Mulvaney Acknowledges Quid Pro Quo In Trump Ukraine Call, Says ‘Get Over It’

The acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted on Thursday that President Donald Trump withheld foreign aid in order to get Ukraine’s help in the U.S. election.

“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney responded when a reporter pointed out that withholding funding from Ukraine “unless the investigation into the Democrats’ server happens” is a “quid pro quo.”

“Get over it,” he added later. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy. … That is going to happen. Elections have consequences.”

[Huffington Post]

Trump Rages at Pelosi, Mattis, and Communists During ‘Meltdown’ in White House Meeting

President Donald Trump invited Democratic Party leaders to the White House on Wednesday and proceeded to have what those leaders described as a “meltdown” in front of them. Before the lawmakers left early, Trump managed to rail against communists, his own former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he called “a third-rate politician,” according to the Democratic leaders and sources’ descriptions of the meeting.

Shortly after the brief, cross-partisan meeting with the president in the Cabinet Room—which was convened to discuss Syria- and Turkey-related matters—Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) emerged to give a readout to reporters on what was, in Schumer’s words, Trump’s “nasty diatribe.”

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown—sad to say,” Pelosi told reporters. “I think that vote, the size of the vote—more than two-to-one of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did [on troops in Syria]—it probably got to the president, because he was shaken up by it [and] that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.”

Schumer asserted that Pelosi “kept her cool completely” even while Trump sniped that “there are communists involved [in Syria] and you guys might like that.”

The president even took a shot at his former defense secretary—who quit late last year over policy disagreements—when the conversation on Wednesday afternoon touched on foreign policy and a potential rejuvenation of ISIS fighters in Syria.

According to a Democratic source familiar with what happened in that meeting, Schumer at one point pulled out a piece of paper featuring quotes from Mattis’ interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. The Democratic leader began reading to the president the statement that Mattis made on that Sunday show, that “if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”

Trump, this source said, then interrupted Schumer, and insisted that Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general.”

“You know why?” the president continued, according to the source. “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.” Trump also repeatedly claimed that of the ISIS prisoners who escaped when Turkish forces invaded northeast Syria (an invasion Trump all but greenlit), only the “least dangerous” individuals got out.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, asked to confirm the president’s assertion that those ISIS prisoners who escape were the “least dangerous,” told Schumer he didn’t know, according to the source.

At one point, Trump is said to have claimed that “someone wanted this meeting so I agreed to it,” despite the White House having called the meeting.

Pelosi, for her part, told Trump that Russia has long wanted a “foothold in the Middle East,” adding that because of the president’s actions, the Russian government now has it. “All roads with you lead to Putin,” the House speaker jabbed, according to one senior Democratic aide.

“I hate ISIS more than you do,” Trump shot back at Pelosi, this aide noted, with Pelosi replying, “You don’t know that.”

Later in the day, Pelosi, in the escalating round of insults hurled between the West Wing and Capitol Hill, told reporters, “I think now we have to pray for [Trump’s] health. Because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.”

There was even a point in this meeting, the Democratic aide said, that President Trump distributed to attendees the Oct. 9 letter he sent to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the one that read, “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy—and I will.” Trump’s letter also includes the lines, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

This was taken as an attempt by the president to demonstrate to all the Republicans and Democrats in the room that he was being sufficiently tough on Erdogan, and as an effort to convince those present that he did not greenlight the Turkish invasion, which is currently causing political backlash at home, and slaughter and mayhem abroad.

The president’s aides, meanwhile, sought to place the blame for the derailed meeting on the Democratic leaders’ decision to walk out over Trump’s “nasty” words directed at Pelosi.

“Her decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham emailed The Daily Beast shortly after the Democrats’ comments to White House press. “Speaker Pelosi had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues.  While Democratic leadership chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine, everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country.”

Trump later tweeted a flurry of photos from the meeting that he claimed showed the Democrats had tanked the meeting, including one in which he accused Pelosi of having an “unhinged meltdown.”

This wouldn’t be the first time this year that a meeting at the White House involving Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer completely degenerated so quickly. Early this year, during a Friday meeting on the government shutdown, President Trump started the gathering by launching a 15-minute, profanity-encrusted rant that included him demanding his border wall, and, unprompted, complaining about Democratic lawmakers who want to impeach him. 

At the time, Trump told attendees that he was, simply put, too popular a president to impeach.

