Trump complains security guard wasn’t rougher with female protester

Donald Trump appeared to call for security guards to be rougher in handling a female protester who interrupted him during a rally.

The young woman brandished a sign with a large, pink middle finger on it and wore a T-shirt that read “grabbing power back” – a reference to the president’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” remark.

Her presence attracted vociferous boos from the crowd in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. Mr Trump repeatedly urged security staff to “get her out”.

Footage shows a guard attempting to block the woman and usher her away, but she evades him.

After pausing his address, Mr Trump returned to the microphone and said: “That particular guy wanted to be so politically correct – oh-oh, aah. We don’t want to be politically correct.”

The president imitated the guard’s arm movements to suggest he had been insufficiently robust in his response to the protester.

“I don’t know who he was, he didn’t do the greatest job,” Mr Trump added.

Mr Trump has previously said he would like to punch a man who interrupted a 2016 rally in Las Vegas.

And in the same year he instructed supporters to “knock the crap out of” anyone they saw preparing to throw a tomato at him, promising to pay their legal bills if they did so.

With his visit on Tuesday, Mr Trump was seeking to shore up support in a swing state he won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 ahead of the November 2020 election.

Pennsylvania, one of three “rust belt” states the Republican won with votes from people who had previously supported Democrats, is seen as key to keeping him in the White House, along with Michigan and Wisconsin.

[Independent]

Trump Claims He’s Heard FBI ‘Lovers’ Had a ‘Restraining Order,’ Admits He Has No Evidence

Not long after Donald Trump took to the stage at a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night, the president launched into one of his biggest crowd-pleasers: pillorying the “deep state,” particularly by performing fan-fic-style dialogue between the “FBI lovers” Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

It’s a routine that he’s been honing on the re-election campaign trail for months, perhaps most famously during an October campaign event in Minneapolis, where he appeared to make orgasmic, panting noises—much to the audience’s delight—while doing a mock-dialogue between the two “lovers” about how much they “love” each other and hate that “son of a bitch” Trump.

And on Tuesday night, the president went a step further, claiming he’d “heard” gossip about previously unknown relationship woes between the two former FBI employees—though Trump conceded he could just be spreading pure disinformation.

“So FBI lawyer Lisa Page was so in love she didn’t know what the hell was happening,” Trump blared. “Texted the head of counterintelligence Peter Strzok, likewise so in love he couldn’t see straight! This poor guy. Did I hear he needed a restraining order after this whole thing to keep him away from Lisa? That’s what I heard. I don’t know if it’s true. The fake news will never report it, but it could be true.”

After pointing out the reporters gathered in the back so the audience could loudly boo them, the president continued to make the baseless claim that a restraining order was put in place. At the same time, Trump gave a contorted explanation of the alleged restraining order.

“Now that’s what I heard, I don’t know,” he added. “I mean, who could believe a thing like that? No, I heard Peter Strzok needed a restraining order to keep him away from his once lover. Lisa, I hope you miss him. Lisa, he will never be the same.”

It is unclear where, if anywhere, Trump got this. The White House did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

A source familiar with Page’s thinking told The Daily Beast on Tuesday night that Trump’s allegation is “absolutely untrue.”

On Wednesday morning, Page took to Twitter herself, saying “This is a lie. Nothing like this ever happened. I wish we had a president who knew how to act like one. SAD!”

Both Page and Strzok have become prominent bêtes noires for MAGA fans and Trumpworld, due to their illicit affair and the text messages they exchanged bashing Trump and discussing an “insurance policy” in the event the 2016 Republican nominee actually won against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with The Daily Beast published this month, Page explained why she was choosing to publicly speak out now, stating: “Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse,” she said, adding that “it had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back.”

Additionally, news broke earlier Tuesday that the former FBI attorney had sued the FBI and Department of Justice. “I take little joy in having done so. But what they did in leaking my messages to the press was not only wrong, it was illegal,” she alleged on Twitter.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump called the FBI ‘scum’ and hit out at the report that discredited his theory the Russia probe was a deep-state plot at a wild Pennsylvania rally

President Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night lashed out at the FBI, calling staff of the agency “scum.”

