Trump again swipes at Puerto Rico in closed door lunch with Republicans

President Donald Trump, in a closed door meeting Tuesday with Senate Republicans, again took a swipe at Puerto Rico’s fiscal management and the size of its disaster relief in the wake of damaging storms last week — and he brought a visual aid to try and back up his point, according to senators in the room.

Trump, as part of broader remarks that touched on everything from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and health care to trade and North Korea, went out of his way to point out the totals of disaster relief aid that has been distributed in the wake of a series of storms and hurricanes in 2017. It is an issue Trump has had for months — mentioning Puerto Rico’s finances and total disaster relief in negative terms repeatedly in meetings with lawmakers and staff as they’ve worked through iterations of the next disaster relief bill.

“The point was — are we spending the money wisely?” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican asked. “I have nothing against helping the people of Puerto Rico, but we have got to spend the money wisely.”

Trump, senators said, then utilized a chart to showed the difference between what Puerto Rico has received compared to other states like Texas and Florida. At one point, Trump noted that Puerto Rico has received more than $90 billion in aid. Congressional officials asked about the total mentioned by Trump that didn’t track with what Congress has provided in aid up to this point.

“He just talked about the sum total of it,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told reporters of Trump’s Puerto Rico riff.

“I agree that you should always be accounting for how money is spent, but Puerto Rico certainly has needs that were different than some of these other places,” Rubio added, noting the island had been hit by multiple storms and was already in dire financial straits before that damage occurred.

Asked for comment on the senators’ description of Trump’s remarks, the White House responded in a statement.

“The Trump Administration is committed to the complete recovery of Puerto Rico. The island has received unprecedented support and is on pace to receive tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers. However, the Trump Administration will not put taxpayers on the hook to correct a decades old spending crisis that has left the island with deep-rooted economic problems.”

Sen. Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said Trump was “making the point that Puerto Rico has gotten a lot of money before and a lot of it hadn’t been spent wisely, and I think that’s a given.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló blasted Trump’s reported comments in a lengthy statement, saying they “are below the dignity of a sitting President of the United States. They continue to lack empathy, are irresponsible, regrettable and, above all, unjustified.”

He said Puerto Rico has spent disaster aid responsibly and suggested that “Trump is receiving misleading information from his own staff.”

“I invite the President to stop listening to ignorant and completely wrong advice,” Rosselló said. “Instead he should come to Puerto Rico to hear firsthand from the people on the ground. I invite him to put all of the resources at his disposal to help Americans in Puerto Rico, like he did for Texas and Alabama. No more, no less.”

The issue of Puerto Rico — and the President’s stated frustration with what the island has received up to this point — is coming to a head now as lawmakers work to reach a deal on a disaster relief package. Senate Republicans, who unveiled their own $13.4 billion version Tuesday, include $600 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, for the island. The Senate voted Tuesday to begin consideration of the bill.

But the GOP effort falls short of what House Democrats are pushing for regarding aid to Puerto Rico.

“House Democrats oppose this bill because it does not adequately address disaster relief and recovery in Puerto Rico and the territories,” Evan Hollander, spokesman for House Appropriations Committee, said of the Senate bill. “If the Senate passes this bill, we will insist on going to conference to ensure that we meet the needs of all Americans.”

A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said that the topic of funding for Puerto Rico is an “ongoing conversation” between Trump and Scott.

“His view is that we need to get this bill done now since both Florida and Puerto Rico need this funding now,” spokesman Chris Hartline said. “The senator is committed to fighting for the people of Puerto Rico in the US Senate. It’s why his first floor speech and his first amendment filed was on nutrition assistance funding for Puerto Rico.”

[CNN]

Trump slams media for coverage of investigations into ‘all time favorite duly elected President’

President Trump tore into the media over its coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which concluded without sufficient evidence that the president’s campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. 

“The Fake News Media has lost tremendous credibility with its corrupt coverage of the illegal Democrat Witch Hunt of your all time favorite duly elected President, me! T.V. ratings of CNN & MSNBC tanked last night after seeing the Mueller Report statement. @FoxNews up BIG!” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening. 

Trump and his conservative allies on Capitol Hill and in the media seized on Attorney General William Barr’s announcement that Mueller found no evidence of collusion, using it to slam mainstream outlets for what they said was speculative reporting that implied Trump’s guilt.

“The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE. For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning. 

The president has long had an acrimonious relationship with the press, often hammering outlets that reported negative news of the White House as “fake news” and at times even speculating whether he should revoke the press credentials of certain publications’ employees.

Fox News, a staunch defender of the president in its primetime hours, saw a boost in its viewership in the aftermath of the Mueller news, more than quadrupling CNN’s ratings.

[The Hill]

Trump: Media disgraced ‘all over the world’ following Mueller revelations

The conclusion of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has discredited media “all over the world,” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, celebrating the special counsel’s findings by slamming the news coverage of Mueller’s probe.

“The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE,” he tweeted. “For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!”

Trump and his allies have relentlessly attacked the media since Mueller concluded that no one on Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired to work with Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election and was unable to conclude whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Most of the ire has been focused on pundits on Twitter and cable news, where the Russia investigation was covered extensively, and has drawn mixed calls for introspection and a media reckoning.

On Monday, the president’s reelection campaign urged networks to reconsider the Democrats they invited on their programs, suggesting several familiar cable news faces — including several House committee chairmen — be blacklisted from the airwaves for “lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion.”

While the Trump campaign complained this week that the president’s detractors have made “outlandish, false claims,” Trump himself has long faced similar accusations. Several of Trump’s top advisers, too, have faced withering criticism for making false or misleading claims while defending the president and his policies.

While the president’s attack on the media took a more serious tone Tuesday, some of his aides have attempted to inject mockery into their criticisms.

For example, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday shared a mock “Mueller Madness” bracket featuring journalists, celebrities and TV personalities on her Twitter account, asking her 3.8 million followers, “Which of the angry and hysterical @realDonaldTrump haters got it most embarrassingly wrong?”

But while the White House’s attacks on the media are not new, the renewed criticisms have drawn responses from media executives who defended their organizations’ coverage of the Russia investigation. Multiple outlets have noted in recent days that their reporting on Trump and his ties to Russia had been borne out by Mueller’s probe, which resulted in a slew of indictments, convictions and guilty pleas of Trump allies.

[Politico]

Trump attacks McCain again, saying he didn’t get a ‘thank you’ for approving late senator’s funeral

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his unrelenting attacks on the late senator from Arizona and former GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who even in death has remained one of Trump’s top targets for abuse as fellow Republicans have repeatedly begged him to stop.

In a five-minute diatribe during an appearance at a General Dynamics tank factory in Lima, Ohio, Trump argued that McCain, a lifelong Pentagon booster and former prisoner of war in Vietnam, “didn’t get the job done” for veterans while also grousing that he did not receive proper gratitude for McCain’s funeral last September.

“I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” Trump said inaccurately, an apparent reference to allowing the use of military transport to carry McCain’s body to Washington. “I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank-you, that’s okay. We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

He added, “I have to be honest, I never liked him much. Hasn’t been for me. I’ve really, probably, never will.”

The full-throated repudiation of a deceased and revered member of his party was remarkable even for a president constantly at war with his rivals, and it came amid an outpouring of statements in recent days praising McCain in the face of Trump’s attacks.

“It’s deplorable what he said,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in an interview with Atlanta-based Georgia Public Broadcasting earlier Wednesday, referring to previous Trump attacks on McCain. “It will be deplorable seven months from now, if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out. . . . We should never reduce the service that people give to this country, including the offering of their own life.”

Trump’s comments are part of a longtime pattern in which he lashes into those he sees as challenging him — whether prominent or obscure, alive or dead.

In recent days, the president has also attacked George Conway, the husband of senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway, calling him a “stone cold loser,” “a whack job” and a “husband from hell” after Conway raised questions about the president’s mental health on Twitter. Others who have drawn the president’s ire in recent days have included weekend Fox News hosts and “Saturday Night Live” writers and performers.

Some close to the president have attributed his frustrations to worrying over the looming report on Russian election interference from the special counsel’s office — which he mocked Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House en route to Ohio — while others said he simply has fewer advisers to restrain him from airing his grievances.Trump: ‘I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be’

President Trump lashed out at late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on March 19. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Animosity between Trump, who received draft deferments from military service, and McCain stretches back decades and came to a head during the 2016 campaign when Trump declared that McCain was “not a war hero” because he had been captured after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam.

Aides say the new round of frustrations over McCain was fueled by a news report Trump saw recently about McCain’s role in handing over a copy of an intelligence dossier to the FBI after the 2016 election. Trump inaccurately blames the disputed document for kicking off the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the campaign to help Trump.

Trump has regularly railed about McCain in the nearly seven months since his death, complaining about the dossier and the senator’s vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act. Exasperated advisers have encouraged him repeatedly to drop the issue, but his grudge against McCain is particularly visceral, according to current and former aides.

Some of McCain’s supporters said the criticism would amuse McCain, who would have appreciated that the president was still tormented by his legacy. Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime friend and co-author, said that at first he was angered by the president’s mischaracterizations.

“It’s reaching a point of boredom for all of us. McCain is getting some kind of amusement out of it that he’s still in the guy’s head somewhere,” Salter said. “It doesn’t help him, but he can’t control himself. He obviously resents John. He obviously craves the admiration that John received in life. He may excoriate the establishment and fake news and everything else, but he craves its approval.”

At Trump’s event in Lima, Fred Creech, a 61-year-old welder from Wapakoneta, Ohio, said he was a Trump supporter who appreciated the president’s visit but said he was not thrilled by the extended anti-McCain diatribe.

“I can understand what he was saying, but I don’t know that it was totally necessary to explain all that to every single person out here,” Creech said.

Mike Phillips, 58, of Lafayette, Ohio, who works as a forklift driver at the plant, said he was a Trump supporter who appreciated the president’s political incorrectness. “We’ve got a president up there right now that has backbone,” he said. “And we’re sorry if we hurt a few feelings, if that’s the way it is, but we’ve got to be strong again.”

But Phillips was not eager to wade into the McCain controversy: “I do not have a comment on his comment. I’m not going there.”

Republicans have privately urged Trump to be more decorous about their late colleague, but most have done little in response to the continued attacks, aside from veiled criticisms. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) posted a tweet before Trump’s Ohio speech that praised McCain but did not mention the president.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who was close to McCain and remains close to Trump, said at an event in South Carolina on Monday that he had repeatedly counseled the president against attacking his late friend, to no avail.

“He’s an American hero, and nothing will ever change that in my eyes. I want to help this president, I want him to be successful,” he said. “ . . . I think the president’s comments about Senator McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Senator McCain.”

A number of Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday sharply criticized Trump’s attacks on McCain, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said Trump “faked a disability in order to avoid serving,” a reference to the president’s disputed medical deferment for bone spurs.

Beto O’Rourke, appearing at a campaign stop in Conway, N.H., pointed to McCain’s disavowal of racial attacks in the 2008 presidential race against Barack Obama.

“I think that kind of dignity and civility and mutual respect in our politics is missing right now,” O’Rourke said. “I hope that we go back to his example. Instead of focusing on the president’s comments I want to focus on Senator McCain and his example.”

The president is unlikely to change his posture toward McCain, aides say. He takes particular pride in the idea that GOP voters prefer him over McCain, and aides say he has bragged that Republicans might cringe but not punish him over the attacks.

On the day of McCain’s death, he scuttled issuing a statement drafted by White House aides honoring his life. He reluctantly lowered the U.S. flags over the White House briefly before they were raised — then under a fierce backlash, lowered them again.

The president also fumed about the wall-to-wall news coverage of McCain’s death and that he was not invited to the funeral at Washington National Cathedral, current and former administration officials said.

Trump said in Lima that he did not like McCain because he received a “fake and phony” dossier and handed it over to the FBI, “hoping to put me in jeopardy.” McCain had said he handed over the document after it was provided to him on the sidelines of a security conference because he thought it was important for law enforcement to investigate.

The president said, without providing examples or evidence, that McCain “didn’t get the job done for our great vets at the VA and they knew it.”

And he attacked McCain’s status as a longtime defense hawk who advocated a robust U.S. presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan. “We’re in a war in the Middle East that McCain pushed so hard,” Trump said.

After about five minutes of complaining about McCain, Trump seemed to realize he had flown to Ohio for another reason. Explaining his jeremiad, he said the news media had asked him about McCain — but only after he tweeted attacks on the late senator.

“Not my kind of guy, but some people like him and I think that’s great,” he said. “Now, let’s get back and get onto the subject of tanks and this economy.”

[Washington Post]

Trump: George Conway ‘A Wack Job’

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his attacks on George Conway, calling him a “whack job” who is doing a “disservice” to his wife, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

“I don’t know him. He’s a whack job, there’s no question about it,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before traveling to Ohio.

The president added that Conway’s Twitter attacks are “doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife.”

“Kellyanne is a wonderful woman and I call him Mr. Kellyanne,” Trump continued, repeating what he appears to believe is an insult to refer to Conway by his wife’s first name.

“It isn’t—except perhaps to the extremely juvenile and boorish,” Conway responded to a reporter who asked why it is an insult. “What I really wouldn’t want to be called is “Individual-[ ].”

Federal prosecutors made apparent references to Trump as “Individual-1” in its indictment of former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

The comments came just hours after Trump tweeted that Conway is a “stone cold LOSER” and a “husband from hell” who is “jealous of his wife’s success.”

“You. Are. Nuts,” Conway tweeted in response before repeating his claim that the president suffers from mental illness or a personality disorder. “You seem determined to prove my point.  Good for you! #NarcissisticPersonalityDisorder.”

This week’s back-and-forth between Trump and George Conway has elevated what had previously been a family feud watched by Washington insiders into the mainstream consciousness.

Kellyanne Conway defended the president’s attacks on her husband, telling Politico that Trump is within his rights to respond when accused of having mental problems.

“He left it alone for months out of respect for me,” Conway said. “But you think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a non-medical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?”

Despite Trump’s claim he does not know George Conway, the two men do have a personal history that pre-dates their Twitter feud.

Trump considered tapping Conway, a high-powered appellate lawyer, to lead the Justice Department’s civil division in 2017 but Conway said he took himself out of consideration, citing the president’s attacks on the department over the Russia investigation.

In a 2006 letter obtained by The Washington Post, Trump praised Conway’s legal skills used in a dispute at Trump World Tower in New York.

“I wanted to thank you for your wonderful assistance in ridding Trump World Tower of some very bad people,” Trump to Conway. “What I was most impressed with was how quickly you were able to comprehend a very bad situation.”

Trump added that Conway had “a truly great voice,” which he said is “certainly not a bad asset for a top trial lawyer!”

[The Hill]

President Trump again blasts John McCain, says he was ‘never a fan’ and ‘never will be’

President Donald Trump again criticized the late Sen. John McCain Tuesday, pointing specifically to his vote against repealing Obamacare and saying was “never a fan” and “never will be.”

“I’m very unhappy that he didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare, as you know. He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years and then they got to a vote and he said thumbs down,” Trump said. “Plus there were other things. I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.”

The president’s comments came during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Brazil and after a series of weekend tweets in which Trump blasted the senator, who passed away battling brain cancer in last August.

Trump accused him of “spreading the fake and totally discredited dossier” and of sending it to the FBI and the media “hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election.” But the president’s claim is not accurate. McCain wasn’t made aware of the dossier until after the election when he passed it on to the FBI.

The dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Along with other explosive allegations, it alleged that Russians held compromising information about Trump that could be used to blackmail him.

On ABC’s “The View” on Monday, McCain’s daughter Meghan fired back at Trump, saying he “spends his weekend obsessing over great men” because “he will never be a great man” like her father.

[ABC News]

Trump rips Kellyanne Conway’s husband, conservative lawyer George Conway, for calling him mentally ill: ‘A total loser!’

President Donald Trump tore into top White House advisor Kellyanne Conway’s husband on Tuesday, calling him a “total loser” after he accused Trump of exhibiting symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

George Conway, a veteran attorney with deep roots in Republican politics, has become a prominent critic of his spouse’s boss, even as his wife remains one of Trump’s most committed public defenders.

