Trump on Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

US President Donald Trump has said he does not “have an attorney general” in his fiercest attack yet on Jeff Sessions.

In an interview with Hill.TV, Mr Trump renewed criticism of Mr Sessions’ decision to step aside from the inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He also said he was unhappy with Mr Sessions’ response to immigration.

The attorney general is yet to respond to Mr Trump’s comments.

It is unusual for a sitting president to attack their attorney general and critics accuse Mr Trump of trying to meddle in the legal system.

After the president criticised Mr Sessions last month, two key Republican senators signalled that they would support Mr Trump if he were to fire Mr Sessions after the November mid-term elections.

However, other Republicans told Politico they thought this would be a bad move and said they were standing by the attorney general.

Mr Sessions has pushed back against previous criticism by Mr Trump. “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” he said in August.

“I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

[BBC News]

Trump Falsely Claims ‘Fake News Media’ Ignored Obama’s ’57 States’ Gaffe

President Donald Trump falsely claimed the “fake news media” refused to cover former President Barack Obama’s “57” states gaffe, tweeting late last night that if he had made such a mistake, then it would have been “story of the year.”

“When President Obama said that he has been to ’57 States,’ very little mention in Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “Can you imagine if I said that…story of the year!”

The president also tagged Fox News host Laura Ingraham in the tweet, meaning the president was watching the conservative pundit’s show, as she had a segment on Obama’s recent attacks against Trump in-which she mentioned the 57 states slip-up.

“Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states?” Obama said in May 2008. “I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii, I was not allowed to go to even though I really wanted to visit, but my staff would not justify it.”

Obama acknowledged the mistake after, saying, “I understand I said there were 57 states today.”

However, Trump’s claim that the media did not cover it is blatantly false. Every outlet from Reuters, to the Los Angeles Times, to Politico covered the error.

[Mediaite]

Trump says Puerto Rico death toll inflated by Democrats: ‘3000 people did not die’

President Trump on Thursday accused Democrats, without evidence, of inflating the 3,000-person death count from last year’s hurricanes in Puerto Rico in order “to make me look bad.”

The stunning accusation is Trump’s latest attempt to defend his handling of natural disasters as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Southeastern U.S.

In a series of tweets, Trump disputed an independent report commissioned by Puerto Rico’s government that raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to 2,975.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” Trump tweeted. “As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

The president said the number was manufactured “by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”

“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he added.

Trump’s latest comments drew an instant rebuke from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who accused the president of minimizing the plight of Puerto Rico.

“This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!” she tweeted.

As he prepares for Hurricane Florence, Trump has repeatedly argued that his response to Hurricane Maria was a success, despite the record-high death toll, widespread devastation and power outages and intense criticism from local officials.

The president warned Americans in Florence’s path to take precautions while meeting with federal officials to show his administration is ready for the potentially devastating storm.

But he has also made several remarks claiming he has not received proper credit for his response to Maria at a time when Puerto Ricans have given him very low marks for his handling of the storm.

A Washington Post–Kaiser Family Foundation study showed 80 percent of island residents disapprove of his response.

Trump’s claims fly in the face of a George Washington University study commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor examining the effects of Maria in the six months following landfall in September 2017.

The long time period was used to determine the hurricane’s lingering effect on deaths on the island. It compared the death rates in the post-hurricane period to other periods not affected by natural disasters.

Puerto Rico’s government endorsed the results of the study once it was released and raised its official death toll, which previously sat at 64. Skeptics believed the number was too low, given that Maria resulted in widespread property damage and destroyed key infrastructure across the island.

Nonetheless, Trump has sought to convince Americans that his account of the hurricane response is correct.

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Those comments have reignited Trump’s feud with Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has typically avoided confrontations with the president.
“No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states,” Rosselló said in a Wednesday statement.
 
The governor also called on Trump to redouble federal assistance for recovery efforts so that the island can fully recover, calling Maria “the worst natural disaster in our modern history.”
 
Trump has struggled at playing the role of consoler-in-chief in times of national crisis. He drew criticism during his post-hurricane tour of Puerto Rico last October for throwing paper towels to people in a crowd and feuding with Cruz.
 
