Trump’s promised ‘unity’ didn’t last long

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, Wis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

It didn’t last.

With the country on edge over a widening pipe-bomb scare, talk of national unity quickly gave way to finger-pointing. President Donald Trump cast blame on the media for fomenting anger in society, while candidates across the country traded partisan broadsides.

Less than two weeks before midterm elections, the discovery of pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats — an episode that might have prompted national reflection in another era — hardly made a ripple on the campaign trail. Attack ads remained on the air. Attack lines stayed in stump speeches. The president did not deliver a speech from the Oval Office or reach out to his predecessor, one of the targets of the threat. He did return to his favorite punching bag.

“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

Trump continued the rhetoric overnight, tweeting just after 3 a.m. Friday that CNN and others were blaming him, saying they were “ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’”

CNN was among the targets of the mail bomb plot. While stopping short of blaming Trump’s rhetoric for inspiring the attacks, Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, contended there was a “total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media.”

Trump’s reaction was more evidence of the politics of the moment, in which unity is overrated, a news cycle moves on fast and there seems to be little incentive for either major political party to seize the high road. Instead, what might have been a moment for a deeply divided country to come together becomes the latest fodder for Democrats and Republicans to blame each other for America’s shortcomings.

Aides at the national Democratic and Republican Senate campaign arms said they were seeing nothing to suggest candidates were adjusting their messages or schedules because of the explosives scare. But many candidates were beginning to move into their closing election messages, which are typically more positive.

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun was airing a new ad equating Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly to one of the inflatable dancing devices used to attract attention at car dealerships, describing him as a “say-anything, do-nothing senator.”

Other candidates, such as Wisconsin’s Republican Senate candidate Leah Vukmir and the Democratic senator she’s trying to unseat, Tammy Baldwin, were plowing ahead as well. Vukmir linked Baldwin to Hillary Clinton on Wednesday amid chants of “Lock her up!” at an evening rally with Trump. Baldwin was planning to go ahead with an event Friday with former President Barack Obama in Milwaukee.

Some Trump critics have blamed him for setting a harsh tone and not taking responsibility for contributing to the poisonous political atmosphere.

“Nobody else is being as divisive and inciteful as Donald Trump and so to suggest otherwise is completely wrong,” said former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who is considering a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. “We wouldn’t even be having this conversation with any other president, Republican or Democrat, because they would be big enough to avoid this kind of hateful and inciteful rhetoric.”

Trump on Thursday had yet to call Obama or Clinton about the packages sent their way, but he had spoken to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, the state where many of the packages were delivered.

Trump has insisted that those on the right have been victims of harassment as well, pointing to high-profile incidents in which conservatives have been accosted in restaurants and public spaces by political critics. A number of his allies, including his eldest son, Donald Jr., and conservative commentator Lou Dobbs, have used social media to promote the idea that the bombs may be a Democrat-run hoax.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted in Trump’s defense: “I didn’t blame Bernie Sanders when a Bernie supporter shot Congressman Steve Scalise. And I’m not going to blame President @realDonaldTrump for this nut job.”

That was a reference to the 2017 shooting that badly injured Scalise and others. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, had posted social media messages suggesting he targeted Republicans.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it “disgraceful” to suggest the president bears any responsibility for the packages sent to his opponents. She told reporters Thursday that there’s a big difference between “comments made and actions taken.” She, too, cited the Scalise shooting.

Asked whether the president intended to tone down his rhetoric and personal attacks, she said the president would “continue to lay out the case in the differences between Democrats and Republicans” ahead of the midterm elections next month.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Juana Summers in Washington, Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Thomas at http://twitter.com/@KThomasDC

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Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump’s diatribes may tarnish Sessions’ legacy

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vigorously pushed President Donald Trump’s agenda at the Justice Department, and before that, spent 20 years championing conservative causes in the Senate.

Yet as Sessions enters what may be the final stretch of his tenure, those efforts are at risk of being eclipsed by his boss’ relentless verbal jabs that have made the attorney general seem like a perpetual presidential punching bag. It’s a role Sessions never sought but perhaps could have anticipated.

The steady diatribes , most recently a tweet excoriating Sessions for the federal indictments of two Republican congressmen, reflect Trump’s single-minded outrage over the special counsel’s Russia investigation and are all the more striking because Sessions is the cabinet member most clearly aligned with Trump’s values.

The treatment has largely overshadowed the attorney general’s work on violent crime, illegal immigration and opioid addiction, clouding a legacy that in other times would be more broadly cheered in conservative circles.

“There are folks that ask me constantly, ‘What’s wrong with Sessions?’” said former Cincinnati mayor Ken Blackwell, a longtime friend who says the criticism is “eroding what otherwise would be a very respectable portfolio.”

“The punches that he throws in Sessions’ direction are landing and they’re distorting the track record,” Blackwell added, “and they’re having people start to question not just his loyalty to the president but his competency — when his record is a very successful record and could be compared to any other Cabinet secretary.”

Sessions has mostly absorbed the blows quietly while marching through a tough-on-crime agenda, bringing to the job the same hard-line principles that once placed him far to the right of many other Republican senators.

He has encouraged more aggressive marijuana enforcement, directed prosecutors to bring the most serious charges they can prove, announced a zero-tolerance policy for immigrants crossing the border illegally and targeted the MS-13 gang. He also has alarmed his critics, who fear he has degraded civil rights protections by not defending affirmative action, police reform or transgender legal rights.

