Trump officials fight eviction from Panama hotel they manage


By JEFF HORWITZ and JUAN ZAMORANO - Associated Press



A woman past walks past the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

A woman past walks past the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)


A marquee of the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower is seen in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)


FILE - This July 4, 2011, file photo, shows the Trump International Hotel Panama , third building from left, in Panama City. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from the luxury hotel where they manage operations, and local police have been called repeatedly to keep peace, The Associated Press has learned. Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)


PANAMA CITY (AP) — One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding.

Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday (Feb. 22) by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. Trump’s managers retreated behind the glass walls of an office where they were seen carrying files to an area where the sounds of a shredding machine could be heard, according to two witnesses aligned with the owners. The legal complaint also accused Trump’s team of improperly destroying documents.

The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity over concerns they would be drawn into an expensive and protracted legal fight.

Elsewhere in the building, the hotel owners’ team and its allies were barred by Trump Hotel staff from entering the room containing the building’s closed-circuit TV system as well as key computer servers for the hotel and apartments that share the property. In response, they shut off power to the room — temporarily bringing down phone lines and internet connections within the building.

According to the legal complaint, Trump’s chief of security and six security guards “pushed and shouted at” Fintiklis when he came to deliver the termination notices. The complaint said the hotel employees then called the police.

A new confrontation appeared likely to arise during the weekend, as Trump’s security staff set up early Saturday (Feb. 24) in the hotel lobby, witnesses said. But by Saturday afternoon the lobby was again quiet.

Representatives of the Trump Organization declined to comment, but have previously called attempts to fire their management company illegal and said no change in the building’s control would be appropriate without a decision from arbitrators or a judge.

Fintiklis did not respond to messages left by text or email.

On Friday night (Feb. 23), lawyers, notaries and rival security personnel gathered at the hotel in Panama City while talks were underway to prevent the conflict from deteriorating further.

The showdown is the newest low in a months-long fight over control of the property. Last August, Fintiklis’ Miami-based Ithaca Capital Partners bought the 202 units in a fire sale from the property’s struggling developer. As part of the deal, Trump Hotels sought and received some assurances that Ithaca would not seek to act against its interests as hotel manager.

Relations quickly soured amid abysmal hotel occupancy numbers and allegations by Ithaca and other hotel unit owners of financial mismanagement or misconduct. In October, Ithaca Capital led a push to terminate Trump Hotel’s management contract and seek compensatory damages. Trump’s company — which he still owns but does not directly control — refused to hand over control of the property, arguing that the vote to fire Trump Hotels was invalid.

A Panamanian court declined to support that claim in December, and the parties have since been fighting in court. The AP reported that the Trump management team ran off a group of Marriott executives who had been invited to tour the property amid a search for a replacement hotel operator.

On Thursday, Fintiklis arrived at the property with management staff and lawyers intending to take over the hotel immediately. The Trump management team again refused to yield control of the property, and according to the legal complaint filed by Ithaca’s lawyers, refused to allow Fintiklis to check into any of his company’s 202 hotel rooms.

Horwitz reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Natalie Schachar in Mexico City contributed to this report.

From Twitter

CPAC panelist Mona Charen says there are people “sitting in the White House who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women, and because he happens to have an ‘R’ by his name, we look the other way.”

The crowd did not like that.

Stop secret and wasteful Pentagon spending!

More transparency is the only way to prevent wasteful government spending. But President Trump just signed a bill authorizing $700 billion in Pentagon spending – and it was written mostly behind closed doors, with little public debate and a standalone vote on only one amendment.

The American people deserve an open committee process and full debate to stop wasteful government spending of our taxpayer dollars.

Project On Government Oversight (POGO)

PolitiFact rates statements by Trump

True 23 (4%)

Mostly True 60 (12%)

Half True 78 (15%)

Mostly False 114 (22%)

False 167 (32%)

Pants on Fire 77 (15%)

Comments on Facebook

So 84% lies

Irrelevant. His supporters have no integrity. They don’t care what he does or how much he lies. Like he said: ” I love the poor and uneducated” then he said ” I can shoot someone on 5th Ave and not lose a single vote ” sadly he was right. His supporters are the lowest of the low….

