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: ‘Little Adam Schiff’ one of the ‘biggest liars and leakers in Washington’

President Trump on Monday lashed out at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), calling him “one of the biggest liars” in Washington and accusing him of leaking confidential information.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with [James] Comey, [Sen. Mark] Warner, [John] Brennan and [James] Clapper!” Trump tweeted, referring to the former FBI director, the Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman, a former CIA chief and a former national intelligence chief, respectively.

Trump also accused Schiff of leaving committee hearings to “illegally leak confidential information,” something the White House has previously suggested Schiff has done.

Schiff, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has denied such accusations and fired back later Monday morning, saying Trump was spreading “false smears.”

“Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or…really anything else,” Schiff tweeted.

The California lawmaker has been a vocal critic of Trump and in recent days has been a central figure in objecting to the release of a Republican-crafted memo that alleges the Department of Justice abused a surveillance program to target the Trump campaign in 2016.

The four-page memo was released Friday after Trump declassified the document. The president tweeted that it “totally vindicates” him in the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Schiff, however, said the memo does “quite the opposite.” Multiple Republicans said Sunday that the memo does not vindicate Trump.

Schiff also warned Sunday that Trump is trying to turn the Justice Department into a “personal political tool.”

The Intel panel is scheduled to meet on Monday to consider whether to declassify a Democratic memo that counters the Republican’s release.

[The Hill]

Reality

There is no evidence Adam Schiff leaked anything. Even Fox News had nothing, interviewing Devin Nunes who said he was responsible for 100 leaks, but provided no evidence. A common theme with Nunes.

Trump taunts Jay-Z about black unemployment

President Donald Trump mused about hip-hop icon Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter on Sunday morning, asking whether someone would inform him about the black unemployment rate.

“Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” the president wrote on Twitter.

Jay-Z was interviewed on the debut episode of “The Van Jones Show” on CNN on Saturday night. Jones asked the rapper and business mogul whether Trump’s demeanor and actions, including Trump’s reported use of the word “shithole” in reference to African and other countries, were important given the state of the economy.

It’s “not about money at the end of the day,” Jay-Z told Jones. “Money is not — money doesn’t equate to happiness. It doesn’t. That’s missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings, then — that’s the main point.”

The president is correct in saying that black unemployment is at a record low. However, the decline began under former President Barack Obama, and the rate continues to be higher than overall employment, a disparity that has endured for decades.

When asked about the reported “shithole” comment, which came in the context of a discussion of U.S immigration policy, Jay-Z said it was “really hurtful.”

“Everyone feels anger. After the anger, it’s really hurtful because he’s like looking down on a whole population of people,” Jay-Z said. “You are so misinformed because these places have beautiful people and beautiful everything.”

Comparing Trump’s reported remarks to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s private, racist comments in 2013, Jay-Z said, “That’s just how people talk behind close doors.” In a leaked tape published by TMZ.com, Sterling criticized his mistress for being out in public with black people, telling her “not to bring them to my games.”

The NBA stripped Sterling of his ownership and banned him from the league. Despite the harsh penalties, Jay-Z said Sterling’s punishment avoided tough conversations, which in his eyes, can lead to someone like Trump.

“You have sprayed perfume on the trash can. What you do, when you do that is the bugs come and you spray something, and you create a superbug because you don’t take care of the problem,” he said. “You don’t take the trash out, you keep spraying whatever over it to make it acceptable. As those things grow, you create a superbug.”

That superbug, Jay-Z said, now resides in the Oval Office.

“And then now we have Donald Trump, the superbug.”

[Politico]

Reality

Donald Trump and his allies keep bringing up the low black unemployment rate, as a sign that he isn’t racist.

The black unemployment rate has been steadily falling since 2010 when Barack Obama turned the economy around from one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen, caused by Republican policies of tax cuts and deregulation.

Trump ‘asked acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe how he voted’

After firing James Comey as director of the FBI, US President Donald Trump asked the agency’s deputy director whom he had voted for, US media report.

Andrew McCabe, who had just become the agency’s acting chief after the surprise dismissal last year, said that he did not vote in the 2016 election.

FBI special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Mr Comey’s firing was an attempt to obstruct justice.

Mr Mueller leads the probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

During Mr McCabe’s introductory meeting with the president after he took over the federal law enforcement agency, Mr Trump also allegedly expressed anger with Mr McCabe over his wife’s ties to the Clinton family.

Mr McCabe reportedly found the conversation “disturbing”, according to the Washington Post.

Jill McCabe, a failed Democratic candidate for the Virginia state senate, had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a political action committee controlled by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally.

Last July, Mr Trump told the New York Times: “We have a director of the FBI, acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton.”

He also erroneously claimed in a subsequent tweet that Mr McCabe had led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email during her time as US secretary of state.

Mr McCabe had recused himself from any investigations involving Virginia political figures, but Republicans have questioned why he was allowed to be involved in the investigations into Mrs Clinton’s emails, claiming he has a conflict of interest.

The FBI has said that Mrs McCabe’s campaign had ended months before Mr McCabe became involved in that investigation, which he later recused himself from as the date of the presidential election neared.

[BBC News]

Trump appears to call out Samsung over missing FBI text messages

President Trump appeared to call out Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung for a missing trove of text messages between two senior FBI officials that was not retained by the agency.

“Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok? Blaming Samsung!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

The text messages between the two FBI employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, are among a larger trove of messages that were not saved by the FBI because of a software glitch on some Samsung 5 phones.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that the Justice Department’s inspector general is reviewing why the messages were not retained and whether they are capable of being recovered.

Trump’s tweets came after Fox News host Sean Hannity addressed the issue on his Tuesday night show, though it is unclear if that is what prompted him to tweet. Trump is known to be an avid watcher of Fox News and often comments on matters shortly after they are addressed on air.

