Trump keeps up attacks on Obama over Russian meddling

President Donald Trump is continuing to blame his predecessor for not doing enough to deter Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s latest criticism of President Barack Obama comes as he’s deflected questions about his own administration’s response to Russian meddling and measures the US can take to prevent it. The President notably has refused to condemn the interference in the wake of last week’s indictments against 13 Russian nationals, instead claiming that the latest developments in the investigation demonstrate a lack of collusion between his campaign and Russia.

In one tweet, Trump quoted Obama saying toward the end of the 2016 race that there was no evidence America’s elections were “rigged,” suggesting the then-businessman should “stop whining.” Obama, however, was referring to Trump’s claims of a rigged election and calls at the time for supporters to monitor polling sites for potentially ineligible voters attempting to cast ballots.

Tuesday’s tweet came soon after “Fox & Friends” highlighted the comment.

“That’s because he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win and he didn’t want to ‘rock the boat.’ When I easily won the Electoral College, the whole game changed and the Russian excuse became the narrative of the Dems,” Trump said.

Trump also claimed on Tuesday he’s “been tougher on Russia than Obama.”

The 44th president, however, personally warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against messing with the election, imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities, kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two of the Kremlin’s compounds in the United States.

Trump, in comparison, still has not imposed sanctions designed to punish election meddling by Moscow.

Representatives for Obama declined to comment Tuesday on Trump’s latest round of tweets.

And over the weekend, Trump publicly rebuked his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, after he said there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Russia meddled in the election.

Trump also questioned on Monday why Obama didn’t do more to prevent Moscow from interfering in US elections, tweeting: “Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”

Trump has adamantly denied any cooperation between his team and Russia and has called the investigation a Democratic hoax.

[CNN]

Reality

Obama faced Putin and told him “to cut it out”, tried to alert the public with a bi-partisan announcement but was blocked by Mitch McConnell, expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two compounds.

Let’s take score. Trump calls the investigation a hoax, attacks his FBI, fired an FBI director for not easing up on it, never condemned Russia, took Putin at his word that he had no involvement, never implemented Russian sanctions passed by Congress which is a dereliction of duty, and tried to reopen the Russian compounds Obama closed.

Timeline

July 2016: The FBI opens an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

August 2016: Obama receives top secret intelligence file detailing Putin’s direct involvement in Russian election meddling.

September 2016: U.S. intelligence agencies reach unanimous agreement regarding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. At a G20 meeting in Huangzhou, China, Obama pulls Putin aside and warns him directly “to cut it out.” Obama then held a meeting with 12 key members of both parties of Congress and top intelligence officials to release a public bi-partisan statement on Russian election interference, but Mitch McConnell blocked the statement not believing the underlying intelligence.

October 2016: At Obama’s direction, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issue a public statement saying, “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

December 2016: Obama approves a set of relatively modest — and primarily symbolic — sanctions, including expelling 35 Russian diplomats and closing two compounds in Maryland. The administration had considered several steeper measures including “cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy,” per the Post.

Trump blames Florida school shooting on Russia investigation

President Donald Trump’s attacks on the FBI hit a new low on Saturday evening, when the president suggested in a tweet that the bureau had failed to prevent Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Florida high school because of its ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While it’s true that the FBI had been alerted about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, there’s absolutely no evidence that the bureau missed anything because of its investigation into the Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” Trump wrote. “They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

The FBI acknowledged on Friday that a person close to Cruz contacted their tip line on January 5, a month before the shooting, to provide information about his gun ownership, desire to kill people, and his disturbing behavior. FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement that he is investigating what happened. The GOP, however, isn’t happy. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to Wray asking the bureau brief their committees on why the FBI didn’t act on the tip, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also asked the agency to brief his staffers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott this week went so far as to call for Wray’s resignation over the matter. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act,” Scott said.

On Saturday, At a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Emma Gonzalez, a student who survived the shooting, delivered an impassioned speech and addressed the president directly. (Beyond blaming the FBI, Trump on Thursday tweeted that neighbors and classmates knew Cruz “was a big problem” and should have reported him to authorities — which they did.) “How about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the shooter’s fault?” she asked. “If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.”

