Trump appears to call out Samsung over missing FBI text messages

President Trump appeared to call out Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung for a missing trove of text messages between two senior FBI officials that was not retained by the agency.

“Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok? Blaming Samsung!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

The text messages between the two FBI employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, are among a larger trove of messages that were not saved by the FBI because of a software glitch on some Samsung 5 phones.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that the Justice Department’s inspector general is reviewing why the messages were not retained and whether they are capable of being recovered.

Trump’s tweets came after Fox News host Sean Hannity addressed the issue on his Tuesday night show, though it is unclear if that is what prompted him to tweet. Trump is known to be an avid watcher of Fox News and often comments on matters shortly after they are addressed on air.

The text messages have come into focus as some Republicans raise concerns about political bias among the ranks of the FBI.

Strzok and Page reportedly exchanged text messages during the 2016 election expressing anti-Trump sentiments, and were both involved in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

[The Hill]

Update

The text messages were recovered a few hours after this tweet by the FBI using forensic tools.

Zinke reprimanded park head after climate tweets

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke brought the leader of a California park to his office last month to reprimand him for climate change-related tweets the park had sent via Twitter, two sources close to the situation said.

Zinke did not take any formal disciplinary action against David Smith, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park. And the tweets at issue weren’t deleted, because they didn’t violate National Park Service or Interior Department policies.

But Zinke made it clear to Smith that the Trump administration doesn’t want national parks to put out official communications on climate change.

And by bringing Smith from California to Washington, D.C., to deliver the tongue-lashing, he also sent a message to the park service at large.

One source said Smith “got a trip to the woodshed” and described his one-on-one meeting with Zinke as “highly unusual.”

Another source said Zinke expressed concern with the tweets during the meeting, and told Smith “no more climate tweets.”

Other sources with knowledge of the meeting confirmed that Zinke wanted to stop tweets about climate change.

The Park Service didn’t respond to various questions about the situation, including requests to confirm the Zinke-Smith meeting and to identify who sent the tweets at issue.

“Many of our 417 National Park sites have a social media presence and content is generally determined at a local level,” Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in a statement.

Smith did not talk to The Hill for this story, and the Park Service did not make him available for an interview.

Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for Zinke, denied the description of the meeting.

“You have been given really bad information,” she said, declining to elaborate or to make Zinke available for an interview.

The meeting came after a series of 15 tweets were sent on Nov. 8 by Joshua Tree’s Twitter account. The tweets were focused on climate change’s impacts both on national parks in general and on Joshua Tree in particular.

The tweets were based on scientific conclusions, sometimes citing federal government reports and including caveats when necessary.

An overwhelming consensus—over 97%—of climate scientists agree that human activity is the driving force behind today’s rate of global temperature increase. Natural factors that impact the climate are still at work, but cannot account for today’s rapid warming,” read the first tweet of the series.

“Current models predict the suitable habitat for Joshua trees may be reduced by 90% in the future with a 3°C (5.4°F) increase in average temperature over the next 100 years,” said another.

It detailed climate change’s expected impacts on the desert Southwest, including on flora and fauna species like pinyon pine and desert iguana, and linked to a Park Service web page with more details on Joshua Tree and climate change.

The tweets got significant attention, garnering far more retweets and likes than the vast majority of tweets from national park accounts.

It’s not the first controversy surrounding the Park Service’s social media under the Trump administration.

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, the Park Service’s main Twitter account retweeted a comparison of the inauguration crowd size on the National Mall — which the agency manages — against an obviously larger crowd from former President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

The tweet was soon deleted.

Days later, the Twitter account of South Dakota’s Badlands National Park sent out tweets with facts about climate change. They were deleted, and the agency said a former employee with access to the account was responsible.

Trump’s opponents celebrated both episodes, along with the Joshua Tree tweets, as rebellion against the new administration, including Trump’s skepticism of human-induced climate change.

Conservationists say Zinke’s admonishment over the Joshua Tree tweets is especially troubling, both because of the chilling effect on the agency and as a sign of the administration’s views on global warming.

“This meeting shows how little respect Secretary Zinke has for the front-line employees who manage our national parks and public lands. It also reveals how far the Trump administration will go to hide basic facts from the American people,” said Aaron Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities, which has fought much of Zinke’s agenda.

Zinke’s decision to call the Joshua Tree superintendent to Washington also serves as a window into Zinke’s leadership style.

He’s caught significant attention as Interior secretary for his brash style, reflected in direct attacks on the outdoor gear maker Patagonia after it criticized him; accusations that “the dishonest media or political operatives” were trying to tie him to Whitefish Energy’s utility repair contract in Puerto Rico; and his declaration that controversies surrounding his travel spending are “a little BS.”

