The cyberbully pulpit

“This has to stop.” “Stop it!”

Those were Twitter messages from Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to Donald Trump on Thursday.

The two senators were reacting to a pair of tweets aimed at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-hosting couple, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. Even by Trump standards, the crudeness managed to shock:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came ... to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

Amid bipartisan revulsion, it was left to White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders to defend Trump’s tweets as justified because he felt “personally attacked” on the show.

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“The American people elected a fighter. ... They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump,” she said. Odds are he’s not going to stop. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

‘Blatantly sexist’

Sanders’ counterpuncher defense didn’t fly — not for a president with a history of crude insults against women for their appearance and who complained about debate moderator Megyn Kelly in 2015 by saying there “was blood coming out of her wherever.”

“This is not OK,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) “As a female in politics, I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has tried to avoid criticizing Trump, said, “What we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate. And this obviously doesn’t help do that.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) tweeted to Trump, “This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”

Democrats, of course, didn’t hold back. Calling the tweet “blatantly sexist,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “It’s really sad. This is the president of the United States. Something’s wrong there.”

Local and global

A sample of the negative response comes from Suffolk County where Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a Trump supporter facing re-election in the fall, condemned the president’s tweeted message.

“I’m not going to defend his tweet,” Zeldin said on CNN (which Trump likes to call “fake news”). “It was ugly and I personally do hold the president of the United States to a higher standard.”

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The televised Zeldin exchange is here.

Where’s Melania on this?

First lady Melania Trump said before the election that she would use her position to combat cyberbullying, whose victims “are hurt when they are made fun of or made to feel less in looks or intelligence.”

Nothing has come of that plan. A statement from her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said, “As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.” But Grisham later added the statement wasn’t an endorsement of Thursday’s tweets.

The take-away: High energy

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Obscured by the Twitter turmoil and suspense on the fate of the health care bill was the declared theme of “energy week” at the White House, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Rick Perry, the U.S. energy secretary, said one aim is to “make nuclear energy cool again.” Trump is also pushing a program of deregulation for coal, fracking and fossil fuels to bring about “a golden age of American energy dominance.”

Not in favor: wind energy. Trump long fretted that an offshore wind farm would ruin the views for his golf course in Scotland. He said the turbine blades kill birds.

Trump meets Putin next week

For years, Trump admired Vladimir Putin from afar. He has since toned it down amid the backdrop of the Russia investigation and clashes such as in Syria, but Trump has never directly criticized his counterpart.

Next week, Trump will meet with Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany. White House officials sidestepped reporters’ questions about whether Trump plans to talk to Putin about the Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. See Brune’s story for Newsday.

WSJ: Hacks and a Flynn hint

Before the election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher, Peter W. Smith, mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, Smith implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was a top Trump adviser, the report said. Smith was interviewed by the Journal before he died May 14 at age 81.

What else is happening

  • Scarborough and Brzezinski did attend the New Year’s party at Mar-a-Lago, but said they were there to ask for an interview with Trump. They did not succeed, Newsday’s Brune notes. The “Morning Joe” co-hosts used to be friendlier with Trump, who was a frequent show guest.
  • A Fox News poll conducted June 25-27 found 71 percent of voters say the president’s tweets are hurting his agenda, while just 17 percent see them as helpful.
  • Touting legislation to crack down on criminals living illegally in the United States, Trump singled out the MS-13 gang and said, “We’re actually liberating towns, like on Long Island,” Brune reports.
  • No disruptions for travelers were visible Thursday at Kennedy Airport, as revised restrictions imposed by Trump on foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority nations and all refugees were slated to be rolled out, Newsday’s Víctor Manuel Ramos and Bart Jones reported.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blew his stack at a White House personnel official who torpedoed proposed nominees to senior State posts, Politico reported. Tillerson said Thursday of the staffing process: “I’d like to go faster.”
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions Thursday of a Chinese bank he charged with laundering money for North Korea. Mnuchin said the action wasn’t aimed at China.