White House claims without proof that FBI has ‘outrageous’ corruption Barr will uncover

The White House on Sunday brushed aside congressional Democrats’ concerns about Atty. Gen. William Barr being handed extraordinary powers to declassify sensitive intelligence as part of a probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election.

Reflecting his anger over unflattering depictions of his actions in the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, including several episodes that might have constituted obstruction of justice, President Trump has authorized the attorney general to investigate the investigation. Trump and his allies have long insisted that the FBI improperly “spied” on his campaign.

Democrats already have accused Barr of trying to put the best possible face on Mueller’s findings and say they fear he will selectively release documents in an effort to undermine public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies and Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s report itself documents activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including information passed along by Australian officials concerning a Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who told an Australian diplomat that Democratic emails had been stolen by the Russians before the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system became public knowledge.

Democrats already have accused Barr of trying to put the best possible face on Mueller’s findings and say they fear he will selectively release documents in an effort to undermine public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies and Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s report itself documents activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including information passed along by Australian officials concerning a Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who told an Australian diplomat that Democratic emails had been stolen by the Russians before the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system became public knowledge.

When Republicans had the majority in the House, Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) spent nearly two years investigating the same issues without producing evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Sunday that the administration is not prejudging Barr’s findings, but expressed confidence, without offering proof, that he would be able to document “outrageous” corruption at the FBI.

“I’m not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is, but we already know that there was a high level of corruption that was taking place,” Sanders, in Tokyo with the president on a state visit to Japan, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Questioned by host Chuck Todd about whether Barr could be trusted not to cherry-pick information, Sanders defended the decision to give Barr declassification powers that have traditionally been jealously guarded by intelligence agencies.

“That’s the reason that he’s granted the attorney general the authority to declassify that information – to look at all the documents necessary…so that we can get to the very bottom of what happened,” she said. “Once again, we already know about some wrongdoing.”

Congressional Democrats have sharply questioned whether the administration is acting in good faith. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who presently chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the president’s decision, announced on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend, allowed Trump and Barr to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.”

Trump allies denied that the president’s actions in any way undermined the core missions of the intelligence community.

“We’re not compromising national security here,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has emerged as one of Trump’s staunchest congressional defenders. Graham, interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” said that he believed Barr “can be trusted” not to manipulate information in the president’s favor.

“The people who are worried about this are worried about being exposed for taking the law into their own hands,” said Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump himself defended Barr’s review, saying before he left for Japan that it was not meant to avenge himself on political opponents.

“It’s not payback – I don’t care about payback,” he told reporters. “I think it’s very important for our country to find out what happened.”

The push by the White House to investigate those who investigated the president comes against the backdrop of across-the-board resistance by Trump to congressional oversight. At least a dozen separate battles are playing out over congressional subpoenas of documents and individuals on matters including the Mueller report and Trump’s tax returns.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco so far has resisted calls by some Democratic lawmakers to open impeachment proceedings against the president, especially if he continues to reject Congress’ authority to carry out investigations of the president’s conduct and finances. She argues that impeachment remains premature, although she has accused Trump of a “cover-up.”

An early backer of impeachment, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said Sunday she believed that Pelosi eventually would relent.

“I think it’s moving toward that,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding that “the traditional congressional oversight process isn’t working.”

The chairman of the Democratic caucus, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, defended Pelosi’s go-slow approach, saying that for now, investigating Trump “methodically yet aggressively” was the best approach, while simultaneously working to advance the Democrats’ legislative agenda.

“Democrats can sing and dance at the same time, just like Beyonce,” he said on NBC. “We will not overreach. We will not over-investigate,” he added.

On the Republican side, however, there was increasing willingness to echo Trump’s call for drastic punishment of law enforcement figures who helped move the investigation forward.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” said the origins of Mueller’s investigation were suspect because statements by FBI agents during the 2016 campaign sounded “a whole lot like a coup.”

She was referring in part to texts critical of Trump that were exchanged by two bureau officials, including former agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from the Mueller probe when the messages came to light and subsequently forced out, and lawyer Lisa Page, who has also left the FBI.

“It could well be treason,” Cheney said.

Cheney’s comments drew an irate riposte on Sunday from Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Legal experts have pointed out that the Constitution says treason consists of “levying war against” the United States or giving “aid and comfort” to its enemies.

