Donald Trump and Kanye West remix the government

The universe threw together Donald Trump, Kanye West and the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, a collision that resulted in what may be the Trump era’s greatest mashup yet.

Ahead of a planned lunch meeting, West embraced Trump in a hug at the Resolute Desk and expounded for 10 minutes straight on sleep deprivation, “male energy,” liberals, gun rights, alternate realities and much else while Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, football legend Jim Brown and a crowd of stunned journalists looked on.

Officially, the purpose of Trump’s meeting with West, Brown, Kushner and the first daughter was to discuss prison reform, urban revitalization, violent crime in West’s hometown of Chicago and other priorities for black Americans. But its only sure result will be to briefly focus the attention of a confused nation on the awesome spectacle offered, free of charge, by its government.

As for policy, West did, at the prompting Continue reading “Donald Trump and Kanye West remix the government”

Donald Trump and Kanye West remix the government

The universe threw together Donald Trump, Kanye West and the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, a collision that resulted in what may be the Trump era’s greatest mashup yet.

Ahead of a planned lunch meeting, West embraced Trump in a hug at the Resolute Desk and expounded for 10 minutes straight on sleep deprivation, “male energy,” liberals, gun rights, alternate realities and much else while Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, football legend Jim Brown and a crowd of stunned journalists looked on.

Officially, the purpose of Trump’s meeting with West, Brown, Kushner and the first daughter was to discuss prison reform, urban revitalization, violent crime in West’s hometown of Chicago and other priorities for black Americans. But its only sure result will be to briefly focus the attention of a confused nation on the awesome spectacle offered, free of charge, by its government.

As for policy, West did, at the prompting Continue reading “Donald Trump and Kanye West remix the government”

Saluting the Trump administration, not so nicely

Forget the bald eagle. The unofficial mascot of Donald Trump’s capital is a very different kind of bird.

At the White House, the nearby Trump International Hotel and wherever the presidential motorcade goes, Washingtonians are greeting this presidency with an extended middle finger.

As episodes like the separation of migrant families and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court continue to inflame passions in Washington, D.C., these one-fingered salutes have become a pervasive marker of an administration under siege in its own city.

Tourists posing for photos, passengers in the cars that drive by the White House off Lafayette Square and pedestrians caught unaware by passing motorcades have all made increasing use of the vulgar gesture since Trump came to town. Some flip the bird subtly. Others make a show of it.

“It shows that people feel emboldened to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable,” said Continue reading “Saluting the Trump administration, not so nicely”

GOP operative who sued Trump says FBI referred hacking of her email to Mueller

Federal law enforcement officials have referred a two-year-old email hacking investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the Republican operative who was the target of the hack.

The referral adds yet another dimension to the special counsel’s sprawling probe, even as some of President Donald Trump’s allies portray Mueller’s work as nearing its conclusion.

The operative and Trump critic, Cheri Jacobus, told POLITICO that FBI agents in the bureau’s cyber division informed her earlier this month that they had forwarded their investigation to Mueller because the matter came to exceed the bounds of computer intrusion, the crime that had been the initial focus of the investigation.

It is not clear what led the FBI to conclude that Mueller has jurisdiction over the matter. The special counsel has been investigating Russian election meddling, links between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, and other suspected wrongdoing including undisclosed lobbying by foreign Continue reading “GOP operative who sued Trump says FBI referred hacking of her email to Mueller”

‘Men Are Trash’ vs. ‘I Stand With Brett’: Wild scene at the Capitol for Kavanaugh drama

Outside the Dirsken Senate Office building on Thursday morning, Cameron Mixon, a 22-year-old Georgetown Law School student was sporting a tee-shirt with the slogan: “Men Are Trash.”

“I love your shirt!” one woman told Mixon. “It’s amazing,” another agreed. By 9:30 a.m., Mixon said, about 20 people had asked to take photos next to her.

Even by the super-charged standards of American politics, passions were red lining on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on an allegation of a 1980s sexual assault that has placed Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in grave danger.

“Kava-No!” shouted the protesters who marched Thursday morning from the steps of the Supreme Court morning to the Dirksen Senate office building, where the target of their ire would soon face a kind of political trial. ““We believe Anita Hill! We believe Christine Ford!”

But just as America Continue reading “‘Men Are Trash’ vs. ‘I Stand With Brett’: Wild scene at the Capitol for Kavanaugh drama”

Tinder Woes, Suspicious Landlords and Snarky Bosses: Young and Russian in D.C.

Not so long ago, the Russian émigré party scene in Washington was off the hook. Every weekend, promoters would throw Slavic night bashes at venues like Ozio on M Street and Eden on Farragut Square. Euro-pop beats pounded and vodka shots flowed. In 2013, Mari Vanna, a three-story restaurant and nightclub littered with Soviet-era kitsch, opened in DuPont Circle and became the Russian diaspora’s de facto party house. Its “KGB Karaoke” nights on Wednesdays raged into the morning hours. Top Russian acts like Ivanushki International would swing through town to play gigs, and Washington Capitals stars Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin would sometimes join in the revelry with students and summer workers from all over the former Soviet Union.

“Before, I would call an event and say, ‘Hey we’re going to have Ukrainian Independence Day,’ and everybody would come,” Andrey Bessarabov, better known as DJ Bezza, a Soviet-born IT worker Continue reading “Tinder Woes, Suspicious Landlords and Snarky Bosses: Young and Russian in D.C.”

Manafort trial Day 16: Jury struggling to reach unanimous verdict on one count

Jurors on Tuesday indicated that they are struggling to reach a unanimous verdict on at least one count against Paul Manafort in his bank- and tax-fraud trial.

They asked U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III for help on what to do in this situation. He replied he would urge them to redouble their efforts.

The jurors’ note inquired about what the group should do if it can’t come to a consensus on a single count and asked how they should fill out the verdict form. They also asked what their struggles would mean for the entire verdict.

Addressing the court without the jury in the room, Ellis said the request was not unusual in a jury trial. The judge added that he could ask the jury where it was overall on the deliberations, but said he was not inclined to take that step now.

The jurors’ note, Continue reading “Manafort trial Day 16: Jury struggling to reach unanimous verdict on one count”

DOJ Sues Ivanka’s Ex-Business Partner for Massive Fraud

The Justice Department is suing a friend and former business partner of Ivanka Trump for his alleged role in schemes to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars in tax liabilities on his father’s estate.

Filed last month and reported here for the first time, the suit follows an August 2017 POLITICO investigation of alleged financial wrongdoing by New York businessman Moshe Lax and glaring irregularities in the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of a $27 million lien on his father’s estate.

The suit, which seeks more than $60 million in unpaid tax liabilities, was brought in the Southern District of New York by lawyers in the Justice Department’s tax division. It alleges that Lax, his sister Zlaty Schwartz, and his late father, Chaim Lax, engaged in a series of complex “sham transactions” designed to fraudulently evade tax liability.The government alleges the family members undertook 10 separate schemes Continue reading “DOJ Sues Ivanka’s Ex-Business Partner for Massive Fraud”

House Democrats seek to interview inflammatory ‘alt-right’ activist Chuck Johnson

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have asked to interview Charles Johnson, a controversial self-described "alt-right" activist, as part of their probe of 2016 Russian election interference, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO.

House Democrats continue to informally investigate potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin even after House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, ended his committee’s highly partisan official investigation in April. The Democratic effort is largely toothless because it relies on voluntary cooperation. But if Democrats take the House in November, they will gain subpoena power and be able to compel testimony from Johnson and other witnesses.

The Democratic lawmakers want information about Johnson’s work with Republican activist Peter W. Smith during the 2016 presidential campaign to obtain emails allegedly hacked from Hillary Clinton, according to the Monday letter from Shannon Green, a Democratic staffer on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Continue reading “House Democrats seek to interview inflammatory ‘alt-right’ activist Chuck Johnson”

Meet the Vermont CEO vying to be the nation’s first transgender governor

MANCHESTER, Vt. — Christine Hallquist leaned back in her swivel chair inside a private room at the Northshire bookstore and dialed up potential donors, trash-talking the plummeting approval numbers of Vermont’s incumbent Republican governor and touting her chances against her Democratic rivals. "It’s clear it’s for us to lose, which I won’t, ’cause I’m disciplined," she assured one prospective contributor of the upcoming primary.

Beating her fellow Democrats and then defeating a sitting Vermont governor for the first time since 1962 are only the beginning. From there, Hallquist, a first-time candidate, plans to reverse the decline of rural Vermont and maybe even solve climate change.

All of this, Hallquist thinks, will be relatively easy, because she has already done the hardest thing she will ever do. In 2015, she began wearing a wig and a blouse to work, publicly coming out as a woman named Christine to her employees at Continue reading “Meet the Vermont CEO vying to be the nation’s first transgender governor”

Broidy accuses ex-diplomat of being secret Qatari agent

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy accused a former high-ranking United Nations diplomat of serving as an undeclared agent of Qatar in a court filing in California this week. In the filing, Broidy also claims that the Gulf state maintains an entire “network” of undisclosed agents operating inside the U.S.

Broidy, a fundraiser for President Donald Trump who is suing Qatar and several individuals over the hacking of his emails last year, cited unspecified evidence turned up during discovery as the basis for those claims.

The allegations come at a time when Washington is grappling with the problem of covert foreign influence in U.S. politics. On Monday, the Justice Department indicted Russian citizen Mariia Butina on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of Vladimir Putin’s government. In recent months, special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly expanded the scope of his probe beyond Russia to examine the influence of energy-rich Continue reading “Broidy accuses ex-diplomat of being secret Qatari agent”

Schultz’s 2020 ambitions give Starbucks the jitters

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s presidential hopes are already running into resistance from his old coffee cohort.

Wall Street analysts are wary, and company leadership is nervous, about the effect a Democratic bid by its chairman emeritus could have on Starbucks’ business, given its bipartisan customer base. If that weren’t discouraging enough, his retirement last month set off a boomlet of pundits urging him not to run. And his recent appearance at a private gathering of political donors convened by Mitt Romney inspired indifference.

As Schultz takes the summer off to contemplate a presidential campaign, the world is giving him a lot of downside to ponder, according to conversations with a dozen former Starbucks executives, equities analysts and others with insight into the coffee mogul, his former business and his recent moves.

“You’re putting a lot at risk. You’re putting your peace of mind at risk. You better really understand what Continue reading “Schultz’s 2020 ambitions give Starbucks the jitters”

Young Trumpies Hit D.C.

When Matt Mowers moved to Washington in November 2016, he wasn’t expecting a hero’s welcome. The young political operative had worked for Donald Trump’s campaign in New York, where you can hardly walk down the block in many neighborhoods without spying the words “Fuck Trump” scrawled somewhere on the streetscape.

But last year, his new neighbors in Dupont Circle, the upscale area known for its stately townhouses and history as a hub of gay life in the District, pulled some moves that surprised even Mowers, by then chief of staff at the State Department’s global AIDS office. In the run-up to Mowers’ first Halloween here, one of his neighbors strung up a skeleton and a pumpkin next to each other on a tree. The pumpkin had a sign: “Now kids, just because you’re orange doesn’t mean you’re related to him!” With the dangling skeleton was a more menacing note: Continue reading “Young Trumpies Hit D.C.”

Key figures in Gulf crisis sever ties with Qatar

A New York businessman who played a crucial role in Qatar’s efforts to win influence in the United States has terminated his relationship with the Persian Gulf nation and is now condemning it as a threat to Middle East peace.

Joey Allaham, a Syrian-born restaurateur and entrepreneur who had been helping Qatar make politically useful investments and curry favor with the American Jewish community, told POLITICO that he has recently cut ties with the country.

“Qatar enjoys portraying themselves as the purveyor of peace in the region, but this could not be further from the truth,” Allaham said in a sharp reversal from his past position.

His defection comes at the same time that another top Qatari agent, Nick Muzin, a former adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is also stopping work for the wealthy monarchy.

Their work and other Qatari efforts had been paying off, with the Trump administration Continue reading “Key figures in Gulf crisis sever ties with Qatar”

GOP fundraiser subpoenas AP over hacked emails, setting up legal showdown

A top Republican fundraiser has subpoenaed the Associated Press for information about the source of hacked emails that formed the basis of recent reports about him, people familiar with the matter tell POLITICO.

The AP has received the subpoena from Elliott Broidy — the subject of several recent articles about his efforts to lobby President Donald Trump and the U.S. government to adopt a hard-line stance against the Persian Gulf state of Qatar — and is planning to resist it, according to the outlet’s director of media relations, Lauren Easton.

The impasse sets up a potential legal standoff over press protections at a time when political battles are increasingly being waged via leaks of hacked data. A copy of the subpoena obtained by POLITICO demands the AP turn over all its information about its sources, including their names, along with information about how the AP obtained the hacked emails.

Continue reading “GOP fundraiser subpoenas AP over hacked emails, setting up legal showdown”

Report calls Erik Prince testimony into question

A report that Erik Prince attended an August 20016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. casts doubt on the Blackwater founder’s prior congressional testimony about his involvement with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Prince attended the meeting at Trump Tower along with an Israeli social media specialist and a representative of two Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. At the meeting, the Gulf states’ representative, George Nader, reportedly offered help with the presidential campaign while the social media specialist pitched Trump Jr. on his services.

But in November, Prince testified to the House Intelligence Committee that his involvement in Trump’s campaign was limited to donating money, attending fundraisers and authoring papers on foreign policy for Trump’s advisers. Prince did not mention any August 2016 meeting and told the committee he had no other formal contact with the campaign.

The discrepancy raises questions Continue reading “Report calls Erik Prince testimony into question”

‘It’s extremely insulting’: Giuliani fires back at allegations of erratic behavior

As President Donald Trump and White House aides expressed their discomfort over Rudy Giuliani’s free-wheeling interviews, those who know the former mayor from his native New York City and who’ve seen him at recent events suggest it’s just Rudy being Rudy.

They described a man whose once-powerful legal career long ago morphed into a role of attracting clients for law firms and using his contacts to help emerging businesses. Much of that work was conducted in loose social settings, with Giuliani drawing attention for his outrageous statements — frequently directed at his favorite target, Hillary Clinton — while delighting some listeners and offending others.

On Tuesday, however, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough went so far as to state on live television that Trump didn’t initially hire Giuliani for a Cabinet post because he was “losing it,” “falling asleep five minutes into meetings” and “drinking too much” — charges that Giuliani himself rejected Continue reading “‘It’s extremely insulting’: Giuliani fires back at allegations of erratic behavior”

Qatar eyes stake in Newsmax

The Qatari government has sought to acquire a major stake in Newsmax, the conservative media company run by President Donald Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.

Qatari officials met with Newsmax representatives on multiple occasions this year, according to the people familiar with the dealings. Ruddy, reached for comment, declined to address specific questions, saying only “this is all false.”

A spokesman for the Qatari embassy also declined to comment.

The two people familiar with Qatar’s interest in Newsmax say the talks with the company have been overseen by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a younger brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. They came during a mad scramble by the wealthy Gulf monarchy to win friends and clout in the United States as it struggled to respond to a Trump-endorsed blockade by its Arab neighbors.

The current Continue reading “Qatar eyes stake in Newsmax”

White House adviser pitching Trump on a Kanye summit

The White House is exploring plans to host multiple summits on race between prominent athletes and artists and President Donald Trump, according to the outside adviser spearheading the effort.

Cleveland pastor Darrell Scott, one of the president’s most prominent black allies, says the idea of bringing in artists and athletes to hash out their differences with Trump has gotten a boost from last week’s lovefest between the president and Kanye West. Scott is set to meet Thursday with Trump at the White House about the summit proposal.

The plans remain preliminary and no dates have been set, though Scott expressed confidence the summits would go forward and that Trump would attend.

“It’s going to be unscripted, unfiltered, blunt,” Scott said. “No topic is off the table.”

Scott — who works closely with Jared Kushner on prison reform and is spearheading a White House-backed plan to revitalize poor urban neighborhoods Continue reading “White House adviser pitching Trump on a Kanye summit”

Meet the pro-Trump PR Guy at the Center of the Mueller Probe — And Everything Else

What do the Mueller probe, the Eric Trump Foundation, Sinclair Broadcasting, Girls Gone Wild, Israel, Turkey, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow all have in common?

Ronn Torossian.

Earlier this month, the hard-charging New York PR man caught Washington’s notice first when he announced in an op-ed that he had testified about his abortive dealings with Paul Manafort to a Washington grand jury convened by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and then again when he emerged as the face of Sinclair Broadcasting’s caustic PR counteroffensive to charges that it forces affiliates to air pro-Trump propaganda.

These were not Ronn Torossian’s first brushes with Trump-era politics, and they won’t be his last. Over the last decade and a half, the 43-year-old Torossian has made himself perhaps the most prominent practitioner of a brass-knuckled form of public relations, sought out for his relentless work ethic and his ruthlessness—especially Continue reading “Meet the pro-Trump PR Guy at the Center of the Mueller Probe — And Everything Else”