On Friday morning in Washington, D.C., President Trump spoke at the Values Voter Summit, making him the first sitting president of the United States to speak at the controversial evangelical event. The conference often attracts fringe conservatives, and that was certainly the case Friday. At the event, guests were handed flyers warning about the “health hazards of homosexuality” and the “disproportionate disease in the GLB [sic]community.”
The summit’s primary sponsor is the Family Research Council, an anti-gay lobbying group that also opposes abortion and pornography. Now in its 11th year, the event has become a staple in conservative politics, with up-and-coming figures on the right filling the speaker’s list every year. This year will feature speeches from Steve Bannon, Laura Ingraham, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, two members of the Duck Dynasty family, and more.
When guests walked through the door to attend this year’s event, they were given a pamphlet titled “The Health Hazards of Homosexuality.” An advertisement for a book of the same name, the pamphlet declares that the “sexual revolution and mainstreaming of homosexuality have created a public health crisis affecting us all,” and accuses the media of giving “little attention to the danger of ‘gay’ and lesbian sexual practices and the resulting health problems.” It was released by MassResistance, an anti-gay activist group based in Massachusetts.
The president is addressing the Values Voter Summit today. Here’s what they’re giving guests in a swag bag: “The Hazards of Homosexuality” pic.twitter.com/eRufvSncc0
While running for president, Trump pledged to be a friend to LGBT Americans, telling them, “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” Since his inauguration, however, he’s taken a hard turn in the opposite direction: Trump’s administration has banned transgender troops from serving the military, withdrawn protections for transgender students in public schools, declined to prosecute businesses that refuse to serve same-sex customers, and withdrawn a rule that required Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to treat same-sex marriages the same as straight ones.
The pro-LGBT media monitoring group GLAAD denounced both the pamphlet about homosexuality and Trump’s decision to speak at the conference, saying that the president’s appearance there “normalize[d]hate speech.”
“Given that the Values Voter Summit is a conference of fringe extremists with a viciously anti-LGBTQ agenda, it is not surprising that unequivocally false and baseless materials like [the pamphlet]are appearing there,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told BuzzFeed News. “MassResistance is an identified hate group and Trump becoming the first sitting president to address this event is the latest example of a clear and distributing pattern of using the presidency of the United States to promote and normalize hate speech.”
Although Trump acknowledges that he’s never asked God for forgiveness for anything, the crowd of evangelical Christians gave him a standing ovation Friday when he pledged to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” during the 2017 holiday season.
“We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” Pres. Trump tells Values Voter Summit.
“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore,” Trump said. “They don’t use the word ’Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct. … Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” Trump did not mention same-sex marriage, which is generally the focus of both the event itself and the Family Research Council more broadly.
The Southern Poverty Law Center noted on Sunday, however, that in addition to attracting prominent anti-gay activists, the Values Voter Summit has also become a hot spot for anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim speakers, which the SPLC calls “a nod to the growing cross-pollination between the anti-LGBT Christian Right and the anti-Muslim lobby.”
“At least 10 of the speakers are representatives of anti-Muslim organizations or have a well-documented history of espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric,” the organization wrote on Sunday. “These include figures like Brigitte Gabriel head of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim group in the country who has said that practicing Muslims ‘cannot be loyal citizens of the United States’ and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP).”
On its official website, the summit advertises itself as “a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”
Melania Orders Deputy National Security Director Fired
Normally, the First Lady of the United States has no say in National Security decisions, but Melania Trump has decided that won’t keep her from expressing publicly what she believes.
First Lady Melania Trump has weighed in on an ongoing dispute between her husband’s Chief of Staff and his National Security Advisor.
According to Stephania Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the First Lady no longer feels that Mira Ricardel, national security advisor John Bolton’s deputy, “no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”
Melania Trump’s statement comes as reports swirl that her husband is considering dismissing his Chief of Staff John Kelly. Kelly has reportedly clashed with Bolton and Ricardel over policy in recent weeks.
NBC News reported earlier on Tuesday that Kelly had “gotten on the wrong side” of Melania Trump over staffing issues and travel requests.
Just asked the First Lady’s office about deputy national security advisor Mira Ricardel : “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Stephanie Grisham The First Lady’s communication director to @ABC
— John Santucci (@Santucci) November 13, 2018
From the WSJ: The president has also decided to remove Mira Ricardel, the top deputy for national security adviser John Bolton, officials said. A National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment.
The president became involved in that decision at the urging of first lady Melania Trump, whose staff battled with Ms. Ricardel during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources, according to people familiar with the matter.
AG Whitaker Alleged to Have Served on Board of WPM
The FBI is reportedly conducting a criminal investigation related to World Patent Marketing, a company that was shut down in 2017 after the Federal Trade Commission alleged that it operating “an invention-promotion scam” that tricked “thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.” According to recent reports, new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker served on its advisory board.
Alleged WPM Conduct
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission charged the operators of an invention-promotion scam, World Patent Marketing, with deceiving consumers and suppressing complaints about the company by using threats of criminal prosecution against dissatisfied customers. At the FTC’s request, a federal court temporarily halted the Florida-based scheme and froze its assets pending litigation.
“This case is about protecting innovators, the engine of a thriving economy,” said then Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “The defendants promised to promote people’s inventions and took thousands of dollars, but provided almost no service in return. Then they added insult to injury by threatening people who complained.”
According to the FTC, consumers paid an individual and various corporate entities thousands of dollars to patent and market their inventions based on bogus “success stories” and testimonials promoted by the defendants. But after they allegedly strung consumers along for months or even years, the defendants purportedly failed to deliver what they promised. Instead, many customers allegedly ended up in debt or lost their life savings with nothing to show for it.
WPM Threats of Legal Action
The FTC also alleged that the defendants used various unfair tactics, including threats of legal action, to discourage consumers from publishing truthful or non-defamatory negative reviews about the defendants and their services. According to FTC attorney Richard B. Newman, the agency reported that one customer who sought a refund and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau allegedly received a letter from the defendants’ lawyer. According to the FTC, the letter stated that seeking a refund was extortion under Florida law and, “since you used email to make your threats, you would be subject to a federal extortion charge, which carries a term of imprisonment of up to two years and potential criminal fines.”
WPM Settlement Order
In 2018, the defendants agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that bans them from the invention promotion business. Under the settlement order, the defendants are also banned from misrepresenting any good or service, and suppressing the availability of truthful negative comments or reviews by consumers. They are also prohibited from profiting from consumers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices, and failing to dispose of it properly.
A $25,987,192 judgment was imposed, which was partially suspended when $78,670 in frozen funds were transferred to the Commission and the individual defendant Cooper paid $976,330.
Whitaker’s Alleged Involvement
According to media reports, court filings indicate that Whitaker received regular payments of $1,875 from the company while serving as a member of its advisory board. It has also been reported that Whitaker sent a strongly worded email to a former customer in 2015 that had complained about the company. Whitaker is not a named as a defendant in the case against the company.
In a statement, a Justice Department spokeswoman said, “Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has said he was not aware of any fraudulent activity. Any stories suggesting otherwise are false.” In fact, FTC investigators did not obtain evidence or internal communications showing Whitaker knew about the company’s alleged bogus promises, according to those with firsthand knowledge of the matter. The receiver that oversaw the settlement confirmed, recently stating to The Washington Post that he has “no reason to believe that [Whitaker] knew of any of the wrongdoing.”
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Trump-Putin Crush Continues in Paris
Trump’s crush of Putin continued in Paris, captured by the camera with a weird goofy grin like a teenage virgin on his first date.
The pair came face-to-face at the Arc de Triomphe as the French capital hosted events to mark 100 years since the Armistice came into force.
Putin is seen greeting French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Trump, adding a sign of approval before moving onto US First Lady Melania. Although both leaders were late to the ceremony, they appeared to be happy to see each other upon their arrival. Putin and Trump were seen nodding at each other, with the Russian leader even tapping his US counterpart on the shoulder and offering up a thumbs up sign.
It comes after the US leader said he will also not hold a bilateral meeting with Putin in Paris.
They are instead expected to have formal talks later this month when both attend a G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Trump’s relationship with Putin is under scrutiny as an investigation continues into Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the US presidential poll in 2016, which saw the billionaire elected to the White House.
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