Putting on the makeup
In July, Donald Trump told an audience, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
The president revised and extended those remarks Thursday, tweeting that people shouldn't believe Trump said what he said, even though he was clearly seen, heard and recorded on camera saying it.
In a May 2017 interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump said "this Russia thing" was on his mind when he fired FBI Director James Comey. The comment now figures in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation.
Suddenly, 15 months after the interview, about which he had never complained, Trump is suggesting the video was doctored.
In a tweet that began with an attack on CNN, Trump went on to call NBC "the worst" and claimed: "When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!"
That's fiction. No one was caught. Nobody got hurt. Nothing was fudged.
This was the full Trump quote in the interview: "I just said to myself, I said, 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'" NBC has the video online; you can click to see it here.
Trump's Google gotcha — not
Trump and his White House communications team thought they had smoking-gun evidence that Google is biased against him. Trump on Wednesday tweeted a video accusing the top search-engine company of promoting on its homepage livestream links of former President Barack Obama's State of the Union speeches each year, but ignoring Trump's.
But internet archives show Google did link Trump's State of the Union address last year. It did not link Trump's first address to Congress in 2017, which was technically not a State of the Union address. That was consistent with how Google handled the equivalent Obama address to Congress in 2009, which wasn't linked either.
BuzzFeed and others noted a screenshot in the White House-produced video may have been doctored. The frame purporting to show a Google homepage from 2016 shows a logo that was retired the previous year.
Trump told congressional leaders on Thursday he plans on canceling pay increases to civilian federal employees that were slated to go into effect in January. The move could affect more than 16,000 workers in Nassau and Suffolk counties, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Trump said the raises would be "inappropriate" when trying to put the country on "a fiscally sustainable course." The rollback of planned salary boosts applies to both "across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases," a letter from Trump said.
Federal employee unions denounced Trump’s decision as an attack on the federal workforce.
Janison: Are we there yet?
Where are we on denuclearizing North Korea in the two months since Trump's summit Kim Jong Un? Pretty much where we were, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
The good news is that a war seems no closer than before. The bad news is that the U.S. demand that Kim end his nuclear ambitions also seems no closer than before. Neither is realizing any dreams Trump had of winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
He's so inciting
The FBI arrested a Los Angeles man, Robert Chain, charged with making more than a dozen calls to The Boston Globe and threatening to kill its employees because the newspaper was an "enemy of the people."
That's the phrase that Trump has repeatedly used in denouncing news organizations and repeated in a blitz of anti-media tweets on Thursday. The Globe led newspapers across the country earlier this month in publishing editorials calling on Trump to temper his rhetoric.
Chain allegedly demanded the Globe end "treasonous and seditious" attacks on Trump.
Donald and the machine
A focus of Trump's "fake news" tweet complaints Thursday were reports about the impending exit of White House counsel Don McGahn.
"They love to portray chaos in the White House when they know that chaos doesn’t exist-just a 'smooth running machine' with changing parts!" one tweet said. Trump pushed back at news stories that portrayed McGahn as having restrained Trump from firing the special counsel and the attorney general, reports Newsday's Figueroa.
“I liked Don, but he was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions," Trump tweeted.
Or not firing them yet. Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg News that Sessions' job was safe until the November midterm elections, but he wouldn't comment about after that. He leveled a new attack on Mueller's investigation as "illegal," saying there are great scholars” who have said “there never should have been a special counsel.”
What else is happening:
- Trump defended his cold response to the death of Sen. John McCain in the Bloomberg interview, saying, “I’ve done everything that they requested." When asked if McCain. a fellow Republican, would have been a better president than Barack Obama, he wouldn't say. Noting press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders staring at him, he joked, was “having a nervous breakdown” over his response.
- Also in the interview, Trump suggested that three tech giants he accused of promoting liberal bias may be in a “very antitrust situation," but “I won’t comment on the breaking up, of whether it’s that (Google) or Amazon or Facebook,” Trump said.
- The National Enquirer had files going back decades, with much more dirt on Trump than the alleged Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal affairs, and Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen wanted to buy them so they stayed secret, according to The New York Times. But the deal was never completed, and the current whereabouts of the files, if they still exist, aren't known.
- Trump’s advisers and allies are increasingly worried that he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself from a blizzard of investigations and possible impeachment if Democrats take over the House, The Washington Post reports.
- The Trump administration accused Harvard University of "engaging in outright racial balancing" and sided with Asian-American students who allege the Ivy League school's affirmative-action policies discriminated against them.