Trump made ‘suggestion’ Pence stay at president’s Irish golf club

President Donald Trump suggested that Vice President Mike Pence stay at his Irish golf club on an official trip funded by taxpayer dollars, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short told reporters Tuesday.

Pence, who is traveling with his wife, sister, and mother, is staying at the president’s golf club in Doonbeg, Ireland, during his visit to the country. Rather than stay in Dublin, where he is set for a day of meetings and events with Irish officials, Pence is making the back-and-forth trip from Doonbeg to Dublin, more than an hour flight each way.

Originally, Pence was scheduled to conclude his trip in Doonbeg, where he has familial ties, after attending World War II commemoration ceremonies in Poland.

On whether the president asked Pence to stay at his Irish golf club, Short said: “I don’t think it was a request, like a command. … I think that it was a suggestion.”

“It’s like when we went through the trip, it’s like, well, he’s going to Doonbeg because that’s where the Pence family is from,” Short said before describing the president’s suggestion. “It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place.'”

“It wasn’t like a ‘you must,'” Short added. “It wasn’t like, ‘You have to.’ It’s a facility that could accommodate the team. Keep in mind, the Secret Service has protected that facility for him, too, so they sort of know the realities, they know the logistics around that facility.”

Short said the president was not having Pence stay at the resort for free, insisting that the club was the only facility in Doonbeg that could accommodate the vice president’s entourage. He said he didn’t have a cost estimate yet.

“We always explore lower cost options, which is why, you know, you have basically different footprints for this trip as well,” Short said. “But when you’re in Doonbeg tonight and you’re with the vice president on some of the official visits he’s also doing, you’ll also see there are not a lot of options in that community.”

After speaking to reporters, Short told a New York Times reporterthat Pence is “personally paying all family expenses.”

Speaking with reporters later Tuesday, Pence said he understood “political attacks by Democrats” regarding his stay at Trump’s resort.

“But if you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place and the opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical,” he added. “We checked it with the State Department. They approved us staying there.”

The president has come under scrutiny for using taxpayer dollars at his properties both in the U.S. and overseas. Last month, Trump even suggested that next year’s G-7 summit should be hosted at his Miami golf resort, insisting he would not profit off such a venture.

Since taking office, the president has spent roughly 300 days at Trump properties, according to an NBC News count. Ahead of his inauguration, Trump chose to turn control of his company over to his two adult sons and a senior Trump Organization executive rather than divest from his large portfolio.

[NBC News]

After criticism by Paul Krugman, Trump just lashed out at American labor on Labor Day

For a newspaper that he constantly describes as “failing” and “Fake News,” Donald Trump pays an awful lot of attention to The New York Times.

A series of tweets by the paper’s Nobel Prize-winning economics columnist Paul Krugman referenced an article in the newspaper on how Trump’s establishment of “Opportunity Zones” — part of the Republican tax bill that gave billions in tax cuts to the already wealthy while offering pittances to everyone else — primarily benefited Trump’s associates and benefactors in a swampy mass of corruption as usual.

Krugman’s strong indictment of the Trump administration’s tax policies — coupled with The New York Times’ exposure of the dark underbelly of billionaire tax evasion schemes — was enough to set the president off on an epic Twitter rant, one not likely to earn him the Nobel Prize in economics that his critic already possesses.

With growing predictions of an impending economic recession looming, Trump defended his economic policies with the usual parcel of lies he offers in defense of his economic stewardship to his gullible followers.

Nothing says “truthiness” like a quote praising Trump from Fox News, at least in the president’s own eyes.

Trump went directly after Krugman in his next tweet.

Trump’s criticism of Krugman’s economic advice would certainly carry more weight if the figures he used in his tweet were anything close to the reality of the stock market performance.

No, the stock market hasn’t grown “over 50%” since Trump took office. The S&P 500 was up around 29% since the beginning of the president’s term until mid-August of this year — a figure that compares negatively to the index’s performance of a 46% gain at the same point in the Obama presidency.

