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GOP Doubts And Anxieties About Trump Burst Into The Open

Sat, 2017-08-19 17:23

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s racially fraught comments about a deadly neo-Nazi rally have thrust into the open some Republicans’ deeply held doubts about his competency and temperament, in an extraordinary public airing of worries and grievances about a sitting president by his own party.

Behind the high-profile denunciations voiced this week by GOP senators once considered Trump allies, scores of other, influential Republicans began to express grave concerns about the state of the Trump presidency. In interviews with Associated Press reporters across nine states, 25 Republican politicians, party officials, advisers and donors expressed worries about whether Trump has the self-discipline and capability to govern successfully.

Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader from Virginia, said Republicans signaled this week that Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville protests was “beyond just a distraction.”

“It was a turning point in terms of Republicans being able to say, we’re not even going to get close to that,” Cantor said.

Chip Lake, a Georgia-based GOP operative who did not vote for Trump in the general election, raised the prospect of the president leaving office before his term is up.

“It’s impossible to see a scenario under which this is sustainable under a four-year period,” Lake said.

Trump’s handling of the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, has shaken his presidency unlike any of the other self-created crises that have rattled the White House during his seven months in office. Business leaders have bolted from White House councils, wary of being associated with the president. Military leaders distanced themselves from Trump’s assertion that “both sides” — the white supremacists and the counter-protesters — were to blame for the violence that left one protester dead. And some members of Trump’s own staff were outraged by his combative assertion that there were “very fine people” among those marching with the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members.

Importantly, the Republicans interviewed did not line up behind some course of action or an organized break with the president. Some expressed hope the recent shakeup of White House advisers might help Trump get back in control of his message and the GOP agenda.

Still, the blistering and blunt statements from some Republicans have marked a new phase. Until now, the party has largely kept its most troubling doubts about Trump to whispered, private conversations, fearful of alienating the president’s loyal supporters and upending long-sought GOP policy goals.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a foreign policy ally of the Trump White House, delivered the sharpest criticism of Trump, declaring 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.

Corker’s comments were echoed in the interviews with two dozen Republican officials after Trump expressed his views in Tuesday’s press conference. More than half spoke on the record, while the others insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly about the man who leads their party and remains popular with the majority of GOP voters.

A handful defended Trump without reservation. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early supporter of the president, said he “proudly” stands with Trump and said he was succeeding despite a “constant barrage of negative attacks from the left.”

But others said recent events had shifted the dynamic between the president and his party.

“I was never one that was convinced that the president had the character to lead this nation, but I was certainly willing to stand by the president on critical issues once he was elected,” said Clarence Mingo, a Republican state treasurer candidate in Ohio. “Now, even where good conservative policies are concerned, that progress is all negated because of his inability to say and do the right things on fundamental issues.”

In Kentucky, Republican state senator Whitney Westerfield called Trump’s comments after the Charlottesville protests “more than a gaffe.”

“I’m concerned he seems to firmly believe in what he’s saying about it,” Westerfield said.

Trump has survived criticism from establishment Republicans before, most notably when GOP lawmakers across the country distanced themselves from him in the final weeks of the campaign following the release of a video in which the former reality television star is heard making predatory sexual comments about women. Many of those same lawmakers ultimately voted for Trump and rallied around his presidency after his stunning victory.

GOP efforts to align with Trump have largely been driven by political realities. The president still commands loyalty among his core supporters, though some recent polls have suggested a slight weakening there. And while his style is often controversial, many of his statements are often in line with those voters’ beliefs, including his support after Charlottesville for protecting Confederate monuments.

Brian Westrate, a small business owner in western Wisconsin who is also chairman of the 3rd Congressional District Republican Party, said Trump supporters long ago decided to embrace the unconventional nature of his presidency.

“I don’t think that anything has fundamentally changed between now and when the election was,” he said. “The president remains an ill-artful, ill-timed speaker who uses Twitter too often. That’s not new. … The president is still the same guy and the left is still the same left.”

Some White House officials do privately worry about slippage in Trump’s support from congressional Republicans, particularly in the Senate. GOP senators couldn’t cobble together the 50 votes needed to pass a health care overhaul and that same math could continue to be a problem in the fall, as Republicans work on reforming the tax code, which is realistically the party’s last opportunity to pass major legislation in 2017.

Tom Davis, a Republican state senator representing a coastal South Carolina district, said that when Trump can move beyond the crisis of the moment, he articulates policies that could help the country’s economic situation. But Davis said Trump is also part of the reason not much progress has been made.

“To his discredit, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent in advancing those policies, which is part of the reason so little has been accomplished in our nation’s capital these past six months,” Davis said.

Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican strategist who most recently tried to help Jeb Bush win the 2016 GOP presidential primary, said the early optimism some Republicans felt about their ability to leverage Trump’s presidency has all but evaporated in the days following the Charlottesville protests.

“Most party regulars have gone from an initial feeling of guarded optimism that Trump would be able to stumble along while Mitch (McConnell) and (Paul) Ryan do the big lifting and pass our Republican agenda to a current feeling of deep frustration and despair,” Murphy said.

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Barrow reported from Atlanta. AP writers Julie Bykowicz in Washington, Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, and Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Bill Barrow at http://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP

Counterprotesters Block Neo-Nazi March To Berlin Prison

Sat, 2017-08-19 17:19

BERLIN (AP) — Left-wing groups and Berlin residents prevented more than 500 far-right extremists from marching Saturday to the place where high-ranking Nazi official Rudolf Hess died 30 years ago.

Police in riot gear kept the neo-Nazis and an estimated 1,000 counter-protesters apart as the two sides staged competing rallies in the German capital’s western district of Spandau.

Far-right protesters had planned to march to the site of the former Spandau prison, where Hess hanged himself in 1987, but were forced to turn back after about a kilometer (0.6 miles) because of a blockade by counter-protesters.

After changing their route, the neo-Nazis, who had come from all over Germany and neighboring European countries, returned to Spandau’s main station for speeches amid jeers and chants of “Nazis go home!” and “You lost the war!” from counter-protesters.

Authorities had imposed restrictions on the march to ensure that it passed peacefully. Organizers were told they couldn’t glorify Hess or the Nazi regime, carry weapons, drums or torches, and could bring only one flag for every 25 participants.

Such restrictions are common in Germany and rooted in the experience of the pre-war Weimar Republic, when opposing political groups would try to forcibly interrupt their rivals’ rallies, resulting in frequent street violence.

Police in Germany say they generally try to balance protesters’ rights to free speech and free assembly against the rights of counter-demonstrators and residents. The rules mean that shields, helmets and batons carried by far-right and Neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville wouldn’t be allowed in Germany. Openly anti-Semitic chants would also prompt German police to intervene.

Neo-Nazi protesters on Saturday were frisked and funneled through tents where police checked them for weapons, forbidden flags and tattoos showing symbols banned in Germany, such as the Nazi swastika. A number of far-right protesters emerged from the tents with black tape covering their arms or legs.

Organizers imposed a number of their own rules on the marchers: they were encouraged to wear smart, white shirts and were told not to speak to the media.

Among those demonstrating against the neo-Nazis was Jossa Berntje from the western city of Koblenz. The 64-year-old cited the clashes in Charlottesville and her parents’ experience of living under the Nazis as her reason for coming.

“The rats are coming out of the sewers,” she said. “(President Donald) Trump has made it socially acceptable.”

Hess, who received a life sentence at the Nuremberg trials for his role in planning World War II, died on Aug. 17, 1987. Allied authorities ruled his death a suicide, but Nazi sympathizers have long claimed he was killed and organize annual marches in his honor.

Those annual far-right marches used to take place in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel, where Hess was buried until authorities removed his remains.

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This story corrects the spelling of Berntje.

Trump Praises Boston Protesters Against 'Bigotry And Hate'

Sat, 2017-08-19 17:08

In a series of tweets Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump said that there were “anti-police agitators” in Boston but also praised people who came out to protest “bigotry and hate.”

Trump was responding to protests in Boston earlier Saturday where thousands of counterprotesters came out to speak out against those attending a “free speech” rally on the Boston Common. The President’s comments on the protests in Boston were relatively measured compared to his remarks about the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, when he failed to fully condemn white nationalists.

Trump began his series of tweets sent over the course of a couple hours, by claiming that there were “anti-police agitators” out in Boston.

Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

Great job by all law enforcement officers and Boston Mayor @Marty_Walsh.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

The “free speech” rally ended early, around 1 p.m., with limited confrontation between the rally-goers and the counterprotesters. But as police escorted out the rally attendees, some of the protesters did confront officers. Police said that they made a few arrests during the counterprotest. The Boston police department also said that some were throwing rocks and bottles, but did not specify whether they were rally attendees or counterprotesters.

#BPD is asking individuals to refrain from throwing urine, bottles and other harmful projectiles at our officers.

— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) August 19, 2017

#UPDATE: #BPD confirming rocks being thrown at officers on Tremont at West.

— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) August 19, 2017

After that tweet, Trump followed up with comments applauding the counterprotesters and arguing that sometimes protests are necessary for healing.

Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

The “free speech” rally in Boston had been planned before the violence in Charlottesville a week ago. The organizers distanced themselves from white nationalists, but there was concern that white supremacists and neo-Nazis could show up to the rally. In anticipation of this, as well as a large counterprotest, the Boston police arranged a large presence and used barriers to keep the rally attendees separated from the counterprotesters.

However, the number of counterprotesters far outweighed the handful of people who showed up for the “free speech” rally. The rally ended early without any of the planned speakers making remarks.

 

Boston 'Free Speech' Rally Ends Early As Thousands Of Counterprotesters March

Sat, 2017-08-19 15:05

A “free speech” rally in Boston ended early on Saturday afternoon without any of the planned speakers making remarks as thousands of counterprotesters marched through the streets of Boston.

The few “free speech”rally attendees who showed up to the Boston Common had left by around 1 p.m., and their departure was met with cheers from the crowd of counterprotesters, according to the Washington Post. Some of the protesters sang “Hey hey, ho ho. White supremacy has got to go,” as the rally attendees left, per the Washington Post.

Police escorted the “free speech” rally-goers out of the area in vans, according to the Boston Globe. As the rally attendees were loaded into the vans, some counterprotesters shouted “Make them walk!” while others chanted ““No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” per the Boston Globe.

As police removed the rally attendees, there were some clashes between officers and counterprotesters, but they were minimal and ended quickly, according to the Washington Post. Officers restrained some counterprotesters in zip ties, and law enforcement told the Boston Globe that some arrests for disorderly conduct were made.

Protesters being arrested in front of Common pic.twitter.com/Py4rhTsYtK

— Meghan Barr (@meghanbarr) August 19, 2017

Boston officials and police prepared for the worst in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville last weekend. Organizers of the “free speech” rally had distanced them selves from the white nationalists who attended the rally in Charlotte last weekend, but there was concern that white supremacists and neo-Nazis could show up to the Boston rally. The city planned to deploy 500 officers to help with crowd control as thousands of counterprotesters were expected to march during the “free speech” rally.

On Boston Common, the bandstand where the #BostonFreeSpeech rally is planned is cordoned off, with counter demonstrators booing. pic.twitter.com/j5yPGBGcrT

— Jess Bidgood (@jessbidgood) August 19, 2017

Police also set up barriers in the common, which separated the “free speech” rally attendees from the counterprotesters. Though the barriers largely prevented clashes, there were some scuffles between counterprotesters and Trump supporters, according to the Boston Globe.

Sean Cronin, a Trump supporter, was confronted by crowd when he tried to enter the rally. "It just turned into a mob pit." pic.twitter.com/p6zSULGJyz

— Meghan Barr (@meghanbarr) August 19, 2017

 

Duke University Removes Statue Of Robert E. Lee From Campus Chapel

Sat, 2017-08-19 13:48

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke University removed a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee early Saturday after it was vandalized amid a national debate about monuments to the Confederacy.

The university said it removed the carved limestone likeness before dawn from the entryway to Duke Chapel, where it stood among 10 historical figures. Officials discovered early Thursday that the statue’s face had been gouged and scarred and that part of the nose is missing.

Another statue of Lee, the top Confederate general during the Civil War, was the focus of the violent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly a week ago.

Duke University president Vincent Price said in a letter to the campus community that he consulted with faculty, staff, students and alumni before deciding to remove the statue.

“I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university,” Price said in the letter.

Durham has been a focal point in the debate over Confederate statues after protesters tore down a bronze Confederate soldier in front of a government building downtown on Monday. Eight people face charges including rioting and damaging property. Days later, hundreds marched through Durham in a largely peaceful demonstration against racism before an impromptu rally at the stone pedestal where the statue stood.

Other monuments around North Carolina also have been vandalized since the Charlottesville protest, and calls are growing to take down a Confederate soldier statue from the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Gov. Roy Cooper has urged the removal of Confederate monuments from public property around the state, though his goal would be difficult to achieve because of a 2015 state law prohibits their removal. Duke is a private university and outside the scope of that law.

The Lee statue had stood for about 85 years between two other historical figures of the American South, Thomas Jefferson and poet Sidney Lanier, along the main entryway to the neo-Gothic church at the center of Duke’s campus. It was moved into storage at 3 a.m. Saturday and its future is undetermined, university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld toldthe Herald-Sun of Durham.

“We want people to learn from it and study it and the ideas it represents. What happens to it and where it will be is a question for further deliberation,” Schoenfeld said. The decision was supported by the university’s trustees, Schoenfeld said.

Duke has been affiliated since its founding with the United Methodist Church. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, said Saturday he sees the empty space formerly occupied by the Lee statue as creating a new opportunity to heal the ongoing racism problems confronting the country.

The gap “in many ways represents a hole in the heart of the United States and the ongoing struggles of racism, hatred and bigotry – all the things we’re seeing in our streets. We haven’t come as far as perhaps we thought we had come as a nation,” Powery said.

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Follow Drew at www.twitter.com/jonldrew

Trump Thanks Steve Bannon, Cheers On His Return To Breitbart News

Sat, 2017-08-19 10:49

Updated Aug. 19, 2017 at 2:20 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump on Saturday thanked former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for his service and applauded his decision to return to Breitbart News.

Trump first published a tweet Saturday morning thanking Bannon, focusing on Bannon’s role in Trump’s presidential campaign.

I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks S

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

Several hours later, the President followed up with a tweet applauding Bannon’s decision to return to Breitbart and encouraging Bannon to fight “Fake News.”

Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

However, it appears Trump forgot that Bannon left his position at the helm of Breitbart to help run the Trump campaign given that Trump called Bannon a “new voice” at Breitbart in his tweet.

Bannon unceremoniously left his role as White House chief strategist on Friday following several weeks of reports indicating that Bannon’s influence in the White House and popularity with the rest of Trump’s aides were fading.

Shortly after the White House confirmed that Bannon would leave the administration on Friday, Breitbart News announced Bannon’s return to the conservative news website. Bannon said that he will continue to fight for Trump’s agenda from the outside.

Bannon Returns To Breitbart Where He Plans To Keep Boosting Trump

Sat, 2017-08-19 10:35

Steve Bannon, who was ousted from his role as White House chief strategist on Friday, will return to his former home of Breitbart News, the right wing news website that has served as a platform for white nationalists.

“The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today,” Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow said in a statement Friday announcing Bannon’s return just a few hours after Bannon’s White House exit. “Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the Trump agenda.”

Bannon led Breitbart’s Friday evening editorial meeting, where he told staff to work hard to advance a conservative agenda, Bloomberg News reported.

Upon his ouster, Bannon said that he plans to fight for President Donald Trump, just from the outside.

“In many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on,” Bannon told the New York Times. “And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”

One of his first battles will reportedly be over funding the border wall. Bannon has told associates that he plans on urging Trump to demand that any spending resolution include funding to begin building the border wall, according to the New York Times.

Boston Braces For 'Free Speech' Rally And Counterprotesters

Sat, 2017-08-19 10:07

BOSTON (AP) — Conservative activists and leftist counterprotesters prepared for a confrontation on Boston Common that could draw thousands a week after a demonstration in Virginia turned deadly.

Police Commissioner William Evans said Friday that 500 officers — some in uniform, others undercover — would be deployed to keep the two groups apart on Saturday. Boston’s Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, both warned that extremist unrest wouldn’t be tolerated in this city famed as the cradle of American liberty.

Organizers of the midday event, billed as a “Free Speech Rally,” have publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and scores of others were injured, when a car plowed into counterdemonstrators.

But opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the specter of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major U.S. city since Charlottesville.

Events also were planned Saturday for Atlanta and Dallas.

Counterprotesters from Black Lives Matter and other groups denouncing racism and anti-Semitism planned to march from the city’s Roxbury neighborhood to the Common, and another group planned to rally on the steps of the Statehouse overlooking the sprawling park.

The permit issued for Saturday’s rally on Boston Common came with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon. The permit is for 100 people, though an organizer has said he expected up to 1,000 people to attend.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, said it has nothing to do with white nationalism or racism and its group is not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

“We are strictly about free speech,” the group said on its Facebook page. “… we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence.”

But the mayor pointed out that some of those invited to speak “spew hate.” Kyle Chapman, who described himself on Facebook as a “proud American nationalist,” said he will attend.

Black Lives Matter said Friday that members from around the U.S. planned to march Saturday in Boston.

Walsh said the city would do whatever is necessary to head off violence initiated by either side. “If anyone gets out of control — at all — it will be shut down,” he said.

“We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever,” said Evans, Boston’s top cop.

Dating to 1634, Boston Common is the nation’s oldest city park. The leafy downtown park is popular with locals and tourists and has been the scene of numerous rallies and protests for centuries.

Suspect Arrested In Killing, Wounding Of Florida Police Officers

Sat, 2017-08-19 09:57

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — A suspect in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Florida and the grave wounding of another officer was arrested several hours after the attack in a bar, authorities said Saturday.

Everett Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Officer Matthew Baxter and could face other charges for the wounding of Officer Sam Howard, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell at a news conference Saturday.

During a patrol of the neighborhood south of Orlando’s theme park hub late Friday, the officers got into a scuffle with Miller, who shot them, the police chief said.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said.

The found a handgun and revolver on him.

“They were extremely brave and heroic actions taken by the deputies,” O’Dell said.

The police chief said Miller would be taken to jail wearing the fallen officer’s handcuffs.

Authorities originally said they believed there were four suspects, but the chief said Saturday that no other arrests are anticipated.

Separately, other two officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where three other people were thought to be in danger. One of the officers was shot in both hands and the other was shot in the stomach.

Carl Icahn Steps Down As Informal Advisor To Trump

Sat, 2017-08-19 09:49

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has lost another informal adviser from the business world: billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who gave the White House guidance on its deregulation efforts.

Icahn said in a letter to Trump released Friday that he is stepping down to prevent “partisan bickering” about his unofficial role that Democrats suggested could benefit him financially. Trump lost a pair of business advisory councils on Wednesday over his inability to condemn the role white supremacists played in violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But Icahn — who made his name and fortune as a corporate raider in the 1980s — indicated that his resignation was due to criticism regarding the appearance of possible ethical conflicts.

“I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest,” Icahn wrote.

He added that, out of an abundance of caution, he had limited his input to broad matters of policy about the oil-refining industry. Icahn controls a sizable stake in refiner CVR Energy. As an unofficial adviser, Icahn wasn’t required to submit financial records to the Office of Government Ethics to address any conflicts of interest.

Icahn also said he was stepping down because he didn’t want to cloud the work of Neomi Rao, who as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is the administration’s point person on regulations.

On the campaign trail, Trump praised Icahn as the kind of tenacious dealmaker that he would bring into his administration.

At an August 2015 event in South Carolina, Trump called Icahn “one of the best” and indicated that he might be in charge of negotiating U.S. trade deals.

“If I put Carl in charge of Japan, ‘Carl, handle Japan trade deals,'” Trump said. “It’s over, just walk away, let him run the — oh, forget it. They even know that they don’t have a chance. OK? It’s over.”

Trump To Skip Kennedy Center Arts Awards To Avoid 'Political Distraction'

Sat, 2017-08-19 09:43

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a break with tradition, President Donald Trump and the first lady have decided not to participate in events honoring recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center arts awards to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” the White House announced Saturday.

Past presidents and first ladies have hosted a reception for honorees at the White House before the Kennedy Center gala and sat with them at the televised event.

The decision came a day after the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned to protest Trump’s comments about last weekend’s demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president blamed “many sides” for the violence that left an anti-racism activist dead.

But Trump has long had a contentious relationship with the arts world and some of the Kennedy Center honorees already had said they would not attend the White House reception in December.

One of the honorees, television writer and producer Norman Lear, had previously questioned whether Trump would want to attend the gala, “given his indifference or worse regarding the arts and humanities.”

Other honorees include hip-hop artist LL Cool J, singers Gloria Estefan and Lionel Richie, and dancer Carmen de Lavallade. It’s the 40th year of the awards, which honor people who have influenced American culture through the arts.

The White House said Trump and first lady Melania Trump “extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.”

The honorees will be celebrated at a gala on Dec. 3, featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers.

Trump: White Nationalist or in his Second Childhood -- A Response

Fri, 2017-08-18 23:28

I got an email about my post on Trump from an old friend Fred Block, a professor of sociology at UC Davis, and the author of pathbreaking books on the relationship between government and the economy. Here is what Fred wrote:

What a week. Who would imagine that Bannon would do the political equivalent of “suicide by cop” by calling Bob Kuttner? But I wanted to respond to your second childhood post about Trump.

Read More →

Kal Penn To Trump: 'You Can't Break Up With Us After We Broke Up With You'

Fri, 2017-08-18 17:31

Actor Kal Penn had a simple message for President Donald Trump Friday afternoon: “You can break up with us after we broke up with you.”

Lol @realDonaldTrump you can't break up with us after we broke up with you LMFAO https://t.co/bNy240RNQA

— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017

By “us,” Penn meant members of the Presidential Committee on the Arts, which resigned en masse Friday, protesting Trump’s response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” members of the committee wrote in a mass resignation letter. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand.”

One resigned member of the committee, lawyer Andrew Weinstein, credited Penn with the idea to make the first letter in each paragraph of the resignation letter spell “RESIST.” Penn once served in Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement.

Hours after that letter was made public, According to the New York Times’ Sopan Deb, an unnamed White House spokesperson claimed that Trump had planned to not renew the executive order authorizing the committee “[e]arlier this month.”

“[I]n its current form it simply is not a responsible way to spend American tax dollars,” the anonymous White House spokesperson said.

NEW: White House responds to @kalpenn and others resigning the arts commission, says Trump was going to disband it anyway: pic.twitter.com/9Xi2mzN7av

— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 18, 2017

It seemed like an attempt to help Trump save face after a slew of similar resignations following his disastrous response to the white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville. 

The anonymous White House response to the disbanded arts committee had another gaping hole in its logic. It argued against the committee by saying it “merely redirects funding from” other federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services. “These cultural agencies do tremendous work and they will continue to engage in these important projects.”

However, Trump’s own proposed budget blueprint would have eliminated all of those agencies.

Trump's Evangelical Advisers Still Standing By Him Amid Fallout

Fri, 2017-08-18 17:20

NEW YORK (AP) — One of President Donald Trump’s most steadfast constituencies has been standing by him amid his defense of a white nationalist rally in Virginia, even as business leaders, artists and Republicans turn away.

No member of Trump’s evangelical advisory council has quit, unlike those from other fields who have resigned from their own presidential boards.

Trump’s evangelical council members have strongly condemned the bigotry behind the Charlottesville march by white nationalists and neo-Nazis over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. But regarding Trump, they have offered either praise for his response or gentle critiques couched within complaints about how he has been treated by his critics and the media.

Like other presidents before him, Trump has turned to religious leaders for counsel and support. Trump’s evangelical advisers include pastors who had worked with his campaign, and now pray with him and consult with his staff on issues ranging from religious liberty in the U.S. to the persecution of Christian minority populations in the Middle East.

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and an early backer of Trump, said the president had made a “bold truthful statement” about the demonstration. Falwell said the president’s remarks were a clear repudiation of white supremacists, Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Johnnie Moore, a public relations executive, faith adviser to the president and a spokesman for several of the evangelical council members, said, “The president is certainly guilty of being insensitive,” but that the media and critics of the president have ignored his other comments rejecting white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

Jack Graham, a Texas pastor and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, signaled he planned to stay on as an adviser. The role of faith advisers “is to prayerfully advise & advance Christian issues to the Administration,” Graham tweeted.

After the march last Saturday, in which neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and others scuffled with counter-protesters, a car driven by an alleged white nationalist plowed into a group of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

The president initially responded by blaming “many sides” for the violence. On Monday, he read a prepared statement denouncing bigotry. But in a combative news conference Tuesday, he said “there is blame on both sides” and “there were very fine people on both sides.” Later, he doubled down, calling efforts to remove monuments to the Confederacy an attack on America’s “history and culture.”

Some of his Republican allies started to more openly complain. Trump dissolved two business councils this week after members began quitting, damaging his central campaign promise to be a business-savvy chief executive in the Oval Office. On Friday, the entire membership of the President’s Committee On the Arts and Humanities resigned.

As the backlash built, evangelical author Michael Brown, who attended a recent Washington meeting of Christian leaders and White House aides, urged Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to be a “unifier.” In Brown’s post Thursday on stream.org, he showered the president with praise, calling Trump “tenacious” and “fearless,” and saying, “You will never satisfy the secular media.” But Brown said, “there are times to be a wrecking ball and times to be a statesman. Today, our nation needs you to be a statesman. Will you rise to the occasion?”

Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote and has earned some of his highest approval ratings from the group throughout his tumultuous presidency.

Evangelicals have been thrilled by his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court and by the president’s pledge to strengthen religious liberty protections. Conservative Christians who have long worked with political leaders say they have never before had such access to the White House.

At the same time, many of the evangelical leaders on his advisory board have been working to confront racism within their denominations. White evangelical support for Trump, and the response of evangelical leaders amid the fallout from the rally, has widened rifts between black and white Christians.

South Carolina pastor Mark Burns, one of Trump’s most vocal Christian defenders, posted a video on the day of the march distancing Trump from the white supremacists who said they were rallying in the president’s name. “David Duke and his Neo-Nazi Hate Groups don’t represent us Americans that elected” Trump, Burns tweeted. He later criticized the media focus on the rally and said they should be looking instead at the murder rate in Chicago.

Bannon, Jared and Russia

Fri, 2017-08-18 17:06

Here’s one thing to consider as Steve Bannon leaves the White House. There’s hardly anyone in the close Trump orbit who hasn’t been tripped up in some way by the Russia investigation. There’s one big exception: Steve Bannon. Read More →

CNN Host Needs A Sip Of Water Just To Finish Describing Trump's Month

Fri, 2017-08-18 16:40

CNN’s Brooke Bannon on Friday took a novel approach to recounting the month’s coverage of President Donald Trump and his administration. She simply listed everything he’d done.

Trump had a busy month. Anthony Scaramucci was hired and promptly fired. Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the staff cuts he required from America’s diplomatic mission in Moscow. He also threatened North Korea with nuclear war. And the President bungled his reaction to violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, comparing the protesters to anti-racists demonstrating against them.

And that’s not all.

Take a look via CNN:

Y’ALL I CAN’T. @BrookeBCNN read everything that’s happened to Trump in four weeks AND THE LIST KEEPS SCROLLING. https://t.co/V9vy8SiiRe

— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) August 18, 2017

Charlottesville Mayor Calls For Swift Removal Of Robert E. Lee Statue

Fri, 2017-08-18 16:40

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The mayor of Charlottesville on Friday called for an emergency meeting of state lawmakers to confirm the city’s right to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, saying recent clashes over race and the Confederacy had turned “equestrian statues into lightning rods.”

Mayor Mike Signer’s statement came nearly a week after white supremacists descended on the city and violently clashed with counter protesters. One woman was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a crowd of people there to condemn what is believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade.

“We can, and we must, respond by denying the Nazis and the KKK and the so-called alt-right the twisted totem they seek,” said Signer, who urged Gov. Terry McAuliffe to convene a special session of the General Assembly.

Charlottesville’s plans to remove the statue are in the midst of a legal challenge. A law passed in 1998 forbids local governments from removing or damaging war monuments, but there remains legal ambiguity over whether that applies to statue’s erected before the law was passed.

McAuliffe did not immediately respond to Signer’s request. Last year the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a law clarifying that the 1998 applies retroactively. The governor, a Democrat, vetoed it.

Also Friday, the mother of a woman who was killed while protesting the rally said that she won’t talk to President Donald Trump because of comments he made after her daughter’s death.

Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Susan Bro said she initially missed the first few calls to her from the White House. But she said “now I will not” talk to the president after a news conference in which Trump equated violence by white supremacists at the rally with violence by those protesting the rally.

Bro’s daughter, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 others were injured when the driver rammed a car into a crowd of demonstrators. An Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., has been arrested and charged with murder and other offenses.

In the hours afterward, Trump drew criticism when he addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Pressured by advisers, the president had softened his words on the dispute Monday, but returned to his combative stance Tuesday — insisting during an unexpected and contentious news conference at Trump Tower that “both sides” were to blame.

“You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying ‘I’m sorry,'” Bro said of the president. She also advised Trump to “think before you speak.”

Hill Democrats Demand Meeting With Trump's HHS Over Obamacare Sabotage

Fri, 2017-08-18 16:04

The top Democrats on an array of House and Senate committee that deal with health care have fired off a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price demanding a meeting before the end of the month and the answer to several questions about what the lawmakers call the Trump administration’s “ongoing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act.”

The letter cites several news investigations—including TPM’s report on HHS abandoning its partnerships with Latino, African American, youth, and women’s groups—and asks the department to immediately explain what it is doing to uphold and promote the Affordable Care Act as the open enrollment period approaches.

Read More →

Breitbart Editor Declares 'WAR,' Warns Of 'Schwarzenegger 2.0' Without Bannon

Fri, 2017-08-18 15:19

After declaring “WAR” following news of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s ouster, Breitbart News’ senior editor-at-large wrote that President Donald Trump risked becoming “Schwarzenegger 2.0.”

News of Bannon’s ouster broke Friday, to anger from many conservatives in the Breitbart school who saw the former Breitbart News executive as their line to the White House.

#WAR

— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) August 18, 2017

Like Trump, Breitbart’s Joel Pollak wrote, Schwarzenegger ran for California’s governorship “as a celebrity outsider, promising to reform a corrupt, wasteful and lethargic political system, reaching across party lines.”

“But after struggling with intense media criticism, and after losing a key referendum on reforms to state government, Schwarzenegger gave up on his agenda, and abandoned the political base that had brought him into office,” he added. “He re-invented himself as a liberal, embracing policies such as California’s controversial cap-and-trade program, which had zero effect on climate change but has chased businesses, jobs, and middle-class families out of the state.”

Pollak’s message was clear: Trump, in dismissing Bannon, had made a serious mistake.

“Bannon was not just Trump’s master strategist, the man who turned a failing campaign around in August 2016 and led one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in political history,” Pollak wrote. “He was also the conservative spine of the administration.”

Missouri Sen. Who Made Trump Murder Facebook Comment May Face Ouster

Fri, 2017-08-18 14:56

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker who temporarily posted a Facebook comment expressing hope that President Donald Trump would be assassinated could face an effort to remove her from office.

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and Lt. Gov. Mike Parson both said on Friday that state senators should oust Democratic Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, who has continued to reject calls for her resignation.

“If she will not resign, the Senate can vote to remove her. I believe they should,” Greitens said in a written statement.

Numerous top Republican and Democratic officials in Missouri have called upon Chappelle-Nadal to resign after she wrote “I hope Trump is assassinated!” on her personal Facebook page Thursday. She later delated the post.

She made the remark in response to a post that suggested Vice President Mike Pence would try to have Trump removed from office. Chappelle-Nadal, who is black, said she commented out of frustration with Trump’s response to the recent white supremacist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, for which the president said “both sides” shared some blame.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson sad he will ask senators to remove her from office if she does not resign by the time lawmakers convene Sept. 13 to consider veto overrides. Parson is the presiding officer of the Senate, though he can only vote to break ties and cannot sponsor legislation or make motions for votes.

“She is no longer fit to serve our state,” Parson said at a Capitol press conference Friday.

The Missouri Constitution says a lawmaker can be expelled upon a two-thirds vote of the elected members of a chamber. But that hasn’t occurred in recent decades, and it’s unclear exactly how it would happen. The Senate’s general counsel said she was researching the potential process for an expulsion vote.

Chappelle-Nadal told The Associated Press on Friday that she had met the previous day with the U.S. Secret Service as part of its investigation into her remarks about Trump.

“I let them know that I had no intentions of hurting anyone or trying to get other people to hurt anyone at all,” Chappelle-Nadal said.

She reiterated on Friday that her Facebook post “was totally improper.” But Chappelle-Nadal said she will not resign. She said she now believes she is being “targeted” by other officeholders, including the governor, because of political expediency or grudges.

“If the governor doesn’t understand that what went on in Charlottesville is a trigging point for people who have been traumatized because of Ferguson, then he really doesn’t have a close relationship with his residents,” she said

Chappelle-Nadal was a prominent voice during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the August 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. The black 18-year-old resident was unarmed when killed by an officer. Chappelle-Nadal has said she was among those hit by tear-gas fired by police.

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