Tag Archives: donald

Trump’s Tweets Threaten His Travel Ban’s Chances in Court

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump began the week with a barrage of early-morning tweets blasting the courts for blocking his travel ban executive order. But in doing so, he may have just made it more likely that the courts will keep blocking the ban.

These tweets followed upon several from over the weekend about the ban and the terrorist attack in London, including this one from Saturday evening:

In January, Trump signed an executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, as well as halting the refugee resettlement program for 120 days (and indefinitely for Syrian refugees). When the courts blocked it, rather than appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump signed a modified version of the order. The new ban repealed the old one, reduced the number of banned countries from seven to six, and added exceptions and waivers. Still, federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii blocked it, and now the Justice Department has appealed to the Supreme Court to have this second version of the ban reinstated.

The biggest question in the litigation over the ban is whether the courts should focus solely on the text of the order or also consider Trump’s comments from the campaign trail, and even during his presidency, to determine whether the order uses national security as a pretext for banning Muslims from the country. The president’s lawyers argue that the courts should focus on the text of the order and defer to the president’s authority over national security. Trump’s tweets Monday morning and over the weekend make it harder for the courts to justify doing that.

The travel ban is supposed to be a temporary remedy until the government can review its vetting procedures. But Trump’s tweets make it appear that the ban itself is his goal. Trump repeatedly and defiantly uses the word “ban” when his administration has instead sought to call it a pause.

The tweets “undermine the government’s best argument—that courts ought not look beyond the four corners of the Executive Order itself,” Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security and constitutional law at the University of Texas School of Law, says via email. “Whether or not then-Candidate Trump’s statements should matter (a point on which reasonable folks will likely continue to disagree), the more President Trump says while the litigation is ongoing tending to suggest that the Order is pretextual, the harder it is to convince even sympathetic judges and justices that only the text of the Order matters.” And once the courts start looking at the president’s statements, it’s not hard to find ones that raise questions about anti-Muslim motivations.

Even the president’s allies acknowledge his tweets are a problem. George Conway, the husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, responded to Trump on Twitter by pointing out that the work of the Office of the Solicitor General—which is defending the travel ban in court—just got harder.

Conway, who recently withdrew his name from consideration for a post at the Justice Department, then followed up to clarify his position.

Trump may soon see his tweets used against him in court. Omar Jadwat, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, told the Washington Post this morning that the ACLU’s legal team is considering adding Trump’s tweets to its arguments before the Supreme Court. “The tweets really undermine the factual narrative that the president’s lawyers have been trying to put forth, which is that regardless of what the president has actually said in the past, the second ban is kosher if you look at it entirely on its own terms,” Jadwat told the Post.

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Trump’s Tweets Threaten His Travel Ban’s Chances in Court

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Donald Trump Doubles Down on Boorish Temper Tantrums

Mother Jones

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President Trump was busy during his early morning “Fox & Friends” time. Around 6 am there was this:

First he deliberately undermines his own Justice Department by needlessly calling his immigration EO a “travel ban.” Why? Because he got criticized for accidentally doing this over the weekend, and by God, that means he needs to double down. Having done that, he then proceeds to slam the Justice Department as if they worked for someone else. If he wanted them to stay with the original travel ban, he should have told them to. If he wussed out, it’s his fault, not theirs.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that we’re now in the fifth month of Trump’s childish refusal to go ahead with new travel regulations while we wait for the courts to rule on his temporary travel ban that was meant to give him time to write new travel regulations.

Then, after a bit of random whining, Trump decides to go back to the well on the mayor of London:

Even for Trump, this is close to unbelievable. His original tweet about this yesterday was a lie, and would have been wildly inappropriate even if it weren’t. The city of London had just been hit by a deadly terrorist attack! Trump got blasted for this breathtaking display of churlishness, of course, and that meant he had to hit back today even more boorishly in front of the whole world. Because Donald Trump never, ever, backs down from anything, no matter how stupid.

Holy hell. 43 months to go.

