Trump Tees Off on Negative Media Coverage: ‘Should Be Getting Good Stories’

President Donald Trump capped off another chaotic week of news out of Washington on Friday by — you guessed it! — tweeting, this time gloating about his approval rating and making America great again while spewing alternative facts.

The president once again attacked the media on Friday for its critical reporting of his administration amid a looming investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign’s suspected collusion with Russia and Wikileaks to sway the election in his favor.

“Can you believe that despite 93% bad stories from the Fake News Media (should be getting good stories), today we had just about our highest Poll Numbers, including those on Election Day?” Trump wrote on Friday. “The American public is wise to the phony an dishonest press. Make America Great Again!”

The 93 percent stat is a reference to the findings of a Harvard study on coverage of the President from 2017.u

As for his approval ratings, the president is in fact currently polling just slightly above normal with a nearly 40% approval rating according to FiveThirtyEight. It’s not the highest numbers he’s seen during his presidency, however — not even according to his favorite right-leaning poll, Rasmussen Reports, which previously had him at 50 percent. That poll now has him at 49 percent, while most other polls have him somewhere between 38 to 42 percent approval.

Trump once again praised himself when the Rasmussen poll hit 50 percent earlier this week before dipping again just before the weekend, attacking his predecessor with the fun new nickname he seemed to create earlier this month: “Cheatin’ Obama.”

Clearly the president is getting the weekend fun started early at Mar-A-Lago.

[Mediaite]

Trump: ‘Sometimes It May Not Look Like It, But Believe Me, We Are Draining the Swamp’

With his EPA chief facing a mountain of ethical controversies and his secretary of Veteran Affairs recently fired following a scandal over misusing taxpayer money during a European trip, President Donald Trump declared that he is holding up his promise to “drain the swamp.”

During a Rose Garden speech about tax reform, the president claimed that his administration doesn’t “care about the donors and special interests” and instead is only concerned with “making America great again.” This then led POTUS to

“From the day I took the oath of office, I’ve been fighting to drain the swamp and sometimes, it may not look like it, but believe me, we are draining the swamp and there are a lot of unhappy people,” Trump boldly stated.

He continued, “You can see that every day. All you have to do is turn on the news. Every time you see me hit, you know that I’m draining the swamp. And people don’t like it.”

So there you go. Regardless of the number of Trump administration officials dealing with scandals over their wasteful personal expenditures of taxpayer funds, the president is letting us all know that media criticism of him is proof that the swamp is being drained.

[Mediaite]

Trump escalates ‘rigged system’ rhetoric amid Russia probe

President Donald Trump’s escalating assault on the “rigged” and “sick” institutions of the government that he leads may portend an ominous end game to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump’s blast at a campaign rally on Friday night followed a week of rising attacks on Mueller and the FBI from pro-Trump media outlets and personalities and prominent conservatives in Congress.

The President did not name Mueller at the boisterous event in Pensacola, Florida, avoiding specific attacks on the probe after a flurry of furious tweets last weekend may have deepened his political and legal exposure.

But he enriched his building narrative that unnamed forces within the US government were thwarting his administration, just days after unloading on the FBI on Twitter, when he said the bureau’s reputation was in “tatters.”

“This is a rigged system. This is a sick system from the inside. And, you know, there is no country like our country but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions,” Trump told the crowd in Florida.

Not the first time

It is not the first time that Trump has made such arguments — he complained against the “rigged” system during last year’s election in a gambit seen at the time as a face-saving hedge against a possible loss to Hillary Clinton.

But the context has changed. Trump is now the head of the government that he is accusing of conspiring against him politically. Therefore, his attacks against US government institutions, including the FBI, but which have also included the wider intelligence community and the judiciary are far more polarizing politically and risk causing long-term damage to already fragile trust in government.

They could even have constitutional implications since Trump is attacking the very system set up to constrain presidential power and to ensure integrity at the pinnacle of US government.

The timing of the assault is unlikely to be an accident.

The new intensity in attacks against Mueller and the FBI followed the plea deal reached by fired national security adviser Michael Flynn last week, that could see him testify against key figures in the President’s inner circle.

Trump responded to the rising threat by suggesting that there was something corrupt in a system that indicted Flynn but did not prosecute his former election rival over her email server.

“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday ‘interrogation’ with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her?” Trump tweeted. “Rigged system, or just a double standard?”

Trump’s return to the “rigged” system rhetoric reflects his consistent political strategy of seeking enemies against which to define himself. It also plays into the suspicions of his supporters by casting himself as a outsider innocent of wrongdoing who is being persecuted by an elite establishment which has gamed Washington power for itself.
But it also has serious implications for the Mueller probe.

