An investigation by USA Today has documented more than 400 previously undisclosed properties across the U.S. owned by President Trump's business trust and companies. The properties are worth an estimated $250 million and include "at least 422 luxury condos and penthouses from New York City to Las Vegas, 12 mansion lots on bluffs overlooking his golf course on the Pacific Ocean, and dozens more smaller pieces of real estate," USA Today reported.
The properties present "an extraordinary and unprecedented potential for people, corporations, or foreign interests to try to influence the president," USA Today wrote. Because the properties in question are owned directly by Trump's companies and not licensed through a separate development company, any sales would directly augment Trump's wealth. Already, there are some murky deals: USA Today found that of the 14 luxury condos and home-building lots Trump companies have sold since Election Day, "half were sold to limited liability companies" and "no names were listed in deeds, obscuring buyers' identities."
Now that Trump has assumed office, a lot more people are apparently inquiring about buying real estate owned by the president. While Trump isn't legally obligated to offer a complete inventory of every property he owns, nor is he required to disclose when he makes a sale, he is constitutionally prohibited from accepting gifts from foreign officials. But because real estate laws allow shell companies to be set up so that a person can make a purchase without revealing his or her identity, USA Today noted it could be "impossible for the public to know" who purchases a Trump property in this manner.
"Anyone seeking to influence the president could set up an anonymous company and purchase his property," said Heather Lowe, director of government affairs at Global Financial Integrity, a group focused on stopping illegal financial transactions. "It's a big black box, and the system is failing as a check for conflicts of interest."
Broward sheriff refuses to resign, claims 'amazing leadership' despite shooting response allegations
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union he will not resign despite allegations that multiple deputies under his command did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, "when they should have" during the Valentine's Day mass shooting.
Israel previously said one deputy assigned to the school was suspended without pay and then resigned because he never entered the school to protect students or confront the shooter. Now the Coral Springs Police Department has accused other deputies of delaying their entry.
"Deputies make mistakes, police officers make mistakes, we all make mistakes," Israel argued. "But it's not the responsibility of the general or the president if you have a deserter."
Israel also addressed the warnings his department received about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, before the attack. "I can only take responsibility for what I knew about," the sheriff told host Jake Tapper Sunday. "I exercised my due diligence. I provided amazing leadership to this agency." Tapper was unconvinced, countering that "you measure somebody's leadership by the way they protect the community" and suggesting Israel failed to protect Parkland.
Watch the full interview below. Bonnie Kristian
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) February 25, 2018
The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee on Sunday announced a proposal to remove the presidential term limit that would constrain the rule of President Xi Jinping.
Under the present structure of the Chinese Constitution, Xi is limited to two five-year terms, the second of which is due to end in 2023. If the constitutional amendment is approved, Xi could potentially stay in office indefinitely. An editorial in a Chinese state newspaper said the change would not mean "the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure," but it quoted a Communist Party source saying China needs "consistent leadership" through 2035.
Xi's anti-corruption campaign has been popular among the public, but comments about the proposal on Weibo, China's Twitter analogue, suggested extending the term limit would be preferred over ending it. "If two terms are not enough, then they can write in a third term, but there needs to be a limit," wrote one user. "Getting rid of it is not good!" Bonnie Kristian
He declared the Democratic counter-memo, published earlier that day, "really fraudulent" and its congressional authors worthy of investigation. Trump specifically targeted for critique Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the counter-memo's creation and release, labeling him a "bad guy."
On guns, the president again proposed arming teachers as an antidote to school shootings. A mass shooter would be deterred by "some offensive power in there," Trump said, while "a gun-free zone is like target practice" and beloved of "bad guys."
And though he insisted "the generals would love" a military parade, the president seemed to back off from the idea by noting it could be too expensive. "We'll see if we can do it at a reasonable cost," he said. "If we can't, we won't do it." A Military Times poll found nine in 10 readers believed the parade is "a waste of money and troops are too busy."
Watch two excerpts of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian
President @realDonaldTrump on Dem FISA memo: "A lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side, but the other side. And somebody should look into it because what they did was really fraudulent." pic.twitter.com/PgEyKLAYEM
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 25, 2018
President @realDonaldTrump on gun legislation: "Perhaps we'll do something on age...it doesn't seem to make sense that you have to wait [until] you're 21 years old to get a pistol but to get a gun like [Nikolas Cruz] used in the school, you get that at 18." pic.twitter.com/hNAni2iIot
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 25, 2018
Mexico's president reportedly changed his mind about visiting the White House after talking to Trump
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto scrapped plans to visit Washington in February or March after an argumentative phone call with President Trump on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported Saturday night, citing officials from both countries.
Trump reportedly "lost his temper" in a discussion of his unrealized pledge to build an extensive wall along the United States' southern border with Mexican funding. "Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall," American officials reportedly told the Post.
Also at issue, the Post story says, is Peña Nieto's dissatisfaction with Trump's refusal to commit to a meeting agenda that will avoid embarrassment. A column in Mexico's El Horizonte newspaper on Friday likewise said the Trump's "volatility" and the "lack of certainty about his commitments and actions" makes the Mexican president wary of a public conversation.
The North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, indicated "North Korea is willing to have talks with the U.S., and the North agrees that inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U. S. relations should advance together," said a statement from South Korea's presidential administration Sunday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in "pointed out the urgency to hold dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. in order to fundamentally the resolve the issues on the Korean Peninsula and to improve inter-Korean relations," the statement reported.
In a public statement earlier Sunday, however, the North Korean regime condemned the United States' latest round of sanctions against North Korea, announced Friday. "The two Koreas have cooperated together and the Olympics was held successfully," Pyongyang said via state-run media, "but the U.S. brought the threat of war to the Korean peninsula with large-scale new sanctions."
President Trump has repeatedly expressed an interest in direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. However, he frequently vacillates toward more aggressive rhetoric. On Friday, he suggested that if these sanctions fail, he will move on to an unspecified "Phase 2" which could be "rough" and "very unfortunate for the world." Bonnie Kristian
Trump declares House Democrats' counter-memo 'a nothing' — while claiming it proves surveillance abuses against his campaign
House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Saturday published their counter to the Nunes memo, a controversial document compiled under Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee chair, and released earlier this year.
The Nunes memo alleges the FBI acquired FISA court permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page using the Steele dossier, which was created with funding from a Clinton campaign lawyer, not telling the court the information's source.
The new memo defends the FBI, claiming the agency was conducting its own probe of the Trump campaign for seven weeks before obtaining the Steele dossier. The dossier was only narrowly used in the surveillance application, the counter-memo says, with proper identification of its political provenance.
President Trump promptly denounced the counter-memo, calling it "a nothing" and "really fraudulent" in a Fox News interview Saturday night. On Twitter, he misquoted Fox to attack Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the counter-memo's creation and release. He also declared the counter-memo proves his own campaign's persecution. "Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done," Trump wrote. "SO ILLEGAL!"
Read the counter-memo below. Bonnie Kristian
Syrian government strikes have killed some 500 civilians, including about 120 children, over the course of a week in the East Ghouta suburb of Damascus, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The activist group says Russian planes are assisting with the attacks, but Russia denies direct engagement.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces reportedly used barrel bombs and artillery shells to target the area where some 400,000 people have no option of escape. Civilians are "being forced into bunkers and many of them can't even find the time to bury their dead," reports NPR's Lama Al-Arian. The Assad regime says its goal is to liberate civilians from a nearby rebel enclave.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is pushing for a U.N. resolution implementing a 30-day ceasefire so humanitarian aid can be delivered to East Ghouta. "I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population," he said, describing the situation as "hell on Earth." If the resolution passes — Moscow is demanding edits in exchange for its support — its prospects for enforcement are dubious.