Paving over the foundation pit
Donald Trump lamented in a Christmas Eve announcement that he’ll have to close down his charitable foundation “to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president.”
Don’t pull the plug yet, said a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who barred it from fundraising after discovering that it had failed to register with the state.
“The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” said Amy Spitalnick.
The foundation came under scrutiny during the campaign. The Washington Post reported the charity’s money was used to help settle lawsuits against Trump businesses; that it spent $30,000 to buy two large portraits of Trump; that it improperly made political donations; and that its funds largely came from other people’s money, with not a dime donated by the billionaire from 2009 to 2014.
The foundation has admitted in IRS tax filings for 2015 that it violated a prohibition against “self-dealing.” The nature of those violations was not spelled out in public documents.
As Jason Miller explained it, he belatedly decided — two days after his appointment was announced — that the job of White House communications director would be too much to take on with his wife expecting their second child next month.
“It is clear they need to be my top priority right now,” a statement from Miller said Saturday.
But Politico, citing three sources close to the Trump transition, reports he bowed out following claims that he had an affair with another transition official. A.J. Delgado, a transition aide and campaign-time Trump surrogate, referred to Miller on Twitter as a “baby-daddy” and “the 2016 version of John Edwards” and called on him to resign.
Later Saturday, she deleted her account. Neither Delgado nor Miller would comment on Sunday, Politico said.
The take-away: Extreme vetting
Democrats in Congress are saying not-so-fast to Republicans inclined to grease the confirmation path for Trump appointees. One sore point: Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) indicated that the panel won’t seek tax returns from the secretary of state nominee, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) promises to push legislation that would force Trump to divest himself completely from his business empire. Newsday’s Dan Janison writes on those emerging tension points and more.
Ethics experts say Trump’s children are moving in the right direction when it comes to distancing themselves from perceived access-peddling, but how clearly Trump defines their roles in his businesses and his White House will be crucial to containing conflicts of interest.
The Trump family should first and foremost declare they won’t take money from foreign governments, said Richard Painter, who was chief ethics counsel to former President George W. Bush. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Paladino a Trumpland pariah?
Carl Paladino, who served as Trump’s New York campaign co-chairman, said last month that he was certain Trump would endorse him if he made another run for governor in 2018.
But it’s not at all clear where the Buffalo Republican stands with the next president after making comments widely denounced as racist wishing President Barack Obama dead and saying first lady Michelle Obama should be “let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe” to live with a gorilla.
“Carl’s comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse,” a Trump spokeswoman said Friday. Even Paladino’s son, Ellicott Development Co. CEO William Paladino, criticized his father’s comments as “disrespectful and absolutely unnecessary,” The Buffalo News reported.
’Twas a Trump Twitter Christmas
The president-elect’s Twitter messages for Christmas skipped the allusions to grievances that have sometimes flavored his past Yule posts, such as 2013’s “wish all of my friends — and even my many enemies — a very Merry Christmas.”
One post showed Trump pumping his fist in front of a Christmas tree. Then came a simple “Merry Christmas and a very, very, very, very Happy New Year to everyone!” And on Saturday, there was “Happy #Hanukkah” with a photo of a menorah.
What else is happening:
- Obama would have won if he'd been eligible to run this year for a third term, the departing president said in an "exit" interview podcast with former aide David Axelrod.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under fire from other elected officials in his nation for reactions that include condemning Obama in the wake of a UN Security Council vote on expansion, according to Bloomberg News.
- Tourist fans of Trump are part of the scene nowadays at Trump Tower, joining journalists, NYPD and Secret Service officers and, depending on the day, Newt Gingrich, the Naked Cowboy, Kanye West or anti-Trump protesters, writes Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
- Rudy Giuliani said on John Catsimatidis' AM970 radio show that Trump’s tough talk on terror will lead to a “more peaceful” world.
- Gingrich on Fox News Sunday said Trump’s remarks about a buildup of nuclear weapons show he has the “exactly right” strategy.
- The Republican National Committee set off a social media kerfuffle with a message that “this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.” RNC spokesman Sean Spicer and future White House press secretary said that was a reference to Jesus Christ, not the next president.
- Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old who wrote most of Trump's major campaign speeches, is due to craft the incoming president's big inaugural address, Politico reports.
- Trump and his wife, Melania, attended a Christmas Eve service Saturday night at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida. They married in the Episcopal church in 2005.
- A Pembroke Pines, Florida, man was arrested for Facebook posts that federal authorities said included threats of violence against Trump.
- More than 100 judicial vacancies have piled up under Obama, amid slow GOP Senate confirmations -- all to the incoming administration's advantage, the Washington Post reports.