Trump Defends Rob Porter: ‘He … Says He’s Innocent’

President Donald Trump on Friday praised former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House Thursday amid a domestic abuse scandal involving allegations from two ex-wives.

“We wish him well, he worked very hard. We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House.”

Despite images handed over to media outlets from his first wife showing her with a black eye she says Porter gave her on their honeymoon in the early-2000s, the president said White House officials “hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”

The president, breaking his silence on the matter, said he was “very sad” when he learned about the charges, which Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly knew about months ago.

Porter also is “certainly … also very sad now,” Trump said.

The president again defended Porter near the end of his remarks about the former staffer.

“He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” said the president, who has faced sexual assault accusations from multiple women. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House.”

On Thursday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah announced Porter had left the White House staff for good. “His last day was yesterday,” Shah said. “I know he came in today to clean out his stuff.”

Shah called the assault allegations “serious and disturbing,” ramping up the White House’s reaction after defending Porter much of Wednesday.

“They’re upsetting,” Shah said.

He described the allegations as still being reviewed as part of an extensive background check process that Porter was still in the midst of when reports made the charges public this week.

Asked what caused the White House to change its tone on Porter, Shah replied the images of one of Porter’s ex-wives’ black eye were “upsetting.”

He declined to say whether Kelly knew about the allegations long before the reports were published.

Trump’s defense of the alleged wife abuser comes after he encouraged “lock her up” chants about 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal server while secretary of state. He also has called on other political foes and some of those looking into potential collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to be the subject of federal probes and possible prosecution.

The president did not comment on the fate of his embattled chief of staff. Some women’s organizations, for instance, have called on Kelly to step down for reportedly knowing about the Porter allegations for months but keeping him on staff — even allowing him to become his right-hand man.

Kelly’s repeated defenses of Porter earlier this week and his allowing Communications Director Hope Hicks, Porter’s current girlfriend, to craft a number of Thursday statements about the matter has again made the chief of staff a lightning rod for Democrats. (He has caught their ire also over his hard-line comments about illegal immigrants.)

For instance, Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington called Kelly’s role in keeping Porter on as a White House staffer even after learning of the allegations “very, very disturbing.”

“Clearly, WH Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about Rob Porter’s history of abuse directly from FBI and chose to ignore it,” Jayapal tweeted Thursday morning. “#MeToo is as much about those who protect the abusers with their silence as the abusers themselves.”

[Roll Call]

Trump Tells Brigitte Macron: ‘You’re in Such Good Shape’

First, they shared an awkward handshake. Then, President Donald Trump complimented Brigitte Macron’s “physical shape.”

“You’re in such good shape. She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful,” Trump told the French President’s wife, who was standing next to first lady Melania Trump.

Earlier in the day, at the welcome ceremony in Paris, Trump and French first lady Brigitte Macron extended their hands to one another — fumbling to make contact for a handshake — before they embraced for a traditional kiss on the cheek. Afterward, they rejoined hands while they continued to talk.

It’s not the first awkward greeting between Trump and a Macron. In May, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron shared a long, tense handshake during their first meeting in Brussels. The French leader later said his white-knuckled grip had a deeper meaning.

“My handshake with him, it’s not innocent,” Macron said. “It’s not the alpha and the omega of politics, but a moment of truth.”

Trump’s handshakes have become signature moments in his interactions with world leaders. While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the White House in February, Trump shook his hand for 19 seconds, even patting it several times and pulling it closer. A month later, Trump apparently declined to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand during an Oval Office meeting, though he shook it at other times in her visit to Washington.

[CNN]

Media

Trump Tweets Shocking Assault on Brzezinski, Scarborough

On Thursday morning, while MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was on the air, Trump posted a pair of hateful tweets about co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

MSNBC responded with this statement: “It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.”

The president’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended the tweets by saying Trump was responding to the “outrageous attacks that take place” on “Morning Joe” and other shows.

Trump refuses to be “bullied,” Sanders said on Fox News. “This is a president who fights fire with fire.”

Trump’s tweets in the 8 a.m. hour on Thursday said that “Morning Joe” is “poorly rated” (it’s not) and that the hosts “speak badly of me” (that’s true). He called both hosts disparaging names.

Trump claimed that Scarborough and Brzezinski courted him for an interview at Mar-a-Lago around the New Year’s Eve holiday.

“She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” the president wrote.

He actually said yes, according to accounts of their meeting. Trump, Scarborough and Brzezinski mingled with guests and had a private chat.

For the record, photos from Mar-a-Lago do not show any blood or bandages on Brzezinski’s face.

Stunned commenters on social media noted that Trump targeted both hosts with his barbed tweets, but only opined on the physical appearance of the woman involved.

Democratic commentator Maria Cardona, speaking on CNN, said it was part of a pattern of misogynistic behavior by Trump.

“We should not normalize this,” she said, calling it “unacceptable and unpresidential.”

Lawmakers immediately condemned the president’s tweets, as well.

“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, tweeted.

But First Lady Melania Trump spoke up in defense of her husband.

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director Stephanie Grisham said in response to reporters’ questions.

Melania Trump has previously said that as First Lady she wants to focus on the problem of cyberbullying.

Critics say Trump uses his Twitter account as a powerful megaphone to bully people.

Observers also expressed a lot of skepticism about Trump’s Thursday morning claim that he doesn’t watch “Morning Joe” anymore.

The president is known to watch all the major morning shows, including the programs on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC’. He sometimes calls up pro-Trump guests to thank them for their remarks on the shows.

Trump had a friendly, jovial relationship with “Morning Joe” during the presidential campaign, but it turned sour over time.

At one point he called Brzezinski “very insecure” and threatened to expose her off-screen relationship with Scarborough.

Brzezinski and Scarborough were dating at the time, and they are now engaged.

Thursday’s anti-media tweets were astonishing — and part of a pattern.

On Tuesday his main target was CNN. Trump reveled in the fact that three CNN journalists resigned on Monday after their Russia-related story was retracted.

On Wednesday Trump went after two of the nation’s biggest newspapers, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

He mangled the facts several times, but his overall message came through loud and clear: Do not trust the people who are trying to hold my administration accountable.

Brzezinski responded to Trump Thursday morning with a tweet of her own, mocking him with a reference to “little hands,” a reference to a disparaging idea about him that has circulated for years.

Mark Kornblau, the head of PR for NBC News and MSNBC, also weighed in on Twitter, saying, “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.'”

[CNN]

 

Trump Interrupts Call to Compliment Female Reporter’s ‘Nice Smile’

President Trump singled out a female journalist during a phone call with the new Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, on Tuesday, telling Varadkar, “She has a nice smile on her face. So I bet she treats you well.”

The journalist in question was Caitriona Perry, who has been the Washington correspondent for Irish state broadcaster Raidio Teilifis Eireann (RTE) since 2014.

Trump’s comment about Perry drew some adverse reaction on social media. But she appeared to take the exchange in good humor and can be heard laughing in a video clip of the exchange.

Trump told Varadkar, “We have a lot of your Irish press watching us,” referring to several Irish reporters who were present in the Oval Office for the call.

In video posted to Twitter by RTE, he turns to Perry and says, “And where are you from? Go ahead, come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press.”

It is not the first time Trump’s interactions with female reporters have raised eyebrows.

He famously tangled with Megyn Kelly, then of Fox News Channel, during his campaign for the White House. He also singled out NBC News’s Katy Tur, whom he would sometimes refer to as “Little Katy” during campaign rallies.

Trump told Varadkar that he was calling to congratulate him on his “great victory.”

Varadkar became prime minister, or Taoiseach, earlier this month after winning a party leadership election following the resignation of Enda Kenny.

During the call with Varadkar, Trump also acknowledged the influence of the Irish-American community in the U.S.

[The Hill]

Reality

Right-wing news tried to play this act of sexism off by asking “why can’t anyone take a compliment anymore?” This would probably help to explain why Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and others were fired from Fox News for sexual harassment.

Media

 

Trump Defends Bill O’Reilly: ‘I Don’t Think Bill Did Anything Wrong’

In an interview with The New York Times, Trump defended O’Reilly against new revelations that he, Fox News and parent company 21st Century Fox had paid a total of $13 million in settlements to five women who accused him of sexual harassment or verbal abuse.

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Trump told the Times. “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

O’Reilly has denied the merits of all the claims against him, 21st Century Fox said in a statement.

