President Trump on Tuesday appeared to acknowledge Russia's continuing efforts to interfere in U.S. elections — but claimed against evidence that Moscow would be "pushing very hard for the Democrats" in the midterms this fall. "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact in the upcoming election," Trump wrote.
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018
Trump has been vacillating on Russian cyberattacks since his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, when he appeared to believe Putin's denials over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence. Putin was "extremely strong and powerful in his denial" that Russian hackers targeted the 2016 election, Trump said at the two leaders' joint press conference following their closed-door meeting. He also said "I don't see why it would be" Russia that interfered in the election, though he later backtracked, claiming he meant to say that he didn't see why it "wouldn't" be Russia that meddled.
U.S. intelligence agencies are unanimous in their conclusion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election with intent to swing things in Trump's favor; they have not definitively said that the Russian efforts affected the election's outcome. At the press conference last week, Putin acknowledged that he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election. "Yes, I did," Putin said. "Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal." Kimberly Alters
First lady Melania Trump is getting a lot of flak for a Zara jacket she wore going to and from a center holding detained immigrant children that read "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?"
Trump's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, took umbrage at the idea that anyone would find the message inappropriate. "It's a jacket," she said. "There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe." Well, everyone is focusing on it, including President Trump.
On Thursday evening, Trump tweeted: "'I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?' written on the back of Melania's jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!" As anyone who was ever a teenager knows, when you go around saying you don't really care about something, it means you actually do, and that goes double when you have it emblazoned on the back of your jacket.
So, what is it? Was there "no hidden message," as Grisham claims, or was this a blatant commentary on the "Fake News Media?" I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U? Catherine Garcia
If one thing is clear in the Stormy Daniels scandal that has engulfed the last few days of President Trump's administration, it's this: Everything is Sarah Huckabee Sanders' fault.
CNN reports that Trump is "very unhappy" with Sanders, his press secretary, after she mentioned in her briefing remarks Wednesday that a legal battle with Daniels had been "won in arbitration." Daniels, an adult film actress who alleges she and Trump carried on an affair in 2006 and 2007 and that she was compelled by Trump's personal lawyer in the waning days of the 2016 campaign to sign a non-disclosure agreement about their relationship, filed a lawsuit against the president Tuesday alleging the agreement was invalid because Trump himself never signed it.
Trump has, of course, steadfastly denied all Daniels-related allegations against him: that they had an affair; that he was aware of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, transferring $130,000 to Daniels as "hush money"; that any non-disclosure agreement was arranged or signed. But Sanders' acknowledgment of arbitration proceedings raised eyebrows Wednesday; as The Guardian's Ben Jacobs noted, "If there was an arbitration between the two, that means there has to have been a contract."
A source close to the White House told CNN that Trump believes Sanders "gave the Stormy Daniels storyline steroids yesterday" with her mention of arbitration. For their part, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti dismissed Sanders' claim that the case had already been decided in Trump's favor, telling The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg: "Yeah, and he also won the popular vote." Kimberly Alters
Trump claims he would have 'run in' and confronted the Parkland shooter 'even if I didn't have a weapon'
President Trump, who received five deferments during the Vietnam war including one for bone spurs, announced Monday that he would have personally run unarmed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to face off against the shooter who killed 17 people with an AR-15.
"I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon," Trump announced, criticizing Florida police officers who reportedly did not immediately enter the building during the attack.
Literally no one believes this https://t.co/OaK57Mn1Kw
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) February 26, 2018
this is the same guy who said STD's were his "personal Vietnam" so take this with a ton-sized block of halite crystal https://t.co/rBBr414ETm
— Dante Atkins (@DanteAtkins) February 26, 2018
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) February 26, 2018
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a lifetime appointment of President Trump's Alabama federal judge nominee along party lines on Thursday despite the fact that 36-year-old Brett J. Talley has never tried a case in his life and has only practiced law for three years, the Los Angeles Times reports. While Talley has degrees from the University of Alabama and Harvard Law School and runs a blog, the American Bar Association deemed him "not qualified" for the job. Additionally, Talley has "displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee, denouncing 'Hillary Rotten Clinton' and pledging support for the National Rifle Association," the Times reports.
President Trump has nominated 59 people to federal courts since taking office, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. At the same point in former President Barack Obama's first term, he'd nominated 27 federal judges and one Supreme Court justice. Liberal critics have pointed to nominations like Talley in alarm: "So far, no one from [Trump's] party has been willing to stand up against him on the agenda of packing the courts," the vice president of People for the American Way, Marge Baker, told the Los Angeles Times.
Trump has directly praised Talley as being an "untold story" that "nobody wants to talk about."
"When you think of it, Mitch [McConnell] and I were saying, that has consequences 40 years out, depending on the age of the judge," Trump said in October. "But 40 years out." Jeva Lange
The Russian government claims it couldn't have possibly bought Facebook ads during the election because it doesn't know how
The Russian government denied buying $100,000 worth of Facebook ads during the 2016 presidential election on the grounds that they don't even know how, The Hill reports. "We do not know … how to place an advert on Facebook," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday. "We have never done this, and the Russian side has never been involved in it."
On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is already in possession of the ads. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump dismissed the Facebook ads as being a part of "the Russia hoax."
The Russian ads were reportedly "directed at people on Facebook who had expressed interest in subjects ... such as LGBT community, black social issues, the Second Amendment, and immigration," a Facebook official told The Washington Post. The ads specifically "spread inflammatory messages about immigration, guns, and other topics" and "derided [Hillary] Clinton and supported [Donald] Trump," The New York Times writes. Jeva Lange
President Trump on Tuesday wasted no time responding to a rare criticism voiced on Fox & Friends, a must-watch show for the president.
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham argued during Tuesday morning's episode that the havoc wreaked by Tropical Storm Harvey proves how imperative it is that the Trump administration fill the many vacancies at federal agencies, particularly those tasked with disaster recovery. "I think we can all look at these horrific pictures, and we can conclude a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this," Ingraham said.
While the Trump administration has claimed that Democrats are holding up the nomination process, Ingraham noted that the administration hasn't even nominated people for hundreds of vacant positions. Politico reported that 366 positions requiring Senate confirmation are "currently without a nominee." "This is a question that has to be posed to the administration. I know they have a lot on their hands, but we have to have people in place," Ingraham said. "If there's a plan to not staff and cause the ultimate shrinkage of government, then let's hear about that as well."
Trump took this opportunity to claim that these vacancies were actually all part of his grand plan. Despite his repeated attacks on Democrats for "taking forever" to confirm nominees, Trump tweeted Tuesday that he didn't even want all those positions filled anyway. Becca Stanek
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2017
White House claims Trump was 'being sarcastic' when he thanked Putin for expelling American diplomats
The White House on Friday insisted that President Trump wasn't actually being serious when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of American diplomats from Russia. "He was being sarcastic," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Trump extended his gratitude to Putin when pressed by reporters Thursday for a statement on Putin's latest move, a response to U.S. sanctions. "As far as I'm concerned I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump said, noting this will "save a lot of money." Trump also said that there is "no real reason" for the 755 expelled American diplomats "to go back."
Trump's alleged sarcasm didn't go over well in Washington, especially in the midst of the ongoing investigation into Russia's election meddling and the Trump team's potential ties to it. A State Department official said that Trump's comments were "really quite sad," as they underscore the growing sense that Trump "just doesn't get it." A former U.S. ambassador remarked: "For reasons we do not yet know, the president cannot bring himself to criticize Putin." Becca Stanek