Sometimes even the president of the United States needs somebody to vouch for him.
No, Trump insisted Thursday, he did not have a temper tantrum a day earlier when he cut off a White House meeting with congressional Democrats after just three minutes.
To prove it — in the middle of a meeting with farmers — he called on five members of his staff to bear witness to his demeanor.
One by one, his advisers dutifully stepped forward to testify, saying Trump had been “very calm,” albeit “direct,” in his meeting with the Democrats. Then the president questioned the mental capacity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had irked him Wednesday with her suggestion that he was engaged in a “cover-up” as he directed aides to refuse to cooperate with congressional inquiries.
The testimonials were a wild detour amid Trump’s announcement of new federal assistance for farmers caught up in his escalating trade war with China.
First up was White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, his unwavering defender on cable news.
“Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?” Trump asked. “Very calm,” she said, adding that the president did not throw a temper tantrum.
Next up: White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp.
“You were very calm. You were very direct,” she said. “You yourself have tried time and time again to negotiate and work with them on issues like border security, which they call a manufactured crisis. It’s time for them to wake up and to stop waging this political war.”
Trump’s desire for public affirmation from those serving under him has been a defining trait of his administration. It was clear at his first Cabinet meeting nearly two years ago, when almost all his advisers offered saccharine praise for the president. World leaders have learned to shower Trump with accolades before television cameras if they want to get on his good side.
Now it was his staff’s turn.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had stepped out of the room, so Trump turned to Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, to weigh in.
“You were very calm. You laid out your case,” Kudlow said.
Trump was on a roll.
“The narrative was I was screaming and ranting and raving and it was terrible,” Trump said. “And I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday — she was with the hands — she reminded me of Beto. She actually reminded me of Beto, maybe a little bit worse.” Trump has repeatedly accused Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of excessive gesticulation.
By then, Sanders had been summoned and returned to do her part.
“Very calm. I’ve seen both,” she said of Trump’s personality, getting a laugh from those in the room. “Very calm and straightforward and clear that we have to actually get to work and do good things for the American people.”
Bringing up the rear was Hogan Gidley, the deputy press secretary, who said Trump was calm but had “every right” not to be.
There was one other order of business for Trump: He gave Pelosi a nickname — “Crazy Nancy.” But then he took it back, not wanting it to appear derivative of his moniker for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
He added of Pelosi: “I’ve been watching her a long time. She’s lost it.”
For her part, Pelosi suggested a staff or family “intervention” for Trump for the good of the nation.
Trump concluded with his concise verdict on his own mental state, declaring, “I’m an extremely stable genius.”
The “no-collusion” chorus sang loudly this past week, with President Donald Trump in full-throated roar and even Russian President Vladimir Putin chiming in.
The upshot: substantial misrepresentations of what the special counsel’s Russia investigation actually found.
A review of recent rhetoric from Trump and his associates on Russia and more, with Putin in the mix:
PUTIN on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation: “A mountain gave birth to a mouse.” — remarks Tuesday, echoed in a phone call with Trump on Friday.
THE FACTS: Some might say this is a mouse that roared.
The investigation produced charges against nearly three dozen people, among them senior Trump campaign operatives and 25 Russians, as it shed light on a brazen Russian assault on the American political system.
The investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia and it reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Yet it described his campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt rival Hillary Clinton and it exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.
The Russians caught up in the investigation were charged either with hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.
President Donald Trump says he discussed special counsel Mueller’s report with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Trump says Putin described the investigation as “something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse.” (May 3)
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TRUMP: “The Mueller Report strongly stated that there was No Collusion with Russia (of course) and, in fact, they were rebuffed … at every turn in attempts to gain access.” — tweets Thursday.
ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: “The evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous. … Two years of his administration have been dominated by allegations that have now been proven false.” — Senate hearing Wednesday.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Mr. Mueller and his team concluded there was no collusion.” — Senate hearing.
THE FACTS: This refrain about the Mueller report stating there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is wrong.
Trump’s assertion that his campaign denied all access to Russians is false. The Mueller report and other scrutiny revealed a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Clinton.
