Book fury hits Trump where it hurts most — his image

(CNN)Nothing means more to Donald Trump than his image.

He got rich by selling his name, plastering it on buildings, hotels, casinos and golf resorts, and he transferred his tough guy “You’re fired” persona to politics, building a personality cult as an ultimate winner and tough-talking President.
The President senses good angles when on camera, and he’s obsessed with polls, the size of his crowds and the flattery dished out by foreign leaders.
    But as Washington consumes a sensational West Wing exposé by journalist Michael Wolff, Trump is being forced to watch as his prized image is ripped to shreds.
    When a presidency is anchored so fundamentally on an image, as it is with Trump, rather than a long history of political achievement or ideological consistency, any deterioration of that image can be especially perilous. For Trump, who may be more conscious of how he is perceived than any politician in history, the mockery is likely to be especially painful.
    Wolff, in some cases using on-the-record quotes, sketches an image far removed from the one constructed by Trump.
    It’s a picture of a President who knows little of policy details and cares less and appears not to perceive the vast responsibilities of his role.
    Sometimes, this version of Trump appears fragile and out of control, prone to emotional and impulsive reactions, and seems lonely in the White House. Wolff also claims Trump never really wanted the job of President at all.
    Some of Wolff’s reporting has been corroborated. But several errors have been identified. Former campaign CEO and White House adviser Steve Bannon, who is widely quoted and is now estranged from Trump as a result, has not denied comments attributed to him, however.
    The storm unleashed by the book, “Fire and Fury,” is a political nightmare for the White House.
    But even as it raged, Trump was, as always, conscious of how his image is playing.
    After details of the book leaked Wednesday, he released a statement saying Bannon “had very little to do with our historic victory” in 2016, characteristically claiming that his success is always his work alone.
    Then on Thursday, in a brief appearance before the cameras, Trump showed he had already noticed Bannon’s flattery on Breitbart radio, in his only comment so far on the book: “He called me a great man last night,” the President said.
    Sources told CNN on Wednesday that Trump was especially aggravated by Bannon’s assault on his family. There is a particularly cutting assessment of the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump in the book.
    “She was a nonevent on the campaign. She became a White House staffer and that’s when people suddenly realized she’s dumb as a brick. A little marketing savvy and has a look but as far as understanding actually how the world works and what politics is and what it means — nothing,” Bannon was quoted as saying by Wolff.
    No father would stand for such talk about his daughter. But for Trump, his family is especially important, because it’s an extension of himself, and his brand.
    “He doesn’t like attacks on the image of the Trump family, on the integrity of his children,” Trump biographer and CNN contributor Michael D’Antonio said. “At the end of the day, he’s really concerned about his image, himself and how he is being portrayed.”

    A delayed response

      Spicer on time in Trump White House

    Trump’s image is under siege, and “Fire and Fury” seems certain to widen the perception between the version of himself that the President wants America to see and the one that emerges from behind-the-scenes reports.
    After a slow start Wednesday, when the White House seemed almost as staggered as the rest of Washington about Bannon’s betrayal, Trump aides and friends sprang to his defense in a belated damage control effort.
    White House press secretary Sarah Sanders blasted the book as “tabloid gossip,” and pointedly pushed back at suggestions by Wolff that Trump did not want to win the election in 2016.
    “If you guys know anything, you know that Donald Trump is a winner and he’s not going to do something for the purpose of not coming out on top and not coming out as a winner,” she said. “That’s one of the most ridiculous things.”
    Trump’s lawyers fired off cease and desist letters to Bannon and to Wolff’s publisher. Trump friends Anthony Scaramucci and Christopher Ruddy toured cable news television studios to defend the President.
    The publisher, for its part, responded by moving up the release date to Friday.
    But any day when the White House has to rebut questions about the President’s mental stability is hardly a good one.
    And the Trump team’s attempt to discredit Wolff faces another complication: the fact that his book broadly tends to corroborate many themes that have arisen in existing news reports about Trump’s personality.
    In October, for instance, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee raised questions about Trump’s temperament by describing his White House as an “adult day care center.”
    Last April, Axios quoted senior administration officials as saying there was a need to keep “smart, sane people around Trump to fight his worst impulses.”

      Ex-aide: Trump knows the Constitution

    And questions about Trump’s focus and struggle to master policy details have been around as long as his presidency.
    After the initial failure of an Obamacare repeal effort last March, a senior congressional source told CNN that “staff was for details, Trump was for closing,” adding that when it came to the intricacies of the bill, the President “didn’t know, didn’t care or both.”
    Sam Nunberg, a former campaign aide to Trump, is quoted in “Fire and Fury” as saying he was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate — and got only as far as the Fourth Amendment “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”
    Nunberg, appearing on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” on Thursday, did not deny the anecdote but suggested nuance was missing from Wolff’s account, saying as that as a candidate who was also running a business, Trump had “a ton of things to do.”

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    James Comey confirms he’s ‘Reinhold Niebuhr’ in the strangest possible way

    (CNN)President Donald Trump fired his FBI director, in part, for being a “showboat,” which didn’t ring true given James Comey’s reputation as a standup G-Man and his commitment, even in the midst of his own political peril, for antagonizing both sides of the aisle.

    Witness: Comey is “Reinhold Niebuhr.” This we now know for sure after the former FBI director capped off a series of cryptic tweets with a photo of himself from the account that has long been suspected as his nom de plume.
    The world has suspected that the Reinhold Niebuhr account, now with the handle @FormerBu, was Comey since the end of March, before he was fired, when Gizmodo writer Ashley Feinberg published a rather incredible bit of Internet sleuthing/snooping/stalking that tied the account to him. (Note: When Feinberg wrote her story, the account handle was @projectexile7 but has since been changed to @FormerBu.) The Reinhold Niebuhr name has stayed constant, however. Niebuhr, an American theologian, was a subject of Comey’s college thesis.
      Regardless, the messages Comey has tweeted over the past few days to emerge, unmasked, as Reinhold Niebuhr are bizarre and interesting.
      There have only been six tweets total from Comey’s account, so let’s examine each one.
      First, back in March, after Feinberg’s story, there was a tweet with a meme of Will Ferrell from the movie “Anchorman” and the text: “Actually, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.” (It was amazing how Feinberg tied the account to him, by the way.) The post also linked to the FBI job site. That was viewed at the time as a tacit admission that the account was his. He had said not long before that he was on Twitter but didn’t advertise his account.
      OK. After that one tweet, Reinhold Niebuhr goes dark for a long stretch of months, during which Comey undergoes some life changes. Namely, he was fired by Trump, testified before Congress, started writing a book. Got a very mixed reception at Howard University. You know the rest.
      But then on October 18 comes a random tweet from West Point of a kayaker on the Hudson River in New York. What’s that about?
      The next day, a picture of Little Round Top in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and some musings on leadership. OK. Side note: Read a bit about Union Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s heroic counterattack and how he saved the US army from the Confederates at Little Round Top.
      Reinhold Niebuhr then goes from Gettysburg to Iowa. And there’s a photo on October 20 of a tall man with black hair in a field of tall corn stalks at sunset. This is by far the best photo of the series.
      A day later, a flock of pelicans and a mention of Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer.
      You’ve probably heard part of the serenity prayer, by the way. It begins like this:
      God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
      And on Monday, the great reveal. Sort of. The account posted a new photo from Iowa of Comey standing in the middle of a deserted, rolling road in the pastoral countryside.
      But it is, undoubtedly, a strange enough photo to launch a new conspiracy theory or two. Why is Comey in Iowa? Why is he standing in this strange manner in the middle of the road, looking into the distance at something we can’t see? Did he look both ways? Why these three states?
      Is this a marketing strategy for his new book? Maybe, but it’s a little bit early because the book isn’t expected until next spring. Given the time in Iowa, is he running for president? Can’t imagine it from Comey. Some kind of Field of Dreams thing? Who knows. We’ll let you know if he tells us any more.

