August 15, 2018

Trump campaign official Katrina Pierson insists that her former colleague Omarosa Manigault Newman is twisting the story around when it comes to claims that President Trump is on tape saying the N-word.

Pierson appeared on Fox News for a second night in a row to explain why she appeared to lie when she said Monday that she never acknowledged the existence of such a tape. On Tuesday, Manigault Newman gave CBS News a recording of Pierson talking with former Trump aide Lynne Patton, saying she was working on figuring out "a way to spin it" and saying, "He said it, he's embarrassed."

While the recording purportedly proves that Trump campaign officials were worried about the alleged tape becoming public, Pierson told Fox News' Ed Henry that Manigault Newman was conflating two different recordings to make her look bad. The heated interview only served to make the saga even more baffling, with Pierson insisting that when she said Manigault Newman's story was "absolutely not true," she was only responding to an ultra-specific claim involving a conversation with former Trump communications aide Jason Miller, not the discussion with Patton.

Even though the story is certainly still far from clear, Pierson muddied up the narrative enough to force Henry to move on — but not before grilling her on why she "changed her story" after the recording came out. Watch the full interview below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

June 6, 2018

The pot is calling the kettle black, said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough of President Trump's morning tweetstorm.

Trump denounced the "fake news media" for wondering where first lady Melania Trump has been, assuring the public that she hasn't been M.I.A. for weeks because of a facelift or domestic abuse. The president called the rumors "unfair" and "vicious," given that Melania is simply recovering from a kidney procedure.

Morning Joe host Scarborough chimed in to agree that false rumors can be hurtful — a public pain, he pointed out, that Trump himself has caused.

Scarborough's tweet harkened back to when Trump claimed on Twitter that he had seen Scarborough's Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski "bleeding badly from a face-lift." He also described Brzezinski as "low I.Q. Crazy Mika." Trump was roundly criticized for his personal attacks against Brzezinski, but he never apologized. Brzezinski agreed with Scarborough, joining him in wondering aloud what kind of person would say such a thing: "I can't even imagine," she tweeted. Summer Meza

February 22, 2018

President Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, might soon be back in the military, half a dozen defense and administration officials told CNN.

Trump and McMaster's strained relationship was not helped this weekend by the president's public criticism of the three-star general. "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC, and the Dems," Trump tweeted. One Republican insider explained that the tension between the pair comes from a difference in "personality and style."

The White House would be in an awkward spot trying to oust McMaster, though, because of the turnover in the position already: Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is notably at the heart of the ongoing Russia investigation. Although Pentagon officials are reportedly looking for a possible four-star military job for McMaster that could be viewed as a promotion, "some defense officials caution that the president could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire," CNN writes.

While the reports could be nothing more than rumors, a person with knowledge of the situation summed up McMaster's standing: "He is safe until he's not." Jeva Lange

January 22, 2018
Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

Rumors have been swirling about President Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's tense relationship practically since the former Marine Corps general was promoted to the role last July, but Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman writes that things have now reached a point where Ivanka Trump is "trying to figure out who replaces Kelly," one person familiar with the situation said.

Causing particular friction is the Mexico border wall, which Trump and Kelly have publicly disagreed over. Kelly told House Democrats last week that some of Trump's ideas were "uninformed" and have since "evolved," prompting Trump to respond that "the wall is the wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."

Privately, Trump hasn't appreciated the narrative of Kelly trying to smooth things over on his behalf. "I've got another nut job here who thinks he's running things," Trump allegedly complained to one friend, while another insider said Trump vented on the phone that Kelly "thinks he's running the show."

"The more Kelly plays up that he's being the adult in the room — that it's basically combat duty and he's serving the country — that kind of thing drives Trump nuts," one Republican insider said.

Even so, it might not take Trump pushing Kelly out for him to leave. The former general has "threatened to quit numerous times," Vanity Fair writes. Read the whole scoop here. Jeva Lange

June 12, 2017
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When former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate last week, he emphasized the importance of understanding that the Russian hack of the 2016 presidential election was done "with purpose ... with sophistication ... [and] with overwhelming technical efforts." Virginia's Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has an additional suggestion to add to the list: that they did it with help on the inside.

"Treasonous" Americans aided Russia in "destabilizing our democracy," McAuliffe told Politico's "Off Message" podcast, which will be available Tuesday morning.

"Somebody had to give these people a roadmap," he went on. "So I believe somewhere in this, somebody was directing the Russians on whose names to use, what impact these certain people sending a memo would have on the American electorate. I mean, they just didn't sit over in some cubicle over there somewhere in Moscow and figure this out."

Listen to McAuliffe's theory in full on "Off Message" on Tuesday, here. Jeva Lange

May 11, 2017
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Pity the person who gets nominated by President Trump to fill the gaping, open role of FBI director. "That person will face a potentially brutal nomination hearing, as many Republicans and Democrats will use the hearings to vent their frustration over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections," Politico Playbook reports.

Unless, of course, that person happens to be a former colleague. New Hampshire media is buzzing that its former Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte, who narrowly lost her seat in November to a Democrat, could be on the short list for succeeding ousted FBI Director James Comey.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News that there are many good candidates for the role, but he considered a nomination of Ayotte to be an "excellent choice." Ayotte "does have a law enforcement background, having served as New Hampshire's attorney general before joining the U.S. Senate," NECN writes. "She has had a complicated relationship with Trump, first backing him and then backing away from him during her re-election campaign last year. But she worked closely with him to help usher Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch through the Senate confirmation process."

The underlying story, though, might be that Trump fired Comey without a replacement in mind. He is reportedly in the process of "soliciting suggestions," top Republicans told Politico. Jeva Lange

April 28, 2017

With Fox News in turmoil after the recent ousting of its biggest ratings star, Bill O'Reilly, a person familiar with private talks among media bigwigs says there is "serious" discussion of launching a rival conservative news network, Mediaite reports.

The new network would put "the old band" back together as a response to the perception that Fox is moving too far to the left. The "pitch is that the network could immediately reach at least 85 million homes," Mediaite writes.

There are certainly plenty of (out-of-work?) conservative powerhouses to pick from that could star on a new network, and perhaps even some executives from within Fox News who might be lured by the new opportunity. Could the new channel include stars like the ousted Bill O'Reilly, who didn't waste much time hitting the podcast waves after he was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal? Could Tomi Lahren, the conservative mega star, who was recently sidelined at The Blaze also take on a prominent role? [Mediaite]

Fox News founder Roger Ailes was ousted from the network last year after sexual harassment allegations; adding to the intrigue, New York's Gabriel Sherman reports that two people close to Ailes claim he is actively exploring a new TV venture. Read the full scoop at Mediaite. Jeva Lange

January 5, 2017

It took some time for Fox News' co-founder and acting CEO, Rupert Murdoch, to come around to President-elect Donald Trump. But come around he sure has, Gabriel Sherman writes for New York magazine. Fox insiders were reportedly shocked when the network announced Thursday that Megyn Kelly's primetime slot would be filled by Tucker Carlson, with one particular person in the know saying there was originally to be "a lot of experimenting" around who would fill the position, and that the leading candidates were all women.

A female anchor has held a primetime spot — between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. — at Fox News since 1996. But with Kelly's departure and Carlson's addition, the lineup is now entirely men, although Martha MacCallum will take over Carlson's old slot leading into the peak viewership hours at 7 p.m.

Some insiders say there could be more afoot than Carlson just being a ratings success, too. Carlson has long been friendly toward Trump:

Carlson's promotion is one sign of just how much Murdoch wants to appease Trump, Fox insiders say. Murdoch has been intent on forging a tight relationship with Trump since his victory, sources close to both men tell me. One longtime Murdoch confidante told me the two speak by phone at least three times per week. As I reported Tuesday, at Mar-a-Lago over the holidays Trump criticized Roger Ailes and lavished praise on Murdoch. And Murdoch has told Fox executives that Trump asked him to submit names for FCC commissioner. (A Trump spokesperson denied that.) Murdoch has allowed Sean Hannity to turn his 10 p.m. show into de facto infomercials for Trump. [New York]

Some onlookers are already bothered by the turn Fox News has taken. "I'm old enough to remember when Fox News was pro-American soldier not pro-anti-American leaker," former Fox News panelist Bill Kristol tweeted Thursday. Read Sherman's entire scoop at New York. Jeva Lange

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