Trump asked CIA official why drone strike didn’t also kill target’s family

President Trump reportedly asked an official at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) why they didn’t kill a terrorist target’s family during a drone strike.

The Washington Post reported Thursday after watching a recorded video of a Syrian drone strike where officials waited until the target was outside of his family’s home, Trump asked, “Why did you wait?”

The agency’s head of drone operations explained to an “unimpressed” Trump there are techniques to limit the number of civilian casualties.

Trump called for the CIA to start arming its drone in Syria and reportedly asked for it to be started in days.

[The Hill]

Reality

All four Geneva Conventions from 1949 contain “Common Article 3,” which applies to “armed conflict not of an international character.” What does that mean? The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 2006 case Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, ruled that “armed conflict not of an international character” means a war that is not fought against a sovereign state. (A sovereign state simply means a country with a recognized government.) Since groups like ISIS are not considered sovereign states, that means that Common Article 3 applies to the current war on terrorism.

According to Common Article 3, people who are taking no active part in the hostilities “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely… To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever … violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.”

Experts said this language would make Trump’s approach a violation of the Geneva Conventions, assuming that the family members were not taking part in terrorist activities.

Trump: ‘Take the guns first, go through due process second’

President Trump on Wednesday voiced support for confiscating guns from certain individuals deemed to be dangerous, even if it violates due process rights.

“I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time,” Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers on school safety and gun violence.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

Trump was responding to comments from Vice President Pence that families and local law enforcement should have more tools to report potentially dangerous individuals with weapons.

“Allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons,” Pence said.

“Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court,” Trump responded.

Trump met with lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss gun laws and school safety in the aftermath of a Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

The suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was able to legally purchase the AR-15 reportedly used in the shooting despite numerous calls to law enforcement about his unstable behavior.

[The Hill]

Media

CNN

‘I just don’t know what that means’: Trump gets completely lost during meeting on school shootings

President Donald Trump on Thursday appeared to get completely lost during a discussion on preventing school shootings being held at the White House.

During the talk, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill talked about active measures that schools can take during shootings that can go into effect automatically without the police even being on the scene.

“We also have countermeasures that can be employed by the sheriff’s department within seconds to contain the attacker and in a sense turn the attack on them,” Hill said. “That is a critical piece.”

A confused Trump asked him to explain the concept of countermeasures.

“I just don’t know what that means,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know what that means.”

Hill proceeded to give him an example to illustrate it.

“If you are in a hallway, with an active shooter in a hall, and he’s going around looking for targets, you got the doors locked, and somebody is monitoring and, for example, they have smoke canisters that can come in and blind to shooter, which distracts them,” he said. “That gives time and, you know, that critical time when he is allowed looking for targets.”

Trump still didn’t seem to understand the concept, however.

“In the meantime, he’s shooting everybody, though,” the president said.

“Well, in this particular school, they’re locked down,” Hill patiently explained.

[RawStory]

Media

Donald Trump Boldly Suggests Movies, Video Games Should Get a “Rating System”

In a Thursday meeting to discuss school safety in the wake of the Parkland shooting, Donald Trump suggested that movies and video games are influencing the youth’s perception of violence—and because of that, there should be a “rating system” in place, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He did not acknowledge the fact that explicit ratings systems for movies and video games have existed for decades.

“We have to look at the Internet, because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it,” Trump said. “And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step and that’s the movies. You see these movies, they’re so violent and yet a kid is able to see a movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved. Maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and adviser Kellyanne Conway also attended the meeting Thursday, in addition to local officials.

His puzzling call for a ratings system aside, Trump echoed a common debate that is often stirred up after mass school shootings, one that places the blame on pop culture. As T.H.R. points out, he’s far from the first politician to voice concerns over violent video games. In the past week, Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and Republican Rhode Island Representative Robert “Bobby” Nardolillo mentioned video games, with the latter proposing a tax on games rated “M” for mature or above. (Because, again: the games already get ratings based on their violent content.) Back in 2005, even Hillary Clinton spoke out against increasingly violent games, saying they are “stealing the innocence from our children” and should be monitored like “tobacco, alcohol, and pornography.”

