Trump’s EPA chief Scott Pruitt caught living in prime DC condo owned by top energy lobbyist’s wife

President Donald Trump’s environmental chief has been living in a townhouse co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt occupies the home a short distance from the U.S. Capitol, but neither the agency or lobbyist J. Steven Hart would say how much the Trump administration official has been paying to live in the prime location, reported ABC News.

The cost of the rental agreement will be a key question in determining whether the property is an improper gift, according to ethics experts.

Hart confirmed to ABC News that Pruitt lived in the condo, which is owned through a limited liability company that links to address owned by the lobbyist and his wife Vicki Hart — who is a lobbyist specializing in health care.

The Harts were described in 2010 by the newspaper Roll Call as a “lobbyist power couple.”

Steven Hart, chairman and CEO of Williams and Jensen, previously served in the Reagan Justice Department and is a top Republican fundraiser, and his firm reported more than $16 million in federal lobbying income last year.

“Among his many clients are the NRA and Cheniere Energy Inc., which reported paying Hart’s firm $80,000 a year,” ABC News reported.

[Raw Story]

Top Trump campaign officials urged Papadopoulos to communicate with Russians

Former Donald Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was encouraged by campaign officials to communicate with foreign contacts, according to the Washington Post.

As the Post reports, Papadopoulos was urged by deputy communications director Bryan Lanza to participate in an interview with a Russian news agency.

“You should do it,” Lanza told Papadopoulos, adding the connection could benefit a “partnership with Russia.”

According to the Post, emails turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller show “more extensive contact” between Papadopoulos and top campaign and transition officials “than has been publicly acknowledged.”

Papadopoulos also communicated with former White House strategist Steve Bannon and onetime national security adviser Michael Flynn, “who corresponded with [Papadopoulos] about his efforts to broker ties between Trump and top foreign officials.”

Read the full report at the Washington Post.

[Raw Story]

Trump Promotes Upcoming Fox and Friends Show

Trump promised that the popular morning show would be “showing much of our successful trip to Asia, and the friendship & benefits that will endure for years to come.”

The tweets suggest that Trump had knowledge of the show’s programming schedule before airtime, a curiosity that MSNBC reporter Stephanie Ruhle pointed out.

The president is known to be especially tight with “Fox & Friends.” Long before he moved to the White House, Trump would regularly call into the show to float false claims that President Barack Obama had not been born in the United States.

Last month, the president even hosted a private White House dinner with former longtime show executive producer Jennifer Rauchet, current co-host Pete Hegseth and a few other guests.

[The Wrap]

Oil Lobby Met With Trump Interior Secretary at Trump Hotel

The oil industry’s most powerful lobbying group met on March 23 with President Trump’s interior secretary at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. It also happened to be the same day the administration killed a rule that oil companies opposed.

The location of the meeting is raising eyebrows and ethical questions. The Trump International Hotel, situated just blocks from the White House, is ground zero for companies and foreign leaders who may be trying to cozy up to the president by using his properties, critics and ethics experts fear.

“It creates the appearance they are currying favor” by staying at a Trump hotel, said Lawrence Noble, general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog.

Noble, a CNN contributor, said while the meeting may not violate specific ethics rules, it shows that companies have discovered a “not-so-subtle way of showing support for the president.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke addressed the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) board of directors on that day at the Trump International Hotel, according to Zinke’s recently-released schedule.

Zinke, a strong advocate of the oil industry, spoke for 10 minutes, and then held a brief question-and-answer session, the Interior Department confirmed in a statement to CNNMoney.

That same day, the Interior Department announced plans to get rid of an Obama-era rule toughening standards on how much fossil fuel companies owe the government for drilling and mining on federal land. The energy industry had fought the rule. The oil industry group had even filed a lawsuit against it in December 2016.

The very next day, on March 24, the API put out a statement saying it was “pleased” by the Interior Department’s decision to get rid of the rule’s “substantial burdens.”

The Interior Department defended Zinke’s appearance at the API event.

“Like many secretaries before him, the Secretary was invited to speak at API’s meeting and he accepted the invitation. There is nothing unusual about a secretary speaking to stakeholders,” Heather Swift, a spokesperson for the department, said in a statement.

Swift said Zinke spoke about his “goals for the Department of the Interior and American energy.”

The Interior Department’s ethics office said it had “thoroughly vetted” Zinke’s API meeting. “We found that it presented no ethics violation or conflict of interest,” the ethics office said.

Noble, the ethics expert, agrees that meeting with an industry group “in and of itself is not unusual” as long as Zinke didn’t insist the gathering take place at a Trump hotel. There’s no evidence that Zinke picked the location of the API meeting.

It’s not clear how much the API spent on holding the meeting at the Trump International Hotel. Events at the hotel likely cost at least $100,000, The Washington Post has previously reported.

Neither the API nor the Trump Organization responded to requests for comment.

Zinke’s schedule doesn’t indicate who attended the meeting with API, which is chaired by ConocoPhillips (COP) CEO Ryan Lance.

The Trump International Hotel, which opened last September on the grounds of a renovated post office, has been a lightning rod for controversy. The Trump Organization rents space for the hotel from the General Services Administration, an agency of the Untied States government.

As president, Trump oversees the GSA, which makes him effectively both landlord and tenant.

Critics have argued the hotel violates the lease terms because there is a clause saying no government official can be a party to the 60-year lease that was signed in 2013.

In March, the federal government ruled that the hotel is not in violation of its lease. The GSA cited Trump’s decision to transfer control of his vast business empire to his sons and a Trump Organization executive.

However, Trump is still the ultimate beneficiary of the success of the company and the hotel.

Noble said there’s an easy way to resolve concerns about such conflicts involving Trump’s hotel.

“Just decide you won’t do any government business at the president’s hotel. Set a rule,” he said.

[CNN]

Leaked Tape Reveals Trump Invited Club Guests To Witness Cabinet Interviews

Newly leaked audio from a November party at President Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club reveals then president-elect Trump touting to guests his scheduled interviews on premises with potential cabinet members and White House staff.

“We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” Trump says in the tape, obtained by Politico and published Saturday. “You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government.”

We’re going to be interviewing everybody — Treasury, we’re going to be interviewing Secretary of State,” he continued. “We have everybody coming in — if you want to come around, it’s going to be unbelievable … so you might want to come along.”

The tape was recorded at the same New Jersey golf club where Trump interviewed several potential cabinet picks, including former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was under consideration to be secretary of State.

The tape sheds some light on how Trump conducts himself at his clubs, just as he returns this weekend to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., for his third straight weekend.

Last weekend, Trump was criticized for handling a North Korea missile crisis in public at his Mar-a-Lago dining room. Guests at the club took photos of the meeting, and one person even shared a Facebook post of the person responsible for carrying “nuclear football“—  the black bag that contains the nuclear launch codes.

(h/t The Hill)

Media

Trump Blasts Nordstrom for Dropping Ivanka’s Clothing Line

President Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted luxury department store Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka Trump’s label, a move that drew immediate criticism for further blurring the line between Trump’s administration and his family’s businesses.

“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Nordstrom had announced on Feb. 3 that it would stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s label due to its performance.

“We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance,” Nordstrom said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We’ve got thousands of brands— more than 2,000 offered on the site alone. Reviewing their merit and making edits is part of the regular rhythm of our business.”

While Nordstrom contends the decision was solely a business one, the publicly traded company has delved into the Trump administration’s controversial moves.

Nordstrom had issued an internal statement in support of immigrants following Trump’s executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries just three days before dropping Ivanka Trump’s line.

The move also comes amid a broader #GrabYourWallet hashtag calling for a boycott of all Trump products.

Some Trump critics immediately pounced on Trump’s tweet, holding it up as further evidence that Trump is not respecting what should be a firewall between the White House and his sprawling business empire.

Norm Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics czar, called the move “outrageous” on Twitter and said Nordstrom should consider suing under the California Unfair Competition Law, which forbids “any unfair” business act.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) also replied to Trump’s tweet, by “CC”ing the Office of Government Ethics.

Casey’s press secretary Jacklin Rhoads said in an emailed statement that the senator “feels it is unethical and inappropriate for the President to lash out at a private company for refusing to enrich his family.”

The Office of Government Ethics and Nordstrom did not immediately return calls for comment.

Executive branch employees are forbidden from using their positions to promote any corporation, although the president is technically exempt. There does not appear to be an applicable rule that addresses the president impugning a company.

Trump also retweeted his tweet on his official @POTUS account, which reaches 15.1 million followers. By comparison, Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account reaches 24.2 million followers.

The president had pledged to fully step away from his private businesses, but he has also said he will not sell the companies nor will he place his assets in a blind trust while serving as president.

Instead, Trump has said his company will not enter into new foreign deals and will appoint an ethics adviser who must approve any new domestic deals in writing.

The president has also proven his desire and ability to influence companies through Twitter. He has regularly blasted corporations including Carrier, General Motors and Toyota, accusing them of moving jobs and production overseas. Lockheed and Boeing have also drawn his ire over the price tag associated with their defense contracts.

