Trump lies the military was “out of ammunition” when he took office

On Monday, President Donald Trump told an especially silly lie about the state of the United States military when he took office. But the way this particular lie evolved over the past month says something about how fast and loose Trump is with reality more broadly.

During a press conference, Trump — rambling on about his decision to withdraw troops from Syria — took credit for rejuvenating the military, but in so doing rewrote history by claiming that Obama literally left it with no ammunition. His source for this claim was an unnamed “top general.”

“When I took over our military, we did not have ammunition,” Trump said. “I was told by a top general, maybe the top of them all, ‘Sir, I’m sorry sir, we don’t have ammunition.’ I said, I will never let that happen to another president.”

In reality, the United States spent $611 billion on the military in 2016. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a veteran who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and was first elected to Congress in 2016, noted Trump’s comments were “not true.”

“I get briefings as a member of the House Armed Services Committee on our munitions stockpile all over the world,” Gallego tweeted. “We have never run out of ammunition.”

Of course, a full fact-check isn’t needed to see Trump’s comment as the absurdity that it is. But it is interesting to trace how Trump has embellished this particular tall tale since he first told it on September 16.

On that day, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that when he took office, General Jim Mattis — his future defense secretary, and presumably the “top general” Trump referred to on Monday — told him the country was “very low on ammunition.”

“You know, when I came here three years ago almost, General Mattis told me, ‘Sir, we’re very low on ammunition. I said, ‘That’s a horrible thing to say,’” Trump said. “We were in a position where with a certain country — I won’t say which one — we may have had conflict. And he said to me, ‘Sir, if you could, delay it, because we’re very low on ammunition.’ And I said, ‘You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general.’”

Note how that tale was slightly less outlandish than the one Trump told Monday. It is true that President Obama slimmed down the armed forces, a decision that was viewed unfavorably by a large swath of the troops when he left office. It’s also true that Trump has increased military spending. So, charitably speaking, there is a kernel of truth to what Trump was saying.

But within hours, Trump starting pumping up whatever kernel of truth existed until it was no longer recognizable.

Trump held a rally on September 16 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. There, he told the same story he told in the Oval Office earlier in the day, but in a slightly exaggerated form. Instead of being “very low on ammunition,” in the new telling, the country had “very little, slash, no ammunition” when he took office.

Four days later, the story had been exaggerated once again. During a September 20 news conference, Trump claimed the military “didn’t have ammunition” when he took office — the same lie he told on Tuesday.

In sum, Trump started with an exaggerated story that was already absurd, but then gradually inflated it even more until the final product become one of his most outlandish lies. In this case, the subject matter is relatively trivial — nobody really believes the military was out of ammunition when he took office — but the chain of events illustrates how broken Trump’s truth barometer is, and serves as a disturbing reminder about how little the president’s word can be trusted on more important matters.

The comment about ammunition wasn’t even the only time Trump’s propensity for absurdity was on display during the Monday media availability. Trump closed things out by claiming that “my polls went up I think 17 points in the last two or three days.” In fact, Trump’s approval rating has barely budged from being 12 points underwater.

[Vox]

Trump Is Feuding With the Mayor of Minneapolis Over Security Costs for His Rally

The Trump campaign is locked in a battle with Minneapolis after the city insisted the president’s team cover $530,000 in security costs for a rally later this week.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that city officials told the Target Center, where Trump is planning to hold a re-election rally, that it would have to cover the security costs. The company that manages the arena, AEG, then reportedly passed those costs on to Trump’s campaign, which has now threatened legal action if it’s not assured by Tuesday that the arena would be available for the rally later in the week.

The Trump campaign also slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, saying he was using the rally to boost his profile.

“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their president, and no mayor looking to beef up his resume for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”

Frey has been a critic of Trump, and when it was announced that Trump would hold a rally in the city, he said the president’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”

Frey got into a spat with Trump on Twitter on Tuesday, after the president said the “lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters.”

“Yawn… Welcome to Minneapolis, where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors,” wrote Frey in response.

The Trump campaign has come under fire for not paying its costs in the past. A report from the Center for Public Integrity in June revealed that Trump’s campaign owed city governments at least $841,219 in unpaid bills for public safety–related expenses.

