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November 29, 2016

Once he is sworn in, President-elect Donald Trump will be shielded from most ethics and conflict-of-interest rules that apply to just about every other member of the federal government, but presumably he will still be subject to contract law. That may pose a problem for Trump regarding the newest jewel of his empire, the hotel he just inaugurated in the Old Post Office Pavilion, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Trump being effectively "both landlord and tenant" of the Trump International Hotel "presents unprecedented and intolerable conflicts of interest," government procurement experts Steven L. Schooner and Daniel I. Gordon say at Government Executive, but more simply, it also appears to violate "the Trump Organization's 60-year, $180 million lease" on the historic building. They explain:

The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump's other business arrangements. That's because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: "No... elected official of the Government of the United States... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom..." The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to benefit from the lease, he will become an "elected official of the Government of the United States." [Government Executive]

The lease is between the Trump Organization and the federal General Services Administration, whose administrator Trump will appoint, and Schooner and Gordon argue that it is up to the GSA to clean up this mess, preferably before Trump takes office. They reject the probable Trump solution, passing the lease off to Trump's adult children, as legally and practically untenable: "Just imagine GSA pressing the Trump organization for more detailed revenue and expense information, or the president's children negotiating annual rent adjustments with a career civil servant who reports to the GSA administrator appointed by their father, who serves at his pleasure."

"In a perfect world, Trump and the GSA would negotiate a mutually agreeable termination of the lease or a novation/transfer to an unrelated firm," Schooner and Gordon say. "Nothing thus far suggests that President-elect Trump appreciates the need to do so. As a result, GSA must take unilateral action." You can read their entire argument at Government Executive. Peter Weber

June 16, 2019

Do you love President Trump and contested land? Consider a move to Trump Heights.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet met in the disputed Golan Heights to dedicate a small settlement, previously known as Bruchim, to Trump. Now called Ramat Trump, or "Trump Heights," the president can't say it's the biggest, most beautiful settlement — only 10 people live there and it's surrounded by land mines — but it does now have a giant sign, trimmed in gold and flanked by U.S. and Israeli flags. The Syrian border is 12 miles away, while the closest Israeli settlement, Kiryat Shmona, is 30 minutes away.

Netanyahu moved fast; it was only in April that he announced he was renaming the outpost in honor of Trump, to thank him for reversing U.S. policy toward the region. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and annexed the territory in 1981, a move most governments consider illegal under international law. During Netanyahu's visit to Washington in March, Trump signed an executive order acknowledging the area, home to about 50,000 people, as Israeli territory. Israel said it hopes the name change will encourage more people to move to Ramat Trump. Catherine Garcia

June 16, 2019

Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Sunday vowed to fully investigate the massive electrical failure that plunged Argentina and Uruguay into darkness.

Both countries share an electrical grid, and when the electricity was cut off, tens of millions of people were without power. Parts of Chile and Paraguay were also affected. The lights went out on Sunday morning, and by Sunday evening, officials said more than 80 percent of customers in Argentina and 88 percent in Uruguay had power again.

Gustavo Lopetegui, Argentina's energy minister, said the electrical system is "robust," and while "we're not ruling out any possibility ... we don't think it is down to a cyber attack." Argentine media reports that officials are linking the outage to a failure in the transmission of electricity from a hydroelectric dam, BBC News reports. Catherine Garcia

June 16, 2019

Gary Woodland won the U.S. Open Sunday in Pebble Beach, California, his first major championship.

He was able to defeat Brooks Koepka, the two-time defending champ. Woodland, 35, was in the lead most of Sunday, and shot 2-under-par 69 to finish at 13 under. He started the week ranked No. 25 in the world, with three PGA Tour titles under his belt. Koepka is ranked No. 1 in the world, and was hoping to become the second person to win the U.S. Open three years in a row. Catherine Garcia

June 16, 2019

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted to misusing state funds, and on Sunday was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.

Netanyahu took a plea deal, with the charges reduced from fraud to intentionally exploiting another person's error. She will have a criminal record. Her lawyer, Yossi Cohen, claims that his client is innocent, and this was an attempt to bring down her husband.

The case was in court for four years, with Netanyahu accused of spending $100,000 on catering between 2010 and 2013, despite having her own personal chef provided by the state, The Guardian reports. Benjamin Netanyahu is also the focus of several corruption investigations, and Israel's attorney general announced earlier this year that he plans on indicting him. Catherine Garcia

June 16, 2019

In recent weeks, a record number of African migrants have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, fleeing from political persecution and economic hardship.

During one week, Border Patrol agents in Texas' Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants; only 211 African migrants were detained along the entire southern border during the 2018 fiscal year, The Associated Press reports. Most of the migrants are from the Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Cameroon. They fly to South America from Africa, then travel by land to the U.S.-Mexico border, with many seeking asylum at ports of entry.

Migrants from Cameroon have said they fly to Ecuador because there is no visa requirement, and it takes about four months to get from there to Tijuana. While in Panama, they are often robbed, AP reports, and held in camps run by the government.

Over the last several days, 170 asylum seekers were bused to Portland, Maine, where Somali refugees were resettled in the 1990s. Hundreds more are expected to arrive in the near future. Catherine Garcia

June 16, 2019

Washington is bearing witness to, perhaps, the unlikeliest dynamic duo in recent memory.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are certainly not of the same political ilk, but they've recently gone back and forth over social media, with each expressing a willingness to work with the other to get certain bills passed.

The two politicians are of the same opinion when it comes to banning former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists after their tenures are up, as well as the idea that birth control should be available over-the-counter. They're now trying to team up to pass legislation on both matters.

But, if you thought this was just some political ploy or feigned bipartisanship in a tumultuous era, think again. In an appearance on ABC's This Week, Ocasio-Cortez said she was "extraordinarily excited" to work with Cruz on these issues, admitting that it's a surprise to her, as well. Tim O'Donnell

June 16, 2019

Tensions between Tehran and Washington continue to rise, especially after the latter accused the former of attacking two oil tankers with limpet mines in the Gulf of Oman last week. U.S. Central Command released a video last week claiming it shows Iranians removing a mine from one of the tankers. Iran has vehemently denied the allegations and the owner of the Japanese tanker disputed the account.

But the video is still enough evidence for some people. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Sunday, in an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, told host Margaret Brennan that these "unprovoked attacks" warrant a "retaliatory military strike."

Even if Iran is behind the attacks, though, some have pointed out that a U.S. strike would make for a puzzling response, considering neither of the tankers were U.S. ships, instead hailing from Japan and Norway.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on the other hand, told CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Saturday that the American people have "no appetite" for going to war with Iran. Tim O'Donnell

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