If Donald Trump is a "con man," as Marco Rubio likes to say, he's playing one helluva long con. Trump's rapid rise in the polls and success in the GOP primaries has caught Republicans and political observers off-guard, but the real estate mogul has been planning his conquest of the GOP nomination fight and, he hopes, the presidency since at least November 2012, the month Mitt Romney lost to President Obama — and Trump trademarked his slogan "Make America Great Again," The Wall Street Journal reports, citing federal records.
In 2013, Trump spoke at CPAC, and he campaigned for Rep. Steve King (R) in first-caucus-state Iowa a year later. Between 2012 and June 2015, he donated more than $1 million to Republican candidates and affiliated groups. Maybe nobody saw Trump's political success coming because he has been talking about running for president since at least 1988, when he told Oprah Winfrey that if he ever ran, he would probably win. He did briefly throw his hat in the ring in 2000, as a Reform Party candidate, but the 16 years since have been filled with feints widely viewed as publicity stunts.
Rush Limbaugh, Trump's longtime golfing buddy, said on his radio show Wednesday that looking back, "this is something Trump has been planning for years." While golfing, Trump would ask "pretty focused and intense" questions about politics, he said, but "at no point did I ever think, 'My God, this guy sounds like he's thinking of running.' I just thought it was somebody that was deeply interested and talking about things that you don't normally hear him talk about in public. But now looking back on everything that's happened, I think two or three years ago he was planning this."
Trump's advisers say that Trump has been toying with the idea for more than a few years. "I don't think people realized he has always had presidential aspirations," Sam Nunberg, a GOP strategist who advised Trump from 2013 until August 2015, told The Journal. "He knows the voters he attracts. He knew it from the beginning." Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, explained the attraction: "He likes that he's making history. His likes that his name is up in lights.... And he's having fun." You can read more about Trump's long game at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber
On Wednesday, several companies that regularly air commercials during Sean Hannity's Fox News show pulled their ads in the wake of his coverage of the 2016 murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer.
Hannity had been pushing a conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was murdered because he gave DNC files to WikiLeaks; police say there is no evidence of this, and Rich was shot and killed during a botched robbery. On Tuesday, Fox News retracted the story it published about Rich earlier this month, but Hannity initially refused. During his show Tuesday night, he said he would stop discussing the theory "for now," but later tweeted that he was "not stopping" because he is "closer to the TRUTH than ever."
The companies who have pulled their ads include Peloton, Ring, and Cars.com, which told BuzzFeed News its media buy strategies "are designed to reach as many consumers as possible across a wide spectrum of media channels," but they've been "watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity." Several companies contacted by BuzzFeed News said that just because their air commercials during Hannity, it doesn't mean they endorse what he has to say; Mercedes-Benz, for example, said its "rule of thumb is that we do not pull our ads based on editorial content. Our feeling is that a variety of viewpoints is part of the natural discourse that takes place in a free media." Before he departed the network amid accusations of sexual harassment, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly saw companies pull their ads from airing during his program, then the highest-rated cable news show. Catherine Garcia
The father of Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old man believed to have been behind the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester, said he last spoke to his son about five days ago and "everything was normal."
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 22 people dead and dozens injured, but Ramadan Abedi told Reuters his son "doesn't belong to any organization. The family is a bit confused because Salman doesn't have this ideology, he doesn't hold these beliefs." Ramadan Abedi said Salman told his family he was planning on going to Mecca on a pilgrimage, and he looked at his son's passports and "he didn't travel to Syria."
Ramadan Abedi's son Hashem was detained Tuesday in Tripoli on suspicion of having links to ISIS, Libyan authorities said, and while Reuters was interviewing Ramadan, counterterrorism forces stormed his home in the Tripoli suburb of Ayn Zara and arrested him. Before the interview's abrupt ending, Ramadan Abedi told Reuters he thinks there are "hidden hands" behind the Manchester attack, and "we condemn these terrorist acts on civilians, innocent people." Catherine Garcia
The Republican candidate for an open House seat in Montana, Greg Gianforte, allegedly assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs at a campaign event Wednesday night. Jacobs described the situation on Twitter:
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
BuzzFeed News reporter Alexis Levinson was directly outside the room in question, and she described "angry yelling" and a "giant crash." The Guardian posted audio of the encounter, where Gianforte can be heard shouting angrily, "I'm sick and tired of you guys!"
Gianforte's campaign put out a response accusing Jacobs of having "grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground." This account is rather divergent from the recorded one, not least because it says Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower his recorder and he refused, which cannot be heard in the posted audio.
Jacobs wrote an article detailing Gianforte's ties to sanctioned Russian companies last month. The election is tomorrow. Ryan Cooper
Good news, poor people — Ben Carson is here to explain why you aren't a millionaire.
"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," the retired neurosurgeon, former presidential candidate, current Housing and Urban Development Secretary, and not an economic adviser said during a SiriusXM town hall recorded Tuesday night and released Wednesday. "You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back to the bottom."
Carson has been vocal about being poor growing up, and said that while he does believe the government is able to give a "helping hand" to people trying to lift themselves out of poverty, there are too many programs that are "sustaining them in a position of poverty. That's not helpful." HUD provides affordable housing and rental assistance to low-income families, and under President Trump's proposed budget released Tuesday, the department's budget would be cut by $6 billion. Catherine Garcia
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions applied for his security clearance, he neglected to share meetings he had in 2016 with Russian officials, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.
The SF-86 form requires a person list "any contact" they or their family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the last seven years, officials told CNN, and Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times in 2016, did not mention these gatherings. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN that Sessions and his staff were told by the FBI they did not need to list meetings he had with foreign ambassadors that took place while he was still a senator.
"My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business," Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney specializing in national security law, told CNN. During his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, Sessions, an early Trump supporter, also did not disclose his interactions with Kislyak. Catherine Garcia
Last summer, U.S. spies gathered information on senior Russian officials discussing how to influence Donald Trump through his advisers, three current and former American officials told The New York Times.
They specifically focused on two men with indirect ties to Russian officials: Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, his foreign policy adviser. The information was deemed credible enough by intelligence agencies to pass along to the FBI, but it remains unclear if the Russians actually did try to influence Manafort and Flynn, who have both denied any collusion with the Russian government before the 2016 presidential election.
The U.S. spies heard some Russians bragging about how well they knew Flynn, the Times reports; in 2015, Flynn earned more than $65,000 from several companies linked to Russia, including the government-funded RT news network. For his part, Manafort spent more than 10 years working for political organizations in Ukraine, forging a close relationship with Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who was a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan testified that last summer, he was convinced "the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive." By the end of former President Barack Obama's term, he still had "unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf against either in a witting or unwitting fashion." Catherine Garcia
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require the president to alert Congress if anyone in the executive branch happened to, say, reveal some classified information to certain hostile nations. Murphy rolled out her bill just over a week after reports surfaced that President Trump had revealed highly classified information passed to the U.S. from Israel in an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials.
Murphy's bill, the Prevention and Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies (POISE) Act, would require the president "to promptly notify the House and Senate congressional intelligence committees when any U.S. executive branch official, including the president himself, intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions."
As a former national security specialist at the Pentagon, Murphy said she's witnessed how damaging it can be to spill classified information. "When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world," she said in a statement. "Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information." Becca Stanek