There’s no legal obligation for campaigns to cover the costs that cities incur during rallies, but they are allowed to use campaign funds to do so. Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal told the Star Tribune that “it’s not fair” for residents to have to cover security costs at events.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what the event is. If it’s anticipated that there will be a need for additional response … a source of revenue for that needs to be found,” she told the paper.

[Vice]

Trump suggests Pelosi committed treason, should be ‘immediately impeached’


President Trump
 late Sunday suggested that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was guilty of treason and should be “immediately” impeached.

“Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech knowingly delivered as a ruthless con, and the illegal meetings with a highly partisan ‘Whistleblower’ & lawyer,” he tweeted.

“This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!”

Members of Congress cannot be impeached, but the Constitution says each House of Congress “may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.” Members may also be censured.

Trump last week ratcheted up attacks targeting House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for exaggerating a partial transcript of the July 25 call between the president and Ukraine’s leader.

At the time, Trump suggested that Schiff should be arrested for treason, which is punishable by death or a prison term.

During a televised congressional hearing, Schiff said that Trump directed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “make up dirt on my political opponent” a full “seven times.”

The California Democrat defended his comments amid backlash from Republicans at the time, saying: “Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times,’ my point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.”

It was also reported last week that the whistleblower at the center of a House impeachment inquiry into Trump contacted Schiff’s committee before filing a complaint.

Trump’s attacks late Sunday came shortly after reports emerged of a second whistleblower said to have firsthand knowledge of some of the allegations detailed in the original complaint.

Mark Zaid, an attorney at the firm that represents the whistleblower who filed the original complaint regarding Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, said that he was representing the second whistleblower.

Zaid said the second whistleblower is also an intelligence official and has direct knowledge of some of the allegations detailed in the original complaint.

According to Zaid, the second whistleblower has already spoken to the head of the intelligence community’s internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson. However, they have not yet spoken with congressional committees investigating Trump’s communications with Ukraine.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump after reports surfaced of the second whistleblower and said “it doesn’t matter how many people decide to call themselves whistleblowers about the same telephone call.”

She also said that it “doesn’t change the fact that he has done nothing wrong.”

[The Hill]


Trump pulls troops from northern Syria as Turkey readies offensive

The United States began withdrawing American troops from Syria’s border with Turkey early Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the Trump administration was washing its hands of an explosive situation between the Turkish military and U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

President Trump, in a series of Twitter messages Monday, suggested that the United States was shouldering too much of the burden — and the cost — of fighting the Islamic State. He rebuked European nations for not repatriating citizens who had joined the extremist group, claiming that the United States was being played for a “sucker.” And he chided his own Kurdish allies, who he said were “paid massive amounts of money and equipment” to fight the militants. 

“It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” he tweeted.

Trump later added a warning to Turkey. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” he tweeted.

“They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families,” Trump continued. “The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”

The withdrawal followed a late Sunday statement by the White House that the United States would not intervene in a long-threatened Turkish offensive into northern Syria. The announcement, which signaled an abrupt end to a months-long American effort to broker peace between two important allies, came after a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Erdogan said in a speech Monday that the withdrawal began soon after their phone call.

A U.S. official confirmed to The Washington Post that American troops left observation posts in the border villages of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn at 6:30 a.m. local time.

In an initial reaction to the pullout, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a strong Trump supporter, indicated on Twitter that he was seeking more information on the president’s decision. But he added, “If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.”

The fast-moving developments threatened a fresh military conflagration in a large swath of northern Syria, stretching from east of the Euphrates River to the border with Iraq. Syrian Kurds had established an autonomous zone in the area during more than eight years of Syria’s civil war.

Ankara, however, has been increasingly unnerved by the Kurdish presence, and by the close ties between U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant group that has fought a long insurgency against the Turkish state.

For months, Erdogan has been threatening an imminent invasion, as Trump administration officials attempted to work out an accommodation that would satisfy Turkish demands for border security while providing a measure of protection for the U.S.-allied Syrian-Kurdish force.

But on Sunday, the United States appeared to throw up its hands. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the Turkish leader would “soon be moving forward” with dispatching troops to battle the Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Ankara views the group as a terrorist-linked entity, but the SDF has fought closely alongside the U.S. military as a primary partner against the Islamic State. 

