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Dark-money groups were ordered to reveal their donors. They didn’t.


Dark-money political groups are continuing to shield their anonymous donors from public view, despite a recent court order that called for an unprecedented look at their funders.

A major disclosure deadline passed Monday with few political nonprofits unveiling any donors, and even some of those that did offer a peek at their backers still left the original source of the donations murky.

That means that, as in other recent years, voters will head into the midterm elections with little insight into the anonymous donors who have been free to pour unlimited sums into ads and other mobilization efforts that could help determine control of Congress.

“The statute itself is pretty clear, you’re supposed to report all contributors who gave for political purposes. What that means in practice is another question,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the good-government group Campaign Legal Center. “Many groups are likely anticipating that the FEC isn’t going to second-guess their assertion that they received no reportable contributions.”

For years, dark-money groups such as Crossroads GPS and Majority Forward have been able to fundraise in relative secrecy, but a series of court orders threw out a regulation that let the groups keep their funding sources private. The Federal Election Commission then told the organizations to reveal anyone who gave money after the ruling for political spending at the end of September.

But the Campaign Legal Center — which tracked 18 political nonprofits that spent money on the midterms between the initial court ruling and the end of September and could thus have donations to disclose — found that 14 of those groups disclosed no information with the FEC on Monday.

Four groups did disclose donors. But of those four, two revealed donations from other nonprofits — so the original person who donated the funds was still not clear. Latino-focused Mi Familia Vota said it received $45,523 from an organization called Arizona Winds during the third quarter. And union-affiliated Working America disclosed $69,500 in donations from the nonprofit For Our Future Action Fund, as well as $10,000 from a carpenter’s union.

The two other groups that disclosed, Unite Here Arizona and Working People Rising, are also union-affiliated groups that reported donations from unions and from PACs that disclose the source of their funds. None of the groups named individual donors in their disclosures.

Others skipped filing with the FEC altogether or filed reports with no donors listed and no explanation. Some, such as the Heritage Foundation-affiliated Heritage Action, opted to file reports that included no information on donors but included notes asserting they were following the rules. “The independent expenditures disclosed on this report were paid for from general treasury funds,” Heritage Action’s report stated. “No reportable contributions were made.”

On Monday, the Campaign Legal Center alleged in a complaint to the FEC that Heritage Action should have disclosed its donors because it recently raised funds to help specific House races, which could place those donors under the purview of the new disclosure system. In August, Heritage Action issued a press release and told McClatchy about plans to spend money in 12 House districts.

“What we’re telling donors is, every dollar we raise over our budget, we can effectively pour more into these races,” Heritage Action executive director Tim Chapman told McClatchy at the time.

Heritage Action did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Until the court ruling, these groups had to disclose political spending but did not have to reveal their donors, making them targets of constant criticism from campaign-finance reformers.

In August, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia threw out those rules, saying the groups needed to name anyone who gave more than $200 if they wanted to run ads urging voters to support or oppose a particular candidate. The Supreme Court declined an emergency request to invalidate the court ruling, but it still could take the case up later.

The ruling set off a scramble among campaign lawyers and political nonprofits to figure out how to keep their donors private.

Any efforts to keep donors out of sight were aided by the FEC’s interpretation of the court ruling, which said the groups only needed to report donations received after Aug. 4 that went toward independent expenditures on or after Sept. 18. That meant they did not need to disclose all donations for the 2018 election cycle.

And the FEC told dark-money groups that it would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for the Oct. 15 deadline, an indication that the commission might not take legal action if it found evidence that a political nonprofit hadn’t complied with the new ruling right away.

Political nonprofits only have to issue disclosures once every three months, the new guidance said, so the next deadline to name donors won’t be until Jan. 15, two months after the November election — meaning voters might not get to see who funded ads for and against candidates until well after they go to the polls.

Meanwhile, some campaign-finance experts say dark-money groups can just change the way they raise and spend money to avoid disclosing donors altogether. Political nonprofits that run so-called issue ads, which focus on policy issues instead of individual candidates, don’t have to reveal their donors.

“Many groups will be able to avoid disclosing their donors by switching to electioneering communications or issue ads, or by giving lump sums to super PACs,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance attorney at Akerman LLP.

But some groups will likely want to raise money and spend it in the heated midterm elections, Kappel added, and “if they solicit funds for that specific purpose, the contributions will have to be disclosed in January.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/16/donors-to-dark-money-groups-still-mostly-hidden-despite-court-ruling-905894

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Sessions acknowledges Trump’s frustration, is mum on resignation talk


Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged Tuesday what every reader of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed already knows: Trump’s not happy with his top lawman.

At a Justice Department news conference to announce a crackdown on a Mexican drug cartel, Sessions was asked about the president’s comment in a recent “60 Minutes” interview that he was “very disappointed” with the attorney general.

“The president speaks his mind. He says what’s on his mind at the time,” Sessions said. “He’s been frustrated about my recusal and other matters, but we have been so pleased and honored to be given the responsibility to execute his agenda at the Department of Justice. Part of that is just this kind of case.”

