Trump says he will deploy military if state officials can’t contain protest violence

As the sound of sirens wailed and flash bangs popped across the street, President Donald Trump announced from the Rose Garden that he would use the U.S. military to stop the riots across the county that have been sparked by the death of George Floyd.

“I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law abiding Americans,” Trump said in the extraordinary address, which was delivered as police fired tear gas outside to push protesters back from the White House.

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said, referring to himself as “your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”

To activate the military to operate in the U.S., Trump would have to invoke the 213-year-old Insurrection Act, which four people familiar with the decision had told NBC News he planned to do.

The military police forces would come from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and possibly Fort Belvoir in Virginia and could arrive in Washington within hours, these people said.

Trump’s decision to invoke the act, adopted in 1807, to deploy troops comes as his frustrations mount over the protests that have followed the death of Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody last week in Minneapolis. The people familiar with his decision said Trump was angry Sunday night at the destruction protestors caused in Washington, particularly the vandalization of national monuments.

Some of the president’s aides have been encouraging him for days to invoke the act, as he weighs options for exercising executive powers to address the crisis. The act was last invoked during the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

Trump’s remarks came hours after he urged the nation’s governors to get “tough” with unruly demonstrators. “Most of you are weak,” he told them, according to audio of the call obtained by NBC News. “You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time, they’re gonna run over you, you’re gonna look like a bunch of jerks,” the president said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the president’s plans but at a briefing with reporters Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany left open the possibility that the president could invoke the act.

“The Insurrection Act, it’s one of the tools available, whether the president decides to pursue that, that’s his prerogative,“ McEnany said.

Governors can ask that the federal government send active duty troops to help in cases of civil unrest like the widespread protests plaguing U.S. cities over the last several days. But, so far, no governor has requested active duty troops to assist and instead they have relied on local law enforcement and National Guard soldiers and airmen on state active duty.

Governors often prefer the National Guard forces in these cases because they can legally perform law enforcement duties in the U.S., whereas troops on active duty cannot without violating the Posse Comitatus Act, a 1878 law that prohibits the government from using military forces to act as a police force within U.S. borders.

But the president could invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty troops without a request from a governor. Those troops would be allowed to conduct law enforcement missions. To invoke the act, Trump would first have to issue a proclamation to “immediately order the insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their abodes within a limited time,” according to the law.

In the past the Justice Department has drafted such proclamations. And according to the Congressional Research Service, the act has been invoked many times throughout U.S. history, although rarely since the 1960s civil rights era. When it was invoked in 1992 during the Los Angeles riots, the move was requested by then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, not invoked solely by President George H.W. Bush.

The Defense Department declined to comment on the possibility that the president could invoke the act.

One of Trump’s allies outside the White House, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., urged Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act “if necessary” so U.S. troops can “support our local law enforcement and ensure that this violence ends tonight.”

[NBC News]

Trump calls governors facing unrest ‘weak’ and ‘fools,’ urges stronger police tactics

President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at governors during a White House videoconference, telling them that “most of you are weak” after states grappled with another night of anger and unrest following the killing of George Floyd last week.

In audio of the call obtained by NBC News, Trump berated governors for their response to the protests, repeatedly criticizing New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and urged law enforcement to crack down and make more arrests.

“You have to arrest people, you have to try people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,” Trump said on the call.

Trump called the governors “fools” and expressed anger with Democratic mayors in particular over the protests and unrest ravaging cities nationwide. He was described by one person on the call as “losing it.”

“You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time, they’re gonna run over you, you’re gonna look like a bunch of jerks,” the president said.

The president also called the initial response in Minnesota “weak and pathetic” and called the state a “laughingstock all over the world.”

Trump focused primarily on “antifa,” or anti-fascists, and Occupy Wall Street, which he said was handled well by comparison.

“This is like Occupy Wall Street. It was a disaster. Until one day somebody said, that’s enough,” Trump said.

Attorney General Bill Barr told the governors that the Justice Department believes protestors are heading to other states with less of a law enforcement presence “where they can go and overwhelm the local police forces.” Barr said there needs to be a focus on stopping “professional instigators and the leadership group.”

During the call, Trump claimed to have intelligence showing who the “bad actors” and professional instigators are, though he did not elaborate.

Trump also asked states to enact laws against flag burning saying the federal government would back them up if they did.

The White House billed the event as a “video teleconference with governors, law enforcement, and national security officials on keeping American communities safe.”

Several governors pushed back on Trump’s narrative, including J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat, who told Trump he was “extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that’s been used by you. It’s been inflammatory.”

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, also a Democrat, said she was concerned about the president visiting her state this week because of security issues. Trump later said that the governor’s concerns made it more likely he would go to the state.

“You know, she’s tried to talk me out of it, I think she probably talked me into it,” Trump said. “She just doesn’t understand me very well.”

Maine is home to Puritan Medical Products, the company the administration compelled through the Defense Production Act to produce coronavirus testing swabs.

Maine is home to Puritan Medical Products, the company the administration compelled through the Defense Production Act to produce coronavirus testing swabs.

Trump’s response to the unrest has been to call for stronger law enforcement rather than calling for calm or addressing the concerns about police brutality and racism that many protestors say drove them to come out. Critics say an escalation in force would exacerbate already high tensions between protestors and the police.

After another night of protests led to fires and vandalism blocks from the White House, Trump spent Monday morning on Twitter blaming the unrest on antifa and accusing staffers of former Vice President Joe Biden of “working to get the anarchists out of jail.”

Trump had no public events scheduled for Monday, after not appearing in public on Sunday.

Trump’s advisers have been divided over what role the president should take in responding to the widest unrest the country has seen in decades. Some say the president should focus his message on Floyd, the black man who died last week at the hands of Minneapolis police, and urge calm.

Others say the top priority is stopping the violence and looting that have taken place in some areas, arguing that the best path to that end is strong police tactics, not presidential speeches.

[NBC News]

Media

Trump says Sessions wasn’t ‘mentally qualified’ to be attorney general

President Trump said in a new interview that Jeff Sessions wasn’t “mentally qualified” to be attorney general and was a “disaster” while in office. 

The president told Sharyl Attkisson that Sessions “should have never” held the position.

“Jeff Sessions was a disaster as attorney general,” Trump said during the “Full Measure” interview, which aired on Sunday morning. “He’s not mentally qualified to be attorney general. He was the biggest problem.”

Trump’s remarks escalated an ongoing feud between the president and Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama who as attorney general recused himself from the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. 

On Saturday, the president formally endorsed college football coach Tommy Tuberville, who is challenging Sessions’s bid to return to the Senate, citing the recusal.

Sessions responded on Twitter, saying, “I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did.”

“It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration,” he posted. “Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do.”

Sessions and Tuberville will compete in a July 14 runoff after a close Republican primary election in March. The Republicans seek to unseat Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who took over Sessions’s seat in a 2017 special election.

Trump fired Sessions in November 2018 and told NBC News’s “Meet the Press” last year that Sessions would be his only “do-over” as president.

[The Hill]

Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who told Congress about whistleblower complaint that led to impeachment

President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN.

Atkinson will leave his job in 30 days, Trump told the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and he has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, according to a congressional source.

Trump did not name a permanent successor.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

The announcement that he’s firing Atkinson late on a Friday night comes as the President is dealing with a worldwide pandemic from the novel coronavirus, which has consumed his presidency since the end of the impeachment trial only two months ago. Trump has faced widespread criticism for the federal government’s response to the outbreak, and has said the impeachment trial “probably did” distract him from responding to the virus’ outbreak during the trial in January and early February.

Atkinson’s firing is the latest case of the Trump administration removing officials who took part in the President’s impeachment. Trump also removed Alexander Vindman, a then-National Security Council official who had testified in the House’s proceedings, along with Vindman’s twin brother, both of whom were reassigned out of the NSC, and fired then-US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Other officials, including then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and her acting successor, Bill Taylor, left the Trump administration after the impeachment proceedings.

Trump also fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017 while the FBI was investigating the President.

The congressional source said that Atkinson was informed on Friday evening that Trump had fired him. The statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires that both intelligence committees be notified 30 days before the inspector general can be dismissed, so Trump could not immediately remove Atkinson — he could only place him on leave until the 30 days pass.

Top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees blasted the move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in statement that Trump must “immediately cease his attacks on those who sacrifice to keep America safe, particularly during this time of national emergency.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who led the House’s impeachment investigation, said the firing was “another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”

“This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” Schiff said in a statement.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was “all too familiar a pattern in this administration.”
“When you speak truth to power, you should be a hero. But in this administration, when you speak truth to power, all too often, you get fired,” Schumer told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.

