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Forbes billionaire list: Trump loses $1bn as elite club gets 233 new members

Post-US election boom in stock markets and continued rise in oil price help bring global total of billionaires to nearly 2,300 individuals

US president Donald Trumps fortune has fallen by about $1bn to $3.5bn over the past year, as measured by Forbes magazine in its annual list of the worlds billionaires.

However, overall it has been a good 12 months for the worlds wealthiest individuals, with a record 233 moving into the billionaire bracket, taking the global number of people with nine-zero fortunes to 2,043 the most in the 31-year history of the list.

The billionaires in Forbes list are worth a combined $7.67tn (6.18tn) more than three times the UKs annual gross domestic product (GDP).

Kerry Dolan, co-editor of the Forbes billionaires list, published on Monday, said the gains are mostly the result of booming stock markets and the rising price of oil over the past 12 months.

Number of billionaires

Global markets have hit record highs due to the so-called Trump bump following Trumps election, with the Dow Jones soaring above 20,000 points for the first time and the UKs FTSE 100 closing at a record 7,415 points last week.

The fall in Trumps net worth is due to a drop in the value of office space in Midtown Manhattan, where the president owns about 10 buildings. Forbes said Trump had fallen from the worlds 324th-richest person to 544th.

Forty percent of Donald Trumps fortune is tied up in Trump Tower and eight buildings within one mile of it, Forbes said. Lately, the neighbourhood has been struggling (relatively speaking).

Trump has refused to publish his tax returns to show the true scale of his wealth, but during the campaign he claimed he was worth in excess of $10bn.

Dolan said that in previous years the real estate tycoon had challenged Forbes for underestimating his fortune. We contact everyone we can to give them the opportunity for feedback. Over the last 31 years we have been compiling this list Trump has given us a lot of feedback, believe me, You guys are too low I am worth far more than you say, she said. He didnt call back to dispute our estimate. I would hope that running the country is more important to him right now than Forbess value of his net worth.

The richest person in the world remains Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who saw his fortune grow by $11bn to $86bn. He is followed by investor Warren Buffett, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who was this years biggest gainer with a $27.6bn increase in his fortune to $72.8bn.

Top 10 richest

The US accounts for the biggest population of billionaires with 565, up 25 on last year. But China is catching up with 319 billionaires, and a further 68 if Hong Kong and Macau are included. Germany is third with 114 billionaires.

The number of UK billionaires increased from 50 to 54, with new entrants including Philip Day, the man behind Edinburgh Woollen Mill, and Simon Nixon, the co-founder of moneysupermarket.com.

The richest people in the UK are the Hinduja family, who control a conglomerate of businesses including cars and banks and are worth $15.4bn. Property and internet investors David and Simon Reuben come second with a $15.3bn fortune. The third richest, and among the biggest gainer, is Jim Ratcliffe the founder and chairman of chemicals group Ineos.

UK richest

Among the biggest British losers is Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley whose fortune dropped by 25% to $2.6bn. His wealth, which is largely held in Sports Direct shares, has roughly halved over the past two years as shares collapsed following the Guardian expos of Victorian workhouse-style conditions in its distribution warehouses.

Sir Philip Green and his wife, Tina, the owners of Arcadia, which owns Topshop and once owned BHS, also lost just over $1bn, with their fortune slumping to $4.8bn. They fell more than 100 places to 339th.

Oxfam said the creation of so many new billionaires in one year was a sign of economic sickness rather than health.

Our warped economic model leads to more unequal societies that trap millions of people in poverty – it allows an elite group to accrue extreme wealth while one in nine people go to bed hungry every night, Max Lawson, Oxfams head of inequality policy, said. We need to build a more human economy where the super-rich pay their fair share of tax, workers earn a living wage, and governments invest in decent healthcare and education to give everyone a good start in life.

The number of women on the list increased to 227, from 202 in 2016. A record 56 of the women are self-made billionaires the highest ever. All but one of the 15 newly self-made female billionaires came from the Asia-Pacfic region, including Vietnams first self-made female billionaire Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao who took her budget airline VietJet Air public last month.