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Donald Trump Doubles Down on Boorish Temper Tantrums

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Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

Mother Jones

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Since leaving office, Barack Obama has made a few veiled criticisms of Donald Trump. Conservatives are pretty unhappy about this. It’s tradition for ex-presidents to maintain a dignified silence about their successors, after all.

This is mostly true, but when did it become a tradition? It certainly hasn’t been one forever. Herbert Hoover was a constant presence on the radio blasting FDR during the Depression, and Harry Truman remained a gadfly after he left office.

Eisenhower changed things up. After beating Hitler and serving two terms as president, he decided to adopt the elder statesman role. Then Kennedy died before leaving office, LBJ slunk back to Texas a broken man, and Nixon resigned in disgrace. By hook or by crook, the “tradition” of ex-presidential silence was two decades old by the time Reagan became president. It’s mostly held ever since.

Is there a good reason for this? The pretense seems kind of precious to me. Why treat sitting presidents like china dolls who can’t take some heat from their predecessors? Ex-presidents are among the greatest politicians alive, and usually the effective leaders of their party, at least for a while. They typically command a throng of admirers. The most natural thing in the world would be for them to maintain a robust political presence if they want to. Why shouldn’t they?

Ditto for losing presidential candidates. This is usually less of an issue, since most people don’t really want to listen to losers. But not always. Hillary Clinton should never run for office again—and she’s said she won’t—but why shouldn’t she stay loudly involved in politics if she can help lead the loyal opposition until Democrats coalesce around a new party leader?

Does anyone know the answer about this tradition? Is it really just an Eisenhower thing that somehow congealed into conventional wisdom? Do other countries have anything similar?

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Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

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The US Brings Up the Rear When it Comes to Reducing Carbon Emissions

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump just finished up his speech about pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, and it was garden variety Trump bluster. Other countries are playing us for a sucker. It’s already cost us ONE BILLION DOLLARS. It’s crippling the American economy. They’re all laughing at us. Etc. The usual.

I was more interested in what EPA chief Scott Pruitt had to say afterward. His remarks were a seemingly endless tribute to the amazing foresight and singular vision of Donald Trump. It was really over the top, although I don’t know how many people noticed it since Pruitt has a fairly bland speaking style. Here’s a taste:

Your decision today to exit the Paris accord reflects your unflinching commitment to put America first….fulfilling yet one more campaign promise….fortitude, courage, steadfastness….America finally has a leader who answers only to the people….fighting for the forgotten men and women across this country….champion of the hardworking citizens all across this land….historic restoration of American economic independence….it takes courage, it takes commitment to say no to the plaudits of men while doing right by the American people. You have that courage.

Mussolini could hardly ask for better. But there was a tiny bit of substance in Pruitt’s remarks. In particular, he said that America had reduced its carbon emissions by 18 percent between 2000 and 2014. That’s actually not right: emissions have gone down about 8 percent over that period. Pruitt must have been talking about per-capita emissions or something. He also said that carbon emissions were now lower than 2014 levels, and he actually got that part right. But take a look at what caused this decline:

Every time the economy goes into recession, carbon emissions decline. When the economy goes into a massive recession, carbon emission decline a lot. That explains most of the reduction, which happened between 2008 and 2012.

But there are other things at work too. More fuel-efficient cars. More solar and wind. Replacement of coal by natural gas. Less heavy manufacturing.

So was Pruitt right to say this was accomplished “not through government mandate, but through innovation and technology of the American private sector”? Not really. Fracking lowered the price of natural gas, and that was certainly a triumph of innovation. But that was about it. The decline of heavy manufacturing was mostly a result of globalization. The recession was the result of an unsustainable housing bubble. Cars got more fuel efficient largely because of tighter CAFE standards. Solar and wind were the beneficiaries of improving technology, but also various tax credits and incentives.

What about Pruitt’s claim that we “do it better than anyone in the world,” “the rest of the world does little,” and “other nations talk a good game” while we lead by action? Compared to other industrialized economies, this is just wrong. Here are reductions in carbon emissions since 1990 for a representative assortment of peer countries:

The only country we beat is Japan. All the rest have reduced their carbon emissions more than us. Of course, this only shows reductions in percentage terms. In absolute terms it’s even worse: the United States emits carbon at nearly double the level of Japan and three times the level of most European countries. The other countries started at lower levels and still managed to cut emissions more than we did.

