Trump Claims ISIS Fighters in Syria Were Released From Prison ‘Just For Effect’

President Donald Trump has claimed that ISIS fighters who escaped from jail in northern Syrian were released “for effect” to compel U.S. re-entry into the region.

During his Oval Office press spray with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Trump called the withdrawal of troops from Syria “strategically brilliant,” even as America’s Kurdish allies have come under attack by the Turkish military’s invasion.

After insulting the Kurds, Trump handed the fight against ISIS off to Syria and Russia, saying “you have a lot of countries over there that hate ISIS as much as we do…So they can take care of ISIS.”

“We have them captured. The United States captured them,” Trump continued. “Some were released just for effect to make us look a little bit like ‘oh gee, we have to get right back in there.’ You have a lot of countries over there that have power and that hate ISIS very much, as much as we do.”

Trump concluded by saying “we’re in a very strategically good position,” before blaming the criticism for his decision on the “fake news” media once again.

“I know the fake news doesn’t make it look that way but we’ve removed all of our 50 soldiers but much less than 50 soldiers.”

[Mediaite]

Pentagon sends new wave of troops to Saudi Arabia even as Trump calls for ending wars

The Pentagon is sending a fresh wave of troops to Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom against Iran, despite President Donald Trump’s repeated pledges to end the U.S. military’s commitments in the Middle East.

“I have ordered the deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of two additional fighter squadrons and supporting personnel,” including two batteries of soldiers manning Patriot air-defense missiles and another Army unit manning a larger air-defense missile system, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon today.

The latest deployment, which includes two squadrons of fighter jets and three air-defense units, will bring to 3,000 the number of troops the U.S. has sent to Saudi Arabia since Iran attacked the kingdom’s oil infrastructure last month. “The evidence recovered so far proves that Iran is responsible for these attacks,” Esper said, noting that Germany, France and the United Kingdom have reached the same conclusion.

Trump has repeatedly pledged to pull U.S. forces back from overseas entanglements. “We want to bring our soldiers back home. These are endless wars,” he said Monday, in an apparent reference to the continuing U.S. troop commitments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And yesterday, Trump falsely claimed that U.S. forces have been fully removed from Syria. Roughly 1,000 troops are deployed there.

Along with other deployments over the spring and summer “in response to Iranian provocations,” the new wave of units will push the total number of U.S. troops the Pentagon has added to the Middle East since May to 14,000, Esper noted.

Those earlier deployments included Air Force bombers, early-warning radar planes, drones, construction engineers to build up airbases, and warships. Some of the units deployed to existing U.S. bases in the region, while others, starting in July, reestablished an operational U.S. military presence at an airbase in Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon had pulled out of that airbase, leaving only an advisory presence in the kingdom, after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

An Air Force headquarters unit will also head to Saudi Arabia in the latest wave, the Pentagon noted in a statement. U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, requested the new deployments.

Esper has also delegated authority to move forces within the region to Gen. Frank McKenzie, who heads Central Command, added Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

The purpose of the deployment is to “send the message to the Iranians, do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American forces,” Milley said.

Esper, meanwhile, described the move as an example of “dynamic force employment,” a term the Pentagon has recently introduced for short-notice deployments around the world, either in response to crises or to flex the military’s muscles in training.

But the timing of the new orders suggests they are aimed at filling an airpower gap as the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group prepares to depart the region. Esper’s predecessor ordered Lincoln and its accompanying aircraft and warships to Middle Eastern waters in May, reversing a Pentagon initiative meant to free up carriers from their longstanding Middle East mission.

Esper wouldn’t comment on the aircraft carrier issue today, saying he wouldn’t “speak about operational deployments particularly with regard to assets like carriers.” But Esper has not signed an order authorizing an extension of the Lincoln’s deployment, Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesperson, said.

The deployment of Lincoln’s replacement, USS Harry S. Truman, has been delayed until next month due to problems with the ship’s electrical system, USNI News reported.

[Politico]

Trump appears to do bizarre impression of FBI agent having sex

Donald Trump appeared to perform an impression of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page having sex while the president was in the middle of a speech during a rally in Minnesota on Thursday.

Mr Trump slammed his hand on the podium and shouted “I love you, Lisa,” and “I love you too, Peter” before moaning “Lisa, I love you, Lisa! Lisa! Oh, God, I love you Lisa!”

The president had previously called Mr Strzok a “sick loser” amid investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in US elections. Mr Mueller removed Mr Strzok from his team after discovering anti-Trump text messages between Mr Strzok and Ms Page, who had an affair.

