Trump blames media for ‘purposely’ reporting his ‘animals’ comment incorrectly

President Donald Trump on Friday chided media outlets who reported earlier in the week that he had referred to undocumented immigrants as “animals,” a remark that came in response to questions about members of the brutal MS-13 gang with roots in El Salvador.

“Fake News Media had me calling Immigrants, or Illegal Immigrants, ‘Animals.’ Wrong! They were begrudgingly forced to withdraw their stories,” the president wrote on Twitter. “I referred to MS 13 Gang Members as “Animals,” a big difference – and so true. Fake News got it purposely wrong, as usual!”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen echoed the president Friday, saying on "Fox and Friends" that she was “a bit horrified” at media coverage of the president’s remarks: “If anyone wants to quibble about whether we should call those people animals, perhaps the quibble should be whether we call them something worse.”

Asked about criticism from Continue reading “Trump blames media for ‘purposely’ reporting his ‘animals’ comment incorrectly”

NATO chief thanks Trump for leadership on military spending

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised President Donald Trump on Thursday for pushing countries in the alliance to boost their defense spending, an issue that has driven a wedge between Trump and Europe before.

“Let me thank you for the leadership you show on the issue of defense spending because it is very important that we all contribute more to our shared security, and it is really having an impact because, as you said, allies are now spending more on defense,” Stoltenberg said while taking reporters’ questions after the leaders met at the White House. “All allies are increasing their defense budgets.”

“Do you give me credit for that?” Trump pressed.

“You have helped to do that,” Stoltenberg said.

It was a notable moment for a U.S.-NATO relationship that has sometimes seemed on shaky ground during the Trump administration.

A minority of NATO’s members — including the Continue reading “NATO chief thanks Trump for leadership on military spending”

Trump donates first-quarter 2018 salary to VA

President Donald Trump will donate his salary for the first quarter of 2018 to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the White House announced Thursday.

Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at a press briefing that the money would go toward caregiver support programs, including mental health, peer support, research, education, training and financial aid.

“The president’s gift underscores his promise to do all that he can for veterans, which includes supporting those who care for our veterans — not just those of us at VA, but the husbands, the wives, the families and the community caregivers who are out there, day in and day out, making life easier for those who have borne the battle,” Wilkie said.

Trump has donated his $100,000 quarterly salary to a different government agency every three months — most recently to the Department of Transportation for infrastructure projects.

His donation to the VA comes at Continue reading “Trump donates first-quarter 2018 salary to VA”

FBI chief ‘deeply concerned’ about companies like ZTE

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that he’s “deeply concerned” about foreign companies like ZTE gaining access to the U.S. telecommunications network, days after President Donald Trump sparked controversy by expressing a willingness to save the Chinese phone-maker.

Wray told lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that he wouldn’t comment publicly on a specific company — but “we at the FBI remain deeply concerned that any company beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values are not companies that we want to be gaining positions of power inside our telecommunications network.”

“That gives them the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information, that gives them the capacity to conduct undetected espionage, that gives them the capacity to exert pressure or control,” Wray added.

Wray was facing pointed questions stemming from an out-of-left-field Trump tweet on Sunday about ZTE, which is floundering financially after U.S. regulators Continue reading “FBI chief ‘deeply concerned’ about companies like ZTE”

Trump Jr.’s team pressed for unified story on Trump Tower meeting

Attorneys for Donald Trump Jr. sought to coordinate public statements for attendees of a June 2016 meeting between a Kremlin-connected lawyer and top Trump campaign aides after news broke of the controversial sitdown, according to transcripts released Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 2016 meeting at Trump Tower — attended by Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and indicted former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — was billed as an opportunity for Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to share damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

But after the meeting became public last year, Trump Jr. claimed that only Russian adoption policy was discussed. And even before reporting revealed the meeting, the new transcripts show that his lawyer had begun reaching out to multiple participants to get their accounts straight regarding the day in question.

These discrepancies — and the meeting itself — have since become a key part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Continue reading “Trump Jr.’s team pressed for unified story on Trump Tower meeting”

Huckabee Sanders: White House leakers ‘should be fired’

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that leakers “should be fired” amid the ongoing controversy over an aide’s joke about Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) death.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to work for the president and to be part of his administration. And anybody who betrays that I think is a total and complete coward and they should be fired,” Sanders said on Fox. “We’ve fired people over leaking before.”

The White House has continually doubled down on its perspective that the leaking of aide Kelly Sadler’s comments — “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway” — was a graver offense than the remarks themselves.

Sanders echoed President Donald Trump, who tweeted that leakers were “traitors and cowards” even as he called the leaks exaggerated, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who said this week that she expected personnel changes as a result.

“Some of Continue reading “Huckabee Sanders: White House leakers ‘should be fired’”

Rand Paul asks Haspel if she knows of any CIA surveillance of Trump

Rand Paul has one last question for CIA director nominee Gina Haspel: Was she at all involved with any surveillance of President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign?

The Kentucky senator sent Haspel a letter on Tuesday laying out his suspicions. The missive amounts to a last-minute effort to derail Haspel before her expected confirmation by attempting to get the president’s own CIA nominee to admit to being aware of the intelligence community monitoring the president.

"She’s high enough up in the CIA. I think we should know what she knows about whether the Trump campaign was surveilled upon," Paul said on Fox News. "Before she’s appointed, if she is indeed appointed, I would like to know what does she know about the surveillance of the Trump campaign and why was the CIA involved?”

Trump in 2017 accused former President Barack Obama of having his "wires tapped" in Continue reading “Rand Paul asks Haspel if she knows of any CIA surveillance of Trump”

Trump: ‘Media may be corrupt, but the People truly get it!’

President Donald Trump celebrated rising poll numbers Tuesday as a repudiation of two familiar annoyances: the press and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“I now have my best Poll Numbers in a year,” he tweeted. “Much of the Media may be corrupt, but the People truly get it!”

Though Trump’s approval rating has remained underwater for nearly his entire presidency, his numbers have been ticking upward lately. FiveThirtyEight’s daily aggregation of popularity metrics has clocked Trump at 42.1 percent on five days this month, including Monday — his highest rating since May 8, 2017, the day before he fired FBI Director James Comey.

His numbers are still historically low compared to predecessors at this point in their terms.

Trump said on Twitter that his poll numbers were particularly noteworthy “with all of the made up, unsourced stories I get from the Fake News Media, together with the Continue reading “Trump: ‘Media may be corrupt, but the People truly get it!’”

Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown recovering after minor stroke

Rep. Anthony Brown had a minor stroke Friday night but is “expected to make a full recovery,” his office said Tuesday.

The Maryland Democrat, who lost a gubernatorial bid in 2014, experienced the stroke just hours after leaving the funeral of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a gubernatorial candidate this year who died suddenly last week.

Brown suffered the stroke at his home in Bowie, where he began feeling extremely dizzy and ill, spokesman Matt Verghese said in a statement. He was transported to University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center.

Brown stayed at the hospital until Sunday. He is now recovering at home, though his return date to Capitol Hill remains uncertain and “he will have a limited public schedule,” Verghese said. “He’s in good spirits, staying active at home and communicating with staff, and is eager to return to Washington.”

The 56-year-old Brown was elected to Congress Continue reading “Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown recovering after minor stroke”

Trump: Melania ‘doing really well’ after kidney procedure

President Donald Trump said Tuesday morning that first lady Melania Trump is recovering well from treatment for a “benign” kidney condition and will head home later this week.

“Our great First Lady is doing really well. Will be leaving hospital in 2 or 3 days,” he tweeted. “Thank you for so much love and support!”

Melania Trump, 48, underwent an embolization procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, just after Mother’s Day. Her office said in a statement that there were no complications.

Experts told POLITICO that the procedure is typically used to staunch blood flow to a part of the body to stop a bleeding blood vessel or kill a non-cancerous growth. But one nephrologist said this embolization usually follows another procedure. The White House has not released further information on Melania Trump’s condition, though it initially said she was expected to remain at the Continue reading “Trump: Melania ‘doing really well’ after kidney procedure”

Wilbur Ross: ‘I don’t think the sky will fall’ with census citizenship question

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday defended the Trump administration’s decision to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census, saying he didn’t think the addition would mean the "sky will fall."

“It’s been asked every year on the American Community Survey in the exact same form that we’re planning to do in the census this year. Sixty-one million families have already been exposed to the question, and the sky has not fallen,” Ross said at a National Press Club event. “So I don’t think the sky will fall when we add it to the census itself in 2020.”

He rattled off several steps the department would take to ease the change for non-English speakers, including providing access to multilingual instructional material and call-center resources and working with community groups to explain the importance of participation.

“We’re also putting the citizenship question last so that someone who, Continue reading “Wilbur Ross: ‘I don’t think the sky will fall’ with census citizenship question”

Wilbur Ross: We’re exploring ‘alternative remedies’ for ZTE ban

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that the Trump administration is open to changing its ban on U.S. companies buying and selling products from Chinese phone-maker ZTE, a day after President Donald Trump hinted at a surprising reversal.

“ZTE did do some inappropriate things. They’ve admitted to that,” Ross said at a National Press Club event. “The question is: Are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward? And that’s the area we will be exploring very, very promptly.”

Ross’s Commerce Department levied a harsh penalty against the electronics company last month, imposing a seven-year ban on American companies selling or purchasing its products. The U.S. had reached an agreement with ZTE in March 2017 that included a $1.19 billion fine, but it added the new ban because it said the company broke the agreement by failing to punish top managers.

ZTE Continue reading “Wilbur Ross: We’re exploring ‘alternative remedies’ for ZTE ban”

Grassley: Does Trump do his own tweeting?

Amid furious White House attempts to crack down on leaking, Sen. Chuck Grassley wondered aloud on Twitter on Monday about President Donald Trump’s own tweeting habits.

“Since the WH leaks like a sieve will 1 of the leakers tell me Does @POTUS do his own tweeting? Or does someone help him? Or does he dictate into the microphone?” the Iowa Republican wrote. “He’s much more prolific than I am.”

Grassley, like Trump, has long staked out unique turf on Twitter, though not at quite the same level of output. He frequently tweets direct, public requests to Trump. In January, HuffPost ran an article exploring “Chuck Grassley’s Yearlong, One-Sided Twitter Conversation With President Trump,” which it called “the last truly pure thing online.”

The latest round of the Trump administration’s internal recriminations on leaking came last week, after politicians across the spectrum rebuked White House aide Kelly Sadler Continue reading “Grassley: Does Trump do his own tweeting?”

Trump and British prime minister discuss Iran by phone

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom condemned recent suspected Iranian rocket attacks on Israel in a phone call on Friday, according to statements from both administrations.

But only a U.K. readout of the call addressed May’s concerns about the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this week. And it said the leaders agreed to further talks about the effect on Western countries of reimposing sanctions on Iran, as Trump announced he intended to do.

“The Prime Minister reiterated the Government’s position on the Iran nuclear deal, noting that we and our European partners remain firmly committed to ensuring the deal is upheld, as the best way of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” the British readout said.

Trump and May also discussed how to respond to what they described as Iran’s destabilizing actions in the Middle East, called for Continue reading “Trump and British prime minister discuss Iran by phone”

Novartis CEO: ‘We made a mistake’ with Cohen payments

The CEO of Novartis apologized to employees for the company’s payments to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

“We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticized by a world that expects more from us,” wrote Vasant Narasimhan, the Swiss drugmaker’s chief executive. Novartis shared the Thursday email, which was first reported by STAT, with POLITICO.

Novartis has garnered widespread criticism this week over the revelation that it paid Cohen $1.2 million in a yearlong contract in an attempt to gain insight into the Trump administration. The drugmaker, along with other companies like AT&T, made payments to a Cohen shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, that was used for a hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, first revealed the nature of the payments.