Zinke has instructed employees to raise a flag for the secretary atop Interior’s building when he is there and has had commemorative coins made for him.

Maureen Finnerty, a retired Park Service superintendent and career official with the agency, accused Zinke of ignoring science in criticizing the tweets.

“The parks should be at the forefront of climate change discussion, because it’s impacting them,” she said.

Finnerty is chairwoman of the Coalition to Protect National Parks, a group composed largely of retired Park Service employees who advocate on numerous agency issues.

In Zinke’s time as secretary, he’s worked to roll back nearly all of the department’s major climate policies, including a moratorium on new coal mining on federal land and a policy to limit methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling.

The changes have been less pronounced at the Park Service. But the agency did scrap a controversial Obama administration policy from December 2016 that asked parks to formulate plans for preserving natural resources and protecting them from threats like climate change.

If Zinke wants park employees to avoid talking about climate change, he should be more transparent about it, Finnerty said.

“They should go through the process, they should be transparent about it, they should seek whatever input they need, and then they can change the policy,” she said.

[The Hill]

Homeland Security Senior Adviser Was Right-Wing Radio Host Who Promoted Birtherism

A Department of Homeland Security senior adviser to the White House was formerly a conservative radio host who “promoted conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama’s birthplace, lamented the “Zimbabwe-fication of America,” and mocked the LGBT community,” according to a report by CNN’s KFILE.

Frank Wuco joined the White House in January after spending several years as a radio host in Florida, and his hardline views on Islam have been previously reported – as well as a jihadist character named Fuad Wasul he would often dress up as for videos warning of Islamic extremism.

CNN’s KFILE combed through dozens of hours of Wuco’s radio show, and found a trove of controversial comments from the man who now leads a team working to enforce President Donald Trump’s executive orders, including his controversial travel ban:

On the radio, Wuco said Obama knew nothing of the “black American experience,” defended the initial speculation in the media that Muslim extremists were responsible for the mass killing in Norway, and said that gay people had hijacked the word “gay” from happy people.

Wuco, a former naval intelligence officer, also happens to have something in common with Trump: he touted the birther conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, even referring to the former president’s birth certificate as “a questionable document.”

Acting DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton defended Wuco in a statement to CNN, saying “Mr. Wuco works every day to keep the American people safe by helping to implement the President’s security-focused agenda, including raising the global bar for vetting and screening of potential terrorists.

“Years-old comments cherry picked from thousands of hours on the air have no bearing on his ability to perform his job for the American people,” Houlton said.

[Mediaite]

Trump asks why ‘deep state authorities’ aren’t investigating Clinton emails

President Trump on Tuesday asked why “deep state authorities” aren’t looking into the handling of the investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, referencing a guest who had just appeared on Fox News.

“Charles McCullough, the respected fmr Intel Comm Inspector General, said the public was misled on Crooked Hillary Emails,” Trump tweeted. “Why aren’t our deep State authorities looking at this? Rigged and corrupt?”

McCullough, who was appointed to his post by former President Obama, said in an interview on Monday with Fox News that he experienced pushback from Democrats when he tried to explain the seriousness of the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

“I’ve heard people say this is overblown, I’ve heard people say this is much ado about nothing. Had the information been released, there would have been harm to national security,” McCullough said in the interview.

“There was personal blowback. Personal blowback to me, to my family, to my office,” McCullough told Fox News.

McCullough appeared Tuesday on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to reiterate his claims, roughly an hour before Trump’s tweet.

The FBI concluded last year that it would not pursue criminal charges against Clinton for her “extremely careless” handling of classified materials while she was secretary of State.

Trump throughout the 2016 presidential campaign said Clinton should be prosecuted for using a personal server to handle classified emails.

Republican lawmakers have in recent weeks pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor to look into how the email case was handled.

[The Hill]

Trump questions who paid for dossier: ‘Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?’

President Trump on Thursday questioned who paid for a controversial and unverified dossier about his alleged connections to Russia.

“Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?” Trump asked on Twitter.

The tweet from the president comes after Fox News reported Wednesday that two officials from Fusion GPS, the political research firm behind the dossier, took the Fifth Amendment in front of the House Intelligence Committee.

The House Intelligence Committee last week subpoenaed the political research firm. The dossier was compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele.

“We cannot in good conscience do anything but advise our clients to stand on their constitutional privileges, the attorney work product doctrine and contractual obligations,” Fusion GPS’s counsel, Josh Levy, wrote in a letter to the committee obtained by Business Insider earlier this week.

