Trump says U.S. will stand by Saudi Arabia, despite CIA’s conclusion about Khashoggi killing

President Trump vowed to stand by Saudi Arabia, whatever the CIA concludes about the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Trump released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying, “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

He added, “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi…the United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”

The CIA has intelligence substantiating an assessment that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing. The CIA’s assessment appeared to be largely based on the control held by bin Salman. In other words, the thinking is the murder could not have been carried out without the knowledge of bin Salman, often referred to by his initials, MBS.

A U.S. intelligence official says the president has been provided with the intelligence community’s assessment on the matter.

Mr. Trump conceded that the “crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone.” And he said the U.S. has taken “strong action” against alleged participants, pointing to the recent sanctions announced against 17 Saudis “known to have been involved.”

But he allowed that “representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.” However, he added, “[M]y decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.”

The president argued that the relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital to U.S. interests and national security and important to the U.S. economy. The president pointed to Iran as a force to be kept in check — and Saudi Arabia’s role in helping do that.

Mr. Trump also repeated assertions that the Kingdom agreed to spend $450 billion in the U.S., with $110 billion to be spent on military equipment from U.S. defense contractors.

“If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business,” the statement said. “It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”

The president also said that he understood there were lawmakers in Congress “who would like to go in a different direction — and they are free to do so.” He said he would consider ideas presented to him, “but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.”

On Saturday, the president had said his administration would release a “full report” on Khashoggi’s death in the next two days. But three days later, his administration has no details on what such a report will entail or when it would be released — or even confirmation that such a report exists.

[CBS News]

White House Tells CNN They’ll Revoke Acosta’s Press Credential Once Restraining Order Passes

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported in Sunday night’s Reliable Sources newsletter that the White House intends to revoke the Press Credential of CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta at the end of the month.

Judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered, on Friday, that Acosta’s “hard pass” be returned immediately. Kelly found that Acosta’s First Amendment rights superseded the White House’s right to hold orderly press conferences.

The ruling only represented a temporary “victory” for CNN and Acosta according to Stelter’s reporting (emphasis his):

After CNN won a temporary restraining order on Friday, forcing the White House to restore his press pass for 14 days, White House officials sent Acosta a letter stating that his pass is set to be suspended again once the restraining order expires.

From the looks of the letter, the W.H. is trying to establish a paper trail that will empower the administration to boot Acosta again at the end of the month.

CNN responded with this statement on Sunday: “The White House is continuing to violate the First and 5th Amendments of the Constitution. These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the President.”

Acosta’s press credential had been revoked, reportedly at the direction of President Donald Trump, after a contentious White House press conference in which the CNN reporter persisted in asking follow-up questions and refused to give up a microphone despite Trump’s direction.

Supporters of Trump’s banning of Acosta believe that his disruptive behavior flouted accepted standards of White House decorum, while CNN and Acosta supporters point out disruptive questions are a time-honored journalist tradition. Or put another way, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

So it seems the ongoing war over First Amendment rights versus accepted standards of behavior will feature another battle, which will bring another distracting topic for cable news pundits to discuss at length. It’s almost as its a designed distraction from stories that paint the Trump administration in a less than flattering light?

UPDATE: CNN has responded by filed a status report asking for the Court to intervene. BuzzFeed News’ Zoe Tillman reports:

[Mediaite]

Sarah Sanders: ‘If Certain Reporters Like Jim Acosta Can’t Be Adults,’ Then CNN Should Send Someone Who Can Be

Sarah Huckabee Sanders took another shot at CNN’s Jim Acosta tonight in an interview on Hannity with… Mike Huckabee.

The White House Press Secretary’s father began the interview by asking her about the protocol for decorum being worked on after the judge’s ruling in Acosta’s favor today.

Sanders said the White House supports a free press, but added that “freedom of the press doesn’t mean freedom to be disruptive, freedom to be rude, freedom to interrupt.”

She claimed that they sent CNN a letter tonight laying out “what we think were some of the missteps that their reporter made at the press conference… and we expect to see a response from that.”

In an interview today, the President himself said, after the ruling, if Acosta “misbehaves” they’ll throw him out again. And Sanders said they don’t want reporters to be “disruptive” and impede anyone’s ability to do their jobs.

When her father asked her about the protocol put in place, Sanders said there are “standard practices” they want addressed, and that “the very basic minimum is that if certain reporters like Jim Acosta can’t be adults, then CNN needs to send somebody in there who can be.”

[Mediaite]

Trump on Acosta: ‘If he misbehaves we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference’

President Trump brushed off a federal judge’s Friday ruling that the White House must reinstate press credentials for Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent.

The president also said during an interview set to air on “Fox News Sunday” that if Acosta “misbehaves” at a future press conference the White House could “throw him out.”

“Yeah, it’s fine. I mean, it’s not a big deal,” Trump told Fox News’s Chris Wallace when asked about the ruling Friday to reinstate Acosta’s press pass after it was revoked last week.

“What they said though is that we have to create rules and regulations for conduct, etc., etc. We’re doing that, were going to write them up right now,” Trump continued. “It’s not a big deal. And if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.”

The White House stripped Acosta of his press pass last week following a fiery exchange with the president during a press conference, with the CNN reporter holding on to the microphone to continue asking questions when an intern attempted to take it away.

“We had a lot of reporters in that room, many, many reporters in that room and they were unable to ask questions because this guy gets up and starts you know doing what he’s supposed to be doing for him and for CNN and you know just shouting out questions and making statements, too,” Trump said Friday.

“But I will say this, look, nobody believes in the First Amendment more than I do, and if I think somebody is acting out of sorts, I will leave. I will say, ‘thank you very much everybody, I appreciate you coming,’ and I’ll leave,” he added.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, ordered the White House on Friday to restore Acosta’s press pass, giving him regular access to the White House grounds to cover events and press conferences.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration would abide by the judge’s ruling, but staff “will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”

Kelly argued in his ruling that the White House violated Acosta and CNN’s Fifth Amendment rights to due process by kicking Acosta out, but did not say their First Amendment rights to free speech were infringed.

Trump and Acosta engaged in a tense exchange during the televised press conference last week after the reporter pushed Trump on his comments criticizing a group of Central American migrants making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

As Acosta continued to press the president, a White House intern attempted to take the microphone away. Acosta did not let go, with his hand brushing against the intern.

After the press conference, Sanders accused Acosta of “placing his hands” on the intern and cited the incident as the reason for why his media access was being revoked.

In court Friday, Kelly said the White House’s characterization was likely untrue.

Acosta and CNN argued that the press pass was revoked because the administration didn’t like the questions Acosta asked.

[CNN]

Trump Returns To Bashing The Migrant Caravan, Calling It A ‘Big Con’

After a brief respite from attacking the migrant caravan traveling to the U.S. border, President Donald Trump slammed it again Friday, calling it a “con” because the travelers were waving flags from their own countries.

Trump relentlessly lashed out at the caravan during his flurry of campaign appearances stumping for Republican candidates ahead of the midterm elections. He also dispatched 5,200 U.S. troops to the border.

But then he was uncharacteristically mum on the issue after the GOP lost control of the U.S. House to the Democrats. Voter exit polls revealed that Americans were more concerned about health care than immigration, suggesting that Trump may have overplayed his caravan hand.

But he was back at it Friday on Twitter. Trump tweeted that it was “ironic” that people seeking asylum in the U.S. were waving the flags of their countries. He said it was proof that their search for safety in America was “all a BIG CON.”

Several responses pointed out that it is possible to love one’s country yet be fearful enough to leave during dangerous times — or to have very mixed feelings about a nation and its government.

[Huffington Post]

Trump Boasts About Midterms in Which GOP Took Heavy Losses: ‘Epic Victory’

President Donald Trump declared the 2018 midterm elections an “epic victory” for the GOP on Twitter today, as he pimped out the two Senate seats earned by Republicans and attacked the media for focusing on Democrats taking the House.

“People are not being told that the Republican Party is on track to pick up two seats in the U.S. Senate, and epic victory: 53 to 47,” Trump tweeted this afternoon.

He then criticized the presiding media narrative on the midterms, which is that Democrats etched out a win since they took the House: “The Fake News Media only wants to speak of the House, where the Midterm results were better than other sitting Presidents.”

Trump has called the midterms a victory in the past.

Before many of the results had even come in, the president took to Twitter: “Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!”

