02 Mar 2017 – ACLU Calls for Investigation Into Potential Perjury By Sessions

Following reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 presidential campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an investigation into whether Sessions perjured himself during his confirmation hearing. ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero issued the following statement:

“Jeff Sessions took an oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and it is now clear that he broke that oath in his confirmation hearing. If senators of both parties allow an attorney general nominee to plainly lie under oath with no repercussions, they will render our government’s cabinet confirmation process no more than kabuki theater. This matter must not and cannot be seen as a partisan issue, as it goes to the heart of the credibility of our democracy. The American people deserve a full investigation into whether Sessions perjured himself and if he is indeed fit to serve as our nation’s highest law enforcement official. No one is above the law — certainly not those sworn to uphold it.”

In his confirmation hearing, then-Senator Sessions was asked about Russia and responded at the time that he “did not have any communications with the Russians.” It has since come to light that Sessions met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States on at least several occasions. Attorney General Sessions has already agreed to recuse himself from investigations into ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government if appropriate.

ACLU

https://archive.is/TWsYh

01 Mar 2017 – Sessions spoke twice with Russian ambassador during Trump’s presidential campaign, Justice officials say

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

Washington Post

https://archive.is/z5lYP

01 Mar 2017 – White House Says Kellyanne Conway Won’t Be Disciplined for Telling the Public to Buy Ivanka’s Products

“Consistent with this commitment to ethical compliance, the Office of White House Counsel immediately undertook a review of the facts and circumstances surrounding comments made by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, relating to the business interests of the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump….” Passantino wrote in a letter to the OGE provided to The Daily Beast by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“As part of the subsequent review, I have personally met with Ms. Conway to review the Standards of Conduct that employees of the Executive Office of the President are expected to follow, including the provisions relating to the appropriate use of one’s official position,” he continued.

The White House letter concluded that Conway acted “inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again.”

Passantino also contends that Conway’s remarks were made without ill intent.

“It is noted that Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, off-hand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated and did so without nefarious motive or intent to benefit personally,” Passantino wrote. “Both before and after receiving your letter, I personally met with Ms. Conway and advised her that her comments regarding Ms. Trump’s products implicated the prohibition on using one’s official position to endorse any product or service. Ms. Conway has acknowledged her understanding of the Standards and has reiterated her commitment to abiding by them in the future.”

Daily Beast

https://archive.is/K6j7g

Original Story Post

28 Feb 2017 – Trump signs laws to promote women in STEM

President Donald Trump signed two laws on Tuesday that authorize NASA and the National Science Foundation to encourage women and girls to get into STEM fields. Those are science, technology, engineering and math.

The INSPIRE Act directs NASA to promote STEM fields to women and girls, and encourage women to pursue careers in aerospace. The law gives NASA three months to present two Congressional committees with its plans for getting staff — think astronauts, scientists and engineers — in front of K-12 girls studying STEM.

CNET

https://archive.is/nWhJi

28 Feb 2017 – Donald Trump Blames SEAL’s Death On Military: ‘They Lost Ryan’

President Trump on Tuesday blamed the military for the death of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL who was killed in a Jan. 29 botched raid on Islamic terrorists in Yemen.

During an interview on “Fox ‘n’ Friends,” the commander-in-chief repeatedly said “they” — meaning the military — were at fault for the death of Owens, whose dad, Bill, refused to appear with Trump when his son’s body was returned to the US.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” Trump said.

“They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do. The generals — who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan,” he added.

“This was something that they were looking at for a long time doing, and according to [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis, it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”

While Trump and White House spokesman Sean Spicer have repeatedly called the operation a roaring success, US officials told NBC News on Monday that the raid produced little if any useful information.

In addition to Owens, 25 civilians, including women and children, were killed, as were numerous terrorists. Four other Americans were wounded and a $70 million Bell transport helicopter was lost.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had also questioned whether the mission was a success — prompting a predictably vituperative Twitter-storm from the president.

“Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy! He’s been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in – bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!” Trump crowed in a series of three early-morning tweets on Feb. 9.

Presidents historically accept responsibility for their decisions, with President Harry Truman famously plopping a sign reading “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk in the Oval Office.

Presidents John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all adhered to that dictate when crises struck.

“I’m the president. And I’m always responsible,” Obama said after an attack on a US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans, including the US ambassador, were murdered.

