Trump called ‘Fox & Friends’ host for opinion on veteran care during meeting with VA chief

President Trump dialed in a “Fox & Friends” co-host to weigh in on legislation about veterans’ health care during a meeting with Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin, Axios reported Sunday.

Shulkin and Trump were discussing legislation to reform veterans’ health care during an Oval Office meeting last week when Trump reportedly called “Fox & Friends” co-host Pete Hegseth to get his opinion.

Hegseth, a veteran and former executive director of advocacy group Vets For Freedom, was among those considered to be VA secretary under Trump. Trump is a frequent viewer of Fox News, including the morning show.

Sources told Axios that the phone call put Shulkin in an uncomfortable spot, as Hegseth is pushing for more intense reforms and interviewed for Shulkin’s job.

The Trump administration has listed veterans’ health care as a top priority.

Trump allies have backed offering veterans more alternatives for health care outside of the agency. However, Shulkin is in favor of a more moderate approach that would only outsource treatment in cases where waiting times are too long or veterans live too far away from agency options.

The incident reported by Axios took place amid tensions between Shulkin and the White House. Shulkin has said that Trump political appointees in the agency are attempting to undermine him, and claims he has White House approval to remove them.

He is also under scrutiny after an inspector general report found that he misused taxpayer dollars during a trip to Europe with his wife last year.

Shulkin has denied wrongdoing, but has reimbursed the government for the trip.

[The Hill]

Kellyanne Conway found to have violated Hatch Act

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act on two occasions, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump administration Tuesday.

Appearing in her official capacity, Conway endorsed and advocated against political candidates, the watchdog said, referring its findings to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.”

The violations occurred during two television appearances in 2017, one on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” and one on CNN’s “New Day.”

“While the Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, it restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes, including by trying to influence partisan elections,” OSC says in its report.

“Ms. Conway’s statements during the ‘Fox & Friends’ and ‘New Day’ interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate.”

The report goes on to state that Conway received “significant training” on the Hatch Act and possible violations. OSC says it gave Conway, a former GOP pollster who served as Trump’s campaign manager, the opportunity to respond as part of its report, but she did not.

The White House rejected the report’s findings, saying “Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate” in a statement provided to reporters.

“In fact, Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act — as she twice declined to respond to the host’s specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gildley said.

Ahead of December’s special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate, Conway made remarks critical of then-candidate Doug Jones in his race against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

During her initial Fox appearance, Conway blasted Jones as “weak on crime” and “weak on borders,” before declining to specifically endorse Moore when asked.

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners,” Conway said in November.

“So, vote Roy Moore?” host Brian Kilmeade interjected.

“I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” Conway responded.

In her CNN appearance in December, Conway went further, saying that Trump “doesn’t want a liberal Democrat representing Alabama” in the Senate.

“The only endorsement that matters in this race is President Trump’s,” Conway said the week before the vote. “And he came out questioning the ideology and the vote of Doug Jones. He’ll be a reliable vote for tax hikes. He’ll be a reliable vote against border security. He’ll be a reliable vote against national security and keeping [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] ISIS in retreat. He’ll be the reliable vote against the Second Amendment and against life.”

At the time, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub called the comments a “slam dunk” violation of the Hatch Act.

“The willfulness of Conway’s violation and her openly expressed disdain for efforts to hold her accountable for complying with ethics requirements make clear that anything less than removal from the federal service or a lengthy unpaid suspension will not deter future misconduct on her part,” Shaub said.

Shaub filed two complaints with OSC over the interviews.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah defended Conway last year after initial criticism.

“Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate, and specifically declined to encourage Alabamans to vote a certain way,” Shah said in a statement.

“She was speaking about issues and her support for the president’s agenda. This election is for the people of Alabama to decide,” he added.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) demanded the president issue “swift and serious” punishment for the violations.

“The President must take swift and serious disciplinary action against Ms. Conway. Anything else sets a terrible example,” Cummings said in a statement.

Hatch Act violations committed by White House staff are typically handled directly by the president. Consequences for violating the law range from an official reprimand to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. Other penalties include suspension, termination or even debarment from federal employment for up to five years.

[The Hill]

Update

The White House said on Tuesday that counselor Kellyanne Conway did not violate the Hatch Act after the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) told the Trump administration she was found in violation.

“Kellyanne Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. She simply expressed the president’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate, who support his agenda,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Trump parrots Fox & Friends report on gun control meeting in rambling ‘respect the 2nd Amendment’ tweet

President Donald Trump reacted to Fox News reports about a bipartisan White House meeting he led with a tweet on gun safety measures.

The president surprised many Republicans during Wednesday’s meeting by calling for more extreme gun control measures than Democrats have proposed, and Trump apparently responded to “Fox & Friends” commentary on those ideas.

[RawStory]

Media

 

Trump Touts Comments from Fox & Friends Guest Who Says POTUS Was ‘Victimized’ by Obama Admin

President Trump watched Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton on Fox & Friends this morning and touted his comments this afternoon.

