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Donald Trump made it clear at the beginning of his campaign that he wasn’t going to follow the normal rules or tone of politics. We’re keeping track of all the ways his presidency veers from the norm in terms of policy and rhetoric.
Day 316 Dec. 1
Trump is holding a pep rally for Roy Moore in Floribama
President Trump is doing everything he can to get Alabama Republican Roy Moore elected to the Senate. That is, everything except going to Alabama to campaign for Moore, whom five women have accused of pursuing sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in the 30s.
But next week, Trump is planning to do the next best thing: hold a political rally in Pensacola, Florida, a mere 25 miles from the Alabama border and solidly in the Mobile, Alabama TV market.
Despite Trump’s now frequent tweets attacking Moore’s Democratic challenger, Doug Jones, the president isn’t specifically campaign for Moore, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The President is not planning any trip to Alabama at this time,” she said earlier this week. “Frankly, his schedule doesn’t permit him doing anything between now and Election Day.”
But the rally is scheduled just four days before Alabama’s Dec. 12 special election to fill the seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions was appointed attorney general.
In total, eight women have come out with accusations against Moore ranging from sexual misconduct to sexual assault. Of the five women who were teenagers at the time, two of them were 14 — under the legal age of consent in Alabama at the time.
Trump’s vocal support of Moore has made him an outlier among the national Republican leadership. Both Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican House Majority Leader Paul Ryan have said they believe Moore’s accusers and that he should stand down.
— Michael Learmonth
Trump leaned on top Republicans to shut down Russia probe
Donald Trump pressed senior Republicans to wind up a probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a bombshell New York Times report.
Among those Trump reportedly leaned on was Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee handling the investigation.
Burr told the newspaper the president had said “something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible.’” Burr replied: “When we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”
Trump also reportedly told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Roy Blunt, another member of the intelligence committee, to wrap it up quickly.
The panel is one of several official investigations into claims that Moscow sought to swing the U.S. election in Trump’s favor.
The newspaper described Trump’s comments to the senators as “a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides,” and quoted California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein as saying Trump’s “inappropriate” approaches constituted a breach of the separation of powers.
But White House spokesman Raj Shah denied the president had acted improperly, saying Trump had not “attempted to apply undue influence on committee members.”
Trump has called Russian collusion allegations a “made-up story” concocted by the Democrats as an excuse for losing the election. He has previously made a number of comments easily interpreted as pressuring key figures to drop their scrutiny of Russian meddling.
Just days after he fired FBI Director James Comey, Trump told NBC News he asked Comey whether he was under investigation – an approach legal experts told the network was improper.
In June, Trump publicly denied he had obstructed the FBI probe into the issue.
— Tim Hume
Day 315 Nov. 30
Mnuchin is keeping the GOP tax bill secret from Treasury staff
As the Senate prepares to vote on the $1.5 trillion Republican tax reform bill, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is missing some numbers.
Specifically, according to the New York Times, Mnuchin’s oft-promised Treasury Department review of the bill — that is supposed to show how the bill will spur economic growth — isn’t actually taking place. There does not exist a comprehensive analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, sources within the department told the Times, and instead staffers are “running numbers on individual provisions or policy ideas.”
It is possible that the Treasury Department isn’t rushing out a complete study of the bill’s effects because it won’t say what the Republicans hope it will. Economists outside the administration overwhelmingly agree that the so-called tax reform bill can’t possibly pay for itself, and will instead greatly widen the U.S. budget deficit while increasing taxes on everyone except America’s wealthiest citizens.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, don’t seem too concerned about the missing numbers from Treasury.
“I don’t know, I think they still have some work to do,” Tennessee’s Bob Corker told the Times. “They came over, had a very nice meeting, but there’s no modeling yet.”
— Noah Kulwin
Reporter: Trump crowed about “first-rate pussy”
“There is nothing in the world like first-rate pussy,” Donald Trump reportedly told a journalist while leering at a young woman at Mar-a-Lago in 2000.
Michael Corcoran, a reporter for the now-shuttered Maximum Golf magazine, told the Daily Beast that Trump made the remark while he was shadowing the future president for a profile.
The comment did not make it into the story in that form, Corcoran said, the editor-in-chief swapping out the word “pussy” for “talent.”
Corcoran’s editor at the time, Joe Bargmann, backed up this account to the Daily Beast.
The comment echoes previous remarks by Trump that continue to haunt the president, particularly amid the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Trump has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by at least 16 women over the years, and there is a related lawsuit pending.
Besides the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump bragged that his fame allowed him to grab women “by the pussy,” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson claimed last year that Trump once left him a voicemail boasting: “I get more pussy than you do.”
Despite acknowledging and apologizing for the “Access Hollywood” comments during the 2016 campaign, Trump has since claimed in private that the voice on the tape might not be his, according to reports.
The White House hasn’t commented on Corcoran’s claim.
— Tim Hume
Day 314 Nov. 29
The White House is totally cool with Trump retweeting hate videos
The White House doesn’t seem to care if the president retweets false videos from hate groups. Because, you know, borders and stuff.
