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May 28, 2020

President Trump has retweeted a video where a supporter declares "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat" — and the man's explanation behind the comment is even more violent.

Trump retweeted a video from the account Cowboys for Trump at midnight Thursday, in which the leader of the group Couy Griffin declares "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." Griffin then explains he doesn't mean it "in the physical sense," but rather "in the political sense" because "the Democrat policy and agenda is anti-American right now." A generous interpretation of the video would suggest Griffin is trying to compliment Democrats of the past, but he never quite makes that point.

The Cowboys for Trump tweet comes in response to a Daily Beast article covering Griffin's rally at a New Mexico church, which he held to defy the state's COVID-19 social distancing orders. The Daily Beast asked Griffin to clarify his "dead Democrat" comment in an interview after the Tuesday rally, but he only repeated the statement and suggested that top Democrats enforcing social distancing will "get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope." Kathryn Krawczyk

May 5, 2020

The White House is looking to "wind down" its coronavirus task force even though the virus itself is still far away from doing so, The New York Times reports.

The task force has informed and provided daily briefings on the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, though President Trump's freewheeling turns at the lectern have been subject to criticism. It's unclear if the gradually dissolving task force would be replaced with another group, and officials say its end may not ever be officially announced, the Times reports.

Olivia Troye, a top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, reportedly told senior officials in the task force that they should "expect the group to wind down within weeks." Other top White House officials backed up that message to the Times. That message seems to reflect Trump's push for states to begin allowing businesses to reopen after mandatory pandemic shutdowns even though medical experts have warned against doing so. Without a task force, Trump would be surrounded by even fewer medical professionals who could inform a safe reopening of the country. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 20, 2020

A leader of one of the most notorious terrorist groups in the world just got a megaphone from The New York Times.

On Thursday, the Times published an op-ed from Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani ominously titled "What we, the Taliban, want." It comes as the Taliban continues to work out a peace deal with the U.S., and in it, Haqqani insists "everyone is tired of war" on their side too.

Haqqani paints a thoroughly positive picture of his terrorist organization, and apparently the Times just decided to roll with it. "We did not choose our war with the foreign coalition led by the United States. We were forced to defend ourselves." Haqqani writes. But because "the long war has exacted a terrible cost from everyone," the Taliban decided to try negotiating with the U.S. even though "our confidence that the talks would yield results was close to zero," Haqqani continues. Even when President Trump called off those talks after a Taliban attack, the group kept the door open — a testament to "our commitment to ending the hostilities and bringing peace to our country," Haqanni rosily describes.

As The Washington Post's Dan Lamothe noted in a tweet, "The fact that this New York Times op-ed by Sirajuddin Haqqani exists at all is remarkable." Mujib Mashal, an Afghanistan correspondent for the Times, had a more pointed critique. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 2, 2019

President Trump is selectively firing back against The New York Times.

A Tuesday Times report detailed how Trump has privately made some outlandish border wall requests, namely suggesting a moat around the wall and that border patrol agents should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. Both the White House and Trump have since disputed the report — but notably didn't deny some of its most outrageous findings.

White House aides told the Times that Trump "often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators," and wanted it "electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh." And after publicly saying border patrol agents could fire back at migrants who threw rocks at them, he reportedly later "suggested they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down."

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley decried the apparent "fake news characterizations" in a Wednesday statement, but didn't actually deny Trump's reported requests.

And then it was Trump's turn to respond, delivering a tweet that shot down the moat allegation but said nothing about shooting migrants. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 26, 2019

President Trump reportedly stunned attendees of a private breakfast Thursday by railing against the U.S. officials who provided information to a whistleblower, suggesting they should be harshly punished for treason.

Trump, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times report, spoke Thursday to staff of the United States Mission to the United Nations and ranted about the sources who spoke with the anonymous whistleblower, saying, "I want to know who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that's close to a spy."

Trump reportedly then said, "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now."