Yet, any rise in the market during the Trump administration also ignores the fact that only slightly more than 50% of Americans actually own any stocks whatsoever and that the richest 10% of households controlled 84% of the total value of the stock market.

Trump says that anyone following Krugman’s advice would be doing “VERY poorly,” but their opinions about that advice will change dramatically when the poor market fundamentals caused by Trump’s trade wars and tariff impositions lead to an inevitable market collapse and wipe out the paper wealth that was generated during his term.

Unfortunately for America and the global economy, Trump is the one who doesn’t “get it.” With the U.S. Treasury bond yield curve still inverted — a historical sign that a market crash is imminent as investors flee the stock market to the safety of government bonds — chances are good that the US will enter a recession before the 2020 elections are held.

At that point, no amount of tweeted lies by Donald Trump will help reverse the economic damage his policies have caused. The smart money is following Krugman’s advice while the rich continue to exploit Trump’s tax policies to siphon money from government services that the rest of us depend on while driving up government debt to make their case to cut back or even eliminate those services.

[Occupy Democrats]

Barr books Trump’s hotel for $30,000 holiday party

Attorney General William P. Barr is planning a holiday treat for his boss.

Last month, Barr booked President Trump’s D.C. hotel for a 200-person holiday party in December that is likely to deliver Trump’s business more than $30,000 in revenue.

Barr signed a contract, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, for a “Family Holiday Party” in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom Dec. 8. The party will feature a buffet and a four-hour open bar for about 200 people.

Barr is paying for the event himself and chose the venue only after other hotels, including the Willard and the Mayflower, were booked, according to a Justice Department official. The official said the purpose of Barr’s party wasn’t to curry favor with the president.

Barr holds the bash annually, and it combines holiday festivities and a ceilidh, a party featuring Irish or Scottish music.

“Career ethics officials were consulted, and they determined that ethics rules did not prohibit him from hosting his annual party at the Trump hotel,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the party is not a Justice Department event.

Barr’s decision to book his boss’s hotel marks the latest collision between Trump’s administration and his business, which the president no longer operates but from which he still benefits financially.

Trump said Monday that he was likely to hold next year’s Group of Seven international summit at his golf resort in Doral, Fla. Already the federal government and GOP campaigns have spent at least $1.6 million at his properties since he entered office, according to a Post analysis, though the actual figure is likely to be higher because of the difficulty of obtaining up-to-date records.

Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement official, has previously faced criticism for adopting language that hews closely to Trump’s. For example, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III complained that Barr’s characterization of his investigation — which closely mirrored the president’s — “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s final report. Experts have cited that and other examples in questioning Barr’s independence from the president.

“It creates the appearance that high-level political appointees or allies of the president may feel like they need to spend money at the president’s businesses as a show of loyalty, and that is something that makes me deeply uncomfortable and should make taxpayers deeply uncomfortable,” said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

The Trump Organization declined to comment. Representatives from the Willard Hotel declined to comment, citing the company’s privacy policy. A spokeswoman for the Mayflower Hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barr’s decision to book the Trump hotel is noteworthy, in particular, because Justice Department attorneys are defending the president’s business in court. Trump’s D.C. hotel has hosted a number of foreign governments as clients, business that has generated two lawsuits, one from the attorneys general of Maryland and D.C. and the other from about 200 Democratic members of Congress.

Both cases are being considered in federal court, and the Justice Department is defending the president’s position that he has not run afoul of the anti-corruption provisions in the Constitution called the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D), a plaintiff in one of the emoluments cases against Trump, said Barr’s plans make him fear “that all this does is it normalizes conduct of presidential supporters or would-be supporters, who clearly know a clear avenue to curry favor with the president and that is to do business with the president’s business.

White House aides, including inside the White House Counsel’s Office, have warned Trump and Cabinet officials against making official visits to his properties.

