Trump Tells NBC to Stop Covering Russia Story

President Trump on Saturday called for NBC News to devote more attention to his unproven claims that President Obama spied on him and stop covering the investigations into Russia’s interference in the election.

“When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?” Trump tweeted just before 9 a.m.

“It is the same Fake News Media that said there is ‘no path to victory for Trump’ that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!” he added shortly after.

It was not immediately apparent what NBC coverage Trump was taking issue with. Chuck Todd on Friday interviewed top Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell and former Obama press secretary Josh Earnest on “MTP Daily” about the latest Russia developments.

Russian interference in last year’s election is the subject of investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence Committee and the FBI.

Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has volunteered to be interviewed by the FBI and congressional committees probing possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The president has frequently decried coverage of the investigations into Russian meddling as “fake news.”

Trump last month claimed in a series of tweets that Obama “wiretapped” him before the election. He did not supply any evidence.

FBI Director James Comey says he knows of “no information” validating Trump’s accusation. Trump has stood by the allegations, and the White House has said the comment refers to the Obama administration’s surveillance activities more broadly.

(h/t The Hill)

 

 

Trump Slams His Own SCOTUS Pick, “I’ll Criticize Judges!”

President Trump on Tuesday said the courts aren’t helping the administration in its attempts to strengthen the country’s vetting procedures to weed out potential terrorists.

“We’re also taking decisive action to improve our vetting procedures,” Trump said, speaking at the National Republican Congressional Committee dinner.

“The courts are not helping us, I have to be honest with you. It’s ridiculous. Somebody said I should not criticize judges. OK, I’ll criticize judges.”

Earlier this year, Trump blasted James Robart, the federal judge for the Western District of Washington who placed a halt on Trump’s initial travel ban. The president referred to Robart as a “so-called judge.”

During the campaign, he also attacked the judge hearing a lawsuit against Trump’s defunct real estate education program, Trump University, saying that his Mexican heritage makes him unable to be impartial.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said during his confirmation hearing that he finds the president’s criticism of judges’ integrity “disheartening and demoralizing.”

“I know these people and how decent they are, and when anyone criticizes the honesty, integrity and motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening and demoralizing because I know the truth,” Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“Anyone including the president of the United States?” Blumenthal asked.

“Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch replied.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order on parts of the president’s revised travel ban.

(h/t The Hill)

Media

Trump Lawyers Go After to Teen Who Operates Site That Shows Kittens Punching Him

A new report indicates that Donald Trump‘s lawyers have gone after a teen who operates a gag site.

Interestingly, the report is from the Observer, which is owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Perhaps more interesting — the site that received the cease and desist order is one that shows the president being punched by kittens. We’d link to the site, but one of the URLs leads to a 404 error message and the other now leads to porn, courtesy of an opportunistic entrepreneur of some sort.

Anyway, it was created by a 17-year-old girl identified as Lucy. Lucy loves to code and created the site as a “fun little” project to show off her technical skills. The teen had this to say:

I was going to just let this go, but I think it’s, pardon my French, fucking outrageous that the President of the United States has his team scouring the internet for sites like mine to send out cease and desists and legal action claims if we don’t shut down. Meanwhile, he tweets about The Apprentice ratings and sends out power-drunk tweets about phone tapping. HOW ABOUT BEING THE PRESIDENT?

When The Hollywood Reporter caught up to her, Lucy said, “I really just want people to be aware that this is a president who’s clearly more concerned about what people think of him than doing things of substance.”

Litigation is common for the First Family. Melania Trump has sued over reports she was once an escort. Notably, she went after a 69-year-old blogger.

(h/t Mediate)

Trump Takes Another Jab at Ex-49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick

President Donald Trump on Monday reprised his attacks on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, telling supporters in Kentucky that “they like when people actually stand for the American flag.”

Standing before a cheering throng at the Exposition Center in Louisville, Trump referenced a report published Friday that anonymously quoted National Football League officials discussing Kaepernick’s slumping prospects as a free agent. Some loathed the police brutality-fueled protest that saw Kaepernick — and others — take a knee during the national anthem last season.

