Trump blames ‘the microphones’ for catching his 2005 talk about sexual assault

Donald Trump amplified his contentious history with microphones Thursday, blaming the technology for recording what he thought he was saying in private.

In an interview set to air Thursday, Trump faulted a hot mic for capturing him speaking cavalierly about forcibly kissing and groping women with impunity because he’s “a star.”

The leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood” video has badly damaged Trump’s campaign and set off a series of sexual assault allegations from a dozen or so women since he denied during the second presidential debate ever actually assaulting women, despite his aggressive rhetoric.

“The microphones, I mean to be honest should, you know, should never have been on,” he said, according to an excerpt of an interview scheduled to broadcast Thursday evening with the global Catholic network EWTN and published by The Washington Post. “But that was locker room talk.”

Trump, who has denied the sexual assault allegations and threatened to sue his accusers after the election, has repeatedly dismissed his rhetoric as “locker room talk” and attacked the Clintons for having done worse, although he did apologize for his remarks.

The GOP nominee has a storied history with microphones. Trump complained during a January rally that his microphone was popping and directed his team not to pay the “son of a b—-” or “bastard” who set up the microphone system.

“Whoever the hell brought this mic system, don’t pay the son of a b—- who put it in,” he said. “No, this mic is terrible. Stupid mic keeps popping. … You know I believe in paying, but when somebody does a bad job, like this stupid mic, you shouldn’t pay the bastard. Terrible!”

He told reporters after the first presidential debate last month that he was given a “defective microphone,” musing whether it was done on purpose. The following morning, he also held his microphone culpable for his “sniffles,” insisting he had no sniffles or a cold but that the “very bad” mic may have been good enough to catch his breathing.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said in a brief statement “there were issues … that affected the sound level in the debate hall.” A source with knowledge of the conversation with the debate commissioners, however, said Trump was partly to blame for touching his microphone after he was warned not to.

He also boasted via Twitter that he won that debate “despite the really bad microphone” and questioned why the commission didn’t fix his microphone if it was aware of its issues.

Following their debate, Hillary Clinton quipped to reporters, “Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night.”

Kelli Ward aims to oust Flake in 2018

Failed Senate hopeful Kelli Ward is planning another bid to oust an Arizona Republican next cycle, announcing on her radio show that she plans to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake in a primary during his 2018 reelection bid.

Ward unsuccessfully ran against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) this year, losing to the veteran senator by about 13 points in the August primary. But Ward reasons that Flake is a more ripe target than McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee who has served Arizona in the Senate for five terms in the Senate.

“Senator Flake might be semi-well-liked, but he doesn’t have the longevity of John McCain, he doesn’t have the reach of John McCain, he doesn’t have the war hero status of John McCain,” Ward said on her radio show, “The Kelli Ward Connection,” as she announced her candidacy. “I think it’s an excellent opportunity for us.”

Ward also asked her listeners to send in hashtag suggestions for her candidacy, adding that she liked “Flake the Snake” in particular.

“Hey, I know I will have a primary and I’ve known that all along,” Flake said in a brief interview with POLITICO on Thursday. “So, might as well be her.”

Flake added: “I’ll work hard.”

It’s little surprise that Flake is facing a challenge from the right; the 53-year-old known primarily as a fiscal conservative during his House days has morphed into a consummate deal-maker during his first term in the Senate. And the Senate Conservative Fund — a rabble-rousing group on the right that has worked to oust Republican incumbents —has already labeled Flake as one of its prime targets for 2018, although the group declined to get involved in Arizona this year on Ward’s behalf.

Flake was one of eight senators who wrote a bipartisan immigration reform measure in 2013, and has bucked his party to support President Barack Obama’s policy to normalize relations with Cuba while remaining a steadfast supporter of free trade — an issue that has become toxic in the year of Donald Trump. He has also broken somewhat from the Senate Republicans’ blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, siding with the GOP’s bid to delay proceedings on his nomination until after Nov. 8 but calling on his party to hold confirmation hearings in the lame-duck session.

The Arizona senator has also steadfastly refused to support his party’s nominee — citing Trump’s comments toward Latinos and his derision of McCain as a war hero, as well as policy proposals such as barring Muslim immigrants from the United States. He stresses that he won’t vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, either.

FCC passes privacy rules that could cloud AT&T’s Time Warner deal

The FCC approved new privacy rules Thursday that may be bad news for AT&T, imposing restrictions on the telecom industry that could sharply curtail the company’s plans to create an advertising juggernaut through its planned acquisition of Time Warner.

The agency voted 3-2 along party lines to pass the rules, which require internet service providers to get customers’ permission before using their web browsing and app history for advertising purposes. The restrictions, which have been bitterly opposed by the telecom industry, couldn’t come at a worse time for AT&T, which is betting big that data from its more than 100 million customers can provide opportunities for targeted advertising with viewers of Time Warner’s video content, such as CNN and HBO.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who’s been pushing the proposal for months, says the stronger rules are necessary because internet providers have a unique vantage point into consumers’ online lives.

"There is a basic truth: It is the consumer’s information. It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information," Wheeler said. "What this item does is to say that the consumer has the right to make a decision about how her or his information is used. "

AT&T and other telecom companies, along with their trade groups, have blasted the FCC’s proposed rules, saying they will limit how companies can use data to provide innovative products and services. They also say the FCC rules would put them at a disadvantage compared with internet companies like Google and Facebook, which operate under a more flexible privacy standard overseen by the FTC.

