Trump lashes out at Russia probe, compares it to McCarthyism

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump reacted angrily Sunday to a new report that the White House counsel has cooperated extensively in the Russia investigation without Trump’s full knowledge, calling it a “Fake Story” and comparing the probe to McCarthyism.

In tweets, the president lashed out at a New York Times report that White House lawyer Donald McGahn had participated in at least three interviews with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that spanned 30 hours.

McGahn has offered detailed accounts of “episodes at the heart of the inquiry” over whether Trump and his aides sought to obstruct justice, the Times reported, motivated in part by the fear the president might set him up to be held responsible.

The president suggested that McGahn had his full support to talk with Mueller.

The Failing New York Times wrote a story that made it seem like the White House Councel had TURNED on the President, when in fact it is just the opposite – & the two Fake reporters knew this. This is why the Fake News Media has become the Enemy of the People. So bad for America!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018

Trump emphasized he has authorized his aides to cooperate with Mueller. The president’s initial legal team had believed that strategy could bring a quick end to the probe. “I have nothing to hide,” Trump wrote in one tweet.

But the Times reported that McGahn was caught off guard by that decision and developed his own strategy to protect his own legal liability and demonstrate he had done nothing wrong.

“It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel,” the Times reported. “The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer would for clients and solely defend his interests to investigators, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking.”

Some members of the media are very Angry at the Fake Story in the New York Times. They actually called to complain and apologize – a big step forward. From the day I announced, the Times has been Fake News, and with their disgusting new Board Member, it will only get worse!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018

Trump compared Mueller’s investigation to the tactics employed by the late senator Joseph McCarthy, who alleged that communist agents and Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. government, accusing some of treason without evidence. Some of Trump’s critics have suggested it is the president, who last week stripped the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan and has vowed to pursue similar actions against a list of other critics, is the one who is acting like McCarthy.

Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018

The president is spending the weekend at his resort here in Bedminster. He is due back in Washington on Sunday evening.


On Twitter, Trump accuses ‘social media’ of limiting free speech of conservatives

President Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on June 15. (Evan Vucci/AP)

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump on Saturday waded into the growing debate over the role of social media companies in policing public discourse, accusing them of “totally discriminating” against Republicans and conservative commentators.

In morning tweets from his private resort in Bedminster, N.J., the president suggested the companies, which he did not name specifically, were engaging in censorship.

“Too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen,” Trump wrote. He added that “mistakes are being made” and vowed that his administration “won’t let that happen.”

The president’s remarks came two weeks after YouTube, Apple, Spotify and Facebook took down Web pages operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a Trump supporter and radio-show host who had the president as a guest during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Twitter followed suit this week in suspending Jones’s account for posting a show that violated the platform’s rules against violent threats.

Social media companies, with platforms that reach hundreds of millions, have been the focus of an intensifying debate over their responsibility to limit the spread of misinformation. Online activists have targeted Jones and others, forcing some advertisers to drop support of the programs.

In his tweets, Trump said it was “absolutely impossible to police” the sites and, as he has done often, suggested that mainstream news organizations whose coverage he does not like are “Fake News.”

…..Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don’t watch at all..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018

The president has lashed out angrily at the ongoing investigation from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s alleged influence campaign in the 2016 election, including potential ties to the Trump campaign. Among other things, Russian operatives have been accused of spreading false information through ads on Facebook.

In another tweet, the president said that it wasn’t just Russia that might try to interfere in elections.

All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China. But in the end, if we are smart, tough and well prepared, we will get along with everyone!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018


Senate investigation: Government fails to keep tabs on unaccompanied migrant kids after they leave its care

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) arrives at a closed-door GOP strategy session in June 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

(This post has been updated.)

A bipartisan Senate investigation released Wednesday concluded the Department of Health and Human Service fails to adequately account for the well being of unaccompanied migrant children once they leave government custody.

The lawmakers who conducted the investigation, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), are urging the government to take responsibility for ensuring the safety and health of the minors even after they are turned over to an adult sponsor.

Portman and Carper, the chairman of and ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations, are holding a hearing about the issue Thursday.

“These federal agencies must do more to care for unaccompanied minors and ensure they aren’t trafficked or abused,” Portman said. “This report details some small progress but also a glaring need for these agencies to take more responsibility for ensuring these children are safe and appear at their immigration court proceedings.”

HHS, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department released a lengthy response Wednesday night that called the subcommittee’s report “misleading” and that it “demonstrates a fundamental misunderstandings of law and policy.”

Children crossing the border without an adult are housed in HHS-contracted shelters until they can be placed with a sponsor, typically a family member. HHS has repeatedly said that the agency is no longer responsible for children once they are released from its supervision — although it checks in with the sponsors by phone.

Portman has wanted to change that for years, and has been a leading voice on the issue since 2015 revelations that eight migrant children in Ohio had been released to human traffickers.

But the report says the situation is more urgent because of the Trump administration’s now-ended policy of separating families at the border. While the policy was in place, children separated from their parents were turned over to HHS as their parents awaited trial in a detention center, and they were given the same unaccompanied minor status as those who cross the border alone.

That has contributed to a massive backlog in an overburdened system, the report found.

HHS calls sponsors to check on children 30 days after they are released from custody, a practice that began only after the Senate subcommittee’s initial investigation almost three years ago. HHS learned from these calls that it was unable to determine the whereabouts of 1,475 children who left its care from October to December 2017. Of the 7,635 calls HHS employees made, they discovered that 28 children had run away, five were removed from the United States and 52 were living with another person who was not their official sponsor, the report says.

The report alleges that HHS did nothing to try to locate the children after that.

The ongoing legal debate over President Trump’s family separations threw a spotlight on the broader problem. When a federal judge ruled in June that the government had to reunite separated children with their parents quickly, that work took precedence over all else. The subcommittee staff sought updated data from 2018 about the children’s whereabouts. But the report said HHS told them it “can either work to reunite families or update data — but not both.”

The Trump administration, in its response to the report, pushed back at the contention that its policies have made things worse.

“This report misses an opportunity to address decades of congressional inaction that have contributed to the significant influx of [unaccompanied children] and family units who come here in violation of the law and are effectively able to game our immigration system such that they do not fear the consequence of removal,” the trio of agencies said in their joint statement. “If we want to stem the tide of illegal immigration, we must end the legal pull factors that drive illegal aliens to our borders.”

The report also provides new statistics on the record of unaccompanied minors showing up for their scheduled court hearings. Sponsors sign an agreement upon taking the child from HHS that they will ensure their attendance at hearings, but the report emphasizes that there is no one in the federal government who enforces that.

There are 80,226 pending court cases for these unaccompanied minor children from 2014 through June 30. Out of 9,621 completed cases in that time, more than half of the children did not show up. When a child does not appear for a hearing, the judge can order their removal from the country.

“We have a moral responsibility to ensure that these migrant children fleeing their homes and extreme violence are safely and responsibly guided through the immigration process,” Carper said. “It is my hope that, finally, the administration officials coming before this subcommittee are prepared to discuss concrete steps being taken to better protect children living in our country.”

The senators are also calling for better coordination between HHS and the Department of Homeland Security. In April 2018, the two agencies signed an agreement that HHS would notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement when a child leaves a shelter and moves in with a sponsor.

But with the Trump White House’s hard line on immigration, the report notes concern that would-be sponsors who are undocumented may fear coming forward to claim a child for fear their information could then be used by ICE for enforcement.