Giuliani says Cohen recorded Trump discussing payments to former Playboy model

Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer of President Donald Trump, secretly recorded a 2016 conversation between the pair about payments to a former Playboy model, Rudy Giuliani confirmed to the New York Times on Friday.

The talk took place two months before the presidential election, the Times reported. FBI officials, who are investigating Cohen’s role in providing hush payments to women who claim they had affairs with Trump, took the recording into custody during a raid on the lawyer’s office.

Not only was the payment discussed never made, but Trump had no prior knowledge of it, Giuliani said.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani told the Times. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence."

He added that, in the two-minute recording, Trump told Cohen to write a check, so that the payment to the former model would be documented.

The woman, Karen McDougal, has alleged she and Trump had a 10-month affair, beginning in 2006 and ending in 2007.

American Media Inc. reportedly paid her $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story before declining to publish it; McDougal has said the deal was an elaborate effort by Cohen to keep her from going on the record.

The revelation is the most recent in a string of developments illustrating Cohen’s potential risk to Trump. Caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, the former Trump Organization executive has signaled his willingness to cooperate with authorities, telling ABC News in July that he plans to "put family and country first."



Broidy accuses ex-diplomat of being secret Qatari agent

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy accused a former high-ranking United Nations diplomat of serving as an undeclared agent of Qatar in a court filing in California this week. In the filing, Broidy also claims that the Gulf state maintains an entire “network” of undisclosed agents operating inside the U.S.

Broidy, a fundraiser for President Donald Trump who is suing Qatar and several individuals over the hacking of his emails last year, cited unspecified evidence turned up during discovery as the basis for those claims.

The allegations come at a time when Washington is grappling with the problem of covert foreign influence in U.S. politics. On Monday, the Justice Department indicted Russian citizen Mariia Butina on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of Vladimir Putin’s government. In recent months, special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly expanded the scope of his probe beyond Russia to examine the influence of energy-rich Persian Gulf state in the U.S.

Former United Nations Under-Secretary-General Jamal Benomar, the alleged agent named in the filing, did not respond to requests for comment.

Benomar, a UK citizen, was born in Morocco where he was arrested and tortured for his opposition to the country’s government. He went on to work at the U.N. for 25 years, where he served as a special envoy to Yemen and a special adviser to former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

A spokesman for the U.N., Farhan Haq, said Benomar left the organization last year. “During his time at the U.N., Mr. Benomar worked impartially as an international civil servant,” Haq said.

People working at the behest of foreign governments inside the United States are required to register with the Justice Department.

Broidy, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who has defense contracts with the United Arab Emirates, has worked assiduously to undermine the standing of Qatar, the U.A.E.’s Persian Gulf rival, in Washington. Earlier this year, emails stolen from Broidy formed the basis of several news articles about those efforts. In March, Broidy sued Qatar, accusing the country and its agents of the hack.

A spokesman for Qatar’s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Broidy’s allegations came in a filing claiming that Benomar is evading service of a subpoena and seeking permission to serve him by email or mail.

According to Broidy’s filing, a man picking up Benomar’s cell phone said “hello, hello, hello” and hung up when called by Broidy’s lawyer. Similarly, when called by POLITICO, a man picking up Benomar’s cell phone repeatedly said “hello” before hanging up. Benomar did not respond to follow-up text messages or to a message left at his home in New York.

According to the filling, Benomar’s wife has told Broidy’s side that Benomar is travelling internationally.

"Unregistered foreign agents shouldn’t be able to flee the country when they’re exposed in order to avoid accountability in the U.S. justice system,” Lee Wolosky, a lawyer for Broidy, told POLITICO.


POLITICO Playbook Power Briefing: There are tapes: Michael Cohen taped Trump talking about payments to a Playboy model

JUST ASKING … PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP keeps complaining that people are going “crazy” about his summit with VLADIMIR PUTIN in Helsinki, and not giving him enough credit for what he has achieved. BUT … he won’t tell anyone the specifics of what he talked about and what he has achieved!

