Posts Tagged ‘Sean Spicer’

Carl Bernstein suggests media should edit White House pressers before airing them

November 19, 2018

Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein said cable news networks should stop broadcasting White House press conferences and briefings in their entirety because they have become “propagandist exercises.”

“I don’t think we should be taking them live all the time and just pasting them up on the air because they’re basically propagandist exercises because they are overwhelmed by his dishonesty and lying,” Bernstein said during a segment of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, referring to President Trump.

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“Maybe we should be there, edit, decide as reporters what is news, and after the press conference or briefing is over then go with that story with clips rather than treating the briefing or press conference as a campaign event, which they really are.”

But Bernstein added it was important to still record the events and make them available online for the record. He also noted that cable news had cause to reconsider its coverage of the White House before the Trump administration took office.

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.@carlbernstein‘s thoughts on how the media should cover Trump’s events: “I don’t think we should be taking them live all the time and just pasting them up on the air because they’re basically just propagandist exercises…”

A CNN spokeswoman did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment regarding Bernstein’s proposal.

CNN in the past has declined to broadcast Trump administration press conferences uninterrupted, including one featuring former White House press secretary Sean Spicer in 2017 shortly after he insisted Trump drew “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.”

Bernstein’s comments come after CNN sued Trump administration officials over the revocation of press access for its chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta and won. The interview also comes as networks are carrying fewer Trump’s rallies held before the 2018 midterm elections on live TV.

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President Trump is flouting the law in plain sight

August 2, 2018

There are so many smoking guns in the Russiagate scandal that it can be hard to clearly discern what’s going on amid all the haze. But clear away the confusion and what you see is the president flouting the law, not (as usually happens) behind closed doors but in plain sight.

On Wednesday, President Trump proclaimed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further.” Sessions recused himself from the investigation last year, but Trump would dearly love for that decision to be reversed so Sessions could shield him from justice.

By Max Boot

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President Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

That Trump would lash out now is due, no doubt, to the pressure he is feeling from the start of the trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is closely linked to the Kremlin. Manafort’s trial comes shortly after reports that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is prepared to testify that Trump both knew and approved of the June 2016 meeting between Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Russian emissaries offering to help the Trump campaign.

Trump’s team, on cleanup duty, claimed the president is offering an opinion, not issuing a formal order. But when a boss tells a subordinate he “should” do something, it’s not just an innocent opinion like “that’s a nice shirt.” Last year, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the president’s tweets are “official statements.” Indeed, the president fired then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. If Trump was just expressing a nonbinding opinion, why isn’t Tillerson still on the job?

When the president tells his attorney general he “should” stop an investigation of his alleged misconduct, that is strong evidence of obstruction of justice. It doesn’t matter, from a legal perspective, whether the directive is whispered in secret or shouted for all to hear. It doesn’t even matter whether the investigation is actually stopped or not. A crime is still a crime even if it’s not carried out to a successful conclusion.

Trump’s habit of committing obstruction in public dates back more than a year. On May 11, 2017, shortly after firing FBI Director James B. Comey, he admitted to Lester Holt of NBC News that he did so to stop the investigation of “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” which he called a “made up story.”


We have since learned a great deal from Comey’s public testimony about the circumstances leading to his firing. Comey testified that Trump sought to extract a pledge of personal loyalty that Comey would not give, and that the president asked him to end the investigation of his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn — “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the president told Comey, according to Comey’s notes of the meeting. Trump’s lawyers argue, preposterously, that he did not break the law because he didn’t know that Flynn was under FBI investigation. Then why did he make the request at all? Furthermore, according to investigative reporter Murray Waas, “a confidential White House memorandum, which is in the special counsel’s possession, explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides — his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel [Donald] McGahn — that Flynn was under criminal investigation.”

Waas’s scoop, assuming it is accurate, adds to the mountain of existing evidence about Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice. A great deal of this incriminating material is available to anyone with a Twitter account. Here is Trump quoting an attack against his own attorney general: “The recusal of Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the President of the United States.” Attacking the special counsel: “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” Attacking Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein: “Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!” Attacking the FBI and the Department of Justice: “the DOJ, FBI and Obama Gang need to be held to account.”

Little wonder that Mueller is reportedly investigating Trump’s tweets, which form the most public confession of official misconduct in U.S. history. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, may call “obstruction by tweet” a “bizarre and novel theory,” but what’s truly “bizarre and novel” is Trump’s behavior. The president is engaged in a cynical and all-too-successful campaign to diminish public support for the Mueller investigation, potentially setting the stage for Mueller to be fired and the inquiry terminated. On at least two occasions (in both June and December of 2017), Trump tried to fire Mueller, only for alarmed aides to dissuade him.

Note that to be convicted of obstruction of justice under 18 U.S. Code § 1503 , you don’t have to be successful in stopping a federal investigation — you just have to “endeavor” by “any threatening letter or communication” to “influence, intimidate or impede” an officer of the court. Prosecutors do, however, have to prove “corrupt intent.” Trump’s tweets and tirades provide a gold mine of such corroboration.

The impeachment proceedings would have already started if congressional Republicans weren’t colluding with Trump to obstruct justice.

@realDonaldTrump isn’t just nasty. It’s unconstitutional

May 27, 2018

A senior federal district judge last week ruled that President Trump violates the 1st Amendment when he blocks his critics on Twitter.

But that’s just the most obvious aspect of the immensely interesting decision by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the Southern District of New York in the case of Knight Institute, et al., vs. Donald J. Trump, et al.

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The Los Angeles Times
MAY 27, 2018
Buchwald, who was appointed by President Clinton in 1999, is a jurist of the first rank. She is studiously non-ideological. Her ruling Wednesday brought equanimity and authority to the moral chaos that is Twitter. Her rigor is sorely needed, especially as Trump’s illogic and hysteria continue to set the tone in social media and geopolitics.
The plaintiffs in the case were the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven compelling individuals.
There’s lawyer and journalist Rebecca Pilar Buckwalter-Poza. Holly Figueroa O’Reilly, co-organizer of the March for Truth and mother of five. Joe Papp, an anti-doping advocate.
Philip N. Cohen, a sociologist. Nick Jack Pappas, a comedian. Brandon Neely, a former guard at Guantanamo.
Finally, there’s Eugene Gu, a surgeon known for having performed the first successful human fetal heart and kidney transplants in immuno-compromised rats. For his surgical work, which sets a path for curing kidney and heart disease in babies, Gu has been threatened, doxed and smeared by antiabortion extremists.

A heterogenous clan. Even racist pepperpot Tomi Lahren, the right-wing TV personality, could not twist this group into a monolith of snowflakes.

The defendants need no introduction: Donald J. Trump, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and social media director Dan Scavino. All the president’s publicists.

Even though he doesn’t bother to act like one, Trump is a public servant in an office that belongs to the people.

At one time or another, each of the plaintiffs criticized Trump on Twitter. Criticism of the powerful — “punching up” — was exactly the kind of speech the 1st Amendment was framed to protect. Trump-style sniping — “punching down” — is also, of course, protected speech.

But how might Twitter “blocking” infringe on the inalienable right of Americans to free expression?

In the case of non-state actors blocking one another, it doesn’t. We’re free as Twitter birds to block the heck out of each other.

But for once the law agrees with Trump: He is — at least while he’s president — exceptional. Even though he can’t be bothered to act like one, he is a public servant in an office that belongs to the people.

Buchwald’s painstaking 75-page judgment says that when @realDonaldTrump blocks someone it’s a suppression by the executive branch of free speech, in part because “the President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account” and “uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.”

Indeed, Trump’s former spokesperson, Sean Spicer, also called Trump’s tweets “official statements by the President of the United States.”

Next, Buchwald reasons, “portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the ‘interactive space’ where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the ‘public forum’ doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court.”

A public forum! For those of us who have puzzled for 25 years over the legal status of the internet — is it a place, a machine, intellectual property, a weapon? — this is a breakthrough.

On my Twitter account, and yours, this “interactive space” — replies and retweets — might be something like a private front yard. We can shoo others off or even wall them out as we please. But in Buchwald’s judgment, replies and retweets on Trump’s account constitute a government-owned park that — according to the republic’s very first principles — has to be open to unfettered public expression and assembly.

Blocking renders both blocker and blockee invisible to each other. On being blocked by Trump, as the plaintiff Buckwalter-Poza recalls, “I stopped getting alerts for Trump’s tweets, and when other people were commenting on them, I would see all these gray boxes in my feed.”

Buckwalter-Poza was prevented from reading her president’s official statements, and she had no way to be heard by him or the vast audience that lands on his Twitter account.

And this violates Buckwalter-Poza’s 1st Amendment rights — as well as those of the other plaintiffs, and anyone #blockedbyTrump.