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      Trump at private dinner on NFL feud: ‘It’s really caught on’

      Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump sounded very satisfied with his recent remarks on patriotism and the NFL in a dinner with conservative group leaders at the White House Monday night, according to a person who attended the event.

      “It’s really caught on. It’s really caught on,” Trump said of his NFL comments to attendees at the dinner, according to someone who attended. “I said what millions of Americans were thinking.”
      “You could really tell he was satisfied,” this person in the room said about the President’s comments.
        Trump was referencing his crusade over the weekend in which he harshly criticized players who kneel during the national anthem. Many players who have done so have said they are protesting police brutality.
        Two distinct issues are driving the national debate: Believing players should stand during National Anthem and the question of whether it’s appropriate for a president to make an issue of it.
        At the dinner, Trump also lashed at at GOP Sen. John McCain and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to the source.
        Trump described McCain, who said he won’t support the latest GOP effort on health care, as a “disgrace” on the issue, the attendee said.
        As for Sessions, Trump again said the attorney general should not have recused himself in the Russia investigation.
        “You can tell he still has disdain for this guy,” the attendee told CNN about Sessions. “The room was a little uncomfortable. He really pounded him.”
        On tax reform, Trump offered some marketing advice for the attendees at the dinner.
        “Just call it tax cuts,” Trump said, arguing that’s how to explain the issue to everyday Americans.
        “It sounds convoluted” when you call it tax reform, the person at the dinner quoted Trump as saying.

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        Document details scrapped deal for Trump Tower Moscow

        Washington (CNN)Around the time presidential candidate Donald Trump was touting his real estate dealings at a Republican primary debate, a proposal was in the works to build a Trump Tower in Russia that would have given his company a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales, and control over marketing and design. And that’s not all: the deal included the opportunity to name the hotel spa after his daughter Ivanka.

        An internal Trump Organization document from October 2015, obtained by CNN on Thursday, reveals the details of a 17-page letter of intent that set the stage for Trump’s attorney to negotiate a promising branding venture for Trump condominiums, a hotel and commercial property in the heart of Moscow. Trump signed the document later that month, according to Michael Cohen, his corporate attorney at the time. The document CNN obtained does not have Trump’s signature because it is a copy of the deal that Cohen brought to Trump to sign.
        Cohen pulled out of the arrangement three months later as the project failed to get off the ground.
          Trump did not mention during the presidential campaign that his company explored the business deal in Russia. Instead, he insisted that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Even when talking about his past dealings with Russians — like the Miss Universe pageant he held in Moscow in 2013 — Trump never referred to the prospective licensing deal that fell through a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
          While the potential Russian deal was still on the table, Trump was speaking positively about working with Russian President Vladimir Putin and also minimized Russia’s aggressive military moves around the world. His willingness to accept narratives favored by the Kremlin contrasted with not only the Obama administration but also his Republican opponents.
          At the debates, Trump went after those opponents — but not Putin. In a primary debate in September 2015, he said he “would get along with” Putin and articulated a more conciliatory posture toward the Kremlin. In October 2015, days before he signed the letter of intent, Trump tweeted a link to an article titled “Putin loves Donald Trump.”
          Cohen has publicly acknowledged discussing the deal with Trump on three occasions. A source familiar with those conversations adds that they lasted less than four minutes combined.
          Felix Sater, a Russian-born former Trump business associate and mob-linked felon who figured prominently in development of the Trump SoHo property in New York, served as an intermediary in the Moscow venture, shuttling documents between Cohen and the Russian development firm he was hoping to partner with.
          In an email to Cohen, Sater wrote the project could “possibly fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce and business are much better and more practical than politics.” He continued, “That should be Putin’s message as well, and we will help him agree on that message. Help world peace and make a lot of money, I would say that’s a great lifetime goal for us to go after.”
          The preliminary agreement for the Moscow project was signed by Trump on or around October 28, 2015, according to a statement Cohen gave last week to Congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Also signing was Andrey Rozov, owner of I.C. Expert Investment Company, which would have been responsible for developing the property, which they hoped to build in the heart of Moscow.
          The general outlines of the potential deal, and its collapse, came to light in Cohen’s statement last week. But the new details in the document obtained by CNN reveal a branding bonanza in which the Trump Organization would have had no responsibility for financing the project — the potential cost of which is not even mentioned — but have control over the property’s management and appearance.
          This letter of intent was not a legally binding contract. But it was an agreement that the two parties would try to forge a more formal agreement down the road. It set the contours of the negotiations.
          Both parties agreed the property would be named Trump World Tower Moscow. But when the letter was signed, the Russian company still hadn’t identified a plot of land where it could be built.
          According to the document, Trump World Tower Moscow would have featured about 250 luxury condominium units, 15 floors of hotel rooms, as well as space for commercial properties and offices.
          “All plans shall be subject to (the Trump Organization’s) prior review and approval…” the document says, giving Trump’s company broad oversight over the aesthetics. “Each architect, designer, engineer landscape designer and consultant retained by (I.C. Expert) in connection with the design construction and development of the Property shall be subject to (the Trump Organization’s) prior written approval.”
          The preliminary deal indicated that Trump International Hotels Management LLC would manage the hotel portion of the tower, which was expected to feature a luxury fitness center and spa.
          Trump’s company was explicitly given the option to “brand any or all portion of the spa or fitness facilities as ‘The Spa by Ivanka Trump’ or similar brand,” according to the document. And if they did name it after Trump’s daughter, then Ivanka or her designee would be given “sole and absolute discretion” to approve “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities,” the document says.
          Even though the deal was non-binding, it delved into specifics about payments and fees.
          If the parties reached a formal licensing deal, the Trump Organization would have received $4 million in upfront payments, including $1 million right away, according to the document. Another $1 million was slated for when a building location was approved, and the remaining $2 million would’ve been paid out when construction began or two years after the contract was signed — whichever came first.
          Trump’s company would have received a cut of the profits from sales of condominiums and commercial space. There was a decreasing scale for what percentage of the condo sales the company would receive, based on the price of the unit. The scale started with getting 5% of condos costing up to $100,000.
          Trump’s company would also be paid a percentage of other sales affiliated with the property, including commercial and office space and even “concessions, activity fees, catering, conferences and banquet fees,” according to the document. Another 2% of the tower’s gross operating revenue would be set aside to use for “coordinated sales and marketing efforts among all ‘Trump’ branded hotels.”
          But these revenue streams were aspirational without an actual licensing contract. Even though Trump and Rozov, of the Russian company, signed the document, it was preliminary and non-binding.
          “The Parties agree that unless and until a License Agreement between the Parties has been executed and delivered, no party shall be under any legal obligation of any kind whatsoever to consummate a transaction hereby by virtue of the (letter of intent),” the document says.
          The document goes on to say that, “This (letter of intent) shall not be construed to be a binding contract between the Parties,” except for three clauses, including a provision about brokers. Even though Sater acted as an intermediary between the Trump Organization and I.C. Expert, the Russian company affirmed in the document “that it has not dealt with any broker with respect to the transaction.”
          There is nothing in the document about where the Russian company would get the money to finance the project, or which banks it would work with. Sater told the New York Times last month that he lined up financing from VTB Bank, which is partially owned by the Kremlin and is under US sanctions.
          I.C. Expert Investment Company lists seven “banking partners” on its website, including VTB Bank. Three of the other banks are either partially or completely controlled by Russian government entities. The other three are private.
          When contacted by CNN, Cohen said his dealings with a Russian company were simply part of his job responsibilities. “It was part of my job to prospect for business opportunities, domestic and foreign.”
          “Mr. Cohen will cooperate with the committees, has turned over the appropriate documents that have been requested and will meet with them if requested,” his attorney Stephen Ryan told CNN.
          In his statement to Congress, Cohen said that “the Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign” and that “the decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign.”
          But it was being negotiated during a critical time for Trump. Up in the polls, but with months to go before the first votes were cast in Iowa, Trump was trying to maintain the lead and knock out his GOP competition, and defy the widely-held conventional wisdom that he couldn’t actually win the nomination.
          Trump allies, including those inside the Trump Organization, argue that he shouldn’t have been required to neglect or abandon his business while running for the presidency, which he could have lost.
          The effort was never publicly disclosed by Trump during the campaign, though there wasn’t any requirement that he do so. But he insisted on several occasions that he had “nothing” to do with Russia, with a few exceptions — a mansion he sold to a Russian in 2008, and the Miss Universe pageant he held in Moscow in 2013. He never mentioned the potential Trump Tower deal as one of the exceptions.
          “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away,” Trump said in early January 2017 as President-elect. “We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict. I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals.”
          Trump maintained that posture into his presidency, never once mentioning the failed effort to do business in Moscow, even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and multiple Capitol Hill committees investigated his relationship with Russia.
          “I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant — which I owned for quite a while — I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump told NBC News in May.
          Investigators working for the special counsel are looking at whether Trump had any business dealings that could have put him or his associates in a compromising position with Russia.