Trump was infuriated by Sessions’ decision in March 2017 to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian influence on the Trump campaign. The president has repeatedly said Sessions should have informed him before the nomination that he would recuse himself.

Sessions rarely discusses the criticism in public, even though Trump doesn’t hold back on the subject on his Twitter feed or when asked by reporters.

Pressed on Tuesday about whether the president ever pressured him to resign, Sessions never answered directly.

“Uh, I think…,” the attorney general said awkwardly, before looking to another journalist for a question.

Sessions also fielded queries on Tuesday about the disappearance and presumed killing of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The attorney general condemned the apparent killing and linked it to a spate of violence against journalists in other countries.

“It is a big deal. It is an unacceptable trend,” Sessions said. “Mexico may have had in the last several years the greatest number of attacks on journalists, murders of journalists. … Probably, the world has not reacted sufficiently to it. The world will be diminished if journalists are not able to go travel and report honestly on conditions in differing countries, or people in their own country can’t report on corruption or crime or misconduct in their countries, so, I think it can even separate countries from the civilized community.”

“I feel strongly about it. The president feels strongly about it and we at the Department of Justice will do what we can,” the attorney general added.

Sessions was vague, however, about what role U.S. law enforcement would or could play in the investigation. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident, but not a U.S. citizen, at the time of his disappearance.

Asked about potential involvement by the FBI in the investigation, the attorney general said: “It’s a matter that’s being given serious evaluation. The FBI understands its responsibilities. I’m not able to comment on any details on what might have occurred.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/16/sessions-trumps-resignation-908746

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Trump sanctions Iran over alleged child soldier recruitment


The Trump administration on Tuesday hit Iran with another round of sanctions, accusing the country of recruiting child soldiers as young as 12 to fight for the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.

The sanctions primarily target the Basij Resistance Force, a domestic arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps focused on recruiting young Iranians to advance the country’s aims. Basij has an expansive network of recruiting efforts in every province of the country, and has attracted young boys from Afghanistan to its cause as well, according to a Treasury Department news release.

The administration’s Tuesday action specifically names a litany of Iranian banking and industrial institutions with ties to Basij, blocking their U.S. property and barring U.S. persons from engaging with them. The institutions are involved in economic activity ranging from investments to heavy industry and have networks stretching across the globe, according to senior administration officials.

The sanctions are the latest efforts from the Trump administration to ratchet up pressure on Iran following President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. The administration has already imposed sanctions on a variety of Iranian exports and will hit the Iranian oil industry with a new round of penalties in November.

The administration said Tuesday’s sanctions are meant to illustrate human rights abuses committed by Iran’s Islamic regime, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Iran is a key ally of Assad, Syria’s president.

“The recruiting of 12-year-olds is unacceptable,” a senior administration official said. “It’s disgusting. It’s deplorable. Sending children to Syria from either Iran or Afghanistan to fight and very sadly to die is despicable. And we think it’s incredibly important that the world understands what it is that they’re doing.”

The Trump administration’s condemnation of Iran for human rights abuses come as Trump has caught flack for his muddled response to the alleged assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish intelligence say was murdered by a Saudi hit squad in the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi’s disappearance has captured international attention as a shocking violation of diplomatic convention.

Trump has not yet called for sanctions on Saudi Arabia, putting him at odds with some members of his own party in Congress. The president has also rejected calls to cancel $110 billion worth of arms deals the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. ally, has long played a critical role in American efforts to counter Iranian power in the region.

When asked how Khashoggi’s disappearance would impact Saudi Arabia’s role in Trump’s Iran strategy, a senior administration official said the U.S. has several allies in the region and is taking the Khashoggi situation seriously.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia that is very significant to us, but that doesn’t mean we’re in any way ignoring or downplaying this episode, and we continue to believe those who are found responsible for it have to be held accountable. And I think that’s got to be our bottom line,” the official said.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/16/trump-sanctions-iran-906656

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Graham says U.S. should ‘sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia’


Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday said the U.S. should “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia” and vowed to never work with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as long as he remains in charge of the country, slamming him as “toxic” and a “wrecking ball.”

The disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the 33-year-old crown prince and royal family, ignited an international uproar after he was last seen at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.

“He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey,” Graham said on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday. “And to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused. I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because they’re a good ally.”

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi officials, but President Donald Trump has told reporters that King Salman vehemently denies those accusations. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Saudi Arabia on Monday as the kingdom is expected to explain the journalist’s disappearance.

“I’m not going back to Saudi Arabia if this guy’s in charge,” Graham said. “He can never be a world leader on the world stage,” he said of the crown prince.

“We deal with bad people all the time,” Graham said. “This is in our face. I feel personally offended. They have nothing but contempt for us.”

“This guy has got to go. Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening. There’s a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country,” he said, referring to the crown prince’s moniker.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/16/graham-sanction-saudi-arabia-905641

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Judge dismisses Stormy Daniels libel suit against Trump


The adult-film actress Stormy Daniels’ libel suit against President Donald Trump was thrown out Monday by a federal judge, who also ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles said Trump was engaged in “rhetorical hyperbole” in April when he sent a tweet casting doubt on threats that Daniels claimed to have received in 2011 as she debated whether to go public with her claim of a sexual encounter with Trump.

“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the fake news media for fools (but they know it),” Trump wrote on Twitter.

In a 14-page order, Otero noted that the tweet was a one-time statement by Trump and said it failed to meet the standard of a clear factual claim that Daniels had lied.

“Mr. Trump’s tweet constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole,’ which is ‘extravagant exaggeration [that is] employed for rhetorical effect,’” the judge wrote.

“Specifically, Mr. Trump’s tweet displays an incredulous tone, suggesting that the content of his tweet was not meant to be understood as a literal statement about Plaintiff. Instead, Mr. Trump sought to use language to challenge Plaintiff’s account of her affair and the threat that she purportedly received. … As the United States Supreme Court has held, a published statement that is ‘pointed, exaggerated, and heavily laden with emotional rhetoric and moral outrage’ cannot constitute a defamatory statement.”

Otero, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said that allowing the suit to go forward would create an imbalance in public discourse on a matter of significant public interest.

“If this Court were to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in this type of ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the President,” the judge wrote. “Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the ‘discourse’ common to the political process.”

“In short, should Plaintiff publicly voice her opinions about Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump is entitled to publicly voice non-actionable opinions about Plaintiff,” Otero added. “To allow Plaintiff to proceed with her defamation action would, in effect, permit Plaintiff to make public allegations against the President without giving him the opportunity to respond. Such a holding would violate the First Amendment.”

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, immediately appealed the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Twitter, Avenatti called the ruling “limited” and noted that a suit that Daniels filed against Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen relating to an alleged $130,000 hush-money deal remains on the books.

“Daniels’ other claims against Trump and Cohen proceed unaffected,” Avenatti said. “Trump’s contrary claims are as deceptive as his claims about the inauguration attendance. We will appeal the dismissal of the defamation cause of action and are confident in a reversal.”

Charles Harder, a Trump lawyer, hailed the ruling, highlighting the requirement that Daniels pay Trump’s legal fees.

“No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today’s ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” Harder said in a statement “The amount of the award for President Trump’s attorneys’ fees will be determined at a later date.”

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed the defamation suit in New York last April. She later agreed to a request by Trump’s lawyers to transfer the case to Los Angeles, where Otero sits and has been handling the litigation over the alleged hush money deal.

Since Daniels is a Texas resident, Otero held that Texas law applies to the libel case. Like many states, Texas has a so-called anti-SLAPP law, allowing for early dismissal of lawsuits based on statements on controversial public issues. Most such laws have a provision requiring the losing party to pay the other side’s legal fees if a case is ordered dismissed.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/15/stormy-daniels-trump-libel-suit-903152

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Treasury: Budget deficit swells under Trump to largest in six years


President Donald Trump’s first full fiscal year in office has produced the nation’s largest budget shortfall in six years, according to Treasury Department data released today.

The U.S. deficit widened in fiscal 2018 to $779 billion, which is $113 billion more than the previous year, according to the Treasury’s widely anticipated yearly report.

That figure is in line with the CBO’s estimated shortfall of $793 billion.

In a statement, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney acknowledged the rising tide of red ink — the result of Congress’ appetite for more spending and tax cuts this year.

But Mulvaney argued the shortfall would ultimately be erased by the more robust economy, coupled with future spending cuts.

“America’s booming economy will create increased government revenues — an important step toward long-term fiscal sustainability,” Mulvaney wrote, adding that the data is a “blunt warning to Congress of the dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”

The $779 billion figure is the largest deficit since the height of the Great Recession in 2012, when the budget shortfall amounted to $1.089 trillion.

In another statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attributed part of the spending increase to a short-term boost for the military.

“President Trump prioritized making a significant investment in America’s military after years of reductions in military spending undermined our preparedness and national security,” Mnuchin wrote.

But he promised strong economic growth and spending cutbacks “going forward.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/15/budget-deficit-swells-trump-900432

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‘No warplane to take off’: Russia’s S-700 missile system can cover entire planet – party leader

Preview A leading Russian politician may have just revealed the biggest Russian military secret. Or just invented a non-existent weapon system while ranting about how powerful the country is during a political talk show.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Source: https://www.rt.com/politics/441331-s-700-zhirinovky-rant/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

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US economy like the Titanic, moving towards iceberg at full steam ahead – economist

Preview The US economy is on the rise, but its expansion is coming to an end, warns Scott Minerd, Global Chief Investment Officer at investment firm Guggenheim Partners.

Read Full Article at RT.com

Source: https://www.rt.com/business/441300-us-economy-titanic-iceberg/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS