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'You Didn't Like the Questions I Asked': White House Retaliates Against CNN Reporter After She Asks Trump About Putin

July 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Reporters are supposed to ask the president questions.


The White House barred CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from President Donald Trump's speech in the Rose Garden on Wednesday after she asked the president questions about Michael Cohen and Vladimir Putin, Collins reported.

Collins had asked the questions during a brief meeting between Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Though such events are not typically intended to have a question period, reporters frequently throw out questions to see if Trump will respond, and sometimes he does.

“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” Collins asked, referring to the president's former lawyer and fixer. “Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is about to say to the prosecutors? Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?”

Then she asked: “Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?”

The White House said earlier in the day that it would no longer be hosting Putin in the fall, as had previously been announced, but in 2019. The Kremlin had not yet officially confirmed that Putin was responded to the initial invitation.

Collins said the event and questions were “totally normal” — but ahead of another event later on in the Rose Garden, she was pulled aside and told she would not be allowed to attend.

“They said 'You are dis-invited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today,'” Collins reported. “They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting.”

“Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of day doesn't mean the question isn't relevant and shouldn't be asked,” CNN said in a statement. “This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better.”

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Whistleblower Emails Suggest Stormy Daniels' Ohio Arrest Was Planned by Columbus Police

July 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Jessica Sutherland, Daily Kos

Avenatti indicated that he’d been in touch with the Columbus district attorney.


The charges have been dismissed and the chief of police apologized for Stormy Daniels’s arrest during a show at an Ohio strip club earlier this month, and now a whistleblower has come forward with emails that paint a picture of a setup by Columbus Police.

A whistleblower from the City of Columbus contacted the Advocate with numerous emails between several high-ranking Columbus police detectives and VICE officers.

Inside the emails are news clippings discussing Daniels’ planned appearance in Columbus, pictures of Daniels with President Donald Trump, videos of her dancing, and even a map to the club where she would be performing, all sent days before she would pull into town on her tour bus.

The bulk of the emails that the whistleblower provided are from the email account of Detective Shana Keckley. Keckley was one of the lead-arresting officers the night that the “sting” operation went down.

In an interview, the whistleblower said that “It is clear that Keckley and her fellow officers were there because of Stormy and only because of Stormy.” At the time, Daniels attorney and activist Michael Avenatti pegged the arrest as politically motivated from the start. 

The Advocate reports that Keckley sent a string of emails to herself before the arrest; the most curious ones, though, came after.

After Daniels’ arrest that Wednesday night, the emails continue into the early morning hours of Thursday, but the contents are disturbing.

“I got the elements….we arrested Stormy this morning, she is in jail.” “Elements” are the burden police officers must meet in order to make an arrest.

In another email dated on July 12 at 3:50 a.m., Keckley writes to another police officer bragging about Daniel’s arrest — without mentioning her by name — saying, “You’re Welcome!!!!!….Thank me in person later.”

Avenatti, in a phone interview from Los Angeles, told the Advocate that he will “get to the bottom of this.” He also indicated that he’d been in touch with the Columbus district attorney, who has ordered some changes around the Ohio capitol since Daniels’s July 12 arrest.

City Attorney Klein’s office did …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Federal Judge Rules that Trump Is Likely Violating the Constitution by Taking Payments from Foreign Governments — Against the Framers' Intent

July 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The lawsuit challenges that the president is violating the Emoluments Clause.


Federal Judge Peter Messitte decided Wednesday that a case against President Donald Trump based on the Constitution's Emoluments Clause can proceed, finding that it is likely that Trump is taking payment from foreign governments in violation of the law.

The suit was brought by Maryland and Washington, D.C., alleging that Trump's properties put competitors at a disadvantage as he violates the Constitution's restrictions barring officials from taking “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever” from foreign governments.

The president has tried to argue that the clause only refers narrowly to “gifts,” but the judge took a more expansive view based on the “of any kind whatever” phrase to include payments to Trump's businesses.

“In sum, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the President has been receiving or is potentially able to receive 'emoluments' from foreign, the federal, and state governments in violation of the Constitution,” the opinion said.

“We are one step closer to stopping President Trump from violating the Constitution’s original anti-corruption provisions,” said Karl Racine, the attorney general of D.C.