He also doubled down on discredited conspiracy theories following the release of a report that undermined the president’s claims that the Russia probe was a “deep state” plot meant to damage his presidency.

Trump repeated claims the FBI had “spied” on his 2016 campaign. The report, released the day before by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, had found such a characterization to be groundless.

“When the FBI uncovered evidence showing that we did absolutely nothing wrong, which was right at the beginning, they hid that exonerating, you know that, they hid it,” Trump said.

That comment seemed to refer to a finding in the report that there were significant “omissions” in the FBI’s application for a wiretap of Carter Page, a Trump campaign official.

“They hid it so nobody could see it and they could keep this hoax going on for two more years,” Trump said. “They knew right at the beginning.”

The report in fact found that the Russia investigation was launched on the basis of multiple contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.

“The FBI also sent multiple undercover human spies to surveil and record people associated with our campaign,” the president said.

“Look how they’ve hurt people. They’ve destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives have been destroyed by scum. OK, by scum.”

While Trump and his allies have often characterized the FBI’s surveillance as “spying,” the long-anticipated report found that the FBI followed its rules in opening an investigation into contacts between Russia and Trump officials and concluded that top officials were not driven by “political bias or improper motivation” in doing so.

It did, however, did find an improper handling of applications for surveillance warrants, such as Page’s.

Attorney General William Barr has criticized the report’s conclusions, a highly unusual move. Barr has tasked the Pennsylvania prosecutor John Durham with conducting a separate investigation into the origins of the Russia inquiry.

“I look forward to Bull Durham’s report, that’s the one I look forward to,” Trump said, referring to the 1988 baseball movie starring Kevin Costner in a riff on Durham’s name.

“And this report was great by the IG, especially since he was appointed by President Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump said. Using Obama’s middle name is often associated with a movement by the far right to falsely suggest Obama is Muslim.

[Business Insider]

Trump calls Trudeau “two-faced,” cancels NATO press conference

President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” on Wednesday after Trudeau appeared to mock the president during a reception at Buckingham Palace.

The president also canceled a news conference that was scheduled to take place at the conclusion of the NATO summit.

“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days.” He had previously signaled to reporters he might cancel the news conference, which was slated for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

Mr. Trump has engaged in some tense interactions with fellow world leaders, including Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron. During a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, Macron, Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to joke about Mr. Trump.

“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau can be heard telling Macron and Johnson, adding, “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”

When asked by reporters about Trudeau’s comments, Mr. Trump called the Canadian prime minister “two-faced” and suggested Trudeau “wasn’t happy” he was called out by the president for not meeting NATO’s 2% commitment. 

“I’m representing the U.S. and he should be paying more than he’s paying, and he understands that,” Mr. Trump said on Trudeau. “So I can imagine he’s not that happy, but that’s the way it is.”

Earlier, the president criticized Macron for suggesting NATO is experiencing “brain death,” defending the institution he says he has made stronger. 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold its first public impeachment hearing. Mr. Trump continued to blast House Democrats’ impeachment process while in London, even as he said he might like for some of his top aides to testify in any Senate proceedings. 

During his trip, Mr. Trump also announced the U.S. will host the G-7 summit next year at Camp David, a place acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had previously derided as an undesirable location because no one liked it. Mulvaney announced in a memorable news conference earlier this fall that the G-7 would take place at Mr. Trump’s resort in Florida, before the White House reversed course under intense political pressure. 

[CBS News]

Trump administration to introduce plan cutting food stamps for 750,000 people

The Trump administration is set to announce a plan that would cut food stamp benefits for approximately 750,000 people, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday. 

The plan, which is scheduled to be announced Wednesday, will make it more difficult for states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries of food stamps work or are enrolled in a vocational training program, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the matter.  

