Donald J. Trump Administration Scandals, Corruption and Cover-Ups Page 2
The Trump Administration will go down as the worse, most corrupt, comprised and dishonest administration in American history. Donald J. Trump has corrupted the white house, the DOJ, the state department and other government departments and agencies to protect and defend Donald J. Trump. Instead of putting America and the constitution first, they are putting Donald J. Trump first. Any government employee who puts Donald J. Trump before America and the constitution is not patriot. The oaths they have taking are to America and the constitution not to any individual. Any government employee who puts Donald J. Trump above America and the constitution is neither protecting nor defending America and the constitution. Moreover, they have broken the oath they have sworn to America and the constitution. This page is dedicated to tracking that corruption.
There may be no one more crooked or corrupt than Donald J. Trump. Trump is using taxpayer money to prop up his properties and making a profit at the expense of the American taxpayer. Trump is greedy con man who does not care about America or the American people, but he does want their money. Trump only cares about himself and how much money he can put in his pockets. He does not care where the money comes from the American taxpayer or foreign money he just wants money. Now we know why he refused to divest, Trump wanted to use the power of the presidency to put money in his pockets. Below you can find some examples of how crooked and corrupt Trump is using taxpayer dollars to prop up his properties and accepting foreign governments spending at Trump properties wishing to gain favor with him. more...
Since taking office in June, DeJoy has executed sweeping changes at the struggling USPS, leading to delays in mail delivery – and fears mail-in ballots won’t arrive on timeThe GuardianAbout a month ago, a United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier named Mark arrived at his post office in central Pennsylvania and got some shocking news from his station manager. Mark and his coworkers were told they would have to depart the office for deliveries a few hours earlier each day, even if that meant leaving behind much of the day’s mail. In the weeks that followed, higher-ups at the station instructed carriers to abandon hundreds of pieces of mail in order to depart a mere 10 or 20 minutes earlier. As the days went on, the excess mail started to pile up, and now Mark estimates there are thousands of undelivered letters and packages sitting in his station.“The supervisors are cracking the whip, making sure we leave,” Mark told the Guardian. “Meanwhile carriers are walking by and saying, ‘Look at all this fucking mail we’re walking past, it’s just sitting there.’” When Mark and his coworkers confronted the station manager he said he was only following orders from the new USPS postmaster general, Louis DeJoy. Since taking office in June, DeJoy has executed sweeping changes at the struggling US Postal Service, shaking up agency leadership and rolling out policies that have led to delays in mail delivery. These changes, which DeJoy has said are designed to cut down on labor costs, have angered advocates and Democratic politicians, who have accused him of trying to tamper with the election just weeks before millions of Americans start casting their ballots through the mail.
Trump staffers have been cited 13 times for violating a law prohibiting government officials from campaigningAndrea BernsteinPresident Donald Trump's recent musings about staging his Republican National Convention speech at the White House drew criticism from government ethics watchdogs and even one Republican senator, John Thune of South Dakota. The suggestion wasn't an isolated blending of official presidential duties and the campaign. It was part of a yearslong pattern of disregarding such boundaries in the Trump White House. There is a law, called the Hatch Act, that prohibits most government officials from engaging in politicking in the course of their official work.The law does not apply to the president or vice president. While other presidents took campaign advantage of the trappings of the office, something that came to be known as the "Rose Garden strategy," they typically refrained from explicit electoral appeals or attacks on their opponents at official presidential events. Federal election law and measures governing appropriations prohibit using taxpayer dollars for electioneering.Since resuming official travel at the beginning of May after a coronavirus-imposed pause, Trump has held 25 presidential out-of-town events. Of these events, transcribed on the official White House website, the president spoke about the election or attacked his opponent, Joe Biden, at 12 of them, nearly half. His presidential stage provided a venue for supporters to urge others to vote for Trump in November at three additional events. Administration officials have been cited for breaking the Hatch Act 13 times by federal investigators at the Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with special counsel Robert Mueller). Twelve more investigations are underway. The law dates from the New Deal era, enacted after a scandal where employees of the Works Progress Administration were pressured to work on the campaigns of candidates friendly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Donald Trump spends a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to 'block' mail-in ballots, says administration insiderTom PorterPresident Donald Trump is fixated on mail-in ballots and spends considerable time trying to figure out how to "block" such voting, a senior administration source told The Washington Post. According to the source, the president spends considerable time "reading news reports and other materials about mail-in ballots, talking about the topic with his advisers and thinking about how to block such voting."The Post reports that Trump recently met with congressional Republicans to air his concerns, citing a recent election fraud case in New Jersey.Election experts told NPR is very rare and highlighted the effectiveness of existing measures to guard against fraud. White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews defended Trump in a statement to the Post, and said he's working "to ensure the security and integrity of our elections."
President Trump’s furious objection to mail-in balloting and a new Trump-allied postmaster general are raising fears about the election and the Postal Service.By Luke Broadwater, Jack Healy, Michael D. Shear and Hailey FuchsDARBY, Pa. — Each day, when Nick Casselli, the president of a Philadelphia postal workers union, sits down at his desk on Main Street in this historic town where trolley cars still run and the post office is a source of civic pride, his phone is full of alarmed messages about increasing delays in mail delivery. Mr. Casselli and his 1,600 members have been in a state of high alert since Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and an ally of President Trump’s, took over as postmaster general in May. Overtime was eliminated, prompting backups. Seven mail-sorting machines were removed from a nearby processing center in West Philadelphia, causing further delays. Now, post offices are being told to open later and close during lunch.“I have some customers banging on my people’s doors: ‘Open up!’” Mr. Casselli said. “I’ve never seen that in my whole 35-year postal career.” Similar accounts of slowdowns and curtailed service are emerging across the country as Mr. DeJoy pushes cost-cutting measures that he says are intended to overhaul an agency suffering billion-dollar losses. But as Mr. Trump rails almost daily against the service and delays clog the mail, voters and postal workers warn a crisis is building that could disenfranchise record numbers of Americans who will be casting ballots by mail in November because of the coronavirus outbreak.
David Shepardson, Andy SullivanWASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General is investigating reports of service disruptions and other issues raised by lawmakers, a spokeswoman for Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Friday. “We have learned that the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General is investigating all aspects of our request from August 7th and that they’ve already requested documents as part of the review,” spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said. A spokeswoman for U.S. Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb said the office is “in receipt of the congressional request and are conducting a body of work to address concerns raised,” but declined to comment further.The Aug. 7 letter from a number of U.S. lawmakers asked for “a thorough audit of all operational changes put in place in recent weeks to determine the rationale behind these changes, if any analyses of their impact were conducted before implementation, their effect on the quality of mail delivery, and how it will impact services needed for the 2020 election.”
By Daily News Editorial BoardWithout free and fair elections, the United States of America isn’t the United States of America. And this year, as a highly contagious virus rages, that means ensuring the Postal Service can get a massive influx of mail-in ballots from point A to point B and back. In their moment of deepest need, President Trump is doing his darndest to tie cinder blocks to the feet of our mail carriers, thereby disenfranchising untold thousands or millions of voters.In May, Trump named a new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major Republican fundraiser who, according to CNN, has conflicts of interest totaling tens of millions of dollars. DeJoy has instituted a series of dramatic changes that are radically slowing mail delivery. DeJoy says he’s cutting costs, but that can wait until after a November election more dependent than ever on the efficiency of the Postal Service. Meanwhile, Trump, like a mob boss running a protection racket, refuses to provide pre-election emergency funds to the USPS. He has cast absentee ballots himself, but he now tries to thwart any and all postal voting that might threaten his reelection.
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large(CNN) Sometimes -- OK, a lot of times -- Donald Trump says the quiet part out loud. Like during an interview on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo on Thursday morning when Trump flatly admitted the real reason why he is blocking the inclusion of any money for the United States Postal Service in a coronavirus relief bill in Congress. Here's exactly what he said: "They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money basically. They want $3.5 trillion -- billion dollars for the mail-in votes, OK, universal mail-in ballots, $3.5 trillion. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots... " ... Now, if we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting, they just can't have it. So, you know, sort of a crazy thing. Very interesting." Let's be very, very clear about what Trump is saying here.1) Democrats want funding in a coronavirus relief bill for the Postal Service.2) They want that money so that the USPS can adequately deal with what is expected to be a major surge in mail-in and absentee balloting due to concerns about in-person voting spreading Covid-19.3) Trump refuses to give them that money -- or include it in any sort of deal -- because, without it, there won't be the ability for the people to cast more mail-in ballots, or -- and this is really important -- for election officials to effectively count them all.So, yeah. (And that's putting aside the fact that in blocking the coronavirus bill because of the money allotted for the Postal Service, the President is blocking a whole lot of other things, including increased education funding and rent/mortgage assistance, that many people in the country badly need.) This is the President of the United States purposely trying to make it harder for votes to be counted. Why? Because he believes that mail-in balloting is ripe for fraud. The problem with that view is that it is simply not supported by any real data. While Trump likes to focus on 500,000 absentee ballot applications being sent with the wrong return address in Virginia recently, the truth of the matter is that while mistakes like that one can get made, there's just no evidence of widespread purposeful voting fraud.
Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party have taken to the courts dozens to challenge voting rules. Trump's aides are pondering possible executive actions.By ANITA KUMARThis past spring, President Donald Trump began a full-fledged assault on voting by mail, tweeting, retweeting and railing about massive fraud and rigged elections with scant evidence. Then the Republican apparatus got to work backing up the president. In the weeks since, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have taken to the courts dozens of times as part of a $20 million effort to challenge voting rules, including filing their own lawsuits in several battleground states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Nevada. And around the time Trump started musing about delaying the election last week, aides and outside advisers began scrambling to ponder possible executive actions he could take to curb mail-in voting — everything from directing the postal service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.The actions can only make so much difference before November — elections are mostly run at the state and local level, and are subject to congressional authority. And some fellow Republicans are warning the president privately and publicly that attempts to restrict mail-in ballots could actually hurt the GOP in November, scaring Republicans from voting remotely even if they also refuse to vote in person during a pandemic. New polling has fueled these concerns. But the flurry of activity is buoying the president in other ways. Namely, it has allowed Trump to present himself as a fighter on an issue that many of his most fervent supporters have taken up in the last few months.
Frank LangfittU.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV told embassy staff in 2018 that his friend, President Trump, asked him to help get the British Open golf tournament held at one of the Trump family's golf resorts in Scotland. U.S. Embassy staff have separately complained that Johnson made racist and sexist comments on the job. The State Department's inspector general has been looking at these claims as part of a routine review of the embassy, according to people familiar with the matter. The inquiry was first reported by the New York Times and CNN.Lewis Lukens, the embassy's former second-in-command, confirmed in a text to NPR that Johnson told him about the president's request. "I advised him that doing so would violate federal ethics rules and be generally inappropriate," Lukens wrote. But Johnson apparently went ahead and raised the matter with David Mundell, then secretary of state for Scotland, according to a person familiar with the conversation. In a statement, the British government said Mundell met with Johnson in early 2018, "but Johnson made no request regarding the British Open or any other sporting event."
ABC NewsQuestions have been raised about whether the president pressured the U.K. to move the famed golf tournament to his resort in Turnberry, Scotland.