Buchwald didn’t order the president to unblock the plaintiffs or anyone else. She explained what the law is, and her expectation — or maybe her vain hope — was that the White House would fall in line with the Constitution. Of course, the decision is already being appealed, so we aren’t likely see Neely or Gu weighing in on the @realDonaldTrump thread about the North Korea summit debacle … yet.

But Buchwald’s decision is not incidental. “No government official is above the law … and all government officials must follow the law,” she bracingly wrote. Sing it. Better yet: She called Trump’s vindictive slapdowns of American citizens something more than violations of courtesy and norms. Buchwald discovered in Trump’s Twitter practices a “legally cognizable injury.”

“Injury” is the right word. Trump’s presidency — in lockstep with his Twitter feed — has been profoundly injurious to the nation and its citizens. It’s good to see Buchwald call Trump’s nastiness on Twitter what it is: an injury that’s not just indecent. It’s unconstitutional.

Twitter: @page88

Replacing Hope Hicks? She’s almost as charming…

March 1, 2018

Schlapp, the White House director of strategic communications, is being seriously considered for the hot seat that’s gone through five occupants since President Trump took office, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

Hicks was on that job for 196 days, following in the short-lived footsteps of Anthony Scaramucci, Sean Spicer, Jason Miller and Mike Dunke, according to the Washington Post.

Hicks’ stint was by far the longest.

Her potential replacement, Schlapp, 45, is the wife of American Conservative Union president Matt Schlapp. She’s the daughter of Cuban immigrants.


Reince Priebus on the Donald Trump White House

February 15, 2018
Months after his chaotic resignation as chief of staff, and with his successor on the hot seat, Priebus comes clean about everything: the inauguration crowd-size fiasco, the decision to fire Comey, the Mooch, the tweets, how he helped saved Jeff Sessions’s job, and his mercurial former boss. “I still love the guy,” he says.
Reince Priebus (right) with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, January 2017.
Photograph by Andrew Harnik/A.P. Images.
Just after six a.m. on January 21, 2017, at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Reince Priebus was watching the cable morning news shows, getting ready to leave for the White House. Suddenly his cell phone went off. It was Donald Trump. The new president, sworn in less than 24 hours earlier, had just seen The Washington Post, with photos showing Trump’s inaugural crowd dwarfed by that of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The president was livid, screaming at his chief of staff. “He said, ‘This story is bullshit,’ ” recalled Priebus. “He said, ‘There’s more people there. There are people who couldn’t get in the gates. . . . There’s all kind of things that were going on that made it impossible for these people to get there.’ . . . The president said, ‘Call [Interior Secretary] Ryan Zinke. Find out from the Park Service. Tell him to get a picture and do some research right away.’ ” The president wanted his chief of staff to fix this story. Immediately.

Priebus tried to talk Trump off the ledge. “It doesn’t matter,” Priebus argued. “It’s Washington, D.C. We’re in an 85 percent Democrat area. Northern Virginia’s 60 percent. Maryland’s 65 percent. . . . This is a Democrat haven, and nobody cares.” But Trump was having none of it. Priebus thought, “Is this something that I really want to go to battle over on day one? Who needs a controversy over the inauguration?” Priebus realized he faced a decision: “Am I going to go to war over this with the president of the United States?”

Hours later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped into the White House briefing room. “What happened,” Priebus remembered, “was Spicer decided to say that actually, if you combine online and television, radio, and in-person, it was the most watched inauguration.” The trouble with that reasoning was that Spicer’s response—a belligerent, Orwellian performance beamed around the world—was a lie. From the very start, the credibility of the Trump presidency became a laughingstock, immortalized by actress Melissa McCarthy in her devastating parody of Spicer on Saturday Night Live.

On day one, instead of going to war with Donald Trump, Priebus had gone along.

Adapted from a new edition of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by Chris Whipple, published in paperback on March 6, 2018, by Crown.

Priebus cannot say he wasn’t warned. Just a month before the inauguration, he had been invited to lunch by Barack Obama’s outgoing chief of staff, Denis McDonough. Following the example of a memorable breakfast hosted eight years earlier by George W. Bush’s chief Josh Bolten—when 12 former White House chiefs had come to give advice to Obama’s incoming chief, Rahm Emanuel—McDonough was joined by 10 chiefs, Republicans and Democrats, in his West Wing office. And as they gathered around a long table, none doubted the enormity of the challenge facing Priebus. “We wanted to help Reince in any way we could,” said Jack Watson, who served President Jimmy Carter. “But I don’t think there was a chief in the room that thought he was going to be able to do the job, given Trump as his president.” Most of the former chiefs believed Trump was intellectually and temperamentally unfit for office—and few thought Priebus could rein him in or tell him hard truths. “We were thinking, God bless him. Godspeed. Good luck,” said Watson. “But he doesn’t have a prayer.”

Priebus was hobbled by two other factors. A former Republican National Committee chairman from Kenosha, Wisconsin, he barely knew his new boss, and he was part of the establishment that Trump had vilified. Moreover, during the campaign, the two men had been known to feud. Trump had been especially resentful of Priebus’s reaction to the campaign’s existential crisis just a month before Election Day: the release of the tawdry Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump had made graphic misogynist comments that were caught by an open microphone.

The morning after the video surfaced, Trump’s candidacy had been pronounced all but dead in the media. In response, the beleaguered nominee’s top aides—campaign C.E.O. Stephen Bannon, former New York mayor Rudy Giu­liani, New Jersey governor Chris ChristieJared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump—gathered at Trump Tower for a war council to advise the candidate on whether he should stay in the race or quit.

The nominee, sleep-deprived, surly, his jaw clenched, posed the crucial question: in light of the videotape, what were his chances of winning? Priebus went first: “If you decide to stay in, you will lose in the biggest landslide in American political history.” One by one, Trump’s other advisers danced around the question—until finally it was Bannon’s turn. “One hundred percent,” he declared. “One hundred percent you’re going to win this thing. Metaphysical.” (Priebus recalled things differently, saying no one was that emphatic.)

Trump, of course, pulled off an astonishing upset. And a month later, McDonough met his successor as chief of staff in the West Wing lobby and escorted him to his office. As the former chiefs went around the table, giving Priebus advice, they were unanimous about one thing: Trump would be unable to govern unless Priebus was empowered as first among equals in the West Wing. Trump’s incoming chief dutifully took notes on a yellow pad.

Suddenly there was a commotion; Barack Obama was entering the room. Everyone stood and shook hands, then Obama motioned for them to sit. The 44th president’s own chiefs—Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley, Jack Lew, McDonough, and Pete Rouse (who served unofficially)—were all pres­ent, and Obama nodded toward them. “Every one of these guys at different times told me something that pissed me off,” Obama said, flashing his familiar grin. “They weren’t always right; sometimes I was. But they were right to do that because they knew they had to tell me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear.” Obama looked at Priebus. “That’s the most important function of a chief of staff. Presidents need that. And I hope you will do that for President Trump.” With that, Obama said his good-byes and departed.

The chiefs were not sure Priebus got the message. “I caught the eye of several of the others and we exchanged worried expressions,” one Republican in attendance remembered. “He seemed much too relaxed about being able to navigate a difficult job. I think he struck a lot of us as clueless.” Another was even more blunt about Priebus’s nonchalance: “He was approaching the job like it was some combination of personal aide and cruise director.”

Former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Priebus; Priebus and Spicer.

Left, by Martin H. Shannon/Redux; right, by Susan Walsh/A.P. Images.

Dining alone with Priebus a few weeks earlier, Bush’s chief Josh Bolten had been alarmed: Priebus seemed to regard himself as Trump’s babysitter and had given little thought to governing. “I could tell that he was nervous about leaving Trump alone and was kind of candid about ‘If I’m not there, Lord knows what happens,’” Bolten recalled. In his view, Priebus seemed “neither focused on organizing his White House staff nor in control of his own life. He was just responding to the fire of the day.”

And there was another ominous sign. Obama’s staff had spent months preparing voluminous transition briefs, thick binders designed to help the next administration get up to speed on subjects ranging from Iran to Cuba to climate change. Every previous incoming team had studied such volumes with care. But as the inauguration drew near, McDonough realized that the binders had not even been opened: “All the paperwork, all the briefings that had been prepared for their transition team, went unused,” he said. “Unread. Unreviewed.”

The inept start of the Trump presidency—with the flagrant lying about crowd sizes—confirmed the ex-chiefs’ worst fears. “It told me that Reince wasn’t in control,” observed Jack Watson. “It told me Reince had no power to say to the president, ‘Mr. President, we can’t do that! We are going to get killed if we do that.’ ” George W. Bush’s first chief, Andrew Card, watched with a sinking feeling: “I said to myself, ‘They don’t know what they’re doing. They have no process. And they don’t have discipline. You must taste your words before you spit them out!’”