On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term.
He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.
Mueller noted some Trump campaign officials had declined to testify under the 5th Amendment or had provided false or incomplete testimony, making it difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel wrote that he “cannot rule out the possibility” that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation’s findings.
BARR, speaking of Trump: “He fully cooperated.” — Senate hearing.
THE FACTS: It’s highly questionable to say Trump was fully cooperative in the Russia investigation.
Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.
In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.
GRAHAM: “As to obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide after two years, and all this time. He said, ‘Mr. Barr, you decide.’ Mr. Barr did.” — Senate hearing.
THE FACTS: Not true. Mueller did not ask Barr to rule on whether Trump’s efforts to undermine the special counsel’s Russia investigation had obstructed justice.
According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted.
As a result, the report factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, specifically leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter or for prosecutors to do so once Trump leaves office.
Barr wrote in a March 24 letter that he ultimately decided, as attorney general, that the evidence developed by Mueller was “not sufficient” to establish, for the purposes of prosecution, that Trump committed obstruction of justice.
Barr subsequently acknowledged that he had not talked directly to Mueller about making that ruling and did not know whether Mueller agreed with him.
TRUMP says Putin “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela.” — remarks to reporters Friday after speaking with Putin on the phone.
THE FACTS: Putin is already deeply involved in Venezuela as U.S.-supported Juan Guaido, opposition leader of the National Assembly, challenges President Nicolas Maduro’s embattled government.
Russia has a political, military and economic alliance with Venezuela over many years and is helping to support Maduro’s hold on power.
The Russians have provided Venezuela with substantial assistance, including an air defense system and help circumventing U.S. sanctions on its oil industry.
“Russia is now so deeply invested in the Maduro regime that the only realistic option is to double down,” said Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
TRUMP: “We’re getting ripped off on military, NATO. I’m all for NATO. But you know, we’re paying for almost 100 percent of defending Europe.” — Wisconsin rally on April 27.
THE FACTS: The U.S. is not paying “almost 100 percent” the cost of defending Europe.
NATO does have a shared budget to which each member makes contributions based on the size of its economy. The United States, with the biggest economy, pays the biggest share, about 22 percent.
Four European members — Germany, France, Britain and Italy — combined pay nearly 44 percent of the total. The money, about $3 billion, runs NATO’s headquarters and covers certain other civilian and military costs.
Defending Europe involves far more than that fund. The primary cost of doing so would come from each member country’s military budget, as the alliance operates under a mutual defense treaty.
The U.S. is the largest military spender but others in the alliance obviously have armed forces, too. The notion that almost all costs would fall to the U.S. is false.
In fact, NATO’s Article 5, calling for allies to act if one is attacked, has only been invoked once, and it was on behalf of the U.S., after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
TRUMP: “We just did 3.2 … 3.2 is a number that they haven’t hit in 14 years.” — interview Wednesday with Fox Business News.
THE FACTS: First-quarter growth of 3.2% in the gross domestic product is nowhere close to the best in 14 years, by any measure. It’s only the best since last year, surpassed in the second and third quarters with rates of 4.2% and 3.4% respectively.
Perhaps he meant to say it was the best first-quarter growth in 14 years. But that’s not right, either. It’s the best in four years.
The economy grew by 3.3% in the first quarter of 2015. So President Barack Obama has a better first-quarter record than Trump to date.
TRUMP: “Wages are rising fastest for the lowest-income Americans.” — Wisconsin rally on April 27.
THE FACTS: This is true, though he’s claiming credit for a trend that predates his presidency.
Some of the gains also reflect higher minimum wages passed at the state and local level; the Trump administration opposes an increase to the federal minimum wage.
With the unemployment rate at 3.6 %, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs. Despite all the talk of robots and automation, thousands of restaurants, warehouses, and retail stores still need workers.
They are offering higher wages and have pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In March, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier, compared with 3% for the richest one quarter.
Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Eric Tucker, Lolita C. Baldor and Lynn Berry contributed to this report.
There was just one problem when President Donald Trump walked down the stairs of Air Force One and unceremoniously declared that the Islamic State had lost the last of its territory in Syria.
