Trump rips McCain hours after signing bill named after him

President Trump hit Sen. John McCain in a speech hours after signing a defense bill named after the Arizona Republican.

Trump, speaking at a New York fundraising event, sarcastically referred to McCain as “one of our wonderful senators,” and referenced McCain’s key vote against a proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“ObamaCare, we got rid of the individual mandate, which is the most unpopular aspect,” Trump said. “I would’ve gotten rid of everything, but as you know, one of our wonderful senators said ‘thumbs down’ at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

The comment prompted a small chorus of boos from the audience.

Trump earlier in the day did not mention McCain during his signing of the defense bill, a $717 billion piece of legislation that is officially titled the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

The omission sparked backlash among frequent Trump critics, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, who called it “disgraceful.”

[The Hill]

Trump Blames ‘Unpopular’ John Kasich for ‘Tamping Down’ Balderson ‘Enthusiasm’

Donald Trump and John Kasich are fighting again, this time over probable Ohio special election winner Troy Balderson, and the President tweeted about it on Monday. Calling Kasich “unpopular,” “failed,” and unpopular again, Trump used the tweet as another red meat pitch to Ohio Trump voters for November.

“Tamping down enthusiasm” isn’t your typical Trump complaint, but otherwise true-to-type as he bashed Kasich’s failure to win in 2016 and referred to a narrow squeaker as a “big win.”

Balderson has essentially won, and declared victor, but the results are not technically official yet. Regardless, the narrowness of the margin is the subject at hand in a criticism from Ohio Gov. Kasich on Meet the Presson Sunday (echoing remarks he made to CBS the day after the election). “It wasn’t a good night,” said Kasich regarding last Tuesday’s vote, “because this is a district that you should be winning by, you know, overwhelming numbers.”

That’s an analysis made by many political observers, but the reason for that razor edge is what really has Trump worked up. Many, including Kasich, blame Trump.

Kasich said it is a “message from the voters” to “stop the chaos” and “stop alienating people.” He also offered broad critiques shared by other Trump-critical Republicans, such as arguing against “protectionism” and Trump’s treatment of NATO allies.

And that is why on Monday the President returned fire in a tweet.

A win for Balderson is only a temporary salve should Kasich be proved correct about the sentiment of the voters; he faces the same Democrat challenger again in the regular election in November. In an effort to hold the House majority, the party and particularly the president certainly must and will make the case that Balderson is what Ohio voters are looking for, repudiation-free.

Kasich, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016, has not ruled out a 2020 run and, to anyone who observes Kasich, is in fact practically a lock to put his hat in the ring.

[Mediaite]

Trump: I ‘destroy’ careers of Republicans who say bad things about me

Donald Trump bragged about his prowess in defeating the Republicans who oppose him, saying at an Ohio rally that he “destroys” the careers of GOP politicians who dare defy him.

“How do you get 100 percent of anything? We always have somebody who says ‘I don’t like Trump, I don’t like our president, he destroyed my career,’ ” Trump said.

“I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me and you fight back and they go down the tubes and that’s OK,” he added.

Trump didn’t name names, but he’s on a winning streak in GOP primaries, as candidates he’s backed have repeatedly defeated those he sided against.

The most notable example was Rep. Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor who lost a GOP primary for reelection to his House seat earlier this summer.

Trump tweeted his opposition to Sanford on election day, needling him over a past controversy in which he disappeared from public view to, according to his staff, hike the Appalachian Trail. Sanford, married at the time, was actually in Argentina seeing a woman with whom he was having an affair.

Trump also recently backed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a GOP primary, and saw Kemp win.

But Trump hasn’t always been on the winning side. He backed former Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) last year but saw Roy Moore pull off a primary victory.

Still, the recent successful primary picks have put Trump’s stamp further on the GOP, suggesting it has become Trump’s party.

Two GOP senators who have repeatedly criticized Trump, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, are also not running for reelection.

[The Hill]

Media

Trump launches extraordinary attack on Koch brothers after oil tycoons refuse to back Republican candidate

Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary attack on the Koch brothers, accusing the Republican megadonors of opposing his government’s agenda.

“The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade,” the US president wrote on Twitter early on Tuesday morning.

“I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas.”

Mr Trump’s outburst came after the Koch brothers’ political arm declared it would not help elect a Republican senate candidate in North Dakota, partly over his failure to challenge the White House’s trade tariffs.

The decision sent a strong message to Republican officials across the country unwilling to oppose the spending explosion and protectionist trade policies embraced by Mr Trump.

“For those who stand in the way, we don’t pull any punches, regardless of party,” Tim Phillips, who leads the Kochs’ political arm Americans For Prosperity (AFP), told hundreds of donors during a three-day private Rocky Mountain retreat.

But a furious Mr Trump hit back, claiming he made Charles and David Koch “richer”, and that they “love” his tax cuts, deregulation and judicial nominations.

“Their network is highly overrated, I have beaten them at every turn,” he continued. “They want to protect their companies outside the US from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker – a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas. Make America Great Again!”

The split marks a new chapter in the strained relationship between the Trump administration and the expanding conservative network created by billionaire industrialists, who refused to endorse the Republican president in 2016.

Mr Trump has effectively taken over the Republican Party on almost every level, even after ignoring long-held conservative beliefs on government spending, free trade and foreign policy. The billionaire Kochs and their nationwide army of conservative activists, however, are not giving in.

That is not to say they are punishing every Trump loyalist in the 2018 election season.

AFP still plans to focus its resources on helping Republican senate candidates in Tennessee, Florida and Wisconsin. It remains unclear how hard the group will work to defeat vulnerable senate Democrats in West Virginia, Missouri and Montana.

The midterm strategy could change in the coming weeks, but the Kochs currently plan to ignore North Dakota’s high-profile senate contest, where three-term Republican congressman Kevin Cramer is trying to unseat Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp. She is considered among the most vulnerable senate Democrats in the nation.

“He’s not leading on the issues this country needs leadership most right now,” Mr Phillips said of Mr Cramer, specifically citing spending and trade. “If Cramer doesn’t step up to lead, that makes it hard to support him.”

Ahead of the announcement, Charles Koch told reporters that he cared little for party affiliation and regretted supporting some Republicans in the past who only paid lip service to conservative principles.

Network leaders over the weekend repeatedly lashed out at the Republican-backed $1.3 trillion (£990bn) spending bill adopted in March, which represented the largest government spending plan in history. The Trump White House budget office now predicts that next year’s federal deficit will exceed $1 trillion, while reaching a combined $8 trillion over the next 10 years.

The Kochs were equally concerned about the Trump administration’s “protectionist” trade policies, which have sparked an international trade war and could trigger a US recession, Charles Koch said.

“We’re going to be much stricter if they say they’re for the principles we espouse and then they aren’t,” he vowed. “We’re going to more directly deal with that and hold people responsible for their commitments.”

The Koch network has demonstrated in recent months – albeit on a limited basis – a willingness to praise Democrats and condemn Republicans in specific situations.

After first running attack ads against Ms Heitkamp earlier in the year, the Kochs last month launched a digital ad campaign thanking the North Dakota Democrat for voting to roll back Obama-era banking regulations. At around the same time, they launched an advertising blitz to criticise 10 Republican House members, including Pennsylvania Republican senate nominee Lou Barletta, for supporting the massive spending bill.

Following Monday’s announcement, Julia Krieger, a campaign spokesperson for Ms Heitkamp, said, “When it comes to leading on the pocketbook issues North Dakotans care about — from strong trade markets to responsible spending and cutting red tape for North Dakota businesses — Heidi has always been consistent: North Dakota comes first.”

The development marked a dramatic escalation in the Kochs’ willingness to buck partisan loyalties. And some Trump loyalists were furious with the Kochs’ work to undermine Trump and his agenda even before Monday’s news dropped.

Former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, questioned the true influence of “the Koch network management,” seizing on the lack of accountability in the organisations’ spending in recent years given that most of the details are not publicly available.

“Where did the money go, what do they really spend it on, and how much, if anything, do they really put into the network?” Mr Bannon asked in a brief interview with The Associated Press.

And prominent Texas-based Trump donor Doug Deason, who attended the weekend retreat, said Republican candidates should not be punished for embracing the president’s agenda.

“That’s not right,” he said before Monday’s announcement, condemning the Koch network’s recent decision to praise Ms Heitkamp.

“Heitkamp, we’re going to knock her out of the water. She’s gone,” Mr Deason predicted.

The decision to ignore the Republican candidate in North Dakota certainly caught some by surprise, but there appeared to be overwhelming support from others — even if the plan hurts the GOP’s push to maintain its House and Senate majorities.

Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, among a handful of elected officials who mingled with donors at the weekend retreat, said there should be political consequences for those who deviate from conservative principles.

“If in fact you have people espousing these in name, but not in practice, yeah, they’re not going to be supported, nor should they be,” Mr Bevin said in a brief interview. “I think this network supports people who truly respect those principles. And I think they’re agnostic, from what I’ve seen, with respect to what party a person is.”

At the same time, Mr Bevin defended Mr Trump’s push to apply billions of dollars in tariffs on goods from China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. He dismissed the outcry from businesses in Kentucky and elsewhere as a short-term problem.

Colorado-based energy investor Chris Wright, a longtime Koch donor, said the Republican Party may have lost its way in the age of Mr Trump. He and his wife, Liz, encouraged the Koch network to ignore Republican candidates who turn their back on key conservative principles out of loyalty to Mr Trump.

“They don’t deserve to be funded if they don’t uphold our values,” Liz Wright said.

[The Independent]

Trump says he accepts US intel on Russia — then adds it ‘could be other people also’

President Trump on Tuesday sought to walk back his widely-criticized remarks at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier, saying he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

But Trump muddled the walk-back by saying that “other people” also could have been involved, a statement similar to remarks he’s made in the past casting doubt on Russia’s involvement.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said, reading from a prepared statement in front of reporters at the White House.

But he added: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

Trump also claimed he misspoke on election meddling during his meeting with Putin, saying he meant to say that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible.

The president said the exact opposite on Monday: “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump said Tuesday he should have said, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

“It should have been obvious,” he added. “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things.”

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity after the summit, Trump did not indicate he misspoke.

The president’s latest comments come as he is facing intense pressure from Republicans and Democrats who blasted his refusal to confront Putin over election meddling.

Trump had previously shown no sign he was willing to clarify or take back his comments.

The president tweeted Tuesday morning that his meeting with the Russian leader was “even better” than his summit with NATO allies.

Lawmakers and U.S. allies have said Trump’s performance during his press conference with Putin undercut U.S. officials and provided a propaganda victory for the Russian leader.

The president said he has “full faith and support for America’s intelligence agencies,” even as he repeated his claim that “there is no collusion” between his campaign and Russia to interfere in the election, a matter that is still under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

[The Hill]

Media

Trump fires back at criticism of Putin press conference

President Trump on Monday sought to quell criticism that he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the U.S. intelligence community during a joint press conference earlier in the day.

In a tweet sent from Air Force One, Trump reiterated confidence in American intelligence officials, hours after he refused to say if he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people,'” Trump tweeted while flying back to Washington, D.C.

“However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” he added.

The tweet came amid broad backlash from media analysts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle regarding Trump’s remarks in Helsinki. But he stopped short of saying whether he thinks Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

During the press conference with Putin, Trump was asked whether he believes his own intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered, or Putin’s denials.

“My people came to me… they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, he said.

“But I have confidence in both parties,” he added.

The summit came three days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian nationals for their alleged roles in hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Putin said Monday that Trump raised the issue of election interference during their one-on-one meeting earlier in the day, but Trump did not press Putin or condemn the election meddling during the televised press conference.

Trump declared before the summit started that U.S. “foolishness” and special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe were to blame for souring relations between the two countries.

During the press conference, he said he did not collude with Russia in the election. Trump also recounted his victory over Hillary Clinton and called Mueller’s investigation both “ridiculous” and a source of tension between the two countries.

Democrats called Trump’s performance “pathetic” and “disgraceful.”

On the Republican side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the press conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump also used the term “my intelligence,” instead of the United States intelligence, just like “my generals” and “my military,” showing a pattern of his belief they work for him and not for the good of the country.

Trump throws wrench in GOP immigration push, says Republicans are “wasting their time”

President Trump threw a wrench in Republicans’ efforts to pass sweeping immigration legislation soon. He tweeted Friday that Republicans should “stop wasting their time” on immigration and wait until after November’s midterm elections to pass anything.

House Republicans on Thursday delayed a vote on their compromise immigration bill until next week. They had hoped to pass legislation that would not only fund border security, but provide legislative solutions to Mr. Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to family separations at the border.

As CBS News’ Paula Reid has reported, Mr. Trump’s executive order to halt the separation of children from their parents at the southern border is a temporary fix — it effectively only prevents family separations for 20 days. The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to remove a 20-day legal limit on detaining families together.

[CBS News]

Trump’s Mark Sanford diss draws boos at closed-door GOP meeting

President Trump’s meeting with House Republicans to discuss immigration legislation briefly went awry Tuesday after the president mocked Rep. Mark Sanford over a primary election loss.

Two sources in the meeting room told The Associated Press that Trump joked: “I want to congratulate Mark on a great race.”

A senior House Republican who is a Trump supporter told Fox News that the president’s comment was “unnecessary” and “poor form.” Another senior GOP lawmaker called it a “low blow.”

Another GOP member told Fox News the room got “pretty quiet” after the remark and some attendees booed in a low tone of voice.

Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and frequent Trump critic, was defeated by state Rep. Katie Arrington in the June 12 primary. Hours before the polls closed, Trump endorsed Arrington on Twitter and joked that Sanford was “better off in Argentina” — a reference to a sex scandal that overshadowed Sanford’s tenure as governor.

Sanford blamed his defeat on Trump, saying support for the president is becoming a litmus test in GOP primaries.

Two sources in the meeting room told The Associated Press that Trump joked: “I want to congratulate Mark on a great race.”

A senior House Republican who is a Trump supporter told Fox News that the president’s comment was “unnecessary” and “poor form.” Another senior GOP lawmaker called it a “low blow.”

Another GOP member told Fox News the room got “pretty quiet” after the remark and some attendees booed in a low tone of voice.

Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and frequent Trump critic, was defeated by state Rep. Katie Arrington in the June 12 primary. Hours before the polls closed, Trump endorsed Arrington on Twitter and joked that Sanford was “better off in Argentina” — a reference to a sex scandal that overshadowed Sanford’s tenure as governor.

Sanford blamed his defeat on Trump, saying support for the president is becoming a litmus test in GOP primaries.

[Fox News]

Trump loses temper over border wall funding

President Donald Trump is getting frustrated with his administration’s own demands for border wall funding.

In a private meeting regarding the wall Monday, Trump fumed to senators and his own staff about the $1.6 billion the Senate is planning to send him this fall, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Trump wants the full $25 billion upfront and doesn’t understand why Congress is going to supply him funds in a piecemeal fashion — even though that’s how the spending process typically works.

“He’s focused on border security. And like all presidents, he wants it done now. But we’re part of the legislative process. It’s slower and deliberate,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who met with Trump.

The president said at the meeting that if Congress doesn’t give him the resources he needs for border security, he will shut down the government in September, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting. He did not give a specific number, but has been fixated on getting the $25 billion in a lump sum.

In fact, the $1.6 billion figure came from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who attended the meeting. Mulvaney submitted the request to Congress earlier this year, though the administration has since upped its ask to $2.2 billion.

Senate Democrats offered to provide $25 billion in border wall funding earlier this year in return for giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But Trump and most Republicans rebuffed that proposal to salvage the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Democrats are unlikely to provide $25 billion for Trump’s wall absent a much broader immigration deal.

Trump’s renewed focus on the border wall comes amid rising pressure to end his administration’s policy of separating families that cross the border illegally. The “zero tolerance” policy shift has been roundly criticized by lawmakers in both parties, but Trump has blamed Congress for inaction on immigration.

“Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning.

GOP lawmakers are loath to see a government shutdown on their watch just weeks before the midterm elections.

“It’s probably an overwhelming belief in the House and the Senate, especially the Senate, that government shutdowns aren’t good for anybody,” Shelby said.

The Appropriations Committee began working to pass its Homeland Security bill on Tuesday. Democrats seem unlikely to change course and agree to add more border security money for the president.

“We’ve got the bill and we’re moving forward and I think we’re going to get good bipartisan support for it. I think it’s a good bill that will keep our borders safe,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Homeland Security appropriations committee.

On Monday, GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Shelby both tried to explain to Trump that the Senate is merely meeting Mulvaney’s request and has to cut a bipartisan deal with Democrats. The Senate needs 60 votes to pass a spending bill, so Republicans would have to find at least nine Democratic votes.

“We’re going to make a down payment on that working together,” said Capito, chairwoman of Homeland Security spending panel.

But Trump has not been mollified. He raised his voice several times in Monday’s meeting with Mulvaney, White House staffers and the senators, insisting he needs the full $25 billion — an unlikely outcome in the narrowly divided Senate.

Shelby said he views $1.6 billion as a floor in negotiations, which could increase if Democrats want to do some horse-trading.

[Politico]

Trump embraces pro-Confederate anti-immigrant Senate nominee Corey Stewart

Trump tweeted about another GOP primary in a way that is sure to give Republicans heartburn.

While national Republicans are likely to distance themselves from Corey Stewart — the GOP nominee in Virginia’s Senate race who has embraced Confederate symbols and neo-Nazi figures — Trump congratulated Stewart on his win.

“Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!”

Trump’s praise of Stewart is far different from other Republicans, who lament the fact that Stewart won and have condemned Stewart’s embrace of Confederate symbols.

“I am extremely disappointed that a candidate like Corey Stewart could win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate,” Bill Bolling, a Republican and former lieutenant governor of Virginia, tweetedTuesday night. “This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.”

[Mic]

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