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Monday, December 09, 2019

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Former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis

Former President Donald Trump is slamming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for shifting positions on the Covid-19 vaccines for political purposes as the fast-rising governor reportedly prepares for a White House bid.

After an uncharacteristic silence and even listlessness following his 2024 presidential candidacy announcement last November, the twice impeached ex-president hit the campaign trail over the weekend, vising New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he displayed the pugilistic approach that endeared him to the country’s hard right.

While aboard his refurbished Boeing 757 en route to New Hampshire on Saturday, Trump suggested to reporters that DeSantis's anti-vaccine position was political posturing, given that the governor had ordered strict restrictions across his state at the onset of the pandemic.

“There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”

DeSantis — who got a Johnson and Johnson covid vaccine in April 2021 and once implored Floridians to “get vaccinated” because “the vaccines protect you” — and his team are “trying to rewrite [the] history” of their Covid-19 vaccine response, Trump added, according to CNN.

“I had governors that decided not to close a thing, and that was up to them,” Trump, an early proponent of covid-19 vaccination himself, told reporters, seeking to distance himself from the now-hot button topic.

The Florida governor didn’t just advocate for vaccines and put forth executive orders limiting in-person gatherings and closing entertainment establishments. His administration threatened in February 2021 to withhold covid-19 vaccines from jurisdictions that criticized its decision to roll out the coveted shots in heavily Republican areas of Florida first.

However, the governor has since changed his tune and attacked the covid-19 vaccines, their manufacturers, and the Centers for Disease Control so often, he is now a figurehead for the far-right’s anti-vaccine, anti-restriction, and pro-freedom movements.

Far-right commentators of the vaccine fearmongering kind have suggested that Trump would be wise to go the anti-vaccine route to further pander to the ultraconservative base, lest he loses ground to DeSantis.

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Christina Bobb, an attorney for Trump’s 2024 campaign, told conspiracy-peddling right-wing host Stew Peters, who questioned the defeated president’s support for “this bio-weapon injection, that Trump was poised to change his covid-19 vaccine stance, too.

“I suspect he will fully support the MAGA base and the way they feel about this, and he will move forward with the will of the American people,” Bobb said.

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The row over early covid-19 vaccine positions was one of Trump’s first campaign trail attacks on DeSantis, who some polls have shown leading the potentially crowded of Republican 2024 presidential candidates.

In his rant on “Trump Force One,” the former president again took credit for DeSantis’ 2018 ascension to governorship, saying, “Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me.”

“So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump added.

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Mike Pompeo

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has come under fire for criticizing the global condemnation of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, questioning Khashoggi’s journalistic credentials, and cozying up to the Saudi crown prince, whom a U.S. intelligence report concluded had ordered the assassination.

Khashoggi, an ardent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was tortured and then murdered by the kingdom's agents in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

After the murder, former President Donald Trump and Pompeo, then his top diplomat, sprung to the Saudi kingdom’s defense, with Trump describing the public outrage at the Saudis at the time as “just [what we] went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent.”

Despite four years passing since the CIA found that MBS had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination and almost two years since intelligence from the Biden Administration affirmed the conclusion, Pompeo, an ex-director of the CIA, and the Trump family, have continued to legitimize the crown prince and parrot the kingdom’s propaganda.

The murder was “ugly” but not “surprising,” Pompeo said in his new book, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, wherein he mocked the media for posthumously portraying Khashoggi as “a Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward martyred for bravely criticizing the Saudi royal family.”

Pompeo argued that Khashoggi was “an activist who had supported the losing team in a recent fight for the throne” and could only be considered a journalist “to the extent that I, and many other public figures, are journalists,” insisting that “we need to be clear about who he was,” according to NBC News.

Khashoggi — who blasted MBS, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, for allegedly oppressing critics in the months leading to his death — was “cozy with the terrorist-supporting Muslim Brotherhood,” an oft-repeated allegation that Khashoggi had vehemently denied time after time when he was alive.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Post’s CEO and publisher Fred Ryan Jr. blasted Pompeo for “so outrageously” mischaracterizing the Saudi-born journalist, “falsehoods,” he said, that Pompeo perpetuates to “dishonor a courageous man’s life” and “as a ploy to sell his books.”


The Post’s editorial board, in a scathing opinion Tuesday, blasted Pompeo for misrepresenting Khashoggi in an outlandish tirade that “reveals much more about Mr. Pompeo than his critics.”

“[Pompeo’s comments show] that, rather than acting as a principled leader of U.S. diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo coddled the person who sent the Khashoggi hit squad,” the publication wrote.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, a non-profit advocating for democracy and human rights in the Middle East, accused Pompeo of echoing MBS’s justification for Khashoggi’s death.

"Pompeo's crass and craven comments appearing to justify Jamal Khashoggi's murder by disparaging his political views and falsely associating them with terrorism mirror the same justifications Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and other tyrants use to excuse their crimes," Leah wrote in a statement.

Speaking to NBC on Monday, Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, said that her late husband was “not part of the Muslim Brotherhood” and that she hungered “to silence all of these people who publish books, disparage my husband, and collect money from it.”

“Whatever [Pompeo] mentions about my husband, he doesn’t know my husband. He should be silent and shut up the lies about my husband,” Helen Elatr Khashoggi said. “It is such bad information and the wrong information. … This is not acceptable.”

Pompeo dismissed the criticism on a right-wing podcast hosted by Fox New’s Bret Baier, saying that the Post "went on a major mission to undermine the work that we [in the Trump administration] were trying to do to keep America safe and our relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

"I didn't write that to sell books,” Pompeo told Baier. “I wrote that to explain how we were thinking about keeping the American people safe."

“Americans are safer because we didn’t label Saudi Arabia a pariah state,” Pompeo tweeted late Tuesday, responding to the Post’s statement. Just b/c someone is a part-time stringer for WaPo doesn’t make their life more important than our military serving in dangerous places protecting us all.

On the road promoting his book — which, upon review, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tim Weiner branded a “master class in the performative anger poisoning American politics” — talked up the prospect of a potential White House run in a CBS Morning interview Tuesday.

"Susan [his wife] and I are thinking, praying, trying to figure out if this is the next place to go serve. We haven't gotten to that conclusion. We'll figure this out in the next handful of months," Pompeo told CBS’s Gayle King.