On Wednesday, Nordstrom’s stock took a brief fall following Trump’s tweet, from $42.69 per share at 10:50 a.m. to $42.50 at 10:55 a.m. However, it has since risen to $43.14 as of 12:30 p.m.

(h/t Politico)

WSJ Reports National Enquirer Purposefully Withheld Story About Trump Affair

Tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer withheld a story about Donald Trump’s past affair with a former Playboy model, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

According to the Journal, the Enquirer, which endorsed Trump for president, paid model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story about having an affair with Trump in 2006.But the paper never published the story.

Trump was married to his wife Melania when he had the affair with the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year, according to documents reviewed by the Journal and sources familiar with the matter.

Trump is friendly with the Enquirer’s owner, David Pecker.

In a statement, Enquirer ownership company American Media Inc. said that it paid McDougal for fitness columns and magazine covers, as well as rights to any relationship with a married man.

“AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” the company said in a statement to the WSJ.

And Pecker pointed to the Enquirer’s coverage of Trump’s affair with Marla Maples while he was married to his first wife Ivana as evidence of the company’s “commitment to investigative reporting.”

Hope Hicks, Trump campaign spokesman, told the Journal the story was “totally untrue.”

The Journal reported that a contract with McDougal barred her from telling the Trump story elsewhere, in addition to giving her columns and covers.

People familiar with McDougal’s account told the WSJ that she and Trump had a relationship for about 10 months between 2006 and 2007. A friend of the former model’s told the Journal the affair lasted about a year.

Additionally, people familiar with the matter told the Journal that adult film actress Stephanie Clifford was recently in talks with ABC’s “Good Morning America” to reveal a past relationship with Trump, but ultimately cut off contact with the network.

Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman, said the claim was “absolutely, unequivocally” untrue.

(h/t The Hill)

Lewd Recording Uncovered of Trump Seducing a Married Woman

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone — saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it” — according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” on a bus with Access Hollywood written across the side. They were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment about Trump’s upcoming cameo on the soap opera.

The tape obtained by the Post includes audio of Bush and Trump’s conversation inside the bus, as well as audio and video once they emerge from it to begin shooting the segment.

In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as s—, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

 “I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says.“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

A spokeswoman for NBC Universal, which produces and distributes “Access Hollywood,” declined comment.

“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close,” Trump said in a statement. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”

The tape appears at a time when Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has sought to make a campaign issue out of his opponent’s marriage. Trump has criticized former President Bill Clinton for his past infidelity, and criticized opponent Hillary Clinton as her husband’s “enabler.”

“Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics,” Trump told the New York Times in a recent interview. “Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward. I think it’s a serious problem for them, and it’s something that I’m considering talking about more in the near future.”

Trump carried on a very public affair with Marla Maples — his eventual second wife — while still married to first wife Ivana Trump.

Trump has been criticized in this campaign for derogatory and lewd comments about women, including some made on TV and live radio. In an interview Wednesday with KSNV-TV, a Las Vegas television station, Trump said that those comments were made for entertainment.

“A lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment. There’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do,” he told the station.

“Are you trying to tone it down now?” asked the interviewer, Jim Snyder.

“It’s not a question of trying, it’s very easy,” said Trump.

The tape obtained by The Post seems to have captured Trump in a private moment, with no audience beyond Bush and a few others on the bus. It appears to have been shot around September 16, 2005, which was the day press reports said Trump would tape his soap-opera cameo.

The video shows the bus carrying Trump and Bush turning down a street on the studio backlot. The two men cannot be seen.

“Oh, nice legs, huh?” Trump says.

“Oof, get out of the way, honey,” Bush says, apparently referencing somebody else blocking the view of Zucker.

The two men then exit the bus, and greet Zucker.

“We’re ready, let’s go,” Trump says, after the initial greetings. “Make me a soap star.”

“How about a little hug for the Donald?” Bush says. “He just got off the bus.”

“Would you like a little hug, darling?” Zucker says.

“Absolutely,” Trump says. As they embrace, and air-kiss, Trump says, “Melania said this was okay.”

The video then follows Trump, Bush and Zucker into the studio. Trump did appear on Days of Our Lives, in late October. In a tape of that cameo posted online, Zucker’s character asks Trump — playing himself — for a job at his business, and tells him suggestively, “I think you’ll find I’m a very willing employee. Working under you, I think, could be mutually beneficial.”

Trump’s character gives her the brushoff.

“That’s an interesting proposition,” Trump says onscreen. “I’ll get back to you.”

A publicist for Zucker did not immediately respond to questions on Friday afternoon.

In a 2005 interview on the TV show “Soap Talk,” posted online, host Lisa Rinna asked Zucker if Trump was cute.

“He is so cute and charming,” Zucker said. “You just don’t look above…” she said, and motioned to her hairline.

(h/t Washington Post)

Media

CNN’s Corey Lewandowski Is Still Being Paid By Donald Trump

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is still being paid by the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s campaign while simultaneously drawing a salary as a CNN contributor to discuss the candidate on-air, according to the network.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and host Don Lemon noted that Lewandowski is “still receiving severance from the Trump campaign” while introducing him in July 11 and July 12 segments.

These references appear to be the first time CNN has disclosed the severance payments even though Lewandowski was hired nearly three weeks ago, raising questions about when the network became aware that its commentator was still being paid by his former employer.

Media observers have harshly criticized CNN over Lewandowski’s hiring pointing to his non-disclosure and likely non-disparagement agreements with the Trump campaign as “profoundly disturbing” ethical conflicts. Since his hiring, Lewandowski has by his own admission continued to advise the Trump campaign, even pushing a camera away from the candidate during a campaign stop.

In his on-air appearances, Lewandowski has acted more like a spokesman for the campaign than as an independent commentator, defending all of Trump’s actions in a way that, as one Washington Post reporter noted, indicates he “has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee.”

That pattern continued during the segments in which CNN revealed that he is receiving severance from the campaign. In his New Day appearance on July 11, Lewandowski defended Trump from criticism of his reference to a perceived supporter as “my African-American” by stating, “The way Mr. Trump talks, anybody who knows him, and I know him very well, he’d say, my Corey. You’re my Corey. That’s a term of endearment. It’s not a pejorative term.” In his CNN Tonight appearance on July 12, his statements about Trump’s beliefs about race in America led Lemon to interject, “don’t give me talking points.”

The network’s defenders have pointed out that political operatives regularly join the ranks of paid on-air pundits, and noted that CNN also employs contributors with ties to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But employing a contributor who continues to be paid by the candidate whose performance and positions he is being asked to analyze appears unprecedented.

(h/t Media Matters)

Reality

As campaign manager, Lewandowski banned news organizations from rallies and maintained Trump’s media blacklist, which includes The Washington Post, as well as BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Politico, the Des Moines Register and many others. His hostility included CNN at least once. Noah Gray, a CNN producer covering Trump, tweeted last November that as he filmed the crowd’s reaction to a protester at a rally, Lewandowski ordered him “inside the pen or I’ll pull your credentials.”

Media

Media Matters

Hot Mic Captures Trump Chatting With Morning Joe Hosts

A newly released audio recording of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski’s off-air conversations with Donald Trump has reignited concerns that the MSNBC co-hosts are too cozy with the Republican frontrunner.

The conversations, which took place during the commercial breaks at last week’s MSNBC “Trump Town Hall” event, feature the three talking jovially about the success of Trump’s campaign, his likelihood of winning South Carolina and Nevada, and the ineffectiveness of his opponents’ attack ads.

At one point, Brzezinski tells Trump that she had “a wow moment” when he brought two men up on stage after they had removed a protester from a rally. Trump responds: “I saw it, I watched your show this morning. You had me almost as a legendary figure.”

The audio, which was obtained by comedian and radio show host Harry Shearer, offered the latest evidence that the “Morning Joe” co-hosts are too friendly toward Trump, which has become a source of discomfort at NBC. Network insiders have chafed at what they described as Scarborough’s “over the top” and “unseemly” admiration for the real estate magnate who is leading the GOP field.

Shearer played the recording on his show to let listeners decide whether or not Scarborough and Brzezinski were “in the tank” for Trump. His own take, upon the conclusion of the recording: “You can cut the adversarial tension there with a knife,” he quipped. “A butter knife, but still.”

Throughout the tape, Trump asks Scarborough and Brzezinski to weigh in on his campaign tactics, his poll numbers and the effectiveness of his opponents.

“They’re spending $75 million on negative ads against me over the last two weeks. Are they catching on at all?” Trump asks at one point.

“No, doesn’t look that way,” Scarborough says.

“What do you think?” Trump asks Brzezinski.

“No,” Brzezinski says.

Trump says, “Just make us all look good,” and Scarborough responds, “Exactly.” Later, Trump says, “Nothing too hard, Mika,” referring to upcoming questions, and Brzezinski replies, “Okay.”

Reality

We’ve listened to the audio many times and remain undecided. This could very well just be harmless ice-breaking banter between the hosts, or it could be coaching. There is not enough evidence for this incident to come to an objective conclusion.

It is fair to point out that Donald Trump and Joe Scarborough have a friendly relationship and that his show MSNBC has been soft or in the corner of Trump quite often. Some examples include:

Media

Links

http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/22/media/donald-trump-joe-scarborough-hot-mic/