Trump mocks Greta Thunberg after she wins Time Person of the Year

President Donald Trump mocked teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter on Thursday after she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, calling her win “ridiculous” and suggesting she take anger management classes.

“So ridiculous,” Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Trump, who was Time’s Person of the Year in 2016, was a finalist for the 2019 nomination.

Thunberg soon updated her Twitter bio to reflect Trump’s comment, writing: “A teenager working on her anger management problem.”

“Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend,” she added.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also weighed in on Thunberg’s selection, blasting the magazine’s decision.

“Time leaves out the Hong Kong Protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms to push a teen being used as a marketing gimmick,” he wrote. “How dare you?”

It was not the first time the president has made a mention of Thunberg.

In September, after she made an emotional speech at the United Nations, Trump appeared to mock the 16-year-old by tweeting that she “seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Thunberg did not respond directly to the president but hours later updated her Twitter bio to mimic his tweet.

Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was asked to speak on climate change in front of several high-profile entities, such as the United Nations and Congress.

“I shouldn’t be up here,” she said in her September U.N. speech.

“I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” the teen from Sweden said. “Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Democrats responded to Trump’s barb throughout the day, criticizing him for taking aim at the teenager.

“What kind of president bullies a teenager?” tweeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic contender, adding that Trump “could learn a few things from Greta on what it means to be a leader.”

“Does the President really not have anything better to do today than attack a 16 year old?” tweeted Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Trump’s tweet even came up at Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against the president.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., mentioned Trump’s mocking of Thunberg while listing individuals who Trump has blasted.

“Are you here to defend that as well?” Jeffries asked Republicans of Trump’s post.

[NBC News]

Trump, Macron hold tense meeting: ‘Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you’

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron held a tense meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit, with Trump at one point telling the French leader he could send him some “ISIS fighters” if he wanted them.

“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said with a slight smile at the meeting, which was carried live on cable news. “You can take every one you want.”

“Let’s be serious,” Macron replied sternly, reasoning that most ISIS fighters came from Syria, Iraq and Iran and disputing Trump’s common refrain that the terrorist group had been defeated.

Trump has complained that European countries have been unwilling to accept ISIS fighters the U.S. had captured.

The French president insisted that the number of European ISIS fighters was a “tiny” part of the overall problem of addressing destabilization in the region. He was also adamant that the terrorist group had not entirely been defeated, a break with a common declaration from Trump.

“I think [the] No. 1 priority, because it’s not finished, is it to get rid of ISIS,” Macron said.

“That was one of the greatest nonanswers I ever heard,” Trump said after Macron had concluded. “And that’s OK.”

If the meeting was tense, the days leading up the the one-on-one session were equally so. 

A day before the meeting, the Trump administration announced it was prepared to impose 100 percent tariffs on wine and other products from France in response to complaints about a French tax that has hit U.S. technology companies.

A myriad of disagreements between the two leaders played out in public over the course of the 40 minute meeting, which came hours after Trump called Macron’s comments critical of NATO “insulting.” The icy tone was a far cry from the warm embraces and state visit the two men have shared over the past two years. 

Trump emphasized his “very good relationship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after Macron noted disagreements between Turkey and the rest of the alliance on their definition of terrorism. 

“I can only say we have a very good relationship with Turkey and president Erdoğan,” Trump said when asked about Turkey’s standing in NATO. “We have a very good relationship.” 

Macron interjected shortly thereafter: “We have lost cooperation with Turkey.” 

The French president demanded “clarification” from Ankara on how it could be a member of the NATO alliance and also purchase Russian S-400 missile systems amid NATO opposition. Macron also said Turkey wanted to “blow up” the summit if the other alliance members did not recognize Ankara’s view of groups that are terrorists. 

When Trump suggested that his predecessor, former President Obama, pushed Turkey toward purchasing the Russian missiles by refusing to sell Ankara the Patriot missile, Macron shot back, saying it was Turkey’s “own decision” to purchase the missiles after Europe offered another option that was compliant with NATO.  

Trump was noncommittal on reaching a deal to avert U.S. tariffs set to be imposed on $2.4 billion in French imports. He expressed frustration with the French tax, which he sees as targeting U.S. companies.