Yoshiko Shinohara, who started her temp agency in her one-bedroom Tokyo apartment, became Japans first self-made female billionaire. She enters the list due to a 50% surge in the stock price of her company Temp Holdings, which is designed to get more women into the workforce.

The richest woman on the list is Frances Liliane Bettencourt, who inherited a stake in LOreal from her father. Shes worth $39.5bn.

There are just 10 black people on the list, a drop of two from last year. The richest black person is Nigerian cement tycoon Aliko Dangote with an estimated fortune of $12.2bn. There are only three black women on the list, including Oprah Winfrey who has a $3bn fortune.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/20/forbes-billionaire-list-trump-loses-1bn-as-elite-club-welcomes-233-new-members


Q&A: What will happen if the US Federal Reserve raises interest rates?

Janet Yellen, the Fed chair who has been criticised by Donald Trump, is set to raise rates for third time since financial crash

The US central bank is poised to raise interest rates for only the third time since the financial crash of 2008. With its headquarters just round the corner from the White House, the Federal Reserve and its chair, Janet Yellen, are in Donald Trumps sights.

On the campaign trail Trump said Yellen should be ashamed of the Feds low interest rate policy, and accused the bank of creating a false stock market. Trump has called for higher rates, but Yellen can not take a positive presidential reaction for granted.

The reaction of markets across the world is even less predictable. So what is the likely impact on the US and the global economy?

What is the Fed expected to do?

The Federal Reserve raised the base interest rate by a quarter of a percent in December last year and is expected to follow with a further rate rise on Wednesday. Some analysts expect a quarter-point rise, though most of the betting is now on a half point, pushing the base rate to a range of 1% to 1.25%.

Why will it raise rates?

The US economy has grown for the last 30 quarters and shows no sign of slackening off. Consumer spending is robust and the latest jobs numbers showed employment increasing and unemployment staying low.

Fathom Consulting, an economic forecaster, said spare capacity in the labour market was disappearing fast and it would not be long before wages started to rise rapidly. Wage rises push up demand, and that triggers higher prices.

The Fed has a remit to control inflation, but also to mintain high levels of employment. By raising rates, it will appear to do both.

How will consumers and corporate America react?

The Fed is betting businesses will shrug off the extra cost of borrowing, continue to invest in the US economy and create jobs.

Setting aside concerns about Brexit and a string of potentially destabilising elections on the continent, Fed policymakers have judged that the strength of the economy is enough to override a series of rate rises, possibly taking the base rate to almost 2% by the end of next year.

Consumers have embraced the Trump rhetoric of tax cuts and deregulation to continue spending, undeterred by the prospect of higher mortgage costs.

How will the market react?

Central banks like to signal their intentions, albeit in opaque language, to prevent investors being spooked. This rise was heavily trailed in recent weeks and has been priced in as a certainty by market participants in New York, London and Tokyo though some would be surprised by a half-point rise.

Turbulence could come from the foreign exchange markets if the dollar rises following a slump in the Turkish lira, Indonesian rupiah, Mexican peso or other developing world currency. More importantly, the bond markets could overreact.

Why do the bond markets matter?

Much of the world borrows money in dollars or seeks to lend to the US government and US corporations in dollars. A rise in interest rates would encourage an influx of funds into the US, pushing up the dollar relative to other countries. A rise in the Fed funds rate would also increase the cost of borrowing.

When the Fed first hinted in 2013 that it planned to stop pumping funds into the financial system, the prospect of higher borrowing costs for those holding dollar debts spooked the bond markets. Turkey and Russia were highlighted as countries with corporate sectors that expanded quickly based on heavy borrowing using dollar-denominated bonds. It was clear that much of Turkeys corporate sector could go bust if its interest bill jumped too far or fast.

Such was the strength of the reaction, Ben Bernanke, who at the time chaired the Federal Reserve, abandoned his plan. A similar reaction preceded a rate rise in December 2015, and while markets regained their composure, the extra costs imposed on Turkey and Russia hit their economies hard and arguably shored up the position of their authoritarian leaders.

