Trump blames Obama, lashes out at Schiff and Democrats, but spares Russia criticism in weekend tweet storm

President Donald Trump has lashed out at his critics, political rivals, American institutions and even his own national security advisor in a weekend tirade about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Yet the president spared Russia itself from his harshest criticism.

Trump zeroed in on his predecessor in the Oval Office, Barack Obama, for not doing enough to stop Russian operations intended to sow chaos in the American political system.

“Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing,” Trump posted Sunday morning on Twitter.

Trump was referring to comments from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe into Russia’s election-interference efforts.

Schiff, an outspoken critic of Trump, said Friday that the Obama administration shared some responsibility in the Russia controversy, because it should have been more aggressive and revealed the operation to the public.

“We should have called them out much earlier,” Schiff said Friday morning. “While I respect the motive in terms of the Obama administration, they didn’t want to be seen as meddling, the American people had a right to know what was going on and could be trusted to do the right thing with it. And they should have defended being more public and aggressive at the time, at least in my view.”

Schiff made his comments ahead of several federal indictments of Russian nationals and entities by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The indictments revealed Friday did not include any allegation that Russia efforts actually had any effect on the outcome of the election, but it did not conclude otherwise, either. The charges allege that the Russians waged “information warfare” on the U.S. political system to aid Trump’s campaign.

The latest developments in the case compelled Trump to acknowledge that Russia had interfered. Previously, he described the Russia plot as a “hoax” and the investigation into it a “witch hunt.” In his Sunday tweet storm, he stated that he always meant that the “Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”

[CNBC]

Reality

It is very easy to look backwards and say we could have done better, especially knowing now the scope of the election interference and we also didn’t know then. But we did know enough, enough that Obama wanted to release a bipartisan statement to the public alerting them of Russian involvement, but Mitch McConnell flatly refused to cooperate.

We also know that when Jeh Johnson, Obama’s secretary of homeland security, contacted people in charge of elections in various states whose election data had been possibly compromised, the Republicans in those states blew him off.

And as Joe Biden pointed out, “Can you imagine if the president of the United States called a press conference in October with this fella, and Stephen Bannon and company, and said ‘tell you what, the Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it.’”

Trump calls for DOJ to investigate Obama over Iran

President Donald Trump was up early Sunday morning, tweeting that he can’t understand why former President Barack Obama was not investigated for the Iran deal before then launching an attack on House intel member Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Hours after undermining his own National Security Adviser on Twitter, Trump went after Obama.

“Never gotten over the fact that Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, the FBI or Justice called for an investigation!” Trump wrote.

You can see the tweets below:

[Raw Story]

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.

Trump criticizes national security advisor HR McMaster’s comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 election

President Donald Trump, in a late-night tweet, criticized remarks his national security advisor made earlier Saturday about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

H.R. McMaster, who is also a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, told a conference in Germany that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election.

He was citing Friday’s federal indictments, stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, that said Russian operatives conducted a sophisticated internet campaign to sow chaos in the American political scene.

Trump eventually responded to his national security advisor by saying McMaster left out some details from his comments.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted late Saturday night.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday that these particular indictments did not include allegations that the Russian efforts affected the election’s results. Trump saw the latest development in the case as a vindication.

The indictments released Friday allege, in part, that the Russians sought to disparage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help Trump win. The Russian operatives, according to the charges, attempted to convince some Americans to vote for third-party candidate Jill Stein over Clinton, and also sought to discourage minority turnout at the polls.

McMaster’s comments Saturday were part of a testy exchange with a Russian delegate at the conference.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday dismissed reports of interference as “blather.”

Trump has repeatedly denied that his campaign colluded with Russians to sway the election in his favor, and has often called the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” Russian authorities have also rejected claims of collusion.

The president’s tweet targeting McMaster came soon after he suggested in another tweet that the Russia probe had somehow distracted the FBI from seeing warning signs leading to Wednesday’s shooting massacre at a high school in south Florida.

[CNBC]

 

Trump: Media’s ‘Approval Ratings Are Correctly at Their Lowest Levels In History’

President Donald Trump is back on Twitter. And guess what? He’s taking aim at the “Fake News Media” again.

In his first tweet of the day, the president complained that the media is not paying attention to all of the positive stuff going on in the country and instead churning out the “same negative stories.”

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump’s DACA Tweet Gets it All Wrong

Donald Trump seemed to spend most of his day on Saturday glued to Twitter, and following a morning of tweets musing about the “unfairness” of abuse accusations to the men accused and playing up his own victimhood, the president went on the offensive attacking both Democrats and facts, all in one Tweet (the new 240 character limit goes a long way).

