Video of 2015 event shows Gen. John Kelly misrepresented Rep. Frederica S. Wilson’s remarks

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly criticized Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) for focusing on her fundraising during a 2015 FBI building dedication. Wilson said Kelly’s comments were a “lie,” and newly released video appears to support her version of events. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

A video of a 2015 dedication of an FBI building in South Florida shows that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was wrong when he stated Thursday that Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) had boasted of securing funding for the project.

Kelly’s criticism of Wilson, during which he referred to her as an “empty barrel,” drew swift denials from the congresswoman’s staff and denunciations from her supporters, who said the retired Marine Corps general was inaccurate and out of line. A White House spokesman issued a statement Thursday evening saying the White House stands by Kelly’s account.

At the White House briefing Thursday, where he defended President Trump’s call to a widow of a U.S. soldier who was killed in Niger two weeks ago, Kelly denounced Wilson, who had listened in on Trump’s call to Myeshia Johnson, for publicly stating that Trump had been insensitive in telling her that her late husband, La David Johnson, “knew what he signed up for.”

Kelly, whose son, Robert, died in combat in Afghanistan in 2010, went on to bring up Wilson’s remarks at the 2015 building dedication and said she boasted of getting money authorized by President Barack Obama to complete the project. Johnson “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million,” Kelly said. He said the congresswoman was continuing a “long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise.”

Trump continued to criticize the congresswoman late Thursday on Twitter.

The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017

But a video from the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale of Wilson’s remarks at the April 10, 2015, dedication shows that she said no such thing during a ceremony that included then-FBI Director James B. Comey. In her nine-minute address, Wilson did recount how she went into “attack mode” to ensure that Congress and Obama expedited a bill to name the building after two fallen FBI agents who were from the area in about four weeks.

When initially told that such legislation could take as long as a year, Wilson recalled, “I said — I’m a school principal — and I said, excuse my French, ‘Aw, hell no, we’re going to get this done.’” Wilson spread credit to others for helping in the effort, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). She also told the stories of the heroism of the two agents, Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, who were killed in a shootout with bank robbers in 1986 in Miami.

In an interview Thursday with McClatchy news service, Wilson said of Kelly’s charge: “That is crazy that I got [the money] and Mr. Obama just gave it to me. That building was funded long before I got to Congress. I didn’t say that. I have staff, people who write the speeches. You can’t say that.”

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/video-of-2015-event-shows-gen-john-kelly-misrepresented-rep-frederica-s-wilsons-remarks/

Trump misrepresents British crime statistics by blaming ‘Islamic terror,’ U.K. critics say

President Trump listens to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico during a meeting at the White House on Oct. 19. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump misrepresented a recent report on crime in Britain with a Twitter message Friday blaming “Radical Islamic terror” for an uptick in reported crime, critics in the United Kingdom say.

Just out report: “United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.” Not good, we must keep America safe!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017

Trump was referring to data from the U.K. Office for National Statistics released Thursday. The report said British police have recorded 13 percent more crimes in 2017 than in 2016. The British agency said the increase “reflects a range of factors,” including an increase in incidents, more victims reporting crimes and changes in the way crimes are categorized and counted.

The report did cite recent terrorist incidents in Britain but did not explicitly mention Islam.

British Member of Parliament Nicholas Soames retweeted Trump with a message that the U.S. president should “fix gun control” at home.

#thenfixguncontrolyoudafttwerp

— Nicholas Soames (@NSoames) October 20, 2017

Another Labour Party lawmaker asked Trump to mind his own business and said Trump does not understand what the statistics show.

Can you please stick out of our business with such divisiveness? You clearly don’t understand difference between causation and correlation. https://t.co/bZC51SPIeb

— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) October 20, 2017

Trump has regularly cited “radical Islamic terror” as a principal threat to the United States, and as a candidate he mocked President Barack Obama, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and others for refusing to use that term.

Military leaders, including some now working for Trump, have said the term wrongly impugns Islam and needlessly alienates Muslims whose help the United States seeks in tracking and fighting terrorists.

Karla Adam in London contributed to this story.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/trump-misrepresents-british-crime-statistics-by-blaming-islamic-terror-u-k-critics-say/

Can President Trump solve the opioid crisis?