In late October 2017, almost three months after he resigned as chief of staff, Priebus met me for dinner at a posh but empty restaurant near the White House. Wearing a blazer, tieless, and without his usual American-flag pin, he had been off the radar and had given no extensive interviews since his abrupt departure six months into his job as Trump’s chief. Unlike his friend Sean Spicer, who had struggled to find employment after his turn as Trump’s disgraced White House spokesman, Priebus had landed back at his old Washington law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP—as president. He was drumming up paid engagements on the lecture circuit. And he was conferring frequently by phone with Donald J. Trump.

The president, Priebus said, speaks with him often on a phone that is unmonitored by John Kelly, who replaced him as Trump’s chief of staff—sometimes just to chat, sometimes for counsel. Trump often called Bannon too—at least before his excommunication following his comments in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury. Priebus insisted, contrary to Wolff’s description, that he never called Trump an “idiot.” In fact, for all the humiliation he endured, he said, “I still love the guy. I want him to be successful.” While visiting South Korea last November to give a speech, Priebus made a side trip to the demilitarized zone between South and North, and recommended to Trump that he go there during his Asia trip. (The president and his party tried but were forced to turn back due to bad weather.)

Even so, Priebus’s account of his tenure as Trump’s chief confirms the portrayal of a White House in disarray, riven by conflict. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Priebus said as we sat down. Being White House chief had been even more arduous than it looked from the outside. “No president has ever had to deal with so much so fast: a special counsel and an investigation into Russia and then subpoenas immediately, the media insanity—not to mention we were pushing out executive orders at rec­ord pace and trying to repeal and replace Obama­care right out of the gate.” Priebus was nervous, repeatedly asking, “This is all off the record, right?” (He later agreed to be quoted.)

“People mistake me for a laid-back guy from the Midwest,” he continued. “I’m much more aggressive, and much more of a knife fighter. Playing the inside game is what I do.” Before Priebus, 45, accepted the job, he had had an impressive, if modest, track rec­ord. “I took the R.N.C. from oblivion,” he explained. “Our team raised a ton of money, built the biggest full-time political-party operation ever, ran two conventions, won more races than anyone else, and hit all the marks—without drama, mistakes, or infighting.”

At first, Priebus had been stung by the relentless criticism of his White House run and was especially sensitive to the brickbats hurled by the pundits. But with time he had understood where they came from—including a jab or two thrown by me during interviews on television news shows. “You got me real good one time on Fox,” he said. “My point is, I know what you were saying. You were saying that Trump needed someone in control, and that we had set up a weak structure. But you have to remember: the president was the Trump campaign. The R.N.C. was the organization—but he accomplished almost everything in his life by himself. The idea that he was suddenly going to accept an immediate and elaborate staff structure regulating every minute of his life was never in the cards.

“One of the things all [the chiefs] told me,” Priebus said, “was: don’t take the job unless you’re designated A number 1, in charge of everything, beginning to end.” All of that was right for a typical president, Priebus thought, but Trump wasn’t typical; he was one of a kind.

As it turned out, there was a moment on Election Night when it looked as though the chief’s job might go to Bannon, who eventually became Priebus’s ally in the West Wing. (Others would be considered as well.) But he didn’t look the part. “Trump looked around and I remember I had a combat jacket on and I hadn’t shaved in a week,” said Bannon, who spoke with me at length just before the release of Fire and Fury. “I had the greasy hair [hanging] down. . . . I’m the senior guy—but look, it was obvious Reince had to be chief of staff.” Priebus, however, would be chief in name only: Trump, instead, anointed Bannon as Priebus’s co-equal, with Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, getting top billing.

Priebus with ousted communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

By T. J. Kirkpatrick/Redux.

From the beginning, Priebus would face a challenge unique to this presidency: how to curb the commander in chief’s tweets. “We can get thrown off our message by tweeting things that aren’t the issues of the day,” he told Trump. At first Priebus thought he had succeeded in wresting Trump’s phone from him. “I talked about the security threat of having your own cell in the West Wing and got the Secret Service to go along with me to mothball his phone.” Priebus had managed to silence one device. But it turned out Trump had another.

Early on, the staff wrote daily tweets for him: “The team would give the president five or six tweets every day to choose from,” said Priebus, “and some of them would real­ly push the envelope. The idea would be at least they would be tweets that we could see and understand and control. But that didn’t allow the president to be fully in control of his own voice. Everybody tried at different times to cool down the Twitter habit—but no one could do it. . . . After [last year’s] joint session [of Congress] we all talked to him, and Melania said, ‘No tweeting.’ And he said, ‘O.K.—for the next few days.’ We had many discussions involving this issue. We had meetings in the residence. I couldn’t stop it. [But] it’s now part of the American culture and the American presidency. And you know what? In many ways, the president was right. And all of us so-called experts might be totally wrong.

“[Trump] is a man who fears no one and nothing,” continued Priebus, “and there is absolutely nothing he’s intimidated by. . . . And that’s very rare in politics. Most people in politics are people who have sort of an approval addiction. Now, granted, President Trump does too, but he’s willing to weather one storm after the next to get to an end result that most people are not willing to weather. . . . He doesn’t mind the craziness, the drama, or the difficulty, as long as an end goal is in sight. He will endure it.”

Soon after the inauguration, the president began to lash out wildly at members of the Justice Department who were poised to open probes into possible misconduct or overreach by members of his administration. On his 11th day in office, he fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his controversial travel ban. Then Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District. Next up: F.B.I. director James Comey.

Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGahn tried to stall the freight train coming toward them, sensing that sacking Comey would be a fateful political mistake. But Jared Kushner supported Trump’s decision, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo—criticizing the F.B.I. director’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation—gave Trump the pretext. On May 9, Trump fired Comey. It would trigger the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel and would prove to be among the most politically disastrous decisions since Richard Nixon fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox.


While Priebus and Bannon watched the fiasco explode as the pundits excoriated the Trump White House on every cable news show, Kushner did a slow burn. He was livid, furious that the communications team could not defend Comey’s firing. Bannon blew his stack. “There’s not a fucking thing you can do to sell this!,” he shouted at Kushner. “Nobody can sell this! P. T. Barnum couldn’t sell this! People aren’t stupid! This is a terrible, stupid decision that’s going to have massive implications. It may have shortened Trump’s presidency—and it’s because of you, Jared Kushner!

The screaming matches and white-knuckle showdowns continued. Eight days later, Priebus got an unexpected visit from the White House counsel—a story he has not told publicly before. “Don McGahn came in my office pretty hot, red, out of breath, and said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ I responded, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Well, we just got a special counsel, and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions just resigned.’ I said, ‘What!? What the hell are you talking about?’ ”

It was bad enough that Trump, having fired Comey, would now be the target of a special prosecutor. Even worse, unbeknownst to Priebus, the president, only moments before, had subjected Sessions to a withering tirade in the Oval Office, calling him an “idiot” and blaming Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation for the whole mess. Humiliated, Sessions said he would resign.

Priebus was incredulous: “I said, ‘That can’t happen.’” He bolted down the stairway to the West Wing parking lot. He found Sessions in the backseat of a black sedan, with the engine running. “I knocked on the door of the car, and Jeff was sitting there,” Priebus said, “and I just jumped in and shut the door, and I said, ‘Jeff, what’s going on?’ And then he told me that he was going to resign. I said, ‘You cannot resign. It’s not possible. We are going to talk about this right now.’ So I dragged him back up to my office from the car. [Vice President Mike] Pence and Bannon came in, and we started talking to him to the point where he decided that he would not resign right then and he would instead think about it.” Later that night, Sessions delivered a resignation letter to the Oval Office, but, Priebus claimed, he ultimately persuaded the president to give it back.

In June, Trump was still on a tear. He considered dumping special counsel Mueller, according to The New York Times, but was dissuaded from doing so. And by July, Trump was back on Sessions’s case, tweeting insults and calling him “weak.” “Priebus was told to get Sessions’s resignation flat out,” said a White House insider. “The president told him, ‘Don’t give me any bullshit. Don’t try to slow me down like you always do. Get the resignation of Jeff Sessions.’ ”

Once more, Priebus stalled Trump, recalled a White House insider. “He told the president, ‘If I get this resignation, you are in for a spiral of calamity that makes Comey look like a picnic.’ Rosenstein’s going to resign. [Associate Attorney General] Rachel Brand, the number three, will say, ‘Forget it. I’m not going to be involved with this.’ And it is going to be a total mess.” The president agreed to hold off. (Sessions didn’t comment on the resignation letter and last July publicly stated that he planned to stay on the job “as long as that is appropriate.” Brand, in fact, resigned this month.)

