Roy Moore’s campaign manager to run for Congress

Washington (CNN)Rich Hobson, who managed Roy Moore’s failed Alabama Senate campaign, is set to announce he’ll run in this year’s Republican primary against Rep. Martha Roby.

Roby was among the Alabama Republicans who went silent after the allegations of sexual abuse against Moore emerged. Moore eventually lost to Democrat Doug Jones, but has not officially conceded the election.
She also was a fierce critic of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged, and said she did not vote for him.
Hobson, who is close to Moore and played the role of energetic emcee at campaign events, said his move isn’t about retaliating against Roby.
“Today I’m focusing on me, Alabama and the USA,” he told CNN in a text message.
Hobson said he made the decision to run against Roby a year ago, and expects Moore to support his campaign.
Roby’s seat is a Democratic target in the 2018 midterm elections after she won by just 8 percentage points in 2016.
“With Democrats in Alabama more energized than ever before and Nancy Pelosi targeting our district, it is critical to nominate a responsible conservative who can keep this vital seat in Republicans’ hands,” Roby chief of staff Torrie Matous said in an email. “From her work on behalf of our veterans and the military — including her recent efforts to help bring the F-35 mission to Montgomery — to her support of Alabama’s farmers, Martha Roby is the clear conservative choice for this seat.”

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Bannon: 2016 Trump Tower meeting was ‘treasonous’

(CNN)Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer purportedly offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton “treasonous,” according to a new book obtained by The Guardian.

The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, is based on hundreds of interviews, including ones with President Donald Trump and his inner circle. According to the Guardian, Bannon addressed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian operatives that was arranged when Trump Jr. agreed to meet a “Russian government attorney” after receiving an email offering him “very high level and sensitive information” that would “incriminate” Clinton.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon continued, according to the Guardian. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
An attorney for Trump Jr. declined to comment. But the President unloaded on Bannon in a statement early Wednesday afternoon.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country,” added the President.
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia is centered on money laundering, saying that the White House is “sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five” hurricane.

The ups and downs of the Bannon insurgency

“You realize where this is going … This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose (senior prosecutor Andrew) Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy,” Bannon reportedly said. “Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Bannon said he believes Kushner, the White House senior adviser and the President’s son-in-law, could be convinced to cooperate if Mueller probes his financial records.
“They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me,” Bannon is reported as saying, apparently referring to Trump Jr. and Kushner.

Fact check: Donald Trump Jr. v Donald Trump Jr.

The Trump Tower meeting has been of intense interest to the congressional Russia investigators as well as Mueller.
Trump Jr. testified before House investigators last month but would not say what he and his father discussed after reports surfaced about the meeting, citing attorney-client privilege.
In a New York magazine story adapted from his soon-to-be published book, Wolff wrote Wednesday that former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn had been advised by friends that taking thousands of dollars from Russians for a speech was a bad idea.
“Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn reportedly told them.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian ambassador.
An attorney for Flynn did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
In another section of the New York magazine article, Wolff describes a dinner meeting during the presidential transition between ousted Fox News head Roger Ailes and Bannon. During the meeting, Ailes asked Bannon what Trump had “gotten himself into with the Russians.”
“Mostly, he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a s*** about him. So he’s kept trying,” Bannon said, according to Wolff’s story.

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Donald Trump’s 16-tweet Tuesday tells the wild story of his entire presidency

Washington (CNN)On Tuesday, his first full day back in the White House after a holiday break spent in Florida, President Donald Trump sent 16 tweets. Sixteen!

In fact, if an alien landed on Earth today — now more possible than ever! — you could show him/her/it Trump’s Twitter timeline from Tuesday as a way to explain the entirety of the Trump phenomenon.
Given that, I thought it might make sense to detail each of Trump’s tweet on Tuesday — in the order he tweeted them — with an occasional bit of commentary and/or context.
1. “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!” (7:09 a.m.)
This was a continuation of a series of Trump tweets over the weekend in which he sided with the Iranian protesters and against the Iran government. He also throws in a shot at former President Barack Obama, a very Trumpian way of making clear he is not to blame for the past mistakes of the US leadership in the region.
2. “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others.” (7:48 a.m.)
3. “Thank you to Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council for your kind words on how well we are doing at the Border. We will be bringing in more & more of your great folks and will build the desperately needed WALL! @foxandfriends” (8:44 a.m.)
Trump live-tweets TV — especially “Fox & Friends.” It’s kind of his thing.
4. “Companies are giving big bonuses to their workers because of the Tax Cut Bill. Really great!” (8:49 a.m.)
He’s right about this. Southwest Airlines and American became the latest companies to do so on Tuesday night. Also, Trump is patting himself on the back here — in case you somehow missed that.
5. “Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!” (9:08 a.m.)
This tweet — if nothing else had come after it — would look prescient given that North Korea opened a communications channel with South Korea for the first time in almost two years overnight. Of course, 11 tweets came after this one.
6. “Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!” (9:13 a.m.)
The oddest of all of Trump’s morning tweets. As lots (and lots) of people have noted, there hasn’t been a fatality on a commercial US carrier since 2009.
7. “The Failing New York Times has a new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. Congratulations! Here is a last chance for the Times to fulfill the vision of its Founder, Adolph Ochs, ‘to give the news impartially, without fear or FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.’ Get…” (9:39 am)
No big surprise here. Trump is obsessed with the media and its coverage of him. And he cares deeply about how The New York Times, which he views as his hometown paper, covers him. Yes, it’s a little shocking to go from North Korea to plane travel to The New York Times in the space of less than a half hour, but this is Trump being Trump.
8. “….impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all of your phony and non-existent ‘sources,’ and treat the President of the United States FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won’t have to write an apology to your readers for a job poorly done! GL” (9:53 a.m.)
Halfway there!
Remember this: Trump defines “fair” coverage as coverage that is favorable to him. Which is not what “fair” means. Sidebar: What is the “GL” at the end of this tweet? “Good Luck” to Sulzberger?
9. “Democrats are doing nothing for DACA – just interested in politics. DACA activists and Hispanics will go hard against Dems, will start ‘falling in love’ with Republicans and their President! We are about RESULTS.” (10:16 a.m.)
Trump is the one who got rid of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put in place by Obama. While anything is possible, that fact makes it unlikely that DACA recipients will be “falling in love” with Trump anytime soon.
10. “We will not rest until all of America’s GREAT VETERANS can receive the care they so richly deserve. Tremendous progress has been made in a short period of time. Keep up the great work @SecShulkin @DeptVetAffairs!” (1:11 p.m.)
The most “normal” and “presidential” tweet of the day for Trump. The video linked here touts all that Trump has done for veterans.
11. “Congratulations to Senator Orrin Hatch on an absolutely incredible career. He has been a tremendous supporter, and I will never forget the (beyond kind) statements he has made about me as President. He is my friend and he will be greatly missed in the U.S. Senate!” (5:23 p.m.)
A tweet in response to the news that Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was retiring. Worth noting: Trump had all-but-begged Hatch to run for an eighth term so as to keep Mitt Romney from coming to the Senate.
12. “It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…” (5:37 p.m.)
Threatening the Palestinians via Twitter? Why not!
13.” …peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” (5:37 p.m.)
Twitter diplomacy at its finest.
14. “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” (7:49 p.m.)
15. “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” (8:05 p.m.)
From a nuclear measuring contest with North Korea to awards for bad media — all in the space of 16 minutes!
16. “‘President Trump has something now he didn’t have a year ago, that is a set of accomplishments that nobody can deny. The accomplishments are there, look at his record, he has had a very significant first year.’ @LouDobbs Show,David Asman & Ed Rollins” (11:03 p.m.)
We (he?) did it! And, because we all go back to what we know, Trump ends the day live-tweeting more television — and more flattering comments about himself.
What a day! Who’s ready for the rest of the week?!

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There’s no such thing as a

(CNN)President Donald Trump tweeted this Tuesday night:

Which, naturally, led to fevered speculation — on Twitter primarily — over whether there actually is a “nuclear button” on Trump’s desk.
There isn’t.
There is a red button on the Resolute desk that sits in Trump’s Oval Office. But, that button calls a valet to get what a president needs — which, according to reports, is lots of Diet Coke for Trump.
You can see that red button on the Resolute desk in this photo, which Pete Souza, former President Barack Obama’s official photographer, put on Instagram on Wednesday morning.

And fortunately the red button on the Resolute desk is to call for the valet, not to start a war.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Practically speaking, it makes lots and lots of sense that there is no nuclear button on the president’s desk. As a clumsy person myself, I can imagine a president accidentally bumping into it — or tripping and landing a hand on it. Not good.
Now, that said: The power to launch a nuclear strike does rest entirely in the hands of Trump. Or, more accurately, in the hands of a small rotating group of military personnel who carry a briefcase that contains the nuclear codes.
As Garrett Graff, who wrote a great book titled “Raven Rock: The Inside Story of the US Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself — While the Rest of Us Die,” explained to me last year:
“The Football — the nickname comes from the first nuclear war plan, code-named DROPKICK — is a black briefcase carried by a rotating series of military aides who are never more than a few steps from the President. It’s easy to forget it’s there, except when you see a guest at Mar-a-Lago snap a selfie with the military aide — but that aide is always present. When the President gets on an elevator, so does the Football. When you see the President driving his golf cart around his club, there’s a golf cart right behind him with the military aide and the Football. During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, when he went rafting out west, the Football was in a raft right behind him on the river.”

God help us.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

What Graff also made clear to me is that while Trump may not have an actual nuclear button, he does have the sole power to launch a nuclear attack. Here’s more from my Q-and-A with Graff:
“Our entire system is geared towards establishing whether a launch order is ‘valid’ only insofar as whether it’s actually coming from the President of the United States. There’s a classified system of code words that communicate between the President and the person executing the launch order — either at the Pentagon or the mountain bunker in Pennsylvania, Raven Rock, that serves as the alternate Pentagon — that the person on the other end of the phone is the actual legitimate commander in chief. But, there’s no check or balance in the system about whether it’s ‘valid’ to start a nuclear war. There’s no second voice, like the defense secretary or chairman of Joint Chiefs, that has to OK a launch.
“As bonkers as that may seem, it’s a procedure that dates back to the Cold War, when we faced the Soviet Union with tens of thousands of nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert. A president would have only about 15 minutes to respond to an attack — perhaps even less — so we devoted literally billions of dollars to building a system that could transmit a launch order as quickly as possible.”
In conclusion: Trump doesn’t have a big, beautiful red nuclear button on his desk in the Oval Office. But given the freedom he has to launch a nuclear attack as he sees fit, he might as well have one.

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DOJ appeals ruling that transgender people are free to enlist in US military

(CNN)The Pentagon said it will begin processing transgender applicants to the military on January 1 after a federal judge declined on Monday to put the deadline on hold.

After the ruling, however, the Justice Department appealed the judge’s ruling to a DC-based federal appeals court.
“The government seeks a stay pending appeal of the portion of the injunction concerning accessions,” government lawyers said in their brief filed late Monday. They argued that implementing “a significant change” to military standards for the composition of the armed forces even before a court decides the merits of the case would “place extraordinary burdens on our armed forces and may harm military readiness.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said in a written statement: “Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the Plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service.”
Last week, the Pentagon said it had established a panel of experts to propose recommendations on the issue of accepting transgender recruits following a series of rulings in federal court regarding the administration’s policy to prohibit transgender recruits.
“The Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported by a panel of experts, will propose consideration recommendations supported by appropriate evidence and information for the accession of transgender persons into the military,” US Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a written statement last week.
So far, two federal judges have blocked key provisions of Trump’s prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the military, which was announced in August.
Last month, Marvin Garbis in Maryland wrote in a 53-page ruling that currently serving transgender service members were “already suffering harmful consequences” and prohibited the administration “from blocking those challenging the ban from completing their medically necessary surgeries.”
Kollar-Kotelly had blocked portions of Trump’s directive in October.
A sworn statement from Lernes J. Hebert, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said ordering the policy to go into effect January 1 “will impose extraordinary burdens on the department.”
He argued in part that if the department were compelled to accept transgender recruits “applicants may not receive the appropriate medical and administrative accession screening necessary for someone with a complex medical condition. As a result, an applicant may be accessed for military service who is not physically or psychologically equipped to engage in combat/operational service.”
In his statement last week, Eastburn said the panel, which would operate per the recent court rulings, will issue findings based on “multiple considerations including military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints, and applicable law.”
Shortly after Trump’s directive in August, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would work with a panel of experts to recommend how the military should put the administration’s transgender guidance into effect.
Once that panel concludes, Mattis will provide his advice to Trump on how to implement his policy direction. That new policy is expected to be announced by March.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correctly identify Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam.

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Moore: Alabama won’t let people from out of state control this election

Midland City, Alabama (CNN)Republican Roy Moore said Alabama voters in Tuesday’s US Senate special election should not “ignore what they believe” about the sexual allegations he faces.

“I’m going to tell you, if you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me,” he said Monday night at his election eve rally here in Alabama’s Wiregrass region, a Moore stronghold in the state’s rural southeastern corner.
Moore’s comments came after an impassioned defense from a former Army friend, prominent conservative supporters including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Moore’s wife.
“I love him, I trust him and you should, too,” Kayla Moore said.
A three-hour drive north in Birmingham, Democrat Doug Jones was holding his final rally in the special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions — where the allegations against Moore were also in focus.
“At some point, we’ve got to stop looking like idiots to the nation,” said retired basketball star Charles Barkley, who played at Auburn University and is supporting Jones. “I love Alabama, but at some point we have to draw a line in the sand and show we’re not a bunch of damn idiots.”
“We’ve got to make sure at this crossroads in Alabama’s history, we take the right road,” Jones said.
The election in the reliably Republican state is a referendum on Moore. And his ownnearly two-and-a-half hour rally was largely an outburst of anger directed at the national media and Democrats who have seized on the accusations he faces in an effort to help Jones win.
Moore has been accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teenage girls while in his 30s — including molesting a 14-year-old and assaulting a 16-year-old.
Moore denounced the “terrible, disgusting” reporting of The Washington Post, which first reported a woman’s accusation that he had pursued a sexual relationship with her when she was 14 and he was 32.
Crowd members yelled “liars!” and booed.
Kayla Moore argued that her husband is no “bigot,” defending his treatment of African-Americans, women and Jewish people, noting that “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, suggested — without any evidence — that the women levying the allegations against Moore are being paid to do so.
“Anytime you see money and power involved, you’ve got to look for who’s benefiting,” he said. “Did somebody receive money? … It takes time to dig those things out.”
Bannon and other out-of-state speakers whipped up the crowd’s anger at Republicans who have abandoned Moore in the wake of the sexual allegations.
The loudest “boo” of the night was directed at Alabama’s Sen. Richard Shelby, who criticized Moore on CNN on Sunday.
“There’s a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better,” Bannon said, in a remark that echoed Ivanka Trump’s comment when she was asked about Moore that there is a “special place in hell” for those who prey on children.
Bannon and others touted President Donald Trump’s support for Moore, casting the election as a referendum on the President’s agenda.
“It’s an up-or-down vote tomorrow between the Trump miracle and the nullification project,” Bannon said.
Moore, meanwhile, sounded his usual religious notes.
“I want to make America great again with President Trump,” he said. “I want America great. I want America good, but she can’t be good till we go back to God.”
Alabama voters, Moore said, are “not going to stand by and let other people from out of state and money from California control this election.”
He said the United States must “recognize God” and argued that Democratic and Republican leaders in Washington have failed to do so.
“In this country, we have explored the temple built by the Democrat and the Republican party, and found that they have idols that do not hear us and do not see us,” he said.
The event featured at times bizarre rhetoric from speakers who said Alabama voters won’t have their decisions made for them by out-of-state forces — even while those speakers were from out of state themselves.
“Nobody can come down here and tell the folks of Alabama what to do,” said Bannon, who noted he is from Virginia.
Moore has been a sparse presence on the campaign trail since the sexual allegations emerged, and he disappeared — with aides refusing to answer questions about where he was — over the final weekend. He told the crowd he’d taken his wife to West Point for “two and a half days” to rest from an “odd” campaign.

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Donald Trump gets absolutely scorched by Republican senator Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake is going out with a bang, and Donald Trump is notgoing to like it.

The Republican senator from Arizona announced on Tuesday that he’s not running for re-election in 2018. And then he denounced President Donald Trump and everything Trump represents on the Senate floor.

“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” Flake said, according to his prepared speech.

He continued, “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

“And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy.”

He also laid into Republican politicians, who have enabled Trump by biting their tongues when he goes off the rails.

“When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.”

“Despotism loves a vacuum”

Finally, he warned that abandoning our values would benefit America’s enemies.

“Despotism loves a vacuum.  And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?”

Reaction was split between those who found Flake brave for standing up to Trump and his own party …

… to those who noted that Flake still supported much of Trump’s agenda, and faced a tough primary and general election in 2018, which means it’s no guarantee he’d win anyway.