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          Exclusive: Jared Kushner’s White House connection still being used to lure Chinese investors

          Jared Kushner’s status as a top aide to President Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family’s New Jersey development, even after his family’s company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May, CNN has found.

            The promotions are posted in Chinese and refer to Kushner Companies as “real estate heavyweights,” going on to mention “the celebrity of the family is 30-something ‘Mr. Perfect’ Jared Kushner, who once served as CEO of Kushner Companies.”
            One posted online in May by the company US Immigration Fund, a private business based in Florida, also contains a reference to Kushner’s appearance on the cover of December’s Forbes Magazine, under the headline “This guy got Trump elected.” The post was removed shortly after CNN contacted the company for comment.

            From US Immigration Fund’s WeChat page:

              The promotions are aimed at bringing in investors who pay at least $500,000 apiece and in exchange get US visas, and potentially green cards, for themselves and their families if the development meets certain criteria. The deals are part of a legal US government program called EB-5, which grants up to 10,000 immigrant visas per year.
              One webpage posted in March by Chinese company Qiaowai that remains on the company’s page on the popular Chinese social media site WeChat mentions Trump and suggests he supports the program: “Even some members of Trump’s family have participated in the growth of the EB-5 program … the “Kushner 88″ panoramic New Jersey apartment project … The lead developer on the now-completed project was Kushner Companies which is linked to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.” It goes on to say, “Given this, in the Trump era, the EB-5 program is likely to receive support and be expanded.”

              From Qiaowai WeChat page:

                A Kushner Companies spokesperson, in response to CNN’s questions about the webpages, said “Kushner Companies was not aware of these sites and has nothing to do with them. The company will be sending a cease and desist letter regarding the references to Jared Kushner.”
                A former White House ethics expert tells CNN the EB-5 program already raises a potential government-backed quid pro quo — favorable immigration status in exchange for investment dollars. And he says any use of the President’s son-in-law as a marketing tool is ethically unacceptable.
                “What is not authorized is any arrangement where someone gets preference for their visa if they give money to a company that is controlled by the family of a United States government official,” said Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush.
                  “And unfortunately,” says Painter, “that implication was made in the selling efforts for this project.”
                  Painter is referring to an investment “road show” that Nicole Meyer attended in May in Beijing. Meyer, the sister of Jared Kushner, was speaking at an event in which she was trying to attract wealthy Chinese investors to the 1 Journal Square project.
                  During the presentation, Meyer reminded investors of her brother’s recent role in American politics: “In 2008, my brother Jared Kushner joined the family company as CEO,” Meyer told a crowd, adding he “recently moved to Washington to join the administration.”
                  The comments coincided with a visual display, which included a photograph of Trump.
                    Meyer’s comments led to strong criticism that the Kushner family was using Jared Kushner to attract investment dollars through the EB-5 program.
                    The company quickly apologized, and separately, Jared Kushner’s attorney released a statement saying Kushner had no knowledge of the promotion and was no longer involved financially in the 1 Journal Square project.
                    “As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program,” Kushner’s attorney, Blake Roberts, said in a statement.
                    US Immigration Fund, a company based in Jupiter, Florida, seemed to blame others for the post, saying in a statement, “The post in question was originally posted by a 3rd party immigration consultancy firm on its company WeChat and was reposted to USIF’s WeChat by the company’s Chinese social media consultant. The post is several months old and hasn’t had any interaction by followers, however, it has since been removed from the company WeChat.”
                    Qiaowai, a Chinese immigration company that organized the events where Kushner’s sister spoke, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The webpage on its WeChat site that references Kushner remained online as of Wednesday afternoon.
                    EB-5 investment advisor Michael Gibson tells CNN it makes sense that the companies marketing the Kushner project in China have continued to use Kushner’s name to promote their project, because he says Chinese investors are drawn to developments they believe are backed by individuals with government connections: “They want to make sure they get the green card,” Gibson told CNN. “So if they see a public official associated with the project that gives them the impression that this project is safe enough for them to invest in.”
                    The EB-5 program has faced criticism for straying from its original intent. The program was designed by Congress in the 1990s to bring foreign money into rural and blighted urban areas to spark development and job growth.
                    After the economic recession of 2008, the program began expanding to become a low-interest source of income for developers who have used EB-5 investment money to fund high-end residential towers and retail projects in areas like Manhattan, Jersey City, New Jersey, and Miami.
                    Gary Friedland, a scholar in residence at New York University’s Stern School of Business who has studied the program, said developers have found ways to manipulate census tract data to place their projects within “targeted employment areas,” which legally reduces the amount investors must pay — down from $1 million to $500,000 — to qualify for EB-5 benefits.
                    Emails obtained by CNN from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development show a representative for US Immigration Fund in January asked a New Jersey official to issue a letter certifying the Kushner’s 1 Journal Square as within an area with low employment.
                    After an official responded that the project did not qualify due to its location within a census tract with an unemployment rate below the national average, a consultant for another company asked that the state combine six census tracts together. Days later, the state approved the Kushner Companies’ project, documents show.
                    Friedland says practices like this allow luxury developers to take advantage of incentives meant to lure investments to lower-income areas: “The money flows to affluent areas, not the targeted areas Congress intended to benefit,” he said.
                    On June 1, three Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Kushner Companies current president Laurent Morali asking for an explanation on the company’s ongoing use of the EB-5 program and the nature of its relationships with Qiaowai and US Immigration Fund.
                    Kushner Companies has not yet responded to the letter, according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