Others feared a backlash from their fans. Still others feared the president himself.

Or, as Trump put it during his Louisville rally: “They don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that?”

The crowd roared and Trump, grinning, continued.

“I said, if I remember that one, I’m going to the people of Kentucky because they like when people actually stand for the American flag.”

This is well-trod territory for Trump. During the campaign, he described Kaepernick as disrespectful, the protest as “a sad thing” and suggested that the quarterback move abroad.

“Maybe he should find a country that works better for him,” he told a radio host in August, according to The Hill.

Director Spike Lee, meanwhile, has come to the quarterback’s defense. In an Instagram post on Sunday, the two posed for a selfie while Lee described the league’s apparent disinterest as “subterfuge” and “skullduggery.”

“What Crime Has Colin Committed?” Lee wrote. “Look At The QB’s Of All 32 Teams. This Is Some Straight Up Shenanigans, Subterfuge, Skullduggery And BS.”

(h/t NBC News)

Media

Trump Blasts ‘Fake News’ CNN’s Polls, CNN Fact-Checks Him Live

President Donald Trump attacked CNN, one of his favorite media targets, Monday morning for continuing to conduct polls even though “their election polls were a WAY OFF disaster.”

Trump and other officials from his White House have been frequent critics of polling, emboldened by the president’s surprise victory that went against the predictions of nearly every 2016 poll. CNN, in a poll conducted several weeks before the election with the market research firm ORC International, released a poll showing Democrat Hillary Clinton with a 5-point lead over Trump nationwide.

“Just heard Fake News CNN is doing polls again despite the fact that their election polls were a WAY OFF disaster. Much higher ratings at Fox,” Trump wrote on Twitter, offering a plug for his preferred cable network, Fox News, where he is the recipient of generally favorable coverage.

While Trump’s social media post indicated that CNN had taken a hiatus from polling following the election, the cable network has actually continued to conduct regular polls. One survey, conducted earlier this month, showed deep divisions over key provisions in the Affordable Care Act but strong bipartisan support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements.

A CNN poll conducted in January and released just before Trump’s inauguration showed diminishing confidence among respondents in his transition team and one released in early February began tracking his presidential approval rating.

(h/t Politico)

Update

Mediaite reports CNN immediately fact checked Trump on air. Chris Cuomo took notice of Trump’s tweet, and Poppy Harlow reminded Trump on air that “they’re not our polls, they’re Gallup polls.”

“It’s very different to poll people’s opinion of a sitting president as to how they may go vote,” Harlow said. Rucker expressed hope that Trump was watching, to which Cuomo dryly responded, “oh, he’s watching.”

Trump Accuses German Reporter of Citing ‘Fake News’

President Donald Trump bristled at a question from a German reporter Friday afternoon who asked about his “America first” trade policies and disdain for the media, remarking that the reporter must have been reading “fake news.”

“Mr. President, ‘America first,’ don’t you think this is going to weaken also the European Union?” the reporter asked at Trump’s bilateral press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “And why are you so scared of diversity in the news and in the media, that you speak so often of ‘fake news’ and that things after all, in the end, cannot be proven, for example the fact that you have been wiretapped by Mr. Obama?”

“Nice friendly reporter,” Trump replied amid scattered laughter in the White House’s East Room. He did not directly address the reporter’s question about his disdain for the media, nor did he address a portion of that same reporter’s question to Merkel, which referenced past comments from the chancellor about walls coming down in seeking her thoughts on Trump’s policies.

The president did insist that he is “not an isolationist” but that he will insist, as he did on the campaign trail, that the U.S. is treated fairly in the international marketplace and does not fall victim to the pitfalls he blamed for job losses across the country.

“The United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years and that’s going to stop. But I’m not an isolationist. I’m a free trader but I’m also a fair trader and our free trade has led to a lot of bad things happening,” Trump said, noting America’s significant trade deficit and the accompanying accumulation of debt. “We’re a very powerful company — country. We’re a very strong, very strong country. We’ll soon be at a level that we perhaps have never been before.”

