October 2, 2019

President Trump is selectively firing back against The New York Times.

A Tuesday Times report detailed how Trump has privately made some outlandish border wall requests, namely suggesting a moat around the wall and that border patrol agents should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. Both the White House and Trump have since disputed the report — but notably didn't deny some of its most outrageous findings.

White House aides told the Times that Trump "often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators," and wanted it "electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh." And after publicly saying border patrol agents could fire back at migrants who threw rocks at them, he reportedly later "suggested they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down."

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley decried the apparent "fake news characterizations" in a Wednesday statement, but didn't actually deny Trump's reported requests.

And then it was Trump's turn to respond, delivering a tweet that shot down the moat allegation but said nothing about shooting migrants. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 26, 2019

President Trump reportedly stunned attendees of a private breakfast Thursday by railing against the U.S. officials who provided information to a whistleblower, suggesting they should be harshly punished for treason.

Trump, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times report, spoke Thursday to staff of the United States Mission to the United Nations and ranted about the sources who spoke with the anonymous whistleblower, saying, "I want to know who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that's close to a spy."

Trump reportedly then said, "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now."

The president's remarks, the newspapers report, stunned people in the audience. They came following the release of the declassified complaint alleging Trump abused his power by pushing for Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and that White House officials then moved to restrict access to the call's transcript. Although the whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge, the complaint says it is based on the account of more than half a dozen U.S. officials.

At this same event, Trump reportedly referred to reporters as "animals" and "scum" while saying that although "I didn't do anything," "I don't know if I’m the most innocent person in the world."

During his testimony Thursday, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire defended the whistleblower, saying they "acted in good faith throughout" the process and "did the right thing." Brendan Morrow

August 29, 2019

Customs and Border Protection is reportedly working to roll out a dystopian-sounding new program.

Federal officials at the border have been performing voluntary DNA tests on migrants for more than a year in an attempt to reunited separated children with their families. But a new draft policy reveals the Trump administration wants to "expand" DNA testing by letting CBP "extract genetic material from undocumented immigrants in its custody," BuzzFeed News reports.

When the first DNA testing policy was rolled out last year, immigrant advocates expressed huge concerns over if the DNA was stored after testing, and whether children could give informed consent to be tested. This reported policy, if it moves beyond a draft, will likely draw even further scrutiny because the tests appear to be involuntary. These tests could implemented on "hundreds of thousands of immigrants" and involve "20,000 additional work hours" from CBP employees per year, BuzzFeed News writes. The draft reportedly does not explicitly prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from conducting the tests or accessing their results.

In a statement, DHS only told BuzzFeed News it is "working closely with the Department of Justice on a path forward for DNA collection." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 10, 2019

President Trump once considered Jeffrey Epstein a "terrific person."

So terrific, it seems, that he was the only person Trump reportedly saw fit to invite to an A-list party he was holding at Mar-a-Lago. Well, Epstein and 28 other women, Florida businessman George Houraney tells The New York Times.

Back in 1992, Trump wanted to hold a "calendar girl" competition at Mar-a-Lago, and asked Houraney to organize it, Houraney tells the Times. So he "arranged to have some contestants fly in" before the event, with "28 girls" slated to come to the first VIP party, Houraney continued. But when Houraney asked Trump for his guest list, he reportedly said it was just him and Epstein.

Events like this weren't unusual until Epstein's friendship "turned from a status symbol into a liability," the Times reports. Trump was sure to make it public when he eventually barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago amid allegations of sexual abuse against Epstein, though "some say" their friendship only ended thanks to a "failed business arrangement," the Times continues.

Houraney, meanwhile, says he warned Trump about Epstein long before he was accused of running a sex trafficking ring, adding that he "pretty much had to ban Jeff from my events." He also accused Trump of "inappropriate behavior toward his girlfriend and business partner, Jill Harth," the Times writes.

Epstein was arrested over the weekend for allegedly running a sex trafficking ring involving dozens of minors. He was accused of similar conduct in Florida more than a decade ago. The White House did not respond to the Times' request for comment. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 1, 2019

This is... one way to not apologize.

On Friday, former Nevada assemblywoman and onetime Democratic candidate for the state's lieutenant governor Lucy Flores said former Vice President Joe Biden kissed her without permission in 2014. Biden did not apologize for or dispute the action, but said he "never" believed he "acted inappropriately" in his many years in politics. For some reason, Biden spokesman Bill Russo decided to take it all a step further.

In a Monday statement, Russo described how Flores' essay prompted a second look at photos of Biden appearing to be uncomfortably touching or interacting with women. Two of those women have recently said they didn't have a problem with Biden's actions, Russo pointed out. But despite those old photos showing behavior similar to what Flores says she experienced, Russo went into a full-on debunking rant about "insidious examples" of harassment claims with "no foundation." He cited "photoshopped images and other manipulations of social media" being used against Biden, and issued a blanket condemnation of these "smears and forgeries" that "right-wing trolls ... continue to exploit."

Critics have called out Biden for issuing a pretty gentle response to Flores' accusations, perhaps sparking Russo's stronger-worded message. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 10, 2018

Alec Baldwin doesn't "want to get this wrong," but he has a few mildly offensive things to say.

The longtime actor wants men exposed by #MeToo "punished," but also fears "that this is a fire that needs constant kindling," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. He says "everywhere I go, black people go crazy," though he's "not going to paint every African-American person with the same brush." And he's also worried you'll take all that the wrong way.

Baldwin is "perpetually at a low boil," as The Hollywood Reporter puts it, and has repeatedly turned full steam against President Trump over the past few years. He's notably kept returning to play the president on Saturday Night Live, a role that's apparently earned him a very specific fan base:

Ever since I played Trump, black people love me. They love me. Everywhere I go, black people go crazy. I think it's because they're most afraid of Trump. I'm not going to paint every African-American person with the same brush, but a significant number of them are sitting there going, 'This is going to be bad for black folks.' [Baldwin, via The Hollywood Reporter]

Of course, he premised all of this by saying "I don't know how to say this and I don't want to get it wrong either." But alas, Twitter lit up with accusations that he did, in fact, get it wrong.

You can read more about his views at The Hollywood Reporter. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 21, 2017

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday on Fox & Friends that FBI Director James Comey's testimony at Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's election interference "left open a lot more questions than it answered." While Comey addressed a wide range of topics — most notably confirming an ongoing FBI investigation into connections between Trump's campaign and Russia, while also dismissing President Trump's wiretapping claims — Conway said what stuck out to her was how problematic leaks are, and the fact that there's no evidence to indicate Russia changed vote totals in the swing states Trump won.

"That's important because if you listen to the Democrats and many of their friends, they insist that this collusion and this effect on the election — it simply was not there," Conway said, noting both Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers testified they did not have evidence to suggest Russian interference on a state vote level. However, Comey did explicitly reject an official White House tweet's claim that he'd suggested "Russia did not influence the electoral process."

Conway said that while this investigation into Russia's election meddling has been going on for eight months, not much seems to have been uncovered. "No connections, no fruits," Conway said. "Donald Trump has been president for two months and he has a lot more to show for it."

Catch Conway's assessment of Comey's testimony below. Becca Stanek

March 6, 2017

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson seemingly referred to slaves as "immigrants" during his speech Monday to employees of the department he was recently confirmed to lead. "That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less," said Carson, who is the only African-American member of President Trump's Cabinet.

Carson went on to say that the slaves who were captured and taken to America against their will had "a dream" just like the immigrants who came to America of their own accord in search of a better life. "[T]hey too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land," Carson said. Becca Stanek

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