The Justice Department backed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s refusal to turn over President Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee in a 33-page memo, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Under the facts and circumstances, the Secretary of the Treasury reasonably and correctly concluded that the Committee’s asserted interest in reviewing the Internal Revenue Service’s audits of presidential returns was pretextual and that its true aim was to make the President’s tax returns public, which is not a legitimate legislative purpose,” reads an introduction to the opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel.
Mnuchin had alluded to the opinion in a May 17 refusal of a subpoena from Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) for Trump’s personal and business tax returns, and during testimony before Congress.
“The head of the Federal Election Commission released a statement on Thursday evening reiterating, emphatically, that foreign assistance is illegal in U.S. elections,” Politico reports. Said commissioner Ellen Weintraub: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.“
President Trump told ABC News that it “doesn’t matter” what his former White House counsel Don McGahn told special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump says McGahn “may have been confused” when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.
When asked why McGahn would lie under oath, Trump said: “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen — including you, including the media — that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”
“Explosions crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday in what the United States called attacks by Iran, raising alarms about immediate security and potential military conflict in a vital passageway for a third of the world’s petroleum,” the New York Times reports. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that American intelligence agencies had concluded Tehran was behind the disabling of both ships.”
“The most compelling evidence to support Mr. Pompeo’s claim is full-motion video footage taken by a Navy P-8 surveillance plane of an Islamic Revolutionary Guards patrol boat pulling up alongside the Kokuka Courageous, one of the stricken ships, a few hours after the initial explosion, and removing what American analysts believe was a limpet mine.”
Washington Post: “U.S. officials said several nations are consulting about how to respond.”
BUT… “The Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous, one of two oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, said Friday that sailors on board saw ‘flying objects’ just before it was hit, suggesting the vessel wasn’t damaged by mines,” CBS News reports.
“That account contradicts what the U.S. military said as it released a video Friday it said shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships that were hit.”
“Extensive work was well underway on a new $20 bill bearing the image of Harriet Tubman when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced last month that the design of the note would be delayed for technical reasons by six years and might not include the former slave and abolitionist,” the New York Times reports.
“Many Americans were deeply disappointed with the delay of the bill, which was to be the first to bear the face of an African-American. The change would push completion of the imagery past President Trump’s time in office, even if he wins a second term, stirring speculation that Mr. Trump had intervened to keep his favorite president, Andrew Jackson, a fellow populist, on the front of the note.”
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow — who called federal spending “the most unbalanced fiscal story coming of Washington, really in our history” in 2009 — on Thursday said the deficit, which has risen about 80 percent since Trump took office and is on track to top $1 trillion for the first time in history, “doesn’t bother me right now,” the Washington Post reports. He added: “I don’t think we’re at a crisis point now.”
Wall Street Journal: “The U.S., despite a record-long economic expansion, is on course to test just how much it can borrow.”
President Trump said that he will not fire White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their work, the Washington Post reports. Said Trump: “Well I got briefed on it yesterday, and it looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech, and that’s just not fair.”
His comments came a day after the Office of Special Counsel publicly recommended Conway’s removal from federal office, calling her a “repeat offender.” Special Counsel Henry Kerner told the Washington Post that his recommendation that a political appointee of Kellyanne Conway’s stature be fired was “unprecedented.” Said Kerner: “You know what else is unprecedented? Kellyanne Conway’s behavior.”
He added: “In interview after interview, she uses her official capacity to disparage announced candidates, which is not allowed. What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you’re high enough up in the White House, you can break the law, but if you’re a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?”
President Trump “slammed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell again this week, insisting that Powell’s actions have prevented the economy from soaring even higher and declaring he’s out of patience with the man he picked to lead the nation’s central bank,” ABC News reports.
Trump also said he was “allowed” to criticize Powell and claimed it was commonplace in the “old days” for a president to “settle” with the bank’s chairman.
Said Trump: “You know, in the old days, they used to speak to the head of the Federal Reserve often. And it was … very much a part of the administration from the standpoint as they’d talk and they’d really settle. You have no idea how important it is.”
First Read: “This week ends with another outrage: Trump admitting that he’d accept dirt — again — from a foreign government.”
“This controversy-to-controversy-to-controversy cycle has been one of the president’s biggest weaknesses. It’s why, after all, his approval rating is stuck in the low 40’s when the unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent.”
“But it’s also one his strengths: The controversy/outrage always changes, and it becomes easy to forget what last week’s controversy/outrage was.”
“The political world still doesn’t know how to handle this wheel of outrage. And Democrats don’t know, either…”
Andrew Sullivan: “‘I like the truth. I’m actually a very honest guy,’ President Trump told a slightly incredulous George Stephanopoulos this week. Like almost everything Trump says, it was, of course, a lie. But it was a particularly Trumpish kind of lie. It was so staggeringly, self-evidently untrue, and so confidently, breezily said, it was less a statement of nonfact than an expression of pure power.”
“For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie. And on it goes. It’s like swimming in choppy water. Just when you get to the surface to breathe, another wave crashes into you.”
“Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in her father’s Washington hotel last year,” Bloomberg reports.
“She also made at least $1 million from her line of branded apparel, jewelry and other merchandise, down from at least $5 million in the previous year. Trump, 37, announced in July that she was closing her fashion businesses amid controversies over her role in the White House and after some big-name department stores dropped the brand.”