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At CIA, Trump Calls House Intel Chair Who Sought To Unmask Informant ‘Courageous,’ Says ‘America Is Respected Again’

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WASHINGTON, May 21, 2018 — The last time President Donald Trump spoke at the Langley, Virginia headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, he attacked the press and bragged about his election victory. This time, he threw shade at his predecessor and praised the House Intelligence Committee Chairman who has sought to obtain the name of a CIA operative.

As Trump opened his remarks introducing the agency’s incoming director, Gina Haspel, he thanked a number of administration officials in attendance as well as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., before thanking Nunes, who he called “a very courageous man.”

Nunes is one of several Republicans seeking to force the Department of Justice to reveal the name of an informant who has worked with both the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the past.

While the informant’s name has been reported in numerous media outlets, Justice Department and intelligence officials have pushed back against the request, which they say would set a dangerous precedent.

As Trump introduced Haspel, he told the audience of CIA employees that her time as the agency’s first female director comes “at a crucial moment in our history.”

“We are reasserting American strength and American confidence.  And, by the way, America is respected again,” Trump said. “You see that.”

“Instead of apologizing for our nation, we are standing up for our nation, and we are standing up for the men and women who protect our nation,” Trump added, taking a dig at his predecessor, Barack Obama.

After Obama took office in 2009, Republicans derided his efforts to repair overseas relationships strained by George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq as an “apology tour.”

The “apology tour” trope became such a common feature of Republican rhetoric during Obama’s first term that his 2012 Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, called his campaign manifesto “No Apologies.”

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

White House

Conway Denies Trump Used ‘N-Word’ Despite Recording Of Staffer Admitting ‘He Said It’

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WASHINGTON, August 14, 2018 — Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday said she knows nothing about a tape on which President Donald Trump is alleged to have used a racial slur referring to African-Americans.

“I know nothing about it, actually,” Conway said while speaking to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House.

Conway, who managed Trump’s 2016 campaign during the last months before the election, contradicted herself shortly after by admitting that she’d discussed the alleged recording with then-candidate Trump.

She explained that “it was [her] job to tell the president every rumor, innuendo, fact, fiction.”

But she maintained that during her tenure with Trump, she’d never heard him use language along those lines.

“I’ve worked alongside Donald Trump for two straight years, I’ve never heard him say anything about that,” she said.

Rumors of the so-called “N-word tape” had dogged Trump since his days as a candidate and reached a fever pitch after the release of a tape depicting an appearance by Trump on “Access Hollywood,” in which he boasted of grabbing women by the genitals. 

The days after the October 7 release of the “Access Hollywood” tape became a crucible for Trump’s long-shot campaign, and he has since divided Republicans into two groups — those who stuck with him after the tape’s release, and those who called for him to drop out of the race.

That tape gave rise to yet more talk of more tapes, with much of that talk coming from Actor Tom Arnold, a former contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Arnold has repeatedly suggested, during the campaign and afterward, that reality show producer Mark Burnett, who controls the master tapes of “The Apprentice” and its related shows, is in possession numerous recordings which document Trump’s routine use of insensitive and/or offensive language on the set of his show.

But Burnett has refused to release any such tapes, citing intellectual property concerns, and Arnold’s credibility was called into question after he falsely claimed to be working with ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen during a live TV interview.

But the same rumors began to look more credible Tuesday morning, after ex-Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released a recording of several Trump campaign aides, including current campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, discussing the tape.

On the recording, Pierson told fellow aide Lynne Patton: “He said it [the N-word]. No, he said it. He’s embarrassed.”

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"Game On"

Defense Secretary Mattis Weighing 2020 Bid, Predicts He’d ‘Kick Trump’s Ass’

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President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Defense Department Photo / U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2018 — Secretary of Defense James Mattis believes he would easily defeat President Donald Trump in a 2020 primary matchup and has been actively considering mounting a White House run for some time, according to sources close to the secretary.

Mattis, 67, has been weighing a run for the presidency since May of this year, when he began bankrolling the efforts of a presidential exploratory committee.

That effort has thus far stayed under the radar through the use of non-disclosure agreements with vendors, solidarity among the Mattis loyalists involved and because exploratory committees are not required to file any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Still, rumors of his possible ambitions have been whispered in high-level Republican circles.

Speaking more openly about a challenge to President Trump

The retired four-star Marine Corps general has recently begun speaking more openly about the possibility of challenging the president who convinced him to return to public service after six years in retirement.

Mattis, one of his senior aides said, raised the issue of his electoral potential last week during a high-level Pentagon meeting, in which he, along with 10-15 of the country’s top civilian and military defense officials, discussed ways to maintain continuity of Defense Department operations in the event that Mattis abruptly resigns or is fired from the cabinet.

“I’d kick Trump’s ass in 2020, and I just might have to!” Mattis said, according to a source.

A Mattis candidacy might make the 2020 election as unprecedented as the 2016 contest

A Mattis primary run might make the 2020 GOP primary as unprecedented as its 2016 predecessor, pitting a complete newcomer to electoral politics against a president who, with only one primary and one general election victory under his belt, is almost as inexperienced.

Trump rode to his 2016 victory over a massive slate of GOP hopefuls on the strength of widespread name recognition from years of hosting a hit television show, and further took advantage of natural divisions in the electorate with at least 17 candidates.

He was also able to successfully define and diminish the few candidates who might have stood out by perfecting his use of base insults and nicknames like “Liddle Marco [Rubio] and “Lyin’ Ted [Cruz]” before deploying the same tactic against “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.

Would a divide and conquer strategy work against Trump’s military chief?

However, the same divide-and-conquer strategy might not work against a single challenger. Further, Trump may have trouble finding traction for schoolyard taunts when confronted with an opponent like Mattis, someone on whom Trump has frequently lavished praise.

Mattis came out of retirement to become the 26th defense secretary, after having risen through the ranks of the Marine Corps to become a four-star general.

A Mattis confidante who holds a major role in his exploratory committee told BeltwayBreakfast that even at this early stage, there are plenty of reasons for optimism when it comes to his chances.

Despite the low public profile Mattis has kept as Secretary of Defense, the committee’s internal polling shows that he would start a campaign with significant support from a wide swath of the electorate, said the longtime Mattis aide.

The aide said their polling shows that even before any sort of campaign announcement or publicity, Mattis would begin with support from 50 to 60 percent of white men (depending on the state), a key GOP constituency and one of the demographic groups that normally make up the backbone of President Trump’s loyal base.

Mattis also polls at 45 to 50 percent support among urban and educated women, and has what the aide called “decent electability numbers” among minority groups, coming in at 35 to 40 percent.

Because both of the latter two groups make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party base, if that support is translated into votes, Mattis could garner enough significant crossover to give him a boost in states that hold open primaries.

Veterans are among Mattis’ most enthusiastic supporters, the aide noted, adding 80 percent of veterans on record as supportive of his candidacy.

Mattis could begin with a level of support among Republicans in Congress, too

Mattis could also start out with a level of support from Republicans in Congress that would be unheard of for a Republican challenger to an incumbent Republican president. Indeed, the aide said, some of the most senior Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed interest in his potential candidacy.

The same aide told BeltwayBreakfast that two even more senior Republicans are contemplating throwing their weight behind a Mattis run: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Neither father nor son were among Trump’s supporters in 2016, and the aide said the only two living Republican former presidents are “almost on board” with lending their support to help add Donald Trump to their ranks.

Another reason for optimism, the aide said, is that in the past three months, Mattis’ exploratory committee has put together the resources necessary to have an organization ready to go from the moment an official announcement is made.

“The day we launch we open up a field office in almost every state,” he said.

This will be possible, he said, because Republican donors would be behind Mattis in enough of a big way that the RNC and Trump’s campaign “are in big trouble if Mattis decides to run.”

Asked to elaborate further, the aide offered a bold prediction: “If Mattis were to announce that he decided to run for President, his war chest would be equal to that of Hillary Clinton by June of next year.”

As for when — or if — that announcement will come, Mattis’ longtime aide and confidante explained that whatever decision gets made, it’ll be made based on the defense secretary’s belief that a second White House term for his boss would be “devastating” for the country. 

Mattis “is ready to run,” he said, even if he may not yet have admitted it. “You can see it in his eyes.”

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Courts

‘This Is All Bogus, And It’s To Take Control Over The Judiciary’ — A Veteran Administrative Law Judge Slams Trump’s Order Making ALJs Political Appointees

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WASHINGTON, July 11, 2018 — A veteran Administrative Law Judge says President Trump’s new executive order governing the hiring of ALJs could mean the end for many Americans’ right to have disputes against the government heard by a neutral arbiter.

The July 10 order, entitled “Excepting Administrative Law Judges From The Competitive Service,” puts an end to the system of selecting ALJs by their performance on a competitive examination and exempts them from the civil service protections to which they’ve long been entitled.

The White House says the order is necessary because of a Supreme Court ruling, Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which rejected a challenge to an Administrative Law Judge’s decision by finding them to be “inferior officers” under the Appointments Clause of the constitution.

White House says the order is necessary but a longtime Administrative Law Judge says there was no reason for it

A White House official told BeltwayBreakfast that any new judges hired under the new order would have statutory protections under the Administrative Procedure Act, the order specifically exempts them from civil service regulations.

But in an interview with BeltwayBreakfast, the veteran Administrative Law Judge, who hears cases at the Social Security Administration and has been active in the Association of Administrative Law Judges — the federal ALJ union — for many years, called the order a completely unnecessary assault on Americans’ right to due process.

BeltwayBreakfast is not naming the judge at his or her request because he or she was not speaking on behalf of the ALJ union and because he or she fears the Trump administration would retaliate against him or her for speaking to the press.

“[Trump] didn’t have to do any of this. This is all bogus, and it’s to take control over the judiciary,” said the judge. “This is a total assault on due process for the American people.”

The Lucia decision did not require any change in the way Administrative Law Judges are hired, the judge said, because it affirmed the source of current judges’ authority under the constitution.

In that case, the court ruled 7-2 against the petitioner, Raymond Lucia, who’d argued that the Securities and Exchange Commission judge who’d found him to have violated the law was not an “Officer of the United States.”

Ending competitive selection means a return to the spoils system

The judge told BeltwayBreakfast that nothing in that decision requires an end to the competitive selection process that has been used for many, many years, but suggested the White House is ending it anyway in order to reward their friends and rig the system.

“What it really means…is that the administration can hire 1000 attorneys with no experience, make them judges, and take over the process,” the judge said. “If you eliminate merit-selected judges it becomes a patronage game.”

The judge explained that if you can appoint a person under the Appointment Clause the person who is appointed can be removed just as easily.

“This is really about removal,” the judge said. “The new ones who are being appointed as ‘excepted ALJs’ have no protections whatsoever. I’m sure they’ll be hired as managers, which means they can’t unionize. I’m sure they’ll be employees-at-will, and if they don’t what the appointer tells them to do, they’ll be fired.”

While the White House has pointed to the current force of merit-selected judges — who cannot be fired without cause — as a reason that Americans should not be concerned, the longtime ALJ union official said the Trump administration doesn’t need to fire them to rig the process.

The Trump administration’s ‘endgame’ could be court packing to crowd out existing judges

“Here’s what I posit: They’ll hire 1,000 new judges, all managers, given a quota and told what to do. They’ll be given all the cases, as many as they can to reduce the backlog of 1 million cases. And they’ll RIF [Reduction In Force] us. They lay us off. They’re not firing us, they’re not removing us, but they’re saying ‘we don’t have any work for you,” said the judge. “I don’t want to put ideas into anybody’s head, but guess what? That’s the endgame.”

What’s more, the veteran judge suggested that it’s no coincidence that this new order was signed one day after a May executive order, which severely limits federal employee unions’ ability to represent their members during working hours or with government resources, went into effect.

“Don’t you think it’s interesting that on Monday, we were officially muzzled, and on Tuesday they drop this executive order knowing we can’t fight it?” the judge asked.

The longtime ALJ explained that Americans should be frightened at the prospect of not being able to have disputes heard by independent arbiters. Even people who aren’t pro-union “need to start waking up,” the judge said, calling the order “a frightening, frightening development.”

‘Give grandma her day in court’

Even Republicans in Congress have to understand, this is really dangerous, dangerous stuff,” the judge said, noting that Securities and Exchange Commission judges who rule against Wall Street could be removed, as well as Social Security Administration judges who rule in favor of too many Americans.

Deep red state Republican-leaning constituencies could also lose out with the loss of independent Administrative Law Judges, the judge explained, noting that Department of Labor has an ALJ staff to hear “black lung cases,” and they could lose their jobs under the new rules if they rule against coal companies.

“Does [civil service protection] benefit us as federal employees? Yes it does. But the real issue is due process for the American people. It’s not about us and your hatred of federal employees,” the judge said.

“There are people behind these jobs that help you, the American public. I’m here to protect your due process, I’m here to give your grandmother’s disability case a fair shake — give grandma her day in court.”

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