There are multiple problems with this, beginning with the fact that DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that offers legal status to undocumented immigrants who arrived to the US as children—did not exist until 2012.

Some quick background that Trump did not seem to have access to before he tweeted: since the early 2000s, several variations of a bill known as the DREAM Act, which was designed to offer temporary legal status to individuals who were children when they arrived in the United States, were introduced in Congress. It wasn’t until September 2007, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate, but notably not the White House, that the bill seemed to have any real shot. It passed the House and won a majority of votes in the Senate but was blocked by a Republican filibuster. In 2010, when the Democrats did control all three branches, the bill was supported by a majority of both houses and President Barack Obama, but, again, blocked by a Republican filibuster. Notably, while some Republicans crossed party lines to support that version of the bill, the current top three House Republicans did not support it, and the current GOP Senate leadership cadre, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted against killing the filibuster that Democrats needed to beat to make the bill a law.

The DACA program itself was created in 2012 when Obama issued an executive order to enforce the provisions of what had been proposed in the legislation.

[Mother Jones]

Reality

So many things wrong:

  1. The White House, the Senate and the House are not the three branches of government.
  2. Obama wasn’t president in 2008.
  3. Republicans blocked DACA legislation in 2010.
  4. DACA executive order didn’t exist until 2012.
  5. It was Trump who unilaterally broke the program.

Trump administration just yanked press access of a journalist who wouldn’t censor his story

This story, in which the Trump-appointed administrator of a federal agency apparently summarily banned an American journalist from participating in news conferences after the reporter refused to remove sentences in one of his stories that the administrator wanted removed, is striking, and not just because it represents a direct Trump administration attempt to censor what is reported in the press.

The short version is that Modern Healthcare reporter Virgil Dickson was removed from an agency telephone-held press conference and told he was not allowed to participate after someone within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, now headed by Seema Verma, a Pence-tied conservative whose healthcare vision primarily consists of Americans getting less of it, took issue with his reporting on the “abrupt” resignation of a top Medicaid official.

After the article appeared, Dickson received an email from Brett O’Donnell, a communications contractor working for CMS. O’Donnell called reports of a disagreement or workload problems “false speculation” and said it was “irresponsible” to mention them without more details. […]
The next day, O’Donnell wrote to Dickson’s editor, Matthew Weinstock, asserting that the article was inaccurate and demanding that the references to workload and the disagreement be excised. O’Donnell’s email also stated: “Short of fully correcting the piece we will not be able to include your outlet in further press calls with CMS.”

Dickson and his editor stood their ground—and at the next press call with CMS, Dickson was indeed removed from the call.

So we have a federal agency curtailing press access to reporters whose stories contain unpleasantries, which is off the bat not what we are supposed to be doing. But that’s only half of it.

The person to call Dickson to make this demand is a curious character:

O’Donnell, the consultant who threatened to blackball Modern Healthcare, is not a member of the media affairs offices for CMS or for HHS.He is a Republican strategist who has helped GOP candidates in their political campaigns. In 2015, O’Donnell pleaded guilty to lying to U.S. House ethics investigators about how much campaign work he did with money that came from office accounts rather campaign accounts.

O’Donnell, reached by email, declined to answer questions from AHCJ.

So he is apparently a consultant for the agency rather than an employee because he was too crooked for the post? Or does the Republican “strategist” find it more strategic to be off-payroll?

And what idiot hired a man fresh off a guilty plea for lying to investigators? Oh. Right. These clowns. And these clowns have apparently enlisted a consultant fresh off a guilty plea for lying to government investigators to help administrator Seema Verma purge the nation’s papers of … reporting she doesn’t like?

[Daily Kos]

White House takes dig at Omarosa after she makes negative Trump comments

The White House had a pretty shady response to Omarosa Manigault’s remarks about working for President Donald Trump’s administration.

On Thursday, CBS released a clip from tonight’s Celebrity Big Brother episode in which Manigault — who left her job at the White House in January — said she tried to stop Trump from tweeting, but failed because everyone around him “attacked” her.

Shortly after the clip made the rounds on the internet, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters that the administration wasn’t taking Omarosa’s comments very seriously. “Omarosa was fired three times on The Apprentice, and this was the fourth time we let her go,” said Shah during a press conference. “She had limited contact with the president while here. She has no contact now.”

“I was haunted by tweets every single day,” says Manigault, who served as the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, on Celebrity Big Brother. “It’s bad.”

