Trump Asked Sessions About Closing Case Against Arpaio

As Joseph Arpaio’s federal case headed toward trial this past spring, President Trump wanted to act to help the former Arizona county sheriff who had become a campaign-trail companion and a partner in their crusade against illegal immigration.

The president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against Arpaio, but was advised that would be inappropriate, according to three people with knowledge of the conversation.

After talking with Sessions, Trump decided to let the case go to trial, and if Arpaio was convicted, he could grant clemency.

So the president waited, all the while planning to issue a pardon if Arpaio was found in contempt of court for defying a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people merely because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. Trump was, in the words of one associate, “gung-ho about it.”

“We knew the president wanted to do this for some time now and had worked to prepare for whenever the moment may come,” said one White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the action.

Responding to questions about Trump’s conversation with Sessions, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “It’s only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters. This case would be no different.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Trump’s Friday-evening decision to issue his first pardon for Arpaio was the culmination of a five-year political friendship with roots in the “birther” movement to undermine President Barack Obama. In an extraordinary exercise of presidential power, Trump bypassed the traditional review process to ensure that Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, would face no time in prison.

Trump’s pardon, issued without consulting the Justice Department, raised a storm of protest over the weekend, including from some fellow Republicans, and threatens to become a stain on the president’s legacy. His effort to see if the case could be dropped showed a troubling disregard for the traditional wall between the White House and the Justice Department, and taken together with similar actions could undermine respect for the rule of law, experts said.

Arpaio faced up to six months in prison and was due to be sentenced in October. During his 23 years as Maricopa County sheriff, Arpaio was a lightning rod, in part because of his aggressive crackdown on illegal immigrants. He also was accused of racial profiling, failure to investigate sex crimes, poor treatment of prisoners and other instances of police misconduct.

To Trump, however, Arpaio is an American hero — a man who enlisted in the military at 18 after the outbreak of the Korean War, worked as a beat cop in Washington and Las Vegas and as a special agent investigating drug crimes around the world, then was elected sheriff in the epicenter of the nation’s roiling immigration debate.

Arpaio’s age weighed on Trump, some of his confidants said. The 71-year-old president could not stomach seeing an 85-year-old he admired as a law-and-order icon wasting away in a jail cell.

Trump’s spring inquiry about intervening in Arpaio’s case is consistent with his alleged attempts to influence the federal investigation of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. Trump also made separate appeals in March to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio “was his backhand way of doing what he wanted to do at the front end,” said Robert Bauer, a former White House counsel in the Obama administration. “He just wanted to kill the prosecution off. He couldn’t do it the one way, so he ended up doing it the other way. This is just another vivid demonstration of how far removed from an appropriate exercise of the pardon power this was.”

Presidents can set law enforcement priorities, but they are expected to steer clear of involvement in specific cases to avoid the perception of politicizing the impartial administration of justice.

Trump backed off the Arpaio case after being advised it would be inappropriate, but that he even tried is “beyond the pale,” said Chiraag Bains, a former senior counsel in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Bains said he believes Trump “has a sense that the chief executive controls everything in the executive branch, including the exercise of criminal power. And that is just not the way the system is set up.”​

Trump and Arpaio became brothers in arms five years ago. As they saw it, the two provocateurs — one a celebrity real estate developer, the other a polarizing sheriff — were pursuing justice in the form of supposed evidence that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent.

As caretakers of the false “birther” conspiracy, Trump and Arpaio relentlessly probed Obama’s birth in Hawaii and nurtured a lie to damage the legitimacy of the nation’s first African American president.

“There was no collusion,” Arpaio said in an interview Saturday. “I started my birth certificate investigation around the same time he did his.”

The Manhattan mogul sent Arpaio a fan letter and flattered him on social media. “Congratulations to @RealSheriffJoe on his successful Cold Case Posse investigation which claims @BarackObama’s ‘birth certificate’ is fake,” Trump tweeted in 2012.

Three years later, in July 2015, when Trump swooped into Arpaio’s hometown of Phoenix for the first mega-rally of his upstart presidential campaign, the sheriff returned the favor by testifying on stage to “the silent majority” that Trump had begun to awaken.

Backstage at that rally, Arpaio recalled, the two men talked about their shared birthday — June 14, which is Flag Day. Their friendship blossomed and Arpaio became a fan favorite at Trump rallies. “I had a gut feeling that he was going to win,” Arpaio said.

