Trump threatens to reveal classified info to punish political enemies: They’re ‘going crazy — wow!’

President Donald Trump threatened to declassify government documents to expose alleged “corruption” by his political enemies.

The president lashed out at the “Deep State” and the “Fake News Media” after the New York Times published an extraordinary op-ed by an anonymous senior administration official revealing what amounts to a coup within the White House.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

[Raw Story]

Trump Says He’s Going to Tell Sean Hannity to Stop Airing His Critics

During a rally in Montana Thursday night, President Donald Trump gave a shout out to a Fox News host.

“Do we love Sean Hannity, by the way?” Trump asked the raucous crowd.

He then suggested that he’s going to tell the Fox News host not to air his critics anymore.

“I love him. But here’s the only thing,” Trump said. “He puts up all these losers that say horrible things. I’ve got to talk to him.”

Then pointing to the media pen, he told the crowd, “And by the way, look at all the fake news back there.”

[Mediaite]

After scathing op-ed, Trump defends leadership by taking credit for Obama’s economic policies

After the publication of a scathingly critical essay purportedly from an anonymous senior administration official, President Donald Trump used a series of morning tweets to defend his leadership, citing strong economic data and praise from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

The New York Times published an op-ed Wednesday that it said was from a senior official who described the president as erratic and amoral and said staff worked to thwart “misguided” decisions they feared would be detrimental to the country.

In the hours after the Times posted the story Wednesday afternoon, an angry Trump criticized the newspaper for not identifying the author. He demanded that the Times out him or her and suggested that the person should be investigated.

In a third post, Trump returned to the economy, proclaiming “consumer confidence highest in 18 years, Atlanta Fed forecasts 4.7 GDP, manufacturing jobs highest in many years.”

[USA Today]

Trump inauguration crowd photos were edited after he intervened

A government photographer edited official pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger following a personal intervention from the president, according to newly released documents.

The photographer cropped out empty space “where the crowd ended” for a new set of pictures requested by Trump on the first morning of his presidency, after he was angered by images showing his audience was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.

The detail was revealed in investigative reports released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act by the inspector general of the US interior department. They shed new light on the first self-inflicted crisis of Trump’s presidency, when his White House falsely claimed he had attracted the biggest ever inauguration audience.

The records detail a scramble within the National Park Service (NPS) on 21 January 2017 after an early-morning phone call between Trump and the acting NPS director, Michael Reynolds. They also state that Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, called NPS officials repeatedly that day in pursuit of the more flattering photographs.

It was not clear from the records which photographs were edited and whether they were released publicly.

The newly disclosed details were not included in the inspector general’s office’s final report on its inquiry into the saga, which was published in June last year and gave a different account of the NPS photographer’s actions.

By the time Trump spoke on the telephone with Reynolds on the morning after the inauguration, then-and-now pictures of the national mall were circulating online showing that Trump’s crowd fell short of Obama’s. A reporter’s tweet containing one such pair of images was retweeted by the official NPS Twitter account.

An NPS communications official, whose name was redacted in the released files, told investigators that Reynolds called her after speaking with the president and said Trump wanted pictures from the inauguration. She said “she got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd”, and that the images released so far showed “a lot of empty areas”.

The communications official said she “assumed” the photographs Trump was requesting “needed to be cropped”, but that Reynolds did not ask for this specifically. She then contacted the NPS photographer who had covered the event the day before.

A second official, from the NPS public affairs department, told investigators that Spicer called her office on the morning of 21 January and asked for pictures that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size”.

In this official’s view, Spicer’s request amounted to “a request for NPS to provide photographs in which it appeared the inauguration crowd filled the majority of the space in the photograph”. She told investigators that she, too, contacted the NPS photographer to ask for additional shots.

The NPS photographer, whose name was also redacted, told investigators he was contacted by an unidentified official who asked for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd sizes”. Having filed 25 photographs on inauguration day, he was asked to go back to his office and “edit a few more” for a second submission.

“He said he edited the inauguration photographs to make them look more symmetrical by cropping out the sky and cropping out the bottom where the crowd ended,” the investigators reported, adding: “He said he did so to show that there had been more of a crowd.”

The investigators said the photographer believed the cropping was what the official “had wanted him to do”, but that the official “had not specifically asked him to crop the photographs to show more of a crowd”.

A summary in the inspector general’s final report said the photographer told investigators “he selected a number of photos, based on his professional judgment, that concentrated on the area of the national mall where most of the crowd was standing”.

Asked to account for the discrepancy, Nancy DiPaolo, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the cropping was not mentioned in the final report because the photographer told investigators this was his “standard artistic practice”. But investigators did not note this in the write-up of their interview.

The newly released files said Spicer was closely involved in the effort to obtain more favourable photographs. He called Reynolds immediately after the acting director spoke with Trump and then again at 3pm shortly before the new set of photographs was sent to the White House, investigators heard. Another official reported being called by Spicer.

At about 5.40pm that day, Spicer began a now notorious press briefing at the White House in which he falsely stated: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period.” A spokeswoman for Spicer did not respond to a request for comment.

The inspector general’s inquiry was prompted by a February 2017 complaint through the office’s website, alleging NPS officials tried to undermine Trump and leaked details of Trump’s call with Reynolds to the Washington Post, where it was first reported. The inspector general found no evidence to substantiate the allegations.