NEW: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE … NYT’S MATT APUZZO, MAGGIE HABERMAN and MIKE SCHMIDT: “Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model”: “President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

“The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

“The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

“Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.”

— HOW MANY PEOPLE tape just one single phone call? Are there more tapes?

JUST POSTED … NBC NEWS: “Iran has laid groundwork for extensive cyberattacks on U.S., say officials,” by Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee, Dan De Luce and Ken Dilanian.

MUST READ … LUNCH WITH THE FT … EDWARD LUCE and HENRY KISSINGER: “‘I don’t want to talk too much about Trump because at some point I should do it in a more coherent way than this,’ Kissinger replies.

“But you are being coherent, I protest. Please don’t stop. There is another pregnant silence. ‘I think Trump may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretences. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows this, or that he is considering any great alternative. It could just be an accident.’ …

“‘It is clear the direction I am going in,’ he replies. ‘Is it clear to you?’ Sort of, I reply. You are worried about the future. However, you believe there is a non-trivial chance that Trump could accidentally scare us into reinventing the rules-based order that we used to take for granted. Is that a fair summary? ‘I think we are in a very, very grave period for the world,’ Kissinger replies. ‘I have conducted innumerable summit meetings, so they didn’t learn this one [Helsinki] from me.’”

LOUIS NELSON, VICTORIA GUIDA and ADAM BEHSUDI — “Trump threatens tariffs on all $500 billion worth of Chinese imports”: “President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is prepared to impose tariffs on all $500 billion worth of Chinese imports and will work to reset a trade relationship that he says is unfair, regardless of the implications it may have on the stock market or November’s midterm elections.

“Trump told CNBC in an interview that aired Friday morning that he wants China ‘to do well’ and that ‘I don’t want them to be scared,’ but said he will not tolerate Beijing imposing retaliatory tariffs as he tries to end the trade imbalance between the two nations.” video

— Louis also reports that Trump said he would be Vladimir Putin’s “worst nightmare” if their relationship deteriorated:

— WSJ’S SIOBHAN HUGHES: “Sen. Orrin Hatch Urges President to Rethink Trade Policies”: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is ratcheting up pressure on President Donald Trump to reconsider his tariff policies, warning in a letter that GOP senators may be ready to risk a legislative confrontation with the president unless he reverses course on trade.

“‘As you are aware, members of the Senate are increasingly considering legislation to reduce trade authorities that Congress has delegated to the President,’ the Utah Republican wrote in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal. ‘I am sympathetic to those efforts. If the administration continues forward with its overreliance on tariffs, I will work to advance legislation to curtail Presidential trade authority.’ …

“In the hierarchy of messages from Capitol Hill to the White House, a letter like the one Mr. Hatch sent the president on Tuesday could be seen as the most potent, possibly a prelude to the legislation it threatens. And a number of lawmakers, especially on Mr. Hatch’s committee, are wondering if that is their next move—a bill that would ensure that Congress has its say over tariffs that could rebound in the form of retaliatory tariffs on farmers or manufacturers in their districts. … Hatch took a shot at some top White House officials, saying ‘I strongly urge you to reconsider the reckless guidance you have received on trade policy from some of your advisors.’”

Good Friday afternoon. WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 8:31 a.m.: “My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri. Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!”

… at 8:43 a.m.: “China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day — taking away our big competitive edge. As usual, not a level playing field…”

… at 8:51 a.m.: “….The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates — Really?”

… at 9:04 a.m.: “Farmers have been on a downward trend for 15 years. The price of soybeans has fallen 50% since 5 years before the Election. A big reason is bad (terrible) Trade Deals with other countries. They put on massive Tariffs and Barriers. Canada charges 275% on Dairy. Farmers will WIN!”

