Trump goes on rampage against the media, sitting Arizona senators at Phoenix rally

A defiant President Trump rallied with his base for more than hour Tuesday in Arizona, trashing the media over its coverage of his response to the recent violence in Charlottesville while criticizing the state’s Republican senators for not getting behind him.

The president also signaled during the rally he could soon pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff in Maricopa County famous for his tough stance against illegal immigration, ahead of the sheriff’s upcoming sentencing.

But Trump was most animated when defending himself against accusations he wasn’t forceful enough in condemning the white supremacists and racists who were protesting in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month. He blamed the media for distorting his comments.

At one point, the president pulled a piece of paper out of his coat and re-read his initial statements condemning the racists involved the protests.

“Did they report that I said that racism is evil?” Trump asked of the media. The crowd yelled, “no!”

“You know why?” Trump asked. “Because they are very dishonest people.”

A 32-year-old counter-protestor was killed in Charlottesville after police said a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a crowd. After the violence, the president faced criticism for blaming “both sides” for the unrest instead of just white nationalists.

As Trump continued to rail against the media’s coverage of him, the crowd began chanting: “CNN sucks.”

The events in Charlottesville cast a shadow over the rally, with Phoenix’s Democratic mayor, Greg Stanton, asking Trump last week to delay his rally in wake of the violence.

The Charlottesville violence led cities across the country to consider removing Confederate statues, something Trump railed against on Tuesday.

“They’re trying to take away our culture, they’re trying to take away our history,” he said.

A crowd of protesters formed outside the convention center on Tuesday, but the president bragged that there were far more Trump supporters in attendance.

“All week, they’re talking about the massive crowds that are going to be outside,” Trump said. “Where are they?”

He then mocked liberal protesters who have been demonstrating.

“You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything,” Trump said.

Referring to the far-left militant protest group, Trump exclaimed: “Antifa!”

Leading up to the rally, it was believed Trump could announce a pardon at the rally for Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff convicted of a misdemeanor charge for not obeying a 2011 order from a judge to stop his anti-immigrant traffic patrols. Earlier Tuesday, the White House said the president would not be announcing a pardon at the rally.

But Trump suggested a pardon – which would be his first as president – could happen soon.

“I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine,” Trump said. “But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that OK?”

Without specifically naming them, Trump dinged the state’s two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, with whom he has sparred recently.

McCain, a frequent Trump critic who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, recently irked the president by voting against the Senate’s recent plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

“One vote away – I will not mention any names,” Trump said of McCain.

Flake, who has sparred with Trump on immigration, has been promoting a book that argues the GOP is in “denial” about the president.

Speaking of Flake, Trump said: “And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won’t talk about him.”

During his speech, Trump vowed to follow through on his promise to crack down on illegal immigration. He also said he isn’t giving up on repealing ObamaCare and expressed optimism about reforming the country’s tax codes.

Tuesday’s rally came a day after he announced plans to send more troops to Afghanistan – an announcement he highlighted during his speech. “Did anybody watch last night?

High-ranking administration officials and other recognizable conservatives warmed up the crowd before the president spoke, including Mike Pence, the vice president, and Ben Carson, the secretary of the Housing and Urban Development.
Several of them painted a picture of a divided country.

"Our lives are too short to let our differences divide us," Carson said. "Our differences are nothing compared to our shared humanity and the values that unite us."

Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and evangelist Franklin Graham both delivered prayers before Trump’s speech.

"We come tonight as a troubled nation,” Graham said. “We’re broken spiritually, we’re divided politically, we’re divided racially."

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Trump ‘entirely correct’ to blame both sides for Charlottesville violence, White House says

The White House is circulating talking points to sway conservatives to defend President Trump after his controversial remarks on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The White House told allies Tuesday that President Trump was “entirely correct” to blame “both sides” for the protest violence in Charlottesville, fighting back at critics of his response, Fox News has learned.

A memo of talking points obtained by Fox News stated that during his remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, the president was “entirely correct – both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”

The memo also stated that Trump “with no ambiguity” condemned the hate groups that descended upon Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, and added the president has been “a voice for unity and calm,” and that he’s “taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.”

It ended by saying both leaders and the media “should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.” The memo was distributed to allies of the White House in an effort to try to get conservatives on board to defend Trump.

While speaking to the media Tuesday during what were supposed to be brief remarks without questions from the press, Trump declared that “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence that took place on Saturday. He also said “there are two sides to a story.”

Placing blame “on many sides” was Trump’s initial response to Saturday’s events, but two days later, the president specifically condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

After Trump’s reiteration Tuesday that both protesters on the far left and far right were to blame, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

White House officials apparently were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. Trump had signed off on a plan to not answer questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official speaking to The Associated Press. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, Trump overruled the decision.

Trump’s advisers had hoped Tuesday’s remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seemed to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Fox News’ Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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What to know about Mueller’s use of a grand jury in the Russia probe

News broke yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun using a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., as part of his investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with associates of President Donald Trump.

But what exactly does a federal grand jury do, and what does it mean that Mueller has started utilizing one in the nation’s capital?

Here’s what you need to know.

How is a grand jury different from a common jury?

Common juries –- the ones often depicted in dramatic movie scenes and TV shows –- are responsible for deciding whether a defendant is guilty of a crime. Grand juries, however, have a different role. They’re generally responsible for deciding whether a defendant should be charged with a crime in the first place.

Grand juries operate in secret, and prosecutors present their case by laying out evidence to support it, including by using in-person witness testimony.

Comprised of between 16 and 23 members of the public, grand juries usually last for 18 months, although that period can be extended under certain circumstances.

In order to indict a defendant on any charges, prosecutors must convince the grand jury that there is “probable cause” to believe a crime was committed.

What kind of authority does a grand jury have?

To help determine whether such “probable cause” exists, grand juries have special authority to take their own investigative steps, which are often guided by prosecutors.

Federal authorities can use grand juries as a tool in their investigations and use their authority to issue subpoenas to demand that uncooperative suspects, witnesses, and companies hand over private documents or testify behind closed doors.

It’s standard-operating procedure for a single grand jury to handle multiple matters over its lifespan. They may indict an alleged drug trafficker on a Monday, and then approve a subpoena for evidence in another case on Wednesday.

In some cases, prosecutors will use a grand jury for the sole purpose of collecting evidence in an investigation even when it’s not yet clear that a crime was likely committed.

Where does the Russia probe fit in?

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors were using a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, to collect evidence in the federal probe of Trump associates and any potential ties they could have to Russian operatives.

But in mid-May, after Mueller became special counsel and started putting together his team, the entire federal probe became based out of an office building in downtown Washington, D.C.

Then, weeks ago, Mueller’s prosecutors began using a federal grand jury that sits in the federal courthouse in Washington, just a few blocks away from their offices.

In certain circumstances, federal authorities might seek to impanel a special grand jury to focus on one specific matter.

There is no indication, however, that Mueller has been using a special grand jury for the Russia probe.

There is also no indication that the grand jury his team is now using in Washington was specifically impaneled for the Russia investigation.

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