One of President Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, made the rounds on Sunday's political talk shows to defend Donald Trump Jr. over his June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and other Russians apparently promising information on Hillary Clinton that would help Trump Sr. win the presidential election. On ABC's This Week, Sekulow suggested there was nothing "nefarious" about Trump Jr.'s meeting because of the Secret Service. "Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in," he said. "The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me."
Jay Sekulow makes 3 very solid points about why outrage over Trump Jr meeting is pure liberal media hysteria...pic.twitter.com/X4zVtwdV8A
— Journalism Is Dead (@TheDailyBail) July 16, 2017
Unless Trump, the candidate, was at the meeting, too, the Secret Service would not have done any such thing, the Secret Service noted Sunday afternoon. "Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June 2016," agency spokesman Mason Brayman said in a statement. "Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time." The meeting, at Trump Tower, also included Jared Kushner, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, publicist Rob Goldstone, and at least two other people.
Sekulow, on ABC and other networks, insisted that President Trump was unaware of the meeting; on CNN's State of the Union, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was skeptical of that claim, telling Jake Tapper, "Frankly, it's a little bit unbelievable that neither the son or the son-in-law ever shared that information with their dad, the candidate." Also evidently skeptical of Sekulow's assertions was Fox News host Chris Wallace, who grilled Trump's lawyer on Fox News Sunday over who's paying the president's legal bills (Sekulow said he doesn't know) and why seeking opposition research from a foreign power is not illegal (it isn't, legally, a "thing of value," Sekulow said):
Jay Sekulow claims opposition research isn't a thing of value and at the same time, starts laying the defense of Russians giving Trump's aid pic.twitter.com/ZY0WCFSSWc
— This Is Not Normal (@NetworkJunkyz) July 16, 2017
In the Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows President Trump with a 36 percent approval rating, respondents said by a 63 percent to 26 percent margin that it was inappropriate for Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort to meet with Veselnitskaya and the other Russians last June. Peter Weber
In their quest to cut taxes while not running up huge deficits, Senate Republicans have had to find creative ways to save money in their forthcoming tax reform bill. Although some estimates say that the Republican tax bill would add $1.8 trillion to the federal debt over 10 years, you can rest assured that the Republican Party is committed to cutting irresponsible spending: In an effort to save money, the new plan will prevent your employer from being able to write off lunches purchased for workers or workplace entertainment, HuffPost reported Wednesday.
The move would save $23 billion over 10 years, HuffPost reported — or just 1.3 percent of the total expected deficit increase. Under the current tax code, employers who give the majority of their workers free lunches can deduct 50 percent of the cost. The House version of the bill does not touch free workplace lunch, but it would eliminate tax breaks for employer-paid day care assistance programs, as well as employee-sponsored moving expenses and achievement awards, all for the sake of saving $12 billion.
But the Senate tax bill isn't all bad news! The exemption for the estate tax will be doubled, so if you happen to inherit less than $10 million from a dead relative, you won't have to pay any taxes on the money — which should definitely help you pay for lunch if your employer won't give it to you. Kelly O'Meara Morales
The Roy Moore campaign lashed out at The Washington Post on Wednesday, dubbing the paper "a worthless piece of crap" after it pressed the campaign to provide documentation it claimed to have that discredited one of the several women who have come forth to accuse the Alabama Senate candidate of sexual misconduct.
A spokesperson for the Moore campaign told supporters Tuesday that it was in possession of documents which supposedly showed that Leigh Corfman — who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 14 years old — lied about her address in the Post's story about Moore's sexual misconduct. The Post followed up with the campaign Tuesday, asking for proof of the documents, but while the campaign initially said it would comply, strategist Brett Doster struck a very different tune in an email Wednesday: "There is no need for anyone at The Washington Post to ever reach out to the Roy Moore campaign again because we will not respond to anyone from the Post now or in the future," Doster wrote. "Happy Thanksgiving."
For good measure, Doster added: "The Washington Post is a worthless piece of crap that has gone out of its way to railroad Roy Moore." Post reporter Michael Scherer said that a longtime Moore aide presented the paper with evidence that "did not contradict what Corman has told the Post."
The campaign has vehemently denied allegations of the candidate's sexual misconduct and has tried to call into question proof given by his accusers. On Tuesday, President Trump told White House reporters that Moore had "totally denied" the allegations of sexual misconduct, which he added took place over 40 years ago, "so, you know." Kelly O'Meara Morales
In 2015, a public commenting period led to Obama-era guidelines protecting net neutrality. But bots intent on dismantling net neutrality took over this round, Vanity Fair reported, borrowing real Americans' addresses to leave hundreds of thousands of comments under fake identities advocating against the rules. And with FCC chairman Ajit Pai's Monday confirmation that net neutrality rules are coming down, it looks like they're getting their wish.
In an open letter to Pai, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed that he's been investigating these questionable comments for months. But the FCC hasn't cooperated:
Over the last 6 mos, my office has investigated a massive scheme to corrupt the @FCC's comment process on #NetNeutrality by impersonating 100,000s of real Americans.
The FCC has been unwilling to provide information that is critical to the investigation: https://t.co/xxFjSg6Pxf
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) November 22, 2017
Schneiderman said the situation likely violated state laws, as it used New Yorkers' identities to leave fake comments. Yet despite multiple requests, the FCC has refused to aid Schneiderman's investigation — meaning "the door is open for (this) to happen again and again," he wrote. Kathryn Krawczyk
The Trump Organization is walking away from its struggling hotel in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, The New York Times reports. It is the second hotel the organization has removed its name from this year, after a similar situation developed in Toronto.
The SoHo building, which also has condominiums, closed its main restaurant earlier this year due to a decline in business "since the election," in the words of one of its lawyers. The owner of the building, the CIM Group, reportedly reached a deal to buy out the Trump Organization from the property; the Trump company manages daily operations at the building. "The Board and CIM have been first class in every regard," said the CEO of Trump Hotels, Eric Danziger, in a statement. "We have truly enjoyed our relationship and look forward to exploring new opportunities in the future."
Ahh, Thanksgiving. That special time of year when you set out your most over-the-top centerpiece, strap on your eating pants, and gather around the table to talk tax policy with relatives you only see once a year.
That's what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) imagines happens, anyway. On Monday, Schumer tweeted a chart made by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, instructing his followers to bring it to "Thanksgiving dinner" to whip out when "that family member who always talks politics tells you the Republican tax bill helps the middle class," the Washington Examiner reports.
Bring this chart to Thanksgiving dinner. It’ll come in handy when that family member who always talks politics tells you the Republican tax bill helps the middle class. pic.twitter.com/2EpZ5PxcDY
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 19, 2017
But Schumer wasn't done delivering graphics for you to surprise your unsuspecting relative with at some point between the turkey carving and the pumpkin pie:
Oh, don’t forget to show your Uncle this as well! pic.twitter.com/YHRGTvvwAo
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 19, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Chuck! Jeva Lange
Rep. John Conyers' legacy was upended Monday when a BuzzFeed News report detailed sexual harassment allegations made against the Michigan Democrat. Now, the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press, his slightly left-leaning hometown paper, is calling for him to step down.
The longtime congressman is known as a civil rights icon and a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, facts the Free Press acknowledged in its scathing editorial published Tuesday. But he's also been accused of making sexual advances toward an employee — and having her fired when she refused.
That's enough to spark an inquiry into Conyers, the Free Press said. But his misconduct runs deeper: If the victim dropped her formal complaint against Conyers, his office said it would "re-hire" her and pay her as a temporary employee. The woman eventually agreed to those terms, receiving more than $27,000 over the course of three months. It's similar to a time Conyers kept paying his former chief of staff even after she was fired — payments the Free Press said look like "hush money."
While the editorial board did suggest reforming the Congressional Office of Compliance so these payoffs don't keep happening, that is "not the point with Conyers." "It's a betrayal that breaches the most fundamental trust that exists between a public servant and the people that person represents," the Free Press wrote.
Russian ads reportedly reached an estimated 126 million Facebook users during the presidential campaign, likely leaving some people wondering if they are among those who might have fallen for Kremlin propaganda. On Wednesday, the social media giant announced that it will be creating a page to help users identify which accounts they liked or followed that were discovered to be linked back to a Russian "troll farm," Axios reports. Facebook says to expect the tool to be available in its Help Center by the end of the year, The Hill reports.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had demanded that Facebook "individually notify any and all users who received or interacted with [Russian] advertisements and associated content," issuing similar orders to Twitter and Google. Facebook, though, will not tell users "whether they were exposed to content from the [Russian troll farm's] pages in their Newsfeed, even if they didn't follow them," Axios notes.