Trump: Robert E. Lee comment was ‘actually a shoutout’ to Grant

President Trump on Sunday accused the media of “purposely” changing the meaning of his comments on Robert E. Lee.

In a tweet, Trump claimed that his comments about the Confederate general were “actually a shoutout” to Ulysses S. Grant.

“NBC News has totally and purposely changed the point and  meaning of my story about General Robert E Lee and General Ulysses Grant,” Trump tweeted. “Was actually a shoutout to warrior Grant and the great state in which he was born. As usual, dishonest reporting. Even mainstream media embarrassed!”

At a campaign rally Friday night, the president said Lee was a “great general,” and spoke at length about Lee, Grant and Abraham Lincoln.

“So Robert E. Lee was a great general. And Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia. He couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee,” Trump said at the rally.

Later in his monologue, he also said Grant was a “great general,” and that he “knocked the hell out of everyone,” adding multiple times that Grant had a “drinking problem.”

Trump’s “Lee was a great general” comment has drawn widespread backlash, including from a descendant of Lee himself.

[The Hill]

Trump: ‘We’ve learned how to live with’ the ‘fake news’ media

President Trump on Friday railed against the media, joking that his administration and its supporters have “learned how to live with them.”

“Look at the number of the media back there. Fake news,” Trump said during a rally in Lebanon, Ohio, his third rally this week.

“You go back and they’ll say, did he say this or that or this,” he added. “That’s okay, you know what, we’ve learned how to live with them. We don’t like it, but we’ve learned.”

Trump has repeatedly railed against the press throughout his presidency, continually referring to them as the “enemy of the people” and frequently lashing out at publications and their reporters, including The New York Times and CNN.

Trump escalated his attacks earlier this year, stating that the media can also “cause war.”

His comments on Friday came amid reports that a Washington Post journalist may have been killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

Turkish officials say they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by a Saudi entourage, but the Saudis have denied those claims.

Trump, before the rally, said he would call King Salman of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

“I will be calling, I will be calling at some point King Salman. I’ll be speaking to him yes,” Trump told reporters in Ohio, where he is attending campaign events.

Trump is facing increasing scrutiny from lawmakers over how he’ll respond to Khashoggi’s disappearance.

[The Hill]

Trump Rips Eric Holder For His ‘When They Go Low, We Kick Them’ Remark: ‘It’s a Disgrace’

President Donald Trump weighed in on recent remarks made by his former 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder.

This week, Clinton told Democrats that they “cannot be civil” with Republicans until they take over the House and/or the Senate and Holder rebuked former First Lady Michelle Obama‘s saying of “when they go low, we go high,” changing the expression to “when they go low, we kick them.”

When asked by Fox News anchor Shannon Bream about how critics point to him as the root cause of the incivility in America, Trump says he didn’t “think so.”

“My rallies have been very peaceful and even at the beginning when there seemed to be conflict, they sent paid people to disrupt our rallies,” Trump said. “And when you do that, you know, bad things happen. But they were the ones that started everything. So noo, it wasn’t us. It was totally the other side. I would have a rally and paid people were going into those rallies causing trouble. And in many cases, it didn’t work out so well for those people.”

“But not okay to punch them,” Bream pushed back.

Trump then pivoted to Holder and Clinton’s remarks.

“When I hear Holder making a statement like he did today, I think it’s a disgrace,” Trump continued. “And Hillary, I really understand. She just doesn’t get it. She never did. She never will. And that’s why she lost the election.”

Bream concluded the interview by expressing hope that civility can be restored in this country, something that the president agreed with.

[Mediaite]

White House Will ‘Look Into’ Fox News’ Decision to Stop Broadcasting Trump Rallies

The White House has vowed to “look into” a decision taken by Fox News to stop broadcasting Donald Trump’s rallies live and in full because they’re no longer bringing in high ratings. Politico reports viewing figures for Trump rallies have dropped and tend to be similar to, or even below, those for regular programming. The network only showed clips of his three rallies over the last week, rather than broadcasting the whole events uninterrupted. The report states White House figures are concerned Trump is losing control of a key platform ahead of the midterms. One senior White House official told Politico they were unsure why the network is cutting away from the rallies, saying officials planned “to look into that” and that they expect White House Communications Director Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive, to be in touch with his former colleagues about the move.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump Attacks the Fed as Stocks Fall and the Midterms Loom

President Trump responded to falling stock prices on Thursday by continuing to throw rocks at the Federal Reserve, which he has described as “crazy,” “loco,” “going wild” and “out of control” for slowly raising interest rates against the backdrop of a booming economy.

No other modern president has publicly attacked the Fed with such venom or frequency. Indeed, some scholars said the only close historical parallel was with President Andrew Jackson, who campaigned successfully in the 1830s to close the Fed’s predecessor, the Second Bank of the United States.

