Trump Wants Whistleblower’s Lawyer Sued ‘Maybe for Treason,’ Which Definitely Isn’t a Thing

President Donald Trump tried his hand at tort law on Friday by suggesting the intelligence community whistleblower “should be revealed” and that their lawyer should be sued “maybe for treason.”

“So the whistleblower is a disgrace to our country” Trump said. And the whistleblower, because of that, should be revealed. And his lawyer who said the worst things possible two years ago, he should be sued and maybe for treason. Maybe for treason, but he should be sued. His lawyer is a disgrace.”

It appears that Trump was referring to attorney Mark Zaid. The comments were made during a press assemblage on the White House lawn where the president also addressed the closed-door impeachment hearings and the state of the 2020 presidential race.

The suggestion of treason as a civil action, however, quickly sent legal commentators into a tailspin of eyebrow-raising ridicule.

First Amendment attorney and legal commentator Adam Steinbaugh noted: “you… you can’t be sued for treason.”

That’s true. Treason is a criminal charge. Suing someone is an action taken in a civil court. Criminal charges are leveled by the state. Civil actions–which we usually call lawsuits–are usually filed by the state or private individuals in an effort to obtain money or information.

Treason, in other words, is a suggestion that simply makes no sense whatsoever under the present circumstances. This isn’t an issue that’s subject to debate. There’s plainly and clearly no cause of action known as “treason” under any state or federal law in the United States. (And this probably shouldn’t even have to be explained.)

Under the laws of the United States, treason has a very specific and very limited definition. Per the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

There’s also a separate codification of treason under at 18 U.S. Code § 2381 which barely tweaks the constitutional definition and also assigns specific penalties for committing the criminal act.

No concept, provision or sleight of legalese that exists in the U.S. legal order would be capable of transmogrifying the above potential crimes into something that anyone could sue anyone else for. The point, now a bit belabored, is basically the end of the story.

Except for maybe the jokes.

“Treasonous infliction of emotional distress, dude,” offered Reason‘s criminal justice reporter C.J. Ciaramella. “Look it up.”

On Thursday, it should be noted, one of the intelligence community whistleblower’s attorneys sent White House Counsel Pat Cipollone a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Trump stop calling for their client’s identity to be exposed and to stop using “rhetoric that may endanger their life.”

“I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” attorney Andrew P. Bakaj wrote.

The whistleblower’s attorney later laid it on the line:

In the best light, such statements seek to intimidate my client–and they have. As I am sure you are aware, my firm was in the process of coordinating with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to have my client deposed by congressional investigators. However, as a direct consequence of the President’s irresponsible rhetoric and behavior, my client’s physical safety became a significant concern, prompting us to instead state our willingness to only answer written interrogatories [questions].

Trump’s campaign to expose and smear the intelligence community whistleblower has, effectively, given the whistleblower pause about how and whether they should testify. Bakaj says that’s a crime.

“In light of this, it is reasonable to submit that your client’s activity constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant,” Bakaj continued. “Furthermore, because my client is a lawful whistleblower and a prospective congressional witness, any threats to influence, obstruct, or impede my client’s cooperation is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505, Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees. Finally, reprisal against my client for cooperating with a congressional inquiry would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513, Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant.”

Despite this warning, Trump once again called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed.

The 45th president is arguably skilled at asymmetric attempts to muddy the waters and that’s as good an explanation as any for what happened on the White House lawn Friday morning. That doesn’t mean necessarily mean any of this is well-advised. 

Those most recent attacks on these attorneys and their clients are exactly the sorts of statements cautioned against in the cease-and-desist missive. They’re also the sort of statements that congressional investigators are likely to add to any eventual articles of impeachment.

[Law and Crime]

Gruesome Video of Fake Trump Killing Media in Mass Shooting Played at One of His Resorts

At a time when our nation is facing an epidemic of mass shootings, supporters of President Donald Trump showed a violent depiction of a fake Trump massacring members of the news media using a gun and other weapons at a conference held at one of the president’s resorts, the New York Times reported Sunday night.