It’s possible that the former FBI director concludes that there was no evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign during the election, and the President did not obstruct justice in the firing of his successor at the bureau James Comey.

But given the Flynn plea deal, it appears clear he has bigger targets than the former national security adviser in his sights.

In that light, attacks by Trump and the GOP on Mueller and the bureau could be an attempt to discredit any eventual conclusions that Mueller might deliver to Congress — be they favorable or unfavorable to the President.

The simultaneous political and media campaign against Mueller, meanwhile, is raising concerns that the President has embarked on an attempt to solidify his political base and frame a political rationale for supporters in Congress to oppose any eventual move toward impeachment. The idea would be that if the system of legal accountability represented by Mueller and the FBI is “rigged” and “sick,” it cannot be trusted to deliver a fair verdict on the President, a conceit that has staggering political implications.

[CNN]

Media

Watch at CNN.com

Trump Urges Voters to Pick Roy Moore Instead of ‘Liberal Jones’

With a little more than two weeks until a special election for the Senate in Alabama, President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, and reiterated his support for Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women.

“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning.

“Liberal Jones would be BAD!” he tweeted less than an hour later.

In response, the Jones campaign said Mr. Jones’s record as a prosecutor “speaks for itself.”

“Roy Moore was unfit for office before nine Alabama women served as witnesses to all Alabamians of his disturbing conduct,” Sebastian Kitchen, Mr. Jones’s spokesman, wrote in an email. “Doug Jones is continuing to focus on finding common ground and getting things done for real Alabamians.”

During the Alabama Republican primary, Mr. Trump endorsed Senator Luther Strange on Twitter, then deleted some of those tweets after Mr. Strange lost the runoff in September.

On Sunday, the president claimed that after he had supported Mr. Strange, the candidate “shot way up in the polls” — a claim he also made in September — but “it wasn’t enough.”

It has been widely reported that Mr. Strange did not advance in the polls after Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

The latest poll numbers indicate that Mr. Moore is in a tight race. Alabama historically votes Republican but the allegations against Mr. Moore have taken a toll.

Most of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct said it occurred when they were teenagers and Mr. Moore was in his 30s. He has denied the allegations.

“I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” Mr. Moore told the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

High-ranking Republicans have not been convinced.

“I believe the women,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said.

Mr. Trump, however, has remained skeptical.

“Forty years is a long time. He’s run eight races, and this has never come up,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. “He says it didn’t happen.”

[The New York Times]

Trump Defends His Cabinet of Billionaires: ‘I Just Don’t Want a Poor Person’ Running the Economy

Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to appoint cabinet members with significant personal wealth, arguing he doesn’t “want a poor person” in charge of the economy.

Trump was speaking about Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs banker the president appointed as his chief economic advisor—despite promising to “drain the swamp” during his presidency.

“I love all people,” Trump said during a campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids, IA. “Rich or poor. But in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?”

Trump has received significant criticism for his appointment of Cohn, as well as Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Although he ran on a populist platform, Trump’s cabinet has a combined net worth of $6 billion.

[Raw Story]

Trump Campaigned Against Lobbyists, But They Fill His Transition Team

Donald Trump campaigned as an outsider who vowed to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but the president-elect’s transition team is packed with veterans of the GOP establishment, as well as with lobbyists for the fossil fuel, chemical, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries.

As Trump and his aides vet nominees for his Cabinet and lay out a first 100-day agenda, they are leaning heavily on the sort of DC insiders that the billionaire railed against on the campaign trail — people who cut their teeth working for Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and former nominee Mitt Romney, as well as on the influence peddlers Trump accuses of ‘rigging’ the system against ordinary Americans.

One Republican lobbyist told POLITICO that the president-elect has no choice but to turn to GOP veterans with government experience to launch a new administration.

“Who else are you going to go to?” the lobbyist said. “Unless you get some used car salesman from Dubuque, Iowa, you go to policy people.”

To be sure, members of the transition team are not guaranteed jobs in the Trump administration — for now, they’ve been enlisted simply to assemble policy papers, vet potential nominees and develop road maps for governing. But their involvement makes it more difficult for the president-elect to portray himself as a political outsider — a development that at least some regard as positive.

“The fact that Donald Trump is reaching into the big pool of his party for some of the most highly qualified candidates is a good thing,” said one former Bush administration official. “It would be a huge mistake to not draw on that talent. I understand the campaign rhetoric. But if he’s not drawing from the Republican Party — and he’s obviously not drawing from the Democratic Party — where would he draw from?”

But some in the original band of insurgents are resentful. “The Bush crew is definitely trying to pretend that Trump’s win is not a direct repudiation of their failed administration,” said one early supporter. “I’m surprised by the hypocrisy of the whole thing.”

