Trump: ‘I could have fired everyone’ on Mueller team if I wanted to

President Trump on Thursday pushed back against questions about whether he may have obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, asserting that he could have “fired everyone,” including special counsel Robert Mueller, if he had so chosen. 

Trump quoted Fox News host Jesse Watters, who said on “The Five” that Trump “was being framed” and “fought back.”

“I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted,” the president tweeted. “I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!”

The president’s tweet came as he traveled aboard Air Force One to Palm Beach, Fla., where he will spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

A redacted version of Mueller’s full report was released Thursday morning. In it, the special counsel detailed 10 areas where investigators looked at whether Trump may have obstructed justice.

Mueller looked into, among other topics, Trump’s efforts to remove the special counsel, his conduct surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his encouragement of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take control of the investigation.

The special counsel ultimately did not exonerate or implicate Trump on obstruction charges.

“[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” the report states.

Attorney General William Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not find sufficient evidence to prove obstruction of justice on the part of the president. 

Mueller’s report further established there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian government, Barr said.

Trump’s tweet marked one of his few public comments in the wake of the report’s release.

The president briefly addressed the report’s findings at an event for wounded military service members, saying that he was “having a good day” and reiterating his stance the report found “no collusion. No obstruction.”

He also tweeted a photo inspired by the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” showing him staring into a fog behind the statement: “No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats—Game Over.”

Trump did not address reporters as he departed the White House for Florida.

[The Hill]

Trump slams ‘dirty cops’ at FBI over Steele dossier

President Trump on Wednesday took aim at top officials at the FBI as well as Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), accusing them of conspiring to undermine his 2016 campaign and eventual presidency.

Trump tweeted that the dossier authored by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele on behalf of Fusion GPS, a political intelligence firm, and provided to the FBI by Steele had been a “total fraud on your President and the American people!”

“Wow! FBI made 11 payments to Fake Dossier’s discredited author, Trump hater Christopher Steele. @OANN @JudicialWatch The Witch Hunt has been a total fraud on your President and the American people!” he wrote.

“It was brought to you by Dirty Cops, Crooked Hillary and the DNC,” Trump continued.

Trump and his allies have argued for years that the dossier authored by Steele on the president’s ties to Russia, which has not been fully verified, was the impetus for the FBI’s initial investigation of the Trump campaign begun under the Obama administration, which Trump has claimed led to illegal spying on his campaign.

The president’s reelection campaign echoed those claims over the weekend, falsely telling supporters in a fundraising email that Attorney General William Barr had revealed “unlawful” surveillance on the Trump campaign.

“Attorney General William Barr said what the president has thought all along: He believes “unlawful spying did occur” against Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign,” read the fundraising email.

Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing last week that he believes “spying” did occur on the Trump campaign, but made no determination as to whether or not it was conducted legally.

“I think spying did occur,” the attorney general said. “But the question is whether it was adequately predicated and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.”

“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it. That’s all,” he added.

[MSN]

Trump tears into ‘Crazy’ Bernie Sanders after Fox News town hall

President Trump lit into Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a series of tweets on Tuesday, in which he attacked the senator as “crazy” and took aim at his wealth.

“Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the @FoxNews Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders,” Trump said in the first of a string of tweets on Tuesday evening.

“Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with @FoxNews?” he claimed without evidence. 

The president went on to call out the senator over his wealth after Sanders recently revealed that he has become a millionaire from the profits he received from his best-selling book. 

“Bernie Sanders and wife should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income. He is always complaining about these big TAX CUTS, except when it benefits him,” Trump tweeted.

“They made a fortune off of Trump, but so did everyone else – and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing!” Trump, who has an estimated net worth of $2 billion and proclaims to be a self-made billionaire, also wrote.

He also predicted in another tweet that both Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, who have emerged as front-runners in a crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders, would be the “two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country.”

“I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)!” he wrote. 

“I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!” the president added.

Trump’s criticism arrives as the Vermont Independent leads Democratic presidential contenders in a new Emerson poll, which has him at 29 percent in the lead compared to the 24 percent Biden now holds in second place.

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump seemed to be referring to a group of people holding American flags and Trump flags outside the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks while the hour-long program was being shot inside before an audience who cheered Sanders.

Trump Spreads Fake Poll on His ‘Soaring Approval’ Aired By Fox’s Lou Dobbs

President Donald Trump seemed delighted on Thursday when he posted a screen-shot from Lou Dobbs‘ Fox Business show supposedly showing his approval polling is at 55%.