NY Post

https://archive.is/nlQuk

27 Feb 2017 – Trump’s pick for commerce secretary shares a business circle with Putin associates

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as his commerce secretary, has been the top shareholder in a Cypriot bank with deep Russian ties and investors who made their fortunes under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There’s no indication of any questionable behavior by Ross, but his partners in the bank are sure to attract scrutiny during his Senate confirmation hearing and underscore the financial orbit around Putin that intersects with figures in Trump’s campaign and administration.

https://archive.is/iLD5n

 

27 Feb 2017 – ‘I think he is behind it’: Trump suggests Obama is organizing protests against him

When asked if Obama was responsible for organizing some of the protests – including the widely-publicized demonstrations at GOP town hall meetings of late – Trump had this response:
 /
“No, I think he is behind it, I also think it’s politics, that’s the way it is,” Trump said in a preview of an interview with “Fox and Friends” released Monday night.
 /
“You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes,” Trump said. “You never know.”

Business Insider

https://archive.is/wGveW

27 Feb 2017 – 229 House Republicans vote to keep Trump’s tax returns secret

The measure was introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Under a 1924 law, the Ways and Means Committee is empowered to examine tax returns. The committee could then decide to release them to the full Congress, effectively making them public.

Pascrell first brought his request to the Chairman of the Way and Mean Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). Brady rejected the request, citing concern for Trump’s “civil liberties.”

“The American people have the right to know whether or not their president is operating under conflicts of interest related to international affairs, tax reform, government contracts or otherwise,” Pascrell said.

Republicans in the House disagreed, virtually unanimously. Nearly every Republican voted to kill Pascrell’s resolution and keep Trump’s tax returns secret. No Republicans voted to require Trump to hand over his tax returns. (Two Republicans, including Mark Sanford of South Carolina, voted “present.”)

185 Democrats voted in favor of Pascrell’s efforts.

Associated Press

https://archive.is/2NzVn

Think Progress

https://archive.is/4HAiE

27 Feb 2017 – Trump: ‘Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated’

President Trump said Monday that “nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated,” as Republicans have been slow to unite around a replacement plan for ObamaCare.

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said after a meeting with conservative governors at the White House.

The Hill

https://archive.is/MoWvs

27 Feb 2017 – Spicer arranged CIA, GOP intelligence push-back

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personally picked up the phone and connected outside officials with reporters to try to discredit a New York Times article about Trump campaign aides’ contact with Russia, then remained on the line for the brief conversations

Intelligence officials from the Obama administration said it’s rare for the CIA director to talk directly to a single journalist – that in the past, the director usually was held in reserve to talk to a publisher or executive editor in a case where a news organization was contemplating publishing something that could harm national security.

Axios

https://archive.is/SQRPN

25 Feb 2017 – Donald Trump Says He Will Not Attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

He will be the first president to skip the dinner since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt, but still delivered remarks over the phone.

25 Feb 2017 – Mexico threatens trade war over Trump wall tax

Mexico has threatened to retaliate if US President Donald Trump imposes a border tax to pay for his controversial wall.

Mr Trump has used almost every post-election speech to reiterate his promise to build a barrierseparating his country from its southern neighbour.

Proposals are to be sought next month for the wall’s design.

An executive order on 25 January for the wall’s construction also asked government agencies to report on the financial assistance given to Mexico in the past five years.

But Mexico’s foreign minister Luis Videgaray said his country would respond to any tax levied by the US and that they did not actually need financial help.

He warned Mexico could impose levies on select goods aimed at US regions most reliant on exports south of the border, such as Iowa, Texas and Wisconsin.

Speaking during a radio interview, Mr Videgaray said: “Without a doubt, we have that possibility and what we cannot do is remain with our arms crossed.

“The Mexican government would have to respond.” But he added that levies were “not our preference. Mexico believes in free trade.”

Speaking about the prospect of losing US aid, Mexico’s Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said his country now “has its own capabilities”.

Sky News

https://archive.is/ybldH

24 Feb 2017 – Fox News’ Shepard Smith: ‘CNN’s reporting was not fake news’

Trump Track Note : while this story isn’t a direct action taken by Trump or his administration, and the source is Entertainment Weekly, I feel Fox News defending CNN’s reporting is a worthwhile story for this site. 

As President Donald Trump continued his attack on “fake news” Friday by blocking certain news organizations from an off-camera White House briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith came to the defense of a rival network.

“For the record, ‘fake news’ refers to stories that are created, often by entities pretending to be news organizations, solely to draw clicks and views and are based on nothing of substance,” he said. “In short, ‘fake news’ is made-up nonsense delivered for financial gain.”

CNN has largely been on the receiving end of Trump’s media criticism, with the president having called the network “fake news” last month when he refused to answer a question from reporter Jim Acosta during a press conference.

“CNN’s reporting was not fake news,” continued Smith, “Its journalists follows the same standards to which other news organizations, including Fox News, adhere. Senior administration officials regularly speak without attribution so that the public can be informed of what our government is doing — off the record. Just as CNN reports [Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince] Priebus sent officials to speak off the record against the Russia/Trump campaign reporting.

After CNN, The New York Times, and other organizations were not allowed into Friday’s briefing, CNN’s Jake Tapper had some strong criticism of the Trump administration.

“This White House does not seem to respect the idea of accountability,” he stated. “This White House does not seem to value an independent press. There is a word for that line of thinking: The word is ‘un-American.’”

Entertainment Weekly

https://archive.is/hnXuB

24 Feb 2017 – CNN and other news organizations were blocked Friday from a White House press briefing

CNN and other news outlets were blocked Friday from an off-camera White House press briefing, raising alarm among media organizations and First Amendment watchdogs.

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico and BuzzFeed were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the televised Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room. The gaggle was held by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

In a brief statement defending the move, administration spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the White House “had the pool there so everyone would be represented and get an update from us today.”

The pool usually includes a representative from one television network and one print outlet. In this case, four of the five major television networks — NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News — were invited and attended the meeting, while only CNN was blocked.

And while The New York Times was kept out, conservative media organizations Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were also allowed in.

CNN

https://archive.is/oFpeM

23 Feb 2017 – Spicer: Feds could step up enforcement against marijuana use in states

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that he expects states to be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal laws against marijuana use, a move that could undercut the growing number of jurisdictions moving to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.

Spicer, speaking at a White House press briefing, said that President Trump sees “a big difference” between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes.

Spicer said that state’s allowance of marijuana for recreational purposes “ is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on Spicer’s remarks on Thursday afternoon following the briefing.

Washington Post

https://archive.is/s8ZcE

23 Feb 2017 – FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories

The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate.

 The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts, but a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.
https://archive.is/jApx0

23 Feb 2017 – Trump wants to expand U.S. nuclear arsenal, make it ‘top of the pack’

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” saying the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.

In a Reuters interview, Trump also complained about Russian deployment of a cruise missile in violation of an arms control treaty and said he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when and if they meet.

On another front, Trump said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea “very easily if they want to,” ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose actions.

Speaking from behind his desk in the Oval Office, Trump also declared himself “very angry” at North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and said accelerating a missile defense system for U.S. allies Japan and South Korea was among many options available.

Reuters

https://archive.is/AgCrq

22 Feb 2017 – Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms

President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday revoked landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathroom of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama. 

Obama had instructed public schools last May to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. Transgender people hailed it as victory for their civil rights.

Trump rescinded those guidelines, even though they had been put on hold by a federal judge, arguing that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference.

Reuters

https://archive.is/8tzxQ

20 Feb 2017 – Trump’s first month of travel expenses cost taxpayers just less than what Obama spent in a year

On Monday, President Trump will return to Washington, D.C. from his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where he’s spent the last three weekends.

The Washington Post reports that those three trips “probably cost the federal treasury about $10 million, based on figures used in an October government report analyzing White House travel, including money for Coast Guard units to patrol the exposed shoreline and other military, security and staffing expenses associated with moving the apparatus of the presidency.”

The three Mar-a-Lago getaways, combined with the hundreds of thousands of public dollars spent on Secret Service protection during two international trips Trump’s adult sons have taken to promote their father’s business, cost taxpayers about $11.3 million over the first month’s of Trump’s presidency, according to the UK-based Independent. President Obama, by contrast, spent an average of $12.1 million on travel each year.

It wasn’t even a year ago that Trump was complaining about taxpayers “paying a fortune for the use of Air Force One.” And then another tweet dating even further back:

Trump’s decision to spend three consecutive weekends at his “southern White House” stands in contrast to what he promised during the campaign, when he said he’d “rarely leave the White House.”

“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump told a reporter in 2015. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off… You don’t have time to take time off.”

While in Florida on Sunday, Trump, who repeatedly criticized Obama for playing golf while president, enjoyed his sixth golf outing during his first month as president. On Monday, the White House admitted to misleading reporters about the amount of golf Trump played during his 18-hole excursion with pro golfer Rory McIlroy.

Think Progress

https://archive.is/9wy2y

20 Feb 2017 – President Trump Names Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster New National Security Adviser

President Trump has announced that Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will be his new national security adviser. McMaster will replace retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign after revelations that he had misled top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

The president made the announcement in a brief appearance before reporters at Mar-a-Lago, his resort estate in Florida on Monday. He spent part of the weekend interviewing generals after his first choice — retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL Robert Harward — turned down the job.

NPR

https://archive.is/b0sWb