Prominent conservative attorney George Conway turned the tables on his favorite target this week, giving America’s brain-damaged, name-calling president a dose of his own medicine.
Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, gave Donald Trump a name that went viral on Twitter when he tweeted:
Deranged Donald is at back at it again. Deranged Donald can do things like this and it’s not even the top of the news, because it gets lost beneath all of the other deranged things Deranged Donald does. #DerangedDonald
Trump often applies names like “Crooked” (as in “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, “Lyin” (as in “Lying Ted” Cruz or “Little” (as in “Little Marco” Rubio).
The #DerangedDonald hashtag took off on a Twitter tsunami, hitting No. 2 worldwide in a matter of hours.
“#DerangedDonald is still tending. Looks like Conway created a keeper,” said Amy Siskind in a tweet with more than 7,600 loves.
Conway added more:
Deranged Donald is at back at it again. Deranged Donald can do things like this and it’s not even the top of the news, because it gets lost beneath all of the other deranged things Deranged Donald does. #DerangedDonald
Deranged Donald has this neat job where he’s supposed to receive and read books with more accurate, highly valuable, top secret information, but he doesn’t like those books unless they have lots of pictures and tell him how great he is. #DerangedDonald
Plus Deranged Donald doesn’t really need all those books because Fox News. #DerangedDonald
Some 5,168 Twitter users retweeted his comments and brought more than 26,448 “likes.”
Trump, who normally fires back at Conway, remains strangely quiet,
Perhaps, in his own twisted way, Trump likes his new hashtag.
Donald Trump showed up for church in Washington, DC, Sunday — something he rarely does. For America’s current president, Sundays usually are for golf, not God.
Trump and First Lady Melania attended the Lenten service at St. John’s Episcopal Church but did not talk to reporters. Instead they returned to the White House where he continued a series of Twitter tweets filled with false information and outright lies.
Before and after the church service, Trump attacked late Senator John McCain, the “Steele dossier” that links him to Russians interests, Saturday Night Live and even Fox News Channel for displeasing him.
His tirade over Fox focused in the network’s decision to denounce host Jeanine Pirro’s attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Pirro claimed Omar, a Muslim, did not support the Constitution and questioned her wearing of a hijab.
Trump blasted Fox for “working soooo hard on being politically correct, and will only bring you down. Be strong and prosper. Be weak and die! ” Fox bumped Pirro’s show off the air Saturday night.
He went after General Motors with anther tweet:
Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce. G.M. let our Country down, but other much better car companies are coming into the U.S. in droves. I want action on Lordstown fast. Stop complaining and get the job done! 3.8% Unemployment!
In normal fashion, Trump laced his tweets with inaccuracies and lies. He claimed McCain graduated last in his class from the U.S. Navy Academy in Annapolis. While McCain was in the lower half of graduates, he was not “last in his class.”
“He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual),” Trump said of McCain. “Even the Fake News refused this garbage!”
Trump’s attacks on McCain, a Naval aviator shot down in North Vietnam and imprisoned by his captors, brought a strong response from Meghan McCain, the late senator’s daughter:
“No one will ever love you the way they loved my father,” she tweeted. “I wish I had been given more Saturday’s with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?”
Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, after reading Trump’s latest rants, notes “Trump inspires right-wing nationalists, convinces our allies that he’s mentally unstable and trashes democratic norms.”
Trump cult’s defense, nor call into question its moral calculus in accepting monstrous behavior and words (no matter how racist, unhinged and dangerous) in exchange for its own financial gain, some “law and order judges” (judges must defend law and order, but not the president, I suppose) and delight in seeing other Americans mortified, frightened or endangered by Trump’s stirring of racial, ethnic and religious animosity.
Trump’s series of Twitter rants brought a response from George T. Conway, critic of the president, as well as husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. The response summed up Trump very well:
“His condition is getting worse,” Conway wrote.
Sadly, it will continue to get worse…and worse…and worse.
President Donald Trump today acknowledged an earlier lie about a meeting about a secret meeting his son, son-in-law and former campaign manage held with Russians in the Trump Tower in an hope to gather dirt on opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election.
