Trump: Tech companies, not Russia, trying to ‘rig the election’

President Donald Trump today suggested tech giants like Google and Twitter are the greatest threat to the integrity of the 2020 presidential election — and said anti-conservative bias among the companies had a greater impact in 2016 than Russian meddling.

“Let me tell you, they’re trying to rig the election,” Trump said in a phone interview on Fox Business. “That’s what we should be looking at, not that witch hunt, the phony witch hunt.”

Charging Google with being “totally biased” in favor of Democrats and fomenting “hatred for the Republicans,” Trump downplayed Russia’s 2016 social media manipulation: “You know, they talk about Russia because they had some bloggers—and by the way, those bloggers, some of them were going both ways. They were for Clinton and for Trump.”

Lawmakers, academics and U.S. intelligence officials are in broad agreement that Russia mounted a vast online disinformation campaign ahead of the 2016 election with the aim of inflaming American political and social tensions, supporting Trump’s candidacy and depressing Democratic voter turnout.

Trump’s comments reiterated claims that he and other prominent Republicans have made alleging that tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are biased against conservatives and deliberately stifle their accounts and content. The companies flatly deny these allegations.

His criticisms came immediately after an extended broadside against Twitter for allegedly blocking people from following his account on the site, a claim the president has made repeatedly without evidence.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Google spokesperson said, “We build our products with extraordinary care and safeguards to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without any regard for political viewpoint,” noting the company’s publicly available criteria for determining the quality of search results.

[Politico]

Trump accuses NYT reporter of breaking the law by alerting FBI to Kushner meetings with Russians

President Donald Trump accused a New York Times reporter of breaking the law by tipping off the FBI to developments in the Russia investigation.

Times reporter Michael Schmidt alerted the FBI’s assistant director for public affairs in March 2017 that he and some colleagues had found out Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn had met in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who then set up a meeting between Trump’s son-in-law and a Russian banker.

Schmidt’s email was then forwarded to FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who was leading the bureau’s Russia investigation, and Jonathan Moffa, an FBI counterintelligence officer, reported the Washington Examiner.

Trump reacted with a pair of tweets suggesting that Schmidt had fed false information to the FBI.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?”

[Raw Story]

Kushner unsure whether he’d alert FBI if Russians request another meeting

On “Axios on HBO,” Jared Kushner said he doesn’t know whether he’d call the FBI if he were to receive an email today like the one before the campaign’s Trump Tower meeting, which had the subject line: “Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

  • Kushner said this after a tense exchange about the email he received to set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting. 

Why this matters: Kushner is now in the West Wing as senior adviser to the president. Shouldn’t an email with an offer of help from Russians trigger a mental alarm? This bolsters the perception that President Trump’s inner circle still doesn’t fully recognize the ongoing threat of Russian interference in American elections. 

  • Kushner’s response comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray said in congressional testimony that he would recommend that in the future, people contact the FBI if a foreign government offers campaign support.

What he’s saying: Kushner said people are being “self-righteous” and playing “Monday morning quarterback” by asking him why he didn’t call the FBI when he saw the email offering help for the Trump campaign from Russia.

  • “Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign. I get an email that says show up at 4 instead of 3 to a meeting that I had been told about earlier that I didn’t know what the hell it was about.”

Asked if he’d call the FBI if it happened again, Kushner said: “I don’t know. It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”

[Axios]

Media

Trump says Russia helped elect him – then quickly backtracks

Donald Trump has denied that Russia helped elect him president, less than an hour after he admitted Russia did help to elect him president.

In a flurry of tweets lashing out at people and concepts including the special counsel Robert Mueller, “fake news media” and “this phony crime”, Trump, for the first time, said Russia aided his 2016 presidential win.

“Russia, Russia, Russia!” the president tweeted on Thursday morning.

“That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax. And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”

For a president who has previously denied Russia interfered in the 2016 election at all – despite the conclusions of US intelligence agencies – the admission of Russian help was startling.

But soon after Trump’s statement, he made a prompt about-turn.

“Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia did not help me at all,” Trump said during a White House press conference.

On Wednesday Mueller said his two-year investigation had “established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome”.

Mueller’s report states that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion”.

The report also detailed 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump and his campaign. Mueller has said charging Trump with a crime was “not an option we could consider”, because of justice department policy.

Mueller added: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”

Trump was en route to Colorado on Thursday morning, to address a graduation ceremony for the US air force academy.

[The Guardian]

Trump Admits Donald Trump Jr Called Him Before the Trump Tower Meeting With Russian Lawyer

President Donald Trump’s Rose Garden speech on Wednesday was notable largely just because it was so absurd, but he also dropped a piece of information about the infamous Trump Tower meeting before the 2016 election for the first time.

The president suggested that an opposition research firm was behind the Trump Tower meeting, told the press that they should be “ashamed” of themselves and announced that he won’t work with Democrats until they stop investigating him.

But, at one moment, the president said that his son, Donald Trump Jr., called him just before the famous Trump Tower meeting in which he met with a Russian lawyer.

Trump was talking about the meeting and the phone calls that were made around the time that had been scrutinized by Mueller’s team. The president said, “[Donald Trump Jr.] had the meeting and he called me and he had the meeting after.”

This is just another revelation in the long string of disclosures about that meeting. At first, President Trump told Reuters that he didn’t know about the meeting until the New York Times broke a story on it.