The vocal students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Parkland shooting occurred, do not agree. Rather than blaming violent video games and films, they have instead made waves by calling out inactive politicians and the N.R.A. In a stirring Wednesday night town hall meeting hosted by CNN, the students—as well as parents, teachers, and other locals—took Senator Marco Rubio and N.R.A. spokeswoman Dana Loesch to task, demanding gun-control reform. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the shooting, told Rubio outright that both his comments, as well as Trump’s comments, have been “pathetically weak.”

[Vanity Fair]

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

Trump’s FISA tweets throw Washington into chaos

President Donald Trump’s sunrise tweet casting aspersions on the domestic surveillance program his own intelligence officials have called essential set off a thunderclap of concern in Washington — and underscored the pitfalls of the President’s morning television tweet-alongs.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump wrote at 7:33 a.m. ET that the FISA program up for reauthorization in the House on Thursday may have been used to “badly surveil” his campaign.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on US soil.

Ultimately, the measure passed handily. But not until after a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President’s position ahead of the midday vote, which Republican leaders had been eying with optimism after spending weeks rounding up votes and batting down demands from the conservative and libertarian elements of their conference.

“(Chief of staff John) Kelly’s phone was ringing off the hook,” said one senior Republican official close to intelligence matters on Capitol Hill.

“No one could believe it,” another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

[CNN]

Reality

Trump was simply responding to a segment of Fox and Friends, a TV show he retweets regularly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Mediaite]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The Independent]

Trump’s lawyer wants second special counsel to probe investigators

President Trump‘s legal team said Tuesday it would like a new special counsel to be appointed to probe individuals investigating Russian election meddling.

“The Department of Justice and FBI can not ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate,” one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement.

Sekulow’s statement calling for a second special counsel, which was first reported by Axios, comes after Fox News published an article on Monday that said the wife of an official in the Justice Department was employed during the campaign by Fusion GPS, the opposition firm behind a controversial dossier of Trump opposition research.

The president’s attorneys, according to Axios, fault the FBI and the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the probe into Russia’s election meddling and any potential ties between Trump campaign staff members and the Kremlin.

Trump has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt,” arguing Democrats are using Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s presidential election as an excuse for their loss.

“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump said in July.

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump’s lawyers display a fundamental misunderstanding of how special councils work. First, there has to be a crime, and Mueller and the FBI haven’t committed one. Second, a Special Council office was created because of the recusals of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Rod Rosenstein. And finally, a President of the United States calling for an investigation into the investigators, who have already secured two indictments and another two pleas, is not what happens in a democracy.

Trump: ‘The saddest thing’ is that I’m not supposed to influence the Justice Department and FBI

President Donald Trump lamented in a Thursday interview that he couldn’t exert more influence over the Justice Department and the FBI.

“The saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI,” Trump said on “The Larry O’Connor Show” less than a week after special counsel Robert Mueller handed down indictments to former members of his campaign including its former chairman, Paul Manafort.

Trump was responding to a comment from the host that his listeners wanted to see the Justice Department go after the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

“I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department. Well, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with her, the dossier?” Trump said, referring to the Democratic Party-funded dossier designed to find connections between Trump and Russia that has been both partially discredited and partially corroborated.

The president added that he was “very unhappy” with where the Justice Department “isn’t going.”

“I am not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing,” he said. “And I am very frustrated by it.”

Trump’s interactions with the Justice Department have come under scrutiny, particularly as they relate to his May firing of the FBI director, James Comey, which led to Mueller’s appointment. Comey was overseeing the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election, an investigation that is now folded into the special counsel’s Russia-related investigation.

Trump continued to lambaste the Justice Department in a series of Friday-morning tweets, saying “everybody is asking” why it was not investigating Clinton and the Democrats.

“At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper,” he tweeted. “The American public deserves it!”

Speaking with reporters outside the White House ahead of his lengthy trip to Asia, Trump said he was “really not involved” with the Justice Department, adding that he would “like to let it run itself.”

“But honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats,” he said, adding, “A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”

[Business Insider]

Media

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