Trump Doubles Down on Shutdown Threat: ‘I Don’t Mind Owning That Issue’

President Donald Trump spoke to reporters again this afternoon following his contentious public spat with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on the border wall and a possible government shutdown.

Trump directly said he would be “proud” to shut down the government in the name of fighting for border security.

During a bill signing this afternoon, Trump said the meeting was “very friendly” and stood by his comments. When asked about owning the idea of a shutdown, he said, “I don’t mind.”

He elaborated:

“I don’t mind having the issue of border security on my side. If we have to close down the country over border security, I actually like that in terms of an issue, but I don’t want it to be an issue, I want it to be something that the country needs… We need border security, and part of border security is a wall. So I don’t mind owning that issue.”

And if the fight is on border security, Trump added, “I think I win that every single time.”

[Mediaite]

Judge orders Stormy Daniels to reimburse Trump’s legal fees

A US judge has ordered porn actress Stormy Daniels to reimburse President Donald Trump’s legal fees after her defamation case was thrown out.

Ms Daniels, who says she had sex with Mr Trump in 2006, sued him after he mocked her claim that a stranger had threatened her to keep quiet.

On Tuesday, a judge ordered her to pay over $293,052.33 (£234,000) – roughly 75% of Mr Trump’s legal fees.

A lawyer for Mr Trump celebrated the ruling as a “total victory”.

In Tuesday’s ruling, Los Angeles Judge James Otero declined to impose the “significant additional sanctions” requested by the US president’s legal team against Ms Daniels.

Mr Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, had earlier requested that Ms Daniels be forced to pay almost $800,000 after her lawsuit was dismissed in October.

He said on Tuesday that the penalty includes $1,000 for having filed a “meritless” case.

“The court’s order,” Mr Harder said, “along with the court’s prior order dismissing Stormy Daniels’ defamation case against the President, together constitute a total victory for the President, and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels in this case.”

Ms Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said in a tweet that the ruling “will never hold up on appeal”.

Mr Avenatti is representing Ms Daniels in another lawsuit against Mr Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen.

The adult film actress is seeking to void a nondisclosure agreement about her alleged affair with the president.

What was the defamation case about?

Ms Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, said last April that she had been threatened by a man in a car park to keep quiet about the alleged affair.

She shared a sketch of the man who she claimed had threatened her and her child.

Mr Trump retweeted the image, calling it a “total con job”, and describing the image as being of a “non-existent man”.

She sued arguing that the president’s tweet was defamatory as it accused Ms Daniels of “committing a serious crime” – namely, falsely accusing a person of threatening her.

But in October, the judge ruled that Mr Trump’s tweet was protected under the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech.

The judge said Mr Trump’s tweet was merely a “hyperbolic statement” against a political antagonist.

After that initial court victory, Mr Trump promptly took to Twitter, saying his legal team could now “go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer”.

Who is else is involved?

Mr Trump’s former personal attorney, Mr Cohen, will be sentenced in New York on Wednesday for paying Ms Daniels $130,000 to keep the alleged liaison private.

According to prosecutors, Mr Cohen was directed to make the payment to Ms Daniels – and to another woman – by Mr Trump.

Mr Trump has acknowledged the payment was made, describing it only this week as “a simple private transaction”, though he denies having a sexual relationship with her.

Mr Cohen has admitted the payment, which was not reported to election officials, was a violation of campaign finance laws.

[BBC]

Trump insists his tense meeting with Dem leaders went great after throwing Oval Office tantrum

President Donald Trump held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to address an earlier contentious meeting with Democrats Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“Believe or not it was actually a friendly meeting,” Trump said.

He reiterated the idea that Congress is on the cusp of passing criminal justice reform and a farm bill. Trump then somewhat reluctantly added border security to the list. Earlier in the day Schumer and Pelosi clashed with the president over funding for a border wall.

Trump threatened to shut down the government over the wall.

“It’s common sense, the country needs it,” Trump added.

“We need border security and part of border security is a wall,” the president added.

[Raw Story]

Media

Donald Trump Tweets: No “Smocking” Gun Tying His Campaign To Russia

Monday morning and President Donald Trump is tweeting – this time cribbing from Fox News’ morning talk about Democrats’ inability to find a “smocking gun.”

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony,” Trump tweeted, in re GOP-ers in House Judiciary Committee having hauled Comey back in for a day’s worth of grilling, mostly about Hillary Clinton’s emails according to Comey, talking to reporters at end of Friday. Transcript to come.

“No Smocking Gun…No Collusion,” Trump boasted in his early morning tweeting.

“That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly calling it a campaign contribution…which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me).

[Deadline]

Reality

A brief moment on Monday’s Fox and Friends First was the catalyst for an early-morning tweet from President Trump.

This is an amazing admission of guilt, and an amazing misspelling of “smoking” twice, but let’s also walk through the lies in this tweet.

First, James Comey testified in a closed door session a few days prior on the demands of House Republicans, who pulled him in to ask questions about Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. An obvious ploy to change the national conversation away from Trump by Republicans… not Democrats.