“Elected officials keep making casual, ignorant, idiotic accusations of ‘treason.’ … Just saw Liz Cheney do it,” Bharara wrote on Twitter. “Read the Constitution.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump Makes All His Senior Officials Take Turns Swearing He Didn’t Throw Tantrum With Pelosi

President Donald Trump has spent much of the past day insisting he’s definitely not mad about the derailed infrastructure meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, which lasted just minutes before the president walked out over Pelosi’s claim he’s engaged in a cover-up on the Russia investigation.

The House Speaker has since been engaged in a very public trolling campaign, telling reporters that Trump had a temper tantrum at the meeting. Pelosi has said that she’s keeping Trump in her prayers and suggested his family stage an intervention.

It’s clearly working. During his speech at the White House to discuss a $16 billion aid package to farmers hurt by the escalating trade war with China, the president raged about Pelosi while insisting he was totally fine.

He also, at one point, asked his top aides what his “temperament” was in the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer.

“Very calm, no temper tantrum,” Kellyanne Conway said dutifully.

Trump then went back to talking about his announcement, briefly, before turning back to Pelosi, calling her “a mess.”

After less than a minute, he turned back to another aide, Mercedes Schlapp, and asked her what his “attitude” was in the meeting.

“You were very calm and you were very direct,” Schlapp said. “You sent a very firm message to the Speaker and to the Democrats. And it’s very discouraging and disgraceful to see that the Speaker would decide an hour before coming to the White House to make those comments, call it — that there’s a cover-up, and then come to the White House and expect it to be a constructive meeting.”

Conway, not to be upstaged, interjected at one point to praise the president’s poise once more.

Trump — and this is not a joke, watch the video above — then proceeded to make Larry Kudlow, his director of the National Economic Council, Sarah Sanders, his press secretary, and Hogan Gidley, his deputy press secretary, all insist that he did not have a melt down at the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer.

[Mediaite]

Media

White House revokes press passes for dozens of journalists

IN WHAT APPEARS TO BE an unprecedented move, the White House revoked the press passes of a significant chunk of the Washington press corps because they didn’t meet a new standard, according to Washington Postcolumnist Dana Milbank. Under the new rules, rolled out earlier this year, in order to qualify for the highest level of access—known as a “hard pass”—journalists had to be present in the White House for at least 90 days out of a 180-day period. According to Milbank, virtually the entire press corps failed to meet this new test, including all six of the Post’s White House correspondents. Media outlets then had to apply for exceptions to cover their senior journalists, or settle for six-month passes, which don’t allow as much access.

The Post applied for and was granted exceptions for its White House correspondents, Milbank says, but he was not given one. “I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic,” he wrote on Wednesday. “The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.” Milbank noted that, since dozens of senior correspondents didn’t meet the new standards either, “they all serve at the pleasure of Press Secretary Sarah Sanders” and
“therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides.” (The White House press secretary told the Post the move was a result of security concerns, not a desire to crack down on specific journalists.)

Some seemed concerned that the new rules are an attempt to exert more direct control over the White House press corps, after an incident involving CNN reporter Jim Acosta in November. Acosta’s press pass was revoked following a contentious press conference in which the CNN reporter repeatedly asked the president questions about immigration policy that Trump refused to answer, and then refused to hand over the microphone when an aide tried to take it from him. Later that day, Acosta tried to access the White House in the usual way and was told his “hard pass” had been revoked because of his behavior. Sanders later released a statement saying the CNN reporter’s pass had been withdrawn “until further notice.”

CNN went to court to seek an injunction ordering the White House to return Acosta’s pass, and won. The media company and a number of other organizations that filed briefs in the case argued that the First Amendment protected the media’s right to cover the White House, and that this right couldn’t be abridged without due process. Judge Timothy Kelly agreed with the latter part of that argument, and said the Trump administration had failed to show why Acosta’s press pass was being revoked, or, in fact, that any process had been followed at all. “Whatever process occurred within the government is still so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me at oral argument who made the initial decision to revoke Mr. Acosta’s press pass,” he wrote.

Now, with its new standards for performance and most of the press corps holding passes that have only been issued as “exceptions,” the White House has a structure in place that could allow it to remove whoever it wishes to remove. That wouldn’t necessarily override First Amendment protection for press access (which Kelly didn’t rule on), but in the short term it gives the Trump administration new levers with which to control the press corps. Some argue that access to the White House is already almost meaningless, since press briefings are few and far between (there hasn’t been an on-camera briefing for 58 days, a new record) and what briefings there are often involve the White House press secretary and/or the president shutting down journalist questions and in many cases outright lying about various details of the administration’s behavior or plans.