On Monday, George Conway sent a series of tweets displaying the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder listed in the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

He explicitly connected those posts to Trump. “*All* Americans should be thinking seriously *now* about Trump’s mental condition and psychological state, including and especially the media, Congress—and the Vice President and Cabinet,” he tweeted.

In response Monday evening, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, took a swing at Conway, saying he “hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success.”

On Tuesday morning, the president piled on, retweeting Parscale’s post under a heading “a total loser!”

Conway had reportedly been in line for a role in the Trump administration’s Justice Department. But Conway said in June 2017 that he was pulling himself out of consideration. “For me and my family, this is not the right time for me to leave the private sector and take on a new role in the federal government,” Conway said in a statement at the time.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the exchange between George Conway and Trump. George Conway did not immediately provide comment to CNBC on his Twitter exchange.

He did, however, double down in responses to Trump on Tuesday morning.

“Tell us, @realDonaldTrump—which of these diagnostic criteria do you not satisfy?” Conway tweeted.

Conway added: “Congratulations! You just guaranteed that millions of more people are going to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism! Great job!”

[CNBC]

Trump Posts Tweet Telling Meghan McCain That He’s More Loved Than Her Dead Father

On Sunday, President Donald Trump retweeted a tweet from a supporter insisting that he’s more loved than Sen. John McCain.

Meghan McCain took a swipe at Trump suggesting ‘no one will ever love you like they loved my father’ WRONG Meghan!” Lori Hendrywhose Twitter description describes her as “Immigrated here legally•Proud American Citizen•Here to support TRUMP!” wrote in the tweet.

Hendry continued on: “Millions of Americans truly LOVE President Trump, not McCain. I’m one! We hated McCain for his ties to the Russian dossier & his vote against repealing Obamacare.”

Hendry was referring to a tweet sent out by Meghan McCain on Saturday.

“No one will ever love you the way they loved my father,” Meghan wrote. “I wish I had been given more Saturdays with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?”

Meghan’s tweet was prompted by Trump slamming her late father on Twitter, something Trump did again on Sunday despite being lambasted on Twitter for his first McCain disparaging tweet of the weekend.

[Mediaite]

Trump Blasts ‘Lowest Rated’ Shepard Smith and Other Fox Anchors: ‘Should Be Working’ at CNN

President Donald Trump lashed out at several Fox News anchors Sunday, writing in a tweet they “should be working” at CNN.

In a day packed with Twitter missives, Trump’s latest attack takes aim at Smith, a weekday anchor, and Leland Vittert and Arthel Neville, both weekend anchors at the president’s favorite network.

“Were @FoxNews weekend anchors, @ArthelNeville and @LelandVittert, trained by CNN prior to their ratings collapse?” Trump wrote. “In any event, that’s where they should be working, along with their lowest rated anchor, Shepard Smith!”

Trump’s attack on the hard news side of Fox News comes hours after he called for Jeanine Pirro — the opinion host suspended by the network for suggesting a congresswoman’s hijab meant she was anti-American — to be brought back on air.

[Mediaite]

Trump Attacks McCain For 2nd Day Straight, Falsely Claims McCain Graduated ‘Last in His Class’

Donald Trump — who reportedly had Michael Cohen threaten all of his schools to keep his own transcripts a secret — spent a second consecutive day attacking the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), falsely claiming that McCain was “last in his class” at Annapolis.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted another attack on McCain, saying that it was “‘last in his class’ (Annapolis) John McCain that sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election.”

Trump’s claim about McCain is false. He graduated fifth from the bottom of his class, and self-effacingly noted in 1993 that “My four years here [at Annapolis] were not notable for individual academic achievement but, rather, for the impressive catalogue of demerits which I managed to accumulate.”

Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has testified that Trump had him threaten all of his own former schools to keep his academic records secret.

Trump’s attack cones a day after he similarly slammed McCain, prompting a cutting response from Meghan McCain. Trump’s obsession with attacking John McCain’s military record dates back at least twenty years, when he told Dan Rather “He was captured. Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

It was an attack that he infamously repeated during the 2016 presidential campaign, but which did not dim his popularity with Republican voters.

[Mediaite]

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