TrumpWatch, Day 43: Trump Rattled by Prospect of Russia Inquiry
Trump tries to shift attention to Democrat leaders over Russia links
Developments on Day 43 of the Trump Administration:
Trump’s Twitter Outburst Over Russia Links
[UPDATE: President Trump has gone on an even wilder Twitter rant on Saturday morning, accusing Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in a series of tweets beginning with:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Trump offered no evidence for his assertion. Instead, he appears to be recycling a claim by conservative radio polemicist Mark Levin, alleging a “deep state” plot against Trump, which was then spread by Breitbart News — formerly edited by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — and Fox News.]
Under growing pressure for an inquiry into links between his associates and Russian officials, Donald Trump returns to Twitter to lash out at leading Democrats.
Trump’s regular diatribes against enemies — such as the media, Democrats, and his own agencies — had all but disappeared last week, as he tried to strike a Presidential appearance with his first speech to Congress.
But more revelations of contacts between his inner circle and the Russians, including now-embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ possible lying under oath about meetings with a Russian ambassador, appeared to rattle Trump on Friday. He took aim at the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, for their public meetings with Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2017
I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it. https://t.co/qCDljfF3wN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2017
Trump’s outburst brought the immediate response, in statements and on social media from analysts as well as his targets, that — in contrast to the claimed contacts between the President’s asssociates and the Russians — Schumer and Pelosi had not hidden the meetings and had not tried to cover them up. They also noted that there was no prospect of the Democrats having discussed Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election, damaging Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.
Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in '03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team? https://t.co/yXgw3U8tmQ
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 3, 2017
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) March 3, 2017
The controversy has already claimed National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned last month after only 24 days in his job following exposure of his discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Others who are under scrutiny include Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former national security policy advisors J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, and Sessions.
On Thursday, Sessions recused himself from leading a Trump-Russia investigation, raising the prospect of a special prosecutor or independent inquiry.
Trump’s Spelling Issues
Donald Trump opens himself up to further comment by misspelling — twice — his challenge to Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi over a Russia investigation.
Trump said, “I hear by demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi.” When comments circulated about his mistake, he deleted the tweet and replaced it with “I hearby demand….”
The correct spelling is “hereby”.
Women and Children Immigrants May Be Separated
Officials say Women and children crossing together into the US without documents could be separated by American authorities, under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security.
Three Government officials, “briefed on the proposal”, said part of the reason is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children.
Parents would be put in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings, while children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, in the “least restrictive setting”, until they can be taken into the care of a US relative or state-sponsored guardian.
Currently, families contesting deportation or applying for asylum are generally released from detention quickly and allowed to remain in the US until their cases are resolved. A federal appeals court ruling bars prolonged child detention.
Secretary of State Tillerson Accepts 37% Budget Cut
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agrees in principle to a White House proposal to slash foreign aid and diplomatic spending by 37%, but asks for it to be spread over three years.
Officials “familiar with Tillerson’s response” said he suggested the reductions to the State Department and S Agency for International Development begin with a 20% cut in the next budget year. Tillerson sent his response to Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney on Thursday.
The combined State Department/USAID budget this year was $50.1 billion, a little more than 1% of the total federal budget.
Even carried out over three years, a 37% cut will significantly affect the State Department and foreign development assistance, which is largely overseen by USAID, with the elimination of some programs as well as staffing cuts.
Denver City Attorney: Fearing Deportation, Witnesses of Violent Crimes Won’t Testify
The Denver City Attorney says the fear of being deported causes some witnesses of violent crimes to avoid court, allowing suspects to walk free.
Kristin Bronson said, “Our police department doesn’t care whether people are documented or undocumented,” but Denver’s officials could not control the actions of federal authorities.
Bronson said her office is in the process of dropping four domestic violence cases because of the concerns over the Trump Administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
Tillerson Skips Presentation of Human Rights Report
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson skips the release of the State Department’s annual report on human rights around the world.
Tillerson broke with precedent by declining to unveil the report. In another first, a “senior US official” answered reporters’ questions by phone on condition of anonymity rather than appearing on camera.
“The report speaks for itself,” the official said about Tillerson’s absence. “We’re very, very proud of it. The facts should really be the story here.”
However, journalists are also noting that Tillerson has not made a public statement since taking office and that the State Department — which normally holds a press briefing almost every weekday — has not had a single news conference since Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The human rights report, mandated by Congress, documents conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories from research put together by staff in US embassies.
“It’s just signaling a lack of basic interest and understanding in how support for human rights reflects what’s best about America,” said Rob Berschinski, senior vice-president for policy at Human Rights First.
Berschinski was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor until 20 January, and helped coordinate the report.