On the bright side, we’ve done pretty well at reducing our carbon intensity. In 1990, it took 0.8 kg of carbon to produce a dollar of GDP. Today it takes only 0.3 kg:

Sadly for our egos, the other advanced countries have done even better than us. Despite our reliance on private enterprise, we remain one of the least efficient producers of goods and services among our peers.

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The US Brings Up the Rear When it Comes to Reducing Carbon Emissions

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Trump Can Fire People, But He’s Having Trouble Hiring New Ones

Mother Jones

Gloria Borger reports:

Trump returns to the White House this week just as he left — lonely, angry and not happy with much of anyone. The presidency, Donald Trump is discovering, is not an easy or natural fit. “He now lives within himself, which is a dangerous place for Donald Trump to be,” says someone who speaks with the President. “I see him emotionally withdrawing. He’s gained weight. He doesn’t have anybody whom he trusts.

Unfortunately, Trump has a big problem hiring new staffers who he might trust:

The disclosures from investigations stemming from Russian meddling in last year’s election — coupled with the president’s habit of undercutting his staff — have driven away candidates for West Wing jobs that normally would be among the most coveted in American politics, according to people involved in the search.

By the time the first change in what may be a broader shake-up was announced Tuesday, the White House was left without a replacement. Michael Dubke, the White House communications director, said he would step down, but four possible successors contacted by the White House declined to be considered, according to an associate of Mr. Trump who like others asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

At the same time, talks with two former advisers, Corey Lewandowski and David N. Bossie, about joining the White House staff grew more complicated. Mr. Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager, signaled that he does not plan to join the staff.

I can’t imagine why anyone even semi-competent would be willing to work for Trump, especially in the press operation. Trump undercuts them constantly, and he obviously wants to be the public face of the administration himself. The problem is that he’s afraid to face the press on a regular basis. Even he realizes that his administration is epically incompetent, and reporters have started calling him out on this. So he hides in the Oval Office and feeds his press staff to the lions instead.

As for every other position, too many people finally understand what Trump is really like:

There is this storyline about Donald Trump, one longtime Trump watcher says, that he’s a loyal guy. That he sticks with his old friends and defends them and supports them. “You have it all wrong,” he says. “Trump is not loyal, except to his family. He can be solicitous and ingratiating. But if there’s a moment you are not useful, forget it, you’re done. No matter what you have done for him.” Consider: Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, Chris Christie.

I don’t know what took everyone so long to figure this out, but by now they have. There’s just no upside working for a shitshow of a White House and a shitshow of a man.

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Trump Can Fire People, But He’s Having Trouble Hiring New Ones

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Democrats Don’t Brag Enough About the Stuff They Do

Mother Jones

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A couple of days ago Paul Krugman wrote about the Trump double-cross:

Let’s talk about West Virginia, which went Trump by more than 40 percentage points, topped only by Wyoming. What did West Virginians think they were voting for?

They are, after all, residents of a poor state that benefits immensely from federal programs: 29 percent of the population is on Medicaid, almost 19 percent on food stamps. The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare is the main reason the percentage of West Virginians without health insurance has halved since 2013.

….Trumpcare, the budget office tells us, would cause 23 million people to lose health insurance, largely through cuts to Medicaid….Then we need to add in the Trump budget, which calls for further drastic cuts in Medicaid, plus large cuts in food stamps and in disability payments. What would happen to West Virginia if all these Trump policies went into effect? Basically, it would be apocalyptic.

….So many of the people who voted for Donald Trump were the victims of an epic scam by a man who has built his life around scamming. In the case of West Virginians, this scam could end up pretty much destroying their state. Will they ever realize this, and admit it to themselves? More important, will they be prepared to punish him the only way they can — by voting for Democrats?

Since I happened to be chatting about this yesterday, I want to offer an alternative explanation for what’s going on here. More accurately, I guess, it’s a supplementary explanation, since there’s not much question that Donald Trump has indeed pulled a very long con on voters like the ones in West Virginia.

Basically it’s this: what do you expect if Democrats don’t support their own policies? For the past five years, Republicans have battered Obamacare as the most horrific policy ever enacted. Democrats have—what? Hidden under rocks, mostly. Moderates looked at the polls and decided to avoid even talking about Obamacare. Progressives mostly scorned it as a piece of crap and spent their energy explaining why we should all support single-payer instead. So what’s the result? Lots of people think Obamacare is horrific. After all, that’s what one side says, and the other side hardly even fights back.

West Virginians on Medicaid probably have no idea they’re getting it via Obamacare. West Virginians who buy insurance from Healthcare.gov probably have no idea they’re insured via Obamacare. West Virginians who got a payroll tax break early in the Obama years probably have no idea they even got it, let alone that it came from Democrats. West Virginians who got new roads or schools from the stimulus program probably have no idea it came from Democrats. West Virginians who got an increase in the minimum wage in 2007-09 probably have no idea it was passed by Democrats.

On the other hand, they certainly do know that Obamacare is destroying the nation; that Democrats want to take away their guns; that Mexicans took away all their jobs; that Obama wanted to let a flood of ISIS terrorists into the country; and that fanatical leftists want to allow men into their daughters’ bathrooms.

Republicans are going to say what they’re going to say. There’s not much you can do to stop them from lying. What you can do is to loudly and proudly demand credit for the stuff you’ve done. If no one really knows that you subsidized their insurance or provided them with Medicaid or raised their wages or built them new schools, you can hardly expect them to vote for you.

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Democrats Don’t Brag Enough About the Stuff They Do

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Trump Tweets Get Ever More Divorced From Reality

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump has a long history of tweeting nonsense, but this might be his most unbelievable tweet ever:

Uh huh. I’ll bet he’s going to dive right into that report. He lives for this kind of bedside reading.

In other news, you can ignore all that Kushner stuff you’ve been reading about. The Times and the Post are just inventing it. “It is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers,” Trump says. I’m glad he’s finally put this to rest.

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Trump Tweets Get Ever More Divorced From Reality

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The Intel Community Needs to Fire Someone—Fast

Mother Jones

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The US intelligence community has screwed up. Someone (or multiple someones) passed along British intel about the Manchester bombing to US reporters before it had been publicly released. This is bad for at least three reasons:

It quite possibly impedes an active investigation.
It pisses off British intelligence.
It gives Donald Trump a very reasonable excuse to demand an investigation into leaking from our intelligence agencies.

This is a bit like the reporters who fail to verify their stories properly and end up making mistakes. It might not happen very often, but it gives Trump ammunition for his claims that the media is out to get him with endless fake news. For that reason, reporters in the age of Trump need to be doubly careful about what they write.

If the intel community is smart, it will figure out where these leaks came from and fire someone fast. But are they smart?

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The Intel Community Needs to Fire Someone—Fast

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Trump Appears to Shove NATO Leader Aside for Better Position in Photos

Mother Jones

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During a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday, President Donald Trump appeared to shove Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic of Montenegro aside in order to position himself front and center for photographers.

The gesture was swiftly mocked on social media. Trump’s first visit to the Belgian capital, a city the president previously described as a “hellhole,” was already fraught with anxiety. Trump vowed to pull the United States out of NATO and repeatedly described the group as “obsolete” during the presidential campaign. Although he appeared to reverse course after meeting with the group’s secretary general in April, Trump’s commitment to NATO remained unsure.

Those apprehensions were reaffirmed Thursday: Shortly before appearing to push Dukanovic, Trump delivered a speech chastising NATO countries for failing to “meet their financial obligations”—a popular refrain from his campaign days. Keep a lookout for the faces of European leaders as Trump lectures them in the clip below:

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Trump Appears to Shove NATO Leader Aside for Better Position in Photos

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The Michael Flynn Scandal Descends on Trump’s DC Hotel

Mother Jones

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Ekim Alptekin, a well-connected Turkish businessman at the center of one of the many scandals swirling around President Donald Trump and his White House, stood before a crowd of several hundred people in downtown Washington and sought to clear up a few things. “There’s been a lot of media attention on it,” he later told a reporter, “so I just wanted to address the issue.”

