GOP strategist Rick Wilson put up a blistering tweetstorm on Monday night, ripping into the “clickservatives, Trump fellators, fanboys, grunting MAGA mouthbreathers” who offer unconditional support to President Trump.
Wilson took notice of how NewsMax CEO Chris Ruddy announced that the president is thinking about firing Robert Mueller as the special counsel for the ongoing investigations into Russia’s election meddling. Wilson agrees with Ruddy that firing Mueller would be a major misstep for Trump, though Wilson doubted that the president’s supporters would care because crushing their political enemies is the only thing that matters, regardless of the consequences or fallout.
To that end, Wilson wrote that Trump supporters should just stop pretending to care about the law or political precedent, and swear fealty to what they are truly loyal to:
Certainly one of the better tweetstorms we’ve seen!
1/ Fire Mueller. Do it. Fire Mueller.
Do it, because it’s time for the final divorce between the clickservatives and any pretense they….
It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves“turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers.
On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counter-intelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted. In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted.
During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly,for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.
January 27 Dinner
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.
My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.
A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work. Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job,saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others.
He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
February 14 Oval Office Meeting
On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counter-terrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC.
There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me.
The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day.
The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn,which he did not then specify.The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share.
After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him.The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President.He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.” The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks.
I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President. I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.
The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.
After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President’s request. Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.March 30 Phone Call On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.
He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed,confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump.
I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)
The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaignmoney. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.
Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.
April 11 Phone Call
On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation.I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled.
I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal toyou, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.# # #
(CNN)Fired FBI director James Comey plans to testify publicly in the Senate as early as next week to confirm bombshell accusations that President Donald Trump pressured him to end his investigation into a top Trump aide’s ties to Russia, a source close to the issue said Wednesday.
Final details are still being worked out and no official date for his testimony has been set. Comey is expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year’s presidential election.
Comey has spoken privately with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to work out the parameters for his testimony to ensure there are no legal entanglements as a result of his public account, a source said. Comey will likely sit down with Mueller, a longtime colleague at the Justice Department, for a formal interview only after his public testimony.
When he testifies, Comey is unlikely to be willing to discuss in any detail the FBI’s investigation into the charges of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign — the centerpiece of the probe, this source said. But he appears eager to discuss his tense interactions with Trump before his firing, which have now spurred allegations that the president may have tried to obstruct the investigation. If it happens, Comey’s public testimony promises to be a dramatic chapter in the months-long controversy, and it will likely bring even more intense scrutiny to an investigation that Trump has repeatedly denounced as a “witch hunt.”
The appointment of Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia investigation had raised concerns among some members of Congress that his probe could scuttle the chance for Congress and the public to hear directly from Comey. That appears less likely now that Mueller and Comey have discussed the limits of his testimony.
Since his firing last month, dramatic accounts have emerged in the New York Times, CNN, and elsewhere about the tense confrontations with Trump that Comey memorialized in memos afterward. A week after he took office in January, Trump allegedly demanded Comey’s “loyalty” if he kept him on as FBI director, and he urged Comey to drop his ongoing investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s fired national security adviser, in a separate, one-on-one meeting.
The source said that Comey is expected to stand by those accounts in his testimony.
“The bottom line is he’s going to testify,” the source close to the issue said. “He’s happy to testify, and he’s happy to cooperate.”
Officials with the Justice Department and Mueller’s office declined to comment.
Donald Trump is “emotionally withdrawing” and gaining weight as the FBI investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government creeps closer to the Oval Office.
As he returns from his mercurial trip abroad, the president is forced to deal with the fallout from news that members of his inner circle, including son-in-law and “Secretary of Everything” Jared Kushner is a person of interest in the FBI probe.
CNN’s Gloria Borger reports the president was already “in a pretty glum mood” when he set out for a multi-day blitz through Europe and the Middle East. But now he faces even more legal woes after reports revealed Kushner tried to establish a backchannel line of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. He’s even brought on his longtime personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, who will “supervise” the president’ legal team.
One source told Borger Trump’s major misstep was firing former FBI Director James Comey, which ultimately resulted int he appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Allowing a special counsel to happen was idiocy,” a Trump ally told Borger. “Special counsels never end well.”
Commenting on the White House’s less-than-strategic handling of all matters Russia, another ally remarked, “These guys don’t play chess. They play checkers.”
The culmination of distracting and damaging scandals at the White House have caused the president to withdraw from others, a source told CNN.