The president at the time downplayed the damage caused by Maria, saying it paled in comparison to a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina, which killed an estimated 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast in 2005. He also complained that federal relief efforts in Puerto Rico blew a hole in the federal budget.
“The missing part was empathy,” Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said in an interview with The New York Times. “I wish he’d paused and expressed that, instead of just focusing on the response success.”
 
Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly from a Category 3 to Category 2 storm. But it is expected to cause widespread property damages, millions of power outages and possible loss of life in the Carolinas and Georgia.

[The Hill]

Trump Attacks Puerto Ricans, ‘Totally Incompetent’ San Juan Mayor Ahead of Hurricane Florence

MAs Hurricane Florence is about to bear down on the southeastern U.S. coastline, President Trump is attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her criticism of the government’s “unappreciated great job” of how it handled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Here’s the part where Trump advised people to take appropriate safety measures to prepare for Florence.

Yesterday, Trump held a pool spray where he bragged about about the federal government’s “unsung success” in handling the disaster in Puerto Rico last year. These remarks were panned immediately by critics who wonder how Trump can possibly call the recovery a success when almost 3,000 died as a result of the storm.

Last night, Cruz responded to Trump by blasting his “despicable” comments and “lack of understanding of reality.” Puerto Ricans governor Ricardo Rosselló also gave a statement, saying the island is still in the middle of a crisis, and he also criticized the “unfair and unAmerican” relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington.

[Mediaite]

Trump Wants Attorney General to Investigate Source of Anonymous Times Op-Ed

President Trump said on Friday that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the source of an anonymous Op-Ed piece published in The New York Times, intensifying his attack on an article that he has characterized as an act of treason.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as he traveled to Fargo, N.D., Mr. Trump said, “I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.”

Mr. Trump said he was considering action against The Times, although he did not elaborate.

The president has raged against the column since The Times published it on Wednesday afternoon. But his latest remark indicates that he wants to use the Justice Department to root out the author of the column, which described some members of the administration in a state of near-mutiny against a president some view as dangerous and untethered from reality.

“We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now,” he said.

[New York Times]

Reality

Remember, this is very similar to the Obama administration’s treatment of Fox News report James Rosen, who the Department of Justice treated as a co-conspirator and a criminal in their investigation of leaks.

Several People Behind Trump Were Removed, Replaced During Rally In Montana

President Donald Trump’s rally in Billings, Montana, on Thursday had many strange moments, including a tangent where he speculated about his potential impeachment and an instance where he seemed unable to pronounce the word “anonymous.” Perhaps oddest of all, though, was that several people standing behind Trump were replaced on camera as the evening went on.

A man in a plaid shirt was replaced seemingly after he made a series of animated facial expressions as the president spoke.

A woman, who some people on Twitter said looked like to be longtime Republican operative Zina Bash, eventually came and took the man’s place on camera. You can watch the moment below:

That man was not the only one removed from his spot behind Trump during the speech. As seen in the clip below, a man and woman in the same row were replaced by two blond women. The resulting image is Trump flanked by young women.

It’s not uncommon that Trump’s rallies feature a mix of supporters and protesters, leaving Trump staffers to handle situations quickly and quietly.

But these swaps are particularly egregious considering they were all mid-speech and directly behind the president, and the people who were swapped out didn’t appear to be doing anything wrong.

The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Trump inauguration crowd photos were edited after he intervened

A government photographer edited official pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger following a personal intervention from the president, according to newly released documents.

The photographer cropped out empty space “where the crowd ended” for a new set of pictures requested by Trump on the first morning of his presidency, after he was angered by images showing his audience was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.

The detail was revealed in investigative reports released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act by the inspector general of the US interior department. They shed new light on the first self-inflicted crisis of Trump’s presidency, when his White House falsely claimed he had attracted the biggest ever inauguration audience.

The records detail a scramble within the National Park Service (NPS) on 21 January 2017 after an early-morning phone call between Trump and the acting NPS director, Michael Reynolds. They also state that Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, called NPS officials repeatedly that day in pursuit of the more flattering photographs.

It was not clear from the records which photographs were edited and whether they were released publicly.

The newly disclosed details were not included in the inspector general’s office’s final report on its inquiry into the saga, which was published in June last year and gave a different account of the NPS photographer’s actions.

