Day 791: Alternative means.
1/ Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump used WhatsApp and personal email accounts to conduct official government business, according to Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In a letter, Cummings accused the White House of “obstructing the committee’s investigation into allegations of violations of federal records laws” and potential breaches of national security. He said he’d give the White House a final chance to “voluntarily” comply with his investigation into the use of private email accounts by Kushner, Ivanka, and other White House officials before resorting to “alternative means” to obtain the information requested. Kushner’s lawyer told the committee in December that his client had used WhatsApp for official business, but that he was not in violation of the Presidential Records Act because he took screenshots of his communications and forwarded them to his White House email account or to the National Security Council. CNN and the Wall Street Journal previously reported that Kushner had communicated with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman using WhatsApp. The panel also obtained documents showing that former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and Steve Bannon conducted official business using personal accounts. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Bloomberg / Politico)
- Seven members of Trump’s team have used unofficial personal email accounts for official government business: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Stephen Miller, Gary Cohn, Stephen Bannon, K.T. McFarland and Reince Priebus. (Washington Post)
2/ The former owner of a Florida spa involved in a prostitution investigation claimed she didn’t sell access to Trump. Cindy Yang says the allegations that she is a Chinese agent are false, and that she believes she is being persecuted because of her ethnicity and political party. “I’m Chinese. I’m Republican,” she said. “That’s the reason the Democrats want to check me.” She also said that she hasn’t had any contact with members of the Chinese government since she moved to the United States 20 years ago. (NBC News)
3/ Trump wants Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the White House celebrating the team’s Super Bowl victory despite Kraft’s recent arrest on charges of soliciting prostitution at a Florida massage parlor. White House aides are worried that it could turn a photo op into an embarrassing media spectacle. (Politico / New York Times)
4/ Trump charged his own reelection campaign $1.3 million for rent, food, lodging and other expenses at Trump-owned properties since taking office. Federal regulations allow candidates to put campaign money into their own businesses only if they pay going rates. (Forbes)
5/ Trump signed an executive order that would deny colleges some federal research and education grants if they failed to comply with free speech standards outlined by the administration. Trump cited complaints by conservatives who allege their views are suppressed on campuses, and that speakers are sometimes assaulted or silenced when protesters threaten violence. Earlier this month, Trump said he would issue an executive order “requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars.” Details about the policy and how it would work remain unclear. The White House says Trump will sign the order and make a statement about “improving free inquiry, transparency and accountability on campus” this afternoon. (Politico / ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)
poll/ 36% of American support impeaching Trump – down 7 percentage points since December. Support had been as high as 47% last fall. (CNN)
poll/ 78% of Republicans who watch Fox News say Trump is the most successful president in history, compared to 49% of Republicans who do not watch Fox News. 79% of Republican Fox News viewers said they believe the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies were trying to sabotage Trump, compared to 49% of non-Fox News viewing Republicans. (Daily Beast)
There is no longer a single Republican in the House that is considered a supporter of abortion rights, following the retirements of Charlie Dent and Rodney Frelinghuysen. In the Senate, only Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins remain as supporters of abortion rights. (Wall Street Journal)
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has reportedly released hundreds of migrants from detention facilities along the southern border in Texas due to severe overcrowding. At least 250 migrants were released on Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials say the releases are necessary due to the recent influx of migrants from Central America. Immigrant advocates said the releases are meant to sow confusion at the border to help make the case for Trump’s national emergency declaration. (Los Angeles Times / The Hill)
The Florida man who sent pipe bombs to Trump’s political enemies pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court. Cesar Sayoc’s change-of-plea hearing was made public last week after a conference call between prosecutors, a judge, and Sayoc’s attorneys. By pleading guilty, Sayoc will avoid his trial, which was scheduled for July. Sayoc has been held without bail since he was arrested in late October outside of a South Florida auto parts store. Sayoc faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. (Reuters / Bloomberg / Politico / NBC News / CBS News)
Trump announced that ISIS would be “gone by tonight,” presenting two maps showing before-and-after photos of the Islamic State territory that he said proved that he’s had done more to eradicate the extremists than Obama had. (ABC News / New York Times)
The Department of Defense Inspector General is investigating the acting Secretary of Defense over reported bias for Boeing. A spokesperson for the IG’s office said they have “decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules.” Shanahan said during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supported an investigation into the issue, so the IG’s office “informed him that we have initiated this investigation.” (Politico)
In a shift in decades-long American policy, Trump announced that “it is time” for the U.S. to “fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty” over the Golan Heights, one of the world’s most disputed territories. The international community has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the territory that it captured in 1967. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
📓 Mueller Watch: Your guide to the conclusion of the Mueller probe. (NBC News / Politico / USA Today)
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