American Priority, a group that supports the president, hosted the conference at Trump National Doral Miami. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Governor Rick DeSantis were all scheduled to speak at the event. But Huckabee Sanders and a source close to Trump Jr. denied either saw the video.

Bloomberg technology reporter William Turton surfaced a video matching the description from the Times on YouTube. The video appears to have been uploaded by YouTube account TheGeekzTeam in July 2018, and the account has posted other videos doctored to make it look like Trump is violently killing his enemies. Although Turton said he has not yet been able to confirm the YouTube video was the same one played at the conference, the details in the video as described by the Times line up, although portions like the Barack Obama interview at the end of the video were not reported to have been shown.

In the video,a man with Trump’s head superimposed on his body goes into a building labeled the “Church of Fake News” where people inside are labeled with logos of major news outlets including Vox, Politico, the Washington Post, HuffPost, ABC and NBC covering their heads. Trump then opens fire, killing numerous media outlets including Vox, Politico and NPR, in addition to activist group Black Lives Matter. The fake Trump begins his rampage using a gun but later switches to a wooden stake and a knife. Also in the video are Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rosie O’Donnell — all of them are slaughtered by the killer Trump. The mass murder ends with the president driving a wooden stake into the head of a person depicted as the church’s minister with a CNN logo covering their face as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” plays in the background.

The footage, the Times said, was taken and doctored from a church massacre scene in the dark comedy “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Trump’s presidency has been marked by criticism of the news media, and recently he has even been vocally critical of his beloved Fox News. The president himself has shared a video depicting himself as violent toward the media, tweeting out a doctored video of him body slamming a man with a CNN logo over his head in 2017. Trump has also turned his ire toward reporters during his political rallies, spurring his supporters to taunt and threaten members of the media covering him.

When we are barely a year out from the tragic Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland that killed five of the newspaper’s staff not to mention other recent mass shootings in churchessynagogues and mosques, videos like this are particularly dangerous, especially when they are broadcast at events even loosely affiliated with the president and on property he owns.

[Rolling Stone]

Media

Trump Again Attacks Teenage Climate Activist Greta Thunberg

President Donald Trump is using his Twitter account to once again attack teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, this time to amplify a snide dismissal of her public appearances as “acting.”

The commander-in-chief on Thursday jabbed at the Swedish 16-year-old: He retweeted and praised a Twitter user who criticized the passionate speech Thunberg gave at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City late last month.

A user by the name of @Opinion8dKellie shared video of Thunberg’s speech, in which the teen slammed world leaders for what she said was more interest in making money than in saving the planet by reducing carbon emissions.

“What an actress!” the user, @Opinion8dKellie, tweeted, adding, “I won’t be held hostage by someone who just got a learner’s permit. Sorry kiddo!”

Though the tweet was written on Sept. 23, Trump, 73, retweeted it Thursday morning.

“Keep up the great work Kellie!” he wrote.

In the original tweet, @Opinion8dKellie also referred dismissively to when a visibly aggrieved Thunberg said at the U.N.: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”

[People]

Trump targets ‘pathetic’ Federal Reserve after worst manufacturing reading in a decade

President Donald Trump again attacked the Federal Reserve on Tuesday after the weakest U.S. manufacturing reading in 10 years.

In a tweet, the president wrote Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the central bank “have allowed the Dollar to get so strong, especially relative to ALL other currencies, that our manufacturers are being negatively affected.” He contended the Fed has set interest rates “too high.”

“They are their own worst enemies, they don’t have a clue,” he wrote. “Pathetic!”

As his trade war with China rages on, Trump has repeatedly blamed the Fed’s interest rate policy for concerns about a slowing U.S. economy. He has contended the central bank has not moved quickly enough to ease monetary policy — though the Fed has cut its benchmark funds rate twice this year.

The Fed did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Trump’s tweet comes after the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing reading fell to 47.8 in September, down from 49.1 in August. A reading below 50 shows a manufacturing contraction.

The poor economic data contributed to major U.S. stock indexes sliding Tuesday.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of global currencies, has climbed more than 3% this year and sits near its highest level since mid-2017. A stronger dollar relative to global currencies is generally expected to reduce exports and increase imports, hurting manufacturers because it makes their products more expensive overseas.

While exchange rates may have contributed to the drag on manufacturing in September, trade also did, according to ISM.

“Global trade remains the most significant issue as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019. Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth,” Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a release announcing the data.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed any concerns about a looming American recession. He has also contended his trade conflict with the second-largest economy in the world will not harm businesses or consumers — despite indications that it has already started to hurt some companies and worry Americans.

Seeing concerns about a flagging economy as a ploy to discredit him before the 2020 election, Trump has claimed the central bank bears the blame for any slowdown rather than his own policies.

[NBC News]

Media

Trump: Why aren’t we entitled to ‘learn everything about’ the whistleblower?

President Trump on Tuesday reiterated his desire to meet with and question the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine ignited an impeachment inquiry.

The president, who in recent days attacked the whistleblower as a “fraud” and attempted to undermine their credibility, questioned why he doesn’t have the right to interview the anonymous individual.

“Why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him,” Trump tweeted. “This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer, or better. No pressure at all (as confirmed by Ukrainian Pres.). It is just another Democrat Hoax!”

Trump claimed the author of the complaint “has all second hand information” and that “almost everything” the whistleblower recounted about the president’s call with Ukraine was wrong.

But neither of those things is true.

The whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky aligns with a rough White House transcript that shows Trump urged Zelensky to “look into” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and asked him to investigate a company with ties to the 2016 election.

In addition, the intelligence community inspector general released a statement on Monday night clarifying that the whistleblower had firsthand information and information from other sources in their complaint about Trump.

Democrats and the whistleblower’s attorneys have expressed concerns that Trump is endangering the person’s safety by attempting to uncover their identity and questioning their motives.

The president has ramped up his attacks on the anonymous individual behind the whistleblower complaint in recent days, claiming he should be able to meet the complainant and alleging they are partisan despite not knowing their identity.

The Whistleblower Protection Act makes it a violation for federal agencies to threaten retaliation against individuals who come forward to raise concerns of wrongdoing within the government.

[The Hill]

Trump demands to meet whistleblower, warns of ‘big consequences’

President Trump on Sunday evening railed against the whistleblower and other individuals at the center of a growing scandal involving his phone call with Ukraine’s president, warning there could be “big consequences.”

“Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then [Rep. Adam] Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber,” he continued, before adding that he wants Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.”

“In addition,” he added, “I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the ‘Whistleblower.’ Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!”

[The Hill]

Trump mocks teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg

President Donald Trump mocked Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter late Monday night after the 16-year-old excoriated world leaders for not doing enough to tackle the climate crisis.

“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Trump posted on Twitter, replying to a video of Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations climate action summit earlier in the day.

Trump’s penchant for Twitter insults and online confrontations with people he sees as political adversaries is well known, though Monday’s tweet is a striking display of the President teasing a child.

Thunberg appeared to take Trump’s slight in stride. By late Tuesday morning, she had updated her Twitter bio to read: “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”

In the video shared by Trump of her speech, Thunberg is visibly frustrated and at times appears to be holding back tears of anger as she dresses down the UN General Assembly.

“People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” Thunberg said.

She did not name Trump or any other world leaders in her speech, but her message was pointed.

“How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight,” she said. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe.”

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who recently withdrew his support for Trump, criticized the President for his comment about Thunberg.

“Parents in America and around the world: he went after a 16 year old girl yesterday. ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ unfit to serve,” Scaramucci tweeted on Tuesday.

Trump briefly attended the UN climate summit on Monday in an impromptu stop on his way to his administration’s priority event on religious freedom. But the US did not speak at the event and Trump — who has repeatedly said he thinks climate change is a hoax — left after 15 minutes.

Thunberg, who has helped galvanize a global movement demanding more action to address climate change, crossed paths with Trump at the UN General Assembly. Video captured her staring down the US President.

The young Swede has been open about her diagnosis of Asperger’s, calling it a “superpower” that helps her activism.

“My diagnosis has definitely helped me keep this focus. When you are interested about something you just continue to read about it and you get super focused,” she told CNN’s Bill Weir in an interview this month.

[CNN]

Trump Wants the Government to Investigate Obama’s Netflix Deal

President Donald Trump kicked off his week with one of his favorite hobbies: calling for the investigation of his perceived political enemies.

Trump fired off tweets Monday suggesting that former President Barack Obama should be investigated for getting a production deal with Netflix.

“House Judiciary has given up on the Mueller Report, sadly for them after two years and $40,000,000 spent – ZERO COLLUSION, ZERO OBSTRUCTION. So they say, OK, lets look at everything else, and all of the deals that “Trump” has done over his lifetime,” Trump posted.

“But it doesn’t work that way. I have a better idea,” he added. “Look at the Obama Book Deal, or the ridiculous Netflix deal. Then look at all the deals made by the Dems in Congress, the ‘Congressional Slush Fund,’ and lastly the IG Reports. Take a look at them. Those investigations would be over FAST!”

It’s not clear why Trump might think Obama’s post-presidency ventures are worth investigating. But they have proven lucrative: The former president and former first lady Michelle Obama inked the reportedly “high-8-figure” deal with Netflix and a joint book deal reportedly worth $65 million. The Obamas have launched a number of projects with Netflix already, including a documentary about a factory opening in Ohio and a drama about post-WWII New York.

Monday wasn’t the first time Trump got hung up on investigating the money the Obamas have made since they left the White House.

“We want to find out what happened with the last Democrat president,” Trump told reporters in July. “Let’s look into Obama the way they’ve looked at me. From Day 1, they’ve looked into everything that we’ve done. They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let’s subpoena all of his records.”

Contrary to Trump’s claim, the House Judiciary Committee hasn’t given up on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just last week, it voted to expand its impeachment investigation and moved to obtain former special counsel Robert Mueller’s most sensitive materials, including evidence and testimony from a grand jury.

[Vice]

‘I don’t blame Kim Jong Un’: In dismissing Bolton, Trump sides with North Korean leader — again

Having ousted John Bolton from the White House, President Trump delivered a kick to his former national security adviser to illustrate just how far he had fallen. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the president said, “wanted nothing to do with” him during diplomatic talks over the past 17 months.

“I don’t blame Kim Jong Un,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.

Trump’s remarks on Wednesday revealed lingering resentment that, in his view, Bolton had threatened to derail the United States’ historic first summit with Kim last year by taking an unnecessarily provocative position in suggesting that Pyongyang must follow the “Libya model” and relinquish all of its nuclear weapons under any prospective deal.

Trump’s willingness to publicly side with Kim over a recently departed senior aide marked the latest in a string of extraordinary episodes in which he has aligned himself with one of the world’s most brutal dictators against individual Americans, the intelligence community, the military and U.S. allies.

Since the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February collapsed without a deal, Trump has sought to rekindle dormant bilateral negotiations by flattering Kim — but also by offering him political cover on a list of provocations that cut against U.S. interests.

This summer alone, the president has:

●Reiterated his belief that joint U.S.-South Korea military drills are “ridiculous and expensive” — this time after receiving a personal letter from Kim complaining about the exercises.

●Declared that the North’s testing of short-range missiles did not violate an agreement with Kim, prompting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call the tests a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

●Endorsed, while on a state visit to Tokyo, North Korean state media’s mockery of former vice president Joe Biden as a “fool of low IQ,” saying he agreed.

●Stated that he would not have authorized using Kim’s family members as spies against the regime amid reports that the CIA had cultivated the dictator’s half brother as an intelligence asset. (Kim Jong Nam was assassinated in Malaysia in 2017, at the North Korean leader’s direction, according to South Korea’s spy agency.)

Former U.S. officials said Trump’s approach with Kim fits his pattern of trying to maintain good personal relationships with hostile foreign leaders in hope that it will pay off at the negotiating table. Yet they emphasized that the strategy has not led to breakthroughs on Trump’s biggest foreign policy initiatives, including an effort to secure a trade deal with China.

“It’s his idea that you have to be utterly obsequious with your negotiating partner to suggest you’re a good guy and they should deal with you,” said Christopher Hill, who served as the lead negotiator in the George W. Bush administration during the Six Party Talks with North Korea. “Of course, he’s got very little to show for it. The North Koreans have just pocketed it.”

Although Trump has emphasized that Kim has abided by a private pledge in Singapore to refrain from testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, experts say the North has improved the accuracy and maneuverability of its short-range arsenal.

After hate-watching MSNBC prison reform special, Donald Trump attacks Chrissy Teigen and John Legend

As a televised town hall hosted by Lester Holt wound down Sunday night on MSNBC, President Donald Trump posted a rambling series of tweets claiming that he had not received enough credit for his work on criminal justice reform as he took aim at the “boring musician” John Legend and “his filthy mouthed wife” Chrissy Teigen. 

“When all of the people pushing so hard for Criminal Justice Reform were unable to come even close to getting it done, they came to me as a group and asked for my help,” the president tweeted. “I got it done with a group of Senators & others who would never have gone for it.” 

Trump was referring to the First Step Act, legislation designed to shorten the mandatory sentences for some federal drug offenses, which was signed into law with bipartisan support in December. However, criminal justice advocates question the current commitment to the implementation of the law. It seeks $75 million a year for five years for prison education and job-training, but Trump’s 2020 budget priorities only showed $14 million to finance its programs. 

“I SIGNED IT INTO LAW, no one else did,” Trump continued Sunday. “Guys like boring musician @johnlegend, and his filthy mouthed wife, are talking now about how great it is—but I didn’t see them around when we needed help getting it passed.” 

It should be noted that in the “Dateline” episode that preceded Sunday’s town hall, Holt did credit Trump for the First Step Act. Though, as Holt pointed out, “That doesn’t affect more than 90 percent of the U.S. prison population, which is locked up in state and local facilities.” 

While Legend, who uses his platform to advocate for prison reform, was part of the town hall, Teigen was not mentioned during the broadcast. However, if you have been remotely active on Twitter since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, you’re already aware that the commander-in-chief has a proclivity to start — and maintain — crude Twitter feuds with celebrities and members of the media, especially women. 

The habit is frequent enough that it has populated numerous listicles such as “Trump’s Most Ridiculous Twitter Feuds In 2017” and “Donald Trump vs. Everyone: His 20 Best Media Feuds.” 

Chrissy Teigen ended up on Trump’s online enemies list during the 2016 election after she voiced her disdain for his politics on Twitter. In July 2017, the president blocked Teigen after she tweeted that “no one likes you.” 

As of last night, Trump still has Teigen blocked. Nonetheless, he still appeared to be nursing a grudge. 

“lol what a p**sy ass b*tch. tagged everyone but me. an honor, mister president,” Teigen responded. “[T]he absolute best part of his tweet is I literally didn’t speak in the special, nor was I mentioned. I’m cackling at the pointless addition of me because he cannot not be a bitch.” 

As of Monday, the Twitter landscape overwhelming reflected the content of Teigen’s response, with the following topics trending: #foulmouthedwife, #PresidentPAB, #PABOTUS and #TeamChrissy.

Meanwhile, Legend issued a more subtle retort to Trump. 

“Imagine being president of a whole country and spending your Sunday night hate-watching MSNBC hoping somebody–ANYBODY–will praise you,” the musician tweeted. “Melania, please praise this man.  He needs you.” 

[Salon]

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