Several People Behind Trump Were Removed, Replaced During Rally In Montana

President Donald Trump’s rally in Billings, Montana, on Thursday had many strange moments, including a tangent where he speculated about his potential impeachment and an instance where he seemed unable to pronounce the word “anonymous.” Perhaps oddest of all, though, was that several people standing behind Trump were replaced on camera as the evening went on.

A man in a plaid shirt was replaced seemingly after he made a series of animated facial expressions as the president spoke.

A woman, who some people on Twitter said looked like to be longtime Republican operative Zina Bash, eventually came and took the man’s place on camera. You can watch the moment below:

That man was not the only one removed from his spot behind Trump during the speech. As seen in the clip below, a man and woman in the same row were replaced by two blond women. The resulting image is Trump flanked by young women.

It’s not uncommon that Trump’s rallies feature a mix of supporters and protesters, leaving Trump staffers to handle situations quickly and quietly.

But these swaps are particularly egregious considering they were all mid-speech and directly behind the president, and the people who were swapped out didn’t appear to be doing anything wrong.

The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Trump inauguration crowd photos were edited after he intervened

A government photographer edited official pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger following a personal intervention from the president, according to newly released documents.

The photographer cropped out empty space “where the crowd ended” for a new set of pictures requested by Trump on the first morning of his presidency, after he was angered by images showing his audience was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.

The detail was revealed in investigative reports released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act by the inspector general of the US interior department. They shed new light on the first self-inflicted crisis of Trump’s presidency, when his White House falsely claimed he had attracted the biggest ever inauguration audience.

The records detail a scramble within the National Park Service (NPS) on 21 January 2017 after an early-morning phone call between Trump and the acting NPS director, Michael Reynolds. They also state that Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, called NPS officials repeatedly that day in pursuit of the more flattering photographs.

It was not clear from the records which photographs were edited and whether they were released publicly.

The newly disclosed details were not included in the inspector general’s office’s final report on its inquiry into the saga, which was published in June last year and gave a different account of the NPS photographer’s actions.

By the time Trump spoke on the telephone with Reynolds on the morning after the inauguration, then-and-now pictures of the national mall were circulating online showing that Trump’s crowd fell short of Obama’s. A reporter’s tweet containing one such pair of images was retweeted by the official NPS Twitter account.

An NPS communications official, whose name was redacted in the released files, told investigators that Reynolds called her after speaking with the president and said Trump wanted pictures from the inauguration. She said “she got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd”, and that the images released so far showed “a lot of empty areas”.

The communications official said she “assumed” the photographs Trump was requesting “needed to be cropped”, but that Reynolds did not ask for this specifically. She then contacted the NPS photographer who had covered the event the day before.

A second official, from the NPS public affairs department, told investigators that Spicer called her office on the morning of 21 January and asked for pictures that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size”.

In this official’s view, Spicer’s request amounted to “a request for NPS to provide photographs in which it appeared the inauguration crowd filled the majority of the space in the photograph”. She told investigators that she, too, contacted the NPS photographer to ask for additional shots.

The NPS photographer, whose name was also redacted, told investigators he was contacted by an unidentified official who asked for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd sizes”. Having filed 25 photographs on inauguration day, he was asked to go back to his office and “edit a few more” for a second submission.

“He said he edited the inauguration photographs to make them look more symmetrical by cropping out the sky and cropping out the bottom where the crowd ended,” the investigators reported, adding: “He said he did so to show that there had been more of a crowd.”

The investigators said the photographer believed the cropping was what the official “had wanted him to do”, but that the official “had not specifically asked him to crop the photographs to show more of a crowd”.

A summary in the inspector general’s final report said the photographer told investigators “he selected a number of photos, based on his professional judgment, that concentrated on the area of the national mall where most of the crowd was standing”.

Asked to account for the discrepancy, Nancy DiPaolo, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the cropping was not mentioned in the final report because the photographer told investigators this was his “standard artistic practice”. But investigators did not note this in the write-up of their interview.

The newly released files said Spicer was closely involved in the effort to obtain more favourable photographs. He called Reynolds immediately after the acting director spoke with Trump and then again at 3pm shortly before the new set of photographs was sent to the White House, investigators heard. Another official reported being called by Spicer.

At about 5.40pm that day, Spicer began a now notorious press briefing at the White House in which he falsely stated: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period.” A spokeswoman for Spicer did not respond to a request for comment.

The inspector general’s inquiry was prompted by a February 2017 complaint through the office’s website, alleging NPS officials tried to undermine Trump and leaked details of Trump’s call with Reynolds to the Washington Post, where it was first reported. The inspector general found no evidence to substantiate the allegations.

The Guardian asked in its June 2017 freedom of information request for the identity of the complainant who sparked the inspector general’s inquiry. But this, and the entire complaint, was redacted in the released documents.

[The Guardian]

Trump suggests that Nike’s stock is ‘getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts’

That was President Donald Trump’s clearest response thus far to a controversial ad campaign that made its debut during the Labor Day holiday.

