WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, elevating a top White House aide to oversee the department central to President Trump’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration and beef up border security. The vote was 62 to 37.
Nielsen replaces John F. Kelly, who left in July to be White House chief of staff. Nielsen was Kelly’s chief of staff at Homeland Security, and he brought her along to the White House to be his deputy.
Elaine C. Duke has served as acting secretary in the interim. Duke has said she would remain at the department in the number two position, tamping down speculation she might resign after Nielsen was installed.
New York Times
Lawyer: Trump can’t be sued while in office
As the nation wrestles with holding sexual harassers to account, President Trump is seeking to silence one of his most vocal critics: a former contestant on his reality TV show who accused him of groping her and sued him for calling her a liar.
In Manhattan Tuesday, his lawyer asked a New York judge to dismiss a defamation case by Summer Zervos, a contender on “The Apprentice” in 2005 who alleges he “ambushed” her more than once, starting in 2007, kissing her on the mouth, touching her breast, and pressing his genitals against her.
Attorney Marc Kasowitz said his objection to letting the case proceed was about following the Constitution, not putting anyone above the law. “A state court may not exercise jurisdiction over the president of the United States while he or she is in office,” Kasowitz said.
Regardless of what the judge decides, the case is likely to be appealed to the state’s highest court. That almost certainly guarantees that if the president is forced to testify, it won’t happen soon.
Zervos claims Trump defamed her by denying that he had groped her and branding women who accused him of similar behavior as liars. The claim stems from statements the then-candidate made after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” recording that featured him making crude comments about women.
Lawyers for Trump argue that if the case is allowed to move forward, evidence gathering should be delayed until he leaves office.
Trump calls the lawsuit politically motivated, saying that Zervos can’t hold him liable for engaging in political speech that’s protected by the First Amendment. He has said she continued to attempt to contact him and seek employment even after the unwanted sexual advances are alleged to have occurred and turned against him only after he failed to accept an invitation to her restaurant.
Suspended reporter won’t cover president
NEW YORK — Suspended ABC News reporter Brian Ross will no longer cover stories involving President Trump following his erroneous report last Friday on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The network on Tuesday confirmed the order by news president James Goldston, who expressed anger over the error on an internal phone call that was leaked to CNN. ABC declined to make Goldston available for an interview.
Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay. He had reported incorrectly that Trump, while running for president, had told Flynn to contact the Russians. That would have been a big development in the ongoing investigation over whether the Trump campaign worked with Russians to influence the 2016 US election.
Ross later corrected his story, based on an unnamed source, to say Trump’s instructions came when he was president-elect, not a candidate.
It was immediately seized upon by Trump as an example of ‘‘fake news,’’ even with a suggestion that the false report was a factor in Friday’s stock market tumble. Trump tweeted on Sunday that anyone who had lost money in the stock market on Friday should consider suing ABC for damages.
In the staff call reported on by CNN, Goldston said that he did not think he had ever felt more rage, disappointment, and frustration than he did in the aftermath of the botched report.
He also expressed frustration that it took the network several hours to correct the report.
ABC did not dispute CNN’s reporting about Goldston’s comments.
Mueller probe’s cost is $6.7 million so far
WASHINGTON — The special counsel’s investigation into possible coordination between President Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election has cost more than $6.7 million so far, according to a financial report released Tuesday.
The release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office comes as the investigation appears to be gaining steam: Prosecutors have gained a key cooperating witness in their investigation and have revealed that they are keenly focused on the actions of the president and his inner circle.
Of the overall price tag, about $3.2 million was spent directly by the special counsel’s office.
Another $3.5 million was paid out by the Justice Department to support the investigation, though the special counsel’s office says that money would have been spent on ongoing probes anyway — even if Mueller had not been appointed.
Mueller’s effort incorporated several active investigations within the Justice Department, including those into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s business activities, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Details of the expenditures related to Mueller’s investigation were laid out in a report released to the public by the special counsel’s office.
The report covers from May 17, the date of Mueller’s appointment, through Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.
Previous special counsel investigations, including probes of President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s, have also spent millions over a few months’ time.
A 1999 General Accounting Office report, for example, showed that independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s office spent $6.2 million in the last six months of 1998, though it’s unclear if that amount included both direct expenditures by the special counsel and supporting agency costs.
The 4½-year investigations headed by Starr and his successor, Robert Ray, cost more than $52 million in taxpayer funds as they probed Clinton and then-first lady Hillary Clinton.