By the time Trump spoke on the telephone with Reynolds on the morning after the inauguration, then-and-now pictures of the national mall were circulating online showing that Trump’s crowd fell short of Obama’s. A reporter’s tweet containing one such pair of images was retweeted by the official NPS Twitter account.

An NPS communications official, whose name was redacted in the released files, told investigators that Reynolds called her after speaking with the president and said Trump wanted pictures from the inauguration. She said “she got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd”, and that the images released so far showed “a lot of empty areas”.

The communications official said she “assumed” the photographs Trump was requesting “needed to be cropped”, but that Reynolds did not ask for this specifically. She then contacted the NPS photographer who had covered the event the day before.

A second official, from the NPS public affairs department, told investigators that Spicer called her office on the morning of 21 January and asked for pictures that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size”.

In this official’s view, Spicer’s request amounted to “a request for NPS to provide photographs in which it appeared the inauguration crowd filled the majority of the space in the photograph”. She told investigators that she, too, contacted the NPS photographer to ask for additional shots.

The NPS photographer, whose name was also redacted, told investigators he was contacted by an unidentified official who asked for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd sizes”. Having filed 25 photographs on inauguration day, he was asked to go back to his office and “edit a few more” for a second submission.

“He said he edited the inauguration photographs to make them look more symmetrical by cropping out the sky and cropping out the bottom where the crowd ended,” the investigators reported, adding: “He said he did so to show that there had been more of a crowd.”

The investigators said the photographer believed the cropping was what the official “had wanted him to do”, but that the official “had not specifically asked him to crop the photographs to show more of a crowd”.

A summary in the inspector general’s final report said the photographer told investigators “he selected a number of photos, based on his professional judgment, that concentrated on the area of the national mall where most of the crowd was standing”.

Asked to account for the discrepancy, Nancy DiPaolo, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the cropping was not mentioned in the final report because the photographer told investigators this was his “standard artistic practice”. But investigators did not note this in the write-up of their interview.

The newly released files said Spicer was closely involved in the effort to obtain more favourable photographs. He called Reynolds immediately after the acting director spoke with Trump and then again at 3pm shortly before the new set of photographs was sent to the White House, investigators heard. Another official reported being called by Spicer.

At about 5.40pm that day, Spicer began a now notorious press briefing at the White House in which he falsely stated: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period.” A spokeswoman for Spicer did not respond to a request for comment.

The inspector general’s inquiry was prompted by a February 2017 complaint through the office’s website, alleging NPS officials tried to undermine Trump and leaked details of Trump’s call with Reynolds to the Washington Post, where it was first reported. The inspector general found no evidence to substantiate the allegations.

The Guardian asked in its June 2017 freedom of information request for the identity of the complainant who sparked the inspector general’s inquiry. But this, and the entire complaint, was redacted in the released documents.

[The Guardian]

Trump suggests that Nike’s stock is ‘getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts’

That was President Donald Trump’s clearest response thus far to a controversial ad campaign that made its debut during the Labor Day holiday.

The new Nike Inc. advertising campaign features Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who led player protests against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, which has been viewed as a highly political move that runs directly at odds with the rhetoric of President Trump.

On Tuesday, shares of Nike NKE+0.6% shed 3.2%, leading declining components on a down day for the Dow industrials, suffering the sports-apparel company’s worst daily drop since April 2, according to FactSet data. Shares of the retailing giant — a retail tenant of the president’s real-estate business (“They pay a lot of rent,” Trump reportedly told the Daily Caller, though New York magazine noted that the Niketown location on 57th Street in Manhattan apparently in question is slated to close) — rebounded in Wednesday action, posting a gain of 0.4%.

Thus far this year, Nike shares have climbed 28%. The company’s gains outstrip respectable year-to-date returns for the broader market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA+0.08% up 5.1% in 2018, the S&P 500 SPX-0.37% rising 8% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP-0.91% on track to advance by about 16% for the first nine months of 2018, as of Wednesday’s close of trade.

[MarketWatch]

Donald Trump maintains attacks on Bob Woodward, calls for changes in libel laws

Stung by the latest tell-all book to hit his White House, President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on author Bob Woodward by suggesting Wednesday that the government tighten libel laws – though the president’s role in doing that is probably nonexistent.

“Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”

Later, during a photo op with Amir of Kuwait, Trump said: “The book means nothing; it’s a work of fiction.”

Trump also suggested changing the libel laws back during his presidential campaign – in response to news stories he didn’t like – but has made no specific proposals in that area since moving into the White House in January 2017.

There probably isn’t anything Trump, or Congress, can do about libel laws in any event.

For one thing, there is no federal libel statute. States set their own libel statutes, and a series of court rulings have shaped them.

It’s difficult for public figures to win a libel suit; the Supreme Court says they must prove actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth – a high legal bar – and writers and speakers have wide latitude under free speech protections in the First Amendment to criticize and report on elected officials.

The catalyst this time is Woodward’s new book – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – in which aides describe the president as an unhinged “liar” who does not seem interested in learning the details of the issues he has to face.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly described Trump as an “idiot” who is running “Crazytown,” while Defense Secretary James Mattis is quoted as saying Trump acted like a “fifth- or sixth-grader” at one meeting.

“Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses,” Woodward writes, according to a leaked excerpt. “It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

The book is scheduled for public release on Tuesday.

Woodward also reports that Trump tends to berate aides, conduct that the president defended in a separate tweet on Wednesday morning.

Claiming that “my Administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country,” Trump tweeted that “I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!”

Trump is seeking to undermine Woodward even though he has praised the author in the past, and told him in a phone conversation just last month that he has always been fair.

Back in 2013, as members of the Barack Obama administration criticized a Woodward book about them, Trump tweeted out: “Only the Obama WH can get away with attacking Bob Woodward.”

As details of the book began to leak out Tuesday, the White House hastily put together  a series of responses.

Kelly denied calling Trump an “idiot,” while Mattis denied uttering “the contemptuous words” attributed to him by Woodward.

The White House denials echoed those made about previous critical books, particularly those by journalist Michael Wolff and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.

As he did Tuesday night, Trump tweeted out the statements by Kelly and Mattis on Wednesday morning, while adding some denials of his own. In one of his missives, Trump said: “Thank you General Kelly, book is total fiction!”

While Trump has frequently attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he denied Woodward’s reporting that he has called the former Alabama senator “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner.”

“I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing,” Trump tweeted, claiming that Woodward “made this up to divide!”

As for changing libel laws in the wake of Woodward, it’s highly unlikely.

“There is no federal libel law for President Trump to bully Congress to change, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws,” said Brian Hauss, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern.”

[USA Today]

Trump: I never called Sessions ‘mentally retarded’

President Donald Trump denied late Tuesday night that he called Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and made fun of his Southern heritage, his latest push back to Bob Woodward’s upcoming book on the Trump White House.

“The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner,” the president wrote on Twitter. “I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!”

Trump and the White House have already issued a litany of criticisms against Woodward’s latest tome, “Fear.” Excerpts indicate the president is depicted as increasingly erratic and his staff allegedly is forced to resort to the type of tactics sometimes used to control children — like stealing problematic papers off of his desk — to try to thwart him.

Known for his Pulitzer-Prize winning reporting on the Watergate scandal, Woodward has remained adamant that the eyebrow-raising anecdotes in his book are accurate. Even so, Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis have issued statements denying portions of Woodward’s reporting.

In the reported excerpt in question, Trump allegedly told then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter that Sessions was “mentally retarded” and was a “dumb Southerner.”

Trump’s tweet Tuesday night was a rare bit of defense for his beleaguered attorney general, who has weathered intense criticism from Trump. This past weekend, the president vented about the Justice Department’s prosecution of two GOP congressmen, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, and how the timing of the announcement of those charges has prevented the GOP from finding others to run in their place.

[Politico]

Reality

Responding to legendary journalist Bob Woodward’s book that he called Jeff Sessions a “retard,” Donald Trump tweeted he absolutely never called Sessions or anyone else a “retard” in his entire life.

Here is audio of Donald Trump calling someone a “retard” at the 19 minute mark.

Here is another audio of Donald Trump calling a reporter “retarded”.

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