THE INVESTIGATIONS — “Accused Russian agent says she was twice denied visas to travel to U.S.,” by Josh Meyer: “Mariia Butina, the Russian gun enthusiast who was accused this week of acting as an illegal foreign agent, said in 2014 that she was twice denied visas to travel to the U.S. and received permission only on her third attempt to go to a National Rifle Association conference. …

“Butina’s social media post shows that the U.S. government may have had concerns about her long before prosecutors formally accused her of acting as a foreign agent. That post, along with others reviewed by POLITICO, also offers a window into how Butina used her NRA ties to help establish her first inroads in the United States.”

— KYLE CHENEY: “Dems plan longshot gambit to force action on Mueller protection bill”

SCOTUS WATCH — “Russian firm indicted in special counsel probe cites Kavanaugh decision to argue that charge should be dismissed,” by WaPo’s Robert Barnes: “A Russian company accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of being part of an online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign is leaning in part on a decision by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to argue that the charge against it should be thrown out.

“The 2011 decision by Kavanaugh, writing for a three-judge panel, concerned the role that foreign nationals may play in U.S. elections. … It is the second issue related to Mueller’s investigation that is sure to receive attention at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.”

NYT’s ELIZABETH DIAS in Avon, Indiana: “‘I’m Doing It for the Babies’: Inside the Ground Game to Reverse Roe v. Wade”: “Ahead of the midterm elections, the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group, has dispatched hundreds of these canvassers across six battleground states. They aim to galvanize Americans who oppose abortion but who rarely vote outside presidential races, and to pressure red state Democrats, like Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, to support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“Leaders of the anti-abortion movement believe they are closer than they have been in 50 years to achieving their goals, and local efforts like these are at the heart of their plan to get there.”

— GRAPHIC DU JOUR: “What It Takes to Get an Abortion in the Most Restrictive State in the U.S.,” by NYT’s Audrey Carlsen, Ash Ngu and Sara Simon:

GABE DEBENEDETTI in New York Magazine, “The Progressive Hawaii Senator Reshaping the 2020 Race, Without Even Running”: “There are 17 months before the first presidential nominating contests of 2020, and 27 months before Democrats could have a reasonable shot at taking back power in D.C. more broadly. But [Brian] Schatz is already pushing fellow senators to commit, on the record, to backing his proposals on issues from healthcare to climate, and college affordability to Social Security, before primary season explodes into a carnival of gauzy debate-stage promises and shifting goalposts.”

MEGATRENDS — “America’s Factory Towns, Once Solidly Blue, Are Now a GOP Haven,” by WSJ’s Bob Davis and Dante Chinni: “The Republican Party has become the party of blue-collar America. After the 1992 election, 15 of the 20 most manufacturing-intensive Congressional districts in America were represented by Democrats. Today, all 20 are held by Republicans. The shift of manufacturing from a Democratic stronghold to a Republican one is a major force remaking the two parties. It helps explain Donald Trump’s political success, the rise of Republican protectionism and the nation’s polarized politics. It will help shape this year’s midterm elections.”

MINNPOST’S SAM BRODEY — “Rep. Rick Nolan’s legislative director left the office amid multiple sexual harassment accusations in 2015. Months later, he was hired by Nolan’s campaign”:

AFTERNOON READ — THE ATLANTIC’S MEGAN GARBER: “The World Burns. Sarah Sanders Says This Is Fine”: “On Wednesday, two representatives of the United States government held press briefings, both of them touching on one of the most astonishing news stories of the Trump presidency—a series of events that had begun two days earlier, when Donald Trump traveled to Helsinki to meet, behind closed doors, with Vladimir Putin.

“It is a well-worn cliché of the Trump presidency … that, within a White House as vertically integrated as this one, loyalty counts above all. This is a White House that prioritizes the scoring of points over the complexities of compromise. Sanders, on behalf of the president she works for … takes for granted an assumption that would be shocking were it not so common in the American culture of the early 21st century: There are things that are more important than truth.”

BANNON BEAT — “‘You Are Either With Trump or You Are Against Him,’ Says Bannon, as Putin Mayhem Tests President’s Grip on GOP”: For the most part, Trump’s outraged, aghast followers-turned-critics have all come home very quickly. It’s a play we’ve all seen before,” by The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein:

FOR YOUR RADAR — BILL BROWDER is speaking on a panel about Europe’s relationship with Vladimir Putin at the Aspen Security Forum today at 3:20 p.m. EST. NBC News’ Courtney Kube is moderating. Watch the livestream

— “Vietnam Orders American Protester Deported,” by WSJ’s Jake Maxwell Watts: “The U.S. had lobbied hard for Mr. Nguyen’s release, and the case had strained ties between two countries that have been working more closely together to counter China’s rising influence in the region.”

— AP/NEW YORK: “NYC releases documents connected to Central Park 5 case”: “New York City has started releasing about 100,000 pages of documents connected to the notorious case of the five men whose convictions for raping and beating a Central Park jogger were overturned after they served more than a decade behind bars.”

HMM … Rev. Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl): “Just spent an hour w/ Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. I bet you’re wondering what we could be talking about! Stay tuned.”

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Afghan Taliban claims indirect talks are underway with U.S.,” by NBC News’ Mushtaq Yusufzai, F. Brinley Bruton, Abigail Williams and Linda Givetash:

MEDIAWATCH — “Guilfoyle to leave Fox to work for pro-Trump super PAC,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle is expected to leave the network to join the pro-Trump America First super PAC, according to a person with direct knowledge of the hire.”

— FUTURE OF NEWS: “BuzzFeed ditches native, goes all programmatic with BuzzFeed News,” by Digiday’s Max Willens:

— PBS’ “Washington Week” is debuting a new set Friday for the first time in two decades, with host Bob Costa and guests Margaret Brennan, Dan Balz, Yamiche Alcindor and Jonathan Swan. Pic

IMPRESSIVE — @ChuckGrassley: “2day marks 25YRS W/OUT MISSING A VOTE in the US Senate My last missed vote was July 14 1993 when I was home touring the flood damage w Sen Harkin & Pres Clinton My job is to represent the ppl of Iowa in the US Senate every day 1 way of doing that is not missing a vote!”

TRANSITIONS — Josh Althouse is now public policy manager at Facebook. He previously was conservative outreach director for Speaker Paul Ryan. … Kerri Kupec has been temporarily detailed from DOJ to the White House to be the WH spokesperson for Kavanaugh’s confirmation team. At DOJ, she was the spokesperson for the Solicitor General’s Office and Civil Division.

SPOTTED: Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) all in front of gate C7 yesterday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) last night at Montmartre on Capitol Hill.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at a dinner last night in honor of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, hosted by French Ambassador Gérard Araud: James O’Brien, Philip Gordon, Ian Brzezinski, Toni Verstandig, Damon Wilson, Karen Donfried, Irene Braam, Tom Wright, Fred Hiatt, Edward Luce, Jacob Freedman, Adrien Frier and Jean-Pierre Montégu.

— SPOTTED at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C. at a summer party last night for new Harvard President Lawrence Bacow and Mark Gearan: Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dan Balz, Joy Lin, Bob Schieffer, John Della Volpe, Amy Howell and Alex Rosenwald.

ENGAGED — Hayden Haynes, chief of staff for Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), proposed to Jennifer Lauterbach, senior legislative assistant for Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), at Bluejacket Brewery in Navy Yard, the site of their first date. “Hayden popped the question during a private brewery tour Thursday night. … The two met at the Washington Hilton during the 2017 Washington Mardi Gras festivities.” Pics

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Alyssa Betz, senior director of public policy at Oath and a former Mel Watt staffer, and Jonathan Betz, a senior tax consultant at Deloitte, on Tuesday welcomed Catherine Joy Betz, who came in at 9 lbs 6.5 ounces and 21.5 inches long. She joins big brother Jack, who’s two and a half years old. Pic

BONUS BIRTHDAY: Will Johnson, SVP of advertising strategy for DailyKos, is 37 (h/t Tim Lim)


Diplomats scold Trump for toying with idea of Russia interrogation swap

Two groups representing U.S. diplomats scolded President Donald Trump for entertaining the idea of handing former Ambassador Michael McFaul over to Russia for questioning, saying such a move would ensure that "no diplomat could be secure in carrying out his or her instructions from Washington."