The president has falsely claimed that the texts had been deleted and has frequently argued that the messages amount to “corruption” within an investigation that followed Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election.

At his Minnesota rally, Mr Trump continued to mock the text messages: “And if she doesn’t win, Lisa, we’ve got an insurance policy, Lisa: we’ll get that son of a bitch out.”

[The Independent]

Media

Trump lies the military was “out of ammunition” when he took office

On Monday, President Donald Trump told an especially silly lie about the state of the United States military when he took office. But the way this particular lie evolved over the past month says something about how fast and loose Trump is with reality more broadly.

During a press conference, Trump — rambling on about his decision to withdraw troops from Syria — took credit for rejuvenating the military, but in so doing rewrote history by claiming that Obama literally left it with no ammunition. His source for this claim was an unnamed “top general.”

“When I took over our military, we did not have ammunition,” Trump said. “I was told by a top general, maybe the top of them all, ‘Sir, I’m sorry sir, we don’t have ammunition.’ I said, I will never let that happen to another president.”

In reality, the United States spent $611 billion on the military in 2016. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a veteran who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and was first elected to Congress in 2016, noted Trump’s comments were “not true.”

“I get briefings as a member of the House Armed Services Committee on our munitions stockpile all over the world,” Gallego tweeted. “We have never run out of ammunition.”

Of course, a full fact-check isn’t needed to see Trump’s comment as the absurdity that it is. But it is interesting to trace how Trump has embellished this particular tall tale since he first told it on September 16.

On that day, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that when he took office, General Jim Mattis — his future defense secretary, and presumably the “top general” Trump referred to on Monday — told him the country was “very low on ammunition.”

“You know, when I came here three years ago almost, General Mattis told me, ‘Sir, we’re very low on ammunition. I said, ‘That’s a horrible thing to say,’” Trump said. “We were in a position where with a certain country — I won’t say which one — we may have had conflict. And he said to me, ‘Sir, if you could, delay it, because we’re very low on ammunition.’ And I said, ‘You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general.’”

Note how that tale was slightly less outlandish than the one Trump told Monday. It is true that President Obama slimmed down the armed forces, a decision that was viewed unfavorably by a large swath of the troops when he left office. It’s also true that Trump has increased military spending. So, charitably speaking, there is a kernel of truth to what Trump was saying.

But within hours, Trump starting pumping up whatever kernel of truth existed until it was no longer recognizable.

Trump held a rally on September 16 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. There, he told the same story he told in the Oval Office earlier in the day, but in a slightly exaggerated form. Instead of being “very low on ammunition,” in the new telling, the country had “very little, slash, no ammunition” when he took office.

Four days later, the story had been exaggerated once again. During a September 20 news conference, Trump claimed the military “didn’t have ammunition” when he took office — the same lie he told on Tuesday.

In sum, Trump started with an exaggerated story that was already absurd, but then gradually inflated it even more until the final product become one of his most outlandish lies. In this case, the subject matter is relatively trivial — nobody really believes the military was out of ammunition when he took office — but the chain of events illustrates how broken Trump’s truth barometer is, and serves as a disturbing reminder about how little the president’s word can be trusted on more important matters.

The comment about ammunition wasn’t even the only time Trump’s propensity for absurdity was on display during the Monday media availability. Trump closed things out by claiming that “my polls went up I think 17 points in the last two or three days.” In fact, Trump’s approval rating has barely budged from being 12 points underwater.

[Vox]

Trump Attacks CNN International: ‘We Should Start Our Own Network’

During a speech that was ostensibly about Medicare, President Donald Trump bashed CNN and argued for the creation of a pro-Trump network to cover the United States abroad.

“Their ratings are so low that they are no longer a big difference at all, they have really bad ratings,” Trump told a crowd in Florida Thursday. “Do you know what’s bad for our country? When CNN, I go to a foreign country … CNN outside of the United States is much more important than inside the United States and a lot of what you see here is broadcast throughout the world.”

Trump then said “we used to have Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. We did that to build up our country. That isn’t working out too well.” Radio Free Europe and Voice of America are still in operation.

“CNN is a voice that really seems to be the voice out there and it’s a terrible thing for our country. We should start our own network and put some real news out there because they are so bad for our country,” Trump argued.

“We’re looking at that, we should do something about that– put in some really talented people and and get a voice out there not a voice that’s fake,” he said.

