Trump tweet claims par­don power

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Ash­ley Parker and David Nakamura of The Wash­ing­ton Post and by Dar­lene Su­perville and Julie Pace of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

NOR­FOLK, Va. — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­leashed a flurry of nearly a dozen tweets Satur­day morn­ing, as­sert­ing that he has the “com­plete power to par­don” aides, fam­ily mem­bers and pos­si­bly even him­self — an ap­par­ent re­sponse to the spe­cial coun­sel’s widen­ing Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion — and de­cry­ing “il­le­gal leaks” in the “fake news.”

In 10 early-morn­ing tweets, he com­mented about par­dons, for­mer pres­i­den­tial ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton, son Don­ald Trump Jr., health care, the USS Ger­ald Ford, the at­tor­ney gen­eral and other top­ics.

The pres­i­dent also lashed out at a new Wash­ing­ton Post re­port of pre­vi­ously undis­closed al­leged con­tacts be­tween At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions — at the time a U.S. se­na­tor and se­nior ad­viser to Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign — and a Rus­sian of­fi­cial. In a tweet, Trump called the dis­clo­sures an il­le­gal new “in­tel­li­gence leak,” part of what’s seen as his con­tin­u­ing ef­fort to try to shift the pub­lic fo­cus to what he claims is a par­ti­san at­tempt to un­der­mine his pres­i­dency.

The pres­i­dent has long crit­i­cized leaks of in­for­ma­tion about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and has urged au­thor­i­ties to pros­e­cute leak­ers. Trump main­tains that no crimes have been com­mit­ted.

One of Trump’s at­tor­neys, Jay Seku­low, said the pres­i­dent has not dis­cussed par­dons with his out­side le­gal team.

The pres­i­dent’s de­fense of his par­don­ing au­thor­ity came days af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported that he and his le­gal team have dis­cussed his power to par­don those close to him, in­clud­ing him­self.

Shortly af­ter his posts on Twit­ter, which started just af­ter 6:30 a.m. and lasted nearly two hours, Trump flew to Nor­folk, Va., where he in­jected a dose of par­ti­san

pol­i­tics into the cer­e­mo­nial com­mis­sion­ing of a new naval war­ship.

Speak­ing aboard the USS Ger­ald R. Ford, Trump ex­tolled the virtues of the “won­der­ful, beau­ti­ful but very, very pow­er­ful” nu­clear-pow­ered war­ship — “We will win, win, win,” he said, “we will never lose” — but also de­cried the bud­get com­pro­mise known as se­ques­tra­tion, which re­quires manda­tory and cor­re­spond­ing mil­i­tary and do­mes­tic cuts.

Trump promised to try to re­store higher lev­els of mil­i­tary fund­ing, but also urged the crowd of about 6,500 — many in uni­form — to help him push this year’s bud­get, in which he said he will seek an ad­di­tional $54 bil­lion in de­fense spend­ing, through Congress.

“I don’t mind get­ting a lit­tle hand, so call that con­gress­man and call that se­na­tor and make sure you get it,” he said to ap­plause. “And by the way, you can also call those sen­a­tors to make sure you get health care.”

But Trump’s brief ap­peal cre­ated a po­ten­tially awk­ward tableau at a com­mis­sion­ing event in­tended to be cer­e­mo­nial — a com­man­der in chief of­fer­ing po­lit­i­cal re­marks, and what could even be con­strued as an or­der, to the naval of­fi­cers he com­mands.

The pres­i­dent’s 17-minute speech aboard the naval ves­sel, as well as his so­cial me­dia as­ser­tions Satur­day — which veered be­tween procla­ma­tions of in­no­cence and frus­tra­tion — came as Trump is just six months into his pres­i­dency. Sev­eral of Trump’s fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing his el­dest son, Trump Jr., and his son-in-law and se­nior ad­viser, Jared Kush­ner, are fac­ing mount­ing le­gal ques­tions about their in­volve­ment in pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween the pres­i­dent’s 2016 cam­paign and Rus­sia.

Trump’s tweets Satur­day morn­ing be­gan with an as­ser­tion that the pres­i­dent has “com­plete power to par­don” in an ap­par­ent al­lu­sion to the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his cam­paign’s con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Trump aides said the pres­i­dent is merely cu­ri­ous about his pow­ers and the lim­its of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s at­tempt to tam­per with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Cur­rently, the dis­cus­sions of par­don­ing au­thor­ity by Trump’s le­gal team are purely the­o­ret­i­cal, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions. But if Trump par­doned him­self in the face of the on­go­ing Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it would set off a le­gal and po­lit­i­cal firestorm, first around the ques­tion of whether a pres­i­dent can use the con­sti­tu­tional par­don power in that way.

“While all agree the U.S. Pres­i­dent has the com­plete power to par­don, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS,” Trump posted on Twit­ter.

In an­other tweet, Trump con­tin­ued his cam­paign to dis­credit the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as based on leaks of in­for­ma­tion

from po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies aimed at un­der­min­ing him. The Post re­ported late Fri­day that U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials had col­lected in­for­ma­tion that Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to the United States had told su­pe­ri­ors that he had dis­cussed cam­paign-re­lated mat­ters and poli­cies im­por­tant to Moscow last year with Ses­sions, then a se­na­tor who had en­dorsed Trump.

This week, Trump Jr., Kush­ner and Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, are sched­uled to ap­pear be­fore Se­nate com­mit­tees in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian med­dling.

Trump de­fended his son in one of the tweets, say­ing he “openly gave his e-mails to the me­dia & au­thor­i­ties whereas Crooked Hil­lary Clin­ton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!” Trump’s name­sake has be­come a fo­cus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter it was re­vealed that he, Kush­ner and Manafort met with Rus­sian rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Trump Tower in June 2016. Trump Jr. later re­leased email ex­changes con­cern­ing the meet­ing on Twit­ter, af­ter learn­ing that The New York Times was about to pub­lish them.

The FBI in­ves­ti­gated Clin­ton for us­ing a pri­vate email server as sec­re­tary of state. She turned over thou­sands of pages of emails to the gov­ern­ment, but deleted thou­sands of oth­ers that she said were per­sonal or un­re­lated to her work as the na­tion’s top di­plo­mat.

In an­other tweet, Trump said, “A new IN­TEL­LI­GENCE LEAK from the Ama­zon Wash­ing­ton Post, this time against A.G. Jeff Ses­sions. These il­le­gal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!”

Ses­sions had ini­tially failed to dis­close his meet­ings with Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion process; when they were made pub­lic in news re­ports, he in­sisted he had met with Kislyak only in his ca­pac­ity as a se­na­tor and had not dis­cussed cam­paign mat­ters. But The Post re­ported that U.S.

in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions that showed Kislyak in­di­cated he had “sub­stan­tive” dis­cus­sions on mat­ters in­clud­ing Trump’s po­si­tions on Rus­sia-re­lated is­sues and prospects for U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions in a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have said Moscow med­dled in the cam­paign, steal­ing thou­sands of emails and other doc­u­ments from Demo­cratic Party of­fi­cials and re­leas­ing them pub­licly to em­bar­rass the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Clin­ton, and to as­sist Trump. Trump has said re­peat­edly that he did not col­lude with Rus­sian of­fi­cials and called ac­counts of the meet­ings be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sian op­er­a­tives a par­ti­san at­tack by Democrats to avenge their loss in the elec­tion. But he and some of his top aides have hired pri­vate crim­i­nal-de­fense lawyers to deal with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In his tweet, Trump was re­fer­ring to for­mer FBI Direc­tor James Comey, whom the pres­i­dent fired over his han­dling of the Rus­sia case. Comey later tes­ti­fied to Congress that he had felt pres­sure from Trump over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and, af­ter he was dis­missed, re­leased memos of his en­coun­ters with Trump to the me­dia. The pub­lic dis­clo­sures helped lead to Mueller tak­ing over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Trump’s tweet also refers to Ama­zon.com, the on­line re­tailer led by Jeff Be­zos, who also owns the Post.

A Jus­tice De­part­ment spokesman de­clined to com­ment on what she called a “wholly un­cor­rob­o­rated in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cept” and re­it­er­ated that Ses­sions had not dis­cussed in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion. Trump has been an­gered that Ses­sions re­cused him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The pres­i­dent told The New York Times last week that he would not have named Ses­sions at­tor­ney gen­eral if he had known he would do so.

In yet an­other tweet, Trump at­tacked the Times for re­ports that Is­lamic State

leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, whose death in a Rus­sian airstrike had been spec­u­lated last month, is still alive, ac­cord­ing to Pen­tagon of­fi­cials.

Gen. Tony Thomas has told re­porters that a Times story in 2015 about us­ing cer­tain data to track Is­lamic State fight­ers that was gleaned in a 2015 raid in Syria that killed mil­i­tant Abu Sayyaf re­sulted in U.S. forces los­ing the trail to al-Bagh­dadi. Thomas men­tioned the mat­ter again Fri­day at a se­cu­rity fo­rum in Aspen, Colo., and his re­marks were fea­tured in a Fox News re­port, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

The Pen­tagon raised no ob­jec­tions with the Times be­fore the story was pub­lished, and no se­nior Amer­i­can of­fi­cial ever com­plained pub­licly about it un­til now.

“The Fail­ing New York Times foiled U.S. at­tempt to kill the sin­gle most wanted

ter­ror­ist, Al-Bagh­dadi. Their sick agenda over Na­tional Se­cu­rity,” Trump tweeted Satur­day.

Trump also said “Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors must step up to the plate and, af­ter 7 years, vote to Re­peal and Re­place” health care law passed dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ten­ure. An ef­fort to ad­vance leg­is­la­tion col­lapsed in the Se­nate last week af­ter sev­eral Repub­li­cans said they wouldn’t vote for the bill.

Trump ended the tweet with “Tax Re­form and In­fra­struc­ture. WIN!”

Trump

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