Day: February 9, 2017


Your guide to all the shoddy reporting on the Trump administration since his inauguration

The press has a problem, and it seems to be getting worse.

In light of President Trump’s easy relationship with the truth and his tendency to abuse members of media, some reporters and their newsrooms have responded by seemingly lowering their editorial standards.

Rather than adjusting to the unique challenges posed by this new, factually challenged administration, a significant number of journalists have tripped over themselves recently to repeat every bit of gossip and half-cocked rumor involving Trump and his team.

The rush to get these supposed scoops out in the open, whether in print, on television or on social media, has, of course, produced a rash of shoddy reporting.

Now this isn’t to say that all coverage of the new president and his administration has been slipshod. Rather, it’s to say that there has been a disturbing and unusually large number of stories that have turned out either to be overhyped, inconclusive, half-true or flat-out incorrect. There have also been a number of reports whose sourcing is so thin, that to believe them would be to take a major leap of faith.

The one thing that these reports have in common is that they fail to provide readers with a clear and indisputably accurate picture of what is really going on at White House. The press’s most important role is to shine a light on those in power. Bad reporting only muddies the waters, and it gives powerful people more room to do as they please. After all, whom are you going to believe: the guy at the top or the newsroom with a recent track record of botched reporting?

We didn’t get to the point where people find the media less credible than the Trump administration by some freak accident.

We’re keeping a database of all these media misfires as they occur, and we’ll be updating this list whenever some new bit of crummy journalism appears. Depending on whether reporters settle down and treat their supposed scoops with greater care, this database may turn into a four- or eight-year project.

Starting in order of most recent, here is our best effort at a complete list of the shoddiest media misfires since the Jan. 20 inauguration:

CNN's Chris Cuomo apologizes for equating 'fake news' to the N-word

Also from the Washington Examiner

“I should not have said it. I apologize,” Cuomo said on Twitter.

02/09/17 4:39 PM

Feb 7: Yemen Has Had Enough

The Claim: “Yemen Withdraws Permission for U.S. Antiterror Ground Missions.”

The Source: The New York Times, CBS News, the Daily Mail and others.

The Facts: Several newsrooms published reports stating Yemen had ordered U.S. Special Operations to cease anti-terror operations on its soil. These stories relied entirely on anonymous U.S. officials.

The Associated Press threw cold water on this narrative on Feb. 8 with an on-the-record quote from a Yemeni government official.

Sessions 'disappointed' in confirmation attacks

Also from the Washington Examiner

Sessions called the contentious fight over his nomination “the least of my worries at this point.”

02/09/17 4:21 PM

“Yemen continues to cooperate with the United States and continues to abide by all the agreements,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi told the AP, stressing that earlier reports alleging his government had ordered U.S. forces to cease operation were simply “not true.”

Feb. 7: A Grizzly Tale

The Claim: Newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos thinks school administrators should carry guns because you never know when a bear might attack. It’s a narrative that won’t die.

The Source: The Washington Post, repeating what many others have claimed since mid-January.

The Facts: DeVos said during her confirmation hearing that there should be no blanket federal policy regulating guns in schools.

Asked by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., whether she supported federal solutions to this issue, she responded by saying she doesn’t think it should be left up to Washington. She argued that states and localities are best suited to make these judgments, and she said federal policies tend to overlook the individual needs of individual schools.

This is what DeVos said: “I think that’s best left for states and locales to decide. I would refer back to Senator Enzi, and the school he was talking about in [Wyoming].”

“I would imagine there, that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” she added.

This is hardly the same thing as saying she thinks schools should be armed against possible bear attacks.

Feb. 5: Turn Out the Lights

The Claim: Trump’s team is in way over its head. They don’t know where the doors in the White House lead or where the light switches are located. Also, the president likes to lounge around in a bathrobe while watching television.

The Source: The New York Times.

The Facts: This isn’t an example of a story that is clearly false or misleading. Rather, it’s an example of a report with major sourcing issues.

Though the story is not obviously incorrect, and it’s possible its authors have provided readers with genuine information, the story’s sourcing is so thin that it should give readers pause. By not providing their audience with clear sources, and by not even citing who is responsible for the Trump administration details until several paragraphs in, the Times is asking an awful lot of its readers.

Feb. 4: Bannon vs. Kelly

The Claim: White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon tried recently to order around Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over the issue of Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries. Kelly reportedly pushed back hard, telling the Trump confidant that he had no authority to issue orders to DHS. There was supposedly an in-person confrontation between Bannon and Kelly at the DHS headquarters, as well as words exchanged during a 2:00 a.m. conference call.