“They’re American companies,” he said. “The tech companies you’re talking about, they’re not my favorite people because they’re not exactly for me, but that’s OK. I don’t care, they’re American companies. And we want to tax American companies. We want to tax them. That’s not for somebody else to tax them.”

Tuesday’s icy meeting underscored the evolution of the Trump-Macron relationship.

The two men came into office within months of each other and enjoyed a close relationship. They famously shared a lengthy and intense handshake at one of their first meetings, and Trump later hosted Macron at the White House for a state visit.

But Macron has become more outspoken as he seeks to take the mantle in Europe in the face of changing governments there and Trump’s unpredictability.

On Tuesday, the French president stood by his controversial comments about NATO, Macron said he was a supporter of a stronger European component in the alliance and agreed with Trump that the U.S. was overinvested compared with other countries, but he said there was more to the alliance than discussions about money and burden sharing.

“When you speak about NATO, it’s not just about money,” Macron said. “We have to be clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be.”

[The Hill]

Trump criticizes Lisa Page after she breaks silence

President Trump criticized former FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Monday in a tweet, a day after she broke her silence in an interview about the attacks she has withstood from the president.

“When Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being ‘crushed’, and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter’s ‘Insurance Policy’ text, to her, just in case Hillary loses,” Trump tweeted Monday while traveling to the United Kingdom for a NATO meeting.

“Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller. Where are they Lisa?” the president continued, accusing former special counsel Robert Mueller of deleting text messages between Page and Strzok without offering evidence. 

Trump and his allies have long eviscerated Page and Strzok — another former FBI official — for text messages they sent criticizing then-candidate Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The messages exchanged by the pair, who had an affair and who both worked on the FBI’s original Russian interference probe, were unearthed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation last year.

In one August 2016 exchange, Strzok compared the Russia investigation to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

Trump has pointed to the text messages as evidence that Page and Strzok were laying the groundwork for an effort to undermine him in the event he won the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Page subsequently told congressional investigators that the two were discussing how strongly to push forward in investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Page broke years of public silence in an interview with The Daily Beast published Sunday, likening Trump’s attacks on her to being “punched in the gut.”

“My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening,” Page told The Daily Beast. 

The Justice Department inspector general said last year that the text messages had been deleted from the individuals’ FBI phones due to technical glitches but had been recovered.

[The Hill]

Trump repeats Ukraine conspiracy theory and more debunked lies on 53-minute “Fox & Friends” call

President Trump spent 53 minutes of his Friday morning on the phone with the hosts of “Fox & Friends” — his latest call-in to one of his favorite TV shows.

Driving the news: President Trump spent a chunk of the interview repeating a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election. “That’s what the word is,” he claimed without evidence.

  • The debunked conspiracy theory — frequently referred to as CrowdStrike, the security firm at its center — is based on the idea that Ukraine was complicit in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee to create false electronic records that Russia was behind the hacking.
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, said during his impeachment hearing that the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory is “a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted.”
  • Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, said during her impeachment hearing that the conspiracy theory is “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Worth noting: Trump also said that Crowdstrike is owned by “a very wealthy Ukrainian,” but it’s actually a publicly-traded company. Its largest outside shareholder is Warburg Pincus, a New York City private equity firm from which Trump plucked one of his top economic advisors.

Impeachment-related highlights:

  • The president once again slammed former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, claiming she was “not an angel.” During her impeachment testimony , she agreed that it was Trump’s prerogative to fire ambassadors at will, but asked, “What I do wonder is why was it necessary to smear my reputation also?”
  • Trump said that during a Senate impeachment trial he only wants House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to testify more than Hunter Biden.
  • Trump said that he knows “exactly” who the Ukraine whistleblower is — and insinuated that the “Fox & Friends” hosts did as well — prompting them to attempt to steer the conversation away from the topic live on air.

Other highlights:

  • Trump predicted that Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t pass the USMCA trade deal, despite it being a priority for some Democratic lawmakers ahead of 2020.
  • He tried to find a middle ground between supporting pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong and not offending Chinese President Xi Jinping as the U.S. attempts to close a “phase one” trade deal with China. “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” he said.
  • Trump denied rumors surrounding his health after a surprise visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center last weekend, calling it “fake, disgusting news.”

