James Bennet, the editor of the New York Times' editorial page, testified Wednesday that he did not consult the paper’s previously published columns and news reports when he rewrote an editorial in June that said a political action committee associated with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin had circulated a map that showed crosshairs targeting several members of Congress.
Bennet’s testimony, given in federal district court in Lower Manhattan, was the focus of an evidentiary hearing in the suit over the editorial, which was published after Rep. Steve Scalise was shot in Virginia while practicing for the annual congressional baseball game.
The editorial linked Palin to the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that gravely injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others. After it was corrected, the editorial stated that the committee "circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs" — removing the reference that said it had targeted individual members.
The Times later issued a correction, and added a new sentence to the editorial, clarifying that "no connection to the shooting was ever established” between the PAC’s map and the shooting.
Palin argued the Times, which described the map circulated by the PAC as a kind of “political incitement,” had defamed her by publishing "a statement about her that it knew to be false: that Mrs. Palin was responsible for inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011," according to the lawsuit, which was filed in June.
Federal District Judge Jed Rakoff requested Wednesday’s evidentiary hearing to determine whether or not to allow Palin’s lawsuit against the paper to proceed. Rakoff said he intends to rule on that question before the end of August.
The determination will rest in part on whether the suit meets the high standards for defamation cases to proceed in the United States — a requirement for the plaintiff to show the Times committed “actual malice” in its publication of the editorial. That is the legal standard for defamation cases involving public figures such as Palin.
Rakoff had previously said that answering that question would depend on whether the author of the editorial was aware of articles or editorials in the New York Times contradicting the editorial.
Through their questioning, the Times’s lawyers sought to demonstrate that Bennet, who has been the paper’s editorial page editor since April of 2016, was pressed for time on the day of the shooting, and unaware of both prior columns and news articles that contradicted the editorial, and of a news story to be published the day after the shooting by one of the Times’ reporters, which also said there was no confirmed connection between heated political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting.
Bennet was not the initial author of the editorial, entitled “America’s Lethal Politics,” but he substantially rewrote the rough draft written by Times staffer Elizabeth Williamson, which he received in the early evening on the day the shooting took place, he said.
Bennet said he and editorial board members discussed the aims of the editorial at a board meeting after the shooting took place the morning of June 14, in order to focus attention on the horror of that day and the act itself, to restate the Times editorial board’s position advocating for more sensible gun control laws, and to express concern about the state of political rhetoric in the country.
Williamson’s initial draft didn’t accomplish the Times’ goals, and didn’t focus enough on the “horror of the day and the significance of the act,” Bennet said. The lateness of the hour and impending deadlines led him to significantly rewrite portions of the editorial himself, adding the sentences which were corrected later in response to complaints about their accuracy.
In using the phrase “political incitement” in the editorial, which Bennet added to Williamson’s draft and which was later changed in corrections to the piece, Bennet said he originally was “looking for a very strong word to write about the political climate because I wanted to get our readers’ attention.”
Although “incitement” is typically defined as urging someone to engage in a kind of behavior, Bennet said he’d used the word in the sense he observed Palestinians and Israelis using it, when he covered the region for the Times, “to talk about a range of communications, from deliberate orders, to textbooks that elide important facts, to maps that misrepresent the politics of the region.”
Bennet said he hadn’t intended to suggest that the map the PAC circulated in 2011 was “tantamount to complicity in attempted murder,” although many of the Times’ readers interpreted it that way.
Bennet said readers’ reactions to the editorial and the misrepresentations he thought he’d unintentionally made caused him a “tremendous amount of concern,” leading the paper to make corrections to the piece in the morning on the following day.
“I had created an ambiguity,” Bennet said. “Our first priority is to get the facts right.”
He said the uproar over the editorial left Times staffers and editors “scrambling” the following day.
Lawyers for Palin asked Bennet, whose brother Michael is a Democratic senator in Colorado, whether he knew that Colorado Democratic Congress members who endorsed his brother in 2016 had been listed as targets on the 2011 map, or whether he remembered that a PAC associated with Giffords, advocating gun control, had endorsed his brother’s re-election.
Bennet said he did not remember or recall those circumstances at the time he was rewriting the editorial.
Rakoff asked lawyers for both parties to submit briefs explaining what they thought the hearing added to the judge’s impending decision, “particularly on the issue of actual malice, which I think looms as a significant issue.”
The conservative organizer who had planned a March on Google at nine locations nationwide this weekend put the event on hold Wednesday amid concerns that there could be violent clashes similar to the ones that roiled Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
Jack Posobiec, a far-right media figure who helped push the "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory, had played a lead role in organizing the March on Google as a way to protest the tech giant's decision to fire an employee earlier this month over an anti-diversity memo he penned and circulated.
“Google is a monopoly, and its [sic] abusing its power to silence dissent and manipulate election results,” Posobiec wrote for his blog marchongoogle.com. “Their company YouTube is censoring and silencing dissenting voices by creating ‘ghettos’ for videos questioning the dominant narrative. We will thus be Marching on Google!”
He encouraged people to peacefully protest in front of nine Google offices as a demonstration of their freedom of speech. Posobiec, a Trump supporter, also released a code of conduct for the march, which stated that it was not an "alt-right" event and that it was an “event for First Amendment supporters from across the country, from all backgrounds, ethnicity and walks of life.”
The term "alt-right" has become associated with white supremacy, white nationalism and the neo-Nazi movement.
In a marchongoogle.com blog post Sunday titled “March on Google Condemns Violence and Commits to Peaceful Rallies,” Posobiec said that anyone who incited violence would not be part of the event. The group, however, received threats of automobile violence mirroring the Charlottesville protests last weekend and therefore delayed its action.
“Following the articles, credible threats from known Alt Left terrorist groups have been reported to and relevant authorities have been notified,” Posobeic wrote Wednesday. “We look forward to the day when the human right of peaceful Free Speech is once again able to be practiced in America.”
Mountain View (Calif.) Police Department spokeswoman Katie Nelson would not disclose security details it had planned for the event, but said the department had received expressions of concern from the community over the past few days.
"We will continue to actively plan to provide an effective and appropriate police presence at the event and throughout the city, and we will be prepared to ensure a peaceful expression of everyone's First Amendment rights," Nelson said in a statement after the event was put on hold. "We will do everything we can to ensure that everyone not only is able to peaceably protest, but that everyone is also safe."