The Washington Post and CBS’s “60 Minutes” teamed up to publish an investigation about the influence that the pharmaceutical industry has had on America’s opioid epidemic.

The story takes a deep look at the way the drug industry and drug distributors first pumped huge numbers of opioids into communities, then worked with members of Congress to pass a law that would weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration. The law, which passed through Congress, makes it much harder for the DEA to stop these addictive drugs from reaching the black market.

The story has raised some questions about what the president can do from here to combat our nation’s opioid crisis. That’s the question we seek to answer this week: Can President Trump solve the opioid epidemic? How much power does the White House have to stop a crisis that kills so many Americans each year?

On this week’s episode of “Can He Do That?” we talk to Scott Higham about his year-long investigation with Post reporter Lenny Bernstein. And Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University’s Heller School, shares how to combat this epidemic and what role the White House can play in that process.

Each week, “Can He Do That?” examines the powers and limitations of the American presidency, focusing on one area where President Trump is seemingly breaking precedent. We answer the critical questions about what today’s news means for the future of the highest office in the nation.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Washington Post and Live Nation will bring the “Can He Do That?” podcast to a live audience at the Warner Theatre on Nov. 7. In this live taping, political reporters Bob Woodward, David Fahrenthold and Karen Tumulty will join host Allison Michaels to review the past year in President Trump’s White House and the biggest moments that made people wonder “Can He Do That?” Tickets can be purchased now at Live Nation. Attendees are eligible to receive a free 30-day Basic Digital subscription to The Washington Post.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/can-president-trump-solve-the-opioid-crisis/

Trump gives Puerto Rico response a grade of 10 out of 10

President Trump said on Oct. 19 that the Puerto Rico disaster response was “the most difficult,” but that he would rate the White House’s response “a 10.” (The Washington Post)

President Trump on Thursday said the federal response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico deserves a grade of 10 out of 10 as he met at the White House with Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of the U.S. territory.

“I would say it’s a 10,” Trump said, arguing that the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria “was in many ways worse than anything people have ever seen.”

“It went right through the middle of the island, right through the middle of Puerto Rico,” Trump said as Rosselló sat by his side in the Oval Office.

Trump’s assessment was at odds with public polling — fewer than half of Americans approve of how he has handled a succession of hurricanes this year — and with the assessments of some local officials on the ground, including the mayor of San Juan.

Rosselló declined to give a numerical grade but said the White House thus far had answered “all of our petitions” in Puerto Rico, where much of the island remains without electricity weeks after the storm hit.

“You responded immediately,” Rosselló said when asked by Trump, “Did we do a great job?”

But Rosselló said the island still needs more resources, adding that that was the reason he had come to Washington to meet with Trump.

“The reality is we still need to do a lot more,” Rosselló said.

He also made a pitch for the federal government to “treat us equally.”

President Trump speaks during a meeting with members of the Senate Finance Committee and his economic team in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Wednesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

During the half-hour portion of the meeting opened to the media, Trump was joined by Vice President Pence; homeland security adviser Tom Bossert; Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long; and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.

“I think we did a fantastic job, and we’re being given credit,” Trump said. “We have done a really great job.”

While fielding questions from reporters, Trump was asked if would support making Puerto Rico a state. He declined to answer.

“Well, we’re not talking about that now,” the president said. “You’ll get me into trouble with that question.”

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/19/trump-gives-puerto-rico-response-a-grade-of-10-out-of-10/

White House decries ‘politicized’ death of chief of staff’s son — which Trump thrust into the spotlight

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that President Trump’s chief of staff is “disgusted” that the death of his son has become politicized — even though it was Trump who thrust the Marine’s death into the political glare.

In an interview with Fox News radio this week, Trump cited John Kelly, his chief of staff, as he attempted to bolster his false claim a day earlier that President Barack Obama had never called families of fallen U.S. service members.

“You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said in the interview, referring to the death of Kelly’s son, 1st Lt. Robert M. Kelly, who died in southern Afghanistan in 2010 when he stepped on a land mine.

During Wednesday’s White House briefing, Sanders faced questions about how long it took Trump to reach out to the families of four Special Forces soldiers killed two weeks ago in Niger, where they had been dispatched to patrol with troops from that country.

