June 15, 2018

President Trump repeatedly told a woman reporter to be "quiet" while talking to the press Friday morning, even as other reporters also jostled for him to answer their questions. At one point Trump was caught on camera putting his hand in the woman's face and demanding she be "quiet" before turning and telling someone nearby, "She's so obnoxious."

The reporter singled out by Trump was apparently CBS News' Weijia Jiang. Trump "told me I was obnoxious and to be quiet at least five times," she tweeted, "but to his credit he did answer plenty of our questions." Watch below. Jeva Lange

June 13, 2018
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Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who has found himself in an ethical quagmire over rampant spending concerns, allegedly assigned a specific EPA aide as a "headhunter for his spouse," The Washington Post reports. The Judicial Crisis Network ultimately hired Marlyn Pruitt, a former school nurse, as a temporary "independent contractor" after having received her resume from the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leonard Leo — who is also a Pruitt donor and a friend of the family. Pruitt had also pressured another donor, Doug Deason, to find employment for his wife after Deason said he could not hire her due to the obvious conflict of interest.

Pruitt had allegedly told EPA staff that he needed more money to hold onto his two houses in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Washington, D.C.; Marlyn Pruitt has had no income over $5,000 in recent years. The executive branch ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the Post that Pruitt's use of an aide to "become the headhunter for his spouse" is particularly concerning because Marlyn's job would ultimately "affect his financial interests." Public officials are not allowed to use their posts for private gain.

Samantha Dravis, who served as the EPA's Office of Policy associate administrator, was assigned the task of finding work for Marlyn. While Dravis didn't comment to the Post — she has since left the EPA — one friend said Pruitt "pressured her" to find work for his wife.

Pruitt is already the subject of a dozen different federal investigations. Read more about the job hunt for his wife at The Washington Post and here at The Week. Jeva Lange

June 7, 2018

Passengers at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport had an early morning scare when a bomb threat rocked the security line.

The threat ended up being a toy grenade, stuffed in the suitcase of a 17-year-old Boy Scout, local NBC affiliate WTHR and The Associated Press reported Thursday. A TSA agent spotted the suspicious object around 4:35 a.m. CT and shouted to "shut it down," says an AP reporter who was at the airport. Waiting passengers were told to "clear out," creating a huge backup and delaying 15 flights.

Once the bomb squad ensured the item was just a toy, passengers were allowed to head to their flights, says AP. The Scout was questioned afterward, but it's unclear if he'll face penalties for the scare. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 29, 2018

Roseanne Barr, a supporter of President Trump, has faced heavy criticism over her "racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and hate speech" in recent years, although her comments took a particularly vile turn on Monday when she tweeted about former President Barack Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett:

Barr made her comment in a thread bashing "Obama's secrets," in which one user commented "Jarrett helped hide a lot."

Jarrett declined to provide a comment to The Wrap, but Qasim Rashid, a lawyer and human rights activist, tweeted: "White privilege is being an open racist [and] Islamophobe [and] still getting a prime time TV spot." Jeva Lange

May 25, 2018

Lawmakers are forbidden from using their congressional staff for anything other than official political duties, which means running personal errands is definitely a no-no. That apparently didn't stop Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) and his wife, Flanna, whose former staffers told Politico they had to do everything from unload groceries to fetch Garrett's daughters from Scottsdale, a three-hour drive away.

The congressional staffers were even asked to take care of the Garretts' dog Sophie, a Jack Russell-Pomeranian mix that IJR says "comes to the D.C. office every other day."

Staffers were expected to watch the dog during office hours, and one aide did so over a weekend. Several aides said the couple would sometimes seem to forget the dog was in the office. When that happened, at the end of the day, aides were responsible for transporting it back to Garrett's Washington apartment.

One source said the dog occasionally defecated on the floor and aides had to clean up the mess. [Politico]

The Garretts denied their ex-staffers' claims, telling Politico: "It is easy to spread untruths and even easier to exaggerate and imply wrongdoing when none exists." Jeva Lange

May 25, 2018
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When Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, he also set the tone for how he would speak about immigration. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," he told the crowd, going on to describe immigrants as criminals and "rapists," although "some, I assume, are good people." Recently Trump has come under fire again for his language, calling MS-13 gang members "animals."

The Washington Post on Thursday published a new revealing anecdote about how Trump joked in private about immigrants to his staff last year:

The night before Trump delivered his first speech to Congress in February 2017, he huddled with Jared Kushner and [Stephen] Miller in the Oval Office to talk immigration. The president reluctantly agreed with suggestions he strike a gentler tone on immigration in the speech.

Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he was at a rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later. Miller and Kushner laughed. [The Washington Post]

A third official disputed the story, telling the Post that Trump never made up Hispanic names to make a point about "crowd enthusiasm for crackdowns on criminal aliens." Read more about Trump's approach to immigration at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

May 21, 2018

Fox News host Pete Hegseth gave a big ol' shrug at the mention of more than 50 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli gunfire on the Gaza Strip earlier this month while protesting the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Speaking with Ed Henry and Abby Huntsman over the weekend, Hegseth dismissed his co-hosts' claims that there "could be some innocent Palestinians, including children, who were killed" by saying they were shot "because Hamas told them to go to the front of the line."

"Okay, but there are some innocent people who died," insisted Henry. "Caught in the crossfire, children, whatever it is, let's just point that out."

"Ehhh!" Hegseth said with an exaggerated shrug.

Even Huntsman, who attempted to moderate the two sides, jumped in to contribute that "a human being is a human being." Watch the moment below. Jeva Lange

May 18, 2018

On Friday afternoon, the suspect in a shooting that left at least eight people dead at a Texas high school was identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis. While there are few details yet about Pagourtzis, the tragedy at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, has already sparked willful disinformation operations — such as the one noticed by Caroline Orr:

Orr is what the National Observer calls "one of the most incisive and compelling observers on Trump, Russia, and the propaganda wars now consuming world attention," and she observed that the Santa Fe shooting is "quickly gaining traction in Russian-linked influence networks":

"This is definitely not the first time we've seen a disinformation operation trying to link a shooter to antifa," Orr said, noting there was a similar response after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting last year.

The fake Facebook account is also a startling example that the social media giant is still struggling to prevent trolls and bots from using the site to sow chaos. Read more via Caroline Orr. Jeva Lange

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