Atkinson — a career, nonpartisan official — came under fire from the President’s allies last year for alerting lawmakers to the then-unknown whistleblower complaint, which Congress later learned was an allegation that Trump had sought dirt on his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine’s President while withholding US security aid from Kiev.
The allegation sparked a House impeachment inquiry that detailed the quid pro quo effort and led to Trump’s impeachment in December on two articles. The Senate acquitted Trump on both charges in February.

One of the former attorneys for the anonymous whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj, told CNN the firing of ICIG Michael Atkinson was not unexpected yet still “disheartening” and “pretty clearly retaliation” for his role in transmitting the initial complaint to Congress.

“I think Atkinson was quite honorable and acted with integrity. The way he handled himself underscored his independence and neutrality. Not all IG’s have historically done that,” said Bakaj, who no longer represents the whistleblower after they hired new legal counsel earlier this year. “In this case you have an individual who got an allegation, did an investigation and came to an independent conclusion. This is truly a loss to the IG community and also a shot across the bow for any future whistleblowers from coming forward.”
Bakaj said Atkinson “had the courage to do what was right” when he shared the whistleblower complaint with Congress despite clashing with his then-boss, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, over whether it rose to the level of “urgent concern.”

After the whistleblower complaint was shared with Congress, Atkinson testified before the intelligence committees, explaining how he had attempted to corroborate the complaint in order to determine it was credible and should be shared with Congress. Maguire initially pushed back on that recommendation, but the White House ultimately relented and released the complaint.
Bakaj told CNN that Atkinson’s replacement was ultimately expected and, in some ways, serves as a “bookend” for the impeachment saga. “The door is finally closed,” he said, adding that he was alerted that Trump had been planning to fire Atkinson for some time.

Maguire formally resigned from US government service in February after Trump made it clear he would not be nominated for the job full time, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Other top intelligence officials also have recently left the administration, after Trump picked US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to replace Maguire as acting director of national intelligence. Russ Travers, who was head of the National Counterterrorism Center, was fired last month by Grenell in a move that was seen as a removal of someone not perceived as loyal enough.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine issued statements later Saturday on Atkinson’s removal.
“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive. However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure,” said Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is my hope the next nominee for the role of ICIG will uphold the same important standards laid out by Congress when we created this role.”

Grassley said that “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence,” adding, “More details are needed from the administration.”

“The intelligence community inspector general is particularly essential to ensuring the nation’s secrets are well protected and powerful, highly invasive surveillance authorities are not abused. Going forward the ICIG must step up its focus on investigating those abuses and preventing leaks of classified information,” he said.

Collins noted that Trump followed established procedure by notifying Congress 30 days prior to the removal of the inspector general along with the reasons for the removal in line with The Inspector General Reform Act. But she added that she “did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” Collins said.

Tom Monheim, a career intelligence official, will be the acting intelligence community inspector general, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

[CNN]

Trump says he’s ‘strongly considering’ a full pardon for Michael Flynn

President Donald Trump said Sunday he is “strongly considering” a full pardon of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It was unclear what sparked Trump’s tweet Sunday, which came amid the coronavirus outbreak. Trump said “it is reported that” the FBI and the Justice Department “lost” records related to Flynn. Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, has accused the FBI of tampering with the interview notes of her client.

The Justice Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about what Trump was referring to.

Although he pleaded guilty in late 2017, admitting he lied to the FBI about conversations during the Trump transition period with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Flynn has sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging FBI misconduct. That has delayed his sentencing hearing, which had been scheduled to take place Feb. 27.

Last month, NBC News reported that the Justice Department had opened an inquiry into the FBI’s interview of Flynn while he briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser.

Attorney General William Barr asked the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen, to review the matter, people familiar with the inquiry said.

In October, Trump tweeted that Flynn’s prosecution was “a disgrace.” Earlier last year, he asked “why was I not told” about Flynn’s being under investigation sooner “so that I could make a change?”

Barr’s efforts to take a heavier role in matters within the Justice Department that are of personal interest to the president, including the Flynn case and the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone, have come under scrutiny in recent months. Barr is set to testify later this month in front of the House Judiciary Committee about his personal involvement in cases relating to allies of the president (it’s unclear whether the coronavirus outbreak will delay the hearing).