Even as Trump went on to win last November, however, Arpaio lost his reelection — and that was the least of his troubles.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Arpaio last October. Trump was paying attention to the case and he called Arpaio to check in on him around Thanksgiving, according to the former sheriff. That’s when Arpaio told the president-elect that his wife, Ava, had cancer.

On July 31, Arpaio was convicted by a judge, as opposed to a jury. Arpaio and his lawyer, Mark Goldman, said they did not contact Trump during this period, nor ask anyone in the administration for a pardon.

“I didn’t ask for the pardon,” Arpaio said. “He wanted to do it because I think he understood what I was going through.”

Inside the West Wing, the pardon process was set in motion. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who had gotten to know Arpaio through their work on immigration policy during the campaign, advocated internally for the pardon, as did chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

The White House Counsel’s Office had quietly begun preparing the paperwork and communications staffers had started drawing up talking points when Trump foreshadowed his intentions Aug. 15 by retweeting a Fox News story reporting that the president was “seriously considering” pardoning Arpaio.

Around the same time, Arpaio received a call from the White House Counsel’s Office asking whether he would accept a pardon if one were issued. He told the presidential lawyer that he would, according to Goldman.

The drumbeat culminated Tuesday when Trump returned to the Phoenix Convention Center — the site of the July 2015 rally — for a “Make America Great Again” campaign event.

As Air Force One rumbled toward Arizona, Sanders tried to douse speculation by telling reporters that the president would have “no discussion” and “no action” pertaining to Arpaio at the rally.

Arpaio said he was eager to attend the rally and visit with the president backstage, but decided, “I didn’t want to cause any harm or riots, so I stayed away, which really hurt me.”

When Arpaio heard Sanders say Trump would not talk about a pardon, he said he turned to his wife and told her, “Don’t believe anything you hear because I know how he is.”

Sure enough, Trump bellowed from the stage, “I’m just curious: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?”

The crowd burst into applause.

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked.

More applause.

“He should have had a jury, but you know what? I’ll make a prediction,” the president said. “I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy. . . But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”

Arpaio and his legal team did not feel very good the next night, when they read a CBS News report that Trump was being advised not to pardon Arpaio until after his sentencing.

Goldman wrote a two-page letter to White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II, sent on Friday morning, saying, “Hopefully this is more fake news,” and telling McGahn that a delay until after sentencing “would place Sheriff Arpaio in an untenable and unprecedented position.”

Without a pardon, Goldman said, Arpaio could be “sentenced, handcuffed, given a ‘perp walk’ and incarcerated” and “left to languish in federal custody.”

McGahn did not immediately reply, but a few hours later, at about 6:30 p.m. D.C. time, another lawyer in his office called Goldman’s co-counsel to double-check that Arpaio would accept a pardon. A few minutes later, an email arrived from the White House with a single page attachment: an “Executive Grant of Clemency” for Arpaio signed by Trump in his thick, black script, complete with a golden Justice Department seal.

Goldman printed out three copies of the document and drove out to Arpaio’s home in Fountain Hills, a suburb of Phoenix, where the former sheriff was getting ready to take his wife to dinner at Arrivederci, an Italian restaurant, to celebrate Ava’s 86th birthday.

“Of course, his first question was, ‘Is this a fake document?’ ” Goldman recalled. “We know the sheriff has looked into fake documents.”

The Arpaios still went out for their spaghetti dinner. As of Saturday, Arpaio had not heard from Trump personally, but said if the president were to call he would advise him to take a lesson from his Arizona adventures.

“If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody, including the president of the United States,” Arpaio said. Alluding to the Russia probe, he said, “He’s been under a lot of fire right now, him and his family, and I’ve been through the fire quite a while.”

[Washington Post]

Trump Says Transgender People Can’t Serve In Military

President Trump has announced that the government will not allow transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, he wrote:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

Transgender people already serve in the military. It’s not immediately clear how Trump intends to implement the ban, but the Pentagon announced Wednesday that it will defer enlistments by transgender applicants.

“Secretary [James] Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement. “The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces.”

In June 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender service members.

As NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reported then, Carter said the key reason for the change was “that the Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

The move was an acknowledgement of the transgender people already in the military. Carter said RAND researchers estimated that “about 25,000 people out of approximately 825,000 reserve service members are transgender, with the upper end of their range of estimates of around 7,000 in the active component and 4,000 in the reserves.”

Trump’s announcement will likely be seen as running counter to a tweet he posted in 2016, in which Trump thanked the LGBT community. “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” he pledged.

