon Wednesday night demanding he cease and desist from making allegedly false statements against the president and his family.

Bannon has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment. Wolff and his publisher have also not responded.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump hit back at Bannon in scathing comments, saying that when Bannon was fired “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

President Trump’s comments, which came in the form of a written statement from the White House, were in response to Bannon’s strident criticism of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort for sitting down with a group of Russians who promised damaging information against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election in excerpts from Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party,” the president said in a statement. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

[ABC News]

Reality

Man who lead the racist birther movement upset with book of “false” claims about him.

Trump reacts to ‘Fire and Fury’ book in tweet lashing out at author and ‘Sloppy Steve’

President Trump lashed out at the author of a soon-to-be-released book about the chaotic first year of his presidency Thursday night.

In a tweet, Trump called “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” a “phony book” and claimed that he’d never spoken to its author, Michael Wolff.

“Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!” Trump wrote. He appeared to be referring to former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, whose stunning criticisms of Trump and his circle figure prominently in the title.

Trump’s tweet came hours after he had his lawyer demand that Henry Holt & Co. and Wolff stop publication the book.

Instead, the publisher expedited the book’s release to Friday, four days before it was slated to hit bookstore shelves, in response to “unprecedented demand.” Published excerpts on Wednesday and Thursday whetted that appetite and roiled Washington.

Bannon’s comments, including that it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort to have met in 2016 with Russians said to have “dirt” on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, prompted Trump on Wednesday to rebuke his former advisor, saying Bannon had “lost his mind.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Reality

Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted Michael Wolff was at the White House and members of the press corps witnessed him having a greater access than them.

Donald Trump again takes aim at NFL with tweet about protesting players

President Donald Trump revived his criticism of the NFL in a tweet Thursday morning.

Two days before the beginning of the NFL playoffs, the president took to Twitter to once again denounce players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Trump re-tweeted an image of a woman and child on the ground near the grave of a soldier, an apparent nod to the potential sacrifices made by members of the military.

Trump has repeatedly ripped the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of the demonstrations, which he views as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the military. The president used an expletive to describe the protesting players in September, which prompted more than 200 players — and multiple owners — to kneel in response.

Players who have kneeled during the national anthem have generally described the protest as a means of raising awareness about critical social-justice issues, explaining that they are not meant to disrespect the military in any way. Other outside observers have described the protests as fiercely patriotic, citing the players’ utilization of their First Amendment rights.

[USA Today]

Trump tweets he will announce awards for most “dishonest” and “corrupt” media of the year

President Trump on Tuesday night claimed he will announce awards for the most “dishonest” and “corrupt” media of the year. “Stay tuned!” Mr. Trump ended his tweet about the subject.

“I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” the president tweeted.

The details of the president’s announcement about such unprecedented awards was unclear, and came in between tweets threatening the use of a big nuclear button against North Korea and touting Fox News’ Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. show.

Mr. Trump has continued to attack mainstream outlets like the “failing” New York Times, even while he gives them interviews. The president gave an exclusive, 30-minute interview, with no aides around, to The New York Times’ Mike Schmidt last week while at his club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Other than his 11 a.m. daily intelligence briefing and a lunch with Vice President Pence and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the president had no events scheduled for the first official work day of 2018. He spent some of the morning tweeting about Pakistan, North Korea’s “rocket man” Kim Jong Un, and taking credit for the lack of commercial airline deaths in 2017.

[CBS News]

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