Posts tagged with "Mar-a-Lago"

DOJ issues 40 subpoenas in a week—expanding its January 6 inquiry

September 14, 2022

Justice Department officials have seized the phones of two top advisers to former President Donald Trump and blanketed his aides with about 40 subpoenas in a substantial escalation of the investigation into his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the inquiry, reports The New York Times.

The seizure of the phones—coupled with a widening effort to obtain information from those around Trump after the 2020 election—represent some of the most aggressive steps the department has taken thus far in its criminal investigation into the actions that led to the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The extent of the investigation has come into focus in recent days, even though it often has been overshadowed by the government’s legal clash with Trump and his lawyers over a separate inquiry into the handling of presidential records—including highly classified materials, the former president kept at his residence in Florida, the Mar-a-Lago Club.

Federal agents with court-authorized search warrants took phones last week from at least two people: Boris Epshteyn, an in-house counsel who helps coordinate Trump’s legal efforts; and Mike Roman, a campaign strategist who was the director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign in 2020, people familiar with the investigation said.

Epshteyn and Roman have been linked to a critical element of Trump’s bid to hold onto power—the effort to name slates of electors pledged Trump from swing states won by Joe Biden in 2020 as part of a plan to block or delay congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Epshteyn and Roman did not respond to requests for comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The names of those receiving the latest round of subpoenas in the investigation related to January 6 have dribbled out gradually, with investigators casting a wide net on a range of issues, including Trump’s postelection fund-raising and the so-called fake electors scheme.

One of the recipients, people familiar with the case said, was Dan Scavino, Trump’s former social media director who rose from working at a Trump-owned golf course to become one of his most loyal West Wing aides, and has remained an adviser since Trump left office. Stanley Woodward, one of Scavino’s lawyers, declined to comment.

Another was Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. Kerik, who promoted claims of voter fraud alongside his friend Rudy Giuliani, was issued a subpoena by prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., his lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said on Monday, September 12. Parlatore said his client had initially offered to grant an interview voluntarily.

The subpoenas seek information in connection with the fake electors plan.

For months, Trump associates have received subpoenas related to other aspects of the investigations into his efforts to cling to power. But in a new line of inquiry, some of the latest subpoenas focus on the activities of the Save America political action committee, the main political fund-raising conduit for Trump since he left office.

The fact that the Justice Department is now seeking information related to fund-raising comes as the House committee examining the January 6 attack has raised questions about money Trump solicited under the premise of fighting election fraud.

The new subpoenas encompass a wide variety of those in Mr. Trump’s orbit, from low-level aides to his most senior advisers.

The Justice Department has spent more than a year focused on investigating hundreds of rioters who were on the ground at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But this spring, it started issuing grand jury subpoenas to people like Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer with the pro-Trump Stop the Steal group, who helped plan the march to the Capitol after Mr. Trump gave a speech that day at the Ellipse near the White House.

While it remains unclear how many subpoenas had been issued in that early round, the information they sought was broad.

According to one subpoena obtained by The New York Times, they asked for any records or communications from people who organized, spoke at, or provided security for Trump’s rally at the Ellipse. They also requested information about any members of the executive and legislative branches who may have taken part in planning or executing the rally, or tried to “obstruct, influence, impede, or delay” the certification of the presidential election.

By early summer, the grand jury investigation had taken another turn, as several subpoenas were issued to state lawmakers and state Republican officials allied with Trump who took part in a plan to create fake slates of pro-Trump electors in several key swing states that Biden actually won.

At least 20 of these subpoenas were sent out and sought information about, and communications with, several lawyers who took part in the fake elector scheme, including Giuliani and John Eastman.

Around the same time, federal investigators seized Eastman’s cellphone and the phone of another lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump had sought at one point to install as the acting attorney general. Clark had his own role in the fake elector scheme: In December 2020, he helped draft a letter to Governor Brian Kemp (R) of Georgia, saying that the state’s election results had been marred by fraud and recommending that Kemp convene a special session of the Georgia Legislature to create a slate of pro-Trump electors.

At least some of the new subpoenas also requested all records that the recipients had turned over to the House January 6 committee, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Research contact: @nytimes

Justice Department’s scathing response: Trump brought this on himself; he had it coming

Sepember 1, 2022

The Department of Justice revealed on Tuesday night, August 30, that it only started criminally investigating former President Donald Trump after he lied about keeping “top secret” documents at his oceanside Florida mansion—including three highly classified records inside his personal desk—and had some presidential papers moved around and torn up, reports The Daily Beast.