Most Americans think President Donald Trump’s response to the white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend was not strong enough, according to a new Marist poll.
Fifty-two percent of people surveyed said Trump’s response to the violence was insufficient, while 27 percent said his reaction was strong enough and 21 percent were unsure.
The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday, so at least some respondents were surveyed before Trump made further remarks about the event at a freewheeling news conference in New York on Tuesday afternoon.
The gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis on Saturday turned deadly when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people.
The president’s initial response, in which he condemned violence on “many sides,” was widely panned as inadequate because he failed to call out white supremacists directly, so he followed up with a statement Monday doing so. But he prompted another firestorm of criticism on Tuesday when he again blamed “both sides” and suggested that the white supremacist protesters included some “very fine people.”
Approval of the president’s response varied significantly along partisan lines. Just 10 percent of Democrats said Trump responded to the episode strongly enough, while 79 percent said he did not. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans, meanwhile, said the president’s response was strong enough, and 19 percent said it was insufficient.
Among independents, 52 percent said Trump’s response was not strong enough and 30 percent said it was.
Thirty-one percent of white respondents said Trump reacted strongly enough, while 46 percent said he did not. Seventy-seven percent of African-Americans surveyed said the president’s response was inadequate, compared with 13 percent who said it was enough.
The poll’s sample size was 1,125 people, who were surveyed by landline and cellphone. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Antitrust lawyer Joseph Simons is President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Federal Trade Commission, according to three people familiar with the decision.
Simons is co-chairman of the antitrust group at the law firm Paul Weiss and served as director of the FTC's competition bureau during the George W. Bush administration. POLITICO first reported his name was in contention for the post in June.
The FTC, charged with protecting American consumers and enforcing the country's antitrust laws, has been led since late January by Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. As acting chairman, she's only been able to fill key internal positions on a temporary basis, leaving the agency in a state of uncertainty.
Simons, if confirmed by the Senate, would immediately jump into some contentious issues. The FTC may have a role in reviewing Amazon's $13.7 billion deal for Whole Foods. Simons could be tougher on mergers than current FTC leadership has been, one source said.
A White House spokeswoman said the administration had no announcement to share at this time.
In the early 2000s, Simons was trustee of four wireless businesses related to the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger with Vodafone, and he had a similar role during the Cingular-AT&T Wireless merger. Recent clients have included Ericsson, MasterCard and a consortium including Microsoft.
Names in contention for the remaining spots on the commission include, on the Republican side, Delta Air Lines senior vice president Christine Wilson and Noah Phillips, chief counsel for Sen. John Cornyn. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has recommended consumer advocate Rohit Chopra for the Democratic seat.
The chiefs of the military branches unequivocally condemned racism in public messages Wednesday, posing a stark and unusual contrast to President Donald Trump’s remarks that both white supremacists and counterprotesters were to blame for the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
Military leaders did not mention Trump but made clear they would not tolerate racism in the ranks, after some former troops at the white supremacist rally drew headlines.
Dillon Ulysses Hopper, who helped to organize the protest in Charlottesville, reportedly served in the Marine Corps, including tours overseas and time as a recruiter. James Alex Fields Jr., who is accused of running over counter protesters with his car, killing one woman, also reportedly washed out of Army basic training.
The Army "doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks," Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley tweeted early Wednesday. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein; Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller; Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations; and Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard, also weighed in.
"Our diversity is our strength," Lengyel said.
Trump initially took heat for a statement Saturday in which he blamed "many sides" for the violence. On Monday, he sought to remedy that, condemning the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and saying "racism is evil."
But after he was criticized for the delay, Trump let loose in a news conference Tuesday in which he said there were "very fine people" among those marching in protest of the planned removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, and he defended monuments to Confederate figures.
Military leaders, however, sought to distance themselves from the rally's participants.
The 82nd Airborne Division, whose paratroopers fought Nazis during World War II, posted on Twitter condemning a man at the Charlottesville rally wearing a hat with the unit's insignia.
"Anyone can purchase that hat," the 82nd Airborne wrote on Twitter. "Valor is earned."
The Trump administration will make this month's Obamacare payments to insurers, a White House spokesman confirmed today, despite the president's repeated threats to cut off the subsidies and potentially tip the insurance markets into turmoil.
It’s widely anticipated that insurers would jack up premiums or exit the Obamacare markets altogether if the subsidies, worth about $7 billion this year, are eliminated. Insurance premiums for the most popular Obamacare plans would likely rise by 20 percent next year if the payments are stopped, according to a Tuesday CBO analysis.
The administration's decision was immediately denounced by an influential GOP House conservative, suggesting mounting tensions among Republicans about how to move forward on health care after the repeal effort collapsed in the Senate late last month.
At issue are subsidies that insurers rely on to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income Obamacare customers. Insurers would still be on the hook to provide the discounted rates even if the federal payments stop.
House Republicans filed a lawsuit in 2014 arguing that the Obama administration didn’t have the authority to make the payments without a congressional appropriation — and prevailed at the lower court level. The Obama administration appealed that ruling, but the Trump administration has avoided making a decision about whether to continue the appeal or drop it.
Without a congressional appropriation, the Trump administration could still stop the payments any month. That provides little certainty to insurers who must finalize 2018 health plans in the coming weeks.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, on Wednesday criticized the White House for continuing the payments and Senate Republicans for dropping the repeal effort.
"Instead of the executive branch issuing unconstitutional payments to bail out insurance companies, the Senate should continue working until they have passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare," Walker said in a statement. "Their constituents are tired of their inability to fulfill their promise."
Obamacare repeal packages considered by the House and Senate, H.R. 1628, both included short-term funding for the program, but their legislative efforts have stalled. Some Republican lawmakers have increasingly called for funding the Obamacare subsidies in a separate package to stabilize the law's marketplaces.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, praised the decision to continue the payments. Alexander further called on Congress to appropriate money for the program and allow states greater flexibility to run their health care systems when lawmakers return from recess next month.
"These two actions will help make insurance policies available at affordable prices," Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. "Congress owes struggling Americans who buy their insurance in the individual market a breakthrough in the health care stalemate."
MIAMI — Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Miami to trash Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In a 30-minute speech on Wednesday criticizing Chicago’s “sanctuary city” policy, Sessions used Miami-Dade County as a foil to accuse Emanuel of neglecting murder rates associated with undocumented immigrants and putting federal funds at risk.