By Jeffrey ToobinOn March 21, 1973, President Richard Nixon and John Dean, the White House counsel, conferred in the Oval Office about ways to keep the Watergate scandal from consuming the Administration. The two men weighed the possibility of a pardon or commutation for E. Howard Hunt, one of the Watergate burglars. “Hunt’s now demanding clemency or he’s going to blow,” Dean said. “And, politically, it’d be impossible for, you know, you to do it.” Nixon agreed: “That’s right.” Dean continued, “I’m not sure that you’ll ever be able to deliver on clemency. It may be just too hot.” Neither Nixon nor Dean had especially refined senses of morality or legal ethics, but even they seemed to understand that a President could not use his pardon power to erase charges against someone who might offer testimony implicating Nixon himself in a crime. To do so, they recognized, would be too unseemly, too transparent, too egregiously corrupt. And, in fact, Nixon never gave a pardon, or commuted a sentence, of anyone implicated in the Watergate scandal. But, on Friday night, Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of Roger Stone, his associate and political mentor of more than three decades. Last year, Stone was convicted of obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering in a case brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. William Barr, the Attorney General, had already overridden the sentencing recommendation of the prosecutors who tried the case—a nearly unprecedented act—and Stone was ultimately sentenced to forty months in prison. But Barr’s unseemly interference in the case was somehow not enough for the President, so Trump made sure that Stone would serve no time at all. The only trace of shame in Trump’s announcement was that he delivered it on a Friday night—supposedly when the public is least attentive.
By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN(CNN) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday slammed President Donald Trump's decision to commute the prison sentence of his long-time friend and political adviser Roger Stone as "an act of staggering corruption." "President Trump's decision to commute the sentence of top campaign advisor Roger Stone, who could directly implicate him in criminal misconduct, is an act of staggering corruption," Pelosi said in a statement. Pelosi said that Congress will take action to "prevent this type of brazen wrongdoing" and that legislation is needed to "ensure that no President can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that President from criminal prosecution." The President has broad constitutional power to pardon and grant clemency, and Friday night the White House announced that Trump commuted Stone's sentence days before he was set to report to a federal prison in Georgia.
Resolve after appalling Roger Stone commutation: Don't let Donald Trump break us, America.
COVID and Trump have brought America to its knees. The utter failure of our system has allowed him to scale new heights of corruption each week.
Jill Lawrence USA TODAY
This is truly the cul-de-sac presidency. Every avenue of potential accountability is a dead end. Donald Trump and his many enablers have made sure of it. Now comes the Roger Stone protection racket, the Trump commutation that means his friend Stone will serve no prison time for seven felony convictions that include lying and witness-tampering to protect — who else? — Trump, in the special counsel's Russia investigation. It is no less stunning for its inevitability, inspiring disgust across the political spectrum from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (“staggering corruption”) to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (“unprecedented, historic corruption”). This latest example of Trump TLC for a fellow swamp creature came a day after the Supreme Court affirmed presidents are not above the law while all but assuring that Trump himself will be on the ballot Nov. 3 without having to show anyone the tax returns and other financial records that could solve mysteries like why he is so solicitous of Russia, China and their leaders. For all intents and purposes, another cul-de-sac.
America brought low by Trump, COVID
'Unprecedented, Historic Corruption': Romney Joins Critics Of Stone's Commutation
Democrats have had no shortage of descriptors for President Trump's decision to commute Roger Stone's prison sentence. Since Trump granted clemency to his longtime confidant Friday night, Democratic lawmakers have described it as "appalling," "despicable," an abuse of power and a "mockery of our democracy." Yet some harsh words Saturday came from a voice within his own party as well. "An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted Saturday morning, describing the move as "unprecedented, historic corruption." The comments come less than a day after Stone received his reprieve from the White House. That call came down Friday night, when Trump abruptly relieved his close adviser of his 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress, obstructing its investigation and witness tampering. A jury last fall found that Stone supplied lawmakers with false statements during their probe into the 2016 presidential election, in an effort to cover up his outreach to WikiLeaks. The group had obtained — and eventually released — thousands of hacked Democratic emails. In February, Stone received a lighter sentence than he could have gotten — but that did not satisfy the president, a longtime friend of the GOP political operative.
CNNPresident Donald Trump on Friday commuted the prison sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress in part, prosecutors said, to protect the President. The announcement came just days before Stone was set to report to a federal prison in Georgia. Stone was convicted in November of seven charges -- including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional committee proceeding -- as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Among the things he misled Congress about were his communications with Trump campaign officials -- communications that prosecutors said Stone hid out of his desire to protect Trump.
The administration is purging inspectors general from U.S. agencies. But these oversight officials have faced a slow strangling since Trump took office.By Chris D’Angelo and Jimmy TobiasEthics investigations have hounded the Trump administration since the beginning, with several department heads forced to step down amid mounting scandals. Along the way, President Donald Trump and his Cabinet, which is stacked with dozens of former lobbyists, have worked to thwart and demoralize government watchdogs. What was previously a slow strangling has turned into a brazen attack this year: Trump has ousted or moved to replace five inspectors general in the last few months. In early April, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community who notified Congress of the whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment. In May, Trump fired Steve Linick, the State Department IG who was actively investigating allegations that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife inappropriately used government resources. That same month, Trump announced a nominee for permanent watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services, weeks after acting IG Christi Grimm released a survey that found widespread shortages of masks, personal protective equipment and testing kits amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump dismissed that report as “just wrong” and tweeted to attack Grimm: “Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?”
Commerce IG says department is preventing release of report about NOAA officials who issued Hurricane Dorian statementBy Ellie Kaufman and Maegan Vazquez, CNN(CNN) The Commerce Department Inspector General's office claims department officials are "actively preventing" them from releasing a report regarding National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials' issuance of statements that contradicted with a local National Weather Service statement about Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. A scientific misconduct investigation earlier this month found that NOAA officials violated their ethical standards and scientific integrity policy when they issued these conflicting statements during Hurricane Dorian. In the memo to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said the Department is relying on "amorphous claims of privilege" that are preventing the IG's office from releasing their report. She said her office "cannot be expected to blindly divine the position of the Department and interagency stakeholders without specific privilege claims to specific portions of the report." The report is the latest example of alleged interference by the Trump administration into an inspector general's investigation. Gustafson says the department was cooperating with their investigation until she sent a final report for a "privilege review" before issuing the report to the public. Then, department officials claimed that because of the IG's "drafting approach, 'there was no meaningful way to redact the privileged materials'" they had previously identified in other drafts.
By Stephen Blank, Opinion ContributorThe Trump administration’s latest scandal is the revelation that the intelligence community briefed the president and the White House in March about Russian bounty hunting in Afghanistan. Moscow evidently was giving Taliban and other terrorists bounties for killing U.S., UK and other NATO soldiers. The scandal lies in the fact that since this briefing, evidently nothing has been done to punish Russia for this behavior. Making things worse are the revelations that the White House was briefed about this development in 2019. Predictably, President Trump and the White House claimed they never received this briefing or that, if they did, they were told it was not credible. Meanwhile, nobody has denied the veracity of the charge against Moscow, suggesting that these denials are, to say the least, hollow. Consequently, this affair cries out for explanation. First, this Russian resort to criminality in Afghanistan is not altogether unexpected. Indeed, brutality and criminality are inherent in Russia’s ways of war at home and abroad, as we have seen in Chechnya and Syria. Neither is bounty hunting a major escalation in the context of Russia’s policies in Afghanistan. Since 2013 Moscow has been sharing intelligence and running guns to the Taliban. Moscow has also provided material and financial support to Taliban leaders. Likewise, since 2018 when its private mercenaries, the Wagner Group, attacked U.S. forces in Syria and suffered heavy casualties, there has apparently been a sentiment of revenge among Russian forces seeking to get even with the U.S.
A company that offered its "services" for the border wall got "quick approval" to mine outside of normal protocolBy Igor DeryshMultiple government watchdog groups have called for an investigation after a Mexican company received rapid approval on a multi-million-dollar mining contract in Colorado shortly after it expressed support for President Donald Trump's border wall. Days after Trump's election in 2016, Enrique Escalante, the chief executive of Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC), told Reuters that the company was "ready to lend its services" to build the border wall that the president promised during his campaign. "For the business we're in, Trump is a candidate that does favor the industry quite a bit," he told the outlet. The announcement drew headlines around the world as outlets seized on the idea of a Mexican firm helping to build the wall. The company has seen business boom since Trump's inauguration with some help from the administration. About a year after the announcement, the company's subsidiary, GCC Energy, received "quick approval" to expand operations in the King II coal mine near Hesperus, Colo., The Durango Herald reported. The company has operated the mine since 2007 and had asked the Bureau of Land Management for a 950-acre expansion. But the request did not go through the normal process. The expansion was granted by the Interior Department in Washington rather than the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state office in Denver. Normally, a mining company which operates on BLM land in Colorado has to go through the Denver office and can then appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, which is part of the Interior Department. But the GCC expansion was instead approved by Katharine MacGregor, then the department's deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, which meant the decision could not be appealed.
A ‘blanket approval’ allowed Congress, officials and their families to receive Paycheck Protection Program funds without a required conflict of interest reviewBy Jonathan O'Connell and Aaron GreggA brief and barely noticed “blanket approval” issued by the Trump administration allows lawmakers, Small Business Administration staff, other federal officials and their families to bypass long-standing rules on conflicts of interest to seek funds for themselves, adding to concerns that coronavirus aid programs could be subject to fraud and abuse. Under normal circumstances, lawmakers and some federal employees who apply for small business funds in some cases have to seek approval of a little-known SBA body called the Standards of Conduct Committee. The rule applies to officials who are business owners, officers, directors or shareholders with a more than 10 percent business interest, plus any “household members” of those officials. But in a rule the administration issued April 13, the administration disclosed that the approval requirement had been suspended for all entities seeking funds from the $660 billion program “so that further action by the [ethics committee] is not necessary.”
NO HOLDS BARREDThe attorney general insists, meanwhile, that it’s nothing but a “media narrative” to suggest he’s acting in the president’s personal interests.By Blake MontgomeryThe same day that Attorney General William Barr insisted there is “no pattern” of him working to advance the personal interests of President Donald Trump, several sources cited by The New York Times said one of his first moves after being sworn into office in early 2019 was trying to find ways to undermine the conviction of longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen. Barr had reportedly repeatedly questioned prosecutors over the charges against Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August 2018 to financial crimes that included hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump. He went so far as to instruct Justice Department officials to draft a legal memo casting doubt on the legitimacy of Cohen’s conviction, according to sources cited by the Times, but they refused to do so. Meanwhile, in an NPR interview published Thursday, Barr scoffed at the notion he has been promoting Trump’s agenda at the expense of the rule of law, calling it a “media narrative” and saying there is “no such pattern.” He went on the defensive in the interview multiple times. Barr has made several controversial interventions into cases involving President Donald Trump’s associates. In early May, he chose to drop the Justice Department’s case against Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a decision that elicited blistering criticism, as Flynn had already pleaded guilty. Though Michael Flynn was the president’s National Security Adviser, Barr denied any political pressure to drop the charges against him: “I don't know whether I would refer to him as a friend of any administration,” he said. And though Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI, Barr still cast the charges against the retired general as ludicrous: “There was a lot of hinky stuff in the Flynn case. Everyone knew that. Everyone was wondering why was this case ever brought?”
SE Cupp UnfilteredCNN's SE Cupp discusses the role female voters have in the 2020 election with fellow conservative Margaret Hoover. Source: CNN
By Carrie JohnsonA current Justice Department prosecutor is planning to tell lawmakers on Wednesday that in his many years in the government, "I have never seen political influence play any role in prosecutorial decision making ... with one exception: United States v Roger Stone," according to a copy of his prepared testimony. Aaron Zelinsky, who has worked at Justice since 2014, is scheduled to testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday as one of two "whistleblowers" set to describe politicization at the Justice Department, said Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D–NY. In his written statement, Zelinsky said he heard that Stone received different treatment "because of his relationship to the president." Zelinsky said the person in charge of the U.S. Attorney's office at the time was "receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break." And, he said: "I was also told that the acting U.S. Attorney was giving Stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was 'afraid of the president.'" Zelinsky described "significant pressure ... to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in [Stone's] trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction." Eventually, higher-ups in the office overrode the original recommendation about how stiffly to punish Stone and filed a new memo "at odds with the record and contrary to Department of Justice policy." Zelinsky ultimately withdrew from the case, along with three others, after the department refused to heed their objections that "such political favoritism was wrong and contrary to legal ethics and department policy." A judge eventually sentenced Stone to serve 40 months in prison. He's due to report there next week. Attorney General Bill Barr said at the time of Stone's sentencing that he'd acted on his own to get involved with the submission of a second memo asking the judge in the case to impose a lighter sentence than contemplated in the first one.
CBS NewsDemocrats are calling for an investigation into the sudden firing of New York federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman. His office is pursuing cases connected to President Trump. CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge reports on the latest, and CBSN legal contributor Keir Dougall, a former Assistant U.S.Attorney for New York's Eastern District, joined CBSN to discuss.
By Travis GettysAttorney General William Barr appears to be obstructing justice, according to one legal expert, and must be investigated and possibly impeached. The attorney general gave conflicting statements over the weekend about the ouster of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and attorney and former FBI agent Asha Rangappa called for Barr’s removal in a new column for The Daily Beast. “Barr tried to bamboozle the country (and, apparently, bully Berman himself) into believing that Berman had resigned his post,” Rangappa wrote. “Berman’s day-long standoff with Barr, in which he refused to resign, included a public letter that was an S.O.S. to anyone paying attention, as he assured the public that the ‘office’s important cases would continue unimpeded’ — suggesting that Barr was attempting to obstruct justice by removing him, which Barr ultimately succeeded in doing.” Barr has authority over any Justice Department investigation of his own conduct, and Rangappa argued that leaves only one option to determine why the attorney general removed Berman.
By Ariana FreemanSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called for an investigation into Attorney General William Barr's decision to remove the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Barr initially said Geoffrey Berman was stepping down, but Berman said he had not resigned, leading Barr to say that President Trump had fired him. "I am calling for a three-pronged investigation that involves three entities: First, the Judiciary Committee, second, the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ and third, the Inspector General's Office at DOJ," Schumer said at his weekly press conference at his midtown Manhattan office. Schumer said the "real unanswered question" is "why did the president and Mr. Barr do it?" Schumer pointed to Barr not giving a reason, and asked if it could be related to any of the Southern District of New York's investigations.
MSNBCFormer GOP strategist Steve Schmidt joins MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber to discuss Attorney General Bill Barr’s “appalling” actions. Schmidt argues “The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, not the president's personal attorney” adding Barr “has acted in a way that is contrary to every other attorney general's understanding of their duties in that office.” Schmidt slams AG Barr for acting “like Donald Trump's Roy Cohn." - William Barr is Trump's new Roy Cohn. William Barr is not doing his job; his oath of office is to America not to Donald J. Trump.
By Phil Mattingly, CNN(CNN) The Small Business Administration and Treasury Department, under withering criticism for lack of transparency, shifted course Friday and announced they would disclose details of borrowers in the Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA, which manages the $660 billion emergency lending program, will disclose business names, addresses, loan amount ranges and demographic data, among other things, as part of an agreement with bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the SBA and Treasury announced in a joint statement. Such data would be released for businesses that received loans of at least $150,000, which make up nearly 75% of approved funding, the SBA and the Treasury Department said. For loans below $150,000, the SBA and Treasury announced that they would disclose totals aggregated by zip code, industry, business type and certain demographic categories.
Investigation says NOAA leadership violated integrity policies during Trump's Hurricane Dorian map scandalBy Maegan Vazquez, CNN(CNN) Top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association violated its ethical standards and scientific integrity policy when it issued a statement contradicting a local National Weather Service office during Hurricane Dorian in 2019, a scientific misconduct investigation determined. During Dorian's approach to the United States last year, President Donald Trump showed members of the media an image of the storm's potential path, which included a marker drawing in an area of Alabama. Responding to calls of concern, the National Weather Service's Birmingham, Alabama, office tweeted out, "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east." But on September 6, NOAA released a statement saying, "The information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama. ... The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time."Now, a new memo laying out the final decision on three allegations of misconduct says that an independent panel investigating NOAA leadership's actions during the storm's approach violated the agency's ethical and scientific standards. Specifically, the panel determined that acting Administrator of NOAA Neil Jacobs and NOAA Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Communications Julie Roberts violated NOAA's Code of Ethics for Science Supervision and Management and the agency's Scientific Integrity Policy in writing and releasing the September 6 statement. By excluding the Birmingham office from the development of the statement, Jacobs and Roberts "engaged in the misconduct intentionally, knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the Code of Scientific Conduct or Code of Ethics for Science Supervision and Management in NOAA's Scientific Integrity Policy," the panel wrote. In addition, the panel addresses the allegation that "the drafting of the September 6 Statement was driven by external political pressure from Department of Commerce ... senior leaders and inappropriately criticized the September 1 Birmingham Tweet and underlying scientific activity."
State of the UnionCNN's Jake Tapper presses President Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow over loans made to businesses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Source: CNN
The Treasury secretary's refusal has created a new flashpoint in Congress' oversight of the Trump administration's use of coronavirus bailout funds.By ZACHARY WARMBRODTTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is facing criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups after refusing to disclose the businesses that received more than $500 billion in government-backed emergency loans. Mnuchin ignited controversy on Wednesday when he said the Trump administration will not reveal the names of companies and nonprofits that got the so-called Paycheck Protection Program loans, which are guaranteed by the taxpayer and can be forgiven in full if borrowers maintain their payrolls. Mnuchin said the names and specific loan amounts were "proprietary" and "confidential," but that came as a shock after officials had indicated earlier that the information would be subject to public scrutiny. The Small Business Administration warns borrowers in the program's loan application that their names and loan values will be released under Freedom of Information Act requests. POLITICO has sought the information under FOIA, and several other news outlets are suing the government to obtain it. Republicans and Democrats have pressed the administration to disclose loan recipients in recent weeks, and Mnuchin's refusal has created a new flashpoint in Congress' oversight of the Trump administration's use of coronavirus bailout funds. It's fueling concerns that have dogged the program since its April 3 launch that too much of the aid is going to well-financed businesses that don't need it. “Given the many problems with the PPP program, it is imperative American taxpayers know if the money is going where Congress intended — to the truly small and unbanked small business," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday. "The administration’s resistance to transparency is outrageous and only serves to raise further suspicions about how the funds are being distributed and who is actually benefiting.”
“Jaw-dropping corruption”: Mnuchin refuses to disclose which businesses got taxpayer-backed bailoutsTrump administration says it won’t ever reveal the firms after public companies raided small business relief fundsBy Igor DeryshTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Wednesday that the Trump administration will never reveal the companies which received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, told Politico that the Small Business Administration was withholding data on the loan recipients that the agency requested as part of its oversight efforts. "We believe that that's proprietary information, and in many cases, for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information," Mnuchin testified Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The decision breaks with standard protocol since the Small Business Administration (SBA) typically discloses the companies that borrowed through the program on which the PPP is based, according to The Washington Post. "4.5 MILLION businesses received government funds. Zero transparency," a spokesperson for the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted. "Unconscionable, jaw-dropping corruption." The PPP has received nearly $700 billion in funding from Congress, more than $500 billion of which has already been doled out. Mnuchin's statement came after the PPP, a coronavirus relief package aimed at helping small businesses pay their workers during the downturn, distributed multi-million-dollar loans to dozens of publicly traded companies. Though lawmakers from both parties have praised the program for helping small businesses, many of them decried $10 million loans given to companies like Shake Shack and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, which had large cash reserves. Even the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers got a loan. None of the loans were revealed by the SBA but rather discovered through company announcements. Those companies later returned the loans.
The Feds Gave a Former White House Official $3 Million to Supply Masks to Navajo Hospitals. Some May Not Work.Zach Fuentes, former deputy chief of staff to President Trump, won the contract just days after registering his company. He sold Chinese masks to the government just as federal regulators were scrutinizing foreign-made equipment.by Yeganeh Torbati and Derek WillisA former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience. The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use. An additional 130,400, worth about $422,000, are not the type specified in the procurement data, the agency said. What’s more, the masks Fuentes agreed to provide — Chinese-made KN95s — have come under intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators amid concerns that they offered inadequate protection. “The IHS Navajo Area Office will determine if these masks will be returned,” the agency said in a statement. The agency said it is verifying Fuentes’ company’s April 8 statement to IHS that all the masks were certified by the Food and Drug Administration, and an FDA spokesperson said the agency cannot verify if the products were certified without the name of the manufacturer. Hospitals in the Navajo Nation, which spans Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, have been desperate for protective supplies as the numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths have grown quickly. As of Friday, the Navajo Nation reported 4,434 COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths, a crisis that has prompted outcries from members of Congress and demands for increased funding.
Democrats claim watchdog fired by Trump was probing Pompeo's fast-tracking of $8 billion Saudi arms saleBy Zachary Cohen, CNNWashington (CNN) The State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump on Friday, Steve Linick, had nearly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's decision to fast-track an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel. "I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick's firing. His office was investigating — at my request — Trump's phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia. We don't have the full picture yet, but it's troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed," Engel, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement to CNN Monday. Last May, the Trump administration declared an emergency to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to various countries -- including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- citing the need to deter what it called "the malign influence" of Iran throughout the Middle East. "These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said in a statement at the time, which put the value of the sales at $8.1 billion. But the move drew bipartisan condemnation, with lawmakers decrying the precedent it sets, questioning the administration's claims of an emergency and raising the issue of Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Now, Engel says Pompeo might have removed the federal watchdog who was looking into his handling of the arms sale. Linick's Saudi Arabia investigation was first reported by The Washington Post. The revelation will increase scrutiny of Trump's firing of Linick on Friday evening -- the latest in a series of dismissals of independent government watchdogs tasked with oversight of the President's administration. A senior State Department official previously confirmed to CNN that Pompeo recommended Linick be removed, but they did not know the reasons why.IG was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform errandsOn Saturday, CNN reported that Linick was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands, including walking his dog, picking up dry cleaning and making a dinner reservation for him and his wife. But at this time, House Democrats say they do not yet know which investigation was the biggest factor behind the decision to dismiss Linick. "I wouldn't assign percentages," a Democratic committee aide said.
By Jonathan ChaitWhen Congress enacted an emergency plan to send $1,200 checks to every American adult, Republicans joked that President Trump would want to sign his name on the checks. A few weeks later, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was exploring this outlandish desire, a reporter asked, “Is that right? Do you want to sign those checks?” Trump denied it: “No. Me sign? No.” Last night, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s name will be displayed on every check. A measure passed by both parties to alleviate an economic emergency has been expropriated by his reelection campaign. Trump’s presidency has largely consisted of outrageously corrupt notions proceeding from fearful accusation to accepted reality. Within a few days, this one will also probably be forgotten. Trump has never respected any meaningful distinction between the federal government and the Trump Organization. He expects every federal employee, especially its law-enforcement agents, to advance his personal political agenda. He has functionally mixed its budget with his own by having the government pour money into his properties, and he has treated its official powers as if they are his own personal chits. The authority he has gained through the emergency response to the coronavirus has vastly expanded the potential for corruption, and every sign indicates that Trump is already engaging in systemic abuse. Some of the corruption is lingering just below the surface. Trump is speaking constantly with corporate leaders, who can position themselves at the front of the line for federal contracts or relief payments. He supports bailouts for industries with a shaky claim to the public purse, like cruise lines, and has staunchly opposed any rescue for the United States Postal Service, which handles essential government communication. Trump of course has been trying to force the post office to raise rates on Amazon, in retaliation for Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post. The economic crisis has put the post office on life support, giving Trump the leverage he wants to make it punish a detested rival. Trump has treated the distribution of the federal government’s supply of emergency medical equipment like he is walking around the neighborhood with a money clip, pulling out bills and patting grateful recipients on the cheek. When New York governor Andrew Cuomo noted that he retains power to reopen public spaces, Trump exploded, “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!” Trump routinely threatens Democratic governors not to complain about his mismanagement if they want help from Washington, conflating the authority of the government with his own authority (“When they disrespect me, they are disrespecting our government”). He has used the precious supply of ventilators as in-kind contributions, allowing endangered Republican allies like Martha McSally and Cory Gardner to hold them up as proof of their clout.
Trump removes inspector general overseeing $2 trillion coronavirus relief package days after he was appointedBy Christina Wilkie, Amanda MaciasWASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has removed the lead watchdog overseeing the $2 trillion coronavirus package, just days after the official, Glenn Fine, was appointed to the role. The move came as Trump pursued similar action in recent weeks against independent inspectors general across the federal government. Fine had been the acting Pentagon inspector general until Monday afternoon, when Trump abruptly removed him from his post. “Yesterday, the President nominated Mr. Jason Abend for the position of DoD Inspector General,” said Dwrena Allen, a spokesperson for the Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a statement to CNBC. “The same day, the President also designated Mr. Sean W. O’Donnell, who is the Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General (EPA IG), to serve as the Acting DoD IG in addition to his current duties at the EPA,” Allen said. “Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee,” Allen said, and he now “reverts to his position as the Principal Deputy Inspector General.” Fine had been chosen March 30 to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee by his fellow inspectors general, who were tasked by the new law to select a chairman for their committee. By removing Fine from his Pentagon job, Trump effectively eliminated Fine from the oversight committee, since only sitting inspectors general can serve on the committee. - Is Trump removing oversite so he and his friends can steal some of the money? If so Trump is a crook.
By Michael HiltzikBusiness ColumnistEven faster than Congress came together to pass its $2-trillion coronavirus bailout bill, President Trump signaled his intention to interfere with one of its most important provisions — public oversight of how the money gets doled out to big business. In signing the bill late Friday, Trump stated that he considered several oversight provisions of the bill to exceed congressional authority — in fact, to represent “impermissible...congressional aggrandizement.” They include provisions requiring that the chief bailout overseer, the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, or SIGPR, inform Congress “without delay” if executive branch departments “unreasonably” refuse the overseer’s request for information.With $2 trillion in federal spending, oversight is not an elective; it’s an imperative. - Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine“My administration,” Trump wrote in a signing statement issued after he ceremonially signed the bill, “will not treat ... this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress” without presidential approval. Trump’s statement thus signals that he’ll feel free to order executive branch departments not to cooperate with the inspector general. Looking ahead, that could set up a new round of conflicts between Congress and the White House over lawmakers’ demands for information, similar to the conflicts that arose over their demands for information relevant to the impeachment inquiry. This raises the question, even before the first dollar is spent on the $500-billion business bailout in the measure, of what Trump expects to need hiding. Most important, it undermines a crucial element of the bailout. As we’ve reported, congressional and public oversight of the spending is necessary to make sure that the bailout serves its purposes. “If you’re going to distribute the money without conditions attached ... your policy goals are not going to be achieved,” Neil M. Barofsky, who oversaw the spending from the 2008 bank bailout, told me. The bill that emerged from Congress and that Trump signed seemed to avoid that pitfall. But with the stroke of a pen, Trump opened the way to finagling, waste and grifting. Borofsky called Trump’s statement “potentially problematic.”
The administration says it won’t provide documentation for audits into $500 billion in corporate bailout funds.By Anya van WagtendonkPresident Donald Trump said on Friday that he will not adhere to a portion of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that would authorize an inspector general to oversee how $500 billion in business loans will be spent. In a statement released early Friday evening, Trump announced that he had signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act, a relief package aimed at mitigating some of the economic fallout caused by efforts to allay the spread of Covid-19. That bill also establishes a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) within the Treasury Department to audit and investigate half a trillion dollars in loans for large businesses. In his signing statement, Trump said that this provision raises “constitutional concerns,” adding that his administration would not comply with such an official’s request for documents. “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause,” part of Article II Section 3 of the Constitution that states a sitting president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This seems to suggest the administration believes it is the president’s duty and not that of an inspector general to ensure the funds are distributed as the law intends. The special inspector general, as authorized within the bill, would be able to request information from government agencies and report on failures to comply with those information requests. In his signing statement, Trump essentially stated that he will not let such reports reach Congress without his approval, which many fear directly undermines the provision’s goal of maintaining transparency in how that fund is handled.
'This Is a Massive Scandal': Trump FDA Grants Drug Company Exclusive Claim on Promising Coronavirus Drug"It is insane and unacceptable," said Bernie Sanders. "We will not tolerate profiteering. Any treatment or vaccine must be made free for all."by Julia Conley, staff writerAs healthcare providers across the U.S. desperately attempt to treat a rapidly growing number of patients with the coronavirus, a pharmaceutical company with ties to the Trump administration has been granted exclusive status for a drug it is developing to treat the illness—a potential windfall for the company that could put the medication out of reach for many Americans. As The Intercept reported Monday, the Food and Drug Administration granted Gilead Sciences "orphan" drug status for remdesivir, one of several drugs being tested as potential treatments for the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. The designation is generally reserved for drugs that treat rare illnesses affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans—but companies can be eligible if the designation, as in this case of a rapidly spreading virus, is made before a disease spreads beyond that limit."It is insane and unacceptable that the Trump administration has given the Gilead pharmaceutical corporation a seven-year monopoly on a potential coronavirus treatment. We will not tolerate profiteering. Any treatment or vaccine must be made free for all." —Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)About 40,000 Americans had contracted COVID-19 when the orphan status was granted to remdesivir Monday, and the disease is spreading faster in the U.S. than in other countries. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 51,000 Americans had confirmed cases. Having secured orphan drug status, Gilead Sciences can now profit exclusively off the drug for seven years and could block manufacturers from developing generic versions of the drug which might be more accessible to many patients. The company can set price controls on the drug as well as benefiting from grants and tax credits.
By Brooke SeipelNewly released emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reflect the internal concern over the agency's credibility after it released a statement backing up President Trump's forecast of Hurricane Dorian's projected path last fall. The emails, which were obtained by The Washington Post and other outlets as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, show complaints from members of the public to the agency's National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Ken Graham, as well as complaints from internal staff. One email from a member of the public reads: “I was heartsick and dumbstruck to see the NOAA announcement today supporting the president’s ludicrous and psychotic defense of his Alabama forecast garbage. Mr. Graham, as a fellow scientist and professional, would you kindly reassure me that the politics of a lunatic will not be affecting the science done at NOAA and the NHC?” Trump on Sept. 1 tweeted that Alabama was a potential target of Hurricane Dorian, writing, “In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” After Trump's remarks, a National Weather Service office in Alabama tweeted that the state would "NOT" be affected. Trump continued to stand behind his statement on Alabama, however, and on Sept. 4 displayed a map of Dorian’s projected path that appeared to show the path extended with black marker to include Alabama. Two days later, the NOAA issued an unsigned statement backing up Trump, saying the information provided to him and the public showed “that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” That unsigned statement sparked, according to one NOAA employee's email, more than 600 emails from the public. The employee wrote that "most are asking, in some form, ‘How can we trust NOAA?’ or stating that ‘NOAA has lost its credibility.’" Other emails from staff also raised concerns about the appearance of credibility. One employee wrote: “Our integrity as a science agency is priceless ... when the next storm comes by (and it will), will we be believed?” The new batch of emails expands on previously released internal NOAA emails expressing concern over the Hurricane Dorian storm path projections. They also come as the Trump administration already faces questions surrounding how it will deal with the press amid the coronavirus outbreak.
More than 1,100 former prosecutors and other DOJ officials call on Attorney General Bill Barr to resignBy Laura Jarrett, CNN(CNN) More than 1,110 former Justice Department officials who served in Republican as well as Democratic administrations posted a statement Sunday calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign. "Mr. Barr's actions in doing the President's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department's career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice," the officials wrote in a statement. The rare statement from the officials -- mostly former career prosecutors, but also some former political appointees -- came in the wake of an extraordinary week at the Justice Department. In just one week, career prosecutors withdrew from a case after Barr overruled their sentencing, the attorney general pushed back against the President in an unusual interview and separately ordered an examination of politically charged cases involving those close to President Donald Trump. The statement went on to say career attorneys should report any troubling actions they see to the department's Inspector General. CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment. Barr has so far not given any indication that he is considering stepping down from his current role. The upheaval at the Justice Department began when all four federal prosecutors who took the case against Roger Stone to trial withdrew from the case Tuesday afternoon after Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation hours after the President criticized it on Twitter.
By Chris StrohmAttorney General William Barr threw his Justice Department into turmoil this week as he seized control of cases tied to Donald Trump, risking a rebellion within the ranks, and publicly criticized the president amid accusations both men have politicized America’s top law enforcement agency. In the span of five days, Barr revealed that he’s established a private channel for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to relay his allegations on Ukraine and ordered prosecutors to reduce their sentencing recommendation for Trump associate Roger Stone. News also surfaced that Barr has moved to review the prosecution of Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser. At week’s end, the Justice Department’s reputation for independence was under siege in a way it hadn’t seen since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Barr had managed to take steps that seemed likely to anger everyone from Trump to Democrats and Justice Department career prosecutors. “The history of the department, when it’s written, will have two parts -- before Trump and after Trump,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. “This is the hinge.” After the beleaguered tenure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Barr will have the biggest hand in shaping that history. Having helped Trump navigate through a special counsel probe of Russian election interference and an impeachment crisis, Barr now faces the biggest test of his leadership since taking over one year ago. Critics, including former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump weeks into his presidency, said the department’s reputation for independence built on the ashes of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s was being demolished.
‘A MESS’“I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this,” Judge Reggie Barnett Walton told DOJ attorneys.By Betsy Swan, Adam RawnsleyJustice Department attorneys struggled with mounting frustration and skepticism from a federal judge about producing documents related to the investigation of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, according to transcripts of closed-door conversations released in response to a lawsuit from a government watchdog group. The McCabe case—and President Donald Trump’s personal involvement in it—prompted federal judge Reggie Barnett Walton to call the government’s handling of it “disturbing,” a “mess,” and veering close to a “banana republic.” “I think it’s very unfortunate,” Judge Walton told prosecutors as the case hung in limbo in late September. “And I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.” The comments were made in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against the Justice Department. Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for CREW, said the eventual release of the court transcripts on Friday, after a lengthy court battle, showed that the government was “trying to cover up the fact that they were stringing this [lawsuit] along while looking for a reason to indict McCabe.”
Attorney General William Barr's intervention in Roger Stone's case wasn't the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving an ex-Trump aide, officials say.By Carol E. Lee, Ken Dilanian and Peter AlexanderWASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from the job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. A person familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News that Trump has rescinded the nomination of Jessie Liu, who had been the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., for a job as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department. Liu also supervised the case against Trump associate Roger Stone. On Tuesday, all four line prosecutors withdrew from the case — and one quit the Justice Department altogether — after Barr and his top aides intervened to reverse a stiff sentencing recommendation of up to nine years in prison that the line prosecutors had filed with the court Monday. (Liu left before the sentencing recommendation was made.) But that wasn't the first time senior political appointees had reached into a case involving a former Trump aide, officials told NBC News. Senior officials at the Justice Department also intervened last month to help change the government's sentencing recommendation for Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. While the prosecutors had once recommended up to six months in jail, their latest filing now says they believe probation would be appropriate. The new filing came on the same day Liu was removed from her job, to be replaced the next day by a former prosecutor selected by Barr. Liu had been overseeing the criminal investigation into McCabe, who was accused by the department's inspector general of lying to investigators. McCabe has not been charged, despite calls by Trump for him to go to prison. The resignations and the unusual moves by Barr come as Trump has sought revenge against government officials who testified after congressional Democrats subpoenaed them in their impeachment investigation. In the days since the Senate acquitted him, Trump fired his ambassador to the European Union, a political supporter whom he nominated, and had other officials moved out of the White House. "This signals to me that there has been a political infestation," NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia, said on MSNBC. "And that is the single most dangerous thing that you can do to the Department of Justice."
Amid turmoil in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the attorney general has also sent outside prosecutors to review other politically sensitive cases.By Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt ApuzzoWASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter. The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors. Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen. Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases — some public, some not — including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal deliberations. The Justice Department declined to comment. The intervention has contributed a turbulent period for the prosecutors’ office that oversees the seat of the federal government and some of the most politically sensitive investigations and cases — some involving President Trump’s friends and allies, and some his critics and adversaries. This week, four line prosecutors quit the case against Roger Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s close adviser, after Mr. Barr overruled their recommendation that a judge sentence him within sentencing guidelines. Mr. Barr’s intervention was preceded by criticism of the original sentencing recommendation by Mr. Trump and praised by him afterward, and Mr. Barr on Thursday publicly asked Mr. Trump to stop commenting about the Justice Department.
By Virginia HeffernanAny bloodshed this week during the so-called Tuesday Afternoon Massacre at the Justice Department was, of course, metaphorical. But the casualties were real. And while President Trump and his redhats like to cry “coup” and “treason,” and recklessly threaten Civil War II, the bigfoot move by Atty. Gen. William P. Barr’s Department of Justice, on behalf of Roger Stone, may have done more damage to the republic than all the war whoops combined. Barr’s fixer factory, an obstruction-of-justice department, can no longer be counted on as any sort of brake against the president’s rapacity and gangsterism. The Tuesday Afternoon Massacre extinguished more lights in our already benighted nation. In November, a federal court jury found Stone guilty of witness tampering, lying to government officials under oath and obstructing a congressional investigation into the Trump-Russia affair. This week, the scrupulously nonpartisan prosecutors who handled the case offered well-reasoned sentencing recommendations: seven to nine years in prison for Stone. They justified the recommendation with chapter and verse: Stone threatened physical harm to a witness, comedian Randy Credico, and he kept at his dirty tricks even after he was indicted. The president was not happy. Stone was a Trump crony who’d been acting both to advance Trump’s 2016 campaign and to keep Congress from investigating Russian campaign meddling. The president tweeted that the prospect of substantial prison time for Stone was “horrible and very unfair.” Never mind that Stone was convicted of serious crimes. The pathetic Twitter hazing might be expected from Trump, but no one imagined that the prosecutors’ recommendations would be flat-out contradicted from the top. Nonetheless, a day after the sentencing recommendations were filed, the judge in the case got a revised sentencing memo on Department of Justice letterhead. This one suggested she give Stone “far less” time than the prosecution team had asked for. Officials at the White House and the Justice Department said — as usual — that there was no collusion. But it sure looked like Trump’s disapproval of Stone’s recommended sentence was enough to inspire a DOJ in his thrall to jump in and protect Stone. The four career prosecutors immediately removed themselves from the case. One went so far as to quit the Justice Department itself. Later on Tuesday, Jessie Liu, who had headed the Washington office that oversaw the Stone case, was pulled from consideration for the head job at the Treasury Department. She resigned Wednesday morning. On Thursday, the president accused the Stone jury forewoman of “significant bias,” as former federal prosecutors howled about jury intimidation.
Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary James Byrne fired amid controversy over department’s handling of sex assault allegationBy Amanda Macias @amanda_m_macias, Dan Mangan @_DanManganVeterans Affairs Department Deputy Secretary James Byrne was fired Monday, amid controversy over how the department handled a sexual assault allegation by a House staffer visiting a VA facility last year. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said he dismissed Byrne just five months after he was confirmed by the Senate “due to loss of confidence in Mr. Byrne’s ability to carry out his duties.” Wilkie gave no further details of why ousted he Byrne, a 55-year-old Naval Academy graduate and former Marine infantry officer. Axios first reported Byrne’s termination. Before being confirmed in a 88-11 Senate vote, Byrne served since August 2018 as acting deputy secretary of the VA. He was named general counsel of the department a year earlier. Byrne previously worked at Lockheed Martin as that defense contractor’s chief privacy officer, and the company’s lead attorney for information technology, cybersecurity and counterintelligence. Byrne’s firing came as the VA continued to be criticized for its treatment of an allegation by Andrea Goldstein, an advisor to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
By DANIEL LIPPMANThe Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is investigating whether chief of staff Ryan Jackson was involved in destroying internal documents that should have been retained, according to two people familiar with the matter. The IG's office is asking witnesses whether Jackson has routinely destroyed politically sensitive documents, including schedules and letters from people like lobbyist Richard Smotkin, who helped arrange a trip for then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Morocco when he was in office, according to one of the sources, a former administration official who told investigators he has seen Jackson do that firsthand.The previously unreported allegations add to the controversy around Jackson, a former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who has been at EPA since the early days of the Trump administration. EPA's internal watchdog accused Jackson earlier this week of refusing to cooperate with other ongoing investigations. Jackson was put on notice that the document destruction was improper, something the former official said he discussed earlier this year with an official from the IG’s office.“They would scold us on a daily basis and Ryan would say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know, we’ll do better next time,’" the former official said. Jackson told POLITICO he was “unaware” of the IG investigating him for destroying documents. He didn't respond to a further request for comment. Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesperson, disputed the allegations, noting that a previous investigation had not found evidence of illegal document destruction at the agency.“Even the National Archives have publicly stated these claims are ‘unsubstantiated,'" Abboud said in a statement. "Politico choosing to run this story on the baseless claims of one disgruntled former employee does not make it true. EPA takes record retention seriously and trains all employees (career and political) on proper protocols and will continue to follow them.”The interest in whether Jackson destroyed records may indicate renewed interest in allegations that Pruitt kept a "secret calendar" to hide controversial meetings with Republican donors or industry officials. In July 2018, CNN reported that Pruitt aides would regularly "scrub" his calendar, but a subsequent investigation by the National Archives and Records Administration ended in January and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Full Story
The Fiscal TimesBy Michael RaineyRep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) on Tuesday asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for more information related to a report in The New York Times alleging that Mnuchin personally intervened to provide the financier Michael Milken with tax breaks through the federal “opportunity zone” program meant to direct investment to distressed neighborhoods. In a letter to Mnuchin, Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was writing regarding “alleged rampant corruption” at the Treasury Department and questioned how Mnuchin sees his role: “[D]o you see your job as protecting the interests of the entirety of the American people or a handful of plutocrats and personal friends? Do you think it is appropriate for the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States to seek special favors for one of the most prolific financial criminals in world history?” more...
Warren, Castro dismiss reversal on holding G-7 at Doral, saying it doesn't change Trump's 'corruption'By Justin Wise2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro on Saturday dismissed the significance of President Trump reversing his decision to hold next year's Group of Seven (G-7) summit at one of his properties in Florida, saying that the president will likely continue to use the White House for personal gain. "The G-7 may no longer be at Trump National Doral, but that won’t stop foreign nations from dumping money into Donald Trump's pockets by spending at his hotels," Warren, a Massachusetts senator, said on Twitter "And it won’t stop Trump from rewarding Mar-a-Lago members with ambassadorships."Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, added: "Trying to be a complete crook of a politician didn’t quite work out for him this time, but I’m sure he’s not done trying. We need integrity back in the Oval Office." Donald Trump is corruption in the flesh—we must call it out, and I have a plan to fight back: https://t.co/k32fZwonHP — Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 20, 2019. Trying to be a complete crook of a politician didn’t quite work out for him this time, but I’m sure he’s not done trying. We need integrity back in the Oval Office. https://t.co/u7EUX84iQr — Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 20, 2019.Following a wave of backlash from Democrats, Republicans and ethics watchdogs, Trump said on Saturday that he would no longer host the 2020 G-7 Summit at the Trump National Doral in Florida. The decision came just two days after acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced that the annual event would be held at the Miami-area resort next June. Despite arguing that Trump would not profit from the gathering, Mulvaney's announcement sparked widespread concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest for the president. Many asserted the move represented a violation of the Constitution's Emolument Clause, which bars federal officeholders from accepting payments from foreign countries, U.S. states or the federal government.
By Kate Sullivan, CNN(CNN) - President Donald Trump on Saturday night abruptly reversed course and announced next year's G7 economic summit of world powers would not be held at Trump National in Doral, Florida, in a rare departure after facing bipartisan backlash. The President tweeted the major change just over 48 hours after the initial announcement: "We will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately."The President called the rising criticism his administration was facing "Irrational Hostility," and wrote, "I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders." The White House had been defending its decision to use Trump's own property as the site for the G7 in the face of mounting outrage and disapproval. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN that the Doral site would be "significantly cheaper" than other options. The administration had argued the event would be run "at cost," or without profit, by the Trump National property because of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which largely prohibits the President from accepting gifts and money from foreign governments. But it is not clear that simply avoiding a profit would keep the administration from running afoul of the emoluments clause.The administration also had not clarified the details of how it would determine what "at cost" would be. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Friday that holding the G7 at Trump's property was "completely out of the question." The move to host the summit at Trump's property had added to deep fractures in the President's relationships with some allies in Congress already upset with his decision to pull troops out of Syria. However, several of Trump's staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill said they were not concerned about it. GOP Rep. Jim Jordan told CNN that "the American people are much more concerned about not where it happens, but what happens at the event."But some members of the President's party suggested otherwise. Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said he was "not happy about it." "I read the emoluments clause again yesterday," Kinzinger said on Friday, "and it talks about titles and nobility and all this. I don't know if it's a direct violation, but I don't understand why at this moment they had to do it." Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, weighed in on the President's reversal, calling it "a bow to reality.""President Trump's decision to award the G-7 Conference to his own property was outrageous, corrupt and a constitutional violation. It was stunningly corrupt even for a stunningly corrupt administration," Bookbinder said in a statement. "His reversal of that decision is a bow to reality, but does not change how astonishing it was that a president ever thought this was appropriate, or that it was something he could get away with." At a Thursday press briefing, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defiantly addressed the concern that hosting the G7 there already creates profit by highlighting the resort, asking reporters to "consider the possibility that Donald Trump's brand is already strong enough on its own."Mulvaney told reporters it was Trump who brought up the idea of hosting the G7 at Doral, explaining: "We sat around one night. We were back in the dining room and I was going over it with a couple of our advance team. We had the list, and he goes, 'What about Doral?' And it was like, 'That's not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense.'"