Is a currency war possible?

Trump has already attacked China for artificially depressing its currency, even when Beijing was doing all it could to close the gap between the yen and the dollar. Now China is letting the yen fall and with interest rate rises in the US pushing up the dollar, the gap will widen, increasing the cost of US exports and reducing import prices.

Trump can only complain about the currency, but he could make good on threats to impose tariffs on Chinese goods, sparking a trade war.

Is there any reason to keep rates on hold?

Annual US GDP growth since the 2008 crash has averaged 2.1%. This might seem like a healthy rate, but it is the slowest recovery from recession since the second world war. Business investment remains low and productivity in the US, as elsewhere in the developed world, is growing sluggishly. To boost borrowing and demand, the Fed needs to keep credit cheap.

But Trump plans to make up for the tightening of monetary policy by cutting taxes and running up a huge budget deficit. He also plans to take his shears to corporate and consumer regulations, unleashing a surge in economic activity.

Bloomberg said investors expect three more rises before the end of the year. Fathom Consulting said there was enough momentum in the economy for rate increases of 25 basis points seven times between now and the end of next year.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/14/us-federal-reserve-interest-rates-janet-yellen-donald-trump


Trump had to pay millions due to tax law he aims to abolish, leaked return shows

A section of the presidents 2005 tax return revealed that about 85% of what he paid the IRS was incurred due to alternative minimum tax

Donald Trumps leaked tax return reveals that the businessman had to pay tens of millions of dollars in a single year because of a tax rule that he has specifically promised to abolish as president.

A two-page section of Trumps tax return for 2005, which was published by MSNBC late on Tuesday, revealed that the president paid $38m in federal taxes on more than $150m in income in 2005.

But the documents also showed that about 82% of the total paid to the Internal Revenue Service that year by Trump and his wife, Melania, was incurred due to a tax that Trump has said should be abolished.

The alternative minimum tax (AMT), which was introduced to ensure the mega wealthy pay a fairer share of tax, comprised $31m of Trumps tax bill compared to $5.3m in regular federal income tax. In the run-up to Novembers election, Trump pledged to eliminate the AMT altogether, meaning the president campaigned for a change in the tax law that would have benefited him.

The publication of the paperwork prompted immediate condemnation from the White House, which accused MSNBCs Rachel Maddow of breaking the law and preemptively released figures from the same year.

You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago, a Trump administration official said in a statement.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/14/donald-trump-tax-return-leaked-alternative-minimum


Donald Trump Jr says he has ‘zero contact’ with father as he runs business

Presidents older son, speaking to Republicans at a fundraiser in Dallas, says he does not miss politics but does miss the intensity of campaigning

Donald Trump Jr said he has had essentially zero contact with the president of the United States since his father took office and handed management of his business, without divesting, to his two adult sons.

I basically have zero contact with him at this point, Trump Jr told about 1,000 Republicans at a fundraiser in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday night.

Federal law exempts the president from ethics rules regarding conflicts of interest, but the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), as well as conservative and liberal attorneys, have repeatedly told the White House its plan to separate Trump from his businesses does not go far enough. In January, Trump declined to divest from his sprawling business interests, the extent of which remains unclear, given his refusal to release tax returns in the tradition of other presidents.

The White House has insisted that Trump has taken sufficient steps to remove himself from his businesses, promising, for instance, to give payments from foreign government guests, such as diplomats courted at Trumps new Washington hotel, to the US treasury. In January, a group of ethics attorneys, including former counsels to George W Bush and Barack Obama, sued Trump, alleging that such payments violated the emoluments clause of the constitution.

Trump has said that his sons, 39-year-old Donald Jr and 33-year-old Eric, would take over day-to-day business management, and both continue to travel extensively in the US and abroad in the service of their family business. At the Republican fundraiser, Trump Jr said he missed elements of the presidential campaign.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/12/donald-trump-jr-says-he-has-zero-contact-with-father-as-he-runs-business


‘Trump lies all the time’: Bernie Sanders indicts president’s assault on democracy

Exclusive: the former presidential candidate suggested that Donald Trumps false claims serve a purpose to push the United States toward authoritarianism

Bernie Sanders has launched a withering attack on Donald Trump, accusing him of being a pathological liar who is driving America towards authoritarianism.

In an interview with the Guardian, the independent senator from Vermont, who waged a spirited campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, gave a bleak appraisal of the new White House and its intentions.

He warned that Trumps most contentious outbursts against the media, judiciary and other pillars of American public life amounted to a conscious assault on democracy.

Trump lies all of the time and I think that is not an accident, there is a reason for that. He lies in order to undermine the foundations of American democracy.

Sanders warning comes 50 days into the Trump presidency at a time when the country is still reeling from the shock elevation of a real estate businessman and reality TV star to the worlds most powerful office. In that brief period, the new incumbent of the White House has launched attacks on former president Barack Obamas signature healthcare policy; on visitors from majority-Muslim countries, refugees and undocumented immigrants; and on trade agreements and environmental protection programs.

Speaking to the Guardian in his Senate office in Washington DC, Sanders said that he was concerned about what he called Trumps reactionary economic program of tax breaks to billionaires and devastating cuts to programs that impact the middle class. But he reserved his most excoriating language for what he believes are the presidents authoritarian tendencies.

He charged Trump with devising a conscious strategy of lies denigrating key public institutions, from the mainstream media to judges and even the electoral process itself, so that he could present himself as the sole savior of the nation. The aim was to put out the message that the only person in America who stands for the American people, the only person in America who is telling the truth, the only person in America who gets it right is the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Trumps fragile relationship with the truth has been one of the distinguishing features of his fledgling administration. He astonished observers by calling a judge who issued a legal ruling blocking his travel ban a so-called judge, accused Obama without producing any evidence of wiretapping Trump Tower, and claimed falsely that up to 5 million votes had been cast illegally in the November election.

Sanders, however, suggested the lies all serve a purpose. To underline his point, Sanders compared the 45th president with the 43rd. George Bush was a very conservative president, I opposed him every single day. But George Bush did not operate outside of mainstream American political values.

While the media spotlight remains firmly on Trump and the daily bombardment of his Twitter feed, quietly and largely unmarked, Sanders, the self-styled democratic socialist senator, is spearheading a nationwide resistance to the new administration. The Brooklyn-born politician is working in tandem with, though at arms length from, former senior advisers in his presidential campaign to rouse for a second time the vast army of young people who flocked to his cause in 2016.

He said that despite what he sees as the virulent threat of Trump, he finds comfort in the evidence that the resistance is already in full swing. You are seeing a very active progressive movement. Our Revolution a group which came out of my campaign other groups, the spontaneous Womens March, thats all an indication of the willingness of the American people to fight back for democracy.

Trumps end goal was to end up as the leader of a nation which has moved in a significant degree toward authoritarianism, he said. The only way to defeat that trend is for massive grassroots resistance, and clearly we are seeing that right now.

As examples of what he meant, Sanders pointed to the 150 rallies in 130 congressional districts that were held in one recent weekend alone. The events mobilized tens of thousands of people demanding meetings with their members of Congress to protest against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Sanders made a specific appeal to his Republican colleagues in Congress to join him in this resistance. He addressed himself directly to those Republicans who believe in democracy, who do not believe in authoritarianism. It is incumbent upon them, in this moment in history, to stand up and say that what Trump is doing is not what the United States is about, its not what our constitution is about. They have got to join us in resistance.

He added: I hope in the coming months to be working with some conservative Republicans, who I disagree with on every economic and environmental issue you can imagine, to say to this president that you are not going to undermine American democracy.

The Vermont senator also remarked on the ongoing inquiry into alleged connections between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government under Vladimir Putin. Intelligence agencies have accused the Kremlin of trying to distort the presidential election in Trumps favour by hacking into Democratic email accounts.

