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White House to add staff for impeachment response

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is bringing former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and ex-Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh on board to help bring structure to the White House’s often chaotic response to the House impeachment inquiry.

Trump has played down the need for additional help on impeachment, calling any such effort unnecessary. “I don’t have teams, everyone is talking about teams,” he said late last month. “I am the team. I did nothing wrong.”

But the White House has struggled to find a coordinated messaging response on impeachment as polls have shown a growing number of Americans supporting Trump’s removal from office. Democrats are planning to start the first public hearings next week.

Trump’s allies in Congress have long encouraged him to bring on a dedicated team to help with the process, as President Bill Clinton’s staff did when he was impeached.

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“They were on message every day,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said of the Clinton White House.

Bondi, a former prosecutor and lobbyist, was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, and the president has said in the past he has considered adding her to his administration.

Tony Sayegh left the Treasury Department in June.Erica Canepa / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Sayegh, who was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s spokesman until June, helped the White House manage the messaging around passing tax reform, seen as one of the key legislative successes of the administration, ingratiated himself with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. White House advisers, including Kushner who pushed for his hiring, are now hoping Sayegh can do the same around the thus far disorganized response to impeachment.

At Treasury, Sayegh gave himself the nickname “tax man” and even had the cafeteria change his name on his seating place cards to read Tony “tax man” Sayegh in a Trump-style branding effort, according to an administration official.

A few months after leaving the Treasury Department, Sayegh joined the consulting firm Teneo, a move that raised eyebrows among some administration officials because of Teneo’s ties to the Clintons — it was founded by a former lawyer for Bill Clinton and an economic envoy for Northern Ireland under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bondi joined lobbying firm Ballard Partners in January, where one of her clients was the Embassy of Qatar. A person familiar with Bondi’s lobbying arrangement said she would be leaving Ballard Partners and stop working on all her current client accounts as of early next week.

It could be several weeks before she joins the White House, the person said, adding that her background check isn’t yet complete. That person said Bondi is currently expected to only be at the White House for four months, though she could ultimately stay through the re-election campaign.

Sayegh’s assignment at the White House is also expected to be a temporary one.

The move raises possible ethics questions about whether there will need to be a firewall between Sayegh and Bondi’s private sector work and White House work. Trump administration officials are supposed to be banned for five years from lobbying any agency they worked for — and restricted from having contact with the White House for a year after they leave — under an executive order Trump signed in his first days in office, though the administration has granted many exemptions to current staffers.

Josh Lederman and Carol E. Lee contributed.



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EU rejected: Scottish taxpayers to no longer foot cost of free uni tuition for EU students

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SCOTTISH taxpayers will stop funding university places for students from the EU after Brexit, it has been announced today.

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'What if Corbyn was in charge?' Ex-Labour leader shamed as 'red wall' voters praise Sunak

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JEREMY CORBYN has been left red-faced after ‘red wall’ voters in the north of England heaped praise on Rishi Sunak after the Chancellor’s interventions to help the UK out of the economic crisis likely to be caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Trump rages over Supreme Court decisions involving his financial records

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President Donald Trump assailed a pair of Supreme Court rulings on Thursday pertaining to his personal financial records in a Twitter rant that called the decisions “not fair.”

In a rambling series of tweets, Trump attacked Democrats and his predecessor former President Barack Obama, arguing he is being unfairly targeted while others don’t face scrutiny.

The decisions were not a clear-cut loss for Trump, who is unlikely to be forced into disclosing his tax returns before voters weigh his reelection bid in November, but the court also refused to side with his argument that the presidency offers him protection from investigation.

“This is all a political prosecution” Trump tweeted. “I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”

“Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference,'” he added. “BUT NOT ME!”

The tweets came after the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision — in which the majority was joined by Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — that the president is not immune from the Manhattan District Attorney’s efforts to obtain his taxes as part of an investigation into hush payments to two women. In another 7-2 decision, the court also left open the potential for House Democrats to obtain his financial records from the Trump Organization’s accounting firm and two banks.

Trump waged a coast-to-coast legal battle to keep his tax information private in the months leading up to Thursday’s Supreme Court rulings. While presidential candidates have traditionally released his or her tax returns over the past few decades, it is not required by law, and though he said he would make public the information during his 2016 run, Trump ultimately became the first major-party nominee in four decades to not do so.

The cases will now return to lower courts and the rulings do not mean the president’s tax information will become public imminently. It’s unlikely the cases will be settled before Election Day this coming November.

The president, however, unloaded on the high court in a subsequent tweetstorm.

Complaining that Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden are not under investigation while he has been under investigations for years, Trump said the Supreme Court “gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President.”

“This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT,” he added.

In the majority ruling on Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s efforts to obtain the documents, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that in the U.S. judicial system, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence.”

“Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” he said. “We reaffirm that principle today.”

Roberts said the court could not accept Trump’s argument that he holds absolute immunity from criminal investigation as president. Roberts said Trump still enjoys the same protections as any other citizen, “including the right to challenge the subpoena on any grounds permitted by state law, which usually include bad faith and undue burden or breadth.”

The Supreme Court had unanimously ruled decades ago that presidents are not beyond the reach of the Judiciary while in office in a pair cases involving former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Attorneys representing Trump had argued in the New York case that a sitting president cannot be criminally investigated even if he were to shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York City. In the case involving congressional oversight, Trump’s team argued that Congress can only issue a subpoena for a legitimate legislative purpose.

As for why he hasn’t made his returns public like predecessors and rivals, Trump has cited ongoing audits — which take place annually as president — as reason to keep the documents secret.

“We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the president’s financial records,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.”

Vance called the ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law.”

“Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead,” he added.

Democrats offered quick responses claiming victory.

“A careful reading of the Supreme Court rulings related to the president’s financial records is not good news for President Trump,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

“The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, as it asks for further information from the Congress,” she added.

Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, renewed his call for Trump to release his tax records, pointing to his own disclosure of 21 years worth of returns.

“Mr. President, even Richard Nixon released his tax returns,” Biden added. “Mr. President, release your tax returns or shut up.”

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the rulings “reaffirm a bedrock principle in our democracy: no one — not even the president — is above the law.”

“I am disappointed that the court remanded our case to the lower court for a review under a new standard for subpoenas for presidential papers, but I am confident our committee ultimately will prevail,” she added.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “dubious legal arguments advanced” by Trump “were properly rejected by the court.”

“We remain confident that we will ultimately prevail,” he said. “And in light of the president’s tweets this morning, he appears to believe the same.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio and the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the rulings “sadly will not end the Democrats’ partisan obsession.”

“Americans around the country deserve better than the Democrats’ never-ending political games,” he said.

And Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. and the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said the Supreme Court ruling pertaining to congressional oversight will allow for the House to “stop wasting time and money on political escapades that help no Americans but serve solely to help Democrats maintain their grip on power.”



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