“I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination,” the president continued. “I don’t know what newspaper you’re reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news.”

(h/t Politico)

Trump Starts Hip-Hip Feud With Snoop Dogg

President Trump fired off five tweets early Wednesday morning: one about his tax return, one about tax cuts, two about rallies and one about, well, Snoop Dogg.

“Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama?” Trump wrote. “Jail time!”

The president was referring to the rapper’s new “Lavender” video, in which he draws a gun, takes aim at the head of “President Ronald Klump” — comedian Michael Rapaport dressed up as a clown — and fires. Though the effect is a cartoon “Bang!” unfurling from the barrel of the gag weapon, the implication is clear.

“Shame on you, Snoop,” Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said Tuesday on TMZ Live. The rapper owes the president an apology, he said. He wouldn’t have accepted the video if it were directed toward President Obama either, Cohen said.

“If you have a protest, that’s fine,” the attorney said. “Make a point. But he has to learn that they have to respect the office of the presidency … Just because you want to hide behind the guise of artistic capabilities or artistic freedom of speech doesn’t make it right, and Snoop knows that, and he played very close to the line here.”

In the wake of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s comments to TMZ criticizing the rapper, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told the website that he hadn’t seen the video yet but considered it to be “in poor taste,” especially given the nation’s history of presidential assassinations and attempted assassinations.

“I think it’s unfortunate. I wish he hadn’t done that,” Cruz said, noting that people “should not be advocating the murder of the president of the United States, and it’s sad that that is somehow deemed a controversial statement.”

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

Media

Following Embarrassingly Bad Conway Interviews, Trump Slams ‘Rude’ Media

President Donald Trump complained Monday morning that members of the media have treated officials from his administration rudely and advised the media that “you will do much better” if his officials are treated nicely.

Trump’s tweet, which did not reference any specific interactions between his administration and the media, followed interviews with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on four networks.

“It is amazing how rude much of the media is to my very hard working representatives. Be nice, you will do much better!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” anchor George Stephanopoulos challenged Conway to explain an interview she gave to the Bergen (N.J.) Record, in which she seemingly suggested that former President Barack Obama had used household electronics such as televisions, computers and smart phones inside Trump’s Manhattan skyscraper to spy on him.

Asked for evidence to support such a claim, Conway said she had none and insisted that she had been speaking about surveillance broadly and not leveling a specific allegation against Obama.

In response to a similar line of questioning on CNN’s “New Day,” a program Conway and other White House officials have largely avoided in recent weeks, the counselor to the president said it was not her responsibility to provide evidence for an allegation.

“I’m not Inspector Gadget. I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign,” she said. “However, I’m not in the job of having evidence. That’s what investigations are for.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo pushed Conway on the issue, asking her why she even raised the use of household gadgets for surveillance purposes if it were not her intention to imply that Obama had done just that inside Trump Tower. “The question is why were you doing that?” Cuomo said. “Because this goes to personal integrity.”

“I’m allowed to talk about things that are in the news without you questioning anybody’s personal integrity,” Conway replied. Accusations that she intentionally leveled an allegation against Obama without evidence have come from at least in part from “other people who don’t necessarily want Donald Trump to be the president,” she said.

And on NBC’s “Today,” Conway struggled to offer an explanation as to why the White House trumpeted a positive jobs report last week as an early success of the Trump administration when the president regularly derided similarly positive reports as phony and inaccurate when they were released during the Obama administration.

Conway’s justification for the discrepancy, under repeated questioning from “Today” hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, was to say that “there’s a lot of fakery going on for people who were promised something that never came to be,” during the Obama administration, pointing to broken promises on health care as an example.

Lauer and Guthrie also sought answers from Conway about her Trump Tower surveillance remarks over the weekend, questions that prompted the counselor to the president to criticize the media for talking too much about Trump’s wiretapping claim.

