Pruitt bars AP, CNN from EPA summit on contaminants, guards push reporter out of building

The Environmental Protection Agency barred The Associated Press and CNN from a national summit on harmful water contaminants on Tuesday — and guards forcibly shoved a female reporter out of the building.

The EPA blocked the media organizations, along with the environmental-focused E&E News, from attending the meeting in Washington, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building.

When the reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building. She said she was not injured and was later permitted to attend the meeting.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government,” said AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

“It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed,” Buzbee added.

CNN said in a statement that its reporter also was turned away from covering the event “after multiple attempts to attend.”

“We understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too,” CNN said, according to the AP.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

“This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity, which reporters were aware of prior to the event,” Wilcox told NBC News. “We were able to accommodate 10 reporters, provided a livestream for those we could not accommodate and were unaware of the individual situation that has been reported.”

The reporter threatened “negative coverage” if she couldn’t get in, Wilcox alleged.

Some media that had been permitted to attend said that there appeared to be a handful of open seats for the press in the room despite claims that there was no room left.

A reporter for E&E News tweeted about being shut out by the EPA.

Amid criticism for barring the media outlets, Wilcox announced later that the afternoon session of the meeting would be open to all press.

Following that decision, the AP said, “We are pleased that the EPA has reconsidered its decision and will now allow AP to attend the remainder of today’s meeting. The AP looks forward to informing the public of the important discussions at the water contaminants summit this afternoon.”

Pruitt spoke Tuesday as he opened a hearing on the contaminants, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. The chemicals were used in items like nonstick coating and firefighting foam and have contaminated some water systems nationwide. The compounds are linked to developmental defects and other health problems.

Pruitt has faced criticism in recent weeks over emails showing the EPA sought to intervene in a critical study on the contaminants.

Convening Tuesday’s session, Pruitt is pledging to work on establishing a maximum allowable level for the chemicals in drinking water.

Representatives of states, tribes, the chemical industry, environmental groups and others attended the session.

[NBC News]

Trump Rails Against ‘Failing and Crooked’ NY Times For ‘Boring’ Report on Gulf Prince Offering Campaign Assistance

President Donald Trump went on a Twitter tirade Sunday against a New York Times exposé revealing his son and other campaign officials met with a Gulf emissary who offered a hand in winning the 2016 election.

Trump blasted the report, calling the publication “Failing and Crooked,” while adding in a jab at Hillary Clinton. He contended that the report was merely “a long & boring story” showing Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation “has found nothing on Russia & me.”

But it didn’t stop there. Launching into one of his trademark tweetstorms, Trump railed against Mueller’s probe as being the work of a bunch of angry democrats, and suggested that they re-focus the investigation onto the Clinton emails.

The Times reported that during the meeting arranged by Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, Donald Trump Jr. was assured by emissary George Nader that leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were hopeful Trump would secure the election, and they wanted to help. Nader has been cooperating with the the special counsel’s investigation in recent months, CNN reported.

While Trump was quick to dismiss the report and again bash the Mueller probe, the investigation has already resulted in more than a dozen indictments along with five guilty pleas.

The president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, believes there is a chance Trump could be subpoenaed in the probe, and has begun preparing him in the event that he’s interviewed, Politico reported.

[Mediaite]

Trump urged postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

President Trump has reportedly urged the U.S. postmaster general to double shipping rates for Amazon.com and other companies amid months of his continued criticism that the online retailer is costing the Postal Service “billions” of dollars in revenue.

Trump has personally met with Postmaster General Megan Brennan multiple times since 2017 to petition her for a hike on rates for Amazon and other firms that ship packages, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing officials familiar with the conversations.

The president’s demands came despite counsel from close advisers and top Postal Service employees that Amazon, the largest shipper of packages through USPS, actually helps keep it afloat financially.

