The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee asked the government ethics watchdog on Monday to review comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plugging “The Lego Batman Movie,” a film one of his companies produced, for a possible ethics violation.
In a letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, Senator Ron Wyden said he was concerned that Mnuchin had violated his ethics agreement signed in January in his comments on Friday at the end of a live interview with the Axios news website.
Mnuchin had agreed to divest his interests in Ratpac-Dune Entertainment Holdings LLC within 120 days of his confirmation, and “not participate personally and substantially in any matter that has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity” unless first obtaining a waiver.
RatPac-Dune, co-founded by Mnuchin with producer-director Brett Rattner and media billionaire James Packer, has produced and financed a number of Hollywood hits in recent years, including “Avatar,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Lego Batman Movie.”
At the Axios event, Mnuchin was asked in a question for a movie recommendation.
“I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in,” Mnuchin said. “But you should send all your kids to ‘Lego Batman.’”—Reuters
(JTA) — Carl Icahn’s role as adviser to President Donald Trump on energy regulation raises questions about possible conflicts of interest due to his investment in an oil refiner, seven Democratic senators said.
On Monday, the senators sent a letter to Icahn, the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice in which they expressed their concerns about Icahn “breaking federal conflict of interest laws.”
Icahn, 81, is serving as special adviser on regulatory matters and has been pushing to get rid of a federal requirement that refiners must ensure that ethanol is mixed with gasoline, instead pushing for gas station owners to be held responsible.
The Jewish billionaire is a majority investor in CVR Energy, a Sugar Land, Texas-based oil refiner that handles gasoline but does not distribute it. The reform Icahn is advancing would have saved CVR Energy over $200 million in 2016, according to The New York Times.
“Reports suggest you are unfairly using your position in the White House and your access to President Trump to influence that nation’s regulatory policies in order to serve your own interests and not those of the American people,” the letter reads.
The signers are Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Patrick Leahy of Vermont; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Jeffrey Merkley of Oregon; Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. The letter included 15 questions about Icahn’s role in the Trump administration.
Icahn told The New York Times that he was only serving as an adviser.
“I’m not making any policy,” Icahn said. “I am only giving my opinion.”
In December, a White House spokeswoman emphasized that Icahn was advising the president as a private citizen.
“He is simply a private citizen whose opinion the president respects and whom the president speaks with from time to time,” Kelly Love said in a statement. “Mr. Icahn does not have a position with the administration nor a policy-making role.”
Icahn, an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy, is the founder of Icahn Enterprises, a diversified conglomerate based in New York City formerly known as American Real Estate Partners. He has also held substantial or controlling positions in numerous American companies over the years, including RJR Nabisco, Texaco, Philips Petroleum, Western Union, Gulf & Western, Viacom, Revlon, Time Warner, Motorola, Chesapeake Energy, Dell, Netflix, Apple and eBay.
Icahn is a major giver to Mount Sinai hospital in New York City, among other philanthropic endeavors. In 2012, he donated $200 million to the renamed Icahn School of Medicine there.
In addition, Icahn established seven Icahn Charter Schools in the Bronx borough of New York.
Half a dozen Westboro Baptist Church members protested outside Yeshiva University Monday, holding signs that proclaimed the Jews killed Jesus.
The Westboro Baptist Church @WBCFliers visited Yeshiva University @YUNews this morning. pic.twitter.com/KfOC9AyO2h— Simone Somekh (@simonsays101) March 27, 2017
Westboro Baptist Church is based in Topeka, Kansas and is known for its virulent speech against Jews, Muslims, gays and others. Its website is GodHatesFags.com. The protest was part of the church’s “God Hates Your Idols Preaching Tour.”
The church members sang, “wrath will soon pour on you, for your harmful sins, your great affliction, it will soon begin.” They set the words to the tune of the Israeli national anthem.
Some 25 Yeshiva University students held a counter protest, holding signs reading “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
A group of @YUNews students, alumni and friends held a counter-protest against the Westboro Baptist Church this morning. #lgbtq #jewish #wbc pic.twitter.com/7me8A83fRh— Simone Somekh (@simonsays101) March 27, 2017
The church’s next stop is the University of Phoenix in Glendale, Arizona, where members plan to picket the Final Four as “pagan idolatry.”
Haley, who had become an instant heroine for the pro-Israel community after declaring on her first day on the job that she would fight bias against the Jewish state, delivered an even stronger message to the 20,000 strong crowd at the Verizon Center in downtown DC.
“I knew they said it was bad, but until you hear it and you see it, you just can’t comprehend,” Haley said of the UN anti-Israel bias.
Haley spoke out against the Obama administration’s decision to allow a resolution critical of Israel’s settlement policy to pass in the Security Council last December, stating that what happened was “not only embarrassing, it was hurtful” and describing the move as America’s “weakest point ever.”
Haley also recalled her move to nix the nomination of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad to a top UN position, stating that Palestinians will get “no freebees” until they come to the table.
“I wear heels,” Haley concluded her fiery address, “It’s not for a fashion statement. It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ‘em.”
(JTA) — Graffiti including swastikas and the words “white power” were discovered on the auditorium of a Phoenix high school.
The vandalism on the outside walls of the auditorium at Pinnacle High is being investigated by the police bias crime unit, the Arizona Jewish News reported.
“No place for hate in Phoenix,” the city’s mayor, Greg Stanton, tweeted after first tweeting that “Chief Williams briefed me on racist & anti-Semitic graffiti at Pinnacle High. Police will need the public’s help to catch the offenders.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix called the discovery “terrible and upsetting.”
No place for hate in Phoenix. Anyone w/info on Pinnacle High vandalism please call PhxPD at 602.262.6151 or Silent Witness 480.948.6377. 2/2 — Greg Stanton (@MayorStanton) March 25, 2017
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