Do anything, tweet anything
No one should be surprised that Donald Trump fired back on Twitter at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for saying he should resign over past allegations of sexual misconduct. Should anyone be surprised at how?
Trump tarred Gillibrand as “someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them).”
“Would do anything?” What did that mean? Some interpretations:
“Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand?” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), tweeting in the New York Democrat’s defense.
Gillibrand called the president’s attack “a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice, and I will not be silenced on this issue.” (Video clip here.)
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was pointing to the influence of money in politics — not issuing a sexual insinuation. “I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way,” Sanders said.
See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo and Tom Brune.
Pushing back on the revived sexual harassment stories, the White House said Monday it had “eyewitness” accounts to back up Trump’s denials. Pressed for details, they came up with three.
Among them: former beauty pageant contestants Katie Blair and Melissa Young. They were said to knock down the story of former Miss North Carolina Samantha Holvey, who described how Trump “personally inspected each of the contestants” at the 2006 Miss USA contest and barged into dressing rooms. She recalled it as the “dirtiest I felt in my entire life.”
Problem: Blair and Young weren’t there. They competed in different pageants.
The other “eyewitness,” Anthony Gilberthorpe, a Briton, said he was on the plane on which Jessica Leeds says Trump groped her, and said it was really Leeds flirting with Trump.
Problem: Gilberthorpe is notorious in British media as a serial promoter of false stories about himself, such as fabricating an engagement to a make-believe heiress.
Trump can’t save Alabama’s Moore
Trump went all in for Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race, but the president’s popularity in the crimson-red state could not bring him across the finish line.
Democrat Doug Jones, once a long shot, defeated Moore, who bled Republican support over allegations from multiple women, who said he preyed on them sexually when they were in their teens. That means the GOP Senate majority will shrink to 51-49, making it harder for Trump to get his legislative agenda through Congress.
Trump’s post-election tweet was something rarely seen from him — a concession, and a gracious one.
“Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time.”
Not that short. It’s Jones’ seat through 2020. Expect Trump to start assigning blame for the humiliating loss before then.
Bannon empties flamethrower
Trump’s former chief strategist seemed to take a shot at the president’s daughter Ivanka during an election eve rally for Moore.
Before her dad endorsed Moore, Ivanka said she had no reason to doubt the women who accused him of sexually preying on them as teens, and added, “There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
Said Bannon: “There’s a special place in hell” for Republicans who don’t support other Republicans.
Given the audience, the Breitbart chief also had a peculiar put-down for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host. Bannon bragged he went to much better schools — Harvard and Georgetown — than Joe Scarborough.
Scarborough graduated from the University of Alabama.
Overmatched by Mueller?
Trump loyalists worry the president’s lawyers are mistake-prone and aren’t doing enough to protect him from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of legal “killers,” The Washington Post reports.
But Trump is, by most accounts, satisfied with them, and accepting of assurances they give him that Mueller’s probe is nearing a conclusion, the Post said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, urged Trump to rethink two of his most controversial judicial nominations.
The Iowa senator told CNN that he is advising the White House to “reconsider” the nomination of Jeff Mateer for a judgeship in Texas and said the administration “should not proceed” on the nomination of Brett Talley for Alabama.
Grassley’s reasons weren’t spelled out. In a recently reported 2015 speech, Mateer said transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan.” An online post by Talley in 2011 defended the early Ku Klux Klan.
What else is happening
- Gillibrand is a prodigious fundraiser, and Trump’s attack spurred a new email appeal for campaign cash.
- A Trump tweet said Democrats are “moving on” to “false accusations” and “fabricated stories” that he harassed women because they “have been unable to show any collusion with Russia.”
- That tweet called the accusers “women who I don’t know and/or have never met.” But they include a former “Apprentice” contestant, a former business partner, a woman who has a photo of the two of them together and a People magazine reporter who interviewed him, The Washington Post notes.
- Donald Trump Jr. will be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday for closed-door questioning by Senate Intelligence Committee investigators as part of Russian election-meddling probe, Politico reported.
- Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told The Washington Post a second special counsel should be named to investigate FBI and Justice Department investigators for “conflicts of interest” amid conservative complaints of anti-Trump bias. Sekulow would not answer whether he was speaking for Trump.
- Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he has a deal with Regnery Publishing to write a book about his six-month tenure. Will his book-signing crowds be the largest ever?