keeping it in the family
July 13, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is still struggling mightily in the polls, even after what many considered to be a surprisingly adequate primary debate performance. Now, the mayor is turning to his family to help give him the boost he needs.

De Blasio's son Dante is officially joining his father's campaign, The New York Times reported on Friday. This isn't some stunt, either. The younger de Blasio, who just graduated from Yale University with a degree in political science, will get paid for his work as a policy analyst and report to his father's campaign manager, Jon Paul Lupo.

Say what you will about nepotism, but it does appear that Dante is well-equipped to work on a campaign, what with his academic background, op-ed writing history, and personal experience in the political realm — even if his father isn't the most beloved figure in New York City, it's still a high-profile job. He has even earned some credit for giving some life to his dad's "middling" mayoral campaign when he appeared in an advertisement at age 15. "We've been through elections before as a family, and we know how difficult they can be," Dante said.

Who knows if the younger de Blasio will make any difference this time around, but so long as he and his father stay away from the staged text messaging route, it probably won't hurt. Anyway, there's nowhere to go but up. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

June 18, 2019

Katharine Gorka may not be as well-known as her husband Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to President Trump. But that might be about to change.

On Tuesday, Acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders told CNN that Katharine Gorka is slated to become the next Customs and Border Protection press secretary. The job will come after Gorka's time at the Department of Homeland Security, during which critics called her out for quietly cutting funding to anti-hate groups that combated anti-Muslim bias.

Gorka wrote for the far-right outlet Brietbart before securing a job under Trump, implying in several articles that Islam is inherently violent and terroristic, CNN documents. She's since brought that stance to a role as an adviser to the secretary of homeland security and tried "to instill her anti-Islamist philosophy throughout the department," BuzzFeed News reported in August 2017. "She played a significant role in denying CVE grant funding to groups that work to de-radicalize neo-Nazis and other far right extremists and Muslim-American groups," former State Department official Eric Rosland told BuzzFeed News, saying that made her "much more dangerous than Sebastian."

CBP hasn't had a press secretary since March, and Gorka's expected appointment comes as the situation on the southern border grows direr by the day.

Sebastian Gorka, meanwhile, also spent some time writing for Breitbart, and served as a White House national security aide before his ouster in mid-2017. He's since moved on to criticizing gay rat weddings on Twitter. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 8, 2019

There's a first time for everything.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators concerning Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference, sources told Axios. It's the first known subpoena of one of President Trump's children.

Axios also notes the decision is significant because it pits a Republican committee chair against a member of a Republican president's family.

That fact has the Trump administration a little confused.

Regardless, the decision shows that the Congressional investigation into Russian election interference is not over, despite Mueller completing his task.

Trump Jr. previously testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017, saying he was only "peripherally aware" of the Trump Organization's proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during his father's presidential campaign. Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, challenged that claim in his own testimony before the House Oversight Committee in February. Tim O'Donnell

April 9, 2019

Mark Twain once said that "history doesn't repeat itself, but if often rhymes." That apparently holds true in Italy, as the great-grandson of former Prime Minister Benito Mussolini — the founder and leader of Italy's National Fascist Party, which was in power from 1922 and 1943 — will reportedly run in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections in May.

Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini will run as a representative of the Brothers of Italy, a far-right party. Named after Julius Caesar, the younger Mussolini is a former submariner in the Italian navy and also served as the Middle East representative for Italy's largest defense company. He has no political experience, but reportedly said he has "breathed politics" his entire life. He described himself as a "post-fascist who refers to those values in a non-ideological way."

The decision for the progeny of a dictator like Mussolini — who forged an alliance with Adolf Hitler during World War II and built a police state that oppressed political dissidents — to insert himself in politics, might seem like a bold one, if not outright shocking. But the legacy of Italy's former fascistic leader is not as muted in Italy as, say Hitler's is in Germany. Indeed, the elder Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini is already a sitting Member of European Parliament. Many physical remnants of the fascist dictator also remain standing and people even make pilgrimages to Mussolini's birthplace.

Perhaps this rare, but not invisible nostalgia for Il Duce, as Mussolini was known, was the impetus for his great-grandson to enter the political realm. As Mussolini told Il Messagero, a Rome-based newspaper, "So many people want to put Mussolini on the ballot." Tim O'Donnell

February 1, 2018

Lawyers with the Housing and Urban Development department warned HUD Secretary Ben Carson that by having his son, businessman Ben Carson Jr., actively involved in organizing a listening tour in Baltimore last summer, he was risking violating federal ethics rules, The Washington Post reports.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Post obtained a July 6, 2017, memo written by Linda M. Cruciani, HUD's deputy general counsel for operations, who said she had been told by HUD officials they were concerned about Carson Jr. and his wife, Merlynn, inviting people to tour events. Theses officials believed the Carsons "may be doing business with these entities or may be interested in doing business with these entities," Cruciani said, and she also "expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the secretary may be using his position for his son's private gain."

HUD officials say that since becoming a member of President Trump's Cabinet, Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has leaned heavily on his wife, Candy, and his son and daughter-in-law. All three ended up attending several events on Carson's listening tour of Baltimore housing projects, despite Cruciani's warning, including closed-door sessions on housing policy, a person with knowledge of the matter told the Post.

Officials also told Cruciani that Carson Jr. and his wife invited the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, to an event, and federal records show that about three months later, CMS awarded a $485,000 contract to a consulting company called Myriddian, without a competitive bidding process. Myriddian's CEO is Merlynn Carson, and Ben Carson Jr. is a board member. A spokesman said Verma did not attend any tour events, and in a statement, Ben Carson said, "My family, or people with relationships with my family, have never influenced any decision at HUD." Read more about Cruciani's concerns and Carson's dependence on his family at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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