President Trump on Tuesday defended his promotion of a baseless conspiracy theory about the death of Jeffrey Epstein over the weekend, saying he had retweeted a ‘‘very highly respected conservative pundit’’ who is a ‘‘big Trump fan.’’
On Saturday, Trump retweeted a message from conservative actor and comedian Terrence K. Williams that suggested former president Bill Clinton might have been involved in the death of Epstein, the politically connected financier who had been facing multiple charges of sex trafficking involving underage girls.
‘‘He’s a very highly respected conservative pundit,’’ Trump told reporters in New Jersey, referring to Williams. ‘‘He’s a big Trump fan. That was a retweet, that wasn’t from me. That was from him, but he’s a man with half a million followers, a lot of followers. And he’s respected.’’
‘‘So I think I was fine,’’ added Trump, who has 63 million followers on Twitter.
Trump also noted that Attorney General William Barr had ordered an investigation into the circumstances around Epstein’s death in a federal corrections facility in Manhattan, which the Justice Department initially called an ‘‘apparent suicide.’’
‘‘Basically what we’re saying is we want an investigation,’’ Trump said. ‘‘I want a full investigation, and that’s what I absolutely am demanding.’’
In his tweet on Saturday, Williams wrote that ‘‘#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead.’’
Epstein and Clinton had socialized together in the past, as had Epstein and Trump.
Official would rewrite Statue of Liberty immigration poem
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Tuesday that the poem etched on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to America should include a line qualifying that they be able to ‘‘stand on their own two feet.’’
Cuccinelli made the comments while defending the Trump administration’s announcement Monday that the government would consider an immigrant’s use of social safety net programs, like Medicaid or food stamps, when deciding their permanent legal status.
The famous words on the pedestal of the State of Liberty, ‘‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’’ were written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. In recent years, it’s taken on new meaning as a rallying cry against President Trump’s immigration policies.
Cuccinelli, during an interview with NPR, argued it’s the ‘‘American tradition’’ that immigrants welcomed into the country be those who are ‘‘self-sufficient, can pull themselves up from their bootstraps.’’
‘‘Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’s words etched on the Statue of Liberty, ‘Give me your tired, give me your poor,’ are also a part of the American ethos?’’ NPR’s Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli.
‘‘They certainly are: ‘Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,’ ” Cuccinelli said. ‘‘That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge was passed — very interesting timing.’’
The public charge rule that Cuccinelli is referring to takes into account an immigrant’s current or possible future reliance on the government when reviewing applications for permanent status. In its current form, officials take into account whether immigrants rely on the government for more than half of their income.
Since the early days of the Trump administration, officials have been working on broadening that law to include an immigrant’s use of other public benefit services as reason to reject an immigrant’s application for a green card.
Castro faults Trump for El Paso shooting in new ad
Julián Castro, a Democratic candidate for president, plans to release a television ad Wednesday directly addressing President Trump and faulting his incendiary rhetoric for the massacre in El Paso that left 22 dead and dozens more injured.
The ad, which the campaign will also promote on social media, is targeted specifically at the president. The campaign bought several television spots — a small buy of just $2,775 — throughout the day Wednesday on Fox News in Bedminster, N.J., where Trump is spending the week at his private golf club.
‘‘President Trump: You referred to countries as shitholes,’’ Castro says, wearing a blue suit and white shirt, with no tie. ‘‘You urged American Congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from. You called immigrants rapists.’’
Turning to the recent mass shooting in El Paso, where authorities believe the alleged gunman wrote a document that echoed much of Trump’s language on immigrants and warned of a ‘‘Hispanic invasion,’’ Castro squarely blamed the president.
‘‘As we saw in El Paso, Americans were killed because you stoked the fire of racists,’’ Castro says. ‘‘Innocent people were shot down because they look different from you. Because they look like me. They look like my family.’’
Castro concludes by invoking the ad’s Spanish title, ‘‘Ya Basta,’’ which roughly translates into ‘‘Enough!’’ ‘‘Words have consequences,’’ he says. ‘‘¡Ya Basta!’’