The Trump presidency’s first six months were the most incompetent and least accomplished in modern history. And its very survival was clouded by the gathering storm of the special prosecutor’s probe.

When it came to Mueller’s investigation, Priebus insisted he personally had nothing to worry about. But Bannon warned that the hounds had been loosed. “You’ve got Mueller’s team, which has got 19 killers who are all experts in wire fraud, money-laundering, and tax evasion,” Bannon said. “Doesn’t sound like collusion to me. But they’ve got unlimited budgets and subpoena power. And here’s what we’ve got on our side: two guys who’ve got legal pads and Post-Its.

Trump, Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, Bannon, onetime communications director Sean Spicer, and embattled national-security adviser Michael Flynn.

By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

“It’s like [certain members of the administration think that] no one took down the Gambino family,” Bannon continued. “Mueller’s doing a roll-up just like he did with the Gambinos. [Former campaign manager Paul] Manafort’s the caporegime, right? And [Rick] Gates [Manafort’s deputy] is a made man! [George] Papadopoulos is equivalent to a wiseguy out in a social club in Brooklyn. This is like a Wagner opera. In the overture you get all the strands of the music you’re going to hear for three hours. Well, Mueller opened with a bang. He totally caught these guys by surprise. So if you’re not going to fight, you’re going to get rolled over.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign to eradicate Obamacare went nowhere. “Repeal and replace” crashed and burned—not once but twice, the second time when John McCain delivered a dramatic 1:30 a.m. thumbs-down on the Senate floor. The debacle proved that Priebus could not count—or deliver—votes. “When McCain voted against it,” Bannon recalled, “I said to myself, Reince is gone. This is going to be so bad. The president is going to get so lit up.”

Priebus soon became a target of Trump’s ritual belittling as the president took to referring to him as “Reincey.” At one point, he summoned Priebus—to swat a fly. Priebus seemed to have been willing to endure almost any indignity to stay in Trump’s favor. There was that scene right out of The Manchurian Candidate when, at a Cabinet meeting, the president’s most powerful advisers virtually competed to see who could be more obsequious; Priebus won hands down, declaring what a “blessing” it was to serve the president.

By the summer, however, Priebus knew that his job hung by a thread. According to insiders, he was already in the crosshairs of “Javanka/Jarvanka”—as Bannon would take to calling the president’s daughter and son-in-law—for refusing to help Kushner in his efforts to oust Bannon. And then came the last straw: the sudden arrival of a new, flamboyant communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. Priebus had opposed his hiring. Scaramucci immediately turned the West Wing into a circular firing squad, calling Trump’s chief of staff a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic” in an interview with The New Yorker. He went on, in a tweet, to all but accuse Priebus of leaking classified information about Scaramucci’s finances (which were publicly available). “When he accused me of a felony,” recalled Priebus, “I thought, What am I doing here? . . . I went in to the president and said, ‘I gotta go.’ ” Trump would say nothing publicly in Priebus’s defense. The president accepted his resignation.

Priebus had hoped to exit gracefully within a week or two, but the next day, as Air Force One sat on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Trump tweeted, “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American. . . . ” The sudden shake-up was vintage Trump; the timing blindsided Priebus, who stepped off the plane into a drenching rain and was whisked away by car.

John Kelly, a four-star Marine general who had run the Southern Command, was 22 years Priebus’s senior. At the start, he had the president’s full confidence and wasted no time transforming the West Wing into a tighter ship. All visitors to the Oval Office—including Bannon, Kushner, and even the president’s adviser-daughter, Ivanka—were now vetted by the chief. Kelly also started heaving loose cannons over the side: Scaramucci was fired within 72 hours of Kelly’s appointment; Sebastian Gorka, another overzealous White House staffer, would soon follow; even Bannon himself would be gone within a month. Kelly declared that he was not put on earth to manage the president; instead, he would impose discipline on the staff and streamline the flow of information to the Oval Office.

Still, expectations were high that Kelly would be the “grown-up in the room,” who would smooth over Trump’s authoritarian edges. And yet, week after week—during the president’s fulminations against “fake news,” his sympathetic comments toward white supremacists who marched through Charlottesville, his taunting of “Rocket Man” before the U.N. General Assembly, and his racist slurs against “shithole countries”—Kelly stood at Trump’s side. He not only reinforced the president’s worst instincts; he doubled down on them. He maligned Congresswoman Frederica Wilson from the White House Press Briefing Room with a false story after she criticized Trump’s handling of a Gold Star widow. In early February, the news broke that Kelly’s deputy Rob Porter—accused of beating both of his ex-wives (Porter denied the allegations)—had served in the sensitive post of staff secretary for more than a year without a permanent security clearance. The debacle surrounding his abrupt resignation showed that Kelly could not manage the West Wing, let alone Trump.

Suddenly Kelly’s future looked uncertain. And Priebus looked more effective in hindsight. “Reince was better than his press,” said Bannon. “If Reince had the exact track record that Kelly has, he would be deemed the worst chief of staff in the history of politics—and that’s not a slam on Kelly. . . . Folks felt [Priebus] didn’t have the gravitas. He’s always the little guy from Kenosha, right?”

Adapted from The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by Chris Whipple, to be published in paperback on March 6, 2018, by Crown, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC; © 2017, 2018 by the author.

Fake News and Divided Jews: Reliving the Crazy First Year of President Donald Trump

December 27, 2017

How many Trump-centric events from 2017 do you remember? Or, perhaps more accurately, how many have you tried to forget? Revisit the highlights and lowlights here

By Allison Kaplan Sommer Dec 27, 2017 6:13 PM

President Donald Trump displays the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul package he had just signed in the Oval Office of the White House, December 22, 2017.

President Donald Trump displays the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul package he had just signed in the Oval Office of the White House, December 22, 2017. Evan Vucci/AP

Such a short time ago, it seemed unimaginable that any White House could divide American Jews or exacerbate cracks in their relationship with the State of Israel as seriously as Barack Obama’s did. Remember the Iran deal?

But let’s face it, President Donald Trump’s America has left Obama’s in the dust when it comes to pitting Jew against Jew. Not a month has gone by in which Trump and his team haven’t managed to trigger intense and often emotional debates everywhere from Jewish and Israeli Twitter to family Friday night dinner tables.

So much has happened that the traditional year-end list of five or 10 highlights feels insufficient. So here’s a month-by-month recap…


It was a day of firsts when President Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20.

An aeriel shot of the Trump inauguration, January 20, 2017. If you look closely, you can probably make out Rabbi Marvin Hier.
An aeriel shot of the Trump inauguration, January 20, 2017. If you look closely, you can probably make out Rabbi Marvin Hier. LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS

For the first time ever, an Orthodox Jew, Rabbi Marvin Hier, was asked to deliver the benediction at a presidential inauguration – and agreed. There were complaints from sections of the Jewish community appalled by the tone of Trump’s campaign and the way it awakened what became known as the “alt-right.” But Hier went ahead because he said he was a “big fan” of Trump’s “support for Israel.”

This early controversy was to prove a bellwether for the year-long dynamic among U.S. Jews. While Orthodox Jews and those who prioritized “pro-Israel” positions generally remained in Trump’s corner and cheered him on, the majority of non-Orthodox, progressive Jews that make up the majority of the community joined the anti-Trump resistance: Turning out in force to protest Trump’s refugee ban and taking part in the Women’s March.

Another first: A crash course for Americans in the rules and restrictions of Orthodox Jewish observance. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s Jewish son-in-law and daughter, received dispensation from an unnamed rabbi to travel by car on Shabbat over Inauguration Weekend, triggering heated discussion among Jews as to whether attending an interfaith service – in a church, no less – and inauguration balls justified violating Shabbat restrictions (and whether it was anybody’s business in the first place).

It wasn’t the last “Shabbat-gate” the couple would have to grapple with over the coming months: The same anonymous rabbi gave them the go-ahead to accompany the president on Air Force One on the Sabbath.

A rare sighting of the two-headed Jared Kushner.
A rare sighting of the two-headed Jared Kushner. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Shabbat observance also played a role in the drama around Trump’s controversial executive order known as the “Muslim ban,” pulling the plug on travel from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Sudan. The signing of the order – later struck down by the courts – took place after sunset on Friday when Kushner was absent. The order was crafted by another controversial, high-profile Jewish member of the Trump team, Stephen Miller, together with the senior Trump adviser who made U.S. Jews most profoundly uncomfortable: Steve Bannon.

