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White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017.

Spicer tries to squelch criticisms of Trump's failed raid in Yemen

02/09/17 08:45AM

Two weeks ago in Yemen, the first military raid ordered by Donald Trump went horribly wrong. The plan was to acquire intelligence and equipment at an al Qaeda camp, but the mission quickly went sideways: Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owen, a member of SEAL Team 6, was killed; several other Americans were injured; and by the end of the operation, multiple civilians, including children, were dead.

It's been described as a mission in which "almost everything went wrong," a dynamic made more complicated by U.S. military officials suggesting to Reuters that Trump approved the mission "without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations."

Worse, some of the Trump White House's claims about what transpired have struggled to stand up to scrutiny, and when the president's Defense Department tried to present evidence of the raid's value, that went wrong, too.

The consequences of the events continue to reverberate: the New York Times reported yesterday that Yemen "has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country," which is an important setback for the Trump administration.

Despite all of this, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week that the operation was "successful" and "well-executed." Yesterday, Spicer went even further.
The White House said Wednesday that anyone who questions the success of last week's deadly U.S.-led raid in Yemen "owes an apology" to the Navy SEAL who was killed there. [...]

Spicer said that "anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does] a disservice" to the life of Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, who was killed in a firefight.... Spicer repeated his declaration that the Jan. 28 strike -- which also left an 8-year-old girl and an unknown number of other civilians dead -- was a "huge success."
Wait, it gets much worse.
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Senator Ted Cruz addresses delegates on day three of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 20, 2016. (Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty)

On civil rights, Republicans pick the wrong fight at the wrong time

02/09/17 08:00AM

Given the racially charged themes tying together several recent Republican moves, the GOP would probably be better off avoiding an argument over civil rights, but a variety of prominent officials in the party were nevertheless eager to dive in yesterday.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, for example, was asked at a briefing yesterday about Republicans shutting down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) when she tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King about Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). The press secretary touted Sessions' record on civil rights "throughout his career," and added that he "would hope" that King would support the Alabama Republican if she were alive today.

Given Sessions' actual record, Spicer's rhetoric was difficult to take seriously. Coretta Scott King wrote 30 years ago that Sessions would "irreparably damage" her slain husband's work, and there's literally nothing to suggest she'd feel any differently today.

Around the same time, however, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was taking the broader argument in an even more ridiculous direction. The Washington Post reported:
The day after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was rebuked while making a speech critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Democrats, saying their party is the one rooted in racism.

"The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan," Cruz (R-Tex.) said in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday. "You look at the most racist -- you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan. The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats."
There are a couple of dramatic problems with this. The first is recent history: just last year, during the presidential campaign, a KKK newspaper published its support for Donald Trump's candidacy. It was part of a broader push among white nationalists to help elect the Republican Party's presidential ticket.

This followed an incident from last February in which Trump was asked to denounce support he'd received from white supremacists -- and the Republican hesitated.

Perhaps Ted Cruz missed this.
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 2.8.17

02/08/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Yemen: "Angry at the civilian casualties incurred last month in the first commando raid authorized by President Trump, Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials."

* I'll look forward to hearing the White House's defense of this: "A Russian judge convicted Aleksei A. Navalny, an opposition politician and one of the Kremlin's most charismatic critics, of fraud charges on Wednesday, a move that bars him from running for the presidency next year."

* Really? "People who want to visit the United States could be asked to hand over their social-media passwords to officials as part of enhanced security checks, the country's top domestic security chief said."

* We live in strange times: "[F]or some experts who study terrorism, President Trump's assertion this week that the news media has actually been ignoring and covering up terrorist attacks came as a surprise."

* Expect a rocky tenure: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday delivered her first public message since her rocky confirmation hearing, promising her new staff that she is committed to working with it to 'protect, strengthen and create new world-class education opportunities for America's students.'"

* I'll have more on this in the morning: "Sen. John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, called the recent US raid in Yemen a 'failure' following a classified briefing Tuesday morning on the operation, which ended in the death of a Navy SEAL and an unconfirmed number of civilians."

* Indirectly, money in the president's pocket: "The Department of Defense is seeking to rent space in President Trump's New York skyscraper, Trump Tower, a move that could directly funnel government money into the president's business interests."
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Image: *** BESTPIX *** President-Elect Donald Trump Holds Press Conference In New York

The 'most anti-American statement ever made' by a U.S. president

02/08/17 04:57PM

It's still hard to believe Donald Trump went there. After talking about his respect for Russia's Vladimir Putin, the American president was told, "Putin's a killer," Trump responded, "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country's so innocent?"

In the span of just a few seconds, Trump drew a moral equivalence between the United States and Putin's Russia, abandoned any sense of us having moral authority, and suggested violence may be a legitimate governing tool. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said of the president's comments, "This is as scary as it gets."

But it wasn't just Democrats who noticed. Former Gen. Barry McCaffrey appeared on MSNBC and said of Trump's comments, "One could argue that's the most anti-American statement ever made by the president of the United States."

As Politico noted, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wasn't pleased, either.
Sen. John McCain rebuked President Donald Trump on the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, lashing Trump's defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend as "either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased."

The Arizona senator, who has emerged as one of Trump's chief Republican foils on foreign policy and national security issues, never mentioned Trump by name. But as he spoke in favor of anti-Putin activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, McCain clearly singled out Trump's comments about Putin on Sunday, when Trump compared Putin's strong-armed history of cracking down on dissidents to the United States' own record on human rights.
"[Kara-Murza] knew that there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin's Russia. I repeat, there is no moral equivalence between that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States of America, the country that Ronald Reagan used to call a shining city on a hill," McCain said in his statement. "To allege some kind of moral equivalence between the two is either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased. Neither, neither can be accurate in anyway."

That's a fairly mild rebuke -- if a Democratic president disparaged the United States this way, it's likely the articles of impeachment would already be moving through committee -- but it's nevertheless a good sign a GOP lawmaker was willing to say anything at all on the matter.
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