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State Department Website Plugs Trump’s Mar-A-Lago

Ethics problem:

Washington (CNN)- President Donald Trump personally owns Mar-a-Lago, his private club on Florida’s eastern coast. But that didn’t stop the State Department, in a blog post on the United States Embassy in London’s website, from touting the property.

In a markedly promotional blog post from April 5 that could eventually benefit the President’s bottom line, should it spur membership or foreign visits, the embassy writes that the property has “become well known as the President frequently travels there to work or host foreign leaders.”

Ethics watchdogs and Democratic groups have been closely eying Trump’s ability to benefit his bottom line through the presidency and this blog post has some questioning whether the government is now helping publicize the property.

The Mar-a-Lago Club has already seemingly benefited from Trump’s presidency. The club raised its initiation fee from $100,000 to $200,000 after Trump was elected and members and former members around Mar-a-Lago have said there is now an added cachet with frequently visiting the President’s club.

“Aggressively begging foreign countries to funnel money straight into Trump’s pocket is a clear violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, but that’s precisely what the State Department is doing by openly promoting one of the Trumps’ private businesses,” Shripal Shah, vice president of American Bridge, a Democratic firm, said Monday. “It’s a gross abuse of taxpayer resources and flagrant violation of the law from an administration that thinks rules don’t apply to them.”

Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner wasn’t aware of the post when it was raised by reporters on Monday.

The blog entry, which was posted earlier this month, stems from an earlier post by Share America, a State Department site that aims to share “compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics” with foreign governments and US embassies.

The Share America story, which labels Mar-a-Lago the “winter White House,” a term Trump has taken to using, goes through the history of the property and how Trump was set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the property in April.

The entry details how it was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1927, when the cereal heiress hoped the property would be used by presidents and dignitaries. Trump bought the property in 1985. The post also noted that “Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club.”

Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago seven times as president, spending a total of 25 days at the club.

He has entertained foreign dignitaries — including Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — but he has also spent considerable time on the golf course, including at his nearby Trump International Golf Club.

Here’s a pic:

Last Night’s Bombshell: Trump Campaign Advisers Talked With Russia Throughout The Campaign

The New York Times broke the story at 9:11 pm EST.

(Obviously, the story is longer than that).

The first two paragraphs are the bombshell; the third one there is an important caveat.

In some ways, it is not news — in a largely ignored story from November, CNN reported that Russia said it was in contact with Trump campaign aides.  But what might be news last night was the level of contacts.

When that is coupled with the knowledge throughout the campaign that Russia was behind the DNC hacks — well, it doesn’t look good.

It also doesn’t look good that the Trump administration has repeatedly denied these contacts.  For example, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said this back in a December appearance on “Face the Nation” with John Dickerson:

DICKERSON: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?

CONWAY: Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous and it does undermine our democracy.

For his part, Trump is trying to make this all about leaks, but as I’ve said in another post, that argument (coming from Trump’s White House) is laughable.  As for the Russia connections, Trumps tweets call them “conspiracy theories” (again, an ironic phrase coming from Trump)

The NYT article and these series of tweets — these are historic documents.  Or will be, I think.

It wasn’t just the Times. CNN also weighed in with a similar investigation, reporting that “high-level advisers close to” Trump were in “constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to U.S. intelligence.”

CNN added a new wrinkle — that Trump had been briefed on this after the election.

If that last detail is true, then it means Trump knows that intelligence officials have, indeed, concluded that this happened. Which might explain why some of his tweets today sort of function as confirmation of the stories, by blasting intel agencies for leaking classified information.

If Trump is not embedded in the wrongdoing, all this is certainly making him look stupid, childish and weak.  From The Plum Line:

Indeed, the lashing out is beginning to look less and less fearsome, and more and more impulsively buffoonish and self-defeating. And there’s a broader pattern developing here, one that undermines a key narrative about the Trump presidency, in which Trump is pursuing strategic disruption and breaking all the old rules and norms to further an unconventional presidency that is designed to render the old way of doing business irrelevant. It’s obvious that all of this is now actively undermining his own designs, on multiple fronts.