He wasn’t supposed to announce it yet.
Instead, the plan was to let U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces proclaim the victory, in recognition of its losses over five years of battle.
But Trump was on the tarmac on a sunny afternoon in South Florida holding a map of Iraq and Syria, which happened to be upside-down. “Here’s ISIS on Election Day,” he said, pointing to a spot showing IS controlled territory in red. “Here’s ISIS right now,” he said, gesturing to another point.
Back in Syria, commanders fumed.
“Of course, the SDF was expecting to announce it to the world, but the White House did it a day earlier,” said an SDF official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
It was one of a series of Trump announcements in a 72-hour span hours last week that upended planning on three of the administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives. Even with a president known for impulsivity, this was unusual, leaving stunned aides scrambling to explain the moves, according to U.S. and foreign officials.
The announcements, which came as the White House awaited the conclusions of the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, started with Trump declaring on Twitter that the U.S. would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, reversing decades of American policy.
Trump made the Golan announcement on March 21 while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jerusalem, planning for a routine day of meetings. It had become anything but routine by dusk.
The announcement was quickly criticized as a violation of international law from friends and foes who view the strategic highlands captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war as occupied territory.
Trump had cast aside plans to announce the step days later during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington. He also rejected advice from advisers who suggested he wait, at least until Pompeo left his last Mideast stop in Lebanon, where Syria’s influence is strong.
The abrupt announcement caught Americans and Israelis off guard, delaying Pompeo and Netanyahu’s dinner as they made a hastily arranged call to Trump, during which the prime minister in the midst of a heated election campaign effusively praised the president.
Back in Washington, Trump’s tweet set off alarm at the State Department and National Security Council, not least among lawyers who would have to find a justification for the recognition that flew in the face of U.N. Security Council resolutions previous administrations had supported, according to officials.
When Trump formally signed off on the recognition, with Netanyahu at his side at the White House on Monday, he did through a presidential proclamation rather than by an executive order, which carries more weight.
The next day, as the president flew to his Mar-a-Lago resort, he got word on the plane from acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that the battle to clear the last remaining ISIS fighters from Syrian territory had been won.
The final liberation had been expected for months and the Pentagon and State Department had worked with the White House to carefully craft a plan for the announcement.
Casting aside a plan to let the SDF announce the victory to the world, press secretary Sarah Sanders walked back to the press quarters aboard Air Force One just as it was landing to deliver the news.
SDF commanders were caught unaware and expressed anger and disappointment, though they said nothing in public, according to the officials.
Americans involved in the campaign searched for a way to make amends, ultimately opting not to release a formal written statement from Trump welcoming the victory until almost 2 p.m. on Saturday, following the SDF announcement on the ground in Syria.
Later on Friday, Trump unleashed a tweet from his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, saying he was reversing his administration’s decision to slap sanctions on North Korea.
“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” he tweeted. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”
What sanctions was Trump talking about? None had been announced on Friday. Was he referring to Treasury’s announcement the day before that targeted two Chinese shipping companies suspected of helping North Korea evade sanctions? Was he talking about pausing enforcement of existing sanctions, or saying he didn’t want to see any new ones put on Pyongyang right now?
A person familiar with the action later told The Associated Press that Trump’s tweet was not about the Chinese shipping sanctions at all. Instead, the person said, the president was saying he was opposed additional large-scale sanctions on North Korea at this time. The person was not authorized to discuss the president’s comments and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sanders would say only that Trump “likes” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and “doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., the ranking member of the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump’s tweet confused the world and his own administration. “This episode continues to make painfully clear that the Trump administration lacks a coherent, coordinated strategy for denuclearizing North Korea, addressing its other, troubling behaviors, and creating the lasting peace we all seek,” Markey told the AP.
Either way, Trump’s tweet left the impression that he’s unwilling to increase pressure on North Korea, and weakens the effort to get the country to give up his nuclear weapons, said David Maxwell of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “I can’t believe that this is the way we are executing strategy on a country like North Korea,” Maxwell said. “This will probably be studied in international relations circles in the future.”