Donald Trump woke up this morning, like so many leaders of diverse, multicultural nations, and retweeted three anti-Muslim videos from the head of a notorious Islamophobic political organization in the U.K.
When asked about the president’s Twitter binge, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t comment on the nature of the videos, even though one has already been debunked.
“Regardless of the video, the threat is very real,” Sanders told CBS, pivoting to one of Trump’s fave topics: “The president has talked about the need for strong borders and strong security since the campaign trail; that’s not a secret. That’s something he’s going to continue talking about.”
Sanders might’ve stayed mum, but U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the Trump tweets. The far right in her country, meanwhile, was pretty stoked about them.
Trump uses Lauer firing to dig up old Joe Scarborough “mystery”
For President Trump, Matt Lauer’s firing seemed a good occasion to unleash a tweet attack on his perceived enemies at NBC.
After retweeting posts from a far-right British group that allegedly depicted violence perpetrated by Muslims, Trump got back to his regular “fake news” beat, praising NBC for firing the longtime “Today” co-host (the network said Lauer violated the company’s policy on sexual misconduct). He then urged the network to fire Phil Griffin, the president of sister cable channel MSNBC, mysteriously suggested it “look into Andy Lack’s past,” without explaining what he meant about the NBC News chairman, and made insinuations against “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough.
Trump has a vendetta against Scarborough — Trump had been invited onto on his morning show often during the campaign last year but Joe has been a vocal critic of the president since the election.
The “unsolved mystery” here is strange and tragic: A junior staffer in Scarborough’s office in 2001, when he was a Republican Congressman, Lori Klausutis, was found dead in the office. The medical examiner found at the time that she had died of a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on Scarborough’s desk. Trump insinuates there could have been foul play. There’s no evidence that there was.
Trump has “hard time letting go” of racist birtherism
Donald Trump still clings to the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Trump, cheerleader of the birther movement for most of Obama’s tenure, publicly dropped the issue last September during the election race. However, unnamed Trump advisers said that privately, he still questions whether his predecessor’s birth certificate is authentic.
The president’s “birtherism” is an example of his attraction to conspiracy theories and “manufactured facts” that bolster his own worldview and help him brush aside inconvenient realities, according to the report.
One U.S. senator told the Times Trump “has had a hard time letting go” of the lie, and that he has heard the president revive his doubts about Obama’s place of birth. The Obama administration released his original long-form birth certificate in 2011 to put the issue to bed.
Trump has also taken to questioning the authenticity of the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged on a hot mic about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Although Trump publicly acknowledged the tape was real and apologized for it in the final days of the 2016 campaign, he is now saying in private it could be fake.
“We don’t think that was my voice,” Trump told a senator, according to one source. Three sources told the newspaper that Trump has continued to suggest the voice on the tape was not him.
Arianne Zucker, the actress in the tape who greeted Trump before he made the comments, told CNN Monday, “How do you apologize for something and renege on it? It’s puzzling to me.”
A Republican lawmaker told the Times the president also boasts that he won districts that he actually lost, and to have won 52 percent of the women’s votes, when he actually won 42. He also claims to have lost the popular vote due to prevalent voter fraud, according to the newspaper’s sources.
— Tim Hume
Day 313 Nov. 28
Another Trump hotel wants to dump Trump’s name
The Trump brand isn’t playing too well in Panama.
Following allegations of mismanagement, a private equity firm that controls the Trump International Hotel in Panama City is pushing to remove the Trump name from the hotel, according to Reuters. A previous Reuters investigation found links between the Panama City hotel and a person hired by Ivanka Trump who was a fugitive from the Panamanian government charged with fraud and forgery.
This isn’t the first time since Donald Trump took office that a hotel of his has dropped Trump branding and management. (The way the company makes its money is not by owning its 10 active hotels outright, but rather licensing its brand to partner projects and handling some of the property management.) This past July, owners of a Trump hotel in Toronto bought out the Trump company’s contract and removed his name from the building. Last week, after severe business troubles with its SoHo New York hotel and condo complex, the Trump Organization bailed on the struggling project.
In a statement to Reuters, the Trump Organization denied any funny business or management issues with its Panama City hotel.
“Not only do we have a valid, binding and enforceable long-term management agreement, but any suggestion that the hotel is not performing up to expectations is belied by the actual facts,” the statement said.
Day 312 Nov. 27
The Mooch is mad and wants an apology from his college’s student paper
Anthony Scaramucci is on the outs with his alma mater: Tufts cancelled his appearance Monday after he demanded an apology for a critical op-ed in the student paper and threatened to sue.
Camilo A. Caballero, a grad student at the Boston-area university where The Mooch got his bachelor’s and now serves on an advisory board, penned multiple recent op-eds criticizing the school for retaining Scaramucci despite his “unethical” conduct that didn’t fit with the school’s ideals. Scaramucci was fired 10 days into his job as White House communications director after publicly flaming fellow administration officials as, among other things, “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic” and a dude who’s “trying to suck [his] own cock.”
Scaramucci emailed Caballero Nov. 16, accusing him of unfounded defamation for the “unethical” comment.
“So either back it up or you will hear from my lawyer,” Scaramucci wrote. Since leaving the Trump administration, the former hedge fund manager founded a media company and has said he expects to help Trump get re-elected.
On Nov. 21, Caballero, along with the Tufts Daily, did hear from The Mooch’s lawyer, who threatened legal action against both unless they offered a retraction and an apology.
Scaramucci was set to speak with Tufts students Monday morning, but the university postponed the event, and an online petition to remove Scaramucci from the advisory board has garnered over 240 signatures.
Scaramucci viewed the cancellation as stifling the conversation around his position at the school.
“I’m shocked that a university that I love and have been a part of for 35 years is silencing that debate because of my request for an apology,” Scaramucci told the Boston Globe.
Caballero, meanwhile, viewed the whole legal threat as chilling his speech.
“He is someone that uses his money to gain power and his wealth to buy himself into things that will get him attention. And he uses this power as a scare tactic . . . to get people to not exercise their First Amendment rights,” Caballero told the Boston Globe.
Two people showed up to lead the same government agency today
There’s an internal battle happening at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Two people showed up on Monday to lead it.
Mick Mulvaney, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CFPB, showed up first at the Washington, D.C. office — Dunkin Donuts in hand. Shortly thereafter, CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English arrived and sent a message to staff, which she signed as acting director of the bureau.
Mulvaney, who has long been a critic of the office he now seeks to lead, then reportedly sent out his own memo to staff asking them to “please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as Acting Director.”
Mulvaney and English’s feud stems from a disagreement over who’s legally allowed to lead CFPB. Trump picked White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to serve as acting director, but English sued Trump and asked for a temporary order to prevent Mulvaney from taking office.
English claims that the Dodd-Frank Act — which created the office in 2010 that she and Mulvaney are now fighting over — gives her the authority to run the office because her old boss, Richard Cordray, named her as acting director when he resigned on Friday. Dodd-Frank states that the deputy director will “serve as acting director in the absence or unavailability of the director.”
The Justice Department, however, argues that Trump has the authority to fill the slot after Cordray resigned. CFPB general counsel Mary McLeod sided with the Trump administration.
“It is my legal opinion that the president possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau,” McLeod wrote in a memo over the weekend. “I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB.”
— Rex Santus
Day 307 Nov. 22
The president can’t stop rage-tweeting at LaVar Ball
Trump doubled-down on his feud with the father of a U.S. basketball player Wednesday, calling LaVar Ball an “ungrateful fool” and a “poor man’s Don King” for his failure to thank Trump for getting his son out of a Chinese jail.
Trump has been locked in an escalating war of words with Ball – a brash, self-promoting businessman – since Ball’s middle son, LiAngelo Ball, was released with two of his UCLA teammates from a Chinese jail earlier this month. The three basketball players had been arrested on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Trump says they were freed after he personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene, and since their release has repeatedly commented on the Balls’ lack of gratitude. His latest outburst came after Ball pointedly refused to give Trump credit for freeing his son in interviews.
“It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
“LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think… LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!”
Ball, CEO of a shoe brand endorsed by his sons, has repeatedly refused to express appreciation to Trump for playing any role in his son’s release, saying the president was already on an Asian trip at the time and suggesting he himself played a role in getting the athletes out.
“It’s not like he was in the U.S. and said, ‘OK, there’s three kids in China, I need to go over there and get them.’ That wasn’t the thought process,” Ball said in an interview with CNN Monday. “I had some things done, I talked to some people that did some things, too.”
Ball’s comments came after Trump had already lashed him on Twitter for his lack of appreciation, saying he “should have left [the players] in jail!”
“Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!”
In interviews, Ball has expressed amazement that the world’s most powerful man is fixated on the issue. But if he wants Trump to let it go, he might need to follow his son’s lead and just say thank you.
Last week, Trump had wondered out loud on Twitter whether a thank you would be forthcoming from the released trio. “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
But after the players thanked him and apologized for their actions later that day, he swiftly changed his tone, wishing them well and dispensing them some life advice.
“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!” he tweeted Thursday.
Day 306 Nov. 21
This national park is stocking Trump-brand wine
When President Donald Trump said in August that “both sides” were to blame for the events Charlottesville, he also bragged about a vineyard he owns — “one of the largest wineries in the United States, it’s in Charlottesville,” he said as he left the podium.
Now it’s easier than ever to buy: Wine from that same vineyard has been for sale in the gift shop at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, a picturesque federal park just 75 miles from Washington, D.C.
At Skyland Resort, a lodging on park grounds, the concessions distributor, Delaware North Cos., told The Hill that it had been selling Trump wine for much of 2016. They restocked in May or June, and although they say they stopped buying the wine after that, it was on sale as recently as September.
NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum stressed that the parks service had no role in selling the wine. “The National Park Service authorizes concessioners to sell categories of retail goods and products like t-shirts, baseball hats, and in this case wine. However, the NPS does not specify what brands of these products should be sold,” Barnum said according to E&E News.
The environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to try to figure out how the wine ended up there.
“If this is the level of Trumpism at national parks, what other policy issues have that level of Trumpism?” Bill Snape, general counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity said according to E&E News. “It just raises a number of disturbing and intriguing conflict-of-interest issues.”