Posts tagged with "NBC News"

FBI agent who helped launch Russia investigation says Trump was ‘compromised’

September 8, 2020

Peter Strzok— the FBI counterintelligence agent whose spiteful texts about President Donald Trump took him down; along with girlfriend and FBI lawyer Lisa Page; and arguably, the Russia investigation, itself—says in a new book that, even if Trump didn’t formally conspire with the Russian election interference operation, the president was badly compromised.

In the new release, entitled Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Strzok states that Trump was exposed because of his questionable business dealings, the hush money paid on his behalf to silence women, shady transactions at his charity—and, most importantly, “his lies about his Russia dealings,” including his secret 2015 effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even as he told the world that he had no business with Russia.

“Putin knew he had lied. And Trump knew that Putin knew—a shared understanding that provided the framework for a potentially coercive relationship between the president of the United States and the leader of one of our greatest adversaries,” writes Strzok.

“This simple fact could explain something that made no sense otherwise: why Trump repeatedly … [chose] the course of action that made little sense in the context of U.S. national security but that clearly benefited Russia,” he writes.

And while—according to NBC News, which has obtained a copy of the book—Strzok reveals no new evidence that the president acted as a tool of Russia, the author’s inside account provides a detailed refutation of the notion that a group of anti-Trump denizens of the deep state cooked up the Russia “hoax,” as Trump likes to call it, to take down a president they didn’t support.

To the contrary, as he tells it, career public servants inside the FBI and the Justice Department were gobsmacked in 2016 by what they uncovered about a presidential campaign that seemed to find unlimited time to meet with Russians, practically inviting exploitation by a foreign adversary.

“I was skeptical that all the different threads amounted to anything more than bumbling incompetence, a confederacy of dunces who were too dumb to collude,” Strzok writes, summing up his view of the case for a Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia before he was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in July 2017 over his biased texts. “ 

In a statement to NBC News, White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern called Strzok’s account “utter nonsense” and argued that neither Mueller nor Congress “…[has] found any wrongdoing by the president.” He added: “Strzok is a joke, and his book isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. ”

Whether crimes were committed is a different question from whether Russia had a hold over the president, however. Who was supposed to answer that counterintelligence question? Who would look at whether Trump had, in fact, benefited from massive investments by Russians, as his son once said he did? Or whether there was any reason to think Putin could blackmail him?

Strzok, 50, an Army veteran who worked most of his two-decade FBI career chasing Russian spies, says it was the job of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. But Strzok writes that at the time he left the investigation in 2017, “we were still looking for the right way to investigate those counterintelligence concerns.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden camp: Over 3,500 Americans died from COVID during GOP convention

August 31, 2020

Donald Trump covered a lot of ground in his lengthy speech accepting the Republican party’s presidential nomination on  August 27;  but Joe Biden’s campaign said that the one subject he didn’t mention—and that the Trump Administration has steadfastly tried to ignore—was a plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic..

“Since the beginning of the Republican convention, at least 3,525 Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus,” Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement picked up by NBC News .

“Instead of a strategy to overcome the pandemic, or any concern for the unbearable suffering in our country right now as a result of his ongoing failures, what we heard was a delusional vision completely divorced from the crushing reality that ordinary Americans face,” she added.

Trump spoke to over 1,000 guests on the South Lawn of the White House, where chairs were arranged close together and few wore masks.,

Biden himself released a statement earlier, asking, “Is Donald Trump even aware he’s president?” The statement referred to a major theme of the GOP convention that warned Biden’s election would lead to looting and rioting. But Biden noted that’s happening now.

“These are not images from some imagined ‘Joe Biden’s America’ in the future. These are images from Donald Trump’s America today,” Biden said. “The violence we’re witnessing is happening under Donald Trump. Not me. It’s getting worse, and we know why.”

Biden got some outside help as the Republican convention wrapped up.

The Golden Star father of the first person to die in combat under President Trump’s watch, Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, slammed the president for ordering the botched raid in a new video released by the Democratic veteran’s group VoteVets.

“Trump ordered Ryan’s SEAL team into Yemen — not from the Situation Room, with all the intelligence assembled, but sitting across a dinner table with Steve Bannon,” Bill Owens, a veteran himself, says. “There was no vital interest at play. Just Donald Trump playing ‘big man going to war.'”

“And when it went horribly wrong,” Owens continued. “Donald Trump demeaned my son’s sacrifice.”

Instead of taking responsibility, Trump blamed his generals at the time. “They lost Ryan,” Trump told Fox News at the time.

What’s more, NBC News reports, two more large groups of former Republican officials broke party ranks to support Biden.

Over 100 former aides to deceased Senator John McCain of Arizona announced the formation of the group McCain Alumni for Biden. The group includes several of McCain’s former chiefs of staff and some of his longest-serving and most senior congressional staffers.

“Though we could not always live to his example, John trusted us to know when it was time to put our country before our party; Joe Biden is the right choice for our country,” said Joe Donoghue, McCain’s former legislative director and longest-serving aide.

A similar group of former administration officials and campaign aides to former President George W. Bush released its own list of Biden endorsers nearly 300 names long.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Go or no go? Experts say it’s ‘Constitutionally impossible’ for Trump to delay the 2020 election

July 31, 2020

Better late than never elected? President Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the November general election on Twitter on Thursday, July 30, NBC News reports.

The president seems to be panicking about his prospects for re-election, as the U.S. economy shrinks amid the coronavirus pandemic and voters’ support for his opponent, Joe Biden, surges.

But, NBC notes, the president has no power to delay an election, and Trump’s suggestion has raised alarm bells among legal experts and presidential historians as he continues to push evidence-free claims about the security of voting by mail.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump said on Twitter. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

While states have the authority to delay their primary elections, only Congress can change the date for the general election for president under the Constitution. Since 1845, Congress has required the appointment of presidential electors (now by election in every state) to take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which this year is November 3.

As to whether an election could be delayed indefinitely—such as for a public health emergency as Trump suggests—legal experts have informed NBC News that such a ploy is “out of the realm of possibility.” Even if Congress did agree to change the date of the general election, Trump’s term still would expire on January 20 in accordance with the 20th Amendment of the Constitution.

“That’s constitutionally impossible,” Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said of any indefinite delay. “The president’s term expires and there is no way for him to continue in office beyond January 20 without being re-elected.”

And there’s quite a few things that have to happen before that date: States need to choose their electors for the Electoral College, who then need to meet and choose the president. Then, Congress has to count the Electoral College votes.

“All of that has to happen by January 20,” Potter told NBC News. “That is why Congress will not delay the election even a week or two, because the timeline is pretty tight.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss pointed out that U.S. elections have persisted through wars.

“The president’s tweet is more an attempt to (improperly, and without any evidence) denigrate the election we’re going to have than a real attempt to postpone,” Justin Levitt, a constitutional law and democracy expert at Loyola Law School, said in a text message to NBC.

Levitt was previously a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, working on voting rights litigation.

In his tweet, Trump also gets the facts wrong about mail voting.

“Universal mail voting” and “absentee voting” are not substantively different methods of voting: Both involve the use of ballots transmitted by mail, filled out and returned by registered voters.

Most states are expanding existing absentee voting programs— which Trump appears to praise in his tweet—so people can vote more safely, and there is no nationwide move towards all-mail elections. A handful of states—including Washington and Utah, which already vote entirely or almost entirely by mail—are continuing that practice in 2020.

The vast majority of states are planning a mix of mail and in-person voting in November. Potter suspects that the president’s complaint lies in how voters get their mail ballots—by default or by request.

“If what he means is that people are sent a ballot at home without having to first request it, which is what I think he’s saying, then almost no states do that,” Potter said. “The idea that the whole country is doing voting by mail rather than requesting an absentee ballot is simply factually completely untrue.”

Former Republican strategist and media consultant Rick Wilson replied to the president’s tweet, saying: “Every GOP official should be put on the record today. Simple yes or no answer. ‘Should we delay the election?’ Watch how many of them say, ‘What is Twitter?’ ‘Donald who?’ ‘I haven’t seen the tweet.’ ‘Ya ne govoryu po angliyski.’ ‘I’m late for lunch.’”

Former presidential candidate Tom Steyer simply tweeted: “Somone please inform the president that’s not how this works.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

As he continues to trail Biden in the polls, Trump demotes campaign manager Brad Parscale

July 17, 2020

President Donald Trump announced a new campaign manager for his 2020 re-election effort on Wednesday, July 15—less than four months before voters head to the polls—in an effort to reset a campaign that has already been through multiple failed reboots, according to NBC News.

The announcement comes as the president lags further behind his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in most national polls.

It also comes as The Raw Story reports that Twitter users are speculating this week that Trump demoted Brad Parscale because he was caught “canoodling” with Trump “crush” and former White House staffer Hope Hicks.

Indeed, The Raw Story notes, during Trump’s 2016 run for office, then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also was demoted after he was said to have dated Hicks.

Trump said in Facebook post, and later on Twitter after the cyberattack on the platform, that he was removing Parscale—and tapping deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien, a veteran Republican operative, to take over.

Stepien was campaign manager for both of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s gubernatorial runs and served as his deputy chief of staff, but he was fired in 2014 in the Bridgegate scandal that plagued Christie.

“Both were heavily involved in our historic 2016 win, and I look forward to having a big and very important second win together,” Trump said. “This one should be a lot easier as our poll numbers are rising fast, the economy is getting better, vaccines and therapeutics will soon be on the way, and Americans want safe streets and communities!”

Stepien was named deputy campaign manager in May in an effort to layer Parscale, who had been campaign manager for more than two years but had come under fire in the last few months for lagging poll numbers. He will keep his digital and data strategy duties, the campaign said.

Parscale had boasted that millions of tickets were sold for Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month, which brought lower-than-expected turnout and left the president fuming. His demotion comes as polls show Biden holding a double-digit lead nationally over Trump, with 70% of voters saying the country is on the wrong track.

In Stepien, NBC News notes,  the campaign gets a much more analytical, traditional political operative. Before going over to the campaign, he served as the White House’s political director through the 2018 election cycle, during which he was responsible for having a granular, county-by-county understanding of the political landscape.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Top Democrats say Trump is ‘sitting on nearly $14B’ for COVID-19 testing and tracing

June 23, 2020

After admitting at his Tulsa rally that he had asked staff “to slow down COVID-19 testing” to make it look like America had fewer cases, President Donald Trump on June 22 refused to comment on that revelation—backtracking on his off-the-cuff remark, The Hill reported.

What’s more, on Monday, there was more embarrassing and scandalous news for the Trump Administration—which NBC News noted, “… has been sitting on nearly $14 billion in funding that Congress passed for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, according to Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Patty Murray of Washington.”

The top Democrats said in a June 21 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the Trump administration has “still failed” to distribute more than $8 billion out of $25 billion appropriated by Congress to expand testing and contact tracing. The letter indicated that Congress passed these funds as part of a coronavirus relief bill in April.05:02

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also hasn’t awarded nearly $4 billion for surveillance and contact tracing at the state and local levels and tribal territories, they said, and little of $2 billion set aside for free testing for uninsured people has been disbursed.

“While it has been months since these funds were first appropriated, the Administration has failed to disburse significant amounts of this funding, leaving communities without the resources they need to address the significant challenges presented by the virus,” they wrote.

Schumer and Murray, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said that the Trump administration will “put our country at grave risk if it tries to declare an early victory” and leaves resources untouched.

“We call on you to immediately disburse the remainder of the $25 billion in funds to ramp up testing and contact tracing capacity, as well as to make sure providers are aware of and able to easily access the $2 billion that Congress appropriated to provide testing for the uninsured,” they said.

For the $8 billion in unused funds for ramping up testing and contact tracing, the senators said that it’s critical that the administration immediately release the funds and focus the money on contact tracing and collecting data on racial and ethnic disparities in connection to COVID-19.

Late Sunday, Trump again suggested that more testing makes the U.S. look bad compared to other countries, NBC News reported..

“Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally, than other countries. My message on that is very clear!” he tweeted.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Aunt Jemima brand to change name and image over ‘racial stereotype’

June 18, 2020

In the spirit of Black Lives Matter, Quaker Oats—the manufacturer of the syrup and pancake brand, Aunt Jemima, has acknowledged that the brand’s origins were “based on a racial stereotype.” The company now intends to change the name and image on its packaging, The New York Times reports.

The brand, founded in 1889, is built on images of a black female character that often been have been seen as a symbol of slavery. Aunt Jemima has gone through several redesigns; pearl earrings and a lace collar were added in 1989.

On Wednesday, Quaker Oats, which is owned by PepsiCo, said that it was taking “a hard look at our portfolio of brands” as it works “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives.”

The packaging changes, which were first reported by NBC, will begin to appear toward the end of this year, with the name change coming soon after.

“Whle work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.

The Aunt Jemima brand was inspired by a minstrel song called “Old Aunt Jemima” and was once described by Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African-American literature at Cornell University, as “an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.”

Last week, the glorified depiction of slavery in “Gone With the Wind,” which included a portrayal of an affable black character named Mammy, led HBO Max to temporarily remove the film from its catalog–before bringing it back with an explanatory forward, the Times notes.

Quaker Oats said in its statement that Aunt Jemima’s marketing had “evolved over time with the goal of representing loving moms from diverse backgrounds who want the best for their families,” but that it would gather more perspectives internally and from the black community to further shape the brand.

Research contact: @nytimes

‘Of course not’: Fauci says he won’t attend Trump rallies; advises Americans to avoid big crowds

June 18, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—and the top expert on COVID-19 in America— says he would not personally attend any upcoming rallies that President Donald Trump plans to hold for his 2020 re-election campaign because the coronavirus is still spreading.

“I’m in a high-risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not,” Fauci, who’s 79, said in an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, June 16.

He added about Trump campaign rallies, “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.”

Trump is scheduled to host his first campaign rally in months on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, inside of the city’s BOK Center, which can hold more than 19,000 people, NBC News reports. The president claimed on Monday, June 15, that 1 million people had requested tickets to the event.

Senior officials said Monday that hand sanitizer and face masks will be offered to all attendees, although they are not required to use them. They also will have their temperatures taken before entering the arena.

Some Tulsa officials have been warning Trump that the rally could worsen a current spike in coronavirus cases and local newspaper, NBC notes. Tulsa World published an editorial titled, “This is the wrong time and Tulsa is the wrong place for the Trump rally.”

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, is expected to visit the White House this week, ahead of the rally, to discuss reopening the economy.

Conversely, Dr. Fauci told The Daily Beast that he’s still worried about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in some states across the country. “We are seeing infections to a greater degree than they had previously seen in certain states, including states in the southwest and in the south,” he said.

A key member of the president’s coronavirus task force, Fauci also said in an interview Tuesday with NPR’s “1A” on WAMU in Washington, D.C., that he hasn’t spoken with Trump in two weeks. He said that he spoke with him “two weeks ago” and the conversation was about “vaccine development efforts.”

Asked for a response to Fauci’s latest interviews, the White House defended the current phased reopenings that it has been pushing without addressing Fauci directly.

“As the president has said, the cure cannot be worse than the disease and that is why all 50 states have begun the process of a phased reopening,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. “As this continues, the American people will use what they have learned about COVID-19 and take the appropriate precautions, such as social distancing, facial coverings, and regularly washing hands, to protect the public health and return us to a growing economy.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Former Defense Secretary Mattis says Trump’s ‘bizarre’ photo-op mimics Nazi tactics

June 5, 2020

In a story picked up by NBC News, on June 3, former Defense Secretary James Mattis slammed President Donald Trump’s response to the protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police—saying the POTUS “tries to divide us” while calling his “bizarre photo op” in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church “an abuse of executive authority.”

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic.

“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”‘ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics,” Mattis wrote.

In the stunning rebuke of his former boss, Mattis, a retired general, said he’d promised to defend the Constitution when he was sworn into the Marine Corps “some 50 years ago,” NBC News reported.

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” Mattis wrote, referring to Monday night’s federal show of force to clear protesters from the front of the White House.

After they were cleared, Trump walked across Lafayette Square with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others to pose for a picture with a Bible in front of the church, which had been damaged in a riot Sunday night. The photo opportunity came minutes after Trump announced that he was prepared to call in the military to handle unruly protesters around the country.

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” Mattis wrote in The Atlantic.

“We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose,” wrote Mattis, whom Trump would often refer to as “Mad Dog,” a nickname Mattis didn’t like.

Trump, he said, is a divider, and the country is “witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”

“We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens,” he wrote.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Pelosi gives Trump an ‘F’ on coronavirus: ‘Delay, denial, death’

April 23, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pummeled President Donald Trump on April 22 for what she called his lack of preparation and poor handling of COVID-19 testing nationwide, NBC News reported.

Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC’s  Morning Joe that “if you do not test, you cannot possibly know the size of the challenge,” which she said is why testing is the key to reopening the U.S. economy.

“For our seniors in nursing homes and the rest, as you say, there’s a big toll being taken there. But if we can test and contact and isolate people, we’re on a very much better path,” Pelosi said, adding, “There’s a Boy Scout saying, ‘Proper preparation prevents poor performance.’ Well, that is exactly where the president gets an F.”

In a statement that will, no doubt, go viral, Pelosi outlined what she considered to be the bald truth: “He was not properly prepared, not with the truth, with the facts, or the admission of what was happening in our country — delay, whatever, delay, denial, death,” she declared. “And instead we’d like to see him insist on the truth and we must insist on the truth with him.”

The speaker said she wished that Trump wouldn’t be an “agent of distraction” and suggested that his latest decision to suspend immigration into the U.S. is merely a “distraction from his failure on testing.”

Scientists have debunked what some White House officials have said about needing only a certain level of testing, Pelosi said.

“We’re never going to get there at the snail pace that they are putting forth,” she said. “But you have seen scientists outside, academics and the rest setting a standard three times higher than what the White House is talking about. So we have put the resources there. We’re prepared to do more in terms of the testing in the next legislation.”

Trump said at Tuesday’s White House briefing that the U.S. “has tested more people than anybody anywhere in the world by far. By very far.” NBC News has repeatedly fact-checked this statement. While the U.S. has run the highest number of raw tests, it has not conducted the most per capita.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Battle for the Oval Office: Mike Bloomberg’s campaign to donate $18M to DNC

March 23, 2020

Michael Bloomberg has promised to transfer $18 million from his presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee—boosting the party’s operations instead of forming his own super PAC, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The investment is aimed at strengthening the DNC’s battleground program, which comprises 12 states and is run in coordination with the state party committees According to NBC News, those states include Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Virginia.

Bloomberg also has offered to transfer the ownership of many of his field offices to state party committees, according to a Democratiic official, who said that the former New York City mayor’s contributions would help speed up their hiring for positions in organizing, data and operations.

The multimillion-dollar boost to the party’s field organizing program could serve as a major asset to the Democratic nominee, the Journal says. Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the delegate count and has struggled to amass a large campaign war chest. Senator Bernie Sanders is still in the race, but Biden’s campaign is preparing to build out a larger staff for the general election while grappling with the new realities of campaigning during the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump’s team has built a large campaign organization and is planning an extensive operation of field organizers and digital outreach to voters. Trump and the Republican National Committee had more than $225 million in the bank at the end of February.

Since he exited the race, Bloomberg’s advisers had been working on a way to absorb his campaign operations into an outside entity that would boost Biden. He said in the statement Friday they had ultimately decided to change course.

“While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the President accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” Bloomberg wrote in a memo to DNC Chairman Tom Perez that was made public Friday.

“The dynamics of the race have also fundamentally changed, and it is critically important that we all do everything we can to support our eventual nominee and scale the Democratic Party’s general-election efforts,” the former New York City mayor said.

Indeed, Bloomberg’s contribution to the DNC will be the largest transfer from a presidential campaign in recent history, the Journal notes.

“With this transfer from the Bloomberg campaign, Mayor Bloomberg and his team are making good on their commitment to beating Donald Trump,” Perez said in a statement. “This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot.

Research contact: @WSJ