Trump’s tweet Sunday comes nearly a month after he granted clemency to a series of people. He commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was serving a lengthy prison term on corruption charges. Trump also pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison after pleading guilty to felony charges, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

[NBC News]

Trump complains he can’t execute drug dealers after ‘quick trials’ like they do in China

President Donald Trump on Tuesday complained that he can’t oversee the quick execution of drug dealers — and suggested that the United States should start taking its cues from China.

During a talk at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, Trump said that authoritarian dictatorships do a better job of stopping illicit drug use in their countries because defendants don’t have all the constitutional protections that they’re entitled to in the United States.

“You go into China, you say, ‘How’s your drug problem,’ they don’t even know, President Xi doesn’t even know what you’re talking about!” the president said. “They have quick trials, and I won’t even tell you what the punishment is, but let me just say it’s very swift.”

The president then said he didn’t believe American citizens were ready to be “tough” on drug dealers like China was.

“I just don’t know whether or not this country is ready for that, but the only countries that don’t have drug problems are countries where the retribution is unbelievably tough,” the president said.

[Raw Story]

Trump accuses Supreme Court justices of bias in first direct attack as president

President Donald Trump on Tuesday demanded that two sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from all Trump-related matters, insisting without evidence that they have treated him unfairly.

“While ‘elections have consequences’, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!” Trump said in a pair of tweets posted from Delhi, India, where he was completing a state visit 7,000 miles from Washington.

Trump singled out Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – both appointed by Democratic presidents — for comments he alleged reflect animus toward him. “Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related, matters!” he said.

The tweets are the first time Trump has directly attacked members of the Supreme Court by name since taking office. Justices, who are appointed for life, decide on their own when it’s appropriate to recuse from cases.

The criticism comes one month before the court will consider the legality of subpoenas for Trump’s financial records and as the justices weigh rulings on major Trump administration policies, including the cancellation of DACA. It also follows reportsthat Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Virginia has been closely advising the president and top aides on ensuring White House staff are loyal to Trump.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the justices have no comment.

In his tweets, the president cites a Fox News report that claims Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently “accused GOP appointed justices of being biased in favor of Trump.”

“This is a terrible thing to say,” Trump said in his tweet. Sotomayor, in fact, has not leveled such a pointed accusation.

Legal experts said statements attributed to Sotomayor and others by Justice Ruth Ginsburg do not meet the recusal standard applied to all federal judges.

The extraordinary exchange stems from a narrow Supreme Court decision issued Feb. 21 lifting a lower court hold on the Trump administration’s new “public charge rule” for immigrants in the state of Illinois.

The court’s conservative majority offered no explanation for allowing the policy to take effect as legal challenges continue; Justice Sotomayor dissented in a seven-page statement.

“Perhaps most troublingly,” she writes, “the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others.”

While clearly passionate in her objection, Sotomayor never names Trump or the administration, instead referring to “the Government” as is customary.

“This Court often permits executions—where the risk of irreparable harm is the loss of life—to proceed, justifying many of those decisions on purported failures ‘to raise any potentially meritorious claims in a timely manner,’” she writes in the dissent. “Yet the Court’s concerns over quick decisions wither when prodded by the Government in far less compelling circumstances.”

Sotomayor’s position is consistent with her long running and much publicized views that her colleagues often too quickly dismisses appeals from death row inmates and inconsistently address nationwide injunctions issued by lower courts.

She concludes, “I respectfully dissent.”

The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump had read Sotomayor’s opinion or only the Fox News characterization of it and why he believes Sotomayor was trying to “shame some into voting her way” as he alleged on Twitter.

The president also revived criticism of Justice Ginsburg who had referred to Trump as a “faker” during the 2016 campaign. She later apologized.

“She went wild during the campaign when I was running,” Trump said of Ginsburg during a press conference in India. “I don’t know who she was for. Perhaps she was for Hillary Clinton, if you can believe it.”

None of the justices has publicly revealed his or her votes during the 2016 presidential election.

“The idea being advanced by President Trump – that a justice becomes conflicted if she disagrees with the executive branch’s legal strategy or constitutional theory – is not only wrong but also degrading to the independence of our judiciary,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

“The notion that a dissent like Justice Sotomayor’s could somehow be construed as an invalid attempt to shame other justices into coming to different conclusions would come as a surprise to many jurists throughout the country and throughout American history,” he said.