2020 lightning round:

  • Joe Biden: “I don’t know if Joe can make it mentally. He’s off.”
  • Pete Buttigieg: “I don’t see him dealing with President Xi. I don’t see him dealing with Kim Jong-un. But maybe he is.”
  • Elizabeth Warren: “I think Pocahontas has come up from the embers.”
  • Michael Bloomberg: “I think his time has come and gone.

[Axios]

Reality

There was multiple fact checks some could only refer to this call as “bananas.”

Media

Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: ‘I have freedom of speech’

President Trump on Friday defended his tweet earlier in the day attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her public testimony in the House impeachment hearing, insisting he has the right to speak out.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,” Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he’s “allowed to speak up” if others are speaking about him.

Pressed on whether his words can be intimidating, as Yovanovitch and Democrats have said, Trump said no.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said.

The remarks were Trump’s first public comments of the day, which has largely been dominated by testimony from Yovanovitch. As the former ambassador testified about a smear campaign by Trump’s allies to oust her from her post in Kyiv, the president took aim at her on Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” Trump tweeted. “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a stunning moment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) interrupted questioning from his staff counsel to read the president’s tweet aloud to Yovanovitch and asked for her reaction.

“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch said with a slight laugh. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places.”

Asked what effect Trump’s tweet might have on future witnesses facing pressure from the White House not to testify, Yovanovitch described it as “very intimidating.”

Democrats on the committee and elsewhere in the House equated Trump’s tweet to witness intimidation and suggested that it could be considered when mulling articles of impeachment later in the process.

The White House on Friday morning issued a statement that Trump would not be watching Yovanovitch’s testimony beyond opening statements. But Trump himself said that he had tuned in.

“I watched a little bit of it today. I wasn’t able to yesterday because we had the president of Turkey here, and I wasn’t able to watch much,” Trump said. “I watched some of it this morning and I thought it was a disgrace.”

Trump complained that Republicans were not given a fair shake, referencing an instance where Schiff stopped Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) from questioning Yovanovitch because the rules stipulated that only the ranking member or Republican counsel could ask questions during that period.

“It’s a disgrace and it’s an embarrassment to our nation,” Trump said.

Yovanovitch is the third witness to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry. Several other current and former administration officials are scheduled to give public testimony next week.

[The Hill]

Fact-checking Trump’s barrage of anti-impeachment tweets

President Donald Trump has lashed out again at Democrats’ impeachment push, tweeting a rapid-fire series of arguments in his own defense over three tweets Tuesday morning.Trump has made these same claims (or very close) before. But since public impeachment hearings are beginning on Wednesday, it’s worth breaking down his case.Let’s go point by point:

“Why is such a focus put on 2nd and 3rd hand witnesses…”

Various witnesses who have testified in the impeachment inquiry have had firsthand knowledge of various components of the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine.For example, witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison of the White House’s National Security Council both listened to Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; so did witness Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.The former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified about what she had been directly told about why Trump was abruptly removing her from her post.Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified about his own comments to Ukrainian officials about how US military aid would not “likely” be issued until Ukraine declared that it was conducting an investigation related to Joe Biden. (Sondland described this proposed declaration as an “anti-corruption statement.”) Among other firsthand testimony, Trump’s current top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified about his own concerns about the role Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was playing in relations with Ukraine.

“…many of whom are Never Trumpers…”

There is no evidence that “many” of the impeachment witnesses are “Never Trumpers” under the traditional definition of the term: longtime Republicans who refuse to support Trump.Though we can’t be certain of the private political beliefs of people who have testified, the witnesses have included Trump’s own appointees; administration aides; and career diplomats with no history of public support of or opposition to political candidates.Trump appears to be trying to redefine the term “Never Trumper” so that it applies to anyone who criticizes his actions.

“…or whose lawyers are Never Trumpers…”

Trump has a better case here. After Trump was elected, Taylor’s lawyer John Bellinger joined “Checks and Balances,” a group of conservative lawyers formed to speak out against Trump. Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, has represented both Democrats and Republicans and sued both Democratic and Republican administrations, but he has been open about his opposition to Trump: “Anti-Trump. Worst presidential choice in modern history. Not a repub or dem issue,” he wrote on Twitter in 2017.