The new Nike Inc. advertising campaign features Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who led player protests against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, which has been viewed as a highly political move that runs directly at odds with the rhetoric of President Trump.

On Tuesday, shares of Nike NKE+0.6% shed 3.2%, leading declining components on a down day for the Dow industrials, suffering the sports-apparel company’s worst daily drop since April 2, according to FactSet data. Shares of the retailing giant — a retail tenant of the president’s real-estate business (“They pay a lot of rent,” Trump reportedly told the Daily Caller, though New York magazine noted that the Niketown location on 57th Street in Manhattan apparently in question is slated to close) — rebounded in Wednesday action, posting a gain of 0.4%.

Thus far this year, Nike shares have climbed 28%. The company’s gains outstrip respectable year-to-date returns for the broader market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA+0.08% up 5.1% in 2018, the S&P 500 SPX-0.37% rising 8% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP-0.91% on track to advance by about 16% for the first nine months of 2018, as of Wednesday’s close of trade.

[MarketWatch]

Donald Trump maintains attacks on Bob Woodward, calls for changes in libel laws

Stung by the latest tell-all book to hit his White House, President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on author Bob Woodward by suggesting Wednesday that the government tighten libel laws – though the president’s role in doing that is probably nonexistent.

“Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”

Later, during a photo op with Amir of Kuwait, Trump said: “The book means nothing; it’s a work of fiction.”

Trump also suggested changing the libel laws back during his presidential campaign – in response to news stories he didn’t like – but has made no specific proposals in that area since moving into the White House in January 2017.

There probably isn’t anything Trump, or Congress, can do about libel laws in any event.

For one thing, there is no federal libel statute. States set their own libel statutes, and a series of court rulings have shaped them.

It’s difficult for public figures to win a libel suit; the Supreme Court says they must prove actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth – a high legal bar – and writers and speakers have wide latitude under free speech protections in the First Amendment to criticize and report on elected officials.

The catalyst this time is Woodward’s new book – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – in which aides describe the president as an unhinged “liar” who does not seem interested in learning the details of the issues he has to face.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly described Trump as an “idiot” who is running “Crazytown,” while Defense Secretary James Mattis is quoted as saying Trump acted like a “fifth- or sixth-grader” at one meeting.

“Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses,” Woodward writes, according to a leaked excerpt. “It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

The book is scheduled for public release on Tuesday.

Woodward also reports that Trump tends to berate aides, conduct that the president defended in a separate tweet on Wednesday morning.

Claiming that “my Administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country,” Trump tweeted that “I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!”

Trump is seeking to undermine Woodward even though he has praised the author in the past, and told him in a phone conversation just last month that he has always been fair.

Back in 2013, as members of the Barack Obama administration criticized a Woodward book about them, Trump tweeted out: “Only the Obama WH can get away with attacking Bob Woodward.”

As details of the book began to leak out Tuesday, the White House hastily put together  a series of responses.

Kelly denied calling Trump an “idiot,” while Mattis denied uttering “the contemptuous words” attributed to him by Woodward.

The White House denials echoed those made about previous critical books, particularly those by journalist Michael Wolff and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.

As he did Tuesday night, Trump tweeted out the statements by Kelly and Mattis on Wednesday morning, while adding some denials of his own. In one of his missives, Trump said: “Thank you General Kelly, book is total fiction!”

While Trump has frequently attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he denied Woodward’s reporting that he has called the former Alabama senator “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner.”

“I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing,” Trump tweeted, claiming that Woodward “made this up to divide!”

As for changing libel laws in the wake of Woodward, it’s highly unlikely.

“There is no federal libel law for President Trump to bully Congress to change, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws,” said Brian Hauss, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern.”

[USA Today]

Trump: I never called Sessions ‘mentally retarded’

President Donald Trump denied late Tuesday night that he called Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and made fun of his Southern heritage, his latest push back to Bob Woodward’s upcoming book on the Trump White House.

“The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner,” the president wrote on Twitter. “I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!”

Trump and the White House have already issued a litany of criticisms against Woodward’s latest tome, “Fear.” Excerpts indicate the president is depicted as increasingly erratic and his staff allegedly is forced to resort to the type of tactics sometimes used to control children — like stealing problematic papers off of his desk — to try to thwart him.

Known for his Pulitzer-Prize winning reporting on the Watergate scandal, Woodward has remained adamant that the eyebrow-raising anecdotes in his book are accurate. Even so, Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis have issued statements denying portions of Woodward’s reporting.

In the reported excerpt in question, Trump allegedly told then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter that Sessions was “mentally retarded” and was a “dumb Southerner.”

Trump’s tweet Tuesday night was a rare bit of defense for his beleaguered attorney general, who has weathered intense criticism from Trump. This past weekend, the president vented about the Justice Department’s prosecution of two GOP congressmen, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, and how the timing of the announcement of those charges has prevented the GOP from finding others to run in their place.