There’s just one little problem: the number is way off, and his actual approval rating according to that poll is a paltry 43%.

The Fox Business host spent a good portion of his show repeatedly fawning over a new poll from the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service on Trump and the economy. Dobbs framed the poll’s findings with the graphic above, saying Trump enjoys “soaring approval” from 58% of voters for his performance on the economy, and an impressive 55% from voters overall.

Here’s what the poll actually says:

While President Trump’s overall unfavorable rating has remained steady at 55 percent since he announced his candidacy in 2015, 58 percent of voters approve of the job he has done on the economy.

To be clear: Trump’s disapproval is 55%, according to that poll. His approval rating, meanwhile, is 43%. That means his numbers are underwater by 12%.

Mo Elleithee, director of Georgetown Politics and a frequent Fox News guest, corrected the president on Twitter:

Whoopsies.

Watch above, via Fox Business.

UPDATE: Fox Business issued an on-air correction to the poll on Thursday morning.

From FBN’s Blake Burman:

It’s been a quite start to the day for President Trump, though he did send out a tweet this morning from the Lou Dobbs show last night on Fox Business. That tweet featured a poll that was not entirely accurate, which Fox Business would like to correct. According to a poll from Georgetown University, 58 percent of respondents approved of the president’s handling of the economy. That portion of the graphic was right. However, the graphic also showed that 55 percent of the respondents approve of the president, that number is not correct. The 55 percent number was those who have an unfavorable impression of President Trump.

[Mediaite]

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

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

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

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

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

[Mediaite]

Trump defends Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro after Islamophobic comments

President Trump came to Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro’s defense on Sunday in response to the network taking her off the air without explanation, one week after she implied Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) use of a hijab was antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.

“Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro. The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country. They have all out campaigns against @FoxNews hosts who are doing too well. Fox must stay strong and fight back with vigor. Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down, and continue to fight for our Country. The losers all want what you have, don’t give it to them. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die! Stay true to the people that got you there. Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine. Your competitors are jealous – they all want what you’ve got – NUMBER ONE. Don’t hand it to them on a silver platter. They can’t beat you, you can only beat yourselves!”

Context: The string of tweets comes one day after authorities said “an immigrant-hating white supremacist” killed at least 50 people at a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Trump issued a single tweet on the day of the attack extending his sympathies to the people of New Zealand, but he did not condemn the shooter’s racial motives or acknowledge the targeting of Muslims.

  • When asked on Friday if he believes white nationalism is a “rising threat,” Trump said he believes “it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” Far-right extremists have killed more people in the U.S. since 9/11 than any other organized terrorist group.

The big picture: A series of damning incidents over the past several weeks has seen Pirro, fellow host Tucker Carlson and Fox News as an entity come under fire for charges of racism and coziness with the Trump administration.

[Axios]

Trump threatens an SNL Rerun with federal investigation for mocking him

Donald Trump is taking his fixation with Saturday Night Live to a new level.

The President tweeted in the early Sunday morning hours a threat to have the NBC late night comedy series investigated by a federal agency. The offense? Mocking him.

“It’s truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Live, not funny/no talent, can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side,’” the president wrote. “Like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows. Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this? There must be Collusion with the Democrats and, of course, Russia! Such one sided media coverage, most of it Fake News. Hard to believe I won and am winning. Approval Rating 52%, 93% with Republicans. Sorry! #MAGA”

Oddly, SNL didn’t even air a new episode last night, but rather a repeat that featured at least one Trump sketch (with Alec Baldwin reprising his role as Trump).

Of course, entertainment programming mocking newsworthy figures is protected as free speech. Trump seems to be referring to the “equal time rule” which mandates that U.S. broadcast TV stations give equal air-time opportunities to opposing political candidates in prime-time if requested. But Trump is president, not a candidate, and SNL is in late-night and, again, parody. There’s also FCC’s “fairness doctrine,” a regulation that required networks to give balanced coverage to matters of public controversy. The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987.

Trump has long slammed SNL, shown hostility toward mockery in general and is known to hardly ever laughthis link opens in a new tab (“I’ve never seen him laugh. Not in public, not in private,” former FBI Director James Comey told ABC). Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone has said Trump decided to run for president after President Obama mocked him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner — a celebration and roast that Trump has refused to attend as president.  

