Trump Says He Doesn’t Regret Remarks About Gianforte Assaulting Reporter: The Congressman is a ‘Tough Cookie’

President Donald Trump, to perhaps no one’s surprise, is completely standing by his jovial comments about a Republican congressman’s assault of a reporter.

Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) attacking Ben Jacobs became the subject of a Trump riff last night during a rally, in which the President actually said, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”

The White House Correspondents Association condemned Trump’s remarks, and today, as the President answered questions about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, one reporter asked, “Do you regret bringing up last night at your rally the assault on a reporter by a congressman?”

Trump said he doesn’t, adding, “That was a different world. That was a different league, a different world, no. He’s just a great guy.”

He talked about his “tremendous success” last night and said, “Greg is a tremendous person and he’s a tough cookie and I’ll stay with that.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Praises Rep. Gianforte For Assaulting Reporter: Anyone Who Can Body Slam is ‘My Kind of Guy’

 President Donald Trump praised a Republican congressman who body slammed a reporter last year, saying the lawmaker was “my guy.”

Trump, speaking at a rally in Montana, said Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter who asked him a question, was a good guy.

“Greg is smart and, by the way, never wrestle him,” the president said, motioning as though he was slamming someone to the ground. “Any guy that can do a body slam — he’s my guy.”

He added Gianforte was a “great guy” and a “tough cookie.”

In May 2017, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs said Gianforte “body slammed” him for asking a question during an event. Gianforte went on to win Montana’s only U.S. House seat despite the misdemeanor charge and two Montana papers — the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette — rescinding their endorsements.

Gianforte’s campaign initially released a statement claiming Jacobs had “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face” and instigated the attack. Gianforte later pleaded guilty to an assault charge and apologized for the incident, pledging a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Gianforte is in a battle against Democrat and former state legislator Kathleen Williams in next month’s election.

Guardian Editor John Mulholland denounced the president’s praise for the assault as an attack on the First Amendment.

“The President of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian,” he said in a statement given to CNN. “To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.”

Mulholland continued, saying the rhetoric was dangerous, especially given the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Mulholland said this “runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats. We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”

During the rally, Trump talked about learning of the assault and said he initially worried Gianforte would lose his election last year.

“I said, ‘Oh, this is terrible. He’s going to lose the election,”‘ Trump told the crowd. “Then I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him and it did.'”

Throughout his rally, the president made several remarks about Gianforte’s attack on Jacobs. He cited the incident when he mentioned comments by former Vice President Joe Biden, who said that if he’d known Trump in high school he would have “beat the hell out of” him.

The president challenged Biden during the rally, saying “He’d be down faster than Greg would take him down. He’d be down so fast. Faster than Greg. I’d have to go very fast. I’d have to immediately connect.”

[USA Today]

Media

Inspector general: Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for his wife

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated department travel policies by bringing his family members in government-owned vehicles, the agency’s internal watchdog concluded on Thursday.

The Interior Department’s inspector general (OIG) found in a new report that Zinke and his wife Lolita brought a Park Police security detail on a vacation, costing more than $25,000, though there was no policy prohibiting it.

Despite a policy stating that people not engaged in government business cannot ride in Interior vehicles, “we found that Secretary Zinke’s wife and other family members had occasionally ridden with him in government vehicles,” OIG investigators said in a their report late Thursday.

The report said that despite the prohibition, the Interior solicitor’s office approved Zinke’s family’s travel “on a case-by-case basis.”

OIG investigators also found that Zinke had asked Interior employees to designate Lolita Zinke as a volunteer for the agency, which would allow her to travel in official vehicles without approval or reimbursement.

Zinke decided against the appointment due to the “optics,” but denied that it was to get around travel rules, OIG said.

The OIG report came the same day that Interior denied that the Trump administration planned to install a political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to oversee the inspector general’s office. HUD Secretary Ben Carson had previously said that the appointee, Suzanne Israel Tufts, would be the new acting inspector general at Interior, which would effectively demote Mary Kendall, the current highest-ranking employee in the watchdog office.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift framed the Thursday report as an exoneration.

“The Inspector General report proves what we have known all along: the secretary follows all relevant laws and regulations and that all of his travel was reviewed and approved by career ethics officials and solicitors prior to travel,” she said.

“Additionally, the secretary received the same exact legal advice from the solicitors as previous secretaries and he acted consistently. The report even said so.”

