Trump blames Obama, lashes out at Schiff and Democrats, but spares Russia criticism in weekend tweet storm

President Donald Trump has lashed out at his critics, political rivals, American institutions and even his own national security advisor in a weekend tirade about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Yet the president spared Russia itself from his harshest criticism.

Trump zeroed in on his predecessor in the Oval Office, Barack Obama, for not doing enough to stop Russian operations intended to sow chaos in the American political system.

“Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing,” Trump posted Sunday morning on Twitter.

Trump was referring to comments from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe into Russia’s election-interference efforts.

Schiff, an outspoken critic of Trump, said Friday that the Obama administration shared some responsibility in the Russia controversy, because it should have been more aggressive and revealed the operation to the public.

“We should have called them out much earlier,” Schiff said Friday morning. “While I respect the motive in terms of the Obama administration, they didn’t want to be seen as meddling, the American people had a right to know what was going on and could be trusted to do the right thing with it. And they should have defended being more public and aggressive at the time, at least in my view.”

Schiff made his comments ahead of several federal indictments of Russian nationals and entities by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The indictments revealed Friday did not include any allegation that Russia efforts actually had any effect on the outcome of the election, but it did not conclude otherwise, either. The charges allege that the Russians waged “information warfare” on the U.S. political system to aid Trump’s campaign.

The latest developments in the case compelled Trump to acknowledge that Russia had interfered. Previously, he described the Russia plot as a “hoax” and the investigation into it a “witch hunt.” In his Sunday tweet storm, he stated that he always meant that the “Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”

[CNBC]

Reality

It is very easy to look backwards and say we could have done better, especially knowing now the scope of the election interference and we also didn’t know then. But we did know enough, enough that Obama wanted to release a bipartisan statement to the public alerting them of Russian involvement, but Mitch McConnell flatly refused to cooperate.

We also know that when Jeh Johnson, Obama’s secretary of homeland security, contacted people in charge of elections in various states whose election data had been possibly compromised, the Republicans in those states blew him off.

And as Joe Biden pointed out, “Can you imagine if the president of the United States called a press conference in October with this fella, and Stephen Bannon and company, and said ‘tell you what, the Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it.’”

Trump criticizes national security advisor HR McMaster’s comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 election

President Donald Trump, in a late-night tweet, criticized remarks his national security advisor made earlier Saturday about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

H.R. McMaster, who is also a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, told a conference in Germany that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election.

He was citing Friday’s federal indictments, stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, that said Russian operatives conducted a sophisticated internet campaign to sow chaos in the American political scene.

Trump eventually responded to his national security advisor by saying McMaster left out some details from his comments.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted late Saturday night.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday that these particular indictments did not include allegations that the Russian efforts affected the election’s results. Trump saw the latest development in the case as a vindication.

The indictments released Friday allege, in part, that the Russians sought to disparage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help Trump win. The Russian operatives, according to the charges, attempted to convince some Americans to vote for third-party candidate Jill Stein over Clinton, and also sought to discourage minority turnout at the polls.

McMaster’s comments Saturday were part of a testy exchange with a Russian delegate at the conference.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday dismissed reports of interference as “blather.”

Trump has repeatedly denied that his campaign colluded with Russians to sway the election in his favor, and has often called the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” Russian authorities have also rejected claims of collusion.

The president’s tweet targeting McMaster came soon after he suggested in another tweet that the Russia probe had somehow distracted the FBI from seeing warning signs leading to Wednesday’s shooting massacre at a high school in south Florida.

[CNBC]

 

Trump concocted a story about a border agent’s death. The truth won’t catch up.

This is the autopsy of a lie.

On the night of Nov. 18, Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found dying on the side of an interstate in West Texas. There were immediate signs it had been an accident. Martinez’s partner, Stephen Garland (who suffered a head injury and doesn’t recall the incident), had radioed for help, saying he thought he ran into a culvert.