The Source: The Washington Post.

The Facts: We’ll let this Washington Post editor’s note, which appeared subsequently, speak for itself:

The article has been updated to reflect comments from White House press secretary Sean Spicer. The article previously stated that Stephen K. Bannon visited Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly’s office on Jan. 28. Spicer said Bannon did not make such a visit. He also said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Bannon did not participate in a 2 a.m. conference call on Jan. 29. The article also previously stated that President Trump approved a pause in executive orders pending new procedures. According to Spicer, it was White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, rather than the president, who approved the new procedures, but not a pause.

Feb. 3: A Secret Service Purge?

The Claim: Certain manager-level Secret Service personnel were forced to resign last week, and they were escorted suddenly out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Source: The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons.

The Facts: An agency spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner that the claim is “absolutely false.”

Clemons himself backtracked later, and said on social media that he meant to say that it was the White House Chief of Information Security who was “forced to resign.”

“I have confirmed that the Chief of Information Security at White House forced to resign. Was error in tagging him as Secret Service,” he said. “It is the [Chief of Information Security] function, at minimum, in [White House] that saw forced resignations last night. These folks work w/ @SecretService but not of Secret [Service].”

Interestingly enough, the Secret Service’s official Twitter account responded to Clemons’ online clarifications by claiming he was still incorrect. The Secret Service account also claimed Clemons never contacted them for comment.

Feb. 2: Trump Meets Putin

The Claim: Trump’s team switched off recording devices during the president’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Source: Raw Story and Ilan Berman, vice president of the Foreign Policy Council.

The Facts: Berman actually just speculated during a panel discussion on the reason there was no readout of Trump’s call with Putin. He offered, by way of speculation, that perhaps White House staffers had switched off the recording devices. Raw Story saw his suggestion after it was tweeted out, and they published a report titled, “Foreign policy insider: ‘No readout of Trump-Putin call because White House turned off recording.”

But contrary to Berman’s suggestion, there is indeed a readout of Trump’s call with Putin, although it’s vague and short on details. Second, White House calls are generally not recorded, and they haven’t been since the time of Richard Nixon, according Yahoo’s Oliver Knox. Third, as Berman stated repeatedly after the Raw Story report was published, he was only speculating about the readout. By his own admission, he has no idea what actually happened.

Raw Story has updated its story to note that no one knows what they’re talking about. On that they are correct, in part.

Feb. 2: Payback For Putin

The Claim: The Trump administration had eased restrictions on Russia so that U.S. companies can go into business with the Federal Security Service, which is the successor of the dreaded KGB.

The Source: NBC News’ Peter Alexander.

The Facts: Alexander ultimately debunked his own claim, tweeting a note of clarification that read, “Source familiar w sanctions says it’s a technical fix, planned under Obama, to avoid unintended consequences of cybersanctions.”

The New York Times’ Peter Baker noted elsewhere that the proposed fix was indeed in the works long before Trump took office.

“Treasury action on Russian sanctions was a technical fix initiated by career officials when Obama was still in office, not a Trump move,” he said.

Feb. 2: Gorsuch In College

The Claim: “As a student, SCOTUS Nominee Gorsuch Supported Gays and Opposed Campus Military recruiters.”

The Source: NBC News.

The Facts: NBC News misunderstood its source material. The college newspaper referenced in the NBC story contained an editing error that confused reporters, and caused them to credit Gorsuch for an article he didn’t write. The error wasn’t that hard to spot. The NBC story has been updated so that it’s now a different report entirely.

Feb. 2: Black History Month

The Claim: Trump changed the name of “Black History Month” to “National African American History Month.”

The Source: TMZ.

The Facts: This did happen, but not under Trump. Past presidents, including Barack Obama, have referred to it as “National African American History Month.”

Feb. 2: Ryan Dodged a Question?

The Claim: Speaker Paul Ryan declined to answer a question at a press conference about Trump’s allegedly contentious phone call with the Australian prime minister.

The Source: CNBC’s John Harwood.

The Facts: Speaker Ryan declined to answer a question about former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his ongoing feud with the president. Not sure how Harwood made this mistake.

Feb. 1: Mexican Invasion

The Claim: Trump threatened to invade Mexico during a phone call with Mexican president Enrique Pena.

The Source: The Associated Press.