“Can I stop you right there? The media did not bring up this topic. President Trump did,” Guthrie interjected as Conway sought to steer the conversation away from the president’s claim that Obama tapped his phones during the election. Conway replied that the media has focused too much on the wiretapping allegation and not enough on health care and other issues “that the American people also want to hear about.”

“All the more reason to question why it is that he would bring that up and then therefore throw the discussion” away from the White House’s preferred topics, Guthrie replied. “I mean, it isn’t like something a blogger wrote. It’s something the president of the United States accused his predecessor of tapping his phone.”

(h/t Politico)

White House Official Terrorizes Network Green Rooms

White House official Boris Epshteyn, a combative Trump loyalist tasked with plugging the president’s message on television, threatened earlier this year to pull all West Wing officials from appearing on Fox News after a tense appearance on anchor Bill Hemmer’s show.

Epshteyn, according to multiple sources familiar with the exchange, got in a yelling match with a Fox News booker after Hemmer pressed him for details of President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order cracking down on immigration from Muslim-majority countries — a topic he was not expecting to be grilled on.

“Am I someone you want to make angry?” Epshteyn told the booker, the sources said. When he threatened to pull White House officials from the network, the fed-up booker had had enough.

“Go right ahead,” the booker fired back, the sources said, aware that Epshteyn had no power to follow through on a threat that would have upended the administration’s relationship with a sympathetic news network.

Ultimately, White House officials have continued to appear on Fox News, and the network told POLITICO that it handled the flare-up professionally.

Epshteyn’s rise to a position of prominence in the Trump White House reveals how the president has rewarded his loyalists. But Epshteyn, who serves as special assistant to the president, has added to the impression of an antagonistic White House by throwing his weight around in a manner that has further strained the relationship between the administration and the television networks.

Epshteyn’s official job is to oversee White House officials who appear on television to speak on behalf of the administration, and defend and explain Trump on TV himself. In recent weeks, he has been aligned with counselor Kellyanne Conway in pushing the administration to use Cabinet secretaries to talk about policies on television, and reduce the on-air profiles of White House staffers.

Epshteyn declined to comment for this story. In an interview, White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Epshteyn as an important member of his team. “Boris is a fierce advocate for the president and his policies,” Spicer told POLITICO. “Obviously we’ve got to make sure that everyone is treated with the appropriate level of respect. I have not seen a problem.”

But on all three cable news networks, according to more than half a dozen interviews with TV insiders and contributors, Epshteyn has earned a reputation as someone who is combative and sometimes difficult to work with, even when he arrives at studios as a guest of a network. He has offended people in green rooms with comments they have interpreted as racially insensitive and demeaning.

“His off-camera behavior was even more distasteful than his on-camera behavior,” said Joy-Ann Reid, a national correspondent for MSNBC, who often sparred with Epshteyn on television during the campaign.

During an incident last summer, Epshteyn was chatting at Fox News with Basil Smikle, chairman of the New York State Democratic Party about an upcoming story segment on affirmative action. Smikle, the son of Jamaican immigrants, explained to Epshteyn, who is a Russian Jew, the challenge of feeling like you have to work twice as hard to prove your worth when you’re black in America, he told POLITICO in an interview.

In response, “Boris suggested affirmative action means that institutions have to lower their standards to let African-Americans in,” Smikle said in an interview, noting that Epshteyn seemed to imply that the bar for success was lower for him because of the color of his skin. Smikle, who holds degrees from Cornell University and Columbia University, said he was “stunned at the comment, and I found it offensive.”

It was not an isolated incident of making offensive statements in public. Sitting in the green room at CNN during the election, Epshteyn rankled Christine Quinn, a paid network contributor and the former speaker of the New York City Council. “Why does she dress like that?” he said out loud, in front of multiple people, pointing to a woman with very short hair, wearing a loose-fitting pantsuit.

“Why do you dress like that?” Quinn, who is gay and a longtime LGBT rights activist, fired back. Epshteyn, Quinn said in an interview, appeared stunned by the reaction to his comment.