[ABC News]

Trump rants about the crimes he alleges Rosie O’Donnell has committed

During a wide ranging tirade at a rally in Las Vegas this Friday, President Trump ripped into what he sees as the unfair application of the law against people who support him and those who are against him.

At one point, Trump turned his focus to comedian Rosie O’Donnell, referencing the alleged illegally over-sized campaign donations she allegedly made to at least five Democratic federal candidates back in 2018.

According to Trump, O’Donnell violated campaign finance laws “as badly as anybody I’ve ever seen, and nothing happens to her.”

“Rosie O’Donnell — that was a massive violation of the campaign finance laws, but Dinesh D’Souza, they wanted to put him in jail … for doing something that was really understandable,” he continued. “Rosie O’Donnell, five times — what she did is incredible, nothing happens.”

[Raw Story]

Reality

Dinesh D’Souza willingly exceeded donation limits by making his lover (ewww) and assistant donate to a Republican campaign and paid them back. Rosie O’Donnell did what many donors do, give a donation and expect the campaign to reimburse any money over the maximum.

Media

Trump declares himself the ‘chief law-enforcement officer of the United States’

President Donald Trump falsely designated himself the “chief law-enforcement officer of the United States” while speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

Attorney General William Barr is the chief law-enforcement officer of the US.

The president also acknowledged that he makes Barr’s job more difficult, referring to Barr’s remark last week that Trump’s tweets make it “impossible” for him to do his job.

“I do make his job harder,” Trump told reporters. “I do agree with that.” He added that he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.

Barr made waves last week when he told ABC News in an exclusive interview that the president’s tweeting put him in a tough spot.

“I’m going to do what I think is right,” Barr said. “And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said, adding that they “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

Most recently, Barr and senior leadership overrode the sentencing recommendation that career prosecutors handling the federal case against Trump’s associate Roger Stone made to a court last week. The announcement came after Trump tweeted that the initial sentencing recommendation was “horrible” and “unfair” to Stone.

The next day, Trump congratulated Barr for deciding to overrule the prosecutors, all of whom withdrew from the case or resigned altogether after senior DOJ leadership rebuked their recommendation.

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” the president tweeted.

But Barr told ABC News that he had already decided to ask for a lesser sentence in Stone’s case before Trump tweeted.

The attorney general also said his main responsibility was to make sure the DOJ is free from political interference.

“And I have done that, and I will continue to do that,” Barr said.

Barr’s comments raised questions and prompted immediate skepticism, especially given that he has repeatedly capitulated to the president’s public demands since taking over as attorney general.

In addition to Stone, senior DOJ officials also intervened in the government’s case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn at Barr’s direction. And the attorney general recently appointed an outside prosecutor to review the charges against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI after his lawyer repeatedly pressured Barr to overturn the case, claiming it was a “miscarriage of justice.”

Barr also announced that the DOJ was setting up an “intake process” to vet the information that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani collects from Ukraine against former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s 2020 Democratic rivals.

The announcement was perplexing, given that Giuliani is under investigation by the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York over his efforts to get foreign dirt on Biden.

The DOJ said in a letter to Congress the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York was coordinating “several open matters” related to the Ukraine controversy and that the US attorney in Pittsburgh would vet new information from Ukraine that comes from the public, including Giuliani.

[Business Insider]

Trump Got Tons of Campaign Cash Before Handing Out Pardon

President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 11 people, including several convicted felons who are either Fox News regulars or have been championed by the president’s favorite cable-news network. And in another case, the family of one pardon recipient dished out massive contributions to the president’s re-election campaign just months before Trump’s clemency spree.

Among those granted pardons or sentence commutations were former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat; former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced to four years in 2010 for tax fraud and lying to the feds; and Michael Milken, the “junk-bonds king” whose early-’90s insider-trading conviction made him a poster boy of white-collar crime.

Unsurprisingly, a key influence that led to Trump’s decision, particularly as it related to Blagojevich, was Fox News. The same could partly be said of the decision on Kerik, a frequent Fox News guest whose pardon was backed by several of the network’s stars; Milken, whose pardon was supported by Fox Business Network host and Trump loyalist Maria Bartiromo; and Angela Stanton, an occasional pro-Trump TV pundit whose pardon was pushed by frequent Fox News guest and evangelical leader Alveda King.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump made the Fox News connection abundantly clear, telling reporters that he decided to commute the rest of Blagojevich’s sentence because he’d seen the ex-governor’s wife Patti Blagojevich pleading her husband’s case on Fox.