Trump lashes out at McCain seven months after senator’s death

President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out against an old nemesis, the late Sen. John McCain, for his crucial vote against repealing Obamacare in 2017.

Trump chastised McCain for his no vote on a bare-bones repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, wrongly describing it as a “thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!”

The legislation opposed by McCain did not have a replacement component.

Responding to reports in conservative media outlets that cite court documents that say a former aide to the Republican senator from Arizona was the source of a leak that put a Trump opposition-research dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele into the hands of multiple media outlets in late 2016, the president echoed former independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s remarks on Fox News.

The reports about the source of the leaks have not been confirmed by NBC News.

The dossier alleges the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to defeat rival Hillary Clinton in 2016. The core allegations in the dossier compose the heart of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence on the presidential election.

“The more we find out the uglier it becomes,” Starr, referring to the alleged media leaks of the dossier, said recently on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “The Steele dossier I think has been very substantially discredited.”

Starr said of McCain, “I think he was an American hero. But I’m very sorry he got implicated in this in terms of spreading this very nasty stuff around.”

The reports that McCain leaked the 35-page dossier, which was originally the product of funding by a conservative publication, are “unfortunately a very dark stain” on the former senator’s record, Starr said.

In December former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said on MSNBCthat “the dossier holds up well. None of it has been disproven.”

Starr, a Republican, headed the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Clinton for lying about having sex with White House staffer Monica Lewinsky.

Trump lashed out at McCain again on Sunday, claiming McCain sent the dossier to the FBI and the media. McCain gave a version of the dossier to the FBI in December of 2016, after the presidential election, and asked if any of it was true, but he had denied being a source of the document for BuzzFeed, which published it in January of 2017.

[NBC News]

Trump Shares Video of Diamond & Silk Praising His Veto and Bashing GOP ‘Swampettes’ in the Senate

President Donald Trump shared videos today from Lou Dobbs‘ Friday night Fox Business show from guests praising his veto of the resolution against his national emergency declaration at the border.

Trump first shared video of former ICE director Thomas Homan telling Dobbs, “One of the greatest presidents of my generation did exactly what he should have done.”

He also shared video from Diamond & Silk’s appearance, in which the outspoken pro-Trump duo not only defended him, but blasted the Republican senators who voted to block the emergency declaration as “the new swampettes.”

He also shared video from Diamond & Silk’s appearance, in which the outspoken pro-Trump duo not only defended him, but blasted the Republican senators who voted to block the emergency declaration as “the new swampettes.”

And after addressing the vote in the House to release the Mueller report, the president also shared a clip from Fox News’ Outnumbered of Kennedy going off on Hillary Clinton:

[Mediaite]

Trump spent Friday morning offering sympathy to himself

After offering his condolences to the victims of the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, President Trump on Friday morning lamented the fate of another victim: himself.

Trump cited a report from One America News Network ostensibly about newly released testimony from former FBI agent Peter Strzok, then launched into a three-tweet thread about how unfair the investigation into Russian collusion was from the outset. It’s a neatly compacted distillation of Trump’s thoughts about the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — which appears to be nearing its conclusion — and is worth fleshing out in detail.

Here’s what the president wrote.

“New evidence that the Obama era team of the FBI, DOJ & CIA were working together to Spy on (and take out) President Trump, all the way back in 2015.” A transcript of Peter Strzok’s testimony is devastating. Hopefully the Mueller Report will be covering this.

So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be “zero” crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report. This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime. Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win.

THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!

That One America report doesn’t actually say what Trump quotes. It’s more of a broad overview of the focus of the segment, which aired shortly after 5 a.m.

Believe it or not, the segment is less comprehensible and focused than Trump’s tweet about it. It’s pegged to the release of the Strzok testimony but is actually about a conspiracy theory that emerged in the summer. That theory focused on a text message sent from Strzok to FBI attorney Lisa Page, asking her whether she had gotten “all our oconus lures approved.” It was an apparent reference to setting up foreign (OCONUS, or “outside the continental U.S.”) informants (lures) for use in an investigation. But nothing about the text suggests it was related to Trump at all.

Nonetheless, OANN’s Pearson Sharp concluded that the text messages offered proof that “the FBI took steps to infiltrate Trump’s campaign with spies in December 2015.” Therefore former FBI director James B. Comey was lying under oath when he said the investigation began in July 2016 and the FBI broke its own rules about when it could use confidential informants. And, therefore, “it seems clear that Obama’s CIA, Department of Justice and the FBI were all working to take down President Trump in 2015, well before the FBI opened an official investigation,” Sharp said. That’s basically what Trump tweeted.

