News & Politics

The Morning Briefing: Eye on Cohen, Flexing Our Missile Intercept Muscle, New FBI Candidates and Much, Much More

Good Wednesday Morning.

Here’s what is on President Trump’s agenda today:

  • In the morning, President Donald J. Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
  • In the afternoon, the President will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
  • The President will then welcome Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam.
  • Later in the afternoon, the President will meet with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

The President Tweets

I don’t know what this means, but all the twidiots are giddy this morning.

UPDATE: Tweet has been deleted.

Speaking of Twitter…

Yesterday the media was in a frenzy over the unsubstantiated and unfact-checked assertion that the President’s Twitter account had mysteriously gained five million followers in three days. Such news powerhouses as The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, and website Daily Kos shared the tweet, along with other personalities.

Alas, it was only more #fakenews.

The number of users who followed Trump’s account was far lower — the president had 30.6 million followers on Friday compared to 30.9 million on Tuesday. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that the @txmockingjay tweet contained unsupported information.

“That account is not verified and provides no source for their claim,” Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio said.

According to Twitter, it’s fairly normal for new users to not upload photos before beginning to use the service.

In a Twitter direct message with Business Insider — the user chose to remain anonymous — @txmockingjay said they “may not have been accurate numbers-wise” but left the tweet up to bring attention to an alleged high number of bots following Trump.

“I couldn’t be sure as I was skimming a lot of tweets so I don’t remember the original poster,” they said. “The reason I haven’t deleted it is because it brought awareness to the bot situation.”

The “fake but accurate” defense.

Didn’t any of the news operations even try to confirm this claim with Twitter before jumping on board? I guess not, because convenient.

Tag, you’re it

The latest target in the never-ending “Russia” investigation is Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer.

One of President Donald Trump’s closest confidants, his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, has now become a focus of the expanding congressional investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 campaign.

Cohen confirmed to ABC News that House and Senate investigators have asked him “to provide information and testimony” about any contacts he had with people connected to the Russian government, but he said he has turned down the invitation.

“I declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen told ABC News in an email Tuesday.

After Cohen refused to play along, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee voted to give GOP Chair Burr and ranking Democrat Warner blanket authority to issue subpoenas.

“To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy,” Cohen added. “This is not surprising to me because there is none.”

This is true.

“Cohen” made an appearance in a shifty, anti-Trump dossier that made the rounds during and after the 2016 presidential election, but the dossier was proven to reference the wrong “Cohen.”

The real Cohen told CNN he will cooperate with a subpoena.

“I have not been subpoenaed to testify. If I am subpoenaed to testify I will comply — and gladly — as I have nothing to hide,” Cohen said. “There is no shred of evidence that implicates me.”

Flynn to turn over documents to intel committee

A source tells Fox News that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn will turn over subpoenaed records to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The source told Fox News that the committee recently narrowed its requests for Flynn’s personal records, enabling him to accommodate the committee’s requests without jeopardizing his legal rights. Flynn’s attorneys had argued the earlier request was too broad and would have required Flynn to turn over information that could have been used against him.

The source added that Flynn wanted to cooperate with congressional investigations and was grateful that the Senate panel had narrowed the scope of its request.

Earlier in the day, President Trump tweeted out, “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”

U.S. successfully conducts missile intercept test

I hope the Norks were paying attention.

The U.S. military successfully shot down a mock nuclear warhead simulating the speed and range of a potential North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said Tuesday.

In a statement, the agency said an unarmed rocket launched from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean was “destroyed” by a ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California as it traveled outside Earth’s atmosphere.

“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” said MDA Director Vice Admiral Jim Syring. “I am incredibly proud of the warfighters who executed this test and who operate this system every day.”

Trump interviewed two candidates for FBI director

President Trump met with two potential replacements to fill the vacant FBI chief position. Press secretary Sean Spicer revealed in yesterday’s press conference the two men are John Pistole and Chris Wray.

Wray, a former top Department of Justice official, is an attorney who served as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s personal attorney during the so-called Bridgegate scandal. He has been working as a partner with the Atlanta-based King & Spalding law firm since 2005, when he left his role as assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s criminal division under President George W. Bush.

Pistole served as the head of the Transportation Security Administration under President Obama after spending 26 years at the FBI.

At the FBI, Pistole rose to become deputy director, working under current DOJ special counsel Robert Mueller, who was then the FBI director. Before becoming the deputy director, Pistole led the expanded counterterrorism program after the attacks on Sept. 11.

“When the president feels as though he’s met with the right candidate, he’ll let us know,” Spicer said during the briefing. “But he’ll meet with candidates today and continue to do so until he finds the right leader.”

The high cost of federal regulation

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute will release its annual report on the cost of the oppressive regulatory state. The report, “The Ten Thousand Commandments,” was written by Wayne Crews and outlines the massive financial burden of administering the American regulatory Leviathan. It’s astonishing.

President Trump has already taken some steps to unburden the citizens from Obama-era regulations, but that’s really only a start.

  • Federal regulation is a hidden tax that amounts to $15,000 ($14,809) per U.S. household each year or 21% of the average household income. More is “spent” on embedded regulation than on health care, food, transportation, entertainment, clothing and education.
  • The burden of federal regulations cost American consumers, businesses and the economy an estimated $1.963 trillion in 2016. If the cost of federal regulations were a country, it would be the 7thlargest, behind India and ahead of Italy.
  • Crews underscores the need for more transparency, a better review process and more cost-benefit analyses for new and current federal regulations. In 2016, Washington bureaucrats issued 18 regulations for every 1 law Congress enacted. Washington must be held accountable for the burden they impose on Americans and the economy.
  • In the report, Crews analyzes President Obama’s final year in office, and finds a significant regulatory surge. This jump in major regulations has set a benchmark by which the Trump administration will be compared. Trump has promised to slam the brakes on overregulation.
  • Usually, regulatory costs get little attention in policy debates, because unlike taxes, they are difficult to quantify, oftentimes unbudgeted, and almost always indirect. However, there is renewed bipartisan interest in cutting red tape in the 115th Congress.
  • The number of Federal Register pages in 2016 was 95,894, or 19 percent higher than the previous year. This page count was President Obama’s highest level, as well as the highest level in the history of the Federal Register.
  • Final rules in 2016 increased from 3,410 to 3,853, the highest total during the Obama administration, and the highest since 2005.

You can find the entire report here.

Man with fake gun arrested after two-hour standoff

According to ABC News, a man who was brandishing a fake gun at Orlando International Airport was taken into custody.

At a press conference Tuesday night, Orlando Police Department chief John Mina said officers confronted the suspect — identified as Michael Wayne Pettigrew, 26, a former Marine — who was holding a handgun. He then pointed the handgun at officers and asked them to shoot him, Mina said. Pettigrew also pointed the gun to his head. Officers were eventually able to get him to drop the weapon.

Pettigrew then laid on the ground, but police did not initially approach him because the fake gun — which officers did not yet know was not real — was close to him. Negotiators then spoke with him for two hours.

Pettigrew has been committed for mental evaluation and is charged with aggravated assault with a weapon. Police determined the gun was fake after he was taken into custody.

We love us

Political celebrity journalist Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, who was manhandled by then-candidate, now-Congressman Greg Gianforte, will have his broken glasses displayed in Washington D.C.’s Newseum.

The reporter replaced his glasses on Tuesday, according to the Guardian, despite having a bruised right eye. The Newseum, a museum in Washington, D.C., dedicated to journalism, requested that Jacobs donate his broken glasses to its collection.

After the incident, a GoFundMe campaign was created to pay for Jacobs’ new glasses. Jacobs asked that the campaign contributions be donated to the Committee to

Protect Journalists.

Gianforte was charged with assault and went on to apologize for his behavior during his victory speech.

The media sure loves itself.

Other morsels

Kathy Griffin apologizes for funny joke with decapitated Trump head (ha.ha.ha.)

U.S. begins shipping weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria

Like avocados? Trader Joe’s is selling “teeny tiny” avocados

Mary Kay Letourneau’s husband files for separation

Amazon refunds $70M in accidental “kid purchases” back to customers

BuzzFeed sued over Trump dossier

Officer who killed Tamir Rice is fired

That’s all I’ve got, now go beat back the angry mob!