SPICER CRACKS DOWN ON WHITE HOUSE LEAKS

White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently checked his aides’ cell phones to ensure they weren’t communicating with reporters as part of an aggressive effort to stem the recent tide of White House leaks.

Spicer called staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the leaks, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, was a violation of the Federal Records Act.

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

Spicer asked to review both his staff’s government-issued and personal cell phones, the sources said. He also specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media, one source said.

The meeting, which Politico first reported, comes as the White House increases security measures to address President Donald Trump’s anger over leaks from administration officials and staffers.

Spicer, who declined to comment on the meeting, was particularly frustrated with the fact that the decision to appoint Mike Dubke as White House communications director, which CNN first reported, was leaked to the press a week earlier, the sources said. Spicer and Dubke are friends, and Spicer had backed his appointment.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

TRUMP TO PROPOSE $54 BILLION IN CUTS TO ‘MOST FEDERAL AGENCIES’

President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will look to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion and cut roughly the same amount from non-defense programs, the White House said Monday.

“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump said at a bipartisan gathering of US governors at the White House Monday, vowing substantial increases in defense, law enforcement and infrastructure spending.

The majority of “lower priority programs and most federal agencies” will see a reduction in their budget as a result of the proposal, according to an official at the Office of Management and Budget speaking with reporters on background.

The official said those cuts will come through “unauthorized programs” and places “where there is duplication, where consolidation needs to occur.”

Few details were provided on how the cuts will be made, but a Trump administration official told CNN that all $54 billion will be cut in fiscal year 2018. Multiple officials have also made clear over the last 48 hours that the Environmental Protection Agency and foreign aid will be cut significantly under the new plan.

The budget, one OMB official said, expects “the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding” over the years.

Foreign aid makes up roughly 1% of the federal budget and includes a host of programs meant to help implement national security policy. While foreign aid has long been a target for conservatives, cuts to these programs are unlikely to get the Trump administration close to the $54 billion in proposed overall cuts.

The budget blueprint, which will outline in the clearest terms to date what Trump’s policy priorities will be as president, fits with Trump’s pledges to increase defense spending and cut government waste as a candidate.

Congress is not mandated to follow Trump’s budget plan and in the coming weeks Republicans on Capitol Hill are expected to call administration officials to Congress to explain their proposal. The administration will also work with agencies to figure out how they will focus on cuts to their funding.

Trump said throughout the 2016 campaign that he would focus on spending cuts and tax reform, rhetoric that helped woo Republicans who questioned his commitment to other conservative principals.

“I want the American people to know that our budget will reflect their priorities,” Trump said in a budget meeting earlier this month. “We’ll be directing all of our departments and agencies to protect every last American and every last tax dollar. No more wasted money.”

Trump’s closest advisers have also previewed dramatic changes to the federal government budget. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Steve Bannon, a top Trump aide, said that new administration’s aim was “deconstruction of the administrative state,” a comment many federal workers saw as a pledge to weaken regulatory agencies.

Monday, Trump vowed “a budget of great rationality” that would be unveiled in “great detail” during his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening.

He wasn’t specific about where he planned to cut spending, saying only he aimed for a more streamlined federal government without listing any specific agency or program that might see its budget slashed.

“We’re going to do more with less,” Trump said, promising a government that’s “lean and accountable to the people.”

“With 20 trillion dollars in debt, the government must learn to tighten its belt,” Trump said.

Trump’s proposed cuts have already been met with concern inside the federal government’s bureaucracy. EPA employees have told CNN that many inside the agency are still in denial about the incoming cuts to their budget, despite the fact that Trump and Scott Pruitt, the newly approved EPA administrator, pledged to trim the agency.

“It is clear to me, and will be to most agency employees very soon, that Mr. Scott Pruitt has been nominated and confirmed as administrator of the US EPA in order to make significant and substantial changes to the agency,” John O’Grady, the president of the union that represents EPA employees, said in response to the proposed cuts.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: TERM ‘RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM’ IS NOT HELPFUL

New national security adviser H.R. McMaster is already setting a strikingly different tone than his ousted predecessor, Michael Flynn, and President Donald Trump, saying the term “radical Islamic terrorism” isn’t helpful for US goals.

