Former FBI agent Peter Strzok claims government violated his privacy, free speech rights

He argues the Justice Department improperly released his text messages.

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok is claiming the government violated his First Amendment rights by releasing his private text messages that contained his political opinion about President Donald Trump.

In a new court filing Monday, Strzok and his attorneys argue that the Justice Department violated his protected free speech by releasing the text messages he exchanged with then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote in one text. “No. No he won’t,” Strzok responded. “We’ll stop it.” He also called Trump an “idiot.”

Strozk, citing what appears to be a private exchange between him and Page, claims that the FBI fired him because he expressed his political beliefs.

Justice Department lawyers argue that it wasn’t the political speech that he was fired for, but because Page and Strozk used their work phones.

Strozk claims others who made similar political remarks, but in favor of President Trump, were not punished.

“This disparate and discriminatory treatment is but one example of a broader pattern,” his suit says. “Throughout the Trump Administration, there has been a pattern of treating political speech by federal employees differently based on its content. While Plaintiff and many others who have criticized the President have faced discipline, up to and including termination, revocation of security clearances, and threats of criminal prosecution, federal employees who praise President Trump and/or attack his political rivals have faced no consequences.”

Strozk originally sued DOJ in August, claiming that the FBI and DOJ unlawfully disclosed his private text messages that disparaged Trump before and after the 2016 presidential election — including the time frame during which Strzok helped lead the agency’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump has made Strzok a frequent target, citing those disparaging texts, and has repeatedly argued that Strzok’s political bias tainted the early stages of the Russia investigation.

Strzok’s claims of privacy and free speech violations mirror those made in a lawsuit filed by Page.

Page sued the FBI and DOJ earlier this year, alleging her privacy was violated by the release of texts she exchanged with Strzok.

She contends that, after the disclosure of the text messages, she was targeted by President Trump and his allies.

Both claim that DOJ violated the Privacy Act by releasing the text messages to the press.

“Upon information and belief, the disclosures to the media were intended to discredit the Mueller investigation, engender public distrust of the FBI and the intelligence community, and otherwise serve the partisan political agenda of President Trump and his political allies,” Strzok’s recent court filing says.

Former DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isagur Flores refuted the claim that DOJ mislead Congress and didn’t conduct a “thoughtful review” from career officials.

“As the DAG said, after initial inquiries from Congress, the DAG consulted with the IG, and the IG determined that he had no objection to the Department providing the material to the Congressional committees that had requested it (discussion w IG was only about Congress),” she tweeted in December 2017.

“After that consultation, senior career ethics advisors determined that there were no legal or ethical concerns, including under the Privacy Act, that prohibited the release of the information to the public either by members of Congress or by the Department,” Flores said.

In the new court filing, Strozk also takes issue with the process by which he was terminated.

“Plaintiff also expressed deep concerns with the lack of due process in his disciplinary process, citing the following facts: repeated public and private statements by President Trump demanding that Plaintiff be fired; Plaintiff’s inability to access his own files or the thousands of pages of materials relied upon by OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility); and “the unusual and unprecedented speed of OPR’s process,” evidenced by the fact that OPR’s letter to Plaintiff still contained language keyed to a prior version of the OIG report that had been changed in the final report, which suggested “a rush to judgment which undermines [Plaintiff’s] right to due process.”

ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

Collins knocks McConnell, Democrats: Inappropriate to prejudge Trump trial | TheHill

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins says she’s ‘open’ to calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial Navy proposes construction cutbacks, ship retirements, curtailing fleet goal Senate GOP wants speedy Trump acquittal MORE (R-Maine) criticized both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Susan Collins says she’s ‘open’ to calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial Pelosi’s half right constitutional claim leaves the House all wrong MORE (R-Ky.) and Democrats for weighing in on the impeachment trial, saying that senators shouldn’t “prejudge” the evidence. 

