May 17, 2018, 5:54 AM ET

The Note: New scrutiny of Trump's bottom line

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

The most interesting information to emerge of late from legal maneuverings impacting President Donald Trump is more traditionally swampy than anything having to do with Russian meddling.

It could be quite a bit worse than that – and could provide political fodder for Democrats searching for ways to make the case against the president and his party.

Recent weeks have brought new details of how Trump lawyer Michael Cohen shopped himself – with significant success, at least for Cohen – for the access he could bring to the Oval Office.

Trump’s new financial disclosure form reported payments to Cohen – payments that, according to the Office of Government Ethics, should have been reported a year ago.

PHOTO: Michael Cohen arrives at federal court in New York, April 26, 2018.Seth Wenig/AP, FILE
Michael Cohen arrives at federal court in New York, April 26, 2018.

While the headlines out of the disclosures focused on those payments, the presidency has been good for Trump’s bottom line in ways that merit further scrutiny.

The Trump organization’s Washington hotel – a new hot spot for those who like the name, and the proximity to the White House – reported $40.4 million in income in 2017 in the new report. That’s more than double the total reported the previous year.

Then there’s the postscript to Trump’s odd announcement that he’s looking to help the giant Chinese company ZTE “get back into business.” Also this week, a Chinese state-owned company reportedly came through with a deal for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that will help develop … Trump-branded properties, in Indonesia.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

With just under six months to go until the midterms in November, the field of general election candidates is starting to come into focus.

On the Democratic side, a wide range of personalities and politics will be represented on the ballots in the fall. All factions of the party have had successes so far.

Tuesday’s voting re-energized progressives.

Idaho’s Paulette Jordan, who had the endorsements of national groups including Indivisible, Democracy for America, and People for Bernie Sanders, defeated a more establishment Democrat in the state party’s gubernatorial race. In Pennsylvania and Nebraska, too, more populist, and arguably more liberal, Democratic candidates had big nights.

PHOTO: Rep. Paulette Jordan speaks during a womens march rally in Las Vegas, Jan. 21, 2018.John Locher/AP
Rep. Paulette Jordan speaks during a women's march rally in Las Vegas, Jan. 21, 2018.

“Candidates were winning all across the country who were opting positions that looked very similar to those that Bernie Sanders was advocating in 2016, and which would have been considered far out ahead of time,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told ABC News yesterday.

Weaver pushed back against the idea that Democratic candidates could go too far to the “left” and instead posited, by way of example, the fact that the senator’s economic platform played well in 2015 and 2016 in states where Democrats and independents have been struggling and typically thought to be more conservative.

The TIP with Benjamin Siegel

The midterms are looming over the brewing immigration debate taking place in the House Republican conference.

A group of moderates and retiring House Republicans are just five signatures away from forcing the freewheeling immigration debate GOP leaders have tried to keep behind closed doors and off the House floor.

If their discharge petition is successful, the group will kick off consideration of several competing proposals addressing DACA recipients and border security. The measure with the most support over 218 would then head to the Senate.

The gambit could help Republicans from districts with large Hispanic populations as they work to defend their seats - assuming all 193 Democrats (who are grappling with their own midterm considerations) back the effort and give the Republicans the 218 signatures needed to force action.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, after a private meeting with Republicans Wednesday morning, doubled down on his criticism of the discharge petition, calling it a "big mistake."

Meanwhile, conservative Republicans are agitating House leaders from the other side. They're demanding a vote on a hard-line immigration plan - a move they believe would excite their base ahead of November - in exchange for supporting the farm bill, a sweeping measure that authorizes billions in farm subsidies and nutrition programs.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

• President Trump meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at 1:35 p.m. They will then participate in an expanded bilateral meeting at 2:00 p.m.

• White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders holds a press briefing at 1 p.m.

• House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., will deliver remarks at the BakerHostetler’s 29th annual legislative seminar on “the big issues facing Washington,” at 8 a.m.

• Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis hosts an honor cordon and meeting with the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev at 9:30 a.m. at the Pentagon.

• House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats hold a forum on current enforcement of the Civil Rights Act in U.S. schools and announce the introduction of a new resolution to affirm support for disparate impact analysis as an enforcement tool of Title VI under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 2 p.m. on Capitol Hill.