Here’s more on the White House’s tangled relationship with the press:

  • Un-American: “This is what dictators do,” Patrick Leahy, the senior Democratic senator from Vermont, said in a tweet posted to his official Twitter account, quoting from the Dana Milbank piece in The Washington Post. Jeff Merkley, a Democratic senator from Oregon, posted a similar sentiment on Twitter, saying: “Curtailing a free press and undermining the public’s access to government is a hallmark of authoritarianism & has no place in America. This purge of reporters is un-American and needs to be reversed ASAP. ”
  • Not normal: Even before the furor over the revoking of Jim Acosta’s press pass, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen was arguing that the media should “suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency” because of the way it treated journalists and the press. New outlets and journalists should refuse to do background or off-the-record briefings, Rosen said, and stop repeating the president’s falsehoods. Rosen also argued as early as 2017 that media outlets should stop sending their senior journalists to White House briefings.
  • Does it matter? In September, Pete Vernon wrote for CJR about the inexorable decline of the White House press briefing and asked whether or not it matters anymore. Olivier Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, told CNN’s Brian Stelter that the briefing “has both a symbolic and a substantive importance to the White House press corps,” because it shows that “the most powerful political institution in American life is not above being questioned.” But others argued it was just an exercisein political theater.
  • No dinner: Trump announced last month that he wouldn’t be attending the White House Correspondent Dinner, an annual fundraiser in which journalists dine with politicians and celebrities, and then ordered that no White House or administration officials would be allowed to attend the dinner either. Trump said the dinner was “so boring and negative” that he would be attending a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin instead. Last year, CJR looked at the dinner and found that less than half the money raised went to scholarships.

[Columbia Journal Review]

Sarah Sanders fuels new hostility against the press with ‘Mueller Madness’ tweet

The White House has been celebrating what it views as vindication of President Donald Trump on the Mueller probe by attacking the media harshly.

The move comes amid increasing hostility against journalists from Trump’s staunchest supporters, and as authorities crack down on foiled plots to violently target the members of the press whom Trump himself has called a threat to the country.

Monday night — just one day after Attorney General William Barr delivered his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to lawmakers on Capitol Hill — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out a graphic from The New York Post containing a “Mueller Madness” bracket of various media pundits who were believed to be biased against Trump. The bracket also included the names of several reporters who had written or reported on the probe.

Barr stated in his summary on Sunday evening that Mueller had found no evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Which of the angry and hysterical @realDonaldTrump haters got it most embarrassingly wrong?” Sanders wrote from her official @PressSec account on Monday. “#YouDecide.”

Sanders doubled down Tuesday morning, quoting her own tweet and adding, “How many times do the Democrats and their liberal media allies have to be proven embarrassingly wrong about @realDonaldTrump before they finally accept he’s been a great President?”

Trump himself tweeted one of his most hostile attacks on “the mainstream media” just an hour earlier, calling it “corrupt,” “FAKE,” and the “Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party.”

[ThinkProgress]

Sarah Sanders Goes After CNN: They ‘Attack Anyone Who Supports’ Trump, Including Military

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is hammering CNN for reporting that military protocol might’ve been violated when President Donald Trump met with U.S. forces in his travels abroad.

During the president’s meetings with soldiers in Iraq and Germany, various members of the military were spottedas they took photos with Trump, displayed his paraphernalia, and asked him to sign MAGA hats.

Typically, U.S. troops are asked to conduct themselves in an apolitical manner, so CNN reported that some of yesterday’s interactions with Trump might’ve broken Defense Department rules on “partisan political activities.”

As critics from CNN and other outletsaccuse Trump of using his troop visits as a political exercise, Sanders is slamming the network by saying they will “attack anyone who supports President Trump.”

[Mediaite]

Sarah Sanders: Climate change report ‘not based on facts’

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dismissed the findings of a government report that warned of the impending consequences of climate change, claiming it’s “not based on facts.”

“The president’s certainly leading on what matters most in this process, and that’s on having clean air, clean water,” Sanders told reporters at a press briefing. “In fact, the United States continues to be a leader on that front.”

Sanders disputed the report’s findings, claiming it’s “not based on facts” and arguing that modeling the climate “is never exact.” She did not indicate that Trump would call on world leaders at this week’s Group of 20 summit to address the report’s findings.

“We think that this is the most extreme version and it’s not based on facts,” she said. “It’s not data driven. We’d like to see something that is more data driven. It’s based on modeling, which is extremely hard to do when you’re talking about the climate.”

The report was developed by multiple federal agencies. A version of it is mandated to be released every four years under the National Climate Assessment from the multiagency Global Change Research Program.

The hundreds of government and external scientists involved in the research concluded that climate change could cost the United States billions of dollars annually within decades if greenhouse gases aren’t dramatically reduced, and could worsen environmental disasters like wildfires and flooding. Its findings aligned with those of the broader scientific community.

Trump downplayed the report’s findings, telling reporters on Monday’s that he doesn’t “believe” its warnings about the economic impacts of climate change.

The president has long voiced skepticism about the existence of climate change.

Democrats criticized that the report was released on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, saying the timing was meant to bury it. They renewed calls for the use of renewable energy sources and other policies that could mitigate the effects of climate change.

Republican lawmakers have largely acknowledged that the climate is changing but have offered few concrete solutions to address the problem. Some lawmakers have emphasized the need to find innovations that would not adversely affect the economy.

[The Hill]

Sarah Sanders: ‘If Certain Reporters Like Jim Acosta Can’t Be Adults,’ Then CNN Should Send Someone Who Can Be

Sarah Huckabee Sanders took another shot at CNN’s Jim Acosta tonight in an interview on Hannity with… Mike Huckabee.

The White House Press Secretary’s father began the interview by asking her about the protocol for decorum being worked on after the judge’s ruling in Acosta’s favor today.

Sanders said the White House supports a free press, but added that “freedom of the press doesn’t mean freedom to be disruptive, freedom to be rude, freedom to interrupt.”

She claimed that they sent CNN a letter tonight laying out “what we think were some of the missteps that their reporter made at the press conference… and we expect to see a response from that.”

In an interview today, the President himself said, after the ruling, if Acosta “misbehaves” they’ll throw him out again. And Sanders said they don’t want reporters to be “disruptive” and impede anyone’s ability to do their jobs.

When her father asked her about the protocol put in place, Sanders said there are “standard practices” they want addressed, and that “the very basic minimum is that if certain reporters like Jim Acosta can’t be adults, then CNN needs to send somebody in there who can be.”

[Mediaite]

Trump claims deceptively edited video distributed by White House wasn’t altered

President Donald Trump claimed on Friday that a White House-released video depicting contact between a staffer and a CNN reporter wasn’t altered, and he seemingly threatened to revoke the White House press credentials of more reporters.

Trump insisted that the video distributed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was simply a “close-up” and “was not doctored.”

“Nobody manipulated it. All that is is a close-up,” said the president, who then attacked the reporter for asking the question and called him “dishonest.”

A frame-by-frame comparison with an Associated Press video of the same incident from Trump’s postelection news conference Wednesday shows that the video tweeted by Sanders appears to speed up CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s arm movement when he makes contact with a White House intern who was trying to take away Acosta’s microphone. The speedup appears to make the gesture more threatening.

Trump, in remarks Friday, also did not back off his administration’s decision to suspend Acosta’s press credential, which allows the CNN correspondent access to the White House grounds.

“He’s a very unprofessional guy. I don’t think he’s a smart person but he has a loud voice,” Trump told reporters in a testy 20-plus-minute exchange before he left for Paris and a World War I commemoration ceremony. “You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.”

The president said he had not decided if Acosta’s pass would be reinstated and he suggested there “could be others” who lose their credentials. He belittled several of the reporters gathered around him. He said one had asked “a stupid question,” and he singled out April Ryan, a correspondent for Urban Radio Networks, calling her “very nasty” and “a loser.”

Ryan, who is also a CNN contributor, tweeted in response: “I love this country and have the most respect for the Office of the President. I will continue to ask the questions that affect America, all of America.”

Trump’s latest attacks on the media came in the wake of his free-wheeling and contentious news conference two days earlier, and followed demands by several journalists and organizations — including the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the White House Correspondents Association — that Acosta’s press pass be reinstated.

“It is the essential function of a free press in every democracy to independently gather and report information in the public interest, a right that is enshrined in the First Amendment,” said Julie Pace, AP’s Washington bureau chief. “We strongly reject the idea that any administration would block a journalist’s access to the White House.”