Another early-days event that deeply concerned many Jews was the White House statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. While it decried the “horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror,” it failed to mention the role that anti-Semitism played or the Jewish people. The White House responded to criticism of the statement from the Jewish community by digging in its heels, calling critics “pathetic” and “disappointing.”


A worrisome trend that had grown throughout the 2016 presidential race and Trump transition hit a crisis point in February: Anti-Semitic vandalism and violence was growing, and a wave of bomb threats directed at Jewish community centers and other institutions disrupted community life and sparked fear. Trump was silent on the issue, with critics denouncing him for failing to decry the behavior.

That disappointment turned to outrage when he finally did speak out, as it seemed he was echoing conspiracy theories that the acts were “false flags” perpetrated by Jews themselves or by the left in order to make him look bad. And when Trump unleashed his anger on ultra-Orthodox reporter Jake Turx during a White House press conference, interrupting him and ordering him to “sit down,” and calling himself “the least anti-Semitic person you have seen in your entire life,” it grabbed national headlines.


Tensions continued to rise as the bomb threats continued. But in a bizarre twist the perpetrator turned out to be – to the shock of most observers – a disturbed Israeli teenager who was summarily arrested. Trump’s Jewish supporters, breathing a sigh of relief, felt vindicated. And those who had vilified him – rather embarrassed and sheepish. All were glad the culprit had been apprehended and the chapter was over.


It was White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s turn to take center stage when he made a train-wreck level series of gaffes regarding the Holocaust. It began while condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons, when he said that “someone as despicable as Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” against “their own citizens.”

Sean Spicer Holocaust statements

In fact, the Nazi regime did use gas, Zyklon B, to commit mass murder in death camps during the Holocaust, including against Germany’s Jews who were Hitler’s “own citizens.”

Spicer’s comments were denounced as “serious and outrageous” in Israel. The PR veteran then bungled his apology, asserting that he meant Hitler hadn’t used gas “on his own citizens” (he did), and bizarrely referring to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.”

Trump, however, scored points on the Holocaust sensitivity front later in the month with a moving speech at a ceremony marking Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which helped repair the damage done in January following the Jew-free International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. It won wall-to-wall praise from Jewish groups, but disappointment from the white nationalist alt-right.


Image result for Melania Trump flicking away her husband’s hand, photos

The president’s much-hyped and largely successful whirlwind visit to the Jewish state in mid-May contained some moments that were unforgettable – and others that were memorable for other reasons. Who can forget Melania Trump flicking away her husband’s hand on the tarmac; MK Oren Hazan’s infamous selfie; Sara Netanyahu’s blatant fangirling of the American first lady; or the U.S. president’s “bizarrely chipper” note left at Yad Vashem.

Donald Trump's entry into the Yad Vashem guestbook
Donald Trump’s entry into the Yad Vashem guestbookOfer Aderet

Trump made history when he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall, and Ivanka Trump’s tears there warmed Israeli hearts. One person was able to look back on the visit with a sense of accomplishment: Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who did away with small talk and told Trump: “We expect you to be the first president to recognize Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.” Trump’s comeback: “That’s an idea.”


The early summer months were relatively quiet on the Jewish front in the afterglow of the Israel trip. Perhaps this was because the White House was busy with other matters, gripped with a dizzying series of major events when the Russia investigation hit its stride and John Kelly took the reins at the White House.

July did not pass controversy-free, though. Eyebrows were raised when Trump became the first U.S. president who failed to visit the monument to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt during a trip to Poland. Polish-Jewish leaders called the absence of a presidential visit a “slight.” Following the criticism, Ivanka Trump – who was rapidly accumulating experience smoothing Jewish feathers ruffled by her father – ultimately visited the site instead.

 Image result for Ivanka trump lays a wreath in poland, photos
It was a deeply moving experience to be able to visit The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes and the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews. It was a privilege to be able to pay my respects and remember with gratitude those who fought with such tenacity against all odds. #POTUSinPoland


If there was a moment when even Trump’s staunchest supporters in the American-Jewish community were concerned about where he stood on anti-Semitism and his affection for Trump fans in white supremacist circles, it was in the days following the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Following that traumatic weekend, which resulted in the death of an anti-racism protester, Trump repeatedly condemned violence and hate “on many sides,” with no specific condemnation of the rally’s organizers or their white nationalist sentiments, asserting that there were “very fine people” among both groups.

In the storm of condemnation that ensued, Trump’s Jewish cabinet members came under intense pressure to distance themselves from him, or even resign, but they stood firmly by his side. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump “in no way, shape or form” equated neo-Nazis with peaceful protesters.

A demonstrator holding a sign during a rally outside of Trump Tower in New York, August 14, 2017.
A demonstrator holding a sign during a rally outside of Trump Tower in New York, August 14, 2017.Bloomberg


Fallout from Charlottesville continued into the fall. Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements (the two largest Jewish denominations in the United States) boycotted a phone call by Trump in which he wished the Jewish community well over the Jewish New Year and other High Holy Days – a tradition started by Obama.

In the call to those who agreed to accept the invitation, Trump expressed support for Israel and said he vowed to “forcefully condemn those who seek to incite anti-Semitism, or to spread any form of slander and hate,” and that “America is stronger because of the many Jewish Americans who bring such life, hope and resilience to our nation.”


To the delight of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and officials on both the right and the left, and to the chagrin of much of the international community, Trump announced his decision to formally decertify the Iran nuclear deal and to impose new sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The reemergence of the issue opened old wounds from the fierce debate over the deal in Israel and the Jewish community.

U.S. President Donald Trump with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in Israel on November 29, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in Israel on November 29, 2017.Mark Salem


It had seemed that the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion with Russia and other misdeeds from the Trump campaign and transition team, casting an ever-lengthening shadow over the White House, contained no clearly Jewish or Israel-related angle. But as the year drew toward a close, it emerged that Mueller’s probe had expanded to include actions taken by Kushner against a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in his investigations.

According to reports, Mueller has looked into efforts by Kushner against the resolution – which passed in December 2016 during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations – as part of his examination of possible inappropriate contact with foreign leaders.

File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaking to the press about protests in Charlottesville at Trump Tower in New York on August 15, 2017.
President Donald Trump during one of his many clashes with the media in 2017.JIM WATSON/AFP


Over the course of 2017, innumerable rumors flew that Trump would finally make good on his election campaign promise that he would not only pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – he would actually do it. Yet every time his supporters got their hopes up, they were disappointed. But then, on December 6, they finally got their wish – sort of. Trump issued his bombshell declaration that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that he was ordering his administration to set wheels in motion to move the embassy, though the exact time when it would happen was left murky.

The announcement set off a flurry of praise (from Israel and its supporters), and a tide of criticism and condemnation – most notably from the United Nations, whose General Assembly condemned it with an overwhelming majority of 128 to 9.

The year had been slated to end with a bang – a visit by Trump’s second-in-command, Vice President Mike Pence. But it was not to be. The visit was postponed by a month, the White House said, due to Pence’s presence being required at a key congressional vote on tax reform.

It was probably just as well. Jews and Israel-watchers needed time to catch their breath, buckle their seat belts and steel themselves for what is sure to be an even more action-packed 2018.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arriving to speak to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, December 21, 2017. Safer option than Jerusalem?
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arriving to speak to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, December 21, 2017. A safer option than Jerusalem?Mandel Ngan

Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Donna Brazile: I considered replacing Clinton with Biden as 2016 Democratic nominee

November 4, 2017

By Philip Rucker
The Washington Post
November 4, 2017 — 2:00 PM

Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

In an explosive new memoir, Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chair to initiate the removal of Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City.

Brazile writes that she considered a dozen combinations to replace the nominees and settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters to defeat Republican Donald Trump. But then, she writes, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

Brazile paints a scathing portrait of Clinton as a well-intentioned, historic candidate whose campaign was badly mismanaged, took minority constituencies for granted and made blunders with “stiff” and “stupid” messages. The campaign was so lacking in passion for the candidate, she writes, that its New York headquarters felt like a sterile hospital ward where “someone had died.”

Hillary Clinton at a rally at Arizona State University in Tempe on Nov. 2, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Brazile alleges that Clinton’s top aides routinely disrespected her and put the DNC on a “starvation diet,” depriving it of funding for voter turnout operations.

As one of her party’s most prominent black strategists, Brazile also recounts fiery disagreements with Clinton’s staffers — including a conference call in which she told three senior campaign officials, Charlie Baker, Marlon Marshall and Dennis Cheng, that she was being treated like a slave.

“I’m not Patsey the slave,” Brazile recalls telling them, a reference to the character played by Lupita Nyong’o in the film, “12 Years a Slave.” “Y’all keep whipping me and whipping me and you never give me any money or any way to do my damn job. I am not going to be your whipping girl!”