A reason CNN may be so ubiquitous as a news organization outside of the United States is because it has invested in multiple news bureaus, boasting of 27 on it’s fact sheet. In comparison, a network like Fox News only has three international bureaus–in Jerusalem, Rome and London.

[Mediaite]

Trump, Republicans accuse top Dem of orchestrating whistleblower complaint

The intelligence community employee who has accused President Donald Trump of abusing his office filed his whistleblower complaint after first consulting with an aide to the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a committee spokesman acknowledged Wednesday, touching off a firestorm of criticism from Republicans.

But while President Trump and others accused House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of orchestrating the complaint, Democratic committee aides told NBC News that what happened was rather routine, and no different from the two to three times a month an intelligence agency employee comes to them with concerns.

They said they did what they usually do in that situation: They instructed the future whistleblower to file a formal document with the inspector general, as called for in the law.

“Like other whistleblowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistleblower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,” committee spokesman Patrick Boland told NBC News. “This is a regular occurrence, given the committee’s unique oversight role and responsibilities. Consistent with the committee’s longstanding procedures, committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel.”

The sequence of events was first reported by the New York Times. The future whistleblower, a CIA officer, came to the committee after he had already filed a complaint with the CIA general counsel, and was concerned that the complaint was not being properly handled, Democratic committee aides said.

“At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance,” Boland said.

Trump, at a news conference, seized on the revelation and made an unsupported allegation that Schiff had helped prepare the complaint.

“He knew long before and helped write it, too. It’s a scam,” the president said.

The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, claimed on Twitter that Schiff “just got caught orchestrating with the whistleblower before the complaint was ever filed. Democrats have rigged this process from the start.”

Boland and a lawyer for the whistleblower denied that Schiff played any role in writing the complaint.

However, Republicans focused on the veracity of a statement Schiff made on MSNBC’s Morning Joe a few days after he publicized the existence of the complaint.

“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” Schiff said. “We would like to, but I’m sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised, as the law requires, by the inspector general or the Director of National Intelligence, just as to how he is to communicate with Congress.”

A committee aide said Schiff was referring to the committee writ large “officially interviewing the whistleblower,” as distinct from the brief conversation with a staffer. But Sam Stein, the Daily Beast journalist who asked the question, tweeted, “Schiff did appear to lie here in previously saying that his office had not spoken directly with the whistleblower.”

He added, “But if you care more about this stuff than the actual substance of the whistleblower complaint then you’re being a hack.”

Boland noted that the committee did not receive a copy of the complaint from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until the night before the acting director of national intelligence’s testimony, more than three weeks after the legal deadline by which the committee should have received the complaint.

“The whistleblower should be commended for acting appropriately and lawfully throughout every step of the process,” he added. “The committee expects that they will be fully protected, despite the President’s threats. Only through their courage did these facts about the President’s abuse of power come to light. The committee encourages all whistleblowers to come forward and seek advice on how to make disclosures of serious or flagrant wrongdoing. The committee — and the nation — rely on brave members of the Intelligence Community to raise the alarm and avail themselves of established channels.”

Schiff does not know the identity of the complainant, the committee aides said, adding that the whistleblower passed on only a vague account of his or her concerns. They would not comment on whether Schiff knew they involved a Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president.

But one result of the heads up was that Schiff, alone among members of Congress, knew there was something important when the inspector general of the Intelligence Community notified the House and Senate intelligence committees that an “urgent concern” complaint was being withheld from them on legal grounds. On September 13, a Friday night, Schiff announced without warning that he was issuing a subpoena for the complaint, and suggested the complaint was being withheld to protect the president. Other Democrats did not appear to know what he knew.

The committee aides added that the bulk of the whistleblower’s complaint was marked unclassified, and that he therefore did not violate the whistleblower law that prohibits intelligence employees from conveying classified information to Congress without going through procedures, including filing a complaint with an inspector general.

A source close to the whistleblower’s legal team said there was no violation, and did not dispute the sequence of events as reported in the New York Times and confirmed by committee aides.

When the whistleblower first had a colleague convey his or her concerns in very general terms to the CIA’s general counsel, the CIA’s counsel briefed the White House Counsel’s Office about the complaint, a person familiar with the matter said. When the whistleblower learned about that, he became concerned the complaint was being swept aside, the New York Times reported.

“The intelligence community whistleblower followed the advice of legal counsel from the beginning,” Andrew Bakaj, lead counsel for the whistleblower, said. “The laws and processes have been followed.”