President Donald Trump intends to spend at least $430,000 of his own money to help pay the legal bills of White House staff and campaign aides related to the investigations into Russian election meddling in the 2016 election, a White House official said Saturday.
It’s the first such commitment by Trump, who has dismissed the ongoing investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia as a “witch hunt” invented by Democrats to explain Hillary Clinton’s loss.
It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how the payouts would be structured or which aides would be receiving them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the president’s plans, which were first reported by the website Axios.
Trump and his aides have been racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and House and Senate committees dig deeper into Russia’s role in the campaign. Mueller’s team of investigators has been interviewing current and former White House officials in their probe, and Trump campaign officials and others have been turning over tens of thousands of emails and documents to federal and congressional investigators.
One former campaign aide, Michael Caputo, has spoken publicly about the financial toll the legal bills have taken on his family, including having to empty out his children’s college savings accounts.
The Republican National Committee and the president’s re-election campaign have been covering some of the costs, including payments to the law firm representing Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who in June 2016 met with a Russian lawyer and others who had promised to deliver dirt on Clinton.
Trump has repeatedly denied that he colluded with Russia to win the election and has voiced skepticism about the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had a clear preference for Trump in the 2016 campaign.
The continuing investigations and attention to the issue have infuriated the president, who sees the efforts as an attempt to delegitimize his presidency.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton spent hundreds of millions of dollars more on Presidential Election than I did,” he tweeted Saturday. “Facebook was on her side, not mine!”
Facebook has said ads that ran on the company’s social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 election.
Norman Eisen, an ethics lawyer in the Obama administration, said the offer “raises substantial questions under federal criminal law and federal ethics law,” including whether it might be construed as part of an effort to glean more favorable testimony and whether current federal employees are even allowed to accept such gifts.
“Whenever an individual who is the focus of an investigation, as President Trump is the focus of this investigation, offers anything of value to witnesses who may be able to affect the course of the investigation, that raises very serious questions on a variety of legal authorities,” he said.
He said he would have hesitated to recommend such an offer and warned it would likely draw prosecutorial scrutiny.
A top communications aide to President Donald Trump has resigned, in what many inside and outside the White House see as the first shoe to drop before a wider overhaul.
Fresh off Trump’s first official trip abroad, his administration is looking for ways to respond more aggressively to allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and revelations of possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
White House communications director Michael Dubke announced his resignation Tuesday.
Dubke said in a statement it had been an honor to serve Trump and “my distinct pleasure to work side by side, day by day with the staff of the communications and press departments.”
However, Trump has privately and publicly pinned much of the blame for his administration’s woes on the communications effort.
“In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News Channel early in his term. “In terms of achievement, I think I’d give myself an A. Because I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have — I and my people, I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public.”
Trump has long believed that he is his most effective spokesperson and has groused about supporters and aides not defending him vigorously enough. At the same time, he often undermines his staffers, contradicting their public statements and sending inflammatory tweets that derail their efforts to stay on topic.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer pushed back Tuesday on the idea that a broader reorganization was imminent, but he acknowledged the president is frustrated with news stories “that are absolutely false, that are not based in fact. That is troubling.”
Spicer said he thinks the president “is very pleased with his team,” but he added, “Ultimately the best messenger is the president himself. He’s always proven that.”
Rumors of impending shake-ups have come and gone in the Trump White House before. But numerous people close to the president and his team are expecting further changes this time.
For example, Trump has entertained bringing his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, more formally back into the fold. Both Lewandowski and Bossie visited the White House Monday night, according to two people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private get-together.
But it remains unclear whether the president might envision them working inside the White House or in outside roles.
Bossie told “Fox & Friends” that the administration has reached out to him but hasn’t offered him a job.
“They have talked to many people, including me,” Bossie said. He later added: “It’s an ongoing conversation, and that’s a fair way to put it.”
Another person whose name has been raised as a possible addition to the president’s team is David Urban, a prominent Republican lobbyist, who also spent time advising Trump’s campaign and has remained a trusted adviser.
While overseas, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the election and Trump associates’ potential involvement. More attorneys with deep experience in Washington investigations are expected to be added in the weeks ahead.
The latest revelations to emerge last week involved Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner. Shortly after the election, Kushner is reported to have discussed setting up a secret communications channel with the Russian government to facilitate sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria.
The intent was to connect Trump’s chief national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Russian military leaders, a person familiar with the discussions told the AP. The person wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity.
Flynn handed in his resignation in February, ousted on grounds that he had misled top White House officials about his contacts with Russian officials.
A senior administration official said Kushner was keeping his head down and focusing on work after the foreign trip. The official said Kushner was eager to share what he knows with Congress and other investigators. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss private thinking and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Trump aides had been hoping to get through the trip before making staffing decisions.
Indeed, Dubke offered his resignation before the president’s departure, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told The Associated Press, but offered to stay on during the trip. His last day has not yet been determined.
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus thanked Dubke in a statement and said he had “offered to remain onboard until a transition is concluded.”
“Mike will assist with the transition and be a strong advocate for the president and the president’s policies moving forward,” Priebus said.
Associated Press writers Vivian Salama, Ken Thomas and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report.
Some of Donald Trump’s boasts from the first weeks of his presidency were dashed by developments in recent days. For example, builders of the Keystone XL pipeline were let off the hook from a buy-American requirement that Trump had promised.
On another front, though, there’s now some substance behind his cherry-picking claims that jobs are growing under his watch. A robust jobs report gave him a fresh load of cherries.
Over the past week, Trump took credit when it was not always due and assigned blame that was misplaced. Two of his Cabinet members went rogue on science and history: One dismissed the consensus on the leading cause of global warming, and the other lumped slaves together with immigrants.
A look at some of those recent claims by Trump and his team:
TRUMP, in a tweet Tuesday: “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!”
THE FACTS: Wrong administration, for the most part.
A national intelligence report says 122 men who were held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base in Cuba, were confirmed to have re-engaged in hostilities after their release. But 113 of them were freed during George W. Bush’s presidency and only nine during Obama’s. The report said an additional 86 released prisoners were suspected of returning to militant activities; nearly all of those prisoners were let go under Bush.
SEAN SPICER: Trump press secretary, in a tweet Friday: “Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for @POTUS Trump.”
THE FACTS: Spicer accurately cited the official unemployment rate, a statistic his boss repeatedly denounced as bogus when it reflected favorably on Obama.
During the campaign and again after his election, as Obama-era unemployment dropped to and hovered at healthier levels, Trump claimed the real jobless rate was on the order of 40 percent or more. He got that number by counting people who could conceivably work, including millions who don’t want to because they are retirees, students or otherwise out of the workforce by choice. “The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction,” Trump said in December after his victory.
Now, the 4.7 unemployment rate for February — down from 4.8 percent — is being hailed as evidence of Trump’s employment revival. Challenged about the inconsistency, Spicer cracked that Trump had specifically told him in reference to the unemployment reports: “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”
There was more good news for Trump’s first full month in office: gains in pay as well as the addition of 235,000 jobs.
TRUMP, in a video Monday about Exxon Mobil investments in the Gulf region: “This is something that was done to a large extent because of our policies and the policies of this new administration. I said we’re bringing back jobs. This is one big example of it.”
THE FACTS: That’s a big stretch because the company’s “Growing the Gulf” program involves investments that started in 2013 and are continuing until 2022 at least. The company’s announcement added details to its plan to spend $20 billion over 10 years on refineries, chemical and liquefied natural gas plants along the Gulf Coast. It was latest in a string of corporate announcements about jobs and spending that date back to plans made when Obama was president.
SPICER, at a briefing Wednesday: “If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place.” He added: “I mean they were way, way off the last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare.”
THE FACTS: Though no projection can be flawless, the Congressional Budget Office is the best place to look for accurate, nonpartisan forecasts of the impact of legislation, according to many Republicans, Democrats and independent analysts whose high esteem for the office is a rare point of consensus in politically charged Washington.