Had Trump simply turned the documents over to the National Archives when the agency asked for them back last year, the FBI might never have gotten access to them, the DOJ explained.

The DOJ came out swinging against Trump in a scathing court filing to block him from getting his stuff back from the Mar-a-Lago search by stating flatly that “those records do not belong to him.”

In the 36-page document, the DOJ argued that Trump lacks any ability to even ask for a federal judge to step in and oversee the seizure of sensitive documents that were kept unsecured at Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Florida.

The DOJ also revealed why Trump is being investigated for violating a federal law that prohibits destroying government records, cited as 18 U.S. Code § 2071.

Federal prosecutors claim that recovered documents showed that “certain pages of presidential records had been torn up,” a crime that pivotally bars anyone from ever again holding a political office in the United States.

Federal prosecutors disclosed that Trump was under investigation for yet another crime, obstruction of justice, cited as 18 U.S.C. § 1519, because the feds “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the [Mar-a-Lago] storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

For example, FBI special agents who conducted the search three weeks ago claim they found three classified documents in desks at the so-called “45 Office” in another section of the mansion—alongside two of his expired passports—despite the fact that Trump and his lawyers had sworn they wouldn’t be there.

Trump, represented by a team of defense attorneys who have been criticized for their ineptitude, according to The Daily Beast, waited a whopping two weeks after the FBI raid at his Palm Beach estate to sue and ask for a judge to appoint a “special master” to oversee federal agents’ handling of the records they seized.

On Tuesday night, the DOJ responded by arguing that the Presidential Records Act of 1978 “makes clear” that the government “has complete ownership, possession, and control” of those documents and the former president can’t just ask for them back—or dictate how they should be handled.

Trump currently is under investigation by the FBI for putting the nation’s security at risk by mishandling “top secret” government records. For more than a year, his office had been in negotiations with the National Archives over the way he took more than a dozen boxes of presidential records from the White House to his private estate—instead of turning them over to the nation’s archivists for proper preservation.

In recent days, the looming threat of an unprecedented prosecution of a former president has prompted his allies—even prominent Republicans, among them, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—to threaten nationwide violence and even civil war.

Trump sued the federal government in South Florida federal court, and U.S. District Judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon asked the DOJ to respond, hence Tuesday’s filing.

The scathing arguments laid out in the court filing—signed by top Miami federal prosecutor Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Jay I. Bratt, chief of the DOJ National Security Division’s counterintelligence and export control section—take the most aggressive tone by the DOJ yet against the former president. From the get-go, it counters the disinformation and politicizing that Trump has engaged in through public statements on social media that also bled into his lawsuit, with the DOJ saying that it would provide “a detailed recitation of the relevant facts, many of which are provided to correct the incomplete and inaccurate narrative.”

For example, Trump and his lieutenants—including  former White House aide Kash Patel—have argued that he had already declassified mountains of records, thus eliminating any accusation that such records were sensitive or improperly handled. On Tuesday, the DOJ revealed that Trump’s lawyers never even mentioned that any of the documents in the 15 boxes Trump turned over to the National Archives in January 2022 were declassified.

The DOJ also acknowledged that it has indeed had a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia investigate the former president, noting that there authorized federal prosecutors on Monday to disclose it following Trump’s statements about having received subpoenas for video footage at Mar-a-Lago.

Federal prosecutors also shed more light on what they say happened on June 3, when Bratt himself traveled south to Mar-a-Lago to figure out what exactly was going on. According to the DOJ’s court filing, Trump’s lawyers assured the feds that no classified documents remained at the mansion, which doubles as a luxurious club with international clientele that at times has included unscrupulous types suspected of spying for foreign governments.

But when the feds tried verifying whether that was true, they were rebuffed, according to the DOJ. At one point, an attorney for Trump “explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.”

Adding to the federal agents’ suspicions, Trump’s team handed over a single, sealed Redweld envelope, according to the DOJ. Inside, FBI agents found 38 documents that included five marked “confidential,” 16 marked “secret,” and 17 marked “top secret.”

“Counsel for the former president offered no explanation as to why boxes of government records, including 38 documents with classification markings, remained at the premises nearly five months after the production of the fifteen boxes and nearly one-and-a-half years after the end of the [Trump] administration,” the DOJ wrote on Tuesday.

However, despite the supposed assurances Trump’s team made that all classified material had been turned over that day, the FBI earlier this month found more than 100 others were still at Mar-a-Lago.

Research contact: @The_DailyBeast

Trump encourages FBI agents to go ‘nuts’ and not ‘take it anymore’ over Mar-a-Lago raid

August 31, 2022

Although he was careful not to use the word, early on Monday, August 29, former President Donald Trump appeared to call for the rank and file of the FBI to revolt against its leadership over the seizure of classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida—and his possible criminal indictment, reports Mediaite.

On Friday, a heavily redacted affidavit was released and revealed that, prior to the search, federal agents were concerned

Above, Trump’s Truth Social post. (Photo source: Truth Social)

the former president was still in possession of classified and top secret documents in an unsecured location, and that Trump’s team had not been forthcoming about the documents in numerous interactions with the National Archives.

 

The affidavit said there was “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at” Mar-a-Lago—a serious crime —and detailed the extensive efforts authorities went to retrieve the trove of documents Trump held at his Florida resort.

The affidavit revealed that  nearly 200 classified and top secret documents already had been retrieved in February of this year—the mishandling of which, according to a 2018 law signed by then-President Trump, would make citizen Trump guilty of a felony offense.

Despite the facts of the case, in a Truth Social post, Trump sought to undermine FBI leadership by seeking to stoke distrust and anger inside the agency.

“When are the great Agents, and others, in the FBI going to say ‘we aren’t going to take it anymore,” much as they did when James Comey read off a list of all of Crooked Hillary Clinton’s crimes, only to say that no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute.,” Trump said.

“The wonderful people of the FBI went absolutely “nuts,” so Comey had to backtrack and do a FAKE INVESTIGATION in order to keep them at bay,” he continued. “The end result, we won in 2016 (and did MUCH better in 2020!). But now the ‘Left’ has lost their minds!!!”

At roughly 2 a.m. Monday, he re-upped this message exhorting, “FBI, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

It is clear that Trump is looking to drive a wedge between FBI and DOJ leadership and the rank and file.

Research contact: @Mediaite

Justice Department objects to releasing affidavit used to search Trump’s home

August 17, 2022

On Monday, August 15, the Justice Department contested making public the affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida—saying its release would “compromise future investigative steps” and “likely chill” cooperation with witnesses, reports The New York Times.

In a 13-page pleading, filed in a federal court in southern Florida in response to requests by The New York Times and other news organizations to make public the evidence included in the document, prosecutors suggested that the department has undertaken a broad, intensive inquiry into Trump’s handling of some of the most secret documents of the government after he left office.

The prosecutors acknowledged interviewing witnesses in connection with the investigation of. Trump’s retention of the material. They also wrote that releasing the document could compromise the continuing investigation.

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses,” prosecutors wrote. They added that releasing the affidavit could harm “other high-profile investigations,” as well.

One of the reasons proposed by the government for not releasing the affidavit was to protect the identities of witnesses against death threats. On Monday, prosecutors in Pennsylvania unsealed charges against a man accused of repeatedly threatening to kill F.B.I. agents in the days after Trump’s property was searched.

The magistrate judge who signed the search warrant, Bruce E. Reinhart, ultimately will decide whether the affidavit should be released. It is unclear when he will rule on the news media’s request.

According to the Times, “The legal—and political—aftershocks from the search were still reverberating a week after F.B.I. agents appeared at the resort while the president was at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey.”

Trump—who has accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of conducting a politically motivated “witch hunt” and roughly rifling through his family’s possessions—claimed on Monday that the government “stole my three Passports,” in a post on Truth Social, the online platform he founded.

By late Monday, the Justice Department had contacted Trump’s legal team to retrieve the three passports—two of them expired and the third an active diplomatic passport, according to one of the former president’s lawyers, Evan Corcoran, and a spokesman for the department.

In a statement late Monday, the F.B.I. said that it “follows search and seizure procedures ordered by courts; then, returns items that do not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes.”

Garland agreed last week to release the warrant used to search Trump’s private club, but has resisted attempts to make public the underlying affidavit—a far more sensitive document that should contain, among other things, the reasons prosecutors believe there was probable cause that evidence of a crime could be found at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The investigation into the mishandling of government documents—while known for months—had not been considered to be as significant as the department’s sprawling investigation into the attack on the Capitol, which has been moving closer to Trump and his top advisers.

Federal agents removed top secret documents when they searched Trump’s residence last week as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, according to a search warrant made public on Friday.

At least one lawyer for Trump signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document said.

Even as the former president counterattacked, new details emerged of how Trump and his inner circle flouted the norms, and possibly the laws, governing their handling of government records.

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Trump and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the man who oversaw presidential records in the chaotic closing days of the administration, failed to organize an effort to collect, box, and deliver materials to the National Archives — as prior presidents former Vice President Mike Pence, did.

Instead, they often focused on settling political grievances and personal grudges, they said.

In the weeks leading up to Trump’s departure from the White House, officials discussed what to do about material that he had at various points taken up to the residence and that needed to be properly stored and returned.

By then, the staff secretary, Derek Lyons, known for trying to keep systems in place, had left the administration. Meadows said he would address such issues, according to a senior administration official.

As Mr. Trump sought to hold on to power, two of Pence’s senior aides—Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his counsel—indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge of the work.

Jacob spent the bulk of his final few days in government preparing the final boxes, with the goal of ensuring that Mr. Pence left office without a single paper that did not belong to him, one of the officials said.

Research contact: @nytimes

‘We’re not releasing a copy of the warrant’: Trump allies ‘circling the wagons’ after Mar-A-Lago search

August 11, 2022

Former President Donald Trump has no plans to release a copy of the search warrant that FBI agents obtained for his residence at Mar-A-Lago, reports Raw Story.

To do so, would expose the reasons for the search—and that is not something that the former president is willing to do.

Trump is free to share a copy of the warrant to clear up confusion about what investigators were looking for, but a source close to the president told NBC News that it’s the DOJ‘s responsibility to notify the public, but not Trump’s.

“No, we’re not releasing a copy of the warrant,” the source said, adding that there was a “complete circling of the wagons” by the Republican Party around the former president.

Trump’s legal team had been in discussions with the Justice Department as recently as early June about classified records stored at Mar-A-Lago, and his attorney Christina Bobb said the FBI removed about a dozen boxes from a basement storage area.

Bobb also said the search warrant indicated they were investigating possible violations of laws covering the handling of classified material and the Presidential Records Act.

She said DOJ officials said they did not believe the storage unit was properly secured, but she said Trump officials added a padlock to the door that FBI agents later broke when they executed the search warrant.

Trump had already returned 15 boxes of documents that the National Archives and Records Administration said had been improperly removed from the White House at the end of his presidency.

Research contact: @RawStory

National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago

Feebraury 8, 2022

Former President Donald Trump improperly removed multiple boxes from the White House, which were retrieved by the National Archives and Records Administration last month from his Mar-a-Lago residence because they contained documents and other items that should have been turned over to the agency, according to three people familiar with the visit.

Indeed, The Washington Post reports, the recovery of the boxes from Trump’s Florida resort raises new concerns about his adherence to the Presidential Records Act—which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

Trump advisers deny any nefarious intent and say that the boxes contained mementos, gifts, letters from world leaders and other correspondence. The items included correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Trump once described as “love letters,” as well as a letter left for his successor by President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the contents.

Discussions between the Archives and the former president’s lawyers that began last year resulted in the transfer of the records in January, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Another person familiar with the materials said Trump advisers discussed what had to be returned in December. People familiar with the transfer, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal details.

The Archives declined to comment. A spokesperson for the former president did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the Post, the Archives has struggled to cope with a president who flouted document retention requirements and frequently ripped up official documents, leaving hundreds of pages taped back together—or some that arrived at the Archives still in pieces. Some damaged documents were among those turned over to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

“The only way that a president can really be held accountable long term is to preserve a record about who said what, who did what, what policies were encouraged or adopted, and that is such an important part of the long-term scope of accountability—beyond just elections and campaigns,” presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky said.

From a national security perspective, Chervinsky added, if records and documents are not disclosed, “that could pose a real concern if the next administration is flying blind without that information.”

The recovery of documents from Trump’s Florida estate is just the latest example of what records personnel described as chronic difficulties in preserving records during the Trump era—the most challenging since Richard Nixon sought to block disclosure of official records, including White House tapes.

All recent administrations have had some Presidential Records Act violations, most often involving the use of unofficial email and telephone accounts. White House documents from multiple administrations also have been retrieved by the Archives after a president has left office.

But personnel familiar with recent administrations said the Trump era stands apart in the scale of the records retrieved from Mar-a-Lago. One person familiar with the transfer characterized it as “out of the ordinary …. NARA has never had that kind of volume transfer after the fact like this.”

“Things that are national security-sensitive, or very clearly government documents, should have been a part of a first sweep—so the fact that it’s been this long doesn’t reflect well on [Trump],” said a lawyer who worked in the White House Counsel’s Office under Obama. “Why has it taken for a year for these boxes to get there? And are there more boxes?”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Going, going … Donald Trump plans early adieu on Inauguration Day

January 19, 2021

Donald Trump will be clinging to the last vestiges of his presidency—thousands of feet in the air and hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration—on Wednesday, January 20, The Huffington Post reports.

The outgoing president is taking Air Force One home to Florida while he still can—arriving there before Biden is sworn in around noon, according to CBS News.

As it stands now, Trump is “scheduled to land in West Palm Beach at 11a.m. (ET) Wednesday morning with just 1 hour left in his Presidency. He no longer has access to Air Force One as of noon that day,CBS’s Ben Tracy tweeted Sunday.

Trump would no longer be deemed the commander-in-chief after noon and the plane would lose its “Air Force One” call sign―which Trump wanted to avoid, NBC News noted earlier.

Usually, the HuffPost noted, presidents depart on another government jet to begin civilian life.

The White House sent out invitations for Trump’s departure event at Joint Base Andrews, which begins at 8 a.m. (ET), Bloomberg reported. Guests can bring up to five other people, must wear masks and should arrive between 6 a.m. and 7:15 a.m, Bloomberg said after viewing one of the invites.

Trump has requested the red-carpet treatment with a 21-gun salute and military band, reports noted.

His helicopter goodbye from the White House’s South Lawn is expected to be a low-key affair. Some White House aides will be there to send off Marine One and attendance will be “limited,” Bloomberg reported. Heightened security around the inauguration and the White House following the Capitol insurrection curtailed the size.

Trump, the only president to be impeached twice and the only president in modern history to not attend his successor’s inauguration, will likely spend the rest of the day at his Mar-a-Lago club.

Palm Beach police recently warned residents that the Secret Service would have a “final road closure near Mar-a-Lago” on January 20 and would be closed for several days, CBS in Miami reported.

“Beyond this, we do not foresee any future road closures related to the presence of a former President,” police wrote.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Mar-a-Lago neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere

December 17, 2020

Outgoing President Donald Trump will not receive a warm welcome to the neighborhood, if he chooses to spend his post-POTUS days at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, The Washington Post reports.

After hearing about his plans to retreat to the property he now uses as his Winter White House, area residents have a message for the Trump: We don’t want you  here.

According to the Post, that message was formally delivered Tuesday morning in a demand letter delivered to the town of Palm Beach and also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service asserting that Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the storied estate from his private residence to a private club.

The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on January 20.

The contretemps sets up a potentially awkward scenario, unique in recent history, in which a former Oval Office occupant would find himself having to officially defend his choice of a place to live during his post-presidency. It also could create a legal headache for Trump because he changed his official domicile to Mar-a-Lago, leaving behind Manhattan, where he lived before being elected president and came to fame as a brash, self-promoting developer. (Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida using the White House in Washington as his address, which is not allowed under Florida law. He later changed the registration to the Mar-a-Lago address.)

In the demand letter, obtained by The Washington Post, an attorney for the Mar-a-Lago neighbors says the town should notify Trump that he cannot use Mar-a-Lago as his residence. Making that move would “avoid an embarrassing situation” if the outgoing president moves to the club and later has to be ordered to leave, according to the letter sent on behalf of the neighbors, the DeMoss family, which runs an international missionary foundation.

For years, various neighbors have raised concerns about disruptions, such as clogged traffic and blocked streets, caused by the president’s frequent trips to the club. Even before he was president, Trump created ill will in the town by refusing to comply with even basic local requirements, such as adhering to height limits for a massive flagpole he installed—and frequently attempting to get out of the promises he had made when he converted Mar-a-Lago into a private club.

“There’s absolutely no legal theory under which he can use that property as both a residence and a club,” said Glenn Zeitz, another nearby Palm Beach homeowner who has joined the fight against Trump and had previously tangled with him over Trump’s attempt to seize a private home to expand his Atlantic City casino. “Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people because we’re going to be there.”

A White House spokesperson and Palm Beach’s mayor did not respond to requests for comment. To date, Palm Beach has made no public attempt to prevent Trump from living at Mar-a-Lago or from using it as his legal residence.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

NY Times: 28 women were recruited to ‘party’ with just Trump and Epstein in 1992 at Mar-a-Lago Club

July 11, 2019

Before Donald Trump purchased Mar-a-Lago in 1985—and converted the 20-acre property in Palm Beach into a posh, private club that opened in 1995—he held a very hush-hush, exclusive party at the estate in 1992, according to a July 9 report by The New York Times.

The event was attended by just Trump and his then-friend New York financier Jeffrey Epstein—as well as 28 beautiful women, flown in just for the occasion.

Florida businessman George Houraney told the Times that he was the one who fulfilled Trump’s request for a “calendar girl competition.”

“I arranged to have some contestants fly in,” Houraney told the Times in an interview. “At the very first party, I said, ‘Who’s coming tonight? I have 28 girls coming.’ It was him and Epstein.”

Houraney, who previously had partnered with Trump to host events at his casinos, said he was surprised. “I said, ‘Donald, this is supposed to be a party with V.I.P.s. You’re telling me it’s you and Epstein?’”

The businessman recalls, “I said, ‘Look, Donald, I know Jeff really well, I can’t have him going after younger girls.’ ”

Houraney told Trump that he had “pretty much had to ban Jeff from my events” but said “Trump didn’t care about that.” 

What happened at that party can only be the subject of conjecture; however, since then, Epstein has been registered as a sex offender; has spent some nights in jail in Florida after cutting a deal with then-U.S. Attorney (and now Secretary of Labor) Alex Acosta; and has this past weekend been indicted on sex trafficking charges by the Southern District of New York.

While the Times said that Trump had not responded to a request for comment earlier this week, the president talked to the media from his desk in the Oval Office—distancing himself Epstein. Back in the 1990s, the president said that he “knew [Epstein] like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.”

But Trump added: “I had a falling out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”

However, the Times pointed out, while the president has dismissed the relationship, Epstein has played it up since the election—claiming that he was the one who introduced Trump to his third wife, Melania.

Since the indictment , the news outlet reported, decades’ worth of rich and powerful friends of Epstein—including former President Bill Clinton—“have been running for the hills.”

Former President Bill Clinton released a statement on his relationship with the disgraced financier.

Epstein has been accused of trafficking dozens, maybe hundreds, of young teenage girls over the years—sending them across state lines for sex with him and his clients. His main accuser says she was 14 and wearing braces at the time she was approached by Epstein.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump ‘cleans house’ at DHS; goes for harder line on immigration

April 9, 2019

President Donald Trump is clearing the decks at the Department of Homeland Securityexecuting a purge of the nation’s immigration and security leadership, The New York Times reported on April 8.

After extracting a resignation from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on April 7, and immediately elevating White House Adviser Stephen Miller—known to be a hard-liner—to direct the nation’s immigration policy; the president now is signaling that he means to remove the next level of agency management.

Inside the Beltway, it is rumored that Nielsen got the boot because she resisted reinstating a policy that separated migrant parents from their children—infuriating the president at a time when he still is struggling to get funding for his southern wall and has not been able to stem the flow of South American immigration to the U.S. border.

Also expected to leave soon: L. Francis Cissna, the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Randolph D. Alles, the Secret Service director; and John Mitnik, the agency’s general counsel.

The White House confirmed the departure of Alles in a statement but made no immediate comment on the other pending moves, the news outlet said. The White House statement said that the president has selected James M. Murray, a career Secret Service official, to take over as director in May.

 Alles “has done a great job at the agency over the last two years and the president is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in the statement.

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Nielsen confirmed her resignation on Sunday and Ron D. Vitiello, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Services, was told on Friday to step aside. Trump said on April 5 that Vitiello would be replaced with someone who would move ICE in a “tougher” direction.

All were viewed as allies of John F. Kelly, the president’s former chief of staff and his President Trump.

Alles received instructions ten days ago to come up with an exit plan and was expected to leave on his own timeline, according to officials familiar with the internal discussions. The Times reported that the president had sought Alles’s resignation, in part because of the recent arrest of a Chinese woman who was carrying a malware-laced device on the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort property in Florida, exposing holes in the security of the private club.

Research contact: @nytimes