Weekly List 79

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This was the first week in many, many months that the Republican Party showed any signs of standing up to Trump. Meanwhile, Trump and his allies spent the week attacking the FBI, alleging without evidence that the agency spied on his campaign as a means to discredit the Mueller probe—which continues to escalate as it reached its one-year mark.

This week, Trump shocked the country, referring to undocumented immigrants as “animals,” then trying to legitimize his comments by saying the reference was only to gang members. Days prior, the Trump regime took steps to open military bases to house immigrants who are unaccompanied minors, or children the regime separates from their parents, evoking comparisons to “camps.” This week also marked escalating acts of racism, transphobia, xenophobia, and new assaults on the rights of women.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were the faces of our country as Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, leading to protests, scores of deaths, and hundreds of injuries. Kushner, who is still without full security clearance and has no foreign policy experience but is related to Trump, spoke for the US at the opening ceremony, evoking comparisons to autocratic regimes. Signs of misuse of power and pay for play in the Trump regime abound this week, domestically, and with regard to questionable dealings relating to China and Qatar.

  1. Late Saturday, Rudy Giuliani again tried to walk back his comments about Trump blocking the AT&T-Time Warner merger, telling ABC News Trump “did not interfere with the Justice Department going ahead with the case.”
  2. Giuliani also told ABC News Trump “had every right and power” to block the merger, adding as “other presidents have done in anti-trust cases.”
  3. WAPO reported Trump personally pushed US Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon, and other firms, to ship packages.
  4. Brennan resisted, explaining in multiple conversations with Trump during 2017 and 2018 that the these arrangements are bound by contracts, and that the Amazon relationship is beneficial to the Post Office.
  5. Although Trump and Brennan have met on the matter at the White House several times, the meetings have never appeared on Trump’s public schedule.
  6. Trump has also had ongoing meetings during 2017 and 2018 with at least three groups of senior advisers to discuss Amazon’s business practices. Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.
  7. On Sunday, WAPO reported as the Mueller probe hits the one-year mark, Mueller is steaming ahead in a methodical, secretive way, while 10 blocks away, Trump combats the probe with “bluster, disarray and defiance.”
  8. Trump reportedly vents as often as “20 times a day” about the FBI raid on Michael Cohen. Trump reportedly brought in Giuliani as a confidant, as he is feeling increasingly isolated in the West Wing.
  9. The number of witnesses called from Trump’s campaign and staff have been “breathtaking,” including Avi Berkowitz, the personal assistant to Kushner, called twice. Some enter through the back of the building to avoid the press.
  10. On Sunday, Axios reported on the record number of leaks from Trump’s White House. A veteran reporter noted more leaks in a week from the Trump regime than in an entire year under George W. Bush.
  11. White House officials attribute their leaks to personal vendettas, ensuring there is an accurate record of what is happening, grudges, frustrations with incompetent or tone-deaf leadership, and an unhappy workplace.
  12. On Monday, Trump tweeted the “so-called leaks coming out of the White House” are exaggerated by the “Fake New Media,” adding of leakers, they “are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!
  13. On Monday, at the daily briefing, deputy press secretary Raj Shah reiterated the leaks coming from the White House, not the disparaging statement made about John McCain, were the focus, and said there will be no apology for the remark.
  14. On Thursday, NYT reported the White House has canceled a large daily morning meeting of 30 communications staffers in response to the leaking of Kelly Sadler’s comments on McCain.
  15. The New Yorker reported that Sean Hannity typically calls Trump after his 9 p.m. Fox News show, and on some days they speak multiple times. White House staffers are used to Trump referencing these conversations.
  16. In the mornings, Trump is alone watching cable-TV and tweeting. Staffers are concerned with this pattern of behavior: Trump formally starts his day at 11 a.m. with his daily intelligence briefings in the Oval Office.
  17. On Tuesday, WAPO reported that according to Defense Department communications, the Trump regime is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases.
  18. The Department of Health and Human Services will visit four military installations in Texas and Arkansas to evaluate their suitability to shelter children. The bases would be used for unaccompanied minors, and children the regime separates from their parents.
  19. On Tuesday, at an appeals hearing for the Trump regime’s effort to end DACA, the panel scrutinized Trump’s past statements, repeatedly questioning whether racial bias played a role in the decision to wind down the program.
  20. On Tuesday, a Seattle judge blocked ICE from revoking a Mexican man, Daniel Ramirez Medina’s DACA protection, saying ICE had provided no evidence to back their claim that Ramirez is gang-affiliated.
  21. On Wednesday, Trump called for stronger immigration laws and hammered California for its sanctuary cities, saying of undocumented immigrants, “These aren’t people. These are animals.
  22. Trump also called on Jeff Sessions to investigate Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning undocumented immigrants of an upcoming ICE sweep, saying, “You talk about obstruction of justice.”
  23. On Thursday, at the press briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump, saying his “animals” comment referred to MS-13 gang members, adding “Frankly, I don’t think the term the president used is strong enough.”
  24. On Thursday, the Anne Frank Center tweeted, “When we ask, “how could the Holocaust have happened?” this is the answer. When we think of anyone as less than human, that opens the door to atrocity.”
  25. On Friday, the Mexican government lodged a complaint with the State Department over Trump’s comments that some immigrants are “animals,” saying, “the assertions of the U.S. president are absolutely unacceptable.”
  26. A 13-year-old black boy in Houston was kidnapped after getting off a school bus Monday. His abductors,suspected of being white supremacists, took him to an abandoned building and assaulted him.
  27. A white woman in Memphis called the police on a black real estate investor who was inspecting a house. The woman demanded to know why he was outside. The police listened to his explanation, then told the woman she would be arrested if she interfered.
  28. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council (FRC), for a spot on the Commission on International Religious Freedom. Southern Poverty Law Center considers FRC to be a hate group, and Perkins is a longtime anti-LGBTQ activist.
  29. Supporters of Patrick Little’s campaign for the Senate released anti-Semitic robocalls calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein a “traitorous Jew,”’ and saying Little will “get rid of all the nation-wrecking Jews from our country.”
  30. On Tuesday, Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer, was captured in a video becoming enraged after overhearing two employees at a Fresh Kitchen in Manhattan speaking Spanish. Schlossberg raged, “this is America,” and “my next call is to ICE.”
  31. On Thursday, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. filed a formal complaint with the state court disciplinary system. Also on Thursday, Schlossberg was kicked out of his office space.
  32. A Starbucks barista in suburban Los Angeles is accused of printing a racial slur on a Latino customer’s drinks: instead of writing the customer’s name, Pedro, they wrote “Beaner,” a derogatory term for Mexicans in the US.
  33. Jazmina Saavedra, a GOP candidate for Congress in California, filmed herself confronting a transgender woman using a bathroom at a Denny’s in Los Angeles.
  34. Saavedra approached the woman, says, “I’m trying to use the ladies’ room and there is a man here claiming that he is a lady.” She confronted the transgender woman again while exiting, and later posted the video online.
  35. On Friday, the Trump regime announced a new rule under which clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to places that do would lose federal funding. The rule takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood.
  36. WAPO reported Virginia election officials mis-assigned 28 voters living in a predominantly African American precinct during the November 2017 election, possibly costing Democrats a pivotal race.
  37. The race between David Yancey and Shelly Simonds was decided by picking a name from a bowl. Yancey’s victory allowed Republicans to maintain control of the House of Delegates, 51 to 49, even as Democrats picked up 15 seats.
  38. On Friday, a school shooting at Santa Fe High School in southeast Texas killed ten. WAPO reported that in 2018 so far, more people have been killed at schools than have been killed while serving in the military.
  39. The FCC announced net neutrality rules will expire on June 11. Chairman Ajit Pai said, “these unnecessary and harmful internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light touch approach” will be restored.
  40. On Sunday, NYT reported Betsy DeVos’ Education Department plans to unwind a unit that was investigating widespread abuses and fraud by for-profit colleges. As Obama left office there were about a dozen employees; now there are three.
  41. The unit was investigating fraudulent activities at institutions, including DeVry Education Group. Thatinvestigated ended early 2018, and in the summer, DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.
  42. On Monday, Politico reported newly disclosed emails reveal Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis earlier this year.
  43. The report found toxic chemicals have contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants, and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia. The regime said releasing it would be a “public relations nightmare.”
  44. On Monday, CNN reported that a letter from the EPA’s inspector general revealed that contrary to his public statements, Pruitt’s requested 24/7 security detail on his first day working for the agency.
  45. On Tuesday, Trump nominated Gordon Hartogensis, a self-described entrepreneur who is Speaker McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s brother-in-law to lead the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
  46. The PBGC pays worker pensions when employers terminate their retirement plans. The state of the agency is dire: assets of $2.3 billion and liabilities of $67 billion. The White House did not provide a biographical information for Hartogensis with the announcement.
  47. On Tuesday, the Trump regime officially eliminated the White House’s top cyber adviser role, a position created under Obama. In Week 78, John Bolton had pushed to cut the role.
  48. The cyber adviser led a team who worked with agencies to develop a unified strategy for issues like election security and digital deterrence. Experts and government officials criticized the move as a step backwards.
  49. On Tuesday, the EPA inspector general announced it is investigating Pruitt’s use of nonpublic email accounts to assess whether he is keeping a record of his emails, and whether the EPA is searching all his accounts when fulfilling public records requests.
  50. On Tuesday and Wednesday, DeVos toured two New York City schools, but did not visit any of the city’s public schools. DeVos has yet to visit a district-run school in New York.
  51. The Scotsman reported Trump’s Scottish resort received £5,600 in US government funds for VIP visits by officials in his regime, marking the first known instance of the property receiving US taxpayer money.
  52. CNN reported that a former Trump campaign aide, Bryan Lanza, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, a company controlled by Deripaska. The company is seeking to reduce Deripaska’s stake in order to be freed of US sanctions.
  53. USA Today reported lobbying firms with ties to Trump and Pence collected at least $28 million in federal lobbying fees since Trump took office.
  54. Ballard Partners, overseen by Brian Ballard, has seen the biggest benefit, including a one-year contract with the government of Qatar that is worth as much as $2.1 million, reportedly for potential investments in Florida.
  55. On Sunday, Trump tweeted he would help a Chinese company, tweeting, “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast.”
  56. ZTE, the fourth-largest phone maker in the US, violated US sanctions by doing business with Iran. In March 2017, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced an “unprecedented” $1.19 billion penalty against the company.
  57. In April 2018, citing ZTE engaged in a “extensive conspiracy” to evade U.S. laws, the Commerce Departmentbanned American companies from buying or selling the phone-maker’s products for the next seven years.
  58. In Week 78, Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, and has re-imposed sanctions on Iran this last and this week, as well as threatening to go after European allies if they continue to do business with Iran.
  59. Trump tweeted, “China and the United States are working well together on trade, but past negotiations have been so one sided in favor of China,” adding, “But be cool, it will all work out!”
  60. On Sunday, press secretary Sanders said the regime is in touch with China, and Trump expected Ross to “exercise his independent judgment … to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts.”
  61. Agence France-Presse reported last Thursday, the developer of a resort outside of Jakarta signed a deal to receive as much as $500 million from the Chinese government. The Trump Organization has a deal to license the Trump name to the resort.
  62. At Monday’s press briefing, deputy press secretary Shah referred questions on the Indonesian project to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization acknowledged its involvement, but refused to comment.
  63. On Tuesday, top intelligence officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee that ZTE cell phones could pose a national security risk to the US, saying their products could be used by the Chinese government to spy.
  64. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted,“Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal,” contradicting Ross, who said Monday, “Our position has been that that’s an enforcement action separate from trade.”
  65. Trump also attacked media coverage of ZTE, tweeting “The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China.”
  66. On Thursday, in a rebuke to Trump, the House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to accept an amendment that reinforces sanctions against ZTE, preventing the Commerce Department from renegotiating sanctions it enacted last month.
  67. On Sunday, Michael Avenatti tweeted photos, alleging that on December 12, 2016, members of the Trump transition team met with a group from Qatar that included Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, the head of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
  68. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Ahmed Al-Rumaihi confirmed he did meet with Trump transition officials that day, “in his then role as head of Qatar Investments,” but that he did not participate in meetings with Michael Flynn.
  69. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Cohen solicited at least $1 million from the government of Qatar in exchange for access on December 12, the same day the Qatari foreign minister was meeting with Flynn and Steve Bannon.
  70. Cohen did not participate in the official meeting at Trump Tower, but spoke separately with Ahmed al-­Rumaihi, who declined the offer. This is the first known time that Cohen pitched his influence.
  71. Rumaihi told the Post of Cohen, “He just threw it out there” as a cost of “doing business.” At the time, Cohen was also angling for a White House position, possibly chief of staff.
  72. NBC News reported Qatari officials have information showing illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner, including secret meetings. Trump associates George Nader and Elliott Broidy also attended the meetings.
  73. Qatari officials believe the secret meetings, as well as Qataris turning down the 666 Fifth Avenue deal with Kushner, influenced Trump’s public endorsement of an economic blockade of Qatar by its neighbors.
  74. Qataris did not share information with Mueller out of concern for harming their relationship with the Trump regime, after a Qatari delegation came to DC in early 2018 and felt the meetings were productive.
  75. On Thursday, NYT reported the Kushners are near a deal to get bailed out of the failing 666 Fifth Avenue deal by Brookfield Properties, whose second-largest shareholder is the Qatar Investment Authority.
  76. Foreign Policy reported Cohen met with Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thanilast, last month in Miami, just days before the FBI raided his office and hotel room.
  77. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Qatar-U.S. Economic Forum in Miami. A Qatari embassy spokesperson said Cohen requested a meeting with Al Thani, adding “The State of Qatar has never been a client of Mr. Cohen.”
  78. On Monday, Kushner and Ivanka were the smiling faces of America as the new US embassy opened in Jerusalem. In the protests that ensued, dozens of Palestinians were shot dead and thousands were injured.
  79. Trump did not attend, so after an introduction by the US ambassador to Israel, Kushner was the main US speaker at the opening. Kushner has no foreign policy expertise and continues to be denied full security clearance.
  80. Trump picked evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress to give a blessing at the opening. Jeffress has in the past said, “You can’t be saved by being a Jew,” and that “Islam is a false religion that is based on a false book.”
  81. On Monday, first lady Melania Trump was admitted to the hospital for a kidney procedure. Trump did not accompany her for the procedure, and it was noted the day prior, did not tweet about Melania on Mother’s Day.
  82. On Tuesday, the White House abruptly canceled their daily press briefing. No reason was given for the cancellation. On Wednesday, the White House news briefing was removed from the schedule.
  83. On Tuesday, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported Kim Jong Un threatened to cancel the upcoming summit with Trump, citing ongoing joint military drills involving South Korea and the US.
  84. On Wednesday, North Korea canceled its summit with South Korea, and said it may cancel the US summit if the US continues to insist on scrapping the country’s nuclear program.
  85. On Thursday, Trump sought to reassure Kim Jong Un, saying at an Oval Office meeting with NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg that North Korea “will get protections that are very strong,” if they surrender their nuclear weapons.
