Trump Spokeswoman Says Obama’s Aides Left Mean Notes In White House

 

President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman claimed Tuesday that Barack Obama staffers left behind catty notes in White House offices for the incoming administration, telling them “you will fail.”

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s comment, first made to a CNN reporter, prompted swift denials from ex-Obama officials and a torrent of online mockery from Trump opponents.

“We came into the WH, I’ll tell you something. Every office was filled with Obama books and we had notes left behind that said ‘you will fail,’ ‘you aren’t going to make it,'” a tweet from CNN’s Abby Phillip quoted Grisham as saying.

“This is a complete and utter lie,” tweeted Obama administration lawyer Daniel Jacobson.

“Quite the opposite – we left them briefing books to try to help with the transition as much as possible,” he said.

Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior director at Obama’s National Security Council, called it “an outrageous lie…. Shameless and [email protected] should be fired.”

Faced by the heated denials — and snarky online gags about the “you will fail” prediction proving true — Grisham said her remark had been over-played.

“I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!” she told AFP.

Grisham said she “certainly wasn’t implying every office had that issue” and recalled finding a “lovely note” for her in the White House East Wing.

“I just saw it as kind of a prank, and that it was something that always happened,” Grisham said.

A famous case of such humor was the reported practical joke by aides of president Bill Clinton who are said to have removed the “W” key from White House computers ahead of George W. Bush taking office.

Obama Asks Canadians To Back Trudeau For Another Term

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening statement for the 10th Lima Group in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 4, 2019. Lars Hagberg / AFP

 

Former US president Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Canadian voters to back Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for another term, calling him an “effective leader.”

“I was proud to work with Justin Trudeau as President. He’s a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change,” Obama said in a tweet.

“The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term.”

Trudeau, who is running neck-and-neck with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer ahead of the October 21 ballot, tweeted back: “Thanks my friend, we’re working hard to keep our progress going.”

His Liberal Party also promoted the endorsement on social media.

The pair first met as leaders of their respective countries at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2015, one month after the Canadian won his first general election.

Four months later, Trudeau became the first Canadian leader in 20 years to make an official pomp-filled visit to the White House.

The warmth of the encounter triggered a flood of online jokes and tongue-in-cheek reports of a budding “bromance” between the two men.

Obama saluted Trudeau as his political and generational kin, even though the American is 10 years older. Both champion the importance of issues like health care, gay rights and climate change.

“He campaigned on a message of hope and of change,” Obama once said. “From my perspective, what’s not to like.”

They last met for a beer reportedly in May when Obama was in Ottawa to deliver a speech.

Their relationship stands in stark contrast to Trudeau’s troubled ties with current US President Donald Trump.

AFP

Trump Blames Obama For Russia’s Exit From G8

 

US President Donald Trump expressed support Tuesday for Russia’s return to the G8, saying it would be “much more appropriate” for Moscow to be in the club of world powers.

“I could certainly” support that, he told reporters at the White House, just days before a G7 summit — minus Russia — in Biarritz, France.

“It’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8, because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin’s Russia was expelled from the old G8 format after Moscow seized Crimea from neighbouring Ukraine.

But Trump said the reason Russia was kicked out was that his predecessor Barack Obama was “outsmarted” by Putin.

“I guess President Obama because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in. So he wanted Russia out,” Trump said.

“So I could certainly see it being the G8 again and if someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it very favourably,” he said.

Trump is due to host the next G7 meeting in the United States next year.

AFP

Obama Basketball Jersey Sells For $120,000

This handout photo taken in 1979 from Heritage Auctions and obtained by AFP on August 19, 2019, shows Punahou High School student Barack Obama (C) attempting a lay up at a basketball game during his senior year as part of the 1979 Hawaii State Champion boys’ varsity basketball team.
PHOTO: Handout / Heritage Auctions / AFP

A basketball jersey once owned by former US president Barack Obama sold on Monday for $120,000, according to the Dallas auction house that sold it.

The number 23 jersey belonged to 18-year-old Obama while he was a senior at Punahou high school in Hawaii, where he lived at the time, according to Heritage Auctions.

The jersey was valued at $100,000 before it was sold.

Obama is a known basketball fan and was often seen playing during his tenure at the White House, with presidential staffers, celebrities or other guests.

AFP

Obama Pays Tribute To ‘National Treasure’ Toni Morrison

US President Barack Obama congratulates author Toni Morrison after presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom to during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.  Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

Former US President Barack Obama paid tribute Tuesday to Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison who died aged 88 following a short illness, describing her as “a national treasure.”

“Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while,” he wrote on Twitter.

AFP

Trump’s Controversial Ban On Transgender Troops Takes Effect

US President Donald Trump speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in (not shown)in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 11, 2019.
Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on transgender Americans in the military comes into force on Friday following a protracted legal battle.

