Trump Takes Credit for Obama’s Border Wall

On Friday, President Donald Trump stood in front of recently-refurbished border wall along the California-Mexico border and boasted that it was the beginning of construction on the wall he promised voters in the 2016 campaign. And Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen installed commemorative plaque bearing Trump’s name last fall along that section of the fencing, declaring it “the first section of President Trump’s border wall.”

Except, wait: That particular section of wall was actually just a replacement of fence that had been there for decades. And the refurbishment was approved during the Barack Obama administration in 2009. The funding for Trump’s border wall, meanwhile, is still tied up in Congress.

“We just wanted to get out in front of it and let everybody know that this is a local tactical infrastructure project that was planned for quite some time,” David Kim, assistant chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, told the Desert Sun, adding that he wanted to ensure “there is no confusion about whether… this is tied to some of the bigger immigration debates that are currently going on.”

A recent federal court victory allowed the Trump administration to move forward with replacing the fencing thanks to a federal ruling allowing them to bypass environmental laws to speed construction. And the president boastfully tweeted about it recently, again claiming it was part of “the Wall.”

It’s a classic Trumpian move: claim credit for something that was actually President Obama’s doing. He’s done it with the economy and jobs, and now with the border wall.

[Rolling Stone]

Trump Curses Out Democrats on Live Television: ‘Defrauding the Public With Ridiculous Bullsh*t!’

As President Donald Trump tore into the Russia investigations throughout his frenzied speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday night, he surely offended television censors at one point by cursing out Democrats for their “ridiculous bullshit.”

“So the Russia hoax proves more than ever that we need to finish exactly what we came here to do: Drain the swamp,” Trump said to wild cheers. He then exclaimed: “The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigations, or ways they will apologize to the American people and it join us to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.”

Never a dull moment.

[Mediaite]

Trump Mocks and Jeers Media, Calls For Revenge as Crowd Chants ‘Lock Them Up!’

At President Donald Trump‘s rally in Michigan on Tuesday he went after the media hard several times over the Russia investigation and the Mueller report. At one point, he mocked cable news for slumping ratings and called Rep. Adam Schiff, “Little pencil neck.”

Referring to the media and Democrats and “deep state” together, Trump said “this group of major losers did not just ruthlessly attack me, my family, and everyone who questioned their lies. They tried to divide our country, to poison the national debate, and to tear up the fabric of our great democracy, the greatest anywhere in the world.”

“They did it all because they refused to accept the results of one of the greatest presidential elections, probably number one in our history.”

“Many people were badly hurt by this scam, but more importantly our country was hurt. Our country was hurt. And they’re on artificial respirators right now. They’re getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff,” he said, pausing for a crowd reaction. “He has the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen. He is not a long ball hitter.”

He mocked Schiff’s voice, saying “there still could have been some Russia collision,” and then, describing Schiff, said, “Sick. Sick.

He brought up Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and the committee investigations and added, “These people are sick.”

“Sick. Every single deal, every single paper. All of the Democrat politicians. The media bosses. Bad people. The crooked journalists, the totally dishonest TV pundits — and by the way, they know it’s not true. They just got great ratings,” he said. “By the way, their ratings dropped through the floor last night, did you see that?”

There was another big crowd reaction, but it was even bigger as he praised Fox News hosts and their ratings.

“Our friends — Tucker, Sean, Laura — through the roof last night,” he said.

He then said that everyone who “perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics, they have to be — I’m sorry — they have to be accountable.”

The crowd then began chanting “lock them up” and “lock her up” mixed together.

“Just think of it. A fake dirty dossier, millions and millions of dollars paid for it. By who? Crooked Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the Democrat party,” he said. The crowd booed and there were some renewed “lock her up” chants.

“They failed in one way. Can you believe it? Maybe I got lucky. They published and printed all of these horrible law lies, they couldn’t get any of the media to print it. Thank you very much, I appreciate it. You never know.”

He then gave the media “a lot of credit” for not publishing news about the dossier prior to the election, though there were no cheers for them from the crowd for that.

[Mediaite]

Trump Shares Clip of Fox Host Saying POTUS Has Every Right to Call ‘Fake News’ the ‘Enemy of the American People’

Donald Trump tweeted a clip of Fox News host Jesse Watters complaining about news outlets covering the White House unfavorably, and declaring that Trump “has every right to say that fake news is the enemy of the American people.

Trump continues to serve as Fox News Social Media Intern-in-Chief by posting clips from the network whose own Twitter feed has gone dark for months. On Tuesday evening, he promoted a clip from The Five, which featured Jesse Watters going on a rant about how the press covers Trump.

Watters began by accusing media companies of having a “profit motive” for “crusading” against Trump by, for example, having “reporters up Trump’s you-know-what 24/7.”

News outlets have dedicated multiple reporters to White House coverage for many decades, forming a press “corps,” if you will.

He went on to say that the presidents of CNN and MSNBC “hate this president, and they’re going on a 24-hour news cycle against him.”

Cable news networks have been covering the news 24 hours a day for several decades, as well, a format pioneered by CNN.

Watters then accused the social media networks of “deplatforming conservatives,” then rattled off some of Trump’s approval numbers probably, predicted Trump is “probably on the way to winning a second term,” but bitterly observed that “the media calls this guy a lying mentally ill racist who needs to be imprisoned or impeached.”

“It is so unfair and disgusting what is happening right now, he has every right to say ‘fake news’ is the enemy of the American people.”

Trump thanked Watters, and added “could not have said it any better myself!”, perhaps because Trump has actually said so himself dozens of times:

[Mediaite]

Trump Warns of ‘Invasion’ on U.S. Border After Condemning New Zealand Mosque Shooting

President Donald Trump railed against illegal immigration on the southern border on Friday, after condemning the mass shooting at a New Zealand Mosque.

Speaking to reporters at the signing for his first veto, which struck down an attempt to reject his national emergency declaration, Trump spoke about the shooting carried out at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The gunman, who killed 49 worshipers in his attack, decried Muslims as “invaders” in a manifesto posted online.

Trump called the shooting a “horrible, horrible thing,” and said he offered support to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, before pivoting to his immigration veto.

“We’re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders,” Trump said. “People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is. It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people. We have no idea who they are.”

Trump has frequently compared illegal immigration into the United States to an “invasion.” He ramped up use of the term before the midterm elections in November 2018, when he warned of a migrant caravan approaching the southern border from Central America.

The Australian gunman, who killed 49 and wounded dozens more at two mosques in Christchurch, posted on fringe message board 8chan before launching his attack. He wrote that he planned to carry out “an attack against the invaders.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Again Denies White Nationalism is Rising Threat

Donald Trump said he did not view white nationalism as a rising threat around the world, as New Zealand is reeling from a white supremacist attack on two mosques that killed 49 people.

Asked by a reporter on Friday if he saw an increase globally in the threat of white nationalism, the US president responded: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess, if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s a case. I don’t know enough about it yet.”

There have been more than a dozen deadly white supremacist attacks across the globe in the last eight years. In Norway in 2011, 77 people were killed in a bomb attack and shooting that targeted a youth camp of the country’s Labor party. The shooter said he wanted to prevent an “invasion of Muslims”.

A shooter with anti-Muslim views killed six people during evening prayers at a Quebec City mosque in 2017. The gunman said he feared refugees would kill his family.

Later that year, in London’s Finsbury Park, a man shouting “I want to kill all Muslims” drove a van into worshippers outside a mosque, killing one and injuring twelve others.

In the US, violence by far-right attackers has surged since Trump took office. There has been a documented rise in anti-Muslim hate groups in the country in the last three years, and the FBI has reported a steady increase in reports of hate crimes. Last year, a shooter with far-right views killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The suspected perpetrator of the massacre during Friday prayers in New Zealand had posted online before the attack and displayed white supremacist symbols on his weapons during the killings.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, described the carnage as one of the country’s “darkest days”.

Ardern told reporters on Saturday that she did not agree with Trump’s assessment that white supremacy wasn’t a growing problem.

Ardern also said she had spoken to Trump following the attack in Christchurch. Responding to a question from the president about what he could do after the attack, she asked him to show all Muslim communities “sympathy and love”.

“He acknowledged that and agreed,” Ardern said.

Ardern said she and Trump had not discussed reports that the suspect, Brenton Tarrant, had mentioned the president in an anti-Muslim manifestohe posted online before the attacks.

Trump made the remarks about white supremacy at the Oval Office while announcing his decision to overrule Congress in his effort to protect his declaration of a national emergency and secure funds for a US-Mexico border wall.

Announcing his veto, the president said, “People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is.”

Trump’s claims about immigration trends and an “invasion” are similarly unsupported by facts. Unauthorized border crossings have declined dramatically since record highs in the early years of the 21st century.

Trump, who proposed a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US during his 2015 campaign, has a history of sparking widespread criticisms for his response to far-right violence.

