"Seeking liberty and truth above suppression and mendacity!"
By John HarwoodThroughout the 2016 campaign and since, the president and his party have vowed to kick-start tepid Obama-era economic growth. New government data show that Trump, too, has failed to reach the 3 percent promised land, according to one major metric. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis measured 2018 growth at 2.9 percent, matching the peak Obama enjoyed in 2015. For the rest of the president's term, economic forecasters agree, that number will decline. President Donald Trump's central claim about his economic policies officially crashed into reality on Thursday. Throughout the 2016 campaign and since, the president and his party have vowed to kick-start tepid Obama-era economic growth. Specifically, they insisted tax cuts and deregulation would return growth to its post-World War II average of 3 percent — a level, candidate Trump said derisively, that President Barack Obama became "the first president in modern history" never to reach in a single year. New government data on Thursday morning show that Trump, too, has failed to reach the 3 percent promised land, according to one major metric. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis measured 2018 growth at 2.9 percent, matching the peak Obama enjoyed in 2015. Instead of annual 2018 growth, the White House emphasized a different growth measure comparing growth from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018. By that measure, the economy grew 3.1 percent. But Obama, too, reached 3 percent growth on a four-quarter basis four different times. Where Obama failed to enjoy 3 percent annual growth was on the BEA's official annual number. His 2015 peak was 2.9 percent, like Trump's for 2018. Thursday's preliminary 2.9 percent figure could later be revised, although economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics said the most likely direction would be down. For the rest of the president's term, economic forecasters agree, that number will decline. "2018 will be the high-water mark for growth in the Trump administration," Zandi predicted. He expects the decade-old economic expansion will shrink to 1.1 percent growth in 2020, with a better-than-even chance of recession.Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large(CNN)When Otto Warmbier was returned to the United States in 2017 and died shortly afterward, President Donald Trump condemned the North Korean regime for the imprisonment and suspected torture of the college student who was arrested in 2015 for alleged spying. "You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all," Trump said, addressing Warmbier's parents, during his 2018 State of the Union address. "Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto's memory with American resolve." He added in that same speech: "We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies." Fast forward to Thursday in Hanoi, when, at a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Trump said this of Warmbier and North Korea: "He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word." Trump added that Kim "felt badly about it. He felt very badly." Trump is, apparently, taking the word of a brutal dictator who had his half-brother murdered with nerve gas at an airport and who continues to live a posh lifestyle while his country suffers the effects of staggering economic sanctions? The guy who North Korean media says began driving a car at age 3, helped cure Ebola and can control the weather? We're going to believe THAT guy??? On its face, Kim's claim that he was unaware of Warmbier's arrest and treatment is beyond laughable. Kim rules North Korea with an iron fist. He wouldn't know that an American college student had been arrested in his country? He would miss how Warmbier's arrest and incarceration became a massive national and international story? And at no time in the 18 months Warmbier was held would anyone in Kim's government ever see fit to mention that they were holding an American prisoner? Like I said, that's beyond unbelievable. So why did Trump reverse course on Warmbier and North Korea? Simple: Because it was the politically expedient thing to do. Trump wants to make a denuclearization deal with North Korea. He suspects, rightly, that doing so would be a massive foreign policy achievement and a major pillar of his presidential legacy. To make that deal, which Trump was unable to close during this second summit with Kim, he knows that he has to keep Kim happy, keep him talking and keep him in the right mindspace to make a deal. In order to do that, Trump is willing to say and do whatever is needed -- up to and including giving a violent dictator a pass on the wrongful imprisonment and mistreatment of an American college student who, after being held for 18 months, was returned to the United States in a vegetative state and died days later.By Dan Alexander, Forbes StaffSince the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has claimed that he cannot release his tax returns because he is under audit. But his former attorney Michael Cohen cast doubt on that excuse Wednesday, when responding to a question about the “real reason” the president refused to make his tax filings public. “What he didn’t want,” Cohen testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, “was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.” Asked whether the president was actually under audit in 2016, Cohen said even he was unsure. “I don’t know the answer. I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press, and I was never able to obtain one.” “I presume that he is not under audit,” Cohen added. A spokesperson for the president’s company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is no secret that President Trump has tried to avoid taxes for decades. The first time he landed in the pages of Forbes, in 1982, the magazine noted that he got the “biggest tax abatement ever” for his midtown Manhattan hotel. Four years later, Forbes pointed out his $100 million tax break on Trump Tower. One year after that, amid a skirmish with the New York City mayor involving tax breaks on a third project, Trump called the official a “moron.”The Pentagon's justification for the trans military ban fell completely to pieces.By Zack FordWhile the Michael Cohen hearing was stealing the spotlight Wednesday, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel held its own hearing on President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban. After stirring testimony from a panel of five out trans service members, two representatives from the administration then attempted to defend the ban — and ended up doing so by comparing being transgender to having a disease. James N. Stewart, who is currently performing the duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, rehashed the administration’s familiar arguments. Repeatedly, he insisted that the policy is not a “ban,” nor does it target “transgender” people. Instead, he claimed that it only impacts people who present with the condition of gender dysphoria, and was thus not discriminatory. Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency, was also on hand to testify that there were medical justifications for not allowing people with gender dysphoria to serve. With the exception of Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), who appeared sympathetic to allowing transgender people to serve, only Democratic members of the committee asked questions, and they all attempted to chip away at Stewart and Bono’s claims. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who chairs the subcommittee, said she was “astonished” by their arguments, and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) noted that it costs three times as much to train a single pilot as it does to provide a year’s worth of transition-related medical services across the entire military. Many of the members pointed out that every major medical organization has rejected the ban, leaving Bono to claim that the military has its own data to justify it. But she could not in any way explain how they determined, for example, that starting hormone replacement therapy would result in 12 months of non-deployability, insisting the science was still shifting.By Devan ColeWashington (CNN)President Donald Trump's decision not to hold North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un responsible for Otto Warmbier's death was "reprehensible," former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum said Thursday. "This is the conundrum of Donald Trump for many of us who like his policies and don't like a lot of the things he does and says," Santorum said of the decision to CNN's John Berman on "New Day." "But, this is reprehensible, what he just did. He gave cover, as you said, to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier," Santorum, who is a CNN political commentator, said. "And again, I don't understand why the President does this. I am disappointed, to say the least, that he did it." Earlier Thursday, Trump, who was in Hanoi for a summit with Kim, said the North Korean leader "felt badly about it. He felt very badly," telling reporters the two discussed the matter privately. "He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word." North Korea released Warmbier, an American student, in June 2017 after more than a year of imprisonment, returning him to the US in a coma. Warmbier died days after returning home and US officials quickly blamed North Korea for the brain damage Warmbier suffered that led to his death.By Carol E. Lee and Courtney KubeThe country's refusal to disclose all of its nuclear materials is the issue over which talks fell apart a decade ago. HANOI, Vietnam — U.S. negotiators are no longer demanding that North Korea agree to disclose a full accounting of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs as part of talks this week between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to current and former senior U.S. officials. The decision to drop, for now, a significant component of a potential nuclear deal suggests a reality that U.S. intelligence assessments have stressed for months is shaping talks as they progress: North Korea does not intend to fully denuclearize, which is the goal Trump set for his talks with Kim. Disclosure of a full, verifiable declaration of North Korea’s programs is the issue over which the last round of serious negotiations between Pyongyang and world powers, including the U.S., fell apart a decade ago. Negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials in advance of Trump and Kim’s second summit, which begins Wednesday night over dinner in Hanoi, have focused heavily on a core component of Pyongyang’s program, the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, officials said. Dr. Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist who has visited the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center numerous times to assess the country's capabilities, said dismantling elements of the facility would be the most significant step North Korea could take toward denuclearization. “Yongbyon is the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program,” Hecker said, explaining that completely dismantling the reactor there would be critical and would mean North Korea would never be able to make plutonium there again.By Peter Baker and Nicholas FandosWASHINGTON — President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer accused him on Wednesday of an expansive pattern of lies and criminality, offering a damning portrayal of life inside the president’s orbit where he said advisers sacrificed integrity for proximity to power. Michael D. Cohen, who represented Mr. Trump for a decade, told Congress that the president lied to the American public about business interests in Russia during the 2016 campaign and lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails. Mr. Trump also told Mr. Cohen to lie about illegal hush payments to cover up alleged sexual indiscretions, the lawyer charged. The allegations, aired at a daylong hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, exposed a dark underside of Mr. Trump’s business and political worlds in the voice of one of the ultimate insiders. Perhaps no close associate of a president has turned on him in front of Congress in such dramatic fashion since John Dean testified against President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal. “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat,” Mr. Cohen said of the president. Mr. Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying under oath to Congress, among other crimes, said he did so to protect Mr. Trump. “I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore,” he said. But it remained unclear whether his testimony would change the political dynamics of a series of scandals that have already polarized Washington and the country and that could lead to an impeachment battle later this year. Assailing Mr. Cohen as a proven liar, Republicans denounced the hearing as a “charade” and an “embarrassment for our country.” Democrats said Republicans “ran away from the truth” as they sought to defend a corrupt president who has employed “textbook mob tactics.”By Philip Rucker and Josh DawseyHANOI — The White House abruptly banned four U.S. journalists from covering President Trump’s dinner here Wednesday with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un after some of them shouted questions at the leaders during their earlier meetings. Reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters were excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays.” Among the questions asked of Trump was one about the congressional testimony of his former lawyer Michael Cohen. The White House’s move to restrict press access was an extraordinary act of retaliation by the U.S. government, which historically has upheld the rights of journalists while a president travels overseas. It was especially remarkable because it came during Trump’s meeting with the leader of a totalitarian state that does not have a free press. Trump’s exchanges with Kim were being covered by the standard 13-member traveling White House press pool, but ahead of the dinner Sanders sought to exclude all reporters from the pool and permit only the photographers and television crew, citing “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays.”By D'Angelo GoreIn declaring a national emergency at the southern border, President Donald Trump spoke of an “invasion” by “all types of criminals and gangs.” He suggested that the media “take a look at our federal prison population” and “see how many of them, percentage-wise, are illegal aliens.” But it’s misleading to look only at the federal prison population, since state prisons and local jails house approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population. We looked at the available data for the entire prison population. About 17 percent of individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service were confirmed to be in the U.S. illegally, according to federal data as of Dec. 31, 2017. But less than 6 percent of inmates at the federal, state and local level in 2016 were in the U.S. illegally, according to one independent estimate based on Census Bureau data. Besides, the percentage of all noncitizens in federal prison is inflated by the number of individuals charged with or convicted of committing federal immigration crimes. An immigration violation, such as unlawful entry or reentry into the U.S., was the primary offense for 29 percent of the “known or suspected” noncitizens in BOP custody, according to government data as of the end of 2017. Of the confirmed noncitizens in USMS custody at the time, 56 percent were charged with a primary offense related to immigration. Trump’s statement about federal prisons came during the Feb. 15 press conference in which he declared a national emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico. CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, told Trump that “a lot of crime data out there” show “undocumented immigrants committing crime at lower levels than native-born Americans.” (We have written that numerous studies have found that immigrants, regardless of legal status, don’t commit crimes at a higher rate than nonimmigrants, and that higher concentrations of immigrants don’t lead to higher rates of violent crime.)By Emily CochraneWASHINGTON — The House voted on Tuesday to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the Mexican border, with just 13 Republicans joining Democrats to try to block his effort to divert funding to a border wall without congressional approval. House Republican leaders kept defections low after feverishly working to assuage concerns among rank-and-file members about protecting congressional powers and about the precedent that Mr. Trump could be setting for Democratic presidents to use for their own purposes. “Is your oath of office to Donald Trump or is it to the Constitution of the United States?” Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her Republican colleagues in a speech on the floor ahead of the vote. “You cannot let him undermine your pledge to the Constitution.” The resolution of disapproval, which passed 245 to 182, must now be taken up by the Senate, where three Republicans have already declared their support, only one short of the number needed for Congress to ratify a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump’s efforts. It remains highly unlikely that opponents will muster the votes to overturn a promised veto of the resolution. But final passage of a measure to assert Congress’s constitutional authority over spending is sure to bolster numerous lawsuits that maintain that Mr. Trump’s declaration is an unconstitutional end run around Congress’s lawful power of the purse. Many of the 13 Republicans who defected in the House were adamant in their arguments. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a veteran lawmaker who once helped manage Republican efforts to remove Bill Clinton from the White House, made it clear he supported the border wall.By Asawin Suebsaeng, Erin BancoThe president has made private admissions that federal investigations bedeviling his first term in office will be haunting him for possibly years to come. Donald Trump has signaled to his inner circle that even he knows Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishing his investigation will be a new beginning, not a dramatic end, for Trumpworld’s eclectic legal hellscape. The president made clear to his outside legal team, which includes Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, that he didn’t want his lawyers going anywhere—even after the Mueller probe ends. The conversations served as a private admission that federal investigations bedeviling his first term in office will be haunting him for possibly years to come. The president broached the topic of keeping his team together starting late last year, according to two sources familiar with the exchanges, by discussing other legal woes he might face after the Special Counsel’s Office submits its report to the Department of Justice. Trump’s focus at the time? The Southern District of New York. The jurisdiction, known as SDNY, is currently looking into matters involving the president. Those cases have long been considered by Trump’s close allies as a far graver potential threat than the Mueller investigation. Details about Trump and his family business could be laid bare for public scrutiny as Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and self-described fixer, heads to the Hill to testify this week. He is set to answer questions regarding Trump’s debts and payments, compliance with federal disclosure requirements, tax laws, campaign finance laws, and potentially fraudulent practices by the Trump foundation. Cohen’s appearances come at a time when members of Trump’s former inner circle are facing increased scrutiny by federal prosecutors. Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she had been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. And Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is set to be sentenced Friday in Virginia for tax and bank fraud charges. He could face decades in prison not only for those charges, but also for conspiring against the U.S. and a conspiracy to obstruct justice.By Jane C. TimmTrump repeated one false claim — that the wall is already under construction — at least eight times in one day. President Donald Trump put his long-promised border wall at the center of the government funding debate on Tuesday, repeating the frequently fact-checked falsehood that it's already under construction no fewer than eight times while making a host of questionable new assertions. Here are Trump's claims, made on Twitter and during a testy public spat with Democratic leaders at the White House, and the facts. The White House did not respond to a request for more clarity. 1. We're building the border wall. "Tremendous amounts of wall have already been built, and a lot of — a lot of wall," Trump said in the Oval Office. "In San Diego, we’re building new walls right now." This is still false. The government is currently repairing and replacing old sections of border fencing, but construction on a new section of border barrier has not yet begun and won't this year. 2. A lot of the wall is already "built." "But the wall will get built. A lot of the wall is built. It's been very effective," Trump said at the White House. This is misleading at best, given that no new sections of border fencing have actually been built under Trump. The president seems to be referring to the 650 miles of existing fencing or barrier along the southern border, the majority of which was constructed long before he launched his bid for president, as "the wall." Under his administration, old fencing has been repaired and replaced. It's unclear when these existing fences became an accepted part of his vision for "the wall," since he repeatedly derided fencing on the 2016 campaign trail in favor of a concrete barrier that would run the 2,000 mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border.By Salvador Rizzo“South Korea — we defend them and lose a tremendous amount of money. Billions of dollars a year defending them. And working with Secretary Pompeo and John Bolton, they agreed to pay, yesterday, $500 million more toward their defense. Five hundred million, with a couple of phone calls. I said, ‘Why didn’t you do this before?’ They said, ‘Nobody asked.’ … But South Korea is costing us $5 billion a year. And they pay — they were paying about $500 million for $5 billion worth of protection. And we have to do better than that. So they’ve agreed to pay $500 million more.” — President Trump, in a Cabinet meeting, Feb. 12, 2019. The United States does keeps a large military presence in South Korea, spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but Trump’s figures are wildly inflated. Let’s dig in. The Facts: The United States and South Korea signed a mutual defense treaty in 1953, after the United States led a United Nations force that helped repel an invasion from North Korea. U.S. troops have been stationed in South Korea for more than a half-century, and the two countries began to share costs under agreements dating to 1991. The American contingent in South Korea acts as “a vital security guarantor that helps to ensure that the more than 51 million Koreans and over 200,000 Americans living and working throughout South Korea are protected from real and present North Korean threats,” according to a 2018 report from U.S. Forces Korea. “United States Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines have been stationed in South Korea for over half a century, and the requirement for a robust alliance has never been greater,” the 2018 report said. “Situated at the epicenter of one of the world’s most geopolitically volatile regions, the Korean Peninsula is of particular strategic importance to U.S. policy and posture across East Asia. With North Korea continuing to engage in frequent provocations that threaten the stability of the United States and its Allies, the enduring strength of the Republic of Korea (ROK)-U. S. Alliance is paramount to the mission of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM).”By Lori RobertsonWhen asked whether he would impose tariffs on cars imported from the European Union, President Donald Trump, as he regularly does, used an inflated figure for the trade balance between the U.S. and the EU. The deficit was $101 billion for 2017, not $151 billion, as he repeatedly claims. Trump, for years, has been using the goods-only figures for the U.S. trade deficit, instead of the goods-and-services deficit, to justify his trade policies. Since the United States exports a lot of services — such as travel, transportation, finance and intellectual property — Trump skews the trade picture by completely discounting the service trade. The U.S., in fact, has an overall trade surplus in services. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump wrongly claimed again and again that the U.S. trade deficit was “nearly $800 billion,” a generous rounding-up of the goods-only deficit of $758.9 billion in 2015, the latest figure at the time. The overall goods-and-services deficit was $531.5 billion then. He repeatedly claimed the deficit with China was $500 billion — close to the overall deficit with all countries. (The latest figure for China is $335.7 billion for 2017, despite Trump’s assertion on Feb. 15 that a “lot of people think it’s $506 billion.”) Similarly, he has distorted the trade figures for Canada and Mexico. Trump continues to falsely claim the U.S. has “large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada,” when there’s a trade surplus with Canada ($2.8 billion in 2017), and the deficit with Mexico ($68.7 billion) amounts to 11 percent of the total two-way trade with the U.S.By HARRY JAFFEHe’s a pioneering attorney and Haitian immigrant who’s leading the emoluments lawsuit. He engineered some of Dems’ biggest wins in 2018. So why haven’t you heard of Karl Racine? A few hours before President Donald Trump went into the Rose Garden last Friday to announce his intent to declare a national emergency so he could build his long-promised border wall, Karl Racine sent a shot across the bow: If Trump was serious about this, he was in for a fight. “We will not hesitate to use our legal authority to defend the rule of law,” the 56-year-old attorney general of Washington, D.C., said in a terse statement. t’s a posture that has become almost routine for Racine, who as co-chair of the national Democratic Attorneys General Association is playing a little-noticed but hugely influential role in fighting the Trump administration at the polls, in the courts and in the news media. The past few years have been uncommonly high profile for the American legal system. The president finds himself in both personal and professional legal jeopardy. Several of his former aides and advisers have been criminally indicted. The administration’s every move is subject to major lawsuits.By Chris Cillizza(CNN) On Friday morning, this exchange happened between White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and CNN's Joe Johns: Johns: You said there was no need to collude with Russia but there have been so many indictments and contacts with Russians. How do you balance that? Sanders: It's real simple to me. The President far and away was the better candidate. He had a better message and he outworked Hillary Clinton. That's why he's President. He didn't need to, nor did he, collude with the Russians. Pretty simple. That does seem simple. I guess this is exculpatory evidence that neither President Donald Trump nor anyone is his inner circle colluded with ... Wait a minute. This makes no sense. None. And I'll explain why.By Stephen Collinson(CNN) They once were Donald Trump's strutting, sharp-suited alpha male political and legal fixers, living high and playing the game hard, seemingly immune from the consequences of their willingness to walk on the dark side. But now, hubris has humbled Roger Stone, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. One is already in jail, another is headed there and Stone narrowly escaped with his liberty Thursday but was gagged by a judge he had threatened on Instagram. All three men have been indicted or convicted or have pleaded guilty to crimes and alleged offenses that in most cases are not directly linked to their work for the President. But had they not eagerly dived into Trump's shark tank and had he not run for President they would not have drawn the attention of special counsel Robert Mueller and possibly other prosecutors in cases that led to their downfall. The White House line, whenever one of the President's men goes down, is that none of it has anything to do with Trump. Technically, that is often true: So far none of the trio has been charged with a conspiracy to collude with Russia, for instance. Yet all three are under suspicion of allegedly communicating with Russian intelligence assets, contacts or alleged front organizations like WikiLeaks. Washington is on alert to see if any of those episodes will be referenced in Mueller's final report, which could be delivered to Attorney General Bill Barr as early as next week. What is clear is that these are men who Trump has been happy to have by his side. While their partnerships were working and before prosecutors swooped, he never seemed troubled by their dubious reputations and bare-knuckle tactics. In fact, it may have recommended them to him. Stone, a protege of Trump mentor and mob lawyer Roy Cohn, has moved in the President's world for decades. He is his longest political adviser, after a self-styled career as a dirty trickster fashioned after his hero Richard Nixon. Cohen, who is expected to lift the lid on some of the President's life and business secrets in what could be a sensational Capitol Hill hearing next week, made himself indispensable as a man who cleaned up Trump's messes. And Manafort traded in the life of a jet-setting international political consultant who rubbed shoulders with oligarchs to turn Trump, the 2016 GOP primary victor, into a nominee who could make a run at the presidency itself, as his campaign chairman. If their story has a common moral, it is this: Sooner or later, even hard-charging political and legal bruisers who seem to fly unrestrained by the normal rules can eventually fall foul of the law and see lives of notoriety crash to ruin. Only time, Mueller, various other legal proceedings and a flurry of congressional investigations will tell whether Trump himself will learn the same hard truth or was smart enough to avoid the fate of his tainted operatives.By Stephen CollinsonWashington (CNN)President Donald Trump's craving for loyalty from his top law enforcement officials and alleged efforts to topple those whom he perceives as threats could be leading him into deep trouble -- and even put his presidency in peril. The New York Times provided a fresh glimpse into Trump's persistent efforts to shield himself from swirling scandals with a report that the President sought to install someone he saw as an ally atop an investigation by New York prosecutors into his former lawyer Michael Cohen. Then, in an interview with CNN, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe -- who was instrumental in opening an obstruction inquiry against Trump -- made his strongest claim yet that he was fired hours before his scheduled retirement as a result of an internal investigation rigged against him at the instigation of the President. The revelations appear to fit into a consistent pattern of attempts by Trump to influence investigations in which he may be implicated and a constant campaign of public and private pressure on the officials involved. They also beg a mysterious question yet again: Why, if the President insists there was no coordination between his 2016 campaign and Russia's election meddling plot, has he taken such pains to undermine investigations into what he has branded a huge "hoax?" The New York Times reported that Trump called acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker late last year to ask whether it was possible that Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was recused from the case, could take over anyway. Trump lashed out at the report on Wednesday, tweeting: "The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!" Even in his public remarks, the President has often left the impression that top law enforcement officers had a duty to protect him -- like a personal lawyer -- rather than to the neutral administration of justice and to the Constitution. Fired FBI Director James Comey said Trump tried to establish a mob-like relationship of patronage with him. Trump also repeatedly berated his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his failure to rein in the Russia probe. Trump has mounted relentless, almost daily attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry and other investigations targeting his administration. In the worst-case scenario, his incessant private, public and political efforts to influence the investigations could add up to obstruction of justice in plain sight -- and even form part of any future articles of impeachment. Asked by CNN's Brooke Baldwin whether Trump's request to Whitaker amounted to obstruction, Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, answered: "What else could it be?" "What other reason could the President have for calling Matt Whitaker right as the Cohen investigation was growing and starting to threaten him ... and asking Whitaker, 'Can we get my guy?'" he said.By Justin BaragonaThe judge said Trump’s reported call to Whitaker was ‘an effort to use the levers of power... for a corrupt purpose to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies.’ Shortly after the New York Times dropped an explosive report alleging President Trump called then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put a Trump ally in charge of the Southern District of New York’s case against former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said this request amounted to “an attempt to obstruct justice.” According to the Times, Trump attempted to exert pressure on his newly installed attorney general late last year. With U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman having already recused himself from the Cohen investigation due to a conflict of interest, Trump reportedly asked Whitaker to put Berman in charge of the probe. Trump “soon soured” on Whitaker for not being able to make the move happen, per the Times. Speaking with Fox News anchor Shepard Smith on Tuesday, Napolitano noted that Whitaker himself could be in trouble if the story is accurate, seeing as Whitaker previously testified to Congress that the president had never pressured him on any of the multiple Trump-related investigations. “There’s two potential crimes here for Matt Whitaker,” the judge stated. “One is actual perjury, lying to the Congress. The other is misleading. Remember, you can be truthful but still misleading.” The judge, whom The Daily Beast has described as Fox’s “lonely truth-teller” on all things Trump, further explained that while things may not look good for Whitaker, they look really bad for the president. Napolitano said the president’s reported phone call to Whitaker demonstrates “corrupt intent.”Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling HimBy Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. SchmidtPresident Trump’s efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work. WASHINGTON — As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call. Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away. Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.Lawsuits challenging Trump's national emergency declaration use his words against him
By Tucker HigginsPresident Trump's words are already being used against him in a slew of lawsuits challenging his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. In at least three federal court lawsuits, lawyers have seized on the president's remark during the press conference he "didn't need to" declare a national emergency. President Donald Trump's words are being used against him in a slew of lawsuits challenging his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. In at least three federal court lawsuits filed, lawyers have seized on the president's remark during Friday's press conference announcing the declaration that he "didn't need to" declare a national emergency. In suits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Citizen and 16 U.S. states, the challengers have argued that the president's comments show that his national emergency declaration is a matter of personal preference or a negotiating tactic — not a true emergency requiring the use of American armed forces, as the White House has claimed. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has said it will file a lawsuit against the administration this week, has featured the president's comment in news releases. The president's remarks on Friday came after a protracted battle with Congress over his demands for billions of dollars in funding for his proposed border wall. The tussle led to a partial government shutdown that stretched through December and January — the longest in American history. The issue appeared to be resolved last week only after the president agreed to sign a spending bill without funding for the wall, while simultaneously declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress and unlock already appropriated Department of Defense funds. "I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster," Trump said of the national emergency declaration, speaking from the White House Rose Garden, according to an official transcript. "And I don't have to do it for the election. I've already done a lot of wall, for the election — 2020."Trump wanted top ally in charge of Cohen probe: report
By Brett SamuelsPresident Trump reportedly asked former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker late last year whether the U.S. attorney in New York's Southern District and ally of the president could take over the investigation into hush money paid to women who alleged they had affairs with the president, among other subjects. The New York Times reported that Trump requested that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman be put in charge of the investigation that has since resulted in jail time for former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, even though Berman recused himself from the probe. Whitaker, whose tenure ended last week with the confirmation of Attorney General William Barr, knew Berman could not un-recuse himself, The Times reported. Trump then grew frustrated with Whitaker and the appointee's inability to address his mounting legal problems. The Times cited the previously unreported request from Trump as one of several examples of the president seeking to influence the investigations into his presidency, his associates and his business interests. Neither the White House nor the Justice Department immediately responded to a request for comment from The Hill.The Trump administration sought to rush the transfer of American nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the law, a new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee alleges. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings' staff issued an "interim staff" report Tuesday, citing "multiple whistleblowers" who raised ethical and legal concerns about the process. "They have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisers at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump administration officials to halt their efforts," the report states. "They have also warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes." The committee's report alleges that the major drivers behind the effort to transfer U.S. nuclear technology were retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as the president's national security adviser, and Thomas Barrack, who chaired Trump's inauguration committee. Flynn was fired in February 2017 for lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Pence and the FBI. For about seven months in 2016, including during the presidential transition, Flynn served as an adviser to IP3 International, a private company seeking to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia. The whistleblowers told the committee that Flynn continued to advocate for IP3's plan even after he joined the White House as the president's national security adviser in 2017.More than 250 rallies held across the US to decry Trump's national emergency declaration to build the border wall. Washington, DC - Thousands of people rallied nationwide on Monday to protest against the national emergency US President Donald Trump declared last week to help fund his long-promised wall across the US-Mexico border. More than 250 rallies were organised across the United States on President's Day, a US government holiday, with protesters carrying banners and placards that called the national emergency "fake". "I do think we have a national emergency in this country, this is an emergency to our democratic system," Angelina Huynh, who joined the rally in Washington, DC, outside the White House with her two preschool children, told Al Jazeera. As the snow fell in Boston, Massachusetts, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley took to the stage to speak against Trump's bid to bypass Congress and help free up $8bn in funds for his wall, which was one of his biggest 2016 campaign promises. Protesters and civil rights organisations called on Congress to take action against Trump's latest move. "Thank you other cities & states filing lawsuits! No better way to spend Presidents' Day than rallying to stop this crazy President [with] his fake emergency to build a wall!" tweeted Congresswoman Maxine Waters before a rally in Los Angeles, California.Trump’s Attempt to Circumvent Congress Leaves Uneasy Senate Republicans With Hard Choice - Carl Hulse and Glenn ThrushSenator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, spent the last two weeks hammering out a deal on federal spending and border security with colleagues from both parties, reassured by a sense that Congress was finally asserting itself as a civil, stabilizing force. The feeling did not last. On Friday, President Trump mounted one of the most serious executive branch challenges to congressional authority in decades, circumventing Congress with an emergency declaration. It would allow him to unilaterally divert billions of dollars to a border wall and presented his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, who labored on a legislative compromise, with the excruciating choice of either defending their institution or bowing to his whims. The president’s move left Senate Republicans sharply divided, and it remains to be seen whether they will act collectively to try to stop Mr. Trump or how far into uncharted territory they are willing to follow a headstrong president operating with no road map beyond his own demands. “With him you always have to expect the unexpected,” said Ms. Capito, speaking on the phone from her kitchen in Charleston, W.Va., exhausted from a week of late-night talks at the Capitol. The Republican resistance to Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration was much more pronounced in the Senate than in the House, where a few Republicans — in the minority but more closely aligned to Mr. Trump — groused. But most of the conservative rank and file embraced it. After threatening to kill the spending compromise needed to keep the government open, Mr. Trump opted to cite a national emergency to pry loose additional funding to build a wall longer than the 55 miles in the bipartisan agreement. It was the divisive step that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, Ms. Capito and most other Republicans in the Senate had forcefully urged him not to take, because it would establish a precedent they feared future Democratic presidents would use against them.When President Trump declared a national emergency along the southern border, he predicted his administration would end up defending it all the way to the Supreme Court. That might have been the only thing Mr. Trump said Friday that produced near-universal agreement. The American Civil Liberties Union announced its intention to sue less than an hour after the White House released the text of Mr. Trump's declaration, which said the "current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency." Nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen later filed suit, urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to "bar Trump and the U.S. Department of Defense from using the declaration and funds appropriated for other purposes to build a border wall."Mueller interviewed Sarah Sanders in Russia probe - MATTHEW CHOIThe details of the sit-down are not publicly known, but Mueller likely has interest in Sanders’ role crafting statements about the Trump team’s interactions with Russian nationals. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Friday that she met with special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “The President urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel. I was happy to voluntarily sit down with them,” Sanders said in a statement. The details and topic of the interview are not publicly known, but Mueller is likely interested in Sanders’ role crafting the official narrative about the Trump team’s interactions with Russian nationals. Mueller is also investigating any possible efforts by Trump’s team to obstruct a law enforcement probe of the 2016 campaign. The meeting occurred around the time Muellers team interviewed then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, CNN reported. CNN first reported the Sanders-Mueller interview on Friday.President Trump announced that he's declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The president wants to redirect money that had already been allocated by Congress for the military to fund construction of the wall instead. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the president said the original plans for the money "didn't sound too important to me."'I didn't need to do this.' Critics say Trump quote undercuts national emergency for border wall - John Fritze and Michael CollinsUSA TODAY - During a press conference in the Rose Garden, President Trump admitted that he didn't need to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall, but that he did it so he could "get it done faster." Thirty minutes into an off-the-cuff defense of his decision to declare a national emergency to help build his border wall, President Donald Trump made an admission that may have handed ammunition to legal opponents of the move. Trump, who has long described the situation on the Southwest border as a "crisis" and an "invasion," appeared to suggest his administration had all the time it needed to build the hundreds of miles of border barrier he has demanded for months. "I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this," Trump told reporters gathered in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, shortly before he signed a proclamation declaring the emergency. "But I'd rather do it much faster." Trump’s opponents, including a number of groups and officials suing the administration over the national emergency, pounced on the president's candid remarks and said they appeared to undermine his claims of an urgent problem on the southern border. George Conway, an attorney and frequent Trump critic who is married to longtime Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, summed up the reaction in a post on Twitter: "This quote should be the first sentence of the first paragraph of every [lawsuit] filed." This quote should be the first sentence of the first paragraph of every complaint filed this afternoon. https://t.co/ClHQhpTaEe — George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 15, 2019.After declaring a national emergency to build a border wall, President Trump said “I want to get it done faster, that’s all.” The move bypasses Congress. President Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico on Friday in order to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall there, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a confrontation over the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Trying to regain momentum after losing a grinding two-month battle with lawmakers over funding the wall, Mr. Trump asserted that the flow of drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants from Mexico constituted a profound threat to national security that justified unilateral action. “We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” he said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden barely 13 hours after Congress passed a spending measure without the money he had sought. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” But with illegal border crossings already down and critics accusing him of manufacturing a crisis, he may have undercut his own argument that the border situation was so urgent that it required emergency action. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” he said. “I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.” The president’s decision incited instant condemnation from Democrats, who called it an unconstitutional abuse of his authority and vowed to try to overturn it with the support of Republicans who also objected to the move. “This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a joint statement.IRAN, Russia and Turkey’s leaders welcomed Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria as “a positive step” after they met to decide the future of the war-stricken country. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in the southern city of Sochi, where they had “constructive and business-like” talks regarding Syria on Thursday. And in the joint press conference, Mr Putin said Washington’s decision of recalling the 2,000 US soldiers currently in northeastern Syria was “a positive step that would help stabilise the situation in this region, where ultimately the legitimate government should re-establish control”. But, he added, he hasn’t seen so far any movement in Syria signalling Mr Trump’s promises will be fulfilled.Donald Trump Considers Raiding Disaster Relief Funds to Pay for His Border Wall: Report - Shane CroucherAs President Donald Trump prepares to declare a controversial national emergency on Friday over the border issue, the White House is reportedly looking at raiding funds approved by Congress to aid those suffering in the devastating aftermath of disasters. According to Associated Press, which cited unnamed Congressional aides and White House officials, Trump is eyeing up the $13 billion in disaster relief funding split into pots to help Puerto Rico, California, Texas, and other states cope with recent hurricanes, wildfires and flooding. Trump was unable to secure any of the $5.7 billion he demanded from Congress to fund his planned steel and concrete wall along 1,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. House Democrats, who have a strong majority, refused to allocate any money to Trump’s wall, arguing it is expensive, ineffective, and responding to a crisis that does not exist. The president shut down the government for five weeks before caving in and reopening it temporarily. Under pressure from Republicans to avoid another shutdown, Trump will reluctantly sign off on a bipartisan compromise deal agreed by Congress, which includes more money for border security but only $1.37 billion for 55 miles of new fencing instead of the wall as he envisions it. But he will simultaneously declare a national emergency, unlocking a suite of presidential powers that allow him to bypass Congress altogether and take money from approve budgets elsewhere, such as for defense spending.When President Donald Trump declares a national emergency to free up funding for his border wall he will follow a long line of presidents dating back to George Washington who have relied on emergency authority to achieve a goal. But experts say national emergencies have rarely been used in the way Trump intends. Trump is expected to declare an emergency as early as Friday as a mechanism to unlock pots of federal money he can then use to build portions of a border barrier, a central promise of his 2016 campaign. He will also sign a bipartisan bill that sets aside $1.375 billion for barriers, far short of the $5.7 billion he has demanded. Presidential emergencies often lead to bitter partisan disputes and occasionally wind up in court, but they are relatively common. The United States is already subject to more than 30 national emergencies, including one signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter days after the Iranian hostage crisis began. "They’re declared for all kinds of things," said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University's Center for Human Values. "They’re absolutely common, which is why nobody blinks an eye about the whole thing – and then you get a case like this." Since 1976, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, presidents have declared at least 58 states of emergency – not counting disaster declarations for weather events, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. Dozens remain in effect, extended by subsequent presidents. The Militia Acts of 1792 gave Washington authority to take over state militias during the Whiskey Rebellion. In perhaps the best-known use of emergency powers from history, President Abraham Lincoln established a blockade on the ports of Southern states and suspended habeas corpus without congressional approval. In modern times, presidents have far more frequently used emergency powers to impose sanctions. They have sometimes used them to seize property and call up the National Guard. - If Obama pulled that same crap that Trump has, Republicans would be up in arms rioting in the streets and talking impeachment.Trump attacked Obama for using executive powers on immigration, now plans to do the same thing - Christal HayesIn 2014, President Donald Trump railed against then President Barack Obama over his use of executive power on immigration. Fast forward five years and Trump is expected to do the same thing. "Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress," Trump said in a tweet on Nov. 20, 2014. Trump is now planning to use his executive powers in declaring a national emergency to obtain additional funds for a wall along the southern U.S. border. The White House announced Thursday he would make the declaration after signing a bipartisan funding bill that will provide $1.375 billion for a 55-mile border barrier – much less than the $5.7 billion that Trump has demanded. The funding bill would prevent the government from shutting down as it did in December, spurring the longest-ever shutdown on record. The move will allow Trump to sidestep Democratic opposition to get more wall funding, but it could draw legal challenges from lawmakers and others who viewed the move as a power grab and something that violates the Constitution. Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2014. In 2014, Trump seemed to have similar beliefs. His tweet attacking Obama for using executive authority on immigration specifically targeted an executive order that shielded up to 5 million immigrants from deportation and bolstered protections for "DREAMers," people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Although the positions were reversed, Obama was also frustrated by a lack of congressional action for what he viewed as a broken immigration system. Obama's order followed an impasse with the Republicans in Congress, who during elections that month took control of both the Senate and House. The White House at the time said allow Obama's orders were steps to "fix our broken immigration system."Trump’s Trade War Bombshell Pummels Dow, But Bitcoin Mounts Recovery - Josiah WilmothThe battered US stock market enters the week’s final trading session with little hope of patching its previous-day wounds. Rather, trade war pessimism looks poised to deal further blows to the Dow and its peers, which are currently steeling themselves for major opening bell losses. The mood is slightly more positive in the cryptocurrency market where the bitcoin price has made a slight recovery. US-China Trade War Rattles Stock Market. On Friday, the US-China trade war continued to rattle the pre-bell futures markets. Most troubling was that US President Donald Trump confirmed that he would not meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the trade deal deadline on March 1. Previously, Trump said he would not sign a deal until he and Xi had ironed out several “difficult” sticking points between the two countries. Instead, Trump will focus his attention on preparing for a second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which will take place from February 27-28.The House speaker responded to Trump’s claim that he was the victim of “unlimited presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) succinctly summed up President Donald Trump’s ridiculed claim that looming investigations into his administration by the Democratic-controlled House were “unlimited presidential harassment.” Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she would not comment “on what the president has to say about our work.” Then she added: “I always think that whatever the president says about us, he’s projecting his own unruliness. He’s a projector and that’s what it’s about.” Pelosi said that she was “very proud of the work of our committees” and that “even the Republicans have complimented the committees for being wise in how they proceed, in terms of subpoenas and the rest.” “We will not surrender our constitutional responsibilities for oversight. That would make us delinquent in our duties,” she added.Democrats just called Trump's 'investigations' bluff - Chris Cillizza"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation," Trump said, to murmurs of disapproval from many Democrats in the House chamber. The message was simple: If you like the current run of economic prosperity and (relative) peace in the world, then you had better end the special counsel investigation being run by Robert Mueller and stop before you start any congressional investigations. If you don't, bad -- if amorphous -- things will happen to the country. That threat didn't hold for 12 hours. By Wednesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (California) announced he was launching a wide-ranging inquiry into Trump's finances and whether financial considerations were driving decisions made by the administration.Trump lashes out as Democrats step up inquiries of president and administration - Mike DeBonis, Seung Min KimPresident Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business “ridiculous” and “presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an “all-out threat” to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power. The oversight wars officially kicked into high gear this week as House Democrats began investigating the Trump administration in earnest. With Thursday hearings scheduled on presidential tax returns and family separations at the Mexican border, and a Friday session to question acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, the lights are about to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little examination from a Republican Congress. But Democrats are moving carefully after spending weeks forming their committees, hiring staff and laying the groundwork for coming probes — mindful that Trump is eager to turn their investigations into a political boomerang as his critics demand swift action to uncover various alleged misdeeds.Federal prosecutors subpoena Trump inaugural records - Alex Johnson, Tom Winter, Monica AlbaInvestigators want documents related to inaugural committee donors and vendors, The Wall Street Journal reported. Federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena for documents from President Donald Trump's inaugural committee, a representative of the committee said Monday night. The U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York is investigating allegations that the committee misspent some of the tens of millions it raised from donations and that some donors gave money in exchange for access to influence Trump administration policy positions. "We have just received a subpoena for documents," the committee representative told NBC News. "While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry." The subpoena was first reported by ABC News. A representative of the U.S. attorney's office wouldn't comment Monday night. The Wall Street Journal, which said it had reviewed a copy, reported that the subpoena doesn't mention Tom Barrack Jr., the head of the committee. Barrack, a prominent real estate developer and longtime friend of the president's, was interviewed by investigators from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller as part of Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.President Trump has spent about 60 percent of his time over the past three months in "Executive Time," according to leaked schedules obtained by Axios. A source told Axios that Trump typically spends the first five hours of his day in his residency. There he is understood to be watching television, reading newspapers and making phone calls to aides, lawmakers, friends, advisers and administration officials. "He's always calling people, talking to people," a senior White House official told Axios. "He's always up to something; it's just not what you would consider typical structure." Trump's first meeting of the day typically doesn't come until 11 or 11:30 a.m. and is typically an intelligence briefing or a half-hour meeting with his chief of staff, a schedule Axios also reported last year. Trump has been criticized for his use of "Executive Time" in the past, including by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
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