But President Trump and his allies saw an opportunity to whip up anti-immigrant fervor. At a Cabinet meeting Nov. 20, Trump announced, with cameras rolling, that “we lost a Border Patrol officer just yesterday, and another one was brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt. . . . We’re going to have the wall.” He also issued a similar tweet.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, offered a reward “to help solve this murder” and to “help us catch this killer.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) declared the incident “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses.”

And then there was Fox News, reporting that “a border patrol agent was brutally murdered” and going with the headline “Border Patrol agent appeared to be ambushed by illegal immigrants, bashed with rocks before death.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson reported that Martinez was “attacked at the border in the most gruesome possible way.”

The FBI swung into action, mobilizing 37 field offices, and this week it announced its findings. Although the investigation “has not conclusively determined” what happened, “none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017.”

Compared with the original allegations, the findings got little attention. There was no corrective tweet from Trump or the others and no retraction by Fox News, which buried the FBI’s findings with brief mention. Fox News, which had previously reported immigrants to be guilty of rape allegations that were later dropped, continued to report the border union’s claim of assault “despite FBI finding no scuffle.”

It has been more than 300 years since Jonathan Swift wrote about the utility of falsehood: “If a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect . . . like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.”

Swift could not have better described Trump’s America in the 21st century, when allegation substitutes for evidence. Let us pretend that Russia isn’t interfering in our elections — and therefore let us decline to impose sanctions approved by Congress. Let us concoct stories about “illegal immigrant” murderers and rapists to justify a border wall. And let us tell Americans they can have a free lunch — a $1.5 trillion tax cut and $500 billion in additional spending, all paid for with borrowed funds — and suffer no adverse consequences. By the time people discover what has really happened, it will be too late.

Most Americans will never learn what investigators found about the border attack — because they were being exposed to a new hoax this week: that the key to the United States’ success is in borrowing more. “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” Trump tweeted in celebration after the two-year budget deal cleared Congress Friday morning.

But the economy is already near full employment — exactly the wrong time to enact a stimulus, typically done to jolt an economy out of recession. The deal gives the military even more than Trump sought and, with interest, will add almost $420 billion to the deficit, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The tax cut and spending spree leave the government with less power to combat a recession. And a recession is exactly what Wall Street fears as the overstimulated economy forces up inflation and interest rates.

When recession comes, it will be too late. The fiction of a free lunch will already have wasted $2 trillion in the cause of overheating the economy, just as the fiction about the attack on Martinez and Garland has already furthered Trump’s attempt to portray immigrants as criminals.

There was reason to be skeptical early on in that case. Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo, one of the first responders on the scene, told The Post shortly after the incident that he doubted it was an attack. He has speculated that it was a fall, or that the two were accidentally sideswiped by a tractor-trailer.

But that didn’t fit Trump’s narrative about murderous immigrants. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.

[Washington Post]

Kellyanne Conway Says Sen. Gillibrand, Who Was First Elected in ’06, ‘Protected’ Clinton During Impeachment

Following White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s resignation amid allegations that he abused two ex-wives, President Donald Trump told reporters that he wished Porter well and that Porter has said the accusations are false. He also stated that Porter was “very sad” over the situation and hoped the ex-aide had a “wonderful career.”

During today’s broadcast of ABC’s This Week, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was pressed on the president’s response to the controversy and his weekend tweet seemingly doubling down on it in which he cited due process. Host George Stephanopoulos brought up reaction from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who said that Trump has shown that he “doesn’t value women.”

Conway brushed off Gillibrand’s criticism by invoking President Bill Clinton’s indiscretions with women and late ’90s impeachment. After noting that Trump’s accusers had “their day” when they were “trotted out” on television, Conway said the following:

“I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand on anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying. I don’t need a lecture from her or anybody else.”

