On Thursday, CNN fact-checker John Avlon explored all the ways President Donald Trump has vilified and demonized not just political opponents, but career public officials and even members of his own party.
“Once upon a time, Sen. Lamar Alexander was really worried about enemies lists,” said Avlon, playing a clip of him saying, “I want to make what I hope will be a friendly suggestion to President Obama in his White House, and it is this: Don’t create an enemies list.”
“That was good advice, rooted as an experience working for Richard Nixon, but seems kind of quaint in hindsight,” said Avlon. “Because now we’ve got something to work with. President Trump is on a revenge bender, one week after his impeachment trial acquittal with no witnesses that Sen. Alexander helped secure.”
“Hoping that Trump would be chastened was willful blindness, because Donald Trump loves obsessing over his enemies,” said Avlon. “In his book ‘Team of Vipers,’ former Trump aide Cliff Sims captured the president’s early purges. Quote, ‘Give me their names,’ he said Trump said. ‘I want these people out of here. We’re going to get rid of all these snakes, even the bottom feeders…’ Sounds like a stable work environment, right? Well, Trump talks a big game about loyalty, but it’s always been a one-way street.”
“So let’s take a look at some of the people who’ve been in his crosshairs lately,” said Avlon. “Chief among these are some of the usual suspects. Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and of course even his former national security adviser John Bolton. But then some of his biggest enemies were his biggest boosters. Like one-time fixer Michael Cohen, first senator who ever endorsed him and AG Jeff Sessions, chief strategist and frenemy Steve Bannon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Sec. Jim Mattis. He even rails against current appointees, like Fed Chair Jerome Powell.”
“But for a guy who campaigned as a law-and-order candidate, Trump also loves targeting law enforcement and the intelligence communities,” continued Avlon. “Like fired FBI Director Jim Comey, Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan, former DNI Jim Clapper, the FBI’s Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, the Justice Department’s Sally Yates. And of course Robert Mueller. It’s no secret that Trump can’t quit hating on Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden. They’re in the top tier of his negative Twitter mentions according to Factbase. But it’s not like Republicans have been spared his wrath, like former Sens. Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, both replaced by Democrats incidentally, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, now-independent Congressman Justin Amash. The past three GOP nominees, including John McCain.”
“Now, some former Trump critics like Lindsey Graham have worked their way into Trump’s good graces by doggedly defending the president,” said Avlon.”But taking a gander at this list is exhausting. Evidence that Trump targets anyone who dares question him, from the right or left. And that’s why it’s strange that so many Republican senators live in fear of the president, and try so hard to appease him.”
“Winston Churchill famously defined an appeaser as ‘one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last,’ said Avlon. “Which is why another public servant, former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, deserves the last word, from a speech she gave last night. ‘An amoral, keep-’em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear, and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul,’ she said. ‘Truth matters.’ And that’s your reality check.”
Trump is terrified that Russian interference is ‘undercutting his legitimacy’: ex-DNI lawyer
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," Robert Litt, the former general counsel to the Director of National Intelligence, cut to the heart of President Donald Trump's fury over the ongoing reports Russia is planning to intervene to rig the presidential election in his favor.
"Why do you think he refuses to accept the intelligence, and now, by his behavior and this coincidence that is not a coincidence, seems to be having the same reaction again?" asked host Erin Burnett.
"Well, I don't want to go into psychoanalyzing the president, but it's pretty clear that he views the possibility that the Russians attempted to influence the election on his behalf is undercutting his legitimacy in some respect," said Litt. "He's working backwards from that conclusion to talk about the facts ... this has been a consistent pattern all along of denial of what the intelligence community is finding."
CNN’s Elie Honig praises DOJ lawyers for revolt against Barr: ‘Like students rising up against the oppressive headmaster’
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig on Thursday heaped praise upon Department of Justice prosecutors who disregarded many of the changes to sentencing guidelines for convicted Trump ally Roger Stone that were made by Attorney General Bill Barr.
When asked by CNN's Kate Bolduan for his reaction to the prosecutors' actions, Honig responded enthusiastically.
"I applaud what this prosecutor is doing," he said. "And as a DOJ alumni on the front lines trying cases, I'm so impressed by this. This is like the scene [in a movie] where the students rise up and push back against the oppressive headmaster."
‘Barr is a toady’: Jeffrey Toobin says talk of attorney general resigning is ‘just a big show’
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says he doesn't believe Attorney General William Barr when he claims he considered resigning from the Trump administration.
Sources close to Barr told ABC News that the attorney general had contemplated quitting because President Donald Trump's tweets make it difficult for him to do his job.
"Barr is a toady," Toobin explained during an appearance on CNN. "Barr is doing what he's told. He had this one statement, 'Oh, whoa is me, it's hard for me to do my job when the president tweets.'"