White House: It’s in ‘Public Interest’ for Staff to Skirt Ethics Rules to Meet With Fox News

It is “in the public interest” for the White House’s top communicator to be excused from federal ethics laws so he can meet with Fox News, according to President Donald Trump’s top lawyer.

Bill Shine, Trump’s newly minted communications director, and Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economist, who worked at CNBC before his White House post, have both been excused from provisions of the law, which seeks to prevent administration officials from advancing the financial interests of relatives or former employers.

“The Administration has an interest in you interacting with Covered Organizations such as Fox News,” wrote White House counsel Don McGahn in a July 13 memo granting an ethics waivers to Shine, a former Fox executive. “[T]he need for your services outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the White House Office’s programs and operations.”

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

The news media has been a particular object of those waivers. Early in the administration, after The Daily Beast questioned the propriety of then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s communications with employees of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet he led before and after his White House tenure, the White House issued a blanket ethics waiver allowing all senior West Wing appointees to freely communicate with the press.

That move was widely seen as an effort to retroactively cover Bannon for previous meetings that would’ve otherwise run afoul of ethics rules—a move that may itself have constituted a violation of those rules.

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

The news media has been a particular object of those waivers. Early in the administration, after The Daily Beast questioned the propriety of then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s communications with employees of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet he led before and after his White House tenure, the White House issued a blanket ethics waiver allowing all senior West Wing appointees to freely communicate with the press.

That move was widely seen as an effort to retroactively cover Bannon for previous meetings that would’ve otherwise run afoul of ethics rules—a move that may itself have constituted a violation of those rules.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump Suggests FBI Kept Carter Page’s Russia Ties Secret to ‘Spy’ on His Campaign

President Donald Trump suggested that the FBI may have tried to use Carter Page as “an excuse to SPY” on the Trump campaign, as they did not inform the then-candidate about Page’s ties to Russia.

“’Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?’” Trump tweeted on Thursday, quoting comments made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News.

Trump then jumped in with his on commentary on the matter: “They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?”

Just days before the election in 2016, the FBI filed a surveillance application on Page that said, “The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

Page responded to the allegations by denying his involvement with the Kremlin.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” the former Trump campaign adviser said.

[Mediaite]

Reality

First, Carter Page left the Trump campaign in September 2016, the FBI sought another FISA warrant in October 2016 after Page left.

Second, the FBI informed Trump the Russians were trying to infiltrate his campaign in July 2016.

Trump is a liar.

Trump Smears MSNBC as ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Corrupt’ at Rally, Crowd Erupts in ‘CNN Sucks’ Chant

During a raucous rally in Ohio that hit on a number of familiar themes from his earlier rallies, President Donald Trump once again took swipes at the media, calling MSNBC “disgusting” and prompting a chant of “CNN sucks.”

“They had this false report that I was supporting somebody else and they were right,” he said before laughing, “It was fake news.”

“They were right and I was supporting somebody else, Steve Stivers but he’s in a  totally different district. Did they apologize…”

Then turning to the media bullpen, Trump asked, “Did you apologize for that mistake?”

That prompted loud boos and chants of “CNN sucks” from the crowd.

Finally, continuing on with his story only after the anti-CNN chants died down, Trump continued on, taking another media jab: “So, I heard that Troy was like my second choice. I said he was my first choice. He has always been the one I want to win. It’s always dangerous when you do this…They give us false records.”

The mistake Trump was referring to a tweet he sent out on August 2 calling for people to get out and vote for Stivers, who is not on the special election ballot.

Despite calling for the media to apologize during the rally, that tweet — sent by Trump — has since been deleted.

Yet, as it turns out Trump’s call for the apology was just the warm-up. Later on during the same Ohio rally, Trump once again hit on the media, calling out CNN and MSNBC by name and once again sparking a fierce reaction from the crowd.

“MSNBC is so corrupt. It is so disgusting, so disgusting. I would say almost worse,” Trump said, prompting boos for the media from the crowd.

Then after praising Fox News — even calling out Fox News personalities by name — Trump said to the sycophant and loud crowd, “CNN is down at the bottom of the totem pole. MSNBC isn’t even close [to Fox].”

[Mediaite]

Trump Tweets Out Swipe at the Media from Fox News’ Gutfeld: They’re ‘Good News Fire Extinguishers’

President Donald Trump tweeted out a quote from Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld praising Trump and dinging the media earlier tonight.

Gutfeld was mocking media coverage of Trump’s accomplishments, saying, “Donald Trump is the good news conductor… and the media are good news fire extinguishers.”

He said every time there’s good economic news the media nitpicks it. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the President tweeted out the quote.

[Mediaite]

Trump Tells Hannity He’ll Campaign for GOP ‘6 or 7 Days’ a Week Ahead of Midterms

President Donald Trump reportedly told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he plans to campaign “six or seven days a week” for Republicans ahead of the all-important midterms.

Trump said this to Hannity on the Fox personality’s radio show, according to Politico who flagged the quote: “I am going to work very hard, I will go six or seven days a week when we’re 60 days out and I will be campaigning for all of these great people that do have a difficult race and we think we’re going to bring them over the line.”

Yet, in another case of there is a tweet for every Trump claim, here is Trump kvetching Barack Obama was busy campaigning when he should have been doing more presidential things, like dealing with Hurricane Sandy.

Candidate Trump also complained about Obama using Air Force One to campaign for Hillary Clinton, claiming “taxpayers are paying a fortune for the use of Air Force One on the campaign trail.”

[Mediaite]

Trump lashed out at aides after seeing Melania’s Air Force One television tuned to CNN

President Trump reportedly lashed out at aides after seeing first lady Melania Trump’s television broadcasting CNN on Air Force One.

An internal email obtained by The New York Timessaid that the president caused “a bit of a stir” on the aircraft because the television was tuned in to the network he continuously blasts as “fake news.”

Officials said in the email that they would turn the televisions to Fox News for future flights, according to the Times.

It is well-known that Trump’s network of choice is Fox News, and he has repeatedly praised their coverage while disparaging other networks, in particular CNN.

At a joint press conference earlier this month with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump refused to take a question from CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, instead moving on to Fox News’s John Roberts.

“CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump said. “Let’s go to a real network.”

Earlier Tuesday, while speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national conference, Trump attacked the press as “fake news” and told audience members not to believe what they see and read in the media about the economy.

“Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” he said. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.”

A memo circulated on social media earlier this year claiming that the Food and Drug Administration was ordered to display Fox News on all televisions in one of its units, which the FDA denied.

[The Hill]

Update

Melania’s spokeswoman surprisingly later said she’ll watch “any channel she wants.

Trump tries to spin Justice Department documents outlining Carter Page’s Russia contacts

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to try and hit back against the Justice Department’s release of documents outlining Carter Page’s contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, the Justice Department released a warrant application the FBI had made to get permission to conduct surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, made in October 2016, alleged that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

The non-redacted portions of the 400-page FISA document make serious claims about Page’s ties to the Russian government. The Justice Department alleges in the documents that the former adviser “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.”

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant says. After a redacted line, the document then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Trump responded to the documents Sunday morning, relying on his claim of “witch hunt” to describe the investigation into his campaign.

“As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts,” Trump tweeted about the FISA documents Sunday. “Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump hit back against the Steele dossier, which alleges the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and that the Russians have compromising information on the now-president. Trump quoted Fox News as saying, “Source #1 [for the FISA warrant] was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign …”

The president then tied the FISA warrant to the outcry sparked by his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming he “had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!”

Page himself has denied the allegations, describing the FISA application as “spin” and a “complete joke” in an interview Sunday on CNN.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Page alleged Sunday.