The president's remarks, the newspapers report, stunned people in the audience. They came following the release of the declassified complaint alleging Trump abused his power by pushing for Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and that White House officials then moved to restrict access to the call's transcript. Although the whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge, the complaint says it is based on the account of more than half a dozen U.S. officials.

At this same event, Trump reportedly referred to reporters as "animals" and "scum" while saying that although "I didn't do anything," "I don't know if I’m the most innocent person in the world."

During his testimony Thursday, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire defended the whistleblower, saying they "acted in good faith throughout" the process and "did the right thing." Brendan Morrow

August 29, 2019

Customs and Border Protection is reportedly working to roll out a dystopian-sounding new program.

Federal officials at the border have been performing voluntary DNA tests on migrants for more than a year in an attempt to reunited separated children with their families. But a new draft policy reveals the Trump administration wants to "expand" DNA testing by letting CBP "extract genetic material from undocumented immigrants in its custody," BuzzFeed News reports.

When the first DNA testing policy was rolled out last year, immigrant advocates expressed huge concerns over if the DNA was stored after testing, and whether children could give informed consent to be tested. This reported policy, if it moves beyond a draft, will likely draw even further scrutiny because the tests appear to be involuntary. These tests could implemented on "hundreds of thousands of immigrants" and involve "20,000 additional work hours" from CBP employees per year, BuzzFeed News writes. The draft reportedly does not explicitly prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from conducting the tests or accessing their results.

In a statement, DHS only told BuzzFeed News it is "working closely with the Department of Justice on a path forward for DNA collection." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 10, 2019

President Trump once considered Jeffrey Epstein a "terrific person."

So terrific, it seems, that he was the only person Trump reportedly saw fit to invite to an A-list party he was holding at Mar-a-Lago. Well, Epstein and 28 other women, Florida businessman George Houraney tells The New York Times.

Back in 1992, Trump wanted to hold a "calendar girl" competition at Mar-a-Lago, and asked Houraney to organize it, Houraney tells the Times. So he "arranged to have some contestants fly in" before the event, with "28 girls" slated to come to the first VIP party, Houraney continued. But when Houraney asked Trump for his guest list, he reportedly said it was just him and Epstein.

Events like this weren't unusual until Epstein's friendship "turned from a status symbol into a liability," the Times reports. Trump was sure to make it public when he eventually barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago amid allegations of sexual abuse against Epstein, though "some say" their friendship only ended thanks to a "failed business arrangement," the Times continues.

Houraney, meanwhile, says he warned Trump about Epstein long before he was accused of running a sex trafficking ring, adding that he "pretty much had to ban Jeff from my events." He also accused Trump of "inappropriate behavior toward his girlfriend and business partner, Jill Harth," the Times writes.

Epstein was arrested over the weekend for allegedly running a sex trafficking ring involving dozens of minors. He was accused of similar conduct in Florida more than a decade ago. The White House did not respond to the Times' request for comment. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 1, 2019

This is... one way to not apologize.

On Friday, former Nevada assemblywoman and onetime Democratic candidate for the state's lieutenant governor Lucy Flores said former Vice President Joe Biden kissed her without permission in 2014. Biden did not apologize for or dispute the action, but said he "never" believed he "acted inappropriately" in his many years in politics. For some reason, Biden spokesman Bill Russo decided to take it all a step further.

In a Monday statement, Russo described how Flores' essay prompted a second look at photos of Biden appearing to be uncomfortably touching or interacting with women. Two of those women have recently said they didn't have a problem with Biden's actions, Russo pointed out. But despite those old photos showing behavior similar to what Flores says she experienced, Russo went into a full-on debunking rant about "insidious examples" of harassment claims with "no foundation." He cited "photoshopped images and other manipulations of social media" being used against Biden, and issued a blanket condemnation of these "smears and forgeries" that "right-wing trolls ... continue to exploit."

Critics have called out Biden for issuing a pretty gentle response to Flores' accusations, perhaps sparking Russo's stronger-worded message. Kathryn Krawczyk

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