Trump leaves press pool behind at National Christmas Tree lighting

President Trump on Wednesday departed the National Christmas Tree lighting event without White House staff notifying a pool of reporters assigned to monitor the president’s movements of his whereabouts following a logistical mixup.

Members of the protective press pool – a group of reporters assigned to remain with the president and document his activities – indicated shortly after 6:30 p.m. that Trump had returned to the White House without any warning or comment from staffers.

Reporters were briefly held at the Ellipse outside the White House without any immediate indication of where the president had gone. They were later notified that Trump had returned to the White House via motorcade without the press pool in tow.

Members of the press pool protested the situation on Twitter.

[The Hill]

Trump Dismisses Report on Ivanka: She ‘Did Some Emails,’ They Weren’t Classified Like Hillary’s

President Donald Trump dismissed the Washington Post report on his daughterIvanka Trump, accessing and sending government-related emails on her private email account.

“Early on, and for a little period of time, Ivanka did some emails,” the president said. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33 [thousand] … She wasn’t doing anything to hide her e-mails.”

Trump claimed that his daughter’s emails were in the presidential record. The Washington Post piece was unclear on that point.

“Using personal emails for government business could violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all official White House communications and records be preserved as a permanent archive of each administration,” the piece read.

“What Ivanka Trump did, all in the presidential records, everything is there,” Trump said. “There was no deletion, no nothing. What it is is a false story. Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails, she had a server in the basement, that is the real story.”

[Mediaite]

Trump on prospect of Dems demanding his tax returns: ‘They can do whatever they want’

President Trump on Monday downplayed the possibility that Democrats could demand his tax returns if they retake control of the House in Tuesday’s elections.

“I don’t care. They can do whatever they want and I can do whatever I want,” Trump said when asked if he was concerned Democrats may go after his tax returns if they win the majority.

Trump spoke to reporters upon arriving in Fort Wayne, Ind., for one of three campaign rallies he was set to hold on Monday. He suggested that a Democratic majority would force the White House to “have to work a little bit differently.”

“It’ll all work out but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Trump said, expressing confidence in Republicans’ chances on Tuesday. “I think we’re doing very well in the House. I think we’re doing very well in the Senate.”

Democrats and critics of the president have suggested that Trump’s tax returns could reveal potential conflicts of interest, and liberal groups have urged Democratic lawmakers to demand the president’s filings should they regain control of the House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last month that compelling Trump to turn over his tax returns would be “one of the first things we’d do” if Democrats win back the House majority.

Under federal tax law, the chairmen of congressional tax committees can request tax returns from the Treasury Department and review them in a closed session before voting to make all or parts of the returns public.

While Trump may protest such a request, the decision would ultimately fall to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin told The New York Times earlier this month that he would work with the department’s general counsel and the general counsel for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address any requests should Democrats win the House.

The president broke with decades of precedent when he opted not to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The White House has repeatedly brushed off questions about releasing Trump’s taxes after the election, claiming the documents were under audit and therefore could not be made public. Financial experts, reporters and lawmakers have noted that the president could still request that they be released.

Calls for Trump to release his returns intensified following a New York Times report that cited records and interviews indicating the president engaged in “dubious” tax practices to shield income from his father’s real estate empire from taxes. Trump and the White House blasted the story, though they did not refute specific claims.

[The Hill]

Here’s the photo of a very white summer intern class the White House didn’t release

Past group photos of White House interns under President Donald Trump have drawn criticism for showing a group of overwhelmingly white young people. This summer, the White House didn’t make much progress on diversity — they just didn’t release the photo.

A group picture with President Donald Trump showed the summer 2017 class was very white and very male. In the fall 2017 picture, observers pointed out one of the interns seemed to be making a white power gesture. (He denied it.) And the spring 2018 class was, again, very white(although with more female interns represented).

The White House appears not to be in a hurry to put out its summer 2018 intern picture, but Vox obtained a copy.

The photo of 128 summer interns surrounding President Trump gives an overall impression of a sea of white faces, with those who appear to be people of color dramatically outnumbered. That’s despite the fact that almost half of millennials in the United States are minorities.

The White House’s summer internship program this year ran from May 30 to August 10, and the photo, which has appeared on at least one now-former intern’s Instagram account, has yet to be released. Last year, members of the media were invited into the summer 2017 photo op, with the Associated Press capturing video of the picture being taken. This year, the spring 2018 class picture was distributed by the White House as one of its photos of the week.

But the summer internship program has been over for two and a half weeks, and the White House has yet to distribute it, as its photo of the week or otherwise. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment on the photo, its release, and the diversity of its intern class.

[Vox]

Trump says WH lawyer McGahn isn’t ‘a John Dean type ‘RAT”

President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that White House lawyer Don McGahn isn’t “a John Dean type ‘RAT,'” making reference to the Watergate-era White House attorney who turned on Richard Nixon.

Trump, in a series of angry tweets, blasted a New York Times story reporting that McGahn has been cooperating extensively with the special counsel team investigating Russian election meddling and potential collusion with Trump’s Republican campaign.