Today, Trump and his administration are currently fighting back against an ongoing, rapidly accelerating impeachment inquiry, with Democrats on Capitol Hill hoping to hold a vote on his impeachment before the end of the year.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump Claims ISIS Fighters in Syria Were Released From Prison ‘Just For Effect’

President Donald Trump has claimed that ISIS fighters who escaped from jail in northern Syrian were released “for effect” to compel U.S. re-entry into the region.

During his Oval Office press spray with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Trump called the withdrawal of troops from Syria “strategically brilliant,” even as America’s Kurdish allies have come under attack by the Turkish military’s invasion.

After insulting the Kurds, Trump handed the fight against ISIS off to Syria and Russia, saying “you have a lot of countries over there that hate ISIS as much as we do…So they can take care of ISIS.”

“We have them captured. The United States captured them,” Trump continued. “Some were released just for effect to make us look a little bit like ‘oh gee, we have to get right back in there.’ You have a lot of countries over there that have power and that hate ISIS very much, as much as we do.”

Trump concluded by saying “we’re in a very strategically good position,” before blaming the criticism for his decision on the “fake news” media once again.

“I know the fake news doesn’t make it look that way but we’ve removed all of our 50 soldiers but much less than 50 soldiers.”

[Mediaite]

Trump pick for education board writes Illuminati self-help books

President Trump‘s pick for a federal education board authors self-help Illuminati books.

The Commission of Presidential Scholars awards high school seniors in the country annually, and its board is comprised of education experts like the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. Trump’s nominee to this board, George Mentz, was announced last week, The Denver Post reported

Mentz, a lawyer and online professor of wealth management at the Texas A&M University School of Law, has written books called “The Illuminati Secret Laws of Money,” “The Illuminati Handbook,” “50 Laws of Power of the Illuminati” and “100 Secrets and Habits of the Illuminati for Life Success.”

“If you conceive of your desire, you can then imagine that your goal will take place with belief, and then you will be able [to] retrieve the opportunity from the world’s storehouse of riches,” he wrote in his book “Spiritual Wealth Management.”

The nominee said he uses the word “Illuminati” in his books about money and wealth partly for marketing reasons.

“Just because I use the word Illuminati, don’t let that get you too excited,” Mentz told The Denver Post. “If you look the word up, it means ‘illumination.’ How to be more aware, conscious, a better person.”

Mentz has donated thousands of dollars to Trump’s campaign and political action committee, after supporting him for three decades, The Denver Post report said.

[The Hill]

Trump Tweetstorms Amid Mounting Syria Criticism: Anyone Helping Protect Kurds Good With Me, Whether It’s ‘Russia, China, or Napoleon’

President Donald Trump went on a tweetstorm this afternoon standing by his Syria withdrawal decision amid mounting criticism from Republicans and the atrocities witnessed in northern Syria in the past few days.

Many Republicans have been critical of the decision (some blaming Trump, others going a slightly different route), and just yesterday a harrowing report from Fox News said there’s evidence of war crimes, as well as “civilians being targeted, and ISIS prisoners escaping.”

This morning the president hit back over comments from Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, and this afternoon he went on a tweetstorm defending his decision, asking, “why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?”, and invoking Napoleon for some reason.

[Mediaite]

Pentagon sends new wave of troops to Saudi Arabia even as Trump calls for ending wars

The Pentagon is sending a fresh wave of troops to Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom against Iran, despite President Donald Trump’s repeated pledges to end the U.S. military’s commitments in the Middle East.

“I have ordered the deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of two additional fighter squadrons and supporting personnel,” including two batteries of soldiers manning Patriot air-defense missiles and another Army unit manning a larger air-defense missile system, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon today.

The latest deployment, which includes two squadrons of fighter jets and three air-defense units, will bring to 3,000 the number of troops the U.S. has sent to Saudi Arabia since Iran attacked the kingdom’s oil infrastructure last month. “The evidence recovered so far proves that Iran is responsible for these attacks,” Esper said, noting that Germany, France and the United Kingdom have reached the same conclusion.

Trump has repeatedly pledged to pull U.S. forces back from overseas entanglements. “We want to bring our soldiers back home. These are endless wars,” he said Monday, in an apparent reference to the continuing U.S. troop commitments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And yesterday, Trump falsely claimed that U.S. forces have been fully removed from Syria. Roughly 1,000 troops are deployed there.

Along with other deployments over the spring and summer “in response to Iranian provocations,” the new wave of units will push the total number of U.S. troops the Pentagon has added to the Middle East since May to 14,000, Esper noted.

