Categories for Conflict of Interest

11,657. 11/22/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/TRUMP BUSINESS: “Bottles from Trump Winery have been on sale at a gift shop in Shenandoah National Park, located about two hours from Washington, D.C.
Ethics watchdogs have slammed President Donald Trump for apparent conflicts of interest, particularly opportunities to make money from his public position. But the park and store management say that’s not the case here.
The store is in the national park but is managed by a private company, as many are, said National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum…
Hong said the Shenandoah shops have in the past carried wines from Kluge Estate, which Trump bought in 2011 and rebranded.
Federal records show Delaware North operates facilities at national parks from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite. The company won a 10-year contract in 2013 to manage retail shops, restaurants, lodging, horseback riding, and shower and laundry facilities at Shenandoah.
The Trump Winery offering at Shenandoah came to light when an environmental trade publication, E&E News, was tipped off by an employee at the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit that has protested and sued the Trump administration over its handling of the environment.”

-Gregory Wallace, “National Park Service doesn’t object to sale of Trump wine at park,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, Nov. 22, 2017 12:56pm

11,494. 11/14/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/JEFF SESSIONS/JUSTICE DEPARTMENT/LEGAL/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, during questioning at a congressional hearing Tuesday [11-14-17], sidestepped questions about whether President Trump’s vitriol toward CNN was factoring into the Department of Justice’s review of a mammoth media merger.
AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner Inc. — which owns CNN, HBO, TNT, Cartoon Network and the Warner Bros. movie and television studio — for $85 billion. Justice Department antitrust division officials met last week with AT&T executives to discuss their concerns about the merger…
During Tuesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) pointedly asked Sessions whether the White House has gotten involved in what is supposed to be a legal review of the merits of AT&T’s proposed merger…
The Justice Department’s antitrust division, now led by Makan Delrahim, has suggested that it might sue to block the merger. Sources familiar with the matter have told various news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, that the Justice Department has suggested that AT&T sell either Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN, or its El Segundo-based satellite TV unit, DirecTV, to win government approval of the deal…
Johnson asked whether anyone at the White House had contacted Sessions or other Justice Department officials in an effort to influence their decision on the AT&T-Time Warner deal. Sessions did not directly answer the question.”

-Meg James, “Jeff Sessions ducks questions about White House influence on AT&T-Time Warner merger,” The Los Angeles Times online, Nov. 14, 2017 11:10am

11,481. 11/13/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/JUSTICE DEPARTMENT/NOMINATIONS/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “One of President Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees did not disclose on publicly available congressional documents that he is married to a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office.
The nominee, Brett J. Talley, is awaiting a Senate confirmation vote that could come as early as Monday [11-13-17] to become a federal district judge in Alabama. He is married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.
Mr. Talley was asked on his publicly released Senate questionnaire to identify family members and others who are ‘likely to present potential conflicts of interest.’ He did not mention his wife.
District judges often provide the first ruling when laws are called into question, decisions that can put them at odds with the White House and its lawyers. Last month, for example, judges in Hawaii and Maryland temporarily blocked Mr. Trump’s travel ban.”

-Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt, “Trump Judicial Pick Did Not Disclose He Is Married to a White House Lawyer,” The New York Times online, Nov. 13, 2017

11,338. 11/6/2017

COMMERCE/CONFLICT OF INTEREST/RUSSIA/WILBUR ROSS: “The commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., indicated on Monday [11-6-17] that he would probably sell his stake in a shipping company with business ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, amid fallout from publication of a vast leak of offshore files that documented the connection.
Mr. Ross retained an investment in the shipper, Navigator Holdings, even as he sold off numerous other holdings to join the Trump administration, information that did not emerge publicly during his confirmation proceedings.
Among Navigator’s biggest clients is Sibur, a Russian energy firm whose owners include Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch who is a friend of Mr. Putin’s and is subject to United States sanctions, and Kirill Shamalov, Mr. Putin’s son-in-law. Navigator earns millions of dollars a year chartering ships to Sibur.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Ross said that he would ‘probably not’ keep his Navigator investment, but that it did not pose a conflict of interest. He also defended Navigator’s business dealings with Sibur, saying there was ‘nothing whatsoever wrong with it.’ “

-Mike McIntire, “Commerce Secretary May Sell Investment in Russia-Linked Company,” The New York Times online, Nov. 6, 2017

11,017. 10/24/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has directed millions of dollars in political contributions since 2014 to a network of Washington operatives that prominent conservatives have accused of profiting by misleading donors…
The details about Zinke’s fundraising and spending practices have not been previously reported, nor has his years-long relationship with Mackenzie’s Virgin Islands Republican Party, a group that some Republicans in the Caribbean island chain have accused of misrepresenting itself to donors. POLITICO’s analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, plus interviews with campaign finance lawyers and people familiar with the Virgin Islands group’s fundraising, offer a deeper picture of the political activism of the retired Navy SEAL who serves in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
None of the records indicate that Zinke violated the law or received any direct compensation from his association with Mackenzie, the Virgin Islands PAC or its consultants. But one campaign finance expert said the information shows that Zinke was not behaving like a typical politician.
An Interior Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the assistance Zinke has offered to the Virgin Islands group or his use of political consultants. Mackenzie declined to be interviewed, and officials from the Virgin Islands organization — also known as VIGOP — did not respond to requests for comment.
Zinke is separately facing investigations by Interior’s internal watchdog and the independent Office of Special Counsel over his habit of mixing politics and official business.”

-Ben Lefebvre and Nick Juliano, “Zinke funneled millions to questionable PACs,” Politico, Oct. 24, 2017 05:04am

10,911. 10/18/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/LEGAL/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT/TRUMP BUSINESS: ” ‘Donald J. Trump, Defendant’ has graced reams of court papers through decades of dealmaking and New York real estate litigiousness.
‘Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America’ remains a relatively new phenomenon.
But inside a federal courtroom on Wednesday in Lower Manhattan, with the full force of the Justice Department defending him, Mr. Trump will be the focus, in absentia, of a remarkable legal drama: Is a sitting president — disinclined to relinquish his gilded empire before taking office — violating the Constitution by continuing to own and profit from his businesses?
At issue is a lawsuit filed this year in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by a legal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. It has argued that Mr. Trump is violating a constitutional provision that a president may not accept any economic benefit from foreign governments or the United States government beyond a salary.
In Washington, the Trump International Hotel, within walking distance of the White House, has become a symbol of the president’s tangle of business interests, subsisting in plain view.”

-Matt Flegenheimer, “Is Trump Violating the Constitution? In Absentia, He Defends Himself in Court,” The New York Times online, Oct. 18, 2017

10,780. 10/12/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/NOMINATIONS/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “As a top executive at AccuWeather, Barry Myers has pushed for limits on the kinds of products that the National Weather Service offers to the public, saying they offered unfair competition to his industry.
Now, President Donald Trump’s nomination of Myers to lead the weather service’s parent agency could allow him to make those kinds of restrictions mandatory — to the benefit of his family-run forecasting company.
The AccuWeather CEO’s nomination to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is stirring criticism from people who worry he would hobble the weather service, which provoked an industry backlash more than a decade ago by making hour-by-hour forecasts, cellphone alerts and other consumer-friendly data widely available online. A bill that Myers supported 12 years ago, sponsored by then-Sen. Rick Santorum, would have prohibited the agency from competing with private providers in most circumstances.
Myers, who has served as a NOAA adviser, has more recently spoken of cooperation with the agency, including industry’s advocacy for Congress to fund its budget. But his critics expressed misgivings nonetheless…
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) agreed, calling Myers a ‘questionable’ choice.”

-Andrew Restuccia, “Trump’s pick for NOAA chief causes a storm,” Politico, Oct. 12, 2017 07:59pm

10,607. 10/5/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “The head of the U.S. Department of the Interior came under further scrutiny on Thursday [10-5-17] amid a media report that he had attended a Republican fundraiser in March during a government trip to the Caribbean.
Politico, citing department travel records and other documents, said Ryan Zinke attended a Virgin Islands Republican Party fundraiser where donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a photograph with the secretary.
The report comes as multiple investigations into the former one-term congressman’s travel while serving in the Trump administration were announced this week following various media reports on the subject.
On Monday, the Interior Department’s watchdog agency said it was probing Zinke’s travels after recent reports that he had used a private plane owned by an oil executive.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said it was investigating whether he broke the law in June when he gave a speech to a professional hockey team owned by a political donor.
Other Cabinet members have also been scrutinized over their use of taxpayer money for more expensive private travel rather than less expensive commercial trips.”

-Reuters Staff, “U.S. interior secretary raised political funds on government trip: report,” Reuters, Oct. 5, 2017 06:36am

10,545. 10/3/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke the law when he gave a speech to a professional hockey team owned by a political donor in June, the agency said on Tuesday.
Zinke is already being investigated by the Interior Department’s inspector general in connection with his travels and the use of private charter flights, amid heightened scrutiny into private plane use by administration officials.
The Campaign for Accountability complained last week that a speech Zinke gave on June 26 to the Vegas Golden Knights, a National Hockey League team based in Las Vegas, violated the Hatch Act barring executive branch employees from engaging in political activity.
The team is owned by Bill Foley, chairman of Fidelity National Financial Inc and a donor to Zinke’s congressional campaigns.
The Office of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act unit, which is independent from the Justice Department, said in an email to Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, that it received its Hatch Act complaint ‘and will open a case file to address this matter.’
A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on the case.
Interior Department officials said the speech did not violate any laws, rules or regulations.”

-Valerie Volcovici, “U.S. Interior Secretary investigated over speech to donor’s hockey team,” Reuters, Oct. 3, 2017 09:34am

10,453. 9/28/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/TAXES/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “President Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year, under his proposed tax changes, a New York Times analysis has found.
On Wednesday [9-28-17], the White House announced a sweeping plan to cut a variety of taxes that would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. The estimate of Mr. Trump’s savings is based in part on information from his 2005 federal tax return. The analysis compares what his tax burden would be under current law with what it would be under the proposal…
In fact, high-income earners like Mr. Trump are likely to benefit disproportionately if the White House proposal becomes law. The estimates, calculated with the help of Robert Willens, an accounting expert, and Stephen Breitstone, a tax lawyer, provide a view into precisely how.
Though it would not be reflected on his income tax return, Mr. Trump’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax would generate the largest tax savings. If his assets — reportedly valued at $2.86 billion — were transferred after his death under today’s rules, his estate would be taxed at about 40 percent. Repealing the federal estate tax could save his family about $1.1 billion, though it could still be subject to New York estate taxes.
The decades-old alternative minimum tax is meant to prevent America’s wealthiest from using deductions to pay very low or no federal income tax. In 2005, it accounted for about 80 percent of Mr. Trump’s overall income tax payment. His plan to repeal the tax would save him $31.3 million.”

-Jesse Drucker and Nadja Popovich, “Trump Could Save More Than $1 Billion Under His New Tax Plan,” The New York Times online, Sept. 28, 2017

10,343. 9/25/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: “On Sept. 28, 2016, three members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Justice Department suggesting that the drug company Mylan was violating Medicaid laws.
Nine days later, the Justice Department reached a massive $465 million settlement with the firm.
In between, another action happened almost invisibly: A Judiciary Committee aide to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) dropped somewhere between $4,004 and $60,000 in Mylan stock from his and his child’s portfolios…
Durbin’s aide, Daniel Swanson, isn’t alone. A POLITICO review of federal disclosures for 2015 and 2016 found that some senior aides regularly buy and sell individual stocks that present potential conflicts of interest with their work. A smaller number of staffers trade in companies that lobby Congress and the committees that employ them. In all, approximately 450 aides have bought or sold a stock of more than $1,001 in value since May 2015…
Government watchdogs say that, at a minimum, staffers should be prevented from buying shares of companies with business before their committees. But they are not. And despite the disparity between the rigorous standards for the executive branch and the laxness of Congress, the House and Senate have taken a permissive approach even to enforcing existing rules.
That’s a serious problem, watchdogs say, because aides often have more of a hands-on role than the members themselves in crafting details of legislation that could have enormous consequences for individual companies. And because aides are rarely in the spotlight, there’s more potential for ethical lapses to go unnoticed.”

-Maggie Severns, “Congressional aides risk conflicts with stock trades,” Politico, Sept, 25, 2017 05:06am

9,141. 7/26/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/TRUMP BUSINESS: “Promotional materials for the Trump Tower in Mumbai improperly featured a reference to President Donald Trump, showing how difficult it is to separate the president from a brand whose value is based on his name.
A public-relations campaign for the 75-story condominium tower—set to be completed in less than two years and still 40% unsold—boasted breathtaking views, luxury appointments, and a connection to ‘U.S.-based real estate tycoon, celebrity & POTUS Donald Trump.’ The materials—a promotional email featuring an 80-page brochure—contained a picture of a younger Mr. Trump.
After being contacted last week by The Wall Street Journal, the Trump Organization and an Indian development firm marketing the project said the materials had been sent out by a broker without their authorization, and won’t be used again.
The Mumbai episode points to complications in the Trump Organization’s control of outside parties involved in selling and marketing his brand, even after Mr. Trump’s November move to stop running his business and turn over its management to his adult sons.
His company has made some efforts not to market Mr. Trump directly, such as pulling his image off webpages connected to his golf courses and other properties.”

-Michael Rothfeld and Alexandra Berzon, “Pitch for Trump Tower Mumbai Plays Up Connection to Donald Trump,” The Wall Street Journal online, July 26, 2017 06:39am

9,092. 7/24/2017

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI/CHINA/CONFLICT OF INTEREST: “Anthony Scaramucci’s appointment as White House communications director presents a sensitive situation for the planned sale of his investment company to a Chinese conglomerate—a deal that is now under government review.
Mr. Scaramucci first announced plans to sell a controlling stake in his hedge-fund investing firm, SkyBridge Capital, to Chinese giant HNA Group Co. in January in anticipation of joining the White House, he said. He didn’t get a job there at the time.
Meanwhile, the SkyBridge/HNA deal proceeded and, like many foreign deals, is facing a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.
Mr. Scaramucci’s appointment to a White House position last week gives the review new significance. The committee, which reviews deals for national security concerns, is made up of top officials in the administration of President Donald Trump, and is led by the Treasury.
The panel, known as CFIUS, can approve a deal or recommend the president block it, meaning a transaction that Mr. Scaramucci stands to profit from could ultimately be in the hands of his boss, Mr. Trump.
The deal is worth $250 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. Securities filings indicate that Mr. Scaramucci has a 25%-to-50% stake in the firm, which would mean that he could stand to earn between $62.5 million and $125 million from the deal.
White House officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.”

-Kate O’Keefe and Michael C. Bender, “Scaramucci’s White House Role Raises Questions for Planned Sale of His Investment Firm,” The Wall Street Journal online, July 24, 2017 07:28pm

9,040. 7/21/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/TRUMP FAMILY/JARED KUSHNER: “Potential conflicts of interest spring eternal in the Trump administration. There is the simple fact that the president never divested of his myriad business holdings nor did he release his tax returns. Foreign diplomats and officials continue to book banquets and hotel rooms at Trump-owned properties to court the president’s favor (the Trump Organization claims it is difficult track the foreign money, which critics say violates the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution). The Trump brand has been provisionally awarded trademark protections in China, raising concerns that the president’s licensing plays (as well as his daughter’s eponymous fashion brand) are receiving preferential treatment abroad. Nearly every weekend, the president visits one of his properties, effectively using his office to advertise his private businesses.
He is not the only one who can’t seem to untie himself from his financial entanglements. On Thursday [7-20-17] evening, CNN reported that Jared Kushner and his status as a senior adviser to his father-in-law are still being used to recruit Chinese investors to his family’s real-estate development project in New Jersey, months after Kushner Companies apologized for mentioning his role in a sales pitch this spring.”

-Emily Jane Fox, “JARED KUSHNER’S WHITE HOUSE ROLE IS STILL BEING USED TO LURE FOREIGN INVESTORS,” Vanity Fair, July 21, 2017 08:40am

8,849. 7/13/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/GOP/TRUMP FAMILY: “One Republican congressman has some advice for President Donald Trump: get your kids out of the White House.
Following the series of emails released by Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents Texas’s 17th Congressional District, said he thinks the President’s best move is to remove all of his children from his administration, whether they hold an official position or not.
‘I’m going out on a limb here — but I would say I think it would be in the President’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House. Not only Donald Trump (Jr.), but Ivanka and Jared Kushner,’ Flores told CNN affiliate KBTX, which is based in Bryan, Texas, on Thursday morning.
Both Ivanka Trump and Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, serve as senior advisers to the President. Trump Jr. does not hold an official position.”

-Noa Yadidi, Deirdre Walsh, and Jeremy Herb, “Texas Republican: President’s best interest to remove Trump children from White House,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, July 13, 2017 03:53pm

8,298. 6/16/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/CUBA/ETHICS/FOREIGN POLICY/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT/TRUMP BUSINESS: “The proposed changes in US-Cuba relations that President Donald Trump will unveil Friday in Miami could adversely impact hotel brands that directly compete with Trump’s business empire, making it more difficult for them expand their foothold in Cuba.
Trump’s changes in Cuba policy include prohibiting ‘financial transactions, including transactions incidental to travel with GAESA and its affiliates, subsidiaries, and successors,’ according to documents reviewed by CNN. Gaviota, the tourism arm of the government-run GAESA, currently operates the Four Points by Sheraton Havana, a hotel that, when it opened, was the first US hotel to open in Cuba in nearly 60 years.
GAESA, the company directly targeted by Trump’s plan, controls large swathes of the Cuban economy and is run by Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law.
Even Americans traveling legally to Cuba, according to the new Trump policy, would not be able to stay in any hotel connected to the Cuban military, including the Four Points by Sheraton in Havana.
The Trump proposal would include exemptions to this policy, but none appear to include hotels like the Sheraton or future projects.”

-Dan Merica, Patrick Oppmann, and Jim Acosta, “Changes in Cuba policy could adversely impact Trump’s hotel competitors,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, June 16, 2017 10:28am

8,223. 6/12/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/LEGAL/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “In a new legal challenge to President Trump, Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Monday [6-12-17] alleging that his failure to shed his private businesses has undermined public trust and violated constitutional bans against self-dealing.
The lawsuit, filed in a Maryland federal court, makes many of the same arguments in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a Washington watchdog organization in a New York federal court. But some legal experts said it rested on stronger legal ground because the plaintiffs were governmental entities, which could have stronger standing to sue the president.
The complaint opens uncharted legal territory. No state has accused a president of violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution. One of those clauses bans federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments. A second prohibits the president from accepting economic benefits from the federal or state governments, other than his salary.
Because Mr. Trump continues to own and profit from his business empire, the lawsuit claims, it is unclear whether he is making decisions in the country’s best interest or out of ‘self-interested motivations grounded in the international and domestic business dealings in which President Trump’s personal fortune is at stake.’ “

-Sharon LaFraniere, “Maryland and D.C. Sue Trump Over His Private Businesses,” The New York Times online, June 12, 2017

8,189. 6/11/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/TRUMP BUSINESS: “Government lawyers said Friday [6-9-17] that the U.S. Constitution permits President Donald Trump’s hotels and other businesses to accept payments from foreign governments, in response to a lawsuit alleging such payments violate the Constitution.
Instead of divesting after he was elected president, Mr. Trump put his business assets into a trust and let his two adult sons run the Trump Organization.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that tracks corporate influence in politics and public policy, seized on Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest in a January lawsuit filed in federal district court in Manhattan, one of several cases targeting Mr. Trump’s business ties and conduct during his presidential campaign.
Business competitors to Mr. Trump’s hotels have since joined the CREW lawsuit, which says Mr. Trump is barred under the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clauses from receiving compensation from domestic and foreign governments.”

-Joe Palazzolo and Brent Kendall, “Justice Department Argues Trump’s Businesses Can Accept Foreign Payments,” The Wall Street Journal online, June 11, 2017 07:26pm

8,034. 6/1/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/INTELLIGENCE: “House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes continues to be a powerful force in the House’s Russia investigation, despite his promise that he was stepping aside as the head of the probe as he came under scrutiny himself from the House ethics committee.
The latest example came Wednesday [5-31-7] afternoon, when Nunes issued three subpoenas targeting documents regarding former Obama administration officials in his own probe of unmasking — without getting sign-offs from the House Democrats. Those subpoenas were issued in the same batch as the first subpoenas from the Russia probe, which had bipartisan support.
Two weeks ago, Nunes took a trip to the CIA headquarters to review intelligence related to Russia as well.
Behind the scenes at the Capitol, a struggle played out between lawmakers on the House Russia investigation in the leadup to the issuing of the first subpoenas, CNN reported last week. Democrats have pushed Nunes to relinquish his power over subpoenas — the strongest tool they have to use in their investigative toolbox — and instead hand the power to the new leader of the House Russian probe, Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas.”

-Tom LoBianco, “Nunes remains powerful force in House Russia probe, despite promise to step back,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, June 1, 2017 10:42am

7,889. 5/23/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/INTELLIGENCE/RUSSIA/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “President Donald Trump asked two of the government’s top intelligence chiefs to publicly deny evidence of cooperation between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, multiple current and former US officials confirmed to CNN Monday [5-22-17].
The revelations, first reported by The Washington Post, deepen the intrigue over alleged links between Trump’s campaign and Russia. They follow the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and subsequent statement he sacked Comey because of the Russia probe.
Trump, on his first major trip abroad as President, has sought to shake off the damaging political blowback from the drama, exacerbated by the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller last week.
The President’s treatment of Comey has raised questions about whether he abused his powers by seeking to discredit the FBI investigation or risked giving the impression that he was obstructing justice, a debate now given new life by the latest revelations.
Trump spoke to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers after Comey revealed in March that the bureau had launched a probe into alleged collusion. Both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the President’s request and refused to comply, the sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.”

-Jim Sciutto, Stephen Collinson, and Eli Watkins, “Trump asked DNI, NSA to deny evidence of Russia collusion,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, May 23, 2017 10:22am

7,820. 5/18/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/TRUMP BUSINESS/TRUMP FAMILY/DONALD JR: “Donald Trump Jr. , held a meeting earlier this week in Dubai with a billionaire longtime business partner of Trump Organization, who said the two men had discussed ‘new ideas.’
‘It was great having my dear friend and business partner Donald Trump Jr. over for lunch,’ developer Hussain Sajwani Mr. Sajwani wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday [5-16-17] featuring a photo of him dining with President Donald Trump’s eldest son. ‘Discussing new ideas and innovation always make our meetings even more interesting.’
The Trump Organization, which is run by the younger Mr. Trump and his brother, Eric, has said it wouldn’t strike new foreign deals while the president is in office.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t seeking new deals while on his trip to Dubai—first reported by the Associated Press—and said he had a ‘friendly lunch with our long standing business partner.’
Yet the Trump Organization’s existing deals—including two projects with Mr. Sajwani—already pose a challenge to the administration’s attempts to separate from the family’s international business, ethics experts have said. The president retains ownership of his company while in office, but has turned over management to his sons.”

-Rebecca Ballhaus, “Donald Trump Jr. Meets with Business Partner in Dubai,” The Wall Street Journal online, May 18, 2017 3:03pm

7,819. 5/18/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT/TRUMP BUSINESS: “Senate Democrats called Thursday [5-18-17] for President Donald Trump’s company to disclose significant more details about how it’s been operating since its owner became president.
In a letter to the Trump Organization’s new leadership, including the president’s adult sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Sen. Patrick Leahy and 16 other Democrats also questioned whether their company remains ‘effectively a pass-through for income’ that repeatedly puts the president in violation of the Constitution’s ban on accepting gifts or payments from foreign government officials or the U.S. government itself.
Citing a spate of recent media reports, the senators said Trump’s pre-inauguration pledge to extricate himself from his company didn’t square with his son Eric Trump’s recent statement that he’s giving his father business updates “probably quarterly.” They also challenged Trump over a trust arrangement he set up that allows him to take “net income or principle” from his trust whenever he wants.”

-Darren Samuelsohn, “Senate Dems say Trump’s company a ‘pass-through for income’ to president,” Politico, May 18, 2017 2:58pm

7,794. 5/17/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT: “Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday [5-17-17] morning that President Donald Trump needs to ‘right the ship’ and get his ‘house in order’ after reports emerged that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
‘Clearly, the administration needs to take stock of its operations and the President needs to do a far better job of understanding the differences among the three branches of government — what’s appropriate, what isn’t appropriate,’ Collins said on Newsradio WGAN AM560.
‘He needs to ask for advice from his advisers and he needs to listen to that advice. We’re four months into this new administration, little over that, and he needs to right the ship. We cannot have this constant chaos and serious questions being raised virtually every single day. It is distracting from the ability to work on certain issues like health care reform, and the administration needs to get its house in order.’ “

-Andrew Kaczynski, “GOP Sen. Susan Collins: ‘We cannot have this constant chaos’ every single day from Trump,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, May 17, 2017 1:48pm

7,724. 5/12/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/POLITICS/TREASURY: “A Treasury Department unit that specializes in combating money-laundering will share financial records with an expanding Senate probe into possible ties between Russia and President Donald Trump and his associates, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Senate Intelligence Committee requested the records from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, late last month, these people said. The people familiar with the matter didn’t specify the nature of those records. One person said that without them, though, the committee wouldn’t be able to reach a conclusion on whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during last year’s campaign.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), a member of the intelligence committee and the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview Friday [5-12-17] that he is particularly interested in information about shell companies, money laundering and the use of property transfers that may be germane to the committee’s Trump investigation.
Representatives for FinCEN and Sens. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.), the intelligence committee chairman and vice chairman, declined to comment.”

-Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee, “Financial-Crimes Monitor to Share Records in Trump-Russia Probe,” The Wall Street Journal online, May 12, 2017 6:44pm

7,646. 5/8/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/ETHICS/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT/TRUMP FAMILY/JARED KUSHNER: “It was the first major piece of legislation that President Trump signed into law, and buried on Page 734 was one sentence that brought a potential benefit to the president’s extended family: renewal of a program offering permanent residence in the United States to affluent foreigners investing money in real estate projects here.
Just hours after the appropriations measure was signed on Friday [5-5-17], the company run until January by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, was urging wealthy Chinese in Beijing to consider investing $500,000 each in a pair of Jersey City luxury apartment towers the family-owned Kushner Companies plans to build. Mr. Kushner was even cited at a marketing presentation by his sister Nicole Meyer, who was on her way to China even before the bill was signed. The project ‘means a lot to me and my entire family,’ she told the prospective investors.
The sequence of events offers one of the most explicit examples to date of the peril of the Trump and Kushner families maintaining close ties to their business interests and creates an impression they stand to profit off Mr. Trump’s presence in the White House. It also illustrates the problems of the so-called EB-5 visa program that prominent Republican and Democratic members of Congress want changed.”

-Eric Lipton and jesse Drucker, “Kushner Family Stands to Gain From Visa Rules in Trump’s First Major Law,” The New York Times online, May 8, 2017