In 2017, he said there were “very fine people on both sides” after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

[The Guardian]

Reality

Right-wing extremism in the United States appears to be growing. The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017. The recent pipe bombs and the October 27, 2018, synagogue attack in Pittsburgh are symptomatic of this trend. 

Trump Deletes Tweet Promoting Breitbart After Interview Derided for Suggesting Violence

President Donald Trump, or more likely his social media team, have deleted a Thursday tweet that linked to Breitbart.com featuring an exclusive interview that had been widely criticized for the promotion of violence.

In the Wednesday interview, Trump seemed to threaten that things will get “very bad” if his supporters in the military, police, and motorcycle clubs decide to start playing “tough.”  The now-deleted tweet was posted at 10:05 PM EDT.

Seeing as the tweet came after news of the mass shooting of Muslims worshiping at a Christchurch, New Zealand mosque that resulted in the deaths of roughly 50 individuals, many commentators saw this particular response as inappropriate.

Given the volume of Trump tweets, it is a relatively uncommon occasion that President Trump deletes a tweet, and most often the reason for deletion is an obvious and sometimes embarrassing typo. But the tweeting of the website — that features a recently published article that ostensibly warns his detractors of Trump supporters getting “tough” — was considered beyond the pale for White House social media monitors (and perhaps even Mr. Trump) and therefore taken down.

So far the White House has not yet commented or given a reason for the deletion of this tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump Promotes Fox & Friends Segment With ‘Jexodus’ Activist Claiming Democratic Party is Anti-Semitic

President Donald Trump touted the Fox & Friends appearance of an activist calling for Jewish Americans to walk away from the Democratic party.

“Jexodus,” clearly inspired by Candace Owens‘s “Blexit” gimmick, was announced in the wake of controversial comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) that were condemned by members of her own party as anti-Semitic.

Elizabeth Pipko, a former Trump campaign staffer and a spokesperson for Jexodus, joined Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy in criticizing Democrats for passing a general anti-hate resolution instead of a specific resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

“They are the party of anti-Semitism,” Pipko said, echoing the president.

And the president was watching. He tweeted a fake quote from Pipko, which was really just a selective collection of her comments poorly transcribed and smashed together:

In Pipko’s interview, Doocy pointed out that in 2016, Hillary Clinton got 71% of the Jewish vote, while Trump got 24%. He asked if she saw that changing in 2020.

Pipko replied that Jexodus is realistic but optimistic. When pressed by Ainsley Earhardt as the why Jews don’t support Trump, Pipko made a confession about Jewish Democrats: “I don’t think they’re going to change.”

[Mediaite]

State Dept. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump

Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist, has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. In January, the U.S. State Department took notice, telling Aro she would be honored with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, to be presented in Washington by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Weeks later, the State Department rescinded the award offer. A State Department spokesperson said it was due to a “regrettable error,” but Aro and U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations tell a different story. They say the department revoked her award after U.S. officials went through Aro’s social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized President Donald Trump.

“It created a shitstorm of getting her unceremoniously kicked off the list,” said one U.S. diplomatic source familiar with the internal deliberations. “I think it was absolutely the wrong decision on so many levels,” the source said. The decision “had nothing to do with her work.”

The State Department spokesperson said in an email that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she had been chosen for the award and that it was a mistake that resulted from “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.”

“We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” the spokesperson said. 

Aro received a formal invitation to the award ceremony not from the embassy but from the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol on Feb. 12. 

There is no indication that the decision to revoke the award came from the secretary of state or the White House. Officials who spoke to FP have suggested the decision came from lower-level State Department officials wary of the optics of Pompeo granting an award to an outspoken critic of the Trump administration. The department spokesperson did not respond to questions on who made the decision or why. 

To U.S. officials who spoke to FP, the incident underscores how skittish some officials—career and political alike—have become over government dealings with vocal critics of a notoriously thin-skinned president. The Trump administration has barred the hiring of prominent Republican foreign-policy experts who publicly denounced the president during the 2016 election season, including some who have since walked back their criticisms. As another example, Trump himself last year revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who regularly castigates the president on Twitter, and threatened to follow suit with other former national security officials who did the same. 

In the minds of some diplomats, this has created an atmosphere where lower-level officials self-censor dealings with critics of the administration abroad, even without senior officials weighing in.

Aro said the decision to cancel her award and corresponding trip to the United States caught her completely by surprise.

