Trump Dances On The Grave Of The Weekly Standard

President Donald Trump celebrated the closing of the Weekly Standard Saturday, a conservative outlet which often published harsh pieces about the President and his administration.

[Talking Points Memo]

Trump Pushes Back: ‘I Never Directed Michael Cohen to Break the Law’

President Donald Trump is addressing the recent legal developments surrounding his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes he pled guilty to in a Manhattan court.

Cohen pled guilty to illegally paying off women with whom Trump had allegedly engaged in extramarital affairs, and strongly implicated the President during the court proceedings. “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,” Cohen said. “I was weak for not having the strength to refuse his demands. Owning this mistake will free me to be once more the person I am.”

Trump is hitting back via Twitter:

President Trump denies directing Cohen for the actions that led to his sentencing, however, the Federal prosecutors in his own Department of Justice disagree.

Court filings clearly identify Trump has having directed these actions. Also, an audio recording surfaced earlier this year in which Cohen and Trump appear to talk about the illicit payments.

President Trump previously denied knowledge paying off adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen MacDougal, though he has denied ever engaging in any untoward behavior with both.

[Mediaite]

Trump Blasts Comey for Comments About 2020: He Had No Right Heading FBI ‘After His Mind Exploded!’

Over the weekend, former FBI Director James Comey made some comments about President Donald Trump‘s unacceptable behavior and how voters can stand up to it and vote him out of office, explicitly saying the Democrats “have to win” in 2020.

Comey’s comments have gotten a lot of attention in the past few days, and after today’s wild on-camera skirmish with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast Comey and say that he exposed himself as a Democrat who shouldn’t have been in charge of the FBI:

In an interview earlier this year, Comey said he used to be a Republican but lamented that the party “left me.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Rage Tweets About Mueller’s ‘Illegal’ Investigation After Hannity Monologue Blasting Comey

It’s Monday night and it appears President Donald Trump is watching Sean Hannity. How do we know this? Well, the president blasted out a tweet attacking Robert Mueller‘s “witch hunt” on Twitter for the umpteenth time, and it just so happens that the Fox News host just finished talking about the exact same subject.

Trump’s tweet came minutes after Hannity finished a section his monologue in which he addressed James Comey‘s testimony before Congress last week. Hannity blasted the former FBI director for his “selective amnesia” while answering questions, but he especially honed in on what Comey said about how the controversial dossier prepared by Fusion GPS wasn’t verified by the FBI before it became the foundation of a FISA warrant issued to investigate Trump’s campaign.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump Tweets: No “Smocking” Gun Tying His Campaign To Russia

Monday morning and President Donald Trump is tweeting – this time cribbing from Fox News’ morning talk about Democrats’ inability to find a “smocking gun.”

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony,” Trump tweeted, in re GOP-ers in House Judiciary Committee having hauled Comey back in for a day’s worth of grilling, mostly about Hillary Clinton’s emails according to Comey, talking to reporters at end of Friday. Transcript to come.

“No Smocking Gun…No Collusion,” Trump boasted in his early morning tweeting.

“That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly calling it a campaign contribution…which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me).

[Deadline]

Reality

A brief moment on Monday’s Fox and Friends First was the catalyst for an early-morning tweet from President Trump.

This is an amazing admission of guilt, and an amazing misspelling of “smoking” twice, but let’s also walk through the lies in this tweet.

First, James Comey testified in a closed door session a few days prior on the demands of House Republicans, who pulled him in to ask questions about Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. An obvious ploy to change the national conversation away from Trump by Republicans… not Democrats.

And second, a lawyer for the Department of Justice accompanied Comey to the hearing and any time a Republican Congressman asked him questions prying into the Robert Mueller probe, the lawyer instructed Comey he couldn’t comment about an ongoing investigation.

So Republicans and Fox News framed this very basic understanding of our justice system to their their viewers as “James Comey refused to answer questions.”

 

Trump lashes out at Comey over House testimony: ‘All lies!’

President Trump lashed out at James Comey early Sunday, accusing the former FBI director of lying during his testimony to House lawmakers about the investigation into Russia’s election interference.

“Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful!” the president tweeted.

“This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!” he added.

Trump claimed that Comey’s statements that he opened investigations on four Americans and that he didn’t know former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele were “all lies!”

The president also cited Comey’s repeated assertions that he could not recall or did not know certain facts. The FBI director on multiple occasions stated he was unable to remember certain facts, or could not answer questions because of ongoing investigations.

Comey testified last week before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees behind closed doors. The panels later released a transcript of the roughly six-hour meeting.

The transcript revealed that Comey told lawmakers that the counterintelligence investigation into possible conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign began by examining four Americans, whom he did not identify, citing the potential that they are part of an ongoing investigation.

He did note that Trump was not one of the four individuals.

[The Hill]

 

White House seeks to end subsidies for electric cars and renewable energy

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday the Trump administration wants to end subsidies for electric cars and other items, including renewable energy sources.

Asked about plans after General Motors Co (GM.N) announced U.S. plant closings and layoffs last week, Kudlow pointed to the $2,500-to-$7,500 tax credit for consumers who buy plug-in electric vehicles, including those made by GM, under federal law.

“As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies,” Kudlow said. “And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth.”

Asked about a timeline, he said: “It’s just all going to end in the near future. I don’t know whether it will end in 2020 or 2021.”

The tax credits are capped by Congress at 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, after which the subsidy phases out. GM has said it expects to hit the threshold by the end of 2018, which means under the current law, its tax credit scheme would end in 2020. Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said in July it had hit the threshold. Other automakers may not hit the cap for several years.

Experts say the White House cannot change the cap unilaterally. U.S. President Donald Trump last week threatened to eliminate subsidies for GM in retaliation for the company’s decision.

Kudlow made clear any changes in subsidies would not just affect GM. “I think legally you just can’t,” he said.

Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January and are unlikely to agree to end subsidies for electric cars and many have been pushing for additional incentives.

Tesla and GM have lobbied Congress for months to lift the cap on electric vehicles or make other changes, but face an uphill battle make changes before the current Congress expires.

In October, Senator Dean Heller proposed lifting the current cap on electric vehicles eligible for tax credits but phase out the credit for the entire industry in 2022. Two other senators in September proposed lifting the per manufacturer credit and extending the benefit for 10 years.

Also in October, Senator John Barrasso a Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, proposed legislation to end the EV tax credit entirely.

[Raw Story]

Treasury proposes postal changes after Trump attacks on Amazon

President Donald Trump’s task force scrutinizing U.S. Postal Service operations is proposing an overhaul of the financially distressed agency, including changes to how it prices packages shipped by retailers like Amazon, a frequent target of the president’s attacks.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Treasury-led task force says the Postal Service should price packages “with profitability in mind” and impose higher rates on general e-commerce goods and other non-essential items sent through the mail.

Trump commissioned the report earlier this year after months of attacking Amazon for, in his view, ripping off USPS and treating the agency like its “Delivery Boy.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos privately owns The Washington Post, and Trump, who slams the Post’s coverage as unfair, often conflates the newspaper with the e-commerce giant, even calling it the “Amazon Washington Post.”

The report’s recommendations are broad and sweeping. They call for stronger oversight by the Postal Service Board of Governors — which sat empty for much of Trump’s presidency. They also encourage the agency to consider other revenue streams, such as renting out unused real estate to businesses, charging outside shippers for access to people’s mail boxes and issuing hunting and fishing licenses.

But the ideas for package rates are likely to draw the most scrutiny, given the president’s attacks on Amazon. The task force says the Postal Service should distinguish between essential items, such as medication or tax notices, and non-essential items, such as consumer products — and mark up the latter to generate more income.

The administration on Tuesday denied that it’s targeting Amazon, saying the report’s recommendations would hit the coffers of all retailers with a large volume of online sales.

“None of our findings or recommendations are linked to any one customer or competitor of the Postal Service,” said a senior administration official. “We based our analysis on the needs of the entire economy and all its businesses.”

But Trump’s frequent rants about Amazon hover over the findings.

“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy,” Trump tweeted in April shortly before the White House announced the task force. “Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!”

The president told The Daily Caller last month that Amazon is “getting the bargain of the century,” adding, “I think that’s why I’ve asked for a review.”

The task force, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, spent weeks meeting with companies and trade associations in affected industries like retail and package delivery. Officials from the Office of Management and Budget and other federal agencies have also been involved. A report was initially delivered to the White House in August, though its public release was delayed until later in the year.

The senior administration official said the Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission can enact some of the changes, including increasing package prices, without intervention from Congress, but said other proposed changes would require lawmakers to act.

For more than a decade, the Postal Service has logged billion-dollar loses, resulting in a total cumulative deficit of nearly $63 billion as of September. But those losses are not driven by Amazon or other big shippers of packages. Instead, much of it can be attributed to the decline of letter mail in the internet era and the mandatory payments that Congress has ordered the Postal Service to make into a retiree benefits fund. The task force recommends restructuring that obligation, but not doing away with it altogether.

The report does not call for privatizing the Postal Service, despite the Trump administration saying in June that it wanted to do so as part of a government reorganization.

Amazon did not immediately comment, but an industry coalition that represents the e-commerce giant warned the report could cause widespread economic damage.

“If it were to be adopted in its entirety I think we would be approaching a worst-case scenario from a consumer and business perspective,” said John McHugh, a congressman-turned-lobbyist who leads the so-called Package Coalition, saying Congress should be involved in changing longstanding Postal Service regulations.

Amazon, like other bulk users of the Postal Service, negotiates a special shipping rate that is not publicly disclosed. Though Amazon would pay below the standard rate, by law, those negotiated arrangements must cover the cost of shipping the packages — meaning the post office cannot lose money on them as Trump claims. Each agreement is evaluated and endorsed by the Postal Regulatory Commission and approved by the Postal Service Board of Governors.

Package delivery has been a rare bright spot on the Postal Service’s earnings statement. Mail carriers are delivering more packages than ever before — as the number of standard letters steadily declines — bringing in $21.5 billion in revenue in the most recent fiscal year.

Amazon has been developing other delivery options in anticipation that the Postal Service cannot accommodate its rapid growth. It runs a service in which contract drivers drop orders at customers’ doors and recently announced it would lease trucks to entrepreneurs to start delivery services. The company has also experimented with aerial drones and, according to media reports, self-driving vehicles, though those are still years away from adoption because of technological and regulatory hurdles.

The investments could help Amazon lessen the sting of a rate hike over the long term or gradually move away from the Postal Service altogether if shipping expenses become too prohibitive. Industry advocates have warned that fewer packages would only mean more pain for the agency’s bottom line.

Trump’s most direct impact on the Postal Service could be appointees to the Board of Governors. The body plays a key role approving so-called negotiated service agreements, giving it a hand in how much Amazon and others must pay for postal services. The board could, in theory, send Postal Service negotiators back to the table if such deals are not judged to be in the agency’s best interest.

The board sat entirely vacant for the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency. He’s so far nominated people for three of the nine board seats, two of whom were approved by Senate-wide vote in late August.

[Politico]

Trump: Cohen should go to prison

President Trump on Monday said Michael Cohen does not deserve leniency for cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, arguing that his former personal lawyer should serve a “full and complete” prison sentence.

“He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free [sic],” Trump wrote on Twitter of Cohen. “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

Trump sought to further distance himself from his onetime ally by incorrectly claiming that Cohen’s crimes were “unrelated to Trump.”

Cohen in August pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations, implicating Trump in a dramatic court hearing during which Cohen also pleaded to a slew of financial crimes stemming from his private business dealings.

Last week, Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Trump Organization’s efforts to build a tower in Russia, a central matter in Mueller’s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election.

The former Trump lawyer asked a federal judge to spare him prison time, in part, because he said he lied to lawmakers in order to “to support and advance [Trump’s] political messaging.” Trump was referred to in court as Individual 1.

His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Cohen’s plea has angered Trump, who is facing growing legal and political danger as a result of his former ally’s cooperation.

While he blasted Cohen for turning against him, the president encouraged other people tied up in the Mueller probe to show loyalty.

Trump praised his on-again, off-again adviser, Roger Stone, for refusing to cooperate with investigators.

“He will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’” Trump wrote of Stone.

Stone has come under scrutiny for his alleged ties to WikiLeaks, which published emails stolen by Russians from Democratic officials during the 2016 campaign.

[The Hill]

Trump’s new Russia deal defense: Just business as usual

President Donald Trump’s story about his business pursuits in Russia has shifted again.

As a candidate and afterward, Trump said repeatedly that he didn’t have any business dealings with Russia.

“I have no dealings with Russia,” he said shortly before his inauguration in 2017. “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away.”

The truth was more complicated than Trump suggested: He had long relied on Russian investors for projects in other parts of the world, and long sought to develop real estate in Russia.

And now, with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen having pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to develop a Trump Tower project in Moscow, the president has added a new layer to his take, arguing that it would be perfectly fine for him to have pursued the Oval Office and a high-end business opportunity in Russia at the same time.

“We were thinking about building a building,” he told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it.”

Prosecutors say Cohen admitted that he lied to Congress by saying that the Moscow Trump Tower project was nixed in January 2016 — before the Iowa caucuses — even though he continued to pursue it on Trump’s behalf as late as June 2016. That’s the same month that top Trump advisers took a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with Russian emissaries who had promised to provide political dirt on then-presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

There’s no law barring a candidate who doesn’t already hold office from continuing to do business during a campaign — and no requirement to disclose such activity — but veteran lawyers say Trump could have a problem if discussions over the Trump Tower project were tied to potential actions once he won the presidency.

“If additional facts show that the negotiations were part of a broader quid pro quo with Russians/oligarchs (Trump gets tower in exchange for some goodies once he is POTUS), then we are potentially into federal criminal conspiracy and campaign-law violations,” said Kim Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and former member of independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation team, in an email to NBC News.

And Trump’s evasiveness on the question of whether he was seeking business in Moscow during the election raises the question of whether he was worried about political or legal exposure, according to Joyce White Vance, a former federal prosecutor and MSNBC contributor.

“Lying about it certainly raises the implication that Trump himself believed that it was somehow untoward for a candidate to have business ventures with Russia,” she said. “And there could be a variety of legal problems here — tax, emoluments, what have you — that could come back to haunt the president.”

[News]

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