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April 16, 2019

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's new boss may have hired him because of his "excellent relationship" with several government departments, but Zinke says there's no conflict at all with him now working for a mining exploration and development company.

"I don't lobby," Zinke told The Associated Press. "I just follow the law, so I don't talk to anybody on the executive side or influence [anyone]." The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of the country's land, water, wildlife, and energy. When Zinke stepped down as secretary in December, he was the subject of several investigations, including one involving his connection to a real estate deal with a company regulated by the Interior Department.

In his new role at Nevada-based U.S. Gold Corp, Zinke is a consultant and board member, earning $100,000 annually. The company's CEO, Edward Karr, told AP he's "excited to have Secretary Zinke move us forward" on two pending mining projects, including one in Nevada on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management; BLM is under the Interior Department.

President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 that prohibits executive-branch appointees from lobbying their former agency for at least five years after exiting the department, AP notes, and there are also criminal statutes banning certain communications between former senior federal officials and their old agencies for one to two years. Catherine Garcia

April 9, 2019

The Trump Organization has been known to hire undocumented workers at its many resorts and hotels. As The New York Times reports, this includes President Trump's "Winter White House," the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, where most of the undocumented workers are from Central American countries and serve as groundskeepers and maintenance workers on the club's golf courses.

But, the Times notes, as the White House ramps up efforts to curb immigration into the U.S., the resort is undergoing a "quiet effort to eliminate" its undocumented workforce. Several of these workers said they had worked at the resort and other golf courses for multiple years and were once employed directly by the Trump properties. However, the Trump Organization recently started transferring those work crews to a staffing company in West Palm Beach, which has been subsequently firing them.

The Times reports that in late February, Jeff Payer, the superintendent of Trump's favorite golf course, Jupiter, called seven maintenance workers who said they did not have legal immigration papers into his office. Payer reportedly told them they were being transferred to Barnett Management, but that they would keep their jobs. Yet by early March, a Barnett representative told the employees that only those with the proper paperwork could stay.

Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

January 25, 2019

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday declined to answer a key question about the indictment of the president's longtime adviser, Roger Stone, insisting the whole thing has nothing to do with President Trump.

Stone's indictment released Friday alleges that in July 2016, a senior official in the Trump campaign "was directed" to contact Stone to find out whether WikiLeaks, which Stone had an intermediary with, would be publishing more hacked emails that would damage the Hillary Clinton campaign after the initial release of hacked emails from Democratic officials. This left open the question of whether it may have been Trump himself who directed the move.

But in an interview with CNN on Friday, Sanders argued that Stone's indictment has "nothing to do with the president." When asked whether Trump directed anyone to contact Stone, Sanders declined to answer, saying, "I'm not an attorney" and repeating that "the specific charges that have been brought against Mr. Stone don't have anything to do with the President.”

CNN's John Berman asked this question twice more in two different ways, but Sanders continued to dodge it. Watch Sanders' appearance on CNN below. Brendan Morrow

January 18, 2019

The bombshell BuzzFeed News story suggesting President Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress barely got any coverage on Fox News Friday morning — other than when a Trump ally came on to dismiss the source.

Former congressman Newt Gingrich laughed through a Fox & Friends interview, dismissing BuzzFeed as the "equivalent of those tabloids you buy at the grocery store on the way out that introduce you to Martians and tell you the story of three stars who had anguished lives that you never knew about."

Gingrich also said that the allegations in the story could not possibly be true because Trump would not be "dumb enough" to lie to Congress.

The Fox & Friends hosts themselves didn't really talk about the story much. As Media Matters' Bobby Lewis points out, the story didn't even get mentioned until more than 40 minutes into the show. It came up as part of a brief news report, which was framed entirely around Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's response. Giuliani had questioned the report's accuracy by suggesting Michael Cohen shouldn't be believed, even though Cohen wasn't actually the story's source.

During their interview with Gingrich, though, the hosts certainly didn't sound like they were giving the story much credence, with Steve Doocy asking "who are these law enforcement officials" quoted in the story. Doocy also emphasized that the reporter "never actually saw with his own two eyes ... that material." Watch a portion of the Gingrich interview below. Brendan Morrow

December 13, 2018

President Trump on Thursday attempted to downplay the significance of his former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen's three year prison sentence.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump claimed that Cohen only did "very low-level work" for him and that he did "more public relations than he did law." Trump also repeated the defense he mounted on Twitter earlier in the day: that he "never directed" Cohen "to do anything wrong" and that if Cohen violated the law, that's his fault. But Trump contends the campaign finance charges against Cohen were not criminal and that they were brought "to embarrass me."

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday in part for violating campaign finance laws by arranging for the National Enquirer's publisher to "catch and kill" a woman's story about an alleged affair with Trump; the tabloid's publisher says this was done for the express purpose of protecting the Trump campaign. But Trump told Fox News that he doesn't "think" a payment was ever actually made to the National Enquirer; he can be heard in a recording discussing the payment with Cohen.

Trump's attempt to paint Cohen, who was his personal lawyer for over a decade, as a "low-level" employee brings to mind his similar dismissal of Paul Manafort after the former campaign chairman was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. "He worked for me for a very short period of time," Trump said of Manafort at the time, per Reuters.

Trump also said that he usually hires "very good people" but that in the case of Cohen, hiring him was a "mistake." Watch Trump's interview with Fox News below. Brendan Morrow

October 30, 2018

President Trump has a brand new explanation for the stock market's recent turmoil: It's just because of the midterm elections. Oh, and probably the Democrats.

In a tweet Tuesday, Trump assured the nation that the stock market is just "taking a little pause" right now after rising "massively" since he was elected. Stocks have, in fact, been struggling recently, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite all dropping between six and 10 percent in October, reports CNBC.

So why is this happening? Experts point to rising interest rates and trade tensions with China, but Trump suggests it's just because "people want to see what happens with the Midterms." He also "strongly" recommended those who want their stocks to go down to vote for Democrats, setting himself up nicely to continue blaming his political opponents after they likely gain some power next week.

In a second tweet, Trump quoted a strategist for Wells Fargo, who said that the S&P would quickly recover if "the Fed backs off and starts talking a little more Dovish." The president previously complained that the Federal Reserve had "gone crazy" when it raised interest rates and said he's "very unhappy with the Fed because Obama had zero interest rates.” Brendan Morrow

October 19, 2018

President Trump received plenty of criticism for celebrating a congressman's assault on a reporter, but Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is standing by him.

On Friday, Scalise, who survived a politically-motivated shooting in 2017, said "it's obvious" Trump was not "encouraging his supporters to engage in attacks" during his Thursday night rally. The president had heaped praise on Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who in 2017 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for body-slamming a journalist. Although Gianforte has since apologized, Trump seemed to approve, saying, "any guy that can do a body-slam ... he's my guy." He also gleefully pointed out that Gianforte's assault may have helped him win his election.

Now, Scalise says that Trump was "clearly ribbing" Gianforte for the incident, claiming that "not one [Trump supporter] harassed the numerous media reporters who were present." He also argued that it's "irresponsible" for the media to equate comments like Trump's with Democrats "regularly using threatening rhetoric to call on their supporters to harass Trump officials, supporters, and Republican members and candidates."

Scalise criticized former Attorney General Eric Holder for saying, "when [Republicans] go low, we kick them," calling this a "dangerous call to action." He has, however, also sometimes criticized violent rhetoric from Republicans, saying that a GOP gubernatorial candidate's threat to "stomp" on his opponent "with golf spikes" was "totally unacceptable."

The White House Correspondents' Association said that "all Americans should recoil" from Trump's comments about Gianforte's assault, but Scalise is completely certain that they were nothing more than "a joke at a rally." Brendan Morrow

October 3, 2018

John McAfee, the man who created the first antivirus software, became a "person of interest" in a murder in Belize, and has lived a generally off-the-walls life, is running for president. And he's got an eyepatch-wearing campaign manager to prove it.

McAfee previously ran as a Libertarian candidate for president in 2016, campaigning on the premise that "we are adults in a world full of mystery," per his clip-art-filled platform ad. He has since spent the past two years spewing cheap wine reviews and a truly mixed bag of ideas on Twitter. On Wednesday he tweeted to affirm that he is running again, and that the "constant warrior" Rob Loggia would be his campaign manager.

One look at this eyepatched man, and you're surely intrigued. (We're pretty sure the eyepatch is aesthetic since Loggia isn't wearing it in his profile picture.) Perhaps you'd also like to know that McAfee is seeking the conspiracy-theory peddling "Q" as his running mate. Or that "no sane person" believes McAfee could become president — not even McAfee himself. He's doing this "to promote what I believe is the only thing that can save us: The Blockchain," McAfee tweeted.

And if, by "one chance in a trillion," McAfee is elected, he says he won't stick around. McAfee tweeted Tuesday that he'd "stand down" and let Vermin Supreme — the legal name of the guy with a boot on his head who ran on a "free ponies for everyone" platform in 2016 — take over the job. Kathryn Krawczyk

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