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Beleaguered Trump struggles to fill key White House post as he becomes more and more isolated

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A beleaguered President Donald Trump on Monday insisted hush payments made to women before the 2016 election were legal, as he struggled to fill the key position of chief of staff — made toxic by two years of White House turmoil.

While it remains unclear whether a sitting president can actually be indicted, the US leader has found himself cited in an FBI campaign finance probe, only deepening tensions as he ends his second year in office with top lieutenant John Kelly stepping down and opposition Democrats poised to take control of the lower house of Congress.

Reacting to court filings on Friday about hush money payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels, Trump raged once again on Twitter that he was the victim of a “WITCH HUNT!”

Federal prosecutors in New York urged “substantial” jail time for the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen who pleaded guilty in August to bank fraud and campaign finance violations as a result of the payoffs to the two women, who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump.

Referred to as “Individual-1,” Trump was directly implicated in ordering the payments — which prosecutors believe aimed to influence the outcome of the election.

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Trump said Monday the opposition Democrats had taken “a simple transaction” and proceeded to “wrongly call it a campaign contribution.”

“Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,” the president added, accusing Cohen — his former right-hand man — of “trying to get his sentence reduced.”

In the immediate term, one of the president’s most pressing issues was to find a new chief of staff at the White House after announcing that Kelly, a retired general he had reportedly fallen out with, was to leave by the end of the year.

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Nick Ayres, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, had been touted as favorite to get the job, but announced Sunday he was taking himself out of the running, dealing a blow to the president.

– Isolation –

The fact that Trump is struggling to attract any heavyweights for what was once considered a plum political posting speaks to the increasing isolation the president finds himself in, as special counsel Robert Mueller probes whether his campaign may have colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.

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Former members of the administration have spoken, with varying degrees of frankness, about the difficulty of working with the impetuous and temperamental 72-year-old, who came to office without any political or diplomatic experience.

His former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who had largely kept quiet since leaving office, recently described his ex-boss as “a man who’s undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather says ‘this is what I believe.'”

That assessment earned Tillerson a broadside from the US leader, who called the former Exxon chief executive “dumb as a rock.”

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“Nobody wants to be Trump’s chief of staff,” the Democratic Party said in a statement Monday. “And why would they? Trump has turned the White House’s top job into ‘a laughing stock,’ and his entire presidency has been defined by chaos.”

As Democrats search for a candidate to run in the next elections in late 2020, James Comey — the former FBI chief abruptly fired by Trump after he came to power — said voters must “use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20, 2021.”

In a public appearance in New York, Comey said Democrats “have to win” the key election.

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A victory at the ballot box, he said, was far preferable to a messy impeachment in a highly divided country, calling for a “landslide (to) rid ourselves of this attack on our values.”

“Removal by impeachment would muddy that,” he said, warning that die-hard Trump supporters — who still make up almost a third of the electorate — might see themselves as victims of a “coup.”


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Here’s the ugly racist history behind tipping — and how it still persists today

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On Saturday, writing for Politico, minister and civil rights activist Rev. Dr. William Barber applauded House Democrats' plans to not only raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, but eliminate the much lower "tipped wage" of $2.13 an hour and require tipped workers to also be paid at least the minimum.

This is important, wrote Barber, because the roots of businesses forcing their workers to rely on tips for a proper wage is deeply rooted in America's history of racial tension.

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Black GOP strategist called on the carpet by Joy Reid for trying to sidestep Trump’s racist rally as ’empowering’ voters

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An "AM Joy" panel on MSNBC descended into talking over each other as host Joy Reid confronted a black GOP consultant over Donald Trump's racist rally in North Carolina.

Presenting the conservative point of view, Republican strategist Lenny McAllister was asked point-blank by the host, "Lenny, hold on a second, because you as a man of color yourself -- do you feel comfortable in a party that does rallies like that?"

McAllister pushed back saying he had walked away from just those type of events, before admitting, "To the greater point. They're using racism as an avenue through which people feel empowered, they lend you the loyalty, they give you the vote. What Republicans need to do is continue to empower people, but not by using racism and not by using phobia."

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Dershowitz and Trump should both be worried what Jeffrey Epstein will reveal when he looks to cut a deal: ex-prosecutor

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On Saturday, Georgetown Law professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler discussed the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case with MSNBC's Joy Reid, and the conversation turned to Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz's increasingly furious battle with David Boies, a prominent lawyer representing some of Epstein's alleged victims. Dershowitz has been accused by one of the women of also abusing her at one of Epstein's parties, a claim he categorically denies.

"I've had sex with one woman since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein," said Dershowitz in a Fox News clip Reid played for her viewers. "I challenge David Boies to say under oath that he's only had sex with one woman during that same period of time, he couldn't do it. So he has an enormous amount of chutzpah to attack me and to challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time."

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