Scott Pruitt is under public scrutiny for 'renting' an Airbnb style apartment during the start of the 2017 year. On Friday, March 31st, EPA ethics official, Kevin Minoli, found no ethics violation with Pruitt's condo lease. In a second memo issued yesterday, Minoli said that he did not have access to other aspects of the lease and could not say whether all aspects complied with all federal rules; "Some have raised questions whether the actual use of the space was consistent with the terms of the lease," Minoli wrote. "Evaluating those questions would have required factual information that was not before us and the Review does not address those questions". When news reports saying that Pruitt's daughter and other family members had also stayed in the condo and had use of the entire space, Miloni said he had not considered Pruitt's housing situation in the context of a federal impartiality rule, but maintained that the $50-per-night rate was within federal rules regarding gifts. After a warning from the White House not do TV interviews, Pruitt sat down with Fox News's Ed Henry last night. It was during this interview that Pruitt went on record stating he had no knowledge of the $84,000 from the Safe Drinking Water Act that was being used to pay two of his closest aides. After being question further, Pruitt admitted he found out about the funds this past Tuesday, and that he "corrected the action". There is clear confusion within the White House as to whether or not Pruitt's actions are being condoned. When asked yesterday why Trump is OK with the leader of the EPA renting a condo from a lobbyist for $50 a night, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, "the president's not". On his way to West Virginia early this afternoon, President Trump told MSNBC and other reporters that he remains confident in Pruitt.
Wisconsin held a bipartisan election on Tuesday to see who would be the new State Supreme Court Justice. Winning 55.77% of the vote, Rebecca Dallet was elected to serve on the bench. This was shocking to many as Wisconsin, the typically red state, elected a democratic judge to their State Supreme Court bench by a margin of 11.54%. What impact does this election practically have? The answer is not much. We are 440 days into the Trump administration and the president has nominated 24 judges to the US Court of Appeals and 59 to the District Courts. With the majority of the lower courts being packed with more conservative judges, having one judge who identifies as a Democrat sit on the bench of a State Supreme Court doesn't change the country's jurisprudence that greatly, especially when that bench leans 5-2 conservative. Dallet's election is however, a significant sign of the left pushing back against the Trump administration. With midterm elections looming in November, this Wisconsin election is an indication that women and democratic voters are not going to neglect their chance to vote. If the momentum continues, there are clear signs that at least one, if not a few of the states which went to Trump in 2016, will flip in the midterms and elect a Democrat to either the House or the Senate.
2,000-4,000 members of the National Guard are going to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border. In efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, the President signed a proclamation to send the National Guard troops to the southern border. There has been no information released by the White House or any other administration indicating how long the National Guard will be deployed or how much it will cost the government. However, previous deployments by prior administrations have cost the U.S. government well over a billion dollars. The only rational being provided for the deployment is increased security until more of the Wall can be constructed. How much the National Guard will be able to do while deployed is still in question. During their time at the border, the National Guard will not have the jurisdiction to arrest illegal immigrants, that remains the sole authority of Federal Immigration Agents. Its important to note that the 2016 arrests for illegal border crossings were at there lowest levels since 1971.
While on Air Force One this afternoon Trump commented for the first time about Stormy Daniels and the 'hush money' paid to her by Trumps personal attorney, Michael Cohen. He claimed to have no knowledge of Cohen paying Stormy Daniels the $130,000 or where he would have gotten the money to do so. The one word response - "no" - by Trump broke months of silence on the topic. The story continues to pose legal and ethical questions for the White House.