NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — More than a year after President Donald Trump won the 2016 election, attendees at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were still celebrating Hillary Clinton’s loss and hoping for her arrest.
During the final speech on Thursday, the first day of the conference, the crowd broke out into a chant of “Lock her up!” when conservative writer Ben Shapiro said that Clinton would never be president.
“She’s already in a jail of her own making,” Shapiro quipped after the chants waned.
When Trump spoke to the conference last year, the same chant broke out during his speech.
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — When NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday, about a week after a deadly school shooting in Florida, she did not dance around the issue of gun rights.
On Wednesday night, Loesch held back some of her fiery rhetoric during a CNN town hall with students from the Florida high school recovering from a mass shooting. But 12 hours later, she gave a no-holds-barred speech to the conservatives present at the annual CPAC event.
Loesch and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre were some of the first major speakers to address this year’s CPAC, but their names left off the schedule at the last minute. Though their speaking time was kept quiet, the NRA leaders did not hold back in.
In their Thursday speeches, both executives appropriated the main refrain of one of the most outspoken survivors of the Parkland shooting: high school senior Emma Gonzalez. In a speech at a rally that went viral, Gonzalez listed claims made by the NRA about the ineffectiveness of gun control and chanted after each one, “We call BS!” Loesch and LaPierre wove the “we call BS” call into their CPAC speeches, using the phrase to attack both the FBI and advocates of gun control.
Loesch also used the majority of her time on the CPAC stage to go after the press.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” Loesch said, glaring toward the back of the auditorium where hundreds of reporters sat in a filing center. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings.”
She accused the media of rushing to cover “crying white mothers” after mass tragedies while ignoring black mothers impacted by gun violence in Chicago.
Loesch mentioned members of the media sitting in the back of the room several times, telling the press that she will not stop defending the rights of gun owners.
After railing against media coverage of shootings, Loesch pivoted to an attack on the FBI, which she accused of dropping the ball on stopping several mass shooters. Her comments echoed Trump’s attack on the FBI earlier this week.
“We will not be gaslighted into thinking that we were responsible for a tragedy that we had nothing to do with,” Loesch said to loud applause in the crowd, with several conference attendees giving her a standing ovation.
She singled out former FBI Director James Comey for blame, saying he spent too much time talking to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and writing memos.
“Maybe if you politicized your agency less and did your job more we wouldn’t have these problems,” she said.
In his address, LaPierre also lamented “the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” and accused those calling for restrictions on gun purchases in the wake of the Parkland school shooting of “shameful politicization of tragedy”
“As usual the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain,” he said, pointing to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) as a leading voice calling for gun control. “There’s been break-back speed of calls for more gun control laws in the midst of genuine grief. ”
LaPierre did not mention that some of the loudest voices calling for gun control over the past week have been the student survivors themselves, who amid their mourning have organized and advocated on the state and national level and have specifically demanded politicians cut ties with the NRA.
But most of LaPierre’s speech was dedicated to calls for more armed security at schools as a way to deter or prevent school shootings, echoing President Trump’s suggestion Wednesday that teachers be trained to carry firearms.
“Our jewelry stores, our banks, our airports, our NBA games, they’re all more protected than our children at school,” LaPierre said. “Does that make any sense to anybody? Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than our children?”
“God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” he said.
LaPierre said that “schools must be our most hardened targets in this country,” and the NRA executive repeated an infamous line from his speech after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I said five years ago after that horrible tragedy in Newton, and I wish, oh God I wish, more had heeded my words. So lean in, listen to me now, and never forget these words: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) has spent his career sticking his fingers in the eyes of progressives, vocally bucking his party on everything from abortion to Obamacare to gay rights, with few repercussions. In less than a month, they have their first real chance to strike back.
The congressman has long been able to get away with a laundry list of conservative votes in his seven terms in Congress and has avoided a real primary challenge for years, aided by close ties to Chicago’s powerful old-school Democratic machine.
But in the year of red-hot Democratic activism, the #MeToo movement and brutal urban and suburban backlash against President Trump , those old-guard powers are facing a reckoning. And just weeks ahead of Illinois’ March 20 primary, the congressman is coping with perhaps his biggest political threat since his father, longtime Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-IL), retired and anointed him his successor in 2004.
Marie Newman, a former advertising executive, anti-bullying and gun control advocate is gunning for his seat — and has won a number of endorsements from heavy-hitting liberal groups.