At an all-hands meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said jihadist terrorists aren’t true to their religion and that the use of the term “radical Islamic terrorism” doesn’t help the US in working with allies to defeat terrorist groups, an official present at the session confirmed to CNN.

McMaster also spoke in starkly different terms about Russia, saying the talk about Moscow being a friend of Washington is over, the source said.

The national security adviser’s comments Thursday, which were first reported by The New York Times, and a separate email to all staff on Wednesday have buoyed the low morale at the agency, which has been largely sidelined in recent weeks because of the questions surrounding Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kilsyak. The retired lieutenant general resigned last week after admitting he misled Vice President Mike Pence over conversations with the Russian ambassador about US sanctions. Career staff have described the NSC as a dead zone, with little activity while Flynn was in the throes of the controversy.

Flynn’s deputy, K.T. McFarland, was present Thursday when McMaster spoke to NSC staff, the source said.

On Friday, during his remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, the President again used the term “radical Islamic terrorists,” as he often did on the campaign trail when criticizing President Barack Obama for not saying it.

“So let me state this as clearly as I can, we are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” Trump said. “We will not be deterred from this course, and in a matter of days we will be taking brand new action to protect our people and keep America safe. You will see the action.”

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

DONALD TRUMP PRESS BAN: BBC, CNN AND GUARDIAN DENIED ACCESS TO BRIEFING

The Guardian, New York Times, CNN and more were barred from ‘gaggle’ hours after Trump once again called much of the media an ‘enemy of American people’.

The White House barred several news organizations from an off-camera press briefing on friday, handpicking a select group of reporters that included a number of conservative outlets friendly toward Donald Trump.

The “gaggle” with Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, took place in lieu of his daily briefing and was originally scheduled as an on-camera event.

But the White House press office announced later in the day that the Q&A session would take place off camera before only an “expanded pool” of journalists, and in Spicer’s West Wing office as opposed to the James S Brady press briefing room where it is typically held.

Outlets seeking to gain entry whose requests were denied included the Guardian, the New York Times, Politico, CNN, BuzzFeed, the BBC, the Daily Mail and others. Conservative publications such as Breitbart News, the One America News Network and the Washington Times were allowed into the meeting, as well as TV networks CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC. The Associated Press and Time were invited but boycotted the briefing.

The decision to limit access to Spicer, hours after Trump once again declared that much of the media was “the enemy of the American people” while speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, marked a dramatic shift.

While prior administrations have occasionally held background briefings with smaller groups of reporters, it is highly unusual for the White House to cherry-pick which media outlets can participate in what would have otherwise been the press secretary’s televised daily briefing. The briefing has become indispensable viewing for journalists trying to interpret the often contradictory statements coming out of the Trump administration, and Spicer’s aggressive handling of the press and delivery of false or misleading statements have already been memorably mocked on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

“Gaggles” – more informal briefings – with the press secretary are traditionally only limited to the pool when they conflict with the president’s travel, in which case they often take place aboard Air Force One. At times, impromptu gaggles form with reporters who spend their days in the White House, but denying outlets wishing to participate is extremely uncommon.

Lee Glendinning, editor of Guardian US, said in a statement: “This is a deeply troubling and divisive act. Holding power to account is an essential part of the democratic process, and that’s exactly what the Guardian will continue to do.”

The White House Correspondents Association president, Jeff Mason, said the organization’s board was “protesting strongly” against the Trump administration’s action.

“We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not,” Mason said. “The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”

The executive editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, said “nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties”.

The BBC has sought clarification from the White House on why its representative was denied access. Its Americas bureaux editor, Paul Danahar, added: “Our reporting will remain fair and impartial regardless.”

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the White House, said: “Claims that outlets were excluded are not factual.”