But neither Sessions’ work nor his loyalty seems to resonate with Trump. The president has belittled his attorney general since Sessions stepped aside from an investigation into ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Trump interpreted the move, which legal experts said was inevitable given Sessions’ campaign support, as an act of disloyalty that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.

Trump has said if he had known Sessions would take that step, he would not have picked the Alabama Republican to be attorney general. The president now asserts that Sessions never has had control of the department, and accuses Sessions of failing to aggressively pursue Trump’s political rivals and to investigate potential bias in the Russia investigation.

Trump told Bloomberg News last week that Sessions’ job was safe through the November election. The president gave no reassurances about after that. Meanwhile, the solid Republican support in the Senate that has buffered Sessions is showing signs of cracking.

The most recent broadside Monday, about the charges against the two GOP lawmakers, was stunning for its norm-shattering obliteration of the bright line between the White House and Justice Department. Trump said the indictments, coming before an election when control of Congress is at stake, had left “two easy wins now in doubt.” He ended the tweet with a sarcastic “Good job Jeff.”

“You’re harassing the attorney general for not dealing with political bias at the DOJ and then conversely accusing him of not engaging in political bias at the DOJ,” said Cameron Smith, a former Sessions counsel in the Senate. “Those cannot both be simultaneously consistent positions.”

Sessions didn’t respond to that criticism, though in the past he’s issued statements saying the department won’t bend to political considerations and promising to serve with integrity and honor. His only mentions of Trump are laudatory, and in public appearances, Sessions is far more likely to focus on the work that has impassioned him for decades than on the controversies around him.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

The criticism has created an unusual dynamic where Trump-aligned Republicans who ordinarily would praise Sessions are joining in the condemnation, while progressives opposed to his agenda fear that his firing for political reasons could destabilize democracy.

Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department civil rights chief in the Obama administration, said she believed Sessions was terrible for civil rights but she did not want him dismissed as a means of crippling Mueller’s investigation.

“It isn’t about protecting Jeff Sessions,” Gupta said. “It’s about protecting the notion that nobody is above the law in this country and that the Constitution applies to everybody.”

It wasn’t always this way for Sessions, a federal prosecutor during the 1980s-era “war on drugs.”

His conservative Senate positions, including opposing bipartisan legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally, made him a natural fit for Trump. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump, joining the candidate for campaigning and foreign policy meetings. The loyalty paid off with the attorney general post, but it also wound up entangling him in the Russia investigation.

Even as Sessions has pushed the Trump agenda, he’s confronted headlines about his campaign interactions with the Russian ambassador and about his attendance at a campaign meeting where the prospect of a Trump-Vladimir Putin meeting was broached.

“It’s not as if Trump’s background didn’t have a lot of red flags in it and Sessions decided, ‘Hey, I want to get on board with this person’ and it frankly turned out poorly for him as a person,” said Smith, the former Sessions aide. “I do think that’s a lesson in discretion.”

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Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington and Jay Reeves in Alabaster, Alabama, contributed to this report.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/etuckerAP

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Monster Trump goes off deep end by attacking allies

How much destruction does wannabe president/king Donald Trump have to inflict upon America before his pandering Congressional leadership and morally deficient supporters accept what he is:  A dangerous criminal guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice and treason.

Like the coward he is, Trump waited until he was safely on Air Force One before ordering his representatives to pull out of the G-7 signatory agreement after agreeing to it while in Canada.

Trump claimed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “insulted” America in his comments at the end of the meeting. He called Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak” and accused him of “false statements.”

Then he dispatched two aides to up the insult ante on Sunday morning talks shows.

“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” said Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And that’s what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”

“POTUS is not gonna let a Canadian prime minister push him around,” Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Robert D. Hormats, advisor uo Republican and Democratic presidents at a dozen Group of 7 summit meetings, starting at the first in Rambouillet, France, in 1975, when it was still the Group of 6, told The New York Times.

“The irony is this institution that was designed largely by the United States was really designed to shore up alliances and political relationships and resolve economic issues. This just served to do the opposite of that.”

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, meeting with reporters after Trump’s abrupt about-face, says that if anyone should be insulted, it was Canada,. Trump, she said, cited a national security justification for his tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“The national security pretext is absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians, the closest and strongest ally the United States has had,” she said. “That is where the insult lies.”

Adds Roland Paris, a former foreign affairs advisor to Tredaux:

“Big tough guy once he’s back on his airplane,” Paris said on Twitter. “Can’t do it in person, and knows it, which makes him feel week. So he projects these feelings onto Trudeau and then lashes out at him. You don’t need to be Freud. He’s a pathetic little man-child.”

Consider what America has become:  A vapid nation with a morally challenged former TV reality host president who lies constantly and is under multiple investigations for conflict of interest, obstruction of justice, fraud and other acts typical of a con artist.

Congress is run by a corrupt congregation of yes men and yes women who let the president run wild with no concern or control.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post notes that Trump enablers like Kudlow or Chief of Staff John Kelly used to argue:

We are a moderating influence. It would be worse without us. He isn’t that bad. But they do not moderate Trump, and he is that bad — irrational, cruel, impulsive, anti-democratic and stubbornly ignorant. Trump attacks the things they ostensibly believe in (e.g. democratic alliances, defense of democratic values, the international free-trade system, the rule of law). Nevertheless, they stay on.

They sit back while Trump loots the U.S. Treasury, rolls back protections for consumers, disregards increasing threats to the environment and shows more concern for saving jobs in China than in the country he promised to “make great again.”

His real goal is to make “American disintegrate and end” and he’s doing all that he can to achieve that goal as his cult-like following cheer him on.

Trump’s rape of America has only just begun.

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