Trump, Week 21: Friday, 9 June – Thursday, 15 June 2017 (Days 141-147)

 

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 9 June 2016, Day 141:

 

Calling Former F.B.I. Director James Comey a Liar, Trump Says He Will Testify Under Oath, The New York Times, Friday, 9 June 2017: “President Trump on Friday accused James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director, of lying under oath to Congress, saying he would gladly provide sworn testimony disputing Mr. Comey’s charge that the president forced him out because of his handling of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Mr. Trump asserted that the comments on Thursday by Mr. Comey, whom he called ‘a leaker,’ had proved that there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow, nor any obstruction of justice by the president. He hinted again that he had tapes of his private talks with the former F.B.I. chief that would disprove Mr. Comey’s account, but declined to confirm the existence of any recordings…. He dismissed Mr. Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether his campaign worked with Russia to sway the election, as a politically motivated stunt orchestrated by adversaries bitter about his victory in November.” See also, Trump accuses James Comey of lying and says he’d ‘100 percent’ agree to testify in the Russia probe, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker and David Nakamura, Friday, 9 June 2017: “Trump emphatically declared his innocence yet refused to solve a mystery of his own making by stating whether he has tapes of his one-on-one conversations with Comey. Any such recordings could prove which man’s account is accurate, but the president played coy, saying he would wait ‘a fairly short period of time’ to tell the public whether tapes exist, as he first suggested they might in May. ‘Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer,’ he told reporters. ‘Don’t worry.'” See also, Trump’s Interactions With James Comey: Criminal or Clueless? The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Friday, 9 June 2017: “Speaker Paul D. Ryan sought to excuse President Trump’s overtures to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, about pulling the plug on an investigation as a stumble by a political novice unfamiliar with the strict conventions of the capital. ‘He’s just new to this,’ said Mr. Ryan, noting that Mr. Trump ‘wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols’ of how a president should interact with federal law enforcement agencies. To Mr. Comey, it was the opposite: When Mr. Trump pressed him on the inquiry into the ousted national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and his contacts with Russian officials, the president was fully aware he was nearing if not overstepping a legal boundary into possible obstruction of justice. Mr. Comey suggested very strongly that Mr. Trump’s acute sensitivity to his behavior was why he cleared the Oval Office of other high-level officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, before one particularly delicate discussion. As Thursday’s extraordinary Senate Intelligence Committee appearance by Mr. Comey unfolded, it quickly became clear that the interpretation of Mr. Trump’s intentions at that moment and in other crucial interactions with Mr. Comey will be a central element of the investigations by both Congress and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.” And see also, Trump Calls Former F.B.I. Director James Comey a ‘Leaker.’ What Does That Mean? The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 9 June 2017.

Republicans’ Secretive Plan for Health Care, The New York Times, Miranda Yaver, Friday, 9 June 2017: “While many Americans make sense of James Comey’s testimony on his meetings with President Trump, Republican senators are quietly moving toward something that has been their party’s goal for nearly eight years: dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The question, of course, is how they plan to replace it. Republicans in the Senate will need 50 votes to pass their version of the American Health Care Act. Several senators have expressed reservations about the House version of the bill, which withdraws federal support for Planned Parenthood and rolls back the Medicaid expansion accomplished by the A.C.A.. Despite the lack of consensus within the party, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on Wednesday began the process of fast-tracking the bill under Rule 14, which enables the Senate to bypass the committee process and instead move the bill on to the Senate calendar for a vote as soon as it is ready. This will allow the legislation to move much as it did in the House – swiftly and secretively. The Senate aims to vote by the end of the month, and will probably do so with no hearings. This stands in stark contrast to the process leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which included over 100 congressional hearings. The A.H.C.A.’s fast-tracking is not driven by necessity, but rather by the concern that a more transparent legislative process would lay bare the reality that the bill, if passed, would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance and drive up costs for millions of others.”

Trump Commits the United States to Defending NATO Nations, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 9 June 2017: “President Trump on Friday reaffirmed the longstanding United States commitment to come to the defense of any NATO members that are attacked, more than two weeks after his refusal to do so during a trip to Europe stirred resentment among America’s traditional allies. The White House also announced that Mr. Trump will travel to Poland next month before heading to Germany for a Group of 20 summit meeting, a visit meant to reassure Eastern European allies at a time when they feel nervous about aggression by Russia after its intervention in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. European leaders were disappointed last month when Mr. Trump did not explicitly endorse the mutual defense doctrine articulated in Article 5 of the NATO charter while visiting the alliance headquarters in Brussels. A line in his speech was taken out at the last minute, to the chagrin of the president’s national security team. ‘I’m committing the United States to Article 5,’ Mr. Trump said during a news conference on Friday with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania in the White House Rose Garden. ‘And certainly, we are there to protect and that’s one of the reasons that I want people to make sure we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force. But yes, absolutely, I’d be committed to Article 5.’ Article 5 states that ‘an armed attack against one or more’ members ‘in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all’ and has been the bedrock of the trans-Atlantic relationship for nearly seven decades. Mr. Trump raised doubts about the commitment during his campaign last year when he said he would come to the defense only of allies that have fulfilled financial obligations.”

Continue reading Week 21, Friday, 9 June-Thursday, 15 June 2017:

Top criminal law expert Michael Dreeben joins special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, The Washington Post, Sari Horwitz, Friday, 9 June 2017: “One of the federal government’s top criminal law specialists is joining the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III centered on possible coordination between President Trump’s associates and Russian officials. Justice Department deputy solicitor general Michael Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court, is the department’s go-to lawyer on criminal justice cases and is highly respected by Democrats and Republicans because of his encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law. Dreeben will work part time for Mueller, according to Justice officials, while he continues to oversee the department’s criminal appellate cases. Former and current Justice Department officials say that Mueller’s recruitment of Dreeben shows how serious he is about the investigation and signals complexities in the probe.”

Justice Department Wants Lawsuit Against Trump For Continuing to Own and Profit From His Businesses To Be Thrown Out, The New York Times, Sharon La Franiere, Friday, 9 June 2017: “The Justice Department asked a federal court late on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit that accused President Trump of violating the Constitution by continuing to own and profit from his businesses, arguing in part that, even if he had broken the law, it would be up to Congress, not a federal judge, to act. In a 70-page brief, the government also argued that the lawsuit is based on a faulty interpretation of the Constitution and that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated any revenue loss because of Mr. Trump’s business operations. The lawsuit was filed this year in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a legal watchdog group. It is seeking a court order to force Mr. Trump to divest himself of his business holdings on the grounds that the Constitution prohibits him from accepting any economic benefit from foreign governments or from the United States government beyond his salary. The other plaintiffs include a group that represents restaurants, the owner of a hotel and restaurant business in New York, and a woman who books hotel events in Washington. Norman L. Eisen, the chairman of CREW, said the Justice Department’s claim that a federal court has no power to intervene — even if it finds a president’s behavior is unconstitutional — ‘is a remarkable assertion’ that flies in the face of decades of judicial decisions.” See also, Foreign payments to Trump’s businesses are legally permitted, argues the Justice Department, The Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell, published on Saturday, 10 June 2017.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is ‘looking into’ Eric Trump’s foundation, The Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold, Friday, 9 June 2017: “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is “looking into” a charitable foundation founded by Eric Trump, a spokesman for Schneiderman said, after Forbes magazine raised questions about whether President Trump’s son had made misleading statements about how the foundation spent its money…. ‘The attorney general’s office is looking into issues at the Eric Trump Foundation raised by the Forbes report,’ said spokesman Eric Soufer in a written statement…. The main impetus for this inquiry was the Forbes story, published earlier this week. It examined the Eric Trump Foundation’s tradition of holding fundraiser golf tournaments at Trump-owned courses. Although Eric Trump had asserted repeatedly that his father’s company allowed him to use the courses free, Forbes found evidence that the Eric Trump Foundation has actually paid the Trump Organization to use them.”