Mr. Trump’s pointed remarks reflect the high political stakes less than a month before midterm elections that have been cast by his political opponents as a referendum on his presidency. Mr. Trump has been riding the economy hard, bragging about job creation, tax cuts and reduced federal regulation, and claiming credit for the rise of the stock market. Now that the market has lost 5 percent of its value in the last week, Mr. Trump is insisting someone else is to blame.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index closed at 2,728.37 on Thursday, down 2.06 percent.

In fact, despite the stock market’s plunge, the American economy continues to grow, which is what is prompting the Fed to raise interest rates and drawing the president’s ire. The Fed’s chairman, Jerome H. Powell, has said that the economy is in a “particularly bright moment” and that he sees no clouds on the horizon.

The stock market sell-off instead appears to reflect the movement of money into bonds, a normal consequence of higher interest rates since those securities pay more as rates rise; concern about the health of the global economy; and hesitations about the value of tech stocks.

But after hitching his political fortunes to the rise of the stock market, Mr. Trump is now looking to decouple himself from its fall. Republicans are instead emphasizing continued economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate since 1969.

So far, the president’s comments have made little impression on market expectations about Fed policy. Unlike Jackson’s concerted campaign, Mr. Trump’s attacks appear curiously unmoored from the policies of his own administration or the longstanding goals of the Republican Party. Mr. Trump’s own aides have insisted that the president’s remarks are personal musings, not an attempt to dictate policy.

The Fed has also brushed off the attacks; it still expected to raise rates in December for the fourth time this year.

Mr. Powell, selected for the job by Mr. Trump, said at a September news conference that Mr. Trump’s views would not influence the Fed’s decisions. “We don’t consider political factors or things like that,” Mr. Powell said. “That’s who we are, that’s what we do, and that’s just the way it’s always going to be for us.”

Mr. Powell emphasized that the decision to raise rates to a range between 2 and 2.25 percent was not intended to get in the way of continued growth. “My colleagues and I are doing all we can to keep the economy strong, healthy and moving forward,” he said.

A spokeswoman declined to comment on Thursday.

Some experts warned that a continued assault on the Fed could have long-lasting consequences.

Peter Conti-Brown, a professor of legal studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a political history of the Fed, pointed to the example of the F.B.I., another institution Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked by raising questions about the integrity of its decision making. Mr. Conti-Brown said technocratic institutions are insulated from political pressure by public confidence. If confidence erodes, it becomes harder for technocrats to resist the politicians.

The F.B.I. has seen a loss of leadership, an erosion of morale and an increase in congressional scrutiny.

“How long before the Fed is looking at its political context and saying, ‘We can’t stick our heads out as far as we need to,’” Mr. Conti-Brown asked rhetorically. “How long will people stay if the job itself becomes terrible, and there are protesters everywhere you go?”

Mr. Trump criticized the Fed when it raised interest rates in July, and again when it raised interest rates in September. But his attacks have sharply intensified in recent days, in tandem with the drop in the stock market.

“I think the Fed has gone crazy,” he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. Later in the day, speaking with Fox News, he continued to increase the heat. “The Fed is going wild,” he said. “I don’t know what their problem is. They are raising interest rates and it’s ridiculous.”

“It’s not right,” he said Thursday. “It’s not necessary, and I think I know more about it than they do.”

Mr. Trump added that he was “disappointed” with Mr. Powell but did not plan to fire him — an authority the president may not even have. While the president in theory has the power to remove a Fed chairman “for cause,” courts have held that the permissible causes do not include policy disagreements.

For the moment, Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Fed does not seem to be catching on with Republican candidates. Many Republicans have argued for years that the Fed was waiting too long to raise interest rates, and then that it was moving too slowly. The party is trying to hold on to majorities in the Senate and the House by running on a strong economy and using the heated liberal opposition to Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation as an example of the threat Democrats pose if they control Congress. That dynamic could change, however, if the stock market continues to fall.

Modern presidents have always kept an uneasy eye on the Fed, because its decisions about monetary policy have a significant influence on the pace of economic growth.

Until the early 1950s, the Fed essentially operated as an arm of the Treasury Department. Even after the Fed gained operational independence, presidents often opined publicly about what the Fed should do and, if the Fed ignored their advice, they sometimes sought to bend its officials to their will.

President Lyndon B. Johnson protested a decision to raise interest rates in the late 1960s by summoning the Fed chairman at the time, William McChesney Martin, to his East Texas ranch and pinning the smaller man against a wall. President Richard M. Nixon instructed aides to blackmail Mr. Martin’s successor, Arthur Burns. President George Bush declared in a State of the Union address that the Fed should keep rates low.

