Trump's cleanup hitter
President Donald Trump said last week that “dirty on the outside” means “dirty on the inside.”
He was talking about the Virginia restaurant that booted press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But if Trump draws conclusions based on outward appearances, it’s a marvel that EPA chief Scott Pruitt still has his job. He faces at least 14 federal inquiries into spending and management practices that flow from Pruitt's apparently expansive view of the perks to which he is entitled.
The questions first arose over his excuses for first-class travel on the taxpayers’ tab and his outsized 24-hour security detail. There was the sweetheart residential rental deal with a lobbyist and having aides run all sorts of personal errands, including shopping for a used mattress from Trump’s Washington hotel and trying to score a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife.
And now there’s more. Top EPA aides told a congressional committee that Pruitt sought their help to get his wife a $200,000-plus job as a fundraiser with a Republican group and asked EPA officials to help him in a dispute he had with a landlord, according to The Washington Post.
CNN reports that Pruitt and aides kept "secret" calendars and schedules to hide controversial meetings or calls with industry representatives and others. Those that “looked bad” were removed — a potential violation of federal record-keeping laws, the report said.
For months, the White House has said that the concerns about Pruitt are being looked into, but Trump has praised Pruitt's record in fulfilling his deregulation agenda.
Getting IT wrong
Trump and right-wing outlets have been pushing a conspiracy theory that a former House Democratic IT staffer charged with bank fraud was also a foreign spy trying to steal government secrets.
"Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today," said one Trump tweet.
Following an 18-month investigation, the Justice Department said: Uh-uh.
The defendant, Imran Awan, pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a bank loan application, and prosecutors said they won't recommend jail time. The plea agreement included an unusual, explicit debunking of the unfounded allegations that Trump ran with.
Addressed to Awan's lawyer, it said: "The Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information."
Trump also insinuated that the House Democrats' server went missing. It didn't — the investigators had it.
Janison: He'll never be royal
Newsday's Dan Janison offers an Independence Day thought: Americans who need reassurance that Trump's presidency remains very far from a monarchy should consider the lack of practical impact of his most bizarre Twitter proclamations, other than to entertain fans and razz others.
His ill-informed tweets about the "Democrat IT" scandal are just one example. His "election-fraud" commission addressing the "millions" of illegal voters Trump imagines was disbanded. Hillary Clinton walks free, and Trump's made good on none of the threats against companies that displease him, or on Mexico and the Democrats he says are behind the Russia investigations.
Facts take a holiday
Trump gave fact-checkers a Third of July picnic.
He tweeted that the Obama administration granted U.S. citizenship to 2,500 Iranians — including government officials — during the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, without any evidence it was true. That may have come from a Fox News report based on unsubstantiated comments by a hard-line opposition lawmaker in Iran's parliament, who is said to traffic in conspiracy theories about his own government.
In a new attack on Harley-Davidson's plans to make some motorcycles for foreign markets overseas, Trump tweeted: "Harley customers are not happy with their move — sales are down 7% in 2017." Just how motorcycle buyers took out their anger over a company decision in mid-2018 by spurning the company's products in 2017 remains an unsolved mystery.
Trump also somehow connected a recent data deletion from the National Security Agency database to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation: "Such a disgrace. The Witch Hunt continues!” The NSA program he referred to is used primarily for counterterrorism, The Washington Post reported.
A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee backs the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to aid Trump, and that it was even worse than initially believed.
"The Committee's investigation has exposed a far more extensive Russian effort to manipulate social media outlets to sow discord and to interfere in the 2016 election and American society," according to the report's summary.
The findings come as Trump — who meets with Putin July 16 — continues to cast doubt on whether Russians interfered in the presidential election. Late last month, Trump tweeted: "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!"
Trump on Tuesday decided to share the reasoning behind the idiosyncrasies of his tweeting style — his rule-be-darned use of capitalization.
"After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized!" he tweeted.
Yet to be explained: The chronically bad spelling (it's pore over, not pour over). The shameless falsehoods (he didn't actually write his books — he hired ghostwriters). If typos were his only problem, no one would quibble about taht.
A new version sent almost two hours later corrected "pore," but here's a text of the original, which was deleted.
What else is happening:
- The Trump administration is rescinding Obama-era guidance from 2011 and 2016 that encouraged schools and universities to take a student's race into account to promote diversity in admissions. The move amounts to a reversion to a policy from the George W. Bush administration.
- A Manhattan federal judge rebuffed the Trump administration’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a citizenship question on the 2020 census, finding “strong” evidence Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in “bad faith” in saying it was needed for voting-rights enforcement, Newsday's John Riley reports.
- Trump lowered the American flags at the White House Tuesday morning in honor of the five people killed by a gunman at The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, last week. The White House had turned down a request to do so from Annapolis' mayor Monday, but Sanders said that after the president learned of it, he reversed that decision.
- Anthony Scaramucci, the short-tenured former White House communications director, has become an open and persistent critic of Trump's trade policy. In a tweet Tuesday, he said: "Nobody is harmed more by a trade war than blue collar workers in America’s heartland who voted mostly for @POTUS. American farmers export 20% of what they produce and escalating tariffs threaten their livelihood. Bad policy and politics."
- Trump interviewed three more candidates for the Supreme Court nomination Tuesday, bringing the total to seven, according to the White House. He is due to announce his decision on Monday.
- Hitting back at "the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News," for "complaining" about how he's handling nuclear negotiations with Kim Jong Un, Trump tweeted, "If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!"