“Personally and for my family, yesterday was also a Continue reading “Novartis CEO: ‘We made a mistake’ with Cohen payments”

White House taps nominees for major Africa posts

The White House sent several State Department and diplomatic nominations to the Senate on Thursday, including two prominent Africa positions that were sitting unfilled.

Tibor Nagy, recently a vice provost at Texas Tech University and former ambassador to Ethiopia and Guinea, was tapped to be assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter was picked as ambassador to Kenya.

The announcement came the same day that the Pentagon released a summary of its final U.S. Africa Command report on an October ambush attack in Niger that killed four U.S. troops and others.

The Trump administration has come under fire for what critics called a lack of diplomatic engagement with Africa. Major countries like South Africa and Tanzania remain without an American emissary. President Donald Trump provoked an uproar in January when he reportedly called African and other nations “shithole” places. And the rising threat Continue reading “White House taps nominees for major Africa posts”

White House taps nominees for major Africa posts

The White House sent several State Department and diplomatic nominations to the Senate on Thursday, including two prominent Africa positions that were sitting unfilled.

Tibor Nagy, recently a vice provost at Texas Tech University and former ambassador to Ethiopia and Guinea, was tapped to be assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter was picked as ambassador to Kenya.

The announcement came the same day that the Pentagon released a summary of its final U.S. Africa Command report on an October ambush attack in Niger that killed four U.S. troops and others.

The Trump administration has come under fire for what critics called a lack of diplomatic engagement with Africa. Major countries like South Africa and Tanzania remain without an American emissary. President Donald Trump provoked an uproar in January when he reportedly called African and other nations “shithole” places. And the rising threat Continue reading “White House taps nominees for major Africa posts”

Dick Cheney: Restart enhanced interrogation programs

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said the U.S. should restart its enhanced interrogation techniques — often considered torture — after the issue was thrust to the forefront during Gina Haspel’s confirmation fight to become CIA director.

“If it were my call, I would not discontinue those programs,” he said in an interview that aired Thursday morning on Fox Business. “I’d have them active and ready to go, and I’d go back and study them and learn.”

Cheney has long defended the post-9/11 tactics even as the national climate shifted over the years. Congress has since banned them.

“I think the techniques we used were not torture. A lot of people try to call it that, but it wasn’t deemed torture at the time,” he told Maria Bartiromo. “People want to go back and try to rewrite history, but if it were my call, I’d do it again.”

Continue reading “Dick Cheney: Restart enhanced interrogation programs”

White House slams Iran for suspected strikes on Israel

The White House on Thursday condemned rocket attacks that Israel says Iran launched overnight from its bases in Syria amid rapidly escalating tensions in the region.

“We strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defense,” the White House said in a statement. “The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.”

Israel and Iran have engaged in multiple rounds of attacks since President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he would break the Iran nuclear deal.

The Israeli military said Iran had fired rockets at soldiers in the Golan Heights — apparently the first time Iran has done so — though all were intercepted or fell short of their targets. Israel then conducted retaliatory strikes against dozens of Iranian facilities in Syria, also taking out Syrian air defense systems.

Israel pinned the Continue reading “White House slams Iran for suspected strikes on Israel”

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate dies suddenly

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, one of the leading candidates in Maryland’s crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary, died early Thursday morning after experiencing cardiac arrest.

County police said in a statement that Kamenetz, 60, had woken up at 2 a.m. at his Owings Mills home, feeling sick, and was taken to University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, where he died before 3:30 a.m.

Kamenetz died only hours after participating in a candidates’ forum in Prince George’s County. He had been seen as one of the top contenders to take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has managed to retain one of the nation’s highest approval ratings even in traditionally blue Maryland.

Two polls conducted in February showed Kamenetz running second to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in the primary, which also includes former NAACP President Ben Jealous, state Sen. Rich Madaleno, attorney Jim Shea, former State Department Continue reading “Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate dies suddenly”