The heavily redacted FISA documents, which enabled the government to surveil Page, were released Saturday after news organizations including the New York Times and USA Today filed lawsuits to obtain them through the Freedom of Information Act. Its release marks the first time a FISA application for surveillance has been released, the Washington Post noted, and such documents are considered to be highly classified.

The application previously made waves in February, as Republicans alleged in a memo that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain the FISA warrant — which Democrats then rebutted in a separate report.

Republicans have previously pointed to the warrant’s reliance on the Steele dossier — which was initially commissioned by a firm that had been contracted by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — as evidence that the warrant was improperly granted, due to the dossier’s alleged bias. An initial Republican memo about the FISA warrant also claimed that the dossier’s origins were not mentioned in the warrant.

The now-released document, however, does disclose that the “U.S. person” who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” and added that the FBI believes Steele’s reporting “to be credible.” Some details of the Steele dossier have been corroborated, although the document’s most salacious claims remain unverified.

David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security and associate deputy attorney general, wrote in a post for the Lawfare Institute that the page-long footnote dedicated to the potential bias behind the Steele dossier means “there is literally no way the FISA court could have missed it.”

“The FBI gave the court enough information to evaluate Steele’s credibility,” Kris wrote, also noting that the judges who signed off on the FISA applications were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Democrats are pointing to the now-released application as evidence that the FBI’s investigation into Page and the Trump campaign was legitimate. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post that the FISA documents “underscore the legitimate concern [the] FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and improperly and illegally influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’

“The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies,” Pelosi added.

[Mic]

Fox News claims entire US defense budget goes to NATO minutes before Trump lies and says US funds 90 percent of NATO

Fox News on Thursday falsely suggested that the entire U.S. defense budget is paid to NATO.

In an on-screen graphic titled “U.S. Contributions To NATO in 2018,” Fox News claimed that $706.1 billion was paid to the military alliance.

In fact, $706.1 billion represents the entire defense budget, which is the largest in U.S. history.

Minutes after Fox News made the erroneous claim, President Donald Trump held a news conference where he wrongly asserted that the U.S. has been funding “probably 90 percent of the costs of NATO.”

According to NPR, the U.S. actually pays about 22 percent of the $2.8 billion in annual NATO expenses.

[Raw Story]

White House announces hiring of former Fox News exec Bill Shine

Veteran Fox News executive Bill Shine is President Trump’s new right-hand-man for White House communications.
The appointment was announced on Thursday afternoon, shortly before Shine joined Trump on a trip to Montana. Shine’s title is Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications
His move from Fox to the White House further solidifies the backscratching relationship between TV network and Trump’s orbit. But it’s especially eyebrow-raising because Shine resigned last year amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations within the network.

Shine was a key deputy of powerful Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. When Ailes was accused of sexual harassment by numerous women in 2016, Shine was accused of covering up the alleged misdeeds.

Some of the accounts portrayed Shine as Ailes’ protector and fixer. Shine was named in at least four lawsuits or allegations related to alleged sexual harassment or racial discrimination at the network. He has denied all wrongdoing. And he has never been accused of harassment himself.

The liberal group UltraViolet issued a statement calling Shine’s hiring “disturbing” but “unsurprising.” The group said the “Trump White House has been a revolving door of sexual abusers and their enablers.”

The National Women’s Law Center, another group staunchly critical of Trump, said “the President’s choice runs counter to widespread efforts to address and prevent sexual harassment at this moment of reckoning. This country deserves better.”

When Ailes was forced out of Fox News in July 2016, Shine was initially promoted to co-president. But this turned out to be just a transition period. He resigned in May 2017, in part due to his reputation being tainted from the Ailes scandals.

Shine also had powerful supporters. Shine and Sean Hannity rose up the ranks at Fox News together, and the two men remain close friends. Hannity is now Fox’s biggest star and the president’s biggest booster. CNN previously reported that Hannity pushed the idea of Shine joining the White House behind the scenes.