The Human Rights Campaign immediately tweeted its disapproval of Trump’s announcement. “Threatening 15K currently serving troops who put their lives at risk is unpatriotic and dangerous,” the LGBTQ rights organization said.

[NPR]

“As a presidential candidate, President Trump said that he “will do everything” to protect LGBT communities from violence, during his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Speaks to ‘Hate Group’ Behind Closed Doors

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave an off-camera speech behind closed doors on Tuesday. As announced on his public schedule, Sessions addressed a crowd at the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty in Orange County, California.

As the news of the scheduled speech traveled, nonprofit advocacy groups and Democrats issued statements asking why the head of the U.S. Department of Justice was speaking at a meeting of a “hate group” — a designation bestowed upon Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016.

“You can judge a person by the company they keep and tonight – Attorney General Jeff Sessions is choosing to spend his time speaking in front of one of the country’s leading anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” Democratic Party spokesperson Joel Kasnetz wrote in a statement emailed to NBC News. “Sessions’ appearance at this event, as the top law enforcement official in the country, brings into question whether the attorney general intends to protect all Americans.”

NBC News asked the Justice Department for comment on the public outcry but did not receive a response. An additional request for comment sent to Alliance Defending Freedom did not receive a reply.

ADF is essentially a powerhouse Christian law firm, defending clients like Masterpiece Cakeshop, the bakery taking its refusal to make a same-sex wedding cake all the way to the Supreme Court. But with millions in its war chest, ADF does more than just litigate: The firm wrote model legislation called the Student Physical Privacy Act that built a foundation for dozens of proposals and policies around the country that are frequently referred to as “bathroom bills.” ADF’s model legislation, and the national trend that stems from it, is aimed at keeping transgender people out of restrooms and other private facilities that correspond to their gender identity and presentation.

Founded in 1994, the Alliance Defending Freedom was a coalition effort between conservative Christian leaders aiming to preserve traditional social norms, restrict access to abortion and fight the “homosexual agenda.” Much of the firm’s early work came in the form of court briefs urging states to keep anti-gay sodomy laws on the books and in fighting attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2003, ADF issued an official statement deriding the “radical homosexual” state policy.

“Radical homosexual activists have made their intentions clear – ‘couples’ will now converge on Massachusetts, ‘marry,’ and return to their respective states and file lawsuits to challenge Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs) and try to force the states to recognize their ‘marriages.’ We are disappointed but we’re going to continue the fight state by state,” longtime ADF president Alan Sears wrote at the time.

The list of anti-LGBTQ remarks by ADF co-founders is long; James C. Dobson wrote an entire book about the gay “culture war” in 2004’s “Marriage Under Fire.” But after a Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal across America, ADF pivoted away from a now-futile fight and toward a new goal: keeping transgender people out of bathrooms.

In April, ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek disputed the idea that the firm’s model legislation — and general motivation — is anti-LGBTQ or harmful to the rights of transgender people.

“The bills protecting privacy are simply ensuring that when it comes to intimate facilities, they are simply limiting them to biological sex. We all have a right to privacy,” Fiedorek said. “Even if you believe you are a man, a woman shouldn’t have to undress in front of you.”

In response to ADF being designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Fiedorek said the latter was “increasingly irrelevant” and “extreme,” saying ADF was the world’s “largest religious freedom legal advocacy organization.”

SPLC’s Heidi Beirich, though, told NBC News in April her organization doesn’t recklessly toss around the hate group label and had good reason to classify ADF as such a group.

“We don’t put a group on the hate list because they are against gay marriage,” Beirich said. “Where the rubber hits the road is when ADF attorneys engage in model legislation and litigation that attacks the LGBT community.”

The Attorney General’s own track record on LGBTQ issues has been cause for concern among LGBTQ advocates, too. When Sessions was confirmed in February, Lambda Legal executive director Rachel Tiven called it a “travesty,” while Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality said the confirmation marked a “deeply distressing day for civil rights.”

[NBC News]

President Trump Condemns ‘Violent Attacks’ in Portland. But Some Say It Took Him Too Long

President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Oregon, light rail train.

“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” Trump said on Twitter. “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, were killed as they tried to stop Jeremy Joseph Christian from harassing the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, authorities say. The attack came on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest time of year for Muslims.

Christian’s social media postings indicate an affinity for Nazis and political violence. He was charged with aggravated murder, intimidation — the state equivalent of a hate crime — and being a felon in possession of a weapon and was scheduled to be in court Tuesday.