[Mediaite]

Trump says decreasing media favorability is a ‘great achievement’ of his presidency

Donald Trump said Wednesday that one of his great achievements as president is lowering the media’s favorability among Americans, claiming a victory in his crusade against what he considers unfair press coverage at the same time that CNN is suing his administration to restore one of its reporter’s revoked White House credentials.

The president, in an interview with the Daily Caller on Wednesday, said he believes Americans are starting to see many media outlets — Trump named CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC — as “fake news.”

“You look at what’s going on with the fake news and the people get it,” the president said. “And you know, they had a very high approval rating before I became president and I think it’s actually a great achievement of mine.”

“Their approval rating now is down as low as just about anybody,” the president continued.

The president has long had a contentious relationship with media, often labeling press coverage he does not like as “fake news.” Egged on by the president, supporters at Trump’s rallies also heckle reporters, sometimes chanting “CNN sucks.” Trump also argued at a press conference last week with CNN‘s Jim Acosta, refusing to answer the reporter’s questions in an exchange that prompted the administration to revoke Acosta’s press credentials. CNN has since filed a lawsuit against the president and other top White House officials to have those credentials returned.

Fifty-five percent of Americans trust national news networks, according to a Poynter Media Trust Survey released in August. In regards to national newspapers, 59 percent trust them, with 47 percent trusting online-only organizations.

Trump also claimed that media approval rating is “much lower than your president.”

The president’s approval rating is at 43.2 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, which takes the average of nine major polls. That same polling average showed a 52.9 percent disapproval of Trump’s handling of the presidency.

“I actually have good approval ratings, which nobody ever writes,” he said.

[Politico]

Trump: Don’t Forget That Mueller Probe Is A Total, Raging, Screaming Witch Hunt

How could we forget? Well, Donald Trump has been relatively quiet about the Robert Mueller probe lately, perhaps because of his work with his legal team in answering Mueller’s questions in writing. This morning, however, Trump let his anger out for an early morning walk in the Twitter neighborhood:

Actually, Mueller worked for Obama for four-plus years, and only two by dint of an Obama decision. George W. Bush appointed Mueller as director of the FBI in mid-2001 (and started one week before 9/11, in fact), but Obama extended it by two years after his ten-year term expired. That decision was met by unanimous acclaim in the Senate, with the only concern raised — briefly — by Chuck Grassley over the precedent it would set rather than any issue with Mueller’s performance. Between his eventual departure in September 2013 and his June 2017 appointment as special counsel, Mueller worked in the private sector at Stanford, the law firm WilmerHale, and then Booz Allen Hamilton — not for Obama.

Most media outlets wondered what prompted the sudden reversion to offense, but no one’s taking it seriously. Politico just recaps the Mueller-Trump relationship while noting the “revive[d] personal attacks.” The New York Times points out Trump’s being “relatively quiet about the investigation” of late, and also that his legal team had reportedly urged him to quit attacking Mueller on Twitter.

The catalyst for this morning’s eruption is likely the attacks on his choice for acting AG, Matt Whitaker. That’s the Washington Post’s take as well:

Trump’s rant, in a pair of morning tweets, came a week after the installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general, a move many Democrats have said appears designed to curtail Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election.

Trump angrily dismissed a reporter’s question about that notion last week and said he had not spoken to Whitaker about the Russia probe before naming him to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Many of Trump’s complaints in Thursday’s tweets were familiar, but they took on heightened significance with Whitaker now overseeing Mueller’s probe, which is also examining whether Trump has obstructed justice.

Is Whitaker actually overseeing the probe, though? So far that’s still Rod Rosenstein, with Whitaker overseeing Rosenstein. Courts will likely weigh in on whether Whitaker can oversee anything, but at least there’s been no indication of a transfer of that portfolio to this point.

All of this is likely much ado about nothing, anyway. There is a slim chance that Mueller will pull a smoking gun out of his report, but it’s far more likely that he’ll have little impact on Trump in the end. Columbia professor Lincoln Mitchell argues for Reuters that even drawing lines between Trump and the Kremlin won’t result in any action:

Trump has succeeded in making the Mueller investigation so partisan an issue that whatever Mueller has found, or will find in the future, will have little effect other than reinforcing existing views among voters and lawmakers. It is unlikely that anything, even evidence of criminal activity, beyond the campaign finance violations Cohen cited in connection with Trump, will change this.

Trump has never been a very popular president, but his support has been quite stable in the face of revelations that one might expect to influence public opinion. From the time he was inaugurated through the recent midterms, according to Gallup’s weekly polling, his popularity was always between 35 and47 percent, with fluctuations that were not particularly correlated to Russia-related revelations. By comparison, for a similar period, Obama’s ranged from 44 and69 percent and Bush’s from 51 and 90 percent. Trump’s numbers suggest that while he is never going to be well-liked by most Americans, there is a floor of about 35 percent that is not going to abandon him.

That base of 35 percent is significant because it roughly translates into more than 35 Republican senators whose voters like Trump and will continue to back him. The presence of those senators and their constituents’ unflappable support for the president is the guarantor that he will not be removed from office by Congress. Regardless of what Mueller finds, even if the Democratic House votes to impeach Trump, there seems to be zero chance that two-thirds of the Senate will cast the decisive vote required by the Constitution.

I’d guess, based on the process-crimes and old-news indictments generated by the Mueller probe thus far, that his final report won’t even be as significant as Mitchell presumes. He’s correct, though, in his assessment of what it would take to impeach and remove Trump at this point, in part because of Trump’s relentless campaign to cast the probe as a partisan “witch hunt.” If all Mueller has is a dumb decision by Don Jr and Jared Kushner to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya at the Trump Tower and campaign-finance violations over payoffs to former paramours, it won’t go much of anywhere in the Senate — and maybe not even an impeachment in the House.

[HotAir]

Trump Warns Antifa: The Opposition Can Be ‘Much More Violent’

President Donald Trump‘s interview with the Daily Caller has provided little in the way of news from what has been released so far, but more than enough weird comments from our very weird commander in chief. Among them, an ominous threat to Antifa, the group of radical left wing activists who protested outside Tucker Carlson‘s home last week.

“These people, like the Antifa — they better hope that the opposition to Antifa decides not to mobilize,” Trump told the Daily Caller when asked about the group. “Because if they do, they’re much tougher. Much stronger.”

“Potentially much more violent,” he continued. “And Antifa’s going to be in big trouble. But so far they haven’t done that and that’s a good thing.”

The website, which was founded by Carlson, asked Trump about the recent protests outside the Fox News host’s home, which police are investigating.

“I spoke to Tucker,” Trump replied. “I think Tucker’s a great guy — and I think it’s terrible. They were actually trying to break down [Tucker’s] door.”

The interview was conducted by the Caller’s star White House reporter Saagar Enjeti, as well as, inexplicably, Benny Johnson, Washington D.C.’s worst reporter. Johnson posted a tweet after the interview that sought to combat recent reports that Trump’s post-midterm mood is dour. The tweet also promised “BIG NEWS,” which we await with baited breath.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump Thinks You Need ID To Buy Cereal

President Donald Trump expressed the extent of his knowledge on voter ID laws Wednesday when he said that buying a box of cereal requires identification.

As midterm election votes for the governor of Georgia continue to be counted, along with a recount of votes for governor and Senate positions in Florida, Trump has baselessly claimed that Democratic operatives are attempting to steal the election. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) himself said late last week that there was no evidence of voter fraud.

 

He doubled down in an interview with The Daily Caller on Wednesday when he called for more voter ID laws.

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump said, without evidence. “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

He then added, “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, which The Daily Caller did a very thorough job of not doing. Is the president saying buying cereal requires identification? Maybe he’s referencing that some businesses require a photo ID when paying with a personal check? Or maybe he means to suggest that for certain individuals, a box of cereal itself could act as identification (we’re looking at you, Toucan Sam, Tony the Tiger, Cap’n Crunch and that Trix rabbit).

This is at least the second time the president has suggested identification is needed to buy groceries. In a July rally in Florida, Trump boasted about his supposed knowledge of both identification laws and grocery shopping.

“You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID,” Trump said at the time.

The July statement caused even The New York Times to ask: Has this man ever shopped at a grocery store before? The publication talked to close friends and personal associates of Trump, who could not confirm the president has ever shopped at a grocery store.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

[Huffington Post]
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