During the briefing, Sanders was asked if Trump had given his chief of staff advance warning that he “would be raising the issue of his son’s memory” earlier in the week and whether Kelly was comfortable that it had become part of the conversation.

“I think General Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized, and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost,” Sanders said. “I think he’s disgusted and frustrated by that. If he has any anger, it’s toward that.”

When it was pointed out that Trump himself had  injected the death into the debate, Sanders said, “He was responding to a question and stating a fact.”

Since the loss of his son seven years ago, Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, has gone out of his way to keep his son’s death from the political debate.

Two White House officials said earlier this week that they were caught off guard by Trump’s comments on Kelly’s son. One said Kelly might have mentioned some details surrounding his son’s death to the president in private and that the president then repeated them in public, a frequent occurrence with Trump.

Kelly, who became the highest-ranking military official to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan, watched both his sons follow him into the Marine Corps. When Robert died, Kelly and his sons had participated in 11 combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Ashley Parker contributed to this story.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/18/white-house-decries-politicized-death-of-chief-of-staffs-son-which-trump-thrust-into-the-spotlight/

Fallen soldier’s mother: ‘Trump did disrespect my son’

Myeshia Johnson spoke out about President Trump’s condolence call to her after her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, was killed in Niger on Oct. 4. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

The mother of a soldier killed in an ambush in Africa said Wednesday that President Trump “did disrespect my son” with remarks in a condolence telephone call.

Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Washington Post that she was present during the call from the White House on Tuesday to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson. She also stood by an account of the call from Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) that Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson said.

Trump lashed back at Wilson. He denied her account in a Twitter message Wednesday. He said he had “proof” that the exchange did not go as Wilson had described. Trump did not elaborate, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president had not taped the conversation. She said several White House staffers were in the room during the call, including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

Sanders described Trump’s call as “completely respectful.”

“The hardest job he has is making calls like that,” Sanders said. “I think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done” in “politicizing” Trump’s condolence calls.

Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Later Wednesday, Trump expanded on his denial.

“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said; didn’t say it all.  She knows it,” Trump said when asked about the exchange by a reporter. “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”

Trump spoke at a meeting at the White House with members of the Senate Finance Committee.

Wilson had said that the Johnson family was “astonished” by Trump’s remarks during the call, which Wilson said she heard via a speakerphone while riding in a limousine with the Johnson family.  “She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.” Wilson told MSNBC on Wednesday that Johnson’s widow was shaken by the exchange.

The official Army photo of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Fla., who was killed Oct. 4, 2017 in southwest Niger. (Defense Department via AFP).

 

Wilson went on to say Trump “was almost like joking. He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’ — something to the effect that ‘he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway.’ You know, just matter-of-factly, that this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it. It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

“She was in tears. She was in tears. And she said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ ”

I stand my account of the call with @realDonaldTrump and was not the only one who heard and was dismayed by his insensitive remarks.

— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) October 18, 2017

On Tuesday, Wilson told The Washington Post that Trump had told Johnson’s widow, “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

“He made her cry,” Wilson said.

Jones-Johnson, speaking to The Post via Facebook Messenger, declined to elaborate.

But asked whether Wilson’s account of the conversation between Trump and the family was accurate, she replied: “Yes.”

The White House did not confirm or deny Wilson’s account on Tuesday.

“The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private,” a White House official said in a statement.

The White House said Tuesday that Trump had placed calls that day to the families of all four service members killed in Niger on Oct. 4. The calls followed Trump’s claims Monday and Tuesday that his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, had not often made such calls to families. Former Obama administration officials strongly dispute that claim, saying Obama engaged families of fallen service members in various ways throughout his presidency.

Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Fla., was found dead after initially being reported as missing after the attack.

He was a driver assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Johnson’s biological mother, Samara, died when he was a child. Cowanda Jones-Johnson and her husband, Richard, were entrusted with his care after his mother’s death, according to the slain soldier’s obituary. The obituary lists his parents as Samara Johnson and Richard and Cowanda Johnson.

Staff Sgt. Dennis Bohler, who said he was Johnson’s close friend and former supervisor at Fort Bragg, told The Post that Jones-Johnson is La David’s aunt and raised him as her own son.

“He’s very thankful for having somebody like his mom, Cowanda, in his life,” Bohler said Wednesday. “She raised him. She wasn’t really his mom, but you couldn’t tell.”

President Trump is facing criticism for failing to mention the death of U.S. soldiers in Niger for 12 days. Here is what happens after a U.S. military member is killed while serving overseas. (The Washington Post)

John Wagner and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/18/totally-fabricated-trump-disputes-congresswomans-depiction-of-his-exchange-with-soldiers-widow/

Trump’s travel ban keeps getting blocked. What happens now?

Two different federal judges this week blocked President Trump from enforcing the latest version of his travel ban. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images)

In this occasional series, we will bring you up to speed on the biggest national security stories of the week.

Two different federal judges this week blocked President Trump from enforcing the latest version of his travel ban, which would have barred various travelers and immigrants from eight different countries from entering the U.S.

The cases are sure to be appealed, setting up yet another legal showdown on Trump’s power when it comes to immigration policy. But for now, here is what the judges’ rulings mean for the Trump administration, and for those who might have otherwise been affected by the ban.

What happens to people on the banned list now?

If the Trump administration had implemented the measure as it wanted, various types of immigrants and travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela would have been stopped from coming to the U.S. Now — for all except those from North Korea and Venezuela — they won’t be.

After a federal judge in Hawaii first stopped the Trump administration from implementing the measure in six of the eight countries, the State Department told embassies and consulates across the globe to resume regular processing of visas.

Though the judges’ orders were not applied to travelers from Venezuela and North Korea, that is of little consequence. The ban only applies to certain Venezuelan government officials, and very few people from North Korea actually travel to the U.S. each year.

Why did the judges block it?

The first judge to block the ban, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii, did so because, in his view, Trump had exceeded the power that Congress has given the president to set entry restrictions. Watson wrote that the order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that is opposed to federal law and that the president had not adequately found that allowing the entry of those he wanted to ban would be “detrimental” to U.S. interests.

The second judge to block the ban did so for simpler reasons. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland ruled that the president’s comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter showed he was essentially implementing a Muslim ban, and that was unconstitutional.

What is the Trump administration arguing?

The Trump administration has long argued that the entry restrictions do not amount to a Muslim ban and that they are instead necessary to protect national security. The administration says the latest iteration, Trump’s third attempt at a travel ban, was inked only after an extensive process in which U.S. officials determined a baseline of information needed to vet travelers from other countries, then negotiated with foreign counterparts to make sure they were getting it. Those that either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide the information were put on the banned list.

A judge on Oct. 17 blocked President Trump’s latest bid to impose restrictions on citizens from several countries from entering the United States. (Reuters)

What can the Trump administration do?

The Trump administration can appeal each judge’s ruling, and it is very likely the matter ultimately ends up in the Supreme Court. To get the ban fully back into effect, the administration would have to run the table, winning in two appellate courts that have ruled against prior iterations of the Trump travel ban. But the Supreme Court has seemed more sympathetic to the measure, and legal analysts say the latest iteration of the ban is the most likely to withstand legal challenges in court.

What does this mean for Trump?

The rulings are undoubtedly another political loss for Trump, who has been repeatedly stymied from implementing one of his signature policy initiatives and has once again seen his own words weaponized against him. He might win in the long run, but for now, a huge group of people he wants kept out of the U.S. will be able to come in.

A previous version of this post incorrectly identified the countries whose citizens remain barred from traveling to the United States under the Trump travel ban. The two countries are North Korea and Venezuela, not North Korea and Syria.  The post has been corrected and updated.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/18/trumps-travel-ban-keeps-getting-blocked-what-happens-now/

Hours after trashing Democrats on taxes, Trump says he wants their help on a tax bill

President Trump met with the Senate Finance Committee on Oct. 18 and discussed his tax proposal. (The Washington Post)

Hours after proclaiming on Twitter that Democrats are interested only in increasing taxes, President Trump on Wednesday told a group of senators that he wants Democrats’ help in cutting taxes.

“The president made clear his preference for a bipartisan bill,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said after emerging from a closed-door meeting at the White House with Trump that included both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee.

“We’re going to give this a try and do the best we can,” said Cornyn, the panel’s chairman.

After the meeting, the White House released a statement that said, “The administration looks forward to continued opportunities to reach across the aisle in an effort to provide tangible quality of life improvements for the American people.”

Wednesday afternoon’s conciliatory tone contrasted with Trump’s posts on Twitter early Wednesday morning. “The Democrats will only vote for tax increases. Hopefully, all Senate Republicans will vote for the largest tax cuts in U.S. history,” the president wrote.

Trump has both courted and browbeaten Democrats in recent weeks as he seeks support.

In a bid to rally public support for his plan, Trump has staged events in states — Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana — that he won in last year’s election and where a Democratic senator is on the ballot next year. Behind the scenes, however, Democrats have said their attempts at serious negotiations on compromise legislation have received only a tepid response.

Trump and congressional Republicans are working on a plan that would slash the corporate tax rate and simplify taxes paid by families and individuals. It would also eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, changes that would primarily benefit upper-income earners. Many key decisions have not been made, such as what tax rates would apply to certain income brackets or whether the wealthiest Americans would be subject to an even higher tax rate. They also have not decided whether multinational companies that bring money back to the U.S. will have to reinvest any of it in their workforce, among other things.

Though Trump and Senate Republicans expressed an openness to working with Democrats during the meeting, some Democrats came away from the gathering saying the outreach lacked substance, according to one aide who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Trump did not commit to make any changes that would scale back tax benefits for the wealthy, which has long been a demand for Democrats. Instead, Trump said Democrats had political incentives to get behind the plan, saying towards the end of the meeting that he wouldn’t want to be a Democrat in 2018 or 2020 who voted against a tax cut plan.

During a briefing Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the strategy is “pretty simple”: to get enough votes to pass a bill.

Asked whether Democrats are key to that equation, Sanders said “we’d love to see them get on board.”

“We don’t know why any Democrat would want to be against providing tax relief and tax cuts specifically to middle-class America,” she said. “I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t want to get on board with that.”

Multiple nonpartisan analyses of Trump’s tax cut initiative have concluded, based on the details released thus far, the vast majority of its benefits would go to the wealthy and to corporations, a conclusion the White House has continually contested.

“That’s not the focus of the tax plan,” Sanders said. “The focus, as we’ve said time and time again, the focus and the priority of the framework that the White House has laid out is to benefit the middle class.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cornyn was flanked by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) when he came outside to talk to reporters.

“I’m hopeful we will be able to find a path forward that will attract some Democrats,” Thune said.

Cornyn said a bill with partisan support would be “more durable.” None of the senators took questions.

Reporters were allowed to witness only the first few minutes of the White House meeting, in which Trump pledged “the largest tax cut in the history of our country.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in my opinion,” Trump said. He joked with Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the committee, that the plan should get unanimous support. Wyden did not respond but smiled broadly.

After the meeting, Wyden released a statement blasting the plan. “All the happy talk about helping the middle class and avoiding a giveaway to the wealthy sounds great, but it is not what the White House and Republicans have on offer,” the statement read. “You’re not going to reach bipartisanship by plowing forward with this con job on the middle class.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) brought Trump copies of two tax bills that he thought would align with Trump’s agenda, said an aide, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. One of those bills, the Working Families Tax Relief Act, would expand access to the Earned Income tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, something Democrats believe would help working and low-income households. This measure is co-sponsored by almost all Senate Democrats.

The second bill Brown offered Trump, the Patriot Employers Tax Credit, would create incentives for companies that retain U.S. jobs and pay workers at least $15 an hour with health-care and retirement benefits. The aide said Trump was receptive to both of the proposals, though it remains uncertain whether Senate GOP tax writers will work to incorporate either idea into the final bill.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/18/hours-after-trashing-democrats-on-taxes-trump-says-he-wants-their-help-on-a-tax-bill/

Trump suggests Comey prematurely exonerated Clinton but investigators say probe was largely complete

President Trump suggested Wednesday that former FBI director James B. Comey had intended to spare Democrat Hillary Clinton from prosecution “long before investigation was complete” into her government email practices.

In a pair of early-morning Twitter messages, Trump referred to a recently released FBI email that indicates a draft of a Comey statement about the investigation was circulating among aides in May last year, two months before Comey announced the end of the investigation and his decision not to seek charges.

Wow, FBI confirms report that James Comey drafted letter exonerating Crooked Hillary Clinton long before investigation was complete. Many..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

…people not interviewed, including Clinton herself. Comey stated under oath that he didn’t do this-obviously a fix? Where is Justice Dept?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

The FBI posted the document to its “Vault” Freedom of Information Act reading room on Monday. The unclassified document titled “Drafts of Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation Part 01 of 01″ includes part of an email message from Comey’s chief of staff James Rybicki, who forwarded an email from Comey asking for “any comments on this statement so we may roll it into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date.”

The draft statement itself is redacted, as is nearly everything else in the five-page document.

The draft statement was written before investigators had interviewed several witnesses, including Clinton. But it was reported at the time by The Washington Post and other news outlets that by early May, investigators had done the bulk of their investigative work and did not expect to file criminal charges in connection with the email server investigation.

Comey announced the closure of the investigation in July, days after Clinton’s FBI interview. At issue was the security and handling of classified material on Clinton’s home-based email server, which she used during her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Trump’s tweets revive his feud with Comey, whom he fired in May, and the Democratic opponent he defeated last year. He has twice this week referred to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary,” his campaign trail nickname for her.

Republicans have seized on the internal FBI emails as evidence that Comey and FBI leadership made a premature decision to not pursue criminal charges, because they discussed how they would explain not charging her before they’d interviewed her. Law enforcement officials have said that is a misreading of how investigations typically work — that an interview with a principal like Clinton is in many cases the last investigative step, after agents have established many or most of the facts in a case.

By May of 2016, FBI investigators felt that there was not sufficient evidence to show that Clinton or others intended to violate laws on the handling of sensitive government information, according to people familiar with the matter. Even though they felt criminal charges were unlikely, FBI officials were still frustrated by what they felt was a carelessness at the State Department in handling classified information.

For those reasons, law enforcement officials have said, Comey and his aides began preparing a statement describing their findings, to be released after her interview.

Trump said Comey had “stated under oath that he didn’t do this,” in apparent reference to Comey’s Senate testimony in which he said there was no criminal case to bring. In his tweet Wednesday, Trump asked, “Where is Justice Dept?” apparently inviting an investigation into the existence of the 2016 email chain.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) have said the FBI email chain shows that Comey began drafting an “exoneration statement” long before the Clinton probe ended. In September, Graham told Fox News that although he does not think Comey perjured himself, he wants Comey to return to testify.

“This doesn’t add up, and I smell a rat here,” Graham said.

 

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/18/trump-asks-whether-james-comey-was-truthful-about-clinton-probe/

Trump blasts NFL for not adopting a requirement that players stand during anthem

President Donald Trump listens as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Wednesday blasted the NFL, accusing the league of “total disrespect for our great country” following a meeting of team owners that did not adopt a requirement for players to stand during the national anthem.

Trump sparked a national controversy over the issue last month when he called on NFL owners to fire players who take a knee during the anthem, and teams have been wrestling with the issue every Sunday since. The take-a-knee action began as an attempt to call attention to racial issues, but Trump and others have turned it into an act against the flag and patriotism.

Following a series of meetings in New York on Tuesday, which included a four-hour gathering with players, team owners emerged without adopting a requirement that players stand. Several owners said they do not expect that to change by the time they conclude their meetings Wednesday.

“The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!” Trump said in his Wednesday tweet, which was part of a barrage on a range of issues, including tax cuts and the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Trump had previously said that he thinks NFL owners are “afraid of their players,” a situation he called “disgraceful” during an interview late last month with “Fox & Friends.”

For weeks, the president has urged the league to adopt and enforce a rule that requires players to stand during the anthem. Under current rules, players are encouraged to stand but there are no penalties for those who do not.

Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the form of protest last year as a means to draw attention to police killings of unarmed black people and oppression of minorities.

Trump has argued that the real issue is respect for the American flag.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2017/10/18/trump-blasts-nfl-for-not-adopting-a-requirement-that-players-stand-during-anthem/

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