Shine’s imminent hiring was reported last week. And he was seen at the White House earlier this week. The reports prompted two of Shine’s critics in the right-wing media world to resurface the Ailes-era allegations against Shine.

Newsmax, run by Trump friend Chris Ruddy, published several critical stories. And conservative activist Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch, told The Daily Beast, “I don’t want so see the ghost of Roger Ailes running the White House communications operation.”

Klayman said Shine’s handling of harassment claims needed to be investigated.
Reaction to Shine’s hiring included some negative responses from those who used to work for him or Fox News.

“I say this as someone who was on Fox for a decade and had no beef (though little interaction) with Bill Shine: It’s a disgrace that a man who, it turns out, enabled and covered up truly repulsive behavior by Roger Ailes, would get a senior White House job,” said Bill Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard in a tweet.

And two years to the day former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network, quoted a story on Twitter and talked about the impact of “giving women a voice, letting them know you can be believed … and say enough is enough.”

One of the president’s sons, Donald Trump, Jr., predicted the criticism in a tweet on Thursday afternoon.

“On your marks, get set…. how long till the liberal media and snowflakes start taking shots at the great Bill Shine? Competent, hard working and a believer in making America great again!” Trump Jr. wrote.

Thursday’s White House statement about the appointment highlighted Shine’s past experience with Fox News.

“[Shine] brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role. Previously, Mr. Shine served as Co-President of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network,” it read.

[CNN]

Dubious Fox News article appears to have sparked Trump attack on Obama

President Donald Trump appeared to rely on a dubious Fox News report Tuesday morning to unleash an attack on his predecessor, accusing President Barack Obama, without any real evidence, of granting citizenship to 2,500 Iranians as part of nuclear deal negotiations.

“Just out that Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians – including to government officials,” Trump tweeted. “How big (and bad) is that?”

Jeff Prescott, the former senior director on Obama’s National Security Council, called Trump’s allegation “absurd and entirely false.”

Prescott shared with CNN immigration data from the Department of Homeland Security which showed that the number of Iranians naturalized in the United States over the course of the Obama and Bush administrations was relatively consistent.

“There was no connection between the Iran nuclear deal and immigration policy,” Prescott added.

The unsubstantiated claim first gained attention with a Monday story on Fox News’ website that relied on the word of an Iranian cleric who is also a member of the country’s parliament.

The article, written by Chris Irvine, a Fox News senior editor, cited an Iranian news agency that cited an Iranian newspaper that quoted the single Iranian cleric, who said the Obama administration provided citizenship to 2,500 unidentified Iranians during nuclear deal negotiations.

The article itself quoted, toward the end of the story, the network’s own commentator, former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, saying, “This sounds like totally made up BS.” The story said the Department of Homeland Security and State Department declined to comment, and that a representative for former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson could not be reached.

Prior to the Fox News article, the claim had not received any noticeable attention from the US media.

But after Fox News published its story, other outlets, primarily in the conservative media space, published similar stories. Those outlets included The Daily Mail, The Gateway Pundit, and TownHall.

The claims were also shared on Twitter by Fox News host Sean Hannity and frequent Fox guests David Clarke and Charlie Kirk.

On Tuesday morning, just hours before Trump’s tweet, the story made its way to Fox News’ airwaves on “Fox & Friends First,” the network’s early morning show. It also later aired on “America’s Newsroom,” a late-morning news program on Fox News.

“It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this is a case of Donald Trump parroting Fox News, which is peddling the claims of an Iranian hardliner,” Prescott told CNN.

Jake Sullivan, a former Obama official who was involved at the start of the Iran nuclear negotiations, also skewered Trump for relying on Fox News’ thin report to make what he called a “completely false” claim.

“What is interesting about this is that what happened is a hardline crank in Iran just randomly made this comment, Fox News writes a story on it, and then Trump tweets it,” Sullivan said on “The Situation Room.”

[CNN]

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