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E.g., 6/18/2019
A campaign sign for Donald Trump is seen before an event in Lawrenceville, N.J., May 19, 2016. (Photo by John Taggart/Bloomberg/Getty)

Discouraging internal polls become a huge headache for Team Trump

06/17/19 09:20AM

About a week ago, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump had received a briefing on his internal polls, the results of which were "devastating" for the president's operation. Soon after, according to the article, the Republican directed his aides "to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing" former Vice President Joe Biden, despite the fact that the data showed exactly that.

Trump did not handle the Times' reporting well. In fact, he soon after insisted that the internal polling data was "fake," "made up," and that the results in question "don't even exist."

Yeah, about that...

Data from President Donald Trump's first internal reelection campaign poll conducted in March, obtained exclusively by ABC News, showed him losing a matchup by wide margins to former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states.

Trump has repeatedly denied that such data exists.

The polling data, revealed for the first time by ABC News, showed a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.

NBC News obtained additional data from the internal polling report, which also painted a bleak picture for the GOP incumbent.

Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, conceded that the polling results -- the ones his boss said were "fake," "made up," and non-existent -- were real, but out of date.

Parscale added that his operation has seen "huge swings in the president's favor" since that internal poll was conducted in March, which seems awfully hard to believe given the overall trajectory of Trump's national standing.

But in case this weren't a big enough fiasco, Team Trump has responded to these developments by shaking up his polling team.

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The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

Key GOP rep: It'd be 'foolish' to turn down info from foreign source

06/17/19 08:40AM

Donald Trump jolted the political world last week when the president ignored the lessons of the Russia scandal and endorsed foreign intervention in American political campaigns. He scoffed at the idea of contacting the FBI about improper foreign outreach -- "Give me a break," the Republican said, "Life doesn't work that way" -- and rejected the conclusions of his own handpicked FBI director.

Trump added, "If somebody called from a country, Norway, 'We have information on your opponent,' oh I think I'd want to hear it.... It's not an interference. They have information, I think I'd take it."

The comments caused some discomfort among Republicans, who weren't altogether eager to defend their president's indifference to the rule of law and the integrity of his own country's elections system. But as the Salt Lake Tribune reported, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) went in a very different direction.

While Stewart said he wouldn't have said it the way President Donald Trump did to ABC News -- the president said he would take intel from a foreign government and maybe not alert the FBI -- there's good reason to look at the information they may be offering.

"It depends on who it is and the circumstances and how credible it is," Stewart told CNN's Jim Scuitto. "There might be valuable information that comes from one of our allies. If they look at it, and it's credible, I think it would be foolish not to take that information."

Asked about contacting the FBI if offered campaign information from a foreign source, the four-term GOP lawmaker added, "I just think you have to say it depends. Because it truly does depend."

Chris Stewart is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which suggests he really ought to know better.

Among the problems with this is the simple fact that U.S. law isn't ambiguous on this point.

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During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Trump now claims he read the whole Mueller report (but he didn't)

06/17/19 08:00AM

At a White House event last Wednesday, Donald Trump ranted for quite a while about the Mueller report, making a long series of claims, each of which were demonstrably wrong. Purely as a matter of political theatrics, it was almost impressive to see a sitting president lie so much, so quickly, about something of great significance.

Referring to the special counsel's findings, Trump argued, "It said, 'No collusion and no obstruction and no nothing.' And, in fact, it said we actually rebuffed your friends from Russia; that we actually pushed them back -- we rebuffed them." The Republican went on to make similarly false claims about his disclosures, his transparency, and federal investigators.

Listening to the tirade, it became clear that the president had simply decided to replace our reality with an alternative version that better suited his purposes. It served as a reminder that Trump had drawn firm conclusions about the Mueller report despite not having read it.

And yet, the president sat down with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos the same day and insisted he had read the Mueller report.

In context, the anchor, speaking with Trump inside the presidential limousine, asked the Republican about his "pitch to the swing voter on the fence." Trump quickly turned to the Mueller report, his "no collusion" claim, and his perception that voters "are angry about it." Stephanopoulos began to correct him, but said the two could discuss it in more detail later.

But the president pressed on, again insisting that the special counsel's findings concluded "no collusion," and "they didn't find anything having to do with obstruction." The ABC host explained, "They didn't examine collusion. He laid out evidence of obstruction."

This exchange soon followed:

TRUMP: He said no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he didn't look at collusion.

TRUMP: George, the report said no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you read the report?

TRUMP: Uh, yes I did, and you should read it, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I read every word.

TRUMP: Alright, let's go. You should read it, too, George.

At that point, the president decided it was time to leave the car.

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Trump admin confrontation of Iran raises concerns of escalation

Trump admin confrontation of Iran raises concerns of escalation

06/14/19 09:23PM

Ali Velshi looks at the escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and Iran through the lens of the Bush administration’s posture in the run-up to the Iraq war. Hagar Chemali, former spokesperson for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, joins to share her insights on the dangerous U.S./Iran dynamic. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 6.14.19

06/14/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* An important ruling: "The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday said the Trump administration cannot deny pregnant undocumented minors in federal custody access to abortion."

* It's only a case of someone repeatedly and flagrantly breaking an ethics law: "President Trump said Friday that he will not fire White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their work."

* Climate crisis: "Ice is melting in unprecedented ways as summer approaches in the Arctic. In recent days, observations have revealed a record-challenging melt event over the Greenland ice sheet, while the extent of ice over the Arctic Ocean has never been this low in mid-June during the age of weather satellites."

* What a fiasco: "Federal tax payments by big businesses are falling much faster than anticipated in the wake of Republicans' tax cuts, providing ammunition to Democrats who are calling for corporate tax increases."

* A million here, a million there: "Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in her father's Washington hotel last year, according to a disclosure released by the White House on Friday. She also made at least $1 million from her line of branded apparel, jewelry and other merchandise, down from at least $5 million in the previous year."

* A step in the right direction: "A small group of House Judiciary Committee members traveled to the Justice Department Thursday afternoon to begin reviewing former special counsel Robert Mueller's underlying evidence, according to multiple Democratic sources."

* There's just no good reason for this: "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has chosen to relocate two of USDA's research agencies to the Kansas City area, the final step in a process to reshape the department's research wing that has drawn objections from several congressional Democrats."

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Image: US-POLITICS-FBI-WRAY

Trump puts his handpicked FBI director in an unenviable position

06/14/19 03:24PM

Last fall, NBC News reported that Donald Trump has been known to privately complain about his FBI chief, arguing behind the scenes that Chris Wray was "not protecting his interests." The president's dissatisfaction has become far more overt of late.

A month ago, for example, Trump whined via Twitter that the FBI "has no leadership," a not-so-subtle shot at the man he handpicked to oversee the bureau. Two days later, the president complained that it was "ridiculous" for Wray to balk at the White House's conspiracy theory about the Trump campaign being spied on in 2016.

Reminded this week that Wray has encouraged Americans aware of foreign efforts to intervene in our elections to contact federal law enforcement, Trump declared, "The FBI director is wrong." (The FBI was not, in reality, wrong.)

This was, of course, part of the same interview in which the president personally invited foreign intervention in American elections, saying that if foreign countries have information that might benefit his re-election effort, "I think I'd take it."

Politico reported overnight that with his bizarre comments, Trump "undercut" months of work at the bureau.

[Trump's] comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them.

And it has backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest.

Jim Baker, the FBI's former general counsel, told Politico, in reference to FBI leaders who saw Trump's interview, "I don't think they should run for the exits right away, but they can't just ignore this one. This is potentially encouraging criminal activity and undermining federal law."

Don't brush past that one too quickly: the former top lawyer at the FBI believes the sitting president may have encouraged others to commit federal crimes.

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Image: Donald Trump

Trump boasts about personal involvement in Air Force One design

06/14/19 12:41PM

Donald Trump made quite a bit of news in his interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, but there was another part of the interview that the president seemed especially excited about.

Less than a year after announcing a $3.9 billion makeover for America's most famous aircraft, President Donald Trump shared never-before-seen images of Air Force One's prospective redesign on Wednesday during an exclusive interview with ABC News.

"George, take a look at this," Trump boasted to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, as he flashed mock-ups of his vision for the next generation of the presidential aircraft. "Here's your new Air Force One." [...]

"We had different choices, here," Trump said, pointing to images he said he designed himself. "These are all slightly different."

The president went on to claim he "got $1.6 billion off the price" of the project -- a claim that's already been proven false many, many times.

But that's not the only problem with this story. For example, the exterior colors of the new Air Force One look "remarkably similar to those on his own corporate jet."

For that matter, House Democrats this week moved forward with a defense spending bill with a provision that requires congressional approval for changes to the "interior, paint and fixtures" of Air Force One.

But the part of the story that caught my attention was ABC News reporting that Trump pointed to "images he said he designed himself."

I'm fascinated by what the president finds fascinating.

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.14.19

06/14/19 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* The DNC officially announced the participants for the upcoming presidential primary debate. Arguably the most notable exclusion was two-term Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

* Believe it or not, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets ready to exit her current job, she's reportedly had conversations about running for governor in her native Arkansas.

* Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) announced this morning that she's retiring from politics and won't seek re-election next year. The news is especially notable because Brooks is supposed to be overseeing candidate recruitment for her party in the 2020 cycle.

* Justice Democrats, which helped elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) last year, now has its eyes on Texas' 28th congressional district. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is among the least progressive Dems on Capitol Hill, despite representing a relatively safe Democratic district, and Justice Democrats is now rallying behind immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros' primary campaign.

* Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) used some rather pointed language yesterday on MSNBC, saying in reference to former Vice President Joe Biden's candidacy, "You cannot go back to the end of the Obama administration and think that that's good enough.... We cannot return to the past."

* Asked this week about a possible third-party presidential bid in 2020, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the only Republican who supports impeaching Donald Trump, said, "I have no interest in playing spoiler. When I run for something, I run to win." He added, however, "I haven't ruled anything out."

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Trump suggests his former White House counsel lied to investigators

06/14/19 11:20AM

When it comes to obstruction allegations surrounding Donald Trump, former White House Counsel Don McGahn is a witness of particular significance: few figures play as an important a role in the Mueller report as the former White House counsel. As we've discussed, the Republican lawyer spoke with investigators for dozens of hours, and in the redacted version of Mueller's report, the former White House counsel is cited more than 150 times.

In some of the episodes in which Trump allegedly obstructed justice, the claims of suspected criminal misconduct are based heavily on what McGahn told investigators.

Indeed, as the special counsel's findings made clear, the former White House counsel very nearly resigned because the president directed him to "do crazy s**t," including an incident in which, according to McGahn, Trump pressed the lawyer to push the Justice department to derail the investigation by getting rid of Mueller and creating a false document to cover that up.

In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that aired this morning, the president pushed back against the allegations raised by the former White House counsel.

"I don't care what [McGahn] says, it doesn't matter," Trump said.

"Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?" Stephanopoulos later asked.

"Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer," Trump said. "Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen -- including you, including the media -- that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest."

"And has to go?" Stephanopoulos followed up.

"I didn't say that," Trump insisted.

The implication isn't subtle: the president seemed to suggest the former White House counsel made false claims, under oath, when speaking to federal investigators.

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Image: President Trump Holds Rally In Great Falls, Montana

Trump campaign: We'll handle foreign info on a 'case by case basis'

06/14/19 10:41AM

On Wednesday, Donald Trump told a national television audience that he'd welcome foreign intervention in his own county's 2020 elections. On Thursday, as CBS News reported, the president's campaign put his position in practical terms:

President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign will handle damaging information on political opponents provided by foreign governments and entities on a "case by case basis," according to the campaign's top spokesperson.

Asked about Mr. Trump's assertion that he would be receptive to dirt on rivals offered by foreigners, Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for the president's reelection bid, told CBSN's "Red & Blue" that campaign staff should take the president's comments as a "directive" to handle foreign dirt through a two-pronged approach.

McEnany literally said, "The president's directive, as he said, [it's] a case by case basis."

That's not a legitimate answer. To hear the national press secretary for the president's re-election campaign put it, Trump and his team may accept some illegal foreign assistance, and they may reject other illegal foreign assistance. In Trump World, there's apparently no need for a blanket policy.

Except, of course, there should be.

For his part, the president returned to Fox News again this morning, where he kinda sorta clarified what he said to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

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