Pres­i­dent takes aim at ‘fake news,’ Sen. Blu­men­thal

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Peter Baker of The New York Times and by Donna Cas­sata of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

“I’m very con­cerned that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice is weaponiz­ing these laws for its per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal ends, and specif­i­cally for the White House’s pur­poses.”

Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn., speak­ing on CNN about a crack­down on leaks, just be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump be­gan tweet­ing about him

BRIDGE­WA­TER, N.J. — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump broke away from his sum­mer va­ca­tion Mon­day for a bar­rage of Twit­ter posts crit­i­ciz­ing the “Fake News” me­dia and in­sist­ing that his po­lit­i­cal base was “get­ting stronger” de­spite in­ves­ti­ga­tions into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween Rus­sia and his as­so­ciates.

Ris­ing early at his golf re­sort in nearby Bed­min­ster, where he ar­rived Fri­day for the start of a 17-day es­cape from Wash­ing­ton, Trump vented his frus­tra­tion that he is not get­ting suf­fi­cient credit for his po­lit­i­cal strength and the ac­com­plish­ments of his 6-month-old pres­i­dency.

“The Trump base is far big­ger & stronger than ever be­fore (de­spite some phony Fake News polling). Look at ral­lies in Penn, Iowa, Ohio and West Vir­ginia,” he said on Twit­ter in a string of mes­sages. “The fact is the Fake News Rus­sian col­lu­sion story, record Stock Mar­ket, bor­der se­cu­rity, mil­i­tary strength, jobs, Supreme Court pick, eco­nomic en­thu­si­asm, dereg­u­la­tion & so much more have driven the Trump base even closer to­gether. Will never change!”

He added: “Hard to be­lieve that with 24/7 # Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, NYTIMES & WAPO, the Trump base is get­ting stronger!”

Trump trav­eled to New Jersey while the West Wing un­der­goes a ren­o­va­tion to up­grade the air con­di­tion­ing. The fur­ni­ture has been re­moved from the Oval Of­fice and most of the staff re­lo­cated to an of­fice build­ing next door.

The pres­i­dent, who has not been seen in pub­lic since ar­riv­ing, cited this to ar­gue that he was not re­ally on va­ca­tion and noted that he will travel to New York for work dur­ing the sec­ond half of his get­away. He had ear­lier in­sisted that Congress not go on va­ca­tion un­til it passed leg­is­la­tion re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act, but the bill was de­feated in the Senate and law­mak­ers have now left town.

“Work­ing hard from New Jersey while White House goes through long planned ren­o­va­tion,” he wrote. “Go­ing to New York next week for more meet­ings.”

His staff later re­ported that he re­ceived his daily in­tel­li­gence brief­ing and held an hour­long call with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, who up­dated the pres­i­dent about his trip to Asia and dis­cussed North Korea with him. John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, who spent the week­end in New Jersey with the pres­i­dent, also joined the call.

Trump’s boasts about his sup­port among his base il­lus­trated his fo­cus on hold­ing his core back­ers even as polls show that his ap­proval rat­ings have con­tin­ued to fall across the board.

His ap­proval re­mains stronger among Repub­li­cans than the gen­eral pub­lic, though his sup­port has fallen within his own party as well.

In his morn­ing tweets, Trump went af­ter some of his most con­sis­tent tar­gets, in­clud­ing The New York Times and Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn.

“The fail­ing @ nytimes, which has made every wrong pre­dic­tion about me in­clud­ing my big elec­tion win (apol­o­gized), is to­tally in­ept!” he wrote. He did not spec­ify any par­tic­u­lar ar­ti­cle that an­gered him, though Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence is­sued a sharp state­ment Sun­day re­ject­ing a Times story re­port­ing that he was po­si­tion­ing him­self to run for pres­i­dent in 2020 if Trump did not seek re-elec­tion.

The as­ser­tion that the news­pa­per apol­o­gized for its cov­er­age last year is not true, but Trump has con­tin­ued to say it even af­ter be­ing re­peat­edly cor­rected. In a let­ter to read­ers af­ter the elec­tion, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the pub­lisher, and Dean Ba­quet, the ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor, wrote that the sur­prise elec­tion re­sult raised a ques­tion: “Did Don­ald Trump’s sheer un­con­ven­tion­al­ity lead us and other news out­lets to un­der­es­ti­mate his sup­port among Amer­i­can vot­ers?”


Trump has reg­u­larly as­sailed Blu­men­thal when he has seen him on tele­vi­sion crit­i­ciz­ing him.

Trump’s ini­tial crit­i­cism Mon­day morn­ing came shortly af­ter Blu­men­thal, a mem­ber of the Senate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, was in­ter­viewed on CNN. The se­na­tor dis­cussed sev­eral topics, in­clud­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s crack­down on leak­ers, new sanc­tions on North Korea and re­ports that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller has im­pan­eled a grand jury in his in­quiry into Rus­sia med­dling and po­ten­tial ties to the Trump cam­paign.

“I’m very con­cerned that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice is weaponiz­ing these laws for its per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal ends, and specif­i­cally for the White House’s pur­poses,” Blu­men­thal said. He warned of a “chill­ing ef­fect on the press and whistle­blow­ers.”

The two-term Con­necti­cut se­na­tor and former state at­tor­ney gen­eral cred­ited the me­dia for its re­port­ing on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. He said Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion must be pur­sued.

“The im­pan­el­ment of the grand jury shows that Bob Mueller is pur­su­ing this po­ten­tial wrong­do­ing by the Rus­sians, the at­tack on our democ­racy, se­ri­ously and dili­gently. There is no min­i­miz­ing … that at­tack by the Rus­sians,” Blu­men­thal said, be­fore point­ing out the “po­ten­tial col­lu­sion by the Trump cam­paign and then ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.”

He said “that in­ves­ti­ga­tion must be pur­sued.”

“In­ter­est­ing to watch Se­na­tor Richard Blu­men­thal of Con­necti­cut talk­ing about hoax Rus­sian col­lu­sion when he was a phony Viet­nam con artist!” Trump wrote on Twit­ter. “Never in U.S. his­tory has any­one lied or de­frauded vot­ers like Se­na­tor Richard Blu­men­thal. He told sto­ries about his Viet­nam bat­tles and con­quests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for for­give­ness like a child. Now he judges col­lu­sion?”

Blu­men­thal re­ceived at least five de­fer­ments from mil­i­tary ser­vice dur­ing the Viet­nam era and then went into the Ma­rine Re­serve, where he served in a unit in Wash­ing­ton. As a politi­cian, he re­ferred to him­self as hav­ing “served in Viet­nam” or “served dur­ing the Viet­nam era.” The ar­ti­cle ex­pos­ing these false state­ments in 2010 did not, how­ever, re­port that he told sto­ries about Viet­nam bat­tles or con­quests. Trump re­ceived five de­fer­ments from the draft: four for col­lege and one for bad feet.

Blu­men­thal re­sponded us­ing Trump’s own fa­vorite medium. “Mr. Pres­i­dent: Your bul­ly­ing hasn’t worked be­fore and it won’t work now. No one is above the law,” he wrote on Twit­ter. “This is­sue isn’t about me — it’s about the Spe­cial Coun­sel’s in­de­pen­dence and in­tegrity.”

Nine hours af­ter the tweet­storm, Trump was back at it again, with a new broad­side against Blu­men­thal via Twit­ter: “I think Se­na­tor Blu­men­thal should take a nice long va­ca­tion in Viet­nam, where he lied about his ser­vice, so he can at least say he was there.”

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