Barr’s event falls into a different category. It isn’t an official event — it’s a party. His contract requires that he spend $4,500 to rent the ballroom — space designed by Ivanka Trump before she joined her father in the White House — and $135 per person for a buffet and open bar, a number that is likely to change after Barr chooses a menu for the event.

Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s ethics record, called Barr’s decision to book Trump’s hotel “one of those things that doesn’t violate the rules, but it’s really troubling.”

“He keeps sending signals that his loyalty is to a politician and not to the country,” Shaub said. “And it’s part of an ongoing erosion of credibility at the Department of Justice.”

It’s difficult to determine whether Barr will pay market rate for the event, as the Justice Department official asserted he would. The contract, sent to Barr at his Northern Virginia home, calls for a minimum of $100 per person for food and beverage before adding 35 percent for taxes and tip. It requires that Barr pay at least $31,500, even if he cancels the event.

The hotel’s publicly available menu lists a “banquet dinner” as costing $115 per person for two hours plus $30 for each additional hour. A hosted bar costs $29 for the first hour per person and an additional $12 per hour for each additional hour. If Barr opts for that level of service at those prices, the food and beverage bill for 200 guests would probably top $45,000.

Hotels typically have lots of available space on Sunday nights, leading them to offer less expensive rates. A contract the hotel signed with Virginia Women for Trump for a Monday event in the summer of 2018, obtained separately by The Post, required a $3,050 room rental fee and a $39,000 banquet fee for a much larger group, 818 people, though it did not include an open bar.

Hempowicz said that if Barr receives a discount from the hotel, it would give other Americans dealing with the Justice Department reason for concern, whomever the party is for.

“If the attorney general gets a discount while the Justice Department defends the hotel in court, that is not how the justice system is supposed to work and it’s not how the Department of Justice is supposed to work,” she said.

[Washington Post]

Donald Trump wants to hold next G7 summit at his Failing Florida golf resort

President Donald Trump wants to hold next year’s G7 summit at his Doral golf resort near Miami.

Trump visited the Doral resort for the first time in his presidency this week after holding a rally in Orlando to attend a fundraiser for his re-election campaign, the Washington Post reported. It marked the 126th visit to one of his properties since he was inaugurated.

Trump likes to visit his own properties so much that he suggested holding next year’s G7 summit, a gathering of leaders from the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, at the Doral resort or one of his other luxury properties, former and current White House officials told the Post.

Aides said that White House staffers and even the White House counsel’s office have pushed back on Trump’s official visits to his properties and voiced concerns about the appearance of him using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own companies.

Trump has not listened to the aides and overruled a recommendation against visiting his Turnberry golf club in Scotland last year. He has since visited his golf clubs in Ireland, Los Angeles and now South Florida on official trips.

The trips have been a boon for the resorts. His companies have earned at least $1.6 million in revenue from federal officials and Republican campaigns who had to travel with Trump, according to an analysis by the Post, which reported that the real number is likely much higher because the data used only covered spending through the first half of 2017.

Republicans have even “reshaped” their fundraising schedule, with one-third of fundraisers and donor events attended by Trump being held at his own properties, according to the report. Republican fundraisers told the Post that several groups have held events at Trump’s properties in order to increase the chance that the president will attend.

“The president knows that by visiting his properties, taxpayer dollars will flow directly into his own pockets. Then, unsurprisingly, the president visits his properties all the time,” Ryan Shapiro of the watchdog group Property for the People told the Post.

An earlier analysis found that the Trump campaign and more than three dozen members of Congress had spent upwards of $4 million at Trump’s properties.

The increased political spending at Trump’s properties is at the center of a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who allege that Trump’s profits violate laws barring the president from receiving gifts or additional payments from the federal government. Both attorneys general are also alleging that Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution because his Washington hotel accepts payments from foreign governments.

House Democrats passed an amendment in response to Trump’s frequent trips to his properties, seeking to bar the State Department from spending any money at his businesses.

“It’s against the emoluments clause of the Constitution to be making money out of the job,” said Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a Democrat who sponsored the amendment. “And he does it every chance he can.”

Last year, taxpayers paid at least $30,000 for meeting rooms and hotel stays for then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials in luxury suites when Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

According to State Department emails obtained by Property of the People, the rooms cost 300 percent more than the maximum amount allowed by government policies. Taxpayers were also hit with a $1,000 bar tab that Trump aides ran up at the club, ProPublica reported.

Trump’s repeated trips to his resorts came as both his Doral and Mar-a-Lago properties have struggled to draw non-government business.

Mar-a-Lago’s revenue fell by nearly 10 percent from 2017 to last year, according to Trump’s financial disclosure. Doral’s net operating income has plummeted by 69 percent since Trump took office.

“They are severely underperforming,” a Trump tax consultant told officials earlier this year while seeking tax relief for the properties. “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”

[Salon]

Trump to stay at Doonbeg, his money-losing golf course threatened by climate change

President Trump arrived at his golf course in Doonbeg, Ireland, on Wednesday for a two-night stay — pausing between official events in Europe to visit a business that has cost him $41 million and never reported turning a profit.

Trump, coming off an official state visit to Britain, landed at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland and met briefly with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar before flying to Doonbeg, about 40 miles away.

The Irish Times reported that Trump originally wanted to meet with Varadkar at his golf club, but Varadkar wanted to meet at another nearby hotel. The two leaders settled on an awkward compromise: the VIP lounge at the airport.

Trump will leave Doonbeg on Thursday, visiting France for D-Day commemorations. He will return to Doonbeg on Thursday night, before flying home Friday.

Despite the odd geography of that schedule — which requires flying hundreds of miles west to Ireland, then hundreds more miles back east to France — Trump said he stayed at Doonbeg for convenience.

“We’re going to be staying at Doonbeg in Ireland because it’s convenient and it’s a great place. But it’s convenient,” Trump said before he left Washington.

The visit marks the third time Trump has paused during an overseas trip to visit one of his businesses, which he has maintained ownership of as president. He made a brief stop at his Waikiki hotel in Hawaii on the way to Asia in 2017 and spent two nights at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland last summer.

This visit has brought a large contingent of U.S. and Irish officials, as well as police and security forces, to a village of about 750 people. It was not clear how many of them, besides Trump, were staying at the Doonbeg course’s 120-room hotel.

But if they wanted to stay in Doonbeg, they didn’t have many other choices. TripAdvisor lists three hotels, total. Trump’s hotel is rated No. 1. The No. 3 is not a typical hotel but a group of “camping pods” that resemble cozy wooden sheds.

The visit is also bringing worldwide publicity to a course that Trump bought in 2014, after its former owners had struggled to turn a profit.

Trump paid $11.9 million, according to Irish corporate records. After that, Trump put in an additional $30 million into renovating and operating the property, without taking a mortgage loan.

Doonbeg was one of 14 properties that Trump bought without loans between 2006 and 2014, an all-cash spending binge that topped $400 million — defying his history as the heavy-borrowing “King of Debt.” The Trump Organization has explained this unusual spending — which defies the usual practices of the debt-loving real estate industry — by saying its other businesses produced enough cash to make it easy.

“I took a chance, I bought it and — no options, no nothing, just bought it for cash, no mortgage, no debt, no nothing,” Trump told The Washington Post in 2016. “I don’t have debt on any of them. I don’t have debt on very much, period.”

Since then, Doonbeg has never reported turning a profit, losing more than $1 million every year from 2014 to 2017, according to Irish corporate records.

In 2018, the course’s revenue rose slightly — up about 2 percent from $14.2 million to $14.5 million, according to Trump’s latest U.S. financial disclosures. But those disclosures do not show whether the course turned a profit, and the Irish records that would show profit or loss are not yet available.

The course is now waiting on two decisions from Irish planning authorities that the Trump Organization says are crucial to the club’s future.

One is on a proposed sea wall to stop the Atlantic Ocean from eroding away part of the golf course.

