Transition Briefing: Democrats and Feds Say Donald Trump Is About to Breach Law on New Hotel

by admin December 14, 2016 at 7:35 pm

The problem is fairly straightforward. Mr. Trump will soon be in charge of the agency that issued the lease for the Old Post Office Building, which the president-elect transformed unto a luxury hotel. He will also appoint the head of the G.S.A. To avoid such an obvious conflict, the lease that Mr. Trump signed states: “No … elected official of the government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom[.]”

No word yet from Mr. Trump about how he will proceed. Not even the G.S.A.’s deputy commissioner of public building services has heard a peep in response.

“In fact, the deputy commissioner informed our staffs that the G.S.A. has received no communications to date from Mr. Trump’s business organization about this issue. This raises serious questions about how Mr. Trump plans to proceed.”

Senate Democrats tell Betsy DeVos: Pay your election fines.

Senate Democrats have found a new bit of leverage against Ms. DeVos, the Michigan Republican Party leader who will soon be considered for the cabinet post of education secretary: her unpaid fines for campaign finance violations.

Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Wednesday called on Ms. DeVos to pay $5.3 million in fines and penalties owed by her All Children Matter political action committee for campaign finance violations dating to 2008.

All Children Matter broke Ohio election law by illegally sending $870,000 from its national PAC to its Ohio affiliate. The state of Ohio levied a record fine against the group.

But the debt remains unpaid, the senators said. And now a confirmation vote looms.

A singular focus: jobs, jobs, jobs.

To Mr. Trump, the job of the president is to focus on jobs. Virtually everything else is subservient to that: diplomacy, science, conservation.

On Wednesday, he officially tapped former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to lead the Department of Energy, an agency whose primary tasks are to maintain the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, counter nuclear proliferation, clean up Cold War radiation contamination and pursue basic science through the government’s premier research laboratories.

His announcement, language errors and all, mentioned none of those:

“As the governor of Texas, Rick Perry created created a business climate that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices in his state, and he will bring that same approach to our entire country as secretary of energy,” said President-elect Trump. “My administration is going to make sure we take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation.”

After a rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, he thanked Wisconsin and reiterated his jobs message.

It is the prism through which his selection of the Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex W. Tillerson for secretary of state, the Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and the fast-food executive Andrew F. Puzder for labor secretary should be seen.

Speaking of jobs …

Mr. Trump will meet on Wednesday with leaders of the technology industry, including Timothy D. Cook of Apple, Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeff Bezos of Amazon (and The Washington Post), and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. The agenda? Creating jobs.

As Mr. Trump prepares to meet with Big Tech, 19 organizations from the music industry, including the Americana Music Association, sent him a letter expressing their concern about content theft over shared platforms.

Mr. Trump is familiar with musicians’ concerns about using music without permission — he was criticized during his campaign by artists who did not want their songs played at his rallies.

Trump eyes ‘Bridgegate’ figure for White House team.

The monumental traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge may have made Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey lie low — and thwarted his chances of getting a cabinet post for him. But it appears to have not affected the prospects of a former Christie aide, Bill Stepien, who mentored the central actors of the “Bridgegate” scandal.

Mr. Stepien is now the leading contender to be the White House political director.

Two people close to the transition said that Mr. Stepien, who was hired by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, after the final campaign shake-up, has been repeatedly mentioned for the role, although the decision is not final.

Bridgegate aside, Mr. Stepien is credited by some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers with helping him improve his field organization in crucial states, and contributing to his victory.

Trump team picks singer for inauguration. You may not know her.

Mr. Trump has chosen (who else?) a television star to sing the national anthem at his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old singer who gained popularity as a contestant on “America’s Got Talent,” said on Wednesday that it was “a great honor” to be asked to perform by Mr. Trump.

Hers is the first name released by the inaugural planning committee for a day that typically features high-wattage star power. President Obama had Beyoncé perform the anthem in 2013, and asked other high-profile artists like Aretha Franklin and James Taylor to deliver supplementary performances at his inaugurations. But there have been reports Mr. Trump is struggling to secure big-league talent after a bruising campaign in which the celebrity class largely turned out to support his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Evancho met Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., in 2011, after she had finished as the runner-up on “America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s hit series. She was 10 at the time.

“I’m so excited; it’s going to be awesome,” she said after making the announcement on NBC’s “Today” show.

Ms. Evancho, of course, is too young to vote.

Nancy Pelosi calls for independent inquiry of Russian election interference.

As evidence mounts of a wide-reaching effort by Russian intelligence agents to help elect not only Mr. Trump but also Republicans in Congress, Ms. Nancy Pelosi, of California, called for an independent investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 election.

One day after top congressional Republicans said an investigation was necessary, Ms. Pelosi questioned their conviction. “That’s a statement of fact,” she told reporters. “That’s not a statement of action.”

She said a panel of outside investigators with subpoena power needed to be convened.

“The people have a right to know why Republicans are afraid of the truth,” Ms. Pelosi said.

Almost everyone thinks Trump will help his businesses while in office.

Whether or not that is a good thing depends on your political affiliation:

“A Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted Dec. 8-11 found that 81 percent of voters say it is likely Trump will take actions to benefit his businesses when he becomes president next month. And while there is much agreement there, voters were split along partisan lines on whether it was good or bad for his business interests to affect his decision-making as president: 39 percent of voters said it was mainly a good thing, including 73 percent of Republicans, and 44 percent said it was mainly a bad thing, including 73 percent of Democrats.”

Christmas in Mar-a-Lago.

Mr. Trump is preparing for an extended trip to Florida beginning this weekend, and he is likely to spend most of the holidays at Mar-a-Lago. That will undoubtedly please the president-elect, who enjoys heading south when the weather gets colder, but it might complicate matters for people living and visiting the barrier island.

Mr. Trump could dart in and out for short trips, but at the moment he is considering staying in Palm Beach for the resort’s New Year’s party.

Well, he did say it would be O.K. after his election.

Spotted on the president-elect’s lectern at the State Fairgrounds in Wisconsin on Tuesday night: a sign reading “Merry Christmas U.S.A.,” and six Christmas trees in the background.

Apparently, such a sight may have been illegal — or at least politically incorrect before Nov. 9. But Mr. Trump has repeatedly said, “We’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.’”

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