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Trump is attending a private dinner with billionaire members of a super PAC that supports his presidential campaign

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President Donald Trump is set to dine tonight with billionaires in a private mansion in Washington D.C.’s ritzy Georgetown neighborhood — many of whom are key members of America First Policies, a pro-Trump super PAC that formerly employed the vice president’s chief of staff.

CNN reported Wednesday afternoon that the dinner is being held at the Georgetown residence of Bush 43 White House counsel Boyden Gray, and will be attended by America First Policies’ president Brian Walsh along with billionaire oil tycoon and GOP megadonor Harold Hamm.

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America First Policies, CNBC revealed in an investigation last week, is not only a newly-founded political action committee aimed at promoting Trump’s agenda, but also is “conducting a large-scale polling operation that appears designed to benefit the president.” Election law experts told CNBC’s Christina Wilkie, who broke the story, that the tax-exempt non-profit working for an elected official in this way raises legal concerns.

“Walsh, the executive director, denied that America First Policies coordinates its work with the White House or the Trump campaign,” Wilkie’s report noted.

The PAC was co-founded in January 2017 by now-inducted Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and formerly employed Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers, the latter of which suggested donors help the White House “purge” the GOP of anti-Trump Republicans. In Novemeber, Fox News reported that special counsel Robert Mueller issued a records request to AFP.

“Following the publication of CNBC’s report, the nonprofit watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice,” Wilkie’s latest report noted, “both alleging that America First Policies had violated campaign finance laws that require groups to disclose any money they spend on elections or campaigns.”

AFP maintains that the dinner will have “very clear lines and high walls” to stay within the law, but Stephen Spaulding, a former special counsel with the FEC and Common Cause’s current chief strategist, said the guest list at the Georgetown dinner loudly suggests otherwise.

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“Any ‘high walls’ that exist between this group and the Trump campaign have gaping holes in them, which Trump is driving a truck through,” Spaulding told CNBC.

“Trump is saying, in effect, that America First Policies has the White House’s blessing,” Brendan Fischer, an election law expert at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, told CNBC. “It also sends a signal to deep-pocketed financial interests that they can buy influence with the administration through secret donations to the White House’s preferred dark money group.”


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Internet disgusted after Buffalo first responders cheer cops charged with assaulting 75-year-old protester

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Commenters on Twitter expressed both contempt and disgust for Buffalo firefighters and police officers who turned out in front of Buffalo City Court to support two suspended police officers with applause and cheering.

Moments after officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault and then released without having to post bail, they were greeted as heroes outside the courthouse.

After a video was posted showing the celebration, commenters on Twitter vented at cops and firefighters for defending the two officers who assaulted the 75-year-old man who had to be rushed to a hospital after they shoved him to the ground where he sustained a head injury.

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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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Judge blocking release of Jeffrey Epstein records has ties to officials linked to Epstein: report

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On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that a judge who blocked the release of grand jury material in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex abuse case has ties to three officials with a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuits surrounding the scandal.

"Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges," wrote Julie Brown, a reporter who has extensively covered the Epstein case.

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