×
August 22, 2018

A cloud of corruption is settling around President Trump's former confidantes, and Democrats are stoked. So stoked, they seem to have forgotten a potential problem of their own.

Amid the storm of Paul Manafort's guilty verdicts and Michael Cohen's guilty pleas, Quinnipiac University released a poll Wednesday surveying New Jersey voters. The poll shows incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democratic senator who previously escaped corruption charges, inching closer to losing his seat in November's midterms.

Quinnipiac's poll reveals that 43 percent of registered voters would vote for Menendez today — a relatively narrow 6-point lead over his Republican competitor Bob Hugin, given Menendez's traditionally safely blue constituency. Just five months ago, a Quinnipiac poll gave Menendez a 17-point lead over Hugin.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been trying to tie Trump-supporting candidates to corruption associated with the president's administration. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) conveniently debuted an anti-corruption bill Tuesday, just before Manafort and Cohen's courtroom appearances. But their push seems to be having unintended consequences on Menendez, who was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges, accused of using his Senate seat to benefit a friend in exchange for private jet rides and campaign donations.

Menendez's charges were dismissed earlier this year after a mistrial, but he still got "severely admonished" by the Senate Ethics Committee in an April letter. It's since been re-election season as usual for Menendez — though he probably didn't expect to fight so hard in a state that hasn't elected a Republican senator since 1954.

For Wednesday's poll, Quinnipiac surveyed 908 registered New Jersey voters over the phone from Aug. 15-20. The poll has a 4.6-point margin of error. Read more results here. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:11 p.m.

President Trump's Scottish golf courses are raising some eyebrows, but not because of the beauty of their design.

HuffPost reports that Trump filed financial disclosure statements that appear to misstate the value and profitability of his Turnberry and Aberdeen resorts. For example, in 2018, Trump claimed in his U.S. filing that the resorts were each worth more than $50 million. Meanwhile, he filed balance sheets with the British government covering the same time period that showed the resorts' combined debt exceeded their assets by 47.9 million British pounds, which was equivalent to $64.8 million at the time.

In the U.S., his public disclosure pegged the income he earned from the resorts at $23.8 million, while his filings with the U.K. Companies House office in Edinburgh, Scotland, showed Turnberry and Aberdeen lost 4.6 million pounds, or $6.3 million in that timeframe. Finally, HuffPost notes that Trump's U.S. disclosure statement did not mention the $199.5 million in loans the president made to the resorts.

HuffPost reports that knowingly providing false or incomplete information on the form is a violation of the Ethics in Government Act and is punishable by up to a year in jail, while signing the form — and subsequently making a false statement — could result in a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

However, Virginia Carter, an ethics law expert with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told HuffPost that the Office of Government Ethics does give filers quite a bit of leeway in determining asset value, though she added Trump's numbers raise "legitimate questions," as it's unclear as to how the $50 million mark was reached. "The numbers don't appear to add up," she said. Read more at HuffPost. Tim O'Donnell

4:22 p.m.

President Trump continued his feud with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday, ultimately leading him to accuse Jewish Democratic voters of disloyalty.

This iteration of the battle between Trump and the congresswomen follows a turbulent week which saw Israel bar and unbar Tlaib from visiting her grandmother in Palestine, only to have Tlaib ultimately reject the country's approval of her appeal. Meanwhile, Trump suggested Israel would look "weak" if it allowed Tlaib and Omar to enter Israel considering their support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or BDS, movement. It's unclear if Trump's words swayed Israel toward Tlaib's initial rejection, but, regardless, the sides have gone back and forth ever since.

On Tuesday, Trump was asked about the situation, to which he replied that "any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat" show either "a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." About 79 percent of American Jews voted Democratic in 2018, reports NBC News' Benjy Sarlin.

The president also called Omar a "disaster for Jewish people" and, earlier in the day, mocked Tlaib for crying as she explained why she decided against visiting her grandmother. Tim O'Donnell

3:36 p.m.

President Trump on Tuesday confirmed reporting that he's considering a payroll tax cut after the White House spent the past day denying that he is.

On Monday, reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times emerged that the White House was weighing a temporary payroll tax cut as economists fear a looming recession, but White House officials denied it, with a statement released to the Post saying that "cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time." White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley in a Fox News interview on Tuesday morning similarly offered a denial, saying that "it's not being considered at this time."

So of course Trump would go on to say the exact opposite mere hours later, confirming the original reporting by saying in the White House, "Payroll taxes is something that we think about, and a lot of people would like to see that."

Add this onto the increasingly large list of examples of Trump contradicting White House officials, as when, earlier this year, the White House denied that Trump was considering a plan to release migrants into "sanctuary cities" and target his Democratic opponents, only for Trump to immediately tweet that he is "indeed, as reported," considering said plan. The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reports that administration officials were told to go out and deny that Trump is considering a payroll tax cut, a plan Trump himself would apparently thwart in short order. Brendan Morrow

3:27 p.m.

The nails seem to be approaching the coffin for Brexit negotiations.

That's because the European Union has rejected U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's latest request to scrap the Irish border backstop from a new withdrawal agreement, The Guardian reports.

Johnson reportedly sent European Council President Donald Tusk a letter detailing alternative methods ahead of the Oct. 31 Article 50 deadline, but Tusk was having none of it, maintaining that the continuation of an open border in Ireland is vital. He said that Johnson offered no viable options for preventing a hard border from arising, while the EU dismissed Johnson's argument that the backstop was anti-democratic.

On the other hand, Johnson said that he felt the EU was being too pessimistic about the matter and that he still believes a deal can be reached before the deadline, though he has not relented on the necessity of the backstop's removal from negotiations, RTE reports. At the same time, Johnson said the U.K. has no intention of implementing any new border checks or infrastructure at the Irish border that could threaten the integrity of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which has kept the peace on the island for over two decades. The EU described Johnson's claim that two separate legal and economic jurisdictions could exist with an open border as "misleading." Tim O'Donnell

3:08 p.m.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not planning to administer flu vaccines to migrant families in its custody, CNBC reports.

After the flu-related deaths of three migrant children in U.S. detention since last year, Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University doctors earlier this month wrote a letter to Congress calling for an investigation and "timely action," as "poor conditions at the facilities may be amplifying the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases, increasing health risks to children," The Washington Post reported.

But on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told CNBC that "in general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in our custody." The spokesperson said that "medical personnel on site are available 24/7" and that local health systems "may" provide migrants vaccination "if determined necessary."

Harvard's Jonathan Winickoff, one of the doctors who had urged congressional action earlier this month, continued to raise alarms following this news, telling CNBC that poor conditions at overcrowded facilities increase the likelihood of diseases spreading and that "the country needs urgent answers to that question so that children stop dying in detention." Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke out against this report on Tuesday and slammed President Trump, tweeting, "This cannot be America, but for as long as he is president, it will be."

The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has in recent months released reports on "dangerous overcrowding" at border facilities like one in El Paso, which has a maximum capacity of 125 people but was found to be holding 900 detainees. "Corrective action is critical to the immediate health and safety needs of detainees," the report said. Brendan Morrow

3:08 p.m.

It's that time of year again. Supreme announced their fall/winter collection, which includes the usual branded clothing as well as their famously eclectic merchandise. In recent years the streetwear brand has thrown its name on hundreds of unusual or rare products like a crowbar, a brick, nunchucks and a dog bowl, each fetching hundreds of dollars on the fiercely competitive resale market.

Some see it as a brilliant satire of logo-obsessed hypebeast culture, while others simply see it as an attention-grabbing stunt meant to capitalize on the devoted fanbase's seemingly bottomless pockets.

This year, Supreme is offering nearly thirty branded items, including a measuring cup, hanging lantern, Honda Motorbike, voodoo doll (with pins!), and Wassily Chair, a nearly century-old Bauhaus design that exemplifies the modernist aesthetic. They're also offering more traditional merchandise like socks, keychains, and skateboard decks. Prices aren't yet listed, but they're sure to eventually sell for far more than what a non-branded Pyrex measuring cup would set you back.

The collection will be available to purchase in select stores on August 22nd, and online on August 26th. Make sure to pick up the box logo champagne flutes, so you can add a touch of grail to your next dinner party. Steven Orlofsky

2:38 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released another plan on Tuesday. This time around she's focusing on criminal justice reform, in the wake of several of her competitors unveiling similar proposals in recent weeks.

Like the other Democrats, Warren touched on several different topics in the plan, which is determined to reduce mass incarceration and curb recidivism from the ground-up by focusing on the education system, mental health services, and addiction treatment. "It is a false choice choice to suggest a tradeoff between safety and mass incarceration," the plan reads. "By spending our budgets not on imprisonment but on community services that lift people up, we'll decarcerate and make our communities safer."

The proposal takes an indirect shot at former Vice President Joe Biden by calling for the repeal of the 1994 crime bill, which the then-senator backed. Warren argues that the bill "exacerbated" incarceration rates by punishing people severely for minor crimes. The proposal also specifies that the bill's mandatory minimums and "truth-in-sentencing" provisions should be reduced or eliminated, allowing judges more flexibility when making sentencing decisions.

While Warren wants to ax most of the bill, she does concede that certain aspects, such as its section relating to domestic violence, ought to remain in place. Read the full plan here. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads