Trump expands federal contractors’ ability to cite religious freedom in discrimination cases

The Trump administration issued a directive earlier this month that critics argue will allow federal contractors to assert their right to a religious exemption from LGBT discrimination charges.

The Department of Labor directive, issued on Aug. 10, expands the circumstances under which federal contractors can claim they have a religious exemption when battling discrimination charges.

The directive addresses an executive order enacted in 1965 that blocks businesses that work with the federal government from discriminating against people on the basis of sex, gender identity, race, sexual orientation and other factors.

The new notice cites recent Supreme Court decisions, including a ruling in favor of a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision that certain corporations can be exempt from regulations over religious objections.

It also cites recent executive orders by President Trump, including his order earlier this year directing federal agencies to respect and protect religious liberty and political speech.

Critics told BuzzFeed News that the new directive would contradict a promise Trump made when he took office last year to not to touch an executive order issued by former President Obama that banned federal contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination.

Department of Labor and White House officials told the news outlet that the Obama-era executive order remains in place, but declined to answer questions on when the religious exemption directive could be utilized by contractors.

“The purpose of Directive 2018-03 is to ensure [the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] guidance on the religious exemption is consistent with federal law related to religious freedom and religious accommodation, including recent U.S. Supreme Court precedents and Executive Orders, which OFCCP is obligated to follow,” a Labor Department official told BuzzFeed News.

The official noted that the executive order enacted in 1965 allows “religious organizations to make employment decisions on the basis of religion.”

The new directive also states that it “supersedes” a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) memo on the illegality of anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The previous FAQ did not reflect recent Supreme Court decisions regarding religious freedoms,” the Department of Labor official told BuzzFeed News.

“President Trump and his Administration are working diligently to improve the lives of all Americans, including faith-based and LGBT communities,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed News. “We will continue to ensure anti-discrimination protections are in place for all Americans.”

Advocates opposing the new directive told the news site that the policy opens the door for contractors to cite religious exemptions when discriminating against LGBT employees.

“This Administration apparently recognizes — correctly, in our view — that rescinding [Obama’s 2014] executive order outright would cause a huge public outcry,” Shannon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the current head of Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed News. “So instead, this Administration is trying to accomplish the same end through different means.”

McGowan noted that a fifth of the federal workforce is employed through federal contractors, telling the news site that the “damage that could be done here cannot be overstated.”

[The Hill]

Trump Quotes Tucker Carlson to Call John Brennan Dumb, Sen. Blumenthal a ‘Fake War Hero’

At the start of his Fox News show Thursday night, host Tucker Carlsontook a swing at former CIA director John Brennan.

Then, Trump tweeted out what he said, adding in a jab at Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“Tucker Carlson speaking of John Brennan: ‘How did somebody so obviously limited intellectually get to be CIA Director in the first place?’ Now that is a really good question! Then followed by ‘Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is a FAKE War Hero…’” Trump wrote, before adding his own, “So true, a total Fake!”

Adding his own spin, Trump followed up by tweeting out this, slamming Blumenthal.

Trump tweeting out Fox News quotes in real-time is also becoming a bit of a habit for POTUS.

Just last night, Trump quoted Dan Bongino, Joe diGenova, Mark Levin, and even Sean Hannity shortly after they said things that bolster his views on the air.

[Mediaite]

White House: ‘Can’t guarantee’ no tape of Trump using N-word

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday refused to definitively rule out the possibility that President Trump has used the N-word, but repeatedly pointed out the president has denied uttering the racial slur.

“I can’t guarantee anything,” Sanders said when asked if she can assure that the public will never hear a recording of Trump saying the racial slur.

Sanders said she has not “been in every single room” but added that “the president addressed this question directly” and that she has “never heard him say it.”

The remarkable exchange came after former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman wrote in her new tell-all book “Unhinged” that there are tapes of Trump saying the racial slur on the set of his old reality show, “The Apprentice.”

Trump denied that claim in a Monday night tweet, saying an “Apprentice” producer called him “to say that there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa.”

Manigault Newman’s book has caused a major headache for the White House, and Trump has spent the past several days publicly denying her claims and attacking her credibility. The president escalated those attacks on Tuesday morning, calling her a “lowlife” and a “dog.”

“The president is certainly voicing his frustration with the fact that this person has shown a complete lack of integrity,” Sanders said when asked about the tenor of Trump’s rhetoric.

She also denied that his scorched-earth approach is motivated by Manigault Newman’s race. Before her ouster, she was the highest-ranking African-American in the West Wing.

“The president is an equal-opportunity person who calls things like he sees it,” she said, adding that he will always “fight fire with fire.”

Even though Trump and his staff have spent several days pushing back on the book, Sanders blamed the news media for the amount of attention the book is receiving.

“The individuals in this room continue to create a large platform for somebody they know does not have a lot of credibility,” she said.

Trump’s campaign has filed for arbitration against Manigault Newman, claiming she violated a nondisclosure agreement with the publication of “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.”

[The Hill]

Media

Donald Trump calls Omarosa Manigault Newman ‘that dog’

Donald Trump has escalated a bitter row with his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, praising his chief of staff, John Kelly, for “quickly firing that dog”.

Manigault Newman, a former adviser to the US president and contestant on the reality TV show The Apprentice, has released three secret recordingsrelated to her firing as she promotes her memoir, Unhinged.

Her TV appearances, and her claim to have heard a tape of Trump using the N-word and other racial slurs during filming for The Apprentice, have annoyed the president, who levelled another barrage of attacks at her on Tuesday, tweeting: “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

On Tuesday morning, Manigault Newman revealed on CBS News a third tape that she says records a 2016 conference call among Trump campaign aides who are discussing how to address potential fallout from the release of tapes that allegedly show Trump using the N-word.

The campaign aides had previously denied that any such conversations took place.

On Monday, Trump denied claims of racism and said Manigault Newman was a liar for claiming he used the N-word: “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary and never have. She made it up.”

When Kelly fired Manigault Newman in December in the White House situation room, she secretly taped it, in an apparent breach of security protocol.

In the recording, which she played on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Kelly told Manigault Newman the firing was the result of “significant integrity issues” and that she could face damage to her reputation if she did not make it a “friendly departure”.

On Monday, Manigault Newman released another recording in which Trump appeared to express surprise that she had been fired. “Omarosa? Omarosa, what’s going on? I just saw on the news that you’re thinking about leaving? What happened?” Trump says on the tape, played on NBC’s Today show.

In a later interview on Monday, Manigault Newman said she “absolutely” had more tapes in her possession and warned that there were more to come.

The controversy has raised questions about whether she could face legal repercussions for recording in the situation room.

Defending her actions, Manigault Newman said the recordings were necessary in a White House “where everybody lies”.

Trump’s scathing attack on Manigault Newman is the latest in a string of insults directed at prominent African American people. This month, Trump questioned the intelligence of the basketball star LeBron James, who had criticised the president in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon. Trump called Lemon the “dumbest man on television”.

Days earlier, Trump said the black California congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat, had a “very low IQ”.

[The Guardian]

Trump renews attacks on NFL players, calling for suspensions

President Trump on Friday renewed his attacks on NFL players who protest during the national anthem, claiming they “wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define.”

“The NFL players are at it again — taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted.

“Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest,” he continued. “Most of that money goes to the players anyway.”

“Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!” Trump added.

Trump’s new attack came a day after the first big slate of NFL preseason games on Thursday night, during which players from several teams protestedduring “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

[The Hill]

Trump Smears MSNBC as ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Corrupt’ at Rally, Crowd Erupts in ‘CNN Sucks’ Chant

During a raucous rally in Ohio that hit on a number of familiar themes from his earlier rallies, President Donald Trump once again took swipes at the media, calling MSNBC “disgusting” and prompting a chant of “CNN sucks.”

“They had this false report that I was supporting somebody else and they were right,” he said before laughing, “It was fake news.”

“They were right and I was supporting somebody else, Steve Stivers but he’s in a  totally different district. Did they apologize…”

Then turning to the media bullpen, Trump asked, “Did you apologize for that mistake?”

That prompted loud boos and chants of “CNN sucks” from the crowd.

Finally, continuing on with his story only after the anti-CNN chants died down, Trump continued on, taking another media jab: “So, I heard that Troy was like my second choice. I said he was my first choice. He has always been the one I want to win. It’s always dangerous when you do this…They give us false records.”

The mistake Trump was referring to a tweet he sent out on August 2 calling for people to get out and vote for Stivers, who is not on the special election ballot.

Despite calling for the media to apologize during the rally, that tweet — sent by Trump — has since been deleted.

Yet, as it turns out Trump’s call for the apology was just the warm-up. Later on during the same Ohio rally, Trump once again hit on the media, calling out CNN and MSNBC by name and once again sparking a fierce reaction from the crowd.

“MSNBC is so corrupt. It is so disgusting, so disgusting. I would say almost worse,” Trump said, prompting boos for the media from the crowd.

Then after praising Fox News — even calling out Fox News personalities by name — Trump said to the sycophant and loud crowd, “CNN is down at the bottom of the totem pole. MSNBC isn’t even close [to Fox].”

[Mediaite]

President Trump bashes LeBron James over CNN interview: Don Lemon made him ‘look smart’

It seemed inevitable that President Donald Trump would weigh in on LeBron James’ recent interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.

After four days, Trump finally let loose in a Friday night tweet in which he bashed James and said Lemon’s interview made the new Los Angeles Lakers star “look smart.” The president also alluded to preferring Michael Jordan over James.

After four days, Trump finally let loose in a Friday night tweet in which he bashed James and said Lemon’s interview made the new Los Angeles Lakers star “look smart.” The president also alluded to preferring Michael Jordan over James.

James sat down with Lemon for the interview Monday after he cut the ribbon on his foundation’s new I Promise School in his native Akron, Ohio. James spoke at length on the intersection of sports, culture and politics.

James lamented Trump “using sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.”

“Sports has never been something that divides people. It’s always been something that brings someone together,” he said.

James’ recent criticism of the president is not new. He has been an outspoken critic, famously calling Trump a “bum” after he rescinded a White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors this past season.

However, it appears Trump did not always feel that way toward James. In what is now a seemingly regular occurrence, there’s a tweet for that, as they say. In a post from May of 2013, Trump tweeted, “LeBron is a great player and a great guy!”

[USA Today]

Trump shares son’s tweet backing supporters chanting ‘CNN sucks’

President Trump on Tuesday night shared his son Eric Trump‘s tweet backing supporters chanting “CNN sucks.”

“#Truth @Acosta,” Eric Trump wrote, in reference to CNN’s Jim Acosta. Eric Trump wrote the message in his retweet of a video with the caption “WATCH: Supporters of President Trump Chant ‘CNN Sucks’ During Jim Acosta’s Live Spot at Florida Rally.”

The president retweeted Eric shortly afterward. His retweet came after a campaign-style rally on Tuesday night in Florida, in which he made fun of the press several times, falsely claiming they “suppress” polls that indicate positive approval ratings for his presidency.

Acosta himself replied to Eric Trump. “No, Eric,” Acosta tweeted. “Not the truth. And you know better.”

The president frequently incites his supporters in chants against the news media, decrying them as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.”

Trump often specifically targets CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Last week, the Trump administration came under fire for refusing to allow CNN’s Kaitlan Collins to attend a press event because they said she asked questions inappropriately.

Trump has refused to take questions from Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, several times.

During his European trip in July, Trump refused to answer a question from Acosta, claiming that he does not support “fake news.” He instead took questions from Fox News’s John Roberts.

Last year, Trump said he would not take a question from Acosta during a press conference.

“Your organization is terrible,” Trump told Acosta.

Earlier in the day, Acosta tweeted a video of a crowd of Trump supporters jeering, holding up their middle fingers and yelling “stop lying!” at him.

[The Hill]

Trump threatens government shutdown over border security

President Trump warned on Sunday that he would be willing to “shut down” the government over border security.

“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!” he said in a morning tweet.

“We need great people coming into our Country!” he added.

The president in an earlier tweet on Sunday morning said “many” border crossers are using children for “sinister purposes.” He also blasted existing U.S. immigration laws and urged followers to vote for Republicans.

“Please understand, there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally, whether they have children or not – and many are just using children for their own sinister purposes. Congress must act on fixing the DUMBEST & WORST immigration laws anywhere in the world! Vote ‘R,’ ” he said.

[The Hill]

Trump aide Conway says media should show ‘more respect’ after White House bars reporter from event

Just hours after the White House banned a CNN reporter from attending a press event with President Donald Trump, adviser Kellyanne Conway on Thursday berated the news media, claiming that “shouting” and “pouting” reporters should show more “civility” and “respect” toward the administration.

When asked Thursday why Kaitlan Collins had been booted from a Rose Garden event a day earlier after she peppered the president with questions on Russia and Michael Cohen, Conway, counselor to Trump, responded that unruly reporters were to blame for the incident.

“I think that the question isn’t are the press allowed to ask questions, this president obviously isn’t afraid of questions. We answer them routinely,” she told reporters gathered on the White House lawn. “And that incident aside, just being polite to the process, to the presidency, to the protocol, and not shouting questions long after the press has politely been asked to leave, long after you’ve had opportunity to be there with the president, I think it’s a very reasonable request.”

“And that incident aside, I’m just speaking more broadly, the civility that you all call for sometimes when you’re in your broadcasts, I think it should start here at the White House, and just show a little bit more respect,” Conway continued.

“I think it’s the shouting and the pouting long after the press corps has been politely asked to leave the room,” she said.

Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive who Trump tapped earlier this month as his deputy chief of staff for communications, also weighed in, casting doubt on the way the incident had been portrayed in the news media and telling reporters to ask Collins if anyone from the White House had used the word “ban” when not allowing her in.

Collins had served as the network television “pool reporter” during an Oval Office photo op with Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Wednesday, meaning she was asking questions on behalf of several TV news organizations.

[NBC News]

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