White House Official Dan Scavino Violated Law Banning Political Activity Says the US Office of Special Counsel, The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Friday, 9 June 2017: “Dan Scavino Jr., the White House director of social media, violated a federal law that prohibits political activity by government employees, the federal agency empowered to enforce the law has concluded, citing the tweet Mr. Scavino sent in April calling for the defeat of a Republican member of Congress who has been critical of President Trump. The United States Office of Special Counsel took no official action to punish Mr. Scavino, but it issued a warning that became public on Friday that ‘if in the future he engages in prohibited political activity while employed in a position covered by the Hatch Act,’ the office could move to enforce the 78-year-old law. The feud between Mr. Scavino and Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, escalated during the debate over the effort to roll back President Barack Obama’s health care program, as Mr. Amash was among the conservative Freedom Caucus members who questioned the initial proposal. The tweet sent by Mr. Scavino, who had also worked on Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, argued that ‘@justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.’ It was posted on Mr. Scavino’s personal Twitter account, which at that time included a photo of him in the White House, and his biography identified him as a federal employee.”

States Lead the Fight Against Trump’s Birth Control Rollback, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Friday, 9 June 2017: “Currently, 28 states have some type of ‘contraceptive equity’ law, aimed at making birth control cheaper and more accessible. Many of those measures — including one in Nevada — were adopted in the late 1990s. Mr. Trump’s election has again brought the issue to the fore. ‘We are on the cusp of seeing another push, a more aggressive push at the state level to protect affordable access to contraception, just like we saw in the late ’90s when women realized Viagra was getting coverage and birth control wasn’t,’ said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, a New York nonprofit that advocates for reproductive rights.”

In a setback for unions, the Labor Department moves to revoke the Obama-era ‘persuader rule,’ The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Friday, 9 June 2017: “The Labor Department announced Thursday night that it was taking steps to reverse an Obama-era rule requiring companies to disclose their initial contacts with outside consultants on how to respond to unionizing efforts. The regulation, known as ‘the persuader rule,’ has yet to take effect because of ongoing litigation. But the move to take new public comment on it marks a victory for business groups and a setback for organized labor. It also underscores the extent to which the department is starting to shift course under new Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. The regulation, which was finalized in March 2016, would require companies to report any ‘actions, conduct or communications’ they’ve pursued to ‘affect an employee’s decisions regarding his or her representation or collective bargaining rights.’ The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide permanent injunction against the rule in November. And on Monday the Labor Department will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will take public comment on rescinding the rule altogether.”

 

Saturday, 10 June 2017, Day 142:

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Will Testify Before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian Meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Saturday, 10 June 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress on Saturday that he would testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about issues related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Sessions had been scheduled to testify before other committees about the Justice Department’s budget that day, but he will instead appear before the intelligence panel…. Mr. Sessions, who was a surrogate for Mr. Trump during the campaign, recused himself in early March from investigations related to the 2016 election. He removed himself after it emerged that he had met at least twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016, though he had testified at his confirmation hearing that he had not had contact with Russians…. Mr. Comey … said, cryptically, on Thursday that even before Mr. Sessions recused himself, there had been classified facts ‘that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.’ That led officials to believe that ‘he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer.’ And, given Mr. Trump’s statement that he had been thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Mr. Comey, the former F.B.I. director expressed doubt when asked whether Mr. Sessions had adhered to his recusal. When Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, the White House released a memo from Mr. Sessions recommending his removal, although it did not specifically mention Russia. ‘If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain?’ Mr. Comey said. ‘I don’t know.'”

Trump-Comey Feud Eclipses a Warning on Russia: ‘They Will Be Back,’ The New York Times, Peter Baker and David E. Sanger, Saturday, 10 June 2017: “Lost in the showdown between President Trump and James B. Comey that played out this past week was a chilling threat to the United States. Mr. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testified that the Russians had not only intervened in last year’s election, but would try to do it again. ‘It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,’ Mr. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. ‘They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.’ What started out as a counterintelligence investigation to guard the United States against a hostile foreign power has morphed into a political scandal about what Mr. Trump did, what he said and what he meant by it. Lawmakers have focused mainly on the gripping conflict between the president and the F.B.I. director he fired with cascading requests for documents, recordings and hearings. But from the headquarters of the National Security Agency to state capitals that have discovered that the Russians were inside their voter-registration systems, the worry is that attention will be diverted from figuring out how Russia disrupted American democracy last year and how to prevent it from happening again. Russian hackers did not just breach Democratic email accounts; according to Mr. Comey, they orchestrated a “massive effort” targeting hundreds of — and possibly more than 1,000 — American government and private organizations since 2015.”

Trump sees former FBI director James Comey’s testimony as ‘complete vindication’ — and his fans agree, The Washington Post, Abby Phillip and Ed O’Keefe, Saturday, 10 June 2017: “To Democrats and many legal experts in both parties, the Senate testimony from fired FBI director James B. Comey is devastating to President Trump — portraying him as a liar who sought to halt the federal investigation into a former top aide and putting him in dire legal peril. But to Trump, many Republicans and a broad constellation of surrogates and conservative media outlets, the takeaway is much different: exoneration. ‘Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication,’ the president tweeted early on the morning after Comey’s testimony. That point of view has ricocheted across the conservative media world, both organically and in coordination with a hastily organized rapid-response operation at the Republican National Committee. The result is a parallel narrative — reinforced by the president himself on Twitter and at a Friday news conference — that spun Comey’s testimony as a clear victory and, publicly at least, cast aside any potential dangers that may lie ahead.”

The Worst of Donald Trump’s Toxic Agenda Is Lying in Wait–A Major U.S. Crisis Will Unleash It, The Intercept, Naomi Klein, Saturday, 10 June 2017: “During the presidential campaign, some imagined that the more overtly racist elements of Donald Trump’s platform were just talk designed to rile up the base, not anything he seriously intended to act on. But in his first week in office, when he imposed a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, that comforting illusion disappeared fast. Fortunately, the response was immediate: the marches and rallies at airports, the impromptu taxi strikes, the lawyers and local politicians intervening, the judges ruling the bans illegal. The whole episode showed the power of resistance, and of judicial courage, and there was much to celebrate. Some have even concluded that this early slap down chastened Trump, and that he is now committed to a more reasonable, conventional course. That is a dangerous illusion. It is true that many of the more radical items on this administration’s wish list have yet to be realized. But make no mistake, the full agenda is still there, lying in wait. And there is one thing that could unleash it all: a large-scale crisis. Large-scale shocks are frequently harnessed to ram through despised pro-corporate and anti-democratic policies that would never have been feasible in normal times. It’s a phenomenon I have previously called the ‘Shock Doctrine,’ and we have seen it happen again and again over the decades, from Chile in the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet’s coup to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.”

Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game. The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, Saturday, 10 June 2017: “Across the country, religious leaders whose politics fall to the left of center, and who used to shun the political arena, are getting involved — and even recruiting political candidates — to fight back against President Trump’s policies on immigration, health care, poverty and the environment. Some are calling the holy ruckus a ‘religious resistance.’ Others, mindful that periodic attempts at a resurgence on the religious left have all failed, point to an even loftier ambition than taking on the current White House: After 40 years in which the Christian right has dominated the influence of organized religion on American politics — souring some people on religion altogether, studies show — left-leaning faith leaders are hungry to break the right’s grip on setting the nation’s moral agenda. Frustrated by Christian conservatives’ focus on reversing liberal successes in legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, those on the religious left want to turn instead to what they see as truly fundamental biblical imperatives — caring for the poor, welcoming strangers and protecting the earth — and maybe even change some minds about what it means to be a believer.”

Sunday, 11 June 2017, Day 143:

 

In His Latest Twitter Outburst, Trump Calls Former F.B.I. Director James Comey ‘Cowardly’ and Tweets ‘I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,’ The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Sunday, 11 June 2017: “President Trump, back at the Bedminster, N.J., golf getaway where he decided to fire James B. Comey, took his harshest shot yet against his former F.B.I. director on Sunday morning, calling him ‘cowardly’ and vowing to find out if he had leaked any more sensitive information. ‘I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,’ Mr. Trump wrote in one of his patented early morning Twitter tirades — fulfilling the expectations of staff members who had feared he would lash out after spending a sunny weekend watching replays of Mr. Comey calling him a liar.”

Preet Bharara, former Manhattan U.S. attorney ousted by Trump, says Trump’s phone calls made him uncomfortable, The Washington Post, Sandhya Somashekhar and Jenna Johnson, Sunday, 11 June 2017: “Preet Bharara, a prominent former U.S. attorney ousted by President Trump, said Sunday that he reported to the Justice Department efforts by the president to ‘cultivate some kind of relationship’ with him, describing phone calls from Trump that made him increasingly uncomfortable. In his first sit-down interview since his March removal, Bharara said he reported one of the phone calls to the chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions because it made him uneasy. He said he was dismissed from the important prosecutor’s job in Manhattan only 22 hours after he finally refused to take a call from the president. The recollections add a new dimension to the intensifying debate over Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, who was removed from his job after private conversations with Trump that he viewed as inappropriate. Comey testified before Congress last week that Trump told him he hoped the FBI would drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has said Comey’s version of events is untrue.” See also, Preet Bharara, Former United States Attorney in Manhattan, Says Trump Tried to Build a Relationship With Him Before Firing Him, The New York Times, Matthew Haag, Sunday, 11 June 2017: “Preet Bharara, the former United States attorney in Manhattan, said on Sunday that President Trump tried to cultivate a relationship with him in the months before he was abruptly fired in March. Mr. Bharara said the contacts with Mr. Trump made him increasingly uncomfortable because they broke with longstanding Justice Department rules on communicating with the White House. Mr. Bharara, who first publicly disclosed the contacts and his concerns about them after he was fired, said Mr. Trump’s communications were strikingly similar to those between the president and those described by the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who was fired last month. ‘When I’ve been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like déjà vu,’ Mr. Bharara said Sunday on ‘This Week’ on ABC.”

Role of Trump’s Personal Lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, Blurs Public and Private Lines, The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Sharon LaFraniere, Sunday, 11 June 2017: “Marc E. Kasowitz, a New York civil litigator who represented President Trump for 15 years in business and boasts of being called the toughest lawyer on Wall Street, has suddenly become the field marshal for a White House under siege. He is a personal lawyer for the president, not a government employee, but he has been talking about establishing an office in the White House complex where he can run his legal defense. His visits to the White House have raised questions about the blurry line between public and private interests for a president facing legal issues. In recent days, Mr. Kasowitz has advised White House aides to discuss the inquiry into Russia’s interference in last year’s election as little as possible, two people involved said. He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary, according to another person with direct knowledge. Such conversations between a private lawyer for the president and the government employees who work for his client are highly unusual, according to veterans of previous administrations. Mr. Kasowitz bypassed the White House Counsel’s Office in having these discussions, according to one person familiar with the talks, who, like others, requested anonymity to discuss internal matters. And concerns about Mr. Kasowitz’s role led at least two prominent Washington lawyers to turn down offers to join the White House staff…. The line between government lawyers representing the administration and private lawyers representing the president was always somewhat vague. But one important difference was that the president’s conversations with private lawyers were protected by attorney-client privilege, while those with his White House lawyers were not.… As for Mr. Kasowitz’s conversations with presidential aides, the White House Counsel’s Office typically supervises such discussions to make sure the aides understand their rights and do not feel pressured to help a lawyer who does not represent their interests, legal experts said. The counsel’s involvement is all the more critical in this case, they said, because many of the aides — potential witnesses in the government’s inquiry — do not currently have personal lawyers. Mr. Kasowitz’s advice to administration staff may benefit the president more than the aides themselves, the experts said. The conversations he has with aides could shape their testimony before Mr. Mueller has a chance to interview them, should they be called as witnesses…. Under ethics rules, Mr. Kasowitz cannot interview any official who has hired a lawyer without that lawyer’s permission, meaning it would be in his interest if administration aides did not hire their own lawyers, experts said. ‘It is probably easier for him to represent Trump if he doesn’t have to deal with a bunch of other lawyers,’ Ms. [Jane] Sherburne [a White House special counsel who managed ethics issues during Mr. Clinton’s first term] said, adding that she believed it was inappropriate for Mr. Kasowitz to discourage aides from hiring their own counsel.”

Monday, 12 June 2017, Day 144:

 

Trump Loses Travel Ban Ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 12 June 2017: : “A second federal appeals court has ruled against President Trump’s revised travel ban, delivering on Monday the latest in a string of defeats for the administration’s efforts to limit travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. The administration has already sought a Supreme Court review of a similar decision issued last month by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. Monday’s decision came from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. The two courts employed different reasoning to arrive at the same basic conclusion. The Fourth Circuit said the revised executive order violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion. The Ninth Circuit, by contrast, rested its conclusions on statutory grounds. It said Mr. Trump had exceeded the authority Congress granted him in making national security judgments in the realm of immigration without adequate justification. ‘The order does not offer a sufficient justification to suspend the entry of more than 180 million people on the basis of nationality,’ the Ninth Circuit’s opinion said. ‘National security is not a “talismanic incantation” that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power.'” See also, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds block on Trump’s travel ban, Politico, Josh Gerstein, Monday, 12 June 2017.

