Things that make you go hmmmm
November 12, 2020

The Senate Republicans who have not conceded publicly that President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 election argue that President Trump has the right to challenge the results in court, or point out that the vote totals haven't been certified yet, or admit they need his voters to show up in Georgia's special Senate elections, or privately acknowledge that they would pay a political price for not humoring Trump's baseless fraud claims. Some say it's best to let the courts swat down the fraud allegations so people who voted for Trump will feel assured the system worked.

But this reason for letting "process run its course" posted by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Thursday is new.

Puerto Rico, of course, doesn't get to vote for president (or send members of Congress to Washington), so it wasn't clear why Cornyn would bring up its uncounted votes. After getting needled for hours on Twitter, he said he wasn't necessarily referring to the presidential race — though he did not explain what other "process" he had in mind. All other major races have been called and the losers conceded.

Cornyn, who won re-election last week, did send more subtle signals that he accepts the results of the election, retweeting two recaps of the Homeland Security Department's cybersecurity agency affirming that "the Nov. 3 election was the most secure in American history" and "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Peter Weber

October 29, 2020

In a debate earlier this month, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) was asked if she disagreed with anything President Trump has ever said or done, and she replied with an emphatic "no."

So on Wednesday, WXIA-TV asked Loeffler if she disagreed with Trump's "statements about personally sexually assaulting women." Loeffler replied, "I'm not familiar with that." And when another reporter tried to jog her memory — "He's referring to the Access Hollywood tape" — she shook her head again and said, 'Yeah, no, look, this president is fighting for America," adding that she will always stand by Trump.

In the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post published a video from 2005 in which Trump bragged on Access Hollywood about his technique for kissing and grabbing women, including married women. "You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them," he told host Billy Bush on a hot mic. "It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything," including "grab them by the p---y." The tape made quite a splash in 2016, leading many GOP figures to temporarily disavow their presidential nominee.

Loeffler, a millionaire appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) last year, is trying to win her seat in what's essentially a three-way primary against Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a staunch Trump ally, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democrat who currently leads in the polls. If no candidate hits 50 percent, as expected, the top two will face off in a January runoff election. Peter Weber

July 6, 2020

It's no secret President Trump had a long and friendly relationship with late indicted pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein and his alleged main accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, had ties to many powerful people, as Eric Trump briefly pointed out on Twitter after the FBI arrested Maxwell on Thursday.

There are so many photos of Donald Trump and Maxwell together that Fox News even used one Sunday in a report on the various civil and criminal cases against Maxwell.

Embed from Getty Images

Except they cropped Trump out, as a Twitter user name Scott Croker noticed and Raw Story found on video.

Given the ample space on either side of the photo, it wasn't cropped to fit the screen. But if Fox News was trying to save Trump from embarrassment, it was an odd choice to leave first lady Melania Trump in the photo, especially in such a way it appears she is hanging off Epstein.

UPDATE 3:15 P.M.: Fox News issued the following statement: "Fox News Channel's America's News HQ mistakenly eliminated President Donald Trump from a photo alongside then Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein and Maxwell. We regret the error." Peter Weber

February 3, 2020

After the State Department revoked the press credentials of NPR's Michele Keleman for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Europe and Central Asia, in apparent retaliation for questions Pompeo didn't like from NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, there were concerns about what kind of message Pompeo sent to the world about America's commitment to press freedoms. On Sunday, when Pompeo was in Kazakhstan — which has a dismal zero press-freedoms rating from Reporters Without Borders — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Aigerim Toleukhan asked Pompeo. He said the episode sends "a perfect message about press freedoms."

Pompeo can be heard telling Kelly in their interview that he only wanted to discuss Iran, not Ukraine and whether he stood up for America's former ambassador to Kyiv when President Trump and his allies smeared her. Kelly said after the interview, Pompeo took her into a separate room and berated her at length, using profanities.

Pompeo told Toleukhan he didn't have a "confrontational interview" with Kelly and insisted that reporters "get to ask me any questions, all questions." As for barring Keleman from his trip, Pompeo said he always brings "a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors, and that's simply telling the truth and being honest. And when they'll do that, they get to participate, and if they don't, it's just not appropriate" or even "fair to the rest of the journalists who are participating alongside them." That's when Toleukhan asked about what message that sends to the world, and Pompeo said "a perfect message."

After Kelly told NPR listeners about Pompeo berating her, Pompeo accused her of lying twice, once while "setting up our interview" and again by not honoring her agreement keep their "post-interview conversation" private. Kelly said she never agreed to go off-the-record — it's unclear why she would — and she released emails showing she told Pompeo's staff she intended to ask him about both Iran and Ukraine. Peter Weber

January 21, 2020

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer most famous for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump, was arrested in California last week and transferred over the weekend to New York's federal Manhattan Correctional Center to face charges of extortion and embezzlement, his lawyers told a federal court on Monday. In fact, lawyer Scott Srebnick wrote, Avenatti is being housed, for reasons that are unclear, in the MCC's "Special Housing Unit on the notorious 10-South," the "most secure secure floor in the entire facility," in "a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses."

Not only is Avenatti being held in the freezing cell that once housed notorious Mexican drug trafficker and escape artist Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Srebnick said, but he's on 24-hour solitary confinement with a guard and two cameras keeping watch on him from outside his cell 24 hours a day. MCC appears to have learned from the suicide of another recent inmate, Jeffrey Epstein, as Srebnick alludes to in his filing.

Srebnick asked for the court's help in finding out why Avenatti is under such strict lockdown and in getting him moved to regular incarceration amid the general population of MCC, saying the current conditions are hindering Avenatti's participation in his defense case. Peter Weber

November 15, 2019

President Trump's departure for a political rally in Louisiana was delayed by about 45 minutes on Thursday evening because he was having an "animated" conversation with Attorney General William Barr in the Oval Office, according to the White House press corps, which could view but not hear the conversation. Also in the Oval Office were White House Counsel Pat Cippollone and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

When asked about the meeting on Fox News, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said he "sadly" couldn't say what Trump and Barr discussed, but he told Martha MacCallum "that all the gentlemen had Diet Cokes in the room — that's very serious." When MacCallum asked if they were discussing Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's imminent report on the origins of the FBI's investigation of Russia and Trump's campaign, Gidley insisted Trump is "trying to stay out of all things that Attorney General Barr is doing as it relates to investigating the investigators."

But the Horowitz report did come up in their conversation, two sources told CNN. Barr got a draft of the report last month, and Lawfare's Susan Hennessey wryly suggested that the nominally independent attorney general discussing the nominally independent DOJ inspector general's nominally apolitical report with Trump may not be totally above-board.

Witnesses have been given two weeks to review the parts of the report they feature in before it is released publicly. They have to sign nondisclosure agreements and can't request revisions in writing, The Washington Post reported Thursday, raising concerns about the report's integrity. But Horowitz's office told the Post late Thursday night that witnesses can submit written feedback "consistent with rules to protect classified information." Peter Weber

October 30, 2019

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's announcement Wednesday that Twitter will stop accepting political advertising starting Nov. 22 was not greeted warmly by President Trump's campaign, which apparently believes banning all political ads will "silence Trump and conservatives."

The Democratic presidential candidates vying to unseat Trump, on the other hand, largely praised the decision — even though, as National Republican Senatorial Committee senior adviser Matt Whitlock noted (on Twitter, naturally), Democrats "do significantly more advertising on Twitter than we do." The Democrats said Facebook should follow suit.

U.S. political campaigns expressing interest in a major social media platform's political advertising policy makes sense. Less clear is why Russian state media cares.

"Why on earth would RT, Russia's propaganda outlet (which has been designated as a foreign agent by our own DOJ), find Twitter's ban on political ads in the U.S. to be 'URGENT'?" asked Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and CNN analyst.

Maybe it's Dorsey's inclusion of the phrase "democratic infrastructure"? Peter Weber

July 3, 2019

President Trump's comments about homelessness to Fox News host Tucker Carlson befuddled a lot of people, but they weren't the only puzzling thing Trump told Carlson in an interview that aired Monday night. For instance, he claimed Twitter, Google, and Facebook "were totally against me" in 2016 and he's "heard" that "they're fighting me hard right now." He dwelled on Twitter:

If you look at Twitter, I have millions and millions of people on Twitter and it's, you know, it's a very good arm for me. It's great social media. But they don't treat me right. And I know for a fact, I mean, a lot of people try and follow me and it's very hard. I have so many people coming up that they say, "Sir, it's so hard. They make it hard to follow." What they're doing is wrong and possibly illegal. And a lot of things are being looked at right now. [Trump to Fox News]

This isn't the first time Trump has said Twitter somehow makes it hard for people to follow him. In fact, he even reportedly complained about it to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the Oval Office.

"There's no way to know what the president is exactly talking about as far as, you know, Twitter making it hard for him to follow, because of course Fox News rarely presses him for details or proof of any claims," Anderson Cooper said on CNN Tuesday night. But "the head of Twitter recently had to explain to the president that numbers of followers sometimes drop when spam and bot accounts are deleted from his favorite source of virtual applause."

If you would prefer an attempt at fact-checking Trump's claims without the snark and Melissa McCarthy clips, Daniel Dale does his best in the video below, along with a reminder that whenever Trump starts a story with "Sir," take it with an unhealthy heaping of salt. Peter Weber

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