Donald Trump rage-tweets about John Kerry telling Iran to not bother with him

Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly met with Iranian leaders and advised them to simply wait out President Donald Trump’s hostility.

This bit of “shadow diplomacy” with the nation Kerry helped broker a nuclear deal with has enraged Trump, who tweeted about it on Thursday night.

Trump suggested that it was “illegal” for Kerry to meet with Iran and tell them “to wait out the Trump Administration!”

Trump then misunderstood or misrepresented the law by stating that Kerry should have been registered as a foreign agent for giving a foreign nation advice as a citizen.

[Raw Story]

Trump Goes After ‘Illegal Mueller Witch Hunt’ Again Following Manafort Deal: ‘Continues in Search of a Crime’

President Donald Trump went after Robert Mueller and the special counsel investigation this morning two days after the Paul Manafort deal was announced.

Trump didn’t tweet about Manafort specifically, but instead attacked the Mueller probe again as “illegal” and grasping at straws:

[Mediaite]

White House Reiterates Trump Call for Investigation of Anonymous Opinion Writer

The White House press secretary on Monday called for the Justice Department to investigate who wrote an anonymous opinion column last week that was critical of President Trump, echoing the president’s demand for such a probe.

“If that individual is in meetings where national security is discussed or other important topics, and they are attempting to undermine the executive branch, that would certainly be problematic and something that the Department of Justice should look into,” Sarah Sanders told reporters at Monday’s briefing.

Mr. Trump last week said he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into who in his administration penned the column in the New York Times, which was attributed only to a senior administration official and said there was a secret resistance movement at work in Mr. Trump’s administration that aims to curtail his “worst inclinations.”

The president said he was concerned the author may be involved in discussions about national security issues. “I don’t want him in those meetings,” he said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday. When Mr. Trump raised the prospect of an investigation last week, a department spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t confirm or deny investigations.

Presidents typically avoid calling for Justice Department investigations, particularly ones related to their own administrations, to avoid the perception they are interfering in department matters. Mr. Trump has done so on multiple occasions.

A parade of senior members of Mr. Trump’s administration publicly denied writing the column last week.

Ms. Sanders declined on Monday to say what crime the author of the column may have committed. “I’m not an attorney,” she said. “It’s the Department of Justice’s job to make that determination, and we’re asking them to look into it.”

Asked whether the president was aware that the column was protected under the First Amendment, Ms. Sanders said: “It’s less about that part of it, and whether or not somebody is actively trying to undermine the executive branch of the government and a duly elected president.”

She declined to say whether the White House was launching an internal search for the column’s author, whom she called “gutless.” “We’re certainly focused on things that actually matter,” she said.

[Wall Street Journal]

Trump is accusing his administration’s anonymous op-ed writer of treason. That’s nonsense.

Early Wednesday evening, the president issued the following official statement:

While, in isolation, the tweet is maddeningly enigmatic, most observers immediately recognized that President Trump was referring to a New York Times op-ed written by an anonymous senior official in his administration.

In the op-ed, the official describes themselves and their colleagues as “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” decries the president’s decision-making as “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless,” and says that early in the Trump presidency, there were “whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”

The last part, presumably, is why Trump is calling the author a traitor.

Treason has a very specific constitutional definition

While there’s obviously a colloquial sense in which “traitor” is used as a general descriptor of disloyal people, the term also has a formal legal definition in the Constitution, and as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was swift to note, the op-ed doesn’t qualify:

Graham is right. The op-ed author isn’t guilty of treason. Nor is Trump or any member of his administration or 2016 campaign guilty of treason because of their ties to a Russian election meddling operation.

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as follows:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

As UC Davis’s Carlton Larson, one of the few experts on treason law in academia today, explained to me in 2013, this language provides for two types of treason prosecutions.

The first is an “aid and comfort” prosecution, in which the defendant is accused of aiding the war effort of a country presently at war with the United States. Not just “rivals” but literally at war. Aldrich Ames, the CIA officer turned Soviet spy, got at least 10 people killed through his actions, and FBI Russian spy Robert Hanssen indirectly got at least three killed, but neither was charged with treason because the US was not at war with the Soviet Union/Russian Federation at the time of their actions.

By contrast, successful aid-and-comfort prosecutions include those of American Nazi propagandist Robert Henry Best and of Iva Toguri, who was accused of being “Tokyo Rose,” an English-language Japanese propaganda broadcaster meant to lower American service members’ morale in the Pacific (she was later exonerated and received a presidential pardon).

The second type of treason involves “levying war,” in which the defendants themselves waged war against the United States or an individual state. Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s first vice president, was prosecuted for treason on these grounds and acquitted, after being accused of assembling forces to create an independent state in the center of North America. John Brown, the abolitionist revolutionary, was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia on levying war grounds after his raid on Harpers Ferry.

