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Trump was just undercut by the Pentagon on his shocking claim of a Saudi Arabia quid pro quo

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- Commentary

Donald Trump is the most explicitly transactional of modern presidents, and it’s gotten him into trouble. His offering of support from the U.S. government to Ukraine in exchange for a personal favor — an announcement of investigations into his political rivals — wound up making him the third American president to be impeached.

And in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham last Friday, Trump revealed he was engaging in another explicit quid pro quo — not, apparently, for a personal favor, but corrupting nonetheless — with Saudi Arabia.

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“We’re sending more [troops] to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is paying us for it,” Trump said. “I said ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you. But you’ve got to pay us.’”

This is pretty much as direct a quid pro quo as you can get — an offer to do something on the condition of getting paid. And since what is supposedly being paid for is U.S. military personnel, critics argued that Trump was turning American forces into a de facto mercenary army.

“He sells troops,” said Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) on Twitter.

Trump even went further with his claim, saying the payment was already sent to “the bank,” though he didn’t specify which bank, and Ingraham didn’t press him.

“They’re paying us,” Trump said. “They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

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According to a statement from the Pentagon to Vox, however, none of this is right.

It said the Defense Department “has engaged Saudi Arabia on contributing to US activities that support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression,” and that the country had agreed. However, it doesn’t look like any money has actually changed hands, as the Pentagon said that “discussions are ongoing to formalize these contributions.”

The Pentagon also pushed back on the quid pro quo Trump laid out, without calling him out directly.

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“Contributions of this nature do not lead to the deployment of additional US forces, and they do not drive DoD to take on new missions or responsibilities,” it said.

What’s left unknown is who is really telling the truth. Trump lies all the time, of course, but sometimes he has accidental bouts of candor. And administration officials often shade the truth, or contradict the known facts entirely, in an effort to avoid the horrifying implications of Trump’s claims. Regardless, Trump seems to want people to think the U.S. military is up for sale, which is terrifying enough on its own.

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‘Rather than leading — he lies’: MSNBC panel says Trump is a ‘danger to the country’ because he can’t be trusted

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MSNBC commentators, former assistant US Attorney Maya Wiley and Rick Wilson, explained that President Donald Trump's most significant barrier is making it past his own lies to save America from the coronavirus.

"There's a case tonight being tested in Walton County, Florida. The heart of Trump country," said Wilson, referring to the panhandle county east of Pensacola. "That's not going to be something you can just walk away from if it turns out to be a real case. We're seeing these things popping up all over. The safe bet was always to say, 'This could be bad. We'll do everything we can to stop it.' But he can't stop himself from self-aggrandizing and lying about things. And it's actually -- setting aside my normal criticism of Trump -- this is a danger to the country that he is not a trustworthy person for the American people. Even people who like him now he BS's them all the time. Now, if he says it's not a problem and people are being hospitalized, it is a problem."

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Trump ‘just wants this problem to go away’: President desperate to get coronavirus ‘off his plate’

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President Donald Trump is desperate for the coronavirus problem to go away, and he doesn't exactly care how it happens.

According to New York Times reporter Annie Karni, sources are telling her that the biggest concern Trump has is more about the markets than the deaths of Americans from the virus.

"First, let's establish, this is a president who tried to change science with a Sharpie when it came to hurricane path prediction," said MSNBC host Brian Williams. "That picture lasts forever."

"Even his allies on Fox and his allies outside the White House were kind of channeling to that proverbial audience of one that this was a great opportunity to look presidential and to tell the facts," said Karni. The Donald Trump we saw out there in the briefing room was very casual, kind of left the facts to the other people that accompanied him out there. But he clearly publicly and privately just wants this problem to go away. He wants to downplay it. He thinks -- he has called people who are talking about fears about it alarmist. He doesn't want to be alarmist, and he's kind of holding on to any comment that makes it sound like this will naturally be a problem that is removed from his plate. That's what we saw publicly, and that's what he's been saying privately as well."

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Seth Meyers: You know Trump isn’t the chief law enforcement officer because he couldn’t pass the physical

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"Late Night" host Seth Meyers warned that the United States is sliding into authoritarianism under President Donald Trump.

Sounding the alarm Wednesday evening, Meyers cited reports that Trump was making lists of disloyal people, purging them from their jobs, hiring unqualified cronies in top posts, and claiming he has the right to interfere in criminal cases.

While speaking to the press last week, Trump even announced that he's allowed to be involved in all criminal cases because he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. It's actually a title used for the attorney general.

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