In an angry tweet from his New Jersey golf club, where Trump is having an extended vacation he is calling a “working session,” Trump fired off missives about the meeting, the news media and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
After news of the meeting broke, Trump — on Air Force One — dictated a response to the media, claiming the meeting was about to discuss immigration issues, not opposition research on Clinton.
“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago,” the statement read.
The story about the meeting changed several more times, eventually forced by the discovery of emails between the president’s eldest son and an intermediary from the Russian government offering damaging information about Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Betraying no surprise or misgivings about the offer from a hostile foreign power, Trump Jr. replied: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Sunday’s tweet was Trump’s clearest statement yet on the purpose of the meeting, which has become a focal point of Mueller’s investigation even as the president and his lawyers try to downplay its significance and pummel the Mueller probe with attacks. On Sunday, Trump again suggested without evidence that Mueller was biased against him, declaring, “This is the most one sided Witch Hunt in the history of our country.”
As Trump and his allies have tried to discredit the probe, a new talking point has emerged: that even if that meeting was held to collect damaging information, none was provided and “collusion” — Trump’s go-to description of what Mueller is investigating — never occurred.
“The question is what law, statute or rule or regulation has been violated, and nobody has pointed to one,” said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys, on ABC’s “This Week.”
Legal experts point out several possible criminal charges, including conspiracy against the United States and aiding and abetting a conspiracy. Despite Trump’s public Twitter denial, the president has expressed worry that his son may face legal exposure even as he believes he did nothing wrong, according to three people close to the White House familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Sekulow acknowledged that the public explanation for the meeting has changed but insisted that the White House has been very clear with the special counsel’s office. He said he was not aware of Trump Jr. facing any legal exposure.
“I don’t represent Don Jr.,” Sekulow said, “but I will tell you I have no knowledge at all of Don Jr. being told that he’s a target of any investigation, and I have no knowledge of him being interviewed by the special counsel.”
Trump’s growing private anger spilled out into public with the Twitter outburst Sunday, which comes at yet perilous time for his embattled presidency.
Still pending is a decision about whether he sits for an interview with Mueller and it may occur in the coming weeks, according to Rudy Giuliani, his attorney and his primary spokesman now on the Mueller probe. Trump ‘s anger increasing over what he feels are trumped-up charges against his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose trial began last week and provided a visible reminder of Mueller’s work.
He rages against what he claims are the media’s obsession with his links to Russia and the status of Cohen, his former fixer. Cohen is telling prosecutors what he knows about Trump really knew about the Trump Tower meeting ahead of time.
Despite a show of force from his national security team this week as a warning against future Russian election meddling, Trump called the matter a “hoax” again this week. At a trio of rallies, he raised the volume of his already vitriolic rhetoric toward the media, savaging the press for unflattering coverage and, he claims, bias.
Another of his tweets Sunday:
The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!
The fusillade of tweets came from Bedminster, Trump’s golf course, where he is ensconced in a property that bears his name at every turn and is less checked in by staffers. It was at the New Jersey golf club where a brooding Trump has unleashed other inflammatory attacks and where, in spring 2017, he made the final decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, the move that triggered the Russia probe.
Trump was joined for his Saturday rally in Ohio by former White House communications director Hope Hicks, who departed the administration earlier this year. Her unannounced presence raised some eyebrows as Hicks has been interviewed by Mueller and was part of the team of staffers that helped draft the original statement on the Trump Tower meeting.
Multiple White House officials have been interviewed while still working at the White House and have remained in contact with the president.
President Donald Trump took more swipes at Canada and its prime minister over trade issues as he settled in for a summit with North Korea in Singapore, contending that “Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal.”
Trump roiled the weekend Group of Seven meeting of industrialized nations in Canada by agreeing to a group statement on trade only to withdraw from it while flying to Asia. He complained that he had been blindsided by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s criticism of his tariff threats at a summit-ending news conference. In tweets, Trump insulted Trudeau as “dishonest” and “weak.”
The attack on a longtime ally and its leader drew sharp criticism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also attended the summit, told German public television that she found Trump’s tweet disavowing the G-7 statement “sobering” and “a little depressing.” She also said the European Union would “act” against the U.S. trade measures.
