To say that today was a wild news day would be an understatement. We have a lot to cover, but we’ll start with President Trump’s potentially criminal financial disclosure.
As we mentioned in yesterday’s Rantt Rundown, the Office of Government Ethics received President Trump’s annual financial disclosure form, and the details won’t surprise you if you’ve been listening to Trump’s legal counsel Rudy Giuliani.
The disclosure admitted that President Trump reimbursed his fixer Michael Cohen between $100,000 and $250,000 for costs associated with his $130,000 hush money payment to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels).
This was a fact that was omitted from Trump’s initial disclosure. That’s against the law. NBC News reported:
The acting director of the ethics office, David J. Apol, concluded that Trump’s report “meets the disclosure requirements,” but noted that making that debt public “is required.” The outside group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed a complaint that Trump’s 2017 form had improperly omitted a “loan” from Cohen.
Federal law requires White House officials, including the president, to “report liabilities owed to any creditor that exceeded $10,000 at any time during the reporting period.” It is illegal to “knowingly and willfully” omit or falsify information on disclosure forms, a crime punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison.
Last year, Trump did not disclose any debts to Cohen…
This was referred to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Judging by this letter from the OGE to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, it appears Donald Trump has just effectively received his first criminal referral as President. pic.twitter.com/1P3wm6aMzy
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 16, 2018
Whether or not this will yield any consequences is yet to be seen. But one thing is very clear: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the Southern District of New York’s Cohen corruption investigation, and the countless ethical issues beleaguering this administration are beginning to pile up.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of testimony that gave more insight into the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. It revealed just how eager Donald Trump Jr. was about the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, and quite a few other revelations as well. Not only did Donald Trump Jr. allegedly open up the meeting with the words “I believe you have some information for us,” he told the Committee that he was disappointed that he didn’t receive the information he was looking for. Federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign national to contribute money or other items of value to an American election, as well as making it illegal for an American to solicit such information. But that wasn’t all that was revealed.
Question: “What was the ‘it’ that you loved in that e-mail?”
Trump Jr: “Potential information about an opponent.” pic.twitter.com/495f2Xnm49
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) May 16, 2018
Trump Jr. admitted that Trump shaped his statement about the Trump Tower meeting through Hope Hicks, and said that she asked him if he wanted to speak directly with Trump. He declined because he “didn’t want to bring” his father into “something he had nothing to do with.” pic.twitter.com/WVJNQ3kGnq
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 16, 2018
Manafort’s Trump Tower meeting notes seem on the level and not shady or corrupt at all.
“Offshore – Cyprus”
“133m shares” of what?
“Not invest[ment?] – loans”
“Value in Cyprus as inter[mediary?]”
“Active sponsors of RNC” 👀 pic.twitter.com/Jfe70j8VlD
— Adam (@aalali44) May 16, 2018
Always believed the Trump Tower meeting was a dangle to see how receptive the Trump campaign would be to Russian help. This shows they were VERY receptive: https://t.co/kW35F4AaP7
— Adam (@aalali44) May 16, 2018
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee released a statement.
Senate Judiciary Democrats: “In its investigation so far, the Committee has found evidence of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or their intermediaries, including offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin.” pic.twitter.com/fXPsBjzypl
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 16, 2018
- The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee broke with their sycophantic counterparts in the House. CNN reported:
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s leaders said Wednesday they believed that the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment of election meddling was correct, breaking with Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who questioned the conclusion that the Russians were trying to help President Donald Trump get elected.
“There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 election,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said in a statement. “Committee staff have spent 14 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions.”
- In a win for internet freedom, the Senate passed a bill that would reinstate net neutrality. Now, on to the House.
- The Daily Beast reported on a new line of inquiry into the NRA.
“The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign.” https://t.co/U9CuxUHFTa
— Sam Stein (@samstein) May 16, 2018
- Reuters reported:
U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued two subpoenas to a social media expert who worked for longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
According to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation, Mueller also has been probing whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign may have helped Assange or the Russians time or target the release of hacked emails and other social media promoting Trump or critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
- The New York Times published an in-depth look at the early days of the Russia investigation and also, for the first time, acknowledged their botched reporting.
Big NYT piece on FBI handling of Trump campaign investigation notes that law enforcement officials expressed caution to NYT reporters in Oct 2016 and their resulting story “significantly played down the case.” https://t.co/BespudJorE pic.twitter.com/3gTPm3ZAd3
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) May 16, 2018
- Ronan Farrow published an insightful report in the New Yorker:
Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.
The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The whistleblower who leaked Michael Cohen’s financial records is stepping forward to say why: records of bigger, potentially more sensitive, swaths of suspicious transactions appeared to be missing from a government database. My @newyorker investigation: https://t.co/5nR2CHNOUc
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) May 16, 2018
- President Trump made an objectively disgusting comment about immigrants.
Here is the President of the United States dehumanizing immigrants who, in many cases, are either seeking refuge from violence or seeking opportunity in America:
“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” pic.twitter.com/gpCFvAAzBc
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 16, 2018
- CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel made it through Committee.
- We’ll end today’s Rundown on a reassuring note…
President Trump is not preparing for his potential Kim summit, @ByBrianBennett and @tcberenson report. “He doesn’t think he needs to,” senior White House official tells @Time. https://t.co/gxahEjHAAQ
— Sam Jacobs (@sampjacobs) May 16, 2018
- Ok, this time for real, here’s a reassuring note from FiveThirtyEight on yesterday’s primary elections.
The Democratic Party woke up this morning with a clear signal from Tuesday’s primary elections: The #Resistance means business. The more progressive candidate won in Democratic primaries around the country. The question, however, is whether those more liberal candidates will hurt the party’s chances in November.
The biggest — and most surprising — news of the night was nonprofit executive Kara Eastman’s nomination in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Although former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford had both the money and the backing of national Democrats, Eastman defeated him 51 percent to 49 percent. Like many of Tuesday’s victorious Democrats, Eastman won by throwing red (blue?) meat to the liberal base: Where Ashford touted his ability to build consensus in Congress, Eastman promised confrontation and, well, resistance to President Trump.