After investigators started looking into the issue, Interior changed the travel policy to allow family members on official trips.

In the four official trips that investigators probed, Lolita Zinke and another family member reimbursed Interior for the costs of her travel.

Interior said an unidentified person in the solicitor’s office approved the family travel, despite knowing that internal policies prohibited it.

“She explained that other DOI employees could use personal vehicles for government travel, but because Secretary Zinke had a security detail that used government vehicles, he did not have that option. She said she generally deferred to a secretary’s security detail to decide who should be allowed in the vehicles,” the report said, paraphrasing the solicitor’s office employee.

In addition, Zinke brought a number of non-government travelers on a National Park Service boat for a trip to California’s Channel Islands. Interior designated them as “stakeholders,” meaning they did not have to reimburse the agency for travel.

Two of those travelers had hosted a fundraiser for Zinke’s congressional campaign in 2014, and the family of one used to own property on one of the Channel Islands, investigators said, facts that ethics officials were not aware of prior to the trip.

[The Hill]

Trump: My ‘Natural Instinct for Science’ Tells Me Climate Science Is Wrong

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which encompasses the consensus finding of climate scientists worldwide, issued a report warning that the effects of climate change may become irreversible by 2040. But since this conclusion implies the need for government action of some kind, and thus threatens a core tenet of conservative movement theology, Republicans ignore or dismiss the findings. Asked by Lesley Stahl about the report, Trump accordingly dismissed it, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.”

But you know who doesn’t have a big political agenda, according to Donald Trump? Donald Trump. The president of the United States styles himself as a man of science, willing to follow the facts wherever they go. In yet another of his current spate of lunatic ramblings he has decided to share with various media, this time the Associated Press, Trump was asked about the report again, and gave an even crazier response.

Trump asserted that, contrary to the scientific conclusion that pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere has caused an upward ratcheting of temperatures, he sees it as random unexplainable variation: “I agree the climate changes, but it goes back and forth, back and forth.” When the interviewer noted that scientists have concluded otherwise, Trump asserted his own scientific credentials.

“My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years. Dr. John Trump,” he said. “And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture.”

So Trump’s claim to scientific competence rests on his belief that science is a matter of instinct, and this instinct is passed on genetically, as evidenced by his uncle. Those lucky few possessed of this gift can look at two competing hypotheses and know which one is correct, without needing to study the evidence, or even having a clear understanding of what “evidence” means. Trump has luckily inherited this instinct, along with some $400 million in untaxed gifts from his father.

Now, a scientist might reply that science is not a matter of instinct at all but a body of knowledge amassed through experimentation and study. They could even design studies testing the hypothesis that individuals possess a scientific “instinct” that renders actual knowledge of scientific conclusions unnecessary. But Trump would surely just respond that those scientists have a political agenda, and his instinct, acquired via his uncle, concludes those studies are fake.

[New York Magazine]

Trump Says Sears Was Mismanaged. Mnuchin Was on Its Board for Years

President Donald Trump said that Sears Holdings Corp. had been mismanaged for years before it declared bankruptcy. Among those responsible for its management: his Treasury secretary.

Steven Mnuchin was a member of Sears’s board from 2005 until December 2016, and before that was a director for K-Mart Corp., which was acquired by Sears in 2005.

“Sears has been dying for many years,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House on Monday to inspect hurricane damage in Florida. “It’s been obviously improperly run for many years and it’s a shame.”

Treasury didn’t immediately respond to questions about Mnuchin’s service on the company’s board.

Mnuchin was a college roommate of Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, who attended Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing for Treasury secretary in January 2017. Mnuchin cut his ties to Sears when he joined the Trump administration.

Mnuchin said during his Senate confirmation hearing in January 2017 that he had invested about $26 million in Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc. He defended Lampert’s management of Sears, which he said “was already a failing issue” before Lampert invested in the company.

As Treasury secretary, Mnuchin sits on the board of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which considers applications from companies to terminate their pension plans. During the hearing, Mnuchin told Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, that he would recuse himself if the PBGC receives an application from Sears. Menendez noted that would leave the PBGC board with just two voting members.

“I’m not sure that the remaining two can ultimately make a decision on such a case which involves 200,000 people’s pensions,” Menendez told Mnuchin.

