Trump: We’ll put sanctions on Russia ‘as soon as they very much deserve it’

President Trump on Wednesday said his administration would levy additional sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it.”

The comments, made at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

Trump began to walk away from the microphone, but returned to answer a shouted question about the sanctions. He then went on to tout his record on confronting Russia.

“There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” the president said, restating one of his common talking points.

He noted that he has helped raise money for NATO, as well as touted a recent military strike in Syria that was carried out in coordination with France and the United Kingdom.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haleysaid on Sunday that additional sanctions against Russia would be announced as soon as Monday in response to its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

However, the White House said Monday that Trump had decided not to impose sanctions, contradicting Haley’s comments.

Haley quickly fired back, saying “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

Kudlow later apologized, but the incident sparked speculation that all of the Trump administration was not on the same page regarding its policy toward Russia.

Trump has faced criticism from lawmakers for being hesitant at times to speak out forcefully against Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[The Hill]

Trump Says ‘Slippery’ Comey ‘Was Not Fired’ Because of Russia Probe, After Suggesting He Was

President Donald Trump pushed back on suggestions that he fired former FBI director James Comey because of the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia — a key tenet of allegations he sought to obstruct justice.

Of course, the president has not always been so clear on this front. After Comey was fired, the White House claimed it was based on a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

But then, Trump was interviewed by Lester Holt in May 2017, and said the following: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’” (Watch above.)

Trump also reportedly told Russian officials that his firing of Comey, who he called “a real nut job, took the “pressure” he was facing over the Russia probe off.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a U.S. official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

In light of Comey’s media blitz to promote his new memoirs, A Higher Loyalty, Trump is attempting to set the record straight, tweeting: “Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!”

[Mediaite]

Trump tweets “Mission Accomplished!” after Syria bombing

Less than 24 hours after ordering missile strikes in Syria, President Donald Trump declared, “Mission Accomplished!” in a tweet on Saturday.

The reaction was swift: Twitter users and political pundits immediately drew parallels with President George W. Bush’s now-infamous 2003 speech just over a month into the Iraq War, in which he announced an end to “major combat operations” in Iraq under a “Mission Accomplished” banner. In actuality, the war was far from over and would stretch on for years.

Trump on Sunday defended his use of the phrase on Twitter and said he’s trying to bring it back in vogue. He said he knew the “Fake News Media” would “seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term.” He said he wants to bring it back and “use often!”

The missile strike that Trump was referring to occurred on Friday night. In an announcement, Trump said the attack was underway in retaliation for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on rebel-held areas of the country. The attacks left at least 42 adults and children dead. The United States, Britain, and France hit three targets in the country, including the capital of Damascus, in what Defense Secretary Jim Mattiscalled a “one-time shot.”

Trump, who has publicly telegraphed his thinking on Syria on Twitter in recent days, took to the platform to take a victory lap after the bombing.

“A perfectly executed strike last night,” he wrote. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

The Pentagon backed Trump’s assertion. “We met our objectives. We hit the sites, the heart of the chemical weapons program. So it was mission accomplished,” spokesperson Dana White said in a statement to ABC News.

[Vox]

Reality

US military officials have already acknowledged that the strikes did little to blunt Syria’s capacity to manufacture and deliver chemical weapons. The mission was a compromise from the start, targeting facilities that would result in the lowest possible probability of loss of civilian life. And the US warned Russia in advance using the deconfliction line between the US and Russian militaries that there would be an operation over Syria, tipping off Russia and Syria of the strike Trump had already promised was coming.

The strike did accomplish a few things besides blowing up (apparently empty) buildings. It demonstrated how the US, French, and British militaries are capable of orchestrating a joint strike operation on (relatively) short notice, as well as the effectiveness of two relatively new weapons systems. It also demonstrated how some of the oldest weapons systems in the US military’s inventory can still serve a role in these sorts of operations. And the strike gave nearly everyone but the US Army and US Coast Guard an opportunity to take part.

There is also the possibility that these strikes were illegal and unconstitutional.

Trump bragged that his tower withstood a fire — but has been silent about the man who died in it

Depending on whom you followed more closely, there were two accounts of the fire Saturday night that tore through a 50th-floor apartment in Trump Tower, President Trump’s namesake building on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The first narrative unfolded through official alerts and images from the New York Fire Department, which painted a picture of an extraordinarily challenging — and ultimately fatal — blaze to contain and extinguish.

