Trump slams Comey as ‘weak and untruthful slime ball’

President Donald Trump slammed James Comey on Friday as a “weak and untruthful slime ball” and a “proven LEAKER & LIAR,” the day after explosive excerpts from the former FBI director’s tell-all book surfaced in media reports.

“James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH,” Trump tweeted. “He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty,” of copy of which CNN obtained, details his conversations with the President, compares Trump to a mob boss, and slams the “forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”

Comey testified in June that he gave some of his memos of conversations he had with Trump to a Columbia University professor and that he had written the memos specifically to avoid including classified information.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also attacked Comey’s credibility Friday.
“One of the few areas of true bipartisan consensus in Washington is Comey has no credibility,” Sanders wrote on Twitter Friday morning.

Her post also included the link to a GOP video titled “Comey Not Credible, Just Ask Democrats.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Friday also criticized the former FBI director.

“We find Mr. Comey has a revisionist view of history and seems like a disgruntlement ex-employee,” Conway told reporters outside the White House.

Trump’s allies have prepared an extensive campaign to fight back against Comey’s publicity tour, trying to undermine his credibility by reviving the blistering Democratic criticism of him before he was fired nearly a year ago.

The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN Thursday, calls for branding him “Lyin’ Comey” through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans before his memoir is released next week.

The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.

[CNN]

 

Trump says missiles ‘will be coming’

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that Russia should “get ready” for missiles to be fired at its ally Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack near Damascus on Saturday.

“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'” Mr Trump said in his tweet.

Senior Russian figures have threatened to meet any US strikes with a response.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies mounting a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma.

In one of his tweets on Wednesday, Mr Trump called the Syrian leader a “gas killing animal”.

In another, he painted a dark picture of US-Russia relations but said it did not have to be that way.

The US, UK and France have agreed to work together and are believed to be preparing for a military strike in response to the alleged chemical attack at the weekend.

[BBC]

Trump’s push to redo $1.3T spending bill he signed sparks GOP revolt

A regretful President Donald Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt.

“My attitude is, your word is your bond,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, in his first public comments on the Trump plan.

Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills.

The skeptics included the newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump on Wednesday.

“We need to look at what we agreed on with the other side and keep our word, keep our agreements,” the Alabama Republican told POLITICO just before his one-on-one with Trump.

He added that the Senate has had little appetite for the idea in the past: “Rescissions has never been a big thing over here.”

The White House is seeking to essentially take a scalpel to last month’s $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, scratching out any funding that Trump doesn’t personally back.

Budget experts have said a rescissions package of that scale would likely be unprecedented: One party’s leaders in Congress and the White House have never before unilaterally agreed to unravel a spending deal that has already been sealed.

“I think the whole rescission effort is unrealistic and dangerous,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a longtime appropriator, told reporters. “It’s hard enough to make a bargain around here. But you can’t break your word when you do. … You’d never have another deal ever.”

Multiple lawmakers, including Cole, said they don’t believe House GOP leaders are taking the idea seriously — despite Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s own involvement in the budget scheme. They think it’s really being pushed by Trump’s belt-tightening budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Most are doubtful that the cutbacks could even land a floor vote.

“It seems like this is just an exercise in appeasing the president and the Republican ‘no’ votes on the omnibus,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters.

“We could have made the original budget framework smaller. I would have been fine with that,” Dent said. But he cautioned that going back on the agreement now, months later, would have a “chilling effect” on future deals.

Republicans, particularly in the House, have little desire to revisit the unpopular spending deal, H.R. 1625 (115), in an increasingly dire midterm campaign cycle. The package included huge boosts to domestic funding, which GOP leaders worked hard to sell to their own members in the name of securing more Pentagon funding.

Ultimately, 90 House Republicans backed the spending bill, in part because they were promised cover by the White House.

But Trump’s 180-degree reversal on that deal left the Republican lawmakers who backed the omnibus feeling spurned. Trump further infuriated members of his own party after he threatened to veto the bill and accused GOP leaders of choosing to “waste money” in the bill.

Those same Republican leaders have sharply disputed Trump’s claim that there was no close scrutiny of spending. “When you put together a $1.3 trillion bill, you look into all these accounts,” Frelinghuysen said in defense of the bill.