The anonymous senior administration official doesn’t meet either standard

Now, the op-ed author is obviously not going to be prosecuted for levying war. That leaves the claim that he or she provided aid and comfort to our enemies by undermining Trump in print.

For that to be the case, though, one would have to determine that the op-ed was designed to aid a specific foreign enemy with whom the US is at war, and there is no such country in the world right now.

Attempting to help al-Qaeda or any associated violent extremist groups might qualify under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9/11, and indeed, an American-born al-Qaeda operative was indicted for treasonin 2006 for aiding the organization. The indictment cites the AUMF as well as Osama bin Laden’s statements that al-Qaeda is at war with the United States to demonstrate that by adhering to al-Qaeda, the operative in question, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, was helping a group with which the US was at war.

But the op-ed author rather obviously did not write the New York Times piece with the express purpose of aiding al-Qaeda. Even if he did want to help al-Qaeda (a claim that, again, is preposterous), the treason allegation would be iffy. Consider the Supreme Court case of Cramer v. United States, in which Anthony Cramer, an American man who met with Nazi agents in the US, saw his treason conviction overturned on the grounds that merely meeting the enemy isn’t enough to count as treason.

In his opinion in that case, Justice Robert Jackson asserted that only a defendant who can be found to have “adhered to the enemy” and “intended to betray” the US could be found guilty of treason — even if he did provide aid and comfort to the enemy.

Proving that the op-ed author not only provided aid and comfort to al-Qaeda by the mere act of writing the op-ed, but also consciously intended to betray the United States of America, would be basically impossible. That holds even in the incredibly unlikely world where those were the intentions of, say, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley or White House chief economist Kevin Hassett or Russia Ambassador John Huntsman or any of the many other officials floated as being the op-ed author.

Treason is a very limited crime. It’s rarely prosecuted outside of wartime; Gadahn was the first person charged with treason since World War II. And it definitely doesn’t apply to this case.

[Vox]

Trump suggests that protesting should be illegal

President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that,” Trump said. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

He added: “In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.”

More than 70 people were arrested after they repeatedly heckled Kavanaugh and senators at Tuesday’s hearing.

Trump has bristled at dissent in the past, including several instances in which he has suggested demonstrators should lose their jobs or be met with violence for speaking out.

In July, ahead of his visit to Britain, Trump told the Sun newspaper that reports of large-scale demonstrations against him in London — including a 20-foot-tall blimp depicting an angry baby Trump — had offended him.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump said. Months earlier, Trump had implicitly rejected reports that his initial plans to visit in the spring were scuttled because of fears of protests.

Last September, Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem to protest systemic racial injustice.

And in several appearances during the 2016 campaign, when demonstrators interrupted his rallies, Trump at times appeared to encourage violence against them.

Trump has also prompted cries of “dictator envy” for remarks in which he seemed to emulate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same,” Trump told Fox News Channel in an interview after his Singapore summit with the North Korean leader.

[The Washington Post]

Trump Calls Access Hollywood Tape ‘Illegal,’ Claims He Prepped Lawsuit Against NBC After It Leaked

President Donald Trump claimed NBC broke the law by recording his infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he can be heard bragging about groping women without their consent, as he told the Daily Caller today that it “was illegal what they did.”

Trump said that he believes NBC’s release of the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was “worse than CNN with Harvey Weinstein,” though it appears that the president meant to say NBC instead of CNN, as the Peacock Network is still in hot water for botching one of the biggest Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct stories last year.

“NBC is very dishonest in its reporting of me,” Trump added — though, he would not call for the NBC chairman Andy Lack’s job, nor would he demand NBC lose it’s licensing. “[Lack] runs an organization which as far as its reporting on me is very dishonest.”

He went on to call into question the legitimacy of the tape, which was released just weeks before the end of the 2016 presidential race.

“There’s even questions about the tape, there’s many things going on.” Trump said — claiming that it was both “done in a trailer secretly” and “illegal.”

“I had a lawsuit prepared, a lawsuit that was prepared to be filed against NBC because they leaked that tape,” he added.“I had a lawyer hired to bring a suit right after the election ended, but one problem arose. I won the election.”

Trump concluded his thoughts on the subject by saying that he couldn’t sue them because he “won the election,” so there were no damages caused to him.

However, the president did not provide any evidence to back these claims and did not explain why the recording was “illegal.”

[Mediaite]

Trump attacks Jeff Sessions for not forcing the Justice Department to ignore Republican crimes

President Donald Trump on Monday publicly criticized his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for allowing Republican congressmen to be indicted for alleged criminal behavior.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…” Trump tweeted.

