Donald Trump's highly abnormal presidency: the week of Nov. 6

The Trump administration’s pick to be a federal judge in Alabama has never tried a case in his life.
November 10, 2017, 4:12pm

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Donald Trump made it clear at the beginning of his campaign that he wasn’t going to follow the normal rules or tone of politics. We’re keeping track of all the ways his presidency veers from the norm in terms of policy and rhetoric.

Day 295 Nov. 10

Trump’s latest federal judge pick is unanimously deemed unqualified

The Trump administration’s pick to be a federal judge in Alabama has never tried a case in his life.

Brett J. Talley, a 36-year-old lawyer who has practiced for less than three years, was just confirmed by every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee despite being unanimously rated “not qualified,” by the American Bar Association, the LA Times reported Friday.

Talley, also a blogger, has been accused of displaying obvious signs of partisanship. He once called Hillary Clinton “Hillary Rotten Clinton,” and in another instance, said she should be in jail. In a blog post entitled, “A Call To Arms: It’s Time to Join the National Rifle Association,” Talley wrote  that then President Barack Obama was “about to launch the greatest attack on our constitutional freedoms in our lifetime” and that “the object of that war is to make guns illegal, in all forms.”

“Fortunately, there is a group dedicated to the protection of our Second Amendment Rights — the National Rifle Association,” Talley continued. “Today I pledge my support to the NRA; financially, politically, and intellectually.”

Kristine Lucius, the executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights told the Times, “This is the least amount of experience I’ve seen in a judicial nominee.”

Trump has now picked four judicial nominees deemed “not qualified” for the job by the ABA.

— Alexa Liautaud

Twitter’s new 280-limit is totally changing how Trump tweets. Sad!

Twitter made a big change this week and so, too, did President Donald Trump.

The social media company announced on Tuesday that users could now tweet with 280 characters, rather than the traditional 140. Since then, Trump’s personal account suddenly looks like stale PR. There hasn’t been a “SAD!” outburst or a personal attack on an establishment politician yet.

Instead, the president’s embedding a ton of video and images — of speeches, diplomatic pomp and circumstance, and highlights of stops at the zoo on his international trips.

And his tweets are long. Trump’s regularly using up, or getting close to using up, all 280 characters available to him. Most people aren’t.

Despite Trump’s measured tweets, Tuesday was ripe for his typical musings. Not only was the one-year anniversary of Trump’s election nearing, Republicans lost a bunch of elections, too. Up and down the ballot, Election Day 2017 went resoundingly well for the Democrats, including many historical wins, like the first transgender woman elected as state representative, Danica Roem.

But the race closest to Trump’s heart was for the Virginia governorship. Republican Ed Gillespie lost after running a campaign that at least flirted with Trump-style politics. The president actively campaigned for Gillespie on Twitter and in robo-calls. The president disavowed him after Gillespie after his loss, claiming he didn’t embraced Trump-style politics fully enough.

Perhaps Trump took a cue from poll after poll suggesting that even his supporters think he tweets too much.

But this isn’t to say that Trump’s tone on Twitter now is more “presidential.” He’s still Trump.

But on “MAGA Day,” as his former adviser Steve Bannon dubbed the anniversary of his election, that tweet was all Trump mustered up to celebrate.

Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, is not a fan.

— Alex Lubben

Trump says “mere allegation” against Roy Moore shouldn’t ruin his life

The White House has faith that Roy Moore will “do the right thing” if the bombshell allegations about the Alabama judge molesting a teen prove to be true.

In a statement issued from Air Force One early Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president believes “If these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside” as Republican nominee for the Senate seat in Alabama. A Washington Post report out Thursday revealed allegations of Moore, a vocal conservative Christian, molesting a 14-year-old girl in 1979 when he was a 32-year-old assistant DA.

However, Sanders couched the statement by saying: “Like most Americans, the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life.”

Trump endorsed Moore’s opponent in the GOP primary, Luther Strange, at the urging of his advisers, but after the election Trump deleted all mentions of Strange from his Twitter feed and fully endorsed Moore.