Can you just imagine if Obama acted that way?

His supporters are treacherous. I have been on sites where I have been verbally attacked….

Daniel Dale from the Toronto Star has been keeping track of every lie since day one check out his page on Facebook

False 67%, pants on fire 33%. My take.

For the 1st year he was president, the Washington Post tallied how many lies he had told. It was over 2000 in 1 year. I think it should be considered perjury when the president lies to the American people. Otherwise what is the oath of office for?

I refuse to accept this from a President of the United States of America.

Excellent work, Conservatives!!! Your president tells more than a half-truth 16% of the time!!!

4% truth from the leader of the free world. Fire him!

Politifact is accurate. I check it all the time!

What else can we expect from a Conman with decades of experience

Good info to pass along to your children in school. Just in case.

In response to the information circulating that the NYPD only has an 18% accuracy rate in gun fights:

I also work at a school and have been involved in active shooter response training. The FBI calls this Run Hide Fight, I was trained in something similar, A.L.I.C.E. The meme’s claim of 18% was about the same stat as was provided by the law enforcement leading the training. The reason is simple. It’s very difficult to hit moving targets.

A mass shooter sprays bullets trying to maim and kill as many people as they can in the 5-15 minutes it takes for an armed response. Usually they go in knowing they won’t survive. They don’t care about collateral damage. Teachers would be trying to hit a single target, presumably by shooting through students in an already overcrowded classroom.

“Good guy with a gun” is a myth. In 2014, the FBI released a report that found that more active shooting incidents are stopped by unarmed citizens than armed citizen. {https://www.fbi.gov/…/fbi-releases-study-on-active…} But most are incidents end on the shooters own initiative. Either they commit suicide, or fleeing. Meanwhile, even when police got involved, there is a good chance that the well trained officers are killed or injured. (The FBI reported that “In 21 of the 45 incidents where law enforcement had to engage the shooter to end the threat, nine officers were killed and 28 were wounded”).

Instead, teachers need to focus on saving the kids, not killing the shooter. There is a much better chance of survival if the teacher can barricade the room long enough to get the kids out another exit. (Usually a window). If this is possible, we also need to teach our kids to scatter and run, in a zig-zag pattern if possible. Locking down in a barricaded room is the next option, if there is no opportunity to get out. Remember, shooters have a short window to do as much damage as possible. If they can’t get in the room, they’ll try another. Other techniques or countering and charging the gunman are also taught, but only as a last resort.”

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

– Michael Jordan

“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.” – Donald Trump on Parkland

Two words: FIVE DEFERMENTS.

The Commercial Bank of Dubai has subpoenaed Ivanka Trump’s diamond jewelry line, with the underlying reason being that the diamonds were being used in a $100,000,000 money laundering scheme, according to a GQ report.

Clyde Statement On No Funding For Voting Machines In Capital Budget

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the below statement about the just-introduced capital budget bill. Voting machine funding is not included in the bill as introduced.

“Voting machines are a crucial part of our state infrastructure, especially in this era of advanced attacks on our democracy by foreign actors. Ohio was one of several states targeted by a Russian government operation in the 2016 presidential election and federal officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have said the attackers are not letting up. There is an urgent need to get Ohio prepared for ongoing, intensifying cyber threats.

“I would like to see funding for our counties to purchase secure voting machines in the capital budget bill. Despite bipartisan calls for such funding to be included in the bill, funds are not in the bill as introduced. I am working on an amendment to the bill to include needed funding to protect our democracy from any and all attacks and I urge bipartisan cooperation on this urgent matter.”

The Ohio House of Representatives.