“He now lives within himself, which is a dangerous place for Donald Trump to be,” a confidante said. ”I see him emotionally withdrawing. He’s gained weight. He doesn’t have anybody whom he trusts.”
And as the president receives conflicting advice from aides and officials, there’s concern over whether the president will even listen to the information. “No one is giving him the landscape—this is how it works, this is what you should do or not do,” a friend told Borger. “And no one has enough control—or security—to do that.”
Instead, the president hopes for a magic bullet to quell the Russia scandal.
“He’s sitting there saying, like he does with everything, ‘You guys work for me. Fix this,’” a source said.
By all accounts, working for President Donald Trump is an absolute nightmare. On top of the obvious embarrassment one must feel being directly associated with the disastrous administration, Trump is reportedly vindictive and vicious towards his subordinates. The Washington Post recently detailed the manner in which Trump regularly insults and demeans those who work for him.
In response to the Post’s article, Hope Hicks – the White House Director of Strategic Communications – released a ridiculous statement that quickly became the subject of widespread ridicule:
“President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.”
Ignoring the flagrant mendacity of the statement, it’s impossible not to find the wording strange, if not patently absurd. It reads like a speech from an autocratic regime’s cult of personality praising their Supreme Leader or a work of satire.
In terms of content, Trump actively exudes a negative energy, not a positive one. His campaign rhetoric was focused on how bad and weak America has become, and how he was the only one could fix it. He regularly uses his social media to attack his opponents and the free press. He’s also habitually disrespectful towards women, so it’s more than a stretch for Hicks to say that he “treats everyone with respect.”
A senior writer for Shareblue made a hilarious comparison on Twitter:
i changed one thing about this statement from trump white house spokesperson hope hicks, see if you can find it pic.twitter.com/wnH0j5F7pZ
Trump has a disturbing history of cozying up to dictators and foreign strongmen, so it’s unsurprising that his team’s rhetoric would mimic the grossly exaggerated praise that such leaders heap upon themselves. Subtlety – like governance – clearly isn’t Trump’s strong suit.
The speech, once intended to offer encouragement and inspiration, became laced with grievances in the hours before the remarks were delivered.
“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” President Donald Trump told graduating ensigns, before projecting an entrenched battle to come.
“Don’t give in,” he said. “Don’t back down.”
Hours later, his words appeared to gain new meaning.
Trump and his aides received less than an hour’s notice Wednesday before the Justice Department announced it was bringing in Robert Mueller, an ex-FBI director, as a special counsel to take over the investigation into Russia’s election meddling. It was the third straight day this week that brought deeply damaging news to an increasingly beleaguered commander-in-chief.
When he learned of the development, Trump himself was in the middle of interviewing candidates for the FBI director post, which is vacant because he fired the last person leading the Russia probe. A half-dozen advisers — led by his White House counsel, who first informed him of the decision — crowded into the Oval Office to plot a response.
It was a blindside that will substantially escalate the investigation into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia. It’s also another reminder to an increasingly besieged President of the limitations on his own power, even within the executive branch.
“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” Trump declared in a crisp, 57-word statement released 80 minutes after news emerged of the Justice Department’s decision, which aides say he dictated from the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,” said Trump, who continued his FBI interviews even as news of the special prosecutor became public. “In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
The White House Wednesday night was aiming for a measured response to Mueller’s appointment and ended the night relatively pleased at the muted approach they believed the President put forward.
But that clearly dissipated by Thursday morning.
“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special (counsel) appointed!” the President complained on Twitter. He added, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
Containing the fallout
As the President was meeting with four finalists for the suddenly vacant FBI post Wednesday, some aides hoped a quick decision could help turn the corner on another week that had already become one of the toughest of his nascent presidency.
Those hopes were dashed by news of the special prosecutor, which was ordered by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter Wednesday.
As the President held brief conversations with the FBI contenders, word reached the White House counsel’s office on the second floor of the West Wing that the order had been signed.
The President wasn’t asked. He was told.
“It’s still sinking in,” one administration official said, describing an air of uncertainty in the West Wing. “We were told about it. Not asked about it.”
The surprise announcement frustrated Trump, according to his aides, who have now spent the past three evenings seeking to contain the fallout from a series of rapid-pace headlines that further complicate the ties between the President and Russia.
Inside the West Wing, staffers again clambered for a response. Only two days ago, press secretary Sean Spicer insisted there was no use for a special counsel.