The second episode of Celebrity Big Brother airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

[MSN]

Media

President Trump calls new FBI texts ‘bombshells’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said hundreds of newly disclosed text messages exchanged between two FBI officials in 2015 and in the runup to the 2016 presidential campaign are “bombshells.”

Those texts were released Tuesday night by a Senate committee probing the FBI‘s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton‘s email practices. The committee said in a report that the texts confirm a need for further inquiry.

The texts include messages expressing disdain for then-presidential candidate Trump, references to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch allegedly knowing in advance that Clinton would not face criminal charges and comparisons of possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia with the Watergate scandal.

That tweet came 10 minutes after the scheduled start of Trump’s intelligence briefing at the White House.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the FBI’s investigation of possible coordination between officials in his campaign and Russian interests, and its probe of the Clinton emails.

The texts released were exchanged between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Strzok was removed last summer from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation of Russian meddling after Mueller was made aware of his texts with Page.

Strzok had headed the Clinton email investigation before it was closed — temporarily, as it turned out — in July 2016 without criminal charges being filed.

He then was tasked with investigating Russian efforts to influence that year’s elections.

On Sept. 2, 2016, Page texted Strzok confirming his suspicion that a scheduled meeting he was to have Sept. 7 was in connection with talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey.

“Yes, bc potus wants to know everything we are doing,” Page texted, referring to then-President Barack Obama.

It is not clear, however, if Obama wanted to know about the Clinton email probe, the Russia investigation or something else.

The text was sent more than a month after the FBI first closed its probe of Clinton’s email practices without recommending criminal charges. That probe was reopened temporarily in late September 2016 after the FBI learned that Clinton aide Huma Abedin had forwarded emails to a computer belonging to her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner.

And the Sept. 2 text came in the midst of the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the upcoming presidential election.

Obama met three days after the Sept. 2, 2016, text with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in China.

In a December press conference, Obama said that at that summit he had confronted Putin about interference in the election.

“I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn’t happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, and there were going to be some serious consequences if he didn’t,” Obama told reporters at that time.

“And, in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.”

The Republican majority of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on Tuesday said the raft of text messages raises “several important questions that deserve further examination.”

Those questions include if and to what extent any personal animus or political bias affected the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s emails, whether the Obama administration influenced that investigation and if any political bias affected the FBI’s actions toward Trump and his campaign.

“This report is not intended to answer these questions, but to demonstrate that the information received warrants further inquiry to examine possible bias and wrongdoing within the FBI and the Justice Department,” the GOP majority said.

“Any serious and impartial reader of this material should find it hard to deny the need for further inquiry.”

The committee, chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., concluded that its report found:

The FBI did not use a grand jury to compel testimony and obtain the vast majority of evidence, choosing instead to offer immunity deals and allow fact witnesses to join key interviews.

There were substantial edits to former FBI Director James Comey’s public statement that served to downplay the severity of Secretary Clinton’s actions, and that the first draft of the memo was distributed for editing two months before key witnesses were interviewed.

Director Comey stated that he had not consulted with the Justice Department or White House, when text messages among FBI agents involved in the investigation suggest otherwise. Two key investigators discuss an “insurance policy” against the “risk” of a Trump presidency, and “OUR task.”

Messages discuss “unfinished business,” “an investigation leading to impeachment,” and “my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.” The messages strongly underscore the need to obtain still-missing text messages and other information regarding the FBI’s actions and investigations into the Clinton email scandal and Russian involvement in the November 2016 election.

Senior FBI officials — likely including Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — knew about newly discovered emails on a laptop belonging to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner for almost a month before Director Comey notified Congress.

Spokesmen for both the FBI and for Obama declined to comment on the report.

CNBC has requested comment from the Democratic members of the Senate committee.

[CNBC]

 

Trump chief of staff John Kelly suggests some Dreamers ‘too lazy’ and ‘too afraid’ to sign up for DACA

Some immigrants may have been “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Obama-era program that offered protection from deportation, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday as he defended President Donald Trump’s proposal aimed at breaking the impasse on immigration.

In remarks to reporters, Kelly described Trump’s plan, which would provide a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people — more than Democrats had sought. He noted extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “beyond what anyone could have imagined.”

“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.

“The difference between (690,000) 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 said.

Kelly spoke as lawmakers have deadlocked in an effort to reach a bipartisan deal on protecting from deportation recipients of the program, known as “Dreamers.”

Barring a last-minute agreement — which seems unlikely — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said his chamber will begin considering the issue, a debate that GOP leaders expect to start next week.

Kelly said Trump would likely reject an effort to pass a short-term extension for the program, which is set to expire on March 5.