Vice President Mike Pence preempted Sanders’ comments, saying he “found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office.” A chorus of GOP senators have reacted with variations of Pence’s comment in the hours since the Moore story broke.

Moore denied the allegations, calling them “completely false,” and he’s even using the attention to raise money for his election campaign, casting the story as a political conspiracy against him.

It is still unclear what will happen next, but even if Moore drops out, his name will remain on the December 12 ballot per Alabama election rules. The allegations could result in an unlikely Democrat victory, could see Republicans launch a write-in campaign, or the Senate could expel Moore if he gets elected.

It was former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon who backed Moore’s campaign, and on Thursday he linked the Washington Post report to the paper’s publication of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape about Trump during the campaign, calling the paper “part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party.”

Bannon’s news website Breitbart published a defense of Moore before the Post published its report. In what appeared to a coordinated defensive move by Bannon, he also defended his former boss against criticism that he has fanned the flames of white supremacy calling him the “least racist person I know.”

— David Gilbert

Day 294 Nov. 9

The Country Music Awards came for Trump, and the crowd ate it up

Forget President Donald Trump’s historically low approval rating or the fact that Democrats’ widespread wins in Tuesday’s elections were largely attributed to hatred of his policies. The real sign that Trump has a popularity problem came Wednesday night, when even the Country Music Awards started bashing him — and people loved it.

The evening’s hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley joined together in song to make fun of Trump, with a little ditty sung to the tune of Underwood’s hit song “Before He Cheats.”

“Right now, he’s probably in his PJs, watching cable news, reaching for his cell phone,” Paisley sang. “In the middle of the night from the privacy of a gold-plated White House toilet seat, he writing Liddle Bob Corker, NFL, and covfefe.”

Paisley continued, “And it’s fun to watch, yeah that’s for sure, till Little Rocket Man starts a nuclear war” — and Underwood joined in — “and then maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets.”

Celebrities lay into Trump all the time, but mocking a Republican president carries special weight among country music stars, whose audience traditionally lives in red states. When the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines said she was “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas” at a 2003 London concert, in reference to then-president George W. Bush, the band found itself blacklisted from country music. Fans burned their CDs, radio stations boycotted their songs, and the Dixie Chicks didn’t play at the Country Music Awards for over a decade.

The crowd at this year’s Country Music Awards, however, burst into laughter at Paisley and Underwood’s mockery. Clearly, times have changed.

— Carter Sherman

Trump may be “dismantling government as we know it,” warns ex diplomat

The Trump administration shows signs of  “dismantling government as we know it,” a former ambassador warns, pointing to a “decapitation” of the country’s diplomatic corps since Donald Trump took office.

In a letter in the Foreign Service Journal, Barbara Stephenson cited 60 percent of career ambassadors resigning and warned that the State Department’s “leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed,” costing the institution decades of invaluable diplomatic experience. The journal is the monthly publication of the American Foreign Service Association, the labor union that represents U.S. diplomats, and Stephenson is the association’s president.

Stephenson, a former ambassador to Panama, said the Foreign Service officer corps had lost 60 percent of career ambassadors since January, while staffing in other high-ranking diplomatic roles had fallen too. This was partly due to a decision to cut promotion numbers by more than half, she wrote, noting ominous signs that the administration was “dismantling government as we know it.”

“The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events,” she wrote, urging diplomats needed to defend their institution.

“Were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry… The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight.”

A hiring freeze also meant that interest in joining the Foreign Service was “plummeting,” she wrote. “We are on track to have fewer than half as many people take the Foreign Service Officer Test this year.”

Trump has faced criticism in Congress from both Democrats and Republicans for his plan to slash spending on diplomacy and his failure to fill key diplomatic posts.

Asked last week about tensions with the State Department, amid reports that some staff did not support his agenda, Trump replied that “the one that matters is me.”

“I‘m the only one that matters because, when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.”

Trump has had an uneasy relations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the country’s top diplomat, with reports that Tillerson called Trump a “moron” and had considered quitting. Trump said last week he was unsure if Tillerson, currently accompanying the president on his Asia trip, would remain in his post for the rest of his term in office.

— Tim Hume

Day 293 Nov. 8

Trump swears GOP tax plan will “kill” him, but still won’t release tax records

Donald Trump made a “personal” appeal to Senate Democrats to get their support for GOP tax reform: The legislation, he said, will hurt his own bottom line.

While in South Korea as part of his Asia tour, the president called in to a Tuesday meeting in D.C. attended by 12 Democratic senators and told them he’d “get killed” financially if the GOP bill passed. “My accountant called me and said, ‘You’re going to get killed in this bill,'” Trump said, according to sources speaking to NBC.

The only way the bill would help him, the president claimed, was if it repealed the estate tax, a key “give” to the wealthy.

Given Trump’s refusal to release his tax records, it’s hard for anyone to say how the new tax bill would affect the businessman president.

Following the call, the meeting descended into a squabble between the Democrats and administration officials, including economic adviser Gary Cohn, with the two sides blaming each other for the broken nature of the Senate.

Trump reportedly told the meeting that “this bill is terrible for rich people,” but a report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center published Monday found that the wealthiest Americans would benefit from the largest tax cuts under the House Republican overhaul.

The House is currently marking up its version of a tax overhaul released last week, and the Senate is expected to unveil its version of a bill on Thursday.

Day 292 Nov. 7

Trump credits guns for saving hundreds of lives in Texas gun massacre

President Trump doesn’t think tighter gun control laws would have stopped the Texas church shooter from carrying out the massacre.

During a press conference in South Korea Tuesday, Trump reluctantly answered questions on gun control from an NBC News correspondent —“you’re bringing up a situation that shouldn’t be discussed too much right now” — saying he in fact thinks the death toll would have numbered in the hundreds if the civilian who intervened didn’t also have a gun.

“If he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more,” Trump said, referring to Sutherland Springs resident Stephen Willeford, who exchanged fire with the shooter as he was leaving the First Baptist Church Sunday after he killed 26 people and injured 20 more.

As for whether he’d consider the kind of “extreme vetting” for gun owners that he proposed for immigrants after last week’s New York truck attack, he dodged the issue.

The shooter, a young white male and former Air Force airman, had been booted from the Air Force in 2014 after serving a year in military jail for assaulting his wife (now ex-wife) and baby stepson. The Air Force is investigating why it failed to list Kelley on a key law enforcement database, would have prevented him from being able to legally acquire the AR-15 semiautomatic military-style rifle he used in the attack.

Pressed on whether he’d consider stricter gun control measures in general, he pointed to Chicago: “Look at the city with the strongest gun laws our in our nation — Chicago. Chicago is a disaster, a total disaster.”

—David Gilbert

Day 291 Nov. 6

Trump isn’t following “America First” with Mar-a-Lago staffing

President Trump’s America First agenda of hiring workers from inside the country apparently still doesn’t apply to his own businesses.

He just got permission from the Labor Department to give 70 foreign nationals temporary work visas for his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida, according to the Palm Beach Post. That’s up from last year, when he secured 64 foreign workers for tourist season at the members-only resort, which has been dubbed the Winter White House for all the time the president spent there this past winter entertaining heads of state and other powerful guests.

When Trump took flack on the campaign trail for hiring foreign workers on H-2B visas, he claimed it was “very, very hard to get people.” But a local nonprofit job placement agency said there were plenty of people qualified in the area for the jobs.

Trump has long called for businesses to hire American, sometimes, as was the case with Carrier, personally intervening in firms’ hiring decisions to pressure them to keep jobs at home.

Trump claims deadly mass shooting not a “guns situation”

Sunday’s mass shooting in Texas — the fifth worst shooting in modern U.S. history — is not a “guns situation,” Donald Trump claimed hours after 26 people were shot dead as they attended church.

Responding to the slaughter at a Monday press conference in Tokyo, Trump described the situation as a “mental health problem,” calling the gunman “a very deranged individual.”

“This isn’t a guns situation,” he said, adding it was fortunate that “somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction.”

“This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event,” he continued, adding it was too soon too to talk about gun control measures.

At least 26 people were killed and 20 injured after the gunman walked into the church in Sutherland Springs and opened fire. The suspect, 26-year-old former Air Force member Devin Patrick Kelley, drove off after he was shot at and was later found dead in his car with a weapons cache.

The shooting, the deadliest in the state’s history, came a month after a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas, the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history. Following the Las Vegas bloodshed, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also said it was premature to debate gun policy.

The latest mass shooting prompted immediate calls from Democrats for greater gun control, including former President Barack Obama, who said Americans should ask “what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst.”

— Tim Hume

Day 288 Nov. 3

Trump is so sad he can’t tell the DOJ to investigate Clinton

President Donald Trump is sad and “very frustrated” that he can’t tell the Department of Justice to investigate the Democrats.

On a D.C. talk radio show Thursday, Trump told host Larry O’Connor, “But you know the saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.”

“I look what’s happening with the Justice Department: Why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier?” Trump added.

He continued: “I’ll be honest, I’m very unhappy with it, that the Justice Department isn’t going — now maybe they are, but you know as president, and I think you understand this, as a president you are not supposed to be involved in that process, but hopefully they are doing something and at some point maybe we are all going to have it out.”

He followed up with several tweets late Thursday and early Friday morning encouraging the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents:

Trump’s lament comes a few days after the first charges were filed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the elections, and the same week his Attorney General is facing fresh scrutiny for his contact with Russian operatives during the election.

— Alex Lubben

Someone in Twitter customer support had a strong last day

For 11 minutes Thursday, a lowly employee on the Twitter customer support team silenced the president of the United States. Donald Trump tried to spin the embarrassment Friday, claiming the deactivation of his personal Twitter account by a rogue employee proves his tweets are “having an impact.” Few were buying it.

The account @realdonaldtrump went down shortly before 7 p.m. ET Thursday – with users shown a page saying it didn’t exist. Twitter initially said the account had been “inadvertently deactivated due to human error.”

Two hours later, the company clarified the account had been deactivated “by a Twitter customer support employee” on his last day with the company. Twitter is conducting a full review, the statement said.

 The employee, yet to be named, quickly become an overnight sensation, lauded for the move.

Since joining Twitter in March 2009, Trump has become a huge fan of the medium, tweeting more than 36,000 times and racking up more than 41 million followers.

However, Thursday’s incident reinforces concerns that the site might not be the best way for a U.S. president to communicate with the world, with potentially catastrophic consequences for lapses in security.

Despite pledging last year to be more restrained on social media once in office, Trump has continued to tweet regularly, his morning barrage of posts a hallmark of the presidency.

He  has even used the app to directly threaten North Korea, posting in September: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

— Tim Hume

Day 287 Nov. 2

Rick Perry has bold plan to stop sexual assault: lights

It was clear back in January that Rick Perry completely misunderstood what he was getting himself into when he joined Trump’s Cabinet as Secretary of Energy. Ten months later, it seems he’s still just getting the hang of the job.

At an NBC/Axios–hosted public discussion on energy policy Thursday, Perry pontificated on the importance of fossil fuels as a force for good.

He started off by citing a young girl in an African village who’d told him electricity was important to her “not only because I’m not going to have to try and read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally kill people.” But then Perry veered to the au courant topic of sexual assault.

“But also from the standpoint of sexual assault,” he said. “When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”

When asked for clarification on Perry’s comments, a spokesperson for the Energy Department told HuffPost the Energy Secretary got the idea from someone he spoke to during his trip.

We can only surmise he’s trying to please his boss by cheerleading fossil fuels, as Trump has vowed to expand production.

— Nick Miriello