Unbowed, Trump tweeted anew Monday morning from Singapore, repeating his criticism of U.S. trade policies with Canada — he also took aim at Germany — in a multitweet rant that went beyond 200 words all told. At one point he wrote, “Justin acts hurt when called out!”
“Why should I, as President of the United States, allow countries to continue to make Massive Trade Surpluses, as they have for decades, while our Farmers, Workers & Taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay?” he tweeted.
Yet his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, downplayed the severity of the rift. Addressing reporters in Singapore ahead of Trump’s summit Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pompeo said he was “unconcerned” that Trump’s treatment of Canada — a close ally — boded poorly for his ability to forge peace with a longtime U.S. adversary.
“There are always irritants in relationships,” Pompeo said, adding that without partners like Canada, “we wouldn’t be in this place, we wouldn’t have this diplomatic opportunity” with the North.
Still, other Trump advisers had taken up the attack in appearances on Sunday’s news shows, leveling more withering and unprecedented criticism against Trudeau, branding him a back-stabber unworthy of Trump’s time.
“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,” Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Navarro said Trump “did the courtesy to Justin Trudeau to travel up to Quebec for that summit. He had other things, bigger things, on his plate in Singapore. … He did him a favor, and he was even willing to sign that socialist communique. And what did Trudeau do as soon as the plane took off from Canadian airspace? Trudeau stuck our president in the back. That will not stand.”
Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, suggested Trump saw Trudeau as trying to weaken his hand before the summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, saying the president won’t “let a Canadian prime minister push him around. … Kim must not see American weakness.” Trudeau pulled a “sophomoric political stunt for domestic consumption” that amounted to “a betrayal,” said Kudlow, who appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
In response to the initial tweets critical of her country and prime minister, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said her nation “does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks.”
Trudeau, who had said at the news conference that Canada would retaliate for new U.S. tariffs, didn’t respond to questions about Trump when the prime minister arrived at a Quebec City hotel Sunday for meetings with other world leaders. Freeland later told reporters that “we don’t think that’s a useful or productive way to do business.”
A Trudeau spokesman, Cameron Ahmad, said Saturday night that Trudeau “said nothing he hasn’t said before — both in public and in private conversations” with Trump.
And Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau, jabbed at Trump on Twitter: “Big tough guy once he’s back on his airplane. Can’t do it in person. … He’s a pathetic little man-child.”
Trudeau said he had reiterated to Trump, who left the G-7 meeting before it ended, that tariffs would harm industries and workers on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. Trudeau told reporters that imposing retaliatory measures “is not something I relish doing” but that he wouldn’t hesitate to do so because “I will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests.”
The Americans’ criticism of Trudeau left a former Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, stumped. “I don’t understand the obsession with trade relations with Canada,” he said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” given that Canada is the biggest single buyer of American goods and services in the world. From promoting democracy and to fighting terrorism, “we’re on the same page. We’re the closest partners in the world, and you don’t want to see a dispute over one particular issue poison everything.”
Lucey reported from Singapore and Gillies from Quebec City. Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Singapore contributed to this report.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump is violating the First Amendment when he blocks critics on Twitter because of their political views.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan stopped short in her written decision of ordering Trump or a subordinate to stop the practice of blocking critics from viewing his Twitter account, saying it was enough to point out that it was unconstitutional.
“A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared,” Buchwald wrote.
The judge did not issue an order against Trump, and the plaintiffs did not ask for one. But in cases like this, plaintiffs can, in theory, go back and ask for such an order, and if it is not obeyed, the violator can be held in contempt.
Buchwald said she rejected the assertion that an injunction can never be lodged against the president but “nonetheless conclude that it is unnecessary to enter that legal thicket at this time.”
The case was brought last July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven individuals blocked by Trump after criticizing the Republican president.
Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said in an email: “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”
Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, said in a release that his organization was pleased.
“The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end,” he said.
Comedian Dana Goldberg, who says she was blocked by the president but was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said she looks forward to getting access restored.
“As a comedian, I really feel like it’s my job right now to speak truth to power. I have a voice and a platform to use it, and I would rather challenge him on every false and misleading statement than stay silent. It will save me some time if I’m unblocked. I can just check his Twitter feed instead of Google his morning tirades,” she said.