The Facts: The AP reported that Trump allegedly told Pena the U.S. military would do something about Mexico’s “bad hombre” problem if Mexican authorities couldn’t. CNN then published a report disputing AP’s characterization of the call.

The Mexican government stated later that no such thing was said during the phone call between Trump and Pena. The White House claimed the same.

The AP reported later that a White House official said Trump was only kidding.

The Washington Post published a story on Trump’s calls that relied heavily on the AP’s initial characterization of his conversations with world leaders. The Post later stripped its article of all references to the AP’s claim that Trump threatened to invade Mexico.

It’s entirely possible that neither government is shooting straight, and that Trump sort of threatened military action. But newsrooms don’t seem to have any idea what actually happened, and the inconclusive and contradictory reporting has only made things more confusing. That’s a failure of journalism that typically results when you claim to know more than you know.

Feb. 1: Aussie You

The Claim: Trump pitched a fit during a phone call with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, which ended with the U.S. president abruptly hanging up on the prime minister.

The Source: The Washington Post.

The Facts: Like Trump’s call to Mexico, no one seems to have any hard knowledge of what actually happened. After the Post reported that the phone call went terribly wrong, journalists went wild on social media. Then the clarifications and walk backs started pouring in from Australian and American officials.

Turnbull himself disputed the press’ coverage of the call, and he said Trump “did not hang up.”

Like reports on Trump’s call with Mexico, it’s entirely possible that the White House and the Australian PM are being less-than-honest about the nature of their conversation. But we really have no idea, and the Post’s thinly sourced story doesn’t clear anything up.

Feb. 1: Worlds Apart

The Claim: Melania Trump will continue to live in New York City, even though her husband is taking up residence in the White House.

The Source: Us Weekly, The Hill, Daily Mail.

The Facts: Melania Trump will divide her time between New York City and Washington, D.C., at the end of the school year, her advisor, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, told CNN.

The clarification came only after groups like Us Weekly ran headlines like, “First Lady Melania Trump May Never Move Into the White House.” The Feb. 13 edition of celebrity gossip magazine was published with the headline, “SEPARATE LIVES.”

Feb. 1: Fascist Club

The Claim: Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, founded and presided over a group in high school called the “Fascism Forever Club.”

The Source: The Daily Mail.

The Facts: Gorsuch did no such thing. His claim in his senior yearbook to have created and presided over such a club during his four years at Georgetown Prep was just a gag, a bit of self-deferential humor regarding his conservatism and his frequent back-and-forths with liberal teachers.

The whole thing was “a total joke,” Steve Ochs, who teaches history at the elite high school, told America Magazine.

“There was no club at a Jesuit school about young fascists,” added Ochs, who served as student government advisor when Gorsuch was a junior and senior. “The students would create fictitious clubs; they would have fictitious activities. They were all inside jokes on their senior pages.”

Jan. 31: The Deadly Travel Ban

The Claim: An ailing woman died in Iraq because of Trump’s immigration executive order.

The Source: Fox 2 Detroit.

The Facts: The Detroit man, Mike Hager, claims Trump’s executive order killed his mother. There’s nothing to corroborate this claim. A local imam said later that Hager lied about his mother dying as a result of the travel ban. Hager’s mother allegedly died five days prior to the order going into effect.

As of this writing, there is nothing to prove Hager’s claim. There is also very little corroborate the imam’s assertion. The closest we have to proving the imam’s claim is the fact that Hager has stopped replying to Fox 2’s requests for comment.

Jan. 31: Twitter Trolling

The Claim: In an attempt to keep Trump’s SCOTUS nominee a secret, the White House set up two separate Twitter accounts for Judges Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman.

The Source: CNN’s Jeff Zeleny.

The Facts: Zeleny is responsible both for the claim and the eventual correction.

“White House is setting up Supreme Court announcement as a prime-time contest: @JusticeGorsuch and @JusticeHardiman identical Twitter pages,” the CNN reporter tweeted.

He followed that up with this embarrassing clarification, “The Twitter accounts of @JusticeGorsuch and @JusticeHardiman were not set up by the White House, I’ve been told.”


Jan. 31: What’s a Tank?

The Claim: “A fleet of tanks drove around Kentucky this weekend flying a Trump flag.”

The Source: Vice.

The Facts: A group of approximately eight Humvees was spotted on Jan. 29 near Louisville, with the lead vehicle flying a large Trump campaign flag. The convoy was associated with an East Coast Navy SEALs unit. The U.S. Navy has launched a formal inquiry has begun, a Naval Special Warfare Group spokeswoman told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The convoy vehicles were based at Fort Knox.

Though the incident raises real questions about martial decorum and an apolitical military, it’s hard not to get distracted by just how many things Vice managed to screw up in its headline.

Jan. 31: Secret SCOTUS

The Claim: Trump managed somehow to keep his SCOTUS nominee a secret until he made the announcement at 8:00 pm on Jan. 31.

The Source: The Washington Post.

The Facts: The story is just flat-out wrong. News that Trump had picked Judge Gorsuch was scooped first by the conservative news site Townhall. The Independent Journal Review was close behind, claiming in a post of its own that it had two anonymous sources confirming the pick. National Review followed suit with sources of its own. Each individual report came out hours before Trump formally announced his SCOTUS nominee.

Really not sure what the Post is talking about.

Jan. 31: A Retroactive ‘Gotcha’

The Claim: Trump greatly undersold the number of people who were affected by his immigration executive order.

The Source: The New York Times.

The Facts: Trump claimed in a tweet on Jan. 30 that, “Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage.”

The Times published a story on Jan. 31 titled, “721 People (not 109) Were Denied Entry Under Trump.”

The problem with the Times report is that it attempts to fact-check Trump with DHS data that became available only after the president’s Jan. 30 tweet. Further, the Times report didn’t even paraphrase Trump accurately.

The report’s original opening paragraph stated incorrectly that Trump referenced the number of individuals who “were denied entry into the United States.” That is incorrect because Trump used specific DHS figures to say 109 people had been detained, not denied entry.

The Times has attached a correction to its story, but it still fails to mention the timing and context of the president’s Jan. 30 remarks.

Jan. 28: Never Mind

The Claim: The Justice Department “had no input” on Trump’s immigration executive order, and the federal agency was reportedly left in the dark when the law was drafted.

The Source: CNBC’s John Harwood.

The Facts: Harwood said on social media, “senior justice official tells [NBC News] that Dept. had no input. Not sure who in WH is writing/reviewing. Standard [National Security Council] process not functioning.”

But then Harwood tweeted a clarification about an hour later, stating, “new info from [NBC’s Pete Williams]: another DOJ official says proposed immigration order was reviewed by department lawyers before it was issued.” Acting Atty. Gen. Sally Yates later stated that attorneys at DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel did approve the order as lawful on its face and properly drafted.

Jan. 27: Big Hands

The Claim: Trump’s team digitally altered a White House photo to make the president’s hands appear larger than they really are.

The Source: The New York Observer’s Dana Schwartz, who admitted later she had only been kidding.

The Facts: The White House did no such thing, as the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted almost immediately after Schwartz’ claim went viral on social media. Schwartz eventually deleted all her tweets about the supposedly doctored photos. She argued that her joking remarks on Twitter aren’t the same thing as reporting facts.

Jan. 26: A Chilling Phone Call

The Claim: Trump “pressured” and “ordered” the National Park Service director into digging up photos of the president’s inauguration crowds.

The Source: The Washington Post.

The Facts: Once you make it past the tendentious headline, the story is about how the president requested photos of his inauguration from the one federal agency that would have them. That’s the entire story.

Jan. 26: The State Department Debacle That Wasn’t

The Claim: The U.S. State Department’s “entire senior administrative team” has resigned en masse in protest of Trump

The Source: The Washington Post.

The Facts: Four mid-level State Department officials were told their services were no longer needed, which is common during White House transition periods. As is customary, the four officials tendered their resignations. They were accepted. That’s a long way off from what the Post initially reported.

Jan. 24: Gag Order

The Claim: The Trump administration has taken unprecedented steps to silence scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Source: The Associated Press, BuzzFeed and dozens of reporters on social media.

The Facts: The federal agencies, which were instructed in memos to halt all “public-facing” documents temporarily, said the press oversold the story.

“I’ve lived through many transitions, and I don’t think this is a story,” one senior EPA official told the New York Times. “I don’t think it’s fair to call it a gag order. This is standard practice. And the move with regard to the grants, when a new administration comes in, you run things by them before you update the website.”

The agency’s communications director, Doug Ericksen, added, “We’re just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration.”

A USDA spokesman said separately, “This is what has happened at the transition of every administration … it’s just a pause.”

Jan. 20: Melania And a Conflict of Interest?

The Claim: Melania Trump is using the White House website to “promote” her business interests.

The Source: The Washington Post.

The Facts: The White House website includes a brief biography of first lady and former model Melania Trump. That bio lists some of her professional accomplishments, which includes launching a line of jewelry and posing for several major magazines.

This is hardly the scandal promised in the Post’s headline. The word “promotes” suggests some sort of abuse of the White House website for personal gain and/or profit. If not, then who the hell cares?

Jan. 20: MLK Is Still There

The Claim: The Trump transition team removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.

The Source: Time magazine’s Zeke Miller.

The Facts: The MLK bust was never moved. It was merely obstructed from Miller’s line of vision. The Time magazine reporter, who claimed in his pool report that the bust had been removed, quickly corrected his mistake. Unfortunately, the initial claim had already been repeated by several of his colleagues on social media and took on a life of its own.

Jan. 20: Website Down?

The Claim: The Trump administration has removed several important issues pages from the White House website, including pages for climate change and LGBT rights, signaling they may ignore these topics in the future.

The Source: The Washington Post, CBS News, the Hill and others (mostly reporters on social media).

The Facts: The White House website is normally wiped clean with each new administration. The older pages are archived elsewhere. This is how it was done during the transition periods between presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and between Bush and Barack Obama. There is nothing at all unusual about pages disappearing, despite reports suggesting otherwise.

This database is a work in progress. If you feel that there is an example missing from this list, please feel free to send me a note at:

Nordstrom flap renews focus on potential Trump business conflicts

Top Story

The bigger issue, beyond Conway’s comments is whether Trump remains too close to his business holdings.

02/09/17 5:11 PM

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Nordstrom flap renews focus on potential Trump business conflicts

The uproar over the retailer Nordstrom dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessory line has reignited concerns that President Trump has remained too close to the family business to avoid conflicts of interest.

Such questions could dog Trump his entire time in office, as there is no real precedent for a president with such vast business holdings.

Trump turned over his company to his adult sons when he became president, but many government watchdogs and ethicists believed the arrangement didn’t ensure enough separation. Many are now taking his public interest in his eldest daughter’s business as proof that his children are no obstacle to his involvement.

The day after the president tweeted that it was unfair of Nordstrom to discontinue his daughter’s products, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway urged people to go out and buy them.

As president, Trump is exempt from the ethics rules applied to federal employees. Conway is not. One such rule prohibits the use of public office for the “endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.” Conway said of Ivanka’s products, “I’m going to give a free commercial here.”

Ethics groups, some of them left-leaning, pounced. So did Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who requested disciplinary action and said Conway’s appeared to be “a textbook violation of government ethics laws.”

“Anyone harboring illusions that there was some separation between the Trump administration and the Trump family businesses has had their fantasy shattered,” said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman in a statement. He added that “President Trump and the Trump administration will use the government apparatus to advance the interests of the family businesses.”

Not all the criticism has come from liberal sources, however. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, described the comments as “clearly over the line” and “unacceptable.”

Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer said the Trump White House had “crossed a very, very important bright line.”

Disgraced ex-lawmaker's chief of staff pleads guilty

Also from the Washington Examiner

Elias “Ronnie” Simmons of Maryland was an aide to former Rep. Corrine Brown.

02/09/17 4:09 PM

“To encourage Americans to buy goods from companies owned by the first family is totally out of bounds and needs to stop,” the frequent Clinton Foundation critic told the Washington Post.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during Thursday’s media briefing that Conway had been “counseled.”

But the bigger issue, beyond Conway’s comments and the president’s propensity for social media retribution, is whether Trump remains too close to his business holdings and is not transparent enough for the public to even know when conflicts of interest exist.

This takes on new importance given that Trump not only uses his Twitter account to shame stores that shun his daughter’s merchandise, but also to pressure companies to keep jobs in the United States. Trump is also playing hardball with government policy to reward businesses that keep jobs here and potentially punish those who ship them overseas.

Before the president took office, Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub said the only solution was for Trump to sell off his real estate empire.

Chelsea Handler taunts Trump with Nordstrom bags outside White House

Also from the Washington Examiner

“A Jew and a gay went to pick a Muslim up from the airport, headed straight to Nordstrom, and then headed over to @whitehouse to give our thanks!” Handler wrote on Instagram.

By Lucas Theis

02/09/17 3:46 PM

“The president is now entering a world of public service,” Shaub said in a speech at the Brookings Institution. “He’s going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cut his ties to Exxon Mobil, where he had been CEO, at a reported cost of $7 million. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick for secretary of commerce, is set to divest 80 holdings.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued Trump, alleging payments to his businesses from foreign government violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution. “It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office,” the group’s executive director Noah Bookbinder said. “He did not.”

