Donald Trump wants to hold next G7 summit at his Failing Florida golf resort

President Donald Trump wants to hold next year’s G7 summit at his Doral golf resort near Miami.

Trump visited the Doral resort for the first time in his presidency this week after holding a rally in Orlando to attend a fundraiser for his re-election campaign, the Washington Post reported. It marked the 126th visit to one of his properties since he was inaugurated.

Trump likes to visit his own properties so much that he suggested holding next year’s G7 summit, a gathering of leaders from the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, at the Doral resort or one of his other luxury properties, former and current White House officials told the Post.

Aides said that White House staffers and even the White House counsel’s office have pushed back on Trump’s official visits to his properties and voiced concerns about the appearance of him using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own companies.

Trump has not listened to the aides and overruled a recommendation against visiting his Turnberry golf club in Scotland last year. He has since visited his golf clubs in Ireland, Los Angeles and now South Florida on official trips.

The trips have been a boon for the resorts. His companies have earned at least $1.6 million in revenue from federal officials and Republican campaigns who had to travel with Trump, according to an analysis by the Post, which reported that the real number is likely much higher because the data used only covered spending through the first half of 2017.

Republicans have even “reshaped” their fundraising schedule, with one-third of fundraisers and donor events attended by Trump being held at his own properties, according to the report. Republican fundraisers told the Post that several groups have held events at Trump’s properties in order to increase the chance that the president will attend.

“The president knows that by visiting his properties, taxpayer dollars will flow directly into his own pockets. Then, unsurprisingly, the president visits his properties all the time,” Ryan Shapiro of the watchdog group Property for the People told the Post.

An earlier analysis found that the Trump campaign and more than three dozen members of Congress had spent upwards of $4 million at Trump’s properties.

The increased political spending at Trump’s properties is at the center of a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who allege that Trump’s profits violate laws barring the president from receiving gifts or additional payments from the federal government. Both attorneys general are also alleging that Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution because his Washington hotel accepts payments from foreign governments.

House Democrats passed an amendment in response to Trump’s frequent trips to his properties, seeking to bar the State Department from spending any money at his businesses.

“It’s against the emoluments clause of the Constitution to be making money out of the job,” said Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a Democrat who sponsored the amendment. “And he does it every chance he can.”

Last year, taxpayers paid at least $30,000 for meeting rooms and hotel stays for then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials in luxury suites when Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

According to State Department emails obtained by Property of the People, the rooms cost 300 percent more than the maximum amount allowed by government policies. Taxpayers were also hit with a $1,000 bar tab that Trump aides ran up at the club, ProPublica reported.

Trump’s repeated trips to his resorts came as both his Doral and Mar-a-Lago properties have struggled to draw non-government business.

Mar-a-Lago’s revenue fell by nearly 10 percent from 2017 to last year, according to Trump’s financial disclosure. Doral’s net operating income has plummeted by 69 percent since Trump took office.

“They are severely underperforming,” a Trump tax consultant told officials earlier this year while seeking tax relief for the properties. “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”

[Salon]

Trump says he’d accept dirt from a foreign government to see ‘if it’s bad’

Fox & Friends knows President Trump’s got some explaining to do.

After Trump caught heat for telling ABC News that he’d be open to receiving dirt on an opponent from a foreign government, the subject inevitably came up when he called in to Fox & Friends on Friday. The hosts invited Trump to “clarify” his comments on Thursday, but his birthday-morning call didn’t do much to settle the dust.

While Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he would “maybe” report information from a foreign government to the FBI, he told Fox “of course” he’d present “anything bad” to the agency.

“I don’t think anyone would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country,” he began. But if he were hypothetically offered dirt by someone who momentarily forgot about his patriotism, he would definitely check it out. “Of course you have to look at it because, if you don’t look at it, you’re not going to know if it’s bad,” he explained, suggesting a foreign government could be reaching out to let him know how great his opponent is. “But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”

While Trump previously conflated opposition research and interference from a foreign government, on Friday he only mentioned undefined “bad” information, leaving it up to interpretation exactly what would be worth reporting. He wouldn’t want “bad” things affecting an election, Trump concluded — “I thought that was made clear.” 