When the Times wrote that story, Trump Jr. released a statement. At first, the president said that he had nothing to do with the statement but, finally, the White House admitted that he at least helped his son put the statement together.

Then, in the summer of 2018, Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen said that the president knew about the meeting in advance.

The meeting is important because it took place in the summer of 2016, only a few months before the election and because Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were both in the meeting. Kushner struggled to get a security clearance because he lied about his contacts with foreign officials

But, Wednesday is the first time that the president said that he talked to Donald Trump Jr. before he went into the meeting.

[IJR]

Trump Holds Victory Lap at First Rally After Mueller Submits Report: ‘The Russia Hoax is Finally Dead’

President Donald Trump came out firing against the media, Democrats, and his other opponents at the start of his rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan — the first since Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report on the Russia investigation.

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead,” Trump exclaimed to the raucous crowd. “Total exoneration, complete vindication.”

“Robert Mueller was a god to the Democrats until he said no collusion, they don’t like them so much right now,” he added.

Trump continued to call the 2016 investigation of Russia’s election interference a “crazy,” “sinister effort” by Democrats and the “fake news” media to “undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people.” He also called it a ploy by the “corrupt establishment” to “illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans.”

While the attorney general’s summary of the Mueller report said it did not find sufficient evidence of conspiracy, it did not make a determination on whether the president obstructed justice. That was left up to AG William Barr, who cleared the president on obstruction.

[Mediaite]

Trump: Media disgraced ‘all over the world’ following Mueller revelations

The conclusion of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has discredited media “all over the world,” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, celebrating the special counsel’s findings by slamming the news coverage of Mueller’s probe.

“The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE,” he tweeted. “For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!”

Trump and his allies have relentlessly attacked the media since Mueller concluded that no one on Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired to work with Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election and was unable to conclude whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Most of the ire has been focused on pundits on Twitter and cable news, where the Russia investigation was covered extensively, and has drawn mixed calls for introspection and a media reckoning.

On Monday, the president’s reelection campaign urged networks to reconsider the Democrats they invited on their programs, suggesting several familiar cable news faces — including several House committee chairmen — be blacklisted from the airwaves for “lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion.”

While the Trump campaign complained this week that the president’s detractors have made “outlandish, false claims,” Trump himself has long faced similar accusations. Several of Trump’s top advisers, too, have faced withering criticism for making false or misleading claims while defending the president and his policies.

While the president’s attack on the media took a more serious tone Tuesday, some of his aides have attempted to inject mockery into their criticisms.

For example, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday shared a mock “Mueller Madness” bracket featuring journalists, celebrities and TV personalities on her Twitter account, asking her 3.8 million followers, “Which of the angry and hysterical @realDonaldTrump haters got it most embarrassingly wrong?”

But while the White House’s attacks on the media are not new, the renewed criticisms have drawn responses from media executives who defended their organizations’ coverage of the Russia investigation. Multiple outlets have noted in recent days that their reporting on Trump and his ties to Russia had been borne out by Mueller’s probe, which resulted in a slew of indictments, convictions and guilty pleas of Trump allies.

[Politico]

Trump Says Media Is Ignoring the “REAL Story on Russia”

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York continue racking up convictions and guilty pleas in the ever-widening scandals connected to Donald Trump, the president is lashing out—at Hillary Clinton, at the Democratic National Committee, and, of course, at the media. Just hours after announcing the departure of his scandal-plagued Interior secretary Saturday, Trump tweeted that “never in history” had the US press been “more dishonest than it is today.”

“Stories that should be good, are bad,” Trump complained. “Stories that should be bad, are horrible.”

[Mother Jones]

Trump Declares ‘NO COLLUSION!’ in Early-Morning Tweet After Cohen, Manafort Memos Drop

After dubiously claiming the Michael Cohen sentencing memo “totally clears” him last night, President Donald Trump this morning sent out a mostly all-caps “NO COLLUSION” tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump Cites ‘Failing New York Times’ Article to Exonerate Himself From Russian Political Meddling

President Trump issued a…um, bizarre and contradictory statement on Monday where he slammed The New York Times while using it as proof that he wasn’t involved in Russian efforts to interfere with American political institutions.

Its possible Trump was referring to this recent Times article describing FBI’s efforts to convince Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to Paul Manafort, to become an informant on the Russian government’s misdeeds. FBI officials approached Deripaska and other prominent Russian officials over the years in hopes of tracking organized crime, countering Russia’s foreign political meddling, and, eventually, gaining insight on any possible collusion between Trump and the Kremlin.

The line Trump invoked in his tweet doesn’t appear in the Times‘ article, though it does contain this somewhat-resemblant portion that makes reference to Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele.

The contacts between Mr. Steele and Mr. Ohr started before Mr. Trump became a presidential candidate and continued through much of the campaign.

The piece says Ohr and Steele were both involved in efforts to convince Russian oligarchs to cooperate with the FBI. The campaign was reportedly unsuccessful, and Trump and his defenders have been escalating their attacks on Ohr recently in order to discredit Robert Mueller‘s investigations.

Going back to Trump’s tweet, however, reactors online felt that he sorta garbled his point by bashing the Times while – at the same time – using them as the basis for his claim against the “rigged witch hunt.” Others pointed out how American intelligence workers obviously tried to counter Russia’s objectionable behavior long before Trump became politically-relevant.

[Mediaite]

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