“The United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” Grisham said in a statement. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State, the militant group whose rise drew the U.S. military into Syria. 

The SDF, in a statement critical of the United States, said the American troops have begun pulling out.

“The United States forces have not fulfilled their obligations and withdrew their forces from the border area with Turkey,” the statement said. “This Turkish military operation in north and east Syria will have a big negative impact on our war against Daesh and will destroy all stability that was reached in the last few years.” Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

It added that the group reserves the right to defend itself against Turkish aggression.

Erdogan, who has portrayed a Turkish incursion as necessary to protect his country’s borders, has spoken in recent weeks of resettling millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey in a “safe zone” in northern Syria, a plan that has been criticized by refugee advocates as well as local Syrian Kurds who could be displaced by such a proposal.

On Saturday, Erdogan said the invasion, dubbed Operation Peace Fountain, could begin “as soon as today or maybe tomorrow.”

U.S. officials depicted the impending offensive, and the U.S. troop withdrawal, as a dramatic turn after their prolonged attempt to hammer out an arrangement that would allay the Turks’ concerns about Syrian Kurdish forces close to their border, while also averting a battle they fear will be bloody for Kurdish fighters whom the Pentagon sees as stalwart allies. 

Military officials point out that Kurdish assistance is still required to avoid a return of the Islamic State in Syria and to guard facilities where Islamic State militants and their families are being held. 

A senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an evolving situation, said the U.S. government “has no idea” what the Turkish operation would look like, whether it would be a small, symbolic incursion or a major offensive intended to push as far as 25 miles into Syria. 

 U.S. officials said an operation deep into Syria could further jeopardize the security of prisons holding Islamic State fighters. “There are many potential disastrous outcomes to this,” the official said.

The White House announcement comes only two days after the Pentagon completed its most recent joint patrol with Turkish forces, a central element of the U.S. effort to build trust in northern Syria. But similar patrols and other measures overseen from a joint U.S.-Turkish military hub in southern Turkey have not reduced Ankara’s impatience to establish the buffer zone it has envisioned. 

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described ongoing U.S.-Turkish cooperation in northern Syria, saying that his Turkish counterpart had agreed in a call last week “that we need to make the security mechanism work.”

In negotiations, the United States had said it would agree to a strip along the border to be cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters and jointly patrolled by the United States and Turkey on the ground and in the air. That strip is about five miles wide, only about a quarter of what the Turks have demanded.

The joint patrols are taking place in only about a third of the border length, with the idea of gradually expanding them. In addition to not liking U.S. terms for the agreement, Erdogan believes the United States is dragging its feet in implementing it.

“Mr. Trump gave the order; he ordered to pull out. But this came late,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Monday. “We cannot accept the threats of terrorist organizations.”

Erdogan’s plan to send up to 3 million Syrian refugees into the 140-mile-long strip also runs counter to what the United States says was part of the agreement they had reached to allow only the 700,000 to 800,000 refugees who originally fled the area to resettle there. Turkey currently hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, but the government has recently begun deporting hundreds back to Syria as public sentiment turns against the migrants.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, wrote on Twitter that Turkey has no interest in occupying or changing the demographics in northeastern Syria and that the “safe zone” would serve two purposes: secure Turkey’s borders and allow refugees to return home.

After months of warning about the turmoil such a move could create, U.S. officials said they are now watching Turkey’s actions closely to inform their own decisions about how quickly they must move the hundreds of troops expected to be affected. 

“We’re going to get out of the way,” another U.S. official said. 

There are about 1,000 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria. 

The SDF also predicted that Islamic State fighters would break out of prison camps the SDF manages in different areas of Syria.

The potential for greater risk to Islamic State prisons and camps comes after months of unsuccessful efforts by the Trump administration to persuade countries in Europe and elsewhere to repatriate their citizens.

The White House statement said that “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters” in that area. “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” Grisham said. 

Erdogan said Monday that Turkey has “an approach to this issue” of ISIS, without specifying what it was.

The United Nations is also concerned about the impact that any Turkish operation would have on the protection of civilians in northeastern Syria, Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said in a telephone interview.

