Trump picks handbag designer, Mar-a-Lago member to be envoy to South Africa

President Donald Trump has nominated handbag designer Lana Marks to be the next US ambassador to South Africa.

Marks, a Florida resident and member of Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a source familiar with the club, was born and raised in South Africa, where she attended the University of the Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management in Johannesburg, the White House said in a statement.

Marks is photographed and quoted giving a warm testimonial on the website of Mar-a-Lago’s official photographer, saying she had captured her daughter’s wedding at the club “in a very special way.”

Marks is known for luxury handbags in exotic animal skins, such as ostrich and alligator, with prices that can hover above $19,000. One of her more expensive creations, a $400,000 clutch, has been carried on the red carpet. The designer’s website features photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston carrying her goods and says her accessories have become a favorite among “royalty and entertainment style makers.”

Ballet and tennis

Described by the Palm Beach Daily as “like Trump, a relentless self-promoter,” Marks speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa, two of South Africa’s languages, according to the White House.

Her website chronicles an upbringing that included studying at the Royal Academy of Ballet. The concept for starting an exotic leather handbag line came, the site says, when Marks couldn’t find a bag to match the suit she planned to wear to a birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth. According to her Instagram accountshe attempted to qualify for the French Open tennis tournament in 1978.

Marks’ site also notes that she was appointed to the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, which supports the Women and Public Policy Program. Both the board and the program focus on gender equality and improving lives around the world, the Harvard site says. The Harvard site notes that board members “engage philanthropically” with the policy program “through three annual giving tiers.”

Board members provide a minimum annual gift of $10,000 per individual member, $20,000 per Leadership Circle member and $25,000 per corporation.

[CNN]

Trump says he tells the truth, “when I can”

President Trump, who has frequently made false and misleading statements while in office, told ABC News’ Jon Karl that he tried to tell the truth, “when [he] can”.

“Well, I try. I do try … When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.”

By the numbers: The Washington Post’s Fact Checker reported last month that Trump made more than 5,000 false or misleading statements in the first 601 days of his presidency, an average of 8.3 claims a day.

[Axios]

White House Reiterates Trump Call for Investigation of Anonymous Opinion Writer

The White House press secretary on Monday called for the Justice Department to investigate who wrote an anonymous opinion column last week that was critical of President Trump, echoing the president’s demand for such a probe.

“If that individual is in meetings where national security is discussed or other important topics, and they are attempting to undermine the executive branch, that would certainly be problematic and something that the Department of Justice should look into,” Sarah Sanders told reporters at Monday’s briefing.

Mr. Trump last week said he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into who in his administration penned the column in the New York Times, which was attributed only to a senior administration official and said there was a secret resistance movement at work in Mr. Trump’s administration that aims to curtail his “worst inclinations.”

The president said he was concerned the author may be involved in discussions about national security issues. “I don’t want him in those meetings,” he said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday. When Mr. Trump raised the prospect of an investigation last week, a department spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t confirm or deny investigations.

Presidents typically avoid calling for Justice Department investigations, particularly ones related to their own administrations, to avoid the perception they are interfering in department matters. Mr. Trump has done so on multiple occasions.

A parade of senior members of Mr. Trump’s administration publicly denied writing the column last week.

Ms. Sanders declined on Monday to say what crime the author of the column may have committed. “I’m not an attorney,” she said. “It’s the Department of Justice’s job to make that determination, and we’re asking them to look into it.”

Asked whether the president was aware that the column was protected under the First Amendment, Ms. Sanders said: “It’s less about that part of it, and whether or not somebody is actively trying to undermine the executive branch of the government and a duly elected president.”

She declined to say whether the White House was launching an internal search for the column’s author, whom she called “gutless.” “We’re certainly focused on things that actually matter,” she said.

[Wall Street Journal]

Trump offers White House staffers a special perk at his golf club

There’s an under-the-radar perk being offered to staffers in President Donald Trump’s administration — discounts on Trump-branded merchandise sold at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.

White House staffers who have a Secret Service hard pin identifying them as administration officials can flash it at the pro shop — where Trump-branded driver headcovers retail for $40 and a Trump golf polo tee sells for $90, according to the online Trump store — and receive the same discount available to club members, who pay a reported $350,000 to join the club.

Those discounts range from 15 percent off of any merchandise sold in the store, to 70 percent off clearance items, according to two staffers and a receipt reviewed by POLITICO.

The practice is the latest indication that being a public servant in this administration comes with special perks to sweeten the deal. The discounts available at the Bedminster club were originally pitched by the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and the president himself as a nice gesture to aides, according to the recollection of someone familiar with the setup. (White House officials denied Ivanka Trump’s involvement and said she was not even aware the discount existed.)

But ethics experts say the arrangement only highlights how Trump remains more entangled in his commercial properties than any president in American history. Those blurry lines between his government work and his private business, from which he never divested, are perhaps most fuzzy when the president is spending time with government officials on the grounds of his own properties.

Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and a former associate counsel in the Obama and Clinton administrations, said the practice of offering any discounts to people identified by their Secret Service pins was “absolutely wrong.”

Discounts are not prohibited by the Office of Government Ethics if they are available to all government employees, or if it’s a standardized discount. But if they are not, the discount is considered a gift. Federal officials are also prohibited from accepting gifts in excess of $20 and are urged to decline any gifts “when accepting them would raise concerns about the appearance of impropriety.”

“It’s prohibited under the standards of conduct for any government employee to accept a gift because of their official position,” said Canter. “The fact is, people’s access to that facility is extremely limited. It’s not open to all government employees. It’s limited to staff who have access to the facility and second of all, who are given access to the Secret Service pin. It’s not OK.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not comment about the discount.

But getting perks in the pro shop goes beyond White House staffers.

Trump has pilfered his own store to charm Republican lawmakers and their aides, whom he frequently invites to join him for rounds of golf at his properties in Sterling, Virginia, and Palm Beach, Florida. GOP aides have been directed to the pro shop to pick up golf apparel — gratis — when the president saw they were not outfitted for golf. It was not clear whether Trump later personally picked up the tab or the business ate the extra expense.

The discounts remain under the radar even within the White House. One former senior administration official said he never knew about the price chop and had always paid full price for pro-shop merchandise. “I overpaid, big time,” the former official said. “Part of me wishes I knew. Part of me is glad I didn’t.” Other aides said they learned of the discount through the grapevine only after having paid full price.

The discounts are also not available across-the-board at all Trump clubs — each pro shop sets its own rules, and staffers who recently shopped at the Turnberry resort in Scotland while working for the president on his most recent foreign trip said they were expected to pay full price for the goods they brought home.

POLITICO reviewed a recent receipt that showed a current White House official receiving a 70 percent discount on a piece of merchandise that was a clearance item, and a 30 percent discount on an item from the current collection.

Norm Eisen, who served as the ethics czar under former President Barack Obama, said Trump’s habit of doling out discounted goods from his personal business is an abuse of office.

“It does have an effect on how Trump tries to secure personal loyalty and woo people away from what should be their primary and their only loyalty — to the Constitution, to public service and to the people of the United States,” Eisen said. “This is another small inducement, apparently contrary to federal law, that he uses to bind his staff to him personally.”

Trump, who throughout his life has been accused of regularly stiffing contractors and failing to pay his debts, is often a fan of generous gestures when he’s relaxing at one of his own properties. If he sees a table of staffers dining, he’ll often send over a dessert on the house, or pick up the check, another aide said.

Those gestures would be allowed if he, himself, is paying out of his own pocket to cover the meal. But they would also be prohibited by federal gift rules if he simply charged those meals to the club.

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Amanda Miller, did not return calls and emails for 12 days.

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]

White House Omits Critical Question From Trump-Putin Press Conference Video

A White House transcript and video of President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s July 16 press conference in Helsinki are missing a critical question from a reporter.

During the press conference, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Putin the question: “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said Tuesday, the White House video of the event omitted the first part of Mason’s question. Only the second part — about directing officials to help Trump — was included.

The Russian leader responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

“What the White House has disappeared from the official U.S. government record of that meeting … is President Putin answering in the affirmative when asked if he wanted Trump to win the election,” Maddow said.

The Atlantic was first to point out this discrepancy, noting last week that neither the White House transcript of the exchange nor its livestream of the press conference included Mason’s full question to Putin. The White House didn’t immediately provide an explanation for this, The Atlantic said.

As the outlet noted at the time, Putin’s response to Mason’s query had already been ambiguous, as it was unclear whether he was answering the first or second part of the question when he said, “Yes, I did.”

The Reuters reporter told The Atlantic, however, that he believed Putin had likely been responding to the first part of the question — the very part the White House has omitted.

“You could interpret [Putin’s response] to mean he’s answering ‘yes’ to both,” Mason said. ”[But] looking at it critically, he spent a good chunk of that press conference, just like President Trump did, denying any collusion. So I think it’s likely that when he said ‘Yes, I did,’ that he was just responding to the first part of my question and perhaps didn’t hear the second part.”

The Kremlin doesn’t have the exchange between Mason and the Russian president in its transcript of the event.

“At least the White House had the courtesy to leave in half of his question so you can get a misleading answer,” Maddow quipped. “The Russians just disappeared [Mason] altogether … They skip over that entire exchange.”

The Atlantic said last week that it was possible the White House’s omission was accidental. But Maddow challenged that suggestion on Tuesday, saying the administration has since had plenty of time to correct the error.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out, the omission may have been the result of a technical error.

At some point in the middle of that question, there’s a switch between the feed from the reporters and the feed from the translator. In the White House version of the video, you can hear the question being asked very faintly under the woman who is translating saying “president.”

If you’re wearing headphones, you can notice how the latter part of the question is suddenly audible in the right earpiece. At first, the right channel is only the translator. Mid-question, the reporter is suddenly heard in both left and right as the translator feed drops out. Notice, too, that Putin then picks up his earpiece — through which he can hear the translations — and puts it in his right ear.

[Huffington Post]

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!

Government paid $65K to Trump company for Scotland stay

The U.S. government paid roughly $65,000 for housing and accommodations for staffers at President Trump’s Turnberry golf resort, The Scotsman reported Tuesday.

The news outlet, citing government spending records, found that the State Department paid roughly 52,000 pounds — or $65,000 — to SLC Turnberry Limited, which is registered with a company whose directors include Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

The government made an initial payment on July 11 for close to $30,000 that covered hotel rooms and a “VIP visit,” according to The Scotsman.

The other payment, approved on July 10, reportedly covered hotel accommodations at the golf resort.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eric Trump responded to the news report on Twitter shortly after it was published, saying the company charges its costs related to any U.S. government business, and it does not profit from the visits.
“Much more would be spent if they stayed elsewhere,” he added.

The president spent last weekend at his property, where he played golf and sat for an interview with CBS News ahead of his trip to Finland to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Scotsman reported in May that the government had paid Trump’s Turnberry resort earlier in the year to accommodate visits from administration officials.

Trump roiled ethics watchdogs after his election when he refused to fully divest from his businesses. The then-president-elect instead placed his assets in a trust controlled by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

The latest payments are likely to ignite criticism from ethics watchdogs, who have long argued that the Trumps are using the presidency to enrich the family’s business empire.

Three separate lawsuits have been brought against the Trump administration claiming that the president is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts or benefits from foreign governments without congressional approval.

One lawsuit was dismissed in December, and the other two are working their way through the court system.

[The Hill]

Trump’s Turnberry getaway: A little golf, a lot of promoting

President Donald Trump did not let the pressure of his high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin stand in the way of his typical Saturday routine: Tweeting followed by golf on a Trump-branded course.

“The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning, promoting his own money-losing property in Turnberry.

Trump did not plug his business from the official government account of the President of the United States, which he does not use. Instead, he gave the property a boost from his personal account, from behind the walls of his private club.

To ethics experts who criticized the president’s use of his office to promote his business, the account he uses marks a distinction without a difference. But it was the latest sign of Trump bending the presidency to fit the old lifestyle he misses — even down to sticking with his own account — rather than being shaped by the demands of the office he occupies.

During the course of his trip, Trump has conducted himself more like his pre-presidential self than ever before, while traveling. In England, he turned to the familiar pages of a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid to mouth off about a world leader — before his election, Trump’s favorite newspaper to call up and chat with was the New York Post. This time, however, he later tried to walk back his comments criticizing British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations when he seemed to realize that intervening in the fragile government of an ally was a mistake.

At a black tie dinner on Wednesday night at Blenheim Palace, he made sure that the dinner included some familiar faces from home, among the Brits — including Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, a longtime Mar-a-Lago member and Trump friend, Wall Street billionaire Stephen Schwarzman and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.

Later, he mugged for his press secretary by taking a seat in Winston Churchill’s chair while meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers, a casual photo that gave the impression of a Churchill-loving tourist, rather than a visiting head of state.

But his turn at Turnberry has been long planned, aides said. Over the past 18 months in office, associates said, he has often talked about scheduling a visit here to check on his properties.

Trump loves his Scottish clubs, friends said, and typically visited them about once a year in his old life as a private citizen with a mouthy Twitter account. Friends said he has an emotional connection to the clubs here, and often mentions his mother, who was born in Scotland, when he brings up the Trump links at Turnberry and Aberdeen.

Ahead of his trip abroad, he told associates that he was eager to hang out in Scotland and check in on his properties, noting he was frustrated he had gone too long without a visit. (He lasted visited Turnberry as a presidential candidate in 2016.)

One former adviser noted that the Scotland and England portions of the trip were meant to entice Trump to even attend the NATO Summit in Brussels, which he approached with dread, like a dessert he earned after eating his vegetables.We

At home, Trump spends most of his time away from the White House at his own properties: Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach during the winter; the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster during the summer; and the Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia, or the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., on the weekends he stays put.

His two-day break in Scotland, some downtime between from international meetings, however, marked the first time he has spent a weekend at one of his own properties while traveling abroad as president.

On Saturday morning, he tweeted that he was going to be busy with “meetings and calls” at the club, noting that he would squeeze in golf if he had the time. But just like at home, “meetings and calls” appeared to mean more time on the course. Shortly after his tweet, he was spotted playing golf with his son Eric Trump, whose “Trump” branded plane had been waiting on the tarmac when Air Force One landed here on Friday night.

[Politico]

Emails reveal alarm when Trump’s golf course gripes leaked

Days after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, a group of four British political figures met with him in Trump Tower in New York. They posted photos of themselves there beaming before a big golden door and, when they returned to Britain, one of them couldn’t help bragging to the BBC about the meeting in which they had discussed Trump’s dislike for windmills that could ruin the views from one of his Scottish golf courses.

Arron Banks, who donated an amount equivalent to more than $10 million to the Brexit cause, and his spokesman Andy Wigmore were among the first people to meet Trump after his election in November 2016 alongside Breitbart UK editor Raheem Kassam and Nigel Farage, the former chairman of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

“He doesn’t like wind farms at all,” Wigmore told the BBC weeks after the meeting. “He says, ‘When I look out of my window and I see these wind mills it offends me.'” Wigmore added that the President-elect had asked him and his British counterparts at the meeting to campaign “about getting rid of wind farms in the way they currently stand.” He told a British newspaperthat Trump “kept returning” to the “issue of wind farms.”

British political operatives met with Russian ambassador days after Trump visit
The revelations led to further scrutiny of the President-elect’s potential business conflicts, and according to the emails, stoked Trump’s anger.

Wigmore’s comments, delivered with a smile, touched off a distressed email exchange, according to emails viewed by CNN. Some of Wigmore’s and Banks’ emails have recently been provided to congressional and parliamentary investigators looking into Russian interference in the United Kingdom and the US. CNN reported last month that Wigmore and Banks were also in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London at the time.

In the emails, Kassam urged Wigmore to walk back his comments.

“WHY DID YOU GIVE THOSE QUOTES. This was a PRIVATE MEETING AND YOU HAVE F***** ALL OF US NOW,” Kassam emailed Wigmore.

Appearing to suggest over email they obfuscate the truth, Kassam wrote that Wigmore should issue a “full retraction immediately,” and claim the conversation with Trump about the windmills “never happened.”

UK investigates alleged Russian links to Brexit campaign
Kassam added, “We are going to have to distance ourselves from this. That conversation never took place and I’m afraid you have misremembered as a result of your overexcitement.”

A few weeks after their post-election Trump Tower meeting, Trump met with Farage at a party, according to an email sent by Banks to Wigmore and a colleague.

Banks wrote of Trump, “Apparently he’s still annoyed about the wind farm story (naughty boy andy) but I guess there’s not much we can do about that.”

For years before his election, Trump had publicly opposed the proposed Scottish wind farm that could be seen from a golf course he owns on Scotland’s east coast, even writing to a top Scottish official about the issue. Trump’s comments to the group, Wigmore suggested, were in part about that wind farm. Trump is expected to visit Turnberry, another golf course he owns on Scotland’s west coast, this week while he is in Europe for meetings with NATO and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wind farms blowback

Wigmore’s November 2016 account of Trump’s disdain for wind farms, particularly those near his Scottish golf course, prompted a flurry of news reporting in the United States and drew further scrutiny about the President-elect’s potential conflicts of interest arising from his businesses.

When The New York Times asked Trump transition team spokeswoman Hope Hicks about the conversation in 2016, she said that the people involved denied that Trump had brought up the subject of wind farms.

But when the Times pointed out to Hicks Wigmore’s comments, she stopped responding.

At a later point in November 2016, Trump told the Times he “might have” brought up the topic of wind farms during the meeting.

The White House did not return CNN’s requests for comment about the newly revealed emails.

One of the emails from Kassam to Wigmore read, “You have to retract this in its entirety. What you have done is just activated the entire environmentalist lobby against the President‐elect. Your name is mud in the transition team right now and you need to issue a full retraction immediately. That you made that information up because you wanted to fill space in an interview and that you’re very sorry about it and that it never happened.”

How Europe’s populists are following the Steve Bannon playbook
Kassam told CNN, “The reason I got so mad at Andy (Wigmore) was because I think the President-elect literally mentioned wind farms once for a second, there was no sort of policy discussion about wind farms or anything like that.”

Kassam said he wasn’t asking Wigmore to lie about the meeting when he asked him to retract his comments, but did want his colleague to walk-back the suggestion that there was a detailed conversation about wind farms

“Andy isn’t exactly Mr. Attention-to-detail,” Kassam added.

Speaking to CNN, Wigmore acknowledged he was taken aback by Trump’s reaction to his comments but said he didn’t regret the indiscretion.

“Donald Trump is a man who speaks his mind,” Wigmore said. “No one expected him to win in 2016 just as no one expected people to vote for Brexit. But they did.”

Wigmore, Farage and Banks all played leading roles in Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, and later went on to campaign for Trump, attending numerous rallies and debates across the United States in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

A Russia revelation

The emails obtained by CNN, of which the details of some were first reported by The Observer and The Sunday Times newspapers in London, show that a few days after the men’s post-election meeting at Trump Tower, Wigmore and Banks met the Russian ambassador in London.

CNN reported in June that, at the time of the 2016 meeting, Wigmore and Banks, were in regular contact with Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador in London, as part of what became a pattern of regular contact with the embassy.

There is no evidence that the Trump campaign knew about the men’s ties to the Russian government.

Kassam told CNN he didn’t know two of the other men were meeting with Russian government officials at the time.

Wigmore and Banks’ contact with the Russian ambassador in London while campaigning for Brexit, and later the Trump campaign, has been a source of intrigue in the United Kingdom.

The men appeared before a British parliamentary committee last month where they downplayed their connections to the Russian government.

In a radio interview last month, when it was suggested to Banks that people would ask if the men were “reporting back” to the Russians, he responded, “Well, not really.”

Wigmore said the only thing they provided the ambassador with was a phone number for the Trump transition team after the ambassador asked if they knew how to get in contact with Trump.

Wigmore claimed the ambassador said he didn’t know how to contact the incoming administration.

Kassam said that although he was unaware that Banks and Wigmore had connections with the Russian ambassador in London, it didn’t surprise him, as he described both men as socialites “running around Mayfair,” an affluent neighborhood in central London, who’d take a meeting with anyone.

[CNN]

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