The Guardian asked in its June 2017 freedom of information request for the identity of the complainant who sparked the inspector general’s inquiry. But this, and the entire complaint, was redacted in the released documents.

[The Guardian]

Trump demands NYT turn anonymous source over to government ‘for National Security purposes’

President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at The New York Times in a tweet over the paper’s publishing an op-ed by an anonymous Trump administration official.

Hours after the piece was published, Trump questioned whether the official exists and demanded that the paper turn the author over to the government, saying it is a national security issue.

“Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source?” he tweeted. “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

Trump also appeared to question earlier Wednesday whether the official had committed “treason” by writing the piece.

The op-ed was written by an anonymous source claiming to be part of the “resistance” inside the Trump administration. The individual describes in the piece internal efforts among aides and cabinet officials to combat Trump’s “misguided impulses.”

The blistering article sent shockwaves through Washington and frustrated the administration.

The Times published the piece along with an editor’s note stating that the person’s identity was known to the Times, and that publishing the column anonymously was “the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.”

[The Hill]

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 throws tantrum at Woodward: He published ‘work of fiction’ to derail Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused author Bob Woodward of releasing a tell-all White House book in order to derail confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump was asked about Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” during a pool spray at the White House.

According to tweets from reporters who were in the room, Trump called Woodward’s book a “work of fiction” and said that it was designed to interfere with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“We run a strong White House, no doubt about it,” the president was quoted as saying.

Read some of the tweets from reporters below.

[Raw Story]

Trump suggests that Nike’s stock is ‘getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts’

That was President Donald Trump’s clearest response thus far to a controversial ad campaign that made its debut during the Labor Day holiday.

The new Nike Inc. advertising campaign features Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who led player protests against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, which has been viewed as a highly political move that runs directly at odds with the rhetoric of President Trump.

On Tuesday, shares of Nike NKE+0.6% shed 3.2%, leading declining components on a down day for the Dow industrials, suffering the sports-apparel company’s worst daily drop since April 2, according to FactSet data. Shares of the retailing giant — a retail tenant of the president’s real-estate business (“They pay a lot of rent,” Trump reportedly told the Daily Caller, though New York magazine noted that the Niketown location on 57th Street in Manhattan apparently in question is slated to close) — rebounded in Wednesday action, posting a gain of 0.4%.

Thus far this year, Nike shares have climbed 28%. The company’s gains outstrip respectable year-to-date returns for the broader market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA+0.08% up 5.1% in 2018, the S&P 500 SPX-0.37% rising 8% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP-0.91% on track to advance by about 16% for the first nine months of 2018, as of Wednesday’s close of trade.

[MarketWatch]

Donald Trump maintains attacks on Bob Woodward, calls for changes in libel laws

Stung by the latest tell-all book to hit his White House, President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on author Bob Woodward by suggesting Wednesday that the government tighten libel laws – though the president’s role in doing that is probably nonexistent.

“Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”

Later, during a photo op with Amir of Kuwait, Trump said: “The book means nothing; it’s a work of fiction.”

Trump also suggested changing the libel laws back during his presidential campaign – in response to news stories he didn’t like – but has made no specific proposals in that area since moving into the White House in January 2017.

There probably isn’t anything Trump, or Congress, can do about libel laws in any event.

For one thing, there is no federal libel statute. States set their own libel statutes, and a series of court rulings have shaped them.

It’s difficult for public figures to win a libel suit; the Supreme Court says they must prove actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth – a high legal bar – and writers and speakers have wide latitude under free speech protections in the First Amendment to criticize and report on elected officials.

The catalyst this time is Woodward’s new book – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – in which aides describe the president as an unhinged “liar” who does not seem interested in learning the details of the issues he has to face.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly described Trump as an “idiot” who is running “Crazytown,” while Defense Secretary James Mattis is quoted as saying Trump acted like a “fifth- or sixth-grader” at one meeting.

“Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses,” Woodward writes, according to a leaked excerpt. “It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

The book is scheduled for public release on Tuesday.

Woodward also reports that Trump tends to berate aides, conduct that the president defended in a separate tweet on Wednesday morning.

Claiming that “my Administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country,” Trump tweeted that “I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!”

Trump is seeking to undermine Woodward even though he has praised the author in the past, and told him in a phone conversation just last month that he has always been fair.

Back in 2013, as members of the Barack Obama administration criticized a Woodward book about them, Trump tweeted out: “Only the Obama WH can get away with attacking Bob Woodward.”

As details of the book began to leak out Tuesday, the White House hastily put together  a series of responses.

Kelly denied calling Trump an “idiot,” while Mattis denied uttering “the contemptuous words” attributed to him by Woodward.

The White House denials echoed those made about previous critical books, particularly those by journalist Michael Wolff and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.

As he did Tuesday night, Trump tweeted out the statements by Kelly and Mattis on Wednesday morning, while adding some denials of his own. In one of his missives, Trump said: “Thank you General Kelly, book is total fiction!”

While Trump has frequently attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he denied Woodward’s reporting that he has called the former Alabama senator “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner.”

“I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing,” Trump tweeted, claiming that Woodward “made this up to divide!”

As for changing libel laws in the wake of Woodward, it’s highly unlikely.

“There is no federal libel law for President Trump to bully Congress to change, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws,” said Brian Hauss, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern.”

[USA Today]

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]

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