Trump says NFL players who kneel during national anthem ‘maybe shouldn’t be in the country’

Taking a knee during the national anthem during a National Football League game should “maybe” be a deportable offense, President Donald Trump appeared to say in an interview that aired Thursday morning.

Speaking just moments after the NFL announced that all players who are on the field when the national anthem is heard before a game must stand and show respect — or can choose to remain in the locker room without penalty — Trump praised the new policy but also said it didn’t go far enough in punishing players who might continue to take a knee during the anthem.

“Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said in a wide-ranging sit-down with “Fox and Friends” that took place Wednesday but wasn’t aired until Thursday.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners did the right thing,” he added.

Under the new policy, teams will be subject to a fine if a player does not comply.

The NFL had previously suggested that players should stand, but it stopped short of enforcing fines. The new policy says clubs can still develop their own work rules for players and personnel who don’t stand, but they must be “consistent with the above principles.” That means teams could choose to pass along fines to players.

The controversy over players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” has raged since 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback with the 49ers, first refused to stand as a lone protest against police brutality, particularly against black Americans, and racial oppression. Protests expanded, prompting Trump to criticize the the kneeling as “disgraceful.”

Trump, in the interview with Fox, took credit for creating the issue but said it was “the people” who “pushed it forward.”

“I think the people pushed it forward, not me. I brought it out. it could have been taken care of when it first started,” he said.

Trump, in his interview, also discussed immigration, the MS-13 gang and his decision last year to fire former FBI Director James Comey.

“I’ve done done a great service for the country by firing him,” Trump claimed.

The president, who spoke to the network Wednesday following a roundtable discussion on MS-13 and immigration in New York, added that he would not consider an immigration bill that did not include provisions to build his border wall.

“Unless it includes a wall, I mean a real wall … there will be no approvals from me,” Trump said. He said he was “watching one or two” of the bills that are expected to be voted on in the House, following an expected forced vote process by moderate Republicans known as a discharge petition.

The petition would force a vote on bipartisan legislation unveiled in March that would allow for the consideration of four different proposals, including: a conservative immigration bill proposed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; a bipartisan version of the Dream Act; and a bipartisan bill to protect people covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while enhancing border security.

Trump, however, said, “it’s time to get the whole package,” referring to his desire that any immigration deal include not only money for his wall and protections people covered by DACA, but also increased border security measures like ending so-called “chain migration.”

[NBC News]

Trump Quotes ‘Fox & Friends’ in Claim Ex-CIA Director Could Go to Jail for Starting Russia Investigation

President Donald Trump quoted a conservative radio host who appeared on Fox & FriendsMonday morning for an attack on former CIA director John Brennan. The slamming of Brennan appeared to be in response to him challenging Republican leadership Sunday following Trump’s “demand” for the Justice Department to investigate whether his campaign was “infiltrated or surveilled” for “political purposes” or if any Obama administration officials had directed such an inquiry.

The president, who often cites information he’s viewed on Fox News’ morning program, took three tweets to sum up the accusations made by Dan Bongino about Brennan, who the former Secret Service agent called “disgraced” and “largely responsible for the destruction of Americans faith in the intelligence community…”

“John Brennan is panicking. He has disgraced himself, he has disgraced the Country, he has disgraced the entire Intelligence Community,” Trump tweeted citing Bongino. “He is the one man who is largely responsible for the destruction of American’s faith in the Intelligence Community and in some people at the top of the FBI. Brennan started this entire debacle about President Trump.”

Trump continued, quoting Bongino: “We now know that Brennan had detailed knowledge of the (phony) Dossier…he knows about the Dossier, he denies knowledge of the Dossier, he briefs the Gang of 8 on the Hill about the Dossier, which they then used to start an investigation about Trump. It is that simple. This guy is the genesis of this whole Debacle. This was a Political hit job, this was not an Intelligence Investigation. Brennan has disgraced himself, he’s worried about staying out of Jail.”

The president has in recent days increased his attacks on the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, exactly what one of his personal attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, said would happen at the one-year anniversary of Robert Mueller’s appointment.

Over the weekend, Trump referenced a New York Times report that detailed how his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., had met with a representative for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in August 2016. Like a Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr. and other campaign representatives two months prior, they too were offering to help the Trump campaign.

“The Witch Hunt finds no Collusion with Russia – so now they’re looking at the rest of the World. Oh’ great!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

[Yahoo News]

The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual

Since the fall, the US Department of Justice has been overhauling its manual for federal prosecutors.

In: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies. Out: A section titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial.” References to the department’s work on racial gerrymandering are gone. Language about limits on prosecutorial power has been edited down.