Trump’s Cabinet, With a Prod from Trump, Extols the ‘Blessing’ of Serving Him, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 12 June 2017: “One by one, [members of Trump’s Cabinet praised him], taking turns complimenting his integrity, his message, his strength, his policies. Their leader sat smiling, nodding his approval. ‘The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who’s keeping his word to the American people,’ Mike Pence said, starting things off. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff whose job insecurity has been the subject of endless speculation, outdid them all, telling the president — and the assembled news cameras — ‘We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing to serve your agenda.’ So it went on Monday in the Cabinet Room of the White House, as Mr. Trump transformed a routine meeting of senior members of his government into a mood-boosting, ego-stroking display of support for himself and his agenda. While the president never explicitly asked to be praised, Mr. Pence set the worshipful tone, and Mr. Trump made it clear he liked what he heard…. [Trump], who has been known for decades as a fan of flattery and who speaks of himself in superlatives, even indulged in a bit of self-congratulation. He declared himself one of the most productive presidents in American history — perhaps Franklin D. Roosevelt could come close, he conceded — and proclaimed that he had led a ‘record-setting pace’ of accomplishment…. ‘I will say that never has there been a president, with few exceptions — in the case of F.D.R. he had a major Depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘We’ve been about as active as you can possibly be, and at a just about record-setting pace.’… Never mind that Mr. Trump has yet to sign any major legislation, or that his White House has been buffeted by legal and ethical questions surrounding the investigation into his campaign’s possible links to Russia and his firing of the F.B.I. director who had been leading that inquiry.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Will Testify in Public Before the Senate Intelligence Committee, The New York Times, Emmarie Huetteman, Monday, 12 June 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed on Monday to testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his connections to an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Mr. Sessions is expected on Tuesday to defend his interactions with both Russian officials and James B. Comey, who was fired by President Trump as F.B.I. director. The attorney general will face lingering questions about his meetings last year with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, which were revealed after he denied meeting with anyone from the Russian government during his confirmation hearing. Mr. Sessions said he recused himself from the Russia investigation because of his work for Mr. Trump during the campaign, though his announcement came a day after The Washington Post revealed his meetings with Mr. Kislyak. Senators are likely to question him about why he was then involved in the firing of Mr. Comey — a decision that Mr. Trump later said during an NBC News interview was related to the Russia investigation.” See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Senate Testimony: How to Watch and What to ExpectThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Emmarie Huetteman, and Rebecca R. Ruiz, published on Tuesday, 13 June 2017.

Trump’s Friend Christopher Ruddy Says Trump Is Considering Firing Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, Monday, 12 June 2017: “A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials. The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump’s conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller’s selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility.” See also, Trump confidant Christopher Ruddy: ‘I think Trump is considering perhaps terminating the special counsel (Robert Mueller),’ PBS NewsHour, Erich R. Hendry, Monday, 12 June 2017: “President Donald Trump could be weighing the termination of special counsel Robert Mueller from his oversight of the federal Russia investigation, Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media and a friend of President Trump, told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Monday. ‘I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,’ Ruddy said when asked by Woodruff whether the president was prepared to let the special counsel pursue the Russia investigation. ‘I think it’s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently.’ ‘I personally think it would be a very significant mistake,’ Ruddy added. The comments come the day before Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the same panel before which former FBI director James Comey appeared last week.”

D.C. and Maryland Attorneys General: Trump ‘flagrantly violating’ emoluments clause, The Washington Post, Aaron C. Davis and Karen Tumulty, Monday, 12 June 2017: “Democratic state attorneys general, a chief roadblock to some of President Trump’s most controversial policies, escalated their campaign against him Monday, alleging in a lawsuit that payments by foreign governments to Trump’s businesses violate anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution. The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, marks a turning point for Democratic attorneys general and showcases their increasingly influential role in Washington at a time when their party is largely shut out of power. D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh say in the lawsuit that Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his business empire, and from inside the White House, ‘calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system.’ At a news conference, Racine and Frosh accused Trump of ‘flagrantly violating’ the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officeholders from taking anything of value from foreign leaders.” See also, Attorneys General in Maryland and the District of Columbia Sue Trump Over His Businesses, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Monday, 12 June 2017.

Secret Service Has No Audio or Transcripts of Any Tapes Made in the Trump White House, The Wall Street Journal, Louise Radnofsky, Monday, 12 June 2017: “The U.S. Secret Service has no audio copies or transcripts of any tapes recorded within President Donald Trump’s White House, the agency said on Monday. The agency’s response to a freedom of information request submitted by The Wall Street Journal doesn’t exclude the possibility that recordings could have been created by another entity. The Secret Service handled recording systems within the White House for past presidents, including presidents Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The question of a White House recording system has lingered for more than a month since Mr. Trump first raised the possibility in a provocative tweet about former FBI Director James Comey. In recent days, the two men have offered differing accounts of whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey in private conversations within the White House complex to ease off the FBI’s probe of former national security adviser Mike Flynn.”

Trump Administration Says Financial Watchdog Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Should Be Defanged, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport and Matthew Goldstein, Monday, 12 June 2017: “The Trump administration called for the neutering of many of the central provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act as it offered its most detailed plans to date for the unraveling of the financial regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. In a report released late Monday, the Treasury Department said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be substantially stripped of its powers, accusing the agency of regulatory overreach and saying the president should be able to remove its director. It also recommended greater exemptions from the so-called Volcker Rule, which bans banks from trading for their own gain, and it called for rules to be revised to give small community banks relief from regulatory scrutiny such as stress tests.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Asks Congress to Undo Medical Marijuana Protections, MassRoots, Tom Angell, Monday, 12 June 2017: “U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking Congressional leaders not to renew a current federal law that prevents the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. ‘I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,’ Sessions wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic House and Senate leadership. ‘The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.’ The letter, sent to Capitol Hill last month, was shared with MassRoots by a Congressional staffer. The protections are the result of a rider — known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, after its lead Congressional sponsors — which has been enacted into law with strong bipartisan votes for the past three fiscal years, including the current one. But when President Trump signed a Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill into law last month, he issued a signing statement that essentially reserved the right to ignore the medical marijuana protections.” See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions personally asked Congress to let him prosecute medical-marijuana providers, The Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham, published on Tuesday, 13 June 2017.

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke recommends Trump consider scaling back Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, The Washington Post, Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, Monday, 12 June 2017: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended President Trump ‘revise the existing boundaries’ of the Bears Ears National Historic Monument and call on Congress to dictate the terms of how parts of the area should be managed. Native American and environmental groups immediately threatened to sue should Trump follow the recommendation.”

Months After Firing U.S. Attorneys, Trump Nominates Eight Replacements, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Monday, 12 June 2017: “President Trump began on Monday to nominate replacements for dozens of United States attorneys whom he fired shortly after taking office, sending eight names to the Senate for confirmation as chief federal prosecutors in their regions. Mr. Trump purged most of the nation’s top federal prosecutors in March, demanding their immediate resignations to ensure what an administration spokeswoman at the time called ‘a uniform transition.’ Since then, the president has railed against Democrats in the Senate for delaying approval of his nominees — even as he failed to send names to the lawmakers for confirmation. On Twitter last week, Mr. Trump accused Democrats of ‘taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors.’ ‘They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals,’ he continued. Democrats quickly pointed out that Mr. Trump’s White House had nominated candidates for only a fraction of the hundreds of positions that require Senate approval. In the case of United States attorneys, the president did not nominate a single replacement until Monday. Mr. Trump has been under fire for months for leaving open scores of critical positions in his administration. Critics have said that the absence of permanent, Senate-confirmed officials in leadership posts has hampered decision-making across the government.”

Trump’s state visit to Britain is put on hold, The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Monday, 12 June 2017: “Donald Trump has told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming. The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time. The call was made in recent weeks, according to a Downing Street adviser who was in the room. The statement surprised May, according to those present. The conversation in part explains why there has been little public discussion about a visit.”

 

Tuesday, 13 June 2017, Day 145:

 

Highlights from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Testimony Before the Senate Intelligence Committee, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Emmarie Huetteman, and Rebecca R. Ruiz, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions engaged in highly contentious testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with Democrats pressing him on his conversations with President Trump related to the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He called any suggestion that he colluded with Russians during the election an ‘appalling’ lie…. After coming under fire for failing to disclose his interactions with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing, Mr. Sessions was determined to provide his version of events — and he did not waste any time. ‘I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States,’ he said during his opening statement. Mr. Sessions denied meeting with Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016, adding that he could not ‘recall’ any such private conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, there. ‘If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador, I do not remember it,’ he said. Mr. Sessions contested the assertion of James B. Comey, who was fired as F.B.I. director, before the committee last week that the attorney general had not responded when Mr. Comey asked him not to leave him alone with Mr. Trump again…. Mr. Sessions repeatedly refused to discuss his conversations with Mr. Trump about the Russia investigation or Mr. Comey’s firing beyond what was in his recommendation memo about ousting Mr. Comey, which the White House released. Democratic senators reacted angrily, noting that Mr. Trump had not invoked executive privilege to bar such testimony. Mr. Sessions argued that it was a longstanding practice not to disclose confidential conversations with the president that would potentially be subject to executive privilege, but several senators said that was not a legal basis to refuse to answer their questions.” See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee: Refuses to say whether he spoke to Trump about Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation, The Washington Post, Sari Horwitz, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky, Tuesday, 13 June 2017. See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions Fends Off Senators Pressing Him on Russia and Trump in Testimony Before the Senate Intelligence Committee, The New York Times, Matt Flegenheimer and Rebecca R. Ruiz, Tuesday, 13 June 2017. See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trail of Unanswered Questions, The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, published on Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “Sessions’s answers presented a baffling problem in terms of the public’s right to be informed and the duty of Congress to provide oversight. If there was an organizing principle in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday—which was by turns dismissive, incoherent, evasive, and shameful—it was that certain people are owed deference, and certain others are not. This principle applied to Sessions’s unwillingness to answer some questions at all, his insistence on some courtesies and his refusal to observe others, and his ideas about whose obligation it is to follow rules. The hearing made it clear that the lodestone for Sessions is his abject deferral to what he sees as President Donald Trump’s ‘rights’ but which might better be described as Trump’s demands, desires, and whims.”

Explaining Executive Privilege and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Refusal to Answer Questions Before the Senate Intelligence Committee, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, published on Thursday, 15 June 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly refused to answer senators’ questions on Tuesday about his conversations with President Trump, even though Mr. Trump had not asserted executive privilege to keep them secret. That raises questions about whether Mr. Sessions had any legal basis to stonewall Congress. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Sessions argued that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for him to talk about such confidential discussions because the president might choose to assert the privilege in the future. ‘I’m protecting the president’s constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to view it and weigh it,’ he said. Before the same panel last week, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, gave a similar rationale for not answering questions. The pattern has angered Democrats, who argue that the officials are improperly impeding Congress’s oversight investigation. [This article examines] several issues raised by the dispute.”

White House Says That While Trump ‘Has Every Right’ to Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, ‘He Has no Intention To Do So,’ The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Last month’s appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia enraged President Trump. Yet, at least initially, he holstered his Twitter finger and publicly said nothing. But behind the scenes, the president soon began entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller even as his staff tried to discourage him from something they believed would turn a bad situation into a catastrophe, according to several people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s interactions. A longtime friend, Christopher Ruddy, surfaced the president’s thinking in a television interview Monday night, setting off a frenzied day of speculation that he would go through with it. For now, the staff has prevailed. ‘While the president has every right to’ fire Mr. Mueller, ‘he has no intention to do so,’ the White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late Tuesday. But people close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind about Mr. Mueller if he finds out anything to lead him to believe the investigation has been compromised. And his ability to endure a free-ranging investigation, directed by Mr. Mueller, that could raise questions about the legitimacy of his Electoral College victory, the topic that most provokes his rage, will be a critical test for a president who has continued on Twitter and elsewhere to flout the advice of his staff, friends and legal team.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says there’s no cause to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, USA Today, Kevin Johnson and Erin Kelly, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein affirmed his support for Russia special counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday, despite recent suggestions that President Trump was weighing Mueller’s dismissal. Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller last month to lead the Justice Department’s wide-ranging inquiry into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and has the authority to remove him, told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that he saw no cause for Mueller’s dismissal. ‘Director Mueller is going to have the full independence he needs to conduct that investigation,’ Rosenstein said. Rosenstein also said Trump has not raised the issue of the special counsel with him, nor has the president discussed Mueller’s tenure with him. ‘I am not going to follow any order unless it is a lawful order,’ Rosenstein said, adding that it ‘would not matter what anybody said. … There is no secret plan (to remove Mueller) that involves me.’ ‘I appointed him; I stand by that decision,’’ he said. ‘I will defend the integrity of that investigation.’ White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said Trump has no plans to seek Mueller’s removal.”

Senate Votes with Record Opposition to Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia–But Not Enough to Put on the Brakes, The Intercept, Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Following a last-ditch lobbying effort by the Trump administration, the Senate narrowly rejected a measure condemning a $500 million weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a brutal bombing campaign in Yemen. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump praised the war in Yemen and signaled his intention to make a total $110 billion weapons package available to the Persian Gulf kingdom. That prompted Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Al Franken, D-Minn., to introduce a resolution of disapproval against the sale of precision-guided weapons, pointing out that Saudi Arabia had used U.S. weapons to target civilians in Yemen. The resolution would have forced the Senate to vote on whether to block the transfer. The measure, however, failed by a narrow margin of 47 to 53. The vote was much closer than a similar measure in September, which failed 71 to 27. While the resolution went down in defeat, the increased vote total represents a shift in official Washington’s approach to the Middle East. With turmoil in Syria and 2015’s nuclear deal with Iran, the orthodoxies of Middle East policy — including turning a blind eye to rights abuses by U.S. allies — are being overturned. Tuesday’s proposed measure was presented by a bipartisan coalition of Republican libertarians and liberal Democrats.” See also, Senate Narrowly Backs Trump Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia, The New York Times, Helene Cooper, Tuesday, 13 June 2017.

The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession: How Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, plans to remake the U.S. through restrictive voting and immigration laws, The New York Times, Ari Berman, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Kris Kobach likes to bill himself as ‘the A.C.L.U.’s worst nightmare.’ The Kansas secretary of state, who was a champion debater in high school, speaks quickly for a rural Midwesterner, with the confidence of a man who holds degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale Law School, and until January he hosted his own local radio show, which used that line about the A.C.L.U. to introduce each episode. On March 3 he strode into the Robert J. Dole Federal Courthouse in Kansas City, Kan., to face the latest lawsuit filed against him by the civil-liberties organization. In an unusual arrangement for a secretary of state, Kobach, 51, personally argues all of his cases. He seems to see it as a perk of the job — and a mission. The A.C.L.U. has filed four suits against Kobach since he was elected in 2010. All of them challenge some aspect of his signature piece of legislation, the Secure and Fair Elections Act, or SAFE Act, a 2011 state law that requires people to show a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers to register to vote. Kobach has long argued that such a law is necessary to prevent noncitizens from registering to vote, a phenomenon that he has repeatedly claimed is both pervasive and a threat to democracy. The A.C.L.U. has countered that the real purpose of the law is not to prevent fraud but to stop the existing electorate from expanding and shifting demographically. The same principle informed the ‘grandfather clauses’ of the Jim Crow era, which exempted most white voters from literacy tests and poll taxes designed to disenfranchise black voters. Even a seemingly small impediment to registration, like a new ID requirement, favors the status quo, and in Kansas, and indeed nationally, the status quo favors the Republican Party.”

Will Cuts to the State Department of About 30 Percent Hurt Diplomacy? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tries to Ease Senator’s Worries as He Testifies Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, The New York Times, Gardiner Harris, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was subjected to a full day of rough, bipartisan criticism on Tuesday as senators from both parties denounced the Trump administration’s plans to cut the State Department’s budget by about 30 percent. Senators repeatedly asked whether issues such as the promotion of human rights, the protection of democracy, the campaign against human trafficking or efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons were priorities for the administration. Mr. Tillerson assured the lawmakers that they were. But Republican and Democratic senators pressed a fundamental question: How can the Trump administration say it champions those efforts if it is cutting budgets for a range of important diplomatic initiatives — and eliminating others outright? Each time, Mr. Tillerson patiently answered that priorities should not be judged only by dollars spent…. But he also urged other nations to do more.”

The Real Threat to Wall Street Reform Is the Treasury Department, Not Congress, The Intercept, David Dayen, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “The Treasury Department’s first report recommending changes to the financial regulatory system wildly differs from the plan to dismantle Dodd-Frank that House Republicans passed — and the Trump administration endorsed — just last week. In fact, the report attacks the central mechanism in the House GOP’s bill, even while paying lip service to considering it. That doesn’t make it benign, however. The Treasury report, compiled with the assistance of 244 different banking industry groups, often cites or lifts directly from bank lobbyist briefing papers. It identifies numerous ways that regulators could go around Congress and significantly undermine the already weakened rules in Dodd-Frank. It’s a wish list for deregulation — but one that could actually get done. The report was mandated by a February 3 executive order, where President Trump identified core principles for regulating finance. Treasury was supposed to report by June 3 on conforming all financial laws and policies to those core principles. Last month Treasury admitted they couldn’t get such a review done on time, and would instead do it in stages. This report, publicly released nine days after the deadline, only covers banks and credit unions.”

Trump calls the Republican House health bill that he celebrated in early May in the Rose Garden ‘mean,’ The Washington Post, Kelsey Snell and Sean Sullivan, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “President Trump told Republican senators Tuesday that the House GOP health-care bill was ‘mean’ and he expects the Senate to ‘improve’ the legislation considerably, according to several Republicans familiar with the gathering. Trump’s comments, during a White House lunch with a group of 15 GOP senators from across the ideological spectrum, signaled that he may be willing to embrace a less-aggressive revision of the Affordable Care Act than Republicans have previously promised. The meeting came as Senate Republicans were struggling to build support for their health-care rewrite among conservatives who are concerned that the legislation is drifting too far to the left. Trump’s labeling of the House bill as ‘mean’ was a significant shift of tone that followed months of private and public negotiations, during which he called the bill ‘great’ and urged GOP lawmakers to vote for it. Following the House vote, Trump hosted an event in the Rose Garden to celebrate its passage.” See also, Trump, in Reversal, Calls House Republicans’ Health Bill ‘Mean,’ The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan, Jennifer Steinhauer, and Robert Pear, Tuesday, 13 June 2017.

Trump gives U.S. military authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, Reuters, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali, published on Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “U.S. President Donald Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, a U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday, opening the door for future troop increases requested by the U.S. commander. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400. The Pentagon declined to comment. The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and came as Mattis warned Congress the U.S.-backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war. ‘We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,’ Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier on Tuesday. ‘And we will correct this as soon as possible.'” See also, Trump Gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Authority to Send More Troops to Afghanistan, The New York Times, Michael R. Gordon, Tuesday, 13 June 2017.

Most Trump real estate is now sold to secretive buyers, USA Today, Nick Penzenstadler, Steve Reilly, and John Kelly, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “Since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities, a USA TODAY investigation has found. Over the last 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies – corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names. That compares with about 4% of buyers in the two years before. USA TODAY journalists have spent six months cataloging every condo, penthouse or other property that Trump and his companies own – and tracking the buyers behind every transaction. The investigation found Trump’s companies owned more than 430 individual properties worth well over $250 million. Since Election Day, Trump’s businesses have sold 28 of those U.S. properties for $33 million. The sales include luxury condos and penthouses in Las Vegas and New York and oceanfront lots near Los Angeles. The value of his companies’ inventory of available real estate remains above a quarter-billion dollars. Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and can withdraw cash any time. The increasing share of opaque buyers comes at a time when federal investigators, members of Congress and ethics watchdogs are asking questions about Trump’s sales and customers in the U.S. and around the world. Some Congressional Democrats have been asking for more detail about buyers of Trump’s domestic real estate since USA TODAY’s initial report.”

Trump Adds More Trademarks in China, The New York Times, Sui-Lee Wee, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “President Trump is poised to add six new trademarks to his expanding portfolio in China, in sectors including veterinary services and construction, potentially renewing concerns about his possible conflicts of interest. The latest trademarks expand Mr. Trump’s business interests in China, the world’s second-largest economy and a country he frequently blamed during the election campaign for the decline in American industrial jobs. Since taking office, he has softened that rhetoric. He has nevertheless continued to receive approval in China for new trademarks. The country’s trademark office gave the president preliminary approval for six trademarks on June 6, according to the agency’s website…. As a businessman, Mr. Trump made money by licensing the use of his name on an array of products around the world. He now has at least 123 registered and provisionally approved trademarks in China.”

Revealed: reality of life working in an Ivanka Trump clothing factory: Workers complain of verbal abuse, impossible targets and ‘poverty pay’ so bad they have to live away from their children, The Guardian, Krithika Varagur, Tuesday, 13 June 2017: “The reality of working in a factory making clothes for Ivanka Trump’s label has been laid bare, with employees speaking of being paid so little they cannot live with their children, anti-union intimidation and women being offered a bonus if they don’t take time off while menstruating. The Guardian has spoken to more than a dozen workers at the fashion label’s factory in Subang, Indonesia, where employees describe being paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia and there are claims of impossibly high production targets and sporadically compensated overtime. The workers’ complaints come only a week after labour activists investigating possible abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes disappeared into police custody. The activists’ group claimed they had uncovered a host of violations at the plant including salaries below China’s legal minimum wage, managers verbally abusing workers and ‘violations of women’s rights.’ In the Indonesian factory some of the complaints are similar, although the wages paid to employees in Subang are much lower.”

 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017, Day 146:

 

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said. Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing. Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Seeks to Talk to Intelligence Officials, Hinting at Inquiry of Trump, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, Wednesday, 14 June 2017.

The Republican talking points formulated in response to the report that special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded the Russia investigation to include possible obstruction of justice by Trump, annotated, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, published on Thursday, 15 June 2017: “On Wednesday night, The Post reported that special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed to investigate attempts by Russia to meddle in the 2016 election, had expanded that investigation to include possible obstruction of justice by President Trump…. In response to that report, the Republican Party issued a set of ‘talking points,’ meant to guide allies of Trump’s in rebutting the claims made in our article. Those talking points are [presented in this article and] annotated by The Post with notes clarifying or correcting the arguments being made.”

Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Among 4 Shot at Baseball Field; Suspect Is Dead, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Adam Goldman, and Emily Cochrane, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “A lone gunman who was said to be distraught over President Trump’s election opened fire on members of the Republican congressional baseball team at a practice field in this Washington suburb on Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck four people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Mr. Trump, in a televised statement from the White House, condemned the ‘very, very brutal assault’ and said the gunman had died after a shootout with the police. Law enforcement authorities identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis. Two members of Mr. Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail were wounded as they exchanged fire with the gunman in what lawmakers described as several chaotic, terror-filled minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. One was wounded by gunfire, and one suffered other, minor injuries.”

Their Own Targeted, Republicans Want Looser Gun Laws, Not Stricter Ones, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “Shaken and angry, Republican members of Congress seized on the brazen daytime shooting of their colleagues on Wednesday to demand that existing restrictions on gun access be loosened so that people facing similar attacks are able to defend themselves. Past shootings have brought calls for more gun control, especially for restrictions on the kind of rifle used in Wednesday’s attack. But the ardent supporters of gun rights who came under fire this time were not about to change their views. As Representative Steve Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican, had surgery for a gunshot wound to the hip, his colleagues complained that Washington’s restrictive gun laws had barred him and other lawmakers who live in the capital from bringing weapons to the baseball practice in Alexandria, Va.”

Nearly 200 Congressional Democrats agreed to file emoluments lawsuit against Trump, The Washington Post, Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress agreed to file a lawsuit Wednesday against President Trump alleging that by retaining interests in a global business empire he has violated constitutional restrictions on taking gifts and benefits from foreign leaders. The lead senator filing the complaint in federal district court, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said Tuesday that the lawsuit has already drawn more congressional plaintiffs — 196 — than any legal action previously taken against a president. No Republicans had joined in the lawsuit so far, although they will be invited to do so, Blumenthal said. An advance copy of the legal complaint reviewed by The Washington Post argues that those in Congress have special standing because the Constitution’s ‘foreign emoluments clause’ requires the president to obtain ‘the consent of Congress’ before accepting any gifts. The legal effort, led in the House by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), is likely to escalate tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill, where at least five committees are investigating various issues related to the Trump administration.” See also, Democrats in Congress Sue Trump Over Foreign Business Dealings, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Wednesday, 14 June 2017.

In Victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Federal Court Finds That the Trump Administration’s Approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline Violated the Law, Earthjustice, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a significant victory today in its fight to protect the Tribe’s drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access pipeline. A federal judge ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation, which were hastily issued by the Trump administration just days after the inauguration, violated the law in certain critical respects. In a 91-page decision, Judge James Boasberg wrote, ‘the Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.’ The Court did not determine whether pipeline operations should be shut off and has requested additional briefing on the subject and a status conference next week. ‘This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing,’ said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a recent statement. ‘The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.’ The Tribe’s inspiring and courageous fight has attracted international attention and drawn the support of hundreds of tribes around the nation.”

U.S. Halts New Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges, The New York Times, Stacy Cowley and Patricia Cohen, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “The Trump administration is delaying — and considering dismantling — two new rules that were a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s crackdown on predatory for-profit colleges. The announcement by the Education Department on Wednesday throws into limbo changes that would speed up and expand a system for erasing the federal loan debt of student borrowers who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently. It also freezes the implementation of key parts of what is known as the gainful employment mandate, which cuts off loans to colleges if their graduates do not earn enough money to pay off their student debt. The move came just over two weeks before the rules were to take effect on July 1. The agency said it would form new rule-making committees to study the regulations and would hold off on implementing them until the review was completed.”

Senate overwhelmingly votes to curtail Trump’s power to ease Russia sanctions, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian and Anne Gearan, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to allow Congress to block any efforts by the president to scale back sanctions against Russia, and to strengthen those sanctions in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and its actions in Syria. The vote of 97 to 2 is a sharp rebuke to President Trump’s posture on Russia and his resistance to the intelligence community’s assessment that the country was behind efforts to influence the election he won. The two senators who voted against the measure were Republicans Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah). Trump has repeatedly and openly doubted the intelligence community’s finding that Russia meddled in the presidential election. While his administration has not ordered a rollback of any existing sanctions, lawmakers have been concerned about his conciliatory, and at times even forgiving, rhetoric about Russia, as well as recent moves to give Moscow back control over two diplomatic compounds that the Obama administration reclaimed in late December…. The measure lawmakers voted on Wednesday would give Congress the chance to block any efforts by the Trump administration — or any other president, for that matter — to roll back sanctions without the consent of Congress. It would also codify existing sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea and involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine.” See also, Senate Backs Measure Limiting President’s Power to Lift Sanctions, The New York Times, Maya Salam, Wednesday, 14 June 2017.

Trump’s Federal Communications Commission Refused to Fight for Lower Prison Phone Rates. Now, Inmates Will Pay. Vice/Motherboard, Sam Gustin, Wednesday, 14 June 2017: “When a US federal agency refuses to defend its own regulations in court, calling them illegal, there’s a very good chance that those rules will be struck down. That’s precisely what happened Tuesday after a US appeals court threw out federal prison phone rate caps for in-state calls, thereby ensuring that many of the nation’s 2.2 million inmates and their families will continue to face sky-high calling charges for the foreseeable future. The DC Circuit’s decision arrived just months after President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chief, Republican Ajit Pai, decided to stop defending the agency’s Obama-era rate caps from a legal challenge mounted by the nation’s largest private prison phone providers. The ruling is a major blow for criminal justice reform advocates who have been working for more than a decade to bring relief to prison inmates, their families, and their lawyers, who have long faced astronomical calling charges—in some cases as much as $14 per minute—thanks to what critics call exploitative practices by the two companies, Securus Technologies and Global Tel*Link, that largely control the $1.2 billion prison phone market.” See also, $15 for 15 Minutes: How Courts Are Letting Prison Phone Companies Gouge Incarcerated People, The Intercept, Victoria Law, published on Friday, 16 June 2017.

 

Thursday, 15 June 2017, Day 147:

 

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings, The Washington Post, Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky, and Adam Entous, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign-policy adviser for the campaign. The Washington Post previously reported that investigators were scrutinizing meetings that Kushner held with Russians in December — first with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank. At the time of that report, it was not clear that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings. The officials who described the financial focus of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.”

Trump lashes out at the Russia probe; Pence hires a lawyer, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Ashley Parker, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “A heightened sense of unease gripped the White House on Thursday, as President Trump lashed out at reports that he’s under scrutiny over whether he obstructed justice, aides repeatedly deflected questions about the probe and Vice President Pence acknowledged hiring a private lawyer to handle fallout from investigations into Russian election meddling. Pence’s decision to hire Richard Cullen, a Richmond-based lawyer who previously served as a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, came less than a month after Trump hired his own private lawyer. The hiring of Cullen, whom an aide said Pence was paying for himself, was made public a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is widening his investigation to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice. A defiant Trump at multiple points Thursday expressed his frustration with reports about that development, tweeting that he is the subject of ‘the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history,’ and one that he said is being led by ‘some very bad and conflicted people.’ Trump, who only a day earlier had called for a more civil tone in Washington after a shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., fired off several more tweets in the afternoon voicing disbelief that he was under scrutiny while his ‘crooked’ Democratic opponent in last year’s election, Hillary Clinton, escaped prosecution in relation to her use of a private email server while secretary of state.” See also, Pence Hires a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Aid Him in the Russia Investigations, The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Thursday, 15 June 2017. See also, On Twitter, Trump decries obstruction probe tied to ‘phony’ Russia collusion storyThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Thursday, 15 June 2017.  See also, Calling Inquiry Unfair, Trump Asks: What About Clinton’s Russia Ties? The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Thursday, 15 June 2017.

Richard Burt, lobbyist for Russian interests, says he attended dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions, apparently contradicting Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, 13 June, The Guardian, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week. Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time. ‘I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions,’ Burt said. Asked whether Sessions was unfamiliar with Burt’s role as a lobbyist for Russian interests – a fact that is disclosed in public records – or had any reason to be confused about the issue, Burt told the Guardian that he did not know. Several media reports published before Trump’s election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.”

Secrecy Surrounding Senate Health Bill Raises Alarms in Both Parties, The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “As they draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republican leaders are aiming to transform large sections of the American health care system without a single hearing on their bill and without a formal, open drafting session. That has created an air of distrust and concern — on and off Capitol Hill, with Democrats but also with Republicans. ‘I’ve said from Day 1, and I’ll say it again,’ said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. ‘The process is better if you do it in public, and that people get buy-in along the way and understand what’s going on. Obviously, that’s not the route that is being taken.’ The secrecy surrounding the Senate measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is remarkable — at least for a health care measure this consequential.”

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly revokes Obama order shielding immigrant parents of U.S. citizens (DAPA), but he lets stand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, The Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly announced late Thursday that he has rescinded an Obama-era memo that sought to shield millions of parents of U.S. citizens and others from deportation. Kelly’s act fulfills part of a campaign promise that President Trump had made to overturn two of Barack Obama’s controversial memos on illegal immigration. The rescinded memo was never implemented and is the subject of an ongoing federal court battle waged by Texas and other states that opposed Obama’s program. Thursday marked the judge’s deadline for the parties to set a timetable to resolve the case. Instead, Kelly rescinded the memo, saying on the department’s website that there is ‘no credible path forward’ in court. However, Trump has let stand Obama’s 2012 memo that has granted reprieves from deportation to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived as children. Thursday, Kelly said the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, would not change.” See also, ‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for Now, but Their Long-Term Fate Is Unclear, Michael D. Shear, published on Friday, 16 June 2017: “President Trump will not immediately eliminate protections for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children, according to new memorandums issued by the administration Thursday night. But White House officials said Friday morning that Mr. Trump had not made a decision about the long-term fate of the program and might yet follow through on a campaign pledge to take away work permits from the immigrants or deport them.”

Trump Signs an Executive Order Expanding Federally Funded Apprenticeship Programs, The New York Times, Noam Scheiber, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “President Trump is taking one of the most concrete steps of his presidency on Thursday to address the employment prospects of workers left behind by the current economic expansion. In doing so, he also joins a long-running and occasionally contentious debate over whether those workers have the skills they need to land desirable jobs. Mr. Trump’s action comes in the form of an executive order expanding federally funded apprenticeship programs. The order would create a category of programs that industry groups and other third parties could develop and then submit for Labor Department approval, rather than working within existing department guidelines. ‘Apprenticeships place students into great jobs without the crippling debt of traditional four-year college degrees,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘Instead apprentices earn while they learn.’ Mr. Trump would redirect over $100 million of federal job training money to pay for the new apprenticeships, supplementing $90 million in funding for the existing program.”

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, defends the White House’s plan for massive cuts of 31% to his agency, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “President Trump once vowed to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency ‘in almost every form,’ leaving behind only ‘tidbits.’ On Thursday, the man he appointed to lead the EPA went to Capitol Hill to defend a budget proposal that would begin that promised dismantling. ‘I believe we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget, with proper leadership and management,’ EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee, adding in his prepared remarks that the Trump administration’s proposal ‘supports EPA’s highest priorities’ while aiming ‘to reduce redundancies and inefficiencies.’ The ‘trimmed’ budget he referenced would amount to a cut of more than 31 percent, or $2.4 billion annually — a larger percentage than at any other federal agency. The administration wants to rid the EPA of thousands of employees and sharply reduce or eliminate a variety of national and regional programs. Pruitt encountered swift resistance Thursday from members of both parties, who described the EPA’s work in their districts as both vital to environmental protection and an economic engine in many areas.”

Energy Department Closes Office Working on Climate Change Abroad, The New York Times, Brad Plumer, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “The Energy Department is closing an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology, another sign of the Trump administration’s retreat on climate-related activities after its withdrawal from the Paris agreement this month. The 11 staff members of the Office of International Climate and Technology were told this month that their positions were being eliminated, according to current and former agency employees. The office was formed in 2010 to help the United States provide technical advice to other nations seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The small office also played a lead role preparing for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial, a forum in which the United States, China, India and other countries shared insights on how best to promote energy efficiency, electric vehicles and other solutions to climate change. Word of the closing came right before Rick Perry, the energy secretary, attended the latest Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Beijing on June 6 to 8, agency employees said.”

Trump administration backs away from fight over California’s power to set rules for cars and trucks, Los Angeles Times, Chris Megerian and Evan Halper, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “The Trump administration is backing off its threat to revoke California’s unique authority to set its own tough pollution standards for cars and trucks — rules that have become a crucial tool for states to combat climate change without help from Washington. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt assured lawmakers on Thursday that his agency is not currently looking to take away the power that California has used for decades to reduce emissions that cause smog and heat up the planet. Earlier this year, Pruitt had suggested that the Trump administration might try to weaken or revoke California’s authority, which would have put Washington on a collision course with the state over a crucial environmental issue. But asked about the subject Thursday at a House hearing on the EPA’s budget, Pruitt struck a very different tone, praising California for ‘leadership’ on clean air. ‘Currently the waiver is not under review,’ Pruitt said, referring to the legal rubric under which the state is allowed to waive federal rules and impose its own. ‘This has been something that has been granted going back to the beginning of the Clean Air Act because of the leadership California demonstrated.'”

California Deals Blow to Trump’s Plan to Expand Immigrant Detention Centers, BuzzFeed News, Adolfo Flores, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “California lawmakers on Thursday dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s plans to expand capacity for detaining undocumented immigrants in the state. The provision, which is part of California’s $125-billion budget, stops local jurisdictions from signing new contracts or expanding existing contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for detaining immigrants. It also requires the state attorney general to conduct reviews of all detention facilities holding immigrants. The budget plan now goes to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign it. California’s move comes as ICE is seeking a $1.2-billion increase in funding for the next fiscal year. The agency’s budget calls for nearly $4.9 billion to expand detention capacity to 51,379, with the ability to hold about 49,000 adults and 2,500 families.”

Time Magazine Can Pursue Records on Trump’s Employment of Undocumented Labor, Courthouse News Service, Adam Klasfeld, Thursday, 15 June 2017: “Setting the stage for a follow-up article to the election-year bombshell on President Donald Trump’s employment of undocumented construction workers, the Second Circuit revived a bid by Time Magazine on Thursday to obtain documents that have been shrouded in secrecy for nearly two decades. The dispute stems from the demolition of Bonwit Teller’s flagship department store that sat on the land now occupied by Trump Tower at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. In 1983, one of the union workers who helped knock down the building filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Trump exploited undocumented Polish workers. Though Trump has denied such claims for three decades, Time published the testimony in August last year of a union leader who said that Trump knew of this arrangement, repeatedly toured their work site, and addressed pay issues directly with the workers. With the workers and Trump reaching a 1998 settlement before trial — a deal that remains under federal court seal — Time teamed up with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to uncover the case records. Though U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa found ‘good cause’ for secrecy, the Second Circuit overturned that decision today, wasting little time in releasing a ruling after hearing oral argument on May 25.”