[Vox]

Reality

Before the start of his big Russia tweetstorm, President Trump reportedly dined with Geraldo Rivera.

The reality is, the FBI employs 35,000 people, only as small handful, about 36 people, are working on the Russia investigation

Trump Touts Comments from Fox & Friends Guest Who Says POTUS Was ‘Victimized’ by Obama Admin

President Trump watched Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton on Fox & Friends this morning and touted his comments this afternoon.

Fitton has defended Trump on the Russia probe, and on the Fox News morning program today, he talked about the dossier and ties between Hillary Clinton and the Russians.

At one point, he said the following remarks, tweeted by POTUS:

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump Claims His SOTU Had The Highest Ratings In History. It Didn’t.

In a tweet, President Trump claimed the largest audience ever tuned in for his State of the Union address. That’s not true.

“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” Trump tweeted just after 7 a.m. ET Thursday. “45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history. @FoxNews beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!”

Though the specific numbers he cites in his tweet are correct, Trump’s audience on Tuesday night wasn’t close to being the highest in history for a State of the Union.

Quick note: The speech a president gives just after taking office looks like a State of the Union but is actually a joint address to Congress. But just for the purposes of this article, we will call those big speeches early in the first year of a presidency SOTUs, too, as a shorthand.

Let’s look at the numbers. Nielson counts the number of people who watch the speeches on broadcast networks, cable and PBS, either live or on the same day.

Nielson reported yesterday that an estimated 45.6 million people tuned in to Trump’s address on Tuesday night. Compared with other SOTUs since 1993, that total puts Trump’s speech in ninth place.

The SOTU with the largest audience was Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech, which drew a whopping 66.9 million viewers.

And if you look at the combined household rating, rather than combined number of viewers, Trump’s 26.9 rating nets him 16th place, tied with G.W. Bush’s 2006 address. (Clinton’s 1993 speech also wins on the rating front, with a 44.3.)

But despite the president’s obsession with ratings, it’s worth remembering that methods for counting television viewers are imperfect. The New York Times notes that the figures don’t include streaming.

Obama’s first official State of the Union, a year into his presidency, drew 48 million viewers and a 29.8 rating — higher on both metrics than Trump’s speech on Tuesday.

It’s not clear where Trump got the notion that his SOTU numbers were the highest. But CNN’s Brian Stelter notes that a segment on “Fox and Friends,” which Trump reportedly watches, Thursday morning mentioned the 45.6 million total, and that Fox had a record number of viewers.

Following the president’s morning tweet, Fox News Research tweeted Nielson’s viewership numbers for SOTUs back to 1993, along with a photo of Trump.

[NPR]

Trump appears to call out Samsung over missing FBI text messages

President Trump appeared to call out Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung for a missing trove of text messages between two senior FBI officials that was not retained by the agency.

“Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok? Blaming Samsung!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

The text messages between the two FBI employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, are among a larger trove of messages that were not saved by the FBI because of a software glitch on some Samsung 5 phones.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that the Justice Department’s inspector general is reviewing why the messages were not retained and whether they are capable of being recovered.

Trump’s tweets came after Fox News host Sean Hannity addressed the issue on his Tuesday night show, though it is unclear if that is what prompted him to tweet. Trump is known to be an avid watcher of Fox News and often comments on matters shortly after they are addressed on air.

The text messages have come into focus as some Republicans raise concerns about political bias among the ranks of the FBI.

Strzok and Page reportedly exchanged text messages during the 2016 election expressing anti-Trump sentiments, and were both involved in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

[The Hill]

Update

The text messages were recovered a few hours after this tweet by the FBI using forensic tools.

Trump’s FISA tweets throw Washington into chaos

President Donald Trump’s sunrise tweet casting aspersions on the domestic surveillance program his own intelligence officials have called essential set off a thunderclap of concern in Washington — and underscored the pitfalls of the President’s morning television tweet-alongs.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump wrote at 7:33 a.m. ET that the FISA program up for reauthorization in the House on Thursday may have been used to “badly surveil” his campaign.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on US soil.

Ultimately, the measure passed handily. But not until after a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President’s position ahead of the midday vote, which Republican leaders had been eying with optimism after spending weeks rounding up votes and batting down demands from the conservative and libertarian elements of their conference.

“(Chief of staff John) Kelly’s phone was ringing off the hook,” said one senior Republican official close to intelligence matters on Capitol Hill.

“No one could believe it,” another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

[CNN]

Reality

Trump was simply responding to a segment of Fox and Friends, a TV show he retweets regularly.

Trump’s morning tweetstorm appears to have been inspired by ‘Fox & Friends’

President Trump unleashed a tweetstorm Sunday morning, saying that the FBI’s reputation was “in tatters” following the tenure of former Director James B. Comey, who was fired seven months ago.

The president also suggested bias against him in the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, after news accounts said an agent was removed from Mueller’s team following an internal investigation of text messages interpreted as critical of Trump.

The agent, Peter Strzok, reportedly helped lead the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.

Trump’s comments closely echoed language used during Sunday morning’s episode of Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” which aired a report on Strzok under the banner, “Agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.”

At another point during “Fox & Friends,” the banner read, “Report: Anti-Trump FBI agent led Clinton email probe.”

“Now it all starts to make sense!” Trump responded.

The “Fox & Friends” hosts repeatedly referenced Comey in their discussion of Strzok, with co-host Ed Henry describing Strzok as “very close to” the former FBI director.

The morning show team also suggested that Strozk’s alleged bias was evidence that he and Comey had colluded to improperly clear Clinton of criminal charges in the email probe while somehow implicating the president’s associates in wrongdoing related to the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Co-host Pete Hegseth summarized his concerns, saying: “Comey’s being briefed on Hillary Clinton’s email investigation by a guy who’s in the tank for Hillary Clinton, which is the greatest fear that we all have: that the deep state has infiltrated the so-called Justice Department or the FBI.”

The president appeared to echo that criticism in his tweets.

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump asks why ‘deep state authorities’ aren’t investigating Clinton emails

President Trump on Tuesday asked why “deep state authorities” aren’t looking into the handling of the investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, referencing a guest who had just appeared on Fox News.

“Charles McCullough, the respected fmr Intel Comm Inspector General, said the public was misled on Crooked Hillary Emails,” Trump tweeted. “Why aren’t our deep State authorities looking at this? Rigged and corrupt?”

McCullough, who was appointed to his post by former President Obama, said in an interview on Monday with Fox News that he experienced pushback from Democrats when he tried to explain the seriousness of the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

“I’ve heard people say this is overblown, I’ve heard people say this is much ado about nothing. Had the information been released, there would have been harm to national security,” McCullough said in the interview.

“There was personal blowback. Personal blowback to me, to my family, to my office,” McCullough told Fox News.

McCullough appeared Tuesday on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to reiterate his claims, roughly an hour before Trump’s tweet.

The FBI concluded last year that it would not pursue criminal charges against Clinton for her “extremely careless” handling of classified materials while she was secretary of State.

Trump throughout the 2016 presidential campaign said Clinton should be prosecuted for using a personal server to handle classified emails.

Republican lawmakers have in recent weeks pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor to look into how the email case was handled.

[The Hill]

Trump: Suspect Entered U.S. in ‘Diversity Visa Lottery’, Blames Schumer

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Uzbek immigrant suspected of murdering eight people in New York City with a rental truck entered the U.S. through the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program” and the president charged Sen. Chuck Schumer and Democrats had loosened the nation’s borders.

Trump did not provide any supporting evidence for the claim about the visa program, which was being discussed on the morning TV program “Fox and Friends” that the president indicated in his tweets he was watching.

“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted.

“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter) @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted, citing the morning program whose hosts were discussing the visa lottery.

“Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems, said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends,” Trump added, appearing to reference a retired U.S. Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel who appeared on the program Wednesday.