Trump had his own run-in with sexual harassment accusations last October, after an Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which he said he grabbed women by their genitals. “I don’t even wait,” Trump can be heard saying in the tape. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything.”

Last week, Trump declared April 2017 National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, pledging that his administration “will do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence.”

Trump’s defense of O’Reilly was similar to his defense of former Fox News chief Roger Ailes last year, when Ailes was facing a litany of sexual harassment allegations.

“I think they are unfounded just based on what I’ve read,” Trump said of the accusations against Ailes. “Totally unfounded, based on what I read.”

Ailes, who has denied all of the allegations against him, was forced to resign from Fox News just one week after that interview.

Nine months after Ailes’ departure, Fox News is facing mounting public pressure from accusers, advertisers and women’s rights groups to go further in addressing the allegations against O’Reilly.

More than 20 companies had pulled their advertising from “The O’Reilly Factor” as of Wednesday. Lisa Bloom, the lawyer for one of O’Reilly’s accusers, has called for an independent investigation of Fox News. The National Organization for Women has called for him to be fired.

Meanwhile, many female employees inside Fox News are too scared to speak out about problems in the workplace, fearing that they have no leverage against powerful on-air talents like O’Reilly, current and former network sources have told CNNMoney.

21st Century Fox and Fox News are standing behind O’Reilly. But neither the company nor O’Reilly have addressed the matter since Saturday, when the New York Times first revealed the extent of settlements paid to O’Reilly’s accusers.

Henry Holt, the publisher of O’Reilly’s new book “Old School,” has said it has “no comment at this time” on the allegations against its author.

21st Century Fox is also under federal investigation over its handling of payments made to women who accused Ailes of sexual harassment.

(h/t CNN)

Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers

With little notice, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that advocates say rolls back hard-fought victories for women in the workplace.

Tuesday’s “Equal Pay Day” — which highlights the wage disparity between men and women — is the perfect time to draw more attention to the president’s action, activists say.

On March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.

In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.

Noreen Farrell, director of the anti-sex discrimination law firm Equal Rights Advocates, said Trump went “on the attack against workers and taxpayers.”

“We have an executive order that essentially forces women to pay to keep companies in business that discrimination against them, with their own tax dollars,” said Farrell. “It’s an outrage.”

Out of the 50 worst wage theft violators that GAO examined between 2005-2009, 60 percent had been awarded federal contracts after being penalized by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Similar violation rates were tracked through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Labor Relations Board.

But the research did not reveal much about sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. That’s because forced arbitration clauses — also sometimes called “cover-up clauses” by critics — are commonly used to keep sex discrimination claims out of the courts and off the public record.

“Arbitrations are private proceedings with secret filings and private attorneys, and they often help hide sexual harassment claims,” said Maya Raghu, Director of Workplace Equality at the National Women’s Law Center. “It can silence victims. They may feel afraid of coming forward because they might think they are the only one, or fear retaliation.”

Mandatory arbitration clauses are increasingly used in employment contracts, said Raghu, who added that banning the process was an important step forward for victims of workplace harassment or assault.

Many learned about forced arbitration clauses for the first time just last year through the Fox News sexual harassment case. Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson dodged her own contract’s arbitration clause by directly suing former CEO Roger Ailes rather than the company. Ailes’ lawyers accused Carlson of breaching her contract, and pressed for the private arbitration to try to keep the story out of courts and the public record.

A new lawsuit filed Monday by Fox News commentator Julie Roginsky joined a growing list of accusations against Ailes, and claims Roginsky faced retaliation “because of plaintiff’s refusal to malign Gretchen Carlson and join ‘Team Roger’ when Carlson sued Ailes,” NPR reported.

By overturning the Fair Pay order, Trump made it possible for businesses with federal contracts to continue forcing sexual harassment cases like Carlson’s into secret proceedings — where the public, and other employees, may never find out about rampant sex discrimination claims at a company.

After the Fox News sexual harassment problem came to light, Carlson testified before Congress about forced arbitration — and Senators Richard Blumenthal, Dick Durbin and Al Franken wrote to major arbitration companies to ask for information on the amount of secret arbitration proceedings involving sexual harassment and discrimination.

“If Ms. Carlson had followed Mr. Ailes’s reading of her contract, her colleagues might never have learned that she was fighting back,” read the August 2016 letter. “They might never have followed her example; Roger Ailes might never have been exposed; and Fox News might never have been forced to change its behavior. Decades of alleged abuse — harassment that should disgust and astound any reasonable person — could have been allowed to continue.”

Blumenthal told NBC News that Trump’s overturning the Fair Pay order sends women’s rights in the workplace back “to a time best left to ‘Mad Men.'”

“These coverup clauses render people voiceless — forcing them to suffer in silence, suppressing justice, and allowing others to fall victim in the future,” said Blumenthal. “At a time when the fight for equal pay continues, Trump also moved to eliminate paycheck transparency and leave workers to negotiate in the dark.”

The other result of Trump’s executive order on federal contractors was lifting a mandate on paycheck transparency, or requiring employers to detail earnings, pay scales, salaries, and other details. The Fair Pay order Trump overturned was one of the few ways to ensure companies were paying women workers equally to their male colleagues.

According to the Economic Policy Institute’s 2016 analysis of federal labor statistics, the median wage for U.S. women is about 16.8 percent less than the median for men — with women making about 83 cents to a man’s dollar. According to economist Elise Gould, that’s a gap that only increases as women become more educated and climb the corporate ladder.

“At the bottom, there’s just so far down women’s wages can go. They are protected by some degree by the minimum wage,” said Gould. “But as you move up, women are not occupying places at the top the way men are. The wage gap at the top is much larger.”

Wal-Mart is one example of how the wage gap works like an inverted pyramid. According to statistical data provided in Farrell’s class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, women in lower-paying hourly jobs at the company made $1,100 less per year than men in the same jobs. But women with salaried positions were paid $14,500 less per year than their male coworkers.

The Fair Pay order made employers submit salary details to the government that would show massive wage gaps like Wal-Mart’s. It also made employers show overtime and deductions on paychecks so workers could make sure they were being paid exactly as they were supposed to.

The original class action case against Wal-Mart was dismissed by the Supreme Court. But Farrell told NBC News that Dukes v. Wal-Mart was a victory in its own right.

“The very public nature of that case prompted many changes by Wal-Mart including its pay and equity policies,” said Farrell of the law firm Equal Rights Advocates.

“No one, including workers at Wal-Mart, would have understood the issues in that case had there been forced arbitration clauses,” Farrell added, “Which would have kept all of those claims in secret.”

For the majority of workers, especially at low-wages, there isn’t an option to work around an arbitration clause the way that Carlson did with Fox News and Ailes.

“Unless you’re suing a deep-pocketed CEO, suing an individual for sexual harassment is not going to be the same as putting the employer on the hook for liability,” said Farrell. “You usually don’t get the same damages or results.”

(h/t NBC News)

 

Trump Touts Texas Official Who Called Clinton a ‘C—’

Donald Trump on Saturday complimented a state official who called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” and cited him as evidence that he’s winning Texas.

“A guy gets on two days ago. Man named Sid Miller,” Trump recalled Saturday morning during a rally here at the Florida State Fairgrounds. “Don’t really know him. Wears a big, beautiful, white cowboy hat. In fact, I wanna find out where he got it. It’s pretty nice.”

“And he said, you know, you folks are getting it all wrong,” Trump continued, referring to polling and other media reports that suggest Clinton could steal Texas, a state long considered safely red.

Miller, the state’s agriculture commissioner and member of a Trump campaign advisory board, posted but quickly deleted a tweet that apparently highlighted polling results in Pennsylvania that showed Trump leading by a percentage point. However, he referred to Clinton as a “c—.”

“PENNSYLVANIA: NEW AUTO ALLIANCE POLL,” he wrote Tuesday. “TRUMP 44 C*** 43.”

After tweeting and then deleting a claim that his account was hacked, Miller said his team had “inadvertently retweeted a tweet” — though the campaign had actually copied and modified a tweet put out a by a popular alt-right account — and apologized for the mishap.

Although Trump claimed not to “really know” Miller, he serves on the campaign’s agriculture advisory committee.

Trump, who leads Clinton by 9 in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey of the state, said his crowds in Texas have numbered 20,000; 22,000 and 15,000.

“Every time I went, we had these massive crowds. They had a line that went so long — the local media’s much more honest than these dishonest guys here,” Trump said. “The local media. And they were showing the line went all the way — it went — literally, it went miles. So then I get back and three weeks ago: ‘Texas is in play. It’s even.’ And I said that’s bad news. Man, I don’t wanna lose Texas. That’s bad news.”

Except for one problem, he added: “We’re killing them in Texas.”

“These lines are four, five, six blocks long,” he boasted. “We’ve never had anything like this in Texas. And let me tell you, all those folks, they’re all voting for Trump. They’re not voting for Hillary. So Texas, we’re just absolutely — we’re doing great in Texas.”

(h/t Politico)

Trump Calls Clinton ‘A Nasty Woman’

During the 3rd and final presidential debate, Donald Trump denied any allegations that he’s groped or kissed women, the Republican nominee attempted to deflect the claims with one of his own: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.

Then, not a half hour later and completely unprompted, Donald Trump spoke into his microphone to interrupt Hillary Clinton while she was answering a question about how she would raise taxes on the rich to tackle debt and entitlements if she were to become president, saying she was “such a nasty woman.”

“My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s, assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it,” Clinton said.

“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said into the microphone while Clinton was talking.

She continued her answer without acknowledging the insult.

(h/t CNN)

Media

Donald Trump Jr: Women Who Can’t ‘Handle’ Harassment ‘Don’t Belong In The Workforce’

Donald Trump Jr. offered some unsolicited career advice for women concerned about sexual harassment in the workplace: Just quit, already.

“If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce,” Donald Trump’s son told The Opie and Anthony Show in a 2013 interview that BuzzFeed just unearthed.

“You should go maybe teach kindergarten,” he said, apparently suggesting that teachers aren’t part of the workforce. “You can’t be negotiating billion-dollar deals if you can’t handle, like, you know.”

Gender-based harassment, both sexual and not, is against the law in the U.S. “It is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

So if the GOP presidential nominee’s son can’t handle not being able to make offensive comments about women, maybe he’s the one unfit for the workforce.

Trump Jr. later joked that saying he’d been harassed would be “my get rich quick scheme. I’m now suing you guys because I feel uncomfortable.”

Listen to the full interview here, courtesy of BuzzFeed:

Trump’s father has been hit with a slew of allegations of sexual assault and harassment in recent days ― though it’s far from the first time he’s been accused of such behavior.

Though he brushed off comments he made in 2005 about groping and forcing himself on women as “locker room talk,” his critics aren’t buying it.

“What I found astounding is that he would so publicly—no matter who he was talking to ― that he would acknowledge that he engaged in the textbook definition of sexual assault,” Vice President Joe Biden said.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Donald Trump Jr: My Dad’s Boasts About Forcing Himself on Women are ‘Normal’ and ‘Human’

The Trump brothers have come to their father’s defense this week over the disturbing sexual assault allegations that have surfaced.

Eric Trump, defending his dad’s conversation with Billy Bush on Monday, chalked it up to his “alpha” personality. On Thursday, Donald Jr. dismissed Trump’s conversation as something that, “makes him a human,” adding “I think it makes him a normal person not a political robot,” CNN reports.

On Wednesday night, the New York Times published a report about two women who alleged that Donald Trump had groped them.

Donald Jr. responded to the Times report on Thursday’s segment of Charlotte Morning News on WBT radio and said, “Come on guys, it’s so ridiculous, I’ve never heard anything dumber in my life. All of sudden, two, three weeks before election, someone comes out — it’s not like he hasn’t been in the public eye for 30 years.”

Trump surrogates doing damage control this week have all brought up similar questions about timing — specifically that election day is nearing and these women must have come forward now because of that.

However, it is more likely than not that women are coming forward about being assaulted by Trump at this moment because of his denial of the claims.

During the second presidential debate on October 9, CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper asked, “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing the genitals. That is sexual assault. You brag that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”

Trump responded that it was just words, that it was untrue, and that he never engaged in such sexual misconduct. These women are likely coming forward now to hold him accountable for his continued denial of abusing women, not because the election is nearing.

Donald Jr. said in his interview, “[The New York Times] keep libeling and doing these kind of things I imagine that would be the intention. It’s one thing to report the news, it’s another to try to smear someone’s name time and time again for political motives and political gain.”

He added, “I’ve had conversations like that with plenty of people where people use language off color. They’re talking, two guys, amongst themselves.”

(h/t Raw Story)

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