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March 22, 2019

President Trump appeared on Fox Business on Friday, and seemed to have a lot on his mind. Here are 4 of the most dubious things he told host Maria Bartiromo.

1. He's uniting the country. Well, part of it: Bartiromo asked if Trump feels a sense of "responsibility" to "bring the nation together." Trump confusingly said "I do, I do," but said he is doing it in "a certain way." "I can tell you that a big portion of this nation is united like it's never been united before," he said, per CNN.

2. No one will believe the Mueller report: Trump suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have no credibility because both men "didn't get any votes." He suggested Mueller's eventual conclusion on the Trump campaign's potential involvement with Russian election interference will be seen as illegitimate, especially if it threatens his presidency. "People will not stand for it," he said, per The Hill.

3. He didn't start the McCain drama: Trump bristled when Bartiromo asked about his latest attacks on the late senator John McCain, claiming he didn't start the latest cycle of the feud. Since McCain is obviously not to blame for this week's drama, Trump pinned it on members of the media like Bartiromo, calling her "fake news." "You shouldn't have brought that up," he fumed, per Mediaite, though she pointed out she was only asking because of Trump's unprompted tweet condemning McCain.

4. The economy is not slowing: "The world is slowing, but we're not slowing," Trump insisted, simultaneously blaming the Federal Reserve for keeping growth below 4 percent last year. The U.S. economy grew last year, but at a slowing rate, reports The Washington Post. Trump said he "hope[s]" he didn't influence the Fed's decision to halt rate hikes this year, "but it doesn't matter, I don't care if I influenced them or not."

Watch the interview below, via Fox Business. Summer Meza

December 31, 2018

Sheriff Todd Entrekin of Etowah County, Alabama, lost his re-election bid this year after he was found to have personally pocketed $750,000 allotted for feeding inmates in county lockup and using it to buy himself a beach house. Ethical questions aside, Entrekin's taking was legal under Alabama law — but a further $1.5 million he took home from funds for feeding federal immigration detainees may not be.

The Etowah County Detention Center has a contract with the federal government to house several hundred undocumented immigrants awaiting adjudication. With that contract comes federal funding from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to feed the detainees, money AL.com reports Entrekin has treated exactly like state and municipal funds: Any surplus is split 50/50 between the county's general fund and the sheriff himself, so a $3 million surplus gave Entrekin a $1.5 million bonus.

As Entrekin protested when the beach house story broke, that accounting is legal in Alabama. AL.com's report notes "multiple Alabama state attorneys general over the past decade [have agreed] sheriffs can in fact pocket funds allocated by the state to feed inmates that are not used for that purpose." But federal funds are likely a different story.

"There's pretty much no way that the federal government is okay with this," George Washington University law professor Randall Eliason told AL.com. "Regardless of what he argues about the Alabama law, if it comes to light that he's taking these federal funds that are supposed to be used to feed and house federal prisoners, and instead is putting [hundreds of thousands of] dollars in his pocket, that would be of great interest to federal prosecutors."

Entrekin said in July his use of the food money is under Department of Homeland Security investigation, and, before leaving office, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions encouraged Alabama's U.S. attorneys to investigate as well. Etowah County detainees have reported chronic poor treatment including service of inadequate and even rotten food. Bonnie Kristian

January 5, 2018

President Trump might be more liberal than he'd care to admit.

The Washington Examiner reported Friday that Michael Wolff — the author of Fire and Fury, the explosive new book about the Trump White House — claims in the tome that the president liked the idea of universal health care enough to ask the question: "Why can't Medicare simply cover everybody?"

Medicare is a government-funded health-care program available only to those over the age of 65. Its funding is a well-worn source of controversy in Washington, as Republican deficit hawks seek to curtail its funding and its scope while progressive liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) desire an expansion of the program to all U.S. citizens as a replacement to ObamaCare.

Wolff further alleges that in addition to pondering universal Medicare, Trump was, in general, "rather more for ObamaCare than for repealing ObamaCare." As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly called ObamaCare "a disaster" and pledged to get rid of it on his very first day of office.

Wolff claims that Trump had to be talked into making ObamaCare repeal his first legislative priority by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and former Health Secretary Tom Price. Trump's reason for ultimately conceding to Ryan and Price, Wolff writes, was that the president "didn't especially care about" health care.

The Washington Examiner points out that Trump's alleged disinterest in the fine print of health-care legislation is hardly breaking news. Despite tweeting that he was well-versed on the issue, Trump was reportedly perplexed by the Senate's proposal to repeal ObamaCare last summer. Last February, the president famously proclaimed, "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

Read more at the Washington Examiner. Kelly O'Meara Morales

October 12, 2017

The White House has insisted repeatedly that it has "nothing to hide" in the face of multiple investigations into potential collusion with Russia — and the administration is apparently willing to put its man where its mouth is. President Trump's lawyers are contemplating enabling a direct sit-down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Politico reported Thursday, who is leading the probe into Russian election meddling and the Trump administration's potential ties to it.

"The White House believes such an interview could help Mueller wrap up the probe faster and dispel the cloud of suspicion over Trump," Politico explained. But putting the mercurial commander in chief in front of Mueller is a fraught gamble:

A meeting with Mueller could bring serious risks for Trump — exposing him to questions about everything from potential obstruction of justice over his firing of FBI Director James Comey to what Trump might know about Kremlin support for his presidential campaign.

But the official suggested that the White House has no reason to stonewall Mueller.

[...] But even if he has nothing to hide, Trump's unpredictable nature and willingness to bend the facts poses headaches for his legal team as it strategizes for a possible sit-down with Mueller. One angry or untrue statement could have devastating political and legal consequences for the president. [Politico]

Lying to Mueller or a member of his team would be illegal, Vox notes, though Trump said earlier this year that he was "100 percent" willing to testify under oath about the Russia scandal. Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, initially declined to comment to Politico on the story, but sent an email after the article was published saying it was "totally false!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" without directly identifying any false assertions.

Read more about Trump's theoretical testimony at Politico, including similar situations involving former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Kimberly Alters

June 2, 2017

Back in April, The New York Times hired conservative columnist Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal as a contributor to its op-ed page. Stephens promptly started a kerfuffle at the Gray Lady when he centered his debut column around climate change; in it, he wrote, "Perhaps if there were less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it."

In his column, titled "Climate of Complete Certainty," Stephens argued that much of the conclusions about climate change that pass "as accepted fact" are in fact "a matter of probabilities." In explaining President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday cited Stephens' column:

The New York Times was harshly criticized for surfacing Stephens' climate skepticism — or what The Week's Ryan Cooper referred to as Stephens' "breezy science denial-lite." Public editor Liz Spayd responded by defending the Times for providing readers with a "range of views." But observers were not impressed with Pruitt's use of Stephens' reasoning as a defense for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement; scan through some incredulous responses below. Kimberly Alters

April 27, 2017

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman represents a western portion of the San Fernando Valley, which is located in Southern California. This is important, because you may have heard the Golden State has loosened its restrictions on the sale of marijuana and has generally been considered a bastion of bud in the nation.

As someone tasked with representing these constituents, then, Sherman should be knowledgeable about marijuana. Fret not, Valley-dwellers, because apparently he has been so thorough in his research that he is even aware of weed's potential to be exploited for nefarious wartime provocations by our enemies. He revealed as much in a pair of tweets Wednesday night regarding his chosen discussion points for a classified briefing about North Korea with Vice President Mike Pence:

Improbably, Sherman is not the first U.S. congressman to voice this concern. In February, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told CNN's Brianna Keilar, "I can suggest to you that there are national security implications here for a porous border. We sometimes used to make the point that if someone wanted to smuggle in a dangerous weapon, even a nuclear weapon, into America, how would they do it? And the suggestion was made: Well, we'll simply hide it in a bale of marijuana."

For the record, a bale of marijuana is generally considered to weigh but a few dozen pounds. The W54, one of the smallest nuclear warheads ever used by the U.S., weighed around 50 pounds. Kimberly Alters

November 12, 2016

Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal the FBI took over and operated 23 child pornography websites out of a government facility in an attempt to catch site users.

Though it was previously known the FBI operated one such site for 13 days before closing it down, using the website to install tracking malware on visitors' computers, the new documents show the scale of the project was much larger, comprising about half of all dark web child pornography sites.

More than 100 cases have been prosecuted in connection to the first site the FBI was known to operate, and in several of those trials judges have deemed evidence collected in this manner inadmissible. "The courts have been divided in their rulings on whether the FBI went too far," notes The Seattle Times in a report on one such case, "and prosecutors and defense lawyers say the case is almost certainly headed to the U.S. Supreme Court." Bonnie Kristian

September 30, 2016

Congressional Republicans have avoided getting behind their Democratic counterparts' calls for an investigation of Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia — but not because they're not concerned about the charges. The Daily Beast reported Friday that Republican congressional staff said "Trump and his aides' connections to Russian officials and business interests haven't gone unnoticed and are concerning" to GOP lawmakers.

The Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and, at the first presidential debate Monday, Trump avoided expressing agreement with the U.S. intelligence community that Russian government hackers were behind the Democratic National Committee break-ins. In August, Trump's top adviser, Paul Manafort, resigned over questions about his ties to pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians. Last week, it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials are probing another Trump adviser for alleged ties to the Kremlin.

Yet, Trump likely won't face the scrutiny his advisers have. The Daily Beast reported that although GOP lawmakers apparently reviewed Democrats' "written requests to the FBI that it investigate Trump before they were made public," they didn't sign on, possibly in the interest of avoiding a probe into their party's nominee.

This lack of bipartisan support leaves Democrats unable to issue subpoenas for witnesses — and generally less able to investigate the Republican nominee.

Head to The Daily Beast for the full report. Becca Stanek

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