“You don’t throw your friends under the bus who did exactly what you wanted them to do,” Cole said, calling it a “hare-brained scheme.”

Just one appropriator out of nine polled by POLITICO this week expressed interest in a rescissions package.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who oversees Agriculture spending, said he was “absolutely” open to the idea.

“We’re all just getting back, we gotta sit around the table and talk about it, but I don’t dismiss the idea at all,” said Aderholt, who is in a tight race to take over as House Appropriations chairman next year.

No lawmaker has seen any details out of the White House or GOP leadership about which programs would be cut. The Trump administration would have until mid-June to submit its request, after which it would be up to the House Appropriations Committee to turn the package into legislative language.

That work would need to be done at the same time the Appropriations panels are knee-deep in drafting bills for fiscal 2019, which begins Sept. 30.

And with an already abbreviated House calendar this year, lawmakers say there’s hardly time or interest to jump back into the previous fiscal year.

“We’ll see how that comes together. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to happen, but we’ll see if it does,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) said.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have accused the GOP of “buyer’s remorse” after the most recent spending deal. And Democrats are already cautioning that Republican efforts to walk back this year’s spending deal would be seen as an attempt to void the entire two-year budget agreement.

Without that agreement, which also delivered huge increases in defense spending, the Pentagon’s budget would actually shrink next year.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said he won’t decide whether to support a rescissions package until he sees the details. But he added that Congress’ spending panels tend to take the blame for the nation’s mounting debt — even though nondefense discretionary spending accounts for just 15 cents out of every dollar spent by the government.

“At Appropriations, we’re the most visible and easy target,” he said.

[Politico]

Trump considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosen

President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the aftermath of the FBI raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office and residence. The move would be done to “check” special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN’s sources say.

CNN reported that firing Rosenstein is “one of several options — including going so far as to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions — Trump is weighing” since Cohen’s raid.

[Raw Story]

Trump: FBI raid on Cohen ‘a disgrace’

President Trump on Monday blasted the FBI for raiding the office of his personal attorney Michael Cohen, calling it a “disgrace” and a “pure and simple witch hunt.”

“It’s a real disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House as Vice President Mike Pence, national security adviser John Bolton and other officials looked on. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

Trump also took aim at the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who reportedly made the referral that led to the raid, calling his team “the most biased group of people” for refusing to investigate 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The president was clearly angry and frustrated at the raid, which reportedly seized records on topics that included a $130,000 payment Cohen made to the porn star who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The

Speaking with his arms folded and shoulders slumped, Trump brought up the raid unprompted during a previously scheduled meeting with military leaders to discuss the apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. He used the word “disgrace” to describe it at least five times.

The fiery comments from Trump immediately led to speculation that the FBI raid on Cohen’s office could lead Trump to fire Mueller, a step lawmakers in both parties have repeatedly warned the president would lead to a constitutional crisis.

“We’ll see what happens. … Many people have said ‘you should fire him,’ ” Trump said when asked if he will ax Mueller. “Again, they found nothing and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”

[The Hill]

Media

EPA: ‘Zero Records’ of Any Death Threats Against Scott Pruitt, Despite Trump Tweet

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) apparently has no evidence of any death threats made against agency head Scott Pruitt, despite allegations to the contrary, including a recent tweet from President Donald Trump.

According to numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by various media outlets and reporters, the conservation-themed agency has “zero records” responsive to inquiries regarding any and all death threats made against the embattled agency director.

BuzzFeed News‘ senior investigative Reporter Jason Leopold noted this records-related discrepancy in a tweet sent late Saturday afternoon. He wrote:

I had filed a #FOIA with EPA for any records of death threats made against Scott Pruitt. EPA said it had zero records.

Leopold then suggested that maybe the agency was just lying to him about those threats. In a later tweet, addressing possible criticism of his methods, Leopold clarified that those FOIA requests were lodged with both the EPA’s headquarters and Inspector General’s office.

The Washington Post and Associated Press previously conducted similar investigations into these alleged death threats against Pruitt, but both news agencies came up empty-handed as well.