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                    How climate scepticism turned into something more dangerous

                    The long read: Doubts about the science are being replaced by doubts about the motives of scientists and their political supporters. Once this kind of cynicism takes hold, is there any hope for the truth?

                    Last month Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. For his supporters, it provided evidence, at last, that the president is a man of his word. He may not have kept many campaign promises, but he kept this one. For his numerous critics it is just another sign of how little Trump cares about evidence of any kind. His decision to junk the Paris accord confirms Trump as the poster politician for the post-truth age.

                    But this is not just about Trump. The motley array of candidates who ran for the Republican presidential nomination was divided on many things, but not on climate change. None of them was willing to take the issue seriously. In a bitterly contentious election, it was a rare instance of unanimity. The consensus that climate is a non-subject was shared by all the candidates who appeared in the first major Republican debate in August 2015 Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Trump. Republican voters were offered 10 shades of denialism.

                    As Huckabee quipped in January 2015, any talk of global warming was a distraction from the real dangers the country faced: A beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn. Trumps remarks on climate may have more been erratic (I want to use hairspray! he said at one point, confusing global warming with the hole in the ozone layer) but their consistent theme was that manmade climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the enemies of the US, who may or may not include China.

                    Climate science has become a red rag to the political right. The scientific consensus is clear: more than 95% of climate researchers agree that human activity is causing global warming, and that without action to combat it we are on a path to dangerous temperature rises from pre-industrial levels. But the mere existence of this consensus gets taken by its political opponents as a priori evidence of a stitch-up. Why else would scientists and left-leaning politicians be agreeing with each other all the time if they werent scratching each others backs? Knowledge is easily turned into elite knowledge, which is tantamount to privileged snobs telling ordinary people what to think. Trumps stance reflects the mutual intolerance that now exists between those promoting the scientific consensus and those for whom the consensus is just another political racket. Trump didnt create this division. He is simply exploiting it.

                    It is tempting for anyone on the scientific side of the divide to want to apportion all the blame to the alt-facts crowd, who see elite conspiracies everywhere. But there is more going on here than dumb politics versus smart science. The facts are not just the innocent victims of politics. The facts have long been put in the service of politics, which is what fuels the suspicions of those who wish to deny them. The politicisation can cut both ways.

                    The politics of climate change poses a stark dilemma for anyone wanting to push back against the purveyors of post-truth. Should they bide their time and trust that the facts will win out in the end? Or do they use the evidence as weapons in the political fight, in which case they risk confirming the suspicion that they have gone beyond the facts? It is not just climate scientists who find themselves in this bind. Economists making the case against Brexit found that the more they insisted on agreement inside the profession about the dangers, the more it was viewed with suspicion from the outside by people who regarded it as a political con.

                    Post-truth politics also poses a problem for scepticism. A healthy democracy needs to leave plenty of room for doubt. There are lots of good reasons to be doubtful about what the reality of climate change will entail: though there is scientific agreement about the fact of global warming and its source in human activity, the ultimate risks are very uncertain and so are the long-term consequences. There is plenty of scope for disagreement about the most effective next steps. The existence of a very strong scientific consensus does not mean there should be a consensus about the correct political response. But the fact of the scientific consensus has produced an equal and opposite reaction that squeezes the room for reasonable doubt. The certainty among the scientists has engendered the most intolerant kind of scepticism among the doubters.

                    Not all climate sceptics are part of the alt-right. But everyone in the alt-right is now a climate sceptic. Thats what makes the politics so toxic. It means that climate scepticism is being driven out by climate cynicism. A sceptic questions the evidence for a given claim and asks whether it is believable. A cynic questions the motives of the people who deploy the evidence, regardless of whether it is believable or not. Any attempt to defend the facts gets presented as evidence that the facts simply suit the interests of the people peddling them.

                    Climate change is the defining political issue of our times and not simply because of the risks we run if we get it wrong. An inadequate response if we do too little, too late could inflict untold damage on the habitable environment. But even before that day comes, the contest over the truth about climate change is doing serious damage to our democracy.

                    The fight over climate reveals how easily politics can get in the way of the facts, and how hard it can be to escape once cynicism exerts its grip. In many ways, climate science is particularly vulnerable to political distortion. But the issue of climate change also shows that it is a false comfort for liberal elites to think that the facts will win in the end. If they do, it wont be because we woke up to the science. It will be because we woke up to the politics.

                    Climate science has not always been so political. The idea that manmade carbon emissions are contributing to significant changes in the climate first came to public notice in the 1960s and 1970s. But attention to the issue was not primarily driven by politics, despite an attempt by Richard Nixon when president to push for more research into the issue. Most of the early consciousness-raising came from journalists.

                    In 1975, Newsweek made a splash with the claim that the science of climate change was pointing to the imminent threat of global cooling. This warning gained notoriety but little political traction, at a time when the dangers of nuclear war and the economic consequences of the oil crisis crowded out other forms of apocalypse. The political consequences had to wait decades to be felt. Many of the recent Republican presidential candidates cited over-the-top scare stories about global cooling from their childhood as a reason to discount scare stories about global warming today.

                    What politicised the idea of climate change was its adoption as a cause by Democratic politicians in the 1980s, above all by Al Gore. By the start of that decade, evidence of global cooling had faded and a scientific consensus was starting to form around the idea that the climate was warming up. Gore belonged to a group known as the Atari Democrats, for their wonkish attachment to science and technology. These politicians saw climate as a useful issue, as well as an urgent one. It was a way of appealing to moderate Republican voters, because the concerns it raised cut across party lines. In the words of another member of the group, Chuck Schumer, then a Brooklyn congressman, now Senate minority leader: If youre a Democrat, especially in a middle-class district or on the west coast, [climate] is a great issue It is an issue with no downside.

                    Former British Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who in 1989 called global warming one of the most serious threats facing humanity. Photograph: Dave Caulkin/AP

                    The ecumenical quality of climate change as a political cause was emphasised when Margaret Thatcher took it up at around the same time. In her speech to the UN general assembly in 1989, she spoke of global warming as one of the most serious threats facing humanity. She was comfortable speaking the language of science, having been a scientist herself. But her motives were political: it suited her prior point of view. She drew extensively from the warnings of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, in part because she had grown to trust their advice on climactic conditions during the Falklands war. She believed in nuclear power as an emblem of free enterprise. And she had historic reasons to be suspicious of coal. For Thatcher, climate change was a convenient truth.

                    But no issue, once politicised, remains ecumenical for long. In 1989 Thatchers time was nearly up. Gores was just beginning. Through the 1990s and 2000s, as climate change became associated with left or liberal policy positions, it started to receive serious pushback from the right, for whom the political motivations of those championing the science were obvious. Climate change was seen as a vehicle for promoting big government and higher taxes. It became a totem of the partisan divide.

                    This was the beginning of a vicious circle of mutual distrust. Once science gets dragged into the territory of politics, its opponents can accuse it of being a distortion of science. Scientists are meant to be politically neutral, at least as far as their science is concerned. Yet it is almost impossible to remain neutral when you are under political assault.

                    In these politically charged circumstances, there is no safe space for the facts to retreat to. That was made clear by the so-called climategate scandal of 2009, when a series of hacked emails from the University of East Anglia was held up as evidence that the scientific evidence was being distorted to fit a political agenda. The emails showed no such thing. What they did reveal is that in an environment of highly politicised scepticism, climate scientists were forced to think about guarding the evidence against opponents looking for any excuse to discredit it.

                    In private correspondence, the UEA scientists talked about presentational tricks for describing the data and the need to favour certain outlets for publication over others. They looked out for their friends and they were wary of their enemies: thats politics. There was nothing wrong with the science, as was confirmed by an extensive series of inquiries into the affair. But the emails betrayed the scientists awareness that the idea of a consensus on manmade climate change was under concerted attack. So they went out of their way to shore up the consensus. Which, when revealed, confirmed to their opponents that the consensus was a sham.

                    This is how climate scepticism becomes climate cynicism: doubts about the evidence are replaced by doubts about the motives of the people using it. In 2012, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican who once brought a snowball on to the floor of the senate to show that climate change wasnt real, published The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. The book contains two lengthy appendices. The first is the full transcript of the UEA emails, presented as prima facie evidence that the science is a fix. The second is a history of the United Nations global development programme. The argument goes like this: there is no need for world government unless there are issues that cant be solved by national governments. Climate change is such an issue. So it follows that it has been invented by people who cant justify world government any other way. It is a globalist plot.

                    Once cynicism becomes the default mode of attack, then both sides are trapped. Moreover, it is not a level playing field. It favours the cynics. Scientists have to decide whether to let the facts speak for themselves, or whether to try to take on the cynics at their own game. If they pull back from politics, they risk letting the cynics set the agenda. If they dont, they risk proving the cynics right.

                    Cynicism is fuelled by the ease with which uncertainty about the science can be spread. All it takes is time and money. Questioning climate science suits the interests of the fossil fuel industry, where the politics of climate change has long been seen to pose a direct threat. Ever since climate became a political issue in the 1980s, the big oil companies have been funding an extensive PR operation to raise questions about the strength of the evidence. ExxonMobil alone has spent more than $240m on public relations in this area in the past two decades. Many of the leading Republican candidates for president in 2016 (though not Trump) took campaign funding from the Koch brothers, who have been at the forefront of the fight against the scientific consensus on climate change.

                    The currency in which these campaigns trade is doubt. Their goal is to sow uncertainty in the public mind about what the science shows. In the words of an American Petroleum Institute action plan from 1998: Victory will be achieved when average citizens understand uncertainties in climate science. To that end, money has been funnelled towards scientific researchers who dissent from mainstream opinion, even if those researchers are in a very small minority. Sowing doubt turns out to be relatively cost-efficient, because dissent only needs a few exceptions to the orthodoxy, whereas consensus requires everyone else to hold fast to it.

                    However, it is no coincidence that this is how the oil industry chooses to see the struggle. Framing it as a contest between heterodoxy and orthodoxy fits the language of scepticism. In that way, it can be made to appear consistent with both science and democracy. Democracy needs dissent in order to function. Scientific progress depends on people being willing to challenge the conventional wisdom. Many climate sceptics argue that they are the ones on the side of science, because the currency of science is doubt. But when heterodox opinion gets purchased with hard cash, it cements the triumph of cynicism. Money ensures that motives are what matter.

                    The ultimate goal of the merchants of doubt has been to politicise the orthodoxy, not simply to dispute it. What has given climate scepticism political teeth over the past two decades is the drive to associate the scientific consensus with the political establishment. Mainstream scientists and mainstream politicians are both viewed as belonging to a club that is comfortable spending other peoples money but deeply uncomfortable with anyone elses point of view. In an age when all kinds of elites are viewed with suspicion, portraying scientists as a well-connected interest group leaves them vulnerable to political attack. Scientists take public funding. Scientists pass judgment on each others work. The scientific establishment is just another a closed shop.

                    Political cynicism has weaponised climate scepticism. But it might also prove to be its achilles heel. Just as pure science struggles with the fact that it cant avoid politics, so pure politics struggles with the fact that it cant avoid science. Even the most cynical political operators need to know whats really likely to happen. As reporting in the Los Angeles Times has shown, at the same time that it has been funding a PR campaign to question the scientific consensus, ExxonMobil has also been funding some of the research that underpins that consensus, including studies of rapidly shrinking ice levels in the Arctic. In the words of David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman, writing in the New York Review of Books, a company as sophisticated and successful as Exxon would have needed to know the difference between its own propaganda and scientific reality. Kaiser and Wasserman argue that, as a result, the company has committed fraud: it failed to disclose to its shareholders the basis on which it was making its investment decisions. Its business plans take it for granted that climate change is a real and imminent threat.

                    This behaviour has clear echoes of an earlier attempt to challenge the scientific consensus: the campaign by the big tobacco companies to dispute the link between smoking and cancer. Although many of these businesses recognised as far back as the 1950s that the science was sound, they funded a body of widely disseminated research designed to throw doubt on that view. Their goal was to keep the public open-minded about the dangers of cigarettes, and therefore to keep as many of them puffing away for as long as possible. It was a purely cynical business strategy, and in some cases it was criminal as well. It worked to the extent that it bought the tobacco industry time to reorient its investment and marketing to take account of the new reality. But in the long run it failed. No reasonable person and certainly no serious politician now doubts the link between smoking and cancer. The fate of tobacco can give hope to people who worry that the truth is always outgunned: the science won out over the cynics in the end.

                    Are there grounds for thinking that the same will be true for climate science? The tactics of the industries in question may be similar, but the cases are different in crucial respects. Tobacco impacts on its victims directly smokers do eventually die and it was when personal experience caught up with industry denial that the argument was lost. It is possible that climate change could kill even more people than smoking. But any damage on that scale is still a long way off. It is also far less direct. The victims will not necessarily be the people who are currently engaged in the most harmful behaviour.

                    Once it had been established that smoking causes cancer, it was clear what had to be done to prevent it: individuals would have to stop smoking and tobacco companies would have to stop encouraging them. There is no equivalent certainty around climate change, even once we accept the scientific consensus that it is real. Those responsible for causing it are not those who will suffer most from it. The current migration crisis is partly being driven by changes in the climate affecting food and water supplies in Africa and the Middle East. But the politics of migration will never find answers in the science of climate change, for the simple reason that the science does not tell us what to do about it.

                    Climate change has distinctive features as a political issue that make it much more intractable than other controversies in which the science was once in cynical dispute. The hyper-politicisation of climate science has coincided more or less directly with the rise of social media; the fight over tobacco took place before the age of the internet, which at least gave scientists some measure of protection from personal exposure. Meanwhile, the consequences of climate change are long-term, global and uncertain. That means any solution places a huge premium on trust. We have to trust that it really will cause harm. We have to trust that we are responsible for any harm it causes. We have to trust that any action we take wont be undone by the inaction of others. In an age of enormous mistrust in politicians, this poses a huge challenge.

                    We need far more trust in politics than we have at present in order to take concerted action on climate change: apart from anything, we would need to believe that politicians would be willing to share in the sacrifices they ask of us. In the meantime, those who are determined to sow suspicion about the merits of concerted action are fuelling our mistrust in politics. There is no equivalent of watching a relative die of lung cancer to split the difference.

                    The people who made the case that smoking causes cancer were not generally thought of as hypocrites. Its true that some of them still smoked, even after they knew the dangers. But there were far more smokers inside the tobacco industry, where being seen with a cigarette in hand was positively encouraged as a signal that there was nothing to worry about.

                    Climate science is different. Ever since it became a political issue, it has been bedevilled by accusations of hypocrisy. The internet is awash with tales of Al Gore and his monstrous double standards: he racks up enormous air-conditioning bills in his multiple homes; he leaves his private jet idling on the runway as he spreads the message that flying is wrong; he sells his television network for megabucks to al-Jazeera, where the money to buy it comes from Qatari oil. In the words of the National Review in 2016: The [climate] hysterics are hypocrites. Its austerity for thee but not for me as they jet around the world to speak to adoring audiences about the need for sacrifice. Until wealthy liberal New Yorkers start selling up their Manhattan real estate and moving to higher ground, the cynics say, theres really nothing to worry about.

                    Recent research by a group of psychologists shows why this is such a problem: we dislike hypocrites because we hate they way they seem to be signalling their superior virtue. Take two kinds of claims about environmental activism. Under one set of conditions, a speaker claims to recycle his rubbish, after which it is revealed that he does no such thing. Under the other, a speaker tell his listeners they should recycle their rubbish, after which it is revealed that he does not do it himself. The first is a liar. The second is a hypocrite, but not a liar, since what he says is still true (people should recycle their rubbish). Most people respond with relative equanimity to the lie. But they loathe the hypocrisy, because the hypocrite seems to be patronising them.

                    Environmentalist and former US vice president Al Gore at Trump Tower in New York in December last year. Photograph: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

                    This is terrible news for environmentalism. Doctors who smoke are not really patronising their patients: if anything, they are revealing sympathetic human weakness. But environmental activists who leave the engine running are easily portrayed as dreadful elitists: they think the rules dont apply to them. The populist rabble-rousers of the right have exploited this fact mercilessly. Hypocrisy is hard to avoid when it comes to the politics of climate change, since it is a collective-action problem. Its far from clear what difference any individual action will make. What matters is what we do together. This makes it practically impossible for any one individual to match words to deeds. Yet the failure to do so provides the perfect stick for the climate cynics to beat their opponents with.

                    If we dislike hypocrisy more than we dislike lying, then it is not just a problem for climate politics. It is a problem for democracy. It gives the liars their chance. During the presidential campaign, it was widely hoped that Trumps relentless record of untruths would be his undoing. In the New York Times, David Leonhardt painstakingly listed the 26 lies Trump told in the first presidential debate, which ought to have been enough for anyone. But Trump has always been careful not to come across as the wrong sort of hypocrite: the kind who seems to be talking down to people. Hillary Clinton was not so careful. And when the voters get to choose between the two, the hypocrite loses to the liar.

                    In the febrile, divisive state of our politics, its not what you say, its what you say about yourself by saying it that really counts. The social media revolution amplifies and exaggerates these kinds of accusations. It has become easier than ever to find evidence of how individuals public attitudes are given the lie by their private actions. There are now so many public attitudes to choose from, and private actions are now so much harder to hide. Twitter is a vast hypocrisy-generating machine that is corroding democratic politics. Scepticism, which is a democratic virtue, is giving way to cynicism, which is a democratic vice, across the board.

                    Since his arrival in the White House, Donald Trump has been in the middle of a tug of war between the liars and the hypocrites inside the West Wing. On one side stands Steve Bannon, representative of the alt-right, still looking to flush out the hypocrisy of the globalists and ready to peddle any old conspiracy theory to achieve his goals. On the other stand the younger members of Trumps family, including his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who are more concerned with keeping up appearances.

                    Climate change quickly emerged as one of the fault lines in this showdown. In the end it was Bannon who persuaded Trump to make good on his promise to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord. Kushner argued that this would send the wrong signal and that much more could be achieved by sticking with the agreement but reorienting it to suit the interests of the big American fossil fuel producers. Trumps secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who was previously the CEO of ExxonMobil, sided with Kushner. They lost.

                    In this case, both approaches are equally cynical. For Bannon, everything, including climate science, is just an extension of politics: all that matters is which side you are on. For his opponents inside the administration, climate change can be sidelined as an issue by paying lip service to the consensus while acting in ways that make it irrelevant. The liar denies that climate change is really happening. The hypocrite accepts that it is real but behaves as if the words dont mean anything.

                    Trumps administration is dragging climate science further into the swamp of partisan politics. Populist attacks on the scientific consensus co-opt reasonable doubt and turn it into unreasonable suspicion of another self-interested elite. The natural tendency of any elite under this sort of pressure it to build the castle walls higher in order to keep the interlopers out.