The corruption is becoming more and more brazen.
By Aaron Rupar
In one of the starkest examples of how the Trump administration is normalizing the sort of self-dealing that would have been unfathomable in previous eras, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced on Thursday that next June’s G7 summit will be held at a resort that President Donald Trump still owns and profits from in Doral, Florida. During a news conference, Mulvaney portrayed the decision as one based on holding the event at the best facility possible. But there are plenty of other suitable venues that the president doesn’t profit from — such as Camp David in Maryland, which hosted the G7 the last time it was in the US in 2012 — and there’s no denying that turning one of the world’s foremost annual gatherings of leaders into a free infomercial for Trump’s resort represents a major branding opportunity.Tellingly, Mulvaney himself didn’t even try to deny that. Instead, he argued that Trump is too rich and successful to care about branding opportunities since his “brand is probably strong enough as it is.” Trump “doesn’t need any more help on that,” Mulvaney added, alluding to the free promotion the G7 will provide. “It is the most recognizable name in the English language and probably around the world.” That Trump’s name is one of the most well-known in the English language might arguably be true — but “Trump National Doral Miami” is less so. And beyond the branding opportunity, it’s also a financial one, especially seeing as how Doral’s net operating income has declined by nearly 70 percent since 2015. Mulvaney promoted Trump Doral from behind the White House briefing podium as “far and away the best physical facility for this meeting” and “perfect for our needs.”The move perhaps isn’t surprising, given Trump’s willingness to break decades of precedent by refusing to divest from his business interests when he took office. And Trump has used the guise of diplomacy to promote his businesses before. He’s hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort and has repeatedly hosted Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo there as well. Those summits served as textbook examples of corruption, but hosting the G7 at a resort that Trump has described in federal disclosures as one of his biggest moneymakers takes things up a notch. While it’s on brand, Trump’s decision to have the next G7 meeting in a place where the US government and international governments would be forced to patronize his business is perhaps the starkest illustration yet of how he’s thumbing his nose not just at tradition and ethical standards but also the Constitution’s emoluments clause, a little-used provision aimed at guarding corruption of presidents by foreign interests. Mulvaney, however, dismissed concerns that Trump’s conflicts of interest are a bad look by insisting he “got over that a long time ago.”
In one of the starkest illustrations of his corruption, the president wants to have next year’s G7 at Trump Doral.
By Aaron Rupar
President Donald Trump wants to host 2020’s G7 meeting of international leaders at Trump Doral in Florida, a private club he still owns and profits from — a move that would serve as perhaps the starkest illustration yet of how Trump is normalizing corruption. Having the G7 at Doral would be tantamount to “a free, giant international promotion” for Trump’s business, said Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), in an interview with Vox. Trump first raised the idea of hosting next year’s meeting at his Doral, Florida-based golf resort during a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, the last day of this year’s G7 in France, saying of Trump Doral that “we haven’t found anything that could even come close to competing with it, especially when you look at the location right next to the airport” in Miami.Trump uses G7 to promote private Doral resort he still owns and profits from, which he says may host the G7 next year: "It's a great place. It's got tremendous acreage ... people are really liking it ... we haven't found anything that could even come close to competing with it." pic.twitter.com/MK2vY2inK1 — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 26, 2019 . Trump’s comments raised some eyebrows, and during his G7-ending press conference a few hours later, he was asked by NBC’s Hallie Jackson to respond to people who are concerned he’s profiting from the presidency. He responded by plugging Trump Doral. “With Doral we have a series of magnificent buildings — we call the bungalows — they each hold from 50 to 70 luxurious rooms, with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. It’s, like, such a natural,” Trump said, before adding, dubiously, that “in my opinion I’m not going to make any money.” Shortly after the press conference ended, the White House Twitter account seemed to make the announcement official in a tweet featuring video of the comments Trump made promoting Doral.
By Natasha BachCalifornia Attorney General Xavier Becerra is racking up his lawsuits against the Trump administration. The state’s AG added yet another to his belt this week, challenging proposed legislation that would invalidate the Flores settlement, thereby enabling the administration to indefinitely detain undocumented children. President Trump and his administration have been sued by state attorneys general more times than any president since Ronald Reagan. As of late August, there are currently 88 ongoing multi-state lawsuits against the administration, according to the latest count from State Attorneys General Data, a database compiled by Dr. Paul Nolette, associate professor of political science at Marquette University.This represents more than double the next highest number, 38, which is the number of times the Obama administration was sued in the president’s second term. The lawsuits against the Trump Administration have been led mainly by Democratic AGs, while the lawsuits against the Obama Administration were mostly let by Republicans coalitions, according to the database. Nolette’s tally includes multi-state lawsuits against specific actions taken by various U.S. government departments. He defines multi-state lawsuits as those in which “multiple states filed an original complaint or petition,” instances in which “multiple states joined an existing non-state lawsuit as intervenors,” cases when “only one state appeared as a plaintiff...but a multi-state coalition filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the plaintiff state,” and “non-state cases in which a multi-state coalition sought to intervene, but the court denied the motion to intervene.” more...
By Brian NaylorWhile Congress mulls whether President Trump's phone call soliciting help from the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son is an impeachable offense, Trump's action raises another question. Did the president's requests violate campaign finance law? The Department of Justice doesn't think so. DOJ officials and career prosecutors in the department's public integrity section examined the text of the July 25 phone call and concluded there was not a potential campaign finance violation, according to senior Justice Department officials. The facts did not provide a basis for a predicated investigation, they said. In part, it depends on whether the president solicited a "thing of value" and how that term is defined.Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, believes there was a violation of the law. He says that "there is a long list" of examples of the Federal Election Commission finding that "intangible items like opposition research can constitute a thing of value for purposes of campaign finance law." Fischer noted that when looking into Russia intervention in the 2016 election, special counsel Robert Mueller investigated whether Donald Trump Jr. violated campaign finance law with his apparent willingness to accept dirt about Hillary Clinton. Mueller couldn't determine whether Trump Jr. knew that what he was doing violated the law, Fischer says, and furthermore, the information being solicited "appeared to be nonexistent."For a criminal prosecution, the worth of the "thing of value" must be more than $25,000 for a felony and $2,000 for a misdemeanor. The chair of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, tweeted the day after the transcript of Trump's phone call was released last month that "the Commission has recognized the 'broad scope' of the foreign national contribution prohibition and found that even where the value of a good or service 'may be nominal or difficult to ascertain,' such contributions are nevertheless banned." Former FEC senior counsel Dan Weiner says the question of whether intangibles such as opposition research is a thing of value is "fairly well-settled."He says because the FEC is the agency charged with interpreting and administering federal campaign finance law, getting the agency involved in this question "is crucial." There's only one problem: The FEC currently lacks a quorum and cannot take up any new investigations until additional commissioners are nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Fischer at the Campaign Legal Center isn't sure that even if there were a quorum, the FEC would act. The alleged violation, he says, "arose in the course of the president carrying out his foreign policy responsibilities and the president has wide latitude to conduct diplomacy. I would be very surprised if the FEC were to issue civil penalties against the president or his campaign." more...
Treasury’s watchdog says it is looking into the handling of Democrats’ request for Trump’s tax returnsBy Kevin BreuningerThe Treasury Department’s internal watchdog is investigating how the department handled House Democrats’ requests for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, CNBC confirmed Friday. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., asked acting Inspector General Rich Delmar in a Sept. 30 letter to investigate how the Treasury handled the House panel’s request to hand over tax returns for Trump and his businesses. “I want to be assured that Treasury, including the Internal Revenue Service ... is enforcing the law in a fair and impartial manner and no one is endeavoring to intimidate or impede government officials and employees carrying out their duties,” Neal wrote. Delmar told CNBC that Neal asked his office to “inquire into the process by which the Department received, evaluated, and responded to the Committee’s request for federal tax information.” “We are undertaking that inquiry,” Delmar said. more...
The Justice Department should have shared a campaign-finance investigation with the Federal Election Commission.By Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. GeltzerOne of the first things new prosecutors at the Justice Department learn is that cover-ups are rarely singular. There is often a cover-up of the cover-up. Allegations of one cover-up, then another, emerged last week. Officials in the Trump administration tried to “lock down” the phone call memo between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (the first cover-up), and then officials in the executive branch made efforts to keep this information from reaching Congress (the second cover-up).Now we have discovered what may be a third cover-up. In its handling of the investigation and a potential campaign-finance violation, the Department of Justice appears to have ignored a rule that a matter under investigation must be referred to the Federal Election Commission. Critically, if the department had followed the rule, the Ukraine affair would have been disclosed to the American public. Were it not for the efforts of the whistle-blower, everything about this would have been hidden from the F.E.C. and the American people. Here’s how the Justice Department failed to follow the rule. As part of the scramble in the executive branch caused by the whistle-blower’s complaint, the Justice Department secretly investigated Mr. Trump for a potential campaign-finance violation. The department reportedly cleared him because the contributions solicited from a foreign government to his campaign were not quantifiable “things of value.”That’s the key phrase in one of the most important campaign-finance laws. Remember that Mr. Trump’s own intelligence community inspector general — a former federal prosecutor — determined that the whistle-blower complaint was an “urgent concern.” Further, the complaint set out facts suggesting that Mr. Trump had indeed violated the federal statute that criminalizes soliciting any “thing of value” from a foreign citizen in connection with an election. A thorough investigation seemed warranted. more...
Don’t get confused: This is about Trump co-opting the powers of the presidency for personal gain.By Zack BeauchampIt’s been roughly a week since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, and the underlying Ukraine scandal keeps spiraling in new directions. Recent reports about Trump and Attorney General William Barr’s contact with leaders in Australia, Italy, and the UK have created a sense of sprawling mess, making it seem like a tough-to-follow meta-scandal akin to the Trump-Russia morass. But despite the new developments — which involve Trump and Barr attempting to enlist foreign leaders’ help in investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe — the scandal remains straightforward.President Trump has turned American foreign policy into an extortion racket, abusing his powers to goad foreign leaders into persecuting his domestic rivals and improve his political standing. The proof for this in the case of Ukraine is irrefutable. The other news stories are supporting evidence that Trump has systematically twisted US foreign policy into a tool for furthering his 2020 reelection bid. The elegant simplicity of this narrative, the way in which it neatly encapsulates so many things wrong with the Trump presidency, is what gives these allegations the potential to bring this administration down. It is important not to let the seeming complexity and international breadth of what’s happening get in your way, in part because confusion and apathy are the White House’s best hope for containing the fallout from recent revelations.Don’t let the flurry of news confuse you: This a clear, straightforward, and politically devastating scandal. Eye on the ball: We know that President Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden on the basis of a debunked nonsense allegation during a July phone call — and then tried to cover it up. We know this because of a federal whistleblower complaint, citing testimony from a number of officials who heard the call and witnessed the White House’s attempts to hide it by moving the call transcript to a server designed for classified information. We know the whistleblower is correct because of a call summary released by the White House, as well as a White House statement admitting the call transcript was transferred to a classified server. These basic facts are all you really need to know to understand the Ukraine scandal: The president of the United States asking for “a favor” (his words) from a foreign leader — an intervention in the 2020 US election on his behalf. His administration then hid this fact by using powers of classification that were designed to protect state secrets, not politically damaging information. This is an abuse of power, and we know it happened. more...
By Meg Wagner, Amanda Wills and Mike Hayes, CNNFact check: Maguire’s rationale for not sending the whistleblower complaint to Congress within 7 days. During the hearing, Democratic members have pressed Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire on why he did not provide the whistleblower complaint to the committee within the seven-day period required by law. As the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 states, if the Inspector General determines that the complaint is credible and of urgent concern then the DNI “shall, within 7 calendar days…forward such transmittal to the intelligence committees.” The IG determined the complaint was credible on August 26.Yet Maguire didn’t provide it to Congress until Wednesday night, September 25 -- almost a month later. Maguire claimed that because the complaint involved the President, he was required to work with the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine if there was content protected by executive privilege in the complaint. "It appeared that it also had matters of executive privilege," Maguire told the committee. On September 24, the OLC issued an opinion refuting the IG’s determination that the whistleblower’s complaint was of urgent concern. Maguire said that while the complaint was forwarded to the FBI, he was attempting to work out executive privilege concerns. But the law says nothing about the President or the OLC having authority to stop or slow the complaint from being sent to the intelligence committees. more...
By Naomi JagodaThe Manhattan district attorney's office on Thursday blasted the Department of Justice (DOJ) for siding with President Trump in a lawsuit over a subpoena for the president's tax returns. The DOJ on Wednesday filed a court document that agreed with Trump that the lawsuit belongs in federal court. The DOJ also called for enforcement of the subpoena to be temporarily blocked if necessary while the court considers Trump's constitutional claims. But the district attorney's office said in its new filing that DOJ's document "ignores the reality" underlying Trump's lawsuit. "In short, the Plaintiffs only goal in this litigation, now supported by the DOJ itself, is to obtain as much delay as possible, through litigation, stays, and appeals," prosecutors with the district attorney's office wrote.The district attorney's office in late August issued a subpoena to Trump's accounting firm for the president's personal and business tax returns and financial records. The subpoena is part of a grand jury investigation into payments made ahead of the 2016 presidential election to women who claim they had affairs with Trump. In September, Trump's personal lawyers filed a lawsuit against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) and the president's accounting firm, Mazars USA, in an effort to block the subpoena. The DOJ weighed in Wednesday. In its filing on Thursday, the district attorney's office argued that it could be harmed by delaying enforcement of the subpoena because any postponement "will likely result in the expiration of the statutes of limitation that would apply to some of the transactions at issue in the grand jury investigation." The district attorney's office also took issue with the DOJ's argument that Trump should receive interim relief to prevent him from being irreparably harmed.The New York prosecutors argued that Trump wouldn't be harmed if asked to comply with the subpoena, because there's no risk that his tax returns would be published under grand jury secrecy rules and because there's isn't anything "sacrosanct" about a president's tax returns. The district attorney's office also disputed the DOJ's arguments that the case belongs in federal court. The New York prosecutors reiterated that they think the case should be dismissed and that a legal challenge to their subpoena should be brought in state court. Trump's personal lawyers argue in the president's lawsuit that Trump can't be criminally investigated while in office. The DOJ didn't say in its filing Wednesday whether it agreed with that position. However, the district attorney's office argued that through its filing, the DOJ "has elected to insert itself into this private lawsuit to support the Plaintiffs extravagant claim that, given his current position, he and all of his prior business associates and related companies are immune, not just from prosecution, but from any routine grand jury inquiry into transactions undertaken before he was a government employee." more...
How deeply is Bill Barr entangled in Ukraine mess? Has he forgotten the rule that whatever Trump touches dies?By Sophia TesfayeIt’s hard to recall anything that Donald Trump has touched which initially looked bad but eventually turned out to be nothing. With Trump, things are always worse than they appear. Throughout his recent career, that has usually ended up hurting those closest to Trump more than the president himself. If that pattern holds true in the growing Ukraine scandal, then several top members of Trump’s administration should be worried right now. This is likely to get real messy before it ends.While attempting to defend himself from accusations that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid during at least one phone call — a reconstructed transcript, or "memo" of which was released on Wednesday — Trump gratuitously dragged his vice president into the middle of his mess. "I think you should ask for VP Pence's conversation because he had a couple of conversations also," Trump told reporters during a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations summit. "I could save you a lot of time. They were all perfect. Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations."Of course, Trump previously described his own call with Zelensky as "perfect.” An aide to the Ukrainian president has since told ABC News that “it was clear that Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case.” Earlier this month, Pence met with Zelensky and promised to relay to Trump just how hard Ukraine was working to fight corruption — a term Trump has repeatedly used to explain his interest in getting Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was formerly employed by a Ukrainian gas company. When Pence was asked if U.S. aid was being held up over Ukraine’s failure to investigate Biden, he acknowledged that “as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.” A week after Pence met with Zelensky, U.S. military aid was finally released to Ukraine. more...
by Jacob PramukThe House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint that has embroiled President Donald Trump in an impeachment inquiry and clouded his political future.The nine-page document details an “urgent concern” that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” It not only details Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president during which he asked his counterpart to investigate the Biden family, but also alleges administration efforts to “lock down” records of the conversation.The complaint, based on the accounts of more than half a dozen U.S. officials, implicates more than Trump. It calls his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “central figure” in the effort and says Attorney General William Barr “appears to be involved as well.” Concerns that the document would show Trump trying to get a foreign state to investigate one of his chief political rivals — and accusations that the White House improperly stonewalled efforts to see it — led House Democrats to accuse the president of abusing his power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the chamber would start impeachment proceedings into Trump, alleging a “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections.” Shortly after the document’s release, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about the complaint at the House Intelligence Committee.Members of congressional intelligence panels had a chance to review the document Wednesday. In a statement Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” She said the president released a memorandum summarizing the call Wednesday “because he has nothing to hide.” more...
How deeply is Bill Barr entangled in Ukraine mess? Has he forgotten the rule that whatever Trump touches dies?By Sophia TesfayeIt’s hard to recall anything that Donald Trump has touched which initially looked bad but eventually turned out to be nothing. With Trump, things are always worse than they appear. Throughout his recent career, that has usually ended up hurting those closest to Trump more than the president himself. If that pattern holds true in the growing Ukraine scandal, then several top members of Trump’s administration should be worried right now. This is likely to get real messy before it ends.While attempting to defend himself from accusations that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid during at least one phone call — a reconstructed transcript, or "memo" of which was released on Wednesday — Trump gratuitously dragged his vice president into the middle of his mess. "I think you should ask for VP Pence's conversation because he had a couple of conversations also," Trump told reporters during a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations summit. "I could save you a lot of time. They were all perfect.Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations." Of course, Trump previously described his own call with Zelensky as "perfect.” An aide to the Ukrainian president has since told ABC News that “it was clear that Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case.” Earlier this month, Pence met with Zelensky and promised to relay to Trump just how hard Ukraine was working to fight corruption — a term Trump has repeatedly used to explain his interest in getting Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was formerly employed by a Ukrainian gas company. When Pence was asked if U.S. aid was being held up over Ukraine’s failure to investigate Biden, he acknowledged that “as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.” A week after Pence met with Zelensky, U.S. military aid was finally released to Ukraine. more...
by Jacob PramukThe House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint that has embroiled President Donald Trump in an impeachment inquiry and clouded his political future.The nine-page document details an “urgent concern” that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” It not only details Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president during which he asked his counterpart to investigate the Biden family, but also alleges administration efforts to “lock down” records of the conversation.The complaint, based on the accounts of more than half a dozen U.S. officials, implicates more than Trump. It calls his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “central figure” in the effort and says Attorney General William Barr “appears to be involved as well.” Concerns that the document would show Trump trying to get a foreign state to investigate one of his chief political rivals — and accusations that the White House improperly stonewalled efforts to see it — led House Democrats to accuse the president of abusing his power.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the chamber would start impeachment proceedings into Trump, alleging a “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections.” Shortly after the document’s release, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about the complaint at the House Intelligence Committee. Members of congressional intelligence panels had a chance to review the document Wednesday. In a statement Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” She said the president released a memorandum summarizing the call Wednesday “because he has nothing to hide.” more...
By MARY CLARE JALONICK and LISA MASCAROWASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration plunged into an extraordinary showdown with Congress over access to a whistleblower’s complaint about reported incidents including a private conversation between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader. The blocked complaint is “serious” and “urgent,” the government’s intelligence watchdog said. The administration is keeping Congress from even learning what exactly the whistleblower is alleging, but the intelligence community’s inspector general said the matter involves the “most significant” responsibilities of intelligence leadership.A lawmaker said the complaint was “based on a series of events.” The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday that at least part of the complaint involves Ukraine. The newspapers cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. The Associated Press has not confirmed the reports. The inspector general appeared before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to reveal to members the substance of the complaint. The standoff raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s allies are protecting the Republican president from oversight and, specifically, if his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president from the reach of Congress.Trump, though giving no details about any incident, denied Thursday that he would ever “say something inappropriate” on such a call. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was prepared to go to court to try to force the Trump administration to open up about the complaint. “The inspector general has said this cannot wait,” said Schiff, describing the administration’s blockade as an unprecedented departure from law. “There’s an urgency here that I think the courts will recognize.” Schiff said he, too, could not confirm whether newspaper reports were accurate because the administration was claiming executive privilege in withholding the complaint. But letters from the inspector general to the committee released Thursday said it was an “urgent” matter of “serious or flagrant abuse” that must be shared with lawmakers. more...
Transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian president shows him offering U.S. assistance for Biden investigationBy Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, The Washington PostPresident Donald Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly released transcript of the call. Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials.The administration's disclosures underscore how the president's phone call has consumed the federal government in recent days, and how the White House is now scrambling to defuse the situation by offering more details of what the president said. White House officials said the transcript does not show the president seeking an investigation of Biden's son in exchange for providing aid to Ukraine. When the president reminds Zelensky of how the United States helps Ukraine, Zelensky responds that he appreciates the tough sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia. On Wednesday, the administration released a White House transcript of the call and detailed behind-the-scenes discussions about how to handle the accusations.As public reports emerged about the call and pressure mounted to impeach the president, prosecutors quietly considered whether they should again investigate whether the president committed a crime. They declined to do so. The call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election victory, but quickly devolves into the president pressing for an investigation of his political rivals and endorsing an apparent conspiracy theory. He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton's private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation started with that country."I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it," Trump says, according to the transcript. He adds later: "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. . . . It sounds horrible to me." Zelensky replied that "my candidate" for the prosecutor job "will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue." At the outset of the call, Trump also asks for Ukraine's help in finding the location of the Democratic National Committee server that U.S. officials say was hacked by Russian intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election. "The server, they say Ukraine has it," Trump says according to the transcript. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it." more...
By Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Kevin Liptak and Manu Raju, CNN(CNN) - The White House and the Justice Department have advised the nation's top intelligence agency that a controversial complaint involving President Donald Trump isn't governed by laws covering intelligence whistleblowers, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The revelation is the first known evidence of the White House's involvement in the standoff between Congress and the intelligence agency. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said he didn't know whether the White House was involved.So far, the director of national intelligence has not allowed lawmakers access to the complaint, which earlier a source familiar with the case said was prompted by communication Trump had with a foreign leader. Trump responded to the reports Thursday, tweeting he would never "say something inappropriate" on a phone call with a foreign counterpart. The episode -- with its potential for explosive information about the President -- has created new resentments between the administration and Capitol Hill, and cast a sense of mystery about the precise nature of the complaint across Washington. In a closed-door briefing Thursday, the intelligence inspector general suggested that the whistleblower had concerns about multiple actions, sources familiar with the briefing told CNN.The watchdog did not say specifically all the acts of concern involved the President, the sources indicated, with one saying the IG referenced "a sequence of events" and "alleged actions" that took place. The White House Counsel's office and Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel have both been involved in discussing the complaint with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which has refused to reveal the nature of it to Congress. In explaining their position, ODNI has suggested there is a question of privilege. The agency wrote in a letter to lawmakers on September 13 the complaint "involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community." The letter ends by noting the agency would work toward "protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests." The refusal to provide the information to lawmakers has enraged Democrats, who emerged from a closed-door briefing with the agency's watchdog on Thursday accusing the administration of suppressing potentially damaging information."There is an effort to prevent this information from getting to Congress," Schiff said. The California Democrat and other lawmakers said neither the nature nor the specific details of the complaint were revealed during the closed session. Previously, the White House has cited longstanding precedent in refusing congressional requests for documents related to Trump's meetings with foreign leaders, including his Russian counterpart. "It is settled law that the Constitution entrusts the conduct of foreign relations exclusively to the Executive Branch, as it makes the President 'the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations,' " White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Democrats in May. The complaint had spurred a standoff between Congress and Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. more...
They said it's 'outside intelligence activities'By: Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Kevin Liptak and Manu Raju, CNN(CNN) - The White House and the Justice Department have advised the nation's top intelligence agency that a controversial complaint involving President Donald Trump isn't governed by laws covering intelligence whistleblowers, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The revelation is the first known evidence of the White House's involvement in the standoff between Congress and the intelligence agency. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said he didn't know whether the White House was involved.So far, the director of national intelligence has not allowed lawmakers access to the complaint, which earlier a source familiar with the case said was prompted by communication Trump had with a foreign leader. Trump responded to the reports Thursday, tweeting he would never "say something inappropriate" on a phone call with a foreign counterpart. The episode -- with its potential for explosive information about the President -- has created new resentments between the administration and Capitol Hill, and cast a sense of mystery about the precise nature of the complaint across Washington. In a closed-door briefing Thursday, the intelligence inspector general suggested that the whistleblower had concerns about multiple actions, sources familiar with the briefing told CNN.The watchdog did not say specifically all the acts of concern involved the President, the sources indicated, with one saying the IG referenced "a sequence of events" and "alleged actions" that took place. The White House Counsel's office and Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel have both been involved in discussing the complaint with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which has refused to reveal the nature of it to Congress. more...
The president’s latest attempt to keep his tax returns hidden is a novel one.By Bess LevinAs you may or may not have heard, Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns while running for president, claiming, falsely, that an audit prevented him from doing so but that the public would see them just as soon as he got the green light. Two years and 242 days after moving into the White House that, of course, has not happened. Instead, Trump has sicced his Treasury secretary, attorney general, and various personal lawyers on anyone attempting to get their hands on the information, in a manner suggesting the details within could make a person look quite bad. Typically, Trump’s attorneys have argued that such requests, like the ones from various House committees, constitute “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” or supposedly lack “a legitimate legislative purpose.”On Thursday, though, they came up with a novel new argument: It’s illegal to investigate a sitting president for any crimes he may have committed. In a lawsuit filed today against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who recently subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns to determine if the Trump Organization falsified business records relating to Stormy Daniels payments, the president’s lawyers claim such a request is unconstitutional because the founding fathers believed sitting presidents should not be subject to the criminal process. “The framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the president to advance their own careers and to advance their political agendas,” the suit reads. “And they likewise understood that having to defend against these actions would distract the president from his constitutional duties.” Strangely, actual legal experts aren’t entirely convinced of this argument.“Even assuming that the president cannot be indicted while in office, it does not follow that his business and associates are likewise immune from investigation,” Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor, told Bloomberg. “The complaint makes light of the idea that ruling in their favor would elevate the president above the law, but it certainly seems as if the president views himself as above the law.” Vance, who agreed not to enforce the subpoena—issued to Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA—until a scheduled September 25 hearing, is investigating if executives at the Trump Organization filed false business records concerning hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claim to have had affairs with Trump, charges he, naturally, denies. The president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, admitted to arranging the hush money payments and released audio of him discussing the Daniels payment with Trump. more...
The president has reportedly told staff he’ll just pardon them.By Bess LevinAs you might have heard once or twice, Donald Trump kicked off his bid for the presidency by proclaiming that he was going to build a wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. Unfortunately for the supporters who voted for him based on that pledge, construction on the barrier hasn’t exactly panned out as the president promised, in that virtually none of it has been built, due to a combination of factors like Mexico shockingly declining to finance the thing, Democrats refusing to provide the billions in funding, environmental concerns, and logistical issues like people living where Trump wants the fencing to go. Sure, the president could just lie about the wall being built already, which he has many times.But he really wants to make good on an ineffectual passion project that the base can point to like a beacon of hope for racists. So he’s got a new plan to get it done in time for 2020: Break the law. Honestly, it’s so simple he’s probably kicking himself for not having thought of it sooner. The Washington Post reports that the president has “directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land, and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.” In the coming weeks, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to approve the White House’s request to reroute $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds to the project, money that the president decided to divert from apparently less important Defense Department projects after lawmakers refused to pony up $5 billion.When staffers have nervously suggested that Trump’s demands are unworkable or illegal, the president has apparently told them not to worry because he’ll pardon everyone who helps him get this thing done, and has “waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying ‘take the land,’” according to officials who sat in on the meetings. more...
‘Conspiracy, extortion and bribery’: Ex-prosecutor ticks off crimes Trump and Rudy may have committed with Ukraine gambitBy Matthew ChapmanOn MSNBC Saturday, former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah laid out all the ways that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani could be breaking federal law with their apparent scheme to push Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. “Extortion, conspiracy to engage in extortion, and violating federal election law,” said host Alex Witt. “Do you agree with all those premises?” “I do, Alex, and I would add one to that, which is federal bribery,” said Rocah. “Here, Trump essentially was trying to get the Ukrainian president to bribe him, give him information about his political opponent in exchange for aid to the country.So, that is soliciting a bribe. And you know, look, we can get into this more. Obviously, this is my area of expertise, whether something violates federal criminal laws, but I do worry that we’re going down a path that we went down with the Mueller investigation, because for the president of the United States, that is not the standard.” “I think Rudy Giuliani should be investigated,” she continued. “I don’t know if this Department of Justice is independent enough to do that. He is a private citizen, though. He can be prosecuted. The president we know cannot be prosecuted, but this is something that Congress must take action on now. And one other point with respect to what you were saying in the prior conversation with the other panelists.” “You know, this isn’t about what Joe Biden’s son did or didn’t do,” added Rocah.“There are avenues to investigate United States citizens through a process known as mutual legal assistance treaties. The Department of Justice does it all the time. If there is reason for a U.S. citizen to be investigated and the aid of another country is needed, there are proper channels to do that through, and they don’t include the president of the United States calling up the leader of another country and demanding it in exchange for foreign aid. I think we’re going down a rabbit hole there.” “What kind of hot water could Rudy Giuliani be in for having gone over, and potentially at the president’s behest, have these conversations with the Ukrainian president and leadership?” Witt pressed her. more...
The president supposedly dangled millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kiev investigating Joe Biden. That looks a lot like old-fashioned corruption.By Barbara McQuadeIf the latest allegations about President Donald Trump’s conversations with the leader of Ukraine are true, his conduct may constitute a garden-variety public corruption crime: extortion and bribery. The Washington Post has reported that the subject of an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint relates to a “promise” made by Trump in a conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Further reporting indicates that the conversation amounted to a threat to withhold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigates the family of Joe Biden, who is of course running to unseat Trump in 2020. more...
By NATASHA KORECKIDES MOINES, Iowa – An angered Joe Biden on Saturday accused President Donald Trump of “using every element of his presidency to try and smear me,” and called for an investigation into Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president. “You should be asking him the question: why is he on the phone with a foreign leader, trying to intimidate a foreign leader?” Biden told reporters. “This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States and ask about me and imply things … this is outrageous. You have never seen anything like this from any president.” The Biden campaign is pushing back strongly against the president's claims that as vice president he demanded Ukraine fire a state prosecutor who was investigating a gas company where Biden's son held a board position. Multiple news organizations this week reported that Trump had repeatedly pressed Ukrainian authorities to investigate the allegations in a phone call. "Any article, segment, analysis and commentary that does not demonstrably state at the outset that there is no factual basis for Trump’s claims, and in fact that they are wholly discredited, is misleading readers and viewers," the campaign said in a statement. During the gaggle, Biden grew irate, pointing his finger at a reporter who asked the former vice president if he had ever spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings. Biden said he hadn’t. “You should be looking at Trump,” Biden said. “Everybody looked at this and everybody who’s looked at it said there’s nothing there. Ask the right question.” Biden briefly spoke to whether the episode was a possible preview of a general election battle against Trump. more...
Donald Trump Administration Scandals (2017–present)As of July 2019, President Donald Trump (R), his children, the 2016 Trump election campaign, the Trump Inaugural Committee and/or the White House were being investigated by 10 federal criminal, eight state and local, and 11 congressional investigations, according to the New York Times. This doesn't include investigations into administration officials or closed investigations led by Special Counsel for the Department of Justice Robert Mueller. The Mueller investigation resulted in 34 indictments, and seven convictions or guilty pleas. While adhering to Justice Department policy barring the indictment of a sitting president, the Special Counsel did pass on to Congress "numerous instances in which President Trump may have obstructed justice." more...
Trump Team’s Conflicts and Scandals: An Interactive GuideDonald Trump promised to drain the Washington swamp. Instead, he has surrounded himself with family members, appointees and advisers who’ve been accused of conflicts of interest , misuse of public funds , influence peddling , self-enrichment , working for foreign governments , failure to disclose information and violating ethics rules . Some are under investigation or facing lawsuits , others have resigned and five have either been convicted or pleaded guilty , including three for lying to government officials . Scandals plague all administrations, but Trump’s is only two years old and the allegations keep on coming. more...
The Biggest Donald Trump Scandals (So Far)
White House Insiders Describe an Administration in Chaos
by Tom MurseIt didn't take long for Donald Trump's presidency to become mired in scandal and controversy. The list of Donald Trump scandals grew long soon after he took office in January 2017. Some had their roots in his use of social media to insult or attack political enemies and foreign leaders. Others involved a revolving door of staffers and senior officials who either quick or were fired. The most serious Trump scandal, though, emerged from Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election and the president's efforts to undermine the investigation into the matter. Some members of Trump's own administration grew concerned about his behavior. Here's a look at the biggest Trump scandals so far, what they're about and how Trump responded to the controversies surrounding him. more...
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