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Donald Trump's highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for February

Facing mountain pressure and a grieving father, President Trump shifted blame for the botched raid in Yemen in January.

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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. And almost daily since winning the election in November, the businessman and former reality-TV star has continued to defy precedents set by the 44 Oval Office occupants who came before him.


We’re keeping track of all the ways Trump’s presidency veers from the norm, in terms of policy and rhetoric, starting from Nov. 9, the day he became president-elect. We’re also highlighting the ways in which policymakers and pundits normalize Trump’s abnormal actions, words, and policies.

Below you’ll find a reverse-chronological list of everything not normal Trump has done in February. See earlier updates from NovemberDecember, and January.

Day 40 — Feb. 28

Trump blames “very respected” generals for Navy SEAL’s death in botched Yemen raid

The first military operation approved under Donald Trump’s leadership — a botched raid in Yemen in January — left one U.S. soldier and multiple civilians, including children, dead. Facing mounting pressure and a mourning father asking tough questions, Trump pivoted the blame away from his administration and onto his “very respected” generals and his predecessor.

“This was a mission that started before I got here,” Trump told “Fox and Friends” co-host Steve Doocy during an interview televised Tuesday morning. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do — the generals — who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

Trump was referring to Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who died in the mission, which reportedly failed to yield any useful intelligence.


Even before Trump’s comments on Fox, White House aides defended the mission as the brainchild of the Obama administration. Senior officials under Obama told CNN, however,  the former president never approved the mission.

Why it’s not normal: 

As president, Trump serves as the commander in chief of the United States military and gave the order for the covert mission in Yemen. Prior to his comments on Fox, he also repeatedly called the mission, the first for his administration, a “success” — even as Owens’ grieving father refused to meet with him and demanded an investigation.

As the Huffington Post pointed out, presidents from Obama to Harry Truman — who famously popularized the slogan “The buck stops here” — have taken full responsibility for their administrations’ decisions, even if they turned out badly.

Trump accuses Obama, without proof, of orchestrating protest and leaks

In an interview with Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” that aired Tuesday morning, presenter Brian Kilmeade asked Trump if he believed that President Obama was behind the recent protests where millions of people have been taking to the streets to oppose many of Trump’s policies — including the ones that happened at town hall meetings last week.

“I think he is behind it,” Trump responded. “I also think it’s just politics. That’s just the way it is.”

Trump also accused the Organizing for Action group, which is committed to advocating for Obama’s agenda, of leaking classified information. Trump said he thinks Obama is “probably behind” the group.


“Some of the leaks possibly come from that group,” Trump said. “You know, some of the leaks — which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security — but I also understand that’s politics and it will probably continue.”

Last month, however, Obama took the rather unique step of criticizing his successor’s travel ban, saying he “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

Read more about Trump’s accusations here.

Why it’s  not normal: 

There is no indication that Obama has any direct involvement with the protests or Organizing for Action, specifically.

Day 37 — Feb. 25

Trump will be the first president in 36 years to not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Saturday afternoon that he plans to skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, breaking a decades-long tradition of presidents attending the lighthearted event.

Trump’s absence is another blow in his broadside against the mainstream media, which he called “the enemy of the people” during his speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Hours later, the White House reportedly excluded the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico from an off-camera press briefing.

The correspondents’ dinner — during which journalists and comedians have a chance to roast the president, all in good fun — has come under criticism in recent years for creating an overly cozy relationship between the press and the people in power they’re supposed to cover. For that reason, the New York Times hasn’t attended since 2008, and other big names and organizations in the media, like the Guardian U.S., have also lost interest this year.


The event may also stir bad memories for Trump, who was excoriated at past dinners by President Obama and late-night host Seth Meyers.

Why it’s not normal:

Trump isn’t the first president to skip the dinner  — Nixon didn’t go in 1972, saying, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” And Ronald Reagan, who was recovering from an assassination attempt, missed the event in 1981. Trump’s decision to not attend, however, makes him the first president since Reagan — 36 years ago — who won’t be there.

Day 36 — Feb. 24

The White House just excluded a bunch of news outlets from a press briefing

The Trump White House excluded several prominent news organizations from an off-camera briefing Friday afternoon, including the New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and Politico, according to CNN. 

“We invited the pool, so everyone was represented,” Deputy Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders told the New York Times via email. “We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that.”

The exclusion of major media outlets is just the latest act of aggression the Trump administration has leveled against news media, coming hours after Trump repeated his claim that the press is the enemy of the American people during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C. The day before, Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon called the media “the opposition” in another CPAC exchange.


Trump and members of his team have repeatedly referred to reports that reveal critical information about his administration as “fake news.” During an unhinged 77-minute press conference last week, the president went so far as to scold individual reporters, and this past weekend he tweeted that the media is the “enemy of the American People.”

Trump has singled out The New York Times and CNN especially for criticism in recent months.