“I watched his wife on television,” Trump declared, adding that he didn’t know the ex-governor “very well” despite Blagojevich’s appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice years ago.

In mid-2018, the president repeatedly asked close advisers to explore a Blagojevich pardon and, while doing so, emphatically referenced clips he’d seen on Fox, including a segment on informal Trump adviser Jeanine Pirro’s weekend show, according to two sources who independently discussed the matter with the president at the time.

According to liberal media-watchdog Media Matters for America, Patti Blagojevich took to Fox programming in April 2018 to push for her husband’s sentence to be reduced, making at least seven appearances on some of Trump’s favorite primetime shows such as Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle.

The hosts, meanwhile, didn’t even bother with subtlety during the interviews. For instance, Tucker Carlson asked Mrs. Blagojevich what she would say “if you could speak to the president.” 

Kerik, meanwhile, has been a frequent guest of Fox News primetime programming for several years, generally offering on-air criticism of how Democrats handle New York City’s police department and criminal justice in general.

In what can generously be described as ironic, Kerik appeared the evening before his pardon on Tucker Carlson Tonight to rail against bail reform in New York while urging for harsher punishment for criminals, claiming crime was down when the police department increased arrests for “jumping turnstiles” and other low-level misdemeanors.

Kerik has also been used as a Trump-friendly critic of the so-called “deep state” on Fox News airwaves, at one point advocating for the arrest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for trying to carry out an “attempted coup” of Trump with the whistleblower complaint and impeachment inquiry.

According to the White House, Kerik’s pardon was supported by Fox News stars like Geraldo Rivera and Judge Andrew Napolitano. Additionally, the administration said, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani—a frequent Fox News commentator and Kerik’s one-time boss—backed the decision.

Pirro, meanwhile, celebrated Kerik’s pardon and Blagojevich’s commutation on Twitter, personally thanking the president while declaring that “political prosecutions have no place in this country.”

The pro-Trump Fox News star, who brushed off Blagojevich’s crimes as “just practicing politics” in an April 2018 interview with Patti Blagojevich, has something of a sordid history with Kerik. Back in 2006, Pirro—who was then running as a Republican for New York attorney general—admitted she asked Kerik to bug her then-husband’s boat to see if he was having an affair after federal prosecutors began investigating whether she and Kerik illegally taped conversations.

While junk-bond king Michael Milken is not a Fox News regular by any measure, his pardon was backed by Bartiromo, yet another Fox star who has morphed into an unofficial mouthpiece of and adviser to President Trump. 

Additionally, Angela Stanton, who was pardoned for her role in a stolen luxury-vehicle ring, has appeared on Fox News as a pro-Trump commentator—much like her godmother Alveda King, who backed her pardon—often arguing that Democrats want more poor women of color to have abortions.

Appearances on Fox News and Fox Business—two of Trump’s favorite networks—are popular vessels for those seeking to make their cases for pardons or clemency directly to the president, a voracious consumer of TV and cable news.

The most prominent example was the sustained, successful on-air and behind-the-scenes campaign on Fox to lobby Trump to grant clemency to accused and convicted American war criminals. Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth was a ringleader of that highly controversial effort.

“[Trump] knows how people play this game,” said one source close to the president. “He’s even told me before something to the effect of, ‘All these people keep getting themselves on Fox News begging me for a pardon,’ so he’s self-conscious about this stuff. But it doesn’t matter, it still has an effect on him.”

For those who didn’t receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking. Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president.

According to FEC filings, Pogue’s family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Committee. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue—CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue—and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign.

In August alone, Ben Pogue donated $85,000 to Trump Victory while Ashleigh Pogue contributed $50,000 that month. The following month, Ben Pogue made an in-kind air travel contribution of $75,404.40. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.

On the day of their first donation to the Trump campaign, Ashleigh posted an Instagram photo of her and her husband posing with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at the Hamptons.

Prior to the Pogues’ sudden significant donating spree to Trump and the Republicans, the couple was not seen as big campaign spenders, having donated a few thousand dollars for Paul Ryan’s congressional campaign in 2017 and $5,400 for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2016 Republican presidential run.

Notably, one of the advocates for Pogue’s clemency: Santorum, who is now a CNN contributor.

[The Daily Beast]

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