Only one problem with Conway’s counterpoint to Gillibrand — Gillibrand was first elected to Congress in 2006 and didn’t actually get to Washington until January 2007, years after Clinton was impeached over the Lewinsky affair. This fact wasn’t lost on some media figures.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump’s DACA Tweet Gets it All Wrong

Donald Trump seemed to spend most of his day on Saturday glued to Twitter, and following a morning of tweets musing about the “unfairness” of abuse accusations to the men accused and playing up his own victimhood, the president went on the offensive attacking both Democrats and facts, all in one Tweet (the new 240 character limit goes a long way).

There are multiple problems with this, beginning with the fact that DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that offers legal status to undocumented immigrants who arrived to the US as children—did not exist until 2012.

Some quick background that Trump did not seem to have access to before he tweeted: since the early 2000s, several variations of a bill known as the DREAM Act, which was designed to offer temporary legal status to individuals who were children when they arrived in the United States, were introduced in Congress. It wasn’t until September 2007, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate, but notably not the White House, that the bill seemed to have any real shot. It passed the House and won a majority of votes in the Senate but was blocked by a Republican filibuster. In 2010, when the Democrats did control all three branches, the bill was supported by a majority of both houses and President Barack Obama, but, again, blocked by a Republican filibuster. Notably, while some Republicans crossed party lines to support that version of the bill, the current top three House Republicans did not support it, and the current GOP Senate leadership cadre, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted against killing the filibuster that Democrats needed to beat to make the bill a law.

The DACA program itself was created in 2012 when Obama issued an executive order to enforce the provisions of what had been proposed in the legislation.

[Mother Jones]

Reality

So many things wrong:

  1. The White House, the Senate and the House are not the three branches of government.
  2. Obama wasn’t president in 2008.
  3. Republicans blocked DACA legislation in 2010.
  4. DACA executive order didn’t exist until 2012.
  5. It was Trump who unilaterally broke the program.

Trump pushes for stronger border in wake of Colts’ Edwin Jackson killing

President Donald Trump urged for tougher border security Tuesday after Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson was reportedly killed by an undocumented immigrant in a vehicle collision.

“So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson,” he tweeted. “This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!”

Prior to the president’s tweets, however, Chad Bouchez, Jackson’s roommate, said during a CBS interview, that Jackson would not want his death politicized. “He would not want that,” Bouchez said. “I don’t think Edwin would have judged anyone on where they were from or anything else. ”

The man accused of hitting Jackson and his Uber driver with his vehicle in Indianapolis on Sunday had been deported twice, according to Indiana State Police. Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, might have entered the U.S. on or around July 1, 2004, according to an email Monday from Nicole Alberico, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to CNN, an ICE statement said the accused also has other “misdemeanor criminal convictions and arrests in California and Indiana.”

News reports say prosecutors have not formally charged Orrego-Savala but authorities said they are working on potential criminal charges.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) shared the president’s sentiments, according to a Washington Times report Monday.

“The loss of life at the hands of illegal immigrant criminals should make all Hoosiers sad and ultimately angry,” Rokita said. “We must do more to get these dangerous illegal immigrant criminals off of our streets, and guarantee this never happens again by building a wall, ending sanctuary cities, and stopping illegal immigration once and for all.”

The second-year linebacker was loved by the Colts organization, according to the team’s statement on Sunday.

“We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hard-working mentality,” the statement said. “He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization.”

After pushing for Democrats to get “tougher” on border control, Trump sent his condolences to Jackson’s family.

“My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. @Colts,” he tweeted.

The president had previously criticized the “disgraceful” verdict in the 2015 case of Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco. As a result, Trump called for the building of a border wall after the verdict was delivered in the trial in December.

[Politico]

Reality

This was a sad and tragic event by an illegal immigrant, but it is *A* sad and tragic event, meaning this is just one instance. Policy needs to reflect data, which unequivocally shows that immigrants (both legal and illegal) commit crimes at far lower rates than the native population.

Second, Orrego-Savala was driving without a license and intoxicated, so we could make just as strong, if not stronger, of an argument against drunk driving as one could about illegal immigration being the primary factor of death.