Fitton has defended Trump on the Russia probe, and on the Fox News morning program today, he talked about the dossier and ties between Hillary Clinton and the Russians.

At one point, he said the following remarks, tweeted by POTUS:

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump’s FISA tweets throw Washington into chaos

President Donald Trump’s sunrise tweet casting aspersions on the domestic surveillance program his own intelligence officials have called essential set off a thunderclap of concern in Washington — and underscored the pitfalls of the President’s morning television tweet-alongs.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump wrote at 7:33 a.m. ET that the FISA program up for reauthorization in the House on Thursday may have been used to “badly surveil” his campaign.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on US soil.

Ultimately, the measure passed handily. But not until after a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President’s position ahead of the midday vote, which Republican leaders had been eying with optimism after spending weeks rounding up votes and batting down demands from the conservative and libertarian elements of their conference.

“(Chief of staff John) Kelly’s phone was ringing off the hook,” said one senior Republican official close to intelligence matters on Capitol Hill.

“No one could believe it,” another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

[CNN]

Reality

Trump was simply responding to a segment of Fox and Friends, a TV show he retweets regularly.

Trump’s morning tweetstorm appears to have been inspired by ‘Fox & Friends’

President Trump unleashed a tweetstorm Sunday morning, saying that the FBI’s reputation was “in tatters” following the tenure of former Director James B. Comey, who was fired seven months ago.

The president also suggested bias against him in the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, after news accounts said an agent was removed from Mueller’s team following an internal investigation of text messages interpreted as critical of Trump.

The agent, Peter Strzok, reportedly helped lead the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.

Trump’s comments closely echoed language used during Sunday morning’s episode of Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” which aired a report on Strzok under the banner, “Agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.”

At another point during “Fox & Friends,” the banner read, “Report: Anti-Trump FBI agent led Clinton email probe.”

“Now it all starts to make sense!” Trump responded.

The “Fox & Friends” hosts repeatedly referenced Comey in their discussion of Strzok, with co-host Ed Henry describing Strzok as “very close to” the former FBI director.

The morning show team also suggested that Strozk’s alleged bias was evidence that he and Comey had colluded to improperly clear Clinton of criminal charges in the email probe while somehow implicating the president’s associates in wrongdoing related to the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Co-host Pete Hegseth summarized his concerns, saying: “Comey’s being briefed on Hillary Clinton’s email investigation by a guy who’s in the tank for Hillary Clinton, which is the greatest fear that we all have: that the deep state has infiltrated the so-called Justice Department or the FBI.”

The president appeared to echo that criticism in his tweets.

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump Promotes Upcoming Fox and Friends Show

Trump promised that the popular morning show would be “showing much of our successful trip to Asia, and the friendship & benefits that will endure for years to come.”

The tweets suggest that Trump had knowledge of the show’s programming schedule before airtime, a curiosity that MSNBC reporter Stephanie Ruhle pointed out.

The president is known to be especially tight with “Fox & Friends.” Long before he moved to the White House, Trump would regularly call into the show to float false claims that President Barack Obama had not been born in the United States.

Last month, the president even hosted a private White House dinner with former longtime show executive producer Jennifer Rauchet, current co-host Pete Hegseth and a few other guests.

[The Wrap]

Trump: Suspect Entered U.S. in ‘Diversity Visa Lottery’, Blames Schumer

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Uzbek immigrant suspected of murdering eight people in New York City with a rental truck entered the U.S. through the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program” and the president charged Sen. Chuck Schumer and Democrats had loosened the nation’s borders.

Trump did not provide any supporting evidence for the claim about the visa program, which was being discussed on the morning TV program “Fox and Friends” that the president indicated in his tweets he was watching.

“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted.

“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter) @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted, citing the morning program whose hosts were discussing the visa lottery.

“Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems, said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends,” Trump added, appearing to reference a retired U.S. Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel who appeared on the program Wednesday.

Moments later, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the the suspect in the attack had entered the U.S. “through a diversity program, a lottery program.” He did not elaborate.

Schumer, for his part, shot back at Trump on Twitter: “I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy.”

In a statement, the New York senator slammed Trump for “dividing America” and called on the president not to follow through on proposed cuts to “vital anti-terrorism funding.”

“I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America,” Schumer said. “President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget.”

The Trump-Schumer back and forth came less than 24 hours after eight people were killed and about a dozen more were injured when a motorist in a rented pickup truck deliberately drove down a bike path in lower Manhattan and mowed down several people before crashing into a school bus in what officials said was a terrorist attack.

Police found a note inside the truck that was used indicating the suspect claimed to have carried out the attack for the Islamic State terrorist group.

The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant named Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the United States in 2010, law enforcement officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear under what circumstances Saipov came to the United States.

According to The New York Times, he had obtained a green card, giving him permanent legal resident status in the U.S.

Trump, in his tweets Wednesday, was apparently referring to the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery, which was established by the Immigration Act of 1990. That bill was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by then-President George H.W. Bush.