In a statement, she added: “The pool was there, so various media mediums were represented.” The pool is a system by which a small group of reporters take turns covering the president and share their reports of his activities with a larger group.

Contrary to Grisham’s statement, outlets who made requests to attend were told this would not be permitted.

When the Guardian asked to participate, pointing to its possession of a “hard pass” that grants daily entry to the White House, an official declined.

“No, unfortunately a hard pass does not necessarily guarantee entry into the gaggle,” Catherine Hicks, a junior White House press aide, emailed in response.

“The gaggle today is just today’s pool with the addition of a few others here at the White House.”

Some outlets lingered in the West Wing hallway out of frustration but were asked by a Secret Service agent, upon instructions from the White House press office, to leave the area.

Earlier on Friday, Trump continued his assault on the press in a speech before the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists.

He said the press should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, a restriction on free speech he has not suggested before. “You will see stories dry up like you have never seen before,” Trump predicted.

“As you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn’t tell the truth,” Trump said at CPAC.

“I say it doesn’t represent the people, it never will represent the people, and we’re going to do something about it.”

Trump’s comments came on the heels of revelations that his chief of staff spoke with top officials at the FBI about the bureau’s investigation into potential links between the president’s associates and Russia. The White House lambasted the reports, which appeared in CNN and the Associated Press, but in doing so confirmed the conversations between Reince Priebus, the FBI director, James Comey, and his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com

CHINA HITS BACK AT DONALD TRUMP’S ‘CHAMPION OF CURRENCY MANIPULATION’ JIBE

US president risks ratcheting up tensions with latest currency claims and repetition of desire for nuclear supremacy.

Beijing has hit back at Donald Trump after the US president risked reigniting a simmering feud with China by accusing it of being the “grand champion” of currency manipulation.

After months of turbulence and uncertainty between the world’s two biggest economies, relations appeared to settle two weeks ago after the US president and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, held their first phone conversation since the billionaire’s inauguration.

However, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that also saw Trump reiterate his desire for American nuclear supremacy, the US president, who has attacked China over trade, Taiwan, North Korea and the South China Sea, threatened to undermine the tentative rapprochement with a fresh verbal assault.

“I think they’re grand champions at manipulation of currency. So I haven’t held back. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

The president’s comments were reported just hours after the incoming treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, made apparently contradictory remarks signalling that the White House had no immediate plans to label China a currency manipulator – something Trump had pledged to do on his first day in office.

Beijing rejected Trump’s claims on Friday, with a foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, claiming his country had “no intention of deliberately devaluing its currency to gain a trade advantage”.

Asked by the Guardian about Trump’s claims of currency manipulation, Geng said: “If you must pin the label of ‘grand champion’ … on China, then we are a grand champion of economic development. We’ve made great achievements since the start of economic reform and opening-up, making us the undisputed grand champion.”

Chinese scholars expressed frustration at the president’s allegation. “He has such a big mouth. What can we do about it? Let him talk,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University.

Economists in and outside China reject Trump’s claim – repeatedly aired during his campaign – that China is guilty of purposefully forcing down the value of its currency, the yuan, in order to boost its own exporters and hamstring US manufacturers.

“The logic of Trump’s claim is that he believes other countries keep their currencies artificially cheap to increase their exports to the US. But as a matter of fact, the Chinese yuan has seen a 13% devaluation since last year,” Zhu said, pointing out that Trump had previously also accused South Korea and Japan of manipulating their currencies.

Christopher Balding, a Peking University finance professor, said: “China is clearly manipulating its currency, there’s no two ways about it. But at this point they are essentially propping up the value of their currency rather than manipulating it lower to gain an unfair trade advantage.”

“To some degree Trump is correct, that of any major economy they probably are the grand champions of currency manipulation,” he added.

“But we need to very clearly distinguish between manipulating a currency to gain an unfair trade advantage – which they were pretty clearly doing maybe a decade to five years ago but they are clearly not doing that these days – and propping up the currency.”

Over the past year, China’s central bank has spent billions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves shoring up the yuan to counter capital outflows, Reuters reported.