‘$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair’: HUD staffer files complaint over Ben Carson office redecoration

By Rene Marsh, CNN

The former chief administrative officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development says she was demoted in part for refusing to spend more than was legally allowed to redecorate Secretary Ben Carson’s new office.

In a November 2017 complaint obtained by CNN, Helen Foster said she was told to “find money” beyond the legal $5,000 limit for redecorating. In one instance, she says a supervisor said that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”

Foster’s sworn complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency charged with investigating whistle-blower complaints made by government employees, says that after she refused to misuse taxpayer dollars for the office redecoration project she was “retaliated against by being taken out of my position as Chief Administrative Officer.”

She says that HUD’s Acting Secretary Craig Clemmensen pulled her aside more than a month before Carson’s March confirmation and told her that Carson’s wife, Candy, wanted to “help the Secretary redecorate his office suite.” Clemmensen asked Foster to assist with “getting Mrs. Carson access and funds for the project,” the complaint states.

Foster said she told Clemmensen that legally, the department was limited in how much it could spend on the office redecorating project to $5,000, information she says she also passed along to the administrative officer in the Secretary’s office. But even so, Foster said she received repeated pressure in multiple conversations to “find money” for the redecorating project in excess of what was legally allowed, including in a one-on-one meeting on February 10. Clemmensen, according to the complaint, told Foster that the administration “has always found money for this in the past.”

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Foster said each time Clemmensen pushed her to assist Carson’s wife with finding the money, it was always “in the context of Mrs. Carson wants to do this. We have to find the money.”

“There was a sense of ‘we are not going to take no for an answer.’ There was a lot of staff time spent on this” a former HUD employee with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

“The most frustrating part of all this was spending so much time on this issue,” the former employee said. “Instead of focusing on HUD’s mission, we were talking about furniture for the Secretary’s office.

A HUD official disputed Foster’s account.

“When it comes to decorating the Secretary’s office, the only money HUD spent was $3,200 to put up new blinds in his office and the Deputy Secretary’s office,”HUD spokesman Raffi Williams told CNN. “The Secretary’s Administrative officer is aware of the limit and ensured that the limit was not exceeded.” HUD provided receipts to CNN that total $3,373.

Neither Candy Carson nor Clemmensen responded to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, the liberal group American Oversight sued HUD in an attempt to find out how much taxpayer money Carson used to renovate or redecorate his office.

American Oversight said that in November it submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for more than 20 agencies, including HUD, but that HUD did not respond to the information request.

The latest allegations come as Carson is facing scrutiny for the role that his family has played in his department, after reports that his son, Ben Carson, Jr., organized an official listening tour in Baltimore last year against the advice of department lawyers that the move risked violating federal ethics rules. Carson has called on HUD’s inspector general to review the issue. The IG’s office calls it an “open matter.” Carson has said that his family is “under attack” and that he wants to “put to rest these unfounded biases.”

Foster said she was so frustrated and concerned about the pressure she was under that she reached out to Sarah Lyberg, HUD’s acting assistant chief financial officer for budget, on February 13. In the email which has been reviewed by CNN, she wrote that she had been asked about “finding additional money.”

HUD spent $31,000 in 2017 on new dining room set for Carson’s office.

“Is there any way Admin could appropriately spend additional funds over $5000 to provide new furnishings or decorating for the Secretary’s Office without getting appropriations approval,” Foster asked Lyberg in the email.

Lyberg responded: “We cannot exceed the cap.”

Further evidence that the issue continued to be a topic for discussion came On February 22, when the office of HUD’s Chief Financial Officer sent a memo to Clemmensen and Janet Golrick, the department’s acting deputy secretary, detailing the rules surrounding funds for decorating Carson’s office.

The memo, which was obtained by CNN, said that spending of more than $5,000 “requires advance notice to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.” If the department failed to give that notice, it would violate the Antideficiency Act, which bars federal agencies from spending federal money before it has been appropriated by Congress.

Securing the Secretary

On February 1, Foster received an email from Kenneth Free, the special agent in charge of HUD’s protective services division, following up on a conversation that they’d had in person.