Officials speaking on behalf of Pruitt have frequently cited to alleged death threats against him when pressed to account for the unprecedentedly expensive–and oftentimes lavish–spending requests issued by Pruitt and his inner circle. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the following in comments to Fox News on Sunday:

According to EPA’s Assistant Inspector General, Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family. Americans should all agree that members of the president’s Cabinet should be kept safe from these violent threats.

That may not be entirely accurate.

Patrick Sullivan is the EPA’s current assistant inspector general. Sullivan is the agency official tasked with investigating any threats made against EPA personnel. A September 14, 2017 E&E News story by reporter Kevin Bogardus noted that Sullivan had opened at least four investigations into alleged threats against Pruitt. None of those alleged threats, however, were characterized as “death threats” by either Sullivan or Bogardus in the story, which was itself based on various FOIA-obtained documents provided by the EPA.

In comments to the energy and environmental policy-focused publication, Sullivan said, “I can tell you we have more than three investigations. That’s for sure.” When pressed to explain the outcome of one of those investigations, Sullivan said, “It was not a direct threat. It was an implied threat that contained obscene language.”

“The U.S. attorney’s office determined that there was no probable cause to meet the statute and there was no crime committed, so they declined,” he added.

The author of that “implied threat” sent Pruitt a postcard and later apologized to EPA agents for doing so. Another postcard addressed to Pruitt called the agency director an “evil” and “ignorant fuck,” but was also determined not to contain any sort of legally cognizable threat and was ultimately dismissed by Sullivan and his investigative team.

In a New York Times report from last Thursday by reporters Eric Lipton, Kenneth P. Vogel and Lisa Friedman, Wilcox allegedly said, “They run the variety of direct death threats — ‘I’m going to put a bullet in your brain’ — to implied threats — ‘If you don’t classify this particular chemical in this particular way, I’m going to hurt you.”

It is presently unclear exactly which threats Wilcox is referencing in the above-quoted language–but some of those alleged threats bear similarities to previous threats noted by Sullivan in the E&E story: except those direct threats were made against Obama era EPA chief Gina McCarthy.

An Associated Press story released mid-morning Monday revealed that EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins has launched at least five separate probes into Pruitt’s controversial conduct.

[Law and Crime]

Trump criticizes FBI and Justice Dept., asks what they ‘have to hide’

President Donald Trump on Saturday accused the Department of Justice of slow-walking “documents relating to FISA abuse,” Hillary Clinton’s emails, former FBI Director James Comey and others, and asked what it and the FBI “have to hide.”

“Lawmakers of the House Judiciary Committee are angrily accusing the Department of Justice of missing the Thursday Deadline for turning over UNREDACTED Documents relating to FISA abuse, FBI, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Clinton Emails and much more,” Trump wrote. “Slow walking – what is going on? BAD!”

“What does the Department of Justice and FBI have to hide?” Trump asked in a follow-up tweet. “Why aren’t they giving the strongly requested documents (unredacted) to the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE? Stalling, but for what reason? Not looking good!”

Multiple media outlets reported this week that the Justice Department missed a subpoena deadline to provide the House Judiciary Committee documents related to an array of issues, including the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, alleged surveillance abuses under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month.

The Hill reported Thursday that Republicans on the House panel were “infuriated” over the missed deadline, which “they view as a stall by the Department of Justice (DOJ).”

CNN reported on Friday, however, that the Justice Department plans to produce 1,000 pages of information to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced that he had subpoenaed the Department of Justice for information relating to “charging decisions in the investigation surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommendation to fire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.”

After the subpoena had been issued, FBI Director Christopher Wray said last month that he would double the number of FBI staff charged with responding to House Republicans’ various requests for information. Wray acknowledged in a statement that “the current pace of production is too slow.”

The Justice Department said last month that about 3,000 documents had been produced since January.

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows vented his frustration over the missed deadline on Twitter this week.

“The deadline for the subpoena issued by Chairman Goodlatte was today at noon,” he wrote. “We got no documents from the Department of Justice. Just a phone call. This is unacceptable — it’s time to stop the games. Turn over the documents to Congress and allow us to conduct oversight.”

