Trump: I didn't hit 'send'
For four days straight, Donald Trump assailed four left-wing Democratic congresswomen as holding beliefs so alien that they don't belong in America. As he kept up the offensive at a Wednesday campaign rally, heaping the most toxic vitriol upon one of them, Rep. Ilhan Omar, the crowd agreed and a chant rose up: "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back."
On Thursday, Trump told reporters, "I didn’t say that; they did." Disclaiming any responsibility for the chilling response to attack lines denounced by Democrats and disowned by some Republicans as racist and xenophobic, Trump continued: "I was not happy with it. I disagree with it." Trump even said he tried to cut the crowd short — "I started speaking very quickly.”
False. The video shows that as the chant rose, Trump stood back from the mic and turned his head left and then right to soak in the scene. He said nothing. Only when the crowd noise began to fade 14 seconds later did he resume speaking. Later, he said again from the stage of the North Carolina arena: "You know what, if they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”
He claims that he wasn't happy with the chant? He tweeted after the rally: "What a crowd, and what great people. The enthusiasm blows away our rivals on the Radical Left."
So what changed Thursday? Perhaps this: A group of House Republicans, even more uncomfortable with Trump's "go back" tack after the rally, asked Vice President Mike Pence at a breakfast meeting to take their concerns to Trump. Ivanka Trump also voiced her disapproval to her dad on Thursday morning, according to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
The president said he would "certainly try" to stop the chant if another rally crowd took it up. That would be a step out of character for Trump, who is more accustomed to inciting his fans — he offered in 2016 to pay their legal fees if they beat up protesters — than tamping them down. "These are people that love our country. I want them to keep loving our country," he said of the chanters.
Back in 2016, Trump also said he "didn't like it" when the crowds screamed "lock her up" at the mention of Hillary Clinton. He didn't stop it. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Targets on their backs?
Trump's attacks have created increased concerns among House Democrats for the safety of the four progressive congresswomen Trump has targeted — Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.
Ocasio-Cortez charged that Trump "put millions of Americans in danger" by "creating a volatile environment in this country through violent rhetoric," which defamed the women on the basis of their ancestry, not just their politics.
Omar, a Somali-born Muslim from Minnesota who wears a hijab, said she wasn't fearful for herself, but "what I am scared for is the safety of people who share my identity." She said of Trump: "I believe he is fascist."
The Associated Press writes that not since George Wallace’s campaign in 1968 has a presidential candidate — and certainly not an incumbent — put racial polarization at the center of his pitch to voters. Trump and his brain trust believe the strategy carries far more benefits than risks.
Trump's Stormy scramble
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, serving a federal prison sentence, isn't the only one wondering why he was the only one prosecuted for campaign-finance violation in the Stormy Daniels hush-money scandal.
Newly released documents show Trump and then-campaign press secretary Hope Hicks took part along with Cohen in a flurry of calls about payoffs to quash stories of Trump's alleged affairs in the weeks before the 2016 election. Trump claimed to reporters in 2018 that he didn't know about the payment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment and did not explain its decision not to prosecute anyone else. U.S. Justice Department policy prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president played at least a part in the decision not to charge Trump, a person familiar with the matter told USA Today.
Cohen, who pleaded guilty to unrelated crimes as well, said in a statement from prison that the "exoneration" of the Trump Organization, whose officials arranged his reimbursement, "should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and The Department of Justice.” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called for an inquiry into whether Attorney General William Barr had a role in the decision by the New York federal prosecutors.
For more, see John Riley's story for Newsday.
Border debacle crosses his line
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) grew angry and emotional as he went off on acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan Thursday over the conditions of U.S.-Mexico border detention facilities for migrants, The Hill reported.
“You feel like you’re doing a great job, right?” Cummings asked.
"We’re doing our level best in a very challenging situation,” McAleenan said before getting cut off again.
“What does that mean? What does that mean? When a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower?” Cummings said loudly. “Come on man. What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings.”
Warning shot at Iran
A U.S. warship on Thursday destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it threatened the ship, Trump said, marking a new escalation of tensions. Iran shut down an American drone in the same waterway a month ago, and Trump came close to retaliating with a military strike.
“The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” Trump said.
Undocumented but not unaware
Trump's publicity buildup for massive raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has had a significant, unintended side effect, Time magazine reports: For the first time, many undocumented immigrants now know that when ICE agents come to their door, they have rights.
Attorneys, advocates, and organizers in 10 cities said the immigrant communities stirred efforts to get the information out. As a result, they said, the immigrants were prepared in a way that years of outreach had not accomplished.
“We’re seeing a lot of these [attempts] thwarted because no one was opening the door,” said Thomas Kennedy, political director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “It’s encouraging to see that people are taking these lessons and applying them to protect themselves.”
Democrats' debate lineups set
A CNN drawing has determined the lineups for each night of the second round of Democratic presidential debates.
The Tuesday, July 30, installment will feature the first head-to-head matchup between the two top progressive-wing candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Also appearing: Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan and Steve Bullock.
Wednesday, July 31, sets up a rematch between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, whose clash made the biggest splash in the first round of debates. On stage with them will be Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Bill de Blasio, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, Tulsi Gabbard and Jay Inslee.
What else is happening:
- Brought together by Trump's efforts to exploit divisions among House Democrats, leaders of the moderate and progressive wings released a rare joint statement that reads like a political truce, Politico reported.
- Under federal rules, a worker who faces a taunt of "go back to where you came from" could have a valid claim of discrimination and harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website spells it out.
- Anthony Scaramucci, who denounced Trump's tweets and remarks "racist," has been disinvited from a Palm Beach County GOP fundraiser where he was supposed to speak. Still slated to appear are Roger Stone, awaiting trial for allegedly lying in the Russia investigation, and former Rep. Mark Foley, who was forced to quit over sexually charged texts to teenage boys from the congressional page program.
- De Blasio's NYPD security details accompany him on presidential campaign trips at a cost to taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars, reported The City, a news website. In contrast, Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is paying for his bodyguards with campaign funds.
- Trump is likely to nominate Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be the next Labor secretary, Politico reported, citing three sources familiar with the plans. He has represented Walmart, among other companies.
- Trump has reportedly agreed to an appeal from Kim Kardashian West to help get rapper A$AP Rocky released from a Swedish jail, where he is being held on assault charges. "Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @SecPompeo, Jared Kushner & everyone involved with the efforts to Free ASAP Rocky & his two friends," she tweeted.