Brazile’s book, titled “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” will be released Tuesday by Hachette Books. A copy of the 288-page book was obtained in advance by The Washington Post.

Perhaps not since George Stephanopoulos wrote “All Too Human,” a 1999 memoir of his years working for former president Bill Clinton, has a political strategist penned such a blistering tell-all.

In it, Brazile reveals how fissures of race, gender and age tore at the heart of the operation — even as Clinton was campaigning on a message of inclusiveness and trying to assemble a rainbow coalition under the banner of “Stronger Together.”

A veteran operative and television pundit who had long served as DNC’s vice chair, Brazile abruptly and, she writes, reluctantly took over in July 2016 for chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Florida congresswoman was ousted from the DNC on the eve of the party convention after WikiLeaks released stolen emails among her and her advisers that showed favoritism for Clinton during the competitive primaries.

Donna Brazile talks with CNN correspondent Dana Bash at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. Brazile writes that she reluctantly took over as DNC chairwoman that month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Brazile describes her mounting anxiety about Russia’s theft of emails and other data from DNC servers, the slow process of discovering the full extent of the cyberattacks and the personal fallout. She likens the feeling to having rats in your basement: “You take measures to get rid of them, but knowing they are there, or have been there, means you never feel truly at peace.”

Brazile writes that she was haunted by the still-unsolved murder of DNC data staffer Seth Rich and feared for her own life, shutting the blinds to her office window so snipers could not see her and installing surveillance cameras at her home. She wonders whether Russians had placed a listening device in plants in the DNC executive suite.

At first, Brazile writes of the hacking, top Democratic officials were “encouraging us not to talk about it.” But she says a wake-up moment came when she visited the White House in August 2016, for President Obama’s 55th birthday party. National security adviser Susan E. Rice and former attorney general Eric Holder separately pulled her aside quietly to urge her to take the Russian hacking seriously, which she did, she writes.

That fall, Brazile says she tried to persuade her Republican counterparts to agree to a joint statement condemning Russian interference but that they ignored her messages and calls.

Here is what you need to know about the political storm sparked by Donna Brazile’s allegations against the Clinton campaign. (Amber Ferguson, Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

Backstage at a debate, she writes, she approached Sean Spicer, then-chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, but “I could see his eyes dart away like this was the last thing he wanted to talk to me about.” She asked RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, too, but “I got that special D.C. frost where the person smiles when he sees you but immediately looks past you trying to find someone in the room to come right over and interrupt the conversation.”

There would be no joint statement.

The WikiLeaks releases included an email in which Brazile, a paid CNN contributor at the time, shared potential topics and questions for a CNN town hall in advance with the Clinton campaign. She claims in her book that she did not recall sending the email and could not find it in her computer archives. Nevertheless, she eventually admitted publicly to sending it, believing her reputation would have suffered regardless.

At the Oct. 19 debate in Las Vegas, with the email scandal simmering, the Clinton campaign sat Brazile not in the front row — where she had been at the previous debate — but in bleachers out of view of cameras. She recalls watching the debate with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, “among others whom they had to invite but wanted to tuck away.”

Brazile describes in wrenching detail Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. On Sept. 9, she saw the nominee backstage at a Manhattan gala and she seemed “wobbly on her feet” and had a “rattled cough.” Brazile recommended Clinton see an acupuncturist.

Two days later, Clinton collapsed as she left a Sept. 11 memorial service at Ground Zero in New York. Brazile blasts the campaign’s initial efforts to shroud details of her health as “shameful.”

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to replace the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee the process of filling the vacancy.

After Clinton’s fainting spell, some Democratic insiders were abuzz with talk of replacing her — and Brazile says she was giving it considerable thought.

The morning of Sept. 12, Brazile got a call from Biden’s chief of staff saying the vice president wanted to speak with her. She recalls thinking, “Gee, I wonder what he wanted to talk to me about?” Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called, too, to set up a call with his boss, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley sent her an email.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), left, poses with his mother, Carolyn Booker, and then-Vice President Biden at a Senate swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol on Oct. 31, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Brazile also was paid a surprise visit in her DNC office by Baker, who, she writes, was dispatched by the Clinton campaign “to make sure that Donna didn’t do anything crazy.”

“Again and again I thought about Joe Biden,” Brazile writes. But, she adds, “No matter my doubts and my fears about the election and Hillary as a candidate, I could not make good on that threat to replace her.”

Brazile writes that she inherited a national party in disarray, in part because President Obama, Clinton and Wasserman Schultz were “three titanic egos” who had “stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes.”

Brazile writes that she inherited Wasserman Schultz’s office — with “tropical pink” walls that she found hard on the eyes — and “ridiculous” perks, such as a Chevrolet Tahoe with driver and a personal entourage that included an assistant known as a body woman.

In her first few days on the job, Brazile writes that she also discovered the DNC was $2 million in debt and that the payroll was stacked with “hangers-on and sycophants.” For instance, Wasserman Schultz kept two consulting firms — SKDKnickerbocker and Precision Strategies — each on $25,000-a-month retainers, and one of Obama’s pollsters was still being paid $180,000 a year.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) at a rally in Coconut Creek, Fla., on Oct. 25, 2016. She resigned as DNC chairwoman on the eve of the party’s national convention that summer. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

“The outgoing president no longer needed to assess his approval ratings or his policy decisions, at least not when the Democratic Party was fighting for its survival against a hostile foreign power,” she writes.

Brazile also details how Clinton effectively took control of the DNC in August 2015, before the primaries began, with a joint fundraising agreement between the party and the Clinton campaign.

She said the deal gave Clinton control over the DNC’s finances, strategy and staff decisions — disadvantaging other candidates, including Sanders. “This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” she writes.

An excerpt of this chapter — titled “Bernie, I Found the Cancer” — was published Thursday in Politico, sparking discord and recriminations through the party.

As she traveled the country, Brazile writes, she detected an alarming lack of enthusiasm for Clinton. On black radio stations, few people defended the nominee. In Hispanic neighborhoods, the only Clinton signs she saw were at the campaign field offices.

But at headquarters in New York, the mood was one of “self-satisfaction and inevitability,” and Brazile’s early reports of trouble were dismissed with “a condescending tone.”

Brazile describes the 10th floor of Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, where senior staff worked: “Calm and antiseptic, like a hospital. It had that techno-hush, as if someone had died. I felt like I should whisper. Everybody’s fingers were on their keyboards, and no one was looking at anyone else. You half-expected to see someone in a lab coat walk by.”

Staffers at Hillary Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn watch a GOP debate on Sept. 16, 2015. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

During one visit, she writes, she thought of a question former Democratic congressman Tony Coelho used to ask her about campaigns: “Are the kids having sex? Are they having fun? If not, let’s create something to get that going, or otherwise we’re not going to win.”

“I didn’t sense much fun or [having sex] in Brooklyn,” she deadpans.

Brazile writes that Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook and his lieutenants were so obsessed with voter data and predictive analytics that they “missed the big picture.”

“They knew how to size up voters not by meeting them and finding out what they cared about, what moved their hearts and stirred their souls, but by analyzing their habits,” she writes. “You might be able to persuade a handful of Real Simple magazine readers who drink gin and tonics to change their vote to Hillary, but you had not necessarily made them enthusiastic enough to want to get up off the couch and go to the polls.”

Brazile describes Mook, in his mid-30s, as overseeing a patriarchy. “They were all men in his inner circle,” she writes, adding: “He had this habit of nodding when you are talking, leaving you with the impression that he has listened to you, but then never seeming to follow up on what you thought you had agreed on.”

Brazile’s criticisms were not reserved for Mook. After Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri challenged Brazile’s plan for Kaine to deliver a pep talk to DNC staff at the party convention in Philadelphia, Brazile writes, “I was thinking, If that b—- ever does anything like that to me again, I’m gonna walk.”

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, right, and his lieutenants are described in the book as being so obsessed with voter data that they “missed the big picture.” Mook is seen on the campaign plane on Oct. 28, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Brazile writes with particular disdain about Brandon Davis, a Mook protege who worked as a liaison between the DNC and the Clinton campaign. She describes him as a spy, saying he treated her like “a crazy, senile old auntie and couldn’t wait to tell all his friends the nutty things she said.”


In staff meetings, Brazile recalls, “Brandon often rolled his eyes as if I was the stupidest woman he’d ever had to endure on his climb to the top. He openly scoffed at me, snorting sometimes when I made an observation.”

Brazile opens her book by describing the painful days following Clinton’s defeat. She received calls of gratitude from party leaders but still felt slighted.