But he also noted the March 5 deadline may not have immediate impact. He said immigrants currently protected won’t be priorities for deportation as long as they do not commit crimes.

Kelly said lawmakers need a deadline to force action.

“What makes them act is pressure,” he said.

Kelly in remarks to reporters later Tuesday seemed to double down on his earlier comments about those eligible for DACA, saying “some of them just should’ve probably gotten off the couch and signed up.”

But Kelly added, “But that doesn’t really matter now because President Trump has given them the status,” referring to Trump’s proposal.

In exchange for making citizenship a possibility, Trump wants $25 billion for border security, including money to build parts of his coveted wall along the U.S.-Mexico boundary. He also wants to curb legal immigration, restricting the relatives that legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and ending a lottery that distributes visas to people from diverse places like Africa.

“I can’t imagine men and women of good will who begged this president to solve the problem of DACA” would oppose Trump’s proposal, said Kelly, using the program’s acronym. He added, “Right now, the champion of all people who are DACA is Donald Trump.”

A court ruling earlier this month also has blunted the deadline. A federal judge has indefinitely blocked Trump from terminating DACA’s protections for the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children and are living here illegally. The program shields them from deportation and gives them the right to hold jobs.

Still, many lawmakers are uneasy about what might happen to the Dreamers after March 5, and Democrats — and Trump himself — are using that uncertainty as leverage to help force a deal. Kelly’s remarks seemed aimed at easing worries that major deportations of Dreamers could begin right away — a scenario that could be damaging to members of both parties.

“They are not a priority for deportation,” Kelly said of Dreamers who’ve not accumulated criminal records.

[NBC News]

Donald Trump thinks not clapping for him is ‘treasonous’

President Donald Trump wasn’t — and, apparently, still isn’t — happy that Democrats in Congress didn’t stand to applaud him in his State of the Union address last week.

Here’s what Trump told a crowd in Cincinnati in a speech on Monday afternoon:

“They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”

So, here we are. Again.

Let’s quickly define “treason,” shall we?

Here’s how Merriam-Webster does it:

“The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

Trump loyalists will dismiss all of this as much ado over nothing. He was joking! He didn’t even say that it was treasonous! He was just agreeing with people who said it was treasonous!

Fine. Also, wrong. And missing the point in a major way.

The point? It’s this: Not standing during applause lines for the State of the Union isn’t treasonous or un-American. Not even close.

If it was, all of the Republicans in that chamber are treasonous and un-American as well because when former President Barack Obama would tout his accomplishments in office — as Trump was doing last Tuesday night — lots and lots of Republican legislators would sit on their hands while the Democratic side of the aisle erupted in cheers. And so on and so forth for every president before him (and after).

Then there is the fact that the specific “treasonous” instance Trump was referring to had to do with his touting of historically low African-American unemployment — a bit of a cherry-picked fact based off of a single month’s economic report. By the time the new report for January came out last Friday, black unemployment had ticked up almost a point and was no longer close to a historic low.

Treason is Benedict Arnold. (Side bar: Read Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Valiant Ambition” about Arnold and George Washington.) Treason isn’t refusing to applaud when the President of the United States thinks you should.

Like with many things Trump says or tweets, there’s a natural tendency to just shrug it off. To do that, however, is to miss something very important — and concerning — at work here.

What Trump is saying is that dissent — which is what Democrats are doing when they choose not to clap for a line in his speech — is traitorous and/or un-American. That if these non-clappers really loved the country, they would be applauding when he touted how low black unemployment had dipped under his tenure.

If you think that’s totally OK, flip the script. Put a Democratic president in office. And have him or her chastise Republicans as treasonous because they didn’t applaud for the fact that something close to universal health care has been achieved. Would that be a reasonable charge? Or is it possible that while Republicans agree that more people having health insurance is a good thing, they fundamentally disagree with the way in which it was implemented?

You don’t have to imagine it. Because that’s what happened during several of President Obama’s State of the Union addresses. Except that Obama never suggested those non-clapping Republicans didn’t love America.

Even the suggestion of criminalizing dissent should send a chill down the spine of anyone who counts themselves as a fan of democracy. The right to dissent — without fear of retribution — sits at the heart of what differentiates America from authoritarian countries around the world.

When you have a president float the idea that not clapping at moments when he believes clapping is appropriate sends a very powerful message to the country about how we do (and should) deal with those who disagree with us. And that goes for whether he was “joking” or not.

It’s a very bad message — no matter whether you agree with Trump or not.

[CNN]

Media

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