Consider: The use of the White House bully pulpit by Trump and his top aides to interfere in a dispute between Nordstrom and Ivanka Trump — which seemed intended as a big middle finger to the pointy-headed ethical norms police — resulted in Republicans condemning it. The trip to Mar-a-Lago with the Japanese prime minister — another intended sign that Trump will damn well use the presidency to enrich himself if he pleases, by turning his own resort into an official court of sorts while pocketing the profits from it — ended up getting marred by the surprise North Korea ballistic missile test. This made his administration look incompetent, chaotic, unprepared and unconcerned about basic security protocol.

The administration’s handling of the Michael Flynn fiasco was a mess that was partially created by Trump himself. We now know he had been briefed three weeks ago that the Justice Department concluded Flynn had misled Vice President Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador. Yet Flynn remained, and new reporting indicates that this was driven in part because of high-level White House skepticism about the Justice Department’s warnings — something that likely emanated from Trump himself. The botched rollout of Trump’s travel ban — the first high-level exercise in translating Trumpism into reality — was a legal and substantive disaster, largely because of a lack of concern over basic legal and process niceties that also reflected Trump’s evolving leadership style.

Meanwhile, today’s events are a reminder that the press is bearing down hard on the Russia story, which may make it harder and harder for Republicans to continue resisting a full accounting.

To be sure, Trump is getting a lot of his Cabinet nominees confirmed. It’s likely that Trump and Republicans will win a lot of victories before long, ones that will be very demoralizing to Democrats. It is also true that the White House has at its disposal a tremendous range of tools to take control of events and news cycles, thus turning things around. So all of this might change soon enough. A doubling-down on Trump’s worst policies, perhaps in the form of a newly implemented and then expanded “Muslim ban,” or in the form of stepped-up deportations, remain real possibilities. A terrorist attack could empower Trump and lead to far worse.

But right now, Trump looks weaker, less effective and even more ridiculous than anyone might have anticipated — and it happened surprisingly quickly, too.

Trump Clusterfuck Continues

People are calling this administration — not even two weeks old — a slow-motion trainwreck.

I disagree.  There is nothing slow-motion about this at all.  It seems like every 6 hours there is something unprecedented happening, being met with bipartisan criticism.  This is not normal.

Last night, it was the firing of the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who reasonably took the position that the immigration ban of Trump’s executive order was illegal. Not only did Trump fire Yates, but the White House statement announcing her firing attacked her personally, calling her “an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration” who “betrayed the Department of Justice.” That’s a highly unusual if not unprecedented statement for a sitting president to make about a personnel change. Ironically, it was non-attorney political hacks in the Trump Administration who were calling Yates a “political hack” apparently unaware (or unconcerned) that we follow the laws and the Constitution in this country, and that Yates did what she was supposed to do.

The question has come up in many circles and in many different ways — are we being played?  Is the incompetence a feature, rather than a bug,.of the Trump Administration?  Are we being distracted by bad things so that WORSE things can be done? Are they trying to foster “outrage fatigue”?

Unlike many, I don’t think these guys are performing some hyper-level jedi mind trick on America.  I think they really are this incompetent.  Yes, I think Steve Bannon is into destruction of politics as we know it — he has said as much in interviews.  He wants to burn the system down in the hopes that a white nationalist system can replace it.  But no, I don’t think this is working.  Here’s why, as stated today in the Washington Post:

While Trump/Bannon wants to make it seem that it is only the media against them, as well as paid protesters (yes, they think all those millions are paid), the truth is that even conservative institutions are concerned.  Last week, for example., Trump took credit for the Dow clearing 20,000.  But after the disasterous immigration ban over the weekend, look how jittery Wall Street is.

I don’t think this cam be maintained for much longer.

Not Just Florida

It looks like Trump made a habit out of donating to Attorneys General who were investigating his business:

Donald Trump donated about $140,000 to state attorneys general or candidates for the office between 2001 and 2003, some of whom were reviewing cases or decisions that would impact the real estate mogul’s business, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Trump in particular donated to several attorneys general in New York going back to the 1980s, up to the current attorney general, Democrat Eric Schneiderman, according to records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal’s report follows the news that Trump had to pay a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service for an improper donation the Trump Foundation made to a group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Bondi’s office ultimately did not join a lawsuit filed against Trump University by the New York attorney general.

I guess he knows what he is talking about when he says the system is rigged.

Great DNC Moments

Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC speech was historic.  So was Michelle’s this year.  Nobody expected it would be THIS good.

And props to Demi Lovato for talking about mental health:

Was Trump Wrong About Orlando Shooter Motive? (Were We All?)

Just a second there, stupid politician man.

Palm Beach Post:

A former classmate of Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class said he believed Mateen was gay, saying Mateen once asked him out.

Officials say Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning.

The classmate said that he, Mateen and other classmates would hang out, sometimes going to gay nightclubs, after classes at the Indian River Community College police academy. He said Mateen asked him out romantically.

“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said. He asked that his name not be used.

He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him.

“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”

L.A. Times:

The gunman who attacked a Florida LGBT nightclub had attended the club before the attack and had used a gay dating and chat app, witnesses said.

Kevin West, a regular at Pulse nightclub, said Omar Mateen messaged him on and off for a year before the shooting using the gay chat and dating app Jack’d.

But they never met – until early Sunday morning.

West was dropping off a friend at the club when he noticed Mateen – whom he knew by sight but not by name – crossing the street wearing a dark cap and carrying a black cellphone about 1 a.m., an hour before the shooting.

“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and nodded his head, West said. “I could tell by the eyes.”

At least four regular customers of Pulse, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nightclub where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday that they believed they had seen Mateen there before.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries.

He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he said.

And the Daily Mail quotes his ex-wife as saying he had “gay tendencies“.

It would be unusual for an ISIS adherent to be gay.  And it suggests that Mateen’s motive was based, at least in part, on self-loathing.  There is nothing to suggest that ISIS personally recruited him.  This was a lone wolf.  He may have simply latched on to ISIS as the reason, simply because self-loathing gays aren’t that aware of the self-loathing.  He was trapped between two worlds — the rigid tenets of his faith (perhaps buttressed by his anti-gay father), and his inner desires.  He chose one — violently.  (Not an excuse, of course.  Just a possible explanation).

Quote Of The Week

“Donald Trump cares about exactly one thing: Donald Trump,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, opening up with both barrels in a speech on Tuesday:

“Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap,” Warren said at a Washington, D.C. gala for the Center for Popular Democracy Tuesday night.

“What kind of a man does that?” an incredulous Warren asked. “Root for people to get thrown out on the street? Root for people to lose their jobs? Root for people to lose their pensions? Root for two little girls in Clark County, Nevada, to end up living in a van?”

“What kind of a man does that?”

“I’ll tell you exactly what kind,” Warren continued. “A man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure money-grubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it. What kind of man does that? A man who will never be president of the United States.”

I would love to hear more from her this campaign season.  Veep?  Would be nice but I doubt it will happen.  We’ll lose the Massachusetts Senate seat.

The Weirdest Attack Of The Weirdest Campaign Season (So Far)

Today is the Indiana primary, and for those who still think there is a race in either party, this is the do-or-die moment.  It’s really not – the races are over and it is Trump and Clinton.  Cruz has banked everything on taking Indiana, and polls suggest he won’t.

Which makes this new Trump attack even more bizarre:

Donald Trump on Tuesday alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin shortly before he murdered the president, parroting a National Enquirer story claiming that Rafael Cruz was pictured with Lee Harvey Oswald handing out pro-Fidel Castro pamphlets in New Orleans in 1963.

A Cruz campaign spokesperson told the Miami Herald, which pointed out numerous flaws in the Enquirer story, that it was “another garbage story in a tabloid full of garbage.”

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”

“I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” Trump continued. “It’s horrible.”

Don’t ignore that this accusation comes from the National Enquirer, and that tabloid is run by Donald Trump’s buddy, David Pecker.

enquirer

cruz-oswald

Even still, it’s hard to think of a reason why Trump would launch into this bizarre attack. There are only two explanations for Trump’s behavior: Trump either believes virtually every conspiracy theory that he encounters, which makes him unqualified for living outside a mental institution, or he knows a significant number of his followers will believe it which should makes his followers ineligible to vote (if there was any justice).

I tend to think the former.  Trump, after all, is a birther.

Cruz is naturally taking advantage of this.  Moments ago:

“While I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my Dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard,” the senator joked.

He went on to say the story originated with the David Pecker-run National Enquirer, which has become a “hit piece” for his friend Trump’s campaign.

“This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth,” Cruz said of Trump.

To be continued?