The work or vocational training requirement applies to recipients who are “able-bodied” or those who are not caring for a child under six years old. Under the current guidelines, states can receive a waver for work requirements for those receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or its former name, food stamps, if its unemployment rate is at least 20 percent above the national rate, according to Bloomberg.   

The national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October.

The regulation was initially proposed in February, and the administration predicted that the rule would end benefits for 750,000 people in its first year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the move would save $1.1 billion in the first year and $7.9 billion over five years.

A person familiar with the measure confirmed to Bloomberg that the finalized regulation will have a similar impact. States seeking waivers under the rule would have to meet the stricter standards by April 1.

The Trump administration and GOP allies have long tried to reduce food stamp programs and implement federal restrictions. House Republicans tried to pass similar restrictions to the new rule last year, but the legislation was never passed in the Senate. 

The measure, which will be published in the Federal Register Thursday, is one of the three proposals that the Trump administration has backed. The administration has also sought to adapt “the types of government benefits that automatically qualify families for SNAP,”  according to a study from the Urban Institute. It has also called for changing the “approach to calculating standard utility allowances.”

The three programs together would limit food stamps for an estimated 3.7 million people and 2.1 million fewer households, according to the Urban Institute estimate. 

The Hill has reached out to the USDA for comment. 

[The Hill]

Trump, Macron hold tense meeting: ‘Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you’

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron held a tense meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit, with Trump at one point telling the French leader he could send him some “ISIS fighters” if he wanted them.

“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said with a slight smile at the meeting, which was carried live on cable news. “You can take every one you want.”

“Let’s be serious,” Macron replied sternly, reasoning that most ISIS fighters came from Syria, Iraq and Iran and disputing Trump’s common refrain that the terrorist group had been defeated.

Trump has complained that European countries have been unwilling to accept ISIS fighters the U.S. had captured.

The French president insisted that the number of European ISIS fighters was a “tiny” part of the overall problem of addressing destabilization in the region. He was also adamant that the terrorist group had not entirely been defeated, a break with a common declaration from Trump.

“I think [the] No. 1 priority, because it’s not finished, is it to get rid of ISIS,” Macron said.

“That was one of the greatest nonanswers I ever heard,” Trump said after Macron had concluded. “And that’s OK.”

If the meeting was tense, the days leading up the the one-on-one session were equally so. 

A day before the meeting, the Trump administration announced it was prepared to impose 100 percent tariffs on wine and other products from France in response to complaints about a French tax that has hit U.S. technology companies.

A myriad of disagreements between the two leaders played out in public over the course of the 40 minute meeting, which came hours after Trump called Macron’s comments critical of NATO “insulting.” The icy tone was a far cry from the warm embraces and state visit the two men have shared over the past two years. 

Trump emphasized his “very good relationship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after Macron noted disagreements between Turkey and the rest of the alliance on their definition of terrorism. 

“I can only say we have a very good relationship with Turkey and president Erdoğan,” Trump said when asked about Turkey’s standing in NATO. “We have a very good relationship.” 

Macron interjected shortly thereafter: “We have lost cooperation with Turkey.” 

The French president demanded “clarification” from Ankara on how it could be a member of the NATO alliance and also purchase Russian S-400 missile systems amid NATO opposition. Macron also said Turkey wanted to “blow up” the summit if the other alliance members did not recognize Ankara’s view of groups that are terrorists. 

When Trump suggested that his predecessor, former President Obama, pushed Turkey toward purchasing the Russian missiles by refusing to sell Ankara the Patriot missile, Macron shot back, saying it was Turkey’s “own decision” to purchase the missiles after Europe offered another option that was compliant with NATO.  

Trump was noncommittal on reaching a deal to avert U.S. tariffs set to be imposed on $2.4 billion in French imports. He expressed frustration with the French tax, which he sees as targeting U.S. companies.

“They’re American companies,” he said. “The tech companies you’re talking about, they’re not my favorite people because they’re not exactly for me, but that’s OK. I don’t care, they’re American companies. And we want to tax American companies. We want to tax them. That’s not for somebody else to tax them.”