"Full diplomatic immunities are essential to protecting diplomats in their efforts to keep their government fully and completely informed without hindrance from other states and to carry out foreign policy in all its aspects," the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council of American Ambassadors said in a joint statement Friday. "Administrations and policies may change but our diplomats must be confident that our government has their back."

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested in a joint news conference with Trump that Moscow be allowed to interview Americans in exchange for allowing Washington to interview Russians, such as the 12 recently indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The next day, the Russian government released a wish list of 11 Americans it would like to question, including McFaul.

Trump on Monday called the proposal an "incredible offer," and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said he would "work with his team and determine" whether or not it was a good idea.

However, on Thursday, amid near-universal criticism, the White House said in a statement that Trump "did not agree" with the concept.

The two diplomatic groups added their own alarming take, even after Trump’s reversal, saying the administration must be clear in its support for members of the foreign service.

"Were that not to be the case, no diplomat could be secure in carrying out his or her instructions from Washington and confident the United States will not turn them over to a foreign state for investigation of any action they took for the United States while covered by diplomatic immunities," the statement went on. "The Russian suggestion that the U.S. government should in any way facilitate the questioning of diplomats covered by immunities during their service in Russia is a concept that should be rejected to assure the full protection of U.S. interests and the diplomats serving those interests."

The AAD and the CAA are not the first in the foreign service sphere to speak out against the rhetoric. Former ambassadors, secretaries of state and others went on the record to bash the idea, echoing the concern that such an agreement would quash diplomatic immunity.


Guilfoyle to leave Fox to work for pro-Trump super PAC

Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle is expected to leave the network to join the pro-Trump America First super PAC, according to a person with direct knowledge of the hire.

Guilfoyle is also expected to hit the midterm campaign trail with Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. The two have been dating in recent weeks.

The younger Trump has emerged as a key surrogate for Republican midterm campaigns, and Guilfoyle has traveled with him to several recent rallies, including one for Florida gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis and another for Montana Senate candidate Matt Rosendale.

Guilfoyle did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did an America First spokesperson.

America First has emerged as the main pro-Trump outside group. The president attended a summer conference the group held at his Washington hotel, and Donald Trump Jr. has also lent the organization his support.

Guilfoyle’s move was first reported by Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman.


Menendez jumps on Hugin’s past opposition to allowing women, gays into elite Princeton club

When New Jersey Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin was a senior at Princeton University, he made it clear that gay students weren’t welcome at the Tiger Inn, the elite eating club he led as president.

If a member of the club was found to be gay, a 21-year-old Hugin told the Central Jersey Home News in 1976, “he wouldn’t last long,” according to an article circulated Friday by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

"I’m proud to say that my views are a lot different than they were 40 years ago. On this issue I was probably more influenced by my kids than anything else. They had insight at a very early age on the issues of equality and fairness that made me re-evaluate the way I saw the world,” Hugin said in a statement to POLITICO on Friday. “Personal growth should be seen as a strength, and more elected officials should embrace and be open to discussing it in their public lives. As Senator, I will be a leader on issues of equality from day one."

But Hugin’s association with the Tiger Inn — one of the oldest and most prominent “eating clubs” at Princeton, which for over a century have been part of the university’s social scene — didn’t end when he graduated. He took a leadership role on its alumni board and in the early 1990s, when he was in his late 30s, fought a woman’s 13-year attempt to make the all-male club co-ed in state and federal court.

