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Feb. 18 2017 7:44 PM

Trump Doubles Down on Feud With Media at Florida Campaign Rally

After a chaotic week in the White House, President Donald Trump went back to familiar, comfortable territory: a campaign rally. The coordinator of the event told Fox News it was the president’s “first re-election rally,” and it certainly had that feel as thousands of people packed the hangar for the event. Trump didn’t go to present any new policy initiatives, and didn’t really reveal anything new in detail beyond broad outlines of things that he and senior members of his administration have talked about before. But he started out with one clear message that continued throughout the speech: the “dishonest media” are lying about him and his presidency. That came shortly after he wrote on Twitter that the media are the “enemy of the American people.”

“I want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news,” Trump told the cheering crowd. “The dishonest media, which has published one false story after another with no sources— even though they pretend they have them they make them up in many cases. They just don’t want to report the truth.”

In his characteristically humble self, Trump went on to compare himself to “many of our greatest presidents” who also “fought with the media and called them out,” specifically mentioning Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln. "When the media lies to people, I will never, ever, let them get away with it. I will do whatever I can that they don't get away with it," Trump said. "They have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda."

Despite what the media are reporting, “the White House is running so smoothly, so smoothly,” Trump said. And if it isn’t running smoothly it isn’t his fault: “I, and we, inherited one big mess—that I can tell you.”

People listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Although he didn’t dedicate as much time to them, Trump also said his administration has another enemy besides the press: the judges who put a stop to his travel ban. The president vowed to issue a new immigration order “over the next couple of days” and falsely claimed that the United States knows “nothing” about the refugees and immigrants who enter the country. He also once again mentioned that he would create “safe zones” in Syria and other places with the cash put up by Gulf states that “have nothing but money.”

Throughout the speech, Trump celebrated his November victory and said he wanted to be around supporters. "I am here because I want to be among my friends and among the people," Trump said to open his rally. "This was a great movement, a movement like has never been seen before in our country or before anywhere else, this was a truly great movement and I want to be here with you and I will always be with you."

The commander in chief also made clear that even as he hates the media he sure watches a lot of it. He recognized a supporter who had been interviewed on TV and invited Gene Huber up to the stage, even giving him a shot at saying a few words to the crowd. "I wouldn't say Secret Service was thrilled with that ... but we know our people," Trump said.

The rally was also notable due to the presence of First Lady Melania Trump, who has been pretty far from the spotlight in the first month of her husband’s presidency. In Floriday today, she kicked off the rally with a prayer and later a short speech in which she vowed to work on initiatives for “women and children around the world.”

Before the rally, reporters asked Trump whether it wasn’t a tad bit early to be holding another campaign rally. His response? “Life is a campaign.”

Feb. 18 2017 5:13 PM

Membership Applications at Mar-a-Lago Soar After Trump Becomes President

This is now the third weekend in a row that President Donald Trump is spending at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which his aides have come to call the “Winter White House.” The (very expensive) visits are set to continue frequently over the next four years of Trump’s presidency and, not surprisingly, that is quite positive for the members-only Palm Beach club. The resort doubled the initiation fee to $200,000 shortly after Trump was elected, and there is no shortage of people who want to join, reveals the New York Times in a piece about the unprecedented nature of a president using a private club he owns to carry out official business.

“It enhances it—his presidency does,” Bernd Lembcke, the club’s managing director, said about membership. “People are now even more interested in becoming members. But we are very careful in vetting them.”

Members now suddenly enjoy a close proximity to power that can come with benefits. One time, for example, Trump asked one of the members if he would be interested in building the border wall with Mexico. The president spending time in a place where there are paying members opens up a flood of ethical questions, including the fact that whenever an administration official talks about the property it sounds like an ad. Case in point: Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, described Mar-a-Lago as “one of the most successful private clubs in the world,” and said “the president looks forward to hosting many world leaders at this remarkable property.”

President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd-L), his wife Akie Abe (R), First Lady Melania Trump (L) and Robert Kraft (2nd-L), owner of the New England Patriots, sit down for dinner at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on February 10, 2017.


Experts are flabbergasted. “Mar-a-Lago represents a commercialization of the presidency that has few if any precedents in American history,” Jon Meacham, a presidential historian said. Although presidents often talk to the rich, “a club where people pay you as president to spend time in his company is new. It is kind of amazing.”

Newly leaked audio from a November party at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club illustrates just how comfortable Trump feels around the wealthy who make up his membership. Politico published audio of Trump talking at the club shortly after his victory and refering to the members as “my real group” and “the special people.” The then–president-elect also touted how close these members were going to be to key decisions, inviting them to join in as he put together his administration. “We’re going to be interviewing everybody—treasury, we’re going to be interviewing secretary of state,” he said. “We have everybody coming in—if you want to come around, it’s going to be unbelievable … so you might want to come along.”

Trump also made it clear that he talks about decisions with members: “We were just talking about who we [are] going to pick for the FCC, who [are] we going to pick for this, who we gonna accept—boy, can you give me some recommendations?”

A view of the entrance to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Feb. 18 2017 4:11 PM

Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Landmark Roe v. Wade Decision, Dies at 69

Norma McCorvey, who was the anonymous plaintiff known as “Jane Roe” in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade died on Saturday morning of heart failure. McCorvey, who was at an assisted-living facility when she died, was at the center of the ruling that ended up legalizing abortion in the United States and shaped the debate over one of the most divisive issues in American politics. McCorvey came forward in the 1980s to become a strong voice in the pro-choice movement. But later she switched sides after becoming a born-again Christian and became one of the most high-profile pro-life activists.

Even though she was in the public eye for decades and wrote two memoirs “she remained an enigma, as difficult to know as when she shielded her identity behind the name Jane Roe,” notes the Washington Post. Although it has long been said that McCorvey remained anonymous for years that wasn’t entirely true, wrote Joshua Prager in a 2013 profile published in Vanity Fair. McCorvey did identify herself shortly after the decision but ended up living in relative obscurity until more than a decade later.

“I’m a simple woman with a ninth grade education who wants women to not be harassed or condemned,” she told the New York Times in 1994. “I just wanted the privilege of a clean clinic to get the procedure done. … I just never had the privilege to go into an abortion clinic, lay down and have an abortion. That’s the only thing I never had.”

A year after she published I am Roe, detailing her role in the pro-choice movement, McCorvey had a very high-profile change of heart and said she would dedicate her life to reversing the Supreme Court decision that bore her fictitious name. She then wrote another memoir, Won By Love, and became a regular participant in antiabortion protests.

Years later, McCorvey appeared in a Florida ad paid for by the founder of Operation Rescue. “Do not vote for Barack Obama,” McCorvey says in the ad as horrific images flash on the screen. “He murders babies.”

Feb. 18 2017 1:17 PM

Fox News Poll: Voters Trust Trump Administration Over News Media

It’s close, but slightly more Americans reportedly trust the White House to tell them the truth more than the news media. A recent Fox News poll found that 45 percent trusted the Trump administration more to “tell the public the truth” than reporters who cover the White House while 42 percent trust reporters more. One in 10 people say they trust neither. There’s also strong consensus—68 percent—that the media have been tougher on Trump than they were on Barack Obama.

Whether a registered voter trusts the administration has a lot to do with his or her political affiliation. More than 8-in-10 Republicans say they trust the White House more than reporters, while 79 percent of Democrats say they trust reporters more.

The poll—which interviewed 1,013 registered voters before Trump’s press conference in which he railed against the media—also found that while people may not trust reporters, 55 percent said the media should “cover the president aggressively.” And even though the president often celebrates his lack of filter, it seems voters aren’t so enthusiastic about that. A whopping 71 percent of voters said that Trump “should be more careful about what he says and how he says it” while only 28 percent said that they “like that he speaks his mind.”

This latest poll came shortly after the Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating stands at 39 percent. It marks the first time in the history of the Gallup poll that a president had an approval rating below 50 percent in his first month.

Also significant, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) strongly disapprove of Trump’s job performance, which is higher than the strong disapproval for Barack Obama at any point of his presidency. While new presidents often get the benefit of the doubt from members of the opposing party, only 8 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approve of Trump. That is “by far the lowest rating for any new president from the opposing party in more than three decades.”

Feb. 18 2017 9:51 AM

Trump Calling Media “Enemy of the American People” Reminiscent of Stalin, Mao

President Donald Trump has never shied away from criticizing the news media. But he seemed to take things to a new level on Friday when he wrote in a tweet that media outlets, including the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN are “the enemy of the American people.” (His first tweet only included the Times, CNN, and NBC and ended with the conclusion: “SICK!” But that was quickly deleted.) Both tweets did include some choice capitalization as the commander-in-chief labeled the outlets “the FAKE NEWS media.”

Trump blasting the news media is nothing new, of course. Even a day earlier, Trump uttered the phrase “fake news” seven times during a White House news conference. Yet labeling the media the “enemy of the American people” seemed to take things to a new level and many quickly drew parallels to tyrants throughout history that were fond of the phrase. Although it harkens back to ancient Rome, many remember that the phrase was used during the purges ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. "It is one of the most controversial phrases in Soviet history," explained Mitchell Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania. "What it basically meant was a death sentence.”

The expression was also a favorite of China’s Mao Zedong, who used the “enemies of the people” label against anyone who opposed his policies. Identifying and later punishing those enemies was central to Mao’s rule. A Chinese journalist, Li Yuan, pointed out the parallel on Twitter, noting that “every dissenting voice was ‘the enemy of the people’ under Mao.”

Beijing seems to be welcoming this fresh attack on the news media with glee. China’s state-run newspaper Global Times noted in an editorial that Trump’s “war with mainstream media” would make it difficult for the president to challenge Beijing on “ideological” issues such as human rights. “His war with mainstream media makes it difficult for Trump to ally with the media on [the] ideological front against China,” the newspaper said. “Many have predicted that Trump’s presidency would exacerbate the recession of liberalism.”

Following the president’s press conference on Thursday night, a 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” was posted on the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign websites. Those who fill out the survey are then taken to a donation page where they are asked to fork over anywhere from $35 to $2,500: “President Trump is asking you to go the extra mile and make a contribution to help defend our movement from the outrageous attacks from the media coming our way.”

Feb. 17 2017 5:02 PM

Senate Confirms Scott Pruitt as EPA Chief Over Democratic Opposition

The Senate confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday. Two Democrats, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, crossed party lines to approve Pruitt while Republican Susan Collins of Maine voted against him. From the New York Times:

Democrats railed all night on the Senate floor against Mr. Pruitt and urged Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to delay the confirmation vote until after next Tuesday, when the Oklahoma attorney general’s office is under order to release about 3,000 of Mr. Pruitt’s emails related to his communications with the fossil fuel industry.
But the effort did little but deprive Democrats of sleep.
Democrats, environmental groups and even current E.P.A. employees have harshly criticized Mr. Pruitt’s record of fighting the mission of the agency he will now lead, as well as his close ties with the fossil fuel industry he will now regulate.

Pruitt’s confirmation came just hours after the court order mandated his emails and other documents be released in response to public records requests on his communications with the fossil fuel industry. From U.S. News & World Report:

Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons, of the District Court in Oklahoma County, ordered the state attorney general's office to turn over thousands of emails to comply with multiple public records requests dating to January 2015.
Those requests, filed by the Center for Media and Democracy, a left-leaning media watchdog, sought correspondence between Pruitt's office and fossil fuel titans such as Devon Energy and Peabody Energy, as well as industry groups like Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute and conservative organizations like the Republican Attorneys General Association.

As noted by the Times, Pruitt's correspondence has previously exposed unethical behavior. A 2014 investigation by the paper found evidence that fossil fuel lobbyists had drafted letters criticizing environmental regulations that Pruitt then directly copied and pasted onto his attorney general letterhead and passed on to the EPA. “Many of the coal, oil and gas companies represented by those lobbyists were also some his largest campaign contributors,” the Times’ Coral Davenport wrote in her piece on Friday's confirmation. “Mr. Pruitt also worked jointly with those companies in filing multiple lawsuits against major E.P.A. regulations.”

Even with Pruitt's confirmation, his office will still have to release his emails to the Center for Media and Democracy. It's just less likely that whatever is in them will influence his appointment.

Feb. 17 2017 3:03 PM

More Evidence Emerges That Flint Water Also Caused Fatal Bacteria Outbreak

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention genetic testing may help prove that untreated Flint River water contributed to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in and around the city, the MLive site reports.

More than 100 individuals, of whom 12 have died, have contracted the bacterial disease in the Flint area since the outbreak began in 2014. Michigan state officials suspected in early 2015 that Legionnaires' cases may have been linked to Flint's 2014 decision to begin using the Flint River as a source of tap water but didn't make that suspicion public until nine months later. City, state, and federal officials' failures to properly treat and monitor Flint's tap water after the Flint River switch are also believed to have caused an epidemic of lead contamination.

The relevant CDC test found that a sample of water taken from the McLaren Flint hospital matched a sample taken from a Legionnaires' patient who is not known to have received services at the hospital. The reason that's important is because the state of Michigan is attempting to make the argument, disputed by McLaren officials, that the high number of Legionnaires' cases during the outbreak that involved the hospital were attributable to the failures of its own internal water system. If bacteria found at McLaren match a patient who never spent time there, however, one logical possibility is that both the McLaren sample and the patient sample derive from a third, original source—like untreated Flint River water.

An independent study published in July found elevated levels of Legionella (the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease) in Flint tap water, though that study did not attempt to link specific patients' cases to specific water samples.

A state official told MLive that McLaren's role in the Legionnaires' outbreak is still a "medical detective case" that will require more "sleuthing." (And yes, if you are wondering why anyone would, at this point, trust anything a Michigan official says about Flint water, you have identified the subtext of this story.)

Feb. 17 2017 3:01 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Rush Limbaugh Was a Big-League Fan of Trump’s Press Conference


A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Some conservative media outlets covered Donald Trump’s Thursday press conference without passing editorial judgment. In the Daily Caller, Kaitlan Collins wrote that the president “went off script” at the event, but she otherwise presented the details straight, quoting extensively from Trump’s remarks with minimal commentary. In another piece, Collins compared Trump’s first press conference with Obama’s. Collins set the two side by side on both quantitative points—Trump “lasted almost 90 minutes” while Obama managed a mere hour—and qualitative ones—“Obama was very serious,” but “Trump lightened things up.”

Others were more explicitly enthusiastic about the event. Sean Hannity called it a “marathon,” pronouncing, “It was a historic beat down of the alt-left propaganda media, and they had it coming.” And Breitbart reported, “Rush Limbaugh applauded Trump’s performance on his nationally syndicated radio show,” describing it as “one of the most effective press conferences I have ever seen.” On Twitter, Trump himself seized on that remark, claiming that Limbaugh had characterized his performance as “one of the greatest ever”:

A Sean Hannity post emerging from Trump’s press conference was widely shared on Facebook:

Other news:

Many conservative outlets covered the Washington state Supreme Court's unanimous ruling against a florist who had refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The Daily Caller quoted extensively from a statement by one of the florist’s lawyers that claimed she “stands to lose all that she owns—her retirement, her life savings, her home—simply for declining to create custom expression for one event that violated her conscience for a long-time friend and customer.” (According to the Blaze, the florist faces a $1,000 fine.)

Many worried that the decision could have troubling implications. Pointing out that the florist had knowingly served the couple in the past, LifeZette wrote, “The Left has blurred the distinction between refusing to serve an individual because of his sexual orientation and refusing to do business with an individual in one specific instance because one does not agree morally with what that individual plans to do with the product.” In National Review, David French took it further, warning that we were witnessing an all-out assault on the First Amendment:

If you care about the Bill of Rights, the rights of conscience, or even the English language, there’s a chance that this morning you felt a disturbance in the Force — as if the Founders cried out in rage and were suddenly silenced.

French and others also offered a handful of comparisons in attempts to clarify their objections. The florist’s lawyer, who had argued that floral arrangements constitute a kind of speech, proposed, “No one would expect a Muslim journalist to write a piece for a religious journal that attacked Mohammed; no one would expect an Orthodox Jewish artist to create a mural for a religious customer that contradicted the Torah’s teachings.” In a similar rhetorical spirit, French asked, “Is it now racial discrimination to refuse to bake a cake with Confederate flag icing, since the person asking for such a cake will almost always be white?”

Meanwhile, some conservative Facebook pages revisited Joy Villa, Grammys superstar:

Feb. 17 2017 12:37 PM

This North Korean Airport Poison-Spray Assassination “LOL” T-Shirt Story Is Starting to Get Weird

1. North Korean tyrant heir Kim Jong-un had a half-brother named Kim Jong-nam who was considered the likely successor to their father Kim Jong-il until an embarrassing 2001 incident in which he (Kim Jong-nam) was arrested for using a forged Dominican Republic passport to try to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

2. Kim Jong-nam subsequently left North Korea and lived in exile in various locations throughout Asia, making public comments critical of his half-brother once Kim Jong-un ascended to power.

3. Kim Jong-nam died on Monday after he was apparently sprayed with poison at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by two women.

4. One of the women detained in connection with his death was carrying Vietnamese papers and can be seen on airport security footage wearing a shirt with LOL written on it in large letters. (As CNN explains, "the acronym, popular with social media and smartphone users, stands for 'laugh out loud.' ")

5. The other woman, apparently, is from Indonesia, and now a top Indonesian law enforcement official is claiming she was tricked into participating in the assassination by being told she was participating in a TV prank show. From the AP:

Tito Karnavian told reporters in Indonesia's Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in "Just For Laughs" style pranks, a reference to a popular hidden camera show.
He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
"Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong Nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer," Karnavian said.

We live in strange times. LOL!

Feb. 17 2017 11:48 AM

Here’s the Plan for the “Deportation Force” Pence and Ryan Denied Would Ever Exist

On Friday, the AP reported that the Trump administration is considering plans to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops in 11 states to round up, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants. The memo, allegedly written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and addressed to both Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, would militarize immigration enforcement in four states on the Mexican border and seven states contiguous to those four. Governors would be allowed to decide whether the National Guard in their state participated. The memo purports to serve as guidance for implementing the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” executive order Trump issued in January. It has reportedly circulated among DHS staff for two weeks.

If implemented, this plan would clearly constitute a deportation force—the kind that Trump boasted about during his campaign. The establishment Republicans who were brought in to sand down Trump’s rougher edges, however, routinely denied that Trump said … exactly what he indisputably said about his “deportation force.” Most notoriously, at the vice presidential debate, Tim Kaine described Trump’s plan for a deportation force, and Mike Pence called his claim “nonsense.” Paul Ryan also told a DACA beneficiary that there would be no deportation force.

Now it appears that Trump may do precisely what he said he would do throughout his campaign. The White House promptly denied the AP story, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer told an AP reporter, “I wish you guys asked before you tweeted” on Friday morning. AP reporters say that they asked both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for comment but were not answered. Perhaps we should take Friday morning’s denials about as seriously as we took Pence’s and Ryan’s claims about the deportation force before Trump entered the Oval Office.