The New York Times editorialized in favor of restoring Acosta’s pass, saying it signaled Trump’s view that asking hard questions disqualifies reporters from attending briefings. The newspaper said that if Sanders was so offended by physical contact, “what did she have to say when her boss praised as ‘my kind of guy’ Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana, who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last spring?”

It’s rare for the White House to pull the media credentials.

During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, the Secret Service denied clearance to Robert Sherrill, a reporter for The Nation who had gotten into physical fights with government officials. During the George W. Bush presidency, Trude Feldman, who worked for various news outlets, was suspended for 90 days after security cameras recorded her looking through a press aide’s desk late one night. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon tried to get Washington Post reporters banned from the White House.

Despite losing his White House pass, Acosta traveled to Paris this weekend to cover Trump’s trip to meet with world leaders. He tweeted a photo of himself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower early Friday.

Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the Wednesday footage at AP’s request, noticed that frames in the tweeted video of the exchange at the news conference were frozen to slow down the action, allowing it to run the same length as the AP one.

Sanders, who hasn’t said where the tweeted video came from, noted that it clearly shows Acosta made contact with the intern. In her statement announcing Acosta’s suspension, she said the White House won’t tolerate “a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job.”

While the origin of the manipulated video is unclear, its distribution marked a new low for an administration that has been criticized for its willingness to mislead.

CNN has labeled Sanders’ characterization of Acosta’s exchange with the intern as a lie. Its position has been supported by witnesses, including Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason, who was next to Acosta during the news conference and tweeted that he did not see Acosta place his hands on the White House employee. Rather, Mason said he saw Acosta holding on to the microphone as the intern reached for it.

[Associated Press]

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a doctored video of the Jim Acosta mic-grab that was shared hours earlier by the far-right site Infowars

The White House is accused of using a video of CNN’s Jim Acosta doctored by the conspiracy-theory outlet Infowars as justification for suspending the journalist’s press pass on Wednesday.

Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for CNN, was engaged in a tense exchange with President Donald Trump during a press conference at the White House when a White House intern walked up and tried to take the microphone away from him. Acosta held on to the microphone and kept trying to question Trump.

Acosta was holding the microphone in his right hand. At one point, the intern reached under Acosta’s left arm to try to grab the microphone, and he appeared to gently block her with his arm. Here is the moment as broadcast live on NBC:

A video shared on Twitter by the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, makes Acosta’s movement appear more violent.

What appears to be the same video was shared two hours earlier by Paul Joseph Watson, the editor-at-large of Infowars.com, a far-right conspiracy outlet whose content has been barred from almost every major tech content distributor, including Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube, generally for violating their policies on hate speech.

The CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter asked Sanders for the source of the video. “Surely you don’t trust InfoWars…?” he said on Twitter.

Other Twitter users showed Sanders’ video side-by-side with the original broadcast to argue the one she posted had been doctored.

The White House suspended Acosta’s press credentials after the press conference, limiting his access to the White House grounds. Sanders said on Twitter that the White House would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” though no video evidence has so far supported that claim.

[Business Insider]

White House suspends credentials for CNN’s Jim Acosta

The White House has suspended the credentials of a CNN journalist hours after a testy exchange with US President Donald Trump.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders says a reporter’s access was removed because he put “his hands on a young woman”.

Mr Acosta, chief White House correspondent for CNN, was called a “rude, terrible person” by Mr Trump at a press conference on Wednesday.

A staff member tried to take his microphone during the exchange.

However, Mr Acosta refused to give it up as he attempted to ask the president a further question.

Video of the incident quickly appeared online.

What did the White House say?

Ms Sanders, in a statement posted in a Twitter thread, said the White House would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”.

“The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it’s an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration,” she said.

“As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”

Mr Acosta called Ms Sanders’ assertion that he placed his hands on the woman “a lie”.

He also posted a tweet saying he was stopped by the Secret Service from entering White House grounds.

What happened at the earlier press conference?

President Trump insulted Mr Acosta after the reporter challenged his recent assertions about a migrant caravan heading to the US from Central America.

It was during this exchange the female staff member attempted to take the microphone from Mr Acosta.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” the president said, before telling Mr Acosta to sit down and to put down his microphone.

“CNN should be ashamed of themselves, having you work for them,” he said. “The way you treat Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] is horrible.”

[BBC]

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