“I never heard from Hillary,” she writes. “I knew what I wanted to say to her and it was: I have nothing but respect for you being so brave and classy considering everything that went on. But in the weeks after the loss, every time I checked my phone thinking I might have missed her call, it wasn’t her.”

Finally, in February 2017, Clinton rang.

“This was chitchat, like I was talking to someone I didn’t know,” Brazile writes. “I know Hillary. I know she was being as sincere as possible, but I wanted something more from her.”


Trump Has Confidence in Tillerson, White House Says — Trump said on Sunday that Tillerson was wasting his time trying to talk to North Korea — President Undercut His Own Team (Again)

October 3, 2017

President said Sunday chief diplomat was ‘wasting his time’ in bid to negotiate with North Korea

WASHINGTON—The White House said Monday that President Donald Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a day after Mr. Trump said the chief diplomat was “wasting his time” by trying to negotiate with North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson disclosed over the weekend that the U.S. has had direct contact with Pyongyang and was trying to ascertain whether North Korean officials want to hold talks on their nuclear program. His statements, during a trip to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, prompted Mr. Trump to tell Mr. Tillerson…

White House: Trump still has confidence in Tillerson


The White House said Monday that President Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even though the president publicly contradicted his top diplomat on North Korea.

“He does, yes,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked if Trump still has confidence in Tillerson.

Sanders said she believed the two men have spoken in the past day.

Trump on Sunday tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done,” the president tweeted.

The comments raised questions about Tillerson’s standing in the administration. The former ExxonMobil chief executive has periodically butted heads with the White House over policy and personnel decisions.

Traveling in China over the weekend, the secretary of State said the U.S. was in direct contact with North Korean representatives in an effort to lower tensions with the country.

Sanders reiterated on Monday that Trump does not believe direct negotiation with Kim will resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“Now is not the time to talk,” she said.


Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea — And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team

This isn’t the first time President Trump has undercut a member of his own staff

President Donald Trump has publicly called out his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets on Sunday, referring to his nickname for Kim Jong-un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail,” Trump added in another tweet.

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

The comments came after Tillerson, who was traveling in China over the weekend, told reporters that the U.S. has open “lines of communication” with North Korea in an effort to “calm things down” following threatening exchanges between Trump and Kim.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in Monday’s press briefing that Trump still has confidence in Tillerson but added that “now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea.”

This isn’t the first time the president has undercut a member of his own staff. Here’s a list of others who have felt their boss’ frustration in very public ways.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a speech outlining the Department of Justice policy regarding Sanctuary Cities and crime by illegal immigrants at the US Attorney’s Office in Center City Philadelphia, PA, on July 21, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Trump repeatedly called out Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. After publicly announcing his displeasure — including telling The New York Times that Sessions’ move was “extremely unfair … to the president” — Trump took to Twitter in July to attack Sessionsfor taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes” and “intel leakers.”

So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

The president also expressed regret over appointing Sessions in the first place, telling the Times, “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”


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President Donald Trump and H.R. McMaster are pictured. | Susan Walsh/AP
President Donald Trump said of H.R. McMaster (right). | Susan Walsh/AP

In May, Trump contradicted H.R. McMaster after the national security advisor denied reports that the president had shared classified information with Russian officials.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

Early the following morning, Trump tweeted that he had in fact shared information with Russia, which he said he had “the absolute right to do.”

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer … and Vice President Mike Pence … and the White House itself 

After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, the White House issued a statement, attributed to Spicer, that said the president “acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

That night, after hiding among some bushes on the White House grounds, Spicer emerged to give the same explanation. “It was all him,” Spicer said of Rosenstein, according to The Washington Post.

RELATED VIDEOWatch: Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Attack

Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s then-deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also insisted at the time that Trump made his decision based on Rosenstein’s recommendation.

But then Trump himself spoke out with an entirely different explanation.

“I was going to fire Comey. My decision. I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Trump also said he factored into his decision the Comey-led FBI probe into Russian interference in the election.

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I 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’ve won,’ ” Trump said.

Donald Trump Jr. 

Trump contradicted his own son — and his own self — when the president revealed in July that he knew about his eldest son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised to give the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. first said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that his father didn’t know about the meeting, a claim the president also made in a subsequent interview with Reueters.

“No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this,” Trump said at the time.

Just hours later, however, Trump told pool reporters of the meeting, “In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point.”

Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea — And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team

Trump aid Kushner registered to vote as a woman: report — Plus: Does Trump White House Have a Hillary Email Problem?

September 28, 2017


© AFP/File | Senior presidential adviser and his boss’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been registered to vote as a woman for the last eight years, US media reported

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner, has been registered to vote as a woman for eight years, US media reported.

Voter information records held by New York show the presidential adviser — whose portfolio includes everything from seeking peace in the Middle East to reining in the opioid crisis in the United States — was registered as “female.”

The screenshot, published by Wired, is not the first time the young statesman has fallen foul of bureaucracy.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, also filled out paperwork for his White House security clearance wrongly and had to refile it repeatedly, CBS reported.

Prior to 2009, Kushner’s New Jersey voter registration noted his gender as “unknown,” according to The Hill news site.

Kushner, the scion of a wealthy property-owning family, is one of a number of Trump’s inner circle previously found to have been registered to vote in more than one state during last year’s election, the Washington Post has reported.

Others include ex-White House press secretary Sean Spicer and ex-lead strategist Stephen Bannon.

Multiple registrations were pointed to by the president as a sign of purported widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. Trump said millions of people illegally cast votes for Hillary Clinton but has never substantiated his claim.

Kushner — a person of interest in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the US election — has also recently been accused of using private email accounts to conduct government business.

Trump’s insurgent presidential campaign was galvanized by supporters’ demands that Clinton be jailed for her use of private email servers while Secretary of State.


Image result for Jared Kushner, photos

Does Trump’s team have a Clinton email problem?

Attorney: Kushner used private email account to talk to WH officials 01:28

Story highlights

  • Douglas Cox; Use of private email accounts by members of President Trump’s administration poses questions similar to some asked about the Hillary Clinton emails

Douglas Cox is a professor at the City University of New York’s School of Law. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.


(CNN) — Hillary Clinton has called the use of private email for official business by multiple senior Trump White House advisers — reportedly including Jared Kushner, Stephen Bannon, and Reince Priebus — the “height of hypocrisy.” While there are both legal and factual distinctions between the two situations, Clinton’s criticism is valid. Comparing the two situations is appropriate and may become more so as the facts further develop.

Douglas Cox

While the Federal Records Act applied to Clinton’s emails, the comparable Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of records of the president and his advisers. Presidential records include almost any material related to the president’s activities whether they are documents, texts, tweets, recorded conversations, or emails. While “personal” documents are excluded from the definition of presidential records, the exception is narrowly confined to communications of a “purely private” nature.
The Presidential Records Act also specifically prohibits the president and his advisers from using a “non-official” email account to send a presidential record, unless they copy the message to their official email account or forward it to the official account within 20 days.
 Image result for Jared Kushner, photos
While Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell has asserted, “All non-personal emails were forwarded to his official address,” he did not specify whether this was done within the law’s time limit or belatedly in response to this controversy, or who determined which of his private emails were “non-personal.” Just as with Clinton, the public is being asked to trust that senior government officials who used private email for official business nevertheless both preserved all relevant emails and properly distinguished between personal and official records.
This is trust the public should not have to give. The purpose of the Presidential Records Act, originally passed in 1978 as a reaction to the Watergate scandal, was to establish public ownership over presidential records and to take them out of the hands of individuals with an incentive to destroy or conceal incriminating documents.
The use of private email by senior Trump White House advisers creates an unacceptable risk that the activities of the Trump White House will not be properly documented, ongoing investigations by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller will be undermined, and the historical record will be damaged.
The other risk of private email, highlighted throughout the Clinton controversy, is that classified or sensitive information might be maintained outside of government control. While there is not yet any public evidence to suggest that the private emails of Trump advisers contained classified information, it would be premature to conclude that there was none.
Given the heightened sensitivity of communications related to the presidency, any assertion that dozens, if not hundreds, of emails sent between senior White House advisers did not contain any information that would be redacted as classified strains credulity.
His lawyer’s carefully worded statement that Kushner’s private emails “usually” were “forwarded news articles or political commentary” does not diminish the possibility of classified information. Former White House chief of staff John Podesta once described how even news articles often became stamped as classified in the White House on the basis that mere presidential interest in a news article could constitute strategic, sensitive information. Also, recall that one of the classified emails featured in the Clinton controversy reportedly resulted from an employee forwarding a newspaper article on the use of drones.
Presidential records, unlike federal records at the State Department, are not immediately subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Given this, assertions that the private emails in the Trump White House contained no classified information may have a longer shelf life than similar assertions by Clinton, but they are not necessarily any more credible.
While Clinton’s exclusive use of private email and a private server may have been larger in scale, the Trump White House’s “occasional” use of private email must also be placed in the context of a larger pattern of evading records laws.
This includes former chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s reported desire to limit the White House “paper trail,” the apparent use of encrypted messaging apps by White House staff that automatically deleted communications, the continuing deletion of presidential tweets, and an ongoing lawsuit against Trump for violations of the Presidential Records Act.
Follow CNN Opinion

Join us on Twitter and FacebookFurther, while Clinton’s claims that she initially believed that her use of private email was consistent with the law and State Department policy was at least plausible, the Clinton email controversy itself renders any assertions by Trump advisers that private email use about official business was appropriate effectively unbelievable.