  86. On Monday evening, a court filing revealed Mueller had obtained a secret order to suspend the statute of limitations on one of the charges brought against Paul Manafort. The secret order was made public after Manafort requested that the charge be thrown out.
  87. On Tuesday, a federal judge denied Manafort’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him in Washington DC, saying it “falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel.”
  88. On Monday, Facebook announced it will suspend an additional 200 apps as part of its investigation and audit process in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations.
  89. On Tuesday, NYT reported the Justice Department and FBI have an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica and “associated U.S. persons.” The inquiry appears to be in it early stages.
  90. The investigation is focused on the company’s financial dealings, and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources. Prosecutors from the Justice Department’s securities and financial fraud division and the FBI’s cybercrime unit are involved.
  91. On Wednesday, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying the company offered services to discourage or suppress voting from targeted sections of Americans.
  92. Wylie said Bannon’s “goals was to suppress voting or discourage certain individuals in the US from voting,” adding African-Americans were particular targets of Cambridge Analytica’s “voter disengagement tactics.”
  93. Wylie explained how the Facebook data could have been shared with Russians, saying professor Aleksandr Kogan, who gathered the data, made numerous trips to Russia as part of his work with St. Petersburg University.
  94. On Monday, Politico reported Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker who served as a conduit for the Russia-backed Ukrainian peace plan, will testify before a grand jury connected to the Mueller investigation.
  95. Artemenko contacted Felix Sater to find the best way to get his plan to the Trump regime during the transition. Sater introduced him to Cohen, who left the plan with then National Security Adviser Flynn.
  96. On Friday, Artemenko told Politico that in “at least” two interviews, FBI agents have peppered him with “assorted questions” about his “meetings, dealings and the questions discussed” with American politicians.
  97. Artemenko said these included congressmen, senators and members of the Trump regime. He was presented with a list of more than 140 questions, and is scheduled to appear before a grand jury on June 1.
  98. On Wednesday, Felix Ehrat, a top lawyer at Novartis who co-signed a $1.2 million contract to hire Cohen, said he would step down in June, saying, “Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error.”
  99. On Wednesday, Yahoo News reported prosecutors and congressional investigators have obtained text messages and emails which show Cohen was still working on the Trump Tower Moscow deal as late as May 2016.
  100. Text messages and emails from Sater provided to the government contradict Cohen’s statement that he gave up on the deal in January 2016. Sater and Cohen first met when they were both in high school.
  101. On Thursday, BuzzFeed reported that in December 30, 2015, when negotiations on Trump Tower stalled,Cohen texted Sater, “I will not let you fuck with my job and playing point person,” adding “Not you or anyone you know will embarrass me in front of Mr. T.”
  102. FBI agents told BuzzFeed that Cohen was speaking to multiple Russians about Trump Tower Moscow, even though he tried to reach and push the deal through Peskov, the Kremlin’s press secretary, on January 21, 2016.
  103. Sater reportedly kept working the Trump Tower Moscow deal through the RNC Convention, until July 26, 2016 when he read Trump tweet: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”
  104. On Thursday, Reuters reported Jeffrey Yohai, a former business partner of Manafort who was divorced from Manafort’s daughter last August, cut a plea deal which requires him to cooperate with criminal probes.
  105. WSJ reported Yohai pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in a sealed proceeding in California in January. Yohai also pleaded guilty to misrepresenting his income and assets to obtain a no limit credit card.
  106. Yohai has met with Mueller’s team, who have brought charges against Manafort, and also in recent months with the New York attorney general’s office as part of the probe investigating both Manafort and Yohai.
  107. On Friday, Reuters reported Mueller recently subpoenaed John Kakanis, a key assistant to Roger Stone. Kakanis has worked as a driver, accountant, and operative for Stone, indicating the investigation is focusing on Stone.
  108. Reportedly, Kakanis has been briefly questioned by the FBI on topics including Russian interference in the 2016 election, WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, and the hackers known as Guccifer 2.0.
  109. During the 2016 Republican primaries, a Stone PAC paid $130,000 to Citroen Associates for “voter fraud research and documentation” and “research services consulting.” Kakanis is the owner of Citroen.
  110. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of documents related to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. The materials include transcripts and other exhibits.
  111. The roots of the meeting trace back to Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, financed by Aras and Emin Agalarov in 2013. Trump wanted to meet with Putin, and continued pressing for that throughout the years.
  112. The transcripts reveal Donald Jr. did not think there was anything wrong with meeting with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. According to an attendee, he opened the meeting, saying, “I believe you have some information for us.”
  113. The transcripts also reveal the disappointment of Donald Jr., Kushner, and Manafort that the meeting did not yield harmful information. Rob Goldstone was also disappointed, and had reservations about setting the meeting up, “I believed it was a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it.”
  114. Ike Kaveladze said Donald Jr. closed out the meeting by telling the Russians they could revisit the discussions about lifting sanctions should Trump win the election. Kaveladze said the Magnitsky Act dominated discussion.
  115. When asked if Trump was involved in drafting the statement about the meeting, Donald Jr. responded, “I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.” Later, Donald Jr. said he may have edited it through Hope Hicks.
  116. Donald Jr.’s frequently answered that he did not recall, including saying he did not remember ever discussing the Russia investigation with Trump, or many of the calls or emails leading up to the June 2016 meeting.
  117. Also in the documents is an email from Anthony Scaramucci to Goldstone on July 2017, after Trump appointed him a senior White House role, saying, “Obviously there is still pressure on all sides, but if we remain consistent and united I don’t envisage any issues we can’t ride out.”
  118. Documents revealed the Nov. 28, 2016 Goldstone email to Trump’s assistant, Rhona Graff sent to undermine US sanctions, was forwarded by Graff to Bannon, with a note, “The PE [president elect] knows Aras well. Rob is his rep in the US.”
  119. The Senate Judiciary Committee report also said the Kremlin used the NRA to help Trump in 2016, including an offer for a potential meeting between Trump and Putin, and possibly secretly funding the campaign.
  120. The report found the committee’s work is incomplete, “We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia.”
  121. On Wednesday, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, broke from the House Intelligence Committee, saying they agreed with the intelligence assessment.
  122. Warner said there was an “extensive, sophisticated” effort that was “ordered by President Putin himself,” with the purpose of helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
  123. Several top Republicans in the Senate also voiced support for the intelligence community’s findings, including James Lankford, Susan Collins, and John Cornyn, who said the assessment was “by and large well done.”
  124. On Wednesday, according to a federally required annual financial disclosure form released by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.
  125. The payment was disclosed in a note at the bottom of Page 45 of the 92-page report states. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Cohen in 2017” in the category of value between $100,001 and $250,000.
  126. Federal law requires White House officials to “report liabilities owed to any creditor that exceeded $10,000 at any time during the reporting period.” Trump did not report the payment in his 2017 filing.
  127. On Wednesday, OGE acting director David Apol referred Trump’s financial disclosures to the Justice Department, after determining Trump should have disclosed his reimbursement payment in last year’s form.
  128. In May 2017, information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows Trump’s former attorney, Sheri Dillon, wanted to submit last year’s financial disclosure without having him certify the information as true.
  129. Trump also listed $315 million in debt, including $175 million to Deutsche Bank, and $100 million to a far-less well-known lender, Ladder Capital.
  130. Trump’s disclosure also revealed Trump Hotel DC earned $40 million for calendar year 2017, Trump’s first year in office. Revenue included $350,000 in campaign funds, 60% from Republican National Committee events.
  131. Hotel customers included officials or lobbyists for the governments of Malaysia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Trump Hotel DC also hosted events for a number of domestic industries, including mining and confections.
  132. On Wednesday, The New Yorker reported the motivation for the official who leaked Cohen’s financial records was that two suspicious-activity reports (SARs), had gone missing from the FinCEN database.
  133. The official said that those two reports detail more than $3 million in additional questionable transactions from Cohen’s account, adding, “When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.”
  134. The three SARS were filed by First Republic. The one made public by Avenatti details only transactions from September of 2017 to January of 2018, and alludes to the previous two reports which have gone missing.
  135. On Thursday, WAPO reported the Treasury Department’s inspector general is expanding its probe into leaks, to include reports leaked to Avenatti as well as the source of The New Yorker story.
  136. Treasury officials said in a statement that since 2009, FinCEN has had the ability restrict access to sensitive SARs.
  137. On Friday, BuzzFeed reported that according to three sources, the two Cohen SARs are not missing, but rather Treasury Department officials have taken the highly unusual step of restricting access to them.
  138. Sources said limiting access is rare, and most likely came from the top of the Treasury Department. Limiting access to the SARs may have been an effort to crack down on leaks.
  139. On Wednesday, Axios reported a major rift between Peter Navarro and Steven Mnuchin has opened, with the two exchanging snipes during the Trump delegation’s trip to China two weeks ago.
  140. As China’s top trade negotiator Liu He arrived in Washington DC, regime members set to attend the meeting were Mnuchin, Ross, Robert Lighthizer, and Larry Kudlow. China hardliner Navarro was initially excluded.
  141. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported Navarro will take part in China talks. It was not known why the regime decided to reinstate him in the talks, or what role Navarro would play.
  142. On Wednesday, at a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned of a “growing crisis in ethics and integrity,” and said if we don’t confront it, “then American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years.”
  143. Tillerson also said if our leaders conceal the truth or if “we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts,” then we are “are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”
  144. On Wednesday, the Senate approved overturning the FCC’s net neutrality repeal by a 52-47 vote, with Sens. Collins, Lisa, Murkowski, and John Kennedy joining Democrats. The House does not intend to take the measure up.
  145. On Wednesday, NYT reported the FBI opened an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, dispatching agents to London for a highly secret meeting, privy to only a handful.
  146. Two agents met with the Australian ambassador, Alexander Downer, who had evidence that one of Trump’s advisers knew about Russia’s election meddling — that adviser turned out to be George Papadopoulos.
  147. The agents summarized their findings on August 2, 2016 for a small group of FBI officials who knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane. Agents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, for fear of revealing the existence of the case.
  148. The FBI investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in the early months: Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos, and Carter Page. Top officials were convinced there was almost no chance they could conclude if there was collusion before Election Day, and chose to keep it under wraps.
  149. On Wednesday, in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, FBI director Christopher Wray defended the bureau against criticism by House Republicans. Wray said he doubled the number of staff in March to keep up with GOP document requests.
  150. Wray underscored the importance of protecting the identity of sources, saying, “The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.”
  151. On Thursday, Trump marked the one-year anniversary of the Mueller probe, tweeting, “Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History.”
  152. Trump also repeated accusations the FBI had an informant inside his 2016 campaign, tweeting “word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT.’”
  153. On Thursday morning, Trump surrogates parroted this mantra. Giuliani told “Fox & Friends” that he was “shocked to hear that they put a spy in the campaign,” and “I think the investigation should be thrown out.”
  154. Kellyanne Conway also appeared on “Fox & Friends,” saying “It looks like the Trump campaign may have been surveilled.” Corey Lewandowski went on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria,” and repeated the same allegations.
  155. On Thursday, WAPO reported Trump is joining forces with Rep. Devin Nunes and other of his allies on Capitol Hill and in the conservative media to out a top-secret FBI source in order to undercut the Russia investigation.
  156. Reportedly the stakes are so high, the FBI is working to mitigate the potential damage if the sources is revealed, including steps to protect other live investigations and danger to associates of the informer.
  157. Trump allies believe outing the source and revealing details about their work could help them challenge the investigation, and give them grounds to remove Mueller, or his overseer, Rod Rosenstein.
  158. Trump complains the Mueller probe is “all-encompassing,” and encourages his allies to go on television and “beat the drums.” Bannon is back, acting as an informal adviser to Trump allies in and outside the White House.
  159. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes,” adding “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story.”
  160. Trump also tweeted is was the “all time biggest political scandal!” Trump also questioned in tweets why “disgraced FBI official Andrew McCabe” wasn’t being investigated, and why the Clinton case was dropped.
  161. On Friday, Sen. Warner warned in a statement that attempts to expose an FBI source during an active investigation was “potentially illegal,” adding, “Publicly outing a source risks not only their life, but the lives of every American.”
  162. On Friday, NYT reported that the FBI used an informant, not to spy, to talk to Page and Papadopoulos only after the FBI received evidence that the two had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.
  163. The informant is an American academic who teaches in Britain, and was used, as opposed to an FBI agent, to ensure details of the inquiry were more closely held than is typical given it took place during the campaign.
  164. The informant had also contact with Flynn in 2014 at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. The source was alarmed by the general’s apparent closeness with a Russian woman and warned American authorities that Flynn could be compromised.
  165. On Friday, WAPO also reported the secret FBI source was a professor interested in American politics, not a spy. Some time in 2016, he began working as secret informant for the FBI.
  166. In addition to Papadopoulos and Page, WAPO also reported the professor met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in Northern Virginia, offering to lend the Trump team his foreign-policy experience.
  167. On Friday, NBC News reported the professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations.
  168. On Thursday, a poll released by Survey Monkey found that just 13% of Americans consider Trump honest and trustworthy. The poll was conducted between February 1 and May 9.
  169. On Thursday, while meeting with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg at the White House, Trump again said NATO members that do not contribute fully would be “dealt with,” singling out Germany.
  170. On Friday, Giuliani told CNN Mueller has agreed to narrow the scope of a potential Trump interview from five to two topics, and agreed not to ask Trump about Cohen. Giuliani added “the main focus we want … is Russia.”
  171. Giuliani also backed off from saying there were informants embedded with the Trump campaign who spoke to federal authorities, saying, “I don’t know for sure, nor does the President, if there really was. We’re told that.”
  172. On Thursday, an appeals court denied Trump’s request to stay proceedings in the Summer Zervos defamation suit. The legal setback for Trump could open him up to discovery in the case, although Trump is likely to appeal.
  173. On Thursday, Avenatti told MSNBC that two other women with solid cases who claim to have had affairs with Trump signed NDAs and received payments may soon come forward. Other cases are also being vetted.
  174. On Friday, lawyers for Cohen and Stephanie Clifford continued to attack each other in dueling memos.Cohen’s lawyers filed a scathing motion asking a judge to keep Avenatti from formally entering the case, saying he was “fanning a media storm” and “smearing” Cohen.
  175. Avenatti answered with a motion, arguing that many of his adversaries’ assaults on him were “unsubstantiated,” “baseless,” and lacking in “admissible evidence.”
  176. One year in on the Mueller probe, FiveThirtyEight found Mueller to be more productive than past investigations like Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Whitewater. Mueller has racked up five guilty pleas, 14 indictments of individuals, and the Cohen referral to the Southern District of New York.

