Donald Trump's highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for the week of July 31

Following a lease disagreement with the Trump Organization, the Secret Service has left the building.
August 4, 2017, 11:00am

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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 197 Aug 4

Trump Tower’s Secret Service now works in a sidewalk trailer

The Secret Service has left the building.

Following a disagreement between President Donald Trump’s company and his government, the Secret Service has left Trump Tower and is now operating out of a trailer on the sidewalk, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Apparently, the General Services Administration — which negotiates the government’s real estate deals — and the Trump Organization couldn’t agree on the terms of the lease.

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“After much consideration, it was mutually determined that it would be more cost effective and logistically practical for the Secret Service to lease space elsewhere,” a Trump Organization spokesperson wrote to the Post in an email. A Secret Service spokesperson told the Post that the agency was working “to obtain permanent work space in an appropriate location.”

The Secret Service originally set up shop in Trump Tower in 2015 after Trump became a Republican presidential nomination front-runner and has remained there even after Melania and Barron Trump moved to the White House; even though Trump hasn’t visited since the inauguration, the Secret Service has a full-time detail on the place since the agency considers it Trump’s full-time home. But because Trump refused to divest ownership of his business, unlike past presidents, the Secret Service was put into an awkward position: They had to become customers of Trump’s business while also protecting his life.

Evidently, the two sides of Trump’s life just can’t get along.

The Secret Service’s trailer is now located about 50 floors below the Trump family compound within Trump Tower, a move one unnamed former Secret Service official compared to “having the quarterback of the football game actually being located in a different stadium than where the game is being played.”

Day 196 Aug 3

Trump had some bizarre phone calls with world leaders in January

Cutting his teeth in international diplomacy during his first days in office, President Donald Trump placed a series of phone calls to world leaders. The details of those conversations leaked and were quickly parodied by satirists across the globe.

Now, thanks to the Washington Post, we know exactly how two of those phone calls went down. The Post published transcripts on Thursday from Trump’s January calls with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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Here are some excerpts:

1. Trump urges Nieto to say Mexico will pay for a border wall (even if it won’t)

Nieto: But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.

Trump: But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances.

2. Trump reminds Nieto that “Israel has a wall”

Trump: You know, you look at Israel – Israel has a wall and everyone said do not build a wall, walls do not work — 99.9 percent of people trying to come across that wall cannot get across and more. Bibi Netanyahu told me the wall works.

3. Trump badgers Turnbull about an Obama-era commitment to accept 1,250 refugees from Australian detention centers

Trump: Why haven’t you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?

Turnbull: Okay, I will explain why. It is not because they are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world….we will not let you in. …

Trump: That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.

4. “Local milk people.” Trump doubles down on his resistance to accepting refugees from Australia.

Trump: I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.

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5. Trump tells Nieto he won New Hampshire, which he calls a “drug-infested den”

Hillary Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire by 0.4 percent, one of the states where opioid-related overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years. Trump won the Granite state during the GOP primaries.

Trump:  We have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York. Up in New Hampshire – I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den – is coming from the southern border.

6. The Boston bombers

Trump, explaining to Turnbull why he didn’t want to accept refugees from Australia, referred to several terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Trump: … Can Australia give me a guarantee that if we have any problems – you know that is what they said about the Boston bombers. They said they were wonderful young men.

Turnbull: They were Russians. They were not from any of these countries.

Trump: They were from wherever they were.

7. The call with Nieto ended somewhat amicably

Nieto: … The only thing I am interested in for both of our nations to do well – for your government, for you, and for us to truly have a relationship with friendship and a very constructive relationship, Mr. Trump.

Trump: You know, we should put that in the statement. Your words are so beautiful. Those are beautiful words and I do not think I can speak that beautifully, okay? It would be great to put those words at the end of the statement. Really nice though.

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8. The call with Turnbull did not.

Trump: I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

Trump brags about compliments that he never actually got

Donald Trump has a habit of making claims that don’t quite hold up when checked out. The president bragged this week of two special phone calls: one from the head of the Boy Scouts supposedly telling the U.S. president his recent speech to the group was “the greatest,” and another from the president of Mexico, who Trump said paid him “the ultimate compliment” by saying fewer people were crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trouble is, neither of these phone calls actually happened. But when a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Wednesday if the president lied, she had a different take on it:

“I wouldn’t say it’s a lie. That’s a pretty bold accusation,” Sanders said. “It’s …the conversations took place. They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call. He had them in person.”

Sanders said Trump was actually referring to a face-to-face meeting with the Mexican president at the recent G-20 summit. In relation to the Boy Scouts, the newly-appointed press secretary said Trump was referencing multiple messages of congratulations from members of the leadership, following his speech at the Scouts’ recent annual jamboree.

In fact, an official statement from the group apologized for Trump inserting political messages into his speech — including attacks on the Democrats, healthcare and “fake media.”

Here’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of a lie: “To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.”

Day 195 Aug 2

White House celebrates “American Dream” week by distancing itself from the Statue of Liberty

To celebrate “American Dream” week, the White House took steps to distance itself from the Statue of Liberty.

Trump aide Stephen Miller, who led Wednesday’s White House press briefing, took special pains to outline for the assembled reporters the Trump administration’s stance on the statue’s famous and oft-cited inscription — you know, the one that tells the world, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

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Following Trump’s announcement that the United States would cut its legal immigration by half within the next decade, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Miller whether the administration’s new proposals were in keeping with the poem, which is printed on the Statue of Liberty’s base.

Miller downplayed the poem’s importance, telling Acosta, “I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting in the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Miller then repeatedly referred to the poem as the “Statue of Liberty law of the land,” asking Acosta how many immigrants the United States should let in each year. “Tell me, what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty poem law of the land?” he said.

It’s not clear who, if anyone, is arguing the poem should be a comprehensive outline of U.S. immigration policies, but the Statue of Liberty is pretty much supposed to be the embodiment of the American Dream — the very dream the White House is dubiously honoring this week.

Not that the White House has been doing particularly well observing its America-themed weeks. Last week — “American Heroes” week — Trump fired his then–White House chief of staff, Reince Preibus. And during July’s “Made in America” week, Trump’s private golf club, Mar-a-Lago, filed paperwork to hire 70 foreign workers.

Boy Scouts: We didn’t call Trump to praise his speech

Not long after Trump turned the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree into a campaign rally, the president claimed that the organization’s leader called to personally thank him. But now the Boy Scouts say if Trump received a call, they don’t know who placed it, according to TIME.

“There was no mix there. That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix,” Trump boasted, according to a transcript of his July 25 interview with the Wall Street Journal, just one day after he spoke at the jamboree. “And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.”

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Boy Scout officials, however, told TIME that they’re “unaware of any call from national leadership placed to the White House.” Let’s not forget that prank callers have fooled the Trump administration in the recent past.

Trump’s speech to thousands of children covered an array of questionable topics from a New York socialite declaring personal bankruptcy to bragging about his election victory to promising everyone will be saying Merry Christmas again. By the end of the week, the Boy Scouts of America had issued an apology for Trump’s remarks.

Trump hires his son’s wife to deliver “real news” on Facebook

What’s the best way to counteract the “Fake News” mainstream media and get “real news” to the people? Aside from constantly retweeting Fox & Friends stories, the obvious answer is to start your own TV show — and that’s just what Donald Trump has done.

Featuring Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump as news anchor, the first episode of the new show was broadcast on the president’s Facebook page Sunday.  “I bet you haven’t heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week because there’s so much fake news out there,” she opens.

Lara Trump, who is married to the president’s son Eric, then listed some of the president’s accomplishments from the previous week — such as donating his salary to the Department of Education, the Foxconn jobs announcement, stock market highs, and Medal of Valor presentations.

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The short video has been viewed over 2 million times so far, but given that Trump has 23 million followers on Facebook, that hardly qualifies as a ratings hit. Sad.

Of course a quick search online would have saved Lara Trump a lot of time, given that most the stories she mentions were covered by the media already — here, here, here, and here.

What the “Real News” report failed to mention was the president’s controversial transgender ban, the ongoing turmoil within the White House, and of course the Republican party’s inability to repeal Obamacare.

Day 194 Aug 1

Trump crafted Don Jr.’s Russia statement “as any father would”

Pro tip, kids: Next time you need help writing a misleading statement to the press about your meeting with a Kremlin-backed lawyer, ask your dad for help. That’s what the First Family does.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said as much when she told reporters Tuesday that Trump had helped his son Don Jr. craft an untrue public statement about Don Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer during the campaign. Despite previous claims that Trump wasn’t involved, the Washington Post reported Monday that Trump had, in fact, dictated the statement to his eldest son.

“The president weighed in as any father would, based on the limited information that he had,” Sanders said during her daily briefing. “He certainly didn’t dictate, but you know, he — like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do.”

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Sanders also defended the accuracy of Don Jr.’s statement, which claimed that he and the Russian lawyer had primarily discussed adoptions — although the emails Don. Jr. later released show that he’d taken the meeting because he believed he’d get dirt on Trump’s then-rival Hillary Clinton.

So far, Trump has refused to distance himself from his family even as questions mount about their interactions with the Russian government. Soon after the meeting’s existence became public, he tweeted, “HillaryClinton [sic] can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?”

Trump previewed fake Fox story on Seth Rich murder, lawsuit claims

President Trump might have to add himself to the list of publications and reporters he accuses of pushing out fake news.

According to a lawsuit filed against Fox News Tuesday, the president reviewed a false Fox News report about the death of a Democratic National Committee staffer last July before it was published, reported NPR, which exclusively obtained the suit. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also knew of Fox’s reporting.