Tuesday’s icy meeting underscored the evolution of the Trump-Macron relationship.

The two men came into office within months of each other and enjoyed a close relationship. They famously shared a lengthy and intense handshake at one of their first meetings, and Trump later hosted Macron at the White House for a state visit.

But Macron has become more outspoken as he seeks to take the mantle in Europe in the face of changing governments there and Trump’s unpredictability.

On Tuesday, the French president stood by his controversial comments about NATO, Macron said he was a supporter of a stronger European component in the alliance and agreed with Trump that the U.S. was overinvested compared with other countries, but he said there was more to the alliance than discussions about money and burden sharing.

“When you speak about NATO, it’s not just about money,” Macron said. “We have to be clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be.”

[The Hill]

Trump praises Kennedy after Chuck Todd links senator’s Ukraine remarks to Putin

President Trump on Monday praised Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) for his appearance a day earlier on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where anchor Chuck Todd questioned the senator for pushing the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

“Thank you to Great Republican @SenJohnKennedy for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself against Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd on Meet the Depressed!” Trump tweeted.

The president tweeted his thanks as he flew to London for NATO meetings. He also praised two House Republicans for defending him against the impeachment inquiry in television interviews.

Kennedy has been part of controversial interviews each of the past two Sundays after making claims about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election.

Kennedy last week suggested that there was still a possibility that Ukraine was responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. He walked back those comments days later but has continued to insist Ukraine interfered in other ways. 

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kennedy asserted that reporting in outlets such as Politico and The Economist indicated that the former Ukrainian president favored Clinton over Trump.

“The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton,” he said.

Todd appeared exasperated with the senator and pushed back on his argument, suggesting Kennedy was furthering a narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” Todd asked. 

“No, just read the articles,” Kennedy said. 

The Intelligence Committee has concluded that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election and was seeking to aid the Trump campaign. Former special counsel Robert Mueller determined he could not establish that the Trump campaign worked with Russia.

In the aftermath of that investigation, Trump and some of his allies have continued to claim Ukraine meddled in the 2016 race despite the insistence to the contrary of national security officials. 

[The Hill]

Trump wastes no time distorting Zelensky statement

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an unmistakable rebuke to President Trump in an interview published Monday by Time and three European news outlets. Then Trump, as is his wont, declared himself totally exonerated.

According to the partial transcript posted by Time, Zelensky mostly discussed the war with Russian-backed rebels along Ukraine’s eastern border. When he got onto the topic of the United States’ role, he started by saying he didn’t want Ukraine to be a pawn in a great-powers game of chess. But then he got into how Trump and other U.S. officials had been publicly labeling Ukraine a “corrupt country” and the difficulties that this causes with global investors and businesses.

”This is a hard signal,” Zelensky said. “For me it’s very important for the United States, with all they can do for us, for them really to understand that we are a different country, that we are different people. It’s not that those things don’t exist. They do. All branches of government were corrupted over many years, and we are working to clean that up. But that signal from them is very important.”

In other words, the chaff thrown up by Trump and his allies in defense of his attempt to persuade Zelensky to announce two investigations that could help Trump’s reelection bid — “Ukraine is corrupt, and Trump was just trying to protect taxpayers’ money” — is at least as harmful to Ukraine’s new housecleaning government as it is helpful to Trump.

But that comment wasn’t the one that got Trump’s attention. It was one at the end of the interview, when Zelensky was asked the $300-million question: “When did you first sense that there was a connection between Trump’s decision to block military aid to Ukraine this summer and the two investigations that Trump and his allies were asking for? Can you clarify this issue of the quid pro quo?”

There’s a great deal of confusion over this precise point. The White House froze nearly $300 million in security aid to Ukraine about two weeks before Trump spoke with Zelensky and asked for “a favor” in the form of those two investigations. But the hold on the aid didn’t become public until Politico broke the news in late August.

Here’s Zelensky’s response, according to Time’s transcript: “Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing.… I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”

There are a million different ways to parse that, but the meaning seems clear: Zelensky really, really, really wants to get out of the middle of this controversy. Yet it’s also clear that he’s not forgiving Trump for delaying the aid approved by Congress, more than 10% of which is apparently still on hold.

Trump, though, offered a completely different read:

Nothing wrong? How about “If you’re our strategic partner, you can’t go blocking anything for us”? How about Zelensky imploring Trump to stop driving capital away from Kyiv?

But that’s how Trump operates, counting on people not to take the extra step and read the Zelensky interview for themselves.

It’s kind of like Trump’s fallback line, “Read the transcript.” If people actually read the reconstructed transcript that the White House released, they would see Trump telling Zelensky how dependent Ukraine is on the United States, then find him asking Zelensky to conduct two investigations that are clearly beneficial to Trump politically — including one specifically into the Democrat who’s leading the race to oppose Trump in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Granted, some folks may not be troubled by a president using the power of his office to try to persuade a foreign government to help him win reelection. But even they would have to concede it’s something less than “perfect.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump EPA to roll back Obama-era chemical rules

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to roll back a set of Obama-era standards outlining how companies must store dangerous chemicals, the Washington Post reports.

Where it stands: The rules were enacted following a 2013 explosion in Texas that killed 15 people. Officials blame arson for the deadly blast, but the fertilizer plant fire was fueled by 80,000–100,000 pounds of unsafely stored ammonium nitrate. Under the EPA’s newly weakened rules, companies will no longer have to provide public information on what chemicals they store onsite.

  • Companies will also be freed from several safety procedures, including obtaining a third-party audit following an accident or conducting an analysis after major chemical releases.

Between the lines: This is the latest rollback that shows how the broad reach of President Trump’s deregulatory push goes far beyond the climate change policies of his predecessor, Axios’ Amy Harder notes.

[Axios]

Trump attacks Fox News for interviewing Swalwell

President Trump on Thursday renewed his attacks against Fox News over its coverage of the impeachment inquiry, taking issue with the network’s decision to interview Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) about the process. 

Trump singled out Fox News host Shannon Bream, asking why she would “waste airtime” by featuring a failed presidential candidate, referencing Swalwell’s short-lived 2020 campaign. 

“Fox should stay with the people that got them there, not losers!” he said. 

Beam interviewed Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, following a day in which the panel heard testimony from three administration officials about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. 

The House impeachment inquiry has centered around allegations that the president pressured Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden over unfounded allegations of corruption. House Democrats are also probing whether Trump tied military aid to Ukraine publicly announcing the investigations. 

While speaking on Fox News, Swalwell adamantly pushed back against Republicans’ argument that a quid pro quo didn’t take place because Ukraine eventually received the security aid. 

“The president got caught. The only reason the aid was released was because the whistleblower came forward,” Swalwell said, referencing a government whistleblower complaint that led to the launch of the impeachment inquiry. 

Swalwell also emphasized new statements from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine, who testified that her staff received questions from the Ukraine Embassy about “security assistance” on July 25. That is the same day Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call to open investigations. 

Trump has repeatedly dismissed allegations of wrongdoing, often characterizing officials testifying in the impeachment inquiry as “Never Trumpers.” In a separate tweet early Thursday morning, he claimed the “fake” and “corrupt” news media weren’t covering the impeachment hearings fairly. 

While Trump has enjoyed a cordial relationship with many of Fox News’s opinion hosts, he’s also shown a willingness to target some of its news anchors. Earlier this week, he blasted “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace as “nasty” and “obnoxious” over an interview in which he persistently grilled House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) about the implications of the impeachment inquiry. 

Trump claimed that the “dumb and unfair interview would never have happened” in the past, prompting a rebuttal from Wallace’s colleague Neil Cavuto. 

“The best we can do as journalists is be fair to all, including you, Mr. President,” Cavuto said on Fox News on Monday. “That’s not fake doing that. What is fake is not doing that. What is fake is saying Fox never used to do that. Mr. President, we have always done that.”

[The Hill]

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