“If voters are concerned about losing federal grant money, call your mayor,” Sessions said in prepared remarks.
Chicago officials sued the Justice Department last week over DOJ’s plans to withhold federal grant funding to sanctuary cities.
Sessions rebutted the claim from Chicago officials that sanctuary-city policies help reduce crime by pointing to a lack of evidence and the city’s low murder investigation clearance rate. Sanctuary cities make law enforcement’s job more difficult, he argued, because witnesses will be reluctant to “risk their life” to report a crime with “no real consequences for the criminal.”
“Rather than acknowledge soaring murder counts or the heartbreaking stories told by victims’ families, Chicago’s mayor has chosen to sue the federal government,” Sessions said. “For the sake of their city, Chicago’s leaders need to recommit to policies that punish criminals instead of protecting them. They need to protect their citizens and not the criminals.”
In stark contrast to Chicago, a city with a comparable population but a much higher murder rate, Sessions highlighted Miami-Dade as “one of the safest major jurisdictions in the country.” He noted, however, that “this was not always the case,” citing a time in the 1980s when drugs dominated the city and violent crime followed.
“But the people of Miami-Dade refused to tolerate this level of violence. And last year, Miami-Dade’s homicide count was barely a third of what it was in the 1980s,” Sessions said. “Your success is even more remarkable since violent crime is surging in most places across the country.”
Emanuel responded swiftly, vowing not to “cave to the Trump administration’s pressure" because they are morally, factually and legally wrong.
“In a week in which the Trump administration is being forced to answer questions about neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK, they could not have picked a worse time to resume their attack on the immigrants who see America as a beacon of hope,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Chicago will continue to stand up proudly as a welcoming city.”
Miami-Dade, Sessions said, is both an example of what’s possible and evidence that the country can do better.
“I’m here to announce that Miami-Dade is now in full compliance and eligible for federal law enforcement grant dollars,” Sessions said. “Unfortunately, some cities — like Chicago — refuse to follow your example.”
Miami-Dade County in January went out of its way to accommodate President Donald Trump’s new policy by agreeing to honor detainee requests for all inmates booked into the county jail. Previously, the county had refused to honor the requests for nonserious offense suspects and if the federal government refused to pay the costs of the extra detention.
But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez reversed the policy, in great part to avoid losing federal funding and as a sweetener to entice the administration into providing as much as $3 billion to fund a mammoth county transportation plan.
Critics, however, suggested Gimenez backtracked at the urging of his son, Carlos Gimenez Jr., who was Trump’s lobbyist for years in the county. Father and son both denied the allegation. The mayor was a Trump critic before the election and, though a Republican, said he would vote for Hillary Clinton.
In fact, hours before the news conference, Gimenez denounced Trump for not taking a strong enough stance condemning white supremacists at the heart of the violent protests that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“It was very disappointing to hear President Trump essentially take back his comments from Monday condemning white supremacists and their actions in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. There should be no ambiguity about what took place in Charlottesville. A young woman lost her life, several others were injured, and hatred and bigotry were on display,” Gimenez said in his statement.
Trump is deeply unpopular in the heavily Democratic, minority-heavy county, which supported Clinton over Trump by 64 percent to 34 percent. The new immigration policy also proved deeply unpopular for broad swaths of the county, the most-populous in Florida with 2.7 million residents, more than half of whom are foreign born.
Since Gimenez announced his policy Jan. 26, the county has received 463 detainer request, of which 143 people were turned over to immigration authorities, according to The Miami Herald.
In his remarks, Sessions painted sanctuary cities as jurisdictions that not only reject the rule of law but endanger Americans in the process by providing a safe haven to criminals. A sanctuary city, Sessions said, “is a trafficker, smuggler or predator’s best friend.”
The attorney general argued that DOJ wants to do all it can to work with local enforcement and point to Miami-Dade as a sign of what could happen with cities that cooperate.
“To all ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions across the country, I say this: Miami-Dade is doing it, and so can you. Work with us to enforce a lawful immigration system that keeps us safe and serves our national interest,” Sessions said. “The Department of Justice will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness or crime. Nor will we tolerate the loss of innocent life because a handful of jurisdictions believe that they are above the law.”
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.
The co-founder of the firm that commissioned a dossier of salacious allegations against President Donald Trump will be interviewed later this month by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a source familiar with the issue.
Glenn Simpson, head of the private investigation firm Fusion GPS, agreed to a voluntary, closed-door interview after Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) issued and then withdrew a subpoena for Simpson to appear at a public hearing last month.
The interview has now been scheduled, the source said. It will likely be with committee staff, not with senators.
Simpson has been providing documents to the Judiciary panel in response to a July 19 request from the panel. Committee spokesman Taylor Foy said Simpson and Fusion GPS have provided about 41,000 pages of documents — but added that they are of little value.
“Virtually all documents appear to be merely news clippings rather than substantive communications,” Foy said. “Roughly a fifth of those documents are blank pages.”
The committee is seeking information on the dossier, which includes some unsubstantiated allegations against Trump. Fusion GPS commissioned a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, to compile the dossier. The committee is also seeking information on any work Fusion GPS has done on behalf of Russian interests opposed to the Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russian officials for human rights abuses.
The Judiciary panel is investigating a number of issues relating to last year’s presidential election and Russia’s efforts to influence it.
The Trump campaign has turned over about 20,000 pages of documents to the panel, and Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization have turned over about 250. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has turned over about 400 pages.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are also investigating Russia’s election meddling and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is enjoying rising popularity among Republicans according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.
The poll found that the share of Republicans expressing confidence in Putin doubled to 34 percent from 17 percent in 2015, when Donald Trump launched a campaign for the White House that was seen as friendly toward Moscow.
Though most Americans view Russia negatively, Moscow's overall popularity in the United States has risen since 2014, when it plummeted after the country annexed Crimea. Twenty-nine percent of Americans now have a favorable view, compared with 19 percent in 2014, the poll found.
But the partisan gap is stark, as congressional committees and federal investigators scrutinize Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, including hacks of Democratic operatives’ email accounts. The investigations are eyeing any ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign, though the president calls the probe a “hoax.”
Just 13 percent of Democrats have confidence in Putin, the poll found. And while 61 percent of Democrats consider Russia a major national security risk, only 36 percent of Republicans do, the poll of 1,505 adults conducted from Feb. 16 to March 15 found. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
The partisan gap is a recent development, said Margaret Vice, a senior researcher at Pew and the lead author on the report.
