Mercedes Schlapp on Michael Flynn asking for immunity

Washington Times columnist Mercedes Schlapp asked Friday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” why the Trump White House is talking about Michael Flynn and his potential immunity in any investigation at all.

“What is a little challenging to understand is why the president would tweet, talking about Michael Flynn and immunity in the same sentence when the president early on and Sean Spicer said we don’t have trust in Michael Flynn anymore. He mislead the vice president…”

Schlapp went on to say that she thinks Flynn is obviously just doing this to protect himself at this point.

“So why bring Michael Flynn back when Michael Flynn inside the White House when Michael Flynn is no longer part of the White House. And this immunity, this is about Michael Flynn protecting Michael Flynn. He’s just trying to protect himself.”

Russia investigation: Adam Schiff releases statement after viewing docs shown to Nunes

Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, released a statement tonight that criticized how the White House handled the documents were first shown to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) earlier this week.

After reviewing what he was told are the same documents that were shown to his colleague.

Rep. Schiff had been critical of Nunes for not sharing the intelligence with the full committee, which — along with the Senate intelligence committee and the FBI — is investigating Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election as well as any potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

The White House this week invited all of the congressional intelligence leaders to view the documents.

After he reviewed the documents, Rep. Schiff put out the following statement:

Viewed docs today at White House invitation. Here are my thoughts: pic.twitter.com/EZ5COuoVVU

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 31, 2017

Japanese fleet returns from Antarctic hunt with 333 whales

Japan’s whaling fleet returned home Friday after killing 333 whales in the Antarctic, achieving its goal for the second year under a revised research whaling program.

The Fisheries Agency said the five-ship fleet finished its four-month expedition without major interference from anti-whaling activists who have attempted to stop it in the past.

Japan says the hunt was for ecological research. Research whaling is allowed as an exception to a 1986 international ban on commercial whaling. Opponents of the Japanese program say it’s a cover for commercial whaling because the whales are sold for food.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program should stop because it wasn’t scientific as Tokyo had claimed. Japan conducted non-lethal whaling research in the Antarctic in 2015, and revised its program in 2016 by reducing the catch quota to about one-third of what it used to kill.

“It was great that we have achieved our plan. We will steadily continue our research toward a resumption of commercial whaling,” Fisheries Agency official Shigeto Hase said at a welcome ceremony in Shimonoseki, home port for the fleet’s mother ship, Nisshin Maru.

Officials said the whalers used parts of the whales to determine their age, nutrition, and reproductive conditions. Opponents say such studies can be done using non-lethal methods.

Kitty Block, executive vice president of Humane Society International, an animal protection group based in Washington D.C., said Japan is needlessly killing whales every year. “It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end,” she said in a statement.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries as a source of protein and cheaper alternative to other meats. Its whale catch has fallen in recent years in part because of declining domestic demand for whale meat. Protests by the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd have also contributed to the decline.

Critics say it’s a dying industry, but Japan’s government has spent large amounts of tax money to sustain the whaling operations, saying it’s a Japanese cultural tradition that must be preserved.

Kushner retains scores of real estate holdings while in WH

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and daughter are holding onto scores of real estate investments — part of a portfolio of at least $240 million in assets — while they serve in White House jobs, according to financial disclosures released publicly late Friday.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser, resigned from more than 260 entities and sold off 58 businesses or investments that lawyers identified as posing potential conflicts of interest, the documents show.

But his lawyers, in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, determined that his real estate assets, many of them in New York City, are unlikely to pose the kinds of conflicts that would trigger a need to divest.

“The remaining conflicts, from a practical perspective, are pretty narrow and very manageable,” said Jamie Gorelick, an attorney who has been working on the ethics agreements for Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

TOP DEM PUSHES BACK ON FLYNN IMMUNITY, AS TRUMP URGES TESTIMONY

Kushner began selling off the most problematic pieces of his portfolio shortly after Trump won the election, and some of those business deals predate what is required to be captured in the financial disclosure forms. For example, Kushner sold his stake in a Manhattan skyscraper to a trust his mother oversees. Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and their three minor children have no financial interest in that trust, his lawyer said. The Kushner Companies, now run by Jared Kushner’s relatives, are seeking investment partners for a massive redevelopment.

The White House on Friday began released financial disclosure forms for more than 100 or its top administration officials — a mix of people far wealthier, and therefore more entangled in businesses that could conflict with their government duties, than people in previous administrations.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described the business people who have joined the administration as “very blessed and very successful,” and said the disclosure forms will show that they have set aside “a lot” to go into public service.

The financial disclosures — required by law to be made public — give a snapshot of the employees’ finances as they entered the White House. What’s not being provided: the Office of Government Ethics agreements with those employees on what they must do to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Those documents will never be made public, White House lawyers said, although the public will eventually have access to “certificates of divestiture” issued to employees who are seeking capital gains tax deferrals for selling off certain assets.

Kushner, for example, received certificates of divestitures for his financial interests in several assets, including several funds tied to Thrive Capital, his brother Joshua Kushner’s investment firm.

He and Ivanka Trump built up companies the documents show are worth at least $50 million each and have stepped away from their businesses while in government service. Like the president himself, however, they retain a financial interest in many of them. Ivanka Trump agreed this week to become a federal employee and will file her own financial disclosure at a later date.

Jared Kushner’s disclosure shows he took on tens of millions of dollars of bank debt in 2015 and 2016, including liabilities with several international banks whose interests could come before the Trump administration.

Financial information for members of Trump’s Cabinet who needed Senate confirmation has, in most cases, been available for weeks through the Office of Government Ethics.

The president must also file periodic financial disclosures, but he is not required to make another disclosure until next year.