Some had called for Trump to respond to the attack earlier, including former CBS broadcaster Dan Rather and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon.

“You must condemn this violent act and encourage Americans to stand together against hatred,” Blumenauer wrote in a letter to the president.

The mother of one of the targets of the rant said she is overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness for the strangers who were stabbed to death when they came to the defense of her daughter, 16-year-old Destinee Mangum.

Dyjuana Hudson posted a photo on her Facebook page Saturday of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, saying: “Thank you thank you thank you. … You will always be our hero. … I’m soooooo sorry this happened.” On Sunday, Hudson posted a video with her daughter saying they were traumatized by the event.

Mangum told news station KPTV that she and her 17-year-old friend were riding the train when Christian started yelling at them. She said her friend is Muslim, but she’s not.

“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country,” Mangum said. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves.”

The teens moved toward the back of the train, preparing to get off at the next stop.

“And then we turned around while they were fighting, and he just started stabbing people, and it was just blood everywhere, and we just started running for our lives,” Mangum said.

Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, also was injured in the attack. The student at Portland State University was hospitalized after being stabbed in the neck, and his girlfriend, Miranda Helm, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Sunday that he was recovering his strength and eating.

Telephone messages left at the home of Christian’s mother Sunday and Monday were not returned. It was not clear if he had a lawyer yet.

Tomica Clark told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she has known Christian since elementary school. She said she was surprised to hear people call Christian a racist. Clark is black and said Christian had a lot of black friends.

“He never disrespected me,” Clark said, but added that he changed after he got out of prison.

“Prison took the real him away,” she said.

[TIME]

White House Grants Press Credentials to a Pro-Trump Blog

The Gateway Pundit, a provocative conservative blog, gained notice last year for its fervent pro-Trump coverage and its penchant for promoting false rumors about voter fraud and Hillary Clinton’s health that rocketed around right-wing websites.

Now the site will report on politics from a prominent perch: the White House.

The Trump administration has granted press credentials to Lucian B. Wintrich, the Washington correspondent for Gateway Pundit, to attend White House press briefings and ask questions of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer.

Mr. Wintrich, an artist and writer who has collaborated with Milo Yiannopoulos, the polarizing editor at Breitbart News, attended President Trump’s news conference with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, on Monday. He was joined by the owner of Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, who posted on Twitter, “President Trump just spoke about tossing criminal migrants and I wanted to stand up and cheer!!”

In a telephone interview from the West Wing, Mr. Wintrich, 28, said he would “be reporting far more fairly than a lot of the very left-wing outlets that are currently occupying the briefing room.” He added, “We will be doing a little trolling of the media in general here.”

Asked what kind of trolling his fellow White House correspondents might want to prepare for, Mr. Wintrich paused. “I don’t want to give too much away,” he said. “We have some pretty solid stuff planned.”

Bloggers and pundits have been granted access to White House briefings in previous administrations, and Mr. Spicer in recent weeks has taken questions from conservative talk-radio hosts and reporters at local broadcast affiliates. But the inclusion of Gateway Pundit has raised concerns that the Trump administration, which has called the news media “the opposition party,’’ is favoring outlets more sympathetic to its views.

On Monday, some journalists complained after Mr. Trump took questions at his news conference only from a local broadcast journalist and a reporter from The Daily Caller, a conservative news site. Neither reporter asked about one of the day’s top stories, the status of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Several inquiries to the White House were not returned on Monday.

Gateway Pundit has been cited by the Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, The Drudge Report, Sarah Palin and other popular conservative personalities and outlets. Last month, the site drew criticism for disseminating a false report that a Washington Post journalist had photographed the written notes of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson during a confirmation hearing. The journalist, who did not attend the hearing, was subsequently harassed with threatening voice mail messages and online attacks.

When asked about the false stories, Mr. Wintrich said: “That is the state of new media. When you are trying to get new information out there as quickly as possible, occasionally you’ll get something wrong and have to fix it. That’s how media works right now.” He said that Gateway Pundit had “broken dozens and dozens more factual stories” but did not offer an example when asked for one.

Mr. Wintrich described himself as a Trump supporter and Goldwater conservative who enjoys “simultaneously trolling both progressives and evangelical conservatives.” He said his aim was “to provide fair coverage from the conservative side.”

On Twitter on Monday, Mr. Wintrich posted a photograph of himself standing behind the White House press room lectern, a White House pass slung around his neck. The post from Mr. Hoft included the hashtag #pepe and an accompanying Pepe emoji, a reference to Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been repurposed as a symbol by white supremacy and anti-Semitic groups.