“It is inappropriate, in my judgment, for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence before they have heard what is presented to us, because the each of us will take an oath, an oath that I take very seriously, to render impartial justice,” Collins told Maine Public Radio, asked about McConnell’s pledge to coordinate with the White House.

Collins singled out both McConnell and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenButtigieg says he wouldn’t have wanted son to serve on Ukrainian board Progressive journalist: ‘Sanders’s presidency is a threat of an entirely new party’ Ensuring schools are ‘inclusive’ can backfire in the classroom MORE (D-Mass.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, as two senators who have made comments that raise questions about their ability to be impartial during the Senate trial.

“I have heard Democrats like Elizabeth Warren saying that the president should be impeached, found guilty and removed from office. I’ve heard the Senate majority leader saying that he’s taking his cues from the White House. There are senators on both sides of the aisle, who, to me, are not giving the appearance of and the reality of judging that’s in an impartial way,” she said.

Collins, viewed as a crucial swing vote in the looming impeachment trial, is the second Republican senator who has raised concerns about McConnell’s comments during the past week.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSen. Kennedy defends McConnell for working with president during impeachment trial Scalise on impeachment trial: Pelosi ‘can run for the Senate if she wants to be a senator’ Pelosi gets under Trump’s skin on impeachment MORE (R-Alaska) told an Alaska TV station that she was “disturbed” by the GOP leader’s pledge of “total coordination.”

McConnell has tied himself closely to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Tulsi Gabbard: Impeachment has ‘greatly increased the likelihood’ of Trump reelection and GOP retaking House Susan Collins says she’s ‘open’ to calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial MORE as he’s plotted the party’s impeachment strategy. He said during a Fox News interview earlier this month that he will be in “total coordination” with the White House. He also told reporters during a separate press conference that he was “not an impartial juror” in the looming trial.

The remarks have earned the GOP leader bipartisan flack from lawmakers, though his allies have been quick to note that some Democrats have already indicated they think Trump should be removed from office.

Collins’s comments to the Maine radio station on Monday mark a further distancing from McConnell’s rhetoric. She initially told reporters in Washington that McConnell’s pledge of coordination “would not be the approach that I’ve taken.”

Democrats are hoping to drive a wedge between potential swing Republicans, like Collins and Murkowski, and McConnell as they look to win over four GOP senators to support their call for witnesses and documents.

Collins told the Maine radio station that she was “open” to witnesses, but also appeared to endorse McConnell’s floated structure saying that a decision on who, if anyone, should testify should wait until after both sides have presented their opening arguments.

Collins pointed to the impeachment trial of former President Clinton as a potential framework for the Trump trial. In 1999, the Senate passed a resolution in a 100-0 vote that established the process for a trial, and then passed a second resolution along party lines that called for closed-door depositions with three witnesses.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Giuliani associate to turn over iPhone data, documents to House committee Hanukkah attack highlights disturbing rise of anti-Semitic violence MORE (D-N.Y.) has said he wants the Senate to pass one resolution at the outset of the trial that would deal with both procedure and an agreement on specific witnesses.

6 suspected gang members arrested in shooting in Fresno backyard that killed 4

FRESNO, Calif. — Six suspected gang members have been arrested in a shooting that killed four people and injured several others during a backyard party, the Fresno Police Department said Tuesday

Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall said the suspects are all self-admitted gang members and that they carried out the shooting to retaliate against a rival gang they believed was responsible for the death hours earlier of the brother of one of the shooters.

Fresno police served 19 search warrants Dec. 26, recovering two guns used in the slayings, including one that was stolen from Oklahoma.

In the Nov. 17 shooting, at least two suspects entered a backyard on East Lamona Avenue in southeast Fresno and opened fire. The home is about a half-mile from the Fresno Airport.

Ten people were shot and four died. 

All the victims were of Hmong descent. Fresno is home to the second-largest Hmong community in the U.S. The men who were killed were Xy Lee, 23; Phia Vang, 31;  Kou Xiong, 38; and Kalaxang Thao, 40. 

