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Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
A top executive at Boy Scouts of America apologized Thursday for “the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree” days after President Donald Trump turned an address to the Scouts’ annual gathering on Monday into an aggressive political rally of sorts.
In a statement, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said it “was never our intent” to inject political rhetoric into the event. He avoided pinning blame on the President specifically.
“The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937,” Surbaugh wrote. “It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
The apology followed a much briefer statement from the organization, the day after Trump’s speech, which emphasized that the Boy Scouts “is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.”
Trump mused about changing his nickname for Washington, D.C. “from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool,’” joked about firing his secretary of health and human services, drew boos from the children in attendance by asking if former President Obama had ever addressed their event and said of the night he was elected President: “Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date.” (That was followed by a detailed, state-by-state recap of the election.)
Trump also reminded the Scouts that, “by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. ‘Merry Christmas.'”
“They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, folks,” he said.
Surbaugh ended his letter on Thursday: “In a time when differences seem to separate our country, we hope the true spirit of Scouting will empower our next generation of leaders to bring people together to do good in the world.”
Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) blamed the media on Thursday for forcing, in a “bank-shot” fashion, President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on his own attorney general.
Brat said the media had fueled the attacks — everything short of typing Trump’s tweets for him.
In a statement Wednesday on the matter, Brat said Trump’s anger at Sessions — whose recusal from campaign- and Russian meddling-related matters paved the way for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller — was partially the media’s fault.
“One thing is for sure: when AG Sessions erred on the side of caution by recusing himself, he never could have foreseen the 24/7 full-throated obsession over Russia by the mainstream media,” he wrote. “The media’s attacks have only escalated since Trump’s inauguration. Fake news dominates.”
“Who is at fault for the uncomfortable position Jeff Sessions is in?” CNN’s Kate Bolduan asked Brat Thursday, after referencing the statement.
Among other things, Brat said, “No one anticipated the 24/7 coverage on the Russia piece.”
“But is the President at fault for being the one who made the ‘beleaguered’ Sessions beleaguered?” Bolduan asked.
“No, no, I don’t think — the mainstream press has been relentless,” Brat said.
“There’s no way the media is powerful enough” to force Trump to tell the New York Times that he regretted appointing Sessions attorney general, an exasperated Bolduan said. “The media is not forcing the President to tweet his attacks.”
“I think you did,” Brat said. “If you’ve got 24/7 coverage and he doesn’t have an AG in place to cover the most important issue that the media covers with 90 percent of your coverage, the anchors across the mainstream…” he said, before changing topics.
“Are you kidding me?” Bolduan said. “The media did not force the President to attack Jeff Sessions.
“I’m using force in like a bank shot metaphor,” Brat said. “You didn’t coerce him. You made him frustrated.”
“He is frustrated because he does not have an AG at the highest level who can respond to the key issue that the media is grilling him on all day,” he continued.
“Do you agree that the President chose to push the keys on his phone to tweet an attack on his attorney general, under his own control?” Bolduan asked.
“I will concede that the President did touch his keypad,” Brat said.
Asked why he was so hesitant to criticize the President, Brat spoke only in generalities.
Anthony Scaramucci, the millionaire-hedge-fund-manager-turned-White-House-communications-director, argued Wednesday that President Donald Trump, despite being part of the global economic elite, could identify with middle and working class Americans.
“What’s happening right now, which I love, is that the elites and the media establishment that want to hit the President on Russia every day, they’re recognizing there’s nothing to the Russian story,” Scaramucci began in an interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis.
Maitlis stopped him: “What part of Donald Trump is not elite? The business side or the politics side or the inheritance side? What part of Donald Trump — many people in the UK don’t understand that.”
“Oh my God, there’s so many things about the President,” Scaramucci began.
“He’s a celebrity, he’s a billionaire,” Maitlis continued.
“How about the cheeseburgers, how about the pizza that we’re eating?” Scaramucci said.
“Everyone eats cheeseburgers and pizzas, what are you talking about?” Maitlis responded.
“No, no, no, no. See, you’re coming across a little bit elitist, so let me just say something to you, OK?” Scaramucci said. “I grew up in a middle-class family, OK? We had virtually — a tight budget and little to no money. I spent 30 years of my life trying to get into the global elites so I could stand here and serve the President. And I missed the movement.”
Scaramucci said the insular culture of global elites — he himself is still finalizing the sale of Skybridge Capital to a Chinese conglomerate — had initially ignored the populist political style Trump represented in the 2016 campaign.
“Donald Trump is not elite, then? He’s not an elite?” Maitlis asked again.
“Very much so, he’s both,” Scaramucci said. “He knows how to operate in an elitist world, and he has unbelievable empathy for the common struggle that’s going on with the middle class people and the lower middle class people.”
Notably, after running a presidential campaign that leaned heavily on economic populism, Trump named what is collectively the wealthiest Cabinet in American history. In June, the President said “I just don’t want a poor person” in an economic policy role.
And, despite Trump’s use of the investment bank as a punching bag during the campaign, Scaramucci is yet another Goldman Sachs alumnus to join the highest ranks of the executive branch.
He was tapped by Trump to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, reporting in that role directly to the secretary of state and leading the Office of International Religious Freedom. The post requires Senate confirmation.
On Twitter Wednesday, Brownback said he was “honored to serve such an important cause.”
Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause. -SDB
In a statement Wednesday night, the White House noted that “[w]hile a member of the Senate, [Brownback] worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.” That law established the at-large ambassadorship during the Clinton administration.
In March of last year, Brownback signed into law a measure enabling student groups at public colleges to discriminate on the basis of religion, such that only Christian students, for example, could join a Christian students’ association.
The ACLU of Kansas noted in a statement Wednesday that “throughout his tumultuous tenure, Gov. Brownback worked tirelessly to erode the protections that the First Amendment affords for the separation of church and state.”
“The governor went so far as to advocate for, and sign into law, a bill that mandates government funding of organizations that discriminate in their membership, so long as that discrimination is rooted in religious belief,” the statement added. “In Gov. Brownback’s view, ‘religious freedom’ has meant issuing a license to discriminate against others, especially against LGBT Kansans.”
President Donald Trump’s new lawyer praised special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday.
“I have a very respectful and professional relationship with Bob Mueller. I think very highly of him,” Ty Cobb told Politico. Cobb will begin working on Monday as part of the White House legal team responding to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Politico noted.
Cobb’s praise for Mueller is strikingly different from the open antagonism shown by many White House staff. President Donald Trump has raged at recent days at his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, whose recusal from everything Russia- and campaign-related paved the way for Mueller’s appointment.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager and now an informal adviser to the President, relayed those sentiments on ABC News Wednesday: “The President has a legal authority to fire Robert Mueller if he wants to,” he said. “Now, Robert Mueller reports to [deputy attorney general] Rod Rosenstein, but Rod Rosenstein could also be terminated. The Constitution is very clear: The President, as the chief law executive officer of this country, has the ability to hire and fire executives who work for him.”
Cobb told Politico he would “provide background willingly when appropriate,” referring to the practice of relaying contextual information to the press without being named as a source for it.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), frustrated at the Senate’s pace in their effort to repeal Obamacare, said Wednesday that “somebody needs to go over there into that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass.”
The remark came during an interview with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, after the cable news host asked about a female senator’s “no” vote on the GOP’s repeal effort. The phrase generally refers to spanking or other physical discipline.
“What do you think about the President going after Lisa Murkowski [R-AK] for her no vote yesterday on the motion to proceed?” Velshi asked the congressman.
Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) were the only two Republicans to vote against Tuesday’s “motion to proceed” with debate on the repeal of Obamacare, though it’s still unclear which repeal bill is favored by Republican leadership, and which is most likely to pass the Senate — if any. Murkowski earned an attack from the President for her vote:
Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!
“I think it’s perfectly fair,” Carter said, responding to Velshi. “Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there into that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass.”
“I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where, how can you say I voted for this last year but I’m not going to vote for it this year?” he continued. “This is extremely frustrating for those of us who have put so much into this effort. I serve on the health care subcommittee. We met for 27 1/2 hours to come with up with the American Health Care Act. The American Health Care Act is a good bill. It needs to be voted on. It needs to pass.”
A spokesperson for the congressman told TPM that Carter wasn’t singling out Murkowski.
“Rep. Carter’s comment was in no way directed towards Sen. Murkowski specifically,” Deputy Chief of Staff Mary Carpenter told TPM in an email. “His words speak for themselves, that he was not speaking about a single senator. This is a southern phrase used frequently throughout Rep. Carter’s lifetime which simply means get your act together.”
Watch below via MSNBC:
Here it is: GOP Rep. Carter, asked about Murkowski: “Somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass.” @MSNBCpic.twitter.com/1CVcENn9Kq
Trump’s decision would reverse an Obama-era move to acknowledge and support openly transgender soldiers, one whose implementation was temporarily delayed by Defense Secretary James Mattis on June 30.
“As a veteran, Sen. Ernst served alongside fellow service members from all different backgrounds and parts of the county,” Ernst’s office said in a statement to TPM. “She believes what is most important is making sure servicemembers can meet the physical training standards, and the willingness to defend our freedoms and way of life.”
“While she believes taxpayers shouldn’t cover the costs associated with a gender reassignment surgery, Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity,” the statement concluded.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Wednesday that President Donald Trump was showing “weakness” by trying to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions into resigning from that position, without actually taking any direct action to dismiss Sessions himself.
“The weakness is that the President is trying to not use his power,” Graham told CNN’s Manu Raju. “He’s trying to get Sessions to quit, and I hope Sessions doesn’t quit. And if the President wants to fire him, fire him.”
“You think the President is demonstrating weakness by his handling of Sessions?” Raju asked.
“Absolutely, I think anybody who’s strong would use the power they have and be confident in their decision,” Graham said. “So strong people say, ‘I’ve decided that this man or woman can’t serve me well, and I’m going to act accordingly and take the consequence.’ To me, weakness is when you play around the edges and you don’t use the power you have.”
Graham defended Sessions on Tuesday as well, saying the former Alabama senator and one of Trump’s earliest supporters was “one of the most decent people I’ve ever met in my political life.”
Trump told the New York Times last week that his anger at the attorney general began with Sessions’ recusal from matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign, and Russian meddling therein. That recusal paved the way for the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel investigation Russian election meddling and a host of related issues.
An LGBTQ media advocacy organization lambasted President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he was ordering a ban on the service of transgender people in the U.S. military.
Trump’s decision reversed an Obama-era policy to allow service from openly transgender soldiers, and followed what was a six-month delay of that policy announced by Defense Secretary James Mattis on June 30.
“President Trump today issued a direct attack on transgender Americans, and his administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation,” the group’s president and CEO, Kate Ellis, said in a statement. “Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”
The organization’s statement continued: “Today’s anti-LGBTQ announcement summarizes the full-scale attack on LGBTQ Americans by the Trump Administration. Since President Trump’s inauguration, the administration has stopped at nothing to erase LGBTQ acceptance from the federal government.”