Trump’s advisers have suggested divestment would be costly and impractical, noting that some of the value comes directly from the Trump name. Some have criticized Shaub for donating $500 to President Obama’s 2012 campaign and allowing his office to miss Hillary Clinton’s lapses with paid speeches.

Yet the main reason Trump feels free to ignore ethics watchdogs is the public doesn’t seem to care, at least according to some polling. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found 52 percent thought it was “enough” for him to turn his business over to his children; 69 percent told Bloomberg he shouldn’t have to sell his businesses.

On the other hand, Quinnipiac found 60 percent were at least somewhat concerned “Trump would veto a law that would be good for the country because it would hurt his business interests.” Almost as many, 57 percent, told Pew Research Center they were at least somewhat concerned Trump’s “relationships with organizations, businesses or foreign governments” might “conflict with his ability to serve the country’s best interests.”

Manchin: Trump open to reviewing 'Gang of Eight' immigration bill

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The bill died in the House when it met stiff resistance from conservative Republicans.

02/09/17 3:37 PM

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Manchin claims Trump open to immigration bill similar to 'Gang of Eight'

President Trump told a bipartisan group of senators during a private White House meeting Thursday that he would consider backing an immigration bill like the one that the Senate passed in 2013 that provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the United States, according to a Senate aide who was in the meeting.

A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who attended the Thursday afternoon meeting with Trump, confirmed that the president said he was open to a comprehensive immigration bill like the one the gang of eight senators wrote and passed through the Senate in 2013. The bill died in the House when it met stiff resistance from conservative Republicans.

Trump gave the reply in response to a question from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

The admission from Trump would amount to a major departure on immigration from his campaign threats to repeal President Obama’s executive order allowing illegal immigrants who had arrived in the country as children to remain here legally without fear of deportation.

But Trump’s White House rejected reports that he was specifically open to the controversial bill that conservatives hated. White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a Washington Post reporter only that he was “glad to listen” to their immigration plans, but that he didn’t make any comment specific to the Gang of Eight bill.

Besides Manchin and Alexander, other senators who attended the meeting include: Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana, Chris Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennett of Colorado and GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

White House: Conway 'counseled' after possible ethics violation

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“Kellyanne has been counseled and that’s all we’re going to go on,” press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

02/09/17 2:17 PM

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Senate Republicans ask Trump to arm Ukrainians, maintain Russia sanctions

President Trump faces additional pressure not to reset relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a growing number of Senate Republicans are asking him not to lift sanctions on Putin’s government.

“We write to ask you to pursue a results-oriented, but tough-minded and principled policy toward the Russian Federation,” Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and six other Republican senators wrote in a Thursday letter to the White House. “[W]hile we should seek common ground with Russia in the areas of mutual interest, we must never pursue cooperation with Russia at the expense of our fundamental interests of defending our allies and promoting our values.”

That letter asks Trump to maintain the sanctions imposed on Russia over the annexation of Crimea and attack on eastern Ukraine. “Furthermore, we ask you to expedite the provision of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine, and we were encouraged that Secretary of State Tillerson supported this position during his confirmation hearing,” they wrote.

The senators also urged Trump to avoid cooperating with Putin in Syria “until Moscow halts its military operations that have caused immense damage and human suffering and ceases support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

It was sent one day after a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would deprive Trump of the unilateral authority to reverse sanctions on Russia. Of the seven signatories, only Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., cosponsored the bill to review any attempt to left Russia sanctions. That means nine Republicans in two days have taken steps to pressure Trump not to cut a deal that would overlook Russian aggression in Ukraine. An attempt to pass legislation restricting Trump’s options over his objections would need 19 Republicans and every Democrat to vote to override a presidential veto.

“President Putin must know that the United States remains a beacon of hope and democracy around the world, and will stand up for what is right,” the senators — Gardner and Graham, along with Maine’s Susan Collins, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio, South Dakota’s Mike Rounds, and Todd Young of Indiana — wrote to Trump.

The seven Republicans who wrote Trump appear eager to avoid a direct clash, preferring instead to influence his decision in advance. “Mr. President, we look forward to your reply and maintaining an open, ongoing, and respectful dialogue with you regarding U.S.-Russia relations,” they wrote.

When's a 'constitutional crisis' not a constitutional crisis?

Top Story

Sen. Blumenthal might be seeing threats that aren’t there.

02/09/17 12:17 PM

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Top Democrats call on Trump Labor pick to withdraw

Top Senate Democrats are calling for Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, the burger chain CEO nominated back in December whom Democrats have labeled anti-labor, to resign.

The Senate has scheduled a Feb. 16 confirmation hearing for Puzder after four previous dates were canceled due to missing paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics.

Democrats said Thursday they plan to fight his nomination vigorously, beginning in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he will face questioning next week.

Democrats have denounced Puzder over his criticism of raising the minimum wage, opposition to Obamacare, support of job automation and racy hamburger chain ads he endorsed.

Democrats have seized on Puzder’s admission Monday that he employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper for five years but fired her and paid back taxes when he found out.

“They ought to withdraw Puzder’s nomination before he further embarrasses this administration and further exposes the hypocrisy of President Trump saying one thing to to the workers of America and then doing another,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday in the Capitol, flanked by low-wage workers and advocacy groups.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the labor committee, suggested Puzder should drop out over the unpaid taxes, which Democrats said he paid only after he was nominated by Trump.

“Not only is Andy Puzder uniquely unqualified, but his decision to pick and choose the laws he himself follows is uniquely disqualifying,” Murray said. “I hope Mr. Puzder will realize how compromised he would be in this role.”

Trump promises tax announcement in two to three weeks

Also from the Washington Examiner

Announcement “will be phenomenal, in terms of tax,” the president said.

02/09/17 12:49 PM

Sessions sworn in as AG, warns of 'dangerous' rise in crime

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In brief remarks Attorney General Sessions said that he’s ready to tackle a surge in crime across the country.

02/09/17 11:20 AM

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Sessions sworn in, warns of 'dangerous' rise in crime

In brief remarks Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he's ready to tackle a surge in crime across the country. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Former Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn into office Thursday morning by President Trump, and said in brief remarks that he’s ready to tackle a surge in crime across the country as attorney general of the United States.

Sessions said he worries that the recent spike in crime is a “dangerous, permanent trend.” Sessions added that as leader of the Justice Department, he will “deploy the talents and abilities [of the agency] in the most effective way possible to confront this rise in crime.”

The former Alabama Republican Senator was confirmed Wednesday night.

Flanked by President Trump, Sessions also vowed to end the “lawlessness” of illegal immigration.

Democrats scrap all-nighters after DeVos, Sessions votes

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Senate Democrats on Wednesday abandoned the all-night “talk-a-thons.”

02/09/17 12:01 AM

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Trump rips McCain for criticizing Yemen raid in which SEAL died

President Trump went after Arizona Sen. John McCain on Twitter Thursday morning for criticizing a raid that ended in the death of a Navy SEAL, several civilians, and a destroyed V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.

McCain has been critical of the first military raid ordered by Trump, refusing to join the White House line of calling the mission a success and instead deeming it a “failure.” He softened his language later but still called the said “not a success.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said any criticism of the raid was disrespectful to Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the SEAL who was killed in the raid. Spicer demanded an apology from McCain during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

Trump said McCain shouldn’t be talking about military missions all together.

“Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy!” Trump tweeted. “He’s been losing so … long he doesn’t know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in – bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero … Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!”

The actual value of the raid has been debated in the press by unnamed Pentagon officials in recent weeks. Pentagon officials say intelligence was seized during the raid and is still being decrypted that could provide leads on new al Qaeda targets in Yemen.

However, critics say the death of Owens, and multiple civilians, along with the destruction of a V-22 aircraft, appears to be too great a price to pay for the intelligence that was seized. Last week, the Defense Department posted videos taken from the raid depicting instructions on how to make bombs, but took those videos down later in the day when it was revealed the videos were a decade old and easily accessible on the Internet.

Blumenthal defends his report on Gorsuch after Trump attack

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“He made that statement to me, … in fact, he has made that same statement to many of my colleagues.”

02/09/17 8:47 AM

Democrats scrap all-nighters after DeVos, Sessions votes

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Senate Democrats on Wednesday abandoned the all-night “talk-a-thons.”

02/09/17 12:01 AM

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Blumenthal defends his report on Gorsuch after Trump attack

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said President Trump’s attempt to cast doubt on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s criticism of Trump in a private meeting is wrong, and he’s standing by his statement that Gorsuch finds Trump’s criticism of judges “demoralizing.”

Speaking on CNN, Blumenthal said Gorsuch’s own spokesperson confirmed his version of events.

“There’s no question that Judge Gorsuch said to me that he found these attacks on the judiciary to be disheartening and demoralizing,” Blumenthal said. “He made that statement to me, his spokesperson confirmed it, in fact he has made that same statement to many of my colleagues.”

Trump tweeted earlier on Thursday that Blumenthal misrepresented Gorsuch’s remarks and pointed to Blumenthal’s past statements that he served in Vietnam, when he had not, as a reason not to trust him. Trump was apparently watching the interview because he took issue with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo not asking Blumenthal about his Vietnam lie.

“Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted.

The Democratic Connecticut senator declined to answer Trump’s tweets about him on Thursday, but urged Gorsuch to go public with his criticism of Trump.

“He needs to make that statement publicly,” he said. “We’re careening literally toward a constitutional crisis, and he’s been nominated by a president who has repeatedly criticized the judiciary.”

Sasse confirms: Gorsuch criticized Trump's 'so-called judge' comment

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Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse on Thursday confirmed that President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court criticized Trump’s comments about federal judges in a private meeting with him, the second such senator to do so.

Speaking on MSNBC Thursday, Sasse said he asked Judge Neil Gorsuch about Trump’s comment calling a federal judge who blocked his immigration order a “so-called judge.”

“He got pretty passionate about it,” the Nebraska Republican said. “I asked him about the ‘so-called’ judges comment … and this is a guy who kind of welled up with some energy and said any attack, I think his term to me was, on brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges and he believes in an independent judiciary.”

Reports came

02/09/17 8:31 AM

Democrats scrap all-nighters after DeVos, Sessions votes

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Senate Democrats on Wednesday abandoned the all-night “talk-a-thons.”

02/09/17 12:01 AM

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Trump hits Blumenthal on Vietnam record, says he 'misrepresents' Gorsuch

President Donald Trump on Thursday accused Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., of misrepresenting comments from his Supreme Court pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump on Thursday slammed Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal for lying about serving in Vietnam, and accused Blumenthal of purposefully misrepresenting what his Supreme Court nominee said to him in a private meeting.

“Sen.Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie),now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” Trump tweeted.

When running for Senate in 2010, Blumenthal said several times in public that he served in Vietnam, but military records uncovered by the New York Times showed he never went to war. Instead, Blumenthal received multiple military deferments to avoid going over to Vietnam during the late 1960s.

Trump himself received multiple military deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam in the same period.

Blumenthal told reporters following a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch on Wednesday that Trump’s Supreme Court pick told him the comments the president has made about a federal judge who ruled against his immigration order are “demoralizing.”

While Trump indicated skepticism about Blumenthal’s story, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who is helping Gorsuch through the nomination process, has confirmed Blumenthal’s version of events. Gorsuch’s spokesperson also confirmed the story.

Democrats scrap all-nighters after DeVos, Sessions votes

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Senate Democrats on Wednesday abandoned the all-night “talk-a-thons.”

02/09/17 12:01 AM

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Feds approve pipeline amid calls for new protests

The Army Corps of Engineers approved a key easement Wednesday night to allow the completion of the 1,100-mile Dakota Access oil pipeline, as native groups protested outside the White House to kick off the next phase of mass resistance against the project.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe led an intense protest campaign last year to prevent the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, from building a short segment of the project under Lake Oahe. The tribe argued that the oil pipeline would jeopardize their only source of freshwater.

The Army Corps approved the mile-long easement required to go under the lake this evening, effectively reversing the previous administration’s actions to halt the $3.8 billion project in order to do a new environmental assessment.

“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land remains our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway,” said Col. John Henderson for the Army Corps. The Army had been coordinating with the tribes to prepare the site for construction to begin, he said.

“We appreciate the proactive efforts of the tribes to help clean the protest site ahead of potential flooding along the river, typical during the runoff season,” Henderson said.

But tribal groups also amassed on the grounds near the White House Wednesday night to tell President Trump that the next phase of their fight against the pipeline has begun.

“Today begins the next phase of mass resistance to Donald Trump’s toxic Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Dallas Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement given at the protest.

“This is our land, our water, our health, and our culture at stake — and if Donald Trump thinks we will give all of that up without a fight he is wrong.”

Wednesday night’s decision came two weeks after Trump issued an executive order for the Army Corps to expedite approval of the pipeline.

Republicans united under Trump, but trade threatens to divide the party

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“There is a bit of a concern on the trade issue,” Mercedes Schlapp said.

02/09/17 12:17 AM

Democrats scrap all-nighters after DeVos, Sessions votes

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Senate Democrats on Wednesday abandoned the all-night “talk-a-thons.”

02/09/17 12:01 AM

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