“At the end of the day, consumers desire services which shift costs away from them and towards advertisers. We will look at the specifics of today’s action, but it would appear on its face to inhibit that shift of lower costs for consumers by imposing a different set of rules on ISPs," AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs Bob Quinn, who’s leading the company’s push for merger approval in Washington, said in a statement.

The FCC tangled repeatedly with the telecom industry in the run-up to Thursday’s vote.

Faced with industry pushback, the FCC tweaked its approach earlier this month to require customer opt-in approval only for data deemed "sensitive" — moving it closer to the FTC’s approach. But critics called the FCC’s change a head fake, because it adopted a very broad definition of sensitive data, including web browsing histories that are so valued by advertisers. The FTC generally limits sensitive data to things like health, financial, or a person’s geolocation information.

The FCC privacy rules may not be out of the woods yet. Telecom trade groups, including NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, argue the rules could be a First Amendment violation and haven’t publicly ruled out pursuing legal action to overturn them.

The FCC regulations will not apply to internet giants like Facebook and Google, which are already leaders in online advertising. But tech firms are still spooked by the FCC’s rules, worrying that they could be a first step to wider privacy regulation that could affect their business models as well. The Consumer Technology Association and Information Technology Industry Council have written the FCC in opposition to the ISP rules.

Melania Trump pledges to protect children from ‘hurtful’ social media

Melania Trump said this week that, as first lady, she would focus on protecting children active on social media because what goes on online is "very hurtful to children."

"We need to teach them how to use it. What is right to say. What is not right to say," Trump said during an interview on ABC’s "Good Morning America" that aired Thursday.

"It’s very bad out there and children get hurt," she added.

Trump’s comments came as Hillary Clinton was expected to outline a new proposal later today aimed at combating bullying in schools. The plan calls for at least $500 million in federal funding to be distributed to states that agree to develop anti-bullying plans. Clinton has sought to tie Trump’s rhetoric to increased bullying in U.S. schools.

Donald Trump has tweeted at all hours during the campaign with comments directed at Clinton and others. He was sitting next to his wife during the TV interview, and acknowledged with social media, "you have to be careful with it."

However, Trump said that he believes in "fighting back" and said that social media is an avenue to do that.

"When people are against me, when they tell lies, I have the power of this instrument. And frankly, sometimes I use that," he said.

Man who destroyed Trump’s star is ‘proud’ of his work

The man who destroyed Donald Trump’s star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is “happy” and “proud” about what he did, he said Thursday.

Purporting to be a construction worker Wednesday morning, Jamie Otis hacked away at Trump’s star with a sledgehammer and a pick-ax, destroying the real estate mogul’s name and the TV logo once emblazoned on the star.

“I did it, and I’m very happy I did it, and I’m proud that I did it,” he said, according to an NBC4 Washington report published Thursday.

Otis, an heir to the Otis Elevator Company fortune, told NBC4 he camped out for several nights near the star to devise a plan. He began hammering the star around 5:45 a.m. Wednesday but left before a police cruiser pulled up about a half-hour later.

Otis told Deadline on Wednesday that he planned to pluck the star from the ground and auction it off to raise money for the women who have accused Trump of having sexually assaulted them.

He called his actions “an act of civil disobedience” and “freedom of expression.”

“I admitted I’ve broken the law, I’ve vandalized, I’ve stolen, and now I’m going to go get my punishment,” he told NBC4. “And that’s something Mr. Trump has never done.”

Trump has vehemently denied the sexual assault allegations and threatened to sue his accusers after the election.

But Wednesday wasn’t the first time Trump’s star had drawn someone’s ire or attention. It was vandalized in January, when a reverse swastika was spray-painted on it, followed by a mute symbol in June. In July, a small barbed-wire wall was erected around it, mocking Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The Hollywood star was dedicated to Trump in 2007 in recognition of his hosting of “The Apprentice.”

Trump family insists their brand hasn’t been damaged

With Donald Trump’s controversial presidential campaign dominating the headlines for at least two more weeks, both the candidate and his children said Wednesday that they are largely unconcerned by the notion that the GOP nominee might have damaged the family’s valuable name brand.

“I think the brand is hotter than it’s ever been but it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care,” Trump said in an interview taped Wednesday that aired Thursday on ABC’s "Good Morning America." “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care about the brand. I care about the country.”

“I think we have the hottest brand in the world right now and I think buildings like this are a testament to what we do every day,” Eric Trump said, with his father and adult siblings surrounding him.

The family talked with anchor George Stephanopoulos inside the Trump International Hotel Washington, the luxury Pennsylvania Avenue property where Donald Trump visited Wednesday for a ribbon cutting.

While the hotel has gotten largely positive reviews, business has been less than brisk in the month since its soft opening. A New York Magazine report revealed that the break-even rate for the hotel’s rooms is $750, but some could be had during a weekend earlier this month for below $500. Rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, another of Washington’s five-star hotels, in the nearby Georgetown neighborhood were priced at $1,139.

Other Trump properties have suffered as well. In the wake of a 2005 recording on which Donald Trump can be heard describing in vulgar terms how he would grab women by their genitals with impunity because of his celebrity status, shoppers launched an online campaign calling for a boycott of Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories line. Asked about campaign, titled #GrabYourWallet as a reference to Trump’s obscene language, Ivanka Trump told Stephanopoulos that “the beauty of America is people can do what they like.”

For another of the business mogul’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., the White House bid has only expanded the family’s brand and attached it to something greater than real estate.

“The brand is much more than New York City. This is a global brand,” Trump Jr. said. “I mean, when you look at the people he’s touching on a daily basis, the presidency, fixing America is so much bigger than any of that regardless.”