The House Oversight Committee is investigating the use of non-commercial airplanes by President Trump's Cabinet members, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, The Hill reports.
On Tuesday, Politico reported Price has taken at least 26 flights on corporate jets, in several cases when there were commercial flights available to his destinations. In one example, Price chartered a round-trip Learjet flight to Nashville, a half-hour trip each way, which cost $17,760 according to the federal contract. In another instance, Price took a $25,000 135-mile flight from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., also on a private jet.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also been scrutinized for possibly taking a government plane on a trip centered around viewing the total solar eclipse. Mnuchin in addition reportedly requested use of a government jet to whisk him and his third wife, Louise Linton, away to Europe this summer for their honeymoon.
President Trump expressed displeasure with Price in particular during questions with reporters Wednesday. "I can tell you personally, I am not happy about it," Trump said. "I am not happy about it. I am going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know." Jeva Lange
Trump on TOM PRICE and his charter jets: “I’m not happy about it, and I let him know it.” pic.twitter.com/S5bt2QwcXm
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 27, 2017
On Thursday, the Justice Department dropped its charges against 129 of the remaining 188 defendants arrested during sometimes-violent protests during President Trump's inauguration a year ago. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff said in a court filing that the government "is focusing its efforts" on the 59 remaining "defendants who engaged in identifiable acts of destruction."
The Justice Department had planned on a series of trials throughout most of 2018, employing a novel strategy, prosecuting the arrested protesters, journalists, and bystanders not for acts of violence or vandalism but because they had knowingly participated in a march they knew would turn violent. That strategy suffered a setback in December when a judge and jury threw out all charges against the first group of six protesters. Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the Defend J20 Resistance, said his group will work to help the remaining 59 defendants from "what is clearly a political prosecution." The next trial is scheduled to start March 5. Peter Weber
On Thursday, Carl Higbie resigned as head of external affairs for the federal government's volunteer services organization after CNN's Andrew Kaczynski dug up comments he had made on the radio disparaging black people, women, Muslims, gay people, veterans with PTSD, and other groups. President Trump appointed Higbie, a Trump campaign surrogate and spokesman for his Great America PAC, in 2017 to be the public face of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which oversees programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.
“I know the best people”: Racist Trump appointee Carl Higbie resigns as public face of agency that runs AmeriCorps after KFile review of racist, sexist, anti-Muslim & anti-LGBT comments on the radio. Where was his #extremevetting before his appointment? https://t.co/MnUMQCrLzr pic.twitter.com/xXdT2CIigF
— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) January 19, 2018
Many of the comments were from Higbie's time as host of the internet radio show "Sound of Freedom." In one December 2013 episode, for example, Higbie said "the black race" has "a lax of morality," and black women "think that breeding is a form of employment." You read and listen to more of his comments at CNN. "Effective immediately, Carl Higbie has resigned as chief of external affairs at CNCS," agency spokeswoman Samantha Jo Warfield said in a statement. The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Peter Weber
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a lower court's order that North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly redraw the state's congressional map by Jan. 24, well before the 2018 election, on the grounds that it is excessively partisan. The state can continue using the current map through the appeals process, meaning North Carolina will likely use its gerrymandered map in 2018.
When Republicans approved the district map's criteria in February 2016, they were pretty open about the goal being to keep 10 of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House seats in GOP hands, despite the close partisan split in the state. The three-judge federal panel ruled earlier this month that such "invidious partisan discrimination" violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause, with two judges also saying it violated the First Amendment. All nine Supreme Court justices weighed in on the appeal from North Carolina Republicans, and the court order notes that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the stay.
The eventual outcome of the North Carolina case will be swayed by whatever the high court decides in a raft of gerrymandering cases this term from Wisconsin, Maryland, and Texas. Peter Weber
Depending on who you ask, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie either did or did not get shunned at a super special entrance to Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday.
Christie tried to pass through a gate he used as governor that would have let him bypass security, a person with knowledge of the incident told ABC News. He was turned away, with an agent showing him the way to the security line for regular people. Christie was accompanied by a state trooper, and as an outgoing governor, he could have a security detail for up to six months. Throughout the incident, ABC News says, Christie was polite to everyone and didn't make a scene about being stopped at the entrance.