Fresno Police reported that the two suspects had automatic weapons and snuck into the backyard party while a group of people were watching the Los Angeles Rams-Chicago Bears Sunday Night Football game.

About 35 people were in attendance when the shooting began. The suspects opened fire on the 16 people in the yard, while the rest of the partygoers –  mostly women and children inside the house – were unharmed.

Police have confirmed that the shooting was gang-related but say the victims are not believed to be associated with a gang. 

Background:4 dead in ‘mass casualty shooting’ at Sunday Night Football party in California

Coroners prepare to remove the bodies of shooting victims as Fresno Police investigate a shooting on Nov. 18, 2019.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Kansas officer resigned over alleged bogus complaint against McDonalds workers

The police chief said the officer is no longer an employee of his department.

A Kansas police officer is out of a job after an internal probe showed he allegedly fabricated a complaint that employees at a McDonald’s wrote an obscenity directed at him and law enforcement on a receipt for his morning cup of joe, authorities said.

The Herington Police Department officer, whose name was not released, tendered his resignation after an investigation determined he concocted the incident that made national headlines and prompted threats against McDonald’s employees, officials said.

“In that investigation, we have found that McDonald’s and its employees did not have anything whatsoever to do with this incident. This was completely and solely fabricated by a Herington Police officer, who is no longer employed with our agency,” Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday said during a news conference at the Junction City, Kansas, McDonald’s that was wrongly accused.

The episode — which Hornaday described as a “black eye on law enforcement” — unfolded just after 6 a.m. on Saturday when the now-former officer stopped by the McDonald’s in his hometown of Junction City, a suburb of Topeka, and ordered a cup of premium-roast coffee with sugar, authorities said.

The officer, a member of the Herington Police force for just two months, claimed that one of the employees wrote the words “F—— pig” on his receipt, which he turned over as evidence to the Geary County Sheriff’s Department for investigation, authorities said. The sheriff’s department immediately launched a probe and released a statement saying it was “saddened by seeing this incident in our community.”

Hornaday said that at first, the McDonald’s workers felt so bad about the incident they offered the officer a free lunch, prompting the chief to initially say, “a Big Mac and large fries doesn’t make up for it.”

Sensing something was off about the officer’s complaint, McDonald’s initiated its own investigation that suggested the incident was a hoax, said Lenor Brazzi, director of operations for the McDonald’s franchise owner Dana Cook.

“We’re glad that the evidence confirmed our evaluation that the McDonald’s and our employees, crew members, were absolutely not involved,” Brazzi said at the joint news conference with Hornaday. “We stand with our community in being disappointed about these actions.”

Hornaday the officer in question claimed it was all a “joke” that quickly got out of hand.

“The most important thing that could have been done and should have been done in this scenario was to come forward immediately prior to damage being done, prior to this becoming a nationwide incident. However, unfortunately, that was not done,” Hornaday said.

He said his biggest fear now is that the “American public will look at this situation and call into question the integrity of any other officer in this country.”

“The actions of this former officer are absolutely and in no way reflective of the values and the typical character of the Herington Police Department,” Chief Hornaday said. “The duty of every police officer is to protect and serve with the highest level of integrity and trust. This incident has been an obvious violation of that public trust.”

While he said he wanted to release the former officer’s name, he explained that he was advised not to do so “due to the matter being a personnel issue.”

Hornaday said he discussed the case with Dickinson County Attorney Andrea Purvis and that based on the information she believes no criminal charges are warranted.

“I truly hope that the former officer of the Herington Police Department that did this understands the magnitude of the black eye this gives the law enforcement profession from coast to coast,” Hornaday said. “None of us can be excluded from that.”

Schumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of game changer report | TheHill

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Giuliani associate to turn over iPhone data, documents to House committee Hanukkah attack highlights disturbing rise of anti-Semitic violence MORE (D-N.Y.) on Monday renewed his call for key Trump administration figures to testify during the Senate impeachment trial in the wake of a New York Times report detailing the White House’s efforts to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

“Simply put, in our fight to have key documents and witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a game changer,” Schumer said at a press conference just a day after the Times published an explosive story offering new details about some White House officials’ actions in blocking Ukrainian military aid. 

The report showed the role officials such as acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Susan Collins says she’s ‘open’ to calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial ‘Will a majority of senators pursue the truth over all else?’ Doug Jones asks in op-ed MORE played after Trump directed his administration to withhold the aid. Among other things, it showed that Mulvaney and Robert Blair, assistant to the president and senior adviser to Mulvaney, were aware that the move would prompt backlash from Congress. 

The Times also noted that Trump declined to release the aid despite appeals from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Susan Collins says she’s ‘open’ to calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial ‘Will a majority of senators pursue the truth over all else?’ Doug Jones asks in op-ed MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report US airstrikes take tensions with Iran to new level Pompeo: Running for Senate ‘not something I want to do’ MORE and Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report US airstrikes take tensions with Iran to new level Iranian-backed militia says US strikes killed 25, vow revenge MORE.  

“This new story shows all four witnesses we Senate Democrats have requested were intimately involved and had direct knowledge of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchumer renews call for witnesses to testify in impeachment trial in wake of ‘game changer’ report Tulsi Gabbard: Impeachment has ‘greatly increased the likelihood’ of Trump reelection and GOP retaking House Susan Collins says she’s ‘open’ to calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial MORE’s decision to cut off aid in order to benefit himself,” Schumer said. 

“And when you combine these new revelations with the explosive emails from Michael Duffey released last weekend, it makes the strongest case yet for a Senate trial to include the witnesses and documents we have requested,” he added, referencing newly disclosed emails that showed Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, told the Pentagon to withhold Ukrainian military aid just hours after Trump’s infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

The House earlier this month voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Ahead of the vote, Schumer wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and called for Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffey and Blair to testify as witnesses during a trial.  

But McConnell said that the trial should not include witnesses and has argued that lawmakers have “heard enough” amid the impeachment proceedings. Trump said in mid-December that McConnell could decide on whether there would be witnesses in the upper chamber trial. 

Robert Driscoll, a lawyer for Mulvaney, told the Times that the acting chief of staff would consider a request to testify in consultation with the White House. 

“I hope every Republican senator should read this story and explain why they would oppose our reasonable request for witnesses and documents in the Senate trial,” Schumer said. “This story makes the choice even clearer: Will the Senate hold a fair trial, or will it enable a cover-up?”              

US Army bans TikTok on work mobile phones

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The US Army has banned the use of the increasingly popular TikTok app on work mobile phones for security reasons.

The app, owned by the Chinese company, ByteDance, has come under close scrutiny recently in the US and other countries.

US Army spokeswoman, Lt Col Robin Ochoa, told US media it was considered “a cyber threat”.

The app allows its more than half a billion users worldwide to post short, often quirky, self-edited videos.

TikTok is a draw for its mainly young users attracted by the ability to make and share 15-second videos, such as lip-synching to songs and comedy skits.

All accounts are by default public, though subscribers have the ability to restrict this.

Col Ochoa told Military.Com that the Army had advised its personnel to stop using the app on government-owned phones from the middle of December. It follows a similar move by the US Navy.

The military cannot prevent its use on private phones but the Department of Defence recently issued guidance for employees “to be wary of applications you download”.

‘Foreign influence’

Lawmakers have voiced concerns that the app can be used to collect US citizens’ data and poses a risk to national security because it could be forced to co-operate in Chinese intelligence gathering.

Democratic and Republican senators called in October for an investigation by intelligence agencies into the national security risks posed by TikTok.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton suggested that TikTok could also be used for a foreign-influence campaign similar to that carried out on social media in the 2016 US presidential election.

