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By Li ZhouA poll finds that one-third of Republicans are among those who feel this way. A new Quinnipiac poll indicates many Americans believe President Trump has done illegal stuff. It also suggests that Trump is facing a sharp gender gap heading into 2020. According to the poll, which was conducted in the wake of his former attorney Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony last week, a majority of voters think Trump committed crimes before becoming president. Sixty-four percent of respondents to the survey think that Trump committed a crime prior to taking office, compared to 24 percent who do not and 13 percent who said they didn’t know. When the data is broken out across party lines, a whopping 89 percent of Democrats think Trump committed a crime prior to taking office, while a still-notable 33 percent of Republicans do. Sixty-five percent of independents also said they felt the same. The poll does not specify what it means by “crime” in the question, however. When it comes to the question of potential crimes during Trump’s time in office, people are a bit more unsure. Forty-five percent of respondents said they believed he had committed crimes since taking office, while 43 percent disagreed. Cohen’s testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, which offered details about everything from hush money payments to Stormy Daniels to racist comments Trump may have made, appears to have resonated with quite a few people. Fifty percent of voters say they believe Cohen more than Trump, according to the poll, and 58 percent believe that Congress should continue to investigate claims he’s made about “Trump’s unethical and illegal behavior.” While most of the poll results are still heavily split between Republicans and Democrats, the survey suggests that a portion of the GOP is also concerned about Trump’s honesty and track record, though the majority of Republican respondents still broadly support his approach to policy. The area where Trump was most likely to get credit from voters was on his handling of the economy. Forty-nine percent of respondents overall said they approved of his work on this issue, while just 38 percent approved of his efforts on foreign policy and 40 percent approved of his approach to immigration issues. “When two-thirds of voters think you have committed a crime in your past life, and almost half of voters say it’s a tossup over whether you committed a crime while in the Oval Office, confidence in your overall integrity is very shaky,” Quinnipiac’s Tim Malloy said in a statement. ”Add to that, Michael Cohen, a known liar headed to the big house, has more credibility than the leader of the free world.”Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large(CNN)Even as the 2020 race begins in earnest, President Donald Trump is already suggesting that Democrats cannot beat him fairly -- raising the specter that if he loses next November, he will suggest that the election was not legitimate. "The Democrats in Congress yesterday were vicious and totally showed their cards for everyone to see," Trump tweeted Tuesday, referring to House Democrats' launching of a broad-scale investigation into him. "When the Republicans had the Majority they never acted with such hatred and scorn! The Dems are trying to win an election in 2020 that they know they cannot legitimately win!" Trump 2020 campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that sentiment in a statement on the Democratic investigations. "These desperate Democrats know they cannot beat President Trump in 2020, so instead they have embarked on a disgraceful witch hunt with one singular aim: topple the will of the American people and seize the power that they have zero chance at winning legitimately," she said. And asked Wednesday about the Democratic investigations, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said this: "They continue to be a group totally taken by small radical leftist fringe of their party and they're completely controlled by it, they know that's not enough to beat this President so they're going to look for other ways to do that." All of that rhetoric fits into a very clear pattern: Convince the Trump base that it is not possible for him to lose a fair and legitimate election in 2020. Thus, if he loses, it must be, by definition, illegitimate. None of this should be surprising, given Trump's oft-stated view of the 2016 election -- in which he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. Less than three weeks after winning the White House in 2016, Trump sent out this tweet: "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." In a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers just days after his inauguration, Trump was at it again -- reportedly telling the gathering that somewhere between 3 and 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election and, had only legitimate votes been cast, he would have won the popular vote in addition to the Electoral College. Neither Trump nor anyone in his administration has ever provided any evidence of his claims of widespread illegality. A commission formed by Trump -- and chaired by failed Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach -- was disbanded after less than a year. And study after study has shown that widespread voter fraud -- of the sort alleged by Trump -- simply does not exist. Of course, Trump is less interested in the facts about voter fraud -- or lack thereof -- than he is about convincing his base that if he loses, it's not because he got less votes, it's because something nefarious is being perpetrated against him by the elites. How do I know? Because Trump was doing it in the 2016 election -- before he knew he actually won. In an interview on Fox News Channel on Election Day 2016, Trump said this: "It's largely a rigged system. And you see it at the polling booths, too. There are reports that when people vote for Republicans the entire ticket switches over to Democrats. You've seen that. It's happening at various places today. It's been reported. In other words, the machines, you put down a Republican and it registers as a Democrat. They've had a lot of complaints about that today." So, yeah.By Christina WilkiePresident Donald Trump appeared to suggest that the White House may refuse to comply with a slew of requests for documents from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. "President Obama ... was under a similar kind of a thing, didn't get one letter. They didn't do anything. They didn't get one letter of the request, many requests were made, they didn't get a letter," Trump said at a White House event. Trump's comment came one day after he signaled what appeared to be an intent to cooperate with the probe. "I cooperate all the time, with everybody," the president said Monday. President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that the White House may refuse to comply with a slew of requests for documents sent this week by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. Speaking at a White House event, Trump cited what he said was the Obama administration's approach to handling document requests related to congressional investigations. "President Obama, from what they tell me, was under a similar kind of a thing, didn't get one letter. They didn't do anything. They didn't get one letter of the request, many requests were made, they didn't get a letter," he said. Trump's comment came one day after the president sounded a much more conciliatory note, telling reporters Monday, "I cooperate all the time, with everybody." The White House has yet to issue a formal response to Nadler's requests. But Trump's shift from a cooperative stance to a more confrontational one accelerated in the past 24 hours, beginning with a series of tweets late Monday and early Tuesday, and culminating in his remarks Tuesday afternoon. Earlier in the day Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the broadening investigation into his administration represents, "The greatest overreach in the history of our Country. The Dems are obstructing justice and will not get anything done. A big, fat, fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime, when in fact the real crime is what the Dems are doing, and have done!" It's unclear what Trump meant by Democrats "obstructing justice," but he later repeated the idea that any legislative progress would be effectively paralyzed if Democrats pursued the investigative avenues they have already opened up. "Instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing healthcare, instead of doing so many things that they should be doing, they want to play games," Trump said. "It's too bad, because I'd rather see them do legislation. We negotiated out legislation with so many things that we agreed on, like infrastructure, but they want to focus on nonsense." On Monday, Nadler issued formal document requests to 81 Trump administration officials, entities and associates, including two of Trump's sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as well as Trump's family owned real estate company, his 2016 campaign, his presidential transition and his inaugural committee.By Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg KellyThe Fact Checker is keeping a running list of the false or misleading claims Trump says most regularly. Here's our latest tally as of March 3, 2019. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post). Powered by his two-hour stemwinder at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2 — which featured more than 100 false or misleading claims — President Trump is on pace to exceed his daily quota set during his first two years in office. The president averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office. He hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year. So far in 2019, he’s averaging nearly 22 claims a day. As of the end of March 3, the 773rd day of his term in office, Trump accumulated 9,014 fishy claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. Trump’s performance at CPAC is emblematic of his version of the truth during his presidency — a potent mix of exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasting and outright falsehoods. His speech helped push March 3 to his fourth-biggest day for false or misleading claims, totaling 104. The speech included his greatest hits: 131 times he has falsely said he passed the biggest tax cut in history, 126 times he has falsely said his border wall is already being built and 116 times he has asserted that the U.S. economy today is the best in history. All three of those claims are on The Fact Checker’s list of Bottomless Pinocchios, as well as other claims Trump made during his CPAC speech. Since the Bottomless Pinocchio list was introduced in December, it has continued to grow. The president now has 20 claims that qualify. Here’s a sampling of other claims from the CPAC address, drawn from the database: “A state called Michigan, where — by the way — where Fiat Chrysler just announced a four and a half billion dollar incredible expansion and new plant doubling their workforce. Many, many car companies have moved back to Michigan and are continuing to do so.” Fiat Chrysler did announce this expansion in Michigan, but Trump leaves out that it announced 1,500 layoffs in Illinois at the same time. It’s a big exaggeration to say many car companies have moved back to Michigan, though Chrysler has announced several new investments there under Trump...Former Trump White House lawyer calls Mueller 'American hero,' says probe is no witch hunt
By Kyra Phillips, Katherine Faulders, Matthew Mosk and John Santucci
On Congressional investigations into the White House: "It's never gonna be over". Ty Cobb, the veteran Washington attorney who represented the White House as special counsel Robert Mueller ramped up his investigation into Russian meddling, said he considers the man leading the probe “an American hero” and does not share President Donald Trump’s view that the Russia inquiry is a politically motivated hoax. “I don't feel the same way about Mueller,” Cobb said in an extensive interview for the latest episode of ABC News' podcast The Investigation. “I don't feel the investigation is a witch hunt.” But as Mueller prepares to convey his findings to the U.S. Attorney General, Cobb maintains a belief that his report will spare the president from any serious political harm. Cobb said he believes Mueller has already revealed the bulk of the findings that the investigation will produce through the sentencing memos and “speaking indictments” issued against a group of 34 defendants that include Russian hackers and the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. A so-called speaking indictment sets forth more contextual details on a case than is required by law. The indictment against the Russian hackers was “highly detailed,” he said. “And there's no link to Trump or the campaign. The same thing with Manafort -- they just filed an 800-page sentencing memorandum, and in 800 pages there's no reference to collusion,” Cobb said, referring to Manafort, who was convicted last year of tax and bank fraud charges and pleaded guilty in a separate case to conspiracy charges brought by Mueller as part of his probe.
Why the Trump-Fox News relationship really is unprecedented
By Nicole HemmerBy Devan ColeWashington (CNN)A Republican congressman who opposes President Donald Trump's emergency border wall declaration said Sunday he believes Trump "is violating our constitutional system" with the declaration. The comments from Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who serves on the House Oversight Committee, came as he discussed the declaration, which Trump made last month to unlock additional funding to construct his proposed wall along the southern border. "I think the President is violating our constitutional system. And I don't think Congress can grant legislative powers to the President by statute," Amash told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." "You can't just pass a statute that says, 'The President now has appropriations power and bypass Congress.' " Amash said he thinks his Republican colleagues who support the move are abdicating their constitutional responsibilities, but that he doesn't "think that they are all intending to do that." He added that Republican members of Congress who argue the President was granted this power by Congress are probably not "thinking to themselves, 'Oh, I just want the President to violate the Constitution.' " Amash, who is one of 13 Republicans in the House who voted with Democrats to pass a measure to block Trump's declaration, told Tapper that "we have to protect our own power." The measure will now be considered in the Senate, where, Amash said, he's "hopeful many Republican senators will agree." Not ruling out a 2020 bid. Amash, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, declined on Sunday to rule out a possible 2020 presidential run as a Libertarian candidate. "Well, I would never rule anything out. That's not on my radar right now," he said of a 2020 bid to Tapper. "But I think that it is important that we have someone in there who is presenting a vision for America that is different from what these two parties are presenting." Amash told Tapper he believes there is a "wild amount of partisan rhetoric on both sides" and that "Congress is totally broken." "I think that we need to return to basic American principles, talk about what we have in common as a people -- because I believe we have a lot in common as Americans -- and try to move forward together, rather than fighting each other all the time," Amash said.US President Donald Trump has launched a furious attack on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and on his critics at a conservative summit. In the longest speech of his presidency, Mr Trump railed against the inquiry into alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia. "We're waiting for a report by people who weren't elected," he told a crowd of cheering conservatives. Mr Mueller is expected to hand in his report to the attorney general shortly. Warning: this report contains strong language. "Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there and all of a sudden they are trying to take you out with bullshit, okay?" the president said. Mr Trump has frequently called the special counsel's investigation a "witch hunt". The speech - clocking in at more than two hours - also included sharp attacks on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI head James Comey, the Democratic Party and those critical of his approach to North Korea. Whom did the president attack? Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Mr Trump lashed out at his detractors in a wide-ranging speech. "This is how I got elected, by being off script . . . and if we don't go off script, our country is in big trouble, folks," he began. The president repeatedly said that Mr Mueller had "never received a vote", nor had Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mr Mueller to his position. Mr Rosenstein plans to step down by March after frequent presidential attacks. The president alleged Mr Mueller was "best friends" with former FBI head James Comey, and mocked the accent of former attorney general Mr Sessions, whom he fired in November. He said Mr Sessions was "weak and ineffective and he doesn't do what he should have done".What else did he say? The president's attacks ranged widely. He called the Green New Deal proposal - pitched by some Democrats as a radical bid to combat climate change - "the craziest plan", saying "when the wind stops blowing, that's the end of your electric". After a series of remarks on immigrants who, he said, must "love our country", Mr Trump said, "We have people in Congress that hate our country." "And you know that, and we can name every one of them if you want," he said.David Shepardson, Katanga JohnsonWASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would soon sign an executive order requiring American universities and colleges to maintain “free speech” on campuses and threatened that schools not complying could lose federal research funds. Trump made his remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference after bringing to the stage Hayden Williams, a conservative activist who was punched at the University of California, Berkeley, last month while recruiting students for a conservative group. “Today, I am proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research funds,” Trump said. If universities do not comply “it will be very costly,” he said. The U.S. government awards universities more than $30 billion annually in research funds. The White House did not immediately respond a request for comment on details of the order. Freedom of speech is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is not the first time that Trump, who has repeatedly lashed out at the media with cries of “fake news” and has called current defamation laws “a sham and a disgrace,” has threatened retaliatory action related to free speech. Last September, he suggested in a tweet that the license of television networks could be at risk, though he offered no specifics in his tweet, which singled out NBC. Broadcast networks do not receive general licenses, but they do hold licenses from the Federal Communications Commission for individual local stations they own. In 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency does not have authority to revoke broadcast licenses over editorial decisions. “I believe in the First Amendment,” said Pai, whom Trump appointed as the FCC chair. Trump on Saturday suggested that Williams sue the man who punched him and also “sue the college, the university. And maybe sue the state.” He suggested that Williams was going to be “a very wealthy young man.”By Lauren Fox and Manu Raju, CNN(CNN) The chairman of the House Oversight Committee issued a stark warning Friday to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, demanding that the White House turn over documents and comply with interviews related to how the White House handled security clearances of some of the President's closest advisers. Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland gave the White House counsel's office until March 4 to comply with the request. "I am now writing a final time to request your voluntary cooperation with this investigation," Cummings said. "I ask that you begin producing all responsive documents immediately, and I request that you begin scheduling transcribed interviews with each witness identified by the Committee." Cummings' letter comes after The New York Times reported Thursday that the President personally intervened to secure his son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance, despite concerns from career officials. The President had previously denied he personally intervened. "If true, these new reports raise grave questions about what derogatory information career officials obtained about Mr. Kushner to recommend denying him access to our nation's most sensitive secrets, why President Trump concealed his role in overruling that recommendation, why General Kelly and Mr. McGahn both felt compelled to document these actions, and why your office is continuing to withhold key documents and witnesses from this Committee," Cummings wrote on Friday. The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment Friday on Cummings' request for information.By Katie Rogers, Rukmini Callimachi and Helene CooperWASHINGTON — President Trump declared on Thursday that “we just took over 100 percent” of territory controlled by the Islamic State in Syria — a claim that reports from the battle front suggested was 100 percent untrue. “You kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent, we just took over,” Mr. Trump said in remarks to American troops in Alaska. “Now it’s 100 percent, we just took over 100 percent caliphate. That means the area of the land. We just have 100 percent.” “So that’s good.” Over the past month, American forces have been working with Syrian fighters to seize the last square mile of Islamic State territory — the riverside village of Baghuz on the border with Iraq. Taking and holding terrain in any military operation can be a difficult task, especially against extremists who are willing to face death instead of surrender. The battle was continuing on Thursday when officials with the Syrian Democratic Forces, an American-backed militia of Kurdish and Arab fighters, were told of Mr. Trump’s announcement. “It’s 100 percent not true,” one senior official with the group said on Thursday afternoon. “The fighting continues.” Separately, a second official said, “The battle is still going, and there is no truth in that statement.” Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by their commanders to talk to the press. Journalists in the area also reported that the Islamic State had not surrendered all of its territory. “I’ve been in #Syria for the last 28 days covering the offensive and I can assure @realdonaldtrump that is NOT the case,” tweeted Ben Wedeman, a CNN war correspondent. I’ve been in #Syria for the last 28 days covering the offensive and I can assure @realdonaldtrump that is NOT the case. https://t.co/KJu9lNmQAd — benwedeman (@bencnn) February 28, 2019. The Pentagon scrambled to catch up with Mr. Trump’s comments and referred questions to the White House. Although it is true that the Islamic State’s control of territory has dwindled to almost nothing over the last year, Defense Department officials have been wary of declaring victory before the Syrian Democratic Forces seizes Baghuz.By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNNWashington (CNN)Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued that the Southern District of New York -- and not the special counsel's Russia investigation -- presents more of a "problem and a threat" to President Donald Trump. "I always said that (special counsel) Bob Mueller is not what should concern the President or the White House. That's the Southern District of New York," Christie, who led Trump's transition team, told CNN's Chris Cuomo Thursday night. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, argued that the SDNY has no limit on the scope of their investigation, unlike Mueller's investigation. He also told CNN that Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen and Trump's deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in Mueller's investigation, could serve as "two tour guides that can take them through the Trump business and personal life." Christie pointed to Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday in which Cohen said he was in "constant contact" with the SDNY "regarding ongoing investigations." Christie said he's confident that the SDNY is building a case to go after those around Trump who may have committed crimes and against Trump himself for when he leaves office. "Statute of limitations on most of this stuff, my guess is, would not run," Christie told Cuomo. The former Republican governor added that he does not believe the SDNY has a case against the President "at the moment." During his hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight committee, Cohen suggested the SDNY is examining a conversation he had with Trump in spring 2018, within two months of the FBI having executed search warrants on Cohen's home, hotel room and office. He was also asked whether he was aware of any other wrongdoing or illegal acts regarding Trump that hadn't been discussed yet.Trump demanded top-secret security clearance for Jared Kushner last year despite concerns of John Kelly and intelligence officialsBy Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Shane HarrisPresident Trump early last year directed his then-chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to give presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance — a move that made Kelly so uncomfortable that he documented the request in writing, according to current and former administration officials. After Kushner, a senior White House adviser, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, pressured the president to grant Kushner the long-delayed clearance, Trump instructed Kelly to fix the problem, according to a person familiar with Kelly’s account, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. Kelly told colleagues that the decision to give Kushner top-secret clearance was not supported by career intelligence officials, and he memorialized Trump’s request in an internal memo, according to two people familiar with the memo and the then-chief of staff’s concerns. It is unclear how Kelly responded to Trump’s directive. But by May, Kushner had been granted a permanent security clearance to view top-secret material — a move that followed months of concern inside the White House about his inability to secure such access. Kushner’s attorney publicly described the process as one that had gone through normal channels, a description that Kelly did not view as accurate, according to a person familiar with his reaction.By Kevin Johnson and Brad Heath, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – The first domino was an eager Trump campaign operative who shared what sounded at the time like an idle boast that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. The conversation between George Papadopoulos, a largely unknown foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump’s then-fledgling bid for the White House, and an Australian diplomat took on significance only later, after the Democratic National Committee said Russian hackers had stolen troves of emails. It became the first inkling that “Americans might be working with the Russians,” former FBI Director James Comey would later tell a House committee. Nearly three years later, the investigation launched from that single contact has taken down a half-dozen senior aides to President Donald Trump, including his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, national security adviser Michael Flynn and personal attorney Michael Cohen. And it has cascaded far beyond that, into Trump's campaign and private business. Now, as the White House braces for the imminent delivery of special counsel Robert Mueller's final report on the Russia investigation, Cohen has raised the prospect that virtually no one in Trump’s complicated political and business sphere may be safe from federal scrutiny. In explosive testimony before a separate House committee on Wednesday, Trump’s former fixer – now a felon and government informant – described a web of federal investigations that have metastasized far beyond Russian interference in the 2016 election to include separate examinations of Trump’s business operations and the roles played by son Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg. And he accused the president of having participated in a criminal conspiracy. Trump and his defenders attacked Cohen's credibility, saying there's little reason to trust someone who three months ago pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. But more than the accusations Cohen made in his sworn testimony, his descriptions of the breadth of subjects federal investigators are pursuing could have grave implications for Trump, his family and his business long after Mueller's team departs the scene.By Manu Raju and Clare Foran, CNNWashington (CNN)House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings on Thursday outlined plans for his committee to seek interviews with close Trump associates and family members following a blockbuster public hearing featuring President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen. Cummings told CNN that five or six House committees will investigate all the allegations that emerged from Cohen's testimony. Asked if his committee would focus on Trump's role in the hush-money scandal, the Maryland Democrat said: "Probably." Cummings told reporters that his committee will reach out to individuals named repeatedly during Wednesday's hearing for interviews, saying his panel will comb through the transcript of the hours-long hearing to "figure out who we want to talk to and we'll bring them in." "All you have to do is follow the transcript. If there were names that were mentioned or records that were mentioned during the hearing, we're going to take a look at all of that," Cummings told reporters when asked who the committee expects to follow up with. "We'll go through, we'll figure out who we want to talk to and we'll bring them in." A list of names drawn from people mentioned during the hearing could encompass a range of individuals, including members of the President's inner circle and family such as his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. as well as Allen Weisselberg, a top Trump Organization official and the company's longtime chief financial officer.The House Intelligence Committee is also expressing an interest in Weisselberg. A committee aide told CNN the panel "anticipates" bringing in Weisselberg. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, also announced on Thursday that his committee will hold an open hearing on March 14 with Felix Sater, the Russian-born onetime business associate of Trump's who worked to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Asked on Thursday if his committee is interested in speaking with members of the Trump family such as Ivanka and Don Jr., Cummings replied, "Just follow the transcript."By Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Annie KarniWASHINGTON — President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said. Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance. The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance. The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance. Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, also said that at the time the clearance was granted last year that his client went through a standard process. Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and Mr. Kushner’s wife, said the same thing three weeks ago. Asked on Thursday about the memos contradicting the president’s account, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”By Julia AinsleyWord is spreading that migrants now have to wait months in dangerous Mexican border cities before asking for asylum at a legal port of entry. WASHINGTON — Undocumented immigrants are increasingly choosing to cross the U.S. border illegally rather than waiting in line to claim asylum at legal ports of entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News. Immigration lawyers and rights advocates say asylum seekers are opting for illegal crossing because they are growing frustrated with waiting lines caused by Trump administration policies. Advocates say immigrants who might otherwise have presented themselves at legal ports are now going between entry points where, if caught, they can remain in the country while awaiting an asylum hearing. In recent months, CBP has restricted the number of immigrants who can be processed for asylum at ports of entry and has begun turning back asylum seekers, who must now wait in Mexico while their cases are decided. CBP data shows that at the same time, the proportion of immigrants caught crossing illegally rather than through legal ports of entry has been rising. It climbed from 73 percent of border crossings between October 2017 and January to 2018 to 83 percent for the same period ending this January 31. The percentage reporting to legal ports of entry, meanwhile, dropped from 27 percent to 17 percent, even as the overall number of border crossings rose sharply, according to the data. An official from the Department of Homeland Security, of which CBP is a part, said those abandoning legal entry points may not have legitimate asylum claims. "The fact that illegitimate asylum seekers may be abandoning efforts at our [ports of entry] means that legitimate asylum seekers at the [ports of entry] can receive protections far more quickly — which has been our goal from the start," said the DHS official. The department declined to comment on the record.by Becket AdamsIt’s amazing how far people can get with President Trump so long as they dangle in front of him the promise of prestige. You can be a murderous third-world dictator and oversee the slow execution of an American citizen, and the president will defend you for it before the entire world just so long as he believes doing so will get him closer to boosting his own personal and professional capital. This isn’t hyperbole either. The president did exactly this Thursday during a joint press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump actually defended the potbellied tyrant king’s claim that he was in the dark in 2016 when his regime imprisoned and tortured a University of Virginia student from Ohio. Otto Warmbier, who was beaten into a coma by North Korean prison guards during his 17-month imprisonment, died shortly after arriving back in the U.S. in June 2017. "He felt badly about it. He felt very badly," Trump said Thursday after his second summit with Kim, adding they discussed Warmbier’s death privately. "He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word." The president added that it wouldn’t have been in Kim’s interest for Warmbier to be irreparably harmed, saying, "I don't think that the top leadership knew about it. I don't believe that [Kim] would have allowed that to happen." “It just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen,” Trump said. Considering the Kim regime maintains an iron grip on all information that comes in and out of North Korea, and the fact that he has a murderous special police who are tasked specifically with keeping him informed of all goings on in the country, Trump’s suggestion that the North Korean despot wasn’t aware of what was happening to Warmbier beggars belief.
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