Those earlier deployments included Air Force bombers, early-warning radar planes, drones, construction engineers to build up airbases, and warships. Some of the units deployed to existing U.S. bases in the region, while others, starting in July, reestablished an operational U.S. military presence at an airbase in Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon had pulled out of that airbase, leaving only an advisory presence in the kingdom, after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

An Air Force headquarters unit will also head to Saudi Arabia in the latest wave, the Pentagon noted in a statement. U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, requested the new deployments.

Esper has also delegated authority to move forces within the region to Gen. Frank McKenzie, who heads Central Command, added Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

The purpose of the deployment is to “send the message to the Iranians, do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American forces,” Milley said.

Esper, meanwhile, described the move as an example of “dynamic force employment,” a term the Pentagon has recently introduced for short-notice deployments around the world, either in response to crises or to flex the military’s muscles in training.

But the timing of the new orders suggests they are aimed at filling an airpower gap as the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group prepares to depart the region. Esper’s predecessor ordered Lincoln and its accompanying aircraft and warships to Middle Eastern waters in May, reversing a Pentagon initiative meant to free up carriers from their longstanding Middle East mission.

Esper wouldn’t comment on the aircraft carrier issue today, saying he wouldn’t “speak about operational deployments particularly with regard to assets like carriers.” But Esper has not signed an order authorizing an extension of the Lincoln’s deployment, Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesperson, said.

The deployment of Lincoln’s replacement, USS Harry S. Truman, has been delayed until next month due to problems with the ship’s electrical system, USNI News reported.

[Politico]

Trump says Fox News ‘doesn’t deliver for US anymore’ after poll shows rising impeachment support

President Trump said on Thursday that Fox News “doesn’t deliver for US anymore” after the network’s latest poll showed growing support for his impeachment and removal from office.

“From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,” Trump tweeted. “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck. But @FoxNews is also much different than it used to be in the good old days.”

A Fox poll released Wednesday found 51 percent of respondents supported Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. Four percent of participants said the president should be impeached but not removed, and 40 percent were completely against impeachment. 

Trump on Thursday also lashed out at prominent Fox News employees who have been critical of him and his interactions with the president of Ukraine, which is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats. 

“@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore,” Trump tweeted. “It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I’m President!”

He ripped retired Judge Andrew Napolitano, who argued that Trump had already confessed to a crime when he admitted to encouraging the Ukrainian president to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Trump claimed that Napolitano, Fox News’s senior judicial analyst, wanted to be on the Supreme Court but that he turned the judge down. Politico reported in 2017 that Napolitano had told friends he was on Trump’s shortlist of potential nominees.

The president also ripped Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and contributor Donna Brazile. Trump has targeted both before, as Smith regularly fact checks or rebuts statements from the president during his hourly program and Brazile is the former interim leader of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump has had a hot-and-cold relationship with Fox News in recent months. He has complained about several of the network’s polls that showed him trailing his Democratic challengers in potential 2020 matchups and regularly lashes out at employees who are critical of him.

He tweeted in August that the cable network “isn’t working for us anymore” and that his supporters “have to start looking for a new News Outlet.”

But the president still regularly tweets out quotes from Fox News programming, his aides appear on Fox for interviews and former White House staffers have taken jobs at the network.

Moments after his criticism of Fox on Thursday, the president retweeted posts from Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo multiple times.

[The Hill]

Trump defends abandoning the Kurds by saying they didn’t help the US in WWII

President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to abandon the Kurds to a Turkish military incursion in Syria by saying they didn’t help the US during World War II. 

This came amid reports that Turkish ground troops were crossing the border into Syria after air strikes that began earlier in the day.

“They didn’t help us in the Second World War; they didn’t help us with Normandy,” Trump said of the Kurds. He added, “With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said in a statement released by the White House that he did not endorse the Turkish military operation and thought it was a “bad idea.” But he did not refer directly to the Kurds or signal any immediate response from the US to thwart Turkey’s actions. 

The Trump administration on Sunday abruptly announced the US was withdrawing troops stationed in northeastern Syria ahead of a Turkish operation.

The move has been broadly condemned in Washington, including by top congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials, as many feel Trump paved the way for Turkey to go after key US allies. 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS, losing about 11,000 fighters in the process.

Ahead of the Trump administration’s announcement, Kurdish forces had recently dismantled defensive positions along the Turkey-Syria border under assurances from the US it would not allow a Turkish assault. The SDF described Trump’s decision to withdraw troops as a “stab in the back” and made clear it felt betrayed by the US. 

