Family Ties

President-elect Donald Trump’s children have come under scrutiny for promoting charitable fundraisers described by some ethics experts as selling access to the White House — criticism that comes as Trump continues to face questions about his plans to separate his public role from the business interests his children are set to take over.

After TMZ and other outlets reported that Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric were the headliners of a fundraiser that offered donors the chance to attend a hunting trip with the duo in exchange for a donation of $500,000 to $1 million to unnamed conservation groups, the president-elect’s transition team issued a statement looking to downplay the siblings’ involvement.

“The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family,” said Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks. “Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsmen and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity.”

Earlier this month, an online auction for a 45-minute coffee break with Ivanka Trump that was organized by Eric Trump’s charitable foundation was canceled after The New York Times reported that several of the bidders donated in the hopes of gaining a direct line to Trump to press issues of importance to them.

Two former White House ethics attorneys told The Associated Press, that while there is nothing “explicitly illegal about the charity fundraising, it diverges from the best practices of previous White House administrations,” noting that Barack Obama and George W. Bush prohibited immediate family members from fundraising activities to avoid the appearance of selling access.

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“We kept it simple. We did not allow the first family to be auctioned off, which is what is happening here,” Norman Eisen, who served as White House chief ethics counselor as Obama took office in 2009, told AP.

Richard Painter, who filled a similar role for Bush, told the outlet, the White House “strongly discouraged” the president, his family and top aides from fundraising for charities, and avoided altogether charity fundraising that came with any access to those people.

Don’t know much about...

After former Bill Clinton told a local Westchester County newspaper Trump “doesn’t know much,” Trump shot back on Twitter saying Clinton “doesn’t know much” about getting voters to the polls in “vital swing states.”

Trump was responding to comments Clinton made that were published in the weekly Bedford-Pound Ridge Record-Review. The former president reportedly said of Trump: “He doesn’t know much. One thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”

Trump sought to use Clinton’s phrasing against him, tweeting of the Democrat: “He ‘doesn’t know much’ ... especially how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing states (and more). They focused on wrong states.”

The president-elect was outspent by Hillary Clinton, but stumped in and secured key wins in states such as Michigan, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

Trump tweeted that Bill Clinton “stated that I called him after the election. Wrong, he called me (with a very nice congratulations).”

Clinton responded via Twitter: “Here’s one thing @realDonaldTrump and I can agree on — I called him after the election.”

Hometown Blues

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Trump, a native New Yorker, has just a 23 percent favorability rating among voters in his hometown of New York City, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

Nearly 70 percent of voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic city said they have an unfavorable view of him, the poll found.

Trump fared better among New York State’s suburban voters at 32 percent and among upstate voters at 37 percent, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

Trump received a 31 percent favorability rating among state voters overall.

The Republican saw a 68 percent favorability rating from members of his party and a 8 percent rating from Democrats in the state.

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Electoral aftermath

The president-elect may have secured the necessary Electoral College votes to seal his victory. But anti-Trump activists are still bandying about ideas to keep him out of office, while the PEOTUS himself resumed his defensive tweeting early Wednesday.

"I would have done even better in the election, if that is possible, if the winner was based on popular vote - but would campaign differently," Trump stated. (Reality check: It was of course 'possible' to have done better since he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million).

Filmmaker Michael Moore turned to Twitter to solicit ideas: “He’s not president for four and a half weeks. Next idea?”

Meanwhile, the Hamilton Electors, the group of rogue electors who unsuccessfully attempted to change the outcome of Monday’s electoral vote, vowed to “continue to fight.”

Chris Suprun, a GOP elector from Texas who was one of two Republicans not to vote for Trump, suggested in a statement that the president-elect would likely be impeached.

“As a person who has always played fast and loose with the law, Trump will likely be impeached within the first year of his Presidency by responsible Republicans in Congress,” Suprun said.

A look into the affidavit

An affidavit used to get a late October search warrant for Anthony Weiner’s laptop in the Hillary Clinton email investigation that shook the presidential race, gives no indication that the FBI knew Clinton emails containing classified information were included on the device.

The FBI affidavit, unsealed Tuesday by a federal judge in Manhattan, said the existence of thousands of emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife, some of them from State Department accounts, created probable cause to seize the materials because past Abedin-Clinton correspondence had included classified materials.

FBI Director James Comey in July had closed without charges a probe of whether Clinton mishandled classified material by using a private email server while Secretary of State. He threw the presidential race into turmoil on Oct. 28 by announcing that the agency had found possible new evidence, but some experts said the affidavits provided a thin basis for his action.

“The heart of the warrant application is...nothing more than mere speculation that there is classified information on the laptop,” said Clark Cunningham, a legal ethics and constitutional law professor at Georgia State University Law School.

“I am appalled,” said E. Randol Schoenberg, the Los Angeles lawyer whose lawsuit last week triggered the decision by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel to release the materials.

The FBI and lawyers for Clinton and Abedin had no comment immediately after the materials were unsealed.

Read a recap from Newsday’s John Riley here.

What else is happening:

  • Jeb Bush in an op-ed piece for CNN defended Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, saying “the far left has tried to distort Pruitt’s views in a lame attempt to make him into an anti-science boogeyman."
  • Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is Trump's pick for secretary of state, has strong support from the Bush family including the humiliated Jeb, who called him Tillerson a "good man and accomplished leader."
  • Departing President Barack Obama moved to withdraw hundreds of millions of acres of publicly owned land from the possibility of offshore oil and gas drilling. 
  • Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in a TV interview Wednesday that he didn't join the Trump administration because things "just didn't work out," although he was offered positions other than the one he sought -- Secretary of State.
  • Trump on Twitter said he met recently with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, calling the mogul he once accused of trying to orchestrate a smear campaign against him through New York Times, “A GREAT GUY!”
  • Now Newt Gingrich says of Trump's abandoned vow to "drain the swamp": I'm told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore."
  • The majority of nonvoters have no regrets about not casting a ballot for president, according to the Pew Research Center’s end-of-year survey. Of those nonvoters polled, 55 percent said they were confident with their decision to sit-out the election.
  • It takes Alec Baldwin seven minutes in hair, and makeup prep, to transform into his Donald Trump character on Saturday Night Live, according to a behind-the-scenes account from The New York Times.
  • Jovita Carranza, a former official with the Small Business Administration, who also served as a top ranking executive for UPS, met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate to discuss the possibility of serving as U.S. trade representative.
  • Russia, Iran and Turkey met regarding the Syrian war, a meeting that excluded the U.S.
  • Is actor Tom Arnold lying when he says he has 'Apprentice' outtakes of Trump using the 'n word' and the 'c word' and calling his son a "retard'"? No such video has yet to be released, so the claim unsupported by evidence.