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Pentagon Seething As White House Defends Attempt To Hide USS McCain

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Sunday defended an effort by White House staff to ask the Navy to move the USS John S. McCain out of sight during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan.

The move comes after chief of Navy information Rear Adm. Charlie Brown last week confirmed “a request was made to the U.S. Navy to minimize the visibility of USS John S. McCain.”

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Mulvaney argued it’s “not an unreasonable thing” to ask about hiding the ship given “the president’s feelings towards the former senator.”

“The fact some 23- or 24-year-old person went to that site and said, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s the John McCain, we all know how the president feels about the former senator, that’s not the best backdrop, can somebody look into moving it?’” Mulvaney told host Chuck Todd. “That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.”

The White House official also said it would be “silly” for someone to lose their job over the incident.

Mulvaney’s attempt to downplay the controversy comes as the Pentagon told the White House to stop politicizing the military. As Time reports, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan asked his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office “and reaffirm his mandate that the department of defense will not be politicized,” spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino said.

The acting defense secretary said that his senior staff members were unaware of White House officials’ request to obscure McCain’s name during the president’s visit, but told reporters he does not plan on ordering a Pentagon inspector general’s investigation “because there was nothing carried out.”

For his part, Trump called the request “well meaning.”

IMAGE: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sunday, June 2, 2019 via screenshot.

This Week In Crazy: Alex Jones Drinks Bone Broth Chocolate Milk

Shadow government ruffians, alt-right “journalists,” and bone broth chocolate milk. Welcome to This Week In Crazy, The National Memo’s weekly update on the loony, bigoted, and hateful behavior of the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Joe Scarborough

I don’t know whether it’s the unscripted nature of Morning Joe or its namesake’s political bipolarity, but Scarborough somehow manages to dig his own rhetorical grave at least once a week. This week — Thursday, to be exact — he tried to perpetuate the thoroughly debunked argument that increased immigration inversely affects the wages of “white working class Americans.”

Per MediaMatters:

Contrary to Scarborough’s claim, study after study has found little evidence that immigration negatively affects American’s wages in the long term, and research shows that immigrants tend to take jobs that Americans don’t want.

It’s unsurprising that Scarborough — who fairly recently denounced his old political party — is mimicking the talking points of President Trump, who in early February called the former Florida congressman “a great guy [who] has a great show.”

By then MSNBC execs were reportedly disconcerted by “Scarborough’s friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.” Of course, Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski subsequently distanced themselves from their old chum, drawing the Twitter ire of Trump.

But with Scaramucci unemployed, Scarborough parroting the right-wing talking points, and Trump ever changing from moment to moment, are we looking at the next White House communications director?

4. Rick Wiles

Some underpaid soul on the RightWingWatch masthead listened to Wiles’s TruNews radio show on Tuesday and clipped the three-and-a-half minutes in which the Florida pastor theorizes that a gang of shadow government ruffians has been injuring politicians in calling-card fashion for more than a decade.

Wiles and his co-host cited vaguely a 2002 incident in which then-President George W. Bush fainted while eating pretzels and sustained a raspberry on his cheek; another in which then-Vice President Dick Cheney, they said, got a “fat lip”; and a third in which Colin Powell, they struggled to remember, broke his arm or leg.

“All three within two weeks” leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, Wiles stressed.

And the violence appears nonpartisan. Wiles also mentioned that Barack Obama and Harry Reid suffered cosmetic injuries between 2002 and Tuesday.

Now with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) showing up on Capitol Hill to deliver the decisive vote on repeal-and-replace with a surgical scar above his eye, that makes six whole politicians — at least three of which were quantifiably old — getting hurt over the span of just fifteen years.

This will not stand.

3. Mike Cernovich

Cernovich — of Gorilla Mindset infamy — announced on Monday during one of his daily Periscope diatribes that he’d “pivoted from a pro-Trump guy to more of a journalistic guy” after short-lived communications directory Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci got the boot.

“I don’t want people to think of me as a pro-Trump guy anymore,” he said. “I want people to think of me as a Mindset guy [whatever that means], a journalist, a commentator, a social media personality, a filmmaker, an author.” Cernovich has a lifetime of pivoting to do, however, before anyone credible thinks of him as anything but a joke — even despite his White House press credentials.

2. Corey Lewandowski

Lewandowski — Trump’s formerly embattled campaign manager who pioneered the unfortunate trend of fired staffers becoming mainstream pundits after taking a reportedly six-figure contract with CNN — reared his closely shaven head on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

On the topic of Gen. John Kelly replacing Reince Priebus as Trump’s chief of staff, Lewandowski abruptly veered off topic to suggest the president fire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) head Richard Cordray, who’s rumored to be running for governor of Ohio.

“Do you have any business interests here?” host Chuck Todd asked. “Do you have a client that wants to see this happen?”

Lewandowski denied any such stake in calling for Cordray’s dismissal.

In a later segment, though, Politico‘s Eliana Johnson blew Lewandowski’s cover.

According to BuzzFeed, Lewandowski “will headline a fundraiser [on August 3] for US Rep. Jim Renacci, a candidate in Ohio’s competitive Republican primary for governor.” His appearance on Meet the Press was apparently an opportunity to sling mud at his buddy’s opponent on national television.

1. Alex Jones

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver returned from hiatus on Sunday with a long-form segment on Alex Jones — the conspiracy theorist who (it can’t be stressed enough) ate too much chili and lost custody of his kids — and his InfoWars-brand snake oil supplements.

Like Cernovich (see number three), Jones is — prolific’s not the right word. His show runs four hours every weekday. So a rebuttal was bound to come. And it did, on Tuesday.

Of all potential gripes, Jones honed in on Oliver — whom he confused with Trevor Noah — for mocking his Caveman True Paleo Formula, which is available on InfoWars.com, because of course you’re interested. Oliver said jokingly of the chocolate drink made partially from “Bone Broth … and other Ancient Supernutrients,” according to the website write-up, “I can confirm to you that it tastes exactly how you imagine a drink would taste that’s made from chocolate and domesticated bird corpses.”

Jones’s defense:

Everybody knows you leave the bones in in chicken broth when you’re sick — every wive’s tale, every culture.

He said he did market research at Whole Foods and GNC a few years ago and found bone broth to be “the hottest thing.” So he asked his “manufacturer” to produce a bone broth that was “three times stronger than anything else anybody makes.”

And we did it with chicken broth, bone broth — it’s got all the trace elements, the minerals. It’s got the co-factors. It’s got the — basically the stem cells in it. And they take it and they put it together, and it’s super strong.

So no “domesticated bird corpses.” I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced.

Who’s hungry?

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments! Get This Week In Crazy delivered to your inbox every Friday, by signing up for our daily email newsletter.

Trump Campaign Manager Acknowledges: ‘We Are Behind’

By Alana Wise and Luciana Lopez

WASHINGTON/RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – A top adviser to Donald Trump acknowledged on Sunday the Republican presidential candidate was lagging behind rival Hillary Clinton, as the Democratic nominee pressed a strategy of encouraging early voting in key battleground states.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Clinton had “tremendous advantages,” including a large campaign war chest that had allowed her to spend millions on television ads ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

“We are behind,” Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But she added the Trump campaign was looking to sway undecided voters not ready to support Clinton.

As the polling gap has widened, Trump has said repeatedly the election is being “rigged” against him. He has not offered evidence and numerous studies have shown that the U.S. election system, which is decentralized and run by the states, is sound.

At last week’s debate with Clinton, Trump challenged a cornerstone of American democracy by refusing to commit to honoring the result of the U.S. election.

“What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?” Trump said.

In the aftermath of the debate, Trump said he would accept the election outcome “if I win.”

EARLY VOTING

Clinton, speaking at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, one of seven key swing states the candidates will focus on in the remaining two weeks until the election, blasted Trump’s continued refusal to pledge to accept the outcome of the race, encouraging voters to turn out and cast their ballots early.

“He refused to say that he would respect the results of this election, and that is a threat to democracy,” she said. “The peaceful transition of power is one of the things that makes America America.”

“From now until Nov. 5, you can vote early at any voting location in your county. And you know, this is a big deal,” Clinton told about 3,500 supporters.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday had Clinton leading Trump by 4 percentage points, and the most recent State of the Nation project showed Clinton with a 95 percent chance of winning the 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency.

An ABC News poll released on Sunday morning had Clinton leading with 50 percent of likely support, compared with Trump’s 38 percent. The poll found that the number of Republicans who said they were likely to vote fell 7 percentage points from mid-October.

As Trump battled to win over undecided voters, efforts by advisers and members of his inner circle to downplay his remarks about the integrity of the election indicated he would come under significant pressure to accept the election results if he were to lose.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said that by asking Trump to agree to concede, the media were making an extraordinary request. He said Trump would only fight if the election were close and was not trying to dispute a fair election.

“That’s not quite what he’s saying. What he’s saying is he wants to reserve all options and if there is ground for a recount, I’ll reserve all options,” Priebus said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Trump’s son Eric said on Sunday that Trump would “100 percent” accept the results of the election if the outcome is “fair.”

“I think what my father is saying is, ‘I want a fair election,’” Eric Trump said on ABC’s “This Week.” “If it’s a fair outcome, he will absolutely accept it. There’s no question about that.”

Trump was planning to hold a rally in Naples, Florida, on Sunday evening and plans to campaign in the state for the next three days. Recent opinion polls show a tight race in the state, with Clinton leading by 47 percent to 43 percent.

On Sunday, Trump picked up his first endorsement of the general election from a major newspaper when the Las Vegas Review-Journal backed his candidacy. The newspaper is owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who has been reluctant to donate to Trump. In 2012, Adelson spent about $150 million trying to help elect Republican Mitt Romney.

(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

Photo: Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway (L) and Paul Manafort, staff of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speak during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Tax Transparency: Sanders Again Promises Full Disclosure

In a column for the New York Daily News, I criticize the failure of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders to release their full tax returns – a fundamental standard for presidential candidates, as David Cay Johnston recently explained here. Noting that there is no reason to suspect Sanders, in particular, of having anything to hide, I describe his non-disclosure in the Daily News as “bewildering.”

Yesterday, on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd braced Sanders on the issue quite directly:

TODD: Where are your tax returns? And wouldn’t that put you on a higher ground in calling for Hillary Clinton to say release these speech transcripts?

SANDERS: We are going to — we are going to release. I think we’ve talked about it before. Actually, you know, my wife works on our taxes. We’ve been busy. We are going to get out — all of our taxes out. Trust me, there is nothing that is going to surprise anybody.

TODD: Are you going to — but are you going to do seven, 10, 15 years’ worth of tax returns? So far you have done one [Form 1040].

SANDERS: We will do the best that we can. But, yes, we will get our tax returns out.

It’s good that he promised to disclose, although he didn’t say when. He made the same promise to Jake Tapper on CNN more than a week ago. And the Vermont senator didn’t explain why disclosure is so difficult for him and his wife. If there’s “nothing that is going to surprise anybody,” why is he stalling?

It is also puzzling to me that the media generally and the top newspaper editorial pages in particular remain so tolerant of stonewalling on taxes by all the candidates. (On February 26, by contrast, the Times published a scathing editorial demanding that Clinton release transcripts of her paid speeches to banks.) That wasn’t the attitude of the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards toward tax disclosure four years ago, when Mitt Romney tried that strategy.

The Post raked Romney on January 12, 2012, blasting his “determined lack of transparency” as “a striking and disturbing departure from the past practice of presidential candidates of both parties:

Asking candidates to make their tax returns public is undoubtedly an invasion of privacy. But it is one that comes with the territory of a presidential campaign. Such disclosure is not required by law but, as with the voluntary release of tax filings by the president and vice president, it has become routine, if at times grudging and belated.

A few days later, on January 17, 2012, the Times published “Taxes and Transparency,” an editorial that described Romney’s “insistence on secrecy” as “impossible to defend,” and put the issue plainly:

It is not too much to ask someone seeking the nation’s highest office to sacrifice some personal privacy to reassure voters that they have no hidden entanglements.

Two days later, when Romney attempted to get away with very limited disclosure, the Times thundered again:

Let’s be clear: despite Mr. Romney’s claim that ”people will want to see the most recent year,” his 2011 taxes would not be enough. Voters have a right to know how presidential aspirants made their money — not just in the year before the election.

To date, Sanders has posted only the first two pages of his 2014 tax return, nothing more. Cruz and Kasich have done the same, except for more than one year. Trump has disclosed zero, of course, while spouting his usual bombastic nonsense. So in 2016, the flouting of norms is even worse than 2012, except for one candidate – Hillary Clinton — who disclosed her complete returns dating back to 2000 and beyond last summer.  I would hate to think that’s why the Post and the Times are allowing all the other candidates escape scrutiny on this issue.