Trump Threatens the Career of Another Official Involved in the Russia Investigation

President Donald Trump said Friday that he would likely strip the security clearance of a Justice Department official “very quickly,” opening a new front in his battle with figures related to the special counsel investigation into his campaign and Russian election interference.

The official, Bruce Ohr, is a longtime government prosecutor who up until this week had not been a household name.

That changed on Wednesday when press secretary Sarah Sanders listed Ohr from the White House podium alongside a list of former national security and law enforcement officials who have been critical of the President and are now having their security clearances reviewed. On Friday, Trump expanded on his targeting of Ohr, whose name stood out on the list as the only official currently serving in government.

“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.”

Ohr is currently an attorney within the DOJ’s criminal division, according to a source familiar with his position. He was demoted last year from a senior position within the deputy attorney general’s office, CNN reported, after it was discovered that he had communicated with Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who crafted the dossier of salacious and unverified information about Trump and Russia, and the founder of the US firm, Fusion GPS, that was hired to dig up that dirt.

Little is known publicly about the extent of the relationships between Ohr and Steele and Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS founder, but some House Republicans have seized on them as proof of an untoward connection between government officials and the roots of the Russia investigation that they criticize.

The President has also tweeted criticism about Ohr and his wife, who was an employee of Fusion GPS. Simpson disclosed in a court filing last year that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion on “research and analysis of Mr. Trump,” and that Simpson met with Bruce Ohr “at his request, after the November 2016 election to discuss our findings regarding Russia and the election.”

Neither Bruce nor Nellie Ohr have made public remarks about the President. CNN has reached out to Ohr’s personal attorney for comment.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in June, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described Bruce Ohr’s role in sober terms.

“Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. To my knowledge, he wasn’t working on the Russia matter,” Rosenstein said. “When we learned of the relevant information, we arranged to transfer Mr. Ohr to a different office.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said she could not comment on personnel matters when asked about Ohr’s position within the department and the President’s criticism of him.

It’s not clear what level of clearance Ohr possesses, but former officials say all Justice Department attorneys have a security clearance and its loss would be detrimental to agency work.

“Within the Department of Justice, every federal prosecutor has some level of security clearance because they’re dealing with sensitive information,” said Jodi L. Avergun, a former section chief at the DOJ’s criminal division who now heads the white collar defense and investigations group at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

“If someone in a sensitive position with the Department of Justice lost their security clearance it would likely make their job difficult to do,” Avergun said.

[CNN]

Trump Calls Manafort ‘Good Person’ and Criticizes Fraud Trial

President Donald Trump called his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort a “very good person” and criticized his trial on bank fraud and money laundering charges, as a jury began a second day of deliberations on a verdict.

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad,” Trump told reporters Friday before departing the White House for a fundraiser in New York. “I think it is a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But, you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Trump declined to say whether he would pardon his former aide if convicted. Yet, his commentary about an ongoing criminal case before a jury marks a sharp departure from presidential norms guarding against political interference with the judicial process.

Manafort is the first person to be tried as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mueller’s prosecutors have alleged that Manafort, before joining Trump’s campaign, for years hid millions of dollars in income earned from pro-Russia clients in Ukraine in foreign bank accounts while fraudulently obtaining bank loans to support an opulent lifestyle.

The charges Manafort faces are unrelated to his work for Trump’s campaign. Trump has repeatedly denied his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to manipulate the outcome of the election and regularly calls Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

[Bloomberg]

Omarosa releases tape of Lara Trump offering her hush money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The Hill]

Trump campaign files for arbitration against Omarosa over confidentiality breach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The Daily Beast]

Trump encourages boycott against Harley-Davidson

President Donald Trump said it’s “great” that consumers might boycott Harley-Davidson if it moves some motorcycle production overseas.

The President tweeted about the potential boycott on Sunday

“Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great!” Trump wrote. “Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better.”

Harley-Davidson did not respond to request for comment on Sunday.

Trump’s remark came after the President hosted “Bikers for Trump” supporters at his golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, over the weekend.Dozens of bikers descended on the posh club house, where Trump shook hands, posed for selfies and delivered an enemy-bashing speech to a cheering crowd, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Tensions between the administration and Harley-Davidson have brewed for months.

It started when Trump imposed hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports earlier this year in an effort to bolster domestic manufacturing. The European Union responded by pledging to raise tariffs on a list of goods that are imported from the United States, including Harley motorcycles.

American demand for motorcycles has waned while foreign interest has grown. So, that wasn’t good news for the Wisconsin-based bike manufacturer.
Harley said it stands to lose as much as $100 million a year, and the company pledged to shift some of its production abroad so that it could avoid the added tariffs on motorcycles sold in the EU.

Trump accused Harley of using the European retaliatory tariffs as “an excuse” for moving manufacturing abroad. Trump, echoing a top union for Harley workers, claimed the company planned to shift some operations to Thailand before the tariffs were announced.

Harley acknowledged it already had been moving some production abroad, but said moving more production overseas was the “only sustainable option” in the face of a trade war.

The President also said last month his administration was “working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the U.S.”

[CNN]

Trump says Trump Tower meeting meant to obtain information on Clinton

President Trump tweeted Sunday morning about the now-infamous June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Russians and Trump campaign officials, including his son, Donald Trump Jr.

“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”

Why it matters: Trump and his son have repeatedly changed their stance on the purpose of the 2016 meeting. In a statement to The New York Times last July, which investigators now know was dictated by President Trump, Don Jr. said the meeting was primarily about Russian adoptions. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has also claimedthat the president approved the meeting ahead of time, contradicting continued denials by Trump and his legal team.

[Axios]

Trump tweets support for congressman not on the ballot

President Donald Trump issued one of his patented Twitter endorsements on Thursday, urging people to vote for a top political ally next week. But there was just one problem: He’s not on the ballot.

Trump tweeted that Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who is leading House Republicans’ efforts to keep the chamber in this fall’s midterm elections, has earned his “full [and] total endorsement.” Stivers, Trump wrote, “has done a fantastic job” as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Get out and vote for Steve on Aug 7th,” Trump wrote.

But Stivers isn’t up for reelection next Tuesday. The fourth-term incumbent was unopposed in his primary, all the way back in May. He will next go before voters on Nov. 6, when he faces Democrat Rick Neal.

Trump quickly deleted the tweet — but not before earning ridicule for the mix-up from other users of the platform.

It’s unclear whether Trump or his social-media team intended instead to tweet support for another Ohioan who ison the ballot Aug. 7: state Sen. Troy Balderson, the Republican nominee in next week’s closely watched special election in a neighboring district.

About a half-hour later, Trump teased his Saturday rally in Lewis Center, Ohio, where he will campaign for Balderson, who is facing Democrat Danny O’Connor — both next week and in the November general election.

“Looking forward to being in the Great State of Ohio on Saturday night where I will be campaigning hard for a truly talented future Congressman, @Troy_Balderson,” he tweeted, along with a link to sign up for tickets at a website set up for Trump’s reelection campaign.

[Politico]

Wealthy Trump Pals Paid Rick Gates for Access to His Administration

Even as he became the target of a federal investigators, Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign No. 2 and longtime partner of Paul Manafort, was being paid last year by two Trump allies for insider access to the new administration, the New York Timesreports.

The paper identifies the men as Elliott Broidy, a major Trump fundraiser and former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Tom Barrack, the billionaire Trump buddy who took a key role in planning his inauguration.

Broidy paid Gates $125,000 to help him in “courting foreign government clients for a defense contractor he had purchased in 2015, and pushing for policies that favored clients and prospective clients,” the Timesreports. His missions while in Broidy’s employ included advising the venture capitalist on how to get Trump to play golf with former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, whom Broidy was trying to butter up on behalf of his defense firm. The paper learned these details after it was leaked a series of emails stolen from Broidy, who has been in the news in recent months for his supposed affair with a Playboyplaymate.

Meanwhile, Barracks’s company, Colony NorthStar, paid Gates $20,000 a month for his advice on issues related to the communications industry, he said last year. Gates’s contracts with both Broidy and Barrack eventually dried up as Special Counsel Robert Mueller closed in on him. He would eventually be charged with a raft of financial crimes and illegal foreign lobbying, pleading guilty in February. He is now cooperating with prosecutors.

The Times describes these deals as Gates marketing his “administration access,” but it’s hard to imagine why Broidy and Barrack, who were both close to Trump, would need to spend so much money for access to the administration.

[New York Magazine]

Trump: Cohen taping me ‘totally unheard of & perhaps illegal’

President Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that he “did nothing wrong” after reports surfaced that Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, secretly recorded him shortly before the 2016 presidential election talking about buying the rights to the story of a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump.

In his first public comments since a series of explosive reports in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump said it was “inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

The recording was seized in April when the FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel rooms in Manhattan, The Times reported, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

Laws on taping private conversations differ from state to state, and it is not clear where Cohen recorded Trump. New York state, for example, has a “one-party consent” law, which makes it a crime to record an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party participating in the conversation consents.

The Journal reported the conversation took place in September 2016, a month after American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had purchased the rights to ex-Playmate Karen McDougal’s story of the alleged extramarital affair.

Cohen suggested that he and Trump consider buying the rights to her story themselves, which would have effectively reimbursed the Enquirer for its payments to McDougal. It is unclear why they didn’t, The Journal said.

McDougal has said that AMI agreed to pay her $150,000 for her story but then did not publish it.

David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of AMI, is a Trump supporter who reportedly described the president as a “personal friend.” Former AMI employees told The New Yorker that Pecker often buys the rights to a story in order to bury it — a tabloid-industry practice called “catch and kill.”

McDougal says she had an year-long affair with Trump more than a decade ago, which Trump has denied.

McDougal also has filed a lawsuit seeking the right to speak publicly about her alleged affair with Trump. Adult film star Stormy Daniels has also sued the president to nullify a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged affair, which the White House also has denied.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, said the recording demonstrated no wrongdoing by Trump.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.”

Trump was “unaware” that Cohen was recording him, CNBC reported on Friday, citing a source familiar with the matter. The source also said other tapes exist, but the president’s legal team is not aware of any other “substantive tapes.” NBC News has confirmed that report.

The White House declined to comment.

Often described as Trump’s “fixer,” Cohen is the subject of a probe by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said, “Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that. But suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape.”

Barbara Jones, the special master overseeing the review of evidence seized from Cohen, said on Friday she was provided with 4,085 items that Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization marked as attorney-client privilege. But Jones pushed back on the designation of 1,452 of those items, so those will be handed over to government investigators.

Cohen’s lawyers found the recording when reviewing the seized materials from the raid and shared it with Trump’s lawyers, The Times said, citing three unnamed sources.

[NBC News]

Reality

New York is a “one-party consent” state, meaning as long as one party of the conversation, most likely you, agree to be recorded then it’s totally legal.

And of course Trump never heard of Michael Cohen’s secret tapes, that’s why they were secret tapes!

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