Trump says Puerto Rico death toll inflated by Democrats: ‘3000 people did not die’

President Trump on Thursday accused Democrats, without evidence, of inflating the 3,000-person death count from last year’s hurricanes in Puerto Rico in order “to make me look bad.”

The stunning accusation is Trump’s latest attempt to defend his handling of natural disasters as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Southeastern U.S.

In a series of tweets, Trump disputed an independent report commissioned by Puerto Rico’s government that raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to 2,975.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” Trump tweeted. “As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

The president said the number was manufactured “by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”

“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he added.

Trump’s latest comments drew an instant rebuke from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who accused the president of minimizing the plight of Puerto Rico.

“This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!” she tweeted.

As he prepares for Hurricane Florence, Trump has repeatedly argued that his response to Hurricane Maria was a success, despite the record-high death toll, widespread devastation and power outages and intense criticism from local officials.

The president warned Americans in Florence’s path to take precautions while meeting with federal officials to show his administration is ready for the potentially devastating storm.

But he has also made several remarks claiming he has not received proper credit for his response to Maria at a time when Puerto Ricans have given him very low marks for his handling of the storm.

A Washington Post–Kaiser Family Foundation study showed 80 percent of island residents disapprove of his response.

Trump’s claims fly in the face of a George Washington University study commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor examining the effects of Maria in the six months following landfall in September 2017.

The long time period was used to determine the hurricane’s lingering effect on deaths on the island. It compared the death rates in the post-hurricane period to other periods not affected by natural disasters.

Puerto Rico’s government endorsed the results of the study once it was released and raised its official death toll, which previously sat at 64. Skeptics believed the number was too low, given that Maria resulted in widespread property damage and destroyed key infrastructure across the island.

Nonetheless, Trump has sought to convince Americans that his account of the hurricane response is correct.

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Those comments have reignited Trump’s feud with Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has typically avoided confrontations with the president.
“No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states,” Rosselló said in a Wednesday statement.
 
The governor also called on Trump to redouble federal assistance for recovery efforts so that the island can fully recover, calling Maria “the worst natural disaster in our modern history.”
 
Trump has struggled at playing the role of consoler-in-chief in times of national crisis. He drew criticism during his post-hurricane tour of Puerto Rico last October for throwing paper towels to people in a crowd and feuding with Cruz.
 
The president at the time downplayed the damage caused by Maria, saying it paled in comparison to a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina, which killed an estimated 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast in 2005. He also complained that federal relief efforts in Puerto Rico blew a hole in the federal budget.
“The missing part was empathy,” Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said in an interview with The New York Times. “I wish he’d paused and expressed that, instead of just focusing on the response success.”
 
Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly from a Category 3 to Category 2 storm. But it is expected to cause widespread property damages, millions of power outages and possible loss of life in the Carolinas and Georgia.

[The Hill]

Trump Attacks Puerto Ricans, ‘Totally Incompetent’ San Juan Mayor Ahead of Hurricane Florence

MAs Hurricane Florence is about to bear down on the southeastern U.S. coastline, President Trump is attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her criticism of the government’s “unappreciated great job” of how it handled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Here’s the part where Trump advised people to take appropriate safety measures to prepare for Florence.

Yesterday, Trump held a pool spray where he bragged about about the federal government’s “unsung success” in handling the disaster in Puerto Rico last year. These remarks were panned immediately by critics who wonder how Trump can possibly call the recovery a success when almost 3,000 died as a result of the storm.

Last night, Cruz responded to Trump by blasting his “despicable” comments and “lack of understanding of reality.” Puerto Ricans governor Ricardo Rosselló also gave a statement, saying the island is still in the middle of a crisis, and he also criticized the “unfair and unAmerican” relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington.

[Mediaite]

Trump begins 9/11 anniversary with angry early morning tweet about Russia and Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump began the 17th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US with an early morning tweet about Russia, law enforcement agencies and Hillary Clinton.

The post, which appeared to be a quote taken from Fox News, sought to perpetuate an argument – often used by supporters of the president – which seeks to shift focus from the investigation into his presidential campaign’s links to Russia on to unfounded speculation around the FBI, Department of Justice (DoJ) and his rival Ms Clinton.

“‘We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero, but every day we get more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible’ @SaraCarterDC @LouDobbs,” Mr Trump wrote.

He followed up four minutes later with another post that retweeted his assistant Dan Scavino, with a picture of him signing an executive order designating “‘Patriot Day 2018’ to honor the memories of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001”.

The US president included the hashtags #NeverForget and #September11.

Mr Trump next launched a renewed attack on the FBI and the DoJ, which he said were doing “nothing” to look into an alleged “media leak strategy” by two FBI agents investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Eric Holder could be running the Justice Department right now and it would be behaving no differently than it is,” Mr Trump continued, quoting one of his favourite Fox News presenters, Lou Dobbs.

Eric Holder is a former Democratic attorney general appointed by former president Barack Obama in 2009.

Mr Trump later tweeted in praise of his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City at the time of the terrorist attacks.

“Rudy Giuliani did a GREAT job as Mayor of NYC during the period of September 11th. His leadership, bravery and skill must never be forgotten,” Mr Trump wrote. “Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!”

In 2013, three years before he became president, Mr Trump sparked anger after using the 9/11 anniversary to reference “haters and losers”.

“I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th,” he posted on Twitter.

It is just one of a litany of questionable comments the US president has made about 9/11.

On the day of the attacks, Mr Trump noted his skyscraper, at 40 Wall Street, went from being the second-tallest in downtown Manhattan to the tallest, following the collapse of the Twin Towers.

In 2015, Mr Trump claimed when talking about Muslims that “thousands of people were cheering” in Jersey City, situated across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, as the towers fell. There is no evidence of mass celebrations there by Muslims.

Three months later, he said he lost “hundreds of friends” in the attack, but failed to provided any names, other than mentioning knowing a Roman Catholic priest who died while serving as a chaplain to the city fire department.

Despite Mr Trump’s apparent preoccupation into the Russia investigation, on Tuesday he visited a Pennsylvania field that became a 9/11 memorial.

Mr Trump and his wife, Melania, were due participate in a remembrance in Shanksville, where a California-bound commercial airliner crashed after the 40 passengers and crew members learned what was happening and attempted to regain control of the plane. Everyone on board was killed.

Nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11 when other planes were flown into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in an attack planned by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Nearly a decade later, bin Laden was killed in May 2011 during a US military operation ordered by Mr Obama.

Shortly before he was due to deliver a speech at Shanksville, Mr Trump tweeted: “17 years since September 11th!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Mr Trump’s visit to Shanksville: “Certainly the focus will be on remembering that horrific day and remembering the lives that were lost, and certainly honouring the individuals who were not only lost that day, but also put their lives of the line to help in that process.”

Mr Trump was in his Trump Tower penthouse — 4 miles from the World Trade Center — during the 2001 attacks.

[The Independent]

John Bolton Threatens Sanctions for ‘Illegitimate’ International Criminal Court: ‘Already Dead to Us’

National Security Advisor John Bolton delivered his expected condemnation of the International Criminal Court on Monday, vowing to bring sanctions against the organization if it continues to investigate American activity in the Middle East.

As Bolton spoke before the Federalist Society, he promised retaliation for the ICC’s “unjust prosecution” of alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He called the organization a threat to American national security, saying it “claims authority separate from, and above, the Constitution of the United States. It is antithetical to our nation’s ideals.”

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

The speech continued with Bolton describing the ICC as an “illegitimate” investigative body that failed to adequately prosecute illegal activity abroad despite its “dangerous” levels of unchecked accountability. He said the U.S. will ban the ICC’s court judges from the country and enforce sanctions against any nation cooperating with them if they continue to prosecute America or its allies.

“We will take the following steps, among others, in accordance with the American Service-Members’ Protection Act and our other legal authorities. We will negotiate even more binding bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering U.S. persons to the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists in ICC investigation of Americans. We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the U.S. and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation.”

[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 Uses Fake Quote to Slam Obama

President Donald Trump invented a quote to slam former President Barack Obama on Monday while touting his own economic achievements.