Trump told Reuters that he wants the US to expand its nuclear arsenal, in his first comments on the issue since taking office.

He said: “We’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country. We’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

In statement, the Arms Control Association said Trump’s position was misguided: “Mr Trump’s comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.”

“The history of the cold war shows us that no one comes out on ‘top of the pack’ of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com

 

TRUMP LAWYER PUSHED PRO-RUSSIA DEAL FOR UKRAINE, POLITICIAN CLAIMS

The setting was a Manhattan restaurant, and after 25 minutes what allegedly emerged was a pro-Russian peace plan for Ukraine that its author believes may have ended up in the White House.

In a CNN interview, Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko said that he discussed his left-field proposal for Ukraine in January with US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who offered to deliver the plan to the Trump administration.

The exact details of the plan are unclear, yet reports have suggested it revolves around leasing Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – to Moscow for 50 to 100 years. In exchange, Russia would withdraw its troops from the separatist regions in Ukraine’s war-torn east.

Artemenko declined to discuss the plan’s details, yet hinted that a lease might be part of the idea.

The lawmaker says Cohen, who has long advised Trump, wanted to take the plan to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

Any suggestion that the White House might consider a plan that formalizes Russia’s control of Crimea would cause consternation in Kiev and among its allies in Europe. The White House has flatly denied any knowledge of the proposal.

In his interview with CNN, Artemenko shines a light on how a key Trump associate was allegedly prepared to push a controversial peace plan that might benefit Russia at a time when questions were being raised about the Trump’s ties to that country.

The Ukrainian member of parliament told CNN he met Cohen through a mutual acquaintance, businessman Felix Sater, and that the three had dinner in a Manhattan hotel in January.

Cohen told CNN in a text message that although he had dinner with Artemenko, they never discussed peace in Ukraine. Other media organizations reported that he offered them a different account. The White House has denied that Cohen delivered any peace plan to Flynn.

Russia and Ukraine have since rejected the plan, and Artemenko has now become the subject of investigation for treason for suggesting it to Cohen.

In a hurried interview in a Kiev hotel, Artemenko said Cohen told him that Flynn – who resigned in mid-february due to a controversy over calls with the Russian ambassador to the US – was his best connection at the White House.

“Michael Flynn is the best person, the best of my connections in the Trump administration, who if he likes [it], it’s going to [get] huge support, huge support,” Cohen said, according to Artemenko.

Flynn did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on this story.

Artemenko knew the proposal would be controversial as it undercuts both the US and Ukrainian diplomatic corps, and he says he knows it angered Kiev, who will have seen it as a pro-Russian proposal.

“That’s why I feel pressure, and for sure today I can see people accusing me, and I see the prosecutor of Ukraine is trying to do something, to open a new case, to do an investigation about me,” he told CNN.

He said of the january meeting that Sater invited Cohen to “a dinner in the hotel in Manhattan, and we probably spoke around 20-25 minutes, where I presented my intentions, my peace plan for the Ukraine, how we can stop the war, how we can stop the killing.”

Artemenko said he had never dreamed that his proposal would be seen by the White House, but he claims Cohen said the plan had “great potential” and wanted to deliver it to the Trump administration.

“It was Michael Cohen’s idea,” he said. “He mentioned his name first in my meetings. And he said ‘listen, Michael Flynn’ – from his personal opinion – ‘is most powerful man who can really support this idea, who can support, who can help you, who can provide this information to President Trump.'”

Flynn resigned 24 days into the job after misleading administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US before Trump took office.

Flynn made several calls to the ambassador in December, including some on the same day that the outgoing Obama administration placed fresh sanctions on Russia over alleged election meddling.

The Justice Department also warned the Trump administration in January that Flynn could be subject to Russin blackmail, a person familiar with the matter told CNN last month.

In a text message to CNN, Cohen denied delivering any documents to Flynn, and refuted Artemenko’s recollection of their January conversation.