Trump tweets memo ‘totally vindicates’ him in Russia inquiry

President Donald Trump said Saturday that the memo released by the House Intelligence Committee the day before has vindicated him and proved that the special counsel’s Russia investigation is an “American disgrace.”

In a tweet posted Saturday morning, Trump continued his attacks against his own FBI and Justice Department for its investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” the president tweeted. “But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on.”

Trump’s tweet appeared to support contentions made by Democrats like Rep. Adam Schiff of California that the memo’s release was merely a partisan attempt to undermine the Russia investigation.

On Saturday, Schiff responded to Trump’s tweet by claiming that — far from vindicating the president — the memo in fact proved “quite the opposite.”

“The most important fact disclosed in this otherwise shoddy memo was that FBI investigation began July 2016 with your adviser, Papadopoulous, who was secretly discussing stolen Clinton emails with the Russians,” tweeted Schiff, who is the ranking member on the committee.

On Friday, after more than a week of speculation and partisan infighting, the White House declassified a memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and staffers.

FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials fought hard against the memo’s release, even issuing a rare statement claimingthat they had “grave concerns” about inaccuracies and misleading conclusions in the document.

In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Nunes said although he helped write the controversial memo, he had not read the FISA application under question.

Instead, as part of an agreement with DOJ officials, Nunes said one Democrat and one Republican were allowed to read the documents. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, and Schiff were selected.

House Republicans have touted the memo as proof that the premise of the Russia investigation is flawed. The memo argues that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the basis for its application to eavesdrop on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The memo states that the decision to spy on Page was based on a dossier written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who Republicans claim had an overt anti-Trump bias.

But after analyzing the four-page document, many political analysts noted that the memo does not shed light on what role, if any, the dossier played in the special counsel’s inquiry. Others note that Page came under surveillance in October 2016, after the Russia investigation was well under way.

Trump continued to tweet about the Russia investigation Saturday evening. Trump touted what he called “great jobs numbers” and rising wages, but “nobody even talks about them.”

“Only Russia, Russia, Russia, despite the fact that, after a year of looking, there is No Collusion!” the president tweeted.

[NBC News]

Reality

The two congressmen who actually saw the classified evidence in the Nunes memo, Trey Gowdy and Adam Schiff, both say Trump is wrong.

Trump’s own FBI and DOJ both say the Nunes memo is factually inaccurate.

By no objective measure does this vindicate Trump of anything.

Trump Claims His SOTU Had The Highest Ratings In History. It Didn’t.

In a tweet, President Trump claimed the largest audience ever tuned in for his State of the Union address. That’s not true.

“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” Trump tweeted just after 7 a.m. ET Thursday. “45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history. @FoxNews beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!”

Though the specific numbers he cites in his tweet are correct, Trump’s audience on Tuesday night wasn’t close to being the highest in history for a State of the Union.

Quick note: The speech a president gives just after taking office looks like a State of the Union but is actually a joint address to Congress. But just for the purposes of this article, we will call those big speeches early in the first year of a presidency SOTUs, too, as a shorthand.

Let’s look at the numbers. Nielson counts the number of people who watch the speeches on broadcast networks, cable and PBS, either live or on the same day.

Nielson reported yesterday that an estimated 45.6 million people tuned in to Trump’s address on Tuesday night. Compared with other SOTUs since 1993, that total puts Trump’s speech in ninth place.

The SOTU with the largest audience was Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech, which drew a whopping 66.9 million viewers.

And if you look at the combined household rating, rather than combined number of viewers, Trump’s 26.9 rating nets him 16th place, tied with G.W. Bush’s 2006 address. (Clinton’s 1993 speech also wins on the rating front, with a 44.3.)

But despite the president’s obsession with ratings, it’s worth remembering that methods for counting television viewers are imperfect. The New York Times notes that the figures don’t include streaming.

