Out of Public View, Trumps and Kushners Are Talking Business

The Kushner and Trump families have both been in New York real estate for decades.

But until relatively recently, they didn’t work together on large projects.

That appears to be changing with a new Jeresy Shore development led by the Kushners, which the New York Times is reporting will have at least one hotel managed by the Trumps. According to the Times, there is a signed letter of intent.

“The long-running talks blur the line between family, business and politics in ways that lack precedent: Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, retain financial interests in their family businesses,” the Times writes. “The Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser has raised questions about a potential deal—one reason the two-year-long discussions have not been completed.”

The report quotes an ethics advisor who points out that this conflict of interest may be the reason Trump hasn’t pushed his son-in-law out of the White House, despite Kushner losing his top-secret security clearance and reports that other nations were looking to exploit his massive debt load in negotiations.

“The concern is that the president might not want to do anything that would upset the Kushner family agreement to do business with his company,” said the ethics advisor.

The story goes on to detail all the places the Kushners have borrowed money and to discuss the rarely used emoluments clause of the Constitution.

[RawStory]

Donald Trump Didn’t Actually Do Anything To Free UCLA Players Detained In China

Remember when Donald Trump made a big stink about he personally liberated three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China? According to a new report from ESPN, Trump didn’t actually do shit.

LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested for shoplifting during a team trip to China on Nov. 8. According to a Nov. 14 New York Times story, under the credulous headline “How Trump Helped Liberate UCLA ‘Knuckleheads’ From China,” the president intervened on the players’ behalf a few days later, while he was meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Times that he spoke to the players while they were under house arrest, and told them that Trump had pulled some strings for them. From the Times:

Mr. Kelly said Mr. Trump’s intervention, as well as diplomatic efforts by State Department diplomats, led to the reduction of the charges to the equivalent of misdemeanors as well as the release of the three players to their hotel, where they were placed under temporary house arrest. It was there that Mr. Kelly talked to Chris Carlson, an associate athletic director at U.C.L.A., and to the players on the phone the next day.

But according to a team source cited in ESPN’s report, the players were not under house arrest when Trump got involved, and had in fact already had their passports returned to them and flights home booked. From ESPN:

“The players were already checked into the hotel before the public discovered they were arrested,” a team source said. “They also were not under house arrest. It was our decision to keep them at the hotel until the situation was resolved. The charges were dropped, they weren’t reduced, and that happened two days before we heard from Gen. Kelly.”

So it looks like LaVar Ball was right when he said that Trump didn’t really do anything to free his son, and that Trump was being an even bigger shithead than we thought he was when he tweeted, “I should have left them in jail!” in response.

[Deadspin]

Trump Campaign Uses Photo of Parkland Shooting Survivor in Email Asking For Donations

On Saturday, President Donald Trump‘s reelection campaign sent an email soliciting donations — and in that email was a photo of the president visiting a Parkland, FL shooting survivor.

“The nation has turned its attention to the senseless school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Trump is taking steps toward banning gun bump stocks and strengthening background checks for gun purchasers,” the email — first reported by CNN — reads. “The President has made his intent very clear: ‘making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority.’”

A little further down, the email links to the campaign’s donations page.

The photo was also publicized on the president’s Instagram, but it did not accompany a plea for money:

Pictured in the photo is Madeleine Wilford, 17, who was shot four times by shooter Nikolas Cruz. Surrounding her are the president, the first lady, and her family.

[Mediaite]

Trump concocted a story about a border agent’s death. The truth won’t catch up.

This is the autopsy of a lie.

On the night of Nov. 18, Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found dying on the side of an interstate in West Texas. There were immediate signs it had been an accident. Martinez’s partner, Stephen Garland (who suffered a head injury and doesn’t recall the incident), had radioed for help, saying he thought he ran into a culvert.

But President Trump and his allies saw an opportunity to whip up anti-immigrant fervor. At a Cabinet meeting Nov. 20, Trump announced, with cameras rolling, that “we lost a Border Patrol officer just yesterday, and another one was brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt. . . . We’re going to have the wall.” He also issued a similar tweet.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, offered a reward “to help solve this murder” and to “help us catch this killer.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) declared the incident “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses.”

And then there was Fox News, reporting that “a border patrol agent was brutally murdered” and going with the headline “Border Patrol agent appeared to be ambushed by illegal immigrants, bashed with rocks before death.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson reported that Martinez was “attacked at the border in the most gruesome possible way.”

The FBI swung into action, mobilizing 37 field offices, and this week it announced its findings. Although the investigation “has not conclusively determined” what happened, “none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017.”

Compared with the original allegations, the findings got little attention. There was no corrective tweet from Trump or the others and no retraction by Fox News, which buried the FBI’s findings with brief mention. Fox News, which had previously reported immigrants to be guilty of rape allegations that were later dropped, continued to report the border union’s claim of assault “despite FBI finding no scuffle.”

It has been more than 300 years since Jonathan Swift wrote about the utility of falsehood: “If a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect . . . like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.”

Swift could not have better described Trump’s America in the 21st century, when allegation substitutes for evidence. Let us pretend that Russia isn’t interfering in our elections — and therefore let us decline to impose sanctions approved by Congress. Let us concoct stories about “illegal immigrant” murderers and rapists to justify a border wall. And let us tell Americans they can have a free lunch — a $1.5 trillion tax cut and $500 billion in additional spending, all paid for with borrowed funds — and suffer no adverse consequences. By the time people discover what has really happened, it will be too late.

Most Americans will never learn what investigators found about the border attack — because they were being exposed to a new hoax this week: that the key to the United States’ success is in borrowing more. “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” Trump tweeted in celebration after the two-year budget deal cleared Congress Friday morning.

But the economy is already near full employment — exactly the wrong time to enact a stimulus, typically done to jolt an economy out of recession. The deal gives the military even more than Trump sought and, with interest, will add almost $420 billion to the deficit, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The tax cut and spending spree leave the government with less power to combat a recession. And a recession is exactly what Wall Street fears as the overstimulated economy forces up inflation and interest rates.

When recession comes, it will be too late. The fiction of a free lunch will already have wasted $2 trillion in the cause of overheating the economy, just as the fiction about the attack on Martinez and Garland has already furthered Trump’s attempt to portray immigrants as criminals.

There was reason to be skeptical early on in that case. Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo, one of the first responders on the scene, told The Post shortly after the incident that he doubted it was an attack. He has speculated that it was a fall, or that the two were accidentally sideswiped by a tractor-trailer.

But that didn’t fit Trump’s narrative about murderous immigrants. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.

[Washington Post]

Trump contradicts self repeatedly in immigration meeting

President Donald Trump appeared to contradict himself multiple times in a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday — a reflection of growing frustration from Capitol Hill about the lack of direction from the White House on the issue.

The President at times suggested he would be looking to sign everything from a stand-alone fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — set to expire in March — to comprehensive immigration reform, often appearing to being guided by lawmakers in the room to modify his positions.

The comments came during a nearly hour-long conversation between the roughly two dozen lawmakers, the President and White House staff that the press was allowed to record — a window into the difficult negotiations that still surround the issue of replacing DACA, which protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, and border security.

At the end of the session, Trump suggested that ultimately, he would sign whatever he was presented with.

“I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with,” Trump said. “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it. Because I respect them.”

Sens. Jeff Flake and James Lankford after the meeting both said the meeting was surprisingly helpful and they appreciated the President adding some clarity to the discussions, while noting hammering out the details remains to be worked out.
Lankford acknowledged that the meeting got “confusing,” saying though Trump at the beginning defined “DACA” as a deal that included DACA plus border security and two other areas of reform, it was unclear during some parts of the meeting.

“It got confusing at times, in fact he said later, ‘I just want a clean DACA and we’ll do a comprehensive later,’ and some of us said, ‘Whoa, what do you mean by that?’ And he came back to those four items,” the Oklahoma Republican told reporters afterward.
The White House declared the meeting a success in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“President Donald J. Trump just concluded a successful bipartisan and bicameral meeting on immigration reform,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in the statement. “During the closed-door portion of the meeting, they reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms in four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.”

Asked during the White House briefing by CNN’s Jim Acosta whether Trump is demanding border wall funding in exchange for a DACA deal, Sanders would only say: “The President wants border security.”

Pressed again repeatedly, Sanders again insisted Trump wants “border security” funding — but would not commit to the wall.

Trump’s equivocation was the opposite of what lawmakers have long sought from the President. Republicans especially have pushed for the administration to draw clear lines around what would be a doable deal, giving them cover with the base to compromise and giving them leverage with Democrats to move the debate forward.

Asked if Tuesday provided the clarity that lawmakers have been asking for, Lankford said there was still more to be done.

“Oh no, there’s still some room to go on it,” he said. “They’re continuing to get more and more clear on what they’re putting out, we’re getting closer and closer.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn made the point directly to Trump during the meeting, saying that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both told the President at a legislative retreat with Republicans over the weekend that only a bill with Trump’s support would move forward for a vote.

“So, that’s I think the picture that we need to be looking through, the lens we need to be looking through, not only what can we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law,” Cornyn said. “Because we all want to get to a solution here and we realize the clock is ticking.”

But details in the meeting were still hard to come by.

At one point, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, suggested to Trump that Congress could pass the “Dream Act” alone, which would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and which has been Democrats’ starting point demand, and then turn to comprehensive reform.

When Trump indicated he would agree to that, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said border security would have to be part of the package, prompting Trump to say that’s what he thought Feinstein meant, and then a flurry of clarifications.

Trump said his version of a “clean” deal would include DACA, border security, ending “chain migration” or family-based migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery. But those issues are commonly thought to only be achievable in a comprehensive immigration deal.

Trump then both endorsed doing comprehensive immigration reform sooner and later.
Lawmakers working on a DACA deal have long fought to keep the bill narrow, saying adding more into it would only make it collapse under its own wait.

Trump said he would “take the heat” if lawmakers wanted to move toward comprehensive immigration reform, saying they were “not that far away” from it.

But then a few minutes later, Trump said DACA could come first and reform could come down the road, or immediately after.

“I think what we are all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon, OK?” Trump said. “We’ll take an hour off and start. I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done if it’s done properly with security and everything else, if it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiations. I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.”

Since Trump decided to end DACA in September, lawmakers have been working to find a deal on the issue. The Tuesday meeting came ahead of a January 19 government funding deadline that Democrats are pushing to include DACA and a host of other issues.

[CNN]

Media

Trump Urges Voters to Pick Roy Moore Instead of ‘Liberal Jones’

With a little more than two weeks until a special election for the Senate in Alabama, President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, and reiterated his support for Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women.

“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning.

“Liberal Jones would be BAD!” he tweeted less than an hour later.

In response, the Jones campaign said Mr. Jones’s record as a prosecutor “speaks for itself.”

“Roy Moore was unfit for office before nine Alabama women served as witnesses to all Alabamians of his disturbing conduct,” Sebastian Kitchen, Mr. Jones’s spokesman, wrote in an email. “Doug Jones is continuing to focus on finding common ground and getting things done for real Alabamians.”

During the Alabama Republican primary, Mr. Trump endorsed Senator Luther Strange on Twitter, then deleted some of those tweets after Mr. Strange lost the runoff in September.

On Sunday, the president claimed that after he had supported Mr. Strange, the candidate “shot way up in the polls” — a claim he also made in September — but “it wasn’t enough.”

It has been widely reported that Mr. Strange did not advance in the polls after Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

The latest poll numbers indicate that Mr. Moore is in a tight race. Alabama historically votes Republican but the allegations against Mr. Moore have taken a toll.

Most of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct said it occurred when they were teenagers and Mr. Moore was in his 30s. He has denied the allegations.

“I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” Mr. Moore told the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

High-ranking Republicans have not been convinced.

“I believe the women,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said.

Mr. Trump, however, has remained skeptical.

“Forty years is a long time. He’s run eight races, and this has never come up,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. “He says it didn’t happen.”

[The New York Times]

Trump uses Egypt attack to plug border wall, immigration restrictions

In denouncing the terror attack on a mosque in Egypt, President Trump on Friday renewed his calls for for tighter immigration screening in the U.S, and a wall along the border with Mexico.

Trump said he would Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi “to discuss the tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life,” adding on Twitter: “We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.”

Egyptian state media reported that at least 235 people died and more than 130 were injured during an attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai region, the deadliest attack ever on Egyptian civilians by Islamic militants.

Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted: “Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

In a readout after the call, the White House said Trump offered his condolences to the people of Egypt after the “heinous attack” on worshippers. Trump “reiterated that the United States will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism,” the statement said. “The international community cannot tolerate barbaric terrorist groups and must strengthen its efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism in all its forms.”

Trump has used previous terror attacks to promote immigration restrictions that are the subject of many political and legal disputes.

The administration’s proposed ban on immigration from six Muslim majority countries has faced a number of legal challenges. And congressional Democrats have moved to block funding for the proposed wall on the nation’s southern border.

Democrats said the nation has long screened immigrants in an effort to block potential terrorists, and they have accused Trump of making his proposals to keep Muslims and Hispanics out of the United States.

[USA Today]

Reality

Trump proposes a border wall with Mexico to keep out Egyptians and a Muslim ban that does not include Egypt as solutions to prevent terrorism after a terror attack at a mosque in Egypt.

Trump administration lifts ban on importing heads of hunted elephants

The Trump administration confirmed Thursday it lifted a ban that had prohibited hunters from importing trophies of elephants killed in two African nations, reversing a 2014 rule put in place by the Obama White House.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told NBC News that the agency had “determined that the hunting and management programs for African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”

“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” the spokesperson said.

The reversal will apply to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe from Jan. 21, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2018 and to elephants hunted in Zambia in 2016, 2017 and 2018 “for applications that meet all other applicable permitting requirements,” the agency spokesperson said.

The move overturns a 2014 rule implemented by former President Barack Obama that banned hunters from bringing the trophy heads of elephants they’d killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back to the U.S.

The African Bush Elephant is currently listed as endangered, under the Endangered Species Act, but a provision in the law allows for the import of trophies if it can be proved that hunting the animals contributes to conservation efforts.

The statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cited conservation “enhancement findings” in reaching its decision but did not elaborate on what those findings were.

The decision by the agency was first reported Wednesday by ABC News.

Zimbabwe and Zambia issue annual permits allowing foreign hunters to kill animals, like elephants, buffalo and lions, saying the practice allows the nations to raise money for conservation. The Obama White House, however, introduced the initial ban on trophy imports in 2014 after the population of the African elephants fell.

Animal rights groups blasted the Trump administration’s move.

“Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them,” Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote in a statement posted on his blog.

“What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it’s just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?” he added.

Among those who could benefit from the rule change are President Donald Trump’s adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, who are known big game hunters. Photographs of the pair surfaced in 2012 showing the two men posing with the carcasses of several dead animals from a hunting trip they’d taken a year earlier in Zimbabwe.

[NBC News]

Reality

The Trump administration’s decision to loosen restrictions around the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has turned attention back to the president’s family’s own connection to the controversial sport.

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are prolific big-game hunters and during the 2016 campaign, images re-emerged of the pair on a 2011 hunting trip posing with animals they had killed on safari, including an elephant, a buffalo and a leopard.

Trump distances himself from Ed Gillespie after Virginia election loss

President Trump tried to distance himself from Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie on Twitter late Tuesday, after Democratic candidate and Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the state’s highly contested governor’s race.

Both parties poured money and staff into the Virginia election, which was seen as a potential bellwether for Trump’s impact on mid-term elections across the country next year.

“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” Trump tweeted after the election. “Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”

Trump, who is traveling in South Korea, had been a vocal supporter of Gillespie but had never hit the campaign trial for the former Republican National Committee chairman.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “.@EdWGillespie will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA.” Last month, Trump first came out to support Gillespie on Twitter by bashing Northam.

[USA Today]

Trump Blames Generals for Niger Ambush That Got Four U.S. Soldiers Killed

Did President Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief, just blame U.S. generals for the deadly October 4 ambush in Niger?

When asked by reporters on Wednesday if he authorized the mission in Niger that left four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers dead, Trump said, “No, I didn’t, not specifically.” The generals have “decision-making ability,” he added.

“I have generals that are great generals,” he said during an impromptu press conference outside of the White House before heading off to Dallas. “These are great fighters; these are warriors. I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win. And we’re going to win.”

Trump referred to the leaders as “my generals” and “my military.” He’s used such phrasing before, which has angered the military community.

“When it comes to the military, the military belongs to the country. Our defense system belongs to the country. And it’s not the president’s military, it’s the military of the United States of America,” Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and director of the CIA, said in April.

This is also not the first time Trump has seemingly placed responsibility for a deadly military incident on the generals. After a botched raid in Yemen resulted in the death of U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens in late January, Trump said, “My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

During his presidential campaign, Trump said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” His actions since becoming president, however, suggest Trump doesn’t believe this at all.

Trump has delegated far more autonomy to the Pentagon in conducting military operations than was offered by his predecessor, Barack Obama. He’s also filled his cabinet with military men. Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis are both retired Marine generals.

“What I do is I authorize my military…. We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said in April. The president argued this is why the military has been “so successful” under his watch compared to “what has happened over the last eight years.”

The military seems to appreciate this newfound independence under Trump.

“It has freed us up a bit to prosecute the war in a more aggressive manner, I think,” said Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria from August 2016 to September 2017, during an interview with Time over the summer.

But some have argued that the lack of restrictions has only made the military more trigger-happy, which could help explain the extreme rise in civilian deaths from U.S. air strikes under Trump. The rules the president has rolled back were designed to prevent civilian casualties.

Does the military’s increased autonomy also place troops in greater danger? This is less clear. But some argue that Trump has skirted portions of his responsibility as commander-in-chief, and that on more than one occasion this has allowed him to point to his generals when things have gotten messy.

Meanwhile, many questions remain about what exactly happened in Niger on October 4, and an investigation is ongoing.

[Newsweek]

Media

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