There’s also Ado Machida, a top domestic policy aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney; David Bernhardt, Interior Department solicitor, and James F. Manning, a senior Education official, both for the younger Bush; and Ken Blackwell, undersecretary at Housing and Urban Development, and David Malpass, deputy assistant secretary of state, both for the elder Bush.

Former Bush officials are expected to find a place in Trump’s Cabinet too. Pamela Patenaude, a potential pick to lead Housing and Urban Development, was an assistant HUD secretary under the younger Bush; and Van Hipp Jr., a former deputy assistant Army secretary for the elder Bush, is seen as a leading candidate to be Army secretary.

William Evers, a possible pick for Education Secretary, worked at the younger Bush’s Education Department; Victoria Lipnic, a candidate for Labor Secretary, worked at his Labor Department; and Robert Grady, who served the elder Bush, is seen as a candidate to lead Interior, Energy, EPA or the Office of Management and Budget.

Trump’s transition team is also flush with lobbyists, raising questions about the president-elect’s promises to limit the influence of lobbyists in government.

During an October speech in Wisconsin, Trump vowed to “make our government honest once again.” He pledged to ask Congress to ban executive branch officials from lobbying the government for five years after they return to the private sector and to issue a similar five-year ban on former lawmakers and their staffs. He also proposed a lifetime ban on senior executive branch officials lobbying for foreign governments. And he said he would “close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants and advisers when we all know they are lobbyists.”

But his transition team includes lobbyists who represent powerful corporate interests, according to an organization chart obtained by POLITICO and lobby disclosure filings:

Cindy Hayden of tobacco giant, Altria, is in charge of Trump’s Homeland Security team.

J. Steven Hart, chairman of Williams & Jensen, is in charge of the Labor team. His clients include Visa, the American Council of Life Insurers, Anthem, Cheniere Energy, Coca-Cola, General Electric, PhRMA and United Airlines.

Michael McKenna of MWR Strategies, who is working on the Energy Department team, lobbies for Engie (formerly GDF Suez), Southern Company and Dow Chemical.

David Bernhardt of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who leads the Interior Department team, lobbies for the Westlands Water District in central California and used to represent Freeport LNG and Rosemont Copper.

Michael Torrey, who has the Agriculture Department portfolio, has his own firm representing the American Beverage Association and the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau.

Mike Catanzaro of CGCN Group, lobbies for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a refining group, as well as Hess, Encana, Noble Energy and Devon Energy. Catanzaro is working on energy independence, along with Mike Ference, a lobbyist at the firm S-3 Group, representing Halliburton, Koch Industries and Marathon Oil.

Rolf Lundberg, who’s tasked with trade reform, worked at the Chamber of Commerce until 2013 and spun off his own lobbying firm representing Choice Hotels and the International Franchise Association.

Jim Carter, who oversees tax reform, is an in-house lobbyist for manufacturing company Emerson.

Transportation and infrastructure is being led by Martin Whitmer, the founder partner of lobbying firm Whitmer & Worrall who represents the American Association of Railroads, the National Asphalt Pavement Association and the Utilities Technology Council.

It is not known whether Trump will allow former lobbyists to serve in his administration — instead of simply limiting what they do after leaving government. Unlike Trump, Hillary Clinton’s transition team banned lobbyists altogether and made staff sign a code of ethics requiring transition officials to recuse themselves from working on any issue on which they have lobbied in the past year.

A person close to Trump’s transition told POLITICO that he has not heard any discussion about limiting the role of lobbyists in Trump’s administration.

“When you lock lobbyists out, you’re really handcuffing yourself,” the person said. “It looks good on paper and it sounds good … But you’re cheating yourself and really limiting the talent pool.”

Indeed, even Obama had trouble keeping lobbyists out of government. The president issued several waivers permitting former lobbyists to work in his administration. Some Democrats privately acknowledge such limits are important symbolically, but are difficult to enforce.

“It is a big error to sweep with a broad brush when it comes to lobbyists,” said another former Bush administration official, “because some of the most seasoned and capable people able to responsibly pull the levers of government are among the lobbying ranks. To deprive yourself from that skill set is a mistake.”

Trump’s decision to rely on veterans of all stripes comes as a relief for many in the establishment.

“Look I don’t want his administration filled with Breitbart and Ann Coulter — those kind of folks,” said Peter Wehner, who served in the last three GOP administrations and who has been an outspoken Trump critic. “I hope for the sake of the country that he gets competent people in place who know how to run the government because he has no earthly idea what to do. I’m sure he’s in the process of figuring out that the presidency is not a reality television show.”

A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

(h/t Politico)

Reality

Trump supporters, say hello to your first of many broken campaign promises.