Amid Russia investigation, Trump camp steps up attacks on press

Developments on Day 560 of the Trump Administration:

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Donald Trump and the White House continue their assault on the media as the enemy of the American people.

Trump has denounced press and broadcasters — except allies such as Fox and Breitbart — throughout his 2016 campaign and his Presidency, but the attacks have escalated amid Trump’s concern over the Russia investigation that is closing on him and his inner circle.

On Thursday, the latest episode in Trump’s proclamation of “Witch Hunt” was between White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and reporters.

Questioned by CNN’s Jim Acosta — who was accosted by Trump supporters at a rally earlier this week — refused three times to rebut Trump’s label of “enemy of the people”. Instead, she read a litany of attack lines against journalists:

In the evening, at a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump spent most of his speech bashing the “fake, fake disgusting news”.

The remarks of both Trump and Sanders were in sharp contrast to those of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who had said before the White House press conference that she disagreed with the “enemy of the people” tag.

That was set aside by the time Trump appeared in Pennsylvania, ostensibly to support a candidate in November’s Congressional elections, as supporters laughed and jeered along with him.

Trump used the attacks on the media to try and rewrite recent events. He proclaimed that his appearance at the Helsinki Summit alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin — in which Trump chose Putin over US intelligence agencies — was a “good thing, not a bad thing”. And he insisted, after his insults of leaders of NATO members at the mid-July summit in Brussels, “I have a better relationship with every one of them than any other president.”

FBI Director, Director of National Intelligence Push Back Over Russia

In a less provocative but no less important signal from the White House press conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray pushed back against Trump’s attempts to undermine the agency and the Trump-Russia investigation by playing down the threat of Moscow’s intervention in forthcoming elections.

Trump has denounced the FBI over the supposed “Witch Hunt” while, in his appearance with Putin, denying that Russia interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also challenged Trump by saying that “everyone next to him at the White House” believes the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment of Russian intervention is “correct”.

He added that he has yet to briefed by Trump on the Helsinki Summit, almost three weeks later, in which Trump and Putin had a one-on-one meeting accompanied only by translators.

“I am not in a position fully to understand what happened,” Coats said.

His assessment of Russian operations in the US elections was shared by the head of five other intelligence agencies and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in a statement.

Even Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, a staunch defender of Trump on issues such as immigration, joined the evaluation, telling reporters:

Our democracy itself is in the cross hairs. The progress we have made is real, and the nation’s elections are more resilient today because of the work we are all doing. But we must continue to ensure that our democracy is protected.

Russia’s RT Backs Up Trump Assault

Russia’s State outlet RT backed up Trump’s assault on journalism this week with a panel proclaiming “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.

In an illustration of Moscow’s campaign to back Trump by fueling discord within the US, CrossTalk uses “radio personality” Lionel, blogger Rob Taub, and conspiracy theorist and former InfoWars contributor Patrick Henningsen.

Trump Administration to Freeze Fuel-Efficiency Requirements

The Trump Administration announces plans to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks through 2026.

The measures abruptly reverse the Obama Administration’s approach for more-fuel-efficient vehicles to improve public health, combat climate change, and save consumers money without compromising safety.

A legal battle is likely with California, which has set more stringent standards, and 13 other states who have followed the lead.

The Obama Administration worked with California and the auto industry for a uniform set of national fuel-economy standards.

On Thursday, 19 Attorneys General joined California counterpart Xavier Becerra, who said the state will “use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today’s national standards and reaffirm the facts and science behind them”.

California Governor Jerry Brown said, “[We] will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”