[The Week]

Trump says he would accept dirt on political rivals from foreign governments

President Donald Trump says he would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival — and wouldn’t necessarily report the contact to the FBI.

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday.

“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump went on, downplaying the idea such a move by another country would amount to election interference.

Trump and his 2016 campaign have come under intense scrutiny — and a special counsel investigation — for their contacts with Russians during the last presidential election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller detailed extensive contact between Trump campaign associates and Russians, but did not conclude there was a criminal conspiracy.

Asked Wednesday whether he would take opposition research being peddled by another government, Trump said he likely would.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.

“Still, Trump said he wouldn’t automatically report the foreign government’s actions to US law enforcement — something he says he’s never considered doing in his lifetime.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI,” he said. “You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.”

“Life doesn’t work that way,” Trump said.

[CNN]

Trump to stay at Doonbeg, his money-losing golf course threatened by climate change

President Trump arrived at his golf course in Doonbeg, Ireland, on Wednesday for a two-night stay — pausing between official events in Europe to visit a business that has cost him $41 million and never reported turning a profit.

Trump, coming off an official state visit to Britain, landed at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland and met briefly with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar before flying to Doonbeg, about 40 miles away.

The Irish Times reported that Trump originally wanted to meet with Varadkar at his golf club, but Varadkar wanted to meet at another nearby hotel. The two leaders settled on an awkward compromise: the VIP lounge at the airport.

Trump will leave Doonbeg on Thursday, visiting France for D-Day commemorations. He will return to Doonbeg on Thursday night, before flying home Friday.

Despite the odd geography of that schedule — which requires flying hundreds of miles west to Ireland, then hundreds more miles back east to France — Trump said he stayed at Doonbeg for convenience.

“We’re going to be staying at Doonbeg in Ireland because it’s convenient and it’s a great place. But it’s convenient,” Trump said before he left Washington.

The visit marks the third time Trump has paused during an overseas trip to visit one of his businesses, which he has maintained ownership of as president. He made a brief stop at his Waikiki hotel in Hawaii on the way to Asia in 2017 and spent two nights at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland last summer.

This visit has brought a large contingent of U.S. and Irish officials, as well as police and security forces, to a village of about 750 people. It was not clear how many of them, besides Trump, were staying at the Doonbeg course’s 120-room hotel.

But if they wanted to stay in Doonbeg, they didn’t have many other choices. TripAdvisor lists three hotels, total. Trump’s hotel is rated No. 1. The No. 3 is not a typical hotel but a group of “camping pods” that resemble cozy wooden sheds.

The visit is also bringing worldwide publicity to a course that Trump bought in 2014, after its former owners had struggled to turn a profit.

Trump paid $11.9 million, according to Irish corporate records. After that, Trump put in an additional $30 million into renovating and operating the property, without taking a mortgage loan.

Doonbeg was one of 14 properties that Trump bought without loans between 2006 and 2014, an all-cash spending binge that topped $400 million — defying his history as the heavy-borrowing “King of Debt.” The Trump Organization has explained this unusual spending — which defies the usual practices of the debt-loving real estate industry — by saying its other businesses produced enough cash to make it easy.

“I took a chance, I bought it and — no options, no nothing, just bought it for cash, no mortgage, no debt, no nothing,” Trump told The Washington Post in 2016. “I don’t have debt on any of them. I don’t have debt on very much, period.”

Since then, Doonbeg has never reported turning a profit, losing more than $1 million every year from 2014 to 2017, according to Irish corporate records.

In 2018, the course’s revenue rose slightly — up about 2 percent from $14.2 million to $14.5 million, according to Trump’s latest U.S. financial disclosures. But those disclosures do not show whether the course turned a profit, and the Irish records that would show profit or loss are not yet available.

The course is now waiting on two decisions from Irish planning authorities that the Trump Organization says are crucial to the club’s future.