The Trump Organization cited climate change in its application for the permit, according to a Politico report from 2016, saying that sea-level rise and more-powerful storms had worsened the threat of erosion. Trump the politician, of course, has questioned idea that climate change is a threat at all — defying the overwhelming scientific consensus and his own golf course’s assessment of its future.

The application for that sea wall is now before Ireland’s national planning authority.

In 2018, the Trump Organization also applied to local authorities to expand the hotel by adding more than 50 new rental cottages and a large ballroom for events. It is awaiting approval from local officials.

At Doonbeg, Trump is likely to find something that escaped him in London: a warm welcome. Trump’s club employs more than 200 people, making it one of the largest employers in a rural area of County Clare. Reporters visiting the area in advance of his visit found that locals — even those who disagreed with his politics — thanked him for bringing customers and money to Doonbeg.

“People divorce Donald Trump the owner of the golf course from his politics,” said James Griffin, a member of the Trump club interviewed by the Irish Times. “People have their own ideas about his policies. The big thing here are the jobs he supports.”

[Washington Post]

Trump awards Medal of Freedom to Business Partner Tiger Woods

President Donald Trump bestowed Tiger Woods with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on Monday evening in the White House Rose Garden. 

The duo shares a love of the game of golf, but both have also risen to unpredictable and spectacular comebacks: Trump from bankruptcy to the presidency; Woods from public shamingfollowing multiple affairs, injuries and a resulting painkiller addiction, to winning this year’s Masters. 

The Medal of Freedom recognizes individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the executive order designating the award. Since taking office, Trump has presented the award to numerous athletes, including Alan Page, Roger Staubach, and a posthumous award to Babe Ruth.

Trump, who has a long history with Woods, said in a tweet after the Masters that he had congratulated the golfer on the win and his comeback, announcing that he would be giving him the award.

“Spoke to @TigerWoods to congratulate him on the great victory he had in yesterday’s @TheMasters, & to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!” the tweet said.

Woods’ career slumped following his divorce and surrounding scandal in late 2009 and early 2010. He lost about $20 million from estimated endorsements after sponsors including Gatorade, AT&T, and Accenture cut ties. After a string of losses in 2011, Woods failed to make the World Golf Ranking’s top 50 players list. But one fan who stuck with him: Donald Trump, who supported the embattled golfer in March 2013 via Twitter.

“I remained strong for @TigerWoods during his difficult period. He rewarded me (and himself) by winning at Trump National Doral,” Trump wrote

Days later, Woods regained his No. 1 ranking

While it’s entirely up to the President’s discretion as to who receives the Medal of Freedom, the choice of Woods, who at 43 is still relatively young compared to other recipients, has raised eyebrows for Trump’s business ties to the pro golfer.

Trump, an avid golfer, owns courses across the world and frequently hits the links, playing most recently this Saturday at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. His Trump National Doral in Miami has a villa named for Woods. According to The New York Times, Woods celebrated his first Masters win in 1997 at Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

And, per the Times, Woods is designing a course in Dubai that would be managed by the Trump Organization. Though it was expected to be completed by the end of 2017, it has yet to open, and a spokesman for Woods declined to comment to the Times. 

The President has played multiple rounds with Woods, including alongside Jack Nicklaus in February at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida.

[CNN]

Reality

Donald Trump is giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to HIS BUSINESS PARTNER, for businesses he still owns, operates, promotes, and receives profits from.

https://tgrdesign.tigerwoods.com/courses/trump-world-golf-club-dubai/

Trump hotels exempted from ban on foreign payments under new stance

The Department of Justice has adopted a narrow interpretation of a law meant to bar foreign interests from corrupting federal officials, giving Saudi Arabia, China and other countries leeway to curry favor with Donald Trump via deals with his hotels, condos, trademarks and golf courses, legal and national security experts say.

The so-called foreign emoluments clause was intended to curb presidents and other government officials from accepting gifts and benefits from foreign governments unless Congress consents.

But in a forthcoming article in the Indiana Law Journal, the Washington University Law professor Kathleen Clark reveals justice department filings have recently changed tack. The new interpretation, Clark says, is contained in justice filings responding to recent lawsuits lodged by attorneys generals and members of Congress.

Clark’s article notes that in more than 50 legal opinions over some 150 years justice department lawyers have interpreted the clause in a way that barred any foreign payments or gifts except for ones Congress approved. But filings by the department since June 2017 reveal a new interpretation that “… would permit the president – and all federal officials – to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official,” the professor writes.

The justice department stance now closely parallels arguments made in a January 2017 position paper by Trump Organization lawyer Sheri Dillon and several of her law partners. On 11 January 2017, just days before he was sworn in, Dillon said Trump isn’t accepting any payments in his “official capacity” as president, as the income is only related to his private business. “Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and it has nothing to do with an office,” Dillon said.

That goes against what many experts believe.

“For over a hundred years, the justice department has strictly interpreted the constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments clause to prohibit federal officials from accepting anything of value from foreign governments, absent congressional consent,” Clark told the Guardian.

“In 2017, the department reversed course, adopting arguments nearly identical to those put forward by Trump’s private sector lawyers. Instead of defending the republic against foreign influence, the department is defending Trump’s ability to receive money from foreign governments,” Clark added.

A justice department spokesperson declined to comment, but pointed to its filings in the emoluments lawsuits which Clark has noted contain five arguments similar to those used by Trump’s business lawyers. Among the key justice arguments is that the foreign emoluments clause only was intended to prohibit the president accepting gifts and employment compensation from a foreign government, but allows him to benefit from what it calls “commercial transactions”.

Other legal scholars also voice strong qualms about the justice department’s current position on emoluments and criticize the administration’s lax attitude about conflicts involving Trump and his business empire.

“The heart of the matter is that these are clauses meant to guard against undue foreign influence and conflicts of interest,” John Mikhail, a professor at Georgetown Law Center, said.

Two attorneys general from the District of Columbia and Maryland have filed lawsuits arguing the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where numerous foreign and state delegations have stayed or hosted events, has violated the anti corruption clauses. Some 200 members of Congress have also filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 countries.

The inspector general at the General Services Administration, which oversees the government-owned Old Post Office building leased by the Trump International Hotel, has faulted the agency for “improperly ignoring (the) emoluments clauses” and for conflicts of interest involving the hotel while Trump is in office.

Former intelligence officials also expressed concerns. “There’s a perception among lobbyists for foreign governments that the White House is for sale,” said Robert Baer, a 21 year CIA veteran with a Middle East background. “It’s a counter intelligence nightmare.”

The Trump Organization did pledge that while Trump was president it would donate any profits from foreign entities to the treasury. To that end it has written checks for $342,000 to the government covering the years 2017 and 2018. But some ethics watchdogs have questioned the methodology for calculating these payments, arguing it doesn’t account for foreign revenues to Trump businesses which overall have had yearly losses.

Further critics note that while Trump opted to let his two sons run his real estate businesses, and pledged he would not be involved with it as long as he was president, he has not been shy about publicly touting his properties including his Scottish golf course. Advertisement

A chief focus of critics and the emolument lawsuits has been the Trump International Hotel which has become a mini mecca for numerous foreign delegations – including ones from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and the Philippines – who have used it for overnight stays and various meetings.

The hotel is leased from the GSA for 60 years and located on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from the White House. The IG’s report this January said the lease should have been reviewed again with Trump’s election to determine if it was in violation of the emoluments clause.

Critics of Trump’s ongoing ties to the Trump International and his business empire also note that some countries with major political and business problems in Washington have frequented his properties. “It appears that President Trump may be benefiting from foreign use of his properties designed to influence his decisions,” said the former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards.

For instance, a 60-person Malaysian government delegation stayed at Trump International in the fall of 2017 at a time when the justice department was conducting a major corruption investigation of Malaysian officials including the then prime minister, Najib Razak, who had a White House meeting with Trump during their stay, as first reported by radio station WAMU and Reveal.

Meanwhile, lobbyists for Saudi Arabia, which has aggressively courted Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent at least $270,000 at his DC hotel after Trump won the election, booking 500 rooms over an estimated three-month period, according to a Washington Post report.

Last March, a Saudi delegation traveling with the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seemed to enjoy a lavish stay at Trump’s New York hotel, which helped to reverse a two-year revenue decline at the property, according to the Washington Post.

These foreign dealings with Trump hotels are exhibit A for many critics of the weak kneed enforcement of the emoluments clause in the Trump era.

“This administration gives off every appearance of turning the White House into a giant cash register,” said Mikhail. “ Rather than drawing bright lines between the Trump Organization and the Trump administration they seem intent on blurring those lines.”

The lawsuits have to wend their way through the courts – which could see tough battles given mixed court rulings thus far. But critics in Congress and outside are raising more questions about emoluments and Trump’s business conflicts as new issues keep arising.

“Congress now must conduct independent oversight so the American people can determine for themselves whether the President is acting in our nation’s best interests or his own,” said congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House committee on oversight and reform.

Mike Carpenter, who served on the National Security Council in the Obama years, added: “When foreign powers patronize the president’s businesses it creates an enormous national security risk.”

[The Guardian]

Trump earmarks $20 million for golfer Jack Nicklaus’ pet project in new proposed federal budget

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal has come under much scrutiny. A portion of the budget requests $20 million to go towards Trump’s golf buddy Jack Nicklaus’s mobile children’s hospital project.

The money will go towards expanding Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to offer mobile services, which Nicklaus has long lobbied for.

“The $20 million increase will continue support for the pediatric disaster care pilot initiative which aims to improve pediatric care during emergencies,” the budget proposal reads.

“Nicklaus had lobbied Trump on the golf course in Florida, and he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, D.C., to request funds. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds to help Nicklaus develop mobile children’s hospitals, one individual said,” Politico reported.

Trump and Nicklaus have constantly golfed together since November the report said.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and HHS did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment.

Read the full report here.

[Raw Story]

Trump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary

President Trump reportedly passed along a handwritten policy pitch from a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to then-Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkinaccording to a ProPublica report Wednesday.

The note was penned by Trump’s friend Albert Hazzouri, a cosmetic dentist in Scranton, Penn., on Mar-a-Lago stationery after the two saw each other in late 2017.

The letter, which was obtained by ProPublica, is addressed “Dear King” and appears to propose the government pay for more dental care for veterans.

It reportedly was sent on behalf of the American Dental Association (ADA), though ProPublica noted that details of the pitch were murky.

Scrawled at the top of Hazzouri’s note is a message from the president, written in black marker, ProPublica reported.

It says “Send to David S at the V.A.,” referring to Shulkin.

A Trump aide stamped “The president has seen” on the note as well.

The White House and the ADA did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Hill.

The proposal did not advance, according to ProPublica. Shulkin, who was fired in March 2018, told the publication that he does not recall receiving the message. Hazzouri said neither he nor the ADA ever met with the agency.

Hazzouri told the outlet that he had only a vague idea of the proposal he was vouching for on behalf of the ADA, noting that he passed along the note as a favor to the organization.

“I’m really not involved in any politics. I’m just a small-time dentist,” he said. “I guess there’s a lot of money spent on veterans’ care and American Native Indians’ care, and I guess they wanted to have a little hand in it, the American Dental Association, to try to guide what’s going on or whatever.”

A spokeswoman for the ADA declined to elaborate on the reported pitch to the president by Hazzouri, according to ProPublica.

Michael Graham, who leads the ADA’s lobbying arm in Washington, told ProPublica that one of his staffers had raised the topic with Hazzouri. 

“The ADA has been looking into how we can get involved in veterans’ issues,” Graham said. “Lots of vets may not be eligible but need care.”

Hazzouri received a shoutout from Trump during a campaign event in 2016, according to ProPublica. 

“Stand up, Albert. Where the hell are you, Albert? Stand up, Albert. He’s a good golfer, but I’m actually a better golfer than him. Right?” Trump said. 

Addressing the president as “King” was an inside joke with Trump from before the New York business mogul became president, Hazzouri said.

“I call other people King,” he explained. “It’s a very personal thing.”

This is not the first time a Mar-a-Lago club member has appeared to influence the Trump administration, according to ProPublica.

Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month reportedly opened an investigation into whether three associates of Trump, including a Mar-a-Lago club member, influenced hiring decisions at the VA.

[The Hill]

Trump’s 2020 Campaign Has Reportedly Funneled Over $1 Million Into His Own Businesses

Federal election filings analyzed by Forbes say that Trump’s 2020 campaign has raked in millions of dollar from donors while Trump himself has converted at least $1.1 million of those donor funds into his own money by charging “the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting.”

Trump Tower Commercial LLC is a New York State-based entity owned by the 45th president. As of the latest campaign finance filing, the entity had charged Trump’s re-election campaign at least $665,000 in rent. An additional $225,000 in rent payments have been made to this entity through a similar arrangement with the Republican National Committee (RNC).

The extent of the space currently being rented by the 2020 campaign and the RNC is currently unknown but reporter Dan Alexander‘s reporting suggests one of two things: an extreme amount of real estate is currently being occupied–or the Trump Tower business is heavily inflating real estate prices.

Per Forbes:

Leading up to the 2016 election, the president’s campaign paid an average of $2,700 in monthly Trump Tower rent for every person listed in campaign filings as receiving a “payroll” payment. The 2020 operation, by contrast, is shelling out an average of $6,300 in monthly rent for every such person.

And that’s not all.

There’s also the matter of a separate Trump-owned and New York State-based entity known as Trump Plaza LLC. This entity currently controls a retail space, a parking garage, and two medium-sized apartment buildings.

According to federal filings, the Trump 2020 campaign has paid Trump Plaza LLC at least $42,000 in rent since November 2017–but, according to Forbes, there doesn’t appear to be any campaign activity occurring on any such property owned by the entity.

For one, the retail space simply has nothing campaign-related going on whatsoever. Same goes for the parking garage–which appears to be sub-leased to a non-Trump company at present. As for the apartment buildings? It doesn’t look like there’s any campaign-related activity happening there either.

Again, Alexander’s report:

Forbes staked out the buildings, arriving at 7:15 a.m. one November morning and staying for the next 14 hours, with the exception of an 18-minute break around 3 p.m. By our count, seven people went in and out of the twin, four-story brownstones over the course of the day. One refused to talk, and six said they had not seen any sign of the campaign in the buildings. Nor had a man behind the front desk at Trump Plaza. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” he said. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.”

The report goes on to speculate that it’s “unlikely” Trump’s 2020 campaign would simply hand cash over to the president for “nothing in return,” and cites an unnamed Trump 2016 staffer who said that Trump Plaza apartments would occasionally serve as crash pads for Trump campaign staff. If that’s the case, of course, it would be a lot cheaper to occasionally rent hotel rooms, but, Alexander notes, “that would not guarantee a steady stream of rent for the president.”

Breaking down that revenue stream is also illustrative.

Since Trump Plaza LLC began charging Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign “rent” in November 2017,  such payments have averaged out to some $4,200 per month. Those amounts appear to be quite a bit above market value.

According to Forbes‘ recent perusal of real estate website StreetEasy, recent rents in the same brownstone apartments have gone for $3,700 and $3,850–substantially lower prices (especially in the fiercely competitive Manhattan real estate market) than what Trump’s campaign has been paying the president’s own business for alleged campaign use of those circumspect properties.

And even if it doesn’t seem like much of up-charge? According to Federal Election Commission rules, campaigns are supposed to pay “fair market value” for all goods and services they use–especially when they use and pay their own businesses.

[Law and Crime, Inquisitr]

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