“There is a definite path to victory for her, where in past primaries I haven’t really seen that materialize. I think this is a good year in that district for a real Democrat, and a woman. This is going to be a very good year for women,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who endorsed Newman in what she told TPM is the first time she’s ever campaigned against another sitting Democratic congressman. “There’s this sense of unity, of being off the sidelines, in the fray, going to vote, and all of that significantly plays into the energy around her candidacy.”
The younger Lipinski has followed in his father’s footsteps in carving a fairly conservative record, especially on social issues. A co-chairman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, he’s one of only three remaining House Democrats who voted against the Affordable Care Act. He’s regularly stood against legislation backed by gay rights groups, long opposed gay marriage and is one of the only House Democrats who opposes the Equality Act, a bill that would offer LGBTQ Americans protections against discrimination in housing and employment. He supported the war in Iraq, has regularly voted against keeping House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as party leader, and only recently switched to supporting the DREAM Act. He also recently had to walk back comments opposing unions’ long-sought push for a $15 minimum wage.
But his biggest and most vocal apostasy to liberals has been his steadfast opposition to abortion. A devout Catholic, he’s long served as the co-chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus and has regularly voted with Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood and ban most legal abortion.
Liberal organizations have fumed for years over his votes and views, especially since he holds a district that both Hillary Clinton and President Obama carried by roughly 15 points. But Lipinski easily defeated early primary challengers with the support of one of the country’s few remaining powerful Democratic machines. Party boss and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D) then gifted him a personalized gerrymander that stretched the 3rd District from his and Lipinski’s base in Chicago’s South Side into whiter, more socially conservative southwestern suburbs after 2010, possibly at the expense of drawing another gerrymandered Democratic district. He hasn’t faced a real challenge since.
But Newman has shown herself to be a capable candidate, with decent if less-than-dazzling fundraising figures, and she has the backing of some of the left’s most powerful groups. She has support from the pro-abortion rights NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, MoveOn.org, and the Service Employees International Union, as well as Schakowsky, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
“The Lipinski monarchy supported by the Chicago machine has continued because nobody’s had the time or resources to do this,” Newman told TPM last week. “We’ve had 36 years of Lipinskis, and everyone’s pretty clear they’re completely out of touch with the district.”
In recent days, outside groups said they’d put their money where their mouths are with a combined $1 million in TV, digital and print advertising attacking Lipinski’s record on social issues, Obamacare and immigration and tying him to President Trump.
“You can’t fight Trump when you agree with him. It’s time for Dan Lipinski to go,” both of the groups’ ads conclude.
Newman needs that help: She had just $237,000 in the bank as of Jan. 1 to his $1.65 million war chest, not enough by itself to give him a serious challenge in a district that’s squarely within Chicago’s expensive media market.
Even with all the groups gunning for him, Lipinski doesn’t seem to think he’s in much trouble in the safely Democratic district.
“I’m not sure why anyone believes this is going to be a close race to begin with,” he told TPM in a phone interview last week, pointing to an internal poll conducted for his campaign in late January that had him up by more than 30 points.
Lipinski acknowledged that the progressive base is spoiling for a fight with the president, and was quick to tout votes against Obamacare repeal and the GOP tax plan, his longtime support for gun control, environmental protections and his endorsement from the AFL-CIO. But he argued that Democrats shouldn’t cast out moderates like himself.
“It’s understandable that people are as incensed by Trump as I am, the things he has done and said. It’s important, though, that we do not form a Tea Party of the left, I think that’s detrimental to the party,” he said. “We’re in a position where we’re down 24 seats in the House, we’ve lost 1000 seats across the country since 2010, and we need to make sure we’re a big tent party, not closing down. That’s not good.”
Lipinski largely ignored Newman’s repeated barbs Wednesday night during their only scheduled debate, only firing back when she criticized his views on gay rights and abortion.
“Religious freedom is under attack,” he warned, saying he now accepts gay marriage as the “law of the land” but arguing that churches and religious organizations shouldn’t be forced to honor it or pay for contraception.
But the congressman does seem to be acting a bit skittish as of late. He called for nonpartisan redistricting during the debate, which Newman was quick to point out for its hypocrisy given his earlier gerrymandering. His reversal on the DREAM Act is a sign he knows the position is untenable in a district with a fast-growing Hispanic population. And while he hasn’t shied away from defending his pro-life views during the campaign, he backed out of a scheduled speech at the national March for Life last month at the last minute.
