Trump: ‘Wacky’ UK ambassador a ‘very stupid guy’

President Trump early Tuesday ramped up his criticism of the British ambassador to the United States, who called Trump “inept” in leaked cables, saying Kim Darroch is “a very stupid guy” and a “pompous fool.”

“The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy. He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled,” Trump tweeted.

Trump also again attacked British Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit, saying he told her “how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done.”

“A disaster!” he continued. “I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool. Tell him the USA now has the best Economy & Military anywhere in the World, by far and they are both only getting bigger, better and stronger…..Thank you, Mr. President!”

Darroch reportedly described Trump as “incompetent” and “inept” in memos and notes sent to the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Barroch also described conflicts within the Trump administration as “knife fights” and said he doesn’t believe the White House will “ever look competent.”

Trump tweeted on Monday after the leaked cables were reported that he would “no longer deal with” Darroch.

“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him,” he said.

Shortly after Trump’s tweet, an administration official said Darroch was disinvited from a Monday night dinner hosted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with Trump and the emir of Qatar.

[The Hill]

Trump says administration will ‘no longer deal with’ British ambassador

President Donald Trump on Monday trashed Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and threatened to “no longer deal with” the British ambassador to Washington following leaks of the envoy’s reportedly harsh assessment of Trump’s administration.

“I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “What a mess she and her representatives have created. I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.”

“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well … thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him,” Trump continued. “The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister. While I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent State Visit last month, it was the Queen who I was most impressed with!”

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, reported on Saturday that Ambassador Kim Darroch leveled various insults against Trump and his White House in memos to London dating back to 2017.

“We don’t really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” Darroch wrote in one of the documents, according to the Mail.

A U.K. government spokesperson said in response to Trump’s tweets that London had been in touch with Washington to make clear “how unfortunate this leak is.”

“The selective extracts leaked do not reflect the closeness of, and the esteem in which we hold, the relationship,” the spokesperson said.

“At the same time, we have also underlined the importance of ambassadors being able to provide honest, unvarnished assessments of the politics in their country. Sir Kim Darroch continues to have the Prime Minister’s full support.”

“The U.K. has a special and enduring relationship with the U.S. based on our long history and commitment to shared values and that will continue to be the case.”

May’s spokesman said on Monday that Downing Street had contacted the Trump administration, “setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable” and calling the episode “a matter of regret,” Reuters reported. The British trade minister, Liam Fox, also told BBC Radio he would apologize to Ivanka Trump on his scheduled visit to Washington during their planned meeting.

Speaking to reporters in New Jersey on Sunday, Trump asserted that Darroch “has not served the U.K. well,” adding, “We’re not big fans of that man.”

In a news conference with May last month during his first state visit to Britain, Trump praised the outgoing prime minister as “probably a better negotiator than I am,” and said she deserved “a lot of credit” for her handling of Brexit.

Trump’s tweet immediately raised questions about the legal and diplomatic standing of Darroch, including whether the president’s tweet essentially declared the British ambassador “persona non grata.” That term is used in diplomatic circles when a country wants to kick out a foreign official or sometimes other foreigners or prevent them from entering.

Asked whether it was interpreting Trump’s tweet as declaring Darroch persona non grata, the State Department referred POLITICO to the White House. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A former senior State Department official, however, told POLITICO that he would not interpret the tweet as having the effect of “PNG’ing” someone — at least not yet. What’s more likely is that State Department and White House officials will confer on whether to take the president’s tweet as an official instruction and, if so, tell everyone across the federal government not to engage with Darroch, the former official said. That alone could lead Britain to pull the ambassador out of Washington.

If a decision is made at higher levels to declare Darroch persona non grata, it will have to be formally communicated to him by the State Department in a special notice, the former senior department official said.

[Politico]

Trump calls Justin Amash ‘loser’ after GOP lawmaker Quit the Party Saying president’s conduct was ‘impeachable’

Justin Amash, the only congressional Republican who has publicly called to impeach President Donald Trump, says he is leaving the GOP, a move that drew a swift rebuke from the president Thursday.

“Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us,” the five-term Michigan lawmaker wrote in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Thursday morning.

Trump responded hours later on Twitter: “Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is “quitting” the Party. No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!”

Amash, a 39-year-old libertarian elected in 2010, faced two primary challenges and Trump’s lash on Twitter after saying the president committed impeachable offenses May 18. He also said Attorney General William Barr had “deliberately misrepresented” special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allegations the president sought to obstruct the investigation.

Trump has called Amash “a total lightweight” and “a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!” on social media.

Donald Trump Jr. and Amash feuded on Twitter on June 13 after the president’s son teased a campaign appearance for an Amash primary challenger, state legislator Jim Lower, in Michigan’s 3rd District.

Amash on June 10 quit the conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which he was a founding member. The group, which has frequently allied with the president, uniformly opposed Amash’s impeachment stance. Trump has discussed the idea of a primary challenge to Amash with North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a Freedom Caucus co-founder, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, a former Michigan GOP leader and Trump ally.

In light of Amash’s move to ditch the party, the RNCC will almost certainly support a primary challenger since it only supports Republicans running for office. Amash has told friends and allies in Congress that he didn’t plan on running for president as a libertarian, POLITICO Playbook reported.

In the op-ed, published on the Fourth of July ahead of the president’s “Salute to America” on the Mall but which doesn’t mention the president by name, Amash stresses his long support for the GOP as the child of Republican-supporting immigrants before criticizing the partisanship of modern-day politics.

“In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.”

He adds: “These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis.”

Amash encouraged others to follow his lead in becoming an independent. “Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape,” he wrote. He had not previously ruled out a run as an independent.

Six hours before his op-ed was published, Amash tweeted a picture of the Declaration of Independence, writing: “Happy Birthday, America!”

On Thursday morning, he tweeted a link to his op-ed, adding: “Today, I’m declaring my independence.”

Trump on Thursday traveled by motorcade to Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, arriving at 9:07 a.m., according to pool reports.

[Politico]

Trump campaign fires multiple pollsters after unflattering numbers leak

President Donald Trump‘s campaign fired several pollsters after internal polling numbers that showed the President lagging behind Democratic presidential candidates in key states were made public, according to multiple sources.

CNN and other outlets first reported the numbers — which showed Trump trailing Joe Biden in states like Michigan and Wisconsin — weeks ago, but a purge of the polling team was proposed after Trump grew angry about coverage of the numbers in recent days. Campaign officials were frustrated after the detailed numbers of four of the 17 states polled leaked to outlets like ABC last week.

Michael Baselice, the president and CEO of Baselice & Associates Inc., is one of the pollsters the Trump campaign has let go, a Republican familiar with the matter told CNN. Baselice, who is based in Austin, Texas, joined the Trump campaign near the end of the 2016 election cycle and had been close to Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, the person said. Adam Geller, who was also a pollster for the Trump campaign in 2016, was another who was let go, according to another Republican familiar with the situation.

The campaign also cut ties with Brett Lloyd, president and CEO of The Polling Company, the former firm of White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, a source familiar with the matter said.

Baselice and Geller are expected to begin working instead with America First, the pro-Trump super PAC, the source said. Lloyd is not expected to continue working with any Trump-affiliated entities.

A person familiar with the purge said the firings were less about the accuracy of the polling and more about meeting the President’s demands. Another person with knowledge of the discussions refuted this, saying it was about the leaks.

“Leaks from the campaign are unacceptable,” the second person said.

Two officials familiar with the discussions said the top two pollsters, Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin, are expected to stay on.

NBC News first reported on the campaign’s decision to oust some pollsters.

The existence of the 17-state survey, which contained bad news for Trump in battleground states, was reported by CNN and others weeks ago, as aides weighed plans for his reelection launch.

A more detailed accounting of the unflattering polls later appeared in The New York Times while the President was heading to Iowa to travel the state on the same day as Biden.