Mr. Wintrich said the inclusion of the Pepe icon was not meant as anti-Semitic. “My grandfather is Jewish, he fought against the Germans, escaped through the Polish underground,” Mr. Wintrich said.

(h/t New York Times)

Trump: Minnesota Has ‘Suffered Enough’ Accepting Refugees

In a pitch to suspend the nation’s Syrian refugee program, Donald Trump said Minnesotans have “suffered enough” from accepting Somali immigrants into their state.

“Here in Minnesota you have seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state, without your knowledge, without your support or approval,” Trump said at a Minneapolis rally Sunday afternoon.

He said his administration would suspend the Syrian refugee program and not resettle refugees anywhere in the United States without support from the communities, while Hillary Clinton’s “plan will import generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism into your schools and throughout your communities.”

You’ve suffered enough in Minnesota,” he said.

Minnesota is home to nearly one in three Somalis in the United States, according to 2010 American Community Survey data.

Trump’s Minnesota rally came within hours of the FBI announcing its review of newly discovered Clinton emails did not change its original conclusion to not recommend criminal charges. Trump did not address the FBI’s new statement.

(h/t Time)

Trump Touts Texas Official Who Called Clinton a ‘C—’

Donald Trump on Saturday complimented a state official who called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” and cited him as evidence that he’s winning Texas.

“A guy gets on two days ago. Man named Sid Miller,” Trump recalled Saturday morning during a rally here at the Florida State Fairgrounds. “Don’t really know him. Wears a big, beautiful, white cowboy hat. In fact, I wanna find out where he got it. It’s pretty nice.”

“And he said, you know, you folks are getting it all wrong,” Trump continued, referring to polling and other media reports that suggest Clinton could steal Texas, a state long considered safely red.

Miller, the state’s agriculture commissioner and member of a Trump campaign advisory board, posted but quickly deleted a tweet that apparently highlighted polling results in Pennsylvania that showed Trump leading by a percentage point. However, he referred to Clinton as a “c—.”

“PENNSYLVANIA: NEW AUTO ALLIANCE POLL,” he wrote Tuesday. “TRUMP 44 C*** 43.”

After tweeting and then deleting a claim that his account was hacked, Miller said his team had “inadvertently retweeted a tweet” — though the campaign had actually copied and modified a tweet put out a by a popular alt-right account — and apologized for the mishap.

Although Trump claimed not to “really know” Miller, he serves on the campaign’s agriculture advisory committee.

Trump, who leads Clinton by 9 in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey of the state, said his crowds in Texas have numbered 20,000; 22,000 and 15,000.

“Every time I went, we had these massive crowds. They had a line that went so long — the local media’s much more honest than these dishonest guys here,” Trump said. “The local media. And they were showing the line went all the way — it went — literally, it went miles. So then I get back and three weeks ago: ‘Texas is in play. It’s even.’ And I said that’s bad news. Man, I don’t wanna lose Texas. That’s bad news.”

Except for one problem, he added: “We’re killing them in Texas.”

“These lines are four, five, six blocks long,” he boasted. “We’ve never had anything like this in Texas. And let me tell you, all those folks, they’re all voting for Trump. They’re not voting for Hillary. So Texas, we’re just absolutely — we’re doing great in Texas.”

(h/t Politico)

Trump Hosts Surprise Panel with Bill Clinton’s Accusers

Donald Trump, reeling after two days of Republican disavowals and disaffections over a 2005 videotape of him bragging about his ability to get away with sexual assault, attempted to change the subject to his opponent’s husband’s alleged infidelities.

Just 90 minutes before his second debate Sunday night with Hillary Clinton, the GOP nominee held a surprise panel, broadcast live to Facebook, with women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct — in effect, dousing a campaign already on fire with buckets of fresh gasoline and bringing the worst fears of many Republicans to a stunning realization.

Seated beside four women — including Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Kathy Shelton — Trump addressed viewers ahead of the debate, making an issue of the sexual history of Bill Clinton, who is not running for president.

“These four very courageous women have asked to be here, and it was our honor to help them,” Trump said of the women who then excused his comments caught on tape and released on Friday.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Broaddrick. “Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don’t think there’s anything worse.”

Broaddrick once signed an affadavit saying Clinton did not in fact rape her, but later recanted.

