The Latest: Senate to hold hearing on election meddling

December 15, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, and PayPal founder Peter Thiel, center, listen as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with technology industry leaders at Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President-elect Donald Trump (all times EST):

11:25 p.m.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold an open hearing in January that will examine possible meddling by Russia in last month’s presidential election.

An aide to Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee says he and Ben Cardin of Maryland received a classified briefing on cyber threats prior to the Nov. 8.

Corker is the committee’s Republican chairman and Cardin is the top Democrat on the panel.

The aide was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Corker said on MSNBC Tuesday that the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA and the FBI differ over whether Russia interfered to help Donald Trump win the White House. He says, “I know that’s frustrating to people.”


10:45 p.m.

The agency that oversees U.S. intelligence says it will release more information to the public about Russia’s attempts to influence the election once a review ordered by President Barack Obama is complete — but not before.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is responding to reports that the U.S. intelligence community is conflicted about whether Russian hacking was intended to help Donald Trump.

Obama has ordered a review of foreign interference in U.S. elections to be completed before he leaves office on Jan. 20. The office of DNI James Clapper says it will brief Congress on the conclusions and will also inform the public “consistent with protecting intelligence sources and methods.” That means some details may be withheld.

Clapper’s office says it won’t comment until then.


10:20 p.m.

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team says a questionnaire sent to Energy Department officials “was not authorized or part of our standard protocol.”

The Trump team had sought information about the agency’s operations and personnel, including a list of employees and contractors who attended international meetings on climate change over the past five years.

An Energy Department spokesman said Tuesday that the agency “will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.” The spokesman said some of the questions asked left DOE workers “unsettled.”

Democrats have called the questionnaire a modern-day political witch hunt that could have a chilling impact on federal workers.

The transition team released a statement Wednesday evening saying the questionnaire was not authorized and “the person who sent it has been properly counseled.”


4:50 p.m.

President-elect Donald Trump is naming Michigan GOP leader Ronna Romney McDaniel deputy chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, in anticipation of her becoming RNC chairwoman next year.

Trump is praising McDaniel’s loyalty “to our movement” and says, “I look forward to her serving as the party’s chairman in 2017.”

McDaniel is the niece of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who sharply criticized Trump throughout the 2016 election campaign. Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee to carry Michigan in 28 years.

The 168-member Republican National Committee is expected to select a new chairman at its winter meeting, scheduled for next month in Washington.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has been asked to serve as Trump’s White House chief of staff. Priebus had supported McDaniel as his successor.


4:20 p.m.

A bipartisan advocacy group sees President-elect Donald Trump as a potential leader in long-dormant efforts to reduce big money in politics.

Issue One has united more than 100 former lawmakers behind a plan to give small donors more power in the political process through tax rebates. The coalition is led by former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, who says lawmakers often describe their fundraising duties as “sickening.”

Lawmakers think the new president could use his political juice to help pass the first major campaign finance overhaul in more than a decade. The group hopes to break through to Trump, who has put forward no policy proposals on the issue even as he has repeatedly pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

Issue One has passed along its proposals to Trump transition aides.


2:45 p.m.

President-elect Donald Trump has told group of technology executives that he’s “here to help you folks do well.”

Trump assembled the leaders at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday.

Many in Silicon Valley were among Trump’s sharpest critics during the campaign, expressing concerns his policies could stifle innovation and compromise digital privacy.

But Trump struck a positive message at the top of the meeting. He put it this way: “We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation” and said, “We will be there for you.”

Among those at the meeting: Apple’s Tim Cook, Alphabet’s Larry Page, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (BAY’-zohs) and Telsa’s Elon Musk, as well as Trump’s adult children.


2:35 p.m.

Donald Trump could have big legal or political problems if he doesn’t dump his new hotel in the nation’s capital.

Democrats say he’d be in breach of his lease to use the government-owned building that houses the hotel unless he sells his ownership interest before he assumes office on Jan. 20.

House Democrats cite a Dec. 8 briefing by a deputy commissioner at the government agency that’s overseeing the lease.

The General Services Administration says in a statement that it won’t make a decision on whether there’s a breach until after Trump is in the White House.

A clause in the lease requires that “no elected official” shall be “admitted” to the lease. Some experts in government contracting law have said that means Trump must divest his ownership interest.


12:10 p.m.