“If this continued fake news narrative wasn’t so ridiculous, I would be angered. Despite the multitude of statements issued denying any nexus between Presidents Trump and [Russian President Vladimir Putin], the main stream media just keeps on trying to perpetuate this lie.”

“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn; something I stated to the New York Times.”

According to the Times, Cohen said that he left a sealed envelope with the proposed peace plan in Flynn’s office. Later, Cohen denied delivering a peace plan to Flynn.

Artemenko insists, however, that it was Cohen’s idea to show the peace proposal to the senior White House official. “It was his idea, absolutely his idea,” he said.

After Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, it sent military help to separatists in the country’s east, where violent conflict over disputed territory drags on to this day.

Kiev has refused to discuss the official transfer of the peninsula to Russia, and dismissed Artemenko’s plan as a result.

Moscow considers the peninsula already its territory, after its residents – under a substantial Russian military presence – voted in a 2014 referendum to join the Russian Federation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov says Russia refuses to discuss the lease of a region it already controls: “How can Russia rent its own region? This question itself is absurd.”

Sater, who attended the dinner with Artemenko, did not respond to emailed questions, yet he emphatically denied any links between the Trump camp and Russia in an interview with Fox News: “What could be wrong in helping stop a war and trying to achieve peace? I have done so much for my country and thought that promoting peace was a good thing. People are getting killed, it’s a war.”

A White House spokesman offered this statement in response to CNN’s request for comment: “No one in the White House – including the President, Vice President and senior members of the NSC — has spoken to Mr. Cohen about any Russia-Ukraine peace proposal, and no one has spoken to Andrii Artemenko at all about any matter.

“In addition, the NSC keeps comprehensive records of documents received, and we have no record of receiving any proposal from Mr. Cohen. This is another absurd, misleading attempt to distract from the real reform taking place under President Trump.”

Artemenko left the interview with CNN to attend what he said was a meeting with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, although the presidential administration denied such a meeting took place.

Yet moments after leaving the interview, Ukrainian prosecutors announced he would be investigated for “treason” over the deal.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

HUGE STAKES FOR TRUMP IMMIGRATION DO-OVER

President Donald Trump is preparing to seize on a second chance to make a first impression with the release this week of a new executive order temporarily halting travel from citizens of seven nations he says pose a high risk of terrorism.

The order will form the second thrust of a new administration push to significantly overhaul the shape of the American immigration system, following the release of new memos Tuesday empowering state and local authorities to enforce laws that could eventually lead to mass deportations.

It also marks an important moment for Trump’s vision of an expansive executive presidency as he contemplates other areas of sweeping policy action.

The significance of this new attempt – the language of which is expected as soon as Wednesday – is reflected in the participation of White House Counsel Don McGahn.

McGahn’s office had only a cursory look at Trump’s original order, which was written by transition and policy staff. Significantly, Trump’s key political aide Stephen Miller has had much less to do with the second executive order, sources familiar with the matter said, and the Trump administration was communicating with Republicans on Capitol Hill about the legislation.

Trump’s initial attempt to install a travel ban – one of his fundamental campaign promises – was a disaster, halting the administration’s fast start in its tracks.

The move temporarily blocking citizens of Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya from entering the US unleashed a weekend of chaos at the nation’s airports, after the hurriedly drafted and poorly implemented order caused confusion among border and customs officials about what it actually meant and which classes of travelers were included.

His order was quickly halted by the federal courts in a first showdown between his strong-arm executive powers and the judiciary – leading Trump to belittle judges on Twitter.

The showdown inflicted an early blow on the reputation of the new White House and claims that Trump’s expertise as a master dealmaker and businessman would make up for his inexperience in Washington and governance as he set about fundamentally transforming America.

Stung by the scorn of the courts and the political world, the White House eventually retreated to plot a new approach – one that is likely to be considerably narrower than the initial version. Permanent US residents, or green card holders, for instance, are expected to be exempted from the ban.

Trump rarely admits an error or apologizes for a misstep. But even he realizes that there is not much he can do but frame a new executive order to satisfy the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision upholding a stay on the order imposed by a federal judge in Seattle.