The Trump administration also maybe be reneging on past promises not to expel media organizations in response to criticism.

Why it’s not normal:

While the House House and the press can have a contentious relationship, it normally doesn’t escalate to this degree. Presidential administrations almost never exclude major media outlets from briefings but rather accept a wide range of media voices to challenge the administration.

Update 5:00 p.m.:  White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham told The Guardian: “Claims that outlets were excluded are not factual.” She added, in a statement, “The pool was there, so various media mediums were represented.” The “pool” is a small group of rotating reporters that cover the president and then share information with a larger group. 

Trump slams FBI for not stopping “leakers”

The president woke up Friday and took a shot at the FBI, claiming the intelligence agency is “totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government.”


Trump went on to add:

As with many of Trump’s early-morning tweets, it came after a CNN report he probably didn’t like: The report claimed the FBI had knocked back a White House request to publicly refute reports in the media that the agency was investigating communications that took place between Trump’s associates and Russia during the 2016 election campaign.

According to one unnamed law enforcement official speaking to CNN, the initial conversation took place between White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. It happened the day after stories by CNN and the New York Times about the matter were published, on Feb. 14.

The White House said it only contacted the FBI after the agency had concluded the reports were inaccurate.

Why it’s not normal:

Though Trump’s previous criticism of the intelligence community may have dulled the impact somewhat, the direct criticism of the FBI by a sitting president is still highly abnormal.

Not to mention that direct communications between the White House and the FBI is restricted. Such a request from the White House would be a violation of the procedures limiting communications with the FBI on pending investigations.

An editing error reportedly made Team Trump restructure the National Security Council 

The move to reduce two key advisers’ role on Donald Trump’s National Security Council was basically the result of an editing mistake, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Last month, the White House gave chief strategist Steve Bannon access to Trump-led National Security Council meetings and made him a member of the “principals committee of Cabinet secretaries,” which considers foreign policy decisions that don’t go to the president and advises him when they do. At the same time, the administration booted the national intelligence director — who heads U.S. spy agencies — and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the committee.


But it turns out those demotions were an accident. When composing their organization chart, Team Trump “essentially cut and pasted language” from George W. Bush’s chart, which hadn’t elevated those positions into full committee members, according to the New York Times. Apparently, no one noticed the problem.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security adviser, is reportedly considering putting the national intelligence director and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman back on the committee.

Why it’s not normal:

Though elevating Bannon to the committee was deliberate, the plan to give him more power while kicking out intelligence and military members alarmed many observors. Both Bush and Barack Obama’s senior advisers were largely barred from security meetings in order to keep politics out of national security matters, and removing two nonpartisan committee positions deepened concerns about Bannon’s growing influence.

To put it more succinctly, an editing error just reshaped the NSC and potentially the United States’ foreign policy agenda.

Trump deploys military in deportations — but only as an adjective

Donald Trump called his administration’s recent efforts to deport undocumented immigrants from the United States a “military operation” on Thursday.

“You see what’s happening at the border: All of a sudden, for the first time, we’re getting gang members out, we’re getting drug lords out, we’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said at a White House a meeting with manufacturing CEOs, according to Politico. “And they’re the bad ones, and it’s a military operation, because [they have] been allowed to come into our country.”


Why it’s not normal:

The military plays no role in enforcing federal immigration policy. Civilian agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection are in charge of that duty — and Trump administration officials scrambled to clarify that.

“There will be no — repeat, no — use of military force in immigration operations,” said Homeland Security chief John Kelly, who oversees ICE, in a Thursday press conference.

Trump’s comment might just be the latest example of the president’s flair for colorful, and sometimes inaccurate, language: “The president was using [military] as an adjective,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at his Thursday afternoon briefing. “[The operation] is happening with precision.”

Those clarifications of language might not reassure undocumented immigrants, who reportedly fear being picked up by ICE on “any corner.”

Day 35 — Feb. 23

Is the pope subtweeting Donald Trump?

Donald Trump isn’t the only world leader with a prominent Twitter presence. In fact, take a look at Pope Francis’ handleand you might think the head of the Catholic Church is subtweeting the president of the United States.

Donald Trump does love social media. And a recent analysis from the Washington Post revealed that many of Trump’s lies and misleading statements originate on the platform.

Trump is planning to build a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico. He also released an executive order in late January that temporarily banned refugees and immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.


Evidence of tension between the pope and Trump, however, emerged before the election. “A person who only thinks about building walls and does not focus on building bridges is not a Christian. This is not the Gospel,” Francis said in an interview.

Trump fired back: “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” and later added, “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.”

Not long after, however, Trump walked his comments back and said he “didn’t like fighting with the pope.”

Day 34 — Feb. 22

Healthcare CEO given “unprecedented” access to Obamacare meeting, ethics lawyer says

Several White House officials met up at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a strategy session last weekend to decide how Republicans should reform the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tweeted a photo of the meeting, promising, “The American people deserve much better, and they will get it.”

The meeting lasted hours, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CBS. It was a big deal: Steve Bannon and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price were there, as was Seema Verma, CEO of a national healthcare consulting company, who’s been tapped to head the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.


There’s one problem: Verma hasn’t been confirmed yet. Her hearing was just last Thursday. And she remains in charge of her company, SVC Inc., according to its website. (The company didn’t respond to a request for comment. Neither did the White House.)

Why it’s not normal:

Nominees do attend meetings with White House officials, but those meetings typically focus solely on their confirmation hearings. For a nominee to go to a meeting about developing policy, as Verma did, “that is unprecedented,” said Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer.

Executive branch employees are banned from maintaining financial interests that overlap with their job descriptions, but since Verma isn’t confirmed yet, her attendance wasn’t illegal. She could, however, potentially use information from the meeting to improve her business.

“I think it’s a circumvention of the statute. I think it’s wrong. I think it shouldn’t happen,” Painter said. During his time in the White House, Painter said he would “strongly advise” against including unconfirmed nominees in substantive policy discussions to avoid even the appearance of issues like this. “The decisions made in those meetings will impact the finances of her company,” he said. “That’s a serious problem.”

Carter Sherman reported this update.

Trump is using Twitter to lie a lot

Trump has averaged four false or misleading claims a day since the start of his presidency, a Washington Post fact-checking tool found. In total, the Post counted 133 falsehoods since Jan. 20. Immigration specifically came up 24 times.

Some of the president’s falsehoods are more egregious than others, including that “any negative polls are fake news,” that the murder rate in the U.S. was the highest in “45 to 47 years,” and that there had been millions of illegal voters in the presidential election. None of those claims are true.


Why it’s not normal:

Tasked with upholding the transparency and integrity of the United States, presidents shouldn’t lie, although exceptions exist, like with national security. Also, the majority of Trump’s falsehoods came from his Twitter account, data from the Washington Post showed.

Day 33 — Feb. 21

Infowars’ Alex Jones says he and Trump talk on the phone

Alex Jones, infamous conspiracy theorist and founder of the equally infamous website Infowars, sometimes talks to Donald Trump on the phone, he told the New York Times over the weekend. While the White House wouldn’t comment on the nature of their relationship, advisorial chats with Jones certainly seem plausible.

As a private citizen, Trump appeared on Jones’ talk show on Dec. 2, 2015, the morning of the San Bernardino shooting. Trump has also cited and shared information from Gregg Phillips, founder of the app VoteStand, whose unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the election grew to prominence in an Infowars article from November.

Why it’s not normal:

Jones has repeatedly perpetrated conspiracy theories disproven time and again by the facts. For example, he argued that the 2014 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where Adam Lanza killed 26 people, never happened; he even calling it a false flag. He re-emphasized that position after the election. Years earlier, in 2001, Jones also argued that 9/11 was an inside job — that the government had either done it themselves or had used “provocateur Arabs.”


Trump’s reported communications with Jones would signal the Trump administration’s continued move away from traditional mainstream media outlets and toward strong relations with traditional right-wing news outlets, such as Fox News and The New York Post, and young fringe sites, like Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and Lifezette. Recently, Trump’s administration has blatantly ignored questions from more-established outlets like CNN and the Associated Press at pivotal news conferences. And just last Friday, Trump called the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN “the enemy of the American people.”

The Trump family’s travel habits are costing taxpayers a fortune

Donald Trump made another trip to his Florida luxury resort Mar-a-Lago last weekend, his third since becoming president. Considering the cost of securing the 643-room estate, maintaining Camp David, and protecting the family, the Trump’s travel habits are racking up a sizable bill for taxpayers.

But it’s not just Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago that are costly. Trump’s globe-trotting children, who often travel for business related to the Trump Organization, also require security. And of course, the New York Police Department has to keep an eye on Trump’s wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, in New York City.

While the White House hasn’t offered much information on the cost of Trump’s travel, various documents obtained by the Washington Post reveal some of recent receipts:


Why it’s not normal:

In just one month, the Trump family’s trips have cost taxpayers nearly as much as President Obama cost them in a year, which conservative watchdog Judicial Watch estimated at $12.1 million on average in each of his eight years in office and $97 million over eight years.

It’s also an unusual — and costly — decision for the first lady and the first kid to live elsewhere than the White House.

And not all the money is paying for government activities. Example: Eric’s business jaunt to Uruguay, complete with Secret Service detail.

While the last trip to Mar-a-Lago exposed national security decision-making to club members, last weekend’s getaway to Mar-a-Lago saw new controversy. The president snuck off to a private fundraiser without notifying the press, bucking tradition once again, according to the Washington Post. The press pool was told Trump was done for the night at 7:45 p.m., but an Instagram video later revealed Trump’s “unplanned” entranced. This isn’t the first time Trump has ditched the press pool.

Day 29 — Feb. 17

Trump insists his press conference was super great and that plenty of people want to replace Michael Flynn

Seemingly energized after his epic rant at Thursday’s White House press conference, Donald Trump kicked off his day on Friday by thanking his supporters for “all of the nice statements” he received regarding his performance. Trump seemed particularly pleased by praise from one appreciative fan, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.


Once through with the important business, Trump turned to updating the world on his efforts to fill the national security adviser position, vacated by Mike Flynn earlier this week after leaks revealed he discussed sanctions with a Russian diplomat before the president’s inauguration and then misled the vice president and other senior officials about it.

The search for Flynn’s replacement hit another stumbling block Thursday night when reports revealed that Trump’s “outstanding” choice, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, declined the offer. Harward took a pass, according to reports, after it became clear he wouldn’t have total control in building his team. Despite Trump’s insistence that the White House is a “fine-tuned machine,” the constant scandal that has engulfed the month-old administration probably didn’t sit well with the 40-year military veteran.

Moving on from Harward’s public rejection, Trump floated a new candidate Friday morning: Gen. Keith Kellogg, whom Trump called “very much in play for NSA.”

Day 28 — Feb. 16

Trump brings back bizarre “media accountability survey” after unhinged press conference

President Trump followed an unhinged press conference at the White House Thursday afternoon — in which he cranked up his attack on the media, asked a black journalist to arrange a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus, and vowed to crack down on leaks — by once again blasting out a Mainstream Media Accountability Survey to his campaign followers’ inboxes.

In a multiple choice format, the survey asks respondents to answer 25 questions, including:


  • Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?
  • On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans?
  • Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?

Trump’s White House has been embroiled in scandal since leaks last week revealed that close Trump ally and now former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed sanctions with a Russian diplomat before he was in an official position to do so, and then misled Vice President Pence and the general public afterward. Instead of focusing on the contents of those leaks, though, Trump has put considerable effort into decrying the state of news media and promising to conduct a full investigation into the leaks coming from the highest echelons on the White House.

Why it’s not normal:

Team Trump appears to be running a permanent political campaign against what they see as the real “opposition party,” the media.

President Trump asks black reporter to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus

The question was innocent enough: April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Network, asked Trump about his plan to fix the inner cities. “When you say the inner cities, are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, inner-city agenda?” she asked. Initially, Trump didn’t seem to know what that was, so she elaborated: Congressional Black Caucus.

Then Trump asked her if she could set up the meeting.


“Well I would, tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?” Trump asked.

“I’m just a reporter. I know some of them,” Ryan said.

“Let’s go, let’s set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus.”

Why it’s not normal:

You’d think the Trump administration would have enough direct contact with members of Congress than to ask a reporter to make a connection with some of the body’s most senior members.

President Trump’s wild press conference: “The leaks are real, but the news is fake”

It was supposed to be an opportunity for President Trump to announce his second candidate for Labor Secretary, and then maybe take a couple softballs from select conservative media outlets. Instead, it turned into one of the wildest presidential press conferences in memory: more than an hour of heated combat with the White House press corps, which he said was full of “hatred” for him. The press “will not tell you the truth,” he said, which is why he’s speaking “directly to the American people.”

Trump did actually announce a new nominee for Labor — former George W. Bush administration official Alex Acosta — but that was very much a sideshow as the president held court on Russia, Michael Flynn, leaks, Hillary Clinton, the Electoral College, drugs, DACA, and of course his own White House: “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

Along the way he tussled, bullied, and talked over reporters, accusing them of bias and taking direct shots at journalists and news outlets like CNN and the BBC.


Why it’s not normal:

It was a remarkable display, better watched than described here, perhaps. But don’t think there’s no strategy: Trump knows he’s lost control of the narrative, and this was about redirecting the conversation away from his staff’s contact with Russia and on to his tried-and-true applause line: the media as opposition party.

Day 26 — Feb. 14

Trump reportedly still uses an unsecured Android phone — and two senators want an investigation

Members of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs want to know about Donald Trump’s smartphone — most importantly, whether it’s secure.

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill and Tom Carper, both ranking members of the committee, wrote a letter on Feb. 9 to Secretary of Defense James Mattis asking him to investigate a New York Times report that Trump was given a secure and encrypted phone to use in January but within a week reportedly went back to tweeting from his old Android — which may be a 5-year-old Galaxy S3, according to Android Central.

The senators’ request highlights worries that hackers could turn on the Android’s camera or audio recorder to surveil the president. Security experts also warn that hackers could find the president’s location, track keystrokes, or even spy on the networks connected to Trump’s phone, according to Wired.

Why it’s not normal:

While no law forces a president to use a government-issued phone, security agencies often ask their employees to use one — and the president is no exception. Obama once told Jimmy Fallon that his smartphone couldn’t text, take pictures, or even play music.


On top of that, Trump also made security a pillar of his campaign. He threatened to investigate his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for using a private email server as his supporters chanted “lock her up.”

In the wake of Trump handling an international crisis on an outdoor dining terrace at Mar-a-Lago filled with regular club members, the outcry against the Trump administration’s apparent lack of discretion is only growing stronger. This letter is more fuel for that fire.

Day 25 — Feb. 13

Trump discussed national security issues in a room full of Mar-a-Lago diners and staff

When Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe learned that North Korea had test-fired a ballistic missile Saturday, they didn’t stop eating their dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, in Palm Beach. Instead, the two world leaders discussed what to do about the missile — which North Korea claims is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead — in full view of the private club’s members and staff, CNN reported.

Richard DeAgazio apparently was dining at Mar-a-Lago at the time, as he posted details and photos on Facebook of the leaders talking strategy, according to the Washington Post. The photographs appear to show aides swarming the table and using their phones’ flashlights to help Trump and Abe read documents on the candle-lit terrace.

DeAgazio also posted a photo with a man he claims was carrying “the nuclear football” — the little black briefcase that contains a simplified list of options for a nuclear strike. A military aide who carries the “football” shadows the president at all times so he can authorize a nuclear attack from anywhere in the world.


In his Facebook post, DeAgazio also called the military aide “the Man.”

Why it’s not normal:

Presidents don’t tend to hold delicate conversations about national security in restaurants where ordinary civilians can see them, much less photograph or even overhear them. And while the existence of the nuclear football itself isn’t a state secret, most people don’t know the identity of the military aide who carries it, since the cargo is top-secret information.

Plus, Trump and Abe’s strategy session likely won’t quiet critics who contend that Mar-a-Lago members — who pay $200,000 per year to belong to the club — have unique, and potentially unethical, access to and influence over the president.

Trump misquotes Abraham Lincoln

Donald Trump ventured away from his favorite medium Sunday to post an Instagram for the United States’ 16th President’s birthday.

The GOP tweeted the quote before Trump and his son Donald Jr. shared it a few hours after his father.

Why it’s not normal:

Abraham Lincoln did not say those words. The website Quote Investigator  found the most likely source to be a 1947 advertisement for a book about aging by Dr. Edward J. Stieglitz.

While Trump is not the first to have misquoted Lincoln, nor will he be the last, both the president and his son’s Instagram posts still feature the image. The GOP, however, took down the post Sunday morning and posted an apology. The apology was also removed due to a typo stating “deepest apologizes” rather than “deepest apologies, according to the New York Times.


Day 21 — Feb. 9

Trump lashes out at senator who said Supreme Court nominee criticized the president

Donald Trump is attacking the messenger in his spar with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch over the president’s criticism of a federal judge.

In a tweet early Thursday morning, Trump went after Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who’d told reporters that Gorsuch called the president’s attacks on the federal judge who blocked his executive order “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

After the judge temporarily halted Trump’s controversial refugee and immigration ban last week, Trump tweeted his displeasure.

Then on Wednesday, Gorsuch made headlines when he spoke out against Trump’s attacks in a private meeting with Blumenthal. The SCOTUS nominee was meeting with the senator as part of his charm offensive among those who will ultimately be voting on whether to confirm him as a Supreme Court justice.

But after disputing the quotes themselves, Trump then targeted the credibility of Blumenthal, who in the past has lied about his war record. In 2010, the New York Times revealed Blumenthal had been saying he served in Vietnam when he in fact he won five deferments before landing in a Marine regiment that never deployed.

And yet Gorsuch’s own press secretary confirmed the nominee actually did say those words. In addition, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said Gorsuch had criticized Trump’s attacks on the judiciary in a private meeting.


Why it’s not normal:

Inasmuch as it’s not normal for a sitting U.S. president to attack a federal judge, it’s also not normal for a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court to criticize the president — even before his confirmation. And yet, it might be a savvy move for Gorsuch as he looks to win over Democrats.

Kellyanne Conway tells America to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff”

Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway encouraged Americans to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” Thursday morning in promotion of Ivanka Trump’s apparel business. “It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it,” she said, adding, “I’m going to give it a free commercial here.”

“Here” was the White House Briefing Room in an interview with “Fox and Friends,” raising questions about the ethics of a White House official hyping a product that financially benefits the first family. Conway’s comments come the day after the president attacked the department store Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping daughter Ivanka’s products last week.

Nordstrom maintained that the decision was business-related, not political.

Why it’s not normal:

The counselor to the president wouldn’t usually push any product from the White House Briefing Room, let alone the clothing line of the president’s daughter. The move may be a breach of federal ethics laws. And members of the House Oversight Committee have spoken out about the optics. 

Day 20 — Feb. 8

Nordstrom fires back at Trump, saying Ivanka’s clothes just weren’t selling

President Trump’s trouble separating the public office from personal interests surfaced once again after he took a shot at Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping Ivanka Trump-branded merchandise.


Last week the department store chain quietly removed the line of shoes, dresses, and jewelry from their list of brands sold. In November, Nordstrom co-President Pete Nordstrom sent an email to employees.

“We strive to be agnostic about politics and to treat all our customers with respect,” he wrote. “Every single brand we offer is evaluated on its results — if people don’t buy it, we won’t sell it.”

A Nordstrom spokesperson told Elle that culling underperforming brands is a normal part of business. “Each year we cut about 10 percent and refresh our assortment with about the same amount. In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”

The former ethics czar for President Obama thinks the company may have a cause of action.

In addition to Nordstrom, upscale retailer Neiman Marcus, which sold Ivanka Trump jewelry on consignment, is also dumping the line — we’ll see if the president weighs in.

When asked about the tweet, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump “has every right to stand up for his family.”

Why it’s not normal:

Advocating for business interests from the White House isn’t typically the way presidents operate, even if it was for his daughter.

Donald Trump is once again citing false murder statistics

During a roundtable meeting with county sheriffs Tuesday, the president once again cited a false crime statistic — and accused the media of downplaying it to fit their agenda.

“The murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right?” Trump said. “Did you know that? Forty-seven years. I used to use that — I’d say it in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn’t tell it like it is. It wasn’t to their advantage to say that. But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, from 45 to 47 years.”


Publicly available FBI crime data, however, tells a different story. The U.S. murder rate is not at a 47-year high. Here are the real facts:

The U.S. murder rate in 2015, the most recent complete data set available, indicates that there were 4.9 murders per 100,000 people. While that’s an uptick of 10 percent from 2014 — putting the murder rate in 2015 at a six-year high — it’s a lot lower than 47 years ago. In 1970, the murder rate was 7.9 per 100,000 people.

The U.S. murder rate peaked in 1908 at 10.2 murders per 100,000 people. Those rates remained high until the mid 1990s and have steadily dropped since, although federal crime data isn’t perfect, largely because it relies on self-reporting by local law enforcement agencies.

CNN’s Jake Tapper grilled Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway later Tuesday on the “sprays of attacks and sprays of falsehoods coming from the White House.” He specifically noted Trump’s false claim about the murder rate.“I think he is relying upon data perhaps for a particular area. I don’t know who gave him that data,” Conway responded.

Why it’s not normal:

Trump’s claims about the U.S. murder rate aren’t the first time he’s skewed crime data to fit his agenda. Just hours after he was sworn in as president, a page of the White House website said “killings have risen by 50% in Washington, D.C.,” which was false. The murder rate decreased 17 percent in D.C. in 2016 and murders overall have been declining for two decades.


Trump said he would “destroy” a state senator over opposition to civil forfeiture

At a meeting with county sheriffs at the White House on Tuesday, Trump casually joked about destroying the career of a Texas senator whose opinion about civil forfeiture differed from the president’s.

When Harold Eavenson, a sheriff from Rockwall County in Texas, complained to Trump that an unnamed Texas senator wanted to introduce legislation that would require a conviction before allowing civil forfeiture — which several states, like California and Nebraska, have recently done. Requiring a conviction would make it harder for police to seize people’s assets in connection with a criminal investigation — which departments across the country have profited from under the Equitable Sharing Program (the Department of Justice under former Attorney General Eric Holder curtailed the policy, but then Obama’s AG Loretta Lynch reinstated it).

“Who is the state senator? Want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump responded.

Why it’s not normal:

It’s not normal for the president to publicly threaten, even jokingly, to end  the career of an elected official for disagreeing with him, especially on an issue whose reform has received bipartisan support.

What’s worse is that Trump has already made a similar move. He fired acting Attorney General Sally G. Yates for having “betrayed” the Department of Justice for saying she wouldn’t enforce Trump’s immigration and travel ban.


Day 19 — Feb. 7

White House list of 78 “underreported” terror attacks includes Paris and Orlando

The White House released a list of 78 terror attacks Monday to underscore the president’s false claim that the media fails to adequately report them.

The list, which spans the period from September 2014 to December 2016, almost exclusively focuses on incidents tied to, or rumored to be tied to, Islamic extremists. It also includes many attacks that journalists widely covered, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting last June and the Paris attacks in November 2015, which even overshadowed the U.S. presidential race at the time.

In a speech earlier Monday at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Trump took aim at the media. “In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he said. “They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

It’s unclear what the “reasons” are.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer said a few hours later that the White House would release a list of these underreported attacks. “We’ll provide a list later,” Spicer told reporters. “There’s several instances …. There’s a lot of instances that have occurred where I don’t think they’ve gotten the coverage it deserved.”

Why it’s not normal:

Notably absent on the White House’s list are any attacks carried out by white supremacists, like the June 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church that left nine black parishioners dead.


The list also includes spelling errors and inconsistencies. For example, the entry regarding the San Bernardino attack spells the city’s name as “San Bernadino” and notes “two US persons” were responsible, where other known attackers are named.

This move from the White House appears to be the latest snarl in Trump’s ongoing war with the media and his insistence that it’s fundamentally dishonest.

Day 18 — Feb. 6

Trump just falsely accused the media of ignoring terrorist attacks

In his first trip as president to the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, otherwise known as CENTCOM and SOCOM, Donald Trump continued to rail against the media. This time the president lobbed a new allegation at the press: failing to report incidents of terrorism.

“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that,” Trump said in remarks to troops.

After being briefed by leaders at the agency’s headquarters, located on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Trump began by thanking several members of the armed forces — including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, even though he recently revoked their permanent status on the National Security Council.

The speech naturally turned to terrorism. Giving examples before going after the “dishonest press,” the president mentioned 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the attack in San Bernardino, the Paris attacks, and the Bastille Day attack in Nice.


Trump then pivoted to defend his recent executive order regarding refugees and immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.

“We need strong programs so that people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in — not people that want to destroy us and want to destroy our country,” he said to scattered cheers and applause, although reports suggest Trump has brought supporters with him to events previously.

Why it’s not normal:

To start with, all of the terrorist incidents Trump mentioned received widespread coverage in the media. In fact, one of the most reliable sources of data on both domestic and international terror attacks, the Global Terrorism Database, relies solely on media reports. More importantly, there is no known evidence of big media companies failing to report on major instances of terrorism.

CENTCOM and SOCOM are also strange audiences for Trump to involve in his war on the press. While Trump did briefly discuss greater military spending and national security issues, presidents usually focus heavily on those topics.

Trump now says “any negative polls are fake news”

Donald Trump began his week by discrediting all polls that show disagreement with his temporary refugee and immigration ban. In a tweet this morning, Trump said “any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”


While polling is never 100 percent infallible, FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings has ranked all three referenced firms within the “A” range on a typical A-F scale. Analyzing the historical accuracy and methods of each firm’s polls, FiveThirtyEight is amongst the most credible sources in polling prediction.

Why it’s not normal: 

Presidents don’t usually take to Twitter to issue decrees that any negative responses to their policies are baseless. Especially when the data comes from reputable organizations.

And this is only the latest of many times Trump has called a respected news organization “fake news.”

Trump reportedly wasn’t fully briefed on Bannon joining the National Security Council

There’s one thing that irks President Donald Trump more than the fallout over his refugee and immigration executive order: the suggestion that he wasn’t fully briefed on his chief strategist Steve Bannon taking a seat on the National Security Council.

That was buried deep in a New York Times article describing the chaos during the first two weeks of Trump’s administration and suggesting Bannon is gaining power.

Eight days into his presidency, Trump signed a presidential memorandum designed to reshuffle and restructure the National Security Council. The memo contained a provision elevating Bannon, a former Breitbart executive with no foreign policy experience, to the Council, which advises the president on national security and international affairs.


Trump also sent some curious tweets in the context of the Times tidbit Monday morning.

Why it’s not normal:

Trump reportedly signed an executive order that he didn’t fully understand, which undermined the National Security Council. It’s also particularly troubling given the haphazard way in which the executive order on immigration was rolled out last week.

Day 17 — Feb. 5

Trump suggests moral equivalency between U.S. and Russia

In a preview of an interview that premiered on Fox’s Super Bowl pregame show, Bill O’Reilly pressed Trump about how he could respect a “killer” like Vladimir Putin. Trump responded, “We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?”

“I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers in America,” O’Reilly retorted.

“Well, take a look at what we’ve done too,” Trump said. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.”

Republican hawks immediately took aim at Trump for his continued fandom of Putin and Russia, which could affect a number of issues facing the U.S. and the world.

Why it’s not normal: 

To start, Trump’s relationship with Putin and reported ties to Russia have raised red flags since before the election. But accusing U.S. officials of being “killers” to defend Putin from O’Reilly’s comments takes the back-and-forth to another level.

Day 15 — Feb. 3

Kellyanne Conway made up a “massacre” but later admitted it was a mistake

Donald Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway has taken her use of “alternative facts” to another level. As evidence to support the president’s refugee and immigration ban, Conway talked about a terrorist “massacre” that never happened on MSNBC’s “Hardball”

“I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. It didn’t get covered,” she told host Chris Matthews.


Let’s take this one step at a time. Yes, in 2011, the FBI arrested two al-Qaeda terrorists from Iraq living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky. But neither was charged with planning an attack on U.S., let alone committing a “massacre.” In 2013, they both plead guilty to federal charges and are now serving lengthy sentences in prison.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, Conway clarified that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists” — not “massacre.” She also tweeted a link to a “Nightline” investigation from 2013, which made clear the two Iraqis attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq, not the U.S.

Why it’s not normal:

Arguably the most public face of the presidency cited a terrorist attack that never happened on one of the most watched news shows on television.

Day 14 — Feb. 2

Trump threatens to cut funds to UC Berkeley after Milo Yiannopoulos appearance is canceled 

Donald Trump tweeted a threat to pull federal funding from the University of California-Berkeley after it canceled a right-wing speaker’s event for reasons of public safety.

Breitbart senior editor and alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to begin a talk as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour at UC Berkeley at 8 p.m. local time. Two hours earlier, however, protesters took to campus and began fighting, smashing windows, and lighting fires, SF Gate reported. Administrators cancelled the event shortly after due to public safety concerns. The state university’s Davis campus canceled one of Yiannopoulos’ events last month, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Berkeley made it clear that administrators didn’t invite Yiannopoulos (Berkeley College Republicans did) and don’t agree with the conservative speaker’s message. But they’d rejected earlier calls to cancel the event in favor of promoting free speech.

Why it’s not normal:

Presidents don’t levy financial threats against public education institutions just because they don’t agree with an administration decision — and Trump’s tweet tees up a dangerous precedent.

Trump’s focus on “free speech” is also problematic because the protesters were exercising their right to free speech, even though they turned destructive. And the university, which originally agreed to host Yiannopoulos in the interest of upholding the First Amendment, canceled his event due to safety concerns, not political ones.

Trump asked 3,000 people to “pray” for Arnold Schwarzenegger

At the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning, President Donald Trump called for the country to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Trump said that Schwarzenegger, the new host of “Celebrity Apprentice,” has been a “disaster” and the ratings “have gone down the tubes.” Trump counseled the 3,000 attendees of all different faiths from more than 130 countries to pray for “Arnold” and “for those ratings.” Trump, the show’s former host, then allowed himself a chuckle at his own joke.

Schwarzenegger promptly responded with a video posted to Twitter where he suggested that ratings “expert” Trump should switch jobs so people can “sleep comfortably again.”

Trump’s comments are the latest volley in what has been a series of barbs between the two celebrities-turned-politicians:

Why it’s not normal:

While presidents often add a little levity to addresses, they don’t reference personal feuds at the normally reverential National Prayer Breakfast. Not to mention the cause of the fight: that an action movie star took over the president’s old reality show on which said president maintains an executive producer title.

Trump threatens to send U.S. troops to handle Mexico’s “bad hombres” 

President Donald Trump showed off his Spanglish skills during a phone call with the Mexican president Wednesday in which he said the country has some “bad hombres down there.”

The read-out of the call, obtained by the Associated Press, describes Trump threatening to send U.S. troops to Mexico if the country did not do more to stop said bad hombres. The excerpt did not include the Mexican president’s response.

CNN also obtained a transcript of the call that shows slightly different comments from Trump.

“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with,” Trump said. “We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have to be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out,” according to CNN’s version.

Both Mexico and the Trump administration later denied that the call was threatening in nature. The White House said Trump’s “bad hombres” line was meant to be “lighthearted.”

During the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, Trump boasted about his “tough” calls with world leaders.

Why it’s not normal:

Aside from his odd appropriation of the Spanish language, Trump appears to be conducting diplomacy with the same brash language he used on the campaign trail. Phone calls between world leaders are usually polite, formal interactions — especially between allies like the U.S. and Mexico. Trump, however, doesn’t seem too concerned with formalities or the possibility of offending another president.

Day 13 — Feb. 1

Trump kicked off Black History Month by talking about fake news

President Donald Trump began February with a Black History Month “listening session” in the White House’s Roosevelt Room Wednesday.

Trump went around the table and shook hands with all 19 attendees before delivering a monologue on civil rights icons and fake news.

“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed,” Trump said. “Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and a million more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact,” he declared.

Trump then sat down with eight black leaders from across the country and 11 black members of his administration, including former “Apprentice” contestant and White House aide Omarosa Manigault and future Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.

“I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more,” he promised, calling black history “tremendous.” He also celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “incredible example” before veering mid-sentence into a screed against false media reports last week that Trump had removed King’s bust from the Oval Office. The reporter quickly realized his mistake and apologized for the error, but Trump called it a “disgrace.”

Trump also called CNN “fake news” again.

Why it’s not normal:

Trump has always spoken in a simplistic style, but vague references to some of the most famous black leaders in history, as well as venting personal frustrations about the media, at a symbolically important event is abnormal for presidents.

Alex Thompson, Olivia Becker, Christina Sterbenz, Carter Sherman, Morgan Conley, Alexa Liautaud, and Alex Lubben contributed to these reports.