According to the Post, Brennan explained to Trump in their conversations that the Postal Service is bound by its contracts with retail companies, noting that to change them would require a review by the independent regulatory agency that oversees the USPS.

Trump signed an executive order last month to create a task force to look into the Postal Service’s “unsustainable financial path.”

USPS has given Amazon a shipping discount due to the volume of packages it ships, but has not released details on its agreement with the retailer. Analysts have estimated that the company uses the Postal Service for about 40 percent of its shipping.

Trump also reportedly met with different groups of senior advisers including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn on the service’s financial dealings and whether Amazon was in fact costing the USPS “massive amounts of money,” as he once claimed in a tweet.

The president has frequently taken aim at The Washington Post, which Amazon owner Jeff Bezos purchased in 2013.

[The Hill]

Trump Tweets ‘Nothing Has Happened With ZTE Except As It Pertains To The Larger Trade Deal’

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the reversal on trade policy around ZTE Corp. does not indicate a slackened position on China trade negotiations.

Here’s what Trump said in a series of tweets:

“The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China. Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal. Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China…We have not seen China’s demands yet, which should be few in that previous U.S. Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating. China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe, the meetings…haven’t even started yet! The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!”

Why It’s Important

The president’s support of trade with ZTE had driven a spike in optical stocks exposed to the Chinese business. Some shares traded lower Wednesday on the clarified policy.

Acacia Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: ACIA) fell 4.3 percent and Oclaro Inc (NASDAQ: OCLR) 1.1 percent, while Applied Optoelectronics Inc(NASDAQ: AAOI) and Lumentum Holdings Inc(NASDAQ: LITE) dipped marginally.

What’s Next

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington Tuesday for a five-day visit packed with trade talks. Reuters reported that several U.S. lawmakers U.S. lawmakers rejected any planby Trump to ease restrictions on ZTE Corp., calling the company a security threat and vowing not to abandon legislation clamping down on the company.

[Yahoo News]

Trump contradicts himself in a single tweet about leaks he claims are fake news

President Donald Trump went off on the “fake news” that claims leaks are coming out of the West Wing of the White House. First, he called it fake news, and then he denounced the leaks that were coming out.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” Trump tweeted Monday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was bothered by the leak of the comment top aide Kelly Sadler made about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). It has been reported that the communications department is searching for the leak.

When it was revealed that first lady Melania Trump underwent a procedure Monday on her kidney, pundits remarked that no one knew the procedure was coming. They compared the leaks in the East Wing, the first lady’s office, to the sieve in Trump’s West Wing.

[Raw Story]

Trump Blasts ‘Fake News Media’ for Not Reporting on AT&T’s Planned Merger With Time Warner

On Friday, President Donald Trump blasted the “fake news media” for not reporting on litigation revolving around AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner in a tweet that seemed to come out of nowhere.

“Why doesn’t the Fake News Media state that the Trump Administration’s Anti-Trust Division has been, and is, opposed to the AT&T purchase of Time Warner in a currently ongoing Trial,” Trump wrote. “Such a disgrace in reporting!”

While his exact intent was not clear, Trump was likely reacting to reports that his lawyer Michael Cohen was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by AT&T for a consulting gig that actually amounted to Cohen peddling his access to Trump.

The AT&T payment was also significant because Essential Consulting, the shell consulting firm Cohen set up to receive payments, also happens to be the firm that paid Stormy Daniels the $130,000 in hush money.

AT&T has since said it regretted hiring Cohenand claimed the damage to their reputation will not hurt their planned merger.

So far, Trump, not known for clarification,  has not issued a follow-up tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump Threatens to Pull Press Credentials from ‘Fake News’ Media Over Negative Coverage

You know how this works. President Trump receives critical press coverage, he gets on Twitter to complain about it, the White House’s relationship with the media deteriorates further, queen to E5.

As you can see, the president is threatening to take press credentials away from “fake news” media outlets until they give him the coverage he approves of it. Trump previously yanked press credentials from multiple news organizations during the 2016 election, and as NYT‘s Maggie Haberman points out, it seems he still doesn’t get that the press isn’t supposed to be his cheerleading squad:

[Mediate]

Trump Denies ‘Changing Any Stories’ About Stormy Daniels Payment. This Tape Proves Otherwise

During a heated exchange with reporters Friday, President Donald Trump insisted that he’s “not changing any stories” related to the $130,000 hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just days before the November 2016 presidential election.

“We’re not changing any stories. All I’m telling you is this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that’s all you want to talk about,” Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One to Dallas.

Moments later, the president instructed reporters to “take a look at what I said” in April when he took questions from reporters aboard Air Force One about the Daniels payoff. So, what did the president say less than one month ago regarding his knowledge of the $130,000 payment? Here’s the exchange from April:

Reporter: “Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”

Trump: “No, no. What else?”

Reporter: “Why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?

Trump: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”

Reporter: “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”

Trump: “No, I don’t know. No.”

The exchange left little room for interpretation as to whether Trump knew about the payment or not. Thus, it left no wiggle room for the president to now say that “we’re not changing any stories” after Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that Trump repaid the $130,000 hush money sum to his longtime attorney Michael Cohen.

Whether or not Giuliani had “his facts straight” when made that comment is irrelevant. Even if Giuliani was not correct, the fact remains that the Trump team’s story about the hush money payment did, in fact, change between April and this week. Trump cannot say one moment that he didn’t know about the payment, only for his lawyer to go on national television weeks later and say the exact opposite. Again, even if Giuliani was misinformed, he still changed the narrative in the national media and, like it or not, the narrative in the media is the story.

[Mediaite]

Trump tweets rant against NBC for correcting inaccurate report on Michael Cohen wiretap warrant

President Donald Trump finally smacked NBC News for walking back a report that his attorney Michael Cohen was under a wiretap warrant.

The network and ABC News each issued corrections to reports that Cohen had been wiretapped by the FBI, saying instead that the attorney had instead been subjected to a pen register — which means that his calls were logged in real time.

“NBC NEWS is wrong again!” Trump tweeted. “They cite ‘sources’ which are constantly wrong. Problem is, like so many others, the sources probably don’t exist, they are fabricated, fiction! NBC, my former home with the Apprentice, is now as bad as Fake News CNN. Sad!”

[Raw Story]

Trump calls WHCD a ‘very big, boring bust’

President Trump continued to denigrate the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Sunday morning — calling the gathering a “very big, boring bust.”

Trump fired off a few tweets celebrating the campaign-style rally he held for supporters Saturday night in Michigan, which was organized to coincide with the annual dinner organized by the White House Correspondents’ Association. This was the second consecutive year that the president broke from tradition by skipping the black-tie affair.

Comedian Michelle Wolf’s pointed performance elicited fierce reactions from fans and critics. It was variously described as “magnificently funny” and “unnecessarily cruel.” Trump agreed with the latter, calling Wolf a “so-called comedian” and suggesting that Fox News host Greg Gutfeld host next year’s dinner.

Most of the criticism directed toward Wolf dealt with her jokes at the expense of conservative women. Many prominent figures, both liberal and conservative, were offended what the “Daily Show” contributor said about White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Trump, who was famously lampooned at the 2011 dinner by Seth Meyers, sent Sanders to represent the administration in his place. She was seated on the dais throughout Wolf’s performance.

Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, told Politico that some of Wolf’s material made her feel uncomfortable.

“The association by tradition does not preview or censor the entertainer’s remarks,” Talev said. “Some of them made me uncomfortable and did not embody the spirit of the night. And that is protected by the First Amendment. I appreciated Sarah Sanders for joining us at the head table and her grace through the program.”

Sanders’s father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, condemned the dinner, claiming it celebrated “bullying, vulgarity, and hate” rather than the First Amendment, as intended.

[Yahoo]

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