“We’ve seen quite a shift on the side of Republicans, with Republicans now being much more favorable toward Russia,” Vice said, adding that the shift was "quite significant."
The ideological split exists in other countries as well, she said, with those on the right in Italy, Greece and Australia also holding warmer views toward Putin.
“Those who place themselves on the right of the spectrum are much more likely to be confident in Putin as a leader,” she said.
But Vice said the American right's recent warmth toward Putin still stood out.
"In most of the 13 countries in which ideology was asked in 2015 and 2017, the ideological split in views toward Russia and Putin have not changed significantly, outside of the U.S.," Vice said.
Still, Americans have an overwhelmingly negative view of the country, with just 14 percent saying Russia respects the personal freedoms of its people.
Russia’s popularity in the United States used to be substantially higher — nearly half of Americans had a favorable view in 2010 — but tumbled after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russian government forces continue to assist Ukrainian separatists. Putin’s government also has sided with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war there, and it has tried, mostly through influence campaigns, to destabilize democracies from Europe to the United States.
Trump frequently praised Putin during the campaign, and the two spoke at length during a recent G-20 meeting in Hamburg. Improved relations with Russia were a centerpiece of Trump's foreign policy platform, but the revelations of election interference have all but eliminated the possibility of any rekindled friendship in the near future.
Trump recently begrudgingly signed new sanctions on the Russian regime after they were passed by veto-proof majorities in Congress.
Vice President Mike Pence declined Wednesday to distance himself from President Donald Trump’s controversial doubling down on violence that occurred at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
“I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia,” Pence told reporters during a news conference in Chile alongside President Michelle Bachelet. “I stand with the president, and I stand by those words.”
Pence contended he and Trump have “been clear” on the tragedy, though Trump initially said Saturday there was violence “on many sides” before cleaning up his remarks Monday, when he delivered a statement declaring racism “evil” and singling out hate groups by name.
Trump, however, doubled down on his initial stance Tuesday, blaming “both sides” and repeatedly targeting what he called the “alt-left.”
Speaking Sunday alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Pence had called the fatal events in Charlottesville, where white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed with counter-protesters, a “tragedy.”
One woman, Heather Heyer, died, and more than a dozen others were injured. Heyer’s memorial was held earlier Wednesday.
“Today, while I’m here in Chile, our hearts are in Charlottesville. Because just a few short hours ago, family and friends gathered to say farewell to a remarkable young woman, Heather Heyer,” Pence said. “And we’ve been praying. We’ve been praying for God’s peace and comfort for her family and her friends and her loved ones.”
On Sunday, the vice president had said Trump “clearly and unambiguously condemned” what occurred, but the White House sought to clarify his comments in a statement attributed to an unnamed spokesperson who said the president’s condemnation “of course” includes white supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis and other extremist groups.
Pence had gone further on Sunday than Trump, who did not single out those groups in his early comments last weekend.
“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said in Colombia on Sunday. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
A federal appeals court Wednesday ruled that Arkansas could withhold Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood in response to a series of undercover sting videos recorded by an anti-abortion group.
The ruling Wednesday by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacates preliminary injunctions from a federal judge that required the state to continue Medicaid payments following legal challenges brought by three patients challenging Gov. Asa Hutchinson's 2015 decision to end the state's Medicaid contract with the women's health group.
The court ruled 2-1 that the patients do not have the right to challenge the state's Medicaid contract decision.
A handful of other states have attempted to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood following the release of the sting videos by the Center for Medical Progress, which charged that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood denied the allegations. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of CMP were charged with 15 felonies by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy and recording the organization without consent.
A federal judge earlier this year blocked Texas from cutting off Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. The state's attorney general is urging a federal appeals court to overturn that decision.
World leaders condemned President Donald Trump's latest comments on the racially charged tumult in Virginia, lobbing words like "obnoxious" and "highly dangerous" in salvos that suggest Trump's domestic drama could further undermine his global relationships.
European leaders were among the most vociferous critics Wednesday, even as some far-right elements applauded Trump's remarks. While some detractors avoided mentioning Trump by name, others didn’t hold back.
"Trump’s downplayed reaction on Charlottesville is obnoxious," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas tweeted Wednesday. "It was anti-Semitism and racism, there is nothing to make relative."
The criticism threatened to further erode Trump's already shaky global standing. The U.S. president has rattled allies with everything from questioning America's support for NATO to cozying up to Russia's government. Nonetheless, foreign leaders remain cognizant that they have to keep working with Trump, and so they have carefully calibrated their responses.
British Prime Minister Theresa May criticized Trump for suggesting during an appearance before reporters Tuesday that white supremacists and those opposing them were equally culpable for the weekend violence in Charlottesville that left one person dead.
“I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them," May said, according to media reports. "I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them.”
But May did not agree to demands that Britain should withdraw an invitation for Trump to make a state visit.
“Donald Trump has shown he is unable to detach himself from the extreme right and racial supremacists," U.K. opposition leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable said. “It would be completely wrong to have this man visit the U.K. on a state visit.”
At the United Nations, Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke out against the "demons" of "irrationality" that undermine democratic values such as tolerance. "Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia are ... poisoning our societies," Guterres told reporters Wednesday. "And it is absolutely essential for us all to stand up against them everywhere and every time."
Trump's comments are especially sensitive in Germany, which still struggles with neo-Nazi elements decades after the U.S. and its allies crushed the German Nazis in World War II.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had earlier expressed disgust with the neo-Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators who gathered in Virginia. There were no immediate reports of Merkel reacting to Trump's Tuesday remarks, in which he claimed there were "many fine people" on both sides of the clashes.
But Martin Schulz, her main challenger in the upcoming German parliamentary elections, went after the U.S. president.
“One needs to counter Nazis with determination," Schulz tweeted. "What Trump does is highly dangerous. Those who play down violence and hatred betray the values of the West!"
In Israel, too, several political figures expressed outrage.
"In Nazism, anti-Semitism and racism there are never two equal sides — only one side is evil. Period," tweeted Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a big Trump supporter, had yet to issue a statement about Trump's Tuesday comments. But Netanyahu had earlier condemned the white supremacist groups that marched in Charlottesville, even though critics said he took too long.
Separately, Netanyahu's son drew attention for reportedly downplaying the neo-Nazi violence and criticizing left-wing protesters, whom he claimed hate Israel and are growing in power.
Trump did get support from some high-profile figures.
Nigel Farage, a far-right leader in Britain who was a major force behind the country's decision to leave the European Union, wrote on Twitter that Trump was right to take issue with demands that Confederate memorials must come down.
"We must not rewrite American history to suit the hard left," Farage wrote.
Meanwhile, organs of rival governments used the unfolding drama to point to vulnerabilities in American society.
RT, the Kremlin-backed media organization, carried an opinion column asserting that the events in Charlottesville were "proof that political correctness is wrecking America." RT has in the past been very pro-Trump.
The Global Times, a Chinese media outlet, argued that "the Charlottesville violence is serious as it is not an isolated affair."
"The U.S. is seeing sliding national strength," it said, "and globalization has struck a blow to the interests of middle- and lower-class whites. This is the new source of U.S. anxieties. If society can't work out a solution, these anxieties will be transformed into domestic issues, especially racial conflicts. The issue of race in today's U.S. has its origin in a number of factors and thus may have staying power."
Lorraine Woellert, Paul Dallison and Janosch Delcker contributed to this story.
President Donald Trump has named Hope Hicks interim White House communications director, a White House official said Wednesday.
“Hope Hicks will work with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and all of the communications team and serve as the Interim White House Communications Director,” the official said in a statement.
Hicks, a longtime Trump aide, replaces former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, whose tenure lasted less than two weeks. She is the fifth person to be named to the position.
Former press secretary Sean Spicer twice doubled as communications director in addition to his primary role as the top White House spokesman. Mike Dubke resigned from the post in May. Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller was originally offered the position, but he stepped down on Christmas Eve to focus on his family.
“We will make an announcement on a permanent communications director at the appropriate time,” the official added.
President Donald Trump lashed out again Wednesday morning at the online retailer Amazon, accusing it of harming “tax paying retailers” and stripping jobs from towns and cities across the country.
“Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt - many jobs being lost!” the president wrote online just after 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Trump did not specifically accuse Amazon of any particular crime or tactic in his Wednesday morning post to Twitter, but he has in the past accused the retailer of reaping a competitive edge by not paying enough taxes.
The president’s tax-related allegations against Amazon are unclear, since the company has been collecting sales tax in each state that collects them since the beginning of April. A 1992 Supreme Court ruling generally bars states from collecting sales tax from companies that do not have a physical presence in the state.
Trump has also made a regular habit of attacking Amazon over its connection to The Washington Post, a newspaper that the president feels covers him unfairly. Both Amazon and the Post are owned by Jeff Bezos, and Trump has accused the newspaper of protecting the retail giant from an increased tax liability with its coverage.
President Donald Trump sparked a barrage of Republican outrage on Tuesday after he blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia — including from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“We must be clear,” Ryan said after Trump’s remarks. “White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Twitter, “Mr. President, you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.” Added Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.): “This is simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden them.”
Many other Republicans also slammed the remarks Trump made at a news conference in New York in which he doubled down on his initial reaction to the violence that broke out over the weekend at a white supremacist rally where one woman was killed when a car rammed into counter-protesters.
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump told reporters Tuesday at Trump Tower. “I have no doubt about it.”
Republicans have often been critical of Trump in the past, but the rebuke from members of his own party to his Charlottesville response was swifter and more widespread than perhaps at any point in his presidency.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), now in rehabilitation after being shot during a June congressional baseball practice, responded on Twitter: “I was clear about this bigotry & violence over the weekend and I'll repeat it today: We must defeat white supremacy and all forms of hatred.”
Also on Twitter, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said: “@POTUS must stop the moral equivalency! AGAIN, white supremacists were to blame for the violence in #Charlottesville.”
And Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) added: “We are Americans from all walks of life, working towards the American Dream. Nowhere in that dream is there room for racism.”
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Kentucky Republican had no new comment in response to Trump’s remarks Tuesday.
Democrats also responded with outrage.
In a statement, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that by not taking sides, Trump had clearly shown what side he’s on.
“When David Duke and white supremacists cheer your remarks, you’re doing it very, very wrong,” Schumer said. “Great and good American presidents seek to unite, not divide. Donald Trump’s remarks clearly show he is not one of them.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said on Twitter that Trump is “not my president.”
“As a Jew, as an American, as a human,” he wrote, “words cannot express my disgust and disappointment.”
Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade contributed to this report.
Days after neo-Nazis and white nationalists led a deadly march through Charlottesville — and are beginning to organize again — Republican leaders in Congress appear to be in no hurry to tackle the issue beyond statements of condemnation.
Many GOP lawmakers called Saturday’s march and the killing of a 32-year-old woman an act of “domestic terrorism.” And dozens of members took issue Tuesday with President Donald Trump's claim that "both sides" were to blame for violence.
But there was little urgency for congressional action among committee leaders and top GOP brass.
Despite House Democrats' calls for hearings on the rise of white supremacy, the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Department of Justice’s handling of domestic terrorism, has no immediate plans to schedule one, aides say. The House Homeland Security Committee is lumping the issue into an annual “global threats” hearing scheduled sometime in September. And while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has suggested hearings in the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has no plans to call for one focused on the events in Charlottesville.
GOP leaders, meanwhile, aren’t leaning on their allies to hold public sessions or launch inquiries. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office deferred questions on potential congressional action to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and would not say whether the speaker believes action is warranted. McCarthy has been out of the country but intends to discuss the matter with panel chairmen. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office indicated that it’s up to individual committee chairs to set their own hearing schedule.
In the meantime, Democrats are beginning to seize on inaction to squeeze their GOP counterparts. They're trying to put more daylight between congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump, who’s been widely criticized over his response to the Charlottesville riot.
“It’s important that Congress represent the people of the United States, especially when the executive [branch] refuses to deal with … or actively empowers racist or neo-Nazi groups,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee.
Nadler says Democrats’ request for a greater focus on domestic extremism have been rebuffed for months. Committee Democrats say they've reached out to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) for action but so far have yet to reach agreement.
"The committee doesn't have a hearing planned at this time," said a Judiciary Committee aide.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has requested details about the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice’s programs targeting extremism, amid reports that the Trump administration has de-emphasized resources for combating domestic threats in favor of a focus on foreign terrorism.
To be sure, many Republicans were quick to issue forceful statements of condemnation for white supremacists after Saturday’s events, an effort that took on more urgency after Trump initially refused to do so over the weekend.
"White supremacy is a scourge," said Ryan. "This hate and its terrorism must be confronted and defeated."
Goodlatte said that “racists and anti-Semitic views embraced by white supremacists have no place in our nation.”
Though he delivered a forceful condemnation of neo-Nazis and white supremacists on Monday, Trump appeared to compound his problem Tuesday during an impromptu news conference. He argued that his initial statement on the Charlottesville march was "excellent" and that there were "two sides" to the violence that erupted over the weekend. He also wondered whether George Washington and Thomas Jefferson monuments would be next to come down, since they were slaveowners.
"This week it's Robert E. Lee," he said in the lobby of Trump Tower. "I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week?"
Those comments once again rattled Congress, and many Republicans took to TV and Twitter to blast Trump for what they deemed "moral equivalency."
With the exception of Graham, however, Hill Republicans’ actions have stopped at their statements.
GOP sources suggested it might be too early to tell whether Congress should get involved. And some question what tangible action Congress could take to help the situation, aside from calling public attention to the issue through hearings.
Lawmakers are scattered across the country during the congressional recess and have not had a chance to discuss it together. Republicans have, however, encouraged the Justice Department to investigate the Charlottesville tragedy and hold accountable the perpetrator who rammed counter-protesters.
A Grassley aide also noted that the Senate committee just a few months ago held a hearing on hate crimes and hate groups, where experts testified about civil rights cases.
"Attorney General Sessions took swift and decisive action condemning the disgusting and deplorable acts of violence in Charlottesville, announcing a federal investigation over the weekend," a Grassley aide said. "Chairman Grassley plans to hold his regular Justice Department oversight hearing early this fall, and senators will be able to discuss this situation and the department’s response at that hearing."
Not good enough, Democrats say. Congress has more than just the power to legislate; it has a far-reaching bully pulpit. And Democrats say Congress should use it to shame racism and highlight violence as domestic terrorism.
“Others think this is not an issue for Congress? I think it’s front and center for us,” said Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.).
Correa said he plans to speak with Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) to persuade him to hold a hearing on the matter. It’s not enough, he said, to simply talk about it for a few minutes as part of a massive “global threats” hearing that’s traditionally scheduled for right after recess.
After Saturday’s violent outburst, Democrats don’t plan to let the issue drop — particularly amid evidence that the Charlottesville rally may be the first in a series of actions by white supremacists seeking to draw attention to their cause.
As cities evaluate whether to remove monuments to Confederate soldiers, each has the potential to be a new venue for protest. Reports Tuesday suggested that a white nationalist group had secured rally space in San Francisco.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned that it could become another violent scene and wondered whether the National Park Service was equipped to police the rally, which is slated to be held in a federal park. She also wondered what role the White House might have played in approving the event.
Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus also called on Trump to fire three administration officials whom critics have accused of being sympathetic to white nationalists: senior strategist Steve Bannon, policy adviser Stephen Miller and counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) separately filed a resolution calling on the White House to fire any white nationalists in the administration.
"As leaders of the legislative branch of government, we must stand up to all ideologically motivated violence," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). "Failure to act as innocent people continue to be terrorized, harmed, and killed by domestic terrorists puts American lives in peril."
The following is a transcript of President Donald Trump’s remarks at a news conference on infrastructure at Trump Tower on Aug. 15 and the Q&A with the media that followed.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hello, everybody. Great to be back in New York with all of our friends and some great friends outside the building, I must tell you. I want to thank all of our distinguished guests who are with us today, including the members of our cabinet: Treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and the Transportation Secretary who is doing a fabulous job, Elaine Chao. Thank you all for doing a really incredible and creative job on what we're going to be discussing today, which is infrastructure. We've just had a great set of briefings upstairs on our infrastructure agenda. My administration is working every day to deliver the world class infrastructure that our people deserve and frankly our country deserves. That’s why I just signed a new Executive Order to dramatically reform the nation's badly broken infrastructure permitting process.
Just blocks away is the Empire State Building. It took 11 months to build the Empire State Building. But today it can take as long as a decade and much more than that. Many, many stories where it takes 20 and 25 years just to get approvals to start construction of a fairly routine highway. Highway builders must get up to 16 different approvals involving nine different federal agencies governed by 29 different statutes. One agency alone can stall a project for many, many years and even decades. Not only does this cost our economy billions of dollars, but it also denies our citizens the safe and modern infrastructure they deserve. This overregulated permitting process is a massive, self-inflicted wound on our country.
It’s disgraceful. Denying our people much needed investments in their community, and I just want to show you this, because it was just shown to me. I think I'm going to show it to the media – both real and fake media by the way. This is what it takes to get something approved today. Elaine, you see that? So this is what it takes, permitting process flow chart. That's a flow chart. So that can go out to about 20 years, this shows about ten. But that can go out to about 20 years to get something approved. This is for a highway. I have seen a highway recently in a certain state – I won’t mention it’s name, it is 17 years. I could have built it for $4 million, $5 million without the permitting process. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars, but it took 17 years to get it approved and many, many, many, many pages of environmental impact studies. This is what we will bring it down to. This is less than two years. This is going to happen quickly, that's what I'm signing today. This will be less than two years for a highway, so it's going to be quick, it's going to be a very streamlined process, and by the way, if it doesn't meet environmental safeguards, we are not going to approve it – very simple. We’re not going to approve it. So this is – maybe this one will say, let's throw the other one away. Would anybody like it from the media? Would anybody like that long, beautiful chart, you can have it.
So my Executive Order also requires agencies to work together efficiently by requiring one lead agency for each major infrastructure project. It also holds agencies accountable if they fail to streamline their review process, so each agency is accountable. We're going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking and the permitting process will go very, very quickly. No longer will we tolerate one job killing delay after another. No longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hard working Americans. Now, I knew the process very well – probably better than anybody. I had to get permits for this building and many of the buildings I built. All of the buildings I built in Manhattan and many other places, and I will tell you that the consultants are rich people. They go around making it very difficult. They lobby congress, they lobby state government, city governments to make it very difficult so that you have to hire consultants and that you have to take years and pay them a fortune, so we’re streamlining the process, and we won't be having so much of that anymore. No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay, while protecting the environment we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, waterways, tunnels and highways.
We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel. We will create millions of new jobs and make millions of American dreams come true. Our infrastructure will again be the best in the world. We used to have the greatest infrastructure anywhere in the world, and today, we are like a third-world country. We are literally like a third-world country. Our infrastructure will again be the best, and we will restore the pride in our communities, our nation. And all over the United States, we will be proud again, so I want to thank everybody for being here. God bless you, God bless the United States. If you have any questions, Mick, you could come up here, please. Come on up. Mick Mulvaney. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
REPORTER: Why are the CEOs leaving your manufacturing council?
TRUMP: Because they are not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you are talking about, they are outside of the country. They are having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example, take a look where – excuse me, excuse me – take a look at where their product is made. It is made outside of our country. We want products made in the country, now I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment, because they made their products outside, and I have been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you are referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can't do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That's what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.
REPORTER: Why did you wait so long to denounce neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: I didn't wait long. I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don't make statements that direct unless you know the fact. And it takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts. And it is a very, very important process to me. It is a very important statement. So I don't want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to my statement, in fact I brought it. I brought it.
As I said on remember this, Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And then I went on from there. Now here is the thing. Excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here is the thing, when I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. A lot of the event didn't happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don't want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear is a fantastic young woman and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things, and I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman, but her mother on Twitter, thanked me for what I said. Honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. – excuse me – unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.
REPORTERS YELLING INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: They didn’t, they didn’t. They don’t.
REPORTERS CONTINUE YELLING INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: How about, how about, how about a couple of infrastructure questions.
REPORTER: Was that terrorism?
TRUMP: Say it, what?
REPORTER: The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country -- look, you take a look. I've created over a million jobs since I have been president. The country is booming, the stock market is setting record, we have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We are doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm, so the head of Walmart, who I know, who’s a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I would do it the same way, you know why? Because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. And there was no way – no way – of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters, unlike a lot of reporter.
I didn't know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well-stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn't have made it sooner, because I didn't know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don't know all of the facts. It was very important – excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made after it with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things – excuse me. There are still things that people don't know. I want to make a statement with knowledge, I wanted to know the facts, okay.
REPORTER: Two questions: was this terrorism? And can you tell us how you are feeling about your Chief Strategist Steve Bannon?
TRUMP: I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. And that is – you can call it terrorism, you can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. And there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer, and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
REPORTER: Can you tell us how you are feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?
REPORTER: Steve Bannon --
TRUMP: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
REPORTER: Can you tell us broadly about – do you still have confidence in Steve?
TRUMP: Well, we’ll see. And look, look, I like Mr. Bannon. He is a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him. He is a good man. He is not a racist – I can tell you that. He is a good person, he actually gets very unfair press in that regard. We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. He’s a good person, and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.
REPORTER: They have called on you to defend your national security adviser H.R. McMaster against these attacks.
TRUMP: I did that before. Senator McCain? Senator McCain. You mean the one that voted against Obamacare? Who is Senator McCain? You mean senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care?
REPORTER: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about, but when you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead. Define it for me, come on, let's go.
REPORTER: Senator McCain defined them as the same group.
TRUMP: Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at [indiscernible] – excuse me – what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: What about this? What about the fact that they came charging – they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had, you had a group on one side that was bad. And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group – you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
REPORTER: Do you think what you call the alt left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people – all of those people, excuse me – I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.
REPORTER: Well, white nationalists –
TRUMP: Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee. So – excuse me – and you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after. You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: But, they were there to protest – excuse me – you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.
REPORTER: Does the statue of Robert E. Lee stay up?
TRUMP: I would say that’s up to a local town, community or the federal government, depending on where it is located.
REPORTER: Are you against the Confederacy?
REPORTER: On race relations in America, do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office with regard to race relationships?
TRUMP: I think they’ve gotten better or the same – look – they have been frayed for a long time, and you can ask President Obama about that, because he’d make speeches about it. I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country. I think that's going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I’d say, pouring back into the country. I think that's going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It is jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. And when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities – we are fixing the inner cities – we are doing far more than anybody has done with respect to the inner cities. It is a priority for me, and it’s very important.
REPORTER: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
TRUMP: I am not putting anybody on a moral plane, what I’m saying is this: you had a group on one side and a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You’ve just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that's the way it is.
REPORTER: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides?
TRUMP: I do think there is blame – yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at, you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either. And, and, and, and if you reported it accurately, you would say.
REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Excuse me, they didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
TRUMP: Oh no, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
REPORTER: I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?
TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call ‘em. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know, I don't know if you know, but they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country. Does anybody have a final – does anybody have a final question? You have an infrastructure question.
REPORTER: What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill? You didn’t get healthcare, you didn’t get tax –
TRUMP: Well, let me tell you. We came very close with health care. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask him why he did that. We came very close to health care. We will end up getting health care. But we’ll get the infrastructure, and actually, infrastructure’s something I think we'll have bipartisan support on. I actually think – I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.
REPORTER: Mr. President, have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car attack?
TRUMP: No. I will be reaching out, I’ll be reaching out.
REPORTER: When will you be reaching out?
TRUMP: I thought that the statement put out, the mother's statement I thought was a beautiful statement. I’ll tell you – it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific. And really under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won't forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
REPORTER: Do you plan to go to Charlottesville, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Did you know I own a house? It’s in Charlottesville, oh boy. It’s in Charlottesville, you’ll see.
REPORTER: Is that the winery or something?
TRUMP: It’s a, it’s a, it is the winery.
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY.
TRUMP: I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own – I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in charlottesville.
REPORTER: What do you think needs to overcome the racial divides?
TRUMP: Well, I really think jobs are going to have a big impact. If we continue to create jobs – over a million – substantially more than a million, and you see just the other day, the car companies come in with Foxconn, I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I'm creating jobs, I think that's going to have a tremendous impact – positive impact – on race relations.
REPORTER: And what you said today, how do you think that will impact?
TRUMP: Because the people are going to be working and making a lot of money, much more than they ever thought possible. That's going to happen. And the other thing, very important, I believe wages will start going up. They haven't gone up for a long time. I believe wages now, because the economy is doing so well, with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that’ll have a tremendously positive impact on race relations. Thank you.
The status of Steve Bannon's job is still undecided, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, amid an ongoing review of White House staffing and as his chief strategist has become increasingly isolated in the West Wing.
“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon," Trump said at a news conference on infrastructure at Trump Tower in New York City. "He is a good person, and I think the press treats him frankly unfairly.”
Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, has been increasingly isolated in the West Wing after reports by Breitbart and other conservative outlets that attacked his colleagues. Bannon has also come under criticism for his involvement with the so-called alt-right, especially after that group was tied to a weekend rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly.
“I like him. He is a good man. He is not a racist,” Trump said of Bannon. “I can tell you that. He is a good person.”
Bannon has survived sharp criticism before, though aides to the president have indicated that Bannon could get pushed out by new chief of staff John Kelly. Kelly, a general brought in to restore order to a chaotic West Wing, has spent recent weeks reviewing current White House staff for any possible personnel changes.
Bannon has drawn scrutiny for having a large staff but no clearly defined role, as well as for having an outside public relations team working for him. Several aides also have blamed Bannon for a recent push by some Trump supporters to publish negative stories about National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who has serious policy differences with the populist strategist.
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted less than two weeks in the job last month, told late-night host Stephen Colbert Monday that Bannon should be fired.
"If it was up to me, he would be gone," Scaramucci said. "But it's not up to me."
While Trump said Bannon was a friend Tuesday, he also said the strategist joined his 2016 campaign late in the game; Bannon became the campaign's chief executive in August 2016. Trump has since chafed at media reports that credited Bannon for the November election win.
In an April interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump called himself his own strategist. Bannon, he said, was "a guy who works for me."
NEW YORK — Since assuming office, President Donald Trump has spent his weekends golfing at his eponymous clubs in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia — and the family business from which he never divested has reaped the profits.
At his Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization doubled its membership fee after Trump moved into the White House, with members eager to shell out for presidential access. At the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the company jacked up its room rates after the inauguration, charging an average rate of $660.28 per room — almost $250 a night more than the hotel had expected to rake in. Tourists now flock to the lobby to gulp down $25 cocktails, craning their necks for a potential presidential sighting (Trump on multiple occasions has dropped by the hotel for dinner) or at least a run-in with one of his top advisers, who often hold court in the lobby.
Throwing a little presidential glow to the Trump family's properties and brands has never seemed to bother the administration in the past.
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said during an interview with “Fox & Friends” last February, standing in the White House briefing room. “I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody.” Critics raged, and the Office of Government Ethics chided her, but shoppers followed orders — the clothing brand subsequently experienced its best performing weeks ever.
But on Tuesday, Trump's first full day ensconced in his penthouse in Trump Tower since assuming office, Trump officials appeared to go out of their way to make sure the president’s visit did not double as a marketing opportunity.
A new sign next to the gold-mirrored elevator bank in the marble lobby advertising Ivanka Trump’s first stand-alone store, set to open this fall, was hastily covered up with a dark blue curtain not quite big enough to get the full job done. Part of the Ivanka Trump sign peeked out from the side.
Just after lunch, and ahead of Trump’s expected remarks from his lobby later in the afternoon, the heavy golden lectern with the logo “TT” that sits permanently in front of the elevators was hoisted onto a hand truck and then removed from sight. A plain blue lectern, bearing a presidential seal, was erected in its place.
Inside the tower during his first and much-anticipated visit home, Trump was holding meetings and working from his beloved three-story penthouse — not from his old office on the 25th floor — in what appeared to be another effort to create an appearance of a real separation between the business and the presidency.
Joining him there, in the home he loves to show off: chief of staff John Kelly, senior adviser Stephen Miller and economic adviser Gary Cohn, as well as Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, among others. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were not present, although members of Kushner's "innovation" team were on site. A White House official said the couple are currently on a long-planned, two-day trip to Vermont and are expected back in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday, when they will rejoin the president.
A Trump Organization spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about why the logos were being removed from the lobby.
For ethics watchdogs, however, it’s all too little, too late.
“There’s no legal problem with what office space he uses,” said Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. “But the failure psychologically to separate himself from his business and his properties, I think that hurts his presidency. Is he running the Trump Organization, or is he running the country? The psychological part of not making a clean break is a problem.”
ATLANTA — Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer said on Saturday that he and his NextGen America group do not intend to work on behalf of anti-abortion politicians, jumping into the Democratic Party’s ongoing debate on the topic.
“We’re pro-choice,” the hedge fund manager-turned-activist told POLITICO on the sidelines of the progressive Netroots Nation conference here.
Asked if his group would help candidates or sitting lawmakers who don’t support abortion rights, he said, “We do not work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice. I think people like to have litmus tests. We are explicitly pro-choice. We work a lot with Planned Parenthood, we work a lot with NARAL. We are absolutely committed to it.”
Those comments put Steyer — the Democratic Party’s single largest donor in recent cycles thanks largely to the money he’s put in the NextGen super PAC — on the side of activists who have been dismayed by comments made recently by some party leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan.
They have suggested at times that the party need not have a litmus test on abortion, spurring considerable controversy about which candidates to fund ahead of 2018’s midterm elections.
Now, the word of the party’s biggest funder is likely to weigh heavily on the debate.
Steyer also pointedly refused to rule out a run for office — including the presidency or a statewide role in California — in the near future.
“Particularly subsequent to November 8, 2016, the idea of not being fully involved in this seems to me to be — I don’t know how I would do that,” he said. “The only question is not how to do the biggest thing, but have the most differential impact to what otherwise would happen."
After spending over $165 million on Democrats in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, he has long been considered a potential self-funding contender for 2018’s gubernatorial race in California.
But as other candidates, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have been running large-scale campaigns for months, Steyer has stayed away. He demurred when asked about getting into the race, choosing to heap praise on Gov. Jerry Brown instead when pressed on his feelings about the other candidates.
“The best thing I can say is people do not realize how good Jerry Brown is, full-stop,” he said. “If you ask me about anyone else, it’s sort of like: Do you know who hit third for the San Francisco Giants after Willie Mays retired? How’d it go for him?"
Asked about the potential for pursuing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) seat if she chooses to retire ahead of a 2018 re-election bid, he demurred again.
“I don’t think Dianne’s going to retire,” he said. “Look, I promise: There is nothing that I would not do in order to have the most impact.”
And, finally, pushed on the likelihood of his pursuing the White House, he replied: “I keep telling you I’m not ruling anything out."