The attorney said the subpoenas violated “the First Amendment rights” of the firm’s three founders, adding that they would prevent future candidates “from conducting confidential opposition research in an election.”

“Should you compel any of our three clients to appear at the scheduled deposition, they will invoke their constitutional privileges not to testify,” Levy said. “Since that will be the case, we ask that the Committee excuse them from appearing.”

[The Hill]

 

Trump Resurrects Pig’s Blood Myth After Barcelona Attack

President Trump resurrected a dubious story about a renowned U.S. Army general’s handling of Muslim insurgents following Thursday’s terror attack in Barcelona, Spain.

“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” he tweeted.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump frequently told a tale of how Pershing had Muslim prisoners in the Philippines executed with bullets coated in pig’s blood to discourage rebellion against American rule.

Similar rumors have been floating around the internet for years, but the website PolitiFact gave Trump’s claim “pants on fire” — the rating it gives the “most ridiculous falsehoods.”

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said his team knew the story was a myth even when Trump told it in 2016 but decided to tell it at rallies anyway.

“It’s not about that,” he told The Washington Post in June 2016 following his ouster. “Look, it’s an analogy.”

Trump’s inflammatory Thursday tweet comes during a week he is facing fierce criticism over his response to last weekend’s deadly violence at a white supremacist rally Charlottesville, Va.

The president initially failed to single out neo-Nazis, the KKK and other groups that fomented the violence. After issuing a specific condemnation a day later, Trump said Tuesday that there is “blame on both sides.”

The president explained his hesitance to blame white supremacists, telling reporters, “Before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”

One person was killed and 19 were injured when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters during the rally. The alleged driver was a 20-year-old man with ties to white supremacist groups.

In Spain, authorities said at least 12 people were killed and more than 80 were injured when a van plowed into a crowd of people Thursday in a popular tourist area in Barcelona.

One suspect was arrested in the terror attack, a Moroccan citizen who was residing legally in Spain.

Trump made a more conventional statement condemning the Barcelona attack roughly half an hour before tweeting about Pershing.

“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” he tweeted.

[The Hill]

 

Trump: ‘Big story’ is unmasking, surveillance during Obama administration

President Trump on Thursday turned his attention to “unmasking and surveillance” in the Obama administration, calling it the “big story.”

“The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Trump’s comments come after the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday issued seven new subpoenas in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Three of the subpoenas focus on allegations of improper “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Those three subpoenas went to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and are related to questions — primarily from Republicans — about how the names of Trump associates were un-redacted and distributed in classified Obama administration reports during the transition period.

Republicans have signaled they see unmasking as the key to investigating the source of media leaks damaging to the Trump administration.

Trump and his aides have often railed against the leaking of information to the media and Trump has blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.”

[The Hill]

 

 

Donald Trump Thinks Exercise Will Kill You

How healthy is President Donald Trump? We don’t really know. The president never released his full medical records, and instead opted for a surreal on-air physical with TV star Dr. Oz.

One health aspect Trump is transparent about: He doesn’t like to break a sweat. To be more precise, he thinks physical activity will kill you faster.

In a remarkable New Yorker story this week about how Donald Trump could realistically be removed from the presidency, Evan Osnos writes: “Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.”

The Trump “human body as non-rechargeable battery” theory was first detailed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher in their 2016 book, Trump Revealed:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

On the campaign trail, we learned that Trump didn’t dedicate any extra time to breaking a sweat because he believes exercise is actually harmful, according to this 2015 New York Times profile:

Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,’’ he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘‘That’s exercise.’”

Let’s pause to consider how remarkably backward this is.

There was a time when doctors would have concurred with Trump on this. That was the Victorian era. Back then, people worried a physical activity could cause everything from exhaustion and heart palpitations, particularly in women.

A century later, doctors’ thinking has moved on. Research now shows exercise is actually the closest thing we have to a miracle cure.

Regular physical activity can “prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions — reducing the risk of each by at least 30%,” according to this 2015 report on the benefits of exercise from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. “This is better than many drugs,” the authors wrote.

It also helps people live longer. “Many studies give an approximate 30% risk reduction in all-cause mortality. Smoking is the biggest contributor to early mortality and years living with chronic illness and disability. Physical inactivity, through multiple mechanisms produces an effect one-third the effect of smoking.” Overall, the researchers found, regular exercise reduces cardiac death by 31 percent.

So for Trump, exercise is deadly. But according to science, it’s a miracle drug.