[NBC News]

Trump targets ‘pathetic’ Federal Reserve after worst manufacturing reading in a decade

President Donald Trump again attacked the Federal Reserve on Tuesday after the weakest U.S. manufacturing reading in 10 years.

In a tweet, the president wrote Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the central bank “have allowed the Dollar to get so strong, especially relative to ALL other currencies, that our manufacturers are being negatively affected.” He contended the Fed has set interest rates “too high.”

“They are their own worst enemies, they don’t have a clue,” he wrote. “Pathetic!”

As his trade war with China rages on, Trump has repeatedly blamed the Fed’s interest rate policy for concerns about a slowing U.S. economy. He has contended the central bank has not moved quickly enough to ease monetary policy — though the Fed has cut its benchmark funds rate twice this year.

The Fed did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Trump’s tweet comes after the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing reading fell to 47.8 in September, down from 49.1 in August. A reading below 50 shows a manufacturing contraction.

The poor economic data contributed to major U.S. stock indexes sliding Tuesday.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of global currencies, has climbed more than 3% this year and sits near its highest level since mid-2017. A stronger dollar relative to global currencies is generally expected to reduce exports and increase imports, hurting manufacturers because it makes their products more expensive overseas.

While exchange rates may have contributed to the drag on manufacturing in September, trade also did, according to ISM.

“Global trade remains the most significant issue as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019. Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth,” Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a release announcing the data.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed any concerns about a looming American recession. He has also contended his trade conflict with the second-largest economy in the world will not harm businesses or consumers — despite indications that it has already started to hurt some companies and worry Americans.

Seeing concerns about a flagging economy as a ploy to discredit him before the 2020 election, Trump has claimed the central bank bears the blame for any slowdown rather than his own policies.

[NBC News]

Media

Donald Trump’s false claim about a change in whistleblower rules

President Donald Trump raised the specter of shady bureaucratic doings that allowed a whistleblower’s complaint to move forward when ordinarily it wouldn’t have.

“Who changed the long standing whistleblower rules just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report?” Trump tweeted Sept. 30. “Drain the swamp!”

Trump was far from the only one saying the rules were changed “just before” the report that ignited an impeachment inquiry was filed Aug. 12. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted the same thing Sept. 28.

“Whistleblowers were required to provide direct, first-hand knowledge of allegations,” McCarthy wrote. “But just days before the Ukraine whistleblower came forward, the IC (Inspector General of the Intelligence Community) secretly removed that requirement from the complaint form.” Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani echoed the same point Sept. 29.

All three tweets lead back to the same article on the conservative website Federalist. 

All three are wrong. 

• First-hand knowledge by a whistleblower has never been required since the law protecting intelligence community whistleblowers was enacted.

• Inspector General staff, who investigate a charge, need first-hand information to move a complaint forward — as they did in this case.

• The current complaint was based on both first- and second-hand information.The Federalist article

The Sept. 27 article claimed, “Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings.”

The evidence comes from a tweet thread started by Stephen McIntyre on the morning the Federalist article appeared. McIntyre is a former mining company director who created the Climate Audit blog, which questions the official data behind climate change.

From the thread, a few key points emerge:

As of May 24, 2018, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community’s Urgent Concern disclosure form — the form whistleblowers fill out  — offered three choices to describe how the whistleblower got his/her information: personal knowledge, heard from other people, and other sources.

The current form offers just two choices: personal knowledge or “heard about it from others.” That form dates from August 2019.

The previous form also included a section under the subhead “First-hand information required.”

“In order to find an urgent concern ‘credible,’ the IC IG (Intelligence Community Inspector General) must be in possession of reliable, first-hand information. The IC IG cannot transmit information via the ICWPA (Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act) based on an employee’s second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing. This includes information received from another person, such as when a fellow employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing. (Anyone with first-hand knowledge of the allegations may file a disclosure in writing directly with the IC IG.) Similarly, speculation about the existence of wrongdoing does not provide sufficient basis to meet the statutory requirements of the ICWPA. If you think wrongdoing took place, but can provide nothing more than secondhand or unsubstantiated assertions, IC IG will not be able to process the complaint or information for submission as an ICWPA.”

The current reporting form lacks that section.

Based on these facts, Trump and other Republicans asserted that the rules for whistleblowers were changed “just before” the current complaint was filed. Actually, only the forms were changed. The rules stayed the same.The actual sequence

The whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry filled out the earlier version of the form, and no rules were changed.

The Office of Inspector General issued a statement Sept. 30 saying that “the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the Complainant submitted on August 12, 2019, is the same form the IC IG has had in place since May 24, 2018.”

The inspector general’s office underscored that the whistleblower received the section about the need for first-hand evidence before a claim would go on to the next step.

So changes to the form took place after the whistleblower filed.

As for the rules on what is required, those have been the same since 2014 under an order issued by the Director of National Intelligence. Intelligence Community Directive 120 defines a protected disclosure as one that the employee “reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule or regulation.”

The statement from the Inspector General’s office emphasized the reasonable belief standard.

“By law the Complainant – or any individual in the Intelligence Community who wants to report information with respect to an urgent concern to the congressional intelligence committees – need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint,” the statement said. “The IC IG cannot add conditions to the filing of an urgent concern that do not exist in law.”

The section about the need for first-hand information has to do with the investigation that follows a whistleblower’s report, not a requirement for the report itself.

“This is their way of tempering the whistleblower’s expectations,” said analyst Irvin McCullough, with the nonprofit Government Accountability Project. (McCullough’s father served as inspector general until 2017 and now represents the whistleblower.) “It says we might not find enough to support your complaint.”

The latest IG statement says it changed its forms after the current affair unfurled, because it understood some parts “could be read — incorrectly — as suggesting that whistleblowers must possess first-hand information in order to file an urgent concern complaint.”

The statement noted that the whistleblower checked both boxes to indicate he/she had both first and second-hand information. 

It also notes that its investigation found the report credible and urgent.

The White House had no comment.Our ruling

Trump said, “Longstanding whistleblower rules (were changed) just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report.”

The current rules have been in place since 2014. Whistleblowers can provide either first or second-hand information, or both. The current whistleblower filled out a form that dates from May 2018. Whatever changes existed on that form date from 14 months before the present claim was filed.

Investigators require more than second-hand information in order to move a complaint forward, but that is not a requirement before a complaint can be filed.

The Inspector General’s office changed its forms after the whistleblower filed, but those changes had no bearing on the rules under which a claim would be processed.

We rate this claim False.

[Politifact]

Trump Tweets Out Breitbart Online Poll Showing 97.83% of People ‘Stand With’ Him on Impeachment

Amidst a raft of polls showing a surge in support for his impeachment, President Donald Trump shared a more favorable metric of his popularity: an online poll from right wing website Breitbart on whether respondents “stand with” him.

“Do you stand with President Trump?” asked the online poll, labeled “BREITBART IMPEACHMENT POLL.”

97.83% of respondents voted “yes,” while 2.17% voted “no.”

“THANK YOU!” Trump wrote on Twitter in response.

Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll out Monday found a dead heat in support for impeachment. 47 percent said they thought Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent said they did not think he should be removed. The poll represents a significant surge in support for impeachment compared to last week.

[Mediaite]

Trump suggests arresting Adam Schiff for ‘treason’

President Donald Trump and his allies on Monday ratcheted up their campaign against Rep. Adam Schiff as the White House’s Ukraine scandal entered its second week — with Trump again suggesting the House Intelligence chairman committed treason.

Locked in a defensive crouch and staring down an impeachment inquiry, Trump continued to batter the California Democrat for allegedly mischaracterizing his July phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”

During Trump’s conversation with Zelensky, the president urged his foreign counterpart to work with Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

After Schiff offered a knowingly exaggerated version of the call’s transcript before a meeting of his committee last Thursday, conservative commentators and Republican lawmakers were quick to castigate the congressman on social media and cable news.

The president was unwilling to drop the issue Monday afternoon, complaining about Schiff’s remarks to reporters in the Oval Office following a swearing-in ceremony for his new Labor secretary, Eugene Scalia.

“Adam Schiff — representative, congressman — made up what I said. He actually took words and made it up,” Trump said, as Scalia’s family looked on. “The reason is, when he saw my call to the president of Ukraine, it was so good that he couldn’t quote from it. Because there was nothing done wrong. It was perfect.”

Trump previously demanded Sunday that Schiff be “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason,” and claimed that his “lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber.”

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, kept up that line of attack Monday, charging that Schiff “didn’t embellish” but instead “lied about” the memo the White House released last week summarizing the Zelensky call.

“He stood in front of the American people with millions of people listening and he lied,” Giuliani told the Fox Business Network. “He put on a stupid phony show, just like he lied when he said he had direct evidence of Russian collusion.”

Eric Trump, the president’s son, also assailed Schiff on Monday, telling the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that the congressman “is exactly why we need term limits in this country” and adding: “He’s a total disgrace.”

[Politico]

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