“I did not want to be up onstage with Donald Trump speaking,” he said. “But a lot of the issues we’re voting on when it comes to abortion are things the majority of Americans, even the majority of Democrats agree with – the Born Alive Infant Protection Act we voted on in January, even the ban on abortion at 20 weeks, national polls show there’s a majority of Democrats who support that. It’s my opponent who has the radical position on this.”
He’s also looked to bolster his standing as with women in recent months. Lipinski’s State of the Union guest this year was Faith Ann Rys, a clinical therapist who treats female victims of sexual assault. Even as he spoke at the Chicago March for Life last month, he worked in a nod to the #MeToo movement.
“We have heard so many stories over the last year. They’ve been horrible stories about assault, harassment, and terrible mistreatment of women. And when this happens it scars all of us. We all, everyone needs to stand up for the dignity of every single individual, every single woman, man, and especially the most vulnerable, the child in the womb. That is what we do everyday int he pro-life movement,” he said onstage.
That effort was a dealt a blow in recent days, however. Madigan has become embroiled in his own scandal, accused of protecting a number of longtime aides who harassed female staffers, and Lipinski was just about the only Democrat who stood up to defend his old friend.
Most local Democrats think Lipinski still has the edge in the contest, where the primary winner will face an avowed Neo-Nazi in the general election. But they think Newman’s chances look better every day. And if she doesn’t pull off an upset this time around, they hope she’ll take another shot next election.
“Although I think she has a wonderful opportunity now, laying the groundwork for 2020 is wonderful,” said Gutierrez.
When Trump administration’s senior HHS staff unveiled a draft rule this week that would expand the sale of cheap, skimpy, short-term health plans, they described it as a “lifeline” for the currently uninsured, and insisted the rule change won’t destabilize Obamacare’s individual market.
The department’s move is just the latest in a lengthy series of administrative actions that have destabilized and chipped away at the Affordable Care Act, including repealing of the individual mandate, cutting the length of open enrollment in half and slashing funding for outreach and assistance, making it easier for states to cull their Medicaid enrollees, and cutting off CSR subsidies that offset the cost of insuring low-income individuals.
While Obamacare’s individual mandate was still in place, those who chose a cheap, short-term, non-ACA plan still had to pay the tax penalty. With that barrier removed next year, the introduction of the skimpy plans could upend the health care marketplace.
The Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services released a draft rule Tuesday morning allowing insurance companies to sell skimpy short-term health plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act’s regulations. These plans, which currently can only be used for three months, will now be allowed up to a year, and will be allowed to turn away people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums.
When the final gavel came down Thursday afternoon, marking the Senate’s failure to pass any one of four immigration bills up for debate, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) left the chamber with a spring in his step.
Asked by reporters what Congress will do now for nearly 700,000 young immigrants at risk of losing their work permits and legal protections after March 5, the anti-immigration hardliner grinned and replied: “We move on to confirming judges and banking reform.”
But many other senators on both sides of the aisle say Congress should and must keep trying to find a solution for the DACA program President Trump terminated last year, and pointed to a few possible avenues to create a new bill from the ashes of the four voted down on Thursday.
Meanwhile, GOP leaders in the House of Representatives are whipping a bill even further to the right than President Trump’s which may not even pass the House and would be dead on arrival in the Senate, while ignoring calls from Democrats to follow the Senate in holding a series of votes on competing bipartisan plans. Looming over the legislative scramble are federal courts, which could decide at any moment the fate of President Trump’s attempt to end the DACA program, and President Trump himself, who may for a second time torpedo Congress’ hopes of passing a bill by threatening a veto.
Trump signaled his disinterest in working toward a solution Friday morning, releasing a statement slamming “the Schumer Democrats” for the failed votes and characterizing the minority party whose votes he needs to pass any bill as “the open border fringe.”
Jared Kushner quietly filed an addendum to his personal financial disclosure adding even more previously undisclosed business interests in recent weeks — and may have even more to disclose, according to real estate documents shared with TPM.
Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, wrote a letter to White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino dated Jan. 3, 2018 adding a number of additional business interests that had not previously been on his personal financial disclosure form.
That letter, which has not been previously reported, corrects and adds new corporate positions and details of his companies’ structures that he legally was required to disclose, in a seeming attempt to square his filing with spouse Ivanka Trump’s as well as clean up some previously overlooked items.
“Following the certification of my spouse’s financial disclosure report by the Office of Government Ethics on December 26, 2017, I am writing to provide conforming information and other updates to the financial disclosure report that I signed on March 9, 2017,” Kushner wrote in the letter:
The White House passed along the letter to the Office of Government Ethics, which signed off on it on Jan. 8 with a note that Kushner remains “in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”
This is Kushner’s latest attempt to fully lay out all of his sprawling real estate and other holdings in the legally required filings to the Office of Government Ethics, after previous efforts fell far short. Kushner added 77 additional assets and more than $10 million in previously undisclosed holdings last July, months after his initial filing, saying they were “inadvertently omitted.”
Top ethics experts say that while corrections and amendments happen from time to time, the number and scope of amendments Kushner has filed are highly unusual.
“This is really out of the ordinary,” said Don Fox, a former acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics who served during the administrations of both President Obama and President George W. Bush. “It’s really uncommon you’d still be trying to get the form correct at this stage in the game and there’d have been as many amendments over such a protracted period of time that we have.”
The latest amendments to Kushner’s personal financial disclosure filings come amidst increasing scrutiny of his assets, which have drawn interest for months given the potential conflicts of interest posed by the extensive business interests of Kushner and his family, including some troubled projects that reportedly have squeezed them financially and forced them to borrow heavily.
The Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department have issued subpoenas to lenders and investors in real estate projects managed by Kushner’s family, Bloomberg reported Thursday, seeking information from people who lent money for Kushner Cos. projects in New York and New Jersey. According to Bloomberg, that likely stems from a separate investigation than the ongoing FBI probe into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s team.
According to a separate recent update from Ivanka Trump, Kushner appears to have taken out millions more in loans in recent months, a sign that his business may be on the rocks. The couple are currently battling a lawsuit filed in December that accuses them of illegally omitting information for 32 other companies, raising the possibility of hidden conflicts of interest.
Kushner’s letter added that he made between $5,000 and $15,000 from Calamos Convertible Opportunities and Income Fund and that he was a director for RealCadre Company, Inc., which during the covered disclosure period became another entity he’d already disclosed, as well as his position on the board of his family’s charitable trust. He also adds more than a half-dozen previously undisclosed LLCs that were part of the corporate structure of assets he’d previously reported, changed the description of a few assets Ivanka owns, and added more LLCs related to her ownership stake in Trump Old Post Office, LLC.
Even with Kushner’s latest updates, however, it appears as though his financial disclosure forms still may not fully be up to snuff under ethics law.
The liberal group American Bridge combed through public records to identify Kushner holdings that he failed to report on his form, unearthing a handful more corporations that from publicly available information appear as though they should be disclosed. The documents were pulled as part of a new effort from American Bridge to lay out all public records related to Kushner’s complex financial holdings.
TPM provided Kushner’s legal team with an array of publicly available corporate documents obtained by American Bridge showing Kushner’s undisclosed business interests and corporate positions. Kushner’s lawyers declined to comment on the record on the specific examples provided. A spokesperson for Kushner told TPM that he “has provided complete information on his disclosure forms” but left open the possibility of further updates being filed.
Some of the examples American Bridge found appear to be clear-cut violations, while with others it’s impossible to know from publicly available information whether or not Kushner had a financial stake that he would have had to report them.
For example, Kushner has not disclosed his involvement with Park Valley Owner, LLC. Kushner signed a limited warranty deed in December 2015 as manager for Park Valley Owner, LLC. Ethics law requires all executive branch employees to include in their personal financial disclosure forms all “positions outside the U.S. government” they held for the two calendar years prior to their federal employment. The omission appears to violate that rule. Kushner may not be required to disclose this specific property if he signed the deed as a representative of previously disclosed company that controlled Park Valley Owner LLC. But even in that case, Fox says, Kushner would likely have to disclose Park Valley Owner LLC because of underlying assets.
“The property is an apartment complex just outside Cincinnati. I assume it has considerable value. Jared is listed as manager in December 2015. The reporting period for positions outside the government is two previous years,” Fox said. “I think it’s certainly reportable.”
Another potential violation: Landings Building, LLC, which was controlled by The Landings, Inc., where Kushner served as vice president, was not disclosed. Leaving off this sub-LLC would only be allowable if Kushner had no stake in the underlying assets. But Kushner’s latest addendum adds four other similarly named Landings LLCs under The Landings, Inc. that hadn’t been previously disclosed under the same umbrella organization, and it’s unclear why Landings Building 136A LLC wouldn’t meet the same requirements.
Other Kushner-connected LLCs that aren’t on his personal financial disclosure include Bauer Realty Corporation and Bauer Drive Associates. Bauer Realty Corporation is the managing member of Bauer Drive Associates, according to public filings. Bauer Drive Associates owns a $3 million property at 128 Bauer Drive in northern New Jersey, according to public records covering the past three years. Kushner disclosed his stake in the property and his position with 128 Bauer Drive Associates but not in these controlling LLCs.
Kushner was also an authorized signatory for Landings NYT MT LLC, Walkill NYT LLC, Oakwood NYT LLC and Elmwood NYT LLC, four LLCs that were involved in his purchase of the 229 West 43rd Street building in New York City in November 2015. The four weren’t dissolved until November 2016, according to public records — well within the required disclosure period.
A Kushner spokesperson argued that the updates in the letter were part of the normal personal financial disclosure process. Kushner’s representatives refused to discuss on the record whether he should have disclosed the business interests and corporate positions that American Bridge found through its public filings search or explain what spurred his latest update.
“Under the direction of financial advisors and experienced ethics attorneys, Mr. Kushner has provided complete information on his disclosure forms, often more than others in prior administrations ever did, and in compliance with the rules and requirements,” a Kushner spokesman told TPM. “As with anyone in government who has numerous financial holdings, he will update and supplement his disclosures whenever appropriate and will continue his transparent and thorough process.”
But that doesn’t line up with what ethics experts who’ve reviewed personal financial disclosures for earlier administrations say.
“It’s just sloppy, and he doesn’t take a great deal of interest at all in getting this public financial disclosure form correct,” said Fox. “If he did he would have accomplished it by now.”
After three consecutive plans to address the DACA program went down in flames Thursday afternoon, Republicans who signed onto the bipartisan compromise bill that came closest to passage tore into the Trump administration for lobbying against it.
The hardline immigration legislation the White House backed in order to protect so-called “Dreamers” failed to overcome a filibuster Thursday. It was the fourth immigration-related legislation to go down Thursday afternoon, as the Senate considered measures to codify the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.
The White House-supported bill, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), imposed steep cuts on legal immigration, while giving immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as minors a pathway to citizenship. President Trump endorsed the bill, while his administration lobbied aggressively against the bipartisan DACA bills also considered Thursday.
A vote on advancing the legislation failed 39-60, well short of the 60 votes it needed to move forward. It garnered significantly less support than the two other DACA bills the Senate voted on Thursday.
With the failure of all the bills, the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants are in jeopardy. Trump rescinded last year the Obama-era program that protected them from deportation. However, that move is in legal limbo due to lawsuits against Trump’s decision.
The Senate voted also voted on a fourth immigration-related bill Thursday that did not address DACA, but rather targeted sanctuary cities. It too fell short of the 60 votes required to move forward.
The first vote was on narrow deal to protect DACA recipients that was sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE). The second was on the sanctuary city legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
The third piece of immigration-related legislation to go down Thursday afternoon was sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), and backed by a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Common Sense Coalition.” It would given young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children a pathway to citizenship. It provided $25 billion over 10 years in border security, including for the “construction of physical barriers.” It would also block green card holders from sponsoring adult children for immigration, meaning that those immigrants would have to wait until they become citizens before sponsoring their adult children.
It received 54 votes in its favor and 45 against the legislation.
It was considered the best opportunity for the Senate to put up the votes it would need from both parties to overcome a filibuster. The Department of Homeland Security had blasted the bill for creating a “mass amnesty” and for “destroy[ing]” the DHS’ ability to “to remove millions of illegal aliens.”
Immigration advocates were skeptical of it, but most preferred that legislation over no protection for DACA recipients.
The DACA program shielded young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. Their fate remains in jeopardy, and thousands had already had lost their protected status by the time the Senate took up the issue.
Two courts have blocked Trump’s move to terminate the program — and previous DACA recipients can reapply for protection while the case remains in legal limbo. The administration has asked the Supreme Court to consider taking up one of the cases and overturning the decision.
On Wednesday night, a group of Republican and Democratic senators nailed down a difficult compromise on immigration that has been weeks in the making—a bill that provides a 12-year path to citizenship for young immigrants known as Dreamers, allocates the full $25 billion President Trump has demanded for the U.S.-Mexico border, bans the parents of DACA recipients from ever receiving citizenship, and bars legal permanent residents from sponsoring their adult, unmarried children.
But before the bill could even come to the floor for an expected vote Thursday, the Trump administration was working to undermine it.