The “issue” in question was no small matter. Last year, Alptekin paid $530,000 to retired Lt. General Michael Flynn to lobby on behalf of Turkish interests. At the time, Flynn was a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, and after Trump’s shock victory, the president-elect rewarded Flynn with the job of national security adviser. But it later emerged that Flynn had failed to register as a foreign lobbyist for this work, as required by law, and that he was under federal investigation for his secret lobbying for Alptekin. (Flynn was fired in February, after only 22 days on the job, amid reports that he had communicated with the Russian ambassador and lied about it.)

So it was a bit awkward when Alptekin appeared in Washington this week for the 36th Annual Conference on US-Turkey Relations. (He chairs one of the conference’s two main organizers, the Turkey-US Business Council.) In a speech on Monday, Alptekin addressed the Flynn controversy directly. “As many of you have read in the media,” he said, “I hired the Flynn Intel Group in 2016 before the election with a mandate to help me understand where the Turkish-American relationship is and where it’s going and what the obstacles are to the relationship.” His willingness to confront such a thorny issue—legally and politically—caught some in attendance by surprise. Yet there was also a surreal quality to Alptekin’s remarks, if only for this reason: He delivered them at the Trump International Hotel, owned by the president himself.

International intrigue notwithstanding, the 36th Annual Conference on US-Turkey Relations was typical of the glitzy conventions and forums hosted in Washington. There were panels on e-commerce, NATO, and cybersecurity, all with the theme of encouraging greater cooperation between the governments and industries of the United States and Turkey. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and now a Zelig of Washington’s paid-speaking and overseas-junket circuit, spoke at a luncheon sponsored by several major Turkish conglomerates, where he poked fun at the president and plugged his forthcoming book, Understanding Trump.

For his part, Alptekin pointed out that the venue had been chosen well before Trump was elected president. In October 2016, the American-Turkish Council, a group devoted to building up business connections between the two countries (and the conference’s other organizer), booked the Trump hotel in downtown DC, a short walk from the White House. According to Alptekin, the Turkish interest groups had first toured the hotel even earlier, in 2015, before Trump had declared his candidacy. Howard Beasey, president of the American-Turkish Council, told NPR, “Unfortunately, in our contract with the hotel, there is no I-became-president-so-you-get-to-break-your-contract-with-us clause.”

And so it was that Alptekin, whose hiring of Flynn helped plunge the Trump White House into turmoil, spent several days this week roaming the marble lobbies and conference rooms of Trump’s DC hotel. He schmoozed with attendees, posed for photos, and sat for interviews with largely international news outlets, all the while surrounded by the name TRUMP.

Aside from his opening remarks, however, Alptekin had little to say about Flynn. He denied to ABC News that he and his company had represented the government of Turkey. (In his retroactive filing, Flynn noted that his work for Alptekin “could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey.”) Alptekin blamed the “highly politicized situation” in the United States for the “misunderstanding and misperceptions” around his company and hiring of Flynn.

There are many lingering questions about Alptekin’s role in the Flynn controversy: Why did Alptekin hire Flynn in the first place? Did Flynn tell Alptekin he wasn’t going to register as a foreign lobbyist? Had Alptekin ever spoken with Trump himself? If Alptekin were subpoenaed by Congress or law enforcement as part of the Flynn investigation, would he cooperate and provide documents? Alptekin addressed none of these. He refused to comment to ABC News when asked whether he had been questioned or served a subpoena as part of the Flynn investigation.

In the main lobby of the Trump hotel, I tracked down an assistant of Alptekin’s and asked for an interview. She said Alptekin was no longer giving interviews. At that moment, Alptekin stood a few feet away, speaking on camera with a small TV crew. After he finished, he and his entourage sped past me in the direction of the hotel’s ballrooms, presumably to rejoin the guests for a final panel on Turkey’s shipbuilding industry.

So it goes in Donald Trump’s Washington.

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The Michael Flynn Scandal Descends on Trump’s DC Hotel

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