One is on a proposed sea wall to stop the Atlantic Ocean from eroding away part of the golf course.

The Trump Organization cited climate change in its application for the permit, according to a Politico report from 2016, saying that sea-level rise and more-powerful storms had worsened the threat of erosion. Trump the politician, of course, has questioned idea that climate change is a threat at all — defying the overwhelming scientific consensus and his own golf course’s assessment of its future.

The application for that sea wall is now before Ireland’s national planning authority.

In 2018, the Trump Organization also applied to local authorities to expand the hotel by adding more than 50 new rental cottages and a large ballroom for events. It is awaiting approval from local officials.

At Doonbeg, Trump is likely to find something that escaped him in London: a warm welcome. Trump’s club employs more than 200 people, making it one of the largest employers in a rural area of County Clare. Reporters visiting the area in advance of his visit found that locals — even those who disagreed with his politics — thanked him for bringing customers and money to Doonbeg.

“People divorce Donald Trump the owner of the golf course from his politics,” said James Griffin, a member of the Trump club interviewed by the Irish Times. “People have their own ideas about his policies. The big thing here are the jobs he supports.”

[Washington Post]

Kushner unsure whether he’d alert FBI if Russians request another meeting

On “Axios on HBO,” Jared Kushner said he doesn’t know whether he’d call the FBI if he were to receive an email today like the one before the campaign’s Trump Tower meeting, which had the subject line: “Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

  • Kushner said this after a tense exchange about the email he received to set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting. 

Why this matters: Kushner is now in the West Wing as senior adviser to the president. Shouldn’t an email with an offer of help from Russians trigger a mental alarm? This bolsters the perception that President Trump’s inner circle still doesn’t fully recognize the ongoing threat of Russian interference in American elections. 

  • Kushner’s response comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray said in congressional testimony that he would recommend that in the future, people contact the FBI if a foreign government offers campaign support.

What he’s saying: Kushner said people are being “self-righteous” and playing “Monday morning quarterback” by asking him why he didn’t call the FBI when he saw the email offering help for the Trump campaign from Russia.

  • “Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign. I get an email that says show up at 4 instead of 3 to a meeting that I had been told about earlier that I didn’t know what the hell it was about.”

Asked if he’d call the FBI if it happened again, Kushner said: “I don’t know. It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”

[Axios]

Media

Trump sides with Kim Jong Un over Joe Biden in Japan

President Donald Trump seems to have a new ally in his 2020 reelection fight: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. More shocking, though, is that Trump appears fine with it — and is siding with the brutal dictator over a fellow American.

Last week, the state-run Korean Central News Agency published a scathing article targeting top Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden. Among other insults, the commentary called the former vice president “a fool of low IQ” and listed off a series of embarrassing moments in his life — like the time Biden fell asleep during a 2011 speech by then-President Barack Obama, or how in 1987 he admitted to plagiarizing in school.

Trump seemed delighted by the KCNA hit piece, tweeting Sunday that he had “confidence” Kim had “smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse.”

And asked about his tweet during a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo* the next day, Trump reiterated his stance. “Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that,” the president told reporters.

Just stop for a second and think about that: The president of the United States endorsed a foreign government’s nasty insults of America’s former vice president — and did so while standing next to the leader of a top American ally.

That’s appalling behavior from the president. There’s an unwritten rule that Americans — and especially high-level American politicians — are supposed to leave domestic politics at the water’s edge when they travel abroad. That means you don’t talk badly about your political opponents overseas, but instead show a united front as a representative of the United States.

Not only did Trump violate that very basic principle, he did so gleefully — and sided with a murderous, repressive dictator while he was at it.

Even some of Trump’s allies in Congress, like Rep. Pete King (R-NY), were appalled by Trump’s behavior.

Some experts, however, aren’t too shocked by Trump’s remarks. “This is Trump being Trump, using anything he can to strike his political enemies,” Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, told me.

Still, it shows that Trump has a penchant for siding with dictators when it most suits him — even at the expense of Americans and US allies.

