Pruitt bars AP, CNN from EPA summit on contaminants, guards push reporter out of building

The Environmental Protection Agency barred The Associated Press and CNN from a national summit on harmful water contaminants on Tuesday — and guards forcibly shoved a female reporter out of the building.

The EPA blocked the media organizations, along with the environmental-focused E&E News, from attending the meeting in Washington, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building.

When the reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building. She said she was not injured and was later permitted to attend the meeting.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government,” said AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

“It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed,” Buzbee added.

CNN said in a statement that its reporter also was turned away from covering the event “after multiple attempts to attend.”

“We understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too,” CNN said, according to the AP.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

“This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity, which reporters were aware of prior to the event,” Wilcox told NBC News. “We were able to accommodate 10 reporters, provided a livestream for those we could not accommodate and were unaware of the individual situation that has been reported.”

The reporter threatened “negative coverage” if she couldn’t get in, Wilcox alleged.

Some media that had been permitted to attend said that there appeared to be a handful of open seats for the press in the room despite claims that there was no room left.

A reporter for E&E News tweeted about being shut out by the EPA.

Amid criticism for barring the media outlets, Wilcox announced later that the afternoon session of the meeting would be open to all press.

Following that decision, the AP said, “We are pleased that the EPA has reconsidered its decision and will now allow AP to attend the remainder of today’s meeting. The AP looks forward to informing the public of the important discussions at the water contaminants summit this afternoon.”

Pruitt spoke Tuesday as he opened a hearing on the contaminants, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. The chemicals were used in items like nonstick coating and firefighting foam and have contaminated some water systems nationwide. The compounds are linked to developmental defects and other health problems.

Pruitt has faced criticism in recent weeks over emails showing the EPA sought to intervene in a critical study on the contaminants.

Convening Tuesday’s session, Pruitt is pledging to work on establishing a maximum allowable level for the chemicals in drinking water.

Representatives of states, tribes, the chemical industry, environmental groups and others attended the session.

[NBC News]

Trump Tweets ‘Nothing Has Happened With ZTE Except As It Pertains To The Larger Trade Deal’

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the reversal on trade policy around ZTE Corp. does not indicate a slackened position on China trade negotiations.

Here’s what Trump said in a series of tweets:

“The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China. Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal. Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China…We have not seen China’s demands yet, which should be few in that previous U.S. Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating. China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe, the meetings…haven’t even started yet! The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!”

Why It’s Important

The president’s support of trade with ZTE had driven a spike in optical stocks exposed to the Chinese business. Some shares traded lower Wednesday on the clarified policy.

Acacia Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: ACIA) fell 4.3 percent and Oclaro Inc (NASDAQ: OCLR) 1.1 percent, while Applied Optoelectronics Inc(NASDAQ: AAOI) and Lumentum Holdings Inc(NASDAQ: LITE) dipped marginally.

What’s Next

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington Tuesday for a five-day visit packed with trade talks. Reuters reported that several U.S. lawmakers U.S. lawmakers rejected any planby Trump to ease restrictions on ZTE Corp., calling the company a security threat and vowing not to abandon legislation clamping down on the company.

[Yahoo News]

Bolton: U.S. sanctions ‘possible’ on European firms over Iran

White House National Security adviser John Bolton on Sunday said U.S. sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran were “possible, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remained hopeful Washington and its allies could strike a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Bolton’s comments, in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union, struck a more hawkish note than Pompeo’s, who was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

So far, China, France, Russia, the U.K., EU and Iran remain in the accord, which placed controls on Iran’s nuclear program and led to a relaxation of American economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there.

Bolton, asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran, told CNN: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”

Pompeo said he was “hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior, not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well.”

Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran deal has upset European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

This week, Israel and Iran engaged in an extensive military exchange on the heels of Trump’s decision to leave the deal. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a telephone call that he was worried about stability in the Middle East, according to Macron’s office.

Bolton would not respond directly when asked whether Trump might seek “regime change” in Iran, or whether the U.S. military would be ordered to make a preemptive strike against any Iranian nuclear facility.

“I’m not the national security decision maker,” Bolton said, adding that Trump “makes the decision and the advice that I give him is between us.”

Bolton said Trump “has I think very clear policies, both with respect to North Korea and Iran. Those are the policies that we are pursuing.”

When pressed by CNN on whether the administration would sanction European firms, Bolton said, “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”

Bolton said Europe was still digesting the May 8 move by Trump.

“I think at the moment there’s some feeling in Europe – they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the reimposition of strict sanctions. I think that will sink in; we’ll see what happens then,” Bolton said.

[Reuters]

Media

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/us-sanctions-uk-europe-iran-business-trade-trump-john-bolton-a8349611.html

Trump tweets rant against NBC for correcting inaccurate report on Michael Cohen wiretap warrant

President Donald Trump finally smacked NBC News for walking back a report that his attorney Michael Cohen was under a wiretap warrant.

The network and ABC News each issued corrections to reports that Cohen had been wiretapped by the FBI, saying instead that the attorney had instead been subjected to a pen register — which means that his calls were logged in real time.

“NBC NEWS is wrong again!” Trump tweeted. “They cite ‘sources’ which are constantly wrong. Problem is, like so many others, the sources probably don’t exist, they are fabricated, fiction! NBC, my former home with the Apprentice, is now as bad as Fake News CNN. Sad!”

[Raw Story]

Sarah Sanders whines about the media’s tone as she berates CNN’s Jim Acosta

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clashed with CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday.

During a press briefing, Acosta asked about Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Veteran Affairs. “Yesterday, the president suggested that Ronny Jackson does not have the experience to run the Department of Veteran Affairs — is that a fair assessment,” he wondered.

But Sanders quickly accused Acosta of distorting the president’s words.

Acosta also asked Sanders about remarks earlier in the press briefing, in which she suggested that the Trump administration was a champion of the press.

“We support a free press but we also support a fair press,” Sanders said. “And I think that those things should go hand and hand.”

She added that the reporters at White House briefings often had a “tone” that was “completely unnecessary.”

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump touts Rasmussen poll: ‘51% Approval despite the Fake News Media’

President Trump touted a conservative-leaning poll of his job approval on Tuesday while slamming surveys from news organizations, such as The Washington Post and CNN, as inaccurate.

“Rasmussen just came out at 51% Approval despite the Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted. “They were one of the three most accurate on Election Day.”

Rasmussen Reports, a right-leaning polling firm, routinely pegs the president’s approval ratings higher than other pollsters. As of Tuesday, Trump’s approval rating sat at 49 percent, according to the firm, and 50 percent disapprove.

RealClearPolitics, which averages data from a number of pollsters, had Trump’s current figure at about 42 percent on Tuesday.

Trump has seen relatively low approval ratings throughout much of his first 15 months in office, but has repeatedly insisted that many surveys are inaccurate.

Trump has long questioned the accuracy of public opinion polls, especially during the 2016 presidential race, when many pollsters projected a win for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump Tweet-Attacks CNN And Jeff Zucker, Gets Punched Back

President Donald Trump kicked off Tuesday tweet-ranting about CNN, claiming “you cannot get a job at CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump.”

CNN chief Jeff Zucker – or “Little Jeff Zuker” as spelling-challenged Trump called him – is “not having much fun lately” POTUS said, claiming the job of his former boss, from his Apprentice days, is in jeopardy, job-wise.

“They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting,” Trump said.

Maybe explaining Trump’s latest tantrum, on Monday, his latest campaign manager suggested pulling credentials of CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. That’s because Acosta had asked Trump about declaring DACA to be dead that morning, via Twitter. Trump had kicked off the day with that incendiary tweet, but the White House decided it would not have a press briefing on Monday. That left Acosta asking the question while Trump was photo-opping with children at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

After attacking CNN and Zucker, Trump then simper-tweeted thanks to Rasmussen which reported Trump’s approval rating at 50% in its latest poll. Trump insisted that “is higher than Cheatin’ Obama at the same time in his Administration.” Trump did not explain why he called Obama “cheatin’.”

No response from Obama so far. But CNN shot back.

“Once again, false,” the cable news network tweeted. “The personal political beliefs of CNN’s employees are of no interest to us. Their pursuit of the truth is our only concern. Also, Jeff’s last name is spelled Z-U-C-K-E-R. Those are the facts.”

“As for ‘challenged,’ CNN just finished its second highest rated first quarter in the past nine years. Those are the facts,” CNN continued.

“Interesting poll out of Monmouth: more people trust @CNN than @realDonaldTrump http://bit.ly/2IlT6Qf, ” CNN concluded.