And second, a lawyer for the Department of Justice accompanied Comey to the hearing and any time a Republican Congressman asked him questions prying into the Robert Mueller probe, the lawyer instructed Comey he couldn’t comment about an ongoing investigation.

So Republicans and Fox News framed this very basic understanding of our justice system to their their viewers as “James Comey refused to answer questions.”

 

Trump Declares ‘NO COLLUSION!’ in Early-Morning Tweet After Cohen, Manafort Memos Drop

After dubiously claiming the Michael Cohen sentencing memo “totally clears” him last night, President Donald Trump this morning sent out a mostly all-caps “NO COLLUSION” tweet.

[Mediaite]

President Trump takes 8-car motorcade across the street to greet Bushes

President Donald Trump is taking criticism for using an eight-car motorcade to travel about 250 yards to welcome the Bush family at Blair House, the guest quarters across the street from the White House.

Washington Post article cited a former Obama administration official who said previous presidents, including Barack Obama, “have made that walk before.”

“Bone spurs?” CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd sarcastically wondered, referring to a medical condition cited as the explanation for Trump’s fifth deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War.

But observers suggested that the Secret Service likely requested Trump take the motorcade. Twitter users pointed out to a passage from former first lady Michelle Obama’s new book “Becoming” in which she said the Secret Service would sometimes request she and her husband take a motorcade across the street.

Post reporter David Nakamura tweeted that while he found six examples of Obama walking across the street to visit Blair House, he had not yet been able to find an example of him using a motorcade to do so.

[USA Today]

Trump on Coming Debt Crisis: ‘I Won’t Be Here’ When It Blows Up

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt.

Sources close to the president say he has repeatedly shrugged it off, implying that he doesn’t have to worry about the money owed to America’s creditors—currently about $21 trillion—because he won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes even more untenable.

The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office.

“Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.

The episode illustrates the extent of the president’s ambivalence toward tackling an issue that has previously animated the Republican Party from the days of Ronald Reagan to the presidency of Barack Obama.

But for those who have worked with Trump, it was par for the course. Several people close to the president, both within and outside his administration, confirmed that the national debt has never bothered him in a truly meaningful way, despite his public lip service. “I never once heard him talk about the debt,” one former senior White House official attested.

Marc Short, who until recently worked for Trump as his legislative affairs director, said he believed the president recognized “the threat that debt poses” and he pointed to Trump’s concern “about rising interest rates” as evidence of his concern for the matter.

“But there’s no doubt this administration and this Congress need to address spending because we have out-of-control entitlement programs,” Short said, adding, “it’s fair to say that… the president would be skeptical of anyone who claims that they would know exactly when a [debt] crisis really comes home to roost.”

Recent reports have suggested that Trump is determined, at least rhetorically, to address the issue. Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the president, noted that the president and his team have proposed policies to achieve some deficit reduction, “including in his first budget that actually would’ve balanced in 10 years, a historic, common-sense rescissions proposal.”

[The Daily Beast]

Trump points to French riots to justify pulling out of Paris climate deal

President Trump on Tuesday cited recent riots in France as justification for his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate deal, which he called “fatally flawed.”

“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The president argued that he has “been making great strides in improving America’s environment,” but suggested the Paris agreement put the burden for environmentally-friendly policies on American taxpayers.

The president’s tweet came after France on Tuesday delayed plans to implement steep taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline as part of Macron’s effort to reduce emissions.

“No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said in announcing the delay.

The announcement was preceded by intense protests in Paris, where demonstrators vandalized monuments and clashed with police, injuring more than 100 people. The protesters had lashed out against the planned fuel tax and, more broadly, Macron’s leadership.

Trump announced in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, which includes nearly every country as part of a global effort to combat climate change. The accord does not allow nations to submit exit paperwork until November 2019, and the United States’s departure would not be effective until November 2020.

The president has long voiced skepticism about the existence of climate change, and his administration has undone a number of environmental regulations established during the Obama years.

Trump late last month dismissed the findings of a government report that warned of dire consequences if the country does not address climate change. The president went on to dispute the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump Retweets Claim That Paris Protesters Are Chanting ‘We Want Trump.’ They’re Not

President Donald Trump retweeted a post Tuesday making several inaccurate claims about the ongoing protests that have rocked Paris and other parts of France.

The original tweet was written by Charlie Kirk, founder and president of the right-wing nonprofit Turning Point USA. In his post, Kirk claimed, “There are riots in socialist France because of radical leftist fuel taxes.” He added that “Europe is burning” and that the demonstrations are a middle-class rebellion against “cultural Marxism.”

“‘We want Trump’ being chanted through the streets of Paris,” he concluded.

Although protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate against fuel taxes—which were promoted as a way of combating climate change—as well as other price hikes, the criticism of President Emmanuel Macron is actually the opposite of what Kirk and other right-wing commentators have claimed. Opposition political leaders have actually called for increased taxes on the wealthy, while demonstrators have taken to the streets against rising costs, as they’ve seen some of their social support curbed by the government.

Kirk’s claim that people are chanting “We want Trump” appears to be based on a trending video of demonstrators appearing to mock the U.S. president. The video circulating on social media does not appear to have been filmed in Paris or even in France but in London, possibly during anti-Trump demonstrations earlier this year. Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh also claimed that French demonstrators were chanting “We want Trump.”

However, French residents told Newsweekthat the suggestions were laughable, as there were signs lining roads calling Macron a “capitalist pig.” Demonstrators are also calling for higher taxes on the rich and to redistribute wealth in the country, they said.

France 24’s White House correspondent Philip Crowther slammed Trump for retweeting the false claims made by Kirk. “Lies being retweeted by the President: Europe is obviously not burning, and ‘We want Trump’ is not being chanted through the streets of Paris,” he wrote. “Also, the fuel taxes are not radical leftist and France is not socialist. Any other lies?”

[Newsweek]

Trump calls Russia deal ‘legal and cool’ as Mueller inquiry gathers momentum

Donald Trump, drawn deeper into an investigation into Russian meddling in US elections, has defended his pursuit of a business deal in Moscow at the same time he was running for president as “very legal & very cool”.

Trump appeared rattled this week after Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, confessed that he lied to Congress about a Russian property contract he pursued on his boss’s behalf during the Republican primary campaign in 2016.

In a series of tweets from Buenos Aires, where he is attending the G20 summit, Trump recalled “happily living my life” as a property developer before running for president after seeing the “Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly)”.

“Against all odds,” he continued, “I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail. Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”

The president frequently uses the phrase “witch hunt” to belittle Mueller’s investigation, which began in May last year and seems to have gathered momentum in recent days.

Trump repeatedly said during the election campaign that he had no ties to Russia. In July 2016 he tweeted: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”

But Cohen, who had already pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other financial crimes in a separate case brought by federal prosecutors in New York, on Thursday said he had lied to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower skyscraper in Moscow.

Cohen told two congressional committees last year that the talks about the tower project ended in January 2016, a lie he said was an act of loyalty to Trump. In fact, the negotiations continued until June that year, after Trump had secured the Republican nomination, Cohen admitted.

Cohen told Mueller’s prosecutors that he briefed Trump on the project more than three times. He also briefed members of Trump’s family, had direct contact with Kremlin representatives and considered traveling to Moscow to discuss it.

Trump condemned Cohen after the plea deal was announced, calling him “a weak person” and a liar. As he departed for Buenos Aires, he acknowledged his business dealings with Russia, telling reporters: “It doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign.”

Mueller’s team has brought charges or secured convictions against more than two dozen Russian nationals and entities, as well as several of Trump’s associates, but now the president himself is front and centre. Experts suggested that the walls are closing in.

Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst, told CNN: “Today is the first day I actually thought Donald Trump might not finish his term in office. I think this thing is enormous.” An opinion column in the Washington Post was headlined: “Trump should be freaked out right about now.”

Democrats have joined the criticism. Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: “This whole thing has likely been a scam from the start. It’s not some wild coincidence that the Administration’s foreign policy is most inexplicable toward the two countries – Russia and Saudi Arabia – where the Trump family pursues the most business.”

But the White House remains defiant. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, issued a statement that said: “BREAKING NEWS ALERT: Michael Cohen is a liar. It’s no surprise that Cohen lied to Congress. He’s a proven liar who is doing everything he can to get out of a long-term prison sentence for serious crimes of bank and tax fraud that had nothing to do with the Trump Organization.”

He added: “With regard to the hotel proposal in Moscow, the President has been completely open and transparent.”

Trump still owns his private company but had said he would hand over day-to-day dealings to his sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump when he took office in January 2017. He has repeatedly blurred the distinction between business and public office that has been observed by past presidents.

His meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki earlier this year drew fierce criticism after Trump appeared to side with Moscow’s denials over the findings of his own intelligence agencies. After Cohen’s plea, Trump cancelled his planned meeting with Putin at the G20, citing the Ukraine crisis. Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday said it believed the meeting was canceled over “the US domestic political situation”.

The Cohen confession comes as Mueller’s investigation gathers pace. Trump has provided responses to written questions while the special counsel has accused his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of lying after his own guilty plea.

On Friday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia asked Mueller’s team to submit a report next week outlining how they believe Manafort breached a plea agreement struck shortly before he was to have gone on trial on charges including money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist for the Ukraine government and conspiracy to defraud the US.

The judge set 5 March as a tentative date for sentencing of Manafort, a veteran Washington consultant convicted of financial crimes. Prosecutors also left open the possibility that new charges could be filed against Manafort for lying. “That determination has not been made,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said.

In August, a jury in Virginia had convicted Manafort of bank and tax fraud in a separate case. He is scheduled to be sentenced on 8 February for that conviction.

Mueller continues to investigate whether campaign associates had advance knowledge of hacked emails becoming public. Another potential target, Jerome Corsi, has rejected a plea offer and faces a possible indictment.

[The Guardian]

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