Russia played a very heavy role in attempting, successfully, I think, to impact our election. That is unacceptable, Sanders said.

We need to know what kind of influence the Russian oligarchy has over Trump. Many people are astounded. Here he is, seemingly in strong disagreement with Australia, with Mexico, with long-term allies; but he has nothing but positive things to say about Mr Putin who is an authoritarian leader.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/10/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-lies-democracy


China gives initial approval of Trump trademarks for hotels and escort services

Ethics lawyers raise alarm over constitutional violation if president given special treatment in quickly securing 38 new trademarks to develop potential businesses

China has granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, paving the way for Donald Trump and his family to potentially develop a host of branded businesses from hotels to insurance to bodyguard and escort services, public documents show.

Trumps lawyers in China applied for the marks in April 2016, as Trump railed against China at campaign rallies, accusing it of currency manipulation and stealing US jobs. Critics maintain that Trumps swelling portfolio of China trademarks raises serious conflict of interest questions.

Chinas Trademark Office published the provisional approvals on 27 February and Monday.

If no one objects, they will be formally registered after 90 days. All but three are in the presidents own name. China already registered one trademark to the president, for Trump-branded construction services on 14 February, the result of a 10-year legal battle that turned in Trumps favor after he declared his candidacy.

Ethics lawyers across the political spectrum say that if Trump receives any special treatment in securing trademark rights, it would violate the US constitution, which bans public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless approved by Congress. Concerns about potential conflicts of interest are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist party.

Dan Plane, a director at Simone IP Services, a Hong Kong intellectual property consultancy, said he had never seen so many applications approved so expeditiously.

For all these marks to sail through so quickly and cleanly, with no similar marks, no identical marks, no issues with specifications boy, its weird, he said.

Given the impact Trumps presidency could have on China, Plane said he would be very, very surprised if officials from the ruling Communist party were not monitoring Trumps intellectual property interests.

This is just way over your average trademark examiners pay grade, he said.

The trademarks cover businesses including branded spas, massage parlors, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, retail shops, restaurants, bars, and bodyguard and escort services though its unclear whether any such businesses will actually materialize in China.

Trump has pledged to refrain from new foreign deals while in office, and many companies register trademarks in China only to prevent others from using their name inappropriately.

Spring Chang, a founding partner at Chang Tsi & Partners, a Beijing law firm that has represented the Trump Organization, declined to comment specifically on Trumps trademarks. But she did say that she advises clients to take out marks defensively, even in categories or subcategories of goods and services they may not aim to develop.

I dont see any special treatment to the cases of my clients so far, she added. I think theyre very fair and the examination standard is very equal for every applicant.

She said government relations are an important part of trademark strategy in China and said she has worked with officials from both the US and Canadian embassies to help her clients. The key, she said, is you should communicate closely with the government to push your case.

Governmental discretion is exactly what US ethics lawyers fear could turn a trademark into an opportunity to exercise leverage over the US president.

Every American should be profoundly concerned by this enormous expansion of President Trumps entanglements with China, said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer for President Obama. If the president is receiving these flows of benefits from China, how can he be trusted to staunch the flow of jobs from the United States to that country?

Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer for President George W Bush, said the volume of new approvals raised red flags.

A routine trademark, patent or copyright from a foreign government is likely not an unconstitutional emolument, but with so many trademarks being granted over such a short time period, the question arises as to whether there is an accommodation in at least some of them, he said.

Eisen and Painter are involved in a lawsuit alleging that Trumps foreign business ties violate the US constitution. Trump has dismissed the lawsuit as totally without merit.

Chinas State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which oversees the Trademark Office, and Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Three of the new China trademarks are for Scion, a hotel brand Trumps sons are looking to expand in the US. Unlike almost all of Trumps China trademarks, they are registered in the name of a Delaware company called DTTM Operations LLC, rather than Donald J Trump himself. The Trump Organization has transferred ownership of dozens of trademarks from the president to DTTM Operations LLC since its incorporation in January 2016.

In an earlier email to the Associated Press, Garten said: The decision to assign the portfolio to DTTM is also consistent with the Presidents pledge to separate himself fully from the Trump Organization and hand over complete control to his children and senior executives in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest even though none of these steps were required by law.

Trump has said he assigned all his business interests to a trust overseen by one of his sons, Donald Trump Jr, and a longtime Trump Organization executive, Allen Weisselberg. However, Trump retains the ability to revoke the trust at any time and as the sole beneficiary stands to benefit financially from it. As of May 2016, Donald Trump owned 100% of DTTM Operations LLC, according to his Federal Election Commission disclosure. Its current ownership structure is unclear.

Delaware public records do not disclose the management of DTTM Operations LLC, though they do show that Trumps sons and Weisselberg served as directors of a related company.

Democratic senators have protested Trumps acceptance of a valuable trademark from the Chinese government without congressional approval. Some also questioned the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, about potential political influence, including any involvement of the US embassy, in Trumps China trademarks in a February letter.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/08/china-approves-trump-trademarks-businesses


Rod Rosenstein: ‘honorable’ US attorney poised to be next Russia investigator

With Jeff Sessions recusal, the widely admired nominee for deputy attorney general could be dropped into the thick of the Trump administration controversy

As a young justice department lawyer, Rod Rosenstein was tapped to join Kenneth Starrs Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clintons real estate dealings. He showed an uncommon skill with public corruption cases, demonstrating a wisdom and sensitivity beyond his years, his supervisors said.

Now Rosenstein, who made his reputation as a competent, apolitical US attorney who served both Bush and Obama, may investigate another presidents ties to an even more high-profile scandal.

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, pledged on Thursday he would recuse himself from overseeing any investigations of Russias role in the 2016 election. I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in, he said, a decision that came after bipartisan pressure from Congress over his failure to disclose two meetings with Russias ambassador during the election year.

Sessions recusal could immediately put Rosenstein into a much higher-profile position than he might have imagined when he was nominated to serve as deputy attorney general. If confirmed, he would oversee any justice department investigation into Russian interference in the election including any contacts between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.

Rosenstein, who is currently the US attorney in Maryland, was a surprising choice to serve as the No 2 official in Trumps justice department, said Philip Heymann, who was Rosensteins law professor at Harvard, and later his boss in the Clinton justice department. Rosenstein has served in the Department of Justice for 26 years, including in the tax division, the public integrity section, and as an assistant US attorney in Maryland.

Rosenstein is a skilled prosecutor and a straight shooter, with a deep knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the department, but he did not seem particularly close to either Sessions or Trump, Heymann said.

It surprises me that they didnt pick somebody who was more partisan, he said.

James Cole, who served for four years as Eric Holders deputy attorney general, also offered unqualified praise for Rosensteins skill and credibility.

He doesnt make any decisions that either are or appear to be political, he said.

Questions on the Russia investigation are likely to be at the center of Rosensteins confirmation hearing on Tuesday. He declined to comment.

Some observers have noted that during the Nixon administration, Senate Democrats used the confirmation process of Nixons attorney general pick, Elliot Richardson, as leverage and refused to confirm him for the job until he named a special prosecutor to oversee the Watergate investigation. Senate Democrats could take a similar approach to Rosensteins confirmation and demand a special prosecutor on Russias interference in the 2016 election, the Intercept suggested on Thursday.

On Sunday night, Richard Blumenthal, one of the Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee, vowed on Twitter that he would use every possible tool to block DOJ Deputy AG nominee unless he commits to appoint [an] independent special prosecutor.

Heymann said both Democrats and Republicans would trust Rosenstein and that he was the perfect person to oversee an investigation into Russias interference in the US election an issue both Democrats and Trump have framed, in different ways, as an inquiry that strikes at the heart of Trumps legitimacy as president.

I think were very lucky to have him in that position, he said.

In February, the Baltimore Sun, Rosensteins hometown paper, called him an honorable public servant with wide bipartisan support who was too good to sell his soul by taking a job in the Trump administration.

Just dont go there. Say no to President Trump, a member of the Suns editorial board advised Rosenstein in an open letter.

Former colleagues praised Rosensteins restraint. He understands that the justice departments role is to do justice rather than bring cases, said Steve Levin, a former federal prosecutor who worked for Rosenstein in Baltimore. Even as he rose into a politically appointed position, he kept the approach and the attitude of a career prosecutor, Levin said.

He is very professional and very determined to be the best prosecutor that he can be and he doesnt take that to mean the most aggressive prosecutor, Heymann said.

Heymann, a longtime justice department official, worked with the Watergate prosecutor, Archibald, Cox on the investigation that led to Nixons resignation, and was also part of investigations into Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He said Rosensteins lack of a close relationship with Trump or Sessions could, paradoxically, make his job overseeing any investigation of Russian interference harder.

I think hes in an incredibly difficult position. Ive learned over many, many years its easier to be independent if youre a close friend of the president than if youre not, he said, explaining the importance of having a presidents trust. I would anticipate that the White House would be very worried about anybody that they didnt know well.

As Marylands US attorney, Levin said, Rosenstein has gone after corrupt police officers and prison guards as well as violent gang members. This week, his office announced the arrest of seven Baltimore police officers for racketeering.

Rosenstein has also worked to crack down on national security leaks, announcing charges last fall in a high-profile case against a National Security Agency contractor for stealing classified information.

In response to questions about Russias interference in the election he won, Trump has repeatedly argued that the real scandal is not the attempt of a foreign power to sway an American election, but the national security leaks that have made new angles of the issue public.

Rosensteins predecessor as US attorney in Maryland sparked complaints that he was unfairly targeting Democrats in public corruption cases using his office as a political weapon. Rosenstein brought more stability to the office. When he has gone after public officials as US attorney, he did it an even-handed and a fair way, said Cole, the Obama justice official.

The deputy attorney general is the justice departments chief operation officer, with wide responsibilities for overseeing litigation, crime-fighting strategy, and the federal governments national security policy. If confirmed, he will end up in the situation room a lot, Cole said.

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions made no mention of the two meetings he had with Russias ambassador during the election year, even when asked directly if he had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election. Saying the attorney general appeared to have lied under oath, some Democrats are continuing to demand that he resign. Sessions said that he should have mentioned the meetings with ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but that he did not recall any specific political discussions.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/06/rod-rosenstein-deputy-attorney-general-russia-jeff-sessions


‘Doing good so far’: Virginia voters unfazed by Trump’s turbulent first weeks

Donald Trump supporters in the small city of Winchester feel optimistic about the president and Republicans in the Capitol seem almost perfectly in tune

The controversies swirling around the Trump administration have been constant and fast-moving in the past 44 days, but the turbid waters have not swept away his supporters.

From the halls of Congress to the rustic Virginia streets where George Washington first campaigned for office over two and a half centuries ago, Republicans are still willing to give their new president a chance.

Since Donald Trump took the oath of office and warned of American carnage on a drizzly January day, his White House has careened from scandals over contacts with Russia to massive outcry over the botched roll out of its travel ban but supporters in the historic town of Winchester, Virginia this week remain unfazed.

Standing on streets scarred by civil war battles and within view of the site of the courthouse where George Washington won his first election by plying voters with alcohol in 1758, conservatives in the town were confident in Trumps performance so far. To be fair though, they werent all paying attention.

Cindy Grove, a Winchester resident who worked in a real estate agency in town, said I dont listen to the news. She thought Trump was doing a good job because so far, I havent heard of anything horrible. A registered independent, she said she voted for Trump because he says the things out loud that I say to myself. Grove added: They say government is big business, and hes a businessman, and ought to know how to take care of things.

Others just simply thought Trump, who has been in office now for six full weeks, simply needed to be given some slack.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/05/virginia-voters-optimistic-donald-trump-first-six-weeks


Trump on track to spend exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars on travels

By one estimate the president has already rung up as much in travel costs as the Obama and Biden families did in eight years all at the expense of taxpayers

Nothing used to rile devoted Barack Obama critics like the presidents winter Hawaiian vacation. A watchdog group once calculated that the Aloha state trips cost taxpayers $3.5m a pop in airfare, security arrangements, communications and medical staff.

Among the harshest critics of Obamas travel was Donald Trump, then a private citizen. President Obamas vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars—-Unbelievable! Trump tweeted in 2012. Two years later, Trump tweeted that Obamas motto was: If I dont go on taxpayer funded vacations & constantly fundraise then the terrorists win.

The joke, it turns out, is on Trump. Now he is the president and it appears that he is on track to spend many more millions of taxpayer dollars on trips that might be construed as vacations for him and his family than Obama ever dreamed of. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward… Mar-a-Lago?

By one sketchy estimate, Trump and his family, in their security and travel demands, have already rung up as much in accounts payable by taxpayers as the Obama and Biden families did in eight years, a figure elsewhere calculated, by the Washington DC-based Judicial Watch, as topping $97m.

How is it possible? The complicated receipt involves weekend trips by Trump to Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida; travel by his children and their government security details on Trump family business; and costs associated with protecting Trumps Manhattan home, the high-rise Trump Tower building, where Trumps wife and youngest child live but where the real estate mogul himself has not set foot since becoming president.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/04/donald-trump-travel-costs-mar-a-lago-taxpayers


Carl Icahn sells failed Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City

The now-president Trump hailed the business as the eighth wonder of the world when it opened in 1990

Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, has reached a deal to sell the failed Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

The sale to Hard Rock International and two New Jersey investors comes four months after Icahn closed it amid a crippling strike. The price was not revealed.

We are excited to be part of this revitalization of Atlantic City creating thousands of jobs to help local employment, said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International. We are 100% convinced Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City will be a success.

He said the company planmed to invest $300m in renovating and rebranding the property.

Icahn, who also owns Atlantic Citys Tropicana Casino and Resort, said he decided one casino in town was enough. He said in January he had lost about $300m owning the Taj Mahal and would be delighted if he could sell it for half that amount.

We … are extremely happy with our ownership of the Tropicana Casino and Resort, and after considerable analysis and deliberation we determined that we only wanted to own one operating casino property in Atlantic City, he said on Wednesday night. A sale of the Taj Mahal therefore represents the optimal outcome for us. We wish Hard Rock and its partners the best of luck with the Taj Mahal.

Hard Rock has proposed building a major casino resort in northern New Jersey at the Meadowlands racetrack with its owner Jeff Gural. But voters overwhelmingly rejected a statewide referendum in November 2016 that would have authorized casino gambling to expand beyond Atlantic City. The issue cannot be revisited for at least two years.

Icahn said the sale does not include the shuttered Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which closed in 2014. Icahn said he is still trying to sell that property.

Trump, who at the time was a Manhattan real estate mogul, dubbed the Taj Mahal the eighth wonder of the world when it opened in 1990. But within a year it was in bankruptcy, the victim of unsustainably high levels of debt taken on during its construction.

Trump cut most of his ties with Atlantic City in 2009, stepping down from the company he once ran, Trump Entertainment Resorts, most of which was then controlled by bondholders who swapped their debt for equity in the company during bankruptcy. Trump retained only a 10% stake in the company in return for the right to use his name, but that was wiped out last year when Icahn acquired the company from its latest Chapter 11 filing.

Local 54 of the Unite-Here union went on strike against the Taj Mahal on 1 July when it could not reach a new contract with Icahn to restore benefits that Trump Entertainment got a bankruptcy court judge to terminate in October 2014. Losing millions of dollars a month, Icahn decided to close the casino on 10 October, putting nearly 3,000 workers out of jobs.

Many of those workers are hoping to be rehired when the casino opens, which might not happen until the summer of 2018.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/02/carl-icahn-sells-failed-trump-taj-mahal-casino-in-atlantic-city


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