It is unmitigated nonsense predicated on a mistake (and citing as one source, the vastly discredited conspiracy site Gateway Pundit). It is either the laziest news report I’ve ever seen or the best example of what Trump would have decried as “fake news” had it not bolstered the message he hoped to hear.

So then, a bit later, he starts his riff, which picks up various threads from conservative media and his own tweets over a few days.

“. . . if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be ‘zero’ crime when the Special Counsel was appointed”: Trump has a habit of picking up bits of evidence that he likes and inflating them outward so he looks the way he wants.

Several days ago, he picked up on the idea that Mueller’s appointment came at a point when the FBI was still collecting evidence about possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. In testimony Page offered to Congress, she made that point.

Now, you’ll remember that investigations aren’t criminal trials and are meant to collect the evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed. If you couldn’t start an investigation until you could prove a crime, you wouldn’t need an investigation. And investigations often fail to uncover evidence of crimes.

But Trump picked up this Fox News report and used it to stipulate that no crime had occurred because no direct proof of a crime was available at the outset of looking into the crime. That then became a “knowing” “acknowledgment” of “’zero’ crime” having occurred, which is obviously untrue.

“ . . . if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime)”: Trump has also repeatedly focused on a dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele. Those reports were written for Fusion GPS, a company that, at the time, was being paid by a law firm that did work for the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary,” in Trump’s phrasing). The dossier includes raw intelligence that was not verified at the time it was produced and which subsequently has only spottily hit the mark in describing what happened.

It was not, however, the basis of Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Trump’s confusing his inaccurate arguments here. The dossier was alleged to have been the primary source for a warrant that the FBI obtained to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, not for Mueller.

The Mueller appointment was spurred by Trump’s firing of Comey and Comey’s subsequent allegation that Trump had pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe discusses the appointment in his recently released book, but it was the ultimate determination of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — a Trump appointee.

McCabe and “all” have also not stated that no crime took place in relation to Trump’s campaign.

“ . . . the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report”: The special counsel was appointed, according to McCabe, to ensure that Trump couldn’t interfere further with the investigation into his campaign, wherever it led.

But Trump tips his hand here: He’s clearly mostly worried about the release of Mueller’s final report on his investigation. Trump’s been effective at inoculating his base against whatever it might reveal, but he’s clearly still worried enough about it to claim that it shouldn’t come out at all.

“This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime”: There is nothing remotely illegal about the Mueller investigation, which was established under Justice Department guidelines and which has been upheld in court.

Trump simply likes to describe things he doesn’t like or that he feels threatened by as “illegal.” In January of last year we tallied the things that he’d described as “illegal,” including Clinton’s email server, her emails, a fundraising notice from the Republican Party, Barack Obama’s amnesty order, the State Department’s defense of Clinton, the sharing of CNN town hall questions with the Clinton campaign, Comey sharing an unclassified document and so on.

The president has made a concerted effort to cast the probe as biased against him, criticizing the attorneys working for Mueller and claiming that Mueller is hopelessly conflicted because, years ago, Mueller left one of Trump’s golf clubs because of a fee dispute. Seriously.

Mueller’s team has been largely quiet, not offering defenses against these charges. But it’s worth noting that any significant action that Mueller’s team takes had to be signed off by Rosenstein or, now, Attorney General William P. Barr.

“Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win”: Trump’s made this claim before. Here’s a question: If the Democrats created allegations of Russian collusion to excuse losing the 2016 presidential election, how did the investigation start in December 2015, as OANN sloppily claimed? How did it even start in July 2016, as Comey testified under oath (and as all evidence suggests is true)?

The FBI saw a number of red flags during the 2016 election that spurred it to launch the probe in late July. Among those flags was a report from an Australian diplomat that he’d been told by a Trump campaign adviser that Russia had emails incriminating Clinton. Among those flags was that Trump’s campaign chairman at the time had obvious and established links to Russian oligarchs. Among those flags was that another adviser had traveled to Moscow earlier that month.

The Democrats really put in some effort laying the groundwork on this thing, I guess.

“THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!”: The good news is that, as presented, this never happened to a president in the first place.

[Washington Post]

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