But days before the kickoff date, specific numbers related to head-to-head matchups between Trump and Biden in four states leaked to ABC on Friday, prompting a more forceful response from the campaign. Previously, the campaign had downplayed the leaked aspects of the internal polls, but did not deny the numbers.

Internal polling became a sensitive subject last week after Trump blew up at several campaign officials, telling them the numbers they had were incorrect and not an accurate reflection of how he’s polling throughout the country, one person familiar with his reaction told CNN. He has become fixated on the numbers in recent days, asking for regular updates or newer polls.

“It’s incorrect polling,” Trump told Fox News in an interview Friday. “Yes, it’s incorrect.”

In turn, campaign officials have spent the last several days rebutting the numbers, claiming they were old or incomplete. One person lamented that the campaign has become more focused on containing the leak than the President’s dismal numbers in key battleground states.

The fallout from the numbers comes as Trump is preparing to launch his reelection bid inside a 20,000-person arena in Orlando on Tuesday night, where he will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence.

The President has held several rallies already this year throughout the Rust Belt and in Florida, but his campaign is hoping to draw some attention away from the expansive Democratic presidential field by staging a monster-sized rally in a state that will be a must-win.

Those close to the President say Biden has occupied his head space more than any other candidate in the Democratic field, because Trump fears Biden poses a more serious threat to the blue-collar appeal that helped him win the 2016 election. Trump has continued to regularly phone aides and allies in the early morning hours to quiz them about Biden — and ask whether he poses a threat to his staying power in the White House.

While some aides have advised the President to refrain from attacking Biden by name, suggesting he “sit back and enjoy the show,” others say Trump enjoys having a foil, no matter how far away the general election is. He has attacked Biden from the South Lawn of the White House, while standing next to the Japanese Prime Minister during a news conference in Tokyo and often from his favorite platform, Twitter.

[CNN]

Trump’s Homeland Security purge claims another victim, head of citizenship agency

The latest head to roll in President Trump’s continued purge of top Homeland Security officials is that of Lee Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Trump asked for Cissna’s resignation, which he submitted Friday, according to an email Cissna sent to agency personnel. He’ll leave the agency on June 1.

While not known as a flamethrower, Cissna courted controversy as he sought to implement Trump’s policies during his tenure at Citizenship and Immigration Services. He pursued the administration’s stated goal of reducing immigration, both legal and illegal. Citizenship and Immigration Services is tasked with processing immigration benefits, citizenship and, in a new focus under the Trump administration, denaturalization.

Cissna had a brief moment in headlines last year when he edited the beginning of Citizenship and Immigration Services’ mission statement, “USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants,” to eliminate the phrase “nation of immigrants.” He told his staff the change clarified the agency’s role in “lawful immigration.” The change was seen by some as forecasting an inward turn.

But he apparently lacked enough zeal to please some of Trump’s hard-line advisors on immigration issues, leading to his ouster.

In his exit announcement, Cissna repeatedly emphasized the “rule of law,” writing that his 20-month tenure “laid the groundwork for many more, much-needed, lawful reforms to come in the near future.” He also hinted at the current upheaval at Homeland Security, describing his tenure as a “challenging time.”

“We are the government servants charged with lawfully, efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits, while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our nation’s values,” he wrote Friday in his email, obtained by The Times.

Underscoring the uncertainty at Homeland Security, the federal government’s third-largest department with roughly 240,000 employees, Cissna reportedly will be replaced by Ken Cuccinelli II — an immigration hardliner and cable news fixture whose name administration officials just days ago floated as a new “immigration czar.” Cuccinelli, however, has a strong enemy in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Neither McConnell’s office nor the White House responded to requests for comment.

In April, Trump forced out then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, naming Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as her replacement. Nielsen spent her last days at the department announcing a cascade of exits for top officials, including U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles; Claire Grady, the acting deputy Homeland Security secretary; and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald D. Vitiello.

The purge at Homeland Security began a few days before Nielsen’s removal, when Trump blindsided her and many other officials by abruptly pulling Vitiello’s nomination to lead ICE on a permanent basis. At first, White House aides told congressional staffers the withdrawal notification had been sent in error. Then Trump told reporters he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction on immigration enforcement. The president also surprised officials when he announced in early May his pick to replace Vitiello, Mark Morgan, a Border Patrol chief under President Obama.

In his confirmation hearings, Cissna — whose mother immigrated to the U.S. from Peru — told lawmakers that he spoke Spanish exclusively at home with his children, explaining, “the immigrant experience has always been a fundamental part of my family life.”

Under his tenure, Citizenship and Immigration Services has directed more resources to reducing a ballooning immigration-case backlog — more than 890,000 pending immigration cases, with an average wait of more than two years — sometimes at the expense of other missions.

At the border and across the country, agency officers interview asylum seekers to help determine whether their cases will proceed or whether they will be removed from the U.S. Cissna took officers who conduct citizenship interviews and reassigned them to the southern border to interview asylum seekers. In the last two years, wait times for citizenship have doubled.

In recent weeks, Citizenship and Immigration Services also has begun to train Border Patrol agents to conduct initial interviews that asylum seekers go through to determine whether they have what U.S. law defines as a “credible fear” of being persecuted in their home country. The moves gave new power to the Border Patrol and took some discretion away from Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers, part of an effort to toughen the process for people seeking asylum.

In March, Cissna announced that his agency would close all of its international offices and prepare to shift its foreign operations to the State Department in order to focus on the backlog. Citizenship and Immigration Services had worked abroad to reunite families, oversee international adoptions, and process requests for U.S. travel for humanitarian emergencies, military members serving overseas and permanent residents seeking to return.

Cissna has also overseen new “public charge” rules penalizing immigrants who use public benefits — and their U.S.-citizen children. Those proposed changes drew hundreds of thousands of public comments, which the agency is required by law to review. Stephen Miller, Trump’s domestic policy advisor and an immigration hardliner, has been frustrated with Cissna for what he viewed as foot-dragging on implementing the public charge rule and other proposals.

As near-record numbers of asylum seekers and Central American families continue to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump critics and supporters alike fear that Miller may not yet be through with a kind of hit list to “clean house” at Homeland Security. The department, created to ensure domestic security, has dozens of leadership vacancies, in addition to the handful of top officials serving in an acting capacity.

Cissna avoided the first round of firings after key Republican senators came to his defense.

McConnell has made clear he will block Cuccinelli from any position requiring Senate confirmation.

In 2014, Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, backed an effort to defeat GOP Senate incumbents and called for McConnell to step down. He also sought to peel delegates away from Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016, even throwing his ID badge on the convention floor to protest Trump’s nomination. At the time, he was working on behalf of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

In announcing in March that USCIS would close its international offices, Cissna wrote in a memo to agency staffers obtained by The Times: “Change can be difficult and can cause consternation.”

[Los Angeles Times]

USDA farms out economists whose work challenges Trump policies

The Agriculture Department is moving nearly all its researchers into the economic effects of climate change, trade policy and food stamps – subjects of controversial Trump administration initiatives – outside of Washington, part of what employees claim is a political crackdown on economists whose assessments have raised questions about the president’s policies.

Since last year, employees in the department’s Economic Research Service have awaited news of which members of their agency would be forced to relocate, after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stunned them by declaring he was moving most of the agency to a location outside the capital. The announcement sparked claims that Perdue was trying to pressure economists into leaving the agency rather than move their families.

On March 5, the department began notifying people who were allowed to stay in Washington, but didn’t provide a comprehensive list, only telling employees in person if they made the cut.

But current and former employees compiled one anyway, covering all 279 people on staff, 76 of whom are being allowed to stay in Washington.