The program allows the State Department to offer 50,000 visas annually to immigrants from countries with low immigration rates.

Democrats quickly hit back against Trump’s claims.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “it was kind of absurd (for Trump)…to be using it as a fulcrum for … this kind of a debate.”

“I don’t think this is the time to get political,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “There is no doubt we have to be smarter and have more intelligence… but there is also no doubt that is not the time to play politics, to foment hate, this is not the time to divide.”

At least one Republican defended the diversity visa lottery.

“To be honest with you, I’ve known a number of people in New York who come in under the lottery system, they’ve made outstanding contributions, they’ve become citizens,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a former House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, told Fox Business Channel. “So that really is separate from the idea of the vetting.”

According to the State Department, diversity visa lottery applicants must meet certain education and work experience requirements, like having obtained “at least a high school education or its equivalent” or “two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.”

People who are not from an eligible country can also qualify if their spouse was born in an eligible country.

The State Department determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing, its website states.

In 2013, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” proposed an compromise immigration reform bill that would have eliminated the diversity lottery. The bill did not make it through Congress.

[NBC News]

Trump blasts ‘wacky & totally unhinged’ Tom Steyer after impeachment ad campaign

President Donald Trump blasted Tom Steyer on Friday, calling the Democratic megadonor “wacky” and “totally unhinged.”

“Wacky & totally unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from beginning, never wins elections!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.

Steyer, a California billionaire activist, is launching a $10 million national ad campaign calling for the president’s impeachment. The 60-second TV spot began running last week, according to Forbes.

The ad played Friday morning on “Fox & Friends,” likely catching the president’s eye.

Steyer opens the ad narrating over clips of the president and a shot of North Korea. He says that Trump has brought the U.S. “to the brink of nuclear war” with North Korea and is “accused of obstructing justice” with his May firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and “of violating the Constitution by taking money from foreign governments and threatening to shut down news organizations that report the truth.”

“If that isn’t the case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president, then what has our government become?” says Steyer, speaking directly into the camera and identified onscreen as an “American Citizen.” “I’m Tom Steyer, and, like you, I’m a citizen who knows it’s up to us to do something. It’s why I’m funding this effort to raise our voices together and demand that elected officials take a stand on impeachment.”

Steyer adds that a Republican-led Congress “once impeached a president for far less, yet today people in Congress and his own administration know that this president is a clear and present danger who’s mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, and they do nothing.”

He asks Americans to join him and tell their member of Congress “they have a moral responsibility to stop doing what’s political and start doing what’s right.”

“Our country depends on it,” he warns.

The ad encourages viewers to sign a petition at NeedToImpeach.com.

Immediately after tweeting about Steyer, Trump thanked Fox News’ morning show for its coverage.

“Thank you @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted, just one minute after his tweet about Steyer. “Really great job and show!”

[Politico]

Media

Here is the ad Trump was likely responding to

Trump repeats Fox News attack on Maddow verbatim

President Donald Trump on Sunday reused talking points from Fox & Friends after the conservative morning show blasted MSNBC host Rachel Maddow over a story about the killing of four U.S. service members in Niger.

The hosts of Fox & Friends began their 7 a.m. ET hour by lambasting Maddow for a theory linking the Trump administration’s travel ban to the lack of support for Sgt La David Johnson and three other troops killed in Niger. Maddow suggested that Chad had pulled a large contingent of forces out of Niger recently in response to Trump’s ban on travel from the nation.

If you lean forward and you use your pen and you pause and you look thoughtful into the camera, then you must be saying something substantive,” co-host Pete Hegseth joked in a jab at Maddow. “Or maybe you’re widely [sic] spinning a conspiracy theory as the leader of the left.”

“This is what’s dangerous,” co-host Abby Huntsman opined. “It’s dangerous when the media starts having conversations about this and putting in their own theories that are completely unrelated to what actually happened. It’s dangerous, not only for us in terms of figuring out what did happen. But it’s dangerous to the families that lost loved ones over there because they’re the ones who should be the focus of this conversation and somehow we go down these roads oftentimes and it’s such a distraction and it’s such a disservice to this country and what our job is in the media.”

“We all have to be vigilant,” she added. “Do your job well, and if there is some connection, then talk about it and help people understand. But these conspiracy theories, that it where it gets completely, completely dangerous.”

“That’s why people tune it out,” Hegseth said. “And President Trump calls it fake news and you saw that poll from Politico where 46 percent think the news just makes up stuff about President Trump, 17 percent unsure.

Huntsman agreed: “I can’t tell you how many of my friends I talk to, it’s like, they have no idea where to go to figure out what’s actually going on. I hear that from my family, my friends, people I just talk to on the streets. The American people are frustrated because it used to be you could just tune in to the media and get at least a bit of a sense of what’s going on and now — this is a perfect example that you can’t.”

Within minutes, Trump tweeted, citing the very same Politico poll quoted by Hegseth and echoing the hosts’ attack on the “fake news” media.

[Raw Story]

Media

 

 

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