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

Trump says he spoke to Virgin Islands’ ‘president’ — which is him

President Donald Trump accidentally referred to the Virgin Islands’ governor as their President during a speech Friday — even though he is technically their President.

“I will tell you I left Texas and I left Florida and and I left Louisiana and I went to Puerto Rico and I met with the President of the Virgin Islands,” he told the audience of the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

“We are one nation and we all hurt together, we hope together and we heal together,” he said, later adding, “The Virgin Islands and the President of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’re be there, we’re going to be there, we have really, it is not even a question of a choice.”

Trump appeared to be referring to Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp, instead of the “President” who is Trump himself. The Virgin Islands is a US territory.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. But in the official White House transcript after the speech, his reference to Mapp as President was corrected to “governor.”

He was referring to how the Virgin Islands was hit first by Hurricane Irma, then Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island.

[CNN]

Media

Watch on CNN

Trump threatens to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license for reporting he wants tenfold increase in nukes

President Donald Trump angrily lashed out at NBC News over its report that he wanted to dramatically increase the United States’ nuclear arsenal by threatening to go after the network’s broadcasting license.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “Bad for country!”

The president also said that NBC “made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold” increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal,” which he described as “pure fiction, made up to demean.”

According to the original NBC report, Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders.” The president was reportedly incensed by a chart showing that the U.S. has actually been reducing its nuclear arsenal since the late 1960s.

According to NBC’s sources, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after this particular meeting. Additionally, the sources claim both Tillerson and the joint chiefs of staff pushed back against Trump, and told him why it would be unwise to start a massive nuclear arms race.

[Raw Story]

Reality

The president’s and the government’s power in this area could be limited anyway. According to the FCC’s own guidelines, the commission only licenses individual broadcast stations, not entire “TV or radio networks (such as CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox).”

Donald Trump calls for NFL to create rule mandating players stand for national anthem

An NFL spokesperson declined to address President Donald Trump’s latest tweet on Tuesday, which called for the league to create a rule that mandates players stand for the national anthem.

“I am little behind on his tweets,” NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart told reporters on Tuesday. “I may catch up by the end of the day.”

Around 9 a.m. ET, Trump tweeted: “The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!”

Earlier on Tuesday morning, Trump was tweeting about the Cowboys’ protest on Monday night, as well as NFL ratings. The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones took a knee before the national anthem played for a Monday Night Football matchup against the Cardinals in Arizona.

The Cowboys’ gesture took place after a Sunday of protests throughout the NFL.

Asked again about Trump calling for a rule change, Lockhart — on a conference call where he highlighted the NFL’s “Unity” message in response to the protests — didn’t engage.

“I guess I’d say he’s exercising his freedom to speak, and I’m exercising my freedom not to react,” Lockhart said.

[USA Today]

Reality

If you want to live in a country where patriotism is compulsory, to borrow a term from the right, then you should find another country. North Korea may be of your liking.

Here in America we value freedom of speech and each individuals ability to criticize their government. Trump did it for eight years as he lead the racist “birther” movement.

The 1943 Supreme Court decision in “West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette” found mandatory flag rituals to violate the constitutional requirements of democratic self-government.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation,” ruled the Court, “it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Trump Says He Will Revisit DACA Decision If Lawmakers Don’t Act

President Trump said Tuesday that he would revisit his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if lawmakers are unable to pass legislation on the matter in the next six months.

“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” he wrote on Twitter.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday morning that the Trump administration would rescind the Obama-era program, which shielded certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The administration said, however, that DACA would be phased out over the next six months, a delay intended to give lawmakers time to pass legislation addressing the issue.

Trump defended the decision to rescind the program earlier Tuesday, saying that the six-month delay would give lawmakers “a window” to act.

“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful democratic process,” he said.

Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already expressed support for the DREAM Act, which would grant young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children reprieve from deportation. The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001.

[The Hill]

Reality

Donald Trump’s reasoning for kicking DACA over to Congress was that the president does not have the legal authority to unilaterally enact prosecutorial discretion (which he does). But what Trump is saying now is that if Congress doesn’t act within his time frame then he will unilaterally enact prosecutorial discretion.

So then why did he pass the buck to Congress in the first place?

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