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October 19, 2017
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President Trump has interviewed at least two potential candidates for U.S. attorney positions in New York, including one person who, if nominated and confirmed, would have jurisdiction over Trump Tower in Manhattan, two people familiar with the matter told Politico.

It's unclear when Trump met with Geoffrey Berman of the law firm Greenburg Traurig and Ed McNally of the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Politico reports. Berman is seen as a possible candidate for U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which oversees Manhattan, and McNally for the Eastern District. White House Counsel Don McGahn is leading the process of filling the U.S. attorney posts, and an administration official told Politico that Trump asks for regular updates on the Southern District position.

Trump also personally met with Jessie Liu when she was a candidate for U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, documents submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee show, and she was later confirmed by the Senate. "To be very blunt, these three jurisdictions will have authority to bring indictments over the ongoing special counsel investigation into Trump campaign collusion with the Russians and potential obstruction of justice by the president of the United States," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Politico on Thursday. "For him to be interviewing candidates for that prosecutor who may in turn consider whether to bring indictments involving him and his administration seems to smack of political interference." Catherine Garcia

October 16, 2017

President Trump claimed Monday that former presidents, including Barack Obama, did not call the families of fallen soldiers, sparking quick and furious outcry on social media. "The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed," Trump said. He added, "The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it."

Alyssa Mastromonaco‏, who served as deputy chief of staff for operations under Obama, tweeted: "That's a f---ing lie. To say President Obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA — he's a deranged animal."

NBC News' Peter Alexander challenged Trump on the remarks. "Earlier you claimed President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers," Alexander said. "How can you make that claim?"

"I don't know if he did," Trump answered. "I was told that he didn't often [call]. And a lot of presidents don't, they write letters." Trump also admitted he had not called the families of the U.S. soldiers killed in Niger 12 days ago. Jeva Lange

October 13, 2017

Donald Trump is the president of the United States and all its territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. Another territory that Trump presides over is an island chain handily named "the United States Virgin Islands," lest anyone forgets to whom it belongs.

Still, it seems that fact can nevertheless slip one's mind on occasion. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, for example, was corrected Thursday for calling the U.S. Virgin Islands its own country, The Washington Post reports. ("It's America," Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) told Perry. "They're American citizens, so it's not a country.")

Then on Friday, Trump told attendees of the 2017 Value Voters summit: "I met with the president of the Virgin Islands." As mentioned above, Trump is the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Trump has been known to refer to himself in the third person, so there is perhaps a chance this is just his latest extremely odd turn of phrase. Otherwise, Trump is talking about his meeting with Kenneth Mapp — the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Jeva Lange

October 11, 2017

President Trump skewered the free press Wednesday, telling reporters that "it is frankly disgusting that the press is able to write whatever it wants to write."

The comments followed Trump's tweets Wednesday morning, which reacted to an NBC News story that claimed the president had called for the nuclear arsenal to be increased "tenfold." "With all of the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license?" Trump asked.

When pressed in the afternoon about whether there should be limits on the media, Trump said "no," but he did add that reporters should write "more honestly." Citing no evidence, Trump said: "When they make up stories like that, it's just made up … They make up sources." Jeva Lange

October 11, 2017

President Trump skewered — you guessed it — the free press Wednesday, claiming NBC News' report that he asked for a "tenfold" increase of the nuclear arsenal was "pure fiction made up to demean."

Trump added:

There is technically no "license" to challenge; while "journalistic license" is a common phrase, it does not refer to a literal document that can be revoked. Instead, Trump's tweet has alarming authoritarian implications that immediately sparked widespread concern:

Read NBC News' original report here. Jeva Lange

October 6, 2017

It has been a little over a year since Samsung was forced to recall its Galaxy Note 7 phones due to the battery's pesky habit of bursting into flames or exploding. Now Apple's newest gadget, the iPhone 8, is looking like it might be acting up too, TechCrunch reports, writing that, as of Thursday, there are "at least six different reports in at least five countries of the iPhone 8 splitting along its seams" because of a swelling battery.

The bloated iPhones are showing "no sign of scorching or an explosion," Reuters writes, so at least there's that. On the other hand, the iPhone 8 starts at $699, which is a lot to pay for a phone that ends up looking like this:

The iPhone 8 only went on sale on Sept. 22, so the product is still in the initial stages of having any kinks ironed out. Apple hasn't released information about sales, either, so it's unclear how many customers risk discovering swollen batteries. The company said it is aware of the issue, and is looking into it. Jeva Lange

October 4, 2017

President Trump's children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, were nearly indicted for felony fraud on the charge of misleading buyers of Trump SoHo hotel condos in 2012, but the case was ultimately dismissed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. after he met with Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, ProPublica, WNYC, and The New Yorker jointly report.

Kasowitz donated $25,000 to Vance's re-election campaign in 2012. And while Vance returned the $25,000 shortly before meeting with Kasowitz, Kasowitz afterward helped raise more than $50,000 for the district attorney. Asked about the $50,000 payment by reporters, Vance said he would now return the money — "more than four years after the fact," as ProPublica notes.

In the 2012 meeting with Vance, Kasowitz did not present any new arguments that Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers had not already made unsuccessfully. What's more, the real estate magnate's children reportedly "knew" that they had inflated numbers at their hotel in order to make more sales, one person familiar with the Trumps' email correspondences said:

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email. [ProPublica]

Speaking with reporters, Vance defended his decision to overrule prosecutors: "I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed," he said. "I had to make a call and I made the call, and I think I made the right call." Read the full report at ProPublica. Jeva Lange

October 3, 2017
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For decades the Justice Department warned presidents against appointing their relatives to White House positions, including unpaid positions, citing a 1967 anti-nepotism law, Politico reports. The earlier opinions — stretching from President Richard Nixon to President Barack Obama — were ruled obsolete in January at the request of the incoming Trump administration, citing a 1978 law that "permits [the president] to make appointments to the White House Office that the anti-nepotism statute might otherwise forbid," a Justice Department attorney, Daniel Koffsky, wrote.

Politico's Freedom of Information Act request revealed that in 2009, the Justice Department ruled that Obama could not appoint his half-sister to a commission on White House fellowships or his brother-in-law to a commission on physical fitness. In 1977, the Justice Department ruled that President Jimmy Carter "may not" appoint "Mrs. Carter to be the chairman of a Commission on Mental Health." And in 1983, lawyers informed President Ronald Reagan that "we think the proposal to have a member of the president's family serve actively on the Commission on Private Sector Initiatives raises virtually the same problems raised by Mrs. Carter's proposed service."

White House spokesman Raj Shah told Politico that it is in the Trump administration's opinion that the 1978 law renders the earlier rulings obsolete. "These opinions were issued before the passage of a 1978 law specifically authorizing the president to make White House Office appointments 'without regard to any other provision of law,'" Shah said. "These legal opinions are therefore inconsistent with subsequent congressional enactments. Rather than reversing prior policy, the administration is upholding the law as written today." Read the full report at Politico. Jeva Lange

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