In its defence, TikTok said recently that all US user data was located outside China, and not subject to Chinese law. It also had strong policies on cyber-security and data privacy.

Speaking to the BBC in November, TikTok said that changes made over the course of 2019 included strengthening the capabilities and autonomy of the US team.

TikTok also hired a company to carry out an audit to make sure users’ data is not sent to China using third-party apps that can plug into the app.

Thousands of Australians flee to beaches as wildfires rage

Thousands of Australians fled their homes on New Year’s Eve, taking refuge on beaches from raging wildfires that turned the sky bright red, destroyed houses and businesses, and caused deaths in the country’s most populous states.

The devastating fires, fed by intense heat and winds, rampaged across Australia’s southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria heading into the new year, turning coastal towns into dangerous traps and forcing residents to the oceanside.

As of 3 a.m. local time on Jan. 1, there were 112 fires burning across New South Wales, with several large and dangerous fires continuing to burn on the southern coast, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. More than 2,500 firefighters were combating the fires, according to the fire service.

Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews requested assistance from 70 firefighters from the U.S. and Canada, while Australia’s military sent air and sea reinforcements, The Associated Press reported.

Officials said all telecommunications, including cell phone coverage, would be lost overnight on the New South Wales south coast between the towns of Nowra and Moruya, and that hospitals would be among the impacted facilities, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The remains of burnt buildings on the main street of Cobargo on Dec. 31.Sean Davey / AFP – Getty Images
Children wear masks to protect them from smoke as they play at an evacuation site in Bega, New South Wales, on Dec. 31.Sean Davey / AFP – Getty Images

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The massive blazes have already destroyed more than 10 million acres of bush and 1,000 homes after the devastating fire season began early this year in September. Record-breaking heat, windy conditions and ongoing drought have exacerbated the blazes this annual fire season — a combination that environmentalists say has been exacerbated by climate change.

Australia recorded its hottest day on record in mid-December, beating a record set just the day before. This comes after Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology declared Spring 2019 to be the driest on record.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the Sydney Morning Herald it was “absolutely” the worst bushfire season on record.

“What we really need is meaningful rain and we haven’t got anything in the forecast at the moment that says we’re going to get drought-breaking or fire quenching rainfall,” he said.

In Mallacoota, in the state of Victoria, about 4,000 people swarmed to the beach to escape the fires, according to authorities. An image released to AFP/Getty Images showed people taking shelter offshore on a boat near Mallacoota, covering their mouths as they are surrounded by orange sky.

“The community right now is under threat, but they will, we will hold our line, and they will be saved and protected,” Steve Warrington, chief officer at Victorian Country Fire Authority, said Tuesday.

People take shelter from bush fires in a boat just offshore of Mallacoota, New South Wales, on Dec. 31, 2019.Courtesy of Ida Dempsey / AFP – Getty Images

Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday four people remained unaccounted for.

Police in New South Wales said Tuesday that two men, believed to be father and son, died in a house in the wildfire-ravaged southeast town of Cobargo, while there are fears for another man missing, the AP reported.

“They were obviously trying to do their best with the fire as it came through in the early hours of the morning,” New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said, according to the AP. “The other person that we are trying to get to, we think that person was trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning.”

Smoke and flames rise from burning trees near the town of Nowra in New South Wales on Dec. 31.Saeed Khan / AFP – Getty Images
A firefighter battles a bush fire near the town of Sussex Inlet on Dec. 31.Sam Mooy / Getty Images

Dramatic video captured the moment a fire crew’s truck was overrun by a bushfire south of Nowra, a town south of Sydney. The truck is seen making its way through the raging fires as smoke and embers fill the air. Massive flames are then seen surrounding the truck from all sides. Fire and Rescue New South Wales, which released the video, said the crew was forced to shelter in their truck as the fire front passed through. The fire service confirmed in a follow up post on Twitter that the crew survived the incident.

On Monday, a volunteer firefighter died when his truck was overturned in a rare fire phenomenon known as a fire tornado, authorities said.

Cyclonic winds lifted the truck — which weighs between 10 and 13 tons — and “flipped it onto its roof, trapping the people inside” and killing firefighter Samuel McPaul, 28, in the incident, Fitzsimmons said. Three others were also injured.

McPaul is survived by his wife, who is pregnant with their first child. He was due to become a father in May, officials said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed condolences to McPaul’s family, calling his death “absolutely heartbreaking.”

Fires approach a home in the outskirts of Bargo, near Sydney, on Dec. 21. David Gray / Getty Images file
Gary Hinton stands in the rubble after fires devastated the town of Cobargo, Australia, on Dec. 31.Sean Davey / AFP – Getty Images

“The fires in New South Wales and Victoria are continuing to rage and we expect further difficult news out of both of those states,” he said.

“I want to thank all of those out there fighting those fires, all of those out there supporting them in these difficult times,” he added. “The conditions remain tough and for the rest of us it’s a matter of just simply listening to the instructions, staying safe and being patient and doing what we need to do to put ourselves in a place of safety.”

Associated Press contributed.

Donald Trumps top 12 lies of 2019

He told too many lies for us to confidently pick a single most notable lie of the year. So we’ve picked our 12 most notable, one for every month. (We’re defining notable as some combination of egregious, important and bizarre.)

Trump has long seemed to relish reciting
lurid stories about the horrors of illegal immigration. During a barrage of immigration-related false claims in January, as he sought public support for the government shutdown over funding for his border wall, he came up with a vivid new tale about the logistics of human trafficking.
“And they’ll have women taped — their mouths with duct tape, with electrical tape. They tape their face, their hair, their hands behind their back, their legs. They put them in the backseat of cars and vans, and they go — they don’t come in through your port of entry because you’d see them. You couldn’t do that,” he
said during a January 14 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation. “They come in through our border, where we don’t have any barriers or walls.”
While it’s possible some women are being made to suffer such kidnapping horrors, the policy premise of Trump’s “duct tape” novellas — that trafficking victims are never transported through legal ports of entry, only through the unprotected desert — is
not at all true.

February: Imaginary voter fraud

Trump has depicted himself as a crusader against election fraud. What happened in February was telling.

On February 21, North Carolina’s elections board
ordered a new congressional election in the state’s ninth district because of an actual case of apparent election fraud — allegedly
perpetrated by a Republican operative who was
indicted the following week. On February 22, Trump was asked for his thoughts and he quickly pivoted to
imaginary election fraud in another state.
“Well, I condemn any election fraud,” he
said. “And when I look at what’s happened in California with the votes, when I look at what happened — as you know, there was just a case where they found a million fraudulent votes…”

Trump’s lying is rarely challenged in real time. This time, a reporter did try to object to the fiction about California. Trump responded with a favorite tactic: an aggressive “Excuse me, excuse me” interjection, then more dishonesty.

March: Revisionist history on “Russia, if you’re listening”

President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Nearly three years after Trump made his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” campaign request for help obtaining deleted Hillary Clinton emails, he announced a new explanation.

He had been just kidding. The media had failed to report that he had been just kidding.

“Because with the fake news — if you tell a joke, if you’re sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you’re on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like, ‘Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton’s emails. Please, Russia, please. Please get us the emails. Please!’… So everybody is having a good time. I’m laughing, we’re all having fun. And then that fake CNN and others say, ‘He asked Russia to go get the emails. Horrible.’ …These people are sick,” he
told the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2.

No, Trump didn’t make the request before 25,000 people at a rollicking arena event. No, he wasn’t laughing at the time.

Trump made his plea at a
2016 press conference, with a
straight face. He offered no indication that he was anything less than serious.

This was up-is-down fake history, one of Trump’s periodic efforts to rewrite a reality we were all able to witness.

April: “Windmills” and cancer

Trump, who has tilted at windmills for
more than a decade, made perhaps his strangest claim on the subject at a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser on April 2.
“Wind. If you — if you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75% in value. And they say the noise causes cancer,” he
said.

There might indeed be a “they” Trump has heard saying that wind turbines — which he habitually calls “windmills” — cause cancer. That should not mean the President should pass on their false claim to the country. But Trump is not only a serial liar but a serial sharer of inaccurate information he has heard from a motley collection of dubious sources — “many people,” “some people,” “they” — and not bothered to verify.

May: Two lies in one

Trump has been lying about Veterans Choice since 2018, falsely claiming he was the one who got it passed. His rendition on May 30, along with a similar claim in March, might have been the most egregious.

“I disagree with John McCain on the way he handled the vets, because I said you got to get Choice. He was never able to get Choice. I got Choice,” Trump
told reporters.
This was a double lie. In addition to taking his usual unearned credit for a program that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2014, Trump used his non-accomplishment as a cudgel against a deceased foe whose accomplishment it really was. McCain, in fact, was a
key author of the Choice bill.
What Trump signed in 2018 was the
VA MISSION Act, a law that expanded and modified the Choice program. The full name of the VA MISSION Act honors McCain: it is the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018.

June: Remains, no longer returning

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks as he stands with US President Donald Trump south of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea.North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks as he stands with US President Donald Trump south of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea.

Trump had a real diplomatic success to boast about in 2018. North Korea had returned the remains of some of the American soldiers who were killed in the Korean War.

In 2019, as the diplomacy soured, North Korea ceased cooperating. Trump’s solution: lie that North Korea was still cooperating, thus giving false hope to hundreds of American families.

“We’ve had, as you know, the remains of the heroes, our great heroes from many years ago — that’s coming back, and coming back as they find them, as they find the sites and the graves, and they’re sending them back,” he
told reporters on June 25, just five days before he met with dictator Kim Jong Un at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
We thought at first that it was possible Trump just didn’t know what was going on, since the Pentagon had only announced the suspension of the program in May. But, in mid-June, Trump was
told by an interviewer that “the remains have stopped coming back.”

He responded, “But they will be. Look, we’ve gotten remains back. That will start up again.” He then continued speaking as if it had not stopped at all.

July: Smearing Rep. Ilhan Omar

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listen during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listen during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15

There just aren’t many lies you can tell about a Muslim politician that are more incendiary than a lie that they’d said al Qaeda makes them proud. But here’s what Trump
said about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar at a North Carolina campaign rally on July 17,
wrongly describing remarks she had made in a 2013 interview: “Omar laughed that Americans speak of al Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that, ‘You don’t say America with this intensity. You say al Qaeda — makes you proud. Al Qaeda makes you proud. You don’t speak that way about America.'”
Trump continued his smear campaign against the Minnesota congresswoman later the same week, falsely
claiming that Omar had used the phrase “evil Jews.” In September, he
shared a Twitter video that falsely claimed Omar had been dancing in celebration on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

August: A tariff mantra

Between July 8, when we started counting Trump’s false claims at CNN, and December 15, the day until which we currently have comprehensive data, Trump’s most frequent false claim of any kind was that China is paying the entirety of the cost of his tariffs on imported Chinese products.

“We’re not paying for the tariffs; China is paying for the tariffs, for the 100th time,” he
told reporters in one typical remark on August 18. “And I understand tariffs very well. Other countries, it may be that if I do things with other countries — but in the case of China, China is eating the tariffs, at least so far.”
His assertion has been contradicted by
numerous tariff-paying American companies and by
multiple economic
studies. But Trump said it on 49 separate occasions over those five months. And he said it 20 times in August alone, more than he did in any other month, as he faced scrutiny over his
intensifying trade war.

September: The Sharpie fiasco

President Donald Trump and Acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan update the media on Hurricane DorianPresident Donald Trump and Acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan update the media on Hurricane Dorian

This credibility disaster would have been a one-day story if Trump had just acknowledged that his
initial tweet was a mistake — that, as the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama
tweeted soon afterward, Alabama was not thought to be at greater risk from Hurricane Dorian than initially thought.
Trump preferred to lie than to admit error. His thoroughly deceitful multi-day effort to convince people that he had never been wrong about Alabama culminated in one of the most revealing images of the Trump era: the President of the United States
displaying a Sharpie-altered map, which we could all see had been Sharpie-altered, as supposed evidence in his favor.

We counted 12 false claims from Trump on Dorian and Alabama over 11 days. Not including the Sharpie map.

October: Inverting reality on the whistleblower

The Sharpie madness was old news by the end of September. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and Democrats’ related impeachment push, were his most frequent subject of dishonesty in all four weeks of October.

His most frequent individual false claim on Ukraine or impeachment was that the whistleblower who complained about his dealings with Ukraine was highly inaccurate. He said this on 46 separate occasions through December 15.

“They heard a whistleblower who came out with a false story — you know, people say, ‘Oh, it was always fairly close.’ It wasn’t close at all. What the whistleblower said bore no relationship to what the call was,” he
said in one representative comment on October 9.
What did the whistleblower get wrong? Trump never explained in detail. He couldn’t have: the whistleblower’s primary allegations were
proven correct, several of them by the rough transcript Trump himself released. But Trump just kept repeating his “false story” mantra over and over — banking, as usual, on his ability to turn a lie into gospel among his supporters no matter how many times fact-checkers debunked it.

Trump first made a version of this claim at the end of September, but he repeated it on 30 separate occasions in October alone as Democrats moved toward impeachment. That was 17 more times than he uttered any other individual false claim that month.

November: Pulling “out” of Syria

Trump has to be egregiously inaccurate to get fact-checked by Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends,” but his November 22 lie about the troops qualified. When Trump
claimed he had “just pulled out of Syria,” co-host Brian Kilmeade
responded, “You have 600 guys there, right?” (The military had said at the time that perhaps 600 troops would remain in northeast Syria, plus another 100-plus troops in southern Syria.)
What Trump had decided in October, after a
phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was both to withdraw US troops from a Kurdish-held part of Syria that Turkey wanted to invade and to deploy US troops to protect oil fields in eastern Syria. The net result was a
decline in the US troop presence in Syria, but — as Kilmeade of all people noted — not an actual pullout from the country.
Trump’s claim on Fox & Friends was not a one-time slip. In October, when there were still about 1,000 soldiers in Syria, Trump
said, “Look, we have no soldiers in Syria. We’ve won. We’ve beat ISIS. And we’ve beat them badly and decisively. We have no soldiers.”

December: Dishwashers

President Donald Trump during a Merry Christmas Rally at the Kellogg Arena on December 18, 2019 in Battle Creek, Michigan. President Donald Trump during a Merry Christmas Rally at the Kellogg Arena on December 18, 2019 in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The President of the United States
said this: “Dishwashers — we did the dishwasher, right? You press it — remember the dishwasher, you’d press it, boom, there’d be like an explosion, five minutes later you open it up, the steam pours out, the dishes. Now, you press it 12 times. Women tell me. Again, you know, they give you four drops of water. And they’re in places where there’s so much water, they don’t know what to do with it. So we just came out with a reg on dishwashers — we’re going back to you. By the way, by the time they press it 10 times, you spend more on water — and electric! Don’t forget. The whole thing is worse because you’re spending all that money on electric. So we’re bringing back standards that are great.”
Trump’s nonsense-rambling about home appliances lends itself to dismissive mockery, but it’s worth taking it seriously. This was the President using two not-even-close-to-true premises — that modern dishwashers require 10 or 12 button-presses to start and that modern dishwashers use more water and electricity than older dishwashers — to justify a
deregulation push that will do damage to the environment.

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