• House Speaker Paul Ryan holds a briefing led by the Department of Homeland Security focused on election security with DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray at 5 p.m. on Capitol Hill.

• The Annual Women in the Military Wreath Laying Ceremony will honor the nation’s servicewomen and women veterans at 9 a.m. at the Arlington National Cemetery.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth — even on what may seem the most trivial of matters — we go wobbly on America.”— Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday appearing to comment about his former boss, President Trump, at his first public appearance since Trump fired him in March.

NEED TO READ

Cohen mentioned in Trump’s annual financial disclosure report. President Donald Trump’s annual financial disclosure forms are now available from the Office of Government Ethics— the second such filing of his time in office. (Katherine Faulders and John Santucci) https://abcn.ws/2IrgXhY

Meet special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecution team. In addition to a squad of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Mueller now has 18 attorneys on staff, a spokesperson for Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed to ABC News. (Alex Hosenball, Pierre Thomas, Mike Levine and Dylan Goetz) https://abcn.ws/2rIyhIX

‘We’ll see’: Trump responds to North Korea’s threats to cancel summit. The White House said Wednesday that it "fully expected" threats by North Korea to potentially cancel Kim Jong Un's meeting with President Donald Trump. (Alexander Mallin) https://abcn.ws/2k3QsEy

Senate releases insider accounts of Trump Tower meeting between campaign aides and Russian emissaries. Donald Trump Jr. repeatedly pushed his Russian guests for damaging “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and grew increasingly frustrated when they failed to produce it, according to new accounts of the now-infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides to Donald Trump and Russian emissaries. (Matthew Mosk, Trish Turner and John Santucci) https://abcn.ws/2IoEUdA

White House says ‘couple of bad actors’ responsible for latest leaks. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had harsh words for members of her own staff Wednesday following leaks about an aide's callous private remarks about ailing Sen. John McCain that drew a barrage of bipartisan criticism. (Alexander Mallin) https://abcn.ws/2Iuk6NN

Gina Haspel wins approval from Senate Intel Committee. Trump’s pick to be the next CIA director, Gina Haspel, won approval from the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning, receiving a "favorable recommendation" in a 10-5 vote. (Mariam Khan and Luis Martinez) https://abcn.ws/2IKEKNk

Nancy Pelosi believes Ethics committee has ‘discretion’ to break own rules limiting investigative jurisdiction. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a veteran of the Committee on Ethics, said she believes the panel has the “discretion” to launch an ethics probe outside of the scope of its investigative jurisdiction. (John Parkinson) https://abcn.ws/2wSze6C

EPA chief Scott Pruitt faces more questions from Congress. Democrats slammed Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt Wednesday over new and persisting questions about his conduct and spending since taking over at the agency, including his costly 24-hour security detail and rental arrangement in a Capitol Hill townhouse connected to lobbyists. (Stephanie Ebbs and Lucien Bruggeman) https://abcn.ws/2IoFSma

Tillerson warns of ‘crisis of ethics and integrity’ in US. Former Secretary of StateRex Tillerson had a stark warning Wednesday about a "crisis of ethics and integrity" and the dangers of “alternative realities” and leaders who “seek to conceal the truth.” (Conor Finnegan) https://abcn.ws/2IpzTS8

Trump HHS considers using military bases to house immigrant children. Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services are visiting four U.S. military bases in Texas and Arkansas that could be used as additional facilities to house immigrant children forcibly separated from their mothers and fathers – as the parents face prosecution for illegally entering the United States. (ABC News) https://abcn.ws/2InglOt

The New York Times investigates the origin of the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia, igniting the Russia investigation. https://nyti.ms/2rOA7Ht

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

News - The Note: New scrutiny of Trump's bottom line

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  • Red Hawk

    Trump’s new financial disclosure form reported payments to Cohen – payments that, according to the Office of Government Ethics, should have been reported a year ago.== OGE has passed on those forms as evidence a crime has been committed

  • Laney D.

    It's so easy to know the truth. If the liar-in-chief says it's not true, then it IS.

  • Laney D.

    Trump tweeted that we have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history - LOL. Sure. The man is delusional. If he truly believes that, he's lost it. More likely he lies constantly.