The current and former employees, all of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, say the specialties of those who are being asked to move corresponds closely to the areas where economic assessments often clash with the president’s policies, including tax policies, climate change, and the farm economy. The list, shared exclusively with POLITICO, shows a clear emphasis was placed on keeping employees whose work covers relatively non-controversial issues like crop planting over those whose research focused on areas sensitive to the administration.

“This was a clear politicization of the agency many of us loved for its non-partisan research and analysis,” a current ERS employee told POLITICO, claiming that department leaders picked those whose work was more likely to offend the administration and forced them to move “out or quit.”

A former researcher who left last month in anticipation of being moved put it this way: “You can draw the conclusion that these are the less valued activities that are undertaken by ERS. They view ERS as being useful in that it produces data and statistics that can inform policy but the research that’s done by the economists and geographers and statisticians at ERS is less valuable and that they’re not concerned with a significant deterioration in ERS’ ability to do research.”

A USDA spokesman declined to directly address the employees’ allegation of political bias, but provided a written statement from Perdue saying that the moves were not prompted by the work being done by ERS

“None of this reflects on the jobs being done by our . . . employees, and in fact, I frequently tell my Cabinet colleagues that USDA has the best workforce in the federal government,” Perdue said. “These changes are more steps down the path to better service to our customers, and will help us fulfill our informal motto to ‘Do right and feed everyone. . .”

“We don’t undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to improve performance and the services these agencies provide. We will be placing important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from Washington, D.C. We will be saving money for the taxpayers and improving our ability to retain more employees in the long run. And we are increasing the probability of attracting highly-qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities.”

But employees claim the department’s leadership, including Perdue, turned against the research service after an estimate early last year suggested that the Republican-backed tax plan would largely benefit the wealthiest farmers.

Perdue’s decision to move ERS came several months after news outlets highlighted the USDA study on the Republican tax changes. In response to Perdue’s move, cities from all over the country submitted bids to host the ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which will also move. The finalists, announced May 3, were the greater Kansas City area, North Carolina‘s Research Triangle Park and multiple locations in Indiana.

Accompanying his announcement of a final selection, which is expected as early as this week, Perdue has promised to provide Congress with a cost-benefit analysis detailing why USDA says the move makes financial sense.

The impending announcement comes as pressure builds on Capitol Hill to stop the move. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider a spending bill that includes a provision barring the Agriculture Department from moving the two agencies out of the national capital zone. It also would block Perdue’s decision to put ERS under the control of USDA’s chief economist, a move that placed oversight of the agency closer to the secretary’s office.

Employees said that moving nearly all researchers out of Washington would have a clear impact on the agency’s work. Researchers said they usually draw on information from other USDA divisions, members of Congress and Washington-based stakeholder groups, which would be more difficult from a remote location. Allowing 76 members of the agency to stay in Washington while the other left also impacts morale, they said, and limits collaboration.

Among the employees staying in Washington are senior analysts who conduct global market and crop-outlook estimates and administrative personnel. According to the list, approximately 49 percent of agricultural economists will be allowed to remain in Washington, compared with 14 percent of researchers.

Rumors had been swirling among staff for months about who would be allowed to remain in Washington when all ERS employees were called into an auditorium in March to be briefed by Acting Administrator Chris Hartley. He then read aloud the names of those who qualified to stay. But it wasn’t until employees compiled a full roster of who was staying and going that they got a clear picture of how the agency would be split up.

Decisions on who would stay in Washington were made by ERS leadership and approved by Perdue, according to a “Frequently Asked Questions” document distributed at the March meeting. The FAQ states that “every ERS employee had the ability to provide input” on the move. Senior managers “proposed critical ERS functions” that they believed needed to remain in Washington.

Some employees said that description of the decision-making process validates their concerns that Perdue was behind the move.

“They went in and handpicked who they wanted and called them ‘critical,’” said a current ERS employee.

Neil Conklin, a former senior administrator at ERS under the George W. Bush administration, said the agency stands to be fundamentally changed by the relocation.

“This is going to be very destructive of the agency, as certainly as we’ve known it,” Conklin said.

[Politico]

Former DHS officials blocked Trump plan to arrest thousands of migrants before being ousted

Former leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, including then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, pushed back on a White House plan for mass arrests of migrants shortly before their ouster, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration had planned to arrest thousands of parents and children in 10 major U.S. cities to deter further migrants, the Post reported, citing seven current and former DHS officials. The plan involved fast-tracking immigration court cases and expanding the government’s authority to deport migrants who did not show for their hearings. Arrests of the no-shows would involve coordinated raids of the homes and neighborhoods of parents with children, according to the Post.

Nielsen and then-acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ronald Vitiello put a stop to the plan, citing lack of preparation by ICE personnel and public relations concerns, according to the Post.

“There was concern that it was being hastily put together, would be ineffective, and might actually backfire by misdirecting resources away from critical border emergency response operations,” one DHS official told the Post.

Major boosters of the plan within the administration included senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Matthew Albence. The plan, which is reportedly still under consideration, incorporated cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to the Post.

The two officials’ pushback was a major factor in their ouster, according to the Post, citing administration officials. When Trump announced the withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination as ICE director in April, he expressed a desire to go in a “tougher” direction without further elaborating.

“Both he and Nielsen instinctively thought it was bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked,” a DHS official told the Post.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

[The Hill]

White House revokes press passes for dozens of journalists

IN WHAT APPEARS TO BE an unprecedented move, the White House revoked the press passes of a significant chunk of the Washington press corps because they didn’t meet a new standard, according to Washington Postcolumnist Dana Milbank. Under the new rules, rolled out earlier this year, in order to qualify for the highest level of access—known as a “hard pass”—journalists had to be present in the White House for at least 90 days out of a 180-day period. According to Milbank, virtually the entire press corps failed to meet this new test, including all six of the Post’s White House correspondents. Media outlets then had to apply for exceptions to cover their senior journalists, or settle for six-month passes, which don’t allow as much access.

The Post applied for and was granted exceptions for its White House correspondents, Milbank says, but he was not given one. “I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic,” he wrote on Wednesday. “The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.” Milbank noted that, since dozens of senior correspondents didn’t meet the new standards either, “they all serve at the pleasure of Press Secretary Sarah Sanders” and
“therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides.” (The White House press secretary told the Post the move was a result of security concerns, not a desire to crack down on specific journalists.)

Some seemed concerned that the new rules are an attempt to exert more direct control over the White House press corps, after an incident involving CNN reporter Jim Acosta in November. Acosta’s press pass was revoked following a contentious press conference in which the CNN reporter repeatedly asked the president questions about immigration policy that Trump refused to answer, and then refused to hand over the microphone when an aide tried to take it from him. Later that day, Acosta tried to access the White House in the usual way and was told his “hard pass” had been revoked because of his behavior. Sanders later released a statement saying the CNN reporter’s pass had been withdrawn “until further notice.”

CNN went to court to seek an injunction ordering the White House to return Acosta’s pass, and won. The media company and a number of other organizations that filed briefs in the case argued that the First Amendment protected the media’s right to cover the White House, and that this right couldn’t be abridged without due process. Judge Timothy Kelly agreed with the latter part of that argument, and said the Trump administration had failed to show why Acosta’s press pass was being revoked, or, in fact, that any process had been followed at all. “Whatever process occurred within the government is still so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me at oral argument who made the initial decision to revoke Mr. Acosta’s press pass,” he wrote.

Now, with its new standards for performance and most of the press corps holding passes that have only been issued as “exceptions,” the White House has a structure in place that could allow it to remove whoever it wishes to remove. That wouldn’t necessarily override First Amendment protection for press access (which Kelly didn’t rule on), but in the short term it gives the Trump administration new levers with which to control the press corps. Some argue that access to the White House is already almost meaningless, since press briefings are few and far between (there hasn’t been an on-camera briefing for 58 days, a new record) and what briefings there are often involve the White House press secretary and/or the president shutting down journalist questions and in many cases outright lying about various details of the administration’s behavior or plans.

Here’s more on the White House’s tangled relationship with the press:

  • Un-American: “This is what dictators do,” Patrick Leahy, the senior Democratic senator from Vermont, said in a tweet posted to his official Twitter account, quoting from the Dana Milbank piece in The Washington Post. Jeff Merkley, a Democratic senator from Oregon, posted a similar sentiment on Twitter, saying: “Curtailing a free press and undermining the public’s access to government is a hallmark of authoritarianism & has no place in America. This purge of reporters is un-American and needs to be reversed ASAP. ”
  • Not normal: Even before the furor over the revoking of Jim Acosta’s press pass, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen was arguing that the media should “suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency” because of the way it treated journalists and the press. New outlets and journalists should refuse to do background or off-the-record briefings, Rosen said, and stop repeating the president’s falsehoods. Rosen also argued as early as 2017 that media outlets should stop sending their senior journalists to White House briefings.
  • Does it matter? In September, Pete Vernon wrote for CJR about the inexorable decline of the White House press briefing and asked whether or not it matters anymore. Olivier Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, told CNN’s Brian Stelter that the briefing “has both a symbolic and a substantive importance to the White House press corps,” because it shows that “the most powerful political institution in American life is not above being questioned.” But others argued it was just an exercisein political theater.
  • No dinner: Trump announced last month that he wouldn’t be attending the White House Correspondent Dinner, an annual fundraiser in which journalists dine with politicians and celebrities, and then ordered that no White House or administration officials would be allowed to attend the dinner either. Trump said the dinner was “so boring and negative” that he would be attending a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin instead. Last year, CJR looked at the dinner and found that less than half the money raised went to scholarships.

[Columbia Journal Review]

Trump Retweets Call for Fox News to Take Andrew Napolitano Off the Air

President Donald Trump is calling for Fox News to take one of the networks biggest critics off their air, in a Sunday morning retweet of Twitter User @HH41848213, aka “HowardH” who joined Twitter in 2016 and has roughly 235 followers until today.

The analysis of  Mueller Report drama — and the competing news narratives that have followed suit — has been, for the most part, predictable. That is to say, that media outlets that have been consistently critical of President Trump have amplified evidence of Executive Branch malfeasance, while those that traditionally take a pro-Trump perspective (take Fox New for example) have been quick to promote Trump’s “no collusion, no obstruction” story.

The most notable exception to that pretty hard and fast rule has been Fox News Senior Legal Analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who has consistently demonstrated his independent judicial perspective, much to the disappointment of Trump and his supporters.

Trump’s retweet:

When you look at the continuous incorrect statements by Napolitano over the past 2 years, it is fair to ask FNC why they allow him to have national air time. The man has been significantly wrong on at least 8 major occasions. Unacceptable! Take him off the air!

What has Napolitano said that has raised the ire of the commander in chief? Where to start? His insights have been remarkably critical of Mueller Report findings on Trump’s obstruction of justice, the behavior of Attorney General William Barrand even the curious behavior of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has flouted previous presidential decorum for years. But the retweeting of some rando on Twitter calling for the ostensible firing of the well-respected legal mind of Andrew Napolitano is a new level that we haven’t quite seen before.

[Mediaite]

Draft-dodger Trump says he ‘would have been a good general’ while trashing James Mattis in Cabinet meeting rant

President Donald Trump ended former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ tenure as defense secretary right before the New Year, seemingly in retaliation for a letter Mattis published criticizing President Trump’s global policy.

At a cabinet meeting Wednesday, the President lashed out at Mattis.

“What’s he done for me? How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good,” Trump said.

“As you know, president Obama fired him, and essentially so did I,” he added. In fact, general Mattis tendered his resignation after Trump announced the hasty withdrawal of troops from Syria. The President has since said he would slow the troop withdrawal.

“I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” the President added

[Raw Story]

 

1 2 3 7