“…all you have to do is read the phone call (transcript) with the Ukrainian President and see first hand?”

The document the White House released says on its first page that it is “not a verbatim transcript.” Vindman has testified that some details were omitted from the document.Regardless, Trump’s frequent contention that the phone call was “perfect” is highly questionable. Contrary to Trump’s repeated assertions, the call document shows that the whistleblower’s allegations about the call were highly accurate: Trump sought to get Zelensky to investigate Biden, to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic computer servers, and to speak to Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.The whistleblower described these requests as pressure, which Trump is entitled to dispute. But the underlying facts are not in dispute.

“He (Zelensky) and others also stated that there was ‘no pressure’ put on him to investigate Sleepy Joe Biden…”

Zelensky has indeed said that he did not feel pressured by Trump. “Nobody pushed me,” he told reporters while sitting beside Trump at a meeting at the United Nations in September. (When CNN’s Clarissa Ward asked Zelensky the next week if he felt pressure from Trump to investigate the Bidens to get the aid, Zelensky responded indirectly, saying, “I’d like to tell you that I never feel pressure. I have lots of people who’d like to put pressure on me here and abroad. But I’m the president of an independent Ukraine and I’d like to think and my action suggests, no one can put pressure on me.”)CNN, the The New York Times and others have described a difficult internal debate within Zelensky’s team about how to handle Trump’s push for an announcement of investigations.

“…as President, I have an ‘obligation’ to look into corruption, and Biden’s actions, on tape, about firing the prosecutor…are certainly looking very corrupt (to put it mildly!) to me.”

There is no evidence of Biden acting corruptly.Trump appeared to be referring to a 2018 video of Biden telling the story of how he used a threat to deny Ukraine a $1 billion loan guarantee to successfully pressure Ukrainian leaders to fire a chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was widely seen by the US government, its European allies and Ukrainian activists to be ineffective in fighting corruption.”He was executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy,” Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, testified.All that aside, nothing would have obligated Trump to push a foreign leader to investigate an American political rival or announce an investigation into that person, nor to link such an investigation or announcement to the execution of American foreign policy.

“His son’s taking millions of dollars, with no knowledge or talent, from a Ukrainian energy company, and more millions taken from China, and now reports of other companies and countries also giving him big money…”

Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, did make significant money from his role on the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma; he has not denied reports that his salary was $50,000 per month.Hunter Biden, a lawyer who had worked in the Commerce Department and served on the Amtrak board, acknowledged in October that he would “probably not” have been invited to join the Burisma board if his father were not Joe Biden; he said he had done “nothing wrong at all” but had used “poor judgment” in getting involved in such a “swamp.”It is not clear how much money Hunter Biden has earned from China. Trump has repeatedly claimed that Hunter Biden pocketed $1.5 billion, but he has not presented evidence for this claim; Hunter Biden told ABC that it has “no basis in fact,” adding, “No one ever paid me $1.5 billion, and if they had, I would not be doing this interview right now.”A lawyer for Hunter Biden, George Mesires, says the investment company in which his client has held a 10% stake was capitalized with a total of about $4.2 million in Chinese money at today’s exchange rates, “not $1.5 billion.” (Even this investment — made when Biden was a member of the company board, not a part-owner — was not a direct payment to him, and Mesires says Biden has not made a profit from his investment.)There is no evidence of illegal behavior by Hunter Biden.

“Both Bidens should be forced to testify in this No Due Process Scam!”

Trump didn’t specify here what he was referring to, but he has previously alleged that he is being denied due process because his lawyers are not being permitted to participate in the impeachment hearings.Trump is entitled to make this subjective argument. The Constitution, however, does not mandate the House of Representatives to allow the President’s lawyers to participate in impeachment proceedings. The Senate holds a trial after the House votes to impeach; the House is not obligated to treat its own process as if it were a trial.Democrats are beginning their public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee. Their rules will permit Trump lawyers to submit evidence and ask questions of witnesses once the process moves to the House Judiciary Committee, which will make the decision about whether to draw up articles of impeachment.Trump’s campaign has noted that lawyers for Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were permitted to cross-examine witnesses. That happened in the Judiciary Committee; those impeachment processes did not begin with the House Intelligence Committee.

[CNN]

ISIS leader killed in daring U.S. raid in Syria, Trump says

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in a U.S. raid in northwestern Syria, President Donald Trump announced Sunday, describing in detail a daring mission by Army Delta Force commandos that he said had been planned for five months.

Baghdadi, whose self-declared caliphate once covered large swaths of Syria and Iraq, detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three children after he was cornered in a tunnel.

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him,” Trump said from the White House. “Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.”

No U.S. personnel were lost in the raid and Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that two who suffered minor injuries have been returned to duty.

The death of Baghdadi, long considered the most wanted man in the world, came amid weeks of acrimonious debate in Washington about the U.S. role in Syria after Trump’s efforts to remove troops from the region. The abrupt withdrawal allowed scores of ISIS prisoners to escape and set off warning that of a rebirth of an Islamic State sanctuary, which has been the focus of an intense U.S.-led air campaign backed by small number of troops on the ground and local allies, since 2015.

After years of rare and unconfirmed sightings, Baghdadi resurfaced in an unverified video in April, rallying his followers in Iraq and Syria following the group’s loss of its so-called caliphate.

The United States had placed a $25 million bounty on the ISIS leader’s head.

Russia in June 2017 claimed to have killed Baghdadi in an airstrike on Raqqa, Syria. A month later reports of his death again surfaced, this time from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Baghdadi is believed to have been born in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq. He was a cleric in a Baghdad mosque during the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He joined the insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq in its early days and spent 10 months in U.S. military detention in 2004.

Baghdadi become the leader of al-Qaida’s Iraq faction in 2010. In 2014, he declared the Islamic State a global caliphate from the Al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, in what is his only known public appearance as the leader of the terrorist organization.

Trump called ISIS “among the most depraved organizations in history” and listed some of the group’s victims: the Iraqi Yezidi minority group against whom it committed “genocidal mass murder,” the Jordanian fighter pilot burned alive in a cage after his plane crashed in ISIS territory, and the American hostages Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller who died in the group’s custody.

“His evil acts of beheadings, enslavement of women, rape, torture, and pure brutality follows him to his grave,” Secretary of State Milke Pompeo said in a statement.

Foley’s mother, Diana, thanked Trump and the troops. “I hope this will hinder the resurgence of terror groups and pray that captured ISIS fighters will be brought to trial and held accountable,” she said.

The mission to kill or capture Baghdadi was launched from Iraqi territory. “This raid was impeccable and could only have taken place with the acknowledgment and help of certain other nations and people,” Trump said. “I want to thank the nations of Russia, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us.”

The raid, which lasted two hours inside Baghdadi’s compound, was immediately hailed by both parties as a major victory in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“The death of al-Baghdadi is a triumph for our nation’s anti-terrorism efforts and is a testament to the persistence and expertise of our military and intelligence services,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee. “Al-Baghdadi spread a heinous terrorist ideology which must continue to be snuffed out in Syria and around the world.

“I congratulate President Trump, our allies who assisted in this effort, and, in particular, those who risked their lives in this raid,” she added in a statement.

“It’s tremendous news that the U.S. has ended Baghdadi’s bloody jihad,” added Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and member of the Intelligence Committee. “The President made the right call to take out this bloodthirsty monster who led ISIS as it raped and pillaged its way through Iraq and Syria.”

But Sasse and others also warned in a statement about letting up the pressure. “As Americans celebrate this victory, we must remain clear-eyed that this is no time to let off the gas: Baghdadi is gone but another animal will take his place as ISIS works to regroup.”

“Removing the leadership of terrorist groups is not on its own a decisive win. It never has been,” said Eric Robinson, a former intelligence official. “Saying that the caliphate is going to crumple as a result of this is just wrong. It will endure.”

The death of its leader won’t mark the defeat of ISIS, agreed Michael Nagata, a retired Army lieutenant general and former senior intelligence official who fought the Islamic State’s predecessor organization in Iraq and was the top special operations commander in the Middle East during the early years of the ISIS campaign.

“I’ve never seen the death of a senior leader be the catalyst for the elimination or destruction of a powerful, well-entrenched, global terrorist movement. It’s a necessary step but it’s never a decisive step,” Nagata said in an interview.

“There are a lot of parallels to be drawn to the impact of Osama bin Laden’s death,” said Nagata, who was also the senior U.S. military official in Pakistan at the time of the 2011 raid that killed the founder of al-Qaida. “It was important at the time and had enormous symbolic value but it is mostly strategically irrelevant now. That’s the trajectory I expect the impact of Baghdadi’s death to follow.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who was the top U.S. officer at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during ISIS’ rise in 2014 and 2015, said in an interview it is “incredible news and speaks highly once again of our collective intelligence agencies and more specifically our special operators.”

But Bednarek, who four years ago called the battle against ISIS “the fight of our lifetime,” cautioned against taking too many victory laps.

“When you eliminate the head or figurehead, does that mean the demise of the Islamic State terror organization? Absolutely not. Who is the next emergent leader? It is going to have an impact, but it is not going to be the be all end all where we can rest on our laurels.”

Trump used unusually vivid, even gory, language in describing Baghdadi’s final moments — descriptions that that some regional experts feared could further inflame extremists in the region.

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming,” Trump said. “The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed. Eleven young children were moved out of the house un-injured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, who had dragged three children with him to certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, but test results gave certain and positive identification.”

“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone,” Trump said, adding at one point that he would support making public Baghdadi’s final moments.

Trump also said Baghdadi “died like a dog. He died like a coward.” The reference particular could anger Islamist extremists because they view the animals as unclean.

Dana Shell Smith, a former U.S. ambassador to Qatar, warned that being so descriptive could backfire by stoking more anger toward the United States.

She pointed out that former President Barack Obama was far more careful in describing al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden’s killing. The Obama administration even pointed out that it gave bin Laden’s body an Islamic funeral ritual before slipping it into the ocean.

“It was important for our relationships in the region and safety of our military and diplomats,” the former ambassador wrote on Twitter. “It’s how America rolls. With honor. We don’t delight in death like the terrorists do.”

Bednarek said the president’s extended remarks, in which he also repeatedly took credit for the raid and the defeat of ISIS, struck him as “a bit disquieting.”

“But that is his penchant to do.”

Still, the damage inflicted on the group is undeniable, Esper said.

“This is a devastating blow,” he told CNN. “This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways. He’s the one that when he — he formed ISIS in 2014, he led to the establishment of physical caliphate throughout the region, so this is a major blow to them. And we’re going to watch carefully next steps and as a new leader and leaders pop up, we’ll go after them as well.”

[Politico]

Reality

Let’s take a moment to recognize this is exactly what we expect a President of the United States to do, find the terrorist organization and break it up.

But taking a step back there are several issues with what had transpired.

First, the only reason how we had information on al-Baghdadi’s location is because of Kurdish intelligence, the same Kurd allies who Trump abandoned a week prior just to get off of the phone with Turkish Dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then blasted the Kurds as ‘no angels.’

Second, according to reporting by The New York Times we’ve been following al-Baghdadi for some time, but the military had to act because of Trump’s surprise decision to pull troops from northern Syria. So the operation happened despite Trump, not because of Trump. This put our service men and women at a much greater risk.

Third, Trump compared this a bigger get than Osama bin Laden, who President Barack Obama gave the go-ahead to the mission that brought him to justice. That’s just an incredibly dumb statement to compare the ISIS-inspired attacks to the world-changing event on 9/11, orchestrated by bin Laden.

Fourth, Trump turned our national security into partisanship by keeping this operation secret from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. It was okay for him to let Russia know, but not Nancy Pelosi, or even Mitch McConnell? This is on-brand for Trump’s style of politics where he’d rather be friends with our enemies than work with his fellow Americans.

Fifth, the operation occurred at 3:30pm, Trump was golfing at a resort he still owns, operates, promotes, and receives profits from at that exact time. It’s possible when he got to the White House around 5:30pm the operation was still ongoing, but this image is too staged with most people looking at the camera.

Finally, Donald Trump announcement of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi revealed a slew of sensitive details about the secret military operation that could imperil future raids, special operations and intelligence. He has no care of national security.

White House to order federal agencies to end NYT and WaPo subscriptions

The White House plans to order all federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post, two papers that President Trump has repeatedly attacked for their critical coverage of his administration, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: The White House said on Tuesday that it would cancel its own subscriptions to the Post and the Times, after Trump complained that they were “fake” during an appearance this week on Fox News’ “Hannity.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email to the Journal: “Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving — hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.”

Between the lines: Axios’ Sara Fischer notes that the Post and the Times each make around $20 million annually by selling political and issue ads (mostly issue ads) that are geared toward reaching policy makers and opinion leaders at key D.C. institutions, including the White House and federal agencies. Hundreds of copies of the two newspapers are distributed to the White House and agencies.

  • These are expensive ads, and they’re typically the only types of ads with pricing that can’t be negotiated or bartered down.
  • In fact, the Times touts its reach into the White House when selling ads. It even created a separate D.C. edition of its paper printed out of Springfield, Virginia, just to make it cheaper to target federal agencies with ads that could be locally inserted.

The bottom line: This move, if the White House follows through on it, will have an advertising impact on the newspapers at a time when the issue advocacy market is really hot.

[Axios]

Trump blasts ‘Never Trump’ Republicans as ‘human scum’

President Trump on Wednesday excoriated so-called Never Trump Republicans as “human scum” as he seeks to solidify Republican support of him amid an ongoing impeachment inquiry.

He singled out his administration’s special envoy to Ukraine, William Taylor, who a day earlier sat for closed door testimony with those lawmakers the impeachment inquiry and delivered damaging testimony about the White House’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes.

“The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump tweeted. “Watch out for them, they are human scum!” 

“Never Trumper Republican John Bellinger, represents Never Trumper Diplomat Bill Taylor (who I don’t know), in testimony before Congress!” Trump tweeted about 45 minutes later, bemoaning the lack of transparency in the impeachment proceedings thus far.

“It would be really great if the people within the Trump Administration, all well-meaning and good (I hope!), could stop hiring Never Trumpers, who are worse than the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump added. “Nothing good will ever come from them!”


Trump earlier this week complained that Democrats leading the impeachment investigation were interviewing individuals he hadn’t heard of before launching into a tirade against the “Never Trumpers.”

“Don’t forget, many of these people were put there during Obama, during Clinton, during the Never Trump or Bush era,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting on Monday. “You know, you had a Never Trump or Bush. You have heard of those? Those people might be worse than the Democrats — the Never Trumpers. The good news is they’re dying off fast.”

In the same Cabinet meeting, Trump called on Republicans to fight tougher in the impeachment inquiry.

The president’s tweet came as some of his Republican allies in the House had stormed a closed-door hearing to protest what they argued has been a lack of transparency in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process.

The furor broke up the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was testifying about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The fracas also follows testimony from Taylor, who told committees just one day ago that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to conduct a pair of investigations — one into 2016 election hacking, the other into the family of former Vice President Joe Biden — that might have helped Trump’s reelection campaign next year.

Democrats viewed Taylor’s testimony as particularly damaging for the president, who has repeatedly denied a quid pro quo or any inappropriate interactions with the Ukrainians.

[The Hill]

Trump Lashes Out at Coverage of Awarding G7 to Resort He Owns, Also Extolls Resort’s ‘Tremendous Ballrooms’

President Donald Trump reacted angrily Saturday to criticism of his administration announcing it would hold a summit of foreign leaders at a resort Trump owns.

“I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders,” Trump said Saturday night.

Trump went on to praise the features of his resort like “tremendous ballrooms” and claimed again that he would not “profit” from the summit.

Trump also highlighted Doral’s proximity to Miami International Airport as a positive, but Chuck Todd and David Fahrenthold pointed to that as a negative on Friday, both of them agreeing it was a security risk for the high-profile event.

“Doral is right on the Miami airport flight paths,” Todd said. “I think one of my reporters told me there’s like 20 different flight paths that are going to have to be diverted.”

“This is such a security nightmare to put it in the middle of a neighborhood where you’re going to have the neighbors coming and going,” Fahrenthold said.

[Mediaite]

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