“We want our message to all governments and actors on the ground to be to make sure that this latest development does not have an impact first of all on a new displacement of people,” he said.

The United Nations already provides services to approximately 700,000 people every month in the northeast. Moumtzis emphasized the importance of freedom of movement of civilians and ensuring the continuation of access to humanitarian groups. He stressed that any movement of Syrians must be done voluntarily and with safety and dignity.

“We have not had any specific instructions on” the safe zone, he said, adding that the United Nations has a contingency plan depending on how wide and deep the safe zone would be.

Turkey’s latest possible incursion comes nearly two years after Ankara launched a military offensive on Afrin, in northern Syria, in an operation that was also criticized as a distraction from the fight against the Islamic State.  

The contested legacy of Turkey’s Afrin offensive has hovered over Erdogan’s latest military plans. Ankara has argued that its past foray into Syria brought stability to parts of the north and provided a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. But over the last year, human rights groups have documented abuses by Turkish-backed militias in Afrin — mistreatment that they say has included kidnappings and arbitrary detentions.

And many of the refugees who returned to Afrin — which has suffered from mysterious militant attacks, including car bombs — ended up fleeing back across the border into Turkey, according to advocates for the refugees.

Kurdish leaders have accused Turkey of trying to settle Arabs in historically Kurdish lands. Arab residents, in turn, have accused the Kurds of carrying out ethnic cleansing in areas they control.

“We thank the Americans for their decision to withdraw from northern Syria, not because we hate the U.S. but because we are fed up with the SDF,” said Abu Musafir, a member of the Manbij Tribal Council, a confederation of Arab tribes in the region.

“We are fed up with the SDF’s racism, detentions, kidnappings and compulsory conscription of underaged boys and girls,” he said. “The situation was bad, and the area was on the verge of imploding.” 

[Washington Post]

Trump removed U.S. ambassador to Ukraine over complaints from Giuliani, other outsiders

President Donald Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the matter.

The recall of Marie Yovanovitch in the spring has become a key point of interest in the House impeachment inquiry. A whistleblower complaint by a CIA officer alleges the president solicited foreign interference in the 2020 elections by pressing Ukraine’s president in a July 25 call to pursue investigations, including into the activities of Biden, a Democrat who is running for president.

The complaint cites Yovanovitch’s ouster as one of a series of events that paved the way for what the whistleblower alleges was an abuse of power by the president. Trump has described the call with his Ukrainian counterpart as “perfect” and the House inquiry as a “hoax.”

State Department officials were told this spring that Yovanovitch’s removal was a priority for the president, a person familiar with the matter said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the move, an administration official said. Yovanovitch was told by State Department officials that they couldn’t shield her from attacks by the president and his allies, according to people close to her.

In an interview, Giuliani told The Wall Street Journal that in the lead-up to Yovanovitch’s removal, he reminded the president of complaints percolating among Trump supporters that she had displayed an anti-Trump bias in private conversations. In Giuliani’s view, she also had been an obstacle to efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

[MarketWatch]

Trump Attacks CNN International: ‘We Should Start Our Own Network’

During a speech that was ostensibly about Medicare, President Donald Trump bashed CNN and argued for the creation of a pro-Trump network to cover the United States abroad.

“Their ratings are so low that they are no longer a big difference at all, they have really bad ratings,” Trump told a crowd in Florida Thursday. “Do you know what’s bad for our country? When CNN, I go to a foreign country … CNN outside of the United States is much more important than inside the United States and a lot of what you see here is broadcast throughout the world.”

Trump then said “we used to have Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. We did that to build up our country. That isn’t working out too well.” Radio Free Europe and Voice of America are still in operation.

“CNN is a voice that really seems to be the voice out there and it’s a terrible thing for our country. We should start our own network and put some real news out there because they are so bad for our country,” Trump argued.

“We’re looking at that, we should do something about that– put in some really talented people and and get a voice out there not a voice that’s fake,” he said.

A reason CNN may be so ubiquitous as a news organization outside of the United States is because it has invested in multiple news bureaus, boasting of 27 on it’s fact sheet. In comparison, a network like Fox News only has three international bureaus–in Jerusalem, Rome and London.

[Mediaite]

Trump publicly urges China to investigate Bidens amid impeachment inquiry

 President Donald Trump urged another foreign government to probe Joe Biden and his son Thursday, saying the Chinese government should investigate the former vice president and son Hunter Biden over the latter’s involvement with an investment fund that raised money in the country.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters outside the White House.

While Trump said he hasn’t requested Chinese President Xi Jinping investigate the Bidens, the public call mirrors the private behavior on which Democrats are partially basing their impeachment inquiry — using the office of the presidency to press a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.

It is “certainly something we can start thinking about, because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being on that kind of scrutiny, where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy,” Trump said Thursday of asking China to probe the Bidens. “He got kicked out of the Navy, all of the sudden he’s getting billions of dollars. You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.”

The U.S. in the midst of a tense trade war with China. The president, discussing progress on negotiations with Beijing on a possible trade agreement just moments prior to his remarks about the Bidens, told reporters that “if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

Chinese officials will be in Washington next week in another attempt to revive talks, Trump said.

Trump, seeking to expand his corruption accusations against the Bidens beyond Ukraine, has in recent days repeatedly accused Hunter Biden of using a 2013 trip on Air Force Two with his father, then the vice president, to procure $1.5 billion from China for a private equity fund he had started.

Prior to Thursday, Trump had not called for an investigation of the matter. The White House declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.

Despite Trump’s accusations, there has been no evidence of corruption on the part of the former vice president or his son. In a statement, Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, said the president “is flailing and melting down on national television, desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations.”

“As Joe Biden forcefully said last night, the defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s presidency is the ongoing abuse of power. What Donald Trump just said on the South Lawn of the White House was this election’s equivalent of his infamous ‘Russia, if you’re listening’ moment from 2016 — a grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over the country,” Bedingfield said.

Trump, during a 2016 campaign rally, encouraged the country to meddle in the 2016 election by trying to access Hillary Clinton’s emails, saying, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation found that within hours of Trump‘s invitation, Russian military intelligence initiated a hack against Clinton’s office. Trump and his allies have said he wasn’t serious when he made the comment.

In pushing back on Trump, Biden’s campaign previously pointed to a fact-check from The Washington Post that found Trump’s claims false while tracing the origins of the $1.5 billion figure to a 2018 book published by conservative author Peter Schweizer.

In addition, Hunter Biden’s spokesman, George Mesires, told NBC News previously that Hunter Biden wasn’t initially an “owner” of the company and has never gotten paid for serving on the board. He said Hunter Biden didn’t acquire an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office.

And when he did, he put in only about $420,000 — a 10 percent interest. That puts the total capitalization of the fund at the time at about $4.2 million — a far cry from the $1.5 billion that Trump has alleged.

Trump also said Thursday that he still wants Ukraine to conduct “a major investigation” into Joe and Hunter Biden.

[NBC News]

Reality

Lawfare: Former federal prosecutor and current professor at the University of Alabama School of Law Joyce White Vance concisely yet methodically explained why Trump’s statements constituted a crime.

“Trump just committed a felony violation of law by soliciting something of value in connection with a US election from a foreign government on national TV. 52 U.S. Code § 30121. Violating the law isn’t necessary for Impeachment but it certainly warrants it,” Vance wrote (including a citation to a statute).

She then explained how previously documented accounts of similar behavior render Trump’s conduct here even more culpable than in earlier instances of his requests for foreign assistance.

“The statute requires knowledge your conduct is a crime. After the Mueller investigation, there’s no way Trump was unaware this violates the law. Ukraine/China can you hear me is even worse than Russia, if that’s possible, because it comes from a sitting president,” she wrote.

Trump Again Attacks Teenage Climate Activist Greta Thunberg

President Donald Trump is using his Twitter account to once again attack teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, this time to amplify a snide dismissal of her public appearances as “acting.”

The commander-in-chief on Thursday jabbed at the Swedish 16-year-old: He retweeted and praised a Twitter user who criticized the passionate speech Thunberg gave at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City late last month.

A user by the name of @Opinion8dKellie shared video of Thunberg’s speech, in which the teen slammed world leaders for what she said was more interest in making money than in saving the planet by reducing carbon emissions.

“What an actress!” the user, @Opinion8dKellie, tweeted, adding, “I won’t be held hostage by someone who just got a learner’s permit. Sorry kiddo!”

Though the tweet was written on Sept. 23, Trump, 73, retweeted it Thursday morning.

“Keep up the great work Kellie!” he wrote.

In the original tweet, @Opinion8dKellie also referred dismissively to when a visibly aggrieved Thunberg said at the U.N.: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”

[People]

Trump, Republicans accuse top Dem of orchestrating whistleblower complaint

The intelligence community employee who has accused President Donald Trump of abusing his office filed his whistleblower complaint after first consulting with an aide to the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a committee spokesman acknowledged Wednesday, touching off a firestorm of criticism from Republicans.

But while President Trump and others accused House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of orchestrating the complaint, Democratic committee aides told NBC News that what happened was rather routine, and no different from the two to three times a month an intelligence agency employee comes to them with concerns.

They said they did what they usually do in that situation: They instructed the future whistleblower to file a formal document with the inspector general, as called for in the law.

“Like other whistleblowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistleblower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,” committee spokesman Patrick Boland told NBC News. “This is a regular occurrence, given the committee’s unique oversight role and responsibilities. Consistent with the committee’s longstanding procedures, committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel.”

The sequence of events was first reported by the New York Times. The future whistleblower, a CIA officer, came to the committee after he had already filed a complaint with the CIA general counsel, and was concerned that the complaint was not being properly handled, Democratic committee aides said.

“At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance,” Boland said.

Trump, at a news conference, seized on the revelation and made an unsupported allegation that Schiff had helped prepare the complaint.

“He knew long before and helped write it, too. It’s a scam,” the president said.

The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, claimed on Twitter that Schiff “just got caught orchestrating with the whistleblower before the complaint was ever filed. Democrats have rigged this process from the start.”

Boland and a lawyer for the whistleblower denied that Schiff played any role in writing the complaint.

However, Republicans focused on the veracity of a statement Schiff made on MSNBC’s Morning Joe a few days after he publicized the existence of the complaint.

“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” Schiff said. “We would like to, but I’m sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised, as the law requires, by the inspector general or the Director of National Intelligence, just as to how he is to communicate with Congress.”

A committee aide said Schiff was referring to the committee writ large “officially interviewing the whistleblower,” as distinct from the brief conversation with a staffer. But Sam Stein, the Daily Beast journalist who asked the question, tweeted, “Schiff did appear to lie here in previously saying that his office had not spoken directly with the whistleblower.”

He added, “But if you care more about this stuff than the actual substance of the whistleblower complaint then you’re being a hack.”

Boland noted that the committee did not receive a copy of the complaint from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until the night before the acting director of national intelligence’s testimony, more than three weeks after the legal deadline by which the committee should have received the complaint.

“The whistleblower should be commended for acting appropriately and lawfully throughout every step of the process,” he added. “The committee expects that they will be fully protected, despite the President’s threats. Only through their courage did these facts about the President’s abuse of power come to light. The committee encourages all whistleblowers to come forward and seek advice on how to make disclosures of serious or flagrant wrongdoing. The committee — and the nation — rely on brave members of the Intelligence Community to raise the alarm and avail themselves of established channels.”

Schiff does not know the identity of the complainant, the committee aides said, adding that the whistleblower passed on only a vague account of his or her concerns. They would not comment on whether Schiff knew they involved a Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president.

But one result of the heads up was that Schiff, alone among members of Congress, knew there was something important when the inspector general of the Intelligence Community notified the House and Senate intelligence committees that an “urgent concern” complaint was being withheld from them on legal grounds. On September 13, a Friday night, Schiff announced without warning that he was issuing a subpoena for the complaint, and suggested the complaint was being withheld to protect the president. Other Democrats did not appear to know what he knew.

The committee aides added that the bulk of the whistleblower’s complaint was marked unclassified, and that he therefore did not violate the whistleblower law that prohibits intelligence employees from conveying classified information to Congress without going through procedures, including filing a complaint with an inspector general.

A source close to the whistleblower’s legal team said there was no violation, and did not dispute the sequence of events as reported in the New York Times and confirmed by committee aides.

When the whistleblower first had a colleague convey his or her concerns in very general terms to the CIA’s general counsel, the CIA’s counsel briefed the White House Counsel’s Office about the complaint, a person familiar with the matter said. When the whistleblower learned about that, he became concerned the complaint was being swept aside, the New York Times reported.

“The intelligence community whistleblower followed the advice of legal counsel from the beginning,” Andrew Bakaj, lead counsel for the whistleblower, said. “The laws and processes have been followed.”

[NBC News]

Trump calls investigations ‘BULLSHIT’

President Donald Trump’s furor with House Democrats’ barely week-old impeachment probe reached new heights on Wednesday, apparently prompting the president to resort to obscenities to express his discontent.

In a slew of tweets fired off as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff held a briefing on lawmakers’ impeachment efforts, Trump branded the Democratic Caucus as “Do Nothing Democrats” and proceeded to call their oversight efforts “bullshit.”

“The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306,” he wrote, incorrectly stating the breakdown of Electoral College votes he and Hillary Clinton received.

He also fired off a warning to Democrats ahead of their nominating contest next year: “Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”

Later speaking to reporters in the Oval Office alongside Finland’s visiting president, Trump managed to partially censor himself in making a crude reference to Schiff, one of his top congressional rivals.

“He is a shifty dishonest guy who was critical of one of the great secretary of States,” Trump said of Schiff, who’d just criticized Mike Pompeo on national television. “The most honorable person, Mike Pompeo, and this guy was negative on Mike Pompeo.”

Trump then delivered some locker room talk about Schiff: “He can’t — you know there’s an expression, he couldn’t carry his blank strap,” he said, apparently bleeping out “jock strap.”

“I won’t say it,” Trump went on, “because they’ll say it was so terrible to say, but that guy couldn’t carry his blank strap, do you understand that?”

Pelosi only formally launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump last week, after it was reported the president pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Biden is among the top candidates vying to run against Trump next year.

The probe stems from a whistleblower complaint filed by a member of the intelligence community citing that call, prompting the White House to release its rough transcript of the conversation. Democrats, citing Trump’s sudden decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine, suggested the conversation may have contained a quid pro quo, though no such offer is explicitly made, according to the White House’s account of the phone call.

Trump’s outbursts come as the investigation has intensified on a daily basis. Early Wednesday morning, Pompeo confirmed that he was on the July phone call with Trump and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky after initially playing down any knowledge of what was discussed on the call.

Pompeo also stoked Democrats’ ire by appearing to accuse them on Tuesday of intimidating career employees at the State Department and by suggesting several potential witnesses could decline to appear for depositions with lawmakers.

In recent days, Trump demanded Schiff’s resignation while claiming the congressman and the anonymous whistleblower could both be guilty of treason.

But Democrats have moved forward quickly with their probe, hitting Trump and his allies with a number of subpoenas over the past week, and Trump has continued to lash out, calling their investigations an attempt at a “coup.” Schiff on Wednesday made clear that he would not put up with stonewalling by the White House, telling reporters that doing so would be considered evidence of obstruction in any eventual articles of impeachment.

In Wednesday’s news conference, Pelosi said she still believed Democrats could work with the White House on prescription drug pricing legislation and to make tweaks to Trump’s renegotiated deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing that her colleagues could investigate and legislate simultaneously.

She also forcefully defended the probe, insisting she would be a fair arbiter while ensuring it moves forward at an aggressive pace.

As Trump barked out insults in the Oval Office, referring to Schiff as a “lowlife” and “shifty Schiff,” Finland’s Sauli Niinistö sat quietly in the chair beside him with a straight face.

When a Finnish reporter offered up the chance to change the subject, asking Trump what he could learn from “the happiest country in the world,” Finland, the president continued to lay into his rivals.

“Well if you got rid of Pelosi, and you got rid of shifty Schiff,” Trump trailed off with a grin after slapping Niinistö on the knee.

“Finland is a happy country, he’s a happy leader, too,” Trump added, eliciting an eyebrow raise and a knowing chuckle from Niinistö.

[Politico]

Reality

Donald Trump tweeted this during his 9 hours of Executive Time.

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