“The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT,'” Trump wrote, misspelling the word “counsel,” as he often does. “But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……”

The New York Times said in a tweet that it stands by the story.

Trump’s original legal team had encouraged McGahn and other White House officials to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, and McGahn spent hours in interviews.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump didn’t raise executive privilege or attorney-client privilege during those interviews because his team believed — he says now, wrongly — that fully participating would be the fastest way to bring the investigation to a close.

“The president encouraged him to testify, is happy that he did, is quite secure that there is nothing in the testimony that will hurt the president,” Giuliani said.

McGahn’s attorney William Burck added in a statement: “President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn’s testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the Special Counsel team’s questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must.”

Trump, in his tweets, continued to rail against the Mueller investigation, which he has labeled a “witch hunt.”

“So many lives have been ruined over nothing – McCarthyism at its WORST!” Trump wrote, referencing the indiscriminate and damaging allegations made by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to expose communists.

“Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!” he later tweeted.

Dean was White House counsel for Nixon, a Republican, during the Watergate scandal. He ultimately cooperated with prosecutors and helped bring down the Nixon presidency, though he served a prison term for obstruction of justice.

Dean, a frequent critic of the president, tweeted Saturday night in response to the Times story: “McGahn is doing right!” He later wrote, “Nixon, generally very competent, bungled and botched his handling of Watergate. Trump, a total incompetent, is bungling and botching his handling of Russiagate. Fate is never kind to bunglers and/or botchers! Unlike Nixon, however, Trump won’t leave willingly or graciously.”

Critics of the president have recently compared his decision to target the security clearances of critics and those involved in the Russia investigation to the “enemies list” created by the Nixon White House to keep track of political opponents they intended to target with punitive measures.

[PBS]

Justice Department steps in to block whistleblowers from seeing Trump’s Washington DC hotel financial records

According to an Associated Press report, Justice Department lawyers stepped in late Friday and asked a judge to hold off on letting outsiders review financial data related to President Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C.

In response to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, who is based in Maryland, to allow a lawsuit demanding access to the records to go forward, the Justice Department asked for a stay while they appeal his decision to a higher court in Richmond, Virginia.

According to the report, allowing the case to go forward could “potentially unearth financial records such as Trump’s income tax returns.”

Plaintiffs in the case indicated they are seeking “information from the hotel, a Trump hotel steakhouse, and the General Services Administration as well as the president’s financial records.”

Justice Department lawyers objected by stating the “public interest is decidedly in favor of a stay because any discovery would necessarily be a distraction to the President’s performance of his constitutional duties.”

In response, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine issued a statement saying: “After winning two major rulings in this case already, we anticipated President Trump’s most recent motion. Nonetheless, our case is still moving forward. We are on track to propose a schedule for discovery by September 14, and we hope to request relevant documents shortly thereafter.”

Whistleblowers are hoping to use discovery to make a case for the president violating the emoluments clause, banning Trump from profiting off of his presidency.

[Raw Story]

Omarosa releases tape of Lara Trump offering her hush money

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman on Thursday shared a recording of a conversation in which President Trump‘s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, offers her $15,000 a month to work on the president’s campaign after she was fired from the administration.

The recording, played on the air by MSNBC, reveals Lara Trump, an adviser for the president’s  campaign, discussing the flexible terms of a role for Manigault Newman. The conversation reportedly took place on Dec. 16, 2017, just days after Manigault Newman was fired from the White House.

On the recording, Lara Trump mentions a New York Times story that suggests Manigault Newman could have more to say about her time in the White House following her departure.

”They wrote about you. It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you’ve got in the back pocket to pull out,” Lara Trump says on the recording.

“Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can’t have … Everything, everybody positive, right?” she adds.

Lara Trump goes on to describe the terms of Manigault Newman’s position, which she suggests would include some speaking engagements and would allow the former aide to work from Washington, D.C., or New York City, depending on her preference.

Lara Trump adds that the campaign would offer Manigault Newman a salary of $15,000 a month, which is a comparable amount to what she made in the White House.

The audio appears to confirm Manigault Newman’s claim in her new book that she was offered a job by the Trump campaign after leaving the White House. She alleges the payment amounted to hush money.

Lara Trump issued a statement shortly after the recording aired asserting that she offered Manigault Newman a job because the Trump family was concerned about her dismissal and “cared about her personally.”

[The Hill]

Trump campaign files for arbitration against Omarosa over confidentiality breach

President Trump‘s campaign has filed for arbitration against former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, alleging she violated a non-disclosure agreement by publishing a tell-all book.
A Trump campaign official said in a statement it filed a claim with the American Arbitration Association in New York City against Manigault Newman “for breach of her 2016 confidentiality agreement with the Trump Campaign.”
The legal action ramps up the feud between Trump and his former adviser, who has engaged in a days-long media tour to promote her new book “Unhinged,” in which she assails the president as a racist and an incompetent leader.
The book draws upon her time on Trumps’ 2016 campaign and in the White House.
Manigault Newman has also released secret audio recordings of Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Trump associates Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton that she says back up explosive claims in her book.
Manigault Newman, who was fired from the White House in 2017, has admitted she signed a confidentiality agreement with Trump’s 2016 campaign. She also claims she was offered $15,000 per month and a job with Trump’s reelection campaign in exchange for signing a new non-disclosure agreement that guaranteed her silence.
She did not take the offer. Her book is set to be officially released on Tuesday. 
Manigault Newman has caused a headache for the White House by making a series of explosive claims about Trump, including that he used the n-word on the set of “The Apprentice,” which the president has denied.
Trump has sought to undercut Manigault Newman’s credibility by attacking her and rebutting her claims. But by doing so, the president has drawn criticism for his scorched-earth approach.
The latest example came on Tuesday morning, when Trump called Manigault Newman, who was once the highest-ranking African-American in the White House, “that dog.”
“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!” Trump tweeted.

White House: It’s ‘common’ for government employees to sign NDAs

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday would not say whether she’s signed a nondisclosure agreement since joining the Trump administration, but asserted it’s “common” for government employees to sign such documents.

“I’m not going get into the back and forth on who has signed an NDA here at the White House,” Sanders said at a press briefing when asked whether she’s signed such a document.

“I can tell you that it’s common in a lot of places for employees to sign NDAs, including in government, particularly anyone with a security clearance,” she added.

The question about requiring White House staffers to sign nondisclosure agreements has emerged as a point of contention as former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has published a new book filled with explosive claims about her time on the Trump campaign and as an aide in the Trump administration.

In her book released Tuesday, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” Manigault Newman alleges President Trump is a racist, a misogynist and a narcissist, and claims he repeatedly used the N-word on the set of “The Apprentice.”

Trump has lashed out at Manigault Newman in response, calling her a “dog” and a “lowlife.

The Trump campaign escalated the president’s war with Manigault Newman earlier Tuesday when it filed for arbitration, alleging she violated a nondisclosure agreement.

The campaign claims that by publishing the book, Manigault Newman violated the terms of a 2016 confidentiality agreement she signed with the campaign.

Asked Tuesday why compelling Manigault Newman to defend herself and potentially pay damages is necessary, Sanders said she could not speak on behalf of the campaign. However, she re-asserted that it’s “very normal” to require staffers to sign NDAs, arguing that “this White House is certainly no different” from past administrations.

Manigault Newman has acknowledged she signed a confidentiality agreement with the 2016 campaign but has denied signing a similar agreement upon leaving the White House.

The White House has in recent days confirmed its practice of requiring West Wing staffers to sign nondisclosure agreements, despite concerns from watchdogs that such documents are unenforceable and uncommon for public employees.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway confirmed the existence of the agreements during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” defending them as needed to ensure privacy.

“We’ve all signed them in the West Wing,” she said. “We have confidentiality agreements in the West Wing, absolutely we do.  And why wouldn’t we?”

After Trump tweeted that Manigault Newman signed a nondisclosure agreement, the American Civil Liberties Union called the practice unconstitutional, saying Trump was attempting to “muzzle federal employees.”

[The Hill]

Reality

Requiring public employees and contractors to sign an SF312 security clearance is one thing, a non-disclosure agreement for all employees to silence critical speech is another and is clearly unconstitutional.

White House: It’s in ‘Public Interest’ for Staff to Skirt Ethics Rules to Meet With Fox News

It is “in the public interest” for the White House’s top communicator to be excused from federal ethics laws so he can meet with Fox News, according to President Donald Trump’s top lawyer.

Bill Shine, Trump’s newly minted communications director, and Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economist, who worked at CNBC before his White House post, have both been excused from provisions of the law, which seeks to prevent administration officials from advancing the financial interests of relatives or former employers.

“The Administration has an interest in you interacting with Covered Organizations such as Fox News,” wrote White House counsel Don McGahn in a July 13 memo granting an ethics waivers to Shine, a former Fox executive. “[T]he need for your services outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the White House Office’s programs and operations.”

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

The news media has been a particular object of those waivers. Early in the administration, after The Daily Beast questioned the propriety of then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s communications with employees of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet he led before and after his White House tenure, the White House issued a blanket ethics waiver allowing all senior West Wing appointees to freely communicate with the press.

That move was widely seen as an effort to retroactively cover Bannon for previous meetings that would’ve otherwise run afoul of ethics rules—a move that may itself have constituted a violation of those rules.

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

The news media has been a particular object of those waivers. Early in the administration, after The Daily Beast questioned the propriety of then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s communications with employees of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet he led before and after his White House tenure, the White House issued a blanket ethics waiver allowing all senior West Wing appointees to freely communicate with the press.

That move was widely seen as an effort to retroactively cover Bannon for previous meetings that would’ve otherwise run afoul of ethics rules—a move that may itself have constituted a violation of those rules.

[The Daily Beast]

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