[Business Insider]

Trump lies the military was “out of ammunition” when he took office

On Monday, President Donald Trump told an especially silly lie about the state of the United States military when he took office. But the way this particular lie evolved over the past month says something about how fast and loose Trump is with reality more broadly.

During a press conference, Trump — rambling on about his decision to withdraw troops from Syria — took credit for rejuvenating the military, but in so doing rewrote history by claiming that Obama literally left it with no ammunition. His source for this claim was an unnamed “top general.”

“When I took over our military, we did not have ammunition,” Trump said. “I was told by a top general, maybe the top of them all, ‘Sir, I’m sorry sir, we don’t have ammunition.’ I said, I will never let that happen to another president.”

In reality, the United States spent $611 billion on the military in 2016. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a veteran who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and was first elected to Congress in 2016, noted Trump’s comments were “not true.”

“I get briefings as a member of the House Armed Services Committee on our munitions stockpile all over the world,” Gallego tweeted. “We have never run out of ammunition.”

Of course, a full fact-check isn’t needed to see Trump’s comment as the absurdity that it is. But it is interesting to trace how Trump has embellished this particular tall tale since he first told it on September 16.

On that day, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that when he took office, General Jim Mattis — his future defense secretary, and presumably the “top general” Trump referred to on Monday — told him the country was “very low on ammunition.”

“You know, when I came here three years ago almost, General Mattis told me, ‘Sir, we’re very low on ammunition. I said, ‘That’s a horrible thing to say,’” Trump said. “We were in a position where with a certain country — I won’t say which one — we may have had conflict. And he said to me, ‘Sir, if you could, delay it, because we’re very low on ammunition.’ And I said, ‘You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general.’”

Note how that tale was slightly less outlandish than the one Trump told Monday. It is true that President Obama slimmed down the armed forces, a decision that was viewed unfavorably by a large swath of the troops when he left office. It’s also true that Trump has increased military spending. So, charitably speaking, there is a kernel of truth to what Trump was saying.

But within hours, Trump starting pumping up whatever kernel of truth existed until it was no longer recognizable.

Trump held a rally on September 16 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. There, he told the same story he told in the Oval Office earlier in the day, but in a slightly exaggerated form. Instead of being “very low on ammunition,” in the new telling, the country had “very little, slash, no ammunition” when he took office.

Four days later, the story had been exaggerated once again. During a September 20 news conference, Trump claimed the military “didn’t have ammunition” when he took office — the same lie he told on Tuesday.

In sum, Trump started with an exaggerated story that was already absurd, but then gradually inflated it even more until the final product become one of his most outlandish lies. In this case, the subject matter is relatively trivial — nobody really believes the military was out of ammunition when he took office — but the chain of events illustrates how broken Trump’s truth barometer is, and serves as a disturbing reminder about how little the president’s word can be trusted on more important matters.

The comment about ammunition wasn’t even the only time Trump’s propensity for absurdity was on display during the Monday media availability. Trump closed things out by claiming that “my polls went up I think 17 points in the last two or three days.” In fact, Trump’s approval rating has barely budged from being 12 points underwater.

[Vox]

Trump Is Feuding With the Mayor of Minneapolis Over Security Costs for His Rally

The Trump campaign is locked in a battle with Minneapolis after the city insisted the president’s team cover $530,000 in security costs for a rally later this week.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that city officials told the Target Center, where Trump is planning to hold a re-election rally, that it would have to cover the security costs. The company that manages the arena, AEG, then reportedly passed those costs on to Trump’s campaign, which has now threatened legal action if it’s not assured by Tuesday that the arena would be available for the rally later in the week.

The Trump campaign also slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, saying he was using the rally to boost his profile.

“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their president, and no mayor looking to beef up his resume for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”

Frey has been a critic of Trump, and when it was announced that Trump would hold a rally in the city, he said the president’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”

Frey got into a spat with Trump on Twitter on Tuesday, after the president said the “lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters.”

“Yawn… Welcome to Minneapolis, where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors,” wrote Frey in response.

The Trump campaign has come under fire for not paying its costs in the past. A report from the Center for Public Integrity in June revealed that Trump’s campaign owed city governments at least $841,219 in unpaid bills for public safety–related expenses.

There’s no legal obligation for campaigns to cover the costs that cities incur during rallies, but they are allowed to use campaign funds to do so. Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal told the Star Tribune that “it’s not fair” for residents to have to cover security costs at events.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what the event is. If it’s anticipated that there will be a need for additional response … a source of revenue for that needs to be found,” she told the paper.

[Vice]

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