After settling the case in 1992 — a year after the club finally admitted women — Hugin was quoted accusing the plaintiff, Sally Frank, of “politically correct fascism“ in a Philadelphia Inquirer article.

More than 25 years later, Hugin’s association with the club has come under scrutiny as he takes on Menendez — a two term Democrat who just survived a corruption trial over his relationship with convicted Medicaid fraudster Salomon Melgen.

Hugin on Thursday sought to head off criticism over his role at the club during a roundtable discussion on women in the workforce — hours after, it turned out, a reporter had asked him about the controversy, and as it was clear that Menendez’s campaign had dug up the information.

“Everyone evolves over time. I view many things differently today than I did 25 years ago,” Hugin said in a statement released Thursday night. “The Tiger Inn becoming co-ed was a very positive development for the organization and has strengthened it on every level. The decision, made by the undergraduate members, to admit women back in the early 90’s was without question the right thing to do. Personally, I wish I had taken a leadership role in making it happen sooner.”

Hugin has spent millions slamming Menendez over the Melgen case and the Senate Ethics Committee’s finding that Menendez broke Senate rules and federal law. The Menendez campaign has already fought back on one front, highlighting Hugin’s record as the top executive of the pharmaceutical company Celgene as it dramatically raised prices on a cancer drug.

Now Hugin’s association with the Tiger Inn has opened up a new front for Menendez to attack as the race heats up. While Hugin said he regretted not taking a leadership role in allowing women into the club, he did not mention that he took a leadership role fighting against it. The case had gone on for 13 years — all the way up to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Even after the club finally admitted women in 1991, it filed a federal lawsuit to preserve, as Hugin put it at the time, "the right to determine our own membership."

It’s a potentially politically potent line of attack for Menendez, especially as Hugin seeks distance from President Donald Trump — for whom he served as a delegate at the 2016 Republican National Convention, after Trump’s own comments boasting of groping women were leaked.

“This wasn’t youthful naïveté. Hugin was in his late 30’s and married for five years at the time. Nothing about his disdain for women seems to have changed,” Menendez campaign Chairman Michael Soliman said of Hugin’s fight against allowing women into the club. “Since then, he’s given hundreds of thousands to candidates who have fought to roll back women’s rights, he supports extreme Supreme Court justices who would reverse Roe v. Wade, and he was a delegate for a presidential candidate who bragged about sexually assaulting women.”

Hugin’s comments about gays not being welcome at the eating club came during a fractious time at the university over gay rights. The newspaper article in which Hugin made the remarks tells of how students from the Gay Alliance of Princeton hung a banner with their organization’s name on it hoping “to lead to a greater understanding of gay rights — instead they got eggs, rocks and stink bombs,” the article says.

Hugin told the newspaper at the time that the Tiger Inn was circulating a petition urging the student government to rescind a resolution that called for the university to include “sexual or affectional preference” in its official non-discrimination policy. Hugin instead called for the university to hold a referendum on “something as controversial as this.”

“Bob Hugin was in a position to show real leadership on advancing the causes of women and the LGBTQ community and failed, instead perpetuating a culture of discrimination and hate,” Soliman said. “Bob Hugin can’t erase his past. He is a disgrace and unfit to represent New Jersey and all its vibrant diversity.”

Princeton’s eating clubs aren’t just where most of the university’s juniors and seniors take meals, according to Ben Dworkin, director of the Institute for Public Policy at Rowan University. Dworkin, a Princeton graduate, was a member of a co-ed eating club, Tower Club, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“Think of them as co-ed fraternities. A handful, generally just the elected leadership, will live there. And they are places where collections of student members will host parties and have their meals and generally be their hangout,” Dworkin said.

Dworkin said that it’s important to put Hugin’s comments — both as a man in his late 30s and a college senior in his early 20s — in the context of the times.

“The 1990s were still very different. We didn’t have bullying laws. We have changed as a society a lot since then,” he said.

But it’s still politically damaging, Dworkin said. And he doesn’t think voters will cut Hugin more slack for what he said in his early 20s than what he said in his late 30s.