The president was apparently referring to Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY). Hunter was charged with illegally using campaign funds to pay personal expenses while Collins was charged with taking part in an insider trading scheme.

“….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!” Trump added in another tweet.

[Raw Story]

Trump Warned Evangelical Leaders: If GOP Loses Midterms, Left Will ‘Violently’ Overturn Everything

President Donald Trump hosted evangelical leaders at the White House last night and, apparently rather bluntly, laid out high stakes for the midterm elections.

Despite Trump’s personal background and style, these religious leaders are mostly on the President’s side. Robert Jeffress said last night on Fox News, after the White House event, “We don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush money payments, but what we do support are these president’s excellent policies.”

Per NBC News, Trump talked to these leaders about being on the same side and laid out the midterm stakes in dramatic fashion:

“The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable,” he said. “Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my family, but I’ve done them….This November 6th election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment.”

If the GOP loses, he said, “they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people.”

The New York Times‘ report on the meeting confirms these quotes, and notes that he also encouraged religious leaders to be vocal ahead of the midterms:

“You have people that preach to almost 200 million people — 150 to, close, depending on which Sunday we are talking about, and beyond Sunday, 100, 150 million people,” he said.

And in addition to the midterms, Trump also took a moment to address an issue he has exploited politically since the campaign days:

“Little thing – Merry Christmas. You couldn’t say Merry Christmas,” Trump said. “I’m telling you — when I started running I used to talk about it and I hate to mention it in August, but I used to talk about it. They don’t say Merry Christmas anymore.”

Trump added, to applause:

“They say merry Christmas a lot right now. It’s all changed. It’s all changed.”

Trump brought up the “war on Christmas” talking point again just last month at a rally.

[Mediaite]

Trump: Cohen’s hush-money payouts didn’t break campaign finance laws

President Trump on Wednesday insisted there was no violation of campaign finance laws when his longtime lawyer paid a porn star and Playboy centerfold hush money — and blamed his predicament on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Asked by “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt if he knew about the payments, Trump claimed he only found out about the payments made by admitted tax cheat Michael Cohen after the fact.

“Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did. And they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing, that’s a much bigger thing,” the president said in a 50-second snippet of an interview that will air on the show Thursday morning beginning at 6 a.m.

“Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me. I tweeted about it. You know, but I tweeted about the payments. But they didn’t come out of campaign,” the president said, suggesting that since his personal or his company’s money was involved, no laws were broken.

“In fact my first question, when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign? Because that could be a little dicey and they didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big. But they weren’t. It’s not even a campaign violation,” he continued.

In the “Fox & Friends” clip, Trump also made an oblique reference to purported wrongdoing by former President Barack Obama.

“If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation, but they had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently,” he said, an apparent reference to either Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch, Obama’s two attorneys general.

The feds fined Obama’s 2008 campaign for failing to expeditiously report last-minute contributions.

“It is, ethically and morally, entirely of a different character,” said Dan Petalas, former acting general counsel and head of enforcement at the Federal Election Commission.

Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a series of charges and said Trump had directed him to arrange the payments to influence the election.

Corporations are not permitted to contribute to campaigns, and money intended to influence an election must be reported.

[New York Post]

Media

Trump Blasts Cohen: ‘Flipping’ to Get a Plea Deal ‘Almost Ought to Be Illegal’

During his extensive interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, President Trump praised Paul Manafort while tearing Michael Cohenapart for implicating for implicating him in his campaign finance violations.

Even though Cohen’s secretly-record audio of Trump indicates that his ex-boss was involved in his 2016 hush money schemes, Trump insisted that he only found out about the payments “later on.” After complaining that this wasn’t a violation of campaign finance law because the money “came from me,” and he also said ” almost everybody that runs for office has campaign violations, but what Michael Cohen pled to weren’t even campaign related. They weren’t crimes.”

To that point, Earhardt asked him why Cohen accepted a plea deal with federal prosecutors if what he did wasn’t illegal. After saluting Manafort – who was found guilty in his trial this week – because he didn’t flip, Trump said that such deals like the one Cohen made shouldn’t be allowed.

“This whole thing about flipping, they call it. I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair, because if somebody going to spend five years like Michael Cohen or 10 of 15 years in jail because of a taxicab deal, because he defrauded some bank. Campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he is going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that. And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. You get 10 years in jail. But if you say bad things about somebody, in other words make up stories, they just make up lies…They make up things and now they go from 10 years to they’re a national hero. They have a statue erected in their honor. It’s not a fair thing. But that’s why he did it. He made a very good deal. For what he did.”

[Mediaite]

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