The text messages have come into focus as some Republicans raise concerns about political bias among the ranks of the FBI.

Strzok and Page reportedly exchanged text messages during the 2016 election expressing anti-Trump sentiments, and were both involved in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

[The Hill]

Update

The text messages were recovered a few hours after this tweet by the FBI using forensic tools.

Trump Expels CNN’s Acosta From Oval Office For Asking Questions About Sh*tholegate: ‘Out!’

President Donald Trump ordered CNN’s Jim Acosta to be expelled from the Oval Office on Tuesday after the CNN White House correspondent tried to ask him questions during a press pool.

Trump allowed the media to join him today as he welcomed Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the White House. As Trump finished his statement, Acosta moved to inquire about the immigration meeting where Trump spoke of “sh*thole countries.”

When asked if he wants immigrants to come from Norway, Trump responded “I want them to come in from everywhere. Everywhere.” As Acosta tried to follow up by asking Trump if he wants more immigrants from white or caucasian countries, Trump pointed at him and said “out.”

Acosta spoke about this with Wolf Blitzer afterwards and said it was clear the president was ordering him out of the room. Acosta said he tried to ask his questions again when Trump and Nazarbayev gave a joint statement later on, but Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley “got right up in my face” and started shouting at him to block out any questions.

“It was that kind of a display,” Acosta recalled. “It reminded me of something you might see in less democratic countries when people at the White House or officials of a foreign government attempt to get in the way of the press in doing their jobs.”

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump attacks Wall Street Journal for quoting him accurately on North Korea, as audio confirms

This weekend, the White House has been lashing out at the Wall Street Journal, quibbling over a quote President Donald Trump made about his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The Journal reported that Trump said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” while the White House contends that Trump said “I’d probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out Saturday evening that the Journal’s reporting was “fake news.”

Though the Journal had released its audio the day before, Sanders then released the “official” White House audio at midnight Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted his own attacks about the interview, claiming the Journal “stated falsely” that he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.

But the Journal stands by its reporting, as well as the transcription provided by an independent transcription service. Neither version of the audio provides any audible or contextual indication that Trump said “I’d” in a line of comments about foreign relationships that were otherwise not conditional. Moreover, the transcript of the interview shows that the Journal’s own reporters clearly heard “I” — not “I’d” — and asked a follow-up question, which the President refused to answer:

TRUMP: …I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.

WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—

TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—

WSJ: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un…

TRUMP: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.

It’s unclear exactly what this quibbling is designed to accomplish, though it certainly draws more attention — not less — to the possibility that the White House has a relationship with North Korea of a different nature than it has previously indicated.

It may, however, also be a form of retaliation against the Journal for something totally unrelated. The Journal published its story about Trump’s Kim Jong Un comments on Thursday, then on Friday published a report that shortly before the 2016 election, the Trump Organization paid an adult film star, Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels), $130,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. It was only after this report that the White House began criticizing the Journal’s reporting on the relationship with North Korea.

[ThinkProgress]

Media

Trump called intel analyst a ‘pretty Korean lady’ — and asked why she wasn’t negotiating with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump’s latest outburst about immigrants from “sh*thole” African countries is far from his first time making racist statements.

In fact, sources tell NBC News that Trump made a career U.S. intelligence officer uncomfortable last year when he grilled her on her Korean heritage and demanded to know why she wasn’t being used to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to NBC News, Trump first asked the officer where she was from after she had finished delivering an intelligence briefing. She replied that she originally hailed from New York City, but Trump pushed her by asking where “your people” originally came from.

At that point, she admitted that both of her parents were from Korea — at which point Trump turned to an adviser and asked them why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t being used as an asset to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal.

“The officials who told NBC News of the fall exchange between Trump and the intelligence briefer in the Oval Office in the fall said the president likely meant no harm with his inquiry, but it raised concern of a lack of cultural sensitivity and decorum,” NBC notes, while also adding that a source close to the president claims that his advisers regularly try to get him to stop talking about people’s race — but to no avail.

[Raw Story]

Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as ‘shithole’ nations

President Donald Trump on Thursday referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on the meeting told NBC News.

Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the group of nations referred to also included El Salvador.

The comments came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system.

According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries” and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway. Thursday’s meeting came one day after Trump met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House.

A source familiar with Thursday’s meeting told NBC News the president was particularly frustrated during discussions about the visa lottery system — a program Trump has railed against repeatedly in recent months.

The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC Thursday, as part of a lengthy statement that did not directly dispute the language reportedly used in the meeting.

“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavorably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.

According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never “go back to their huts.” The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.

[NBC News]

Trump reacts to ‘Fire and Fury’ book in tweet lashing out at author and ‘Sloppy Steve’

President Trump lashed out at the author of a soon-to-be-released book about the chaotic first year of his presidency Thursday night.

In a tweet, Trump called “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” a “phony book” and claimed that he’d never spoken to its author, Michael Wolff.

“Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!” Trump wrote. He appeared to be referring to former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, whose stunning criticisms of Trump and his circle figure prominently in the title.

Trump’s tweet came hours after he had his lawyer demand that Henry Holt & Co. and Wolff stop publication the book.

Instead, the publisher expedited the book’s release to Friday, four days before it was slated to hit bookstore shelves, in response to “unprecedented demand.” Published excerpts on Wednesday and Thursday whetted that appetite and roiled Washington.

Bannon’s comments, including that it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort to have met in 2016 with Russians said to have “dirt” on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, prompted Trump on Wednesday to rebuke his former advisor, saying Bannon had “lost his mind.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Reality

Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted Michael Wolff was at the White House and members of the press corps witnessed him having a greater access than them.

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