The lawsuit was filed after Trump blocked some individuals from @realDonaldTrump, a 9-year-old Twitter account with over 50 million followers, after each of them tweeted a message critical of Trump or his policies in reply to a tweet he had sent.
Justice Department lawyers had argued it was Trump’s prerogative to block followers, no different from the president deciding in a room filled with people not to listen to some.
Buchwald ruled that the tweets were “governmental in nature.”
“The President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President,” the judge said.
The judge noted that another defendant, Daniel Scavino — the White House’s social media director and an assistant to the president — can unblock those followers without the president needing to do it himself. The judge dismissed Sarah Huckabee Sanders as a defendant in the case after it was established she does not have access to Trump’s account.
Buchwald also said she recognized the impact on the individuals by Trump’s action was not “of the highest magnitude.” She said the First Amendment protects people even from trivial harm.
After a hearing this year, the judge had suggested that Trump mute rather than block some of his critics. At the time, a Justice Department attorney agreed that muting would enable Trump to avoid a tweet he doesn’t want to read.
Twitter users can block people, which prevents them from seeing the user’s feed while logged in. Or they can mute the person, which keeps the user from seeing that person’s tweets and reply messages in their feed.
Associated Press Writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.
The presidential news conference, a time-honored tradition going back generations, appears to be no longer.
More than a year has passed since President Donald Trump held the only solo news conference of his administration — a rollicking, hastily arranged, 77-minute free-for-all during which he railed against the media, defended his fired national security adviser and insisted nobody who advised his campaign had had contacts with Russia.
But there are no signs the White House press shop is interested in a second go-round. Instead, the president engages the press in more informal settings that aides say offer reporters far more access, more often, than past administrations.
“President Trump is more accessible than most modern presidents and frequently takes questions from the press,” says White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The president often answers shouted questions at so-called pool sprays, in which a small group of rotating reporters is given access to events such as bill signings and Cabinet lunches. Trump has also taken to answering shouted questions on the White House lawn as he arrives at and departs the White House.
The frenzied exchanges — frequently taking place over the roar of Marine One’s rotor — often produce news.
But the format also gives the president far more control than he would have during a traditional question-and-answer session. Trump can easily ignore questions he doesn’t like and dodge follow-ups in a way that would be glaring in a traditional news conference.
On Friday, for instance, Trump answered several questions in the Oval Office about North Korea and Iran. But when a reporter asked about his threats regarding intervening in the Justice Department, Trump responded with a curt “thank you” that signaled to reporters that he was done with the Q&A session.
The president also holds joint news conferences with visiting world leaders, a format reporters call “two and two” because each leader selects two of its country’s reporters to ask questions. While the format looks similar to a solo news conference, the president more often than not calls on friendly reporters from conservative outlets and limits the opportunity for follow-up questions.
On Friday, during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump called on reporters from Fox Business Network and the Christian Broadcasting Network. Fox News correspondent John Roberts has been called on so often that Trump once picked him and then changed his mind. “Actually, we’ll go somebody else this time, John. You’ve been doing enough, John,” he said to laughs.
Trump also submits to occasional one-on-one interviews with individual news outlets. Last week, he called in to “Fox & Friends,” his favored format during the campaign. And several times he has held longer, impromptu question-and-answer sessions, including one in the Rose Garden with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that, for reporters, had the feel of a mosh pit.
Margaret Talev, a longtime White House reporter and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said the association welcomes Trump’s “openness to engage on a regular basis, in pool sprays in the Oval Office and less traditional settings such as South Lawn departures.”
But, she said, “We have been disappointed at his reluctance to engage in regular full-format news conferences and we will continue to encourage him and his team to return to the practice. Such news conferences help the public to gain a deeper understanding of a president’s thinking on an issue; show transparency and accountability; allow journalists to raise questions the public may be concerned about; and also allow a president to shape his message.”
Indeed, during his campaign, Trump often criticized his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for failing to engage more with the press.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton has not held a news conference in more than 7 months. Her record is so bad she is unable to answer tough questions!” he tweeted in June 2016.
The pattern marks a dramatic departure from historic precedent, according to records kept by The American Presidency Project and dating back to Calvin Coolidge. In their first years alone, President Barack Obama held 11 solo news conferences, George W. Bush held five, and Bill Clinton a dozen. Trump held just one.
It’s part of a pattern reflecting Trump’s extraordinarily hostile relationship with a press he loves to hate.
“The White House isn’t legally mandated or required to hold press conferences, but it’s a tradition that’s been in place because it serves the public,” said Katie Townsend, the litigation director at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “And I think the idea that the media is the enemy of the American people and an enemy of the president itself … I think the unwillingness to talk to the members of the media is part of that.”
But Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for George W. Bush, said there is little benefit for a White House to hold solo new conferences anymore since the president can communicate with the public in other ways.
“So long as the president is held accountable as a result of frequent pool sprays, as a result of frequent press conferences with heads of state, one-on-one interviews, the public gets its accountability through other tactics beyond formal long-winded news conferences,” Fleischer said.
Bush, he noted, wasn’t a fan of the prime-time news conference, complaining that reporters would “peacock” at those events, making them more about themselves than the president.
Trump, however, seems to like the format, which he credited last year for his election win.
“Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.’ I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But I’m not ranting and raving. I love this,” he said during his press conference last year. “I’m having a good time doing it.”
President Donald Trump lashed out at the FBI Saturday night, saying the agency “missed all of the many signals” sent by the suspect in the Florida school shooting and arguing they are “spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.”
Trump said on Twitter: “This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a “desire to kill” and access to guns and could be plotting an attack. But the agency said Friday that agents failed to investigate.
The FBI’s acknowledgment that it mishandled the tip prompted a sharp rebuke from its boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a call from Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally, for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.
Trump and other Republicans have heavily criticized the FBI. They are still dissatisfied with its decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with crimes related to her use of a private email server, and they see signs of bias in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.
The election-interference indictment brought by Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel, underscores how thoroughly social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter were played by Russian propagandists.
And it’s not clear if the companies have taken sufficient action to prevent something similar from happening again.
Thirteen Russians, including a businessman close to Vladimir Putin, were charged Friday in a plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media propaganda. The indictment said the Russians’ conspiracy aimed, in part, to help Republican Donald Trump and harm the prospects of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The alleged scheme was run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to try to influence the White House race.
“I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people,” wrote one of the defendants, Irina Kaverzina, in an email to a family member obtained by investigators.
Tech companies have spent months pledging to fix their platforms ahead of the upcoming midterm elections this year, and reiterated those promises Friday. Twitter said in a Friday night statement it “committed to addressing, mitigating, and ultimately preventing any future attempts to interfere in elections and the democratic process, and to doing so in the most transparent way possible.” Facebook thanked U.S. investigators for taking “aggressive action” and pointed out its own role in helping the investigation.
Researchers, however, noted that the companies’ business incentives don’t necessarily align with improved security and anti-hoaxing measures that might have frustrated Russian agents.
“I’ve never been convinced that these sites are motivated to fix a problem like this,” said Notre Dame business professor Timothy Carone, who added that security controls make it harder for sites like Facebook to offer users new features and keep advertisers happy. “It’s a really, really, really difficult problem.”
The indictment confirms earlier findings from congressional investigations that Russian agents manipulated social media to promote social division by mimicking grassroots political activity. It also underscores that the problem wasn’t just “bots” — i.e., automated social-media accounts — but human conspirators who fine-tuned propaganda and built online relationships with American activists.
“The idea wasn’t necessarily to help one political party over another, but to sow as much discord as possible,” said Melissa Ryan, a Democratic social media marketing expert who now keeps track of right-wing online activity. “This was America that was attacked.”
Social-media companies weren’t the only ones subverted in the influence campaign. Federal prosecutors allege that Russian criminals used PayPal as a primary conduit to transfer money for general expenses and to buy Facebook ads aimed at influencing voters. Prosecutors say the accounts were opened using fake identities to help bypass PayPal’s security measures.
PayPal spokesman Justin Higgs said the San Jose, California, company has been cooperating with the Justice Department and is “intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use” of its services.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer outlined the complexity of preventing abuse.
“Election integrity is challenging because again, you’re dealing with adversaries,” Schroepfer said during a conference in Half Moon Bay, California. “They are trying to accomplish a goal and they have smart people who are trying to figure out their way into the system to accomplish that.”
For instance, infiltrators often react immediately to countermeasures. If they figure out Facebook is checking the internet addresses of computers to identify visitors from particular countries, Schroepfer said, “they’ll take over a machine with malware in the U.S. and post from there instead. People say, ‘Why don’t you just check the currency or the IP address?’ And as soon as you do that, literally that afternoon, they will change tactics.”
Schroepfer said the company is making “good headway” on the problem, although he declined to give specifics. “By kind of doing a lot better job of trying to figure out the authenticity of these different actors, we can certainly stop that sort of behavior,” he said. “There’s a big focus on that.”
On the other hand, now that the Russians have shown how this sort of campaign is done, the door is open for others — including American special interest groups — to use the same tactics to target disaffected voters in the right places, said David Gerzof Richard, a communications professor at Emerson College.
“This is the new norm,” he said. “It’s not going away. It’s not going to be magically fixed by a Silicon Valley CEO or a group of executives saying they’re going to do better.”
AP Technology Writer Ryan Nakashima in Half Moon Bay, California, contributed to this report.
For Donald Trump, that energy-sapping 2017 cocktail of blistering presidential tweets, salacious White House infighting and jaw-dropping feuds with foreign adversaries has given way to, well, more of the same.
“We are off and running,” said Josh Holmes, a longtime adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It’s amazing that the pace that we set in 2017 has continued with equal vigor.”
Indeed, the first three days of 2018 — yes, just three days — brought a new array of targets for the president and the return of some familiar foes. As part of a 17-tweet barrage on Tuesday, Trump picked a fight with the “deep state” within his own government that he believes is trying to undermine his presidency, and he raised the specter of war with North Korea by asserting that his “Nuclear Button” was bigger than that of Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un.
By Wednesday, Trump had turned on his former top adviser Steve Bannon, accusing him of having “lost his mind.” The scathing attack, issued with the formality of an official White House statement, followed the publication of excerpts from an unflattering book in which Bannon accuses the president’s namesake son of holding a “treasonous” meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
Across Washington, holiday cheer was suddenly a distant memory.
“I feel exhausted,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who advised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in his campaign against Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. “I feel like the year has got to be over by now.”
Trump rattled Washington in his first year in office by blowing past the guardrails that have traditionally governed what a president does and doesn’t say and by frequently picking fights that seem far less consequential than the weighty issues that land on a commander in chief’s desk. He needled friendly foreign leaders like Britain’s Theresa May, accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper and spread rumors about media personalities he deemed overly critical.
To be sure, no one in Washington expected Trump to be a different man when he returned from Christmas vacation at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. By now, Washington has largely come to grips with the reality of a president who often starts and ends his day with tweets on topics that are a mystery to even his closest aides until they pop up on their smartphones. And while some Trump advisers have grown beleaguered by the president’s seemingly insatiable appetite for a feud, few expect that to change or put much effort into trying to hold him back.
Yet there was still a hope, both in the White House and on Capitol Hill, that the president might arrive back in Washington eager to build on the passage of a sweeping Republican overhaul of the tax code in the waning days of December. The bill passed with only Republican votes, and polling shows the complicated legislation is deeply unpopular with Americans, leaving the president and his party with a tall task if they hope to ride the tax overhaul to electoral victories in the midterm elections.
Trump has tweeted a handful of messages in 2018 about the tax bill. But he generated far more attention with his missives taking aim at the media and his unfounded claim of credit for the fact that no commercial airlines crashed in 2017.
Some Republicans cringed. Tyler said that in the early days of 2018, the White House had already “lost the communications war over what tax policy is designed to do.” And he put the blame squarely on Trump, saying the president “cannot be trusted with his own message.”
On Capitol Hill, where the Senate returned to work, most GOP lawmakers girded themselves for another year of what has become their familiar ritual: carefully critiquing Trump’s most sensational comments without criticizing the president himself. Asked about Trump’s North Korea button bluster, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said simply: “It’s probably better not to tweet about such things.”
Just 361 days to go until the calendar flips again.
The shifting explanations for why President Donald Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn have revived questions about whether the president may have obstructed an ongoing investigation of potential contacts between his campaign and Russia.
Pressure on the administration has mounted since Flynn last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, with prosecutors revealing that he is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. And a muddled White House response, including a problematic presidential tweet, has left some Trump confidants worried that the president is not being well-served by his legal team and believing his lawyers have painted a too-rosy picture of the president’s potential plight.
The president’s aides and legal advisers have scrambled for 48 hours to explain a presidential tweet that raised the specter of obstruction. It read: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pleaded guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
That tweet appeared to indicate a change in the White House explanation for Flynn’s firing, suggesting Trump was aware when the White House dismissed Flynn on Feb. 13 that the national security adviser had lied to the FBI, whose agents had interviewed him weeks earlier. Former FBI Director James Comey has said Trump the following day brought up the Flynn investigation in private at the White House and told him he hoped he could “let this go,” raising the possibility he knew Flynn had lied and was looking to cover up the offense.
With questions raised by the tweet, Trump associates tried to put distance between the president and the potentially incriminating message.
One of Trump’s attorneys, John Dowd, told CNN on Sunday that was responsible for crafting the tweet.
Dowd declined to comment to the AP but replied with a Fox News story Monday quoting prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz as saying Trump couldn’t have committed obstruction of justice by urging Comey to drop the FBI investigation of Flynn.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, backed up Dowd’s claim that he wrote the tweet, saying “the lawyers are the ones that understand how to put those tweets together.”
“I was with the president on Saturday all day, frankly, and I know that what he said is correct,” Conway continued, referring to Dowd. “What he says is that he put it together and sent it to our director of social media.”
A White House spokesman declined to answer whether Dowd dictated the tweet word-for-word to the White House director of social media, Dan Scavino, or whether Scavino, who has access to the @RealDonaldTrump account and its 44 million followers, put the sentiment into something resembling Trump’s own voice.
The president angrily scolded aides for the tweet over the weekend, according to a person familiar with private conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. The White House is considering reviewing how some tweets, particularly related to the Russia probe, get posted.
The episode has rattled some of Trump’s outside advisers, who have pressed upon Trump since Flynn’s guilty plea that he needs to change legal strategy. White House lawyer Ty Cobb has repeatedly offered public assurances that the investigation into the administration would soon be over, with the president exonerated.
Trump has taken that counsel to heart, telling two close allies over the weekend that he believed he was in the clear and that Mueller’s team wouldn’t unveil any further charges, according to the advisers who discussed the private conversations under the conditions of anonymity. Both of the confidants said they disputed that assessment and urged Trump to go on the offensive, perhaps by firing his current lawyers or triggering a series of events that could lead to Mueller’s dismissal.
Trump did not suggest he was considering that approach. And one of the advisers, who speaks to Trump regularly, said the president had not discussed with him the possibility of issuing any pardons.
The president did lob new criticism at the special counsel investigation Monday, saying he feels “very badly” for Flynn.
“I think it’s a shame,” Trump said of Flynn’s situation, adding that it’s “very unfair” and that Flynn had “led a very strong life.”
In the wake of the controversial tweet, Trump launched a fresh denial that he had pressured the former FBI director, tweeting Sunday that “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
Trump fired Comey in May, leading to Mueller’s appointment.
Any proof that Trump knew before he spoke with Comey in February that Flynn had lied to the FBI could bolster obstruction of justice allegations against the president and raise the prospect that he was trying to protect a key member of his inner circle from probable prosecution, said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame criminal law professor and former federal prosecutor.
Though the president has previously said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey, Gurule said it was reasonable to infer from the weekend tweet that the dismissal of Comey was done in the hope of terminating the FBI investigation.
“If you have knowledge of a crime, a reasonable person would disclose that information to law enforcement. The president did not,” Gurule said.
But David Rivkin Jr., a Washington lawyer specializing in constitutional law who worked in the Justice Department under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said that even if the president knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, “his authority as the chief executive is perfectly sufficient and appropriate to decide that this matter should not be investigated any further.”
Lemire reported from New York.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Tucker at http://twitter.com/@etuckerAP