Standing in the back of the Four Seasons Hotel ballroom were Trump’s closest aides, including Breitbart publisher Steve Bannon and David Bossie, who have made a career — on the fringes of conservative politics — out of attacking the Clintons.

The surprise roundtable and the tawdriness of the subject is unprecedented in presidential politics, especially on the eve of a debate.

Trump, whose campaign has long tested a fragile Republican coalition that now is undeniably in tatters, is responding to a 48-hour period in which he saw dozens of GOP officeholders pull their endorsements after the video recording that showed him bragging to TV host Billy Bush about his ability to get away with “grab[bing women] by the pussy.”

Ever defiant amidst calls that he surrender the nomination and step aside, Trump is instead engaging in a scorched-earth assault that is only likely to further erode his diminished standing with women voters with potentially devastating consequences for the Republican Party, which is now bracing itself for more sweeping losses down the ballot.

Clinton, who has taken a few days off the campaign trail to prepare for the second debate and the very likelihood of such an attack from Trump, has said very little publicly since the lewd videotape came to light on Friday.

Her campaign, however, issued a statement roughly an hour before the debate began characterizing Trump’s publicity stunt as an act of desperation.

“We’re not surprised to see Donald Trump continue his destructive race to the bottom,” said Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri. “Hillary Clinton understands the opportunity in this town hall is to talk to voters on stage and in the audience about the issues that matter to them, and this stunt doesn’t change that.

“If Donald Trump doesn’t see that, that’s his loss. As always, she’s prepared to handle whatever Donald Trump throws her way.”

(h/t Politico)

Reality

Donald Trump is asking you to ignore the actual recorded words he said 10 years ago, but to pay attention to the allegations of women against the spouse of his political opponent 20-30 years ago.

Media

CBS News

Mother and Daughter With Disabilities Bullied By Trump Supporters At Rally

A young mother says she and her seven-year-old daughter with disabilities had to be escorted out of a Donald Trump rally by Secret Service officers after they were bullied by supporters.

Jennifer Mau went to the Republican nominee’s event in Loveland, Colorado on Monday night, saying she was curious what he would say about people with disabilities.

The mom, who is an undecided voter, said she decided to leave after about 20 minutes.

‘I just wanted to see what a (Trump) rally would be like, because I’ve watched them all over the country,’ she told KMGH.

But once Mau got up to leave with her daughter – who was born with multiple birth defects, including facial anomalies, and no jawbone or ears – that’s when she says the trouble started.

‘Somebody said, “why are you leaving”, and basically that struck a nerve and I said, “why are you here”, because it was all handicapped people, and I said, “why are you here, he makes fun of people like you”.’

She went on to say once she did decide to leave, a woman began following her and hurling abuse at her.

‘She was screaming and yelling at me, saying that if I loved my daughter I would vote for Trump and I need to get educated because he didn’t mock somebody on purpose.

‘It made me sad, it made me want to vomit. Chloe is my life, my heart, I live to advocate for Chloe, to be there for her.’

Mau also said other people at the event said her young girl was beautiful as she left.

Trump has been slammed for mocking a New York Times reporter who has a disability at a rally in South Carolina last November.

The Republican did an impression of Serge Kovaleski – a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who was born with arthrogryposis – that included him putting on a bizarre voice and flailing his limbs around.

Arthrogryposis can cause sufferers’ joints to get stuck in one position and can also see people born with weaker or missing muscles.

(h/t The Daily Mail)

Media

Trump Supporter Punched and Choked Protesters at North Carolina Rally

A man was captured on video appearing to choke a man and slap a woman who were with a group of protesters at a Donald Trump rally in Asheville, North Carolina on Monday.

The man, who was unidentified, was not arrested and was allowed to stay at the rally while the protesters were ejected from the event, CNN reports.

Prior to the incident, the protesters directed “an obscene gesture” in the direction of Trump, according to The Guardian.

The incident is the first instance of violence in months. During the primary season, there were multiple instances of violence at rallies, both among supporters and protesters.

Last month, the New York Times published a roughly three-minute video showcasing some of the obscenities hurled in the massive crowds in and around Donald Trump’s rallies.

At a Republican presidential debate in March, the brash billionaire said he doesn’t condone violence at his rallies, but at a previous event a month prior, Trump said of a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

(h/t Business Insider)

Reality

Trump, on multiple occasions, has defended violence against protesters, encouraged violence against protesters, and promised violence. It stands to reason that it is Trump’s actions and behavior that creates an environment where violence against protesters is acceptable.

Media

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