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July 23 2017 12:38 PM

Scaramucci Vows “Dramatic Action” to Stop Leaks From the White House

The new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, made his debut in the Sunday talk shows, where he repeatedly warned he is ready to fire anyone who is caught leaking information to the press. “We have to get the leaks stopped,” Scaramucci said on Fox News Sunday. “What’s going on right now is a high level of unprofessionalism, and it’s not helping the president. … I will take drastic action to stop the leaks.” Part of that effort will include getting rid of people as Scaramucci said he is ready to “pare down the staff” at the communications office to stop the leaks. "It’s not fair to the president. It’s actually not fair to America."

Scaramucci said on CBS he will be meeting with the communications staff at the White House on Monday with a clear message: If you leak, you get fired. “I'm just going to make it very, very clear, okay? Tomorrow I'm going to have a staff meeting. And it's going to be a very binary thing,” Scaramucci said when CBS’ John Dickerson asked him what he’ll do with any leakers. “I'm not going to make any prejudgments about anybody on that staff. If they want to stay on the staff, they're going to stop leaking.” He also offered up the message by way of a pun: “We're as strong as our weakest leak.”

Dealing with leakers is just one way in which Scaramucci hinted he could make major changes to the way the White House communicates with the public. “There's obviously a communications problem, because there's a lot that we've done as it relates to executive orders, bills that have been signed, economic progress—I don't want to cite all the economic data, but the economy is super-strong, business optimism is way up,” Scaramucci said on CNN. “I just think we need to deliver the messaging a little bit differently than we've been doing it in the past.”

One of those changes could involve going back to making White House press briefings open to the cameras, although Scaramucci emphasized the president is the one who will have the final word on that. “I think we should put the cameras on,” he said. “But if the president doesn't want the cameras on, we're not going to put the cameras on. It's going to really be up to him.”

July 23 2017 11:29 AM

Ten Dead After Sweltering Truck Full of People Found at Walmart Parking Lot in Texas

Police officers in San Antonio discovered at least eight bodies inside a hot tractor-trailer that was parked outside a Walmart on Sunday morning. (Update, July 24, 1:30 p.m.: The death toll has increased to 10 as of Monday.) Around 30 more people were found inside the truck, 20 of whom were described as being in serious condition and transferred to area hospitals in what authorities say looks like a human trafficking crime. The dead and injured were “victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo,” said Richard L. Durbin Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

Police said they got the tip about the truck from a Walmart employee who was making rounds late Saturday night and was approached by someone from the truck “asking for water.” The employee handed over the water but quickly called the police, who immediately arrested the driver of the truck. Officials said they believe the eight men who died succumbed to heat exposure and asphyxiation but said the medical examiner will determine the official cause of death. "They were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water," San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. "It was a mass casualty situation for us." Most of those in the truck were adults in their 20s and 30s but there were also two school-age children in the group.

Security camera footage from the parking lot showed several cars arriving to pick up people who had survived the journey. Officials still don’t know where the truck came from and where it was headed but cautioned that this was “not an isolated incident” and residents should keep their eyes peeled. “Fortunately we came across this one, fortunately there are people who survived. But this happens all the time,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters.

July 23 2017 9:47 AM

McCain’s Primary Challenger Calls on Him to Step Aside After Brain Cancer Diagnosis

Sen. John McCain’s former primary challenger didn’t wait long to say that he should step down from office following this week’s devastating news about his health. One day after McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis was revealed, Kelli Ward, who ran against McCain last year, was already talking about the possibility of taking over his Senate seat. “I hope Sen. McCain is going to look long and hard at this, that his family and his advisers are going to look at this, and they’re going to advise him to step away as quickly as possible, so that the business of the country and the business of Arizona being represented at the federal level can move forward,” Ward said during an interview on Thursday.

Ward, a physician and former state senator who is now running against Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, said that even though “as a Christian, I know there can always be miracles” the “likelihood that John McCain is going to be able to come back to the Senate and be at full force for the people of our state and the people of the United States is low.” She then mentioned that if McCain does step aside, Arizona’s governor would have to appoint someone to fill the seat until the 2018 election. When she was asked whether her name should be considered for that position, Ward didn’t hesitate: “Well, you know, I certainly hope so. Because, you know, I have a proven track record from years in the state Senate of being extremely effective and of listening to the voice of the people that I represent.”

Lest you think this was an unplanned statement that she later regretted, Ward posted a statement on her website noting that McCain “owes it to the people of Arizona to step aside” when he can no longer perform his duties at the Senate. “The medical reality of his diagnosis is grim,” Ward wrote. “The Senate has complicated and difficult problems to deal with and Arizona deserves to be represented by someone who can focus on those challenges.”

McCain has given no indication that he’s ready to step down from office, even tweeting recently that he’ll be “back soon.”

Many were taken aback by Ward’s comments so soon after McCain’s diagnosis was made public, including her primary opponent. “John McCain is a fighter and an American hero. I fully expect to see him back in the Senate soon,” Flake said. “I’m dumbstruck by Kelli Ward’s comments.” Twitter users were quick to criticize Ward for what was often seen as political opportunism at a time of personal tragedy. “Leave it to Kelli Ward to see Sen. John McCain’s brain tumor as an opportunity for personal advancement,” wrote Laurie Roberts at the Arizona Republic.

Despite the widespread criticism, Ward didn’t back off and continued to push the message during another radio interview on Friday. Ward insisted that if McCain is debilitated then “of course he should step aside.” The radio hosts didn’t hesitate to tell Ward exactly what they thought with one calling the physician a “vulture” who appears to be “dancing” on McCain’s grave. “I got to tell you, Dr. Ward. Have you no shame? I mean, I think this is low class. I think you’re kicking the man when he’s down, the week he’s diagnosed with brain cancer, with really what I believe is a despicable comment,” one of the hosts said. Ward pushed back against the characterization of what she was trying to say, insisting the radio hosts were putting words in her mouth.

In another interview she said her comments show how she’s a straight shooter: “whenever I’m asked a question, I don’t know, I give an answer. I guess unlike most politicians who would just skirt around the issue I take things directly—and I’m going to continue to do so.”

This isn’t the first time Ward has received national attention for her comments on McCain’s health. In an interview with Politico last year, Ward said McCain was too old to be senator and would likely die on the job.

McCain’s office has not commented on Ward’s statements as the senator has stayed out of the spotlight since his diagnosis was announced. The senator’s daughter, Meghan McCain, wrote on Twitter Saturday that she went on a hike with her father.

July 22 2017 7:55 PM

Congress Defies Trump by Agreeing to New Sanctions Against Russia

Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on a set of sweeping sanctions against Russia as punishment for meddling in the U.S. election as well as its military aggression, which essentially would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally removing sanctions on Russia. The measure, which also allows new sanctions against Iran and North Korea, is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The Senate passed a previous version of the bill nearly unanimously last month.

The agreement between Republican and Democratic leaders was reached despite the White House's persistent lobbying against the measure that it says interferes with Executive authority. If approved in Congress, Trump will face a tough choice of whether to veto the bill, which would lead to accusations that he is doing the Kremlin’s bidding, or approve something his administration has opposed. Two senior administration officials told the New York Times they don’t foresee the president vetoing the bill given the current controversy surrounding his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials. But no one is willing to place bets quite yet. “As ever, Mr. Trump retains the capacity to surprise, and this would be his first decision about whether to veto a significant bill,” notes the Times.

Chances of a veto could also be far-fetched considering how it would involve expending political capital without any likely gains. The bill will be considered under an expedited process for uncontroversial legislation that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. That should, at least theoretically, mean the bill will be veto-proof.

Under the measure, Trump must seek approval from Congress before taking any action that would “significantly alter” U.S. foreign policy with Russia, including easing sanctions. Congress would then have 30 days to accept or reject the proposed changes. The extent of the involvement of House Democrats in any review process was a key point of debate but Democrats say they’re satisfied with the final outcome. "The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration's implementation of sanctions," Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said.

Other Democratic leaders expressed optimism that the bill will be on the president’s desk before the August recess. “A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

July 22 2017 6:48 PM

Trump’s New Communications Director Deletes Old Tweets to Avoid “Distraction”

The new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, appears to have quickly grown weary of the internet reminding him about his past and how his views didn’t always align with those of his new boss, President Donald Trump. On Saturday, Scaramucci acknowledged what many had already noticed: he was deleting old tweets. “Past views evolved & shouldn’t be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that’s all that matters,” he wrote.

Nearly two hours later, Scaramucci seemed to explain his decision further, writing that “the politics of ‘gotcha’ are over. I have thick skin and we're moving on to @POTUS agenda serving the American people.”

Scaramucci’s old tweets in which he bashed his new boss, praised Hillary Clinton, and supported gun control quickly made the rounds on social media as soon as he was appointed. Some have since been deleted, but many on Twitter took screen captures to make sure his old messages would be immortalized.

Some of the first tweets to disappear were the most explicitly anti-Trump. One, for example, referred to Trump’s campaign as a “spectacle.” Another tweet attacked former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for his support of Trump, calling him “smart with no judgment.” He also praised Mitt Romney for not joining the Trump team. Scaramucci also deleted an old tweet in which he praised Clinton, expressing “hope” that she runs for president because “she is incredibly competent.”

Scaramucci hasn’t deleted all his old tweets praising Clinton. At least not yet. “I like Hillary. Have to go with the best athlete. We need to turn this around,” he wrote in 2012.

Some of the deleted tweets weren’t about people, but issues. “We (the USA) has 5% of the world's population but 50% of the world's guns,” he wrote in a deleted tweet. “Enough is enough. It is just common sense it apply more controls.” But he has not been uniform in his deletions. Another tweet in which Scaramucci says that he has “always been for strong gun control laws” is still up.

Scaramucci also removed a tweet in which he called it "disheartening" that there are people who still think climate cange is a "hoax" and another where he criticized Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico: “Walls don't work. Never have never will. The Berlin Wall 1961-1989 don't fall for it.” But he has yet to delete an old tweet in which he said he was “against the death penalty, and Pro Choice.”

During a White House briefing on Friday, Scaramucci apologized for some of his old criticism of Trump. “He brings it up every 15 seconds, OK? One of the biggest mistakes I made, because I was an inexperienced person in the world of politics,” he said. “I was supporting another candidate. I should have never said that about him. So Mr. President, if you’re listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that.”

July 22 2017 1:25 PM

Minneapolis Police Chief Forced Out After Fatal Shooting of Australian Bride-to-Be

Growing protests against the police in Minneapolis following the killing of an Australian woman led to the ouster of the city’s police chief, Janee Harteau, who resigned at the mayor’s request. “I’ve lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said shorty after the resignation that came less than a week after police shot and killed Justine Damond, who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault. Two officers responded and one of them shot Damond in a confusing incident. Neither of the two officers had turned on their body cameras.

The shooting of Damond, a native of Australia who had moved to Mineappolis to be with her fiancé, has become an international incident as her relatives and even Australia’s prime minister are calling for clarity about what happened.

“We are demanding answers on behalf of her family, and our hearts go out to her family and all of her friends and loved ones,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a television interview. “It’s a truly tragic, tragic killing … something clearly went tragically wrong.”

In a statement, Harteau said she had “decided to step aside” to let a “fresh set of leadership eyes” try to figure out how to improve the department. “The recent incidents do not reflect the training and procedures we developed as a department,” Harteau said in a statement. “Despite the MPD’s many accomplishments under my leadership over these years and my love for the City, I have to put the communities we serve first.” Earlier, she had said the shooting was the result of “one individual’s actions” that shouldn’t reflect on the police department as a whole.

Harteau had served as the city’s first female, first openly gay, and first Native American police chief. Her tenure was plagued with complaints about police tactics and two years ago the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man led to weeks of protests. Activists were quick to point out that Harteau spoke up about Damond, who was white, when she regularly defended officers involved in shootings of black people. “She is attempting to paint this as an isolated case based on one officer’s poor judgment as opposed to a systemic pattern,” an activist tells the New York Times.

The resignation came after days of protests that continued on Friday night. In fact, Hodges was forced to delay a news conference when protesters interrupted and called for her resignation. Hodges has said she won’t be resigning and nominated Assistance Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to take over the department.

There may soon be more clarity about what happened that night as a witness to Damond’s shooting has been located and is cooperating. The witness apparently filmed at least part of the encounter that led to Damond’s death, according to a source who talked to the Star Tribune.

July 22 2017 11:11 AM

Trump Affirms He “Has Complete Power to Pardon” in Another Unhinged Twitter Rant

President Donald Trump apparently couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted to tweet about Saturday morning, so he decided to tweet about everything. In a long string of tweets, Trump ranted against the news media, leaks, and Hillary Clinton while defending his son, Donald Trump Jr, and his newly appointed communications director, Anthony Scarmucci. And those are just the highlights in the series of 10 tweets.

At a time when the president’s power to pardon is in the news following a report that the issue is coming up in White House meetings, the president seemed to confirm that it's at least on his mind.  Even though everyone agrees the “President has the complete power to pardon,” Trump insisted the issue is irrelevant: “Why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.”

The president began his Twitter rant by complaining of a “new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,” referring to a piece that claims Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked about the campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. He used the opportunity to once again push his oft-repeated lie that fired FBI director James Comey was guilty of leaking classified information.

The commander in chief then went on to blast the “Failing New York Times,” accusing the newspaper that he gave an interview to earlier in the week of foiling “U.S. attempt to kill the singlemost wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi.” It was unclear exactly what the president was referring to but the New York Times has an idea:

Mr. Trump did not specify what he meant, but he may have been referring to a Fox News report, a version of which aired about 25 minutes before the president tweeted, about comments by a top commander at a conference on Friday. Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, said on Friday at the Aspen Security Forum that American forces were “particularly close” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, after a 2015 raid recovered information about the militant group.
“That was a very good lead,” General Thomas said, according to the Fox report. “Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead.”
Fox reported that the general appeared to be referring to a Times report in June 2015 that said American intelligence agencies had “extracted valuable information” from the raid. The story reported that American forces recovered “laptops, cellphones and other materials,” including four to seven terabytes of data. It also said that Mr. Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders had used their wives to pass information to one another to avoid electronic surveillance.
The Pentagon raised no objections with the Times before publishing the story in 2015 and no senior American official ever complained publicly about it until now.

The president then took a break from complaining to write a simple tweet announcing that he'll be attending a “commissioning ceremony for the largest aircraft carrier in the world.”

That didn’t last long though as Trump quickly followed up with his tweet about pardons before jumping straight into criticizing his opponent in the presidential race. How is Hillary Clinton relevant? Well it turns out that “many people are asking” why the attorney general “or Special Council” looking at the “many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes.” Specifically, Trump once again raised questions about Clinton’s deleted emails and “all of the Clinton ties to Russia.” Trump continued criticizing Clinton by comparing her to his son, noting that Donald Trump Jr. gave his emails to “media & authorities” while Clinton “deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!”

Merely 10 minutes later, the president jumped to another topic, seemingly defending his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, from claims that he wasn’t always a Trump supporter.

And then seven minutes later, the commander in chief was changing topics yet again, switching to health care reform and calling on GOP senators to “step up to the plate and after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace.” Even though “ObamaCare is dead,” the president said Democrats “are obstructionists” so “it is solely up to the 52 Republican Senators!”

July 22 2017 8:55 AM

Despite Earlier Denial, Sessions Reportedly Did Discuss Trump Campaign With Russian Ambassador

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, told his bosses in Moscow that he discussed issues relating to President Donald Trump’s campaign during two conversations he had with now Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. The ambassador’s accounts were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies that regularly monitor the communications of senior Russian officials, reports the Washington Post.

Sessions, who at the time was a top foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump, had earlier said his conversations with Kislyak last year were not about the presidential campaign but rather as part of his work as a U.S. senator. “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way,” Sessions had said in March. Yet one U.S. official who is familiar with the intercepted communications told the Post that Sessions has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

This marks the latest chapter in the controversial meetings that Sessions didn’t even disclose at first, but then corrected the record after news reports revealed he had in fact met with Kislyak during the campaign. Although the attorney general has tried to play down the meetings, Kislyak’s account claims the two discussed substantive issues, including some related to policy that were of particular interest to Moscow. Officials did caution that Russian officials sometimes exaggerate or mischaracterize things in communications with Moscow in order to make themselves look better or even to throw off U.S. intelligence agencies. But Kislyak “has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington,” reports the Post.

Although there isn’t anything inherently inappropriate about a senator discussing things with a foreign diplomat, the key is how detailed the conversations got. “The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified information or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the U.S. or had dirt on Secretary Clinton,” an official familiar with the intercepts tells Reuters. "His memory is another matter." In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, Sessions repeatedly told senators he could not remember certain details of the conversations with the Russian ambassador.

The Justice Department declined to comment. “Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said. “But the attorney general stands by his testimony from just last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when he specifically addressed this and said that he 'never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election’.” The Post report doesn’t claim Sessions discussed interference with the election, as the Department of Justice seems to suggest.

A source close to Sessions told ABC News that the attorney general has no plans to resign following the report that comes during a week in which Trump harshly criticized him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. In the interview with the New York Times, Trump made it clear he regretted choosing Sessions as his attorney general and said he gave “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing. The White House later emphasized Trump still has confidence in Sessions.

Trump turned his fire toward the Post on Saturday, taking to Twitter to blame “illegal leaks” for the story published by the “Amazon Washington Post,” a reference to Jeffrey Bezos, who owns both Amazon and the Post. The president also took the opportunity to refer to fired FBI director James Comey in his tweet, making the claim that he also is guilty of illegal leaks (even though he isn’t).

July 21 2017 6:13 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Scaramucci Can Talk, but What Does He Really Believe?


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

Conservatives were abuzz Friday about Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, who impressed many with a slick performance in the day’s White House press briefing. “Hedge fund manager and new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has never held a press job before,” the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Egger wrote. “But he has repeatedly demonstrated the key qualifying characteristics: a willingness and ability to carry water for the president.”

On Twitter, a number of conservative media personalities and writers uncovered old tweets from Scaramucci indicating his evidently dramatic political evolution:

Other conservatives praised his performance.

In other news:

The Daily Caller and NewsBusters ran posts on a Gallup poll released Thursday showing that nearly half of Americans believe abortion is morally wrong. NewsBusters’ Katie Yoder:

New poll findings reveal that the liberal media, who applaud abortion “healthcare” as “moral,” are out of touch with nearly half of the United States. And so, while the media readily cite polls supporting their agenda, it’s doubtful they’ll report this one.
While only 20% of Americans say abortion should be “totally illegal,” 48% of Americans agree that abortion is “morally wrong,” according to Gallup findings released Thursday.
When researching the difference between Americans’ “views of the moral acceptability” of an issue and their “views on making it illegal,” Gallup found that “abortion provides the most striking example of the disparity.”

“Gallup noted that few Democrats think abortion is morally wrong but should be legal, because most liberals find the practice ‘morally acceptable,’ ” the Daily Caller’s Grace Carr wrote. “Even fewer Democrats believe that abortion is both morally wrong and should be illegal.”

July 21 2017 5:35 PM

Anthony Scaramucci Attacked Trump in 2015 for Being Spoiled and Un-American, but Says They Made Up

On Friday, Donald Trump appointed former hedge fund manager Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci as White House communications director. Scaramucci’s support of Trump is longstanding—he worked on the campaign’s national finance committee and often appeared on cable news as a surrogate during the 2016 campaign. But before he supported Trump, Scaramucci worked as a fundraiser for the Scott Walker and Jeb Bush campaigns—and in September 2015, delivered a two-minute rant assailing Trump as a “hack politician” on the Fox Business Network show Mornings With Maria.

In the segment, Scaramucci, the founder of SkyBridge Capital, took offense to Trump’s charge, made on Fox and Friends, that “the hedge fund guys are paying nothing [in taxes].” He sniped that Trump “is probably going to make Elizabeth Warren his vice presidential nominee” and went so far as to call the comments “un-American.” Said Scaramucci: “You’re an inherited-money dude from Queens County; bring it, Donald.” When a panelist pointed out that he should also be disturbed by Trump’s misogyny, Scaramucci obliged and said, “I don’t like the way he talks about women. I don’t like the way he talks about Megyn Kelly.” Reflecting the view of many pundits at the time, he ended his tirade by declaring, “This nonsense [the Trump campaign] is going to end, and I predict it’ll end before Thanksgiving.”

The two eventually smoothed things over, and Scaramucci joined the Trump campaign in April 2016. In an interview with Slate's Jacob Weisberg at the Republican National Convention, Scaramucci explained the previous beef: “I’m sort of sick and tired of people saying mean things about the hedge fund industry. ... As in every industry there are nefarious players ... but I don’t like every apple in the basket being decried rotten.” Yet the hedge fund manager chalked up the spat to a “difference of opinion;” he rhetorically asked Weisberg, “Have you met a politician that you line up with 100 percent on? Because I haven’t.” Scaramucci’s rant is now a running joke, as Scaramucci told Weisberg: “[Trump] teases me about it to this day.” And in an apparent about-face from his criticisms of Trump’s bigotry, Scaramucci wrote off the then-candidate’s history of questionable comments as “rhetorical flourishes.”