“All that having been said, placing it in context of the time, this is obviously a negative for Hugin because it’s going to feed a narrative from his opponents that he is out of the mainstream and that he is not representative of where America is today,” he said.

Hugin has retained connections to Princeton’s eating clubs culture. In 2011, his family’s charitable foundation donated $513,315 to the Princeton Prospect Foundation, whose stated mission is to "stimulate and encourage the love of learning and pursuit of knowledge” at the clubs. In 2015, when Hugin was a trustee of the Princeton Prospect Foundation, The Daily Princetonian outlined how even though the IRS audited the foundation and “put in place tailored regulations to explicitly prevent the disbursement of funds for non-educational purposes,” the charity “aggressively interpreted the regulations” and “routinely funded the construction of social spaces, even though those are specifically barred by its agreement with the IRS.”


Dems plan longshot gambit to force action on Mueller protection bill

House Democrats are moving Friday to force Republicans to hold a hearing on a measure that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally removing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Three Democrats on the powerful Judiciary Committee are invoking an obscure House rule that permits a handful of lawmakers to call for a "special meeting" on any bill. If the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), declines to approve the meeting within three days, the panel’s 40 members of the panel — 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats — have an opportunity to overrule him and hold the meeting anyway.

"We do not take these actions lightly, but believe that we are left with no other choice given the circumstances," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, in a letter also signed by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

It’s a longshot gambit — the Republican-controlled committee is virtually guaranteed to support Goodlatte. But it’s the latest effort by Democrats to spotlight inaction on measures they describe as increasingly urgent as Trump has more aggressively challenged the validity of Mueller’s probe.

Goodlatte aides were not immediately available for comment.

Mueller’s probe of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians has become increasingly perilous to Trump’s inner circle and has dogged the president as he’s attempted to forge closer ties to Putin — even against the advice of his senior national security and intelligence teams. Trump has decried the probe as a politically driven "witch hunt."

But his attacks reached new and unsettling heights on Monday when Trump denigrated Mueller alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. The display prompted bipartisan derision — one House Republican even described Trump as being manipulated by the Russian president. But that bipartisanship has stalled when it comes to any concrete actions.

The Judiciary Committee is the forum for much of the conflict in the GOP-controlled House because it oversees the FBI and Justice Department. Republicans leading the committee have poured their energy into investigating whether the origins of the Mueller probe were rooted in anti-Trump bias expressed by a handful of FBI agents in recently unearthed text messages. So far, internal reviews have found no evidence that the probe was tainted by bias.

Judiciary Committee Democrats, meanwhile, have become emboldened in recent weeks to use the few procedural tactics at their disposal to disrupt committee Republicans’ drive to undercut the Trump-Russia investigators. They were buoyed earlier this month when, during an intense grilling of FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, they used the rules and procedural motions repeatedly to stall the hearing and disrupt GOP lines of questioning.

Republicans have beaten back these Democratic procedural maneuvers and contended that Democrats are overlooking problems in the upper ranks of the FBI and Justice Department in order to take political shots at Trump.

In their latest effort, Democrats are planning to invoke a rule that has, according to the Congressional Research Service, never been successfully invoked in the House. A similar provision in the Senate rules came into play during an ill-fated effort to confirm former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as ambassador to Mexico in 1997. At the time, then Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold a hearing on Weld’s nomination and fellow Republicans attempted to convene one without him.

Under the rule, first adopted in 1931, the Democrats have called for a "special meeting" to consider a bill that would prevent Trump from firing Mueller without "good cause." Any special counsel removed under this provision could challenge the effort in court. The measure has drawn bipartisan support, with at least seven House Republicans backing it.

If Goodlatte ignores their request for three days, the Democrats may solicit the support of other committee members to sidestep him and hold a meeting anyway. That would require at least four Republicans to sign on to their effort, an unlikely prospect on a committee riven by intense partisanship.