Moments later, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the the suspect in the attack had entered the U.S. “through a diversity program, a lottery program.” He did not elaborate.

Schumer, for his part, shot back at Trump on Twitter: “I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy.”

In a statement, the New York senator slammed Trump for “dividing America” and called on the president not to follow through on proposed cuts to “vital anti-terrorism funding.”

“I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America,” Schumer said. “President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget.”

The Trump-Schumer back and forth came less than 24 hours after eight people were killed and about a dozen more were injured when a motorist in a rented pickup truck deliberately drove down a bike path in lower Manhattan and mowed down several people before crashing into a school bus in what officials said was a terrorist attack.

Police found a note inside the truck that was used indicating the suspect claimed to have carried out the attack for the Islamic State terrorist group.

The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant named Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the United States in 2010, law enforcement officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear under what circumstances Saipov came to the United States.

According to The New York Times, he had obtained a green card, giving him permanent legal resident status in the U.S.

Trump, in his tweets Wednesday, was apparently referring to the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery, which was established by the Immigration Act of 1990. That bill was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by then-President George H.W. Bush.

The program allows the State Department to offer 50,000 visas annually to immigrants from countries with low immigration rates.

Democrats quickly hit back against Trump’s claims.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “it was kind of absurd (for Trump)…to be using it as a fulcrum for … this kind of a debate.”

“I don’t think this is the time to get political,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “There is no doubt we have to be smarter and have more intelligence… but there is also no doubt that is not the time to play politics, to foment hate, this is not the time to divide.”

At least one Republican defended the diversity visa lottery.

“To be honest with you, I’ve known a number of people in New York who come in under the lottery system, they’ve made outstanding contributions, they’ve become citizens,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a former House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, told Fox Business Channel. “So that really is separate from the idea of the vetting.”

According to the State Department, diversity visa lottery applicants must meet certain education and work experience requirements, like having obtained “at least a high school education or its equivalent” or “two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.”

People who are not from an eligible country can also qualify if their spouse was born in an eligible country.

The State Department determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing, its website states.

In 2013, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” proposed an compromise immigration reform bill that would have eliminated the diversity lottery. The bill did not make it through Congress.

[NBC News]

Trump blasts ‘wacky & totally unhinged’ Tom Steyer after impeachment ad campaign

President Donald Trump blasted Tom Steyer on Friday, calling the Democratic megadonor “wacky” and “totally unhinged.”

“Wacky & totally unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from beginning, never wins elections!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.

Steyer, a California billionaire activist, is launching a $10 million national ad campaign calling for the president’s impeachment. The 60-second TV spot began running last week, according to Forbes.

The ad played Friday morning on “Fox & Friends,” likely catching the president’s eye.

Steyer opens the ad narrating over clips of the president and a shot of North Korea. He says that Trump has brought the U.S. “to the brink of nuclear war” with North Korea and is “accused of obstructing justice” with his May firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and “of violating the Constitution by taking money from foreign governments and threatening to shut down news organizations that report the truth.”

“If that isn’t the case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president, then what has our government become?” says Steyer, speaking directly into the camera and identified onscreen as an “American Citizen.” “I’m Tom Steyer, and, like you, I’m a citizen who knows it’s up to us to do something. It’s why I’m funding this effort to raise our voices together and demand that elected officials take a stand on impeachment.”

Steyer adds that a Republican-led Congress “once impeached a president for far less, yet today people in Congress and his own administration know that this president is a clear and present danger who’s mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, and they do nothing.”

He asks Americans to join him and tell their member of Congress “they have a moral responsibility to stop doing what’s political and start doing what’s right.”

“Our country depends on it,” he warns.

The ad encourages viewers to sign a petition at NeedToImpeach.com.

Immediately after tweeting about Steyer, Trump thanked Fox News’ morning show for its coverage.

“Thank you @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted, just one minute after his tweet about Steyer. “Really great job and show!”

[Politico]

Media

Here is the ad Trump was likely responding to

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