The congressional scorekeepers were largely right on most broad points about Obama’s health care law, not way off on “every aspect.” They correctly predicted that insurance coverage would expand substantially and that employer-sponsored coverage would not plunge.
Spicer accurately called them out on one front: CBO forecasters thought 23 million people would be enrolled in the law’s exchanges last year, and the number proved to be about 12 million. Experts said CBO was off on that estimate in part because it overestimated the extent to which the individual mandate, which penalizes uninsured people, would prompt them to buy coverage.
The office will be scoring the expected impact of a Trump-backed plan to “repeal and replace” Obama’s law. Spicer’s criticism appeared designed to soften the ground if the CBO predicts the new plan would result in widespread loss of health coverage.
BEN CARSON, housing and urban affairs secretary, in a speech Monday to his staff: “There were other immigrants who came here on the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”
THE FACTS: In history’s eyes, that statement was at least a faux pas, because slaves are not considered immigrants.
Carson, the only black Cabinet member, later amended his comment, calling slaves “involuntary immigrants.”
Rana Hogarth, a history professor and expert on American slavery at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said comparing slaves to immigrants was “inappropriate and wildly inaccurate.” She said immigration “suggests a desire of a person to make the journey.”
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House spokeswoman, on why Trump’s directive on the use of U.S. steel and pipe does not apply to the Keystone XL project, March 3: “It’s specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired” and since “the steel is already literally sitting there, it would be hard to go back.”
THE FACTS: With that explanation, Trump’s story about demanding U.S. content in two pipeline projects vaporized. Keystone XL would not be subjected to the requirement. Nor would the Dakota Access pipeline, because it’s all but complete.
Trump had earlier described “getting ready to sign Keystone and Dakota” directives reviving both projects and coming up with the idea of inserting a clause ensuring “we’re gonna make that pipe right here in America.” The material “comes from the United States or we’re not building it.”
No such clause was inserted. Instead, he signed an executive action calling for pipelines to be made from U.S. materials “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law.” That’s short of a mandate and, in any event, excludes the two pipelines.
TRUMP, in one of a series of tweets March 4: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
THE FACTS: Trump’s startling accusation that Obama tapped his phones during the campaign was presented without evidence when he made it and nothing has emerged in the week since to support it.
FBI Director James Comey privately asked the Justice Department to dispute the claim because he believed it to be untrue, lawmakers from both parties were baffled by it and Trump’s aides could not explain the basis of it.
As if to explain the Obama administration’s taste for snooping generally, Spicer asserted that Fox News Channel reporter James Rosen “had his phones, multiple phones, tapped,” by the Obama administration. That’s not what happened, as far as is known. Eric Holder, then the attorney general, got a judge’s permission to look through records of Rosen’s phone calls and emails from 2009 as the government sought to identify the leaker for a Rosen story about North Korea. That tells who was on a call and when, but not what was discussed.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA administrator, in a CNBC interview Thursday, on the impact of carbon dioxide, or human activity, on global warming: “No, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
THE FACTS: That’s contrary to a scientific consensus and the conclusions of a variety of U.S. government agencies, including his own.
Pruitt was asked specifically about carbon dioxide as a cause for global warming. He answered more generally, saying there is “tremendous uncertainty” about the impact of human-generated heat-trapping gases.
In either case, he’s swimming against a tide of research.
All man-made greenhouse gases— carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide — are responsible for about 60 times more added warming than natural causes, according to calculations from the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change organized by the United Nations. Just carbon dioxide alone contributes 33 times more added warming than natural causes.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein, Matthew Daly, Christopher S. Rugaber, Jesse J. Holland and Andrew Taylor in Washington, Ben Fox in Miami and David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.
Find all AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd
With Hillary Rodham Clinton more or less the only game in town for Democratic talent seeking a piece of the 2016 presidential race, the independent, campaign-like apparatus that has sprung up around her has become an uneasy grouping of longtime loyalists and former rivals. All are looking for a share of the money and prestige that comes as part of working on a presidential election.
That jockeying for position burst into public view this week when David Brock, a Clinton critic-turned-defender, dramatically resigned from the board of a Democratic super PAC following a newspaper report that he said rivals helped engineer to make him look like an inefficient manager of donors’ dollars. Just a few hours later, and after the intervention of two longtime Clinton allies, Brock issued a statement saying he’d consider coming back.
The spectacle was the sort of politics-as-blood-sport relished by some in Washington, but one with the potential for real consequences for the former secretary of state. If she becomes the Democratic nominee, Clinton will need a unified network of such outside groups that can help her official campaign compete with the collection of Republican-aligned outfits poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep her out of the White House.
Who runs them, and who personally profits from doing so, needs to come second, said John Morgan, a Florida attorney and a top campaign donor for former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“This can’t be about the consultants making money,” he said. “This has to be about Hillary Clinton being president.”
Clinton, who has kept a low profile in recent weeks, is being advised by several longtime aides and veterans of Obama’s two winning campaigns. Without much apparent competition for the party’s nomination, the former first lady and New York senator has signaled that she may wait until the summer to fully launch her bid.
In that vacuum, Democrats involved with super PACs and other such outside groups are taking on a larger role, already helping defend Clinton against Republicans and actively preparing for the campaign.
While outside groups, a catch-all term for any political organization that isn’t Clinton’s yet-to-launch official campaign, cannot coordinate activities with that eventual campaign, they will be crucial to providing technical know-how and deep pockets, while also conducting research, running TV ads and cultivating rank-and-file activists on Clinton’s behalf.
Jockeying for position inside the unofficial apparatus is underway, and with it comes tensions.
The latest rift emerged after The New York Times reported that two firms led by Brock, a powerful Democratic operative, had paid a fundraiser a 12.5 percent commission on large donations to his groups. The commissions led to more than $6 million in fees for the fundraiser and her staff during the past several years, the newspaper reported. While not illegal, that high commission was cash that went to a fundraising consultant — not to the groups’ stated mission — and it ran counter to the typical practice of paying a monthly retainer.
Calling the newspaper report a “political hit job” orchestrated by his rivals, Brock angrily resigned from the board of Priorities USA, a super PAC that expects to be a major outside advertising partner for Clinton in 2016. The group had expected Brock’s organizations to partner with Priorities, and Brock’s flare-up threatened to upend the longstanding plans to leave research and fact checking to his orbit.
Leaders of the group intervened, spoke with Brock and said they would take his concerns seriously. Brock said later that day he would consider rejoining the board, thus ending a standoff that played out publicly and invoked memories of the infighting that plagued Clinton’s campaign in 2008.
Priorities essentially sat out the 2014 elections to avoid competing for donations with Democrats running in the midterm elections. The group, which spent more than $70 million on the 2012 election, ended last year with nearly $500,000 in the bank and isn’t yet raising money.
“We have said from the very beginning that we wouldn’t start fundraising without a candidate, and that is still the case,” Jonathan Mantz, Priorities’ senior adviser for finance, said in a statement. “Make no mistake, we will have the resources we need to be effective and to work with our allies to help elect Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
Those resources will need to be deep, as Democrats expect to face a tsunami of Republican money. Groups backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch alone want to raise and spend almost $1 billion on elections in 2016, hoping to recapture the White House for the GOP.
Since Clinton may not launch her presidential bid until the summer, there could be months of sluggish or stalled fundraising, increasing the competition among the outside groups.
Morgan, for example, said former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, now the co-chair of Priorities, emailed him recently asking him to donate $25,000 to support Ready for Hillary, a separate super PAC promoting a future Clinton campaign. Morgan said he declined because he wanted to devote all of his fundraising energies to an official Clinton campaign, once she announces.
“I said to (former President Clinton), ‘If she runs and you want me to do a fundraiser … I’m all-in, just tell me when,'” Morgan said, describing a recent phone call with the former president.
By then, some Democrats say, the squabbling will have subsided.
“At the end of the day, when we have a candidate that we nominate, Democrats will be together,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and a Priorities board member, adding that Brock had done “terrific work” and said the kerfuffle would soon pass.
Elliott reported from Washington.
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