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April 16, 2019

President Trump on Tuesday morning sounded pretty upset over Fox News' town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — but not because of anything Sanders said.

Instead, Trump attacked Fox News itself for its Monday event with the 2020 Democrat, saying that "not surprisingly," moderator Bret Baier and the audience were "so smiley and nice," putting the word "audience" in quotes as if to raise suspicion. He also referenced Fox News' recent hiring of former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile as a contributor, calling all of this "very strange."

This tweet, Politico's Anna Palmer points out, was Trump's first time commenting on Sanders at all since February. But other than labeling him "Crazy Bernie," Trump didn't really attack his potential 2020 opponent despite apparently watching it, although perhaps he only saw the clip of the audience being pretty receptive to Sanders' Medicare for All proposal.

Trump has evidently had his eye on Baier for a while, with The New Yorker reporting in March that the president rates the loyalty of everyone on Fox News on a scale of 1 to 10; Baier only gets a 6 compared to Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy, who gets a 12. Baier responded to Trump's tweet by writing, "Thanks for watching, Mr. President." Brendan Morrow

8:50 a.m.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an address on Tuesday criticized President Trump's newly-imposed sanctions as "outrageous and idiotic" — and that's not all.

Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing what he called "hard-hitting" new sanctions on Iran following its shooting down of a U.S. drone, saying the sanctions would deny Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others "access to key financial resources and support."

On Tuesday, Rouhani responded by saying the White House has become "mentally crippled," The Washington Post reports, also saying the administration is "afflicted by mental retardation," The Associated Press reports. The sanctions, Rouhani said, represent the Trump administration's "certain failure," and he asked, "You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?"

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman additionally warned that the sanctions indicate "the permanent closure of the doors of diplomacy," the Post reports. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, says that Trump has "held the door open to real negotiations" and that "all that Iran needs to do is walk through that door." Brendan Morrow

7:57 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden came under fire last week for his comments about working with segregationists, but likely Democratic primary voters don't seem to much care.

Biden at an event recently touted his past ability to work with segregationist senators with whom he disagreed like James Eastland, saying they were able to get things done and that back then, "at least there was some civility." Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called on Biden to apologize, but Biden doubled down, saying Booker is the one who should offer an apology.

Now, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 41 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said Biden's comments about working with segregationists would make no difference in their vote. In fact, 29 percent said it would actually make them more likely to vote for him, compared to 18 percent who said it would make them less likely to do so.

Overall, Biden's position at the top of the newest Morning Consult tracking poll has not changed at all since last week. In the survey taken from June 17 through June 23, he's still leading the pack with 38 percent support, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in second place with 19 percent. Biden's segregationist comments were made on June 19. Morning Consult for the poll spoke online with 16,188 registered voters who say they may vote in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Biden's comments have also not had much of an effect on black voters, according to the Politico/Morning Consult poll, as 30 percent said they'd be more likely to vote for him now, while 27 percent said it didn't make a difference and 20 percent said they're less likely to vote for him. Noting Biden's unchanged status in the race after a controversy-filled week, pollster Nate Silver observed, "you'll rarely go wrong by discounting how much the media controversy of the week will move the numbers." Brendan Morrow

7:40 a.m.

The New York Post, the conservative New York tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., published an article Friday on longtime New York-based columnist E. Jean Carroll's allegations that President Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago — and then it vanished Friday afternoon, as did an Associated Press article on Carroll's assault allegation. It turns out, CNN Business reported Monday night, the Post's former editor-in-chief, Col Allen, ordered the articles scrubbed.

Allen, a longtime Murdoch lieutenant and professed Trump supporter, rejoined the Post as an adviser earlier this year. As of Tuesday morning, there are no articles on Carroll's allegations on the Post's site — though the dead link to Friday's article still appears on Google and is drawing considerable traffic to what's now a 404 page, CNN Business reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

"A spokeswoman for the Post declined to comment," CNN Business reports. "The spokeswoman did not dispute the account of events CNN Business provided to her, nor did she provide an explanation for the removal of the stories about Carroll's accusations." It's widely suspected inside the Post that Murdoch brought Allen back to steer the tabloid in a more pro-Trump direction, CNN Business reports, and one of the people who said the yanked Carroll article has prompted significant chatter among Post staffers also said there's no real debate as to why it was removed: "Nobody needs to explain why. We already know."

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News' website, also owned by News Corp., both have articles about Carroll's assault accusation. Peter Weber

6:32 a.m.

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang's "Yang Gang" was in full force in Stephen Colbert's Late Show audience on Monday, but Colbert had Yang give his elevator pitch to everyone in America who doesn't know Andrew Yang from Adam — or many of the other two dozen Democrats running for president in 2020. "I'm running for president to solve the problems that got Donald Trump into the White House in 2016," he said, primarily job loss to automation. His primary solution is $1,000 a month for every American adult. Yang explained how his "freedom dividend," or universal basic income, works, and why he thinks America needs it in a world of artifical intelligence.

Colbert noted that Yang is in the second Democratic presidential mega-debate, on Thursday night. "What does a win look like for you?" he asked. "What do you want to get out of this debate?" Most Americans are only now paying attention to the 2020 race, Yang said. "And so a win for me is that Americans tune in, they say 'Who's the Asian man standing next to Joe Biden,' and then they look me up." They ran through some of Yang's other policy positions, including fair pay for MMA fighters, free marriage counseling, and abolishing the penny. "You realize you just lost Illinois," Colbert joked. Yang insisted his anti-circumcision tweet was just a suggestion. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:43 a.m.

"Here's something you did not see discussed on TV a lot this weekend: The president of the United States was accused of sexual assault — again," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. President "Trump is really repeating his 2016 strategy." The accusations from writer E. Jean Carroll, unveiled Friday, "are specific, they are credible, and they are terrible," he said, "and they make Carroll the 22nd woman to step forward — 22 women! That should raise alarms."

"Let me put it this way," Colbert said: "If one person in your life accused you of pooping in their kitchen sink, I could be persuaded to believe that that is a lie. But if over the course of the 73 years of your life, 22 separate people came forward with detailed accounts of times you had pooped in their kitchen sinks, I'm going to start thinking you're a sink pooper."

CNN's Chris Cuomo said he and his staff were similarly confused: "This prominent journalist accuses the sitting president of rape — this is the most extreme accusation we've had against this president — and it has had almost no impact, really, on our dialogue." He read Carroll's allegations. "This is rape, period," he said. "Carroll doesn't like using the word, and that is her right." Cuomo said CNN didn't report the allegation until it got corroboration, and it has.

Carroll said Monday, "Think how many women have come forward, and nothing happens." But Trump's response to the rape allegations really "shows how perverse this current dynamic is," Cuomo said, reading Trump's now-familiar "she's not my type" dismissal. "Look, this is not a smart answer to the question of whether you would rape someone," he said. "Sexual assault is about power and violence, not just sex. More troubling to me in understanding where we are, more vexing," Cuomo added, is "why is this not front page news everywhere?" Watch him grapple with that question below. Peter Weber

4:32 a.m.

On Monday, President Trump finalized his new "hard-hitting" sanctions on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, by saying they will target "the assets of Ayatollah Khomeini," Khamenei's predecessor, who died in 1989.

But that's not why Iran responded to Trump's newest sanctions with mockery and derision. For starters, barring Khamenei from the U.S. and its banks "will have almost no impact on the ayatollah, The New York Times notes. Khamenei "never travels outside Iran and the conglomerate he controls, Setad, has little reliance on international banking."

"The sanctions mean Iran's supreme leader can't visit Disney World or get dollars with his ATM card," tweeted New York Times editor Rick Gladstone. "They are a joke in Tehran." Plus, the announced sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, a moderate, are seen as counterproductive to the negotiations Trump says he wants.

"Trump appears to be gambling that the pressure campaign will compel Iran's leadership to agree to a new nuclear agreement and not prompt it to lash out militarily for what it views as an illegal effort to strangle Iran's economy," The Washington Post reports. But the sanctions Trump has put on Iran since withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal have already slammed most Iranians and crippled Iran's oil exports, and analysts see diminishing returns each new round.

"Are there really any sanctions that the U.S. hasn't imposed against our country and people in the past 40 years?" asked Abbas Mousavi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman. The semiofficial Fars News Agency called the sanctions "ridiculous," and a widely shared tweet from an Iranian calling himself K. Jafari read: "The only people left to sanction are me, my dad and our neighbor's kid. The foreign ministry should share Trump's phone number so we can call him and give him our names." Peter Weber

3:05 a.m.

The U.S. military calls America's post–World War II treaty with Japan "the cornerstone of peace and security in the Pacific." President Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from the treaty, calling it too one-sided, Bloomberg reports, citing three people familiar with the matter. Specifically, Trump thinks it unfair the U.S. has to come to Japan's defense but Japan need not come to America's, and he has complained about Japan's efforts to move a large U.S. military base in Okinawa, telling confidants that "the land underneath the base is valuable for development" and "the real estate could be worth about $10 billion," Bloomberg reports.

Administration officials say it is unlikely Trump will actually pull the U.S. out of the treaty which forms the basis for the U.S.-Japan relationship, and it's unclear he has the authority to. "It's unsettled in American law whether the president can withdraw from a ratified treaty without congressional approval," Bloomberg says. "President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 without lawmakers' consent." Trump has already withdrawn the U.S. from a number of international agreements, mostly those negotiated under his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

Trump is heading to Japan on Wednesday for a G-20 summit in Osaka, and while he will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, any disagreements they have would likely center around trade and tariffs, not treaties. Abe, who is hawkish and trying to build up the military Japan agreed to largely dismantle under the 1951 treaty, has a better relationship with Trump than most world leaders. Peter Weber

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