“[When] I was informed about the withdrawal out of the blue, I felt appalled and shocked,” Aro told FP. “The reality in which political decisions or presidential pettiness directs top U.S. diplomats’ choices over whose human rights work is mentioned in the public sphere and whose is not is a really scary reality.”

Aro is a prolific Twitter user and was originally chosen for the award because of her investigative work exposing Russian troll factories. She often debunks misinformation spread online and comments on major news events related to propaganda and election interference, including Brexit and the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into links between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign. She has regularly tweeted criticism about Trump’s sharp political rhetoric and attacks on the press. Aro also helped organize a demonstration in Helsinki when the Finnish capital hosted a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018.

“I use Twitter to exchange ideas and share information freely,” Aro said. “I find the idea of U.S. government officials stalking my Twitter and politicizing my perfectly normal expressions of opinion deeply disturbing.”

After first being notified she would get the award, Aro filled out forms and questionnaires at the request of officials and cancelled paid speaking engagements to travel to Washington to attend the March 7 ceremony in Washington. The State Department also sent her an official invitation to accept the award and planned an itinerary for a corresponding tour of the United States, complete with flights and high-profile visits to newspapers and universities across the country.

Since 2007, the State Department has held an annual award ceremony honoring women around the world who “have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice,” according to the department’s website.

This year, the award is being given to Razia Sultana of Bangladesh; Naw K’nyaw Paw of Myanmar; Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti; Magda Gobran-Gorgi (“Mama Maggie”) of Egypt; Col. Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan; Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland; Olivera Lakic of Montenegro; Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru; Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka; and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.

The awards “demonstrate the United States commitment to gender equality, social inclusion, and advancing the global status of women and girls from all backgrounds across sectors as part of our foreign policy,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Pompeo will host the ceremony honoring the awardees on Thursday morning. First lady Melania Trump is also expected to attend and speak at the ceremony.

In 2014, Aro pursued reporting on a Russian troll factory in St. Petersburg that aimed to alter western public opinions. Long before the U.S. elections in 2016, which propelled Russian disinformation campaigns to the spotlight, she unearthed evidence of a state-sanctioned propaganda machine trying to shape online discourse and spread disinformation. After she published her investigation, Russian nationalist websites and pro-Moscow outlets in Finland coordinated smear campaigns against her, accusing her at times of being a Western intelligence agent and drug dealer, and bombarding her with anonymous abusive messages. She also received death threats.

Aro won the Finnish Grand Prize for Journalism in 2016 for her investigative work, and in 2018, she successfully sued the founder of MV-Lehti, a far-right, pro-Russian website in Finland, for defamation and negligence after it published offensive content about her following her initial investigation.

In late February, Aro submitted a letter drafted by her lawyer to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki asking for justification about why her award was rescinded at the last minute and who made the decision. The letter also reserved the right to seek damages, due to Aro having to cancel paid speaking events that would have conflicted with Thursday’s award ceremony.

Aro said the embassy has not yet responded to the letter.

[Foreign Policy]

Trump accuses Spike Lee of ‘racist hit’ against him in Oscars acceptance speech

President Donald Trump started his Monday by blasting director Spike Lee as “racist” in an early morning tweet following Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony.

Trump said Lee’s acceptance speech amounted to a “racist hit” against him.



Lee won his first Oscar Sunday night when “BlacKkKlansman” won best adapted screenplay (an award he shared with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott.)

In his acceptance speech, Lee referred to his family’s history in the U.S., which he said could be traced to the first slaves being brought over from Africa.

“Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people,” Lee said. “We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love and wisdom regained, we will regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment.”

He added that the 2020 presidential election was just “around the corner.”

“Let’s all mobilize,” he continued. “Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there.”

Lee did not mention Trump by name in his address.

“BlacKkKlansman” is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Taking place in the 1970s, Stallworth, alongside a veteran white colleague, Flip Zimmerman, set out to infiltrate and take down the Ku Klux Klan.

“BlacKkKlansman” is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Taking place in the 1970s, Stallworth, alongside a veteran white colleague, Flip Zimmerman, set out to infiltrate and take down the Ku Klux Klan.

The conclusion of the film features footage from the August 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a group of neo-Nazis and alt-right activists marched against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The marchers chanted slogans like “Jews will not replace us,” and one attendee drove into a group of counter-protesters, killing one.

The film then included Trump’s response to that rally, when he said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence.

“You had some very bad people in that group,” Trump said. “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Lee has been sharply critical of Trump during his presidency, nicknaming the president “Agent Orange” and saying Trump is “a man of hate, violence, and can’t be trusted to make moral decisions.”

[NBC News]

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