[Vox]

Trump: Discussing a Biden probe with Barr would be ‘appropriate’

President Donald Trump told POLITICO on Friday that it would be “appropriate” for him to speak to Attorney General Bill Barr about launching an investigation into his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, or his son, Hunter.

The question of whether Trump could pressure Barr to probe Biden is coming under scrutiny after Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said he would be traveling to Ukraine to urge the incoming government there to look at Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company that has reportedly been in prosecutors’ crosshairs. The efforts appear to be part of a broader campaign by Trump’s allies to damage the former Democratic vice president’s White House campaign and have raised questions about whether Trump’s team is trying to enlist a foreign government to aid the president’s re-election bid.

“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing to speak to him about, but I have not done that as of yet. … It could be a very big situation,” Trump said in a 15-minute telephone interview on Friday afternoon, which stemmed from POLITICO’s inquiries for a separate story.

Barr also drew attention during his recent congressional testimony when he demurred on a question about whether anybody in the White House had ever suggested that he launch an investigation.

President Donald Trump told POLITICO on Friday that it would be “appropriate” for him to speak to Attorney General Bill Barr about launching an investigation into his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, or his son, Hunter.

The question of whether Trump could pressure Barr to probe Biden is coming under scrutiny after Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said he would be traveling to Ukraine to urge the incoming government there to look at Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company that has reportedly been in prosecutors’ crosshairs. The efforts appear to be part of a broader campaign by Trump’s allies to damage the former Democratic vice president’s White House campaign and have raised questions about whether Trump’s team is trying to enlist a foreign government to aid the president’s re-election bid.

“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing to speak to him about, but I have not done that as of yet. … It could be a very big situation,” Trump said in a 15-minute telephone interview on Friday afternoon, which stemmed from POLITICO’s inquiries for a separate story.

Barr also drew attention during his recent congressional testimony when he demurred on a question about whether anybody in the White House had ever suggested that he launch an investigation.

“Because he’s a Democrat,” Trump said, the report had about “one-hundredth” the impact as it would have if he “were a Republican.”

That’s not for lack of effort by the president’s allies. As of Friday afternoon, Giuliani was about to travel to Ukraine in an effort to push the country’s president-elect to pursue the investigation into Hunter Biden’s involvement with the energy company, Burisma Holdings. He also wants Ukraine to probe whether the country’s officials were trying to help Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election by releasing forged documents tied to Paul Manafort.

Giuliani was planning to leave Sunday and return Wednesday, he told POLITICO in an interview Friday afternoon. During his trip, Giuliani was expecting to meet with Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian who was elected president of Ukraine last month and who has reportedly said he’s looking to replace one of the prosecutors involved in the cases.

“I just want to tell him, ‘Don’t let these crooks talk you out of the investigation. There are real facts there they’ve got to investigate,’” Giuliani said. “A lot of this stuff is a lot easier for them to get. They do get nervous if they think the government is going to scuttle this investigation.”

But later Friday, Giuliani said he had canceled his trip, explaining his change of plans in a text message to POLITICO that the original offer for a meeting was a “set up” orchestrated by “several vocal critics” of Trump who are advising Ukraine’s new president-elect. “Only got name yesterday and told pres elect is in hands of avowed enemies of Pres Trump,” Giuliani wrote. “Useless meeting.”

Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president said Friday he didn’t know much about Giuliani’s planned trip but wanted to speak with him about it.

“I have not spoken to him at any great length, but I will,” Trump said in the interview. “I will speak to him about it before he leaves.”

The former New York mayor for weeks has been talking with reporters about the Biden-Ukraine connection, insisting it is a scandal.

“I don’t see how you get from here to the presidency without that being investigated,” Giuliani said earlier on Friday, swinging back at critics who say the president’s attorney is openly encouraging a foreign government to meddle in the American election.

“If I wanted to meddle in the election, I’d be talking about it a year from now,” Giuliani said. “I’d have kept it for myself and I’d have popped it right before the Democratic convention. That’d be fun.”

Trump’s critics have long feared that the president would pressure the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump and his allies led chants of “Lock her up!” in reference to Clinton, though there has been no public follow-up on the Clinton investigation since the arrival of the Trump administration.