Obama’s first official State of the Union, a year into his presidency, drew 48 million viewers and a 29.8 rating — higher on both metrics than Trump’s speech on Tuesday.

It’s not clear where Trump got the notion that his SOTU numbers were the highest. But CNN’s Brian Stelter notes that a segment on “Fox and Friends,” which Trump reportedly watches, Thursday morning mentioned the 45.6 million total, and that Fox had a record number of viewers.

Following the president’s morning tweet, Fox News Research tweeted Nielson’s viewership numbers for SOTUs back to 1993, along with a photo of Trump.

[NPR]

Trump taunts Jay-Z about black unemployment

President Donald Trump mused about hip-hop icon Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter on Sunday morning, asking whether someone would inform him about the black unemployment rate.

“Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” the president wrote on Twitter.

Jay-Z was interviewed on the debut episode of “The Van Jones Show” on CNN on Saturday night. Jones asked the rapper and business mogul whether Trump’s demeanor and actions, including Trump’s reported use of the word “shithole” in reference to African and other countries, were important given the state of the economy.

It’s “not about money at the end of the day,” Jay-Z told Jones. “Money is not — money doesn’t equate to happiness. It doesn’t. That’s missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings, then — that’s the main point.”

The president is correct in saying that black unemployment is at a record low. However, the decline began under former President Barack Obama, and the rate continues to be higher than overall employment, a disparity that has endured for decades.

When asked about the reported “shithole” comment, which came in the context of a discussion of U.S immigration policy, Jay-Z said it was “really hurtful.”

“Everyone feels anger. After the anger, it’s really hurtful because he’s like looking down on a whole population of people,” Jay-Z said. “You are so misinformed because these places have beautiful people and beautiful everything.”

Comparing Trump’s reported remarks to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s private, racist comments in 2013, Jay-Z said, “That’s just how people talk behind close doors.” In a leaked tape published by TMZ.com, Sterling criticized his mistress for being out in public with black people, telling her “not to bring them to my games.”

The NBA stripped Sterling of his ownership and banned him from the league. Despite the harsh penalties, Jay-Z said Sterling’s punishment avoided tough conversations, which in his eyes, can lead to someone like Trump.

“You have sprayed perfume on the trash can. What you do, when you do that is the bugs come and you spray something, and you create a superbug because you don’t take care of the problem,” he said. “You don’t take the trash out, you keep spraying whatever over it to make it acceptable. As those things grow, you create a superbug.”

That superbug, Jay-Z said, now resides in the Oval Office.

“And then now we have Donald Trump, the superbug.”

[Politico]

Reality

Donald Trump and his allies keep bringing up the low black unemployment rate, as a sign that he isn’t racist.

The black unemployment rate has been steadily falling since 2010 when Barack Obama turned the economy around from one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen, caused by Republican policies of tax cuts and deregulation.

Trump Mocks ‘Crazy Jim Acosta’ By Misquoting Him: ‘Thank You For Your Honesty Jim!’

President Donald Trump took a victory lap over the end of the government shutdown early Tuesday morning, making sure to include a bizarre jab at CNN’s Chief White House correspondent “Crazy” Jim Acosta in a tweet.

It’s not his best nickname, but then again the president has been slacking on those as of late, so that’s to be expected.

“Even Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN agrees,” Trump wrote, quoting the reporter:

“Thank you for your honesty Jim!” the president added, perhaps signaling a turning point in the pair’s frosty relationship?

Trump seems to be misquoting this Monday tweet from Acosta, in which he reported that his White House sources were “dancing in end zone,” before quoting sources as claiming that Democrats “caved…gambled and lost” in their negotiations:

It’s not clear (it never is) whether Trump understands that Acosta’s tweet is composed of quotes, or if he’s deliberately trolling the White House reporter.

The government shutdown came to a close after a solid 69 hours on Monday, after Trump signed a bill to fund the government through February 8.

[Mediaite]

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