TRUMP INSISTS THE CONSTITUTION’S ARTICLE II ‘ALLOWS ME TO DO WHATEVER I WANT

President Donald Trump insisted that Article II of the U.S. Constitution “allows” him to do “whatever” he wants, arguing that he never planned to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller but had every legal right to do so.

The president made the remarks during an exclusive interview with ABC News’ host George Stephanopoulos, part of which was released last week and another part of which was released ahead of its airing on Sunday.

Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on specific allegations of obstruction of justice, as many legal experts have defined them, laid out in the second portion of Mueller’s report. One of the primary examples that critics of the president often point to, is the allegation that Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller.

“Number one, I was never gonna fire Mueller,” Trump insisted. “I never suggested firing Mueller.”

Stephanopoulos pushed back, pointing out that McGahn’s testimony to the special counsel and the report told a different story.

“I don’t care what he says,” Trump replied. “It doesn’t matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was. Now he may have got confused with the fact that I’ve always said to anybody that would listen: Robert Mueller was conflicted.”

The president also argued that McGahn lied under oath about being told to fire Mueller because he “wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer” or perhaps misunderstood Trump, because he constantly criticized the special counsel. “Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest,” the president argued.

“Look, Article II [of the Constitution], I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller,” he asserted. “Assuming I did all the things… Number one, I didn’t. He wasn’t fired … But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him,” Trump claimed.

Again, the president insisted that he “wasn’t gonna fire” Mueller, pointing out that actions like that did not go very well for former President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office back in 1974. “I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well,” he said.

Article II of the Constitution outlines the powers given to the president of the United States. The duties outlined in the article include making treaties in conjunction with the Senate, commanding the U.S. military and delivering the annual State of the Union address.

Legal experts disagree over whether or not Trump legally could fire the special counsel. Some have argued that he would have had to tell a Justice Department official to make the call, and they would have had to choose if they would carry out the demand. Others have contended, as Trump did to Stephanopoulos, that he had the legal authority to simply fire Mueller whenever he wanted to. However, many have viewed such an action as obstructing justice, as the special counsel was specifically tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether or not the Trump campaign conspired in that effort.

[Newsweek]

Trump says supporters could ‘demand’ he not leave office after two terms

In tweets on Sunday morning, President Donald Trump suggested supporters might not want him to leave office after two terms. 

“The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT),” Trump wrote. 

The president had also been criticizing the Washington Post and the New York Times, calling them “both a disgrace.” 

Trump has talked about the issue before. In March last year, according to a recording obtained by CNN, he told a closed-door fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago that “maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day,” in reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s abolishment of term limits. It was unclear if the comments were made in jest.  

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution explicitly states that “no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.” 

The only American president to serve more than two terms was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died during his fourth term in office. 

Some progressive commentators have speculated about the possibility of Trump not leaving office if he loses the election narrowly. Last week, Bill Maher said on CNN that if Trump loses, “he won’t go.”  

To which conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg responded, “Refusing to leave would make him the crazy guy the Marines escort out of the building.”

[USA Today]

Trump in testy exchange with Stephanopoulos: ‘You’re being a little wise guy’


President Trump
 pushed back at ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos during a testy interview, calling him “a little wise guy.”

Stephanopoulos was pressing the president on not answering questions in person from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team.

“Wait a minute. I did answer questions. I answered them in writing,” Trump said

“Not on obstruction,” Stephanopoulos replied.

“George, you’re being a little wise guy, OK, which is, you know, typical for you,” Trump hit back.

“Just so you understand. Very simple. It’s very simple. There was no crime. There was no collusion. The big thing’s collusion. Now, there’s no collusion. That means … it was a setup, in my opinion, and I think it’s going to come out,” he continued.

Stephanopoulos, 58, was a White House communications director and senior advisor for policy and strategy for President Clinton. 

He joined ABC News as a political analyst after Clinton’s first term in 1997 and is now ABC News’s chief anchor and host of “Good Morning America” and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

[The Hill]

Emails show Trump official consulting with climate change deniers to challenge scientific findings

A Trump administration official consulted with advisers to a think tank skeptical of climate change to help challenge widely accepted scientific findings about global warming, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.

William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, made the request to policy advisers with the Heartland Institute this March.

Happer and Heartland Institute adviser Hal Doiron discussed Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down climate change as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership” in a March 3 email exchange.

Happer also said he had discussed the work with another Heartland Institute adviser, Thomas Wysmuller, according to the emails obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The National Security Council declined to comment on the emails. 

Jim Lakely, interim president of Heartland Institute, told The Hill that the government’s stances on climate change are not above question.

“As for Wysmuller and Doiron, they are unpaid policy advisors and friends of The Heartland Institute and have known Dr. Happer for many years,” he said.

“It would be hard to find a group of men with more qualifications or experience to criticize NASA’s alarmist public statements on the climate than Happer, Doiron, and Wysmuller.”

The Trump administration is reportedly considering creating a new panel headed by Happer to the question the broad scientific consensus that climate change is driven by human activity and is potentially dangerous.

Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns over the proposed panel, saying it would fly in the face of scientific evidence.

Happer is a well-known climate change skeptic, having argued that carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and gas, is good for humans and that carbon emissions have been demonized like “the poor Jews under Hitler.”

[The Hill]

Trump says he will not fire Kellyanne Conway for Hatch Act violations

President Trump said Friday he will not fire Kellyanne Conway as White House counselor for violating the Hatch Act, rebuking the recommendation of a top federal watchdog.

“No, I’m not going to fire her. I think she’s a terrific person,” Trump said during a call-in interview on “Fox & Friends.”

The president’s comments came one day after the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) publicly said Conway should be removed from office, calling her a “repeat offender” who has flouted the law barring federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official duties.