Fox News later retracted the story, which suggested the staffer, Seth Rich, was murdered as punishment for sharing sensitive documents with WikiLeaks, slyly undermining the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia hacked into the DNC’s emails.

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and Fox News commentator, filed the suit, claiming Fox News defamed him by fabricating quotes attributed to him in the story. The suit also revealed that a Texas investor and Trump supporter named Ed Butowsky — who allegedly offered to pay Wheeler to look into Rich’s death — bragged about having the White House’s support for the story.

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“We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this,” Butowsky said in a voicemail the suit quotes, according to NPR. “Not to add any more pressure, but the president just read the article,” he added in a text message listed in the suit, according to NPR. “He wants the article out immediately.”

Other emails from the suit show that Butowsky coached “Fox and Friends” hosts to frame the story as a way to disprove allegations that Russia conspired to elect Trump, NPR reported.

Spicer, who met with Wheeler and Butowsky a month before the story published, told NPR he took the meeting as a favor and was unaware of contact between Butowsky and the president. And Butowsky told NPR he was kidding about the president’s involvement and never gave drafts of the story to Trump or his staff.

Fox also told NPR there’s no evidence that their reporters fabricated Wheeler’s quotes and did not comment on the political allegations.

For his part, Trump has frequently praised Fox for its reporting.

Email prank tricks Trump officials into a fake party and insulting each other

Throughout the month of July, an email prankster tricked multiple White House officials, including Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, into thinking he also worked for the White House.

The practical joker, @SINON_REBORN, posed as Jared Kushner to invite Bossert to “a bit of a soirée toward the end of August.” Despite the subject line including [SUSPECTED_SPAM], Bossert not only accepted but offered his personal email unprompted.

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The joker also exchanged cordial emails with former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci while pretending to be Ambassador to Russia-designate Jon Huntsman Jr. In reference to Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, the prankster asked The Mooch, “Whose head should roll first?”

“Both of them,” Scaramucci replied.

Scaramucci fell for another prank email and responded to the sender, who he thought was Priebus: “You know what you did. We all do. Even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A Man would apologize.” In later correspondence, he also suggested Priebus read Othello. “You are right there,” he wrote.

Eric Trump was also temporarily fooled into believing he was emailing his older brother Don Jr. But once he caught on, Eric alerted the sender he planned to give the emails to law enforcement.

Although none of the recipients clicked the links, experts told CNN such incidents highlight the government officials’ vulnerability to phishing attempts — when a hacker uses a seemingly trusted or innocuous email as a way to gain personal information or access to the recipient’s account.

Luckily, the ringleader of this particular circus said he doesn’t have malicious intentions. As soon as he had his laughs, the prankster turned the emails over to CNN, which confirmed their authenticity with the White House.

“I try and keep it on the humorous side of things,” he told CNN. “I’m not trying to get the keys to the vault or anything like that.”

Day 193 July 31

Trump dictated son’s deceptive Russia statement aboard Air Force One — report

President Trump personally dictated son Don Jr.’s first and ultimately misleading statement about a secretive meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, according to a new bombshell report in the Washington Post.

Trump was leaving the G-20 summit aboard Air Force One on July 8, when, against the advice of his aides, he dictated the official statement attributed to his son, the Washington Post reports.

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The statement read:

“It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Trump Jr. amended his initial account of the meeting three days later, when he was informed the New York Times had obtained a copy of an email correspondence showing he had taken the meeting based on the promise he’d receive dirt on his father’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The email, which had the subject line “Subject: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” promised Jr. damaging information on Hillary Clinton. To which Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Shortly after the Times piece, Trump Jr. tweeted what he claims to be the “full email chain.” That decision earned praise from his father, who congratulated Donald Jr. for his (retroactive) honesty after the news broke.

The Post’s latest report goes against several statements made by Trump, Trump Jr., and various representatives in the aftermath of the revelations concerning the June 2016 meeting. “The president didn’t sign off on anything… The president wasn’t involved in that,” Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said on “Good Morning America” on July 12. Sekulow again flatly denied Trump had any role in crafting the statement, saying in a July 16 “Meet the Press” appearance,“The president did not draft the response… I can’t say whether the president was told the statement was going to be coming.”

On Monday, Sekulow again was defending his client.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent,” Sekulow said Monday in a one-sentence response to the Post report.

“Fake news, incorrect, and misinformed of no consequence,” another Trump attorney, John Dowd, told MSNBC.

The military has no idea what’s going on with the transgender ban

It’s been almost a week since President Trump announced his plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, and the Department of Defense still hasn’t received any directive from the White House, the Pentagon confirmed to VICE News Monday.

In an announcement spread out over three tweets last week, Trump told the estimated 15,500 active-duty and reserve transgender personnel serving in the armed forces that they were a burden, and that they created “tremendous medical costs and disruption” for the military.

The nation’s top military general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, responded saying that there would be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”

The Pentagon was reportedly blindsided by the announcement, and is seemingly still in the dark.

The White House did not immediately return VICE News’ request for comment.