                    Donald Trump with his advisers Jared Kushner (centre) and Steve Bannon. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

                    Faced with a concerted assault on their integrity, what should climate scientists do? They face a choice. One option is to try to reclaim climate scepticism from the people who have corrupted it. The other is to insist more strongly than ever on the consensus. When the space for doubt has been taken away, you can respond by becoming more certain of your own position. Or you can try to take doubt back.

                    There are lessons for the politics of climate change from economics. The economics profession, like any other, is full of people who will express their doubts and uncertainties among friends. But when confronted with a hostile or bemused public, they will close ranks. Economists do not want to appear to be unsure of themselves, given how little the public understands of what they do anyway. So rather than admit that there are many different ways of thinking about, for example, free trade, they insist that all economists agree it is a good thing. As the economist Dani Rodrik puts it, when faced with hostile fire, the natural tendency is to start circling the wagons. For the many voters who do not see the benefits of free trade, this looks like a stitch-up.

                    Economists have found themselves vulnerable to the same dilemma as climate scientists. If they express doubt, the cynics rip them to shreds. But if they conceal doubt, the cynics rip them to shreds anyway. Political pressure often tempts experts into making predictions about the immediate future to prove their point, even though this is a hostage to fortune. Economics is not really meant to be a predictive science. But making predictions is a good way to get attention in a very noisy news environment. The temptation always exists to reduce long-term forecasts to short-term predictions in order to get a hearing. Some economists fell into this trap before Brexit. By talking up the immediate downside, they made it easy to dismiss their warnings when the worst failed to happen straight away. The costs of a failed prediction far outweigh the benefits of an accurate one, especially when that prediction has made in the service of politics.

                    Political journalism is now suffering its own version of this failure. Reasonable doubts about Trump and Jeremy Corbyn were too often accompanied by journalistic predictions that they couldnt possibly win. These predictions were made to show that scepticism about their politics was something more than just one commentators opinion: it was based on a testable hypothesis that would be borne out by events. When the predictions turned out to be wrong, the reasonable doubts got discredited, too.

                    Climate scientists have not faced an embarrassment on an equivalent scale to the financial crash of 2008 or the elections of 2016-17: the big shock they didnt see coming. Were global warming to turn back into global cooling, climate science might find itself in the same boat as the economics profession: derided for its failure to provide any kind of warning mechanism for the real dangers we run. For now, the main accusations it faces are of crying wolf. In their eagerness to push the idea that climate change is real, environmentalists have too often been drawn into making premature claims about when we will feel its effects. Gore did it in An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006, when he talked about a 10-year tipping point after which disaster would be at hand. He also overstated the threat of larger and more frequent hurricanes, in the recent aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Until the wolf is at the door, shouting louder and louder about how close he is does no good. It plays into the cynics hands.

                    Science often makes for bad politics, because it pretends that it is not politics. The most effective political arguments for taking climate change seriously cannot therefore be ones that simply rest on the science. We need to stop thinking that one side has possession of the truth and the other is just running on money and prejudice. Both sides get tempted into being economical with the truth in the cause of politics. The cynics know what they are doing, which is what makes them cynics. The other side often doesnt, which is what leads them into the cynics trap.

                    We live in an age when mistrust of politics has spilled over into mistrust of expertise, and vice versa. To respond with ever-greater certainty in the name of science is a big mistake. Expertise doesnt just need humility. It also needs to reclaim the idea of scepticism from the people who have abused it. Experts need to find a way of expressing uncertainty without feeling it undermines their expertise. Voicing doubt has been allowed to become a synonym for admitting you were wrong. The way out is to stop insisting that you were right in the first place.

                    The scientific consensus on climate change is real. But by insisting on its merits for the purposes of politics, its champions have exposed it to ridicule. Political arguments for climate science indeed, for any science in the age of Trump should not keep saying that the populists are lying about the consensus. They should say that they are hypocrites about the doubt: they do not practise what they preach because they think they know the answers already. Climate change deniers argue they are only trying to discover the truth. We should all be sceptical about that.

                    Main illustration by Jasper Rietman

                    Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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                    Smerconish: ‘This is a golden age of journalism’

                    (CNN)After President Donald Trump tweeted that the media “is the enemy of the American people,” CNN’s Michael Smerconish delivered a searing defense of the press Saturday, arguing that this is “actually a golden age of journalism.”

                    Trump’s tweet came after a news conference Thursday ostensibly called to announce new labor secretary pick Alexander Acosta devolved into a tirade against the media. The press, the President said at one point, should be “ashamed of themselves.”
                    Smerconish noted in his response to Trump’s remarks that the President “uses every opportunity to bash us.”
                      “On his media criticism, I vehemently disagree — and not just because I’m here at CNN,” he said. “The President is attacking of our best checks on government, especially where Congress shows no interest in playing that role.”
                      Now more than ever, people should be investing in journalism and supporting press outlets, the CNN anchor said.
                      “We all know that in the Internet age, print advertising is plummeting nationally and newspaper staffs have been eviscerated across the country,” he said. “In recent months, even revered institutions like The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have been offering employees buyouts and laying people off.”
                      Smerconish called that a “damaging trend,” especially for local media.
                      “Where there’s no investigative journalism, government at a local, state and national level goes unchecked,” he said.
                      There is no replacement for fully staffed newsrooms, he added.
                      “Sure, there’s been an explosion of self-described journalists, bloggers,” he said. “But people with laptops sitting in their PJs are no substitute for old-fashioned gumshoe, investigative reporters.”
                      America needs “revelatory journalism that takes time and money,” Smerconish continued, citing CNN investigative reporting on links between Trump and Russia.
                      “This is actually a golden age of journalism, one that makes me proud,” he said.

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                      White House site updated to remove Melania Trump QVC reference

                      Washington (CNN)The White House edited First Lady Melania Trump’s biography on Friday “out of an abundance of caution” that a reference to her clothing line on QVC could be seen as an endorsement, a spokesperson for Trump told CNN.

                      The page lists information about Trump’s life, including her modeling career and philanthropy. Earlier in the day, however, her QVC jewelry collection was mentioned.
                        “In April 2010, Melania Trump launched her own jewelry collection, ‘Melania Timepieces & Jewelry,’ on QVC,” the biography said.
                        QVC no longer sells jewelry under the Trump brand and the biography did not link to QVC. A spokeswoman for the company, Rebecca Blank, told CNN Friday that QVC does “not have an active relationship with the brand.”
                        The Trump spokesperson said the reference to Trump’s “entrepreneurial success” was based on fact and not an endorsement and noted that it was not available for sale.
                        It’s not the first time a member of the Trump family has been criticized for promoting a Trump brand.
                        The namesake brand of President Donald Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka, emailed a “style alert” featuring a $10,800 bracelet she wore after an appearance alongside her father on “60 Minutes” in November.
                        Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, released a statement following the bracelet email that said it was sent by a “well-intentioned marketing employee” following “customary protocol.”
                        The employee, Klem wrote, “like many of us, is still making adjustments post-election. We are proactively discussing new policies and procedures with all of our partners going forward.”
                        Ivanka Trump took steps to separate herself from her brand’s social media accounts later that month, and fully stepped away from the business in January.
                        The President has turned The Trump Organization over to sons Donald Jr. and Eric through his new administration, though ethics watchdogs have urged him to take further steps to distance himself from his businesses.