But the volume of public commentary greatly diminished in recent decades as politicians concluded that pressuring the Fed was counterproductive. The administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all made a policy of silence on monetary policy.

Krishna Guha, the head of the central bank strategy team at Evercore ISI, said he did not expect Mr. Trump’s remarks to influence the Fed, and he saw no evidence that markets were paying attention. But he added that if Mr. Trump did succeed, he would most likely regret doing so.

If Mr. Trump’s attacks convince markets that the Fed may move more slowly, or show greater tolerance of inflation, bond yields would rise, which would put further downward pressure on equity prices.

Still, Mr. Guha — formerly a senior official at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — said that the president’s criticisms were not good for the central bank or the future conduct of economic policy.

“You never want to be in a position where some part of society doesn’t just question whether you made the right call or not, but whether you made that call in the public interest,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s aides have sought to play down his broadsides. Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, said Mr. Trump was just offering his two cents. “I don’t think he’s ‘calling out the Fed,’ quote unquote,” Mr. Kudlow told reporters outside the White House on Thursday morning. “I really mean this. I think he’s giving you his opinion. He is a, obviously, successful businessman, he’s a very well-informed investor. He has his views. But he’s not saying to them, ‘Change your plan.’”

Mr. Kudlow added, “He knows the Fed is independent, and he respects that.”

Mr. Trump’s criticisms appear strangely at odds with the way he has handled the most powerful means at his disposal to influence monetary policy. Since taking office less than two years ago, he has had the unusual opportunity to fill six of the seven seats on the Fed’s board of governors.

He filled the top three positions on the Fed’s board, including the chairman’s job, with members of the Republican policymaking establishment, which has long been committed to keeping inflation firmly under control. Three other nominees, still awaiting confirmation, are a more diverse group, but there is no indication any share Mr. Trump’s stated opposition to raising interest rates.

“In most areas of administrative policy that have been highly politicized, his appointments have privileged politics over competence,” Mr. Conti-Brown said. “The Fed has been an exception.”

A looming question, he said, is whether Mr. Trump might begin to match his actions to his words.

[The New York Times]

Trump issues nonsensical tweet mocking ‘paid protesters’ as unpaid

President Donald Trump again lashed out at demonstrators who opposed his Supreme Court nominee by smearing them as paid protesters whose checks had not yet cleared.

The president last week baselessly accused protesters against Brett Kavanaugh as bought and paid for, but he issued a tweet Tuesday morning mocking them as unpaid by their alleged benefactors.

“The paid D.C. protesters are now ready to REALLY protest because they haven’t gotten their checks – in other words, they weren’t paid!” Trump tweeted. “Screamers in Congress, and outside, were far too obvious – less professional than anticipated by those paying (or not paying) the bills!”

[Raw Story]

Trump ‘likes Taylor Swift 25% less’ after political post

Taylor Swift’s endorsement of two Democrats for the upcoming US mid-term elections has sparked a huge response – including from President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump has told reporters he likes “Taylor’s music about 25% less now”.

The singer-songwriter, 28, had previously deliberately steered clear of politics, but said events in “the past two years” had changed her mind.

Her latest comments were praised by many – but also sparked a fierce backlash from Republican supporters.

Swift broke her silence on politics on Sunday, publicly endorsing two Democrats in Tennessee, her home state, in a post on Instagram, where she has 112m followers.

“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” she wrote.

A Buzzfeed News report quotes Vote.org’s Kamari Guthrie, who says the site has seen a “registrations spike specifically since [her] post” in Tennessee, and also a bump in voter registration nationwide.

Swift particularly criticised Republican Senate nominee Marsha Blackburn for her voting record on gender equality.

“Her voting record in Congress appals and terrifies me,” she wrote, citing the politician’s votes against equal pay and domestic violence legislation.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Trump said Ms Blackburn was “doing a very good job” in Swift’s home state.

“She’s a tremendous woman,” he said. “I’m sure Taylor Swift doesn’t know anything about her.”

In previous tweets posted in 2012, the US President had described Swift as “fantastic” and “terrific”, and had thanked her for taking a picture with him.

Swift’s post has been “liked” more than 1.6m times since she shared it on Sunday, including by model Chrissy Teigen, singer Katy Perry and actress Reese Witherspoon.

However, she has attracted criticism from conservative commentators and Republicans.

“What I used to love about Taylor Swift is she stayed away from politics,” Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative student organisation Turning Point, told Fox News on Monday.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee criticised her “attitude”, and said Swift had “[come] down from her ivory tower to tell hardworking Tennesseans” how to vote.

Swift did not publicly back any candidate in the 2016 election when other stars like Beyonce and Lady Gaga hit the campaign trail on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

In 2012, Swift told Time magazine she didn’t talk about politics “because it might influence other people”.

“I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for,” she said at the time.