“There’s, frankly, no need for a special prosecutor,” he told reporters Monday.
The terse statement Wednesday was issued under the President’s name, the only comment of the evening. Trump and his chief of staff Reince Priebus gathered staff to bolster the mood, according to one senior White House official.
“Let them do their thing and we will do ours,” one official said in describing the message in the meeting. “We’re all in this together.”
But elsewhere, signs of fresh chaos were emerging.
Advisers planning Trump’s first foreign trip, which begins Friday, canceled scheduled briefings on the matter to avoid having reporters milling about the West Wing. Vice President Mike Pence roared away in his motorcade.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counselor who had been scheduled for an appearance on Fox News, abruptly canceled.
“It does seem a little chaotic over there, I gotta be honest with you,” said her would-be interviewer Tucker Carlson, a frank admission from a host who regularly defends the administration.
Into the night, the White House struggled to contain its frustration. Senior advisers told junior aides to focus on their work and compartmentalize the latest round of drama, which now the West Wing has even less control over.
The President and those around him saw again Wednesday night the limits of his own executive authority, a feeling presidents before him have bemoaned and he has witnessed multiple times in his four months in office.
One aide described the mood in two words: “Chaotically dark.”
‘Enjoy your life’
As for the President, his foul mood has only persisted, even as he approaches the major endurance test of an eight-day foreign swing to five countries.
People close to Trump say he remains angry and frustrated with his staff. Rumors of a shakeup — which have shadowed the White House since the day Trump took office — only increased in volume as the barrage of bad news continued.
Trump continues to strain the patience and emotions of his underlings, who find themselves struggling to understand the impulsive and often self-damaging behavior of their boss.
The frustrations extend beyond the White House. One senior GOP source — who has been in regular contact with Rosenstein, who helped execute the Comey firing, but Wednesday signed the order naming a special counsel — said the deputy attorney general had become angry and exasperated with the Trump White House over their handling of the Comey matter.
Rosenstein, who was so upset after last week’s proceedings that he was “talking about packing his bags,” is throwing Trump “overboard” with this special counsel, the source suggested.
Meanwhile, at the White House, staffers say they’re exhausted after a week of arrows.
“It’s just been three days straight of these 5:45 pm announcements,” one aide said.
Trump has sought to mask any strain during his increasingly rare public appearances.
He emerged from his White House residence with a smile early Wednesday, blissfully ignoring reporters who shouted questions at him as he made his way across a sun-drenched South Lawn toward the Marine One helicopter.
Flying to Connecticut to deliver his first commencement address to a US military academy — a yearly tradition all presidents generally fulfill — Trump was accompanied by a collection of aides he’s openly considering firing.
His remarks, which wavered between doses of inspiration for the young graduates and angry screeds on his rivals, previewed a coming battle.
“You have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight,” he declared, before ending his remarks with advice he likely wishes he could take himself.
David Clarke, the controversial sheriff of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County and a conservative media darling, is joining the Trump administration as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke announced the move in a local radio interview Wednesday afternoon.
The hiring comes as public scrutiny of the jail he oversees in Milwaukee reaches a fever pitch. There are about 3,200 county jails in the United States, but few have drawn as much recent attention as the one he supervises. Four inmates died while in its custody last year, and another sued the jail after her baby died shortly after birth. But local prosecutors have focused their attention on the fate of Terrill Thomas, one of the four, who died of dehydration in solitary confinement. He was 38 years old.
Investigators probing Thomas’s April 2016 death soon discovered it came after jail officials cut off water access to his cell for seven days. What followed was a flurry of legal activity against the jail’s leadership. His family filed a federal lawsuit against Clarke and the jail in March, alleging that Thomas had been “subjected to a form of torture” by being denied water. An inquest jury said Monday there was probable cause to charge seven jail officials, including two supervisors, with felony neglect of a prisoner. Clarke was not among them, but District Attorney John Chisholm told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he could charge more or fewer officials than what the jury recommends.
News outlets previously reported that the Trump administration was considering Clarke to lead the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Partnership and Engagement. In that role, as an assistant secretary, he would be the department’s top liaison with the more than 18,000 local law-enforcement agencies throughout the country. Fortunately for Clarke, the post wouldn’t require Senate approval, sparing him from what would likely be a contentious confirmation battle about any role he may have had in the jail-neglect case. The White House acknowledged move to HuffPost shortly after Clarke’s announcement.
Clarke built his brand not on policing, per se, but on politics. He’ll now have the chance to operate in a more political realm, and at the same time extricate himself from a growing scandal at the jail he runs. Despite that turmoil, Clarke’s ascendancy into the Trump administration isn’t necessarily a surprise. With the defeat of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in last November’s election in Arizona, Clarke is now the most prominent conservative sheriff in the country—and the most controversial.
His rigid conservative views, as well as his outspokenness in sharing them, made the Wisconsin sheriff a popular guest on conservative media outlets in recent years. Amid increased public scrutiny of law-enforcement agencies—scrutiny Trump administration officials actively oppose—a black conservative sheriff condemning the Black Lives Matter movement on Fox News was a potent image.
Clarke’s opining often went beyond policing issues: On his podcast, he referred to Planned Parenthood as “Planned Genocide” and American higher education as “a racketeering ring.” But his most frequent target is criminal-justice reform—an issue that’s increasingly popular on both the left and the right, but one that’s been dismissed by Clarke as “utterly destructive to the rule of law and public safety.” In one notable instance, his analysis repeated racist tropes about African Americans. “Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle — because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt,” Clarke told Glenn Beck in a 2015 interview.
Clarke hasn’t backed down from his draconian approach toward those under his jurisdiction in the jail.
Left-leaning activist groups receive most of his ire, and his language toward them often veers into the eschatological. In a speech at the Republican National Convention last summer where he endorsed Trump, he compared the Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street movements to “anarchy” and described protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore as “the collapse of the social order.” The previous year, he predicted that Black Lives Matter would “join forces with ISIS” to destroy the American government. Clarke’s antipathy toward protest movements apparently extends only to those on the left: In a tweet one month before the November election, Clarke described the federal government and media as “corrupt” and said it was “pitchforks and torches time.”
Ironically, despite his national profile as a tough-talking lawman, Clarke’s law-enforcement responsibilities as sheriff of Milwaukee County are fairly limited. The sheriff’s department is a law-enforcement agency, but virtually all of the day-to-day policing in his county is performed by the Milwaukee Police Department. Clarke served on that police force for almost three decades, including as a detective on the city’s homicide squad. His current portfolio is more administrative than investigative, but as Maurice Chammah noted in a 2016 profile for this magazine, the sheriff’s exercise of his office has still drawn criticism:
Traditionally, Clarke’s department has investigated a small number of crimes, patrolled the county’s highways and parks, managed security at the courthouse and airport, and run the county’s two jails, [the Milwaukee County Jail] downtown for pretrial detainees and one south of the city for those serving their sentences. Previously, a county-executive appointee ran the latter—the Milwaukee House of Correction—until 2008, when a federal report found it was plagued by security and safety problems. As a result, Clarke was granted control. He was initially lauded for revamping the jail and overcoming a deficit that ran into the millions—all in just a few months.
But over the next five years, the praise disappeared as Clarke eliminated nearly all programs for prisoners (except a boot camp) and woke prisoners up with bullhorns. He was a proponent of “nutraloaf,” a mix of chicken, biscuit mix, vegetables, and beans served to inmates being disciplined. After one inmate sued, saying that a rancid nutraloaf meal caused him to vomit so much he lost 14 pounds in 19 days, an insurance company settled on the food manufacturer’s behalf. In 2013, the county board moved to take back control of the facility. Clarke in turn sued them but lost. Since then, the county has increased job-training and GED programs in the jail, and those who finish their sentences are enrolled in health care through the Affordable Care Act; the jail is one of the first in the country to do so.
Clarke hasn’t backed down from his draconian approach toward those under his jurisdiction in the jail. In statements to reporters about the Thomas family lawsuit, the sheriff directed attention to Thomas’s alleged criminal activities. It’s worth noting that because he died in jail custody before a trial, Thomas wasn’t convicted of those offenses in a court of law.
“I have nearly 1,000 inmates. I don’t know all their names but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino, causing one man to be hit by gunfire [and] while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke told the Associated Press in March. “The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.” He did not address the history of psychiatric issues described by Thomas’s family in their lawsuit.
One can see echoes of Trump’s combative approach to controversy in Clarke’s words: a hyperfocus on alleged criminal misconduct by others, thinly veiled insinuations of media bias, the sidestepping of personal accountability. The degree to which elements of that approach affected Milwaukee County Jail’s operations is unclear. But it would seem to make Clarke a natural fit for an administration that also views the world, and especially the justice system, in stark and uncompromising terms.