In the end, drawing any final conclusions or comparisons will require more facts. A congressional request is seeking such facts about the extent of private email usage by the Trump White House and its compliance with the law.
While many believe Clinton’s emails were overemphasized during the campaign, and while possible violations of the Presidential Records Act may be dwarfed by other Trump White House investigations, the use of private emails by Trump advisers deserves the same level of scrutiny as Clinton’s emails. Those who led chants of “Lock her up!” are not entitled to special leniency in the application of the law.

Steve Bannon, Back At Breitbart: “Now I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency.”

August 19, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

By Harriet Alexander, David Millward Barney Henderson

defiant Steve Bannon declared the Trump presidency he had campaigned for was over as he vowed to carry on the fight after being ousted as the White House chief strategist.

Within hours of leaving his office,  Mr Bannon was back at Breitbart, the right wing website he ran, presiding over the evening news conference.

In interviews he made it clear he was not going quietly as he rounded on those he held responsible for his departure.

 Image result for Gary Cohn, shirt too tight, photos

“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” he told the Weekly Standard, a right-wing newspaper   “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency,” he continued.

“But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”

He added: “I feel jacked up. Now I’ve got my hands back on my weapons,” he added as he vowed “Bannon the barbarian” would crush the opposition.

“There’s no doubt. I built a —–ng machine at Breitbart.  And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”

His loyalty to Donald Trump remained undimmed.

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,”  he told Bloomberg.

Earlier Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary said Mr Bannon, 63,  had departed “by mutual agreement.”

The White House then issued a statement, saying that the decision was agreed by Mr Bannon and John Kelly, the chief of staff – a sign of Mr Kelly’s grappling to control the chaos, or perhaps simply to avoid Mr Trump having to put his name to the firing of the man who most connects him to his diehard supporters.

Joel Pollack, Breitbart’s  editor at large, tweeted a one-word response to Mr Bannon’s departure: “War”.

Mr Bannon was controversial from the start.

Combative and unapologetic, the former Goldman Sachs financier was employed by Mr Trump as his campaign manager in August 2016, and described at the time as “the most dangerous political operative in America”.

He urged Mr Trump to pursue a populist path, and pressed him to hammer Hillary Clinton as corrupt – reportedly coming up with the “lock her up” chant that reverberated around his rallies.

It was Mr Bannon, with fellow hardliner Stephen Miller, who wrote Mr Trump’s inauguration speech – a dark and foreboding depiction of the “American carnage” that Mr Trump believed he had been elected to stop.

He was often at odds with the “globalist” wing of the White House – Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law; his wife Ivanka Trump; H.R. McMaster, the head of the national security council; and Gary Cohn, director of the national economic council.

Image result for Gary Cohn, shirt too tight, photos

Mr Bannon reportedly referred to them in private as “the New Yorkers” and “the Democrats”, among more printable nicknames, and tried to steer his boss away from them and towards his own nationalist sympathisers.

At first the president thought fondly of his flame-throwing ideologue, who was seen to wield immense behind-the-scenes power inside the White House.

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Gary Cohn

Saturday Night Live depicted him as the grim reaper, playing Mr Trump like a puppet – something that reportedly amused Mr Bannon, but enraged his boss.

His departure had been described as imminent before, but since Charlottesville the drum beat of demise rose to a frenzy.

Mr Trump was reported earlier this week to have not spoken face-to-face with Mr Bannon in over a week, and on Tuesday, at the now infamous press conference in which he defended white supremacists, Mr Trump could only offer a lukewarm endorsement, responding to a question about Mr Bannon’s future with: “We’ll see.”

That press conference sparked condemnation of a president never before seen in the United States – the heads of the military spoke out against their commander-in-chief, and the UN secretary-general voiced concern. Titans of industry who Mr Trump had so assiduously courted on the campaign trail deserted him in droves, leading to the folding of both his business advisory panels.

On Friday the arts council resigned en masse – the first White House agency to do so.

Political condemnation was also snowballing, leading astonished Americans to ask where this could all end.

Bob Corker, a senior Republican loyalist and chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, who was considered for secretary of state, declared that “the president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to” in dealing with crises.

And, while Mr Trump sought to shift Thursday from the white supremacists to the future of statues, he was criticised by Rupert Murdoch’s son James, in an email widely circulated.

“I can’t believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists,” he wrote.

Rumblings of discontent from Mr Trump’s staff grew so loud that the White House was forced to release a statement saying that Gary Cohn, Mr Trump’s chief economic adviser, was not quitting.

The Dow Jones suffered its worst day since May on Thursday, but rebounded slightly on the news that Mr Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, was staying put.

Mr Cohn will certainly not be crying over the departure of Mr Bannon. Mr Bannon perhaps sealed his own fate this week by telephoning a reporter with The American Prospect, a Left-wing publication, to contradict his boss – and suggest that he was deciding who was in and who was out in the state department.

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” said Mr Bannon, directly undermining Mr Trump’s vow to respond if attacked.

Asked about his rivals at the departments of state, defence and treasury, who wanted to keep China on side by avoiding trade wars, Mr Bannon was unrepentant.

“They’re wetting themselves,” he said. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in.”

But Mr Bannon may not go quietly.

One of the reasons Mr Trump was said to have delayed dismissing him was fear of “weaponising” Mr Bannon, if he was unleashed from the White House.

A friend of Mr Bannon said he intended to return to Breitbart, adding: “This is now a Democrat White House”.

Bannon ‘in good spirits’

Quoting  a “friend”,  the Wall Street Journal, said Mr Bannon seemed to be in good spirits, following his departure from the White House.

“Steve has always been a gunslinger. This allows him to be a gunslinger again.”

Trump ‘ceding dangerous ground to the media and establishment’

Kristin Tate, a conservative columnist, warns that Donald Trump has ceded dangerous ground to the establishment.

“There is no compromise with the Never-Trumpers and Democrats over the role of chief strategist,” she writes in The Hill, a political website.

” Personnel is policy, and Trump is ceding his ace for a player to be named later. That’s not good enough for the people who made his movement happen.

Bernie: The problem wasn’t Bannon, it was Trump


Steve Bannon ‘said he resigned from White House two weeks ago’


CNN says ‘Gorka could go’

Citing unnamed “sources”, CNN is saying that Sebastian Gorka, Donald Trump’s deputy assistant, could be the next to go.

Born in the UK to Hungarian parents, British educated Mr Gorka, has also been a controversial figure in the White House.

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Seen as a hardliner, he was openly critical of Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, when he suggested the US could negotiate with North Korea over nuclear weapons.

But Mr Trump is reported to be a fan of Mr Gorka’s combative style and his forthright defence of the administration in his media appearances.


Another White House departure

Steve Bannon is not the only senior figure leaving the White House,according to Politico.

George Sifakis, director of the Office of Public Liaison since March, is reportedly on his way out.

A close friend and ally of Reince Preibus, the former White House chief of staff,   Mr Sifakis was an aide to George W Bush.


Nigel Farage says Bannon will be missed


Bannon meets billionaire donor to plot next steps

Axios, the authoritative Washington website, reports that Mr Bannon met with billionaire Republican donor Bob Mercer to plan their next moves.

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They write:

Bob Mercer and Steve Bannon had a five hour meeting Wednesday to plot out next steps, said a source withknowledge of the meeting.

They plotted strategy going forward — both political and media strategy. The meeting was at Mercer’s estate on Long Island. Mercer had dinner the next night at Bedminster with President Trump and a small group of donors. The source said Mercer and Bannon “remain strong supporters of President Trump’s and his agenda.”



Democrat leader responds

Steve Bannon’s exit does not erase @realDonaldTrump’s long record of lifting up racist viewpoints & advancing repulsive policies. 


Four down…

This January 28 photo shows Donald Trump and his advisers inside the Oval Office. Of the six in the picture, only the president and vice president remain – Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon have all left.


Breitbart’s editor-at-large responds to Steve Bannon’s ouster