Melania Trump cuts bloated first lady payroll from Michelle Obama days

Oct 20, 2017 0

Melania Trump is embracing a more active and public schedule as first lady – but she still runs one of the leanest East Wing operations in recent history.

According to a Fox News analysis of White House personnel reports, Melania Trump has significantly reduced the number of aides on the first lady’s office payroll in comparison to her predecessor, Michelle Obama.

During then-President Barack Obama’s first year in office, 16 people were listed working for Michelle Obama, earning a combined $1.24 million a year.

This year, just four people were listed working for Melania Trump as of June. Their salaries totaled $486,700.

Melania Trump staff salaries

  • Lindsay B. Reynolds — $179,700.00 — assistant to the president and chief of staff to the first lady
  • Stephanie A. Grisham — $115,000.00 – special assistant to the president and director of communications for the first lady
  • Timothy G. Tripepi — $115,000.00 – special assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff of operations for the first lady
  • Mary‐Kathryn Fisher — $77,000.00 – deputy director of advance for the first lady
  • Source: June 2017 report to Congress on White House personnel

The details are contained in an annual report the White House sends to Congress showing the names, positions and salaries of all its personnel. Both the Obama and Trump administrations acknowledged several additional staffers beyond those listed in the report with the term “first lady” in their titles. But even counting all those employees — 24 for Michelle Obama and nine for the current first lady — Melania Trump’s office is relatively small.

It’s an approach her spokeswoman says is intentional. 

“As with all things that she does, she is being very deliberate in her hiring, focusing on quality over quantity,” communications director Stephanie Grisham said in an email. “It is important to her that the team is a good fit for what she wants to accomplish as first lady, and that everyone works well together. She also wants to be mindful and responsible when it comes to taxpayer money.”

MELANIA TRUMP SLAMS IVANA FOR CALLING HERSELF FIRST LADY

U.S. first lady Melania Trump delivers remarks at a reception with Team USA prior to attending the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1582C40300

This year, just four people were listed working for Melania Trump as of June. Their salaries totaled $486,700.  (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

While the 2009 annual report listed 16 staffers for Michelle Obama, her press secretary said at the time the staff actually included 24 people. A 2009 FactCheck.org story said Obama’s 24 aides might have broken records. 

“That may indeed be the largest of any first lady, but Hillary Clinton, with 19 staffers, and Laura Bush with at least 18 and perhaps more, weren’t far behind,” FactCheck.org said.

Michelle Obama staff salaries

  • Susan S. Sher — $172,200.00 — assistant to the president and chief of staff to the first lady
  • Jocelyn C. Frye — $140,000.00 — deputy assistant to the president and director of policy and projects for the first lady
  • Camille Y. Johnston — $102,000.00 – special assistant to the president and director of communications for the first lady
  • Melissa E. Winter — $102,000.00 – special assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff to the first lady
  • David S. Medina — $90,000.00 – deputy chief of staff to the first lady
  • Catherine M. Lelyveld — $84,000.00 director and press secretary to the first lady
  • Frances M. Starkey — $75,000.00 – director of scheduling and advance for the first lady
  • Trooper Sanders — $70,000.00 — deputy director of policy and projects for the first lady
  • Jennifer R. Goodman — $62,000.00 – deputy director of scheduling and events coordinator for the first lady
  • Alan Fitts — $60,000.00 – deputy director of advance and trip director for the first lady
  • Dana M. Lewis — $60,000.00 – special assistant and personal aide to the first lady
  • Semonti M. Mustaphi — $52,500.00 – associate director and deputy press secretary to the first lady
  • Kristen E. Jarvis — $50,000.00 – special assistant for scheduling and traveling aide to the first lady
  • Tyler A. Lechtenberg — $45,000.00 – associate director of correspondence for the first lady
  • Joseph J. Boswell — $40,000.00 – executive assistant to the chief of staff to the first lady
  • Deilia A. Jackson — $36,000.00 – deputy associate director of correspondence for the first lady 
  • Source: July 2009 report to Congress on White House personnel

Grisham told Fox News this week there are nine people working in the East Wing under Melania Trump, a few more than listed in the annual report. 

According to those personnel reports, Melania Trump’s staffers include a chief of staff, a communications director, a deputy chief of staff and a deputy director of advance.

Michelle Obama’s staff included those same positions and a slew of others: additional press aides, a director of policy and projects, a personal aide, a traveling aide and a director of correspondence.

Michelle Obama’s office did not return a request for comment.

But the larger staff is likely due in part to Michelle Obama entering the East Wing with a more aggressive agenda and embracing initiatives like her Let’s Move! child obesity campaign.

During the first few months of the Trump presidency, Melania Trump and son, Barron, remained in New York as he finished the school year. 

But she has noticeably ramped up public activity in recent weeks, including hosting a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis and traveling with her husband to tour the destruction of hurricanes and meet with the victims of the Las Vegas massacre.

“She is more like a Pat Nixon or a Bess Truman than a Hillary Clinton or a Michelle Obama,” Andrew Och, a first lady historian who was a producer for the C-SPAN’s “First Ladies: Influence and Image” series, said of Melania Trump.

First lady Michelle Obama speaks during an event welcoming military families to the White House to view the holiday decorations in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RC1C6BAEF700

During then-President Barack Obama’s first year in office, 16 people were listed working for Michelle Obama, earning a combined $1.24 million a year.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Och noted that there is no formal job description for a first lady and each one defines their role. Melania Trump, he said, does not come from the world of politics and “clearly does not feel the need for the larger staffs that her predecessors have had.”

The first lady’s office isn’t the only place in the White House where the Trump administration has trimmed staff positions. When the White House personnel report was released in June, Forbes reported 110 fewer employees under Donald Trump than Barack Obama and said the projected four-year savings resulting from the cuts could be more than $22 million.

Clinton pitbull, media attack Kelly after Gold Star general defends Trump condolence call

Oct 20, 2017 5

For a stunning and emotional 18 minutes on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly cut through a nasty debate over condolence calls to Gold Star families, appealing to the political class to allow at least this one thing to remain “sacred.”

Instead, Democratic lawmakers and operatives and allies in the media immediately turned on Kelly – himself a Gold Star father – branding him a liar and an “enabler” of President Trump, even suggesting his criticism of a black Democrat who publicized one of those calls was racist.

“Kelly isnt just an enabler of Trump. He’s a believer in him. That makes him as odious as the rest. Dont be distracted by the uniform,” Hillary Clinton’s former spokesman and CNN contributor Brian Fallon tweeted.

“I am stunned by John Kelley’s lies about a black woman who he called an ’empty barrel,’ MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted.

During his appearance in the White House briefing room on Thursday, Kelly tried to reset – and resolve – the unseemly weeklong political war over presidential calls to families of dead American soldiers.

President Trump effectively started that debate after questioning earlier this week whether former President Barack Obama made those phone calls. But Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., escalated the fight when she criticized Trump’s call to the widow of a soldier killed earlier this month in Niger.

Ironically, Kelly seemed to back up a portion of her account – that Trump told the widow that Sgt. La David Johnson “knew what he signed up for.” But Kelly defended Trump’s call and sought to put his words in context – they were a version of what Gen. Joseph Dunford told the retired general when his own son was killed in Afghanistan – and condemned Wilson for both listening to that phone call and talking about it to the press.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., talks to reporters, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson is standing by her statement that President Donald Trump told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson killed in an ambush in Niger, that her husband "knew what he signed up for." In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump said Wilson's description of the call was "fabricated." (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., talks to reporters, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson is standing by her statement that President Donald Trump told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson killed in an ambush in Niger, that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump said Wilson’s description of the call was “fabricated.” (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)  (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Kelly said he was “stunned” and “brokenhearted” that Wilson would do that, adding: “I thought at least that was sacred.”

In response, Wilson said Kelly was just trying to save his job – and joked that she’d have to tell her kids she’s a “rock star” given how much the White House is paying attention to her.

Even after Wilson’s office said they would not be making any further comment “because the focus should be on helping a grieving widow and family heal, not on her or Donald Trump,” the congresswoman appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to accuse Kelly of lying about her.

“It’s a lie,” she said Friday, referring to his criticism of Wilson in 2015 allegedly boasting about getting the funding for an FBI building dedicated to fallen agents. (Wilson said she wasn’t in Congress when that was secured.)

Further, Wilson claimed that one of Kelly’s terms for her – an empty barrel – was “racist,” even though she also said she hadn’t heard of an empty barrel before.

Kelly has used the term before for other lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Trump lashed out overnight at Wilson again.

“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” he tweeted.

And former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, highlighting a photo of Wilson in one of her trademark, shiny cowboy hats, tweeted: “.@realDonaldTrump calling Frederica Wilson ‘whacky’ is putting it mildly. The woman is a buffoon. Look at her.”

Kelly, as he left the podium on Thursday, left the media and the public with these words:

“As I walk off the stage, understand there’s tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing the nation’s bidding all around the world. They don’t have to be in uniform. … These young people today, they don’t do it for any other reason than their selfless sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.”

Trump's nicknames for rivals, from 'Rocket Man' to 'Crooked Hillary'

Oct 20, 2017 11

President Donald Trump is known for giving his political opponents and critics nicknames, especially on social media. 

Read on for a list of Trump’s most iconic nicknames.

Rocket Man

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. - RTS13Y8S

Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week.  (Reuters/KCNA Handout)

Trump has never really had kind things to say about North Korea leader Kim Jong Un – referring to him on Twitter as a “maniac” and “whack job.”

But in a Sept. 17 tweet, Trump bestowed a new nickname on the dictator: Rocket Man.

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump said as he tried out the new moniker at the 2017 United Nations General Assembly this week.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News it’s a “President Trump original.”

Crooked Hillary

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton smiles out to the crowd in Chicago, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, during an event to promote her new book. Hillary Clinton is returning to New York on Thursday for more stops on her book promo blitz. The former secretary of state and potential 2016 presidential contender will be making multiple stops in the city on Thursday. (AP Photo/Stacy Thacker)

Trump often referred to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” during the 2016 presidential campaign.  (AP Photo/Stacy Thacker)

Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump would often hit his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with criticisms on social media. Trump gave her the nickname “Crooked Hillary,” usually when he mentioned her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

The first time Trump tweeted about “Crooked Hillary” was in April 2016.

Sometimes Trump switched it up and would call the former first lady “Lyin’ Hillary.”

Little Marco

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks before U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Cuba policy at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida, U.S. June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper - RC12FDB8EF40

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump would often refer to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as “Little Marco.”  (Reuters/Joe Skipper)

The rhetoric among the Republican presidential contenders hit a different kind of low as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio went after Trump for having “small hands” and Trump started to call the senator “Little Marco.” The two also discussed the size of Trump’s hands – and other things – during a GOP debate in March 2016.

Trump first tweeted the “Little Marco” nickname in February 2016.

Lyin’ Ted

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), speaks at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council, on October 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The summit, which goes for three days, is attended by a number of Republican senators and high profile conservative voices in American politics. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Political rivals during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump would often call Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “Lyin’ Ted.”  (Getty Images/Andrew Burton)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Trump didn’t start out as enemies during the 2016 campaign, but the two Republican contenders were soon at each other’s throats. Trump dubbed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” when he went after him for his immigration polies in a campaign ad in March 2016.

Low Energy Jeb

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The former Florida governor delivered a speech on economic opportunities partly in Spanish on Tuesday, and his audience responded with hearty applause. Bush is fluent in the language, and often uses it in Florida, but it's rarely heard in Republican presidential campaign politics. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Trump said his nickname for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “Low Energy Jeb,” didn’t have a backstory but just fit.  (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also got a Trump nickname when he was a 2016 Republican presidential contender – “Low energy Jeb Bush.”

Despite the exclamation point in Bush’s campaign logo, Trump started to use the nickname to criticize his opponent during the campaign. Trump told Business Insider that there wasn’t a backstory to the nickname, he “just seemed” like a “low energy” person to Trump.

1 for 38

Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to a packed crowd during a campaign stop at the VFW Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in Derry, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich became known to Trump as “1 in 38” because he only one one state in the GOP presidential primaries.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich attempted to team up with Cruz during the Republican primary to deny Trump the party’s nomination, Trump took to Twitter to dole out a new nickname. And Kasich became “1 for 38.”

Trump assigned Kasich the name because he won only one state in the primary and lost the others, Trump said in a statement in August 2016. Eventually Kasich would also be referred to as “1 for 42” by the eventual president.

Crazy Bernie

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a Dec. 6, 2012, news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Trump called Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential challenger — “Crazy Bernie.”  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the white-haired independent socialist who became a progressive icon during the 2016 election, earned himself the nickname “Crazy Bernie” from Trump.

Trump first tweeted about “Crazy Bernie” in May 2016 when he criticized “Crooked Hillary” for “looking very bad against” Sanders.

Pocahontas

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2015 file photo, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Two people with knowledge of Warren's plans say the Massachusetts senator will formally endorse Hillary Clinton for president in the next week or two. They spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday, June 8, 2016, because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the endorsement before Warren makes it. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became known to Trump as “Pocahontas” and “Goofy.”  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have traded some harsh criticism since Trump’s foray into the political world – including when Trump accused Warren of falsely claiming to be of Native American heritage to get into Harvard.

Thus, Trump began to call her “Pocahontas.”

“She’s got about as much Indian blood as I have. Her whole life was based on a fraud,” Trump told the New York Times in May 2016.

Warren’s potential Native American heritage was first questioned during her 2012 Senate run.  

Trump also calls Warren “goofy.”

Crying Chuck

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders shelved a vote on their prized health care bill Tuesday until at least next month, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debate. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump began attacking Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as “Crying Chuck” online after Schumer criticized Trump’s firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

After Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, N.Y., criticized Trump for firing F.B.I. Director James Comey, Trump hit him right back – with an original nickname.

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, “I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.” Then acts so indignant,” he tweeted on May 9, 2017.

Schumer shed some tears when he discussed Trump’s immigration ban earlier in 2017.

But Schumer wasn’t crying earlier this month after Trump agreed to the Democrats’ short-term debt-limit increase and Hurricane Harvey aid.

Sleepy Eyes

Chuck Todd, political director at NBC News, takes part in the NBC News Decision '08 panel at the NBC Universal summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 21, 2008.

Trump has called NBC anchor “Sleepy” since 2011.  (Reuters/Fred Prouser)

Trump has thought NBC reporter Chuck Todd has looked “sleepy” long before the election or campaign. He first dubbed Todd “sleepy” in a 2001 tweet, but upgraded his nickname to “Sleepy Eyes” by 2012.

Dumb as a Rock Mika

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski arrive for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1A9XH

In slamming MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” coverage of him, Trump called host Mika Brzezinski “dumb as a rock Mika.”  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

From writer Touré to National Review, Trump has called many things “dumb as a rock.” But Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earned the nickname in July after she and Joe Scarborough criticized the president.

“Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses,” he tweeted. “Too bad!”

His attack on the news anchor continued, as he called her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and said she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she came to Mar-a-Lago around New Year’s Eve.

Psycho Joe

In this Monday April 22, 2013, file photo, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, right, attend the 2013 Matrix New York Women in Communications Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. MSNBC confirmed Thursday, May 4, 2017, that the “Morning Joe” co-hosts are engaged.

Trump called MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough “Psycho Joe” on Twitter.  (AP Photo)

In a Twitter rant about his dislike of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Trump dubbed host Joe Scarborough “Psycho Joe.”

Crazy Megyn 

TV host Megyn Kelly arrives for the Time 100 Gala in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S. April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RC1AFBAE9160

During their ongoing feud, Trump would call television personality Megyn Kelly “Crazy Megyn.”  (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Trump’s comments about then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly were often criticized and deemed misogynistic by critics. During their feud, Trump took to calling Kelly “Crazy Megyn.”

Wacky Glenn Beck

FILE - In this Wednesday Sept. 9, 2015, file photo, radio host Glenn Beck speaks during a Tea Party rally against the Iran deal on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington. SiriusXM announced May 31, 2016, that Beck was being suspended over his comments in a May 25, 2016, interview with author Brad Thor. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Trump called TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck “wacky” and a “wacko” on social media.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck endorsed Cruz during the Republican presidential primary – and Trump resurrected an old nickname.

Trump dubbed the conservative political commentator as “Wacky Glenn Beck” and “Wacko Glenn Beck.”

Trump also referred to Beck as “Crying Glenn Beck” in January 2016.

Liddle’ Bob Corker

FILE - In this April 5, 2016, file photo, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republican Donald Trump has narrowed down his vice presidential shortlist to a handful of contenders that he's met with including Corker. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Trump has nicknamed the Tennessee senator “Liddle’ Bob Corker.”  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The feud between Trump and Sen. Bob Corker has been going on for some time, but the Tennessee senator finally got a nickname Tuesday.

“The Failing [New York Times] set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!” Trump tweeted on Oct. 10.

Corker slammed Trump in a recent interview with the newspaper and said the president is so reckless that he might be “on the path to World War III.” A transcript from the interview revealed that Corker acknowledged the conversation was on the record.

Wacky Congresswoman Wilson

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., talks to reporters, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson is standing by her statement that President Donald Trump told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson killed in an ambush in Niger, that her husband "knew what he signed up for." In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump said Wilson's description of the call was "fabricated." (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

As Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson feud over comments made to a Gold Star family, the president has nicknamed the Florida Democrat “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson.”  (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., are locked in a public feud involving a Gold Star family – earning the Florida congresswoman her nickname.

“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson (D), who was SECRETELY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” Trump tweeted Oct. 19.

Wilson accused Trump of making insensitive remarks to the pregnant widow of one of the four American soldiers killed during an attack in Niger. The White House, including chief of staff John Kelly, has ardently defended the president’s comments. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

Trump: Media 'going crazy' with Wilson's 'total lie' about call to widow

Oct 20, 2017 14

“I’m a rock star now.” That’s how a Florida Democrat has reacted to her recent notoriety after becoming tangled in a controversy over her account of President Donald Trump’s condolence phone call to a U.S. Army widow.

“You mean to tell me that I’ve become so important that the White House is following me and my words?” U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson asked reporters Thursday.

“This is amazing. That’s amazing. I’ll have to tell my kids that I’m a rock star now.”

Later Thursday, President Trump accused Wilson of lying in her account of the phone call between Trump and the widow of a U.S. service member who was recently killed in Africa.

The same tweet also asserts that news organizations have been “going crazy” with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson’s version of the story.

“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” 

The president’s tweet came hours after Chief of Staff John Kelly made an emotional speech at the White House, saying he was “stunned” to learn that Wilson had been listening in when the president spoke with Myeshia Johnson, widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson — one of four American soldiers killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago.

Wilson, a Democrat, was with Johnson’s family when Trump called to offer condolences. The congresswoman said Trump had told the widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.”

Johnson’s aunt said Trump showed “disrespect” to the soldier’s loved ones.

Wilson on Thursday said Trump disrespected Johnson’s widow with his comments during the phone call.

In comments to the White House press corps, Kelly defended Trump and said he was “stunned” by the criticism of Trump’s condolence call to the sergeant’s family. Kelly accused Wilson of “selfish behavior.”

Kelly also told reporters that the president had expressed his condolences “in the best way that he could.”

Wilson gave a cryptic response when Miami television station WSVN-TV caught up with her Thursday, repeating a phrase she said her mother told her when she was a child. Wilson said: “The dog can bark at the moon all night long but it doesn’t become an issue until the moon barks back.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Sad Story: How the deaths of American soldiers became a Trump controversy

Oct 20, 2017 12

The spotlight should be on the fallen soldiers who gave their lives for this country.

Instead, we’ve all been plunged into another anguished round of finger-pointing, blame-shifting and all-around nastiness that is nothing short of sad. Everyone is caught in the media crossfire and the deaths of brave Americans have become politicized.

Now there’s no denying that President Trump opened the door at his Monday news conference when he was asked why he hasn’t spoken publicly about the four soldiers killed in Niger. He turned that into a suggestion that Barack Obama and other presidents rarely or never called the families of the fallen, triggering vehement denials from former Obama aides.

The president may not have intended to pick this fight, but the next day he questioned whether Obama had called John Kelly, now his chief of staff, after he lost a son in Afghanistan in 2010. (Obama had not, but invited Kelly, who became a Marine general, to a breakfast for Gold Star families.) Kelly has always been private about the pain of that loss.

So now the media had a full-fledged Trump controversy, perfect fodder for cable segments and hot takes online.

Never mind that, with few exceptions, the press provided scant coverage of the deaths in Niger. How many Americans even know why we have troops in Niger?

But now it’s a Trump story, and it’s dominating the entire week.

The president’s call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson became the next flash point. Cowanda Jones-Johnson told the Washington Post that Trump “did disrespect my son.”

Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who heard the call, has been all over TV vehemently attacking the president. She says he told Jones-Johnson that her son “must have known what he signed up for.” The White House defended the call, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling the congresswoman’s conduct “appalling and disgusting.” She added that it’s “a disgrace of the media to try to portray an act of kindness like that and that gesture, and try to make it into something that it isn’t.”

An emotional Kelly came into the briefing room yesterday and said he was “stunned” and “broken-hearted” to hear Wilson’s “selfish” criticism of a presidential call that he thought was a fine attempt to say that Johnson died among the best in the country, that this was what he signed up for. “I thought at least that was sacred,” said Kelly, adding that he sought solace during a stroll at Arlington National Cemetery.

Obviously, in this climate, the disputed call is news. But let’s say Trump stumbled during the call, or meant to say that anyone who goes into the armed forces knows there are risks and we are grateful for his service.

Is the press really whipping itself into a frenzy over how the president made a call that is so difficult to make, trying to comfort a mother who has suffered the ultimate loss?

By the same token, it was news when the Post interviewed Chris Baldridge, the father of an Army sergeant killed in Afghanistan, who said Trump offered to send him a personal check for $25,000—but that the money never arrived. The check was apparently sent after the Post story was published.

But with journalists calling every Gold Star family they can reach—and CNN putting on a grief-stricken relative who didn’t get a Trump call—I have to ask: What other president has been held to this standard?

I’m with General Kelly on this point: the men who died in Niger were heroes. The behavior of just about everyone else in this melodrama has been less than heroic.

Senate passes budget framework for tax reform

Oct 19, 2017 16

Senate Republicans narrowly passed their $4 trillion budget plan Thursday, taking their first big step toward a tax reform package promised by President Donald Trump. 

Approval of the nonbinding plan allows the Senate to use a special process known as “budget reconciliation” that would forestall a Democratic filibuster.

“Tonight we completed the first step towards replacing our broken tax code by passing a comprehensive, fiscally responsible budget that will help put the federal government on a path to balance,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace a failing tax code that holds Americans back with one that works for them.”

The Senate plan, approved on a 51-49 vote,  calls for $473 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid.

If fully implemented, the plan would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over the next 10 years, with an average of approximately $540 billion per year over the life of the plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office estimate.

Tax reform, always a top item on the GOP agenda, has taken on even greater urgency with the failure of the party to carry out its longstanding promise to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Republicans have said failure on taxes would be politically devastating in next year’s midterm elections when control of the House and Senate are at stake.

The House passed its version of the budget plan last week. It calls for tax cuts that don’t add to the deficit and would pair the tax rewrite measure with $200 billion in spending cuts over the coming decade. Both plans include a provision to end a longstanding ban on oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paul Ryan launches digs at Trump, Democrats in charity dinner speech

Oct 19, 2017 15

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan took jabs at both Republicans and Democrats Thursday night at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner in New York City — but some of his pointed barbs took aim at President Trump.

“I know last year at this dinner Donald Trump offended some people with his comments which critics said went too far,” Ryan joked. “Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure and that his comments were offensive… Well, thank God he’s learned his lesson.”

The event, which raises money for Catholic charities, brings in some of the nation’s biggest political heavyweights each year. Last year, then-candidates Trump and Hillary Clinton took swipes at each other, to some controversy.

Ryan also poked fun at Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. The speaker explained that he loved October, calling it his “favorite time of the year.” Then he joked: “Deer season is on, the leaves are changing, the beaches are empty. Or as Chris Christie calls them, perfect.”

Turning his address towards Democratic leadership, Ryan said, “A lot of people ask me what it’s like to work on a daily basis with an abrasive New Yorker with a loud mouth… But once you get to know him, Chuck’s [Schumer] not all that bad.”

“I know why Chuck has been so hard on President Trump. It’s not ideological, Chuck is just mad he lost his top donor,” Ryan said of Trump, who in past years donated to the Democratic Party.

Next taking aim at Hillary Clinton, he told the audience that he bought her new book, “What Happened.”

“This sums up today’s politics perfectly,” Ryan said. “She took 8 months, writing 10 hours a day, to explain what happened in 512 pages. The president explained it in a tweet. Hashtag, I won.”

He later mocked former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had a prominent and influential role within the Trump administration. Ryan said that since Bannon resigned from office, he’s “now second in line of succession.”

The speaker then quipped that Bannon said Ryan was “born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation. This is amazing – no one knew Steve believed in science.”

Before he finished on a more serious note, mentioning the recent hurricanes, wildfires and the massacre in Las Vegas, Ryan also said he was learning “that becoming Speaker of the House is a stepping stone… to becoming ex-Speaker of the House.”

John Kelly 'brokenhearted' by Dem rep's attacks on Trump

Oct 19, 2017 15

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Thursday he was “stunned” and “brokenhearted” after a condolence call President Trump made to the widow of a slain soldier turned into a public and political spectacle pitting the administration against a Democratic lawmaker. 

In a rare and emotional moment from the White House briefing room podium, Kelly condemned Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., for listening to that phone call and then criticizing the president’s tone in the press. 

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and broken-hearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing — a member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president” to the widow, Kelly told reporters. 

“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me. … I thought at least that was sacred,” he said, blasting what he called Wilson’s “selfish behavior.”

Kelly, whose son Second Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in battle in Afghanistan in 2010, said he was so shocked by the escalation of events that he went to Arlington National Cemetery to take a walk. 

The Trump call in question was made to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four Americans killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.

Wilson within hours went to the press to criticize Trump for allegedly saying during that phone call that “he knew what he signed up for,” claiming the remarks were insensitive.  

Trump denied it, while Wilson stood by her account. 

Kelly on Thursday seemed to back up part of Wilson’s account, but sought to put the president’s words in the proper context — while blasting Wilson for listening to the conversation at all. 

Kelly said Trump was trying to say something akin to what Gen. Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him when his own son died: That “he was doing exactly what he wanted to do … he knew what he was getting into.”

Soon after Kelly’s remarks, Wilson responded. 

“Let me tell you what my mother told me when I was little. She said ‘The dog can bark at the moon all night long, but it doesn’t become an issue until the moon barks back,'” Wilson told reporters. 

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., talks to reporters, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson is standing by her statement that President Donald Trump told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson killed in an ambush in Niger, that her husband "knew what he signed up for." In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump said Wilson's description of the call was "fabricated." (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., talks to reporters, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson is standing by her statement that President Donald Trump told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson killed in an ambush in Niger, that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump said Wilson’s description of the call was “fabricated.” (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)  (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Trump ignited a political controversy over how presidents interact with Gold Star families earlier this week after he questioned whether former President Barack Obama called the families of fallen troops during his eight years in office. This was as he faced questions about his administration’s response to the Niger ambush. 

Obama did call and write letters to families of some fallen soldiers, though Kelly said Thursday that Obama did not call him when his son died. However, he stressed that he did not say that as a “criticism” of Obama. 

When Trump called Johnson’s widow 12 days after the attack, Wilson later spoke to the media and criticized his choice of words. 

Kelly told reporters Thursday that he advised Trump what to say to the families of the soldiers who had died in battle. Initially, Kelly said he instructed the president not to make the phone call. 

Obama rails against ‘politics of division’ as he returns to campaign trail for Dems

Oct 19, 2017 17

Former President Barack Obama on Thursday returned to the campaign trail for the first time since leaving office, traveling to predominantly black cities to implore Democrats to vote in upcoming gubernatorial races as he railed against the “politics of division.”

During a campaign rally for New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy in Newark, Obama didn’t explicitly criticize his successor, President Donald Trump. But he suggested the politics of today are reminiscent of the “19th century.”

“What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries,” Obama said. “Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed.”

Obama added, “it’s the 21st century, not the 19th century.”

He made the comments as he encouraged Democrats to vote for Murphy, who served as ambassador to Germany during the Obama administration and is running against New Jersey Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

“You can’t take this election for granted, or any election, for granted,” Obama said. “I don’t know if y’all noticed that. But you can’t take any election for granted.”

He encouraged attendees to get their friends and family to the polls too.

“You got to get cousin Pookie,” the former president said to laughter. “You got to get, you know, you got to get Uncle Jimmy, he’s been on the couch, he’s drinking a beer, he doesn’t even remember it’s an election.”

In New Jersey, incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie is term limited. A Fox News Poll released this week of likely voters in New Jersey show Murphy ahead of Guadagno 47 percent to 33 percent.

From New Jersey, Obama traveled to Virginia to deliver a speech Thursday night at a campaign rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, who is running against Republican nominee Ed Gillespie.

Obama championed Northam as someone with honesty, integrity and willingness to put others before himself.

“At a time when so many of us can be so cynical about government and public service, to have somebody step up who you can trust, and just wants to do right by the people of Virginia, that’s worth something,” he said.

The former President said Northam “devoted his time to the next generation,” referencing his time teaching at a medical school and when he served in the Army at the Walter Reed medical center. 

Obama also noted how he had regulary visited the medical center during his time in the White House, a comment seemingly in response to President Trump’s comments that past presidents didn’t always call the families of fallen troops.

“I can tell you as somebody who visited Walter Reed consistently throughout my 8 years… what it meant to have a medical staff who would literally help rebuild peoples’ lives after they had served our country in such a profound way,” he said.

Obama echoed a similar rhetoric about the importance to vote, emphazing not only the need for people to get to the polls, but also how important it was to care about all elections, not just presidential ones.

“Democrats, sometimes… y’all get a little sleepy, you get a little complacent,” Obama said, referring to off-season campaigns.

In Virginia, Democrats are also ahead, with Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, leading Gillespie, a former top aide to George W. Bush, 49 to 42 percent in the latest Fox News Poll. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is also term limited.

Both the New Jersey and Virginia elections take place Nov. 7.

Democrat facing felony charge quits House race

Oct 19, 2017 17

A Democratic candidate facing a felony charge of grand larceny has bowed out of the race to challenge Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y.

Steven Brisee, 27, was arrested on Sept. 11 and accused of shoplifting almost $1,500 in merchandise from a Kohl’s department store in Newburgh. He was arraigned and remanded to custody in lieu of $500 bail.

According to the Times Herald-Record newspaper, Brisee also spent eight days in the Ulster County Jail last month after being charged with a misdemeanor count of trespassing. State troopers told the paper that a homeowner in the town of Kerhonksen called police Sept. 9 after finding a stranger’s clothes and a wallet containing some of Brisee’s campaign cards. The candidate was eventually bailed out of jail.

Brisee claimed to live in the 19th District of New York, which he sought to represent. But the Times Herald-Record reported that the address he declared to be his “doesn’t appear to exist.”

In an email to the Daily Freeman newspaper this week, Brisee said he had “raised rougly $850 and spent roughly $18,000” in his ill-fated campaign.

Brisee did not mention the charges in a statement he tweeted Tuesday. He said that he was on the autism spectrum and explained that “social skills, needed to connect with people, to raise money, and deliver a message, are skills which can’t be learned mechanically.

“I can do and learn a lot of things but sadly sociability will never be one of them,”Brisee concluded. “So that’s enough politics for me.”