Last Minute Tax Provision Benefits Trump

“Republican congressional leaders and real estate moguls could be personally enriched by a real-estate-related provision GOP lawmakers slipped into the final tax bill released Friday evening,” according to the International Business Times.

”The legislative language was not part of previous versions of the bill and was added despite ongoing conflict-of-interest questions about the intertwining real estate interests and governmental responsibilities of President Donald Trump — the bill’s chief proponent.”

Democratic Senators Call on Franken to Resign

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called on Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign in a Facebook post:

We should demand the highest standards, not the lowest, from our leaders, and we should fundamentally value and respect women. Every workplace in America, including Congress, needs to have a strong process and accountability for sexual harassment claims, and I am working with others to address the broken and opaque system in Congress.

While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.

Almost immediately after, Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Masie Hirono (D-HI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) also called on Franken to resign.

Congress Secretly Paid $100K to Settle Massa Claims

Congress paid close to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims from at least two young male staffers who worked for disgraced former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), ABC News reports.

“The claims were settled after Massa, a Democrat from upstate New York, resigned in 2010 amid a pending ethics investigation into allegations he groped and sexually harassed members of his staff.”

Manafort Had Deeper Russia Ties Than Known

Paul Manafort “took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties,” McClatchy reports.

“Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, ‘100 percent.’”

“It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.”

Quote of the Day

“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

— Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), on Twitter, in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Trump Wants Military Parade on July 4th

President Trump said France’s Bastille Day celebration that he attended in July with French President Emmanuel Macron was such a “beautiful thing to see” that he’s thinking of holding a similar parade in Washington as a salute to the US military, the New York Post reports.

Said Trump: “Because of what I witnessed we may do something like that on July Fourth in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue… We’re actually thinking about that … having a really great parade to show our military strength.”

Ryan Does Not Agree with Pardon Decision

Speaker Paul Ryan does not agree with President Trump’s decision to pardon controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said a spokesman: “The speaker does not agree with the decision. Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”

Why Leaking Trump’s Calls Is Dangerous

David Frum: “Leaking the transcript of a presidential call to a foreign leader is unprecedented, shocking, and dangerous. It is vitally important that a president be able to speak confidentially—and perhaps even more important that foreign leaders understand that they can reply in confidence”.

“Thursday’s leak to The Washington Post of President Trump’s calls with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia will reverberate around the world. No leader will again speak candidly on the phone to Washington, D.C.—at least for the duration of this presidency, and perhaps for longer. If these calls can be leaked, any call can be leaked—and no leader dare say anything to the president of the United States that he or she would not wish to read in the news at home.”

For members: Trump has a serious leak problem.

If Trump Pardons, It Could Be a Crime

Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner: “Consistent with the framers’ design, the Supreme Court has interpreted the president’s pardon power broadly. The president can pardon anyone for any crime at any time — even before a suspect has been charged. Congress cannot withdraw presidential pardons, and prosecutors and courts cannot ignore them.”

“But could a pardon be a criminal abuse of power? Some would argue that would contradict the founders’ vision of unlimited pardon authority. If a president sold pardons for cash, though, that would violate the federal bribery statute. And if a president can be prosecuted for exchanging pardons for bribes, then it follows that the broad and unreviewable nature of the pardon power does not shield the president from criminal liability for abusing it.”

“If it could be shown that President Trump pardoned his family members and close aides to cover up possible crimes, then that could be seen as acting “corruptly” and he could be charged with obstruction of justice.”

Sean Spicer Resigns

Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary “telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director,” the New York Times reports.

“His resignation is a blow to the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former Republican Party chairman who brought Mr. Spicer into the West Wing despite skepticism from Mr. Trump, who initially questioned his loyalty.”

“The appointment of Mr. Scaramucci, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s earliest campaign supporters, was backed by the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.”

Trump Seeks Ways to Undermine Russia Probe

Washington Post: “Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.”

“Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.”

New York Times: “President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused.”

Democrats Go In for the Kill on Obamacare Repeal

The Hill: “Buoyed by Republican infighting and the backlash against the GOP legislation, Democrats believe they have momentum as they head toward a final showdown in July.”

“They got a boost on Friday when President Trump muddied the waters for his party by suggesting senators repeal ObamaCare now and replace it later — an option that was roundly rejected by Republicans in January.”

“The GOP tug of war comes as Democrats are united around a single political message: That the bill will give tax breaks to the rich while taking healthcare away coverage for the poor.”

Senate GOP Makes Changes to Health Care Bill

“Senate Republicans and the White House have agreed to add at least $45 billion to their Obamacare repeal bill to address the opioid crisis and are near agreement on allowing consumers to use Health Savings Account money to pay for their premiums,” Politico reports.

“The additions come as Senate Republicans are scrambling to get to 50 votes on their health care legislation. Both additions are expected to help get additional Republicans on board – opioid funding could help win over moderates and HSAs for conservatives. But there is no guarantee the language will do enough to substantially improve the bill’s prospects, Republican sources said.”

McConnell Said Attacks on Heller Were ‘Beyond Stupid’

New York Times: “The majority leader — already rankled by Mr. Trump’s tweets goading him to change Senate rules to scuttle Democratic filibusters — called the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to complain that the attacks were ‘beyond stupid,’ according to two Republicans with knowledge of the tense exchange.”

“Mr. McConnell, who has been toiling for weeks, mostly in private, to put together a measure that would satisfy hard-liners and moderates, told Mr. Priebus in his call that the assault by the group, America First, not only jeopardized the bill’s prospects but also imperiled Mr. Heller’s already difficult path to re-election.”

Sessions Will Testify Before Senate Intelligence Committee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he will testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, amid questions over his role in a series of interactions between former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump, the Washington Post reports.

Sessions is expected to get questions about his involvement in the firing of Comey and the news that he offered his resignation to President Trump at one point recently.

It was not clear if the hearing would be open to the public or behind closed doors.