  • Washingtononfire

    Thank you trump for energizing people who had no intention of getting involved in politics! Thank you for waking people up to just how far we have fallen with your election to the presidency.

  • Sola Scriptura VI

    The bottom line is that with just six months to go, both parties need to work hard if they want to achieve/meet the targets that they have set for the House and the Senate. Needless to say, the GOP will want to hold the lead they have in both houses, and the DNC will want to win either or both. What happens in the midterms is a good barometer of what could happen in 2020. The midterms really is a prelude to what will happen in 2020.

    A good result for the GOP is holding both while making marginal/significant gains or a slender loss in one of the houses. For the DNC, slender gains doesn’t put them in a good position for 2020, and so they must go for big wins in both houses.

  • brainsforwings

    "the presidency has been good for Trump’s bottom line"

    That's blatantly false. Trump has lost around a BILLION dollars since being elected.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Tillerson: “When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth"

    I can't stop laughing at wobbly. Trumpers don't wobble at Trump's lies. They accept them completely not as the truth, but at the false reality they represent. Reality is too hard for them to accept so they don't wobble. They rejoice at Trump's lies because escape from reality keeps them going.

  • Trumpanning

    Donald Trump has never been a hard worker. He spent his life as an entitled playboy son of a millionaire. The stressful job of POTUS never held any interest for him. He only took the job to feed his ego and to create opportunities to make a lot of money. There is no candidate in modern history less qualified both practically and morally to be president than Donald Trump.

  • Marie4933X6

    Trumpers would clearly rather chase the wispy ghost of Clinton's supposed "Uranium" conspiracy than acknowledge that a very corrupt Trumpzilla monster is staring them in the face. Nothing proves the stupidity of mankind more than how we lie to ourselves.

  • JuPMod

    Trump said he would not mingle his businesses with his job as POTUS. I find that hard to believe, especially since I read his golf courses would use the POTUS logo on golf-hole flags. The Almighty Dollar is more important to Trump than the American people.

  • David

    The White House said Wednesday that it "fully expected" threats by North Korea to potentially cancel....Can you get anymore convoluted than that? One hardly sees fully expected used in the statement with potential. Unless you're talking about explosive devices made with kitchen cleaning chemicals.

  • Richard

    Giuliani looks and acts like the cretin he is. If there is such a thing as a shady look, this man posses it in spades.

  • Blue Wave

    Well, it's very easy to see where Donnie Jr. got his ability to change a single meeting's story four different times. Seems each day there's more financial shenanigans by Trump and/or his fixer lawyer.

  • BigRead

    The Trump administration is the classic pay for play. The Trump Indonesia deal maybe worth as much as a billion dollars and was a sweetheart deal for the removal of sanctions for ZTE,, also known as the Chinese Spy phone.

  • FlaGirl

    Happy Anniversary Russia Probe and Bob Mueller. America loves you more that ever, Bob!

  • arlecchino

    Last year it was reported trump was moving his business to shell companies, so no matter what he says or and declares
    once he is out of office hie properties and all the profit will be his again. Crook is as Crook does.

  • SMRT

    Donald, in his quest to prop up the myth that he’s an actual success, hasn’t met a shady deal yet, that he didn’t like.

  • Alex

    The Office of Government Ethics confirmed that Donald Trump broke the law in covering up the reimbursement to Michael Cohen last year.

  • Verity Pendelton

    Let's hope our nightmare with Trump ends soon. I had a discussion at Mother's Day with about 20 younger people who didn't vote and are very disturbed right now about what is going on. They are energized to vote these people out of office.

  • BD70

    Just read the Koch brothers are backing democrats and republicans who are pro immigration. Even the Koch brothers know that we need the dreamers.

  • Lee Thompson

    What corner of Trump's life, private or public, doesn't demand scrutiny?

  • john

    Turnip's ' drain the swamp ' pumps are severly compromised, like New Orleans after Katrina.

  • Two Cents

    US President Donald Trump has said immigrant gang members are "not people" but "animals" --- BBC
    The same can be said of many of his core supporters. They certain have the pack mentality.

  • Erwin Schrodinger

    Surely if they have not subpoenaed Trump's tax files to date, this revelation gives them the ammunition to do so now.