The retailing icon filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday and said it will attempt to reorganize around a smaller number of profitable stores. Lampert resigned as CEO, but he is negotiating a financing deal with the company.

“Somebody that is of my generation, Sears Roebuck was a big deal,” Trump said. “So it’s very sad to see.”

[Bloomberg]

Trump: Saudi Arabia has ‘been a great ally to me’

President Trump on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia has “been a great ally to me” amid an international diplomatic crisis over allegations that Saudi agents killed a U.S.-based Saudi journalist in Istanbul.

Trump told Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan that the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance will depend on “whether or not they knew about it.”

“Saudi Arabia’s our partner, our ally against Iran,” he said. “They’ve been a great ally to me.”

“They’re investing tremendous amounts of money,” he added, referring to America’s $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi kingdom.

Trump earlier in the day denied having any financial interests in Saudi Arabia, pushing back on speculation that he is treading lightly with the Saudis over Khashoggi because of his financial conflicts of interest.

The president, a longtime business mogul, has long-standing and close business ties to the Saudis, with Saudi businessmen spending significant amounts of money at his hotels and properties over decades.

One Saudi royal billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, purchased Trump’s yacht and a stake in New York’s Plaza Hotel in the 1990s when Trump was in financial distress.

Trump’s business ties to the kingdom have come under intense scrutiny in recent days as Trump has repeated Saudi leadership’s denials of involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish authorities say Saudi agents killed and dismembered the Washington Post journalist in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate.

Trump, after praising Saudi Arabia during the Fox Business interview, added, “With all of that being said, you can’t do what we’ve been reading about. We’re gonna learn a lot about it.”

He then discussed the $110 billion arms deal, saying if the U.S. doesn’t give the weapons to Saudi Arabia, the country will turn to “Russia or China.”

“Aren’t we just hurting our own country?” he asked, responding to critics who have said he should end the arms deal. “Because here’s what’s going to happen — [they’ll] buy them from China, buy them from Russia.”

“We’re not really hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves,” he added. “I don’t want to give up a $110 billion order.”

[The Hill]

Trump: I won’t accept the blame if Dems retake House

President Trump said Tuesday that he wouldn’t accept the blame if Democrats earned a majority in the House after the November midterm elections.

Trump told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview that he believes he’s been helping Republican candidates’ efforts as the general election nears.

“I don’t believe anybody has ever had this kind of impact,” he said, adding that he thinks the GOP is “going to do well” this November.

The AP noted that Trump resisted comparisons to former President Obama, who after witnessing his party see major losses during his first midterm as president in 2010 acknowledged that his party got “shellacked.”

Trump’s comments come three weeks before an election that many Republicans expect will result in losses for their party in the House, where Democrats need to net 23 seats to retake the majority. Republicans are looking to defend a slim majority in the Senate.

Polls have continued to show Democrats with a lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot. A CNN survey released last week found that Democrats hold a 13-point lead over Republicans among likely voters on the generic congressional ballot.

Among other issues, Democrats have said they will demand that Trump turn over his tax returns if they win back a majority in the House.

Trump told the AP that he will “handle it very well” if the party attempts to open investigations into him or tries to pursue impeachment.

[The Hill]

Trump calls Stormy Daniels ‘Horseface’ as defamation suit dismissed.

President Donald Trump lashed out at adult-film star Stormy Daniels and her attorney Tuesday morning, vowing to “go after” the pair, who he referred to as “Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer.”

The tweet from Trump comes a day after a federal judge in California handed the president a rare legal victory in his ongoing legal battles with Daniels.

Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti – who has been teasing a possible run for president against Trump in 2020 – wasted little time in responding in kind to the insults, calling Trump a “disgusting misogynist and an embarrassment to the United States.”

“Bring everything you have,” Avenatti crowed, “because we are going to demonstrate to the world what a complete shyster and liar you are.”

Also firing back on her (usually) not-safe-for-work Twitter feed, Daniels wrote, “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present your president.”

“[H]e has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women and lack of self control on Twitter AGAIN!” Daniels wrote.

The barrage of Twitter barbs follows a ruling Monday by US District Court Judge S. James Otero that dismissed Daniels’ defamation claim, one of two lawsuits she filed against the president.

Otero ruled that a tweet Trump sent earlier this year mocking Daniels’ credibility was free speech protected by the First Amendment.

The judge noted that Daniels had “sought to publicly present herself as an adversary” to Trump, and that to deny him the ability to engage in responding to her allegations “would significantly hamper the office of the President.”

An attorney for the president, Charles Harder, characterized that ruling in a statement as “a total victory for President Trump and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels.”

The court also ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees and costs associated with defending the lawsuit. The amount has yet to be determined.

Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti quickly filed a notice of an intention to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The dismissal of the defamation claim has no bearing on Daniels’ separate lawsuit challenging the validity of the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016 to keep quiet about her allegations of a sexual tryst with Trump in 2006.

Trump has denied her allegations.

The defamation claim from Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, was originally filed in New York federal court earlier this year. The lawsuit claimed Trump acted with “actual malice” and “reckless disregard for the truth” when he posted a tweet mocking her claim that she was threatened by an unknown man to stay silent. The case was later transferred to federal court in California.

In an April appearance on ABC’s “The View,” Daniels and Avenatti released a sketch of the man she claims menaced her and her toddler daughter in 2011 in a Las Vegas parking lot shortly after she granted an interview to In Touch magazine about her alleged relationship with Trump, then a real estate mogul and reality-TV star.

Daniels alleges the man told her to “leave Trump alone” and to “forget the story.”

The magazine didn’t publish its story about Daniels claims until January of 2018 – after the Wall Street Journal published the first accounts of a non-disclosure agreement signed just weeks before the 2016 election.

In interviews with The View and on CBS’ 60 Minutes earlier this year, Daniels intimated that either Trump or his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, must have been behind the alleged threat.

To date, no evidence has emerged to support the claim.

One day after Daniels revealed the sketch – Trump ridiculed the claim on Twitter as “a sketch years later about a non-existent man.” He called it a “total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools.”

[ABC News]

Trump: Saudi Journalist Could Have Been Murdered By ‘Rogue Killers’

President Donald Trump spoke out on Monday about his call with the Saudi King to discuss allegations his government killed and dismembered Washington Post writer and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Monday, Trump repeatedly noted Saudi Arabia’s denial of alleged killing was “very strong,” even adding that Khashoggi could have been murdered by “rogue killers.”

“I just spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge with what took place,” Trump said. “And he firmly denies that.”

Trump added that he has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman.

“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it, he didn’t really know, maybe, I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows, we’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”

“He told me in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it,” Trump continued. “He said it very strongly.”

“His denial to me could not have been stronger,” Trump added.

Turkish officials say they have proof that Khashoggi — missing since he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 — was murdered by a team of Saudi agents. Trump has repeatedly stressed that the Saudis vehemently deny their involvement in his disappearance. In a tweet on Monday morning, he emphasized that U.S. resident Khashoggi is a “Saudi citizen,” and that King Salman “denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened.”

The disappearance and possible murder of Khashoggi poses a problem for Trump administration attempts to build a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, notably through Jared Kushner‘s relationship with young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump & Saudi Business:
•1991: Sold yacht to Saudi Prince
•2001: Sold 45th floor of Trump World Tower to Saudis
•Jun 2015: I love the Saudis…many in Trump Tower
•Aug 2015: “They buy apartments from me…Spend $40M-$50M”
•2017: Saudi lobbyists spent $270K at Trump DC hotel

National Security Council Chief Of Staff To Leave WH, Lead Anti-Muslim Hate Group

National Security Adviser John Bolton’s chief of staff Fred Fleitz is leaving after just a few months on the job, CNN confirmed Monday

“Fred Fleitz is a longtime friend and adviser. He’s been a valuable member of the National Security Council team. I wish him the best with his next endeavor,” Bolton told CNN.

Fleitz, a longtime Bolton associate, joined the Trump administration in May after working for five years at the Center for Security Policy, an Islamaphobic group run by Frank Gaffney. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers CSP a “hate group.” Fleitz joined Gaffney and others from CSP in March 2016 when they went to work on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign.

According to CSP, Fleitz will take over for Gaffney as the group’s President and CEO in January 2019. Yet he will begin the leadership transition in just a few days, on Nov. 1 — a day after he leaves the White House, an unnamed administration official told CNN. Gaffney, the group said, will become executive chairman.

In 2017, per CNN, Fleitz complained that CSP had only been placed on the SPLC’s list of hate groupsdue to our principled stand against the Global Jihad Movement.”

[Talking Points Memo]

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