[Vox]

Trump Kicks Reporter Out of Oval Office After Wiretapping Questions

President Trump cut off an Oval Office interview with CBS anchor John Dickerson and gestured for him to leave the room when Dickerson repeatedly asked about the president’s unfounded wiretapping claims.

Trump signaled that he still believes, as he tweeted on March 4, that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”

Obama aides, intelligence community officials and some prominent Republican lawmakers have all disputed the claim. And the president has provided no evidence to back it up.

But when Trump brought it up during an interview taping on Saturday, and Dickerson followed up, Trump said, “I think our side’s been proven very strongly and everybody’s talking about it and frankly, it should be discussed.”

Trump added, “We should find out what the hell is going on.”

When Dickerson pressed him, Trump said: “You can take it any way — you can take it any way you want.”

Dickerson: “I’m asking you because you don’t want it to be fake news. I want to hear it from President Trump.”

Trump: “You don’t have to ask me. You don’t have to ask me.”

Dickerson: “Why not?”

Trump: “Because I have my own opinions, you can have your own opinions.”

Dickerson: “But I want to know your opinions. You’re the president of the United States.”

Trump: “That’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

The president walked away from Dickerson and sat down at his Oval Office desk.

The abrupt end to the tough interview was in marked contrast to some of the smoother interviews Trump has had recently. Media critics have pointed out his preference for friendlier outlets, like conservative-themed shows on Fox News.

Afterward, CBS anchor Gayle King remarked on the awkwardness of the abrupt ending: “Well, he was done with that conversation.”

King asked Dickerson if he was escorted out of the Oval Office.

“I think it was pretty clear that I was to escort myself out, or I would be escorted out — I would be moved along,” he said. “It was time for our conversation to be over.”

Later in the day on Saturday, however, Dickerson still traveled with the president as planned to a 100th-day rally in Pennsylvania.

The network’s morning show, “CBS This Morning,” was broadcast from the White House on Monday.

Several administration officials were interviewed live on the program, including Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.

(h/t CNN)

Media

CBS

Classified Docs Contradict Nunes Surveillance Claims, GOP and Dem Sources Say

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.”

However, over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.

And another source said there’s “absolutely” no smoking gun in the reports, urging the White House to declassify them to make clear there was nothing alarming in the documents.

Still, some members of Congress continue to have concerns about the justification given for the unmasking requests and the standards for the intelligence community to grant such requests, which reveal the private data of US persons mentioned in intelligence reports based on routine intelligence collection aimed at foreign nationals.

Such collection regularly targets officials and nationals from Russia, Taiwan, Israel and other countries.

The lawmakers’ assessment comes after Trump, in a New York Times interview last week, accused Rice of breaking the law.

Trump has not revealed which intelligence reports he is relying on to make his charge that Rice may have acted illegally.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Trump said. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world.” He also called it “truly one of the big stories of our time.”

Asked by the Times if he believed Rice’s actions were criminal Trump responded, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

Sebastian Gorka, a Trump foreign policy aide, cast Rice’s actions as worse than the Watergate scandal that felled President Richard Nixon in an interview with pro-Trump Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“Losing 14 minutes of audiotape in comparison to this is a little spat in the sandbox in the kindergarten,” Gorka said.

Rice defended her actions last week on MSNBC, saying her requests were “absolutely not for any political purposes, to spy, or anything.”

“There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to — name not provided, just a US person — and sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information as to who the US official was,” Rice said.

“The notion that some people are trying to suggest, is that by asking for the identity of a person is leaking it, is unequivocally false,” she said. “There is no connection between unmasking and leaking.”

Rice is among the list of witnesses that House and Senate Intelligence officials want to interview as part of its probe into Russian attempts to meddle with the US elections.

House Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are near agreement on the list of witnesses to interview, with the GOP mostly focusing on people who may have leaked classified information and the Democrats hoping to question Trump associates who may have ties to Russia.

But the House review has been thrown into turmoil after Nunes last month expressed alarm about the unmasking of US persons, including Trump advisors, caught up in incidental collection. He reviewed the documents on White House grounds with the help of White House officials, despite House Speaker Paul Ryan saying Nunes informed him that the information came from a “whistleblower.”

Critics said Nunes appeared to be giving political cover to Trump in the aftermath of the president’s unsubstantiated tweet last month that Obama ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower to spy on him during the campaign.

Nunes’ office has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Nunes last week abruptly recused himself temporarily from the Russia investigation as the House Ethics Committee announced it is investigating whether he revealed classified materials, but he is still serving as chairman of the panel.

(h/t CNN)

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