Last year, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced a joint investigation into the conduct of the Justice Department in 2016. The announcement referenced a series of controversial actions taken by the FBI, including the bureau’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

[CNN]

Advisers Gave Trump PowerPoint Presentation Debunking His Claims on Amazon. It Didn’t Work

Over the past week or so, President Donald Trump has ramped up his attacks against tech giant Amazon, claiming the company isn’t paying any taxes while accusing them of taking advantage of the Postal Service and costing the government billions of dollars.

In the wake of Trump’s personal war against Amazon, fact checkers and journalists have noted that the president’s claims are either unsupported or outright false. The thing is, Trump’s advisers tried early on to keep him from tossing out his Amazon falsehoods. It just didn’t take.

Per the Wall Street Journal, White House officials kept hearing Trump grouse about Amazon during his first months in office. Therefore, they decided to set up some briefings so he would speak factually and knowledgeably about the company in public.

Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, and other officials gave PowerPoint presentations and briefing papers they believed debunked his concerns that Amazon was dodging taxes and exploiting the U.S. Postal Service.It made little difference. Mr. Trump persisted in attacks that ran counter to the material they had showed him.

A source also told WSJ that the presentation wasn’t “the narrative he wants,” adding that Trump “didn’t find it persuasive because he keeps saying it’s untrue.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Says He’ll Take ‘Very Serious Look’ at Amazon’s Business

President Donald Trump said he will take a “very serious look” at Amazon.com Inc. and what he said is an “uneven playing field” the retailer enjoys against competitors.

“I’m going to study it and take a look,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “We’re going to take a very serious look at that.”

Trump aides said earlier in the week that the White House wasn’t preparing punitive measures toward Amazon, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the president’s comments indicated a potential shift.

Amazon was little changed in extended trading, dropping 0.1 percent to $1,451.75 at 5:43 p.m. in New York. While Trump’s broadsides against the company battered the stock last week and into Monday, investors have shrugged off his latest assaults and sent the shares up each of the past three days.

Trump has fired off a barrage of criticism against Amazon and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos in Twitter postings since last week, sinking the Seattle-based Internet retailer’s market value by as much as $55 billion at one point. Trump has argued the company receives favorable treatment on taxes and postal rates.

“You look at the sales tax situation which is going to be taken up I guess very soon, there’s going to be a decision from the Supreme Court,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “So we’ll see what happens. The post office is not doing well with Amazon that I can tell you.

“The playing field has to be level for everybody,” he said as he returned from a trip to West Virginia.

Amazon collects sales tax in every state that has one. But Amazon’s policies don’t apply to third-party merchants selling goods through its website, and many of those transactions remain untaxed. Such sales make up about half of the company’s volume. Amazon has said it’s up to the sellers to collect any taxes and many don’t.

The Trump administration has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to let state and local governments collect billions of dollars in sales taxes from online retailers. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments next month centering on a South Dakota law that calls for collecting sales taxes from large internet retailers even if they don’t have brick-and-mortar stores in the state. A ruling is expected by late June.

While its contract with Amazon is confidential, the Postal Service has argued that its e-commerce services benefit the organization and its mail customers. It is legally prohibited from charging shippers less than its delivery costs. Further, taxpayers don’t directly support the Postal Service’s operations.

Amazon regularly uses the Postal Service to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery, with letter carriers dropping off packages at some 150 million residences and businesses daily. The company has a network of 35 “sort centers” where customer packages are sorted by zip code, stacked on pallets and delivered to post offices for the final leg of delivery.

The company remains exposed to government action on other fronts.

The Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission could open antitrust or consumer protection investigations. The company is also competing for a multi-billion-dollar contract to provide cloud computing services to the Pentagon.

Safra Catz, the chief executive of Oracle Corp., one of Amazon’s rivals for the Defense Department contract, criticized the bidding process in a private dinner with Trump Tuesday, complaining that it favored Amazon, people familiar with the plans said.

Trump heard her out and said he wants the contract competition to be fair, but made no indication he’d interfere in the bidding, the people said. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Trump isn’t interfering in the contract decision.

[Bloomberg]

Trump Claims “Rape” By Immigrants At Level Nobody Has Seen Before

Trump claims that Central American immigration ‘caravan’ is marauding band of rapists.

In fact in many cases, they’re traveling in groups because immigrants and asylum seekers are often victims of rape and theft.

[Talking Points Memo]

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