No returns after final sale

Remember when candidate Donald Trump said he would release his income tax returns once an epic IRS edit was completed? Now that he’s president, forget about it, senior aide Kellyanne Conway said on ABC’s “This Week,” Newsday’s David M. Schwartz reports.

“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Conway said. “We litigated this all through the election” and “people didn’t care.”

Except a Washington Post-ABC News poll just last week found that 74% of Americans want him to make the documents public, including 49% of his supporters.

Intriguingly, so does WikiLeaks now. Or so it says. The secrets-baring group that aided Trump by publishing thousands of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign tweeted after Conway’s remarks:

“Trump’s breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs [speech] transcripts.” A companion tweet encouraged anyone with access to leak the documents to WikiLeaks.

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Back in the fall, Trump said, “I love WikiLeaks.” Will his love be forever?

Constitutional crisis already?

Foreign payments to Trump hotels and other businesses violate the Constitution he swore on Friday to uphold, plaintiffs in a new federal lawsuit claim. The Emoluments Clause was adopted as an anti-corruption measure early in the life of the republic. 

Tension in the tent already? 

The role of Long Island's megadonor, the Mercers -- the Renaissance Technologies family who earned a share of credit in Trump's election -- seems to be in doubt regarding the direction of a new outsider political group to advance the president's agenda, Politico reports here.

Land of make-believe

Conway sparred with Sunday talk show interviewers over false accusations by Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that news organizations falsely understated the size of the inauguration crowd. Her exchange with Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” stood out.

Todd asked why “the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood.” Conway accused Todd of being “overly dramatic.” Spicer, she said, “gave alternative facts.” (Click here for video clip.)

The folks at Merriam-Webster noticed a spike in lookups for the word “fact” after Conway’s comment and tweeted: “A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”

See Newsday’s story by Schwartz and Stefanie Dazio. For lie-by-lie reviews of Spicer’s tirade in the White House briefing room, click here and here.

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Too spicy for Trump’s taste

Trump grew angry and angrier on Friday over news reports of the crowd sizes and voiced his grievances during his visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday while standing in front of its memorial wall for intelligence officers killed in the line of duty.

Trump said of the news media: “They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth, right?”

But Trump decided Spicer “went too far,” The New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the president’s thinking. Separately, Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted in a series of tweets a Trump pattern of pushing aides to attack the press, sometimes with falsehoods, and then blaming the aide for resulting bad headlines.

The take-away: Rearview mirror

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The anti-Trump, women-led marches by millions in Washington, New York and other cities on Saturday showed a movement moving on from its identification with Clinton, who is fading into irrelevance, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

When someone in Manhattan hoisted the message “I’m With Her,” the arrows pointed in the direction of other participants.

The new normalized

For Monday, Trump's schedule includes separate meetings with corporate and union leaders, an intelligence briefing, lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, a reception for congressional leaders, and a one-on-one with House Speaker Paul Ryan, plus time for ceremonial signings of executive orders. His press secretary is supposed to conduct a briefing for the first time since telling an easily disproven lie.

Trump’s take and retake

The president’s first tweet at @realdonaldtrump about the marches was dismissive. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”

Less than two hours later, he had a more benign view. “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”

A different look

Trump observed a more presidential decorum during a swearing-in ceremony for top aides at the White House and sought to reassure Americans that he was up to the task ahead.

He said his staff was in the White House not to “help ourselves,” but to “devote ourselves to the national good.” He held up a “beautiful letter” left to him by his predecessor, Barack Obama — a White House tradition — and said its contents will remain private.

Tillerson wins over skeptics

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had voiced concerns about Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s Russia connections, said Sunday they will vote to confirm the Exxon Mobil CEO.

“Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests,” they said in a joint statement.

The two GOP senators, along with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), are also pushing a bill that would prevent Trump from lifting sanctions against Russia without congressional approval.

Russia contact probed

U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had with Russian officials, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal (pay site).

It isn’t clear when the counterintelligence inquiry began, whether it produced any incriminating evidence or if it is continuing, the report said.

Investigators focused on a phone call Flynn made to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on Dec. 29, the day Obama announced sanctions against Moscow to retaliate for Russian election hacking. Spicer has said earlier the conversation was simply about logistics for arranging a Trump-Putin conversation.

What else is happening

  • Schumer rejected the Trump administration’s complaints about stalling Senate approval of some nominees. It’s appropriate to have “a little bit of debate and discussion before they take office,” the Senate minority leader said on “Meet the Press.”
  • Trump’s revised musing about “taking” Iraq’s oil — and that “maybe we’ll have another chance” — isn’t playing well with Iraqis now on the front lines fighting ISIS, BuzzFeed reports.
  • Asked on ABC’s “This Week” if he has the “utmost confidence” in Trump, McCain said, “I don’t know, because he has made so many comments that are contradictory.”
  • Trump said he will meet soon with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to begin renegotiating NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • Among the attendees at the swearing-in of senior staff was Charles Kushner, father of Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The elder Kushner served a federal prison stretch for filing false tax returns, making illegal campaign donations and one count of retaliating against a witness.
  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accepted Trump’s invitation to visit the White House early next month. They spoke by phone Sunday.
  • Trump aides labeled former CIA Director John Brennan as “bitter” and a “partisan political hack” for criticizing Trump’s “despicable display of self-aggrandizement” in front of the agency’s memorial wall.
  • Melania Trump headed back to New York with son Barron on Sunday after the inaugural festivities. Sunday was also Donald and Melania Trump’s 12th wedding anniversary.