[BBC News]

Trump calls Kavanaugh allegations a ‘hoax set up by the Democrats’

President Trump said Monday that he expects a lot of Democratic voters to support Republican candidates in the upcoming midterms because of how the party’s lawmakers handled sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“The main base of the Democrats have shifted so far left that we’ll end up being Venezuela. This country would end up being Venezuela. I think a lot of Democrats are going to be voting voting Republican on Nov. 6,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for a law enforcement event in Florida.

The president seized on the specter raised by some liberals of impeaching Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Saturday after being accused by three women of sexual misconduct and facing questions from Democrats about his judicial temperament.

Trump dismissed the allegations against Kavanaugh — including that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when the two were in high school — as “a hoax that was set up by the Democrats.”

He later blasted allegations from Julie Swetnick that Kavanaugh was present at parties where high school boys got girls drunk so they could be “gang raped,” calling them “made up,” “fabricated” and “a disgrace.”

“And now they want to impeach him,” Trump said. “I think it’s an insult to the American public. I think you’re going to see a lot of things happen on Nov. 6 that would not have happened before.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said last week on the eve of Kavanaugh’s confirmation that Democrats would investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against the judge if the party reclaimed the majority in the House.

Nadler did not comment on the possibility of impeaching Kavanaugh, and other Democratic lawmakers have refrained from discussing that prospect, or indicated they have no intention to pursue it in the near future.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Dele.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called impeachment discussions “premature,” while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it “would not be my plan” to impeach the Justice.

The Senate confirmed Kavanaugh on Saturday afternoon in a 50-48 vote, with one GOP senator absent and another voting “present.” Every Democrat opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination except for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

[The Hill]

Media

Trump continues to Twitter attack anti-Kavanaugh women as ‘paid protesters handed expensive signs’

President Donald Trump lashed out at women opposing his nomination of conservative jurist Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday, preceeding a vote by the United States Senate.

“Women for Kavanaugh, and many others who support this very good man, are gathering all over Capital Hill in preparation for a 3-5 P.M. VOTE,” the commander-in-chief tweeted.

“It is a beautiful thing to see – and they are not paid professional protesters who are handed expensive signs,” he argued. “Big day for America!”

The Saturday tweet continued an argument Trump made on Friday against the women protesting his nominee.

“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad,” he alleged.

“Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others,” he continued, adding the hashtag #Troublemakers.

[Raw Story]

Trump promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on Twitter

The anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that George Soros, a wealthy Hungarian-American businessman who has donated millions of dollars to progressive causes, is paying people to protest President Donald Trump is a staple of the conservative ecosystem.

Last week, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham tweeted “SOROS STRIKES AGAIN” after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was confronted in a Senate elevator by survivors of sexual assault.

Now the President of the United States is getting in on the anti-Semitic action, claiming that protests against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, were “Paid for by Soros and others” in a Friday tweet.

This was the first time Trump has mentioned Soros on Twitter, per the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale. However, The Atlantic’s David Frum noted Soros was one of the “three identifiable “faces of international finance”” featured in a 2016 Trump campaign ad that was widely criticized for its anti-Semitic overtones.

The Washington Examiner’s Dave Brown noticed that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) floated the conspiracy theory about Soros paying Kavanaugh protesters during an appearance on Fox Business less than 90 minutes before Trump’s tweet.

Ana Maria Archila, one of the sexual assault survivors who was filmed confronting Flake last week, responded to Trump’s tweet in a statement, saying, “No one can pay for someone’s lived experiences.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The Hungarian Jewish billionaire, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist figures prominently in anti-Semitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. One noteworthy allegation claims that Soros was responsible for the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. Other tweets refer to his Jewish heritage in pejorative terms and claims that he’s trying to undermine Western civilization.”

ThinkProgress’ Casey Michel recently explained the anti-Semitism behind conservatives’ Soros conspiracy theories:

Of course, as with most conspiracies, there’s a far darker reality lurking behind the notion that Soros is responsible for all the ills facing down nationalist movements. While most of those pushing Soros-based conspiracies don’t come out and say that Soros is evil because he’s Jewish, it doesn’t take much sleuthing to discern the anti-Semitism behind the conspiracies. Between the imagery of Soros pulling strings to the fact that Soros has effectively replaced “the Rothschilds” as the go-to for any conspiracy about an international cabal thwarting the people’s will, it’s not hard to catch the bigotry lacing the rising conspiracies about Soros.

Conservatives have a history of attempting to smear survivors of traumatic events as paid “crisis actors.” Sexual assault survivors’ attempts to confront Kavanaugh’s supporters have not been received well by Republicans.

The Washington Post reported in January 2017 that people were paid to attend Trump’s campaign launch announcement.

[ThinkProgress]

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