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April 25, 2017
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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

April 21, 2017

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

April 7, 2017
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President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner failed to note his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the head of a Russian state-owned bank in his paperwork to gain top-secret security clearance, The New York Times reported late Thursday, amid mounting questions about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. The questionnaire required Kushner to list all meetings and contacts with foreign government officials within the last seven years; he met with Kislyak in December.

Kushner's lawyer claimed that Kushner's failure to list "dozens of contacts with foreign leaders or officials in recent months" was an "error," The New York Times reported. Though the form "warns that 'withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying information' could result in loss of access to classified information, denial of eligibility for a sensitive job, and even prosecution," the Times noted that "clearance holders are often allowed to amend disclosure forms and avoid punishment if omissions are deemed oversights rather than deliberate falsifications."

After learning of his omissions, Kushner reportedly told the FBI he would "be happy to provide additional information about these contacts," and would compile the material. For now, Kushner has a temporary security clearance while his paperwork is processed. Becca Stanek

April 4, 2017

On Tuesday, the son of the president of the United States suggested that an alt-right blogger who promotes conspiracies like "white genocide" and PizzaGate should "win the Pulitzer."

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted his praise of the media personality Mike Cernovich after crediting Cernovich with "breaking" the story that former President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, asked intelligence agencies to "unmask" the names of Trump transition officials caught up in foreign surveillance. Cernovich further alleged Rice then sent the unmasked names to a handful of top intelligence officials.

Cernovich is widely criticized, having also promoted the beliefs that "date rape does not exist," "misogyny gets you laid," and black women should be "slut shame[d]" to prevent them from getting AIDS. Additionally, Rice's alleged actions appear to be legal, and an unidentified "person close to Rice" told CNN on Monday night that Rice never "improperly sought the identity of Americans," adding: "There is nothing unusual about making these requests when serving as a senior national security official, whether Democrat or Republican."

Observers have slammed the Trump White House for promoting Cernovich's "story," with Kellyanne Conway tweeting a Cernovich blog post Monday and calling his appearance on 60 Minutes a "must-see ratings bonanza." Read more about the White House's ties to Cernovich at Media Matters here. Jeva Lange

March 31, 2017
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The House Oversight Committee is tasked with holding the White House accountable — basically, "rooting out conflicts of interest, exposing abuses of power, and generally causing headaches for President Trump," as The Atlantic puts it. Naturally it is an uncomfortable job for the Republican chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has found himself acrobatically dismissing charges against Trump.

Take, for example, allegations that Trump is using the presidency to make money for himself and his family. It's a serious concern — Kellyanne Conway was flagged by the Office of Government Ethics for telling TV viewers to "buy Ivanka's stuff," and Trump's Argentinean hotel was suddenly green-lit following his election, after long being held up. To those charges, Chaffetz simply told The Atlantic Trump is "already rich. He's very rich. And I don't think he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don't see it like that."

Further addressing concerns that Jared Kushner's family was poking around a $400 million deal with a Chinese-government-linked company while Kushner is serving as a foreign policy adviser, Chaffetz added: "I don't see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person's family is making money? It's not enough."

"I think the people who voted for Donald Trump went into it with eyes wide open," Chaffetz went on. "Everybody knew he was rich, everybody knew he had lots of different entanglements … These other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money is a bit of a sideshow." Read the entire story at The Atlantic. Jeva Lange

March 13, 2017
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A company owned by the family of President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is prepared to receive more than $400 million from Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese firm that is investing in the Kushners' office tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. While Jared Kushner previously sold his ownership of the building to his family, the deal is nevertheless raising concerns about everything from potential conflicts of interest to espionage, Bloomberg reports.

Some real estate experts described the deal with Anbang as "unusually favorable for the Kushners," Bloomberg adds. Additionally, "the company's ties to the Chinese government are sufficiently unclear that former President Barack Obama declined to stay at the Waldorf [Astoria] after Anbang bought it because of fears of espionage," Bloomberg writes. "Now Anbang will be business partners with in-laws of the First Family."

A Kushner spokesperson protested that the transaction will not be a conflict with Jared Kushner's role in the White House: "Kushner Companies has taken significant steps to avoid potential conflicts and will continue to do so," the spokesperson said. Anbang additionally called itself a "highly transparent company that operates in accordance to the standards of public companies and strictly abides by applicable regulatory requirement" in a statement.

But that doesn't convince everyone. "At the very least, this raises serious questions about the appearance of a conflict that arises from the possibility that the Kushners are getting a sweetheart deal," said Larry Noble, the general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. "A classic way you influence people is by financially helping their family." Jeva Lange

March 9, 2017
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President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, apparently failed to disclose more than just his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when he accepted the White House position. On Tuesday, Flynn filed paperwork with the Justice Department to retroactively register as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying that might have helped the Turkish government prior to Election Day, The Associated Press reports.

U.S. citizens who lobby on the behalf of foreign governments or political entities are required under the Foreign Agent Registration Act to disclose their work with the Justice Department; not doing so is a felony. The Justice Department does not often pursue criminal charges in such cases, though.

The paperwork filed with the Justice Department said Flynn and his firm did work in August through November of last year that "could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey." The Turkish businessman who hired Flynn's firm disputed the filing, claiming "it would be different if I was working for the government of Turkey, but I am not taking directions from anyone in the government." But Flynn disclosed that he met with two officials at the businessman's direction who, "to the best of Flynn Intel Group's current understanding," worked for the Turkish government. The officials were reportedly Turkey's ministers of foreign affairs and energy. At the time of the meeting, in August, Flynn was also a top Trump surrogate.

Flynn also published an op-ed in The Hill in November that stressed the importance of backing Turkey's political affairs. Flynn's filings say that the op-ed relied on research he did for his contract.

Following his work with the Turkish company, Flynn agreed to honor President Trump's lifetime ban on representing foreign governments after leaving the government. Flynn ultimately resigned last month from his White House position after he allegedly lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak in December. Jeva Lange

March 1, 2017

Al Qaeda is using White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon to recruit potential terrorists to its cause, ThinkProgress reports. The latest issue of the al Qaeda-affiliated newspaper Al Masra features a large photo of Bannon and refers to comments he has made against Islam.

"Congrats #SteveBannon for being [the] lead story with [the] headline 'the war is with Islam as religion,'" Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford University, sarcastically tweeted.

Experts have criticized the Trump administration for helping to create radical propaganda. "If you are serious about defeating ISIS, the last thing you want to do is portray the fight as Islam vs. the West," ISIS: A History author Fawaz Gerges told CNN.

On Tuesday, President Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, argued that the president should not use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" or "radical Islam" in his address to Congress on Tuesday night but was overruled. McMaster considers the term "unhelpful," according to reports.

"Trump has created an upsurge in militant jihadist attention on America  —  it was previously on America but also on many other targets like Shiites in Yemen, Iraq, and even Syria  —  but this has really refocused attention on America itself," Kendall told ThinkProgress. Jeva Lange

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