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Summer Concepcion

Summer Concepcion is the front page editor of Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Previously, she covered the 2016 presidential election for Fusion and worked as a researcher at The Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute. She's an LA native and former Chicago transplant. Reach her at summer@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Summer

Donald Trump Jr. reportedly met with an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes three months before his father won the 2016 presidential election.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the small group who met with Trump Jr. Aug. 3, 2016 at Trump Tower included Arab princes’ emissary George Nader, Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel and former Blackwater head Erik Prince.

The meeting “convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team” was arranged by Prince. Nader reportedly told Trump Jr. that the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates crown princes were “eager” to help his father win the election. Zamel also boasted about his firm after it had already “drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort” to help elect Trump.

Although it’s “unclear whether such a proposal was executed” and “the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute,” Trump Jr. reportedly “responded approvingly” and Nader was quickly embraced as a Trump ally who began meeting frequently with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn. NYT notes that Nader at the time was also “promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.”

After the election, Nader reportedly paid Zamel up to $2 million for unclear reasons, but NYT notes that a Zamel-tied company provided Nader with an “elaborate” presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Trump’s win.

As Nader continues to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the newly reported meetings are the first sign that countries besides Russia may have aided the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. lawyer Alan Futerfas told NYT that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

Zamel’s lawyer Marc L. Mukasey denied to NYT that there was “any involvement whatsoever in the U.S. election campaign.”

Nader lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler insisted to NYT that her client “has fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so.” A senior official in Saudi Arabia who spoke to NYT said Nader was never employed in any capacity or authorized to speak for the crown prince.

Prince declined to provide comment to NYT. The White House did not return NYT’s request for comment.

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

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A perk to being inside the Interior Secretary’s circle? Personalized tours through National Park Service sites perhaps.

According to Freedom of Information Act records, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife Lola requested VIP tours of national parks for their friends and acquaintances, the Washington Post reported Friday.

In the past 14 months, FOIA documents show the Zinkes have arranged for acquaintances and administration officials to get special tours of the Lincoln Memorial that include areas not open to the public.

Taxpayers’ money also funded a work trip to California’s Channel Islands National Park for a yacht broker who once sold Lola Zinke a boat. A Zinke aide told WaPo that the interior secretary described the yacht broker as one of three guests who were “subject matter experts” and could offer “personal testimony” about the area.

Other VIP tours included the interior secretary’s personally arranged two custom White House tours for friends affiliated with the Navy SEAL program and Lola Zinke’s “two friends from England” getting a guided tour of Joshua Tree National Park in California.

Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said in an email to WaPo Thursday that Zinke “uses his own personal time to give tours of the Lincoln Memorial to employees, reporters, and the general public several times per month because he believes the more people who experience our parks, the better.”

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The unnamed FBI source that President Donald Trump hopes to hunt down reportedly met with another Trump campaign adviser as a government informant in 2016.

The Washington Post reported Friday that in addition to Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, which the New York Times first reported Wednesday, the FBI informant also met with campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis.

The informant reportedly met Clovis for coffee in Northern Virginia in the summer of 2016 and offered to provide foreign policy expertise to the Trump campaign.

Described by WaPo as a “retired American professor” and a “longtime U.S. intelligence source,” the FBI informant began working for the agency as it “investigated Russia’s interference in the campaign” and “aided the Russia investigation both before and after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment in May 2017,” people familiar with his activities said.

However, it’s unknown when exactly the informant began working on the case.

Although Trump took to Twitter Friday to rail against the “all time biggest political scandal” of an FBI informant “implanted” into his campaign, WaPo reports there is “no evidence to suggest someone was planted with the campaign” and that “the source in question engaged in a months-long pattern of seeking out and meeting three different Trump campaign officials.”

WaPo notes that despite confirming the identity of the FBI informant, his name is not being reported in light of the FBI taking steps to protect the informant if their identity is revealed.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

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Michael Cohen fired back Friday on why Michael Avenatti should stay out of his federal court hearing next week.

U.S. Judge Kimba Wood ruled Wednesday that Cohen had to respond to Avenatti’s motion to intervene at a status conference related to the criminal investigation into Cohen’s financial dealings. Wood wrote that Cohen “should include citations to any legal authorities that support his position.”

Citing Avenatti’s “tangential relationship” to the legal dispute, Cohen’s legal team argued in a court filing Friday that Avenatti should be barred from the court hearing due to the “inaccurate statements” he has said about Cohen in violation of court rules.

Although Avenatti publicly released “factually accurate information” on Cohen’s confidential banking transactions, Cohen’s legal team said Avenatti “had no lawful source.”

“Avenatti appears to be primarily focused on smearing Mr. Cohen publicly in his efforts to further his own interest in garnering as much media attention as possible,” Cohen’s lawyers said in the filing, citing Avenatti’s numerous national television appearances.

Shortly after Cohen’s filing, Avenatti responded Friday night on MSNBC that Cohen is only complaining because his team has been making “considerable inroads” on Stormy Daniels’ defamation case against him.

“Of course they want to bar me from the courtroom in the proceeding because we’ve made considerable inroads over the last eight weeks,” Avenatti said. “We’ve disclosed some damaging, accurate information relating to Michael Cohen and his activities. And we’re not going anywhere.”

Read the filing below:

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The U.S. Air Force issued an apology Thursday for a tweet “made in poor taste” that praised a mission against Taliban forces while referencing a viral audio clip.

The now-deleted tweet said that “Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard” the “#Yanny or #Laurel” audio clip than the deafening sound of “#BRRRT” from an A-10 jet.

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Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo said he’s “enjoying watching Rudy Giuliani” despite how he “doesn’t exactly agree with all the strategy and the roll-out here in the last several days” during an MSNBC appearance Monday.

Caputo added that he thinks Giuliani “is going to do a good job for the President.”

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Kanye West, who once rapped about “balding Donald Trump taking dollars from y’all,” seems to have won the President’s approval shortly after referring to Trump as his “brother” in a tweet Wednesday.

West’s latest defense of Trump comes amid a rambling Twitter rant where the rapper has drawn public ire for appearing to endorse Trump.

West, however, has countered that notion by saying he doesn’t agree with everything Trump does and that for people in his life “the idea of Trump is pretty much a 50 50 split.”

Almost two hours after his first Kanye-referencing tweet, Trump quote-tweeted “MAGA!” in response to West’s picture of his signed Make America Great Again hat.

This is hardly the first time West has come to Trump’s defense. West dropped by Trump Tower in December 2016 and posed for a photo-op with the then-President elect for unknown reasons.

After his Trump Tower meeting, West explained in a series of tweets that he discussed “multicultural issues” with Trump, including violence in his hometown of Chicago. The Trump-friendly tweets were deleted a couple months later.

This post has been updated.

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Former House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday his newest post-congressional venture: the advisory board of a marijuana corporation.

Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, will join the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a “multi-state owner of cannabis licenses” headquartered in New York City.

Bloomberg, which first reported Boehner’s new role Wednesday, noted that Boehner said he was “unalterably opposed” to marijuana legalization nine years ago.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” Boehner told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.”

In a joint statement Wednesday with Weld, Boehner cited how the “protection of the 10th amendment” that “allowed much to occur at the state level” has not resolved the “many negative implications” of federally classifying marijuana as a schedule one drug.

Despite his new role, Boehner told Bloomberg he’s never tried marijuana. He said his change of heart came when he saw how it helped a close friend deal with debilitating back pain, noticed its potential use as “a treatment for veterans” and how he’s been “studying the problems of the U.S. criminal justice system for years.”

“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner told Bloomberg. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

Asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent move to roll back Obama-era policies allowing state legal marijuana markets to flourish, Boehner said he “almost chuckled to [himself].”

“I don’t know why they decided to do this,” Boehner told Bloomberg. “It could be that the attorney general is trying to force the Congress to act.”

Boehner hopes that his background in politics will help Acreage Holdings navigate “murky legal issues.”

“We’re there to provide advice to Acreage in terms of how they work with state and federal governments, how they work with local governments and advice on what states look promising,” Boehner told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg notes that neither Boehner nor Weld have made a financial investment in Acreage.

Boehner isn’t a stranger to serving on corporate advisor boards. He previously served as a board member for tobacco company Reynolds American Inc. and adviser for global firm Squire Patton Boggs US LLP.

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President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale took to Twitter on Monday to excoriate CNN’s Jim Acosta for “breaking protocol” at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Parscale tweeted hours later that “the White House should pull credentials” from Acosta because he “yelled questions, as he continues to do at inappropriate times.”

CNN footage of the White House Easter Egg Roll shows Acosta asking Trump about the “NO MORE DACA DEAL!” declaration he tweeted Sunday.

“What about the DACA kids? Should they worry about what’s going to happen to them, sir?” Acosta asked Trump while he was in a crowd of children attending the event.

“The Democrats have really let them down. They had this great opportunity,” Trump said in response to Acosta’s question. “The Democrats have really let them down. It’s a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that’s a shame.”

“Didn’t you kill DACA, sir? Didn’t you kill DACA?” Acosta yelled back as loud music played in the background.

In his first tweet, Parscale tweeted a story by The Daily Caller. In 2012, a reporter from The Daily Caller made headlines for “heckling” then-President Barack Obama in the middle of his Rose Garden remarks.

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A former Fox News contributor who called the network a “propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration” in his resignation letter last week continued his scathing critique in a Washington Post op-ed Friday.

Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters reaffirmed in the op-ed that he decided to not renew his contract as Fox News’ strategic analyst due to “the network’s propagandizing for the Trump administration.”

“Today’s Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law,” Peters wrote.

Peters expressed regret for his “error” in “waiting so long to walk away” because he thought he “could make a difference by remaining at Fox and speaking honestly.”

Peters said his troubles with Fox began around Fall 2016 when he was “blocked” from speaking on Russian affairs and the intelligence community — two subjects he said he “could offer real expertise” on.

“I did not hide my views at Fox and, as word spread that I would not unswervingly support President Trump and, worse, that I believed an investigation into Russian interference was essential to our national security,” Peters said.

Peters noted that he was “excluded from segments that touched on Vladimir Putin’s possible influence on an American president, his campaign or his administration.”

In the few months leading up to his resignation, Peters said he became a “disgruntled employee” who “hated walking into the Fox studio.”

Despite his criticism, Peters said that the network “never tried to put words in [his] mouth” nor was he explicitly told he was “taboo on Trump-Putin matters.”

Peters concluded his op-ed by stressing “there are many honorable and talented professionals at the Fox channels” despite how “Trump idolaters and the merrily hypocritical prime-time hosts are destroying the network.”

In an email to TPM Friday, Fox News spokesperson Caley Cronin denied Peters’ allegation that he was “blocked” from discussing certain subjects.

“There is no truth to the notion that Ralph Peters was ‘blocked’ from appearing on the network to talk about the major headlines, including discussing Russia, North Korea and even gun control recently,” Cronin said. “In fact, he appeared across both networks multiple times in just the past three weeks.”

Read Peters’ op-ed in The Post here.

This post has been updated.

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