Epshteyn entered Trumpworld as a surrogate, thanks to a friendship with Eric Trump developed as fellow undergrad students at Georgetown University. He became a ubiquitous presence on cable news throughout the 2016 campaign, first as an outside supporter and then as a paid Trump campaign staffer.

One CNN contributor interviewed for this story, who declined to speak on the record without approval from the network, recalled Epshteyn arriving early for a segment during the campaign and sprawling out on the couch in the greenroom to rest — and then complaining to a producer that the makeup staff wasn’t quick enough to powder his face.

Now, Epshteyn is a White House official, with an office in the Old Executive Office Building, steps from the West Wing. He is often spotted in the West Wing, near Spicer’s office, or sporting his signature three-piece suits in the briefing room.

Internally, Epshteyn is well-regarded for his loyalty to Trump and for his ability to publicly speak on behalf of the administration — no small posting for an administration where the president is keenly focused on how things play on cable TV.

“Boris is someone who is willing to go on the battlefield in support or defense of candidate and now President Trump,” Conway said in an interview, noting that many of the unflattering stories about Epshteyn are par for the course when your job is to defend Donald Trump. “Everyone here is aware that if you are someone who continues to support President Trump, you, yourself are a target,” she said. “I think some people are looking for a body count.”

But his recent blow-up with Fox News has put him on thin ice with some senior White House officials, according to people close to the administration. When Epshteyn joined the administration’s communications team, Spicer was warned by campaign aides about past complaints from the network about his behavior, and Epshteyn was warned that his campaign antics would not be tolerated by the White House, multiple sources familiar with the discussions said. Spicer declined to comment on any specific warning delivered to Epshteyn.

As the communications director for Trump’s inaugural committee last January, Epshteyn met with all of the networks ahead of the president’s swearing in. At a meeting with NBC executives, he aired his grievances against Reid and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. In the room, his jokes about how he enjoys appearing on television in part because of the free food fell flat, according to multiple sources in the meeting.

“He calls women girls, and he has no decorum about how he speaks to people,” said Reid. “He’s somebody that just makes the room uncomfortable. When he leaves the room, the conversation is, ‘I hope he never comes back.’ He enjoys making people uncomfortable.”

Despite his critics, Epshteyn’s political profile has quickly risen, thanks to his early allegiance to the president. Just eight years ago, Epshteyn was a junior staffer on Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. Today, Epshteyn is a senior White House official who is considered critical to the mission of creating the image of a successful presidency. And in Trump’s world, loyalty and ubiquity on television count for a lot.

“He goes on TV and he defends Donald Trump,” said one former campaign aide. “That carries a lot of weight.”

(h/t Politico)

Trump Accuses Obama of Having Ties to Russia

President Trump launched new attacks on his predecessor and Democrats on Sunday, suggesting Barack Obama also has shady Russian ties.

At 6:40 a.m., Trump insinuated that Obama acted improperly in March 2012 when the then-president told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the US would have more “more flexibility” in talks about a missile defense treaty after November elections.

The “more flexibility” remark was picked up on a hot mic that Obama and Medvedev apparently did not know was on.

“Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, `Tell Vladimir that after the election I’ll have more flexibility,’” tweeted Trump, under fire for his administration’s ties to Moscow.

That tweet came after a 6:32 a.m. missive that suggested Democrats didn’t want to help the FBI investigate cyberattacks now linked to Russia.

“Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?” Trump tweeted.

The president’s Sunday morning tweets came 23 ½ hours after he made sensational – and uncorroborated – claims that Obama had his phones at Trump Tower tapped during the 2016 campaign.

Obama’s spokesman denied the former president ordered any such covert action against Trump.

Democrats and some Republicans roundly criticized Trump for making such a wild, unsubstantiated claim.

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) comically took Trump’s side and said maybe he was put under surveillance – for good reason.

“Mr. President: If there was a wiretap at Trump Tower, that means a fed judge found probable cause of crime which means you are in deep sh–,” Lieu tweeted.

(h/t New York Post)

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