[Deadline]

Trump Calls Out CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS in Wake of Sinclair’s ‘Fake News’ Promos

Donald Trump is weighing in on Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s requirement that anchors read a prepared script about “fake news,” saying that outrage over the promotion is due to major networks fearing competition—and criticisms should instead be targeted at those news outlets.

“The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast,” Trump wrote in a Tweet.

It’s a curious charge given that Sinclair, which is known for its right-leaning news, has a symbiotic relationship with many of the networks Trump named. More than 80 of the broadcast group’s 173 stations are either ABC, NBC, or CBS affiliates.

[Fortune]

 

Trump Defends Sinclair Amid Controversy: ‘Far Superior to CNN and Even More Fake NBC’

In response to the controversy surrounding Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which went viral over the weekend, President Donald Trump came to the company’s defense, claiming on Twitter that “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC.”

Scrutiny of the company began after Deadspin video showed local anchors working at stations owned by Sinclair repeating the exact same anti-media talking points that echoed Trump’s attacks on the mainstream press. The segment was part of a new intuitive on “fake stories” that Sinclair is forcing their stations to air.

Trump predictably sided with Sinclair in the controversy, tweeting this morning, “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter, who first broke the Sinclair story, responded to the president on Twitter by thanking him for watching CNN.

[Mediaite]

Media

Kellyanne Conway found to have violated Hatch Act

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act on two occasions, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump administration Tuesday.

Appearing in her official capacity, Conway endorsed and advocated against political candidates, the watchdog said, referring its findings to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.”

The violations occurred during two television appearances in 2017, one on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” and one on CNN’s “New Day.”

“While the Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, it restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes, including by trying to influence partisan elections,” OSC says in its report.

“Ms. Conway’s statements during the ‘Fox & Friends’ and ‘New Day’ interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate.”

The report goes on to state that Conway received “significant training” on the Hatch Act and possible violations. OSC says it gave Conway, a former GOP pollster who served as Trump’s campaign manager, the opportunity to respond as part of its report, but she did not.

The White House rejected the report’s findings, saying “Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate” in a statement provided to reporters.

“In fact, Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act — as she twice declined to respond to the host’s specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gildley said.

Ahead of December’s special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate, Conway made remarks critical of then-candidate Doug Jones in his race against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

During her initial Fox appearance, Conway blasted Jones as “weak on crime” and “weak on borders,” before declining to specifically endorse Moore when asked.

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners,” Conway said in November.

“So, vote Roy Moore?” host Brian Kilmeade interjected.

“I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” Conway responded.

In her CNN appearance in December, Conway went further, saying that Trump “doesn’t want a liberal Democrat representing Alabama” in the Senate.

“The only endorsement that matters in this race is President Trump’s,” Conway said the week before the vote. “And he came out questioning the ideology and the vote of Doug Jones. He’ll be a reliable vote for tax hikes. He’ll be a reliable vote against border security. He’ll be a reliable vote against national security and keeping [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] ISIS in retreat. He’ll be the reliable vote against the Second Amendment and against life.”

At the time, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub called the comments a “slam dunk” violation of the Hatch Act.

“The willfulness of Conway’s violation and her openly expressed disdain for efforts to hold her accountable for complying with ethics requirements make clear that anything less than removal from the federal service or a lengthy unpaid suspension will not deter future misconduct on her part,” Shaub said.

Shaub filed two complaints with OSC over the interviews.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah defended Conway last year after initial criticism.

“Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate, and specifically declined to encourage Alabamans to vote a certain way,” Shah said in a statement.

“She was speaking about issues and her support for the president’s agenda. This election is for the people of Alabama to decide,” he added.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) demanded the president issue “swift and serious” punishment for the violations.

“The President must take swift and serious disciplinary action against Ms. Conway. Anything else sets a terrible example,” Cummings said in a statement.

Hatch Act violations committed by White House staff are typically handled directly by the president. Consequences for violating the law range from an official reprimand to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. Other penalties include suspension, termination or even debarment from federal employment for up to five years.

[The Hill]

Update

The White House said on Tuesday that counselor Kellyanne Conway did not violate the Hatch Act after the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) told the Trump administration she was found in violation.

“Kellyanne Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. She simply expressed the president’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate, who support his agenda,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

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