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Donald Trump never stopped being a birther.

When Trump appeared at his Washington D.C. hotel last week and said “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” no one should have taken him seriously. He clearly didn’t take the event seriously: The press conference announcing the supposed reversal was a 30-minute infomercial for Trump’s new hotel and his strengths as a commander in chief. The relevant portion lasted 30 seconds, came at the very end, and had nothing to do with anything that preceded it. It was a charade, both offensive and totally in keeping with Trump’s years of racist attacks on Obama’s legitimacy as president.

Trump’s statement left a lot of unanswered questions—like, “Do you regret leading a movement to delegitimize the president now that you realize it had no basis in truth?” and “What will happen to the $5 million you promised to charity?” On Wednesday, Toledo reporter Ben Garbarek asked Trump the most straightforward unanswered question: “Why did you change your mind?” Here’s what Trump said in response: “Well I just wanted to get on with, I wanted to get on with the campaign. A lot of people were asking me questions. We want to talk about jobs. We want to talk about the military. We want to talk about ISIS and get rid of ISIS. We want to talk about bringing jobs back to this area because you’ve been decimated so we just wanted to get back on the subject of jobs, military, taking care of our vets, etc.”

This is in keeping with Trump’s comments regarding birtherism from throughout the campaign. He hasn’t changed his mind, clearly, since he dodges even the most straightforward question: Instead, he just wants what he thinks of as a “distracting” issue to go away. Here, Trump is playing the same double game he’s played for most of the campaign: Winking to the racists in his base while doing the absolute bare minimum to convince the general public that they do not reflect his values. (Another worthwhile thought experiment is to ask if Trump would’ve undertaken so brazen a stunt if he had any high level black aides or advisers.)

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s this: Lester Holt will now almost certainly ask this exact same question to Trump during Monday night’s debate. What Trump says will be interesting. Right now, he’s clearly calling the shots—refusing to acknowledge past wrongs is a Trump hallmark. But his team might have other ideas, which means that we might finally get a real answer on Monday.

September 30, 2016

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Donald Trump was right about his bad microphone, so all the debate conspiracy theories must be true.

Immediately after his disastrous debate performance on Monday night, the Republican nominee bemoaned his “bum mic.” Everyone from Hillary Clinton to The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah mocked him for it. But on Friday afternoon, the Commission on Presidential Debates released this incredibly brief statement:

Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump’s audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall.

That one sentence is all that Trump’s alt-right supporters will need as proof not only that his mic was “rigged,” but that the following are true, too:

  • Hillary Clinton’s lapel mic was feeding her debate answers.
  • Lestor Holt and Clinton were “signaling” one another to interrupt Trump.
  • Clinton was given the questions before the debate started.

To his supporters, the “bum mic” couldn’t be as simple as a technical error. Clearly this was a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. The rest of us know that even if Trump had “the best microphone in the world, truly amazing, fantastic, biggest microphone you’ve ever seen,” he still would have bombed on Monday night.

Did Donald Trump lie in his deposition about his “immigrants are rapists” speech?

On Friday afternoon, BuzzFeed posted a video and a transcript of a deposition that Trump did earlier this year relating to his recently opened hotel in Washington, D.C. The deposition was taken for a lawsuit that Trump is conducting against a restaurateur who backed out of a deal with Trump after his infamous speech about Mexican immigrants, in which he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In the deposition, Trump says that he did not consult with anyone about his speech.

Q: With respect to the speech you made, and specifically the focus on Mexicans and immigrants, did you write the statement in advance?

A: No.

Q: And did you plan in advance what you were going to say?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. Did you talk to other people about it?

A: No. No I didn’t. I didn’t at all.

But Trump’s testimony seems to contradict an account published in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Here’s Robert Draper on that section of the speech:

The line struck [radio host Charlie] Sykes as awfully familiar when he heard it. A month before, he had run a segment with Ann Coulter, who had just published her 11th book, an anti-immigration screed titled ¡Adios, America! Sykes was well aware of Coulter’s views, but he was taken aback when she began a riff on Mexican rapists surging into the United States (a subject that takes up an entire chapter of ¡Adios, America!). “I remember looking at my producer and going, ‘Wow, this is rather extraordinary,’” he told me. “When Trump used that line, I instantly recognized it as Ann Coulter’s.”

In fact, Corey Lewandowski had reached out to Coulter for advice in the run-up to Trump’s announcement speech. The address Trump delivered on June 16 bore no resemblance to his prepared text, which contained a mere two sentences about immigration. Instead, he ad-libbed what Coulter today calls “the Mexican rapist speech that won my heart.” When Trump’s remarks provoked fury, Lewandowski called Coulter for backup. Three days later, she went on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher and, amid shrieks of laughter from the audience, predicted that Trump was the Republican candidate most likely to win the presidency.

Trump may not have talked to Coulter, but at the very least he seems to have consulted with Lewandowski.

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Where is Ivanka?

As Donald Trump took to Twitter on Friday to further shame former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado by insinuating she had a sex tape, the eldest (and favorite) scion of the Republican nominee has been mysteriously MIA. Often a surrogate for Trump’s wife Melania in fulfilling the traditional role of a First Lady hopeful, she has laid low since her heated interview with Cosmopolitan earlier this month—which she cut short after the reporter asked about Donald Trump’s assertion that pregnancy is “inconvenient” for business. “I think that you have a lot of negativity in these questions,” she snapped.

As Ivanka jets across the country for women’s alliance breakfasts and child-care policy roundtables, her father is blowing to pieces the image she constructed of him as a champion for women at the July GOP convention. “He is color-blind and gender-neutral,” she said of her father, adding that there are more female than male executives at the Trump organization, that they are paid equally, and that they are not “shut out” if they become mothers. The crowd ate it up, giving her a standing ovation.

Emily Nussbaum has aptly described Ivanka’s strategy as “weaponized graciousness.” She has been using her father’s presidential campaign as a platform for her own brand, described on her website as “a lifestyle concept dedicated to women who work.” She tweets about “make-ahead snacks to get through the week” and “tips and tricks to boost your job hunt.If there is one person who can save Donald Trump’s numbers among women, it’s Ivanka. But perhaps she’s finding it harder to convince herself that coming to her father’s aid will be beneficial—not only for women generally, but for her specifically.

Watch Donald Trump’s much-anticipated videotaped deposition.

A Washington, D.C., judge released the tapes on Monday of Trump and his son Donald Trump, Jr., which were recorded after they sued people who backed out of agreements to operate a restaurant in Trump’s recently opened D.C. hotel following his racist remarks about Mexicans. The video was acquired by BuzzFeed, which filed multiple motions to get it, and a transcript was also released. You can watch both parts of the deposition and read the transcript at BuzzFeed. Part one of the video deposition is below.

Getty/Dondi Tawatao

Rodrigo Duterte wants to kill three million drug addicts because ... Hitler?

Even before Duterte assumed the highest office in the Philippines, his hardline rhetoric on drug addicts and his link to so-called “death squads” in the city of Davao, where he served as mayor, alarmed human rights advocates at home and in the international community. Since his inauguration, his promised war on drugs has been even bloodier than expected, with about 3,000 killed without trial by police and vigilantes in highly publicized street-style executions.

On Friday, Duterte lashed back at his international critics, including the European Union and the United Nations, who he said had unfairly likened him to “a cousin of Hitler.” However, just a few minutes later, he himself seemed to accept the parallel to the Nazi leader, saying, “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there’s three million drug addicts. ... I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Doing so, he added, would “finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.” (His oft-cited “three million drug addicts” number is not confirmed by the Philippines agency tasked with tracking illegal drug use; they estimate 1.8 million.)

Unfortunately, this is just the latest outrageous statement Duterte has made in response to his international critics. His domestic opponents, meanwhile, have not been any more successful in stemming the tide of extrajudicial killings. A little over a week ago, his main Philippine challenger, Senator Leila de Lima, was removed from her leadership on the justice committee, where she had launched several investigations into the killings. So far, it is clear that censure has only served to incite Duterte further, which is apparent in his latest comments about Hitler.


Endorsing Gary Johnson is not an option.

Two days after The Arizona Republic endorsed a Democrat for the first time in a century, The Chicago Tribune is also getting in on the action. On Friday, the paper, which usually endorses Republicans but endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, endorsed Johnson of the Libertarian Party as a “principled” option for president.

“We would rather recommend a principled candidate for president—regardless of his or her prospects for victory—than suggest that voters cast ballots for such disappointing major-party candidates,” writes the Tribune’s editorial board. This presents Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as equally flawed candidates, and that is not true.

“We offer this endorsement to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice,” the endorsement continues. “Who want to vote for someone they can admire.” That all sounds great, except Gary Johnson is not that person. Gary Johnson is a spandex-wearing oaf who can’t name a foreign leader and doesn’t know where Aleppo is on the map. He is not fit to be president either. Furthermore, principles don’t really matter when voting for Johnson increases the chances of victory for Trump, who stands in opposition to those principles.

If you’re a Republican-leaning newspaper that cannot bring itself to endorse Trump, then do the responsible thing and endorse Clinton.

Donald Trump would like his aides to please shut the hell up about the debate.

It’s fairly common in politics for aides to use the press to try to send messages to their candidate. After Trump’s disastrous debate performance, aides publicly and privately made it clear that Trump’s debate performance was disastrous. Here’s a CNN report that was published on Thursday afternoon:

The pushback comes amid reports that advisers hoped Trump’s missteps against Clinton in the first debate would convince the Republican nominee to concentrate on his message and tactics before they debate again. Aides had said Tuesday and earlier Wednesday that they have delivered the message (gingerly, one said) that the first debate didn’t go well.”Yes, he’s been made aware,” one adviser said.

But Trump is clearly not happy with this political convention. According to the same CNN report, he made it clear that aides were not, under any circumstance, to concede that the debate, which was lost, was lost. In a conference call, surrogates and aides were told to stop admitting that Trump lost and instead that Trump “successfully reinforced his outsider status, contrasting him with Clinton as a status quo candidate.”

But Donald Trump is not someone who can live with such reports circulating. Which helps to explain the series of tweets he sent in the middle of the night and early morning on Friday.

Got that? Don’t believe the reports that are circulating that say that Donald Trump lost the debate because Donald Trump didn’t say them.

This is obviously not how journalism works, and Trump, as someone who has repeatedly gone off the record with journalists over the last four decades, knows as much. But Trump’s biggest campaign tactic is gaslighting, so this is par for the course.

That said, if we shouldn’t treat anonymous sources as liars, then what are we to make of this tweet?


Jeb Bush has beef with that Kennedy who leaked his father’s support for Hillary.

Since the primaries, Jeb has mostly been wandering around the streets of Boston at night. But yesterday he popped up to deliver a lecture at Harvard, and when asked what he thought about reports that his father was voting for Clinton, Jeb said that it was “inappropriate for a person to overhear a frail 92-year-old man in a private setting, at a reception for the Points of Light Foundation,” and then “go on Facebook and put it on there, and then go on national television and not even show up at the board meeting.” In other words, Kathleen Hartington Kennedy Townsend, you’ve just made yourself a very mild enemy. Oh, and show up to the goddamn meetings!

Jeb didn’t deny that his father is going blue. As for his own plans come November, Jeb is still undecided, but he has said that he is considering casting a ballot for Gary Johnson, a candidate who is, if possible, more hapless than he is.

Donald Trump responds to allegations of fat-shaming Alicia Machado by slut-shaming Alicia Machado.

When asked by Dr. Oz about his long history of public misogyny—especially on Howard Stern’s radio show—Trump said that he was just playing a game. “Had I known I was going to be a politician—Howard Stern is a friend of mine—I wouldn’t have done his show. We have fun. We have fun. A lot of people understand that. We have fun. So we’ll talk about women. We’ll talk about men. We’ll talk about everything, and we’re all have a good time.”

But in the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton made it clear that there was nothing funny about Trump’s comments about women, baiting him into discussing former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who he had repeatedly and publicly humiliated about her weight. Any normal campaign would have tried to move on from the massive L that its candidate took in the debate, but the Trump campaign is not a normal campaign in large part because the presidential candidate in question has access to a cell phone between certain hours of the day. Very early this morning, Trump sent a series of tweets referring to a reality show appearance in which Machado slept with another contestant. (Trump supporters have also alleged that Machado appeared in pornography, but there is no evidence that this is true.) None, surprisingly, contained the thinking emoji.

There’s a lot going on here. First of all, what is Trump doing? These tweets are timed between 3am and 5am. Was he just stewing, unable to sleep, even after Melania brought him a cup of warm milk? Second of all, there are less than 40 days to the election and Trump has spent the last four talking about Alicia Machado. Third, this basically takes a former Miss Universe and tries to turn her into the new Benghazi: Maybe Alicia Machado tricked Hillary Clinton into giving her citizenship so she could ... mention her in a debate? And how dare we give citizenship to ... someone who had sex with someone on a Mexican reality show? It’s weak shit and the alt right fever swamps really should be able to do something better. And finally, it showcases Trump’s two most un-presidential attributes. He’s easily baited and he finds it impossible to move on once he’s hooked. And his only answer to charges of misogyny is more misogyny.

September 29, 2016

Watch Trump spokesman Jason Miller insist that the sky is yellow.

Online polls are bad. They’re unscientific because they’re easy to rig: People can vote over and over again. Given the right wing’s fixation on the non-issue of voter fraud, it’s ironic to see the Trump campaign, licking its wounds after the drubbing Trump took in Monday’s debate, cling to them. Even as it has become more and more apparent that Trump lost—and as more and more Trump staffers have admitted that Trump lost—the Trump campaign is still pushing the idea that online polls are more accurate than other polls, which is completely false. On Thursday evening, Trump communications director Jason Miller tried to make the case to Chuck Todd.

Even for the Trump campaign, this is some primo gaslighting. To his credit, Todd pushed back, to the point that Miller almost admitted that Trump actually lost. Even within Miller’s blatant falsehoods, there’s an element of something approaching a normal strategy—the way to spin the polls is to say that they represent enthusiasm, even if they are not accurate. But what Miller did here went far beyond spinning. If you needed three and a half minutes of proof of the Trump campaign’s blatant disregard for the truth, this is it.