Loose Ends From A Crazy News Day

Ken AshfordClinton Email Faux Scandal, L'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Yesterday was one of those crazy Trump news days. Big story followed big story.

But what was odd was a lot of it was retrospective.  Things that happened in the investigation that we are NOW just learning.  It clearly got under Trump’s nerves, as shown by his tweets this morning.

It is a little silly for him to say that.  Mueller and his team have issued eight indictments covering 19 individuals and three businesses, secured five guilty pleas, have two criminal cases headed to trial, and have one individual already serving a prison sentence.  Collusion is not a crime, and obstruction is obvious.

I hit most of the big stories yesterday, but missed two  — maybe three.

(1)  Crossfire Hurricane The New York Times looks at the beginning days into the investigation of Donald Trump, a very tight-lipped FBI probe known by only a handful of agents, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” (after a Rolling Stones song).  According to The New York Times, only about five Justice officials knew what the whole case entailed — a far lower number than the 12 or so who would typically be read in on a case related to national security.

At the beginning of the investigation, the bureau dispatched two agents to London to interview Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer, who reportedly had proof that one of Trump’s advisers knew about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election before it occurred.  Otherwise, agents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, which might have sped up the investigation but risked revealing the existence of the case. Top officials quickly became convinced that they would not solve the case before Election Day, which made them only more hesitant to act. When agents did take bold investigative steps, like interviewing the ambassador, they were shrouded in secrecy.

Progressives are correct in pointing out that there is a sharp contrast between a very secret investigation against the Trump campaign compared to the FBI (and James Comey) openly discussing the Clinton emails.  As the Times says: “In the Clinton case, Mr. Comey has said he erred on the side of transparency. But in the face of questions from Congress about the Trump campaign, the F.B.I. declined to tip its hand. ”

Conservatives, on the other hand, are quick to point out that this is further proof of a “Deep State” conspiracy against Donald Trump.

The article continues:

The F.B.I. investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in those early months, congressional investigators revealed in February. The four men were Michael T. Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. Each was scrutinized because of his obvious or suspected Russian ties.

***

Mr. Trump was not under investigation, but his actions perplexed the agents. Days after the stolen Democratic emails became public, he called on Russia to uncover more. Then news broke that Mr. Trump’s campaign had pushed to change the Republican platform’s stance on Ukraine in ways favorable to Russia.

The F.B.I.’s thinking crystallized by mid-August, after the C.I.A. director at the time, John O. Brennan, shared intelligence with Mr. Comey showing that the Russian government was behind an attack on the 2016 presidential election. Intelligence agencies began collaborating to investigate that operation. The Crossfire Hurricane team was part of that group but largely operated independently, three officials said.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said that after studying the investigation as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he saw no evidence of political motivation in the opening of the investigation.

All this comes as a prelude to an inspector generals’ report on the handling of the Trump investigation. The inspector general’s upcoming report is expected to criticize two FBI agents for giving the appearance of bias (because they exchanged emails that were critical of Trump). It is not clear, however, whether inspectors found evidence supporting Mr. Trump’s assertion that agents tried to protect Mrs. Clinton, a claim the F.B.I. has adamantly denied.

The article adds:

The F.B.I. obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena — officials said. And at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. That has become a politically contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the F.B.I. was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.

And that is the takeaway today after the Times article came out.  Even from Trump

I like that phrase — “probably no doubt”.  And I don’t know where “embedded informant” comes from.  Certainly not the NY Time article.

(2)  Missing Treasury Files –  Well, this one is just weird. But a huge scoop from Ronan Farrow, who is becoming a hot journalist.

We’ve come to know a lot about Michael Cohen’s influence peddling, but HOW do we know it? We know it mostly because of Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, who seemed to know an awful lot about Cohen’s financial dealings. Avenatti referenced “3 Suspicious Activity Reports” related to Cohen’s dealings and teased more significant disclosures to come. The Treasury Department launched an inquiry into the potential leak.

Well how did Avenatti know?  A leaker. From the US Treasury Department.  And that’s where Ronan Farrow’s reporting comes in.  He does not identify the leaker, but he explains WHY the leaker is leaking.  And this is the incredible part — a law enforcement official leaked the documents after becoming concerned that two reports on Cohen’s suspicious financial activity could not be found in a government database. Both of those reports, according to the New Yorker, detail even more substantial financial transactions — about $3 million, three times the amount of last week’s disclosures.

This is an extraordinary allegation. This whistleblower is claiming the documents went missing from the database, the more sinister implication being that they were purposely being withheld.

The documents this law enforcement official said they could not find are not easily misplaced bureaucratic paperwork. Suspicious activity reports, or SARs, are reports that banks and other financial institutions file if they have an inkling that someone might be engaging in money laundering or another illicit activity. They are filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which maintains a database for government and law enforcement officials. A suspicious activity report is not proof of any crime, just a red flag, and can help authorities establish patterns.

“I have never seen something pulled off the system. … That system is a safeguard for the bank,” the source told the New Yorker. “It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.”