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                        The $85,000 inauguration package you were looking for

                        Washington (CNN)Washington-area hotels are deep into preparations for this weekend’s inauguration festivities, with hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to descend on the Capitol.

                        “People are pouring into Washington in record numbers,” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
                          A search finds most hotel rooms in the vicinity are booked for Friday and AirBnB announced more than 13,000 guests booked in homes that evening, its biggest night ever in Washington.
                          But if that’s not appealing, the St. Regis is offering an $85,000 inauguration package.
                          The package includes four nights in the hotel’s presidential suite, full butler service and full transportation.
                          The newly renovated presidential suite has a foyer, living room, dining room, library, bedroom and his and hers bathrooms and closets, custom-designed to accommodate multiple ballgowns.
                          During their stay, guests will enjoy an inauguration-inspired meal in the suite. The dishes — porterhouse steak, potato gratin and Oreo cheesecake — were selected with the President-elect’s palate in mind.
                          The package also includes a special souvenir: a cigar humidor made from wood from a tree that fell on George Washington’s property. (It’s certified.)
                          Built in 1926, the St. Regis, just down the street from the White House, is known for its over-the-top details, such as daily champagne sabering, hand-carved wood ceilings and personal butler service, which includes unpacking, packing, pressing, shoe shine, morning tea, afternoon beverage service and “any other requests,” per Douglas Camp, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.
                          The St. Regis has a storied history and frequently accommodates high-profile guests. While the hotel wouldn’t divulge the identity of the guest who has purchased this weekend’s inauguration package, it has been reserved by a “political figure,” Camp said.
                          “What we’ve seen in the past and this year are either VVIPs (very, very important people) that want to celebrate in the success of the President-elect, or celebrities. But this year, it’s a political figure that wants to come and celebrate in the President-elect’s position in taking office,” Camp said.
                          Chef-concierge J.F. Dupont will also be on hand to help guests, many of whom have never been to Washington, navigate the inauguration festivities. He advises comfortable shoes for the weekend.
                          “I tell my guests, BMW: Bus, Metro and Walk,” he said.

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                          Democrats to attack Labor nominee’s employee treatment

                          Washington (CNN)Democrats looking to attack President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, unveiled new findings Tuesday detailing the work environment at restaurants in his fast food empire.

                          A pro-worker organization, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, unveiled its report Tuesday afternoon, followed by a second news conference with prominent Democratic senators including Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and Washington’s Patty Murray.
                            At the events, workers from CKE restaurants, which include Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, spoke about mistreatment they experienced working at the fast food locations.
                            ROC United conducted a survey of CKE employees, recruited by social media, for their report. Though their sample is unscientific, the responses of the more than 500 employees who returned their survey showed a high rate of sexual harassment from customers, being forced to work off the clock, not receiving required breaks and not getting overtime pay.
                            A substantial number of those who participated also said they and their coworkers have prepared food despite being sick.
                            The report did not distinguish which franchises the workers came from.
                            The allegations, ROC United says, should call into question Puzder’s nomination as labor secretary. The Labor Department has traditionally been the enforcer of labor laws and protector of workers. Since his nomination, Puzder has faced criticism from Democrats that he is too pro-employer and anti-worker.
                            “Workers at CKE restaurants have spoken of extensive wage and hour violations and excessive rates of sexually harassing behavior from guests and customers associated with a brand that has sought to sexualize women as a hamburger-marketing tool,” the report concludes. “These findings call into question the viability of Andrew Puzder for the role of the nation’s secretary of labor.”
                            A Trump transition spokeswoman slammed the report in advance as “fake,” criticizing the ROC’s methods.
                            “The Restaurant Opportunities Center survey — paid for by unions and special interests opposed to Andy Puzder’s nomination — is a flagrant example of ‘fake news,’ ” said spokeswoman Liz Johnson. “In a deliberate attempt to smear CKE and Mr. Puzder, ROC used leading questions and deceitful surveying tactics, such as posing as CKE corporate representatives, to fabricate results that are the definition of ‘fake news.’ “
                            ROC United said it stands by its methodology.
                            As part of the report, ROC United collected first-hand accounts from more than one dozen of the survey respondents, who detail the mistreatment they received.
                            “It was not uncommon for coworkers of mine to come in sick,” said Ashlee Sutphin of Tennessee. “I can recall multiple instances when the cooks in the back would be puking off into the garbage can and then finish up an order. Employees routinely worked while having pneumonia. We also couldn’t plan when to make doctor visits because we would get the schedule on Saturday for Monday — meaning we would only have a two day notice of our upcoming schedule.”
                            Sutphin and others also described grease burns suffered in the kitchen.
                            “While working on the grill, many of the employees, including myself, would get burned from the grease that would shoot up from the sizzling hot grill,” Sutphin said. “When I asked about obtaining burn cream to alleviate the pain, I was told that they did not have any at the time. Over time I realized that this wasn’t on accident — they in fact never had burn cream during future incidents. Basic medicinal items like a first-aid kit or band aids were absent from our store.”
                            A member of ROC United, Roberto Ramirez, also described working hours off the clock.
                            “For many years, I started working 30 minutes before my clock-in time to make sure that I finished all my duties on time,” Ramirez said. “My managers were aware that I was working those extra 30 minutes but I was never paid for that time or asked to clock in when I started working early. Managers would become very upset if I didn’t finish my duties before the end of my shift, and several times they retaliated against me for it — they would cut my hours, change my schedule or send me home early.”
                            Warren, Murray and 21 other Democratic senators have sent a letter to the Republican chairman of the committee that will hear Puzder’s nomination asking for witnesses like the ones that will speak on Tuesday to testify before Puzder’s confirmation hearing, citing accusations like those raised by ROC United.
                            In a statement after his nomination last month, Warren called Puzder’s nomination a “slap in the face.”
                            “Throughout his entire career, Andrew Puzder has looked down on working people,” Warren said, “At Hardees and Carl’s Jr., he got rich squeezing front-line workers on wages, overtime, and benefits, all while plotting to replace them with machines that are so much better than workers because they are ‘always polite’ and ‘never take a vacation.’ Appointing Puzder to run the federal agency responsible for protecting workers is a slap in the face for every hard working American family.”
                            But his spokeswoman defended Puzder as a job creator.
                            “Andy Puzder has firsthand experience creating jobs and boosting the careers of thousands of Americans, and his extensive record of fighting for workers makes him the ideal candidate to lead the Department of Labor,” Johnson said.

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