More recently, Barr has come under fire for his reply to Sen. Kamala Harris during a hearing last week where the attorney general did not explicitly answer the California Democrat’s questions about whether Trump or anyone else in the White House asked or suggested the DOJ launch an investigation.

“I’m trying to grapple with the world ‘suggest’,” Barr replied during the hearing. “I mean there have been discussions of, of matters out there that uh … they have not asked me open an investigation.”

Harris, who is running for president, followed up by asking if the White House had hinted at an investigation, and the attorney general replied, “I don’t know.”

Several former national security and law enforcement officials took issue later Friday with the president’s comment that he was within his right to approach Barr about a possible Biden investigation.

“Past Republican and Democratic administrations alike have recognized the critical importance of the wall of separation between the White House and DOJ when it comes to criminal investigations,” said Matt Axelrod, a former senior Obama Justice Department official. “This president’s belief that he can instruct the Attorney General to investigate his political rival is a wild break from past precedent and would represent a dangerous assault on the rule of law.”

Susan Hennessey, a former attorney at the National Security Agency wrote on Twitter after this story published that Trump’s comment was a “disturbing development people should pay attention to.”

[Politico]

Rudy Giuliani says he’s going to Ukraine to meddle in probes in hopes of helping Trump

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he’s traveling to Ukraine to urge that country’s president-elect to push forward with investigations that he anticipates could help Trump’s re-election campaign.

“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani said in an interview with The New York Times published Thursday.

According The Times, Giuliani plans to ask Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian comedian elected to lead the nation in April, to move ahead with probes involving the son of potential Trump rival Joe Biden as well inquiries related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

“There’s nothing illegal about it,” he told the paper.

But, the former New York City mayor allowed in the interview, “Somebody could say it’s improper.”

Democrats quickly did.

“We have come to a very sorry state when it is considered OK for an American politician, never mind an attorney for the president, to go and seek foreign intervention in American politics,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to reporters Friday.

Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee,tweeted that Giuliani’s efforts are not only improper, but “immoral, unethical, unpatriotic and, now, standard procedure.”

Giuliani told The Times Thursday that Trump fully supports his plans.

“The President is openly asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival. This is next level,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted Friday.

Giuliani tweeted back, “Explain to me why Biden shouldn’t be investigated if his son got millions from a Russian loving crooked Ukrainian oligarch while He was VP and point man for Ukraine.”

In a text message, Giuliani told NBC News that what he’s planning is “perfectly legal” since it involves an investigation. The 2020 “election is 17 months away,” he wrote.

In recent days, Giuliani has repeatedly alleged a conspiracy involving the former vice president, who has emerged as the early front-runner in the race to be the Democratic nominee. In an interview with NBC News earlier this week, Giuliani said he stumbled upon the story by accident as he was investigating a claim he’d heard about Democratic National Committee officials “using the American embassy in Ukraine as their focal point to get dirt on Trump” and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who earned millions working for a corrupt pro-Russian political party in Ukrainefor nearly a decade.

“All of a sudden, as I’m interviewing these people, they tell me the Biden story,” Giuliani said.

The “Biden story” involves the then-vice president’s 2016 call for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including removing a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, seen as ineffective. As Giuliani has noted, one of the cases that Shokin had been investigating involved a company called Burisma Holdings. Biden’s son Hunter Biden was on the board of the company at the time.

But Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported earlier this week that the Burisma investigation had been dormant for over a year when Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported that it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”

Giuliani has said, and The Times has reported, that Ukrainian prosecutors have reopened the Burisma investigation, but a spokesperson for the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office told Bloomberg that it had not done so.

That spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Hunter Biden, who stepped down from Burisma’s board last month, told The Times, “At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business, or my board service.”

Giuliani told NBC News, “I assure you I am not trying to take him [Biden] out. I’m actually — he won’t appreciate it — but I’m doing him a favor by trying to get it investigated now. Because it wasn’t going to live through November of next year.”

The DNC has repeatedly denied working with the Ukrainian government to obtain dirt on Manafort. The incriminating Ukrainian information about Manafort that emerged during the campaign — a ledger showing $12.7 million in unreported payments from a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party — was from public records. However, Ukraine’s current top prosecutor has reportedly opened an investigation into whether the Manafort information was released in order to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Manafort, 70, is now serving a seven-and-a-half year federal prison sentence for undisclosed lobbying work in Ukraine, as well as tax and bank fraud — charges that were brought as part of Mueller’s investigation but were unconnected to Manafort’s work with the Trump campaign.

The New York Times previously reported on Giuliani’s interest in the Biden and Manafort-related inquiries as well as his meetings with Ukrainian officials about the probes. Giuliani said then he’d been keeping the president apprised of his efforts.

Trump spoke about the Biden story in an interview with Fox News last week.

“I’m hearing it’s a major scandal, major problem,” Trump said. “I hope for him it is fake news. I don’t think it is.”

[NBC News]

Trump suffers meltdown after James Comey tells CNN it is ‘possible’ that ‘the Russians have leverage over’ the president

President Donald Trump freaked out on Twitter after former FBI Director James Comey gave an exclusive interview to CNN on the two-year anniversary of being fired.

“Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?” Anderson Cooper asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Comey replied.

“Do you think it’s possible?” Cooper asked.

“Yes,” Comey answered.

That was not the only news Comey made.

Comey also said that Attorney General Bill Barr has behaved “less than honorably” and that America can’t have a president “who lies constantly.”

Trump lashed out after the interview was televised.

“James Comey is a disgrace to the FBI and will go down as the worst director in its long and once proud history,” Trump argued, seemingly unaware of the Bureau’s history.

“He brought the FBI down, almost all Republicans and Democrats thought he should be fired, but the FBI will regain greatness because of the great men & women who work there!” Trump argued.

[Raw Story]

Media

‘Shoot them!’: Trump laughs off a supporter’s demand for violence against migrants

A roar rose up from the crowd of thousands of Trump supporters in Panama City Beach on Wednesday night, as President Trump noted yet again that Border Patrol agents can’t use weapons to deter migrants. “How do you stop these people?” he asked.

“Shoot them!” someone yelled from the crowd, according to reporters on the scene and attendees.

The audience cheered. Supporters seated behind Trump and clad in white baseball caps bearing the letters “USA” laughed and applauded.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump replied, smiling and shaking his head. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Though Trump didn’t explicitly endorse the suggestion to shoot migrants, his joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The president has long been accused of endorsing acts of violence through his incendiary rhetoric and allusions to the potential for violence at his rallies, a charge that members of his administration deny.

Reached for comment by The Washington Post on Trump’s reaction at the Florida rally, Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, pointed to a response he had given to many critics on Twitter. The president, he noted in his tweet, had specifically said that Border Patrol wouldn’t use firearms to stop migrants from entering the country.

The incendiary remark from the crowd came as Trump, standing before roughly 7,000 people who had gathered at an outdoor amphitheater in the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast town, railed against what he described as an “invasion” of migrants attempting to enter the United States. Often, he claimed, only “two or three” border agents will contend with the arrival of “hundreds and hundreds of people.”

“And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said of the border agents. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

The fans seated directly behind Trump wore serious, perturbed frowns, which were quickly replaced by broad grins after the shouted suggestion that the solution involved firearms. Uproarious laughter rippled across the room as audience members whistled and offered a round of applause.

To critics, Trump’s failure to outright condemn the idea of shooting migrants amounted to a “tacit endorsement” of the sentiment. Many pointed out that such rhetoric was especially concerning in light of the fact that an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, had been searching the borderlands for undocumented migrants and detaining them against their will.

Last month, after the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the FBI said that the 69-year-old claimed militia members were training to assassinate former president Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prominent Democratic donor George Soros.

One member of that militia had also questioned why the group wasn’t killing migrants, according to a police report first obtained by left-leaning news outlet The Young Turks.

[Washington Post]

Media

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