Trump’s administration has insisted that there is “too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality” to allow transgender people to serve — reversing a policy enacted under his predecessor Barack Obama.

The Pentagon says the restrictions are not a blanket ban, but they would bar many if not most people who identify as transgender from enlisting in America’s armed forces.

READ ALSO: China Tackles Waste Problem On Mount Everest

The policy — which has undergone various iterations since Trump first announced it on Twitter in July 2017 — has been widely criticized by rights activists and has been repeatedly challenged in court.

The US Supreme Court ultimately ruled in January that the policy could take effect pending the outcome of ongoing litigation.

Under the latest version of Trump’s policy, no one who has transitioned to another gender, been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” or who requires hormone treatment will be able to enlist.

But currently enlisted troops who have already transitioned or have requested gender reassignment surgery prior to Friday will be allowed to remain in the military.

For Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a research institute focusing on sexual minorities in the military, the policy amounts to a transgender ban.

“When (the Department of Defense) disqualifies all applicants with a history of gender dysphoria (unless they renounce transgender identity for years) and all applicants who have ever received treatment for gender dysphoria, that is a ban,” Belkin said.

Repeating ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The policy “depends on directly banning the transgender people who are immediately identifiable and threatening the rest, forcing them to remain silent and invisible,” he said.

“It is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ all over again,” said Belkin, referring to the policy under which gay service members had to hide their sexual orientation or face dismissal from the military.

Under the Obama-era policy, transgender recruits were to start being accepted by July 1, 2017. The Trump administration postponed that date to January 1, 2018, before deciding to reverse the policy entirely.

The Pentagon estimates that 9,000 people who identify as transgender are currently serving in the military, out of a total of 1.3 million active-duty personnel. Of this figure, a thousand say they have undergone gender reassignment surgery or want to do so.

But according to transgender rights activists, the figure is higher.

“As many as 15,000 transgender service members stand to lose their jobs,” Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King, who is transgender, told ABC News this week.

“For those of us who are grandfathered in because we’ve already come out and we already have a diagnosis, there’s the possibility for systematic discrimination,” King said.

The new policy is “indefensible,” Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Senator John McCain, wrote on Twitter.

“This discriminatory policy will lead Transgender service members, patriots who have decided to serve their nation, to live in the shadows,” she wrote

AFP

Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusal To Testify In WikiLeaks Case

This handout photograph obtained courtesy of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office shows Chelsea Manning following her arrest March 8, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia.
Handout / ALEXANDRIA SHERIFF’S OFFICE / AFP

 

 

Chelsea Manning, who spent more than three years in prison for leaking US military secrets to WikiLeaks, was jailed again Friday for refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation targeting the anti-secrecy group.

US District Judge Claude Hilton ruled Manning in contempt of court and ordered her held not as punishment but to force her testimony in the secret case, according to a spokesman for the US attorney in the Alexandria, Virginia federal court.

READ ALSO: Trump’s Mideast Envoy Meets UN Council

“Chelsea Manning has been remanded into federal custody for her refusal to provide testimony,” said a statement from the Sparrow Project, a support group for Manning.

They quoted Hilton as saying Manning would be held indefinitely “until she purges or the end of the life of the grand jury.”

In a statement, Manning said she had “ethical” objections to the grand jury system and had answered all questions about her involvement with WikiLeaks years ago.

“I stand by my previous testimony,” Manning said.

“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

Manning, 31, was ordered to testify earlier this week for an investigation examining actions by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2010, according to her own description, inadvertent court revelations and media reports.

At the time Manning, a transgender woman then known as Bradley Manning, was a military intelligence analyst.

She delivered more than 700,000 classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into WikiLeaks’s hands.

The documents exposed cover-ups of possible war crimes and revealed internal US communications about other countries.

‘Attack on media freedom’

She became a hero to anti-war and anti-secrecy activists, and her actions helped make WikiLeaks a force in the global anti-secrecy movement.

She was detained in 2010 and held in military jails for investigation before finally being brought to trial in 2013.

In August that year, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

She spent more than three years more in an all-male prison, during which she underwent gender transition therapy, spent time in solitary confinement and attempted suicide twice.

President Barack Obama later commuted her sentence, leading to her release in May 2017.

In court Friday, Manning’s lawyer requested home confinement after the judge found her in contempt, according to the US attorney’s spokesman.

But she was jailed in the Alexandria Detention Center which, according to the judge, is experienced in holding transgender inmates and capable of addressing any special personal and medical needs Manning may have.

The grand jury investigation could eventually herald a case focused on media freedoms.

The US government has been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks for years and has stepped up its efforts against the Britain-based group after it served as an outlet for internal Democratic communications that Washington alleges were stolen by hackers from Russia’s GRU intelligence agency during the 2016 US election.

Fearing arrest and extradition to the United States, Assange has been sheltering in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012.

He says WikiLeaks’s publishing of US secrets is no different than what the mass media does and he should enjoy the same protections as journalists.

Reacting to Manning being sent to jail Friday, WikiLeaks said in a tweet: “Whistle-blowers are now being forced to testify against journalists and sent to jail when they don’t cooperate. A new angle in the attack on media freedom.”

AFP

Obama Protege Julian Castro Set To Join 2020 Presidential Race

In this file photo taken on September 02, 2015 US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro arrives to speak at the National Fair Housing Training and Policy Conference at the Housing and Urban Development Department in Washington, DC. Former mayor of San Antonio,
Nicholas KAMM / AFP

 

Former mayor of San Antonio, Texas and Obama-era cabinet member Julian Castro is expected Saturday to launch his bid to become the nation’s first Hispanic president, scheduling his announcement in a border state central to America’s immigration debate.

Castro would become the most high-profile Democrat to date to officially enter the 2020 race, which is expected to include a diverse field of candidates eager to challenge President Donald Trump.

But the 44-year-old would be among the underdogs in a political showdown that may well feature heavyweights like former vice president Joe Biden, US senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, and perhaps even billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a progressive Democrat, said Friday she will officially announce her presidential run in the coming days.

Castro’s strong oratory skills, experience as Barack Obama’s housing secretary and as mayor of the nation’s seventh largest city, not to mention his telegenic charisma, could help propel the Texas native into the top tier.

He would also become the third prominent Latino presidential candidate in four years, after Republican senators, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio fought Trump for their party’s nomination in 2016.

Castro’s candidacy could also help revive Democratic enthusiasm among Latino voters, who supported Hillary Clinton but at a lower rate than Obama.

Trump made immigration a flashpoint of that race, and it remains among the nation’s most contentious issues. The US government remains locked in a partial shutdown, soon to begin its fourth week, over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.

A “great guy”

Castro’s national profile took off in 2012 when he became the first Latino to give a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Four years later he was a finalist to be Clinton’s running mate.

Castro, a fierce Trump critic, is a third generation American. Last year he said he probably would not be in the United States if today’s strict immigration policies were in place when Castro’s grandmother crossed the border as a young girl in 1922.

In his convention speech Castro highlighted “an unlikely journey” that he has lived, including growing up with twin brother Joaquin, who is a US congressman. The phrase became the title of his new memoir that was published last month.

He has kept the contents of his announcement secret, but he is widely expected to reveal his White House ambitions.

“I’ll tell you and I’ll tell the world what I’m going to do,” he said this week on MSNBC.

Castro does not yet have the national recognition of luminaries Biden, Sanders and Warren.

Dena Grayson, a Democratic strategist, said Castro is a “great guy” and “phenomenal public speaker” who has potential broad appeal in states with large numbers of Hispanic voters, like California, Texas and Florida.

But standing out in a crowded field will be “difficult,” Grayson added.

Obama Plays Santa, Surprises Sick Children In Washington Hospital

This photograph, obtained courtesy of the Obama Foundation, shows former US President Barack Obama delivering gifts, greeting patients and their parents at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, December 19, 2018. Chuck Kennedy / THE OBAMA FOUNDATION / AFP

 

Former US president Barack Obama took on a new high-profile role as Father Christmas on Wednesday for a surprise visit to sick children in Washington.

Sporting a festive Santa hat and armed with a sack of gifts, he delighted young patients at Children’s National hospital with gifts and hugs.

 

 

“I just want to say thank you to all of you guys,” Obama told staff, who greeted him with rapturous cheers, in a video he shared on his Twitter account.

 

 

“We’ve had the chance to talk to some of the wonderful kids and their families,” he added.

“As the dad of two girls, I can only imagine in that situation to have nurses and staff and doctors and people who are caring for them and looking after them… that’s the most important thing there is.”

 

The 44th president of the United States still lives in Washington, where he last year dressed up as Santa to visit middle school students at a Boys & Girls Club in the capital.

 

Obama Was Mischaracterised In Goodluck Jonathan’s Book, Says US Diplomat

Russell Brooks

 

The public affairs officer at the United States Consulate in Lagos, Russell Brooks, says Obama was mischaracterised by former president Goodluck Jonathan in his new book, My Transition Hours.

Brooks said this on Tuesday during a live chat in Lagos which was aired on the official Facebook handle of US Embassy.

Ex-President Jonathan in the book accused former U.S. president, Barack Obama, of displaying an unusual level of bias during Nigeria’s presidential election in 2015.

This was after Obama released a video and subtly appealed to Nigerians to vote a particular candidate.

Russell said, “In that video, Obama urged Nigerians to open the ‘next chapter’ by their votes. Those who understood subliminal language deciphered that he was prodding the electorate to vote for the opposition to form a new government.”

“It was mischaracterised in the book about what President Obama or his administration did in Nigeria. Mischaracterisation here refers to not understanding why we felt it was important for Nigeria to have a peaceful, free and fair election in 2015.

“And thereby people may not understand why we placed so much importance of having a peaceful, free and fair and transparent election in 2019.

“In the past, Nigeria’s elections had been beset by violence. There have been questions about the fairness of those elections. And we certainly believe that Nigeria can do better. In 2015, Nigeria did do better.

“There may have been some difficulties as they often times occur in elections whether here in Nigeria or in the United States. But Nigeria did do better and we believe Nigeria will continue to make progress.”

Trump Faces Pushback From Obama On Final US Campaign Weekend

 

After boasting about the economy and raising fears over immigration, US President Donald Trump is facing pushback from his predecessor Barack Obama, who is taking on an increasingly prominent role in the final weekend of campaigning before midterm elections in which Republican control of Congress is threatened.

With rallies taking place in Montana and Florida, a state he had already visited on Wednesday, Trump is keeping up his relentless campaign schedule before Tuesday’s ballot, which has become a referendum on his utterly unconventional presidency.

The campaigning comes one week after a gunman, who allegedly hated immigrants and Jews, killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and after a fanatical Trump supporter was arrested in Florida on charges of mailing homemade bombs to more than a dozen Trump opponents, including Obama.

At a moment of deep national division, with the political temperature soaring, the president’s critics say he has helped create an atmosphere in which the two attackers felt comfortable to carry out their crimes.

“A Republican Congress means more jobs and less crime. A Democratic Congress means more crime and less jobs, very simple. I like that. Nothing like simplicity,” Trump told supporters in Belgrade, Montana.

Trump says his Republicans are in a good position ahead of the midterm congressional elections, particularly with new employment figures out showing the economy booming.

But polls point to the Democrats capturing at least the House of Representatives, threatening the billionaire president with the spectre of an opposition finally able to block policies and dig into his highly opaque personal finances.

In the last stages of the campaign, Trump is dueling with Obama, who returned to the public eye at a Florida rally on Friday.

Obama is set to campaign again Sunday in his adopted hometown of Chicago, as well as in Indiana, where the seat of Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly is in danger.

America at ‘a crossroads

Obama explained his reemergence at a Georgia rally in support of Stacey Abrams, who is seeking to be the first black female governor of any US state.

“I’m here for one simple reason: to ask you to vote,” Obama said. “The consequences of any of us staying home are profound because America is at a crossroads… The character of our country is on the ballot.”

Trump has brought an unprecedented brand of confrontational politics to the White House, and clearly enjoys a fight.

The latest official jobs figures, which showed 250,000 net new positions in October — ahead of forecasts — gave him a golden opportunity to crow over what he almost daily claims to be the world’s “hottest economy.”

But if, on the one hand, the president has been touting the United States as a land of plenty with jobs for all, on the other he has stirred fear and loathing.

Even as illegal immigration has dipped to a quarter of what it was in 2000, Trump claims that the country faces an “invasion” of Central Americans.

He has ordered regular army troops to the US-Mexican border as a caravan of a few thousand impoverished migrants slowly marches toward the boundary. They are currently marching toward Isla, in Mexico’s state of Veracruz, with some headed toward the vicinity of Mexico City.

He has also announced “tent cities” to detain people demanding political asylum, and claimed the power to scrap the right to citizenship for anyone born on US soil — until now protected by the US Constitution.

A military spokesman said that more than 7,000 US soldiers will be positioned in states bordering Mexico by the end of the weekend.

Newsweek reported that it had obtained documents which showed intelligence officials did not anticipate high involvement of criminal gangs among the migrants and that the administration expects only a minority of those in the caravan would actually reach the border.

“Democrats are openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our sovereignty, overrun our borders and destroy our nation in so many ways,” Trump said at a rally in Pensacola, Florida that lasted about 80 minutes.

“We got the reports from the countries, we got the reports from Mexico, you have a lot of bad people coming into our country, and we’re letting them come into our country,” he added, with Air Force One parked on the tarmac near the stage.

In Montana, he had quipped that “barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.”

Obama decried Trump’s troop deployment as a “political stunt” serving to “get folks angry and ginned up.”

“There’s just constant fear-mongering to distract from the record,” he added.

No Place For ‘Acts Of Political Violence’ In US – Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event on a year of progress and action to combat the opioid crisis, in the East Room of the White House on October 24, 2018, in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump called for unity Wednesday after suspected explosive devices were mailed to leading Democrats, including former president Barack Obama, saying acts of political violence have “no place” in the United States.

Trump’s comments at a White House event on opioid addiction was his first substantive reaction to the rash of bomb alerts, which also targeted his former Democratic rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

“I want to say, at these times we have to unify and send one very clear and strong message that acts of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America,” he said.

AFP