Messitte argued that the Constitution's framers intentionally designed the Emoluments Clause to prevent corruption.

“[The] Court does not see how the historical record reflects anything other than an intention that the Emoluments Clauses function as broad anti-corruption provisions,” he writes. “The Foreign Emoluments Clause was unquestionably adopted against a background of profound concern on the part of the Framers over possible foreign influence upon the President (and, to be sure, upon other federal officials).”

The Justice Department holds that the case should be dismissed, and the president will certainly continue to fight the lawsuit. But today's ruling shows that it rests upon firm legal grounds.

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This Stunning Exchange Between Secretary Pompeo and a GOP Senator Reveals Just How Subservient Trump's Appointees Are

July 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

The president's staff won't even accept compliments their boss wouldn't like.


Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) attempted to complement U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the interaction revealed a disturbing dynamic in President Donald Trump's White House.

“I want to commend the State Department, you in particular, for quick statements with regard to the nature of the conversation as it was between President Putin and President Trump regarding certain individuals like Mr. McFaul and others traveling to Russia to be interrogated by the Russians,” Flake said. “State Department came out and said that was inappropriate, despite the president's statement that it was an incredible offer.” 

“Thank you for doing that,” Flake added to a visibly uncomfortable Pompeo who refused to accept the compliment.

“Thanks, but, Senator Flake, you give me little bit too much credit,” Pompeo responded. “I'm doing my level best every day to implement the president's policies. That statement was from the United States President's State Department.”

Pompeo's subservient response represents a notable pattern for a president whose Cabinet routinely fawns over him during televised meetings.

His response to Flake didn't even make sense on its face. No evidence has been presented to suggest that the State Department was on orders from Trump to publicly release a statement contradicting the president.

Watch the odd exchange below.

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…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders Finally Done with Trump?

July 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Rozsa, Salon

She's reportedly eyeing the exits and won't be in the role next year.


President Donald Trump's current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seems to be on her way out — despite her denials to the contrary.

Sanders is planning on leaving the White House by the end of this year, according to Politico. Bill Shine, the Fox News alum recently appointed to serve as deputy chief of staff for communications, has been reported to have asked a number of friends and other acquaintances about who they believe should replace Sanders if she steps down. Shine denied this story to Politico, saying that “I have not had a meeting or discussion about this” and praising Sanders as a “total team player.”

Of course, a recent report from The New York Times suggests that Trump may not have as glowing a view about his press secretary as Shine claims to possess.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has asked people privately what they think of Ms. Sanders — an indication, they say, that the press-obsessed president has begun souring on her. He has also told her, before she heads out to the lectern in the briefing room, that he is “going to grade” her televised performances. (People who have heard Mr. Trump make the threat say it is in jest.)

Ms. Sanders has been under a more watchful eye from her boss since the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 27, when she remained in her seat during a scathing roasting from a comedian who called her a liar. Mr. Trump has told people in the West Wing that he thought Ms. Sanders should have walked out, as another White House official, Mercedes Schlapp, chose to do in a showy display.

During the White House Correspondents' Dinner in question, Sanders found herself on the receiving end of scathing comic commentary from Michelle Wolf. The most controversial of those jokes was when she quipped, “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like she burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Brett Kavanaugh Needs to Check His Executive Privilege

July 25, 2018 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

“If you could grow a judge in a vat and design every
moment of their life to appeal perfectly to the Republican
establishment,” ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser laments, “the man who would emerge
fully-formed from that vat would be Brett Kavanaugh.” True
enough, President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Justice
Kennedy has shown up for nearly every conservative legal
scrap of the last 20 years, from the Clinton impeachment—he
helped write the Starr Report—to the Florida recount fight
to the White House Counsel’s office under George
W. Bush.

Still, if GOP bioengineers had the technology, surely they’d have
hatched a nominee with a different gender and complexion—and
a much shorter paper trail.

It seems Kavanaugh never got the post-Bork memo explaining that,
if you plan to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee someday,
you’re not allowed to publish anything interesting.
“Kavanaugh has written extensively on his beliefs that a
sitting president shouldn’t be subject to criminal
investigations or civil lawsuits,” charges Senator Corey Booker, and “this
all but assures he would work to shield Trump” from the
Mueller investigation. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney put it
more brusquely: “Trump has nominated a
get-out-of-jail free card.”

At issue here are two essays written a decade apart.
They’re heavier on policy proposals than constitutional
analysis, so they don’t say exactly how a Justice Kavanaugh
would rule in any given case. What they do show is that the further
he got from his service in Ken Starr’s office, the more
Kavanaugh wanted the president cloaked in special immunities from
civil suit and criminal investigation.

Despite what his
defenders say, it’s not true that the nominee is agnostic about the
constitutionality of prosecuting a sitting president.

The first article, published in the Georgetown
Law Journal
in 1998, calls for a legislative redesign of the
Independent Counsel law then in effect. Among other changes,
Kavanaugh urged Congress to hold criminal prosecutions of the
president until after he leaves office. At the same time, he
writes, Congress should bar the president from asserting “any
executive privilege, other than a national security privilege, in
response to a grand jury or criminal trial subpoena sought by the
United States.”

The presidential privileges Kavanaugh would have taken away are
arguably more significant than the one he’d cede. No sitting
president, including Richard Nixon, has ever been indicted, but
presidents have repeatedly abused executive privilege to shield
themselves and their associates from scrutiny. By restricting its
use, Kavanaugh aimed to “expedite investigations of executive
branch officials and ensure that such investigations are thorough
and effective.”

By …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump's Trade War Bailout Could Force the U.S. to Borrow More from China — to Maintain Trump's Trade War with China

July 25, 2018 in Economics

By Colin Grabow

Colin Grabow

President Donald Trump’s administration announced on Tuesday
that it will provide up to $12 billion in taxpayer funds to
farmers caught in the trade war crossfire is a
sign that not all is going according to plan. Far from a lightning
quick victory, Trump’s trade crusade is starting to bog down, with
each day producing new stories about the casualties of this ill-conceived
initiative.

Few have suffered more from Trump’s approach than the country’s
agricultural sector. Already forced to pay more for the equipment they use
as a result of increased tariffs on imported metals, they must now
contend with reduced export opportunities as foreign retaliatory
measures take effect. This is no small matter, with U.S. farmers
exporting more than 20 percent of what they produce.
Canada, China and Mexico, the top three destinations for American harvests,
have all imposed tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods in response to
Trump’s actions. China, which alone purchases 30 percent of all U.S. soybean
production, has slapped a 25 percent tariff on the product.

China also figures into the trade war in another way. Given the
country’s appetite for Treasury securities, we can
almost rest assured that Chinese money will be used to help fund
the farm bailout should additional borrowing be needed. That is to
say, the United States could find itself tapping China to help fund
a trade war that is largely aimed at the very same country.

With midterm elections looming, the Trump administration’s
latest move is an obvious effort to quell dissent among a key
Republican-leaning constituency. But who will bail out the rest of
us?

Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track
of all the ways average Americans are falling victim to
Trump’s trade war. Increased tariffs on foreign products
means higher retail prices for consumers. Businesses see their cost
rise as needed inputs are slapped with higher tariffs while foreign
retaliatory measures result in lost sales. Some employees have even
lost their jobs.

Now taxpayers must cough up billions to pay for the farm bailout
— and more such federal largesse may be on the way as Trump
attempts to stanch the bleeding and maintain morale. As Sen. Lisa
Murkowski, R-Alaska, has pointed out: “Farmers are hit, but
there are a lot of others that are hit by these tariffs as
well.” Murkowski went on to note that Alaska-based interests
such as the seafood and energy industries have also been hurt in
the trade war. Where, she asked, should the line be drawn on which
sectors of the economy receive …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Budget Deficits Are Only Getting Bigger Under Trump

July 25, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Here’s a big surprise. It turns out that if you cut taxes
while also spending more money, budget deficits get bigger.

Despite the banal common sense of this proposition, the Trump
administration has tried to pretend that it was different for them:
They could make everyone happy by cutting taxes but not spending.
The tax cuts would generate so much new economic growth that they
would not only pay for themselves but also pay for massive
increases in government spending.

Now, however, in its most recent mid-year budget review, the
White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) admits
that this fairy tale hasn’t come true.

According to OMB, the federal budget deficit will reach $1
trillion in 2019, roughly $101 billion more than previously
projected. That also means deficits will top $1 trillion a year
earlier than under previous projections from the Congressional
Budget Office. And the tide of red ink is only expected to grow
taller in the future.

While imperfect, Trump’s tax cuts did accomplish some
important things, including helping to make American businesses
more competitive worldwide, slowing corporate inversions, and
stimulating innovation. Moreover, allowing people and businesses to
keep more of their own money should generally be seen as a positive
thing.

When it comes to big
spending and fiscal irresponsibility, he’s as conventional as they
come.

However, those who argued that the tax cuts would “pay for
themselves” always misunderstood the Laffer Curve. Tax cuts
— at least some kinds of supply-side tax cuts — can
generate additional economic growth, which means that those cuts
seldom result in a dollar-for-dollar revenue loss. But that
doesn’t mean they are a completely free lunch.

Given stagnant labor-force-participation rates and slowing
population growth (caused in part by the president’s
anti-immigration-policies), the Trump administration was
essentially assuming that the US economy would experience a
productivity boom larger than any in post-war history. It
hasn’t happened. The Trump tax cuts are estimated to have
reduced federal revenues by roughly $230 billion already, and by
$2.3 trillion over ten years.

That would be perfectly fine if we simultaneously reduced
federal spending. As Milton Friedman pointed out, the true cost of
government is not found in taxes or debt, but in spending. Taxes
and borrowing are just alternative ways of paying the cost. A
smaller, less costly, less intrusive government would be better for
all of us, would generate more growth, and would require fewer
taxes to pay for it.

Yet Donald Trump is on track to be an even bigger spender than
Obama. Federal spending has increased by 7.5 percent, or almost
$300 billion, over President Trump’s first couple of years in
office. Conservatives might …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Reasonable vs. Unhinged Criticisms of Trump's Foreign Policy

July 25, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Critics of President Trump’s foreign policy, both
Democrats and establishment Republicans, find much to loathe about
his views and actions. Some of the criticisms are substantive and
reasonable, if debatable. Others, though, are little more than
unhinged, ad hominem attacks. The latter poison the public
discourse and make intelligent, meaningful debate on
America’s role in the world nearly impossible.

The criticisms are especially intense regarding Trump’s
policies toward NATO and Russia, and they have reached a crescendo
this month following the NATO summit and the subsequent bilateral
summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NATO partisans were furious at the president’s comments about the Alliance and his treatment of the European allies.
Objections about the president’s diplomatic style were
certainly warranted. He proved to be even more abrasive than
normal, accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of making Germany
a “captive”to Russia by increasing
her country’s reliance on Russian natural gas. He also
bluntly reiterated his complaints about continued anemic defense
expenditures of NATO’s European members and their lack of
security burden sharing.

Unhinged, over-the-top,
accusations debase policy debates and discredit their
authors.

However, his overall message was neither new nor unwarranted. U.S. officials have complained for
decades about European free-riding on Washington’s military
exertions, their overreliance on the United States to solve
security problems in their region, and the persistent
underinvestment in their own defense. It was entirely appropriate
for Trump to raise that issue — and to stress that
America’s patience is wearing thin. It was also legitimate to
express doubts about NATO’s continuing relevance. The
Alliance was created during a different era, and both Europe and
the overall international system have changed dramatically in the
past seven decades.

Yet, the president’s critics acted as though it was
sacrilege for him even to raise questions about
whether NATO truly benefits America’s security interests any
longer. Any dilution of the existing U.S. commitment to the defense
of the European allies, they insist, plays directly into the hands of Putin and encourages
Russian aggression. In their view, it even imperils the entire liberal world order.

But unconditional NATO defenders are the ones who are
out-of-line and out-of-touch. A growing number of foreign policy
experts contend that the Alliance has outlived its usefulness, and that new, perhaps European-run security arrangements are
needed for the conditions of the 21st century.

The negative reviews of Trump’s performance at the NATO
summit were mild, though, compared to the shrill, even hateful,
assessments of his summit with Putin in Helsinki — especially
the post-summit …read more

Source: OP-EDS