Critic renews suit over Trump financial disclosure

Donald Trump on stage

President Donald Trump’s latest financial disclosure showed a decline in revenue at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Legal

President Donald Trump is facing a new lawsuit accusing him of obscuring his personal debts by burying them among his businesses’ financial obligations on annual disclosure forms.

The suit, filed Sunday by Washington lawyer Jeffrey Lovitky, is a reprise of a complaint he filed in 2017 leveling similar allegations at Trump. At issue is that the president mixes his personal debts with his businesses’ debts on his disclosure forms, making it impossible to tell how much he personally owes and to whom.

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The earlier suit was dismissed after a district court judge ruled that Trump’s commingling of his personal and business debts was permitted under federal law and regulations.

A federal appeals court panel agreed that the suit was defective, but left open the question of whether Trump’s disclosures were legally acceptable. The D.C. Circuit panel ruled that since the suit challenged a financial disclosure Trump filed as a candidate, when he was not yet president, the case was misframed as one against Trump in his official capacity as president.

Seeking to dodge that obstacle, the new suit zeroes in on personal financial disclosure forms Trump filed last May and earlier this week, after he assumed office.

Lovitky alleges that the forms not only muddle details about Trump’s debts, but prevent the public from learning if one of Trump’s lenders suddenly agrees to relinquish any recourse against Trump for money his companies’ owe.

“Due to the lack of disclosure of personal liabilities, Plaintiff will be unable to evaluate the nature of any changes to those liabilities that may be reflected on any subsequent disclosure statements,” the new suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington says.

“If a lender were to curry the President’s favor by extinguishing his liability for any of the loans identified in the May 2018 report, it would be impossible to detect that information from the President’s subsequent reports, because it is impossible to know which of the liabilities listed on the May 2018 report were personal to the President,” the 21-page complaint adds.

A White House spokesman had no immediate comment on the suit Sunday night.

Trump’s latest financial disclosure, signed Wednesday and released Thursday, showed a decline in revenue at his Mar-a-Lago resort last year to about $22 million, down from about $25 million in 2017. He reported more than $315 million in debts on the new form.

The new suit to clarify Trump’s financial disclosure comes as Democrats in the House are pressing hard for access to information on Trump’s finances and Trump is mounting a full-court press to block those inquiries.

Lovitky also filed a separate suit in 2017 challenging financial disclosure forms filed by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom are also senior advisers to the president. That suit claims that the forms failed to provide sufficient detail on the holdings of various investment vehicles. That case was put on hold while the one against President Trump proceeded.

White House spokespeople have noted that all the forms Lovitky is challenging have been formally approved and certified by the Office of Government Ethics.

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Trump: ‘I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons’

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be ‘united’ on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE said in a Sunday night Fox News interview that he doesn’t want to go to war with Iran but emphasized he will never allow the nation to develop nuclear weapons.

“I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons,” Trump told Fox News host Steve Hilton. “I don’t want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons — you just can’t let that happen.”

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Trump has reportedly grown frustrated with the hardline approach toward Tehran taken by national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonOvernight Defense: Trump rails against media coverage | Calls reporting on Iran tensions ‘highly inaccurate’ | GOP senator blocking Trump pick for Turkey ambassador | Defense bill markup next week Trump: Anonymous news sources are ‘bulls—‘ Trump to Iran: ‘So call me maybe’ MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS warns airlines about flying over Persian Gulf amid Iran tensions Trump: Anonymous news sources are ‘bulls—‘ Iranian official: Trump ‘holding a gun’ while pursuing talks MORE and wishes to negotiate directly with Iranian leaders, but escalated his own rhetoric earlier Sunday afternoon, warning that a military engagement would mean “the official end of Iran.”

Tensions have risen between the two countries in recent weeks, with Bolton announcing a carrier group would be deployed to the Persian Gulf in response to unspecified acts of aggression by Iran, while Iran announced it will scale back some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal on the anniversary of Trump’s announcement the U.S. would withdraw from the deal entirely.

“I ended the Iran nuclear deal, and actually, I must tell you — I had no idea it was going to be as strong as it was. It totally — the country is devastated from the standpoint of the economy,” Trump said Sunday.

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Meeting of California officials descends into physical brawl

A meeting of local government officials from across California dissolved into violence Saturday involving at least seven people, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While law enforcement could not immediately determine who started the fight, Commerce, Calif. Mayor John Soria said in a written statement backed up by several witnesses that the fight involved members of the Commerce City Council as well as other public officials.

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Participants in the fight reportedly also included political consultants, government vendors and Los Angeles-area elected officials, some of whom were attempting to break up the brawl.

Soria said in his statement that he had been told Councilmen Leonard Mendoza and Ivan Altamirano saw their conversation “become elevated,” leading him to try “to defuse any potential conflict,” at which point he saw Mendoza “apparently unconscious” on the floor and Altamirano standing and nursing an apparent facial injury.

Mendoza told the Times Altamirano had interrupted a conversation he was having, leading him to ask Altamirano to step back. “I guess he didn’t like that and it got heated and it got loud,” Mendoza told the newspaper. Mendoza said shortly following the argument, he felt a blow from behind and awoke in the hospital. He said he did not know who struck him.

“I want to be clear in condemning the violent behavior from the individuals who initiated these assaults,” said Soria, who added that he planned to press charges and file a police report. “Once additional information is available, I intend to call on my council colleagues to take appropriate action regarding any individuals that represent the City of Commerce who were involved in the incident.”

The city’s Twitter account confirmed the incident and said it had no further comment as it occurred outside the city’s jurisdiction.

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Buttigieg finds friends on Fox as he calls out ‘grotesque’ Trump attacks

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is one of the few 2020 prominent Democratic presidential candidates to do a Fox News town hall so far. | Jessica Hill/AP Photo

2020 elections

His remarks, at a Fox News town hall, emphasized his unorthodox approach to the 2020 campaign.

Updated

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg shrugged off insults President Donald Trump has lobbed at him over Twitter and in a recent interview, saying he just didn’t care.

The comments by Buttigieg came Sunday evening during a live town hall event in New Hampshire hosted by Fox News’ Chris Wallace on his network. Earlier in the day the president tweeted that “Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in.”

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But Buttigieg said that didn’t get under his skin.

“The tweets are … I don’t care,” Buttigieg said, triggering applause from the audience at Stevens High School. “It’s a very effective way to command the attention of the media and I think that we need to make sure that we’re changing the channel from this show that he’s created. Because what matters — and I get it, look, it’s mesmerizing and hard for anyone to look away. Me too. It is the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away.”

The comments and the the loud applause came during one of the more lively exchanges in the wide-ranging event, which also featured biographical footage of the mayor from Indiana. It also underscored the approach Buttigieg has taken in dealing with Trump and Fox News, an approach that contrasts with some other Democratic presidential candidates.

By appearing on Fox News, Buttigieg — who’s quickly risen from an almost complete unknown to one of the top-tier Democratic 2020 candidates — further introduced himself to an audience that might otherwise not know him.

Buttigieg is one of the few 2020 prominent Democratic presidential candidates to do a Fox News town hall so far, following in the footsteps of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Others, most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have declined to participate in a town hall with the network, which has traditionally been unsympathetic to liberals. The Democratic National Committee has said it will not hold debates on Fox News.

A day before the town hall, Buttigieg sent out a fundraising email titled, “Why I’m going on Fox News” saying: “If we ignore the viewers of Fox News and every news platform that doesn’t share our worldview, we will surrender our ability to speak directly to millions of American voters.”

Buttigieg, in responding to Wallace’s question about Trump’s tweet, generalized the scope of his response.

“Every time that we’re looking at the show and the latest tweet and the latest insult, what we’re not looking at is the fact that we’re the ones trying to get you a raise and they’re the ones blocking it,” Buttigieg said of Democrats working in opposition to the Trump administration.

“We’re the ones trying to preserve your healthcare and they’re the ones trying to take it away,“ Buttigieg said. “We are the ones who are actually prepared to deliver on something like paid family leave and they’re against it. Their positions, as a general rule, are unpopular, and as we focus on what’s going to happen in your life. In other words if we make it less about him or about you, paradoxically, I think that’s actually the best way to defeat him.”

Buttigieg also criticized some of the more prominent hosts on the network.

“The other thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to find people where they are. A lot of folks in my party were critical of me for even doing this. And I get where that’s coming from,” Buttigieg said.

“I mean when you’ve got Tucker Carlson saying immigrants make America dirty … you’ve got Laura Ingraham comparing detention centers with children in cages to summer camps. Summer. Camps. Then there is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media ecosystem.”

To someone who doesn’t regularly watch Fox News, the setting might have been surprising. The audience was receptive to some of the most liberal lines Buttigieg offered and despite some crosstalk between the host and the South Bend mayor, the interactions were fairly cordial.

The discussion also touched on abortion, when Buttigieg was asked how he would protect reproductive rights as president. That question came a few days after Alabama enacted a highly restrictive abortion law that top Republican Party leaders have said goes further in some respects than they would prefer.

Buttigieg, in answering the abortion question, did not refrain from offering his support for abortion rights.

“Being a Democrat with pro-choice values who lives and governs in Indiana I get that there are lots of passionate views on this … Even some of my supporters believe differently than I believe,” Buttigieg said. “But that’s what I believe and I believe that the next president needs to be ready to protect those rights. First of all, and the simplest thing, is appointing judges and justices who recognize that that is part of American freedom. Another is to make sure that we’re not starving America of resources — not just for that kind of reproductive care, abortion care.”

Trump himself, in an interview taped before the town hall on Fox News with Steve Hilton, was asked about Buttigieg running as an openly gay candidate. Trump said he didn’t care about the mayor’s sexuality but still snickered at pronouncing the South Bend mayor’s name.

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Kemp jabs ‘C-list celebrities’ vowing to boycott Georgia over new abortion ban

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Saturday mocked “C-list celebrities” who plan to boycott the state over its recent passage of a controversial “heartbeat” abortion law.

Kemp acknowledged the displeasure some feel toward the new law, which bans abortions in the state after a fetus’s heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. But he told the crowd at the Georgia Republican Convention that lawmakers are “elected to do what’s right,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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“I understand that some folks don’t like this new law. I’m fine with that,” Kemp said Saturday. “We’re elected to do what’s right — and standing up for precious life is always the right thing to do.”

He added that the Republican Party is the “party of freedom and opportunity. We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”

Several Hollywood celebrities have voiced their displeasure with Georgia’s new law, which is set to go into effect Jan. 1, though it is expected to be challenged in court.

Actor Jason Bateman has vowed to refuse to work in Georgia if the law makes it through the court system.

Bateman currently stars in and executive produces shows that are filmed in the state.

Other celebrities have spoken out against the legislation, with many signing a letter vowing to boycott Georgia, including Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Mia Farrow, Christina Applegate and Ben Stiller.

Kemp also used his time Saturday to take shots at the “agenda-driven media” and “talking heads and the Twitter trolls.”

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