"I wish circumstances were different and I didn't feel the need to make public remarks today," said Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), to begin his address Wednesday at the Brookings Institute about government ethics and why President-elect Donald Trump should take them more seriously. "You don't hear about ethics when things are going well. You've been hearing a lot about ethics lately." Trump had laid out his plan to distance himself from his business interests to avoid conflicts earlier in the day, and Shaub said that plan is "wholly inadequate." "Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts," he explained.
The point of speaking publicly about the fixable ethics shortcomings of the incoming administration, Shaub said, is to defend the post-Watergate ethics structure built to safeguard the public good and to urge Trump to change course. "I've been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top," he said, and it is hard to persuade other officials to comply if the president does not.
And he's been trying to get his message to Trump, particularly. He started with some tweets, Shaub said, because "I was trying to use the vernacular of the president-elect's favorite social media platform to encourage him to divest." His speech on Wednesday included Biblical scripture, an appeal to patriotism, and the advice of Trump's favorite Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia:
Back when he was working for the Justice Department, the late Antonin Scalia also wrote an opinion declaring that a president should avoid engaging in conduct prohibited by the government's ethics regulations, even if they don't apply. Justice Scalia warned us that there would be consequences if a president ever failed to adhere to the same standards that apply to lower level officials. [Shaub, Brookings Institute]
At Trump's press conference, his conflicts-of-interest lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had noted that "the conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets." That's true. But as Shaub noted: "The sheer obviousness of Justice Scalia's words becomes apparent if you just ask yourself one question: Should a president hold himself to a lower standard than his own appointees?" The jury is still out. Watch below. Peter Weber
Republican lawmakers are pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a second special counsel besides Robert Mueller, this one to investigate the FBI and the Justice Department for how they handled the 2016 election. Of particular interest is surveillance of a Trump campaign aide and the probe into then-candidate Hillary Clinton's email server.
"The FBI and the Department of Justice were corrupt, in my view, when it came to handling the email investigation of Clinton," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued on Fox News in support of a new counsel. "And the entire FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant application process was abused."
Graham was referring to the allegation in the memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the FBI acquired FISA permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page based significantly on the Steele dossier, whose creation was partially funded by a Clinton campaign lawyer, without telling the court the source of the information. The counter-memo released by House Democrats from the committee says the FISA court was properly informed of the dossier's political provenance.
Graham sent a letter to Sessions Thursday asking for an additional special counsel, and other House members including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (S.C.) have made the same request.
President Trump's personal attorney, John Dowd, said Saturday it is time for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling to end.
"I pray that Acting Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by [fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe's boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier," Dowd wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Dowd first stated he was officially speaking on the president's behalf, but then reversed himself, saying he was only giving his personal view. President Trump reportedly attempted to fire Mueller last summer before he was talked out of the plan, and Mueller reportedly has obtained memos about that decision. Bonnie Kristian
Lawyers representing President Trump in the suit brought by adult film star Stormy Daniels on Friday filed motions asking to move the case to federal court. The switch may be intended to get the suit into arbitration via the Federal Arbitration Act to maintain a lower public profile.
Daniels is suing to be released from a non-disclosure agreement she signed with Trump attorney Michael Cohen shortly before the 2016 election, a deal intended to buy her silence about an affair she claims to have had with Trump.
The Trump team's Friday filing also claims Daniels violated the NDA as many as 20 times and could be liable for up to $20 million in damages. "Mr. Trump intends to pursue his rights to the fullest extent permitted by the law," the motion concludes. Bonnie Kristian
Facebook on Friday suspended political data firm Cambridge Analytica from its network, accusing the company of violating the platform's privacy policies. Cambridge Analytica worked with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, using "behavioral microtargeting" for digital ad campaigns.
In a blog post explaining the decision, Facebook said the firm lied about deleting user data it obtained in violation of the social network's rules. "We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information," the statement said. "We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior." The post did not mention the Trump campaign. Bonnie Kristian
While Trump celebrated his firing, McCabe slammed the president's 'false, defamatory, and degrading' attacks
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
Trump has repeatedly targeted McCabe for criticism over his wife's Democratic congressional run, alleging corrupt campaign practices linked to McCabe's position. The FBI has released documents showing Trump's allegations are unfounded.
McCabe, meanwhile, issued a lengthy statement slamming the "false, defamatory, and degrading" allegations to which he and his wife have been subject, and which Trump's "tweets have amplified and exacerbated."
"The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people," he argued, labeling his firing "part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of [Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia] investigation," as well as evidence of the investigation's necessity. Bonnie Kristian
The engineer who oversaw construction of the footbridge that collapsed in Florida Thursday, killing multiple people, left a voicemail with the state Transportation Department two days prior reporting cracks in the structure. The employee the engineer called was out of the office and thus did not hear the message until Friday.
However, it is not clear that the tragedy would have been prevented even if the voicemail were received more quickly: The engineer said the cracking would be repaired but was not a safety risk. "We've taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done, but from a safety perspective we don't see that there’s any issue there, so we're not concerned about it from that perspective," said the message from engineer W. Denney Pate. "Although obviously the cracking is not good and something's going to have to be, you know, done to repair that."
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers pulled off a historic upset win against the top-seeded University of Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday night. UMBC's 74-54 win is the first time a No. 16 seed has bested a No. 1 team in the championship's history.
March 16, 2018
11:33 PM eastern
#16 The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
#1 University of Virginia
It's even better with Titanic music! (@UMBCAthletics with the upset to end all upsets)
— UMBC MADNESS (@TitanicHoops) March 17, 2018
"We didn't know what seed we would be when we won the America East championship," said UMBC guard Jairus Lyles, who scored 28 points in Friday's game. "Once we saw that No. 16 seed we knew we had a chance to make history. It's a very surreal moment."
UMBC next faces No. 9 Kansas State on Sunday for a shot at the Sweet 16. Bonnie Kristian