The fire broke out just before 6 p.m. Saturday, officials said. Soon, flames could be seen making their way across the unit as dark plumes of smoke billowed upward, obstructing many of the floors above.

By the time firefighters arrived at the 50th floor of the building, they found “the apartment was entirely on fire,” New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Saturday.

Forcing their way into the unit, firefighters pulled out one person, unconscious and unresponsive, who had been trapped inside, Nigro added.

The man was taken to the hospital in critical condition, police said. He later died.

In all, six firefighters — of the roughly 200 or so who had responded — suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze, Nigro said.

For the president, however, the fire seemed first a chance to boast of the construction quality of Trump Tower on Twitter, his preferred method of communicating with the public.

“Very confined (well built building),” Trump tweeted Saturday, about an hour after the fire broke out. “Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!”

Trump also declared that the fire had been extinguished — before it actually had been.

The fire was still not considered to be under control then because of smoke conditions above the 50th floor, Nigro said Saturday. It was brought under control shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday, about an hour after Trump’s tweet, fire officials said.

[Washington Post]

How could Trump be so clueless about community colleges?

(CNN) When I started college at 19, I was timid and unsure of the big world ahead of me.

Fast-forward two years later and I felt like a different person: More confident, more self-assured and more determined than ever to pursue a degree in journalism after a high school hobby grew into a full-fledged passion.

The positive changes were remarkable, and I credit much of my transformation to one thing: My education at a community college.

Sadly, though, community colleges don’t hold much value, at least if you listen to President Donald Trump. Last week, during a speech at an Ohio training facility for construction apprentices, he spoke of his desire to return to the days of vocational schools while simultaneously underscoring the valuable role community colleges play in society.

“I don’t know what that means, a community college,” Trump told the crowd in Richfield, Ohio. “Call it vocational and technical. People know what that means. They don’t know what a community college means.”

In the world of Trump quotes, this was a pretty blink-and-you-missed it one, but his words were misguided at best and incredibly destructive at worst. For Trump to display such casual ignorance shows a disregard that is nothing short of a grave disservice to the people who seek a quality education there.

And the number of people who do is not a small one in the slightest. According to the College Board, which tracks trends in higher education, in 2014 more than 40% of all undergraduate students were enrolled in a community college.

So what exactly does “community college” mean? Many things to many people. Different things to different people. It means a chance for a single parent who works full-time to take night classes and work toward a degree. It means someone who’s retired can experience the excitement of continuing education classes. It means someone fresh out of high school can save money on tuition and explore their options while taking general education classes at a two-year college.

My community college education gave me a solid foundation right from the beginning. It gave me room to grow, to learn about myself and to develop skills — both academic skills and life skills — that I would carry with me even after I left those hallowed halls and found myself in the “real world.” And things like smaller class sizes and more one-on-one interaction with instructors made me realize that solid foundation was unique; I doubt I would have had the same experience if I started at a four-year university right out of high school.

And I doubt I’d be the writer I am today if it weren’t for the time I spent as a staff writer (and later, editor-in-chief) of my college’s student newspaper. I was able to get hands-on experience in all facets of newspaper production, from writing to interviewing sources to editing to design, as well as learning leadership skills that extended far beyond the classroom.

Maybe that’s why, some six years after I graduated, I found myself walking those old, familiar halls of my community college once again. Only this time, I was no longer a student, but an adjunct faculty member. I was back as the faculty adviser to the student newspaper — yes, the same newspaper I worked on when I was a student. I was training the next generation of student journalists. In a way, it felt like everything was falling into place just as it should. It felt like everything had come full circle and I was home again.

That is the power and meaning of community college. Because everything I learned in those couple years have molded and shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve carried those lessons with me.

My community college turns 50 this year. Its longevity speaks volumes, as do the memories I’ve carried with me for almost two decades.

As Alia Wong wrote recently in “The Atlantic,” the erroneous assumption Trump made in his speech “was that community colleges and vocational schools haven’t been able to and can’t exist alongside each other — a misunderstanding that further underappreciates an already underappreciated component of American education.”

Maybe that’s the beauty of it right there: Community colleges serve a variety of purposes, all of which benefit our present and future. Education, in all its forms, is never a waste of time. Taking steps to learn something and to better yourself is always a worthwhile endeavor. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

[CNN]

Media

Trump denies he knew about lawyer’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels

President Donald Trump denied Thursday that he knew about his lawyer’s $130,000 payment to former adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump spoke to reporters for the first time about the payment, made shortly before the 2016 election, to secure Daniels’ silence about allegations of a sexual encounter with the president years ago. Representatives for the president have denied that Trump and Daniels engaged in a tryst.

The president said Thursday he did not know where his personal attorney Michael Cohen got the money.

During an Air Force One trip back from an event in West Virginia, he told reporters they would have to ask Cohen about why the lawyer made the payment. Cohen has said the money came from his own pocket.
Cohen’s action has prompted questions about possible campaign finance law violations.

Last month, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Cohen to try to get released from a nondisclosure agreement she signed in October 2016.

[NBC News]

Media

Trump Commands Latvian President to Call on ‘Real News, Not Fake News’ Reporter in Stunning Presser

During his press conference with fellow world leaders from the Baltics, President Donald Trump asked the president of Latvia to take questions from the international press corps because the American media is all “fake news.”

Latvia’s Raimonds Vejonis stood with Trump today as they and their counterparts from Estonia and Lithuania took questions from the room. At one point, Trump pointed at Vejonis and beckoned him to choose the next reporter to speak.

“A Baltic reporter ideally,” Trump said. “Real news, not fake news.”

Vejonis grinned as a tangible awkwardness took hold, though Trump kept calling on him to pick a reporter. Trump warned him however to not pick the same journalist who asked the last question because he “was very tough.”

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump bizarrely boasts about the strength of the military to children at White House Easter Egg Roll

President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed children to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll with a bizarre rant about the strength of the American military.

In his address to the children at the event, Trump began by referring to the White House as “this house or building or whatever you want to call it because there is no name for it, it is special.” Trump then said that he and his staff keep the White House “in tip-top shape, we call it sometimes tippy-top shape, and it’s a great, great place.”

He then pivoted to talking about the military, which he said would soon be “at a level it’s never been before” and “you see what’s happening with funding” and “just think of $700 billion, because that’s what’s going into our military this year.”

[Raw Story]

Media

 

Trump Says US Is ‘In Many Cases’ Like ‘A Third World Country’: It’s ‘An Embarrassment’

While speaking in front of union builders in Ohio today, President Donald Trump slammed America’s infrastructure system, claiming it is like “a third world country” and “an embarrassment.”

Trump, who focused the speech on his passion for construction and touted that he “was always very good at building,” made the comments while pushing his plan to roll out a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan. However, the “third world” comparison is a particularly noteworthy one, as Trump was under fire earlier this year for reportedly calling Haiti and developing African countries “shithole nations.”

“For most of our history, American infrastructure was the envy of the world,” said Trump. “Go back 30, 40, 50 years, they would look at us like — now, we are like in many cases a third world country. It’s an embarrassment.”

He continued by pointing back to American infrastructure achievements in the past:

“We are the ones who had the imagination and the drive to get it done. But we’ve got that again. Other nations marveled as we connected our shores with transcontinental railroads and brought power to our cities that lit up the sky like no other place on earth. We built mile after mile of Internet capabilities and interstate highways to carry American products all across the country and around the globe. Nobody did it like us.”

Trump concluded the segment of the speech with a call to “rebuild this nation,” saying Americans “must reclaim that proud heritage.”

[Mediaite]

White House staffer left email passwords on official stationery at bus stop

A White House staffer left the password to his encrypted email account at a bus stop in Washington, D.C., according to a new report.

Ryan McAvoy left his ProtonMail passwords and email address on a piece of White House stationery at a bus stop near the White House, The Intercept reported Saturday.

Someone reportedly found the piece of paper and turned it over to The Intercept, which said that it confirmed its authenticity. The aide, who works as a staff assistant in the White House, did not return The Intercept’s requests for comment.

House Intelligence Committee Democrats said Wednesday they are interested in filing a subpoena to see how Trump campaign officials used WhatsApp, a messaging service.

Democrats said they want to see how how senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and other campaign employees are using the messaging app and others such as iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Signal, Slack, Instagram and Snapchat on the encrypted networks.

The committee may consider adding ProtonMail to that list, The Intercept reported.

Last September, it was reported that six members of Trump’s administration used private email addresses while conducting government business.

President Trump and Republicans had attacked former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State, calling it reckless.

Democrats on the Intelligence panel released a memo on Wednesday to lay out their responsibilities in the Trump-Russia investigation, which Republican members have said is wrapping up. Democrats, meanwhile, have pledged to continue their investigation.

[The Hill]

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