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RNC paid Trump campaign Trump Tower rent after paying legal bills

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“This is permissible and it’s being reported properly, but why they are doing it is a mystery,” said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “One would think the RNC could be spending their money more effectively right now on the 2018 campaign, rather than spending it to pay Trump’s rent.”

So far, the party has spent more than $290,000 to cover the Trump campaign’s expenses since September, the first month it paid the Trump Tower rent or Pence’s salary. Before then, both expenses had been paid directly by the Trump campaign.

Then, in late September, the RNC abruptly began paying them both, and still does, according to financial disclosure forms released this week.

On Sept. 19, CNN reported that the RNC had paid $230,000 in August to two lawyers representing Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The lawyers, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, were paid through their law firms using money from a special RNC legal fund, the RNC disclosed in a subsequent filing.

CNN also reported that the party spent $196,000 in early September on lawyers for Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who was facing questions about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russians who reportedly promised him dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The August payments were disclosed by the RNC in a mandatory FEC report released Sept. 20. At the time, the party publicly defended its decision to pay Trump’s lawyers with RNC funds. But privately, officials debated whether this was a proper use of the legal defense fund, which was originally intended to help pay for things like vote recounts, according to news reports.

After a final payment on Sept. 18 to lawyers for Trump Jr., the RNC quietly stopped paying those attorneys and Dowd and Sekulow.

On Sept. 27, one week after the FEC report was made public, the RNC paid the Trump campaign’s rent for the first time, according to the party’s monthly disclosure. The initial amount, $75,083.34, was twice the monthly rate and appears to cover the rent for both September and October. John Pence had begun receiving a paycheck from the RNC on Sept. 15, before the first FEC report was released, but after it had been finalized and submitted, according to the same filing.

Below is the FEC’s original record of the first rent payment the RNC made to Trump Tower.

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Here’s why the market may be wrong about the Federal Reserve and interest rates

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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Source: NYSE

Monday’s aggressive stock market rally came despite the fears of one Wall Street firm that investors still aren’t appreciating how quickly the Federal Reserve could start raising rates.

After getting hammered in the final three trading days last week, Wall Street came roaring back with a move that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 1.5%.

“The market is getting back to its comfortable mode,” Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic advisor at Allianz, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Growth is strong. They still believe inflation is transitory. They believe the Fed is going to be relatively slow in tapering [monthly asset purchases], and that’s why you’re seeing” stocks higher.

That sanguine view of Fed policy is a mistake, according to Bank of America credit strategist Hans Mikkelsen.

Last week’s Federal Open Market Committee concluded with officials indicating they now see two rate increases coming as soon as 2023, more quickly than the market had been anticipating.

But Mikkelsen’s view is that tighter monetary policy may come even sooner.

“Expect the Fed to soon begin tapering its [quantitative easing] purchases, and to start hiking interest rates earlier than expected – and most importantly much faster than currently priced in markets,” he said in a note to clients.

The bank’s analysis noted the committee was only “two dots,” or the projections of two members of the 18-person committee, away from pulling the first rate increase into 2022. The panel split evenly on whether rates should move next year, while eight members saw as many as three hikes for 2023.

Taken collectively, the members’ sentiment about where policy should go offered a significant deviation from what has been a historically easy Fed.

Mikkelsen said the credit market, which sent rates sharply lower despite the hawkish Fed, is misjudging which way the central bank is heading. From the market’s perspective, it is seeing just a 41% chance that the Fed hikes rates by July 2022, according to the CME’s FedWatch tracker.

“The key mispricing in the rates market, as our rates strategists continue to point out, is not the taper, not the timing of the first rate hike, but the pace of hikes from that point on, which is way too shallow compared with normal hiking cycles in the past,” he wrote.

Mikkelsen pointed out that the Fed in effect has already begun tapering with its moves to unwind the small portfolio of corporate bonds it purchased during the Covid-19 pandemic. That move, “which was 100% unexpected as the Fed has a poor track record selling assets – was a signal the Fed increasingly feels emboldened to exit their super-easy monetary policy stance, even if that means defying market expectations.”

Changes in the Fed

For their part, Fed officials are indicating the landscape indeed is shifting, as reflected in the dot-plot projections released Wednesday.

New York Fed President John Williams, in a speech Monday, reflected the consensus view when he said he views inflation as transitory and Fed policy as appropriate given the current and expected conditions.

“It’s clear that the economy is improving at a rapid rate, and the medium-term outlook is very good. But the data and conditions have not progressed enough for the FOMC to shift its monetary policy stance of strong support for the economic recovery,” Williams said in prepared remarks.

But within the Fed, opinions are diverging.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard jolted the market Friday when he told CNBC he was one of the FOMC members who thinks a rate hike in 2022 would be appropriate. Bullard is not a voter this year but will be one next year.

But Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Monday he is more focused on reducing the pace of bond purchases – tapering – for now, and sees the rates question as one to be answered another day.

“I would rather see us act sooner rather than later on asset purchases, then we’ll make a decision down the road in 2022 and beyond about the additional steps that are necessary,” said Kaplan, who appeared jointly with Bullard for a discussion presented by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. “But I think the issue on the table today and in the near term is the timing and adjustment of these purchases.”

Both officials noted the progress the economy has made and see reason that the inflation that has arisen in recent months may be a little stickier than the Fed had anticipated.

“The supply-demand imbalances, some of them we think will resolve themselves in the next six to 12 months,” Kaplan said. “But again some of them we think are likely to be more persistent, driven by a number of structural changes in the economy.”

For example, he cited changes in the energy industry – a key component of Kaplan’s district – toward sustainable power as contributing to longer-lasting inflationary pressures.

Bullard spoke of the evolving labor market as an important consideration for future Fed policy.

“We have to be ready for the idea that there’s upside risks to inflation,” he said. “Certainly, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that this is a very tight labor market.”

If those inflationary pressures are hotter than Fed officials think, it would force them into tightening policy faster than they would like. That would hit the stock market and broader economy, both of which are dependent on lower rates.

A tight Fed would drive up borrowing costs for a government that has been on a spending binge over the past year and wants to do even more with infrastructure.

“Right now, inflation is transitory. But if you overlay that with significant further stimulus, then you run the risk of making something transitory permanent,” Natixis chief economist for the Americas Joe LaVorgna said. “So, you’re in a really tricky spot. I think the Fed’s best approach is to say less.”

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Man City make transfer bid for Tottenham striker

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Harry Kane of England scores a penalty in a shootout at the end of extra time during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Colombia and England at Spartak Stadium on July 3, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. 

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Manchester City have made a £100m bid for Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

City are open to including players in addition to the cash offer, but Tottenham are expected to reject the bid.

Sky Sports News exclusively reported last month that Kane had told Spurs he wanted to leave this summer with Man City, Manchester United and Chelsea interested.

Kane is valued at upwards of £120m and Tottenham keen to keep him despite the 27-year-old believing he has a gentleman’s agreement with Daniel Levy.

The England captain is said to be fully focused on the Euros, with a decision on his club future not expected before the conclusion of the tournament.

Man City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said after last month’s Champions League final that the club will be “competitive and aggressive” this summer, and are aiming to strengthen by bringing “quality to the squad in a couple of key positions”.

The Premier League champions’ priority is to replace Sergio Aguero, with Kane being considered along with Erling Haaland, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Man City begin their Premier League title defense by travelling to Tottenham on August 15, live on Sky Sports.

Kane insists that neither a lack of fitness nor speculation over his future at Tottenham have been the reasons for his disappointing start to Euro 2020.

Kane was substituted in England’s opening win over Croatia and their underwhelming 0-0 draw with Scotland following below-par performances in both games.

His displays have come as a surprise given he enjoyed an impressive season with Spurs, topping the Premier League charts for goals and assists, despite his club’s struggles.

And while he did sustain a couple of ankle injuries during the campaign, he returned from the most recent of those nearly two months ago, and was a regular for Spurs until the end of the season.

Kane won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup – a factor that has only added to expectations on him at Euro 2020 – and although he admits he became fatigued in Russia three years ago, he says that is not the problem this time around.

“Gareth [Southgate] is within his rights to make the changes he thinks are best for the team,” Kane told The Guardian when asked for his reaction to being replaced in both of England’s games so far.

“What we’ve learned over past tournaments is about trying to peak at the right time. The best time to be peaking is in the knockout stages and hopefully kick on from there.

“Maybe in Russia there were times, towards the quarter and semi-final, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. In the end we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, maybe partly for that reason.

“It’s about managing the squad, making sure everyone is feeling as fit and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a tough couple of games and it’s about making sure I’m right for the rest of them.

“I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest.”

Although Kane was one of the standout players in the Premier League during the 2020/21 season, Spurs endured a difficult campaign, finishing seventh in the table, without a trophy or a manager, having sacked Jose Mourinho in April.

The club was also rocked by the news that Kane had told them he wanted to leave this summer due to their failure to regularly compete for – and win – trophies.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all understood to be keen on signing the striker but, despite his future promising to be one of the main plotlines of this summer’s transfer window, Kane says it is not affecting his international performances.

“Absolutely not,” he insisted. “All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament.

“I understand from a media point of view there is speculation, but I am fully focused on the job here.”

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Belarus sanctioned after diversion of Ryanair flight to arrest journalist

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In this Sunday, March 26, 2017 file photo, Belarus police detain journalist Raman Pratasevich, center, in Minsk, Belarus.

Sergei Grits | AP

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration slapped a slew of sanctions against Belarus on Monday amid Western fury over the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to arrest an opposition journalist.

Last month, a passenger plane flying from Greece to Lithuania was suddenly diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The Ryanair flight was escorted to Minsk by a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet. Upon landing, authorities arrested opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

The extraordinary diversion of a commercial airliner was described by some European Union leaders as a “hijacking.” The 27-nation bloc swiftly imposed sanctions against Belarus that included banning its airlines from using airspace and airports within the European Union.

The State Department has now followed suit, imposing sanctions on 46 Belarusian officials for their involvement in the arrest of Protasevich. In addition, Treasury announced sanctions on 16 individuals and five entities.

“These steps are also in response to the continuing repression in Belarus, including attacks on human rights, democratic processes, and fundamental freedoms,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a Monday statement, adding that the sanctions were aligned with Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

“These coordinated designations demonstrate the steadfast transatlantic commitment to supporting the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations,” Blinken wrote.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a stalwart defender of Russian President Vladimir Putin, faced widespread calls for resignation following a disputed election that returned him to a sixth term. The almost daily protests rocked Belarus for nearly three months.

“The persons designated today have harmed the people of Belarus through their activities surrounding the fraudulent August 9, 2020, presidential election in Belarus and the ensuing brutal crackdown on protesters, journalists, members of the opposition, and civil society,” Treasury wrote in a statement.

Members of the Belarus diaspora and Ukrainian activists burn white and red smoke grenades during a rally in support of Belarus people protesting vote rigging in the presidential election, outside the Belarusian embassy in Kiev on August 13, 2020.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Those sanctioned by the United States on Monday include some of Lukashenko’s closest associates: his press secretary Natallia Eismant and former chief of staff Natallia Kachanava who currently serves as his presidential envoy to Minsk, Mikalai Karpiankou, Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and the current commander of the Belarusian police force and Belarus’ prosecutor-general Andrei Shved.

The U.S. also imposed sanctions on the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus, also known as the Belarusian KGB.

“The Belarusian KGB has detained, intimidated, and otherwise pressured the opposition, to include Pratasevich,” Treasury wrote in a statement, adding that the organization upped its offenses following the fraudulent 2020 election of Lukashenko.

Treasury also sanctioned the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, a Belarusian police force, for the violent suppression of peaceful protesters since the 2020 presidential election. 

The sanctions against Belarus, a Russian ally, come on the heels of President Joe Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart in Switzerland, where the two agreed to resume nuclear talks and return their ambassadors to their foreign posts.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the U.S. was prepping additional sanctions against Russia over Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment.

“We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday program. “It will come as soon as we have developed the packages to ensure that we are getting the right targets,” he added.

Concern over Navalny’s imprisonment and worsening health condition is the latest drumbeat in the already tense relations between Moscow and the West.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Moscow City Court | Reuters

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