[Politico]

Reality

Responding to legendary journalist Bob Woodward’s book that he called Jeff Sessions a “retard,” Donald Trump tweeted he absolutely never called Sessions or anyone else a “retard” in his entire life.

Here is audio of Donald Trump calling someone a “retard” at the 19 minute mark.

Here is another audio of Donald Trump calling a reporter “retarded”.

Trump Responds to Chuck Todd Op-Ed on Anti-Media Rhetoric: I Fought the Press and ‘WON’

Donald Trump attacked Meet the Press host Chuck Todd tonight on Twitter after the NBC correspondant penned an op-ed condemning anti-press rhetoric, as the president told the NBC News reporter that he “won” in the fight against the media.

“Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake NBC News said it’s time for the Press to stop complaining and to start fighting back,” the president tweeted at around 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday night. “Actually Chuck, they’ve been doing that from the day I announced for President. They’ve gone all out, and I WON, and now they’re going CRAZY!”

In Todd’s piece for the Atlantic, the reporter called out the late Roger Ailes and Fox News for fanning the flames of anti-media hatred:

“From the very beginning, Ailes signaled that Fox News would offer an alternative voice, splitting with the conventions of television journalism. Take the word balanced. It sounded harmless enough. But how does one balance facts? A reporting-driven news organization might promise to be accurate, or honest, or comprehensive, or to report stories for an underserved community. But Ailes wasn’t building a reporting-driven news organization. The promise to be “balanced” was a coded pledge to offer alternative explanations, putting commentary ahead of reporting; it was an attack on the integrity of the rest of the media. Fox intended to build its brand the same way Ailes had built the brands of political candidates: by making the public hate the other choice more.”

Todd also named Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and other conservative media figures as being part of a “new kind of campaign” designed “to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Unleashes on Woodward, Accuses Him of Making Up Quotes and Being a ‘Dem Operative’

resident Donald Trump is accusing veteran journalist Bob Woodwardof running a “con” and being a “Dem operative.”

Earlier tonight, Trump tweeted out the statements from the White House, John Kelly, and James Mattis pushing back against claims in Woodward’s upcoming book Fear:

But, of course, Trump himself could not resist going after Woodward himself, accusing him of “a con” and even suggesting he’s a “Dem operative.”

“The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?”

It’s worth noting here that back in 2013, Trump tweeted that “only the Obama WH can get away with attacking Bob Woodward”:

[Mediaite]

Trump Rips Dems For ‘Looking to Inflict Pain’ on Brett Kavanaugh: They’re ‘Mean, Angry and Despicable’

As the first day of confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh concluded, President Donald Trump‘s Twitter fingers were already moving, bashing Democrats for their opposition to his Supreme Court pick.

“The Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the future Justice of the Supreme Court are truly a display of how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is,” he wrote Tuesday. “They will say anything, and are only looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress. So sad to see!”

The remarks came just after a long day for lawmakers, who sat through a nearly eight-hour hearing that began as a shouting match between both sides of the aisle, after which followed numerous interruptions from protesters who were continually taken away by Capitol Police.

However, it’s only the start of several days of hearings as the Senate Judiciary Committee weighs whether to confirm Kavanaugh for the new role as a Supreme Court justice. Democrats have already made clear they’ll vote against him, concerned for the status of abortion rights and gun control.

[Mediaite]

Trump Rages Against ‘Gutless’ White House Official Who Wrote Stunning NYT Op-Ed

President Donald Trump tore into the anonymous source who penned the shocking New York Times op-ed from a senior White House official who admitted to trying to “stop” the president.

Speaking at a White House event on Wednesday, Trump raged against the unnamed person.

“Nobody has ever done in less than a two-year period what we have done,” he said. “So when you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who’s failing, and probably here for all the wrong reasons…”

Trump pivoted from there to blast the Times. But later, he doubled back to what he termed the “gutless editorial.”

“So if the failing “The New York Times” has an anonymous editorial — can you believe it?” Trump said. “Anonymous. Meaning gutless. A gutless editorial.”

In the Times op-ed, the unnamed official wrote that they and others within the Trump administration are working to “stop” the president.

“The dilemma — which [Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the official wrote. “I would know. I am one of them.”

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump’s response to Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her dad is a MAGA tweet

Perhaps the most biting part of Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her father Sen. John McCain during Saturday’s memorial was when she went straight for President Trump’s slogan.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said as part of a speech that routinely took jabs at Trump.

People in the room clapped and social media erupted. You can read her entire speech.

Meghan gave one of several eulogies in McCain’s honor Saturday when a who’s who of Washington and the world gathered at the National Cathedral for his memorial service.

President Trump was not invited and decided instead to spend time at the Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County, Virginia, amid a morning of tweets criticizing the Department of Justice and the FBI and threatening Canada.

Hours later, though, Trump seemingly responded on Twitter with a signature-style message to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Reviews of his response were mixed.

[USA Today]

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