“The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Thursday.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is meanwhile promising that the new attempt to impose a temporary ban to allow for the creation of an “extreme vetting” system promised by Trump on the campaign trail would be a “tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order.”

It is vital for the credibility of the President and a White House that things go smoothly this time around.

This may be the best, last chance for the administration to establish whether it can write an executive order that can honor Trump’s goals but at the same time not fall foul of constitutional due process rights of travelers trying to get into the United States who might be covered by the ban.

The White House faces a high bar in drafting the new order because its constitutional interpretation has already proven open to being challenged. The 9th Circuit, for example, rejected the administration’s argument that the judiciary lacked the authority to block the travel ban as “contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

Apart from the legal minefield the new order must traverse, the Trump White House has huge political credibility tied up in the travel ban.

A repeat of angry demonstrations at airports, with tales of travelers being turned back after getting on planes with what they thought were valid visas, would deal another blow to the new administration.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

TRUMP CALLS RECENT ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS ‘HORRIBLE’

President Donald Trump said Tuesday the recent spate of threats targeting the Jewish community in the US are “horrible” and “painful” as he faced a growing chorus of calls from Democrats and Jewish leaders urging him to speak out.

Trump made the remarks following a tour of the National Museum of African American Museum and Culture, hours after Hillary Clinton tweeted that “everyone must speak out, starting (with) @POTUS,” using Trump’s official White House Twitter handle.

“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

Trump also told MSNBC in an interview at the museum that “anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”

The remarks came a day after the JCC Association of North America reported that 54 Jewish community centers have faced 69 threats, including three waves of bomb threats, since January.

Trump previously failed to clearly address the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the US last week when he was pressed on the issue during two news conferences. He instead focused on defending himself against personal charges of anti-Semitism and berated a Jewish reporter for asking him how his administration would work to combat anti-Semitism.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, questioned why Trump had not spoken out against anti-Semitic incidents in the US despite being pressed on the issue multiple times during recent news conferences.

“The question isn’t why hasn’t he spoken out more vociferously, the question is why hasn’t he spoken out period? And why has he evaded two questions in his last two press conferences on this question?” Nadler said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “Maybe he doesn’t want to denounce his own supporters because some of his own supporters are responsible for this.”

Prominent white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups supported Trump during the election, and Trump’s slow pace to refute that support had raised questions.

The White House issued a statement Monday denouncing recent anti-Semitic threats, saying “hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom.”

“The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in the statement.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, also tweeted Monday evening that “we must protect our houses of worship and religious centers.”

But pressed during two news conferences last week to address the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, Trump chose to focus on defending himself against personal charges of anti-Semitism, declaring himself the “least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” rather than addressing threats against the Jewish community in the US.

Trump also berated a Jewish reporter for asking about how the government planned to address the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, telling him repeatedly to “sit down” and be “quiet,” even though the reporter made clear he did not believe Trump himself was anti-Semitic.

The Anti-Defamation League has since called on Trump to speak out against the anti-Semitic incidents and explain how his administration will address the rise in threats.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Sunday in Jerusalem that “the president helps set the tone for a country.”

“I’m hopeful that what he said about … addressing hate and racism of all kinds in American society will be translated into clear action,” Hoenlein said.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

DONALD TRUMP ADMITS ‘SWEDEN ATTACK’ COMMENTS WERE BASED ON DEBUNKED FOX NEWS REPORT

Donald Trump sparked no small number of raised eyebrows – along with a flurry of sarcastic comments – when he suggested something ominous had happened “last night in Sweden”.

After Mr Trump made the remarks at a rally in Florida, everyone from Sweden’s former prime minister, weighed in to point out that nothing had averse had happened. “What has he been smoking?” pondered Carl Bildt.

“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Mr Trump had told his supporters.

“You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Some smart observers suggested Mr Trump may, not for the first time, been referring to something he had watched on Fox News. Business Times pointed to a segment on anchor Tucker Carlson’s show on Friday night, which included a clip from a new film by Ami Horowitz claiming to document alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden.

On Sunday evening, perhaps aware of the confusion and mockery sparked by his comments, Mr Trump indeed confirmed that Fox News had been the inspiration for his comments.

“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he said.

News of Mr Horowitz’s documentary made headlines last year when he told conservative outlets such as Breitbart News, that there were Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe.

“Over the last two years, they’ve taken in over 350,000 Syrian refugees,” he said. “The reason why I went there was to investigate why Sweden has become the rape capital of Europe. Rape was not unknown, but relatively minor. There were few incidents of rape, let’s say about ten years ago. And rape has absolutely skyrocketed in Europe.”

The New York Times said that Swedish officials had said that their statistics did not justify the kind of assertions made by Mr Horowitz, and that the country had a high number of sexual assault reports, relative to other European countries, because more victims come forward, not because there was more violence.

Henrik Selin, political scientist and deputy director of the Swedish Institute, a state agency dedicated to promoting Sweden globally, told the newspaper he had completed a study focusing on negative news reports about Sweden’s intake of refugees.

He said there were many exaggerations and distortions, including reports falsely claiming that Sharia law was predominant in parts of the country.

“Some of the stories were very popular to spread in social media by people who have the same kind of agenda – countries should not receive so many refugees,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper said the film was full of errors.

“At the end of the film, Mr Horowitz says that ‘it was not long ago that the first Islamist terrorist attack occurred in the country’.”

It added: “He likely means Taimour Abdulwahab’s suicide bombing in central Stockholm. It occurred on 11 December 2010. Thus, for over six years ago.

“But it is not the only remarkable error in the interview with Horowitz. The conversation is full of sweeping claims, exaggerations – and clear errors.”

Source: http://www.independent.ie

LOOKING FOR A BOOST, TRUMP GOES BACK TO WHAT HE LOVES: CAMPAIGN RALLIES

After a month of arduous and, at times, turbulent governing, President Donald Trump is ready for what he really loves: campaigning.

While it is unclear what exactly Trump is campaigning for, the President will take to the road on Saturday, flying from Mar-A-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, to Melbourne, Florida, where he will address what organizers expect will be thousands of supporters at Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

Trump, ready for some relief from the confines of Washington and the limitations of the house he ran to occupy, is reverting back to the campaign-style event, basking in what energized him for months during the slog of the presidential campaign: the adulation of his supporters.

White House aides have tried to take a hands-off approach to Saturday’s event, which is being run by Trump’s 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump for President Inc.

On Friday, though, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was headlining the event as a way to go around the media.

“People in this circle don’t always do the best job delivering his message (because) nobody does it better than he does,” Sanders said about the media.

“So he can do that very easily by taking the stage and talking directly to the people of America, addressing their concerns and being able to properly express exactly what he’s doing and what his administration has done over the last month,” Sanders said on Air Force One as the plane headed south to Florida.

While sources tell CNN that Trump feels cooped up in the White House and is itching to break out, Saturday’s event could also be a way for Trump to reset his administration after a chaotic month where the President was forced to fire his national security adviser, struggled to roll out his executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries and strained to explain a growing story about how members of his 2016 campaign made repeated contact with Russian individuals known to US intelligence.

Trump’s presidential campaign was defined by raucous events where he would deliver hour-long stemwinders, responding directly to the chants of the crowd and seemingly plugging into the energy that his supporters were throwing his way.

Former campaign aides said Friday that they were not surprised Trump was getting back on the road so early in his first term, in part because it was what fueled him for months on the campaign trail.

Michael Caputo, a former senior adviser to Trump’s campaign, said that he expects this sort of campaign-style event will be the “first of many.”

“He grew very familiar with the rally concept and I expect him to return to where he is comfortable when he needs to recharge,” Caputo said. “The fact that Trump showed us a new way of winning should have given everyone a hint that he would say everyone a new way of governing.”

Source: http://edition.cnn.com