The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media.

Not all changes are substantive: Long paragraphs have been split up, outdated contacts lists have been updated, and citations to repealed laws have been removed.

The “US Attorneys’ Manual” is something of a misnomer. Federal prosecutors in US attorney offices across the country use it, but so do other Justice Department — often referred to as “Main Justice” — lawyers. The manual features high-level statements about department policies and priorities as well as practical guidance on every facet of legal work that comes through the department.

The last major update to the manual was in 1997. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the DOJ’s number two official and a veteran federal prosecutor — ordered the top-to-bottom review, according to department spokesperson Ian Prior. In a March speech announcing changes to the department’s policy for enforcing certain anti-corruption laws, Rosenstein lamented the difficulty prosecutors have keeping track of policy and procedure changes when they aren’t reflected in the manual.

Some of the recent changes were publicly announced. In January, for instance, the department said it was adding a section called “Respect for Religious Liberty,” directing prosecutors to alert senior officials about lawsuits filed against the US government “raising any significant question concerning religious liberty” and articulating “Principles of Religious Liberty” that Sessions laid out in an earlier memo.

Most changes haven’t been publicly announced, though, which is common practice, according to former DOJ officials who spoke with BuzzFeed News. US attorney offices have been notified of the significant changes so far, and notice will go out when the review is done, Prior said. The public version of the manual online notes when individual sections were last updated.

The Justice Department declined to comment on specific changes. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Prior said the manual is meant to be a “quick and ready reference” for lawyers, not “an exhaustive list of constitutional rights, statutory law, regulatory law, or generalized principles of our legal system.”

“While sections of the USAM have changed over time, the last comprehensive review and update of the USAM occurred twenty years ago. During that time, policies have changed or become outdated, and leadership memos were issued without being incorporated into the USAM. As part of the effort to consolidate policies into a useful one-stop-shop of litigation-related documents for the Department, the Deputy Attorney General ordered a thorough, department wide review of the USAM,” Prior said. “The purpose of that review is to identify redundant sections and language, areas that required greater clarity, and any content that needed to be added to help Department attorneys perform core prosecutorial functions.”

The review is taking place while the Justice Department is still missing several Senate-confirmed officials, including heads of the Criminal Division, the Civil Division, the Civil Rights Division, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Nominees for those posts are waiting for a final vote in the Senate. Trump has yet to announce a nominee for associate attorney general, the department’s third-ranking official, following the February departure of Rachel Brand. Prior said that the review process has included career attorneys from across the department.

Sections of the manual that dealt with a variety of personnel and administrative issues, many of which are explained in other internal department documents or are included in federal statutes and regulations, were removed. Those sections included language about what happens when a US attorney spot is vacant, policies for securing and paying witnesses, and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

BuzzFeed News compared the latest version of the manual with earlier versions saved via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

[Buzzfeed]

Trump: FBI raid on Cohen ‘a disgrace’

President Trump on Monday blasted the FBI for raiding the office of his personal attorney Michael Cohen, calling it a “disgrace” and a “pure and simple witch hunt.”

“It’s a real disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House as Vice President Mike Pence, national security adviser John Bolton and other officials looked on. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

Trump also took aim at the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who reportedly made the referral that led to the raid, calling his team “the most biased group of people” for refusing to investigate 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The president was clearly angry and frustrated at the raid, which reportedly seized records on topics that included a $130,000 payment Cohen made to the porn star who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The

Speaking with his arms folded and shoulders slumped, Trump brought up the raid unprompted during a previously scheduled meeting with military leaders to discuss the apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. He used the word “disgrace” to describe it at least five times.

The fiery comments from Trump immediately led to speculation that the FBI raid on Cohen’s office could lead Trump to fire Mueller, a step lawmakers in both parties have repeatedly warned the president would lead to a constitutional crisis.

“We’ll see what happens. … Many people have said ‘you should fire him,’ ” Trump said when asked if he will ax Mueller. “Again, they found nothing and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”

[The Hill]

Media

Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”

It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.

The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.

“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” according to the statement. DHS agencies have “a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners,” it said.

The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.

The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through “fake news.” Nineteen lawmakers including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, asking whether Qatar-based Al Jazeera should register as a foreign agent because it “often directly undermines” U.S. interests with favorable coverage of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The DHS request says the selected vendor will set up an online “media influence database” giving users the ability to browse based on location, beat, and type of influence. For each influencer found, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”

A department spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment.

Responses are due April 13. Seven companies, mainly minority- or women-owned small businesses, have already expressed interest in becoming a vendor for the contract, according to the FedBizOpps web site.

[Bloomberg]

Trump officials caught seeking State Department purge

Two top House Democrats allege that high-level political appointees in the State Department and senior White House officials have worked with conservative activists to purge from the agency career officials deemed insufficiently loyal to President Trump.

A letter sent Thursday to White House chief of staff John Kelly and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan alleges that political appointees at the State Department have characterized career officials in “derogatory terms.”

Among the descriptors used for certain career officials were “a leaker and a troublemaker” and a “turncoat,” the letter from Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) reads, citing documents obtained from a whistleblower.

Those documents also contain communications with high-profile conservative activists, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and David Wurmser, a former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In one email forwarded by Gingrich to Trump-appointed officials at the State Department, Wurmser wrote that “a cleaning is in order here,” apparently referring to removing career employees believed to be disloyal to Trump.

“I hear [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson actually has been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind,” Wurmser wrote.

The allegations highlight what critics have said is Trump and his aides’ intense concern about loyalty within the government, particularly in the State Department. The president and his allies have in the past suggested the existence of a “deep state” bent on undermining his agenda.

The State Department has seen a particularly significant exodus of career officials since Trump took office last year. While some of those departures were attributed to planned retirements, others have reportedly left amid dwindling morale.

The letter from Cummings and Engel points to one case, in particular — that of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh.

Nowrouzzadeh, an Iran expert and civil servant, raised concerns to her boss, Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, last year after she was targeted by an article in a conservative news outlet.

“I am and have been a career civil servant for nearly 12 years now,” she wrote in an email to Hook, noting that she began her government career under the Bush administration. “I’ve adapted my work to the policy priorities of every administration I’ve worked for.”

In the email, she asked Hook for advice on how to “correct the record.”

But Hook, according to the lawmakers’ letter, instead forwarded Nowrouzzadeh’s email to White House officials, and it later served as the basis for an internal discussion about her loyalty to the Trump administration that touched on her work on the Iran nuclear deal.

One email from Julia Haller, a White House liaison to the State Department at the time, falsely claimed that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran and alleges that she “cried when the President won” the 2016 election.

Nowrouzzadeh was eventually removed from her detail on the State Department’s policy planning staff three months early, Cummings and Engel said.

The letter requests a trove of documents and communications about the actual or proposed reassignments of career employees at the State Department related to “alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities.”

The lawmakers have asked for those materials to be turned over by March 29.

Heather Nauert, the acting undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, said on Thursday that the State Department would comply with the lawmakers’ requests, but noted that she had never witnessed any kind of disloyalty on the part of career officials at the agency.

“I have found my colleagues to be extremely professional,” Nauert said at a department press briefing. “Those on staff who have been here for many years, I have found them almost blind to politics.”

[The Hill]

Trump praises Chinese president extending tenure ‘for life’

U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping Saturday after the ruling Communist party announced it was eliminating the two-term limit for the presidency, paving the way for Xi to serve indefinitely, according to audio aired by CNN.

“He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” Trump said, according to audio of excerpts of Trump’s remarks at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida aired by CNN.“And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” Trump said to cheers and applause from supporters.

It is not clear if Trump, 71, was making the comment about extending presidential service in jest. The White House did not respond to a request for comment late Saturday.

U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat, said on Twitter that“whether this was a joke or not, talking about being President for life like Xi Jinping is the most unAmerican sentiment expressed by an American President. George Washington would roll over in his grave.”

U.S. presidents by tradition served a maximum of two four-year terms until President Franklin Roosevelt was elected a record four times starting in 1932. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution approved in 1951 limits presidents to two terms in office.

In order to change the current prohibition, it would require initial support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress or support of two-thirds of state legislatures – and then would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

China’s annual parliament gathering kicks off on Monday as Xi presses ahead with efforts to ward off financial risks without undermining the economy. The Communist party announced on Feb 25 the end of the two-term limit for the president – and the parliament is expected to ratify the move.

During the remarks, Trump praised Xi as“a great gentleman” and added:“He’s the most powerful (Chinese) president in a hundred years.” Trump said Xi had treated him“tremendously well” during his visit in November.

Trump has often praised Xi, but in January Trump told Reuters the United States was considering a big“fine” as part of a probe into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property. He has been critical of China’s trade policies.

Trump told The New York Times in December that because of North Korea he had“been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war.”

[Reuters]

Trump: ‘Take the guns first, go through due process second’

President Trump on Wednesday voiced support for confiscating guns from certain individuals deemed to be dangerous, even if it violates due process rights.

“I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time,” Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers on school safety and gun violence.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

Trump was responding to comments from Vice President Pence that families and local law enforcement should have more tools to report potentially dangerous individuals with weapons.

“Allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons,” Pence said.

“Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court,” Trump responded.

Trump met with lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss gun laws and school safety in the aftermath of a Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

The suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was able to legally purchase the AR-15 reportedly used in the shooting despite numerous calls to law enforcement about his unstable behavior.

[The Hill]

Media

CNN

Donald Trump thinks not clapping for him is ‘treasonous’

President Donald Trump wasn’t — and, apparently, still isn’t — happy that Democrats in Congress didn’t stand to applaud him in his State of the Union address last week.

Here’s what Trump told a crowd in Cincinnati in a speech on Monday afternoon:

“They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”

So, here we are. Again.

Let’s quickly define “treason,” shall we?

Here’s how Merriam-Webster does it:

“The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

Trump loyalists will dismiss all of this as much ado over nothing. He was joking! He didn’t even say that it was treasonous! He was just agreeing with people who said it was treasonous!

Fine. Also, wrong. And missing the point in a major way.

The point? It’s this: Not standing during applause lines for the State of the Union isn’t treasonous or un-American. Not even close.

If it was, all of the Republicans in that chamber are treasonous and un-American as well because when former President Barack Obama would tout his accomplishments in office — as Trump was doing last Tuesday night — lots and lots of Republican legislators would sit on their hands while the Democratic side of the aisle erupted in cheers. And so on and so forth for every president before him (and after).

Then there is the fact that the specific “treasonous” instance Trump was referring to had to do with his touting of historically low African-American unemployment — a bit of a cherry-picked fact based off of a single month’s economic report. By the time the new report for January came out last Friday, black unemployment had ticked up almost a point and was no longer close to a historic low.

Treason is Benedict Arnold. (Side bar: Read Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Valiant Ambition” about Arnold and George Washington.) Treason isn’t refusing to applaud when the President of the United States thinks you should.

Like with many things Trump says or tweets, there’s a natural tendency to just shrug it off. To do that, however, is to miss something very important — and concerning — at work here.

What Trump is saying is that dissent — which is what Democrats are doing when they choose not to clap for a line in his speech — is traitorous and/or un-American. That if these non-clappers really loved the country, they would be applauding when he touted how low black unemployment had dipped under his tenure.

If you think that’s totally OK, flip the script. Put a Democratic president in office. And have him or her chastise Republicans as treasonous because they didn’t applaud for the fact that something close to universal health care has been achieved. Would that be a reasonable charge? Or is it possible that while Republicans agree that more people having health insurance is a good thing, they fundamentally disagree with the way in which it was implemented?

You don’t have to imagine it. Because that’s what happened during several of President Obama’s State of the Union addresses. Except that Obama never suggested those non-clapping Republicans didn’t love America.

Even the suggestion of criminalizing dissent should send a chill down the spine of anyone who counts themselves as a fan of democracy. The right to dissent — without fear of retribution — sits at the heart of what differentiates America from authoritarian countries around the world.

When you have a president float the idea that not clapping at moments when he believes clapping is appropriate sends a very powerful message to the country about how we do (and should) deal with those who disagree with us. And that goes for whether he was “joking” or not.

It’s a very bad message — no matter whether you agree with Trump or not.

[CNN]

Media

Trump says he trusts Putin’s denials of election meddling

U.S. President Donald Trump said he believed President Vladimir Putin when he denied accusations Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election despite U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion of Russian interference.

Trump made the comment after he and Putin met briefly at a summit in Vietnam on Saturday and agreed on a statement supporting a political solution for Syria.

It was their first encounter since July and came during a low in U.S.-Russia relations and at a time Trump is haunted by an investigation into accusations that Putin influenced the election that brought him to the White House.

Putin reiterated the denials of interference, Trump said.

“Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after leaving the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the resort of Danang.

“I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country,” Trump said.

Trump, who has called allegations of campaign collusion with Moscow a hoax, has faced questions from Democrats about the matter since he took office. A special counsel, Robert Mueller, is conducting a probe that has led to charges against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded Russians interfered to tip the election in Trump’s favor through hacking and releasing emails to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and spreading social media propaganda.

Russia has repeatedly denied meddling.

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, which is investigating the issue, harshly criticized Trump’s comments and accused him of siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.

“The President fools no one. He understands that the Russians intervened through the hacking and dumping of his opponent’s emails, the fruits of which he exploited time and again on the campaign trail,” Adam Schiff said in a statement.

“He understands all this and more. He just doesn’t understand how to put country over self. Or to put it in terms he is more familiar with – Mr. Trump simply can’t bring himself to put America first,” the Democrat said.

[Reuters]

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