Disclosing a suspicious activity report could violate federal law. The whistleblower said the personal risk was outweighed by the possibility that the reports were purposely hidden or removed. “Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me,” the official said.

Perhaps even more chilling is that there doesn’t seem to be an ordinary explanation for why those two reports have seemingly vanished from the searchable database. Some former government officials suggested to the New Yorker that it’s possible (though it would be extremely unusual) that access is restricted because of the extremely sensitive nature of the SARs, given that Cohen is under federal investigation by the Manhattan US attorney’s office.


(3)  Giuliani says that Mueller told him that he cannot indict a sitting PresidentCNN reported that Mueller and Trump’s legal team had determined that the Russia probe would end with a report to Congress on potential crimes, not an indictment. The source was Rudy Giuliani.  And there seems to be some confusion about this one.  Did Mueller actually SAY that to Giuliani? Or did Giuliani just assume that Mueller believes that he cannot indict a sitting President?  The Justice Department guidelines currently say a sitting president cannot be indicted.

In a meeting a few weeks ago, Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s team agreed that the special counsel would follow Justice Department guidelines, indicating that the federal investigators ultimately would not indict Trump in the Russia probe unless he were impeached, according to the Washington Post.

He didn’t seem to want to give the answer,” Giuliani told the Post. “It reminded me of that scene in ‘The Godfather,’ with Sonny and the Godfather, where he said, ‘Oh, you’re going to take care of us? We can take care of ourselves.’ One of his assistants broke in and said, ‘Well of course, we’re bound by Justice Department policies.’ Mueller looked at him like, ‘Don’t interrupt me.’”

In case everyone has, like the various Rudy Giulianis, lost the plot here, let me summarize:

  1. Rudy Giuliani told NBC News that Special Counsel Mueller told him directly that he could not prosecute the President because of the 1970s guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel.
  2. Rudy Giuliani, in an attempt to clarify what Rudy Giuliani told NBC News, told The Washington Post that he doesn’t actually know what Special Counsel Mueller or his personnel told Jay Sekulow and he can’t find out because Jay is in Israel.
  3. Rudy Giuliani, in an attempt to sound tough and make Special Counsel Mueller look bad, as well as further clarify Rudy Giuliani’s clarification to The Washington Post of Rudy Giuliani’s (who comes from a family that was mobbed up) statement to NBC News, stated that Bob Mueller (who brought down John Gotti) is like an Italian mafiosi from a movie.

Okay, whatever. The thing is, the DOJ guidelines are just that: guidelines. They can be changed, or even not followed if the situation calls for it.

In fact, Neal Katyal, who wrote the existing guidelines for DOJ Special Counsels had this to say about the 1970s Office of Legal Counsel guidance:

“This old opinion from 20 years ago does preclude, in general, the Justice Department from indicting a sitting president for constitutional reasons,” Katyal said. “But an exception can be given.”

Katyal repeated Wednesday that the rules “permit Mueller to depart from DOJ policy.”

Referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein, who is acting as attorney general in the context of the Russia investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, Katyal said on MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes”: “The way to do this is to ask the acting attorney general, so he does have a way forward.”

Bottom line: There really is no settled law on this.

Amazing Photo And Video OF Kilauea Eruption

Ken AshfordBreaking News, DisastersLeave a Comment

For nearly three weeks, images of volcanic activity on Hawaii’s Big Island have been mostly focused on the East Rift Zone on Kilauea’s slopes, where fissure upon fissure has opened up in the earth, spewing forth red-orange lava and sending thousands of residents fleeing from their homes.

Yesterday, the volcano’s Halemaumau Crater snapped people’s attention back to the summit with a commanding display: An eruption produced a towering ash plume from the crater that reached 12,000 feet high at its peak and could be seen for miles.


This is not “the big one”.  Yet.

 

Trump Discloses Financials

Ken AshfordGeneral corruption, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

As I wrote about yesterday, Trump was to disclose his financial liabilities, and there was an open question as to whether he would admit his payments to Cohen as a liability, and how much was paid.  Today the public got its answer, sort of.  I will attach only the page dealing with financial liabilities.

See there at the bottom?  He is disputing that it needs to be a “recorded liability” but is presenting the dollar amount nonetheless.  It would appear that there is no other payoff to Cohen other than Stormy, but maybe there is.  Or maybe Trump is lying.

Here is a letter from the Ethics Office to Rod Rosenstein saying that, in their estimation, the Cohen payment was a liability and should have been reported in last year’s disclosure.

On the cover page, OGE disagrees with Trump’s claim that the debt is not reportable but indicates that all required information is included in this report. That means that the information was required to be reported last year. In turn, that means that Trump committed a crime if the omission was “knowing and willful.” Trump may be wondering today whether the information DOJ seized from Cohen’s office included any emails or other documents showing he knew of the debt when he filed last year’s report.

Ice Cube, 3-On-3 Basketball, and The OTHER “Trump Tower Meeting”

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Given the congressional testimony and exhibits that were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, we probably know as much as we can about the infamous June 2016 in Trump Tower between Don Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a bunch of Russians.  But there is another Trump Tower meeting drawing interest. The genesis of it is confusing and weird, but it may hold the key to certain allegations in the Steele Dossier.

Michael Avenatti is representing the adult film actor Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against former Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen that seeks to nullify her confidentiality agreement over an alleged affair with Donald Trump.  On Sunday, Avenatti tweeted images that appeared to show a Qatari diplomat Ahmed Al-Rumaihi entering an elevator in Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016

Al-Rumaihi is currently being sued by rapper Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz, two guys who created what is known as the Big 3 Basketball League (a new sports league involving three-on-three basketball which debuted in 2017).  They are suing Al-Rumaihi because he promised to invest something like $20 million in the league, but only coughed up $6.5 million.

Last week Kwatinetz, in a sworn declaration filed as part of pending litigation against Al-Rumaihi and a number of Big 3 investors, said that the former Qatari diplomat offered him a bribe for an introduction to Kwatinetz’s friend Steve Bannon during a private hike in January 2018 (Prior to working with Big3, Kwatinetz ran a management company called The Firm. The Firm’s CFO was Steve Bannon).  January 2018 was after Bannon had been fired from the White House, following the publication of the book Fire & Fury by Michael Wolff.  Also, conservative donor Rebekah Mercer has ended financial support to Bannon, so that’s why Al-Rumaihi thought Bannon would be acceptable to a bribe.

Kwatinetz claimed in the declaration that he rejected the bribe and told Al-Rumaihi that Bannon would never accept one. At this point, he said Al-Rumaihi “laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘Do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?’ ”

What? Michael Flynn?  Trump’s former national security adviser?  Who pled guilty to lying to investigators and is now cooperating with Mueller?

Is there evidence of that?  Well, that is where Avenatti’s images come in.

Al-Rumaihi has confirmed the images are accurate, and that he was in Trump Tower on December 12 2016. But why?

This would have been five days after news broke of the multibillion-dollar sale of 19.5 percent of the Russian fossil fuel giant Rosneft to Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign investment fund. (Glencore and Qatar sold off a major stake of Rosneft to China last year, but earlier this month Qatar bought back in to the Russian company for a total stake of 19 percent.)

The Rosneft deal features prominently in an investigative dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. A central claim of the Steele dossier was that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, during an alleged meeting with Rosneft officials in summer 2016, promised that a Trump administration would undo sanctions against Russia, in part, in exchange for brokerage of the Rosneft deal. In May 2016, Al-Rumaihi reportedly took over as head of a major division of the wealth fund ultimately involved in the Rosneft deal.

The allegations in the Steele dossier, made in October 2016, suggested a future quid-pro-quo deal between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has been conspicuously resistant to Russian sanctions despite widespread congressional support from both parties. As Jed Shugerman has noted in Slate, during congressional testimony Page acknowledged meeting with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft, during his July 2016 trip to Russia and acknowledged “briefly” discussing the sale of Rosneft as well as there being “some general reference” to sanctions. As Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand has reported, Page also acknowledged meeting with top Rosneft managers in Moscow on Dec. 8—four days before the apparent Cohen–Al-Rumaihi meeting and one day after the completion of the Rosneft deal.

Avenatti noted in his tweets over the weekend that Cohen was seen meeting with Michael Flynn and incoming Energy Secretary Rick Perry within two hours of apparently entering the elevator with Al-Rumaihi.

The pictures that Avenatti tweeted came from a Trump Tower live feed from that day.  There is video.

Okay, so here we have Al-Rumaihi entering a Trump Tower elevator with Michael Cohen:

Here is footage of Rumaihi leaving Trump Tower less than 90 minutes after entering with Cohen.

Here is footage from multiple feeds of Flynn coming down 12 minutes after Al-Rumaihi’s exit, loitering in the lobby for a bit, and waiting to meet with Cohen and Perry a few minutes later:


So why was Al-Rumaihi in Trump Tower that day?  Well, he offered a brief explanation through a spokesman to CNN: “Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date. He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.” Another source told CNN that during one meeting “Cohen briefly popped in.”

The Trump Tower meetings are by their very nature interesting. Qatar was very eager to build relationships with the new administration during the transition, an effort that was apparently unsuccessful given Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia and support of the blockade.

So Qatar briefly considered another course of action: Informing special counsel Robert Mueller about efforts by the UAE to influence the administration against Qatar. In March NBC reported on that possibility, explaining that the Qataris felt that meetings between the UAE and administration figures were worthy of Mueller’s attention.

Our final characters in this tale now make their appearances. Elliott Broidy is a Republican Party donor who had been introduced to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by a man named George Nader, who himself had met several times at the White House with Bannon and Trump adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner.

Broidy owns a private security firm that has contracts with the UAE, according to the New York Times. He wrote a memo to the president arguing that the U.S. should back the UAE’s positions in the Gulf, only to find that the memo and some of his emails were hacked and leaked to the media. Broidy blamed the Qatari government, and filed suit against it.

Broidy’s name has been in the news for another reason recently: He was also a client of Michael Cohen’s, with Cohen assisting him in finalizing a payment to a Playboy playmate whom Broidy had impregnated.

That is where the story stands. From Ice Cube’s basketball league to a security contractor accusing a foreign government of hacking him even as he fends off questions about his affair with a playmate. The thread that ties it all together is the apparent interest of the Qatari government to build what relationships it could with the Trump administration and those close to it.

That effort doesn’t seem to have been entirely successful.

New Information About The “Trump Tower Meeting” With The Russians

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

More than 2,500 pages of congressional testimony and exhibits that were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, all relating to the now-infamous “Trump Tower Meeting” in June 2016. As you may recall, Rob Goldstone, a music promoter, promised Donald Trump Jr. over email that a Russian lawyer (Natalia Veselnitskaya) would provide dirt about Hillary Clinton.  Goldstone told the committee that his client, the Russian pop star and developer Emin Agalarov (son of Russian billionaire oligarch Aras Agalarov), had insisted he help set up the meeting between President Trump’s son and the lawyer during the campaign to pass along material on Clinton, overriding Goldstone’s own warnings that the meeting would be a bad idea.

“He said, ‘it doesn’t matter. You just have to get the meeting,” Goldstone, a British citizen, testified.

Testimony from the participants show that there was no “dirt” on Hillary offered at the meeting. Instead, Veselnitskaya used the session to press her view that the sanctions imposed on Russia for human rights abuses, known as the Magnitsky Act, should be lifted.

The president’s son acknowledged he was disappointed that the Russian lawyer did not provide more information that could be used in the campaign: “All else being equal, I wouldn’t have wanted to waste 20 minutes hearing about something that I wasn’t supposed to be meeting about,” he told the committee.

The testimony also includes new details about Trump’s long interest in building business ties to Russia and a relationship with President Vladi­mir Putin.  An Agalarov employee testified to the committee that the Russian mogul tried to get Trump a meeting with Putin when the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned, was held in Moscow in 2013.

The committee was not able to interview Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, or Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, even though both attended.  We do have Manafort’s notes:

Much sleuthing will be done on those.

Trump Jr is still in trouble, even if there was no “smoking gun” about Hillary.  Just because no information on Hillary was shared does not negate the intent of the meeting to get dirt on Hillary from the Russians. Conspiracy is the legal issue here, not collusion. Conspiracy is in itself a crime, and the proposed crime that is being conspired doesn’t have to be actually carried out once there is proof of the conspiracy. Several times a year we see reports of someone trying to hire a hitman, that ‘hitman’ often being undercover law enforcement. The fact that there is no actual attempt on anyone’s life won’t keep the plotter out of prison.

To be a conspiracy, all that is required is a plan between two or more persons to engage in criminal conduct plus one overt act in furtherance of the plan to constitute the crime of conspiracy. The intent to engage in the conduct is enough even if the persons did not know that the conduct was unlawful. There is no doubt that Trump Jr. etc. intended to participate in this meeting to obtain information from the Russian government on Clinton and they did meet. There was a plan to engage in conduct that was illegal, and there was an overt act in furtherance of the plan. Their conduct was criminal conspiracy. And to be clear, there is no crime of collusion, and the word’s continued usage just causes confusion. The proper term is conspiracy.

Then there is the cover-up. Trump’s campaign was involved in the drafting of the Don Jr.’s statement once the meeting was exposed.  That statement was false and serves as a possible obstruction of justice. The meeting, and the administration’s initial response to reports of it, have been one focus of the probe.

The White House has said the president was involved in drafting an initial statement after news of the meeting broke last year. The statement said the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program, though Trump Jr. later released the emails showing he agreed to the sit-down after he was promised information on Clinton. The emails also show he accepted the meeting despite it being described as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign. Asked in the interview if his father was involved in drafting the statement, Trump Jr said: “I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.”

But that might be testimonial parsing.  The Washington Post has reported that the president dictated some of the misleading explanations for the meeting— which aides worried could open him up to charges of a coverup.  Trump Jr. said he didn’t know about his father’s direct involvement and actively discouraged it, but he said he thinks Trump may have influenced the messaging about the meeting through then-White House communications aide Hope Hicks:

Q. To the best of your knowledge, did the president provide any edits to the statement or other input?

A. He may have commented through Hope Hicks.

Q. And do you know if his comments provided through Hope Hicks were incorporated into the final statement?

A. I believe some may have been, but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel.

Finally, there is the mystery of the phone call. Pn pp 26-28 of the testimony below, Don Jr. “believes” on the day of the Trump Tower meeting he spoke with Emin Agalarov (this call was also described in House Intel report). Following that, Don Jr. had a call lasting four minutes to a blocked number. Don Jr. couldn’t remember to whom he spoke. Hmmmmmmm…..

Here is Trump Jr testimony and exhibits:

A Welcome Change To Twitter

Ken AshfordSocial NetworkingLeave a Comment

Buzzfeed:

On Tuesday, Twitter announced a massive change to the way its conversations will work, evaluating not just the content of individual tweets, but the way users behave more broadly on the service. Twitter will now use thousands of behavioral signals when filtering search, replies, and algorithmic recommendations. If it believes you are trying to game its system, or simply acting like a jerk, it will push your tweets lower down. It’s the biggest update so far in the company’s push to create healthier conversations, an initiative announced by its CEO Jack Dorsey in March.

Among the signals Twitter will use: whether you tweet at large numbers of accounts you don’t follow, how often you’re blocked by people you interact with, whether you created many accounts from a single IP address, and whether your account is closely related to others that have violated its terms of service.

“A lot of our past action has been content-based, and we have been shifting more and more toward conduct and behaviors on the system,” Dorsey said in a briefing at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Monday.

That should help with the trolls a little.

How Pay-To-Play Works In Trump World

Ken AshfordGeneral corruption, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Sunday tweet from Trump:

ZTE was being sanctioned by the United States for violating the US sanctions against Iran. And suddenly, Trump wanted that ban lifted.  and everyone was like, uh… that’s a very sudden shift in policy.  And since when do we care about jobs lost in China?

Even Trump’s advisers were surprised.

Trump responded to questions with another tweet:

If we are in the process of negotiating a trade deal, why is this being done NOW?  Or… why are we doing “personal” favors for Xi now?

And then we learn from the Agence France-Presse news service is that a Chinese company agreed last Thursday to build a theme park at a major Indonesian development project that is set to include Trump-branded hotels, residences, and a golf course—and that will be funded in part by $500 million in Chinese government loans.

Now it appears that this theme park was in the works for a while. In 2015, an Indonesian company called MNC agreed to work with the Trump Organization on the “MNC Lido Park” luxury residence/resort development. The development, which is near Jakarta, is set to include a number of Trump-branded properties in addition to other projects.  And in June 2016, the Indonesian company announced that it had signed a “letter of initial intent” with a Chinese company called MCC—yes, it’s a deal between “MNC” and “MCC”—to build a theme park at MNC Lido Park. This tentative deal included $500 million in loans from Chinese banks.

So, it doesn’t appear that we’re talking about $500 million in Chinese going to the Trump Organization directly. But it also obviously benefits Trump to lock in what had previously only been a tentative commitment on the Chinese government’s part to develop such a major component of a complex in which he has a financial interest.

Furthermore, the TIMING is odd.  Trump talks tough about anyone who supports Iran, but then — days later — lifts sanctions against a Chinese company that helped Iran?  And he does it just days after a China deal goes through that clearly helps his company?

It’s Financial Disclosure Day!

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Trump has a choice to make, and today we find out that choice.

Normally, a politician completing a financial disclosure form is not worthy of news. But today, this year, with Trump — it is.

Today is the deadline for President Trump to file his financial disclosure form for 2017. That fact may seem trivially bureaucratic, but lurking at its core is a dilemma for Trump that continues to metastasize into something ever more grotesque.

The need to submit this form shows that in the Stormy Daniels matter, Trump has been boxed in by his lawyer (sic) Rudy Giuliani — and by his own tweets — with no good way out.

The Plum Line explains:

Here’s the problem for Trump: He needs to decide whether to disclose the debt he incurred to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, when Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels just before the election, buying her silence about their alleged affair. Trump did not disclose this debt in the financial disclosure form he filed one year ago — back when this payment, and Trump’s reimbursement of it, remained unknown.

But thanks to Giuliani, we now know that Trump did, in fact, incur this debt to Cohen. In January, the Wall Street Journal broke the news of Cohen’s payment to Daniels. But it was Giuliani who recently admitted to Sean Hannity that Trump had paid Cohen back, which forced Trump to issue two tweets acknowledging that he agreed to reimburse Cohen for the payment via a “monthly retainer.”

As it is, that blew up Trump’s previous lie on Air Force One that he didn’t know about the payment. But now it gets worse. Trump is in the awkward position of deciding what to say about his liability to Cohen on his financial disclosure form. “He has to disclose any liability he had over $10,000 at any point in 2017,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told me this morning.

Helpfully enough, Giuliani has also laid out a detailed timeline of Trump’s payments to BuzzFeed, acknowledging that Trump agreed to give Cohen $35,000 per month starting early in 2017, which continued throughout the year. “This was a liability of well over $10,000 through much if not all of 2017,” Bookbinder told me.

Thanks to Giuliani, Trump’s excuse for not disclosing this liability has now evaporated. To justify his failure to disclose it on his 2017 form — which detailed his finances for 2016 — Trump could claim he didn’t know about Cohen’s payment or make any agreement to reimburse it. Whether that’s plausible or not, we can’t really disprove it. But now we know that Trump did take on this debt in 2017, because Giuliani compelled him to admit it — by blurting out the truth.

The plot gets even more tangled. That’s because we have since learned that Cohen made the payment from a company he created called Essential Consultants, and that Cohen and/or his company may have made payments for Trump to other women as well. Giuliani admitted to ABC News that there may have been other payments, saying: “I would think if it was necessary, yes.”

And so, if Trump agreed to reimburse those payments as well, these liabilities would also have to be disclosed on his financial form — because Trump must indicate the amount of his liabilities within a general range. Bookbinder points out to me that the amount of debt Trump acknowledges to Cohen — if, say, he notes liabilities that are well in excess of $130,000 — will raise additional questions along these lines.

“He going to have to check a box that will give us a ballpark” for his liabilities to Cohen, Bookbinder says. “That will tell us a lot about whether there were additional payments by Cohen to benefit the president.”

Of course, Trump could try to conceal such additional liabilities while only admitting to reimbursing the Daniels payment. But then he’d be lying on his financial disclosure form, and those payments (and liabilities) could subsequently come out, revealing Trump’s effort to conceal them. Trump could also try to find additional loopholes, such as claiming that the reimbursement was a campaign expenditure, which wouldn’t have to be noted. But as Walter Shaub and Adav Noti point out in a piece on this whole dilemma, Giuliani foreclosed that option, too, when he insisted that the payment was not campaign-related.

Trump could very well seek an extension of 30 days on his form. But he can’t outrun these facts forever. And hopefully, this will illustrate that there are limits on just how tangled Trump’s web of lies can grow before it finally traps him.

Giuliani has admitted that Michael Cohen may have made payments to other women as well.  And so, if Trump declares liabilities to Cohen well in excess of $130,000, that will raise questions about any additional payments.

My bet is that he files an extension (something no President in recent history has done). But that only buys him time.  Not a solution.

Gas Prices Rise to Levels Not Seen In More Than 3 Years

Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & Deficit, Energy and ConservationLeave a Comment

Remember that $50 bucks or whatever you got in a huge tax refund? It’s gone. You’re going to spend three or four times that amount in increased gas prices, thanks to Trump:

You may have noticed, gas prices are on the rise and hitting levels not seen in more than three years. Gas prices nationwide are up a nickel in just the last week. That’s 20 cents in the last month, according to AAA.

Drivers fueling up in New Jersey are paying just under $3 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

“It was $54.16 for 18 gallons, and I just paid $40 for 13 gallons,”  Damian Woo told CBS News.

In California and Hawaii, gas prices are approaching $3.70 a gallon, nearly a dollar higher than the national average.

“There are 10 states that are at $3 a gallon or above,” AAA’s Robert Sinclair said

“We’re seeing extremely high demand for gasoline,” Sinclair said. “With the economy moving along as strongly as it is, there’s a lot more work, and with work, comes a lot more transportation.”

And what is the reason?

Geopolitical concerns were cited for driving crude values higher. The White House’s decision to end the 2015 U.S.-Iran nuclear deal could lead to diminishing supply from a key member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. A recent government report also showed the first decline in U.S. crude supplies in three weeks.

White House Insiders Know How The TeeVee Affects Trump

Ken AshfordFake News, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

These guys understood that, even though Trump has the world as his resource, he doesn’t believe anything until it is on TV. Fox influences Trump:

Senior staffers worried about this pattern of behavior: By the time his day was formally under way with the daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office — scheduled as late as 11 a.m. — the whole world was often thrown off course, wondering whether there were “tapes” of his conversations with a fired FBI director (May 12, 2017, 8:26 a.m.) or if a TV host had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at Mar-a-Lago (June 29, 2017, 8:58 a.m.).

With the hope of calming him down, then–chief of staff Reince Priebus and then–press secretary Sean Spicer began a subtle campaign. “It got to the point that they were just like, ‘We need to get him off these channels and onto Fox & Friends or else we’re going to be chasing down this crazy-train bullshit from MSNBC and CNN all day,’ ” one former White House official said.

Like all other ideas, this had the highest chance of implementation if Trump believed he’d thought of it on his own. Priebus and Spicer worked talking points about the network’s high ratings and importance to his base of supporters into conversation until, eventually, it stuck, so that the president’s television consumption is today what the current White House official called “mainly a complete dosage of Fox.” The former official added, “Trump’s someone who loves praise more than he likes hate-watching Morning Joe.

But the current official acknowledged that it has created a different set of problems: “Sometimes on Fox, a lot of stories are embellished, and they don’t necessarily cover the big news stories of the day. When they cover the smaller stories, if that gets the president riled up, then that becomes an issue. Whenever he tweets, all of us do a mad dash or mad scramble to find out as much information about that random topic as possible. We’re used to it in a lot of ways, so it’s part of our morning routine.”

Trump is just like Chance Gardener, but with an ego.

Michael Cohen’s Influence Peddling

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s controversial “fixer,” is in an unfortunate spot. Last week, new details came into sharper focus showing that the New York attorney received undisclosed lobbying payments – through a shell company used to pay hush money to a porn star – from corporate giants hoping to influence his client in the Oval Office.

The Wall Street Journal took a deeper dive into this story over the weekend, pointing to some companies Cohen approached that I hadn’t heard about before.

When Michael Cohen came knocking after the 2016 election, touting himself as the president’s lawyer, a man who could decipher the new administration, Ford Motor Co. said no. So did Uber Technologies Inc.

He managed to notch AT&T Inc. and Novartis AG. And Squire Patton Boggs, a law and lobbying firm, hired him for a sizable fee – though he felt it wasn’t enough.

Mr. Cohen talked to associates about building a huge practice. He mused about approaching foreign governments and foreign firms. But a broad review of his Washington dealings since they first surfaced last week shows his efforts were scattershot and met only with mixed success – both for Mr. Cohen and his clients.

The WSJ report described Cohen’s “blunt” pitch to prospective clients: they should fire their existing advisers and replace them with him. “I have the best relationship with the president on the outside, and you need to hire me,” Cohen reportedly told them.

The result was a rather brutal fiasco for practically everyone involved. Several of Cohen’s former clients have had chats with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, and Cohen himself is, according to one judge, “likely” to be indicted.

There’s no shortage of questions related to Cohen’s clients, his finances, other potential LLCs, what investigators were looking for when they raided his home and office, and what role Donald Trump may or may not have had in this mess.  Certainly, Cohen’s “influence-peddling” is just the kind of swampy thing that Trump was supposedly going to get rid of.

But there’s one question that shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle: is there a point at which this becomes a problem for the Republican National Committee?

In April 2017, the RNC issued a press release introducing the members of its finance team. Casino mogul Steve Wynn would serve as the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman, while Elliott Broidy and Michael Cohen were among a small handful of Republicans who would serve as national deputy finance chairmen.

Wynn was forced to resign from the RNC earlier this year following sexual misconduct allegations. (The RNC refused to return his money.)

Broidy, who’s at the center of multiple, ongoing controversies, also resigned in the wake of an unrelated sex scandal.

And then there’s Cohen, who struck controversial business deals through his shell company during his tenure as a national deputy finance chair of the RNC – a post that he apparently still holds. (There’s been no announcement about the lawyer stepping down from his position with the Republican Party.)

Is there a point at which this formal relationship becomes untenable? Or more to the point, how much more would it take for the RNC to show Cohen the door?

Trump Keeps Campaign Promise; Dozens Killed

Ken AshfordMiddle East, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

… and the United States loses its status as an honest broker of Mideast Peace.

That’s what happens when the US Embassy got moved to Jerusalem, a political move that is more symbolic (in its support for Israel) than practical:

 Israeli soldiers on Monday killed 41 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip and wounded more than 1,600 in the bloodiest day in the enclave since the 2014 war with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered on the edges of Gaza as the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem, fanning out along the fence in what appeared to be some of the largest demonstrations yet.

At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them.

At the barrier, young men threw stones and tried to launch kites carrying flames in hopes of burning crops on the other side. Most of the demonstrators, though, were peaceful, protesting the loss of their homes and villages and the embassy move.

Occasional sporadic gunfire could be heard over the noise of the crowd, and a constant stream of ambulances roared back and forth from the fence, ferrying away the wounded.

Most recent reports have the death toll at 46. [End of day: up to 55]

President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem is a huge milestone in U.S.-Israeli relations. Even if Trump does nothing else until the end of his term regarding Israel, he has already gotten himself into the history books.

But The U.S. celebrations around the opening of the embassy — both yesterday and today — are far from bipartisan. The congressional delegation to the event — four senators and 10 members of the House — is all Republican.  The only people who are not in government who got front row seats at the reception at the Israeli foreign ministry yesterday were Republican megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.  Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been lavished with attention from Israeli politicians — mainly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke about them in length during two of his speeches yesterday.

The moving of the embassy is mostly symbolic. The only U.S. officials who are actually moving at this time from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem are Ambassador David Friedman and four members of his staff.  But this is the beginning of a process, and the embassy plans to grow in the next year. It will take several years to build the permanent embassy in Jerusalem. Until then, most U.S. diplomats will continue working from Tel Aviv.

Weekly List 78

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week Trump threatened to take away media credentials, equating negative coverage to fake news. Trump and his surrogates continued to publicly undermine the Mueller probe, pressing for its completion and questioning the validity of its outcome; yet, seemed unprepared to handle the fallout of information made public by Stephanie Clifford’s attorney, Michael Avenatti.

This was another week of resignations, and disquiet within Trump’s cabinet as he continues to bully dissent and turn a blind eye to kleptocracy, incompetence and ethics violations. Against the advice of former senior officials, Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, further isolating America on the world stage. Acts of hate and distrust of “others” continue to escalate, as does the regime’s cruelty towards those not white, straight, and male. While Trump remains popular with his base, increasingly Americans are worried about aspects of everyday life that are forebodingly shifting ever-so subtly.

  1. The Guardian reported the Trump regime hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to conduct a “dirty ops” campaign against Obama diplomats who negotiated the deal with Tehran.
  2. Individuals targeted include Ben Rhodes, a top national security adviser, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama. Trump has a May 12 deadline decide whether to scrap or continue the Iran nuclear program.
  3. The New Yorker reported the intel firm was Black Cube, the same retained by Harvey Weinstein in 2016 to investigate the women and journalists who might come forward against him for sexual misconduct.
  4. On Sunday, WAPO reported Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for CIA director, sought to withdraw her nomination last Friday rather than face expected tough Senate questioning about her role in the agency’s interrogation program.
  5. White House aides, including press secretary Sarah Sanders and legislative affairs head Marc Short rushed to Langley Friday to push her to not withdraw. Saturday afternoon, Haspel agreed to move forward.
  6. On Sunday, NYT reported Sen. John McCain, as part of his final wishes, has told his inner circle does not want Trump to attend his funeral. McCain would however like Obama and George W. Bush to deliver eulogies.
  7. Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” which has been made into a TV-series, told ABC News, “We’re not living in Gilead yet, but there are Gilead-like symptoms going on,” pointing to examples like attacks on the free press and attempts to roll back reproductive rights.
  8. On Monday, Trump called on Congress to pull back more than $15 billion in spending approved in the recent budget, half of which would come from two accounts within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  9. HuffPost reported after several years of dramatic decline, the uninsured rate rose to 12.2% last year, up from 10.9% at the end of 2016, as Trump’s efforts to undermine Obamacare continue.
  10. In Rialto, California, a neighbor called the police on three black women who carried their luggage out of an Airbnb they had rented. The police responded as if it were an in-progress burglary, sending six police officers and a helicopter.
  11. On Monday, a white graduate student at Yale called the police on Lolade Siyonbola, a black student who was napping in a common area of their dorm. Siyonbola was questioned for 15 minutes by police, and forced to show her student ID.
  12. On Monday, Jeff Sessions announced the Trump regime will separate parents who enter the US illegally from their children, instead of keeping them in detention together.
  13. Sessions said, “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you,” adding, “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” The goal is to prosecute 100% who enter the US illegally.
  14. On Thursday, in an interview with NPR, when asked about separating migrant families at the border, chief of staff John Kelly said of immigrants, “They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills” to assimilate well.
  15. Kelly also said he supported the Department of Homeland Securities recent decisions to end temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Honduras.
  16. On Tuesday, Axios reported an annual study of 18-24 year-olds in 16 Arab states found a sharp spike in negative sentiment against the US: 57% see the US as the enemy (up from 32% in 2016) versus 35% who view the country as an ally.
  17. Further, 73% of Arab youth said Trump’s election has had a negative impact on their view of the US. Arab youth view Russia more favorably than the US, as the US fell out of the top five spots for the first time.
  18. The World reported a North Bend, Oregon school district is facing discrimination claims after a LGBTQ student was allegedly forced to read Bible passages as a form of punishment. The ACLU is involved in the case.
  19. On Friday, the Trump regime rolled back Obama-era rules that protected transgender inmates by allowing them to use facilities that match their gender identity, including cell blocks and bathrooms.
  20. Mediaite reported that in a video made last December Juan Pablo Andrade, a policy advisor for the Trump-tied nonprofit America First, praised Nazis and expressed disappointment that they didn’t “keep fucking going.”
  21. On Wednesday, at Senate hearings for Gina Haspel, former CIA operative turned activist 78 year-old Ray McGovern was tackled and thrown to the ground by police after protesting Haspel’s use of waterboarding, possibly dislocating his arm.
  22. BuzzFeed reported only families of Parkland shooting victims who are Trump supporters have received condolence letters or any sort of communication from Trump or the White House.
  23. On Thursday, Oliver North, the newly elected National Rifle Association President, said that gun control activists like the students from Parkland, are “civil terrorists.”
  24. On Tuesday, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, the top White House official in charge of pandemic response, abruptly resigned after the the global health security team he oversaw was disbanded by John Bolton.
  25. The upheaval at Scott Pruitt’s EPA continued, as John Konkus, the press office’s second in command, became the fourth senior official to resign in the past week.
  26. BuzzFeed reported Elizabeth Erin Walsh, a high-ranking Commerce Department official, was escorted out of the department’s headquarters last Thursday. Sources say she is part of an internal investigation. Walsh is a former Goldman Sachs executive nominated by Trump.
  27. The publication Science reported Trump’s White House canceled NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, a $10-million-a-year research line used to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords.
  28. After Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced she would not turn in a so-called blue slip for Trump judicial nominee Michael Brennan, judiciary chair Chuck Glassley broke Senate tradition by ignoring her and gave Brennan a hearing.
  29. On Tuesday, Rep. Daniel Donovan introduced a bill that would require post offices around the country to display pictures of Trump and Pence.
  30. Trump appointed Mehmet Oz, a discredited doctor who has long used his tv-show “Dr. Oz Show” as a platform to market alternative medicine, to his council on sport, fitness, and nutrition.
  31. On Monday, two top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to investigate that the three GOP FCC commissioners attended the CPAC conference in February.
  32. The letter comes after the OSC had concluded that one of the commissioners, Mike O’Rielly, had violated the Hatch Act during a CPAC panel discussion by urging voters to re-elect Trump, and issued a warning.
  33. On Monday, incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held his first press conference, welcoming reporters but taking no questions.
  34. Politico reported Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has done numerous interviews with her father, chairman of a shipping company in China, in front of the Department of Transportation emblem, raising ethics concerns she is using her position to benefit her family business.
  35. On Tuesday, fair-housing advocates filed a lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development and HUD Secretary Ben  Carson for suspending a 2015 Obama-era rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration.
  36. On Wednesday, Mick Mulvaney’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it will shut its student lending office, ending investigations on potential abuses by companies in the $1.5 trillion student loan market. The office had been responsible for returning $750 million in relief.
  37. On Monday, more than 10,000 EPA documents were made public under a Freedom of Information Act filed by the Sierra Club revealed the agency’s efforts to shield Pruitt from tough questions and public scrutiny.
  38. Emails show decisions to limit advance notice of Pruitt’s schedule, to limit questioning and control the message. Breaking from EPA tradition of 25 years, Pruitt does not do public speaking events on most official trips.
  39. On Monday, NYT reported that senior White House staffers are urging Trump to fire Pruitt. Aides say Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and Pruitt’s deputy, could be just as effective at undoing regulations.
  40. NYT reported Pruitt dined last year in Rome with Cardinal George Pell, a prominent climate-science denialist who has sexual abuse allegations since 2016. The EPA’s official description of the dinner intentionally omitted the cardinal’s attendance.
  41. Twenty days after the dinner, authorities in Australia charged Cardinal Pell with sexual assault. Whistleblower Kevin Chmielewski said EPA officials were concerned the meeting would reflect poorly on Pruitt if made public.
  42. On Friday, Trump continued to stand by Pruitt, saying “I do” have confidence in him despite Pruitt facing a dozen active investigations over lavish spending and ethical lapses.
  43. On Sunday, NYT reported Michael Cohen has spent much of his personal and professional life with immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. His father-in-law is from Ukraine, as was one of Cohen’s partners in the taxi business.
  44. As Cohen started working for Trump, limited liability companies he controlled started to amass real estate in all-cash deals, including five buildings in Manhattan between 2011 and 2015.
  45. Cohen also has a history of turning all-cash real estate deals for a huge profit in a short time. On one day in 2014, he sold four buildings in Manhattan for $32 million in cash. Banks steered clear of him.
  46. On Saturday, Rudy Giuliani appeared on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, appearing to backpedal, saying, “I’m still learning [the facts] … I’ve been in the case for two weeks.”
  47. Giuliani insisted Trump did not violate campaign finance laws, “Every campaign finance expert, Republican and Democrat, will tell you…it was to save his family, to save embarrassment, it’s not a campaign donation.”
  48. On Sunday, Giuliani appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” changing his story again on Clifford, “You know, I’m not really involved in the — in the Daniels thing. So I don’t — I don’t know. I mean, he denies that it happened.”
  49. Giuliani smeared Clifford, calling her the “woman you saw on SNL last nite trying to make more money.” He also said, “I never thought $130k was a real payment. It’s a nuisance payment.”
  50. Giuliani also said Trump doesn’t need to comply with a subpoena from Mueller’s team, adding, “He’s the President of the United States. We can assert the same privileges other presidents have,” and said he wouldn’t rule out Trump asserting his Fifth Amendment right.
  51. Giuliani also said it was time for Rod Rosenstein to shut down the Mueller probe: “There’s no question that the amount of government misconduct is accumulating. I happen to believe it’s greater than anybody realizes.”
  52. Giuliani also said he can’t speak to whether Trump lied when he denied knowledge of the silencing agreement, adding, “But in any event, that’s not the crime.”
  53. On Sunday, Giuliani told CNN he is still getting up to speed on Trump’s legal situation two weeks later, adding “I am focused on the law more than the facts right now.”
  54. On Monday, Giuliani said Trump’s lawyers hope to decide by May 17, the one-year anniversary of Mueller’s appointment, whether Trump will testify in the Mueller probe. Trump’s lawyers remain divided.
  55. On Monday, Politico reported Trump had initially told aides he was bringing on Emmet Flood to replace Don McGahn, and did not want to lose Ty Cobb, who reportedly resigned in part because of the confusion over reporting lines.
  56. Reportedly, as Giuliani continues his media tour, and while they still speak daily, Trump is growing frustrated. Aides expect Trump to fire Giuliani if his behavior does not change.
  57. On Tuesday, AP reported Trump is annoyed Giuliani has reinvigorated the Clifford story and extended its lifespan. Concern has also been raised by the State Department and Pentagon that Giuliani is weighing in on foreign policy matters.
  58. On Monday, Trump suggested legal action is coming against Mueller’s team, tweeting, “The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place.”
  59. Trump accused the team of “unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” without offering any proof. Several members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats. Mueller is a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, and Rosenstein was appointed by Trump.
  60. Trump also tweeted “Why is Peter S still there?” — referring to Strzok who remains at the FBI after Lisa Page resigned in Week 77. Trump again tweeted about the “Phony Witch Hunt” which he said will “wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections.”
  61. On Monday, First Lady Melania Trump rolled out her first initiative, “Be Best,” which she said would tackle opioid abuse, social media pressures, and mental health issues for children. The link to “Be Best” website initially delivered an error message.
  62. Critics noted the similarities to a speech delivered by former First Lady Michelle Obama last year, urging men to “be better.”
  63. Critics also noted the similarities between the “Be Best” campaign material and an educational booklet, “Talking With Kids About Being Online,” produced in the Obama-era by the Federal Trade Commission.
  64. On Tuesday, Trump announced he would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, despite pleas from our European allies. He called the agreement, “a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and all citizens of the United States.”
  65. Pence told Congress the US would no longer participate in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and would restore sanctions with 90- and 180-day wind-down periods.
  66. Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, both pushed out by Trump, had been advocates for remaining in JCPOA. Bolton, the new NSA, has advocated for bombing Iran as recently as 2015.
  67. Iranian President Rouhani said he directed his country’s diplomats to negotiate with the Europeans, Russia, and China about remaining in the nuclear deal. Iran is ready to start unlimited uranium enrichment if negotiations fail.
  68. In a joint statement, Macron, Merkel and May expressed “regret and concern” over Trump’s decision, saying of JCPOA, “This agreement remains important for our shared security.”
  69. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Boeing and Airbus licenses to replenish Iran’s aging fleet of commercial planes “will be revoked,” causing the companies to lose $39 billion in contracts.
  70. On Wednesday, the Agence France-Presse reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia will “do everything we can” to build nuclear weapons if regional rival Iran does the same.
  71. On Thursday, in a speech honoring French President Macron, German Chancellor Merkel said Europe can no longer rely on US protection, saying “Europe must take its destiny in its own hands.”
  72. Foreign Policy reported Richard Johnson, a career civil servant and one of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation, resigned this week after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
  73. The resignation is a part of a brain drain officials warn about across the government, and especially in the State Department. The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers when Trump took office to none.
  74. On Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader shared a photo of himself reading Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” on Instagram. The photo was taken at this year’s Tehran International Book Fair.
  75. On Wednesday, Trump suggested pulling credentials from the media, citing a study by right-leaning Media Research Center which found 91% of media coverage of him was negative in 2018.
  76. Trump tweeted, “The Fake News is working overtime,” adding “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake),” insinuating negative news is fake news, and threatened, “Take away credentials?”
  77. Margaret Talev, President of the White House Correspondents Association tweeted in response, “A free press must be able to report on the good, the bad, the momentous and the mundane, without fear or favor,”
  78. Talev added that a leader “preventing a free and independent press from covering the workings of our republic would be an unconscionable assault on the First Amendment.”
  79. On Wednesday, press secretary Sanders defended Trump, saying the regime is “very committed to a free press,” citing her near-daily briefings. Sanders added, “At the same time, the press has a responsibility to put out accurate information.”
  80. On Wednesday, the Trump regime hosted a gathering of 52 military mothers and spouses for Mothers Day. Attendees were all white women, despite racial and ethnic minority groups making up roughly 40% of armed services, and women serving as well.
  81. At the gathering, Trump claimed earlier this year he approved the first pay raises for service members in a decade. This claim is false: pay has increased every year for more than three decades.
  82. On Sunday, Rep. Devin Nunes threatened that he planned to urge lawmakers to hold Sessions with contempt of court for failing to hand over classified materials related to the Russia investigation.
  83. On Tuesday, WAPO reported that last Wednesday senior FBI and national intelligence officials relayed an urgent message to the White House that the information Nunes is seeking could endanger a top-secret intelligence source.
  84. Top White House officials and Trump backed the decision after being persuaded that Sessions turning over documents could risk lives by exposing the source, a US citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.
  85. The information however has been turned over to Mueller. Nunes reportedly vented his frustration Sunday when he threatened Sessions. Several officials are concerned Trump may shift to support Nunes.
  86. On Wednesday, CBS News reported the Justice Department invited Reps. Nunes and Trey Gowdy to a briefing Thursday on the classified information Nunes demanded in a subpoena last week.
  87. On Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan said he supports Nunes’ request to review surveillance documents, saying, “This request is perfectly appropriate.”
  88. On Thursday, after the private meeting, Nunes backed away from his open confrontation with the Justice Department after senior intelligence officials said they could not give him top-secret information about an intelligence source who aided Mueller.
  89. On Saturday, NYT reported that since the House Republicans issued their report finding no collusion between Trump and Russia in Week 76, Nunes’ committee has turned their attention from investigation to investigators.
  90. Top officials at the Justice Department are increasingly concerned that Nunes and Republican lawmakers are mining government secrets to weaponize against those investigating Trump, including Mueller.
  91. Nunes’ relationship with the Justice Department has so eroded that Speaker Ryan suggested Rep. Gowdy accompany Nunes on Thursday to help keep the meeting civil.
  92. AP reported that Mueller’s team has questioned Tom Barrack, one of Trump’s closest friends and confidants over decades, about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
  93. The interview, which reportedly happened months ago, focused on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, andincluded financial matters about the campaign, the transition, and Trump’s inauguration.
  94. On Sunday, WSJ reported that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are planning to publicly release 3,000 Facebook ads bought by Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA).
  95. On Thursday the IRA ads were released. Some 3.7 million users clicked on the ads, and they were seen by over 33 million users, according to Facebook statistics. IRA spent $100,000 on the ads. Trump has yet to acknowledge Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  96. On Tuesday, NPR reported the US voting system is still vulnerable to cyberattacks six months ahead of midterms. Much of the process — registering to vote, finding the polling place, checking in, and voting — is still digital.
  97. The Department of Homeland Security said Russian hackers targeted 21 states in 2016. Hackers did break in to the registration system in Illinois, and stole the username and password of an election official in Arizona.
  98. On Wednesday, Politico reported Bolton is pushing to eliminate the top White House cybersecurity job, at a time the US faces growing digital threats. The role is currently held by Rob Joyce, who is departing.
  99. On Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr said he hoped to wrap up the committee’s Russia probe in August, with a handful of witnesses left to interview and a number of interim reports to prepare.
  100. On Tuesday, Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan become the first person convicted in the Mueller probe to go to prison. His projected release date is June 4.
  101. On Friday, UK’s Electoral Commission fined Leave.EU £77,380 for breaches of election law in the 2016 EU referendum, and referred Leave.EU’s chief executive Liz Bilney to the police for “serious offenses.”
  102. On Thursday, Giuliani said Trump’s new lawyers have not held a lengthy prep session with Trump for a potential interview with Mueller’s team. Giuliani also said real negotiations about an interview are not happening.
  103. On Friday, in an interview with AP, Giuliani said Trump and his legal team will not decide whether Trump will agree to be interviewed by Mueller until after Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on June 12.
  104. Giuliani said he did not expect Mueller to interview Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric, or Kushner, adding “our understanding is that he’s pretty much finished,” and that Trump is “basically the last witness.”
  105. On Tuesday, Rachel Crooks, who alleges Trump kissed her without her consent when she was working as a receptionist in Trump Tower in 2006, secured her primary bid for state office in Ohio.
  106. In Tuesday’s primaries, women candidates won 17 of 20 Democratic races for open seats. Women donors have also set a new record, accounting for 31% of all monies going to House candidates, up from 27% in 2014.
  107. On Monday, New York AG Eric Schneiderman resigned after he was accused of physically abusing four women in an article published by The New Yorker. Trump had tweeted in 2013 on Schneiderman, “ Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner.”
  108. On Friday, Peter Gleason, who represented two additional alleged victims of Schneiderman, in a letter urged Judge Kimba Wood for an order to protect any records Cohen might have concerning their discussion of the women.
  109. On Tuesday, Stephanie Clifford’s attorney Michael Avenatti released a 7-page executive summary detailing payments to Essential Consultants, LLC, the entity established in October 2016 to make the hush payment to Clifford.
  110. Cohen set up an account at First Republic Bank in October 2016. In setting up the account, Cohen made certain representations that were false, constituting bank fraud. From October 2016 to January 2018 Cohen used the First Republic to engage in $4,425,033 of suspicious transactions.
  111. Essential received approximately $500,000 in eight payments from Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg and his cousin Andrew Intrater through a company named Columbus Nova between January and August 2017. In Week 77, Vekselberg was interviewed by Mueller’s team.
  112. Intrater is the CEO of Columbus Nova, which was listed on the website of the Renova Group, a Russian asset management company, as one of its “companies” until November 2017. Renova’s website is currently listed as “under construction.”
  113. Intrater made several political donations, including $29,600 to the Republican National Committee in June 2017, $35,000 to the Trump Victory PAC in June 2017, and $250,000 to the Trump Inauguration Fund.
  114. Essential also received four payments of $99,980 each from Novartis from late 2017 to early 2018. Following these payments, Trump took a dinner meeting with the incoming Novartis CEO in Davos in late January 2018.
  115. Essential also received four payments of $50,000 from AT&T in late 2017 to early 2018. Essential also received a payment of $150,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries on November 27, 2017.
  116. Cohen also received, through Essential and/or Michael D. Cohen & Associates, at least $187,500 from Elliott Broidy.
  117. On Tuesday evening, AT&T confirmed it paid Cohen’s company $200,000 in four transactions, saying he “did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.” AT&T asserted Cohen provided information about what made Trump tick.
  118. On Wednesday, Giuliani told TIME that Trump told him Tuesday night that he does not know anything about payments from Vekselberg. But when asked about AT&T and Novartis, Giuliani said, “I have no idea. I doubt it.”
  119. On Wednesday, press secretary Sanders when asked about Avenatti’s allegations for Cohen selling access to Trump, responded, “I haven’t heard the president express any specific concerns about that.”
  120. Giuliani also said Trump’s legal team is confident that Mueller does not believe that Trump had a role in the transactions, saying, “He was good on it. Nobody’s concerned about it. It doesn’t involve us.”
  121. Later Wednesday, Giuliani told Bloomberg on the payments to Cohen, Trump “was unaware of this,” adding, Trump “is not involved in any respect. It’s a dead issue as far as I’m concerned.”
  122. On Wednesday, CNN reported Mueller’s team questioned Vekselberg, chairman of Renova Group, about payments made by the US subsidiary, Columbus Nova, to Cohen and Trump’s campaign and inaugural fund.
  123. Vekselberg was questioned about Intrater’s $300,000 in political donations to Trump. Intrater was also questioned in the Mueller probe. Vekselberg is under US sanction as of last month for actions including interfering in the 2016 election, so can no longer travel to the US.
  124. In a statement, Columbus Nova said the company is “solely owned and controlled by Americans.” Cohen’s attorney has said Cohen has seven clients, but did not specify if Columbus Nova is one.
  125. Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s inauguration, this week attended the inauguration for Putin’s fourth term.
  126. On Friday, NPR reported that the FBI cautioned four years ago that a foundation controlled by Vekselberg, the Skolkovo Foundation, might have been acting on behalf of Russia’s intelligence services.
  127. In April 2014, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote a column warning Vekselberg’s foundation may be part of a Moscow spying campaign seeking to siphon up American science and technology.
  128. On Wednesday, ProPublica reported Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, also represented Columbus Nova in recent years in a commercial case. A spokesperson for Kasowitz said the case settled in early 2017.
  129. Kasowitz’s work for Columbus Nova stretches back to at least 2010. ProPublica also reported that Cohen spent a short period in February 2017 working at the offices of Kasowitz Benson Torres in midtown Manhattan
  130. On Wednesday, AT&T and Novartis both said they asked for information by Mueller’s team in November 2017 about their relationship with Essential Consulting. Both companies said they fully cooperated.
  131. On Wednesday, AT&T said it paid Cohen $600,000 (not $200,000), composed of a year’s payment of$50,000 per month, as part of a consulting contract to get insight into Trump’s thinking.
  132. On Wednesday, STAT reported that Cohen pitched himself to Novartis’ then-chief executive officer Joe Jimenez in early 2017, promising help gaining access to Trump and influential officials in the new regime.
  133. On Wednesday, Novartis issued a statement, saying the company had paid Cohen’s Essential Consultants $100,000 per month ($1.2 million total) for advice on how Trump would approach US health-care policy.
  134. Novartis said a month after signing the deal, executives met with Cohen and he “would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated.” The contract expired on February 2018.
  135. On Wednesday, the Treasury Department inspector general said it is investigating whether Suspicious Activity Reports on Cohen’s banking transactions were “improperly disseminated” to Avenatti.
  136. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Columbus Nova is listed as the owner of several websites targeted toward white nationalists, including Alt-right.co, Alternate-right.com, Alternate-rt.com, Alt-rite.com and others, created during the 2016 election.
  137. Intrater’s brother Frederick, who is a design manager at Columbus Nova, is also named alongside the company on the registration for the websites. Frederick claimed he was not acting on behalf of Columbus Nova, although he used his company email address.
  138. On Thursday, WAPO reported that according to documents obtained, the $600,000 payment by AT&T was part of a deal for Cohen to provide advice on the $85 billion merger with Time Warner.
  139. On Friday, AT&T issued a memo saying it did not hire Cohen to lobby on its behalf. AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson wrote in the memo, “our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment.”
  140. Also in the memo, Bob Quinn, AT&T’s head lobbyist who oversaw the hiring of Cohen, announced he is retiring. Two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters Quinn was forced to retire.
  141. On Friday, Giuliani escalated his battle with Avenatti, telling Business Insider he wouldn’t debate Avenatti as offered, because “I don’t get involved with pimps.
  142. Avenatti responded, tweeting “Hey Rudy — It turns out I’m not the only “pimp” you have experience with,” along with a video from Independent UK showing Giuliani dressed in drag while being seduced by Trump.
  143. On Friday, Avenatti tweeted, “Why was Mr. Cohen paying Demeter Direct Inc. in Los Angeles large sums of money from his Essential Consultants LLC account? Keep attacking me Mr. Giuliani and @foxnews.”
  144. On Friday, CNN reported Mark Ko, the head of a company called Demeter Direct, served as a middle personbetween Cohen and Korea Aerospace Industries. Ko said, “The payment was all legal based on the contract.”
  145. On Friday, WSJ reported Cohen had also made an overture to provide consulting services to Ford Motor Co. in January 2017, but was quickly rejected. Cohen had touted his proximity to Trump.
  146. Mueller’s team has since requested information from Ford about Cohen’s outreach including emails and records, and has interviewed Ford’s head of government affairs, Ziad Ojakli, who was the recipient of Cohen’s pitch.
  147. On Friday, Giuliani told HuffPost that Cohen never spoke with Trump about his big-dollar clients, saying “Whatever lobbying was done didn’t reach the president.”
  148. To offer proof, Giuliani admitted AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner did not go through because of Trump, “ He did drain the swamp … The president denied the merger. They didn’t get the result they wanted.”
  149. On Saturday, Giuliani attempted to backtrack in the morning, telling CNN “He told me directly he didn’t interfere.” The White House also issued a statement saying, “The Department of Justice denied the deal.”
  150. On Thursday, Trump greeted three Americans freed from North Korean prison, two who were imprisoned while he was in office, at an air base in Maryland along with Melania, Pence, and Pompeo when they arrived at 3 a.m.
  151. Hours before the freed Americans arrived, Trump said in a cabinet meeting that “everyone thinks” he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for their release, adding “But I would never say it. The prize I want is victory for the world.”
  152. As Trump boarded Marine One back to the White House, he told reporters, “I think you probably broke the all-time in history television rating for 3 o’clock in the morning.”
  153. On Thursday, at a rally in Elkhart, Indiana with Pence, Trump got cheers from the crowd when he said he deserves an “extension” of his presidency past 8 years.
  154. Trump then tried to walk back the comment, saying the media would be “happy” when he is no longer in office, but that, “When I’m not here, their ratings are going to sink.”
  155. On Wednesday, NRATV host Dan Bongino warned that Trump will be impeached if Republicans lose the House in the midterms, urging his viewers, “It’s time for us to protect the crown.”
  156. On Thursday, a day after Sen. McCain opposed Haspel’s nomination, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney supported the use of torture on Fox Business, saying, “it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’”
  157. On Thursday, Kelly Sadler, a special assistant in the White House, said of McCain during a discussion among the White House communications staffers about Haspel’s nomination, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.
  158. The White House refused to apologize for comments by Sadler, who showed up for work Friday. Sanders told reporters, “I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting.”
  159. ABC News reported at a staff meeting Friday, Sanders called Sadler’s comment “unacceptable,” but was more upset about the leaks. Sadler apologized to Meghan McCain, but is not expected to be fired.
  160. On Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son died from the same type of brain cancer as McCain was diagnosed with, said, “People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday.”
  161. On Thursday, on NBC’s “Today” show, parroting Trump, Pence said that one year in it’s time to end the Mueller probe: “we’ve fully cooperated…I think it’s time to wrap it up.”
  162. On Thursday, Kelly told NPR of the Mueller probe, “Something that has gone on this long without any real meat on the bone, it suggests to me that there is nothing there, relative to our president.”
  163. Kelly also said Trump was “somewhat embarrassed, frankly” about the Russia probe, and that he and Trump have “a close relationship” and spend up to eight hours a day together.
  164. On Thursday, NYT reported Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told colleagues she almost resigned after Trump berated her in a lengthy tirade in front of his entire cabinet Wednesday for her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders.
  165. One persistent issue which has upset Trump is Nielsen resisting his direction that parents be separated from their children when crossing illegally as a way to deter immigration.
  166. Nielsen, a Kelly protege, had drafted a resignation letter, but had not submitted it. One person close to Nielsen said she is miserable in the job. Trump reportedly views her with suspicion because she worked for years for George W. Bush.
  167. As Pruitt and Nielsen and Kelly have all been rumored to fired or resign, NPR reported Trump has already had more Cabinet turnover in his first term than any US leader in the past 100 years.
  168. Politico reported that based on a report it obtained, the first stage of a multibillion-dollar military-VA digital health program championed by Kushner was so riddled with problems it could have led to patient deaths.
  169. The Pentagon’s evaluation lists 156 “critical” or “severe” incident reports with the potential to result in patient deaths. The program’s price tag was $20 billion, and was designed to address problems with military and veteran health care.
  170. On Friday, Trump laid out his strategy to reduce prescription drug prices, but in a break from one of his most popular campaign promises, dropped his call for Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers.