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CHICAGO — After five years of legal battles, gentrification concerns, and a federal review, Barack and Michelle Obama dug shovels into the ground Tuesday during a celebratory groundbreaking on their legacy project in a lakefront Chicago park.

Construction on the Obama Presidential Center along Lake Michigan, near the Obama family home and where the former president started his political career on Chicago’s South Side, officially began last month.

Standing near an excavator and other heavy equipment, Obama described how the city’s South Side shaped him, first as a community organizer, then as a husband, father, and elected official. He said the center was one way of giving back and he hoped it would bring an economic boost to the area and inspire a future generation of leaders.

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“We want this center to be more than a static museum or a source of archival research. It won’t just be a collection of campaign memorabilia or Michelle’s ballgowns, although I know everybody will come see those,” he joked. “It won’t just be an exercise in nostalgia or looking backwards. We want to look forward.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and several city aldermen were among the few people allowed at the event, which was streamed online to limit crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The presidential center will sit on 19 acres of the 540-acre of Jackson Park, named for the nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.

It will be unique among presidential libraries. Obama’s presidential papers will be available in digital form. The sprawling campus will include a museum, public library branch, athletic center, test kitchen, and children’s play area.

The initial cost was projected at $500 million, but documents released by the Obama Foundation last month showed it is now roughly $830 million. Funds are being raised through private donations.

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Organizers estimate about 750,000 visitors will come to the center each year.

Work on the Obama Presidential Center is expected to take about five years.

Associated Press

Trump loses arbitration over nondisclosure agreement

Former President Donald Trump has lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on “The Apprentice” who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration.

The decision in the case, which Trump’s campaign filed in August 2018 with the American Arbitration Association in New York, comes as the former president is enmeshed in a number of investigations and legal cases related to his private company.

“Donald has used this type of vexatious litigation to intimidate, harass and bully for years,” Manigault Newman said in a statement. “Finally the bully has met his match!”

The decision, dated on Friday and handed down on Monday, calls for her to collect legal fees from the Trump campaign.

Trump’s campaign filed the case shortly after Manigault Newman published her book, “Unhinged.” It claimed that she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed during the 2016 campaign stipulating that she would not reveal private or confidential information about his family, business, or personal life.

The book paints a picture of an out-of-control president who is in a state of mental decline and is prone to racist and misogynistic behavior. Manigault Newman’s book also casts the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a negative light. When Trump advisers tried to cast doubt on Manigault Newman’s accounts, she released audio recordings that backed up several of her claims.

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In a statement on Tuesday morning, Trump said nothing about the arbitration case, and instead attacked Manigault Newman in personal terms.

The media- and image-obsessed Trump has for years used nondisclosure agreements as a way to prevent staff members from speaking about him publicly, and to deter them from making disparaging comments or writing books like Manigault Newman’s.

The arbitration is confidential, meaning that only the parties involved can release information about the case. In papers made available by Manigault Newman’s lawyer, John Phillips, the arbitrator, Andrew Brown, said that the definition of the type of comment protected by the nondisclosure agreement was so vague that it had been rendered meaningless. What was more, he wrote, the statements Manigault Newman had made hardly included privileged information.

“The statements do not disclose hard data such as internal polling results or donor financial information,” Brown wrote. “Rather, they are for the most part simply expressions of unflattering opinions, which are deemed ‘confidential information’ based solely upon the designation of Trump. This is exactly the kind of indefiniteness which New York courts do not allow to form the terms of a binding contract.”

New York Times

Wis. governor calls voting probe ‘$700,000 boondoggle’

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Tuesday blasted a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election as a “$700,000 boondoggle” and said election clerks should be “lawyered up.’’

After an election audit in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win there, Republicans have focused their attention on Wisconsin, where Biden also won, and other states where they’re pursuing reviews of last year’s election.

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The investigation in Wisconsin is being led by retired conservative state Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman. He said in a video last week that the burden will be on local election clerks to prove the election was run fairly. He also threatened to subpoena anyone who doesn’t comply.

“You don’t have to prove a negative in court, you don’t have to prove a negative in any other place except justice Gableman’s court here,’’ Evers said.

The Democratic governor, who is up for reelection next year, called Gableman’s comments “a bit outrageous.”

“If I was a clerk, I’d be lawyered up and make sure that you’re doing the right thing,” Evers said during a news conference at the World Dairy Expo when asked if they should comply with Gableman’s probe. “I hate to see an inquisition like this, especially when you’re being told you have to prove it was a good election. Everybody knows it was a good election. Everybody knows there was no fraud.’’

Gableman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Biden’s win over former president Donald Trump by more than 20,000 votes has been upheld by numerous state and federal courts. Only four voters out of about 3 million people who cast ballots have been charged with election fraud to date.

Evers said clerks have better things to do than deal with Gableman’s investigation, which is costing taxpayers $680,000.

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“It’s a $700,000 boondoggle to prove something that’s already been proven probably 100 times,” Evers said.

Gableman’s first e-mail to election clerks confused many, as it came from a Gmail address under the name “John Delta” and contained an attachment. Many counties flagged it as a potential scam and it landed in the junk e-mail folder for others.

Associated Press