This afternoon, Sean Spicer — as we have already discussed — suggested that Bashar al-Assad is worse than Hitler was, because Hitler didn’t use gas on his own people. That was a spectacularly dumb thing to say and, for the record, the sarin gas used on Syrians was actually developed by Germans and first used by Germany in World War II.
The backlash has been swift and unmerciless (except on Fox News). Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for Sean Spicer to be fired, as has the Anne Franke Center. But don’t you worry: Sean Spicer apologized the the Jewish person who matters the most to Donald Trump: A big donor.
NEW: Spicer reached out to Sheldon Adelson's office and "said he made a terrible mistake+ apologized if he was offensive," per Adelson spox— Alex Isenstadt (@politicoalex) April 11, 2017
The rule is not "apologize to the richest Jew you can think of" https://t.co/t3JQuL4DhP— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) April 11, 2017
For the White House, however, the day only got worse from there.
— Russia came up again in a big way. Maybe Trump thought he’d moved past it after his son, Eric, suggested that the bombing of Syria proved that there is no link to Russia. If so, Donald Trump was wrong. The Washington Post is confirming tonight that the FBI did seek a FISA warrant against Trump foreign-policy advisor, Carter Page, and the FBI had strong enough evidence that Page was a Russian asset that the warrant was not only granted, but renewed for at least one 90-day extension.
The government’s application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, officials said.
Trump supporters, foolishly, are suggesting only that this proves that President Obama surveilled the Trump campaign.
— Meanwhile, our old friend Devin Nunes is back in the news, and it doesn’t look good for him, either. CNN is reporting that both Democratic and Republican sources say that classified documents contradict Nunes’ surveillance claims.
Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.”
In other words, there was absolutely nothing to either Nunes’ claims, nor anything to the Susan Rice “scandal.” It was all a bullshit smokescreen.
— Elsewhere, the NYTimes’ Maggie Halberman says this is an even bigger deal than Sean Spicer’s egregious misstatements this afternoon.
“Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” Secretary of State Tillerson asked foreign ministers discussing Russia’s intervention there at a Group of Seven gathering Tuesday in Lucca, Italy.
Why is that a big deal? Because the sanctions we are enforcing against Russia are because they attacked the Ukraine. The off-hand statement by Tillerson has given foreign officials pause because it sounds like Tillerson is laying the groundwork for lifting those sanctions, which is kind of a huge deal because that’s apparently what Michael Flynn promised the Russians during the phone conversation that got him shit-canned as National Security Advisor. The theory is that Russia helped Trump win an election and in exchange, Trump would lift sanctions against Russia. Given the situation in Syria right now, that would be extraordinary. It also makes Tillerson’s statement extraordinary.
— “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Donald Trump told the NY Post today, which certainly doesn’t sound like the full endorsement of his chief strategist. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve,” he continued. “I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
I’m sure that Stephen Bannon will be heartened to hear that Trump “likes” him.
so Trump looks to be done with Bannon— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) April 12, 2017
I guess the question now is: Who will be fired first? Bannon or Spicer?