The office is not related to special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation.

Trump said he will “get a very strong briefing” on Conway’s Hatch Act violations, but suggested he will not recommend that she change her behavior.

“It looks to me they’re trying to take away her right from free speech and that’s just not fair,” he said.

A 17-page report submitted to the White House found that Conway violated the law in more than half a dozen television interviews and tweets by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity.”

The White House argued the OSC applied the law too broadly and violated Conway’s First Amendment rights. The Hatch Act bars the vast majority of federal employees from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” It was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1947 and 1973.

[The Hill]

Trump says he’d accept dirt from a foreign government to see ‘if it’s bad’

Fox & Friends knows President Trump’s got some explaining to do.

After Trump caught heat for telling ABC News that he’d be open to receiving dirt on an opponent from a foreign government, the subject inevitably came up when he called in to Fox & Friends on Friday. The hosts invited Trump to “clarify” his comments on Thursday, but his birthday-morning call didn’t do much to settle the dust.

While Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he would “maybe” report information from a foreign government to the FBI, he told Fox “of course” he’d present “anything bad” to the agency.

“I don’t think anyone would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country,” he began. But if he were hypothetically offered dirt by someone who momentarily forgot about his patriotism, he would definitely check it out. “Of course you have to look at it because, if you don’t look at it, you’re not going to know if it’s bad,” he explained, suggesting a foreign government could be reaching out to let him know how great his opponent is. “But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”

While Trump previously conflated opposition research and interference from a foreign government, on Friday he only mentioned undefined “bad” information, leaving it up to interpretation exactly what would be worth reporting. He wouldn’t want “bad” things affecting an election, Trump concluded — “I thought that was made clear.” 

[The Week]

Trump Rages at ‘Criminal’ Pelosi: ‘A Fascist Statement’ to Accuse Me of Cover-Up

President Donald Trump is going after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing the commander-in-chief of participating in a criminal cover-up.

Pelosi made the remark at a news conference on Thursday.

“I believe that he’s been involved in a criminal cover-up,” she said.

Friday on Fox & Friends, Trump — in response to Pelosi — referenced and echoed comments made by conservative radio host Mark Levin earlier in the show.

“I will go with what Mark Levin said ’cause nobody could say it better. It’s a fascist statement, it’s a disgraceful statement,” Trump said. He added, “For her to make a statement like that, it’s outrageous.”

Later in the segment, Trump circled back to Pelosi — this time accusing her of a criminal act for opposing the construction of a southern border wall.

“We won a big lawsuit on the wall, brought by Nancy Pelosi,” Trump said. “This one was brought by Nancy Pelosi. And maybe that’s criminal — that she’s allowing drug dealers and gang members into our country, maybe that’s criminal when you talk about it. Because what’s happening on the border is…we’re getting it straightened out. You know how easy it would be to solve it? If we met 15 minutes with Democrats, you could solve the asylum problems and the loopholes in 15 minutes, and they know it.”

[Mediaite]

Trump tries to defend foreign dirt comments by noting he meets with world leaders all the time

President Trump is out with a defense of his foreign dirt comments, and it’s a real doozy.

Trump took to Twitter on Thursday after coming under fire for saying in an interview with ABC that he would accept dirt on an election opponent offered by a foreign government and wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI.

Amid this firestorm, the president on Twitter suggested that taking dirt from a foreign government and holding meetings with heads of state are basically the same thing, sarcastically asking if he should call the FBI after meeting with Queen Elizabeth II or the Prince of Wales. Trump deleted and reposted the tweet after originally writing “Prince of Whales.”

Trump also complained about his “full answer” not being played on the news while not explaining what context or nuance is supposedly missing. In the interview, George Stephanopoulos specifically asked Trump whether 2020 candidates should accept information on their opponents from foreign governments, and he said that “I think I’d take it” and would only “maybe” go to the FBI if he “thought there was something wrong” while defending this as not being “interference.” ABC’s Meridith McGraw noted on Twitter that the network “did not edit” his answer.

[The Week]

Trump says he would accept dirt on political rivals from foreign governments

President Donald Trump says he would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival — and wouldn’t necessarily report the contact to the FBI.

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday.

“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump went on, downplaying the idea such a move by another country would amount to election interference.

Trump and his 2016 campaign have come under intense scrutiny — and a special counsel investigation — for their contacts with Russians during the last presidential election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller detailed extensive contact between Trump campaign associates and Russians, but did not conclude there was a criminal conspiracy.

Asked Wednesday whether he would take opposition research being peddled by another government, Trump said he likely would.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.

“Still, Trump said he wouldn’t automatically report the foreign government’s actions to US law enforcement — something he says he’s never considered doing in his lifetime.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI,” he said. “You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.”

“Life doesn’t work that way,” Trump said.

[CNN]

Trump Snaps at April Ryan Over Future Meeting With Putin: ‘You People are So Untrusting’

President Donald Trump went off on White House reporter April Ryan on Wednesday as he took questions from journalists in the Oval Office.

As Trump sat beside Polish President Andrzej Duda, he was asked about how Russia has denied a recent statement of his that they are supposedly withdrawing military forces from Venezuela.

“Well, let’s just see who’s right,” Trump said. “You’ll see in the end whose right okay? You just watch it. And we’ll see who’s right. Ultimately, I’m always right.”

After that, Ryan got in a question about who Trump expects to meet with at the upcoming G20 summit. When she tried to follow up by asking if he’ll be flanked by national security officials when he meets Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the president responded: “Well it’s probably easier because you people are so untrusting so it’s probably better.”

“Would you like to be in the room? I can imagine you would be,” Trump continued with visible agitation. “I think it’s probably easier if we have people in the room because you people don’t trust anything.”

[Mediaite]

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