On Twitter, though, Christie called the report "pure fiction," tweeting that he was actually led to the entrance and informed "that this was the wrong way to enter." Christie said he was directed to the right spot, and not only was "neither option the way I entered [the] airport as governor," but agents also "never denied me entry at either place."
Look, it's hard out there for former governors who leave office with rock-bottom approval ratings. When you're used to being able to do things like order the closing of every beach in the state ahead of the 4th of July, then open one up just for you and your family to enjoy, only to get annoyed when people have the nerve to be upset by photos showing you and your beach chair just chilling in the sand, it can be hard to adjust to regular life. Let's cut Christie some slack. Catherine Garcia
Hungary's national police issued an arrest warrant for Sebastian Gorka, a Fox News analyst and former adviser to President Trump, in September 2016, and it is still active, The Associated Press and other media organizations report. That means Gorka was wanted in Hungary for unspecified "firearm or ammunition abuse" for the entire time he worked in the Trump White House, until his departure in August 2017. The warrant, still posted on the website of Hungary's national police, was first reported by the Hungarian news site 444.
— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) January 18, 2018
Gorka served as a national security aide to Trump, but his role was never clearly laid out and, AP says, he never got clearance to work on the National Security Council due at least in part to a January 2016 weapons charge at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. The unspecified weapons charge in Budapest could have been from an incident as far back as 2009, 444 noted, and Gorka points out that he moved to the U.S. from Hungary in 2008, without denying that the warrant exists.
"Don't waste your time," he told BuzzFeed News. "I don't talk to BuzzFeed, thank you." Gorka told the Washington Examiner he did "not really" have a comment because he moved to America in 2008, calling the report "more #FAKENEWS" but declining again to say if was in Hungary after he moved to the U.S. Gorka was born in London to Hungarian parents and lived in Hungary from 1992 to 2008. Peter Weber
Trump lawyer reportedly created a private company in Delaware to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels
One month before the 2016 presidential election, President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen set up a private company in Delaware to pay former adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence regarding alleged sexual encounters with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Journal spoke with people familiar with the matter and looked at state records showing that on Oct. 17, 2016, Cohen established Essential Consultants LLC, then used a bank account linked to the company to send $130,000 to the client-trust account of an attorney representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. In Delaware, it's easier to set up business entities and there's more privacy, with many companies choosing to hire lawyers or agents to appear on the formation documents. In this case, Cohen is listed as the "authorized person" for the company, the Journal reports.
People with knowledge of the situation said pseudonyms were used to conduct the business, with Clifford referred to as "Peggy Peterson." Records also show that on Sept. 30, 2016, Cohen started an entity in Delaware called Resolution Consultants LLC, but on Oct. 17, just two minutes after creating Essential Consultants, he dissolved Resolution Consultants, for unknown reasons. The Journal first reported last week that Cohen paid Daniels off; he denies doing so. Catherine Garcia
The government starts shutting down Saturday morning if Congress can't pass yet another stopgap spending bill. "This really is amazing, we've reached a point somehow at which North and South Koreans have a better relationship than Republicans and Democrats do," Jimmy Kimmel shrugged on Thursday's Kimmel Live. Republicans have spent the week trying to blame Democrats for shutting down the government, but the GOP controls the House, the Senate, and the White House, he noted. "Democrats can't even shut down their computers without Paul Ryan's permission."
To persuade Democrats — who are insisting on a plan to protect DREAMers — to vote for the stopgap bill, Republicans have attached a six-month extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired 100 days ago. "Funding for CHIP should have never been allowed to run out in the first place," Kimmel said. "This is a program that's supported overwhelmingly by both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and all Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had to do is put it up for a vote and it would have been a done deal. But they decided to use it as a bargaining tool instead, and so now we're on the brink of the whole government shutting down."
"And I know this is complicated," Kimmel said — some conservatives criticized his understanding of the legislative process during a Twitter fight on Wednesday night — "but I have a way to illustrate what's going on that I hope will make sense in a simple way. Now bring in the coffee cart." In this episode of "Barista Theater," the cappuccino (standing in for CHIP) was a two-for-one affair. Scene over, Kimmel reiterated that Republicans are baldly using CHIP as leverage, adding that "unfortunately for them, this ruse got a little more difficult this morning to pull off," thanks to one of President Trump's "weird, occasional flashes of common sense." Watch below. Peter Weber