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As it happenedended1582287338

Trump news: President ‘told Rush Limbaugh not to apologise to Pete Buttigieg over homophobic remarks’ and says California cities overrun with needles

Chris Riotta,Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 19 February 2020 17:47 GMT
Trump incorrectly states he is the 'chief law enforcement officer' of the United States

Donald Trump reportedly advised conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh not to apologise to Democratic 2020 contender Pete Buttigieg after saying America is not ready for a gay president kissing his husband on the world stage, prompting the candidate to mock Trump over his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.

The president is touring the western swing states of Nevada, California and Arizona this week with one eye on November but caused offence to the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco overnight by suggesting both are suffering from widespread drug addiction and homelessness.

Trump is meanwhile also facing criticism for pardoning 11 white collar criminals – including ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, whom he once fired from The Celebrity Apprentice over a Harry Potter controversy – a decision that provoked fresh concern about the president exceeding the powers of his office and moved former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal to reassure the public: “The law will find a way to catch up with him.”

Meanwhile, sparring between Mike Bloomberg and the leading Democratic candidates erupted hours before Wednesday night's debate, previewing what's expected to be a tense night as the billionaire businessman meets his rivals onstage for the first time.

Both Bernie Sanders' and Joe Biden's campaigns took aim at Mr Bloomberg, the former raising questions about the 78-year-old's health and the latter pointing out reversals in Mr Bloomberg's stances on key issues.

The attacks underscore how seriously Democrats are taking the former New York mayor's campaign, now that he's rocketed to double-digit support in national polls and qualified for the next two debates.

Mr Bloomberg, who formally registered as a Democrat in 2018, has faced relatively little national scrutiny in his surprisingly swift rise from nonpartisan megadonor to top-tier presidential contender.

On CNN Wednesday morning, Mr Sanders' national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray tried to rebut questions surrounding the Vermont senator's health by pointing to Mr Bloomberg, who she said had also "suffered heart attacks in the past".

Mr Sanders suffered a heart attack last fall and released letters from doctors attesting to his health. But Mr Bloomberg has never suffered a heart attack; he released a doctors' letter last year that said he did undergo coronary stent surgery in 2000.

Ms Gray later walked back her statement, saying on Twitter that she "misspoke" about Mr Bloomberg's health.

Separately, the Biden campaign took on Mr Bloomberg over ads the former mayor is running that feature shots of him working closely with former President Barack Obama.

The Biden campaign posted a video to Twitter highlighting past comments Mr Bloomberg made criticising Mr Obama on health care and climate change and accusing him of failing to address racism during his term. The video also includes a clip of Mr Bloomberg declaring "I'm a friend of Donald Trump's, he's a New York icon."

Additional reporting by Associated Press. Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load


Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 10:20

Trump provokes outcry by granting clemency to 11 white collar criminals

Donald Trump is facing criticism after pardoning seven white collar criminals and commuting the prison sentences of four more – including ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, whom he once fired from The Celebrity Apprentice over a Harry Potter controversy – provoking fresh concern about the president exceeding the powers of his office.

Other beneficiaries of Trump's mercy were former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik and ex-San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr, both of whom were charged with corruption, and Michael Milken, who pleaded guilty to insider trading in 1990 and was known as "the junk bond king".

Blagojevich was so grateful to be released he wasted no time in pledging his loyalty and branding himself "a Trumpocrat", a phrase with an eerie ring to it.

Here's Chris Riotta's report on the angry response to the gesture.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 10:30

Who the president forgave as he branded himself 'chief law enforcement officer'

Arriving in California yesterday where he is seeking to drum up unlikely electoral support, Trump told reporters he considered himself the top legal authority in the land, which is simply incorrect, and reasserted his belief that he has "an absolute right" to involve himself in cases such as the imminent sentencing of Republican political operative Roger Stone.

Here's Clark Mindock with a complete rundown of the 11 individuals whose misdemeanours he forgave.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 10:45

Ex-solictor general Neal Katyal: 'The law will find a way to catch up with him'

Among those expressing their incredulity at Trump's latest post-impeachment liberty was former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, who appeared on Ari Melber's MSNBC show l to reassure the public: “The law will find a way to catch up with him.”

Bernie Sanders was equally outraged, tweeting the following attack and saying the president's actions were indicative of a "broken and racist criminal justice system. 

Democratic congressmen Eric Swalwell and Steve Cohen were equally incensed, the first warning against allowing Trump to "normalise abuse and fraud" and the latter observing it pays to be "rich and very well connected" when it comes to this administration.


Here's Andrew Naughtie on Bernie's response.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 11:05

How Trump is flexing his political muscles post-acquittal

John T Bennett has this explanation of the president's current post-impeachment vengeance lap, those clemency gestures following hot on the heels of his removing witnesses Alexander Vindman and Gordon Sondland from their posts and threatening to sue "everyone all over the place".

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 11:20

Attorney general Bill Barr 'considering resigning' over Trump tweets

Trump's AG has meanwhile let it be known he is considering quitting in protest at the president’s tweeting about active, politically-sensitive legal cases like the Stone sentencing, which he has said is making it difficult for him to do his job.

That line, delivered in an interview with ABC News last week, was largely thought to represent a strategic distancing of himself from the president over the politicisation of the Justice Department.

The reason to float this follow-up might be to rein the president in, gambling on the likelihood of his getting agitated about negative headlines.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 11:35

Pete Buttigieg mocks president over Stormy Daniels affair

Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg meanwhile derided Trump at a CNN town hall in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, using a question on the topic of “family values” to mock the president’s affair with Stormy Daniels and declaring: “My marriage never involved sending hush money to a porn star.”

Mayor Pete was responding to conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh's suggestion that America is not ready for a gay president, just as he did during his interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Limbaugh revealed yesterday that Trump - who handed him the Presidential Medal of Freedom as a stunt during his State of the Union address earlier this month - had advised him to "never apologise" for the remark, apparently taking his cue from John Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

The Indiana mayor also told host Erin Burnett he would have no qualms about taking donations from billionaire rival Michael Bloomberg if he should beat him to the party's nomination.

Here's more on Limbaugh from Andrew Naughtie.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 11:55

President slams Bloomberg for 'illegally buying the Democratic Nomination' ahead of Nevada debate debut

The aforementioned billionaire has qualified for tonight's latest Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas and will no doubt come under fire for buying his way into the contest during his maiden appearance on the stage.

Trump made the same argument on Twitter last night and assured his fellow New Yorker he is his preferred candidate to take on.

There were also several rather cruel and distinctly unpresidential memes making fun of his stature.

Elizabeth Warren has been getting her jabs in early too, reports Graig Graziosi. 

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 12:15

Stephen Miller's uncle donates to fake wedding registry to mock 'zero tolerance' immigration policies

David Glosser - who has reguarly spoken out against his nephew and even said their family would never have made it to the US and escaped pogroms in Belarus a century ago had his anti-immigration policies been in place at the time - is continuing to prove a thorn in the White House adviser's side.

Glosser has now made a donation to a refugee organisation as part of comedian Samantha Bee's spoof wedding registry set up to mark Miller's marriage to Katie Waldman over the weekend.

On another note, take a moment to bask in the agonising self-loathing caked onto this Elvis impersonator's face during their first dance.

Here's Alex Woodward on Glosser's gesture.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 12:35

Justice Department denies reports Bill Barr planning to step down

Jon Sharman has this report on a swift denial that the attorney general is really on his way out of the door in exasperation at the president's tweets.

Joe Sommerlad19 February 2020 12:55

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