Hundreds of inaugural planners are spending the day planted in front of a giant 60-by-40-foot floor map of Washington trying to game out how each moment of Inauguration Day will play out.

These aren’t people who like surprises. They’re trying to anticipate every scenario for a day that should be all about the peaceful transfer of power and not some pesky mix-up.

The military provides 13,000 active duty and National Guard members to help with the logistics associated with the swearing-in ceremony, massive parade, big protests, fancy balls and hundreds of thousands of spectators.

What really keeps the inaugural planners up at night? The weather.

One military commander jokes that they’ve put the chaplain in charge of that variable, and he’s promised a beautiful day for Jan. 20.


12:04 p.m.

Democratic senators are calling on Betsy DeVos (dih-VAHS’) — President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary — to ensure that a political action committee she controlled pays $5.3 million in fines and penalties owed for campaign finance violations.

DeVos’ All Children Matter PAC broke Ohio election law by funneling $870,000 in contributions from its nationwide PAC to its Ohio affiliate in 2008. The state of Ohio later fined the group $5 million. That fine hasn’t been paid yet.

Five Democratic senators have written DeVos to express concern that she and her PAC would — in the lawmakers’ words — “brazenly disregard election law and blatantly refuse to take responsibility and pay” the fines.

The senators note that, as education secretary, DeVos would oversee repayment of $1 trillion in debt from millions of student-loan borrowers.


12 p.m.

The chief government ethics agency says President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to transfer management control of his business to his children wouldn’t eliminate the issue of conflicts of interest.

That’s the word from the Office of Government Ethics in a letter responding to questions from Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. The office says transferring management control to Trump’s children’s wouldn’t meet the requirements for setting up a blind trust or eliminate conflicts.

Other presidents have sold their financial assets and left the money in a blind trust overseen by a manager without ties to them. That’s not required by federal law.

Presidents are generally exempt from federal rules on conflicts of interest.

Trump tweeted on Monday that he plans to hand managerial control of his business to two of his children.


11:30 a.m.

Trump Hotels says it’ll no longer operate a Rio de Janeiro luxury hotel that’s involved in a criminal investigation. The company also is pulling its name off the Brazilian property.

Trump Hotels spokeswoman Christine Lin tells The Associated Press that the decision was made because developers are behind schedule.

The beachside hotel in the upscale suburb of Barra da Tijuca was supposed to be finished in time for the Rio Olympics this past August. Today, only a portion of it is operational.

In October, prosecutors said they were investigating questionable investments in the hotel by two pension funds. Hotel owner LSH Barra has denied wrongdoing.

President-elect Donald Trump has faced criticism for investments overseas that many say present conflicts of interest.


11:03 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump’s team says he is receiving formal intelligence briefing three times a week.

Spokesman Sean Spicer says Trump is also meeting daily with incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn to be briefed on intelligence matters.

Trump has challenged the necessity of a daily intelligence briefing, telling Fox News Sunday in a recent interview that he doesn’t need to hear the same information every day. He says he’s told intelligence officials to let him know if situations change.

Trump has also publicly challenged the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the presidential election in order to help his prospects.


10:07 a.m.

“America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho will sing the national anthem at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony in January.

The 16-year-old tells NBC’s “Today” that she’s excited, and “it’s going to be awesome.”

Her website says the Pittsburgh native is a soprano who has performed at the National Prayer Breakfast and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington.

Her Facebook page includes a photo of her with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn tweeted a confirmation of Evancho’s booking, calling her “an inspiration for all Americans.”


9:27 a.m.

Donald Trump says he appreciates House Speaker Paul Ryan, but the president-elect also is warning the top congressional Republican not to cross him.

At a rally Tuesday in West Allis, Trump praised the Wisconsin politicians in attendance. When Ryan drew boos, Trump said he was “like a fine wine. Every day that goes by I get to appreciate his genius more and more.” He added, however, “if he ever goes against me I’m not going to say that.”

Trump and Ryan were at odds throughout the campaign, with the speaker declining to campaign for the GOP nominee after a video emerged of Trump making predatory remarks about women. Since the election, Ryan is all-in on Trump, even repeatedly using the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again.”


8:10 a.m.

Democrats on the House oversight committee say a government administrator told them that Donald Trump must divest himself of all financial interests in his Washