President Trump's attorneys tried to get Trump excused from certifying that his 2016 personal finance disclosure is "true, complete, and correct," The Associated Press has learned based on letters obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. "Attorney Sheri Dillon said she saw no need for Trump to sign [and certify] his 2016 personal financial disclosure because he is filing voluntarily this year," the AP writes.
The documents include information about Trump's income and assets during much of the general election and transition period. They don't include information about his rate of income tax or charitable giving, as a tax document would show.
Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub refused the request of Trump's attorney, though, saying that the office would only work with Dillon "on the condition that the president is committed to certifying that the contents of his report are true, complete, and correct." Dillon apparently agreed, saying Trump would "sign and file" the documents by mid-June.
"President Trump welcomes the opportunity to provide this optional disclosure to the public, and hopes to file it shortly," she wrote. Jeva Lange
Sean Spicer repeatedly refuses to definitively deny that Trump is recording White House conversations
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was repeatedly and directly asked if President Trump is recording conversations in the Oval Office. Each time, Spicer refused to answer.
Earlier Friday, President Trump apparently threatened former FBI Director James Comey, tweeting: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Spicer's first question at the press conference was directly related: "Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?" Reuters' Jeff Mason wanted to know.
"I've talked to the president and the president has nothing further to add to that," Spicer said.
Mason continued to press Spicer, but Spicer wasn't budging:
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 12, 2017
A few minutes later, Time's Zeke Miller returned to the question: "Is [Trump] currently recording conversations taking place in the Oval Office?"
"I think that the point that I made, in respect to the tweet, is the president has no further comment on this," Spicer said, again refusing to take the opportunity to deny the allegation.
"Is [Trump] currently recording conversations taking place in the Oval Office?"
Spicer: "The president has no further comment on this." pic.twitter.com/QVV8dpQkYQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 12, 2017
The possibility that Trump is taping conversations has sparked widespread alarm. Former President Richard Nixon's lawyer, John Dean, who was charged for obstruction of justice due to his role in Watergate, tweeted Friday: "Obviously President Trump is confused. He is the one who must hope there are no tapes. Honest people do not have problems being taped." Jeva Lange
The lawyers who claim Trump received no income from Russia work at the 2016 Russia Law Firm of the Year
President Trump's lawyers released a letter Friday concluding that Trump received no "income of any type from Russian sources" based on a review of his tax returns, which the lawyers did not release. Thus, aside from the exceptions the lawyers noted (the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, a property sold to a billionaire for $95 million), we have to take their word for it.
One last thought, though: The law firm that confirmed Trump's limited business interests in Russia was named "Russia Law Firm of the Year" in 2016.
The law firm that sent the letter RE: Trump's biz interests in Russia was recognized as "Russia Law Firm of the Year" in 2016: pic.twitter.com/t7yBFpl1Hn
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) May 12, 2017
This is not the only work Morgan, Lewis & Bockius have done for the president: The law firm has also been helping advise Trump on potential business conflicts of interest. Okay. Jeva Lange
President Trump's lawyers have released a letter apparently confirming that the last 10 years of Trump's tax returns show virtually no "income of any type from Russian sources." Noted exceptions are the 2013 Miss Universe pageant and a property Trump sold to a billionaire in 2008 for $95 million, The Associated Press reports.
AP notes: "The lawyers did not release copies of Trump's tax returns so The Associated Press cannot independently verify their conclusions."
The FBI is disputing nearly every part of President Trump's version of the events that took place at a dinner with former FBI Director James Comey, NBC News reports.
President Trump admitted to NBC News' Lester Holt on Thursday that he had directly asked Comey over dinner if he was being investigated for ties to Russia. Trump claimed Comey told him he was not being investigated, prompting NBC News to note that "it would be highly unusual for someone who might be the focus of an FBI probe to ask whether he was under investigation and to be directly told by the FBI director that he was not." Trump also implied that Comey had asked for the dinner in order to make a case for keeping his job as the director of the FBI.
Current and former FBI officials say nothing of the sort happened. A former senior official claimed that even though Trump twice told Holt that Comey had requested the dinner, "the president is not correct. The White House called [Comey] out of the blue. Comey didn't want to do it. He didn't even want the rank and file at the FBI to know about it."
The official said Comey never confirmed Trump was not being investigated, either. "He tried to stay away from [the Russian-ties investigation]," the official said. "He would say, 'Look sir, I really can't get into it, and you don't want me to.'" Jeva Lange
The government-funded broadcaster Voice of America is promoting Ivanka Trump's new book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, raising further concerns about how the Trump family might be profiting off their new station in the White House. "[Ivanka] Trump has gone from sassy to serious," raves the article, which is credited as having been written by Catherine Lucey of The Associated Press. It is shared on Voice of America's official website and social media account:
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 2, 2017
The article also notes that Ivanka Trump is "donating the proceeds [of Women Who Work] to charity and has opted not to do any publicity to avoid any suggestion that she is improperly using her White House platform." It further observes that while Trump has "stepped away from executive roles at the Trump Organization and her fashion brand before joining her father's administration … she still owns the brand, which has prompted criticism from ethics experts that she could profit from her rising profile."
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) May 2, 2017
In early April, the United States embassy in the U.K. apparently promoted President Trump's exclusive club, Mar-a-Lago, on its official webpage, also sparking concerns about the Trump family's potential conflicts of interest. An advocacy group has since demanded an investigation from the Office of Government Ethics. Jeva Lange
A majority of Republicans voters in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania agree that President Trump exaggerates or outright lies, but they simply don't care, a new poll by the Republican consultant Firehouse Strategies has found. Sixty-eight percent of the "Trump Country" Republicans agree Trump stretches the truth intentionally, while 51 percent said he "exaggerates only with good intent."
"Voters know he's often not telling the truth, but a majority don't care," the researchers concluded.
Among independents, only 17 percent said Trump never lies and 34 percent said he exaggerates with "good intent." Overall, voters in the survey think Trump actually lies less often than Republican members of Congress, 80 percent to 84 percent. But while many might claim they don't mind Trump's flexible definition of the truth, only 39 percent of voters say they are proud of how Trump has done as president.
The poll reached 3,491 people between April 21-23 via landlines in Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The margin of error for the topline results was plus or minus 2 percent. See the full results here, and read a breakdown at Axios. Jeva Lange
Trump's lawyers are arguing protesters had 'no right' to 'express dissenting views' at his campaign rallies
President Trump's lawyers are arguing that protesters at a March 2016 campaign rally had "no right" to "express dissenting views" from the then-candidate's, Politico reports. The protesters say they were violently ejected from the Louisville, Kentucky, rally by Trump supporters as Trump hollered "get 'em outta here" and "don't hurt 'em."
The lawsuit notes Trump "promised to pay the legal fees of those who — following Trump's urgings — removed the protesters."
Trump's lawyers claim that the First Amendment protected Trump's calls for his supporters to remove the protesters. "Of course, protesters have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views, but they have no right to do so as part of the campaign rally of the political candidates they oppose," Trump's lawyers write.
A federal district court judge has raised questions about that line of thinking. The judge has also been skeptical of the argument that Trump didn't intend for his supporters to use force on the protesters.
But "even if Mr. Trump implicitly instructed the audience to remove the protesters by using force if necessary, his speech was still entirely lawful and protected under the First Amendment unless he advocated a greater degree of force than was necessary under the circumstances," Trump's lawyers argue. "Absent that type of unlawful advocacy, Mr. Trump cannot be held liable for incitement. It makes no difference whether the crowd reacted with unlawful violence beyond what Mr. Trump advocated." Jeva Lange