The quote that Trump attributed to Obama, however, does not appear to exist.

Obama referred to a magic wand at a PBS town hall in 2016, when criticizing Trump’s claims about bringing back jobs:

“Well, how exactly are you going to do that? What exactly are you going to do? There’s no answer to it. He just says, ‘Well, I’m going to negotiate a better deal.’ Well, what, how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is, he doesn’t have an answer.”

Trump’s fabricated Obama quote appears to be based on a Fox News segment that aired a few minutes before his tweet. While discussing Obama’s effort to take credit for the strong economy under Trump, Washington Free Beacon writer Elizabeth Harrington said that during the 2016 election, Obama “said that Trump would need a magic wand to get to 4% growth.”

Obama’s comment actually referred to unemployment, not GDP growth.

[Mediaite]

Trump knocks NFL over first game’s ratings

President Trump in a tweet on Sunday knocked the NFL over lower ratings for its first game of the season.

“Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison,” the president said, referring to last Thursday night’s match-up between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. “Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade.”

“If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!” he added.

Broadcast viewership for the game dropped by 13 percent, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The game also saw a 61 percent spike in online streaming viewership, the news outlet added.

Trump renewed his clash with the NFL after it released a statement Tuesday praising former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for raising social justice issues.

“The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action,” NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said in the statement following Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick, who was the first to kneel during the national anthem, in a new ad campaign.

Kaepernick, who became a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, rose back to national prominence after Nike made him the face of its “Just Do It” ad campaign.

The move has met some controversy, both from the president, conservative legislators and some members of the general public, the majority of whom disapprove of kneeling during the national anthem, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month.

However, online sales also surged following Nike’s announcement of the campaign.

ESPN also reported Sunday that the NFL will not implement a policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem this season.

None of the players in the first NFL game of the season appeared to kneel during the anthem.

[The Hill]

Trump: Now Ford can build Focus in U.S.; Ford: That makes no sense

Auto analysts groaned on Sunday in response to tweets sent by President Trump that touted his tariffs on Chinese imports and his claim that the trade war would inspire Ford Motor Co. to build its Ford Active crossover in the U.S. rather than overseas.

Wrong, Ford said.

The Dearborn-based company issued a statement in response to the president’s tweet:

“It would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S. given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units and its competitive segment. Ford is proud to employ more U.S. hourly workers and build more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker.”

Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who advises automakers and auto suppliers, said, “This is further evidence that neither the president nor his trade representatives have any clue of the complexities of global supply chains.”

A trade war actually hurts one of America’s most iconic companies, Gabrielsen said. “This forces Ford to forfeit the sales they would have had if they could continue to import that low-volume niche vehicle.”

Ford on Aug. 31 canceled plans to import the Focus Active crossover from China to the United States because of costs from the escalating trade war.

“Given the negative financial impact of the new tariffs, we’ve decided to not import this vehicle from China,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America, told reporters.

The Focus Active was meant to take the place of the Ford Focus in the U.S. because Ford is phasing out the entry-level car as it shifts its production to pickups and SUVs. Focus Active was scheduled to go on sale in the late summer of 2019.

“Basically, this boils down to how we deploy our resources. Any program that we’re working on requires resources — engineering resources, capital resources,” Galhotra said. “Our resources could be better deployed at this stage.”

Tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on Chinese products and the threat of more had a direct impact on the Aug. 31 decision, according to Ford officials. The United States already has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and, as of July, put a 25 percent tax on autos imported from China.

“Ford was pretty clear in its statement: Focus production will not shift in part or in whole back to the U.S.,” said Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at London-based IHS Markit.

Trump didn’t tweet about the Ford announcement at the time. On Sunday, he quoted the CNBC TV network and tweeted, “‘Ford has abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle in the U.S. because of the prospect of higher U.S. Tariffs.'” CNBC. This is just the beginning. This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs.”

“Ford is one of the companies that has the highest U.S. content and the most U.S. autoworkers of any company,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Industry, Labor & Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

“You know, their statement was very clear. It’s too costly to build that car here and they weren’t planning to. They don’t make business decisions based on tweets. They make decisions based on whether there’s a demand here for the vehicle and if it can be done profitably. Demand for small cars is waning, so they thought they would build some for the rest of the world and bring a few for folks here who want one,” Dziczek said.

Building the car may still be the plan, but not in the U.S., she emphasized, along with other analysts. At issue is finding low-wage production sites to maintain profit margins, and that doesn’t include the U.S. or Canada.

“This trade thing turns into Whac-A-Mole,” Dziczek said. “You can shut off China and things will come from India, Thailand, Taiwan, Poland, Slovenia. There are loads of low-cost countries for parts and vehicles.”

After touting his tariff plan, the president also cited tariff data that alarmed analysts.

“If the U.S. sells a car into China, there is a tax of 25%. If China sells a car into the U.S., there is a tax of 2%. Does anybody think that is FAIR? The days of the U.S. being ripped-off by other nations is OVER!”

Wrong again, Dziczek said. “China lowered the tariff rate from 25 percent to 15 percent for most-favored nation status — which is offered to World Trade Organization members — but raised it to 40 percent for the U.S. in retaliation to the tariffs we put on Chinese goods.”

She continued, “And the tariffs we charge for goods coming into the U.S. is 2.5 percent, not 2 percent. And then we put an additional 25 percent on cars coming from China into the U.S. So now they’re paying 27.5 percent. This is why Ford had to re-evaluate.”

American automakers ship about 250,000 vehicles a year from the U.S. to China, while China ships about 50,000 vehicles to the U.S. annually, Dziczek noted.

For example, every Buick Envision sold in the U.S. is made in China. General Motors has petitioned that the car be excluded from tariffs on Chinese-built products.

Ford spokesman Mark Truby emphasized Sunday that the company plans to build many new vehicles in America. “For example, we are starting production soon of the Ford Ranger in the factory just outside of Detroit where the Focus was previously built. We’re not defensive about building in America. Nobody does more than us. We also have to make a business case that works.”

[Detroit Free Press]

Trump Wants Attorney General to Investigate Source of Anonymous Times Op-Ed

President Trump said on Friday that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the source of an anonymous Op-Ed piece published in The New York Times, intensifying his attack on an article that he has characterized as an act of treason.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as he traveled to Fargo, N.D., Mr. Trump said, “I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.”

Mr. Trump said he was considering action against The Times, although he did not elaborate.

The president has raged against the column since The Times published it on Wednesday afternoon. But his latest remark indicates that he wants to use the Justice Department to root out the author of the column, which described some members of the administration in a state of near-mutiny against a president some view as dangerous and untethered from reality.

“We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now,” he said.

[New York Times]

Reality

Remember, this is very similar to the Obama administration’s treatment of Fox News report James Rosen, who the Department of Justice treated as a co-conspirator and a criminal in their investigation of leaks.

Trump: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was ridiculed by the ‘fake news’

President Trump on Thursday night claimed that the media “excoriated” President Lincoln when he gave the Gettysburg Address in 1863.

“You know when Abraham Lincoln made that Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech, you know he was ridiculed?” Trump said during a rally in Billings, Mont., citing the 272-word speech that Lincoln gave on a battlefield near Gettysburg, Pa., during the Civil War.

“And he was excoriated by the fake news. They had fake news then. They said it was a terrible, terrible speech.”

Trump said the speech only became widely revered 50 years after Lincoln’s death.

“Fifty years after his death they said it may have been the greatest speech ever made in America,” Trump said. “I have a feeling that’s going to happen with us. In different ways, that’s going to happen with us.”

Trump’s comments came as part of a free-wheeling speech he delivered in support of GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale on Thursday night.

The president touted Rosendale, Montana’s state auditor, during the speech while taking several shots at his Democratic rival, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester.

“Jon Tester will never drain the swamp because he happens to live in the swamp and he loves the swamp,” Trump said.

Tester is one of 10 Democratic senators running for reelection in states that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race between Tester and Rosendale as a “likely” win for the Democrat.

[The Hill]

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