Trump Fights Back as Democrats Home In on Impeachment

As House Democrats bring witnesses to testify in the public impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump continues to attack the witnesses and opposition Democrats. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara takes a look at the president’s communications strategy and at his supporters and opponents in Congress.

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NRA Tax Filing: Embattled CEO Earned About $2 Million in 2018

The National Rifle Association’s embattled top executive earned about $2 million last year at a time when the gun rights lobby is beating back challenges from regulators, longtime members and gun control groups, according to tax filings cited in media reports.The tax filings come as the NRA faces investigations in New York and Washington that threaten its nonprofit status. Nonprofits file tax documents every year, and they are a year behind, capturing the NRA’s finances for 2018 — the year before internal strife spilled into public view.The tax filings were not yet publicly available, but news reports in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post cited the documents. The NRA refused to make them available to The Associated Press, saying its longtime policy is only to provide paper copies by mail.According to the filings, known as 990s, longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s total compensation rose to more than $2 million. His base salary went from $1.17 million to $1.27 million, he received a bonus of about $455,000, and he got about $366,000 from a deferred compensation plan, according to the documents cited in media reports.Critics outragedNRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in a statement that compensation for LaPierre and other senior officials followed a “detailed analysis conducted by an independent compensation committee. Mr. LaPierre’s compensation includes benefits made payable under his retirement plan.”The news reports drew immediate rebukes from critics.“This is further evidence that, at this point, LaPierre is more of a burden than an asset to American gun owners,” said Rob Pincus, a longtime NRA member and firearms instructor who is a member of Save the Second, a group calling for LaPierre’s resignation and seeking changes to the NRA.Long viewed as the most powerful gun lobby in the world, the NRA has been facing internal and external pressures over its operations and spending habits. Authorities have launched investigations, and there has been a revolt by members who are questioning the NRA’s finances and leadership.There are allegations that LaPierre expensed hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury clothing he purchased in Beverly Hills and that the NRA has made tens of thousands of dollars in payments to a handful of influential board members.FILE – Images of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, Legislative Director Chris Cox and President Oliver North displayed during the National Rifle Association annual meeting at the Indiana Convention center in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 27, 2019.The NRA’s president, Oliver North, stepped down amid a rancorous annual meeting last spring. And Chris Cox, its top lobbyist who is widely viewed as a successor to LaPierre, resigned after being accused of being in cahoots with North in a failed attempt to oust LaPierre as CEO.The disputes even led to a split between the NRA and its longtime marketing firm, Oklahoma-based Ackerman McQueen, and each sued the other.The upheaval has left some wondering what role the NRA can play in the 2020 presidential election, especially after it was a significant source of money and support for President Donald Trump.Less debtThe latest tax filing shows that the NRA ended 2018 with a $2.7 million shortfall. That’s still a vast improvement from what it reported in 2017, when it was $17.8 million in the red, or in 2016, when it posted a shortfall of $45.8 million.“The spending of the NRA’s political arm fluctuates based on the needs of each political cycle,” Arulanandam said. “We remain a driving influence in key races where our Second Amendment freedoms are under attack, and we remain poised to further activate our funding and grassroots advocacy in support of the 2020 election.”Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun control advocacy group, said the tax filings show the NRA’s true motivations.“This eye-popping raise and other inside dealing is yet more evidence that the NRA is abandoning its members to focus on what is apparently its chief mission: enriching executives. Given the multiple ongoing investigations, I’d bet that come 2020, the NRA won’t be writing political checks, they’ll be answering subpoenas.”However, NRA President Carolyn Meadows said LaPierre’s compensation is justified, reflecting “his enormous contributions to our members and the freedoms for which they fight. His contributions to the NRA have been transformative.”

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Cory Booker on Ballot in New Hampshire, Last Day of Filing

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is on the ballot in New Hampshire, where he hopes his patience will pay off.
                   
The Democratic presidential hopeful signed up for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Friday, the final day of the filing period. Though he lags behind in polls, Booker says he’s not one to switch strategies or states to focus on, as some other candidates have done.
                   
Booker’s latest trip to New Hampshire comes a day after former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick jumped into the race. Booker says it’s good to have robust competition, and that he doesn’t take it personally that some of his close friends are also running.

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Roger Stone Guilty of Witness Tampering, Lying to Congress

 Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, has been found guilty at his trial in federal court in Washington.
Stone was convicted Friday. He was charged in a seven-count indictment that alleged he lied to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampered with witnesses and obstructed a House intelligence committee probe.
His trial highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about emails hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton that were released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors say Stone lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host Randy Credico and conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.
He’s also accused of trying to intimidate Credico and threatening to take his dog.
Stone had denied the allegations and decried the case as politically motivated.

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US Investigates Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s Personal Lawyer

Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer of U.S. President Donald Trump, Bloomberg reports.The prosecutors are conducting an inquiry into possible finance violations against Giuliani and his failure to register as a foreign agent, according to the Bloomberg account.Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, has emerged as a key figure in Trump’s impeachment inquiry where lawmakers are also examining what role Giuliani played in pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Trump’s rivals.Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York told Bloomberg, she “would not be surprised” if Giuliani is indicted as a result of the federal probe. “It’s clear Giuliani is up to his ears in shady stuff,” she said.

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Trump Asks Supreme Court to Block Subpoena for His Tax Returns 

President Donald Trump on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to block a subpoena for his tax returns, in a test of the president’s ability to defy investigations. The filing set the stage for a high-court showdown over the tax returns Trump has refused to release, unlike every other modern president. The justices also could weigh in more broadly on Trump’s claim that sitting presidents can’t be prosecuted or investigated for crimes. The subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney is seeking Trump’s tax returns back to 2011 from his accounting firm as part of a criminal investigation. Trump wants the court to decide the case by late June, under a deal to keep the district attorney from enforcing the subpoena in the meantime. The justices may not decide whether to hear the case for at least another month. Second caseA second, similar case is headed to the court over a House committee subpoena demanding Trump’s financial records from the same accounting firm. The president has lost both cases at each step of the judicial process so far. FILE – The logo of Mazars, an international organization that specializes in audit, accounting, tax and advisory services, is seen on a building in the financial district of La Defense near Paris, May 14, 2018.The Mazars USA firm has said it will comply with the subpoenas, if courts agree. A ruling against Trump would not require public release of the information. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is seeking the records back to 2011 in a broader probe that includes payments made to buy the silence of two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, who claim they had sexual encounters with the president before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied the claims. Trump is asking for the Supreme Court’s intervention as the impeachment drama plays out elsewhere in Washington. Public impeachment hearings that began Wednesday are examining claims that Trump tried to get Ukraine’s leader to investigate political rival Joe Biden. If the House votes to impeach the president, Chief Justice John Roberts would preside at a Senate trial that is likely to begin in January. The justices usually fill their term’s calendar by late January. Quick paceThe New York tax case is moving unusually swiftly through the federal courts. A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled last week that the tax returns could be turned over to New York prosecutors. The appellate judges emphasized the narrowness of their ruling, deciding only that a state prosecutor could demand Trump’s personal financial records from a third party while the president was in office. Their opinion upholding a trial judge’s earlier ruling noted that they did not consider whether the president was immune from indictment and prosecution while in office or whether the president himself might be ordered to produce documents in a state criminal proceeding. The subpoena does not implicate, in any way, the performance of his official duties,” 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann wrote. During arguments in a New York courtroom, Trump's lawyer told the 2nd Circuit that Trump was immune from state criminal law, even if he shot someone, because he's president. The exchange stemmed from Trump's campaign trail comment in 2016 that hecould stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Trump’s lawyers have said the probe by Vance, a Democrat, is politically motivated. Narrower approachThe Justice Department, which intervened on Trump’s behalf in New York, has taken a narrower approach, saying Vance must prove particularized need” for the records before they are released to a grand jury. In the Washington case, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaed records from Mazars in April. The records include documents from 2011 to 2018 that the House wants for investigation into the president's reporting of his finances and potential conflicts of interest. The list of documents makes no mention of Trump's tax returns. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted Wednesday not to reconsider an earlier panel opinion ordering Mazars to comply with the subpoena. Trump's two appointees to the Washington court said the full court should have reheard the case. Judge Greg Katsas called the subpoena athreat to presidential autonomy and independence.” There are two Trump appointees on the nine-member Supreme Court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. 

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Republican National Committee to Hold Meetings at Trump Property

The Republican National Committee confirmed Thursday that it would hold its winter meetings at Trump National Doral, bringing business to one of the president’s struggling properties. The news came weeks after President Donald Trump canceled plans to host next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders in Doral after facing accusations that he was using the presidency to enrich himself. In a statement, RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens confirmed that the group’s multiday event would be held in January at Trump’s golf resort, which is located near Miami International Airport. The RNC said the contract was signed in March and noted that the majority of RNC meetings have not been held at Trump properties. The media is obsessed with our spending at Trump properties and has covered it ad nauseam,'' Ahrens said.As we have stated multiple times, we continue to hold events at them because they have fantastic service and secure spaces that fit our needs.” The RNC winter meetings will be the second time in two years that Republicans have held a major meeting at the resort. According to The Washington Post, a GOP event in Doral last year produced about $630,000 in revenue for Trump’s company. Critics have noted that the Doral resort, the biggest source of revenue among Trump’s 17 golf properties, appears to have been struggling since even before he became president. Financial disclosure reports filed by the president show revenue is barely growing, up just $1 million last year, to $76 million. And the Trump Organization itself has admitted it was struggling, arguing in a tax appeal to local authorities last year that it is seriously underperforming, according to a Washington Post review of tax appeal documents. 

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Jury Begins Deliberating Verdict in Trial of Trump Adviser Roger Stone

The federal jury in the criminal trial of U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser Roger Stone began deliberations on Thursday into whether he lied to Congress about his efforts to learn more about when WikiLeaks would publish damaging emails about 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.The 12-member jury, consisting of nine women and three men, represents a diverse cross-section of people, including an IRS civil tax attorney, an employee with AARP, and a former congressional candidate.Stone, 67, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements in testimony during the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.Witness tampering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The other counts carry a maximum sentence of five years each. If Stone is convicted, under U.S. sentencing guidelines he would likely face much less jail time as a first-time non-violent offender.Prosecutors accused Stone of telling lawmakers five different lies related to the WikiLeaks website and its founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks released a series of damaging emails about Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential election, that U.S. intelligence officials and Special Counsel Robert Mueller later concluded had been stolen by Russian hackers.Some of those lies relate to the existence of certain texts or emails, while others pertain to Stone’s conversations with Trump campaign officials and a supposed “intermediary” with WikiLeaks in early August 2016 whom Stone identified to lawmakers as being comedian Randy Credico.The government and Stone’s attorneys offered closing arguments on Wednesday, with the government telling the jury Stone lied to Congress in order to protect Trump’s image.Stone’s lawyers counter that such a motive makes no sense, because by the time Stone testified to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017, Trump was already president. 

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Pelosi Seeks Trade Pact Passage by Year’s End

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said a breakthrough in talks with the Trump administration on the trade pact with Mexico and Canada could be imminent and that she wanted to pass the deal by the end of the year. “We are moving positively in terms of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement. Again, it all comes down to … enforcement,” she told reporters at a news conference. “I do believe that if we can get this to the place it needs to be, which is imminent, that this can be a template for future trade agreements.” The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), signed by 
the three countries about a year ago to replace the $1 trillion North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), must be passed by lawmakers in all three countries. Mexico has already ratified the new deal, while Canada has said it is waiting to move in tandem with the United States.  The office of Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was not immediately available for comment on Pelosi’s remarks. Complaints from White HouseU.S. President Donald Trump and other administration officials have complained that Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, are holding back the U.S. economy by slow-walking USMCA’s passage. But a major U.S. labor leader, AFL-CIO union chief Richard Trumka, said last month that the deal was unlikely to pass as is if put to a vote in November, given lingering concerns about labor and other issues. “I’d like to see us get it done this year. That would be my goal. I don’t imagine that it would take much more in the Senate to pass,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday. Trump’s fellow Republicans control the U.S. Senate. Separately, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, testifying before a House of Representatives panel, said that the deal’s passage would help remove uncertainty and would be very constructive for the U.S. economy. 

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