During their interviews with congressional investigators last Thursday and Friday, two of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt's top aides discussed how Pruitt asked them to do things like help his wife find a job and look into ways he could get out of a rental agreement without having to pay any penalties, three people familiar with the sessions told The Washington Post.
Samantha Dravis, the EPA's former associate administrator for the Office of Policy, and Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, were interviewed separately by staffers of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Dravis revealed that Pruitt asked her to contact the Republican Attorneys General Association, which he once led and where she once worked, while trying to find his wife a job that paid at least $200,000, but she refused to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, the Post reports. Dravis is a lawyer, and also said she was asked along with another top aide, Sarah Greenwalt, to review a rental agreement he wanted to break, people with knowledge of the interview told the Post, to see if they could find a way he could get out of the agreement without having to pay any penalties.
As for Jackson, he confirmed that he did assist with connecting Pruitt to lobbyist J. Steven Hart; Pruitt paid just $50 a night to stay at a condo owned by Hart's wife Vicki, in an agreement that Jackson said was only supposed to last six weeks (it ended up lasting six months). Read more about their interviews at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
A draft of a Trump administration bill leaked to Axios, called the United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, would give President Trump the ability to raise tariffs whenever he wants and negotiate directly with any country.
"It would be the equivalent of walking away from the [World Trade Organization] and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal," a person familiar with the draft told Axios. "The good news is Congress would never give this authority to the president" because the bill is "insane," the person added.
In late May, Trump was briefed on the draft, and most people close to him realize that the bill will go nowhere; Axios reports that adviser Peter Navarro thinks the bill has a shot, but White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short told him it would be "dead on arrival" and no one in Congress would support it. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Axios "the only way this would be news is if this were actual legislation that the administration was preparing to roll out, but it's not. Principals have not even met to review any text of legislation on reciprocal trade." Catherine Garcia
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) has been accused by four women of nonconsensual physical violence, with two telling The New Yorker the abuse took place while they were in romantic relationships with Schneiderman.
Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam both claim they were slapped and choked by Schneiderman, and while they did not report the abuse to police, they did receive medical attention. They also say he threatened to kill himself or them if they ever left him, and drinking was often involved when he became violent. A third woman, an attorney who asked not to be identified, told The New Yorker that after she stopped a romantic encounter with Schneiderman after he said offensive things, he slapped her so hard it left a mark on her face, then drove her home while intoxicated. The fourth woman told Manning Barish and Selvaratnam she was physically abused while in a relationship with Schneiderman, but was too afraid of him to go public.
As attorney general, Schneiderman has been a vocal proponent of women's rights, and he recently filed a civil rights lawsuit against the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct and harassment. Selvaratnam said it makes her "feel sick" to see "a man who has staked his entire career, his personal narrative, on being a champion for women publicly. But he abuses them privately. He needs to be called out."
Schneiderman told The New Yorker that in the "privacy of intimate relationships" he has "engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity," but has "not assaulted anyone" or "engaged in nonconsensual sex." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), an ally of Schneiderman's, called for his resignation. For more on the allegations, visit The New Yorker. Catherine Garcia
After learning in 2013 that Us Weekly was preparing to run a story about Donald Trump Jr. having an affair with Celebrity Apprentice contestant Aubrey O'Day, President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was able to get the magazine to kill the piece, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Trump Organization was asked to comment on the story, and when Cohen called the magazine back, he threatened legal action, one person told the Journal. Us Weekly decided not to run the story, reportedly feeling it wasn't worth going to court over and wanting to maintain a "good working relationship" with Trump. Last month, Trump Jr. and his wife of 12 years, Vanessa, announced they were splitting up. O'Day, a singer, appeared on Celebrity Apprentice in 2011, when Trump Jr. was a judge.
The Journal also reported on Sunday that Cohen used the same limited liability company, based in Delaware, to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump, and a Playboy Playmate who had an affair with ex-Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chairman Elliott Broidy. Cohen's home, office, and hotel room were raided by FBI agents last week, searching for documents related to the Daniels case, among other subjects. Catherine Garcia
FBI counterintelligence investigators are taking a close look at the negotiations and financing of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, Canada, former and current U.S. officials told CNN.
The Trump Organization does not own the hoteld but receives licensing and marketing fees from the property. President Trump's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump had a key role in launching the deal with the hotel's developer, Joo Kim Tiah, in 2013, and the property opened in February 2017. Tiah is from one of the wealthiest families in Malaysia, and runs its Canada-based development company, Holborn Group. Per President Trump's financial disclosure form from June, the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the hotel.
It's not clear why FBI investigators are looking at this deal, but it might be because it's one of just a handful of Trump-branded properties that have opened since Trump's inauguration, CNN reports. While doing background checks for security clearances, the FBI looks into foreign contacts and business deals to see if a person is vulnerable to pressure or blackmail, and this may be what's standing in Trump's way of getting full security clearance. A spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics counsel told CNN they are "wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag, or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application." Catherine Garcia
Several journalists who worked with former Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen told NPR he left the network late last month after higher-ups took a closer look at his behavior toward women.
Fox News confirmed Rosen's departure in December, but did not say why he left after 18 years with the network or announce his exit on air. NPR spoke with eight of his former colleagues at the Fox News Washington, D.C., bureau, who said Rosen had a long history of making sexual advances and aggressive flirting toward co-workers.
Four people told NPR that in 2001, after Rosen was rebuffed by a reporter he groped, he attempted to take away her sources and stories. Several others told NPR that Rosen sexually harassed a foreign national producer covering the State Department, who accepted a deal from Fox News not to say anything in exchange for being allowed to work longer in the United States, and that he tried to forcibly kiss a young reporter twice last year.
In recent years, Fox News has fired several men after they were publicly accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, including late former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and former hosts Bill O'Reilly and Eric Bolling, who have both denied any wrongdoing. Fox News and Rosen, who is married, declined to comment to NPR. Catherine Garcia
White House officials are investigating the use of private email to conduct government business by several of President Trump's top aides, four officials with knowledge of the matter told Politico.
The internal investigation was launched after Politico and The New York Times reported earlier this week that at least six current and former officials — including President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka Trump, and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus — used private accounts to send and receive work-related emails. Officials are looking at emails on the White House server, and are focusing on Kushner and Ivanka Trump's private email domain; Kushner's lawyer said his client has fewer than 100 emails about government business in his private account, and they have been forwarded to his White House account.
White House lawyers were shocked when they found out aides were using private emails for work, officials told Politico, and several White House staffers were livid by the revelation. It's unclear if any confidential messages were exchanged, and the investigation, which could last several months and is being led by the White House counsel's office, will attempt to figure that out. Catherine Garcia
Federal investigators reportedly want to know if Trump covered up the purpose of Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with Russians
The team working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller is focusing on President Trump's role in crafting a response to a New York Times article about the meeting his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., had in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked attorney and former Soviet intelligence officer, and whether Trump "knowingly" made a "false statement," three people familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The federal investigators are trying to determine what Trump knew about the meeting, held in Trump Tower and also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The younger Trump initially told the Times in a statement that the meeting was "short" and was only about Americans adopting Russian children, but in further reporting, the Times revealed that the meeting was actually set up in order to discuss damaging information on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, as shown in emails Trump Jr. ended up releasing minutes ahead of the Times.
When pressed, the White House said President Trump "weighed in" on his son's first response to the Times while flying back to the U.S. from Germany, while The Washington Post reported that Trump "dictated" it. One person familiar with Mueller's strategy told NBC News that even if "Trump is not charged with a crime as a result of the statement, it could be useful to Mueller's team to show Trump's conduct to a jury that may be considering other charges." The White House did not respond to NBC News' requests for comment. Catherine Garcia