In the message reviewed by CNN, Free was providing more information about a request to purchase a security system for Carson’s Vienna, Virginia, home and pay for it using government funds. Carson’s new home, Free wrote, “is a single family home with no fence and backed up to a wooded area” and had many doors and windows that someone could force their way into.

Ben Carson calls poverty ‘a state of mind’

“To ensure the security of the Secretary, we are recommending an alarm system be installed to enhance the security of the Secretary,” he added, noting that other agencies pay for alarm systems for their secretaries.

Days later, Foster reached out to Lyberg and Michael Moran at HUD via email with questions about the request and whether or not it was appropriate for the department to foot the bill.

“DO WE PAY to have security systems installed at the Secretary’s residences? Are we allowed to do so? Should we be doing so,” she wrote.

The February 22 memo that included details about the redecorating request also mentioned the guidelines surrounding the security system funding. The memo said that, “as a general rule, appropriated funds are not available for the personal expenses of government employees, including agency heads.”

However, the memo stated that funds could be made available for security for a government official “who has been threatened or is otherwise in danger” if the agency determines “that the risk impairs the official’s ability to carry out his or her duties and hence adversely affects the efficient functioning of the agency.”

Foster says on March 6, her superiors instructed her to write a memo justifying the purchase of a security system for Carson’s home, and instructed her to make sure that she addressed the items in the February memo needed to justify the use of HUD funds.

CNN asked HUD about the alleged request but the agency did not respond to this line of questioning.

Foster said that she spoke with the head of Carson’s security detail about threats that he was facing.

“The only thing he could tell me is that they were concerned because The Washington Post ran a spread that had photos of the Secretary’s Vienna home,” Foster said.

Foster told CNN she refused to write the memo because she didn’t think it was justified.

A source with knowledge of Carson’s threat assessment in the months leading up to his confirmation told CNN that “the threat assessment for Carson was low.”

HUD spokesman Williams disagreed. “Carson is one of the most recognizable cabinet members and was a former candidate for President,” Williams said. “Our career security detail deemed an alarm necessary based after reviewing the threat assessment for Secretary Carson.”

Asked about threats that Carson has received since becoming HUD secretary last year, Williams said, “for security reasons, we don’t comment on the details of his security.”

Carson paid for the security system out of his own pocket, HUD said.

In August 2017, after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Carson said that his home was vandalized. “More recently our home in Virginia along with that of a neighbor was vandalized by people who also wrote hateful rhetoric about President Trump. We were out of town, but other kind, embarrassed neighbors cleaned up most of the mess before we returned,” Carson wrote in a Facebook post.

Put in a ‘rubber room’

In the months following, Foster saw her stock at HUD fall. She said it was retaliation for her refusal to write the memo justifying spending money on an alarm system for Carson and her refusal to “find money” for Carson’s office redecoration.

In the complaint, Foster also says she was retaliated against for pushing for her superiors to report a $10 million budget shortfall at the HUD dating back to 2016 under the Obama administration. Foster says the “agency leadership was unwilling to report the $10.8 million funding deficit to the appropriations staff.”

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this allegation.

On March 22, 2017, just 20 days into Carson’s tenure at HUD, Foster received a perfect score on an employee review, her second outstanding score in the course of three months.

Just four months later, she said was demoted and reassigned to oversee privacy and FOIA requests.

“I was put into a job that was made up, something in the federal government we call the ‘rubber room,’ and then I protested and asked to be put on detail until I could find another job,” she told CNN.

Foster said that she wasn’t given a substantive reason but that, based on her positive performance reviews, she can only conclude she was removed because she didn’t “find a way” to approve more money for the office project than was allowed by law.

Williams, the HUD spokesperson, told CNN that it’s not unusual for Senior Executive Service employees to be rotated and that, in fact, the Office of Personnel Management, encourages it.

“The annual government-wide goal beginning in FY 2017 is to have 15% of Senior Executive Service members in rotation,” the spokesperson said.

“That’s bogus,” Foster responded. “I had only been at the agency for seven months and you’re already rotating me out of the role? That makes no sense.”

The former HUD staffer told CNN that the fact that Foster, who joined HUD in July 2016, was brought in by a political appointee within the Obama administration hurt her standing with the new administration.

“I think Carson’s folks saw her as a political rather than a career employee,” the former HUD aide said. “There were some personality clashes as well.”

Foster though pointed back to her performance reviews.

“All of my references going all the way back to (her time at Federal Trade Commission) would say the same. Blunt but effective,” she said. “Look at my performance evaluation from 2016. You will note it doesn’t say I was too adversarial. It says I got things done.”

Foster, who is still a HUD employee, though detailed to another agency, told CNN that she was contacted by the Office of Special Counsel (this office is unrelated to Justice Department special counsel Robert Muller) for an interview last week. The office has 120 days to decide whether it will launch an official investigation. If the OSC finds wrongdoing, it can pursue disciplinary actions against the agency, arbitrate the situation and it could also seek relief on Foster’s behalf — including getting her previous job back.

OSC spokeswoman Jill Gerber told CNN that the office “can’t comment on or confirm any pending cases.”

Foster, who is a mother of two, said that what happened at HUD has made it hard for her to find work.

“With such a short tenure, I am unable to qualify for comparable positions in the private sector,” she said, adding that the only government jobs she’s qualified for in the last four months have “been at the Deputy Program Director level — at least three levels below my former status.”

At least twice, Foster said, prospective employers have asked her: “What happened at HUD?”

CNN’s Juana Summers contributed to this report.

Trump Egregiously Misquotes Fox News To Attack Rival

He’s either lying or not paying close enough attention.

By Alana Horowitz Satlin

Huffington Post

At first, the tweet seemed like standard criticism from President Donald Trump.

“Congressman [Adam] Schiff omitted and distorted key facts,” he said, appearing to quote a Fox News report about the California Democrat, who has frequently butted heads with the president over the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“So, what else is new,” Trump added. “He is a total phony!”

But CNN’s eagle-eyed Brian Stelter noticed something off about the tweet. Though Trump had suggested that a Fox News correspondent was saying Schiff had “omitted and distorted key facts” in a memo by Democrats about the Russia probe released on Saturday, Fox News’ Molly Line actually said the opposite.

“Congressman Schiff, he argues [a] Republican memo omitted and distorted key facts, that it was initially meant to mislead the public,” Line said of the GOP document released earlier this month that alleged FBI spying abuses.

As Line put it, the Democratic memo that refutes the GOP’s “was supposed to be the rebuttal memo that was meant to show what was left out.”

Below is Schiff’s announcement of the new memo. In his tweet, he said the Republican version “omitted and distorted key facts in order to mislead the public.”

That Trump would so egregiously misquote a news report ― from his favorite network no less― to attack a rival shows that he, not Schiff, is the one omitting and distorting key facts.

A woman past walks past the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/02/web1_119950614-d2dd4358d43942b3820ab0397276253b.jpgA woman past walks past the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

A marquee of the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower is seen in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/02/web1_119950614-eaf23ff5c6444813a004edb5fdd9d1db.jpgA marquee of the main entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower is seen in Panama City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

FILE – This July 4, 2011, file photo, shows the Trump International Hotel Panama , third building from left, in Panama City. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from the luxury hotel where they manage operations, and local police have been called repeatedly to keep peace, The Associated Press has learned. Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/02/web1_119950614-0557165a6c3640c2a659f77f68037092.jpgFILE – This July 4, 2011, file photo, shows the Trump International Hotel Panama , third building from left, in Panama City. One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from the luxury hotel where they manage operations, and local police have been called repeatedly to keep peace, The Associated Press has learned. Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

By JEFF HORWITZ and JUAN ZAMORANO

Associated Press