A Russian state-owned bank under US sanctions, whose CEO met with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law in December, helped financed the construction of the president’s 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto, according to a new report.
The bank, Vnesheconombank, or VEB, bought $850 million of stock in a Ukrainian steelmaker from the billionaire Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider, who was constructing the hotel at the time, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Shnaider initially purchased the stock via his company, Midland Resources Holding, for about $70 million after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to The Journal.
The money from the sale of that stock to VEB — which The Journal said went through while Russian President Vladimir Putin was chairman of VEB’s supervisory board — was used to help finance the construction of the Toronto hotel “at a key moment for the project.”
From the Journal:
“After Mr. Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the steelmaker, Mr. Shnaider injected more money into the Trump Toronto project, which was financially troubled. Mr. Shnaider’s lawyer, Symon Zucker, said in an April interview that about $15 million from the asset sale went into the Trump Toronto project. A day later, he wrote in an email: ‘I am not able to confirm that any funds’ from the deal ‘went into the Toronto project.'”
Zucker did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. But he told The Journal that Midland Resources “has never had any relationship with VEB” and “does not dictate where their purchasers borrow funds.”
The Trump Organization has distanced itself from the Toronto project, which faced financial difficulties last year. The organization “merely licensed its brand and manages the hotel and residences,” it told The Journal in a statement.
The project was initially a joint venture between Trump and Shnaider, who approached Trump in 2004 asking to license the Trump name for the 65-story tower. Trump said at the time that he would “manage the hotel’s operations,” according to The Journal, while Shnaider and his business partner, Val Levitan, would focus on the development.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, met with the Vnesheconombank CEO Sergey Gorkov in December, The New York Times reported in late March. Putin appointed Gorkov in January 2016 as part of a restructuring of the bank’s management team, according to Bloomberg.
At the time, Kushner was trying to find investors for an office building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, told The Times that Gorkov and Kushner didn’t discuss the Kushner Tower project, and a White House official said in a statement that Kushner met with Gorkov as part of his role as “the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials.”
But the meeting was reportedly orchestrated by Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, who also met with Kushner in December, and itcaught the eye of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has invited Kushner to testify about his meetings with Gorkov and Kislyak. The committee is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether any members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared to signal during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month that the intelligence community was scrutinizing Trump’s business ties to Russia.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terror, asked Clapper if he ever found “a situation where a Trump business interest in Russia” gave him “concern.”
“Not in the course of the preparation of the intelligence community’s assessment,” Clapper said.
Graham pressed Clapper on whether he had ever come across such a situation, to which Clapper replied, “I can’t comment on that because that impacts an investigation.”
As Trump praised and defended Putin along the campaign trail, many questioned whether the real-estate mogul had any financial incentives — including business ties or outstanding debt — to seek better relations with Moscow.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Recent events have shaken loose a deluge of anonymous quotes in which Donald Trump is viciously roasted by his own top aides.
From the New York Times‘ coverage of Trump’s spontaneous decision to tell Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador about top-secret Israeli intelligence:
In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of printed briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would do harm to United States allies.
On the same subject, a Reuters report Wednesday morning quotes a source who’s heard from White House officials that Trump will only read preparatory material if his name is in it:
National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,” according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials.
The Daily Beast, meanwhile, had the following aide reaction to the Russia-Israel story:
“With news like this I’m beginning to wonder why Trump ran in the first place and if he really cares about the country,” said a senior Trump appointee involved in counter-ISIS policymaking. “I miss candidate Trump. Now he’s just a pathetic mess.”
The Beast also got this in response to Tuesday’s report that Trump suggested to former FBI Director James Comey that Comey drop an investigation into disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn:
A senior official in the Trump administration, who previously worked on the president’s campaign, offered a candid and brief assessment of the fallout from that string of bad press: “I don’t see how Trump isn’t completely fucked.”
But several advisers and others close to Trump said they wouldn’t be surprised if Trump gave information he shouldn’t have.
One adviser who often speaks to the president said the conversation was likely freewheeling in the Oval Office, and he probably wanted to impress the officials.
“He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms,” this adviser said. “He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.”
And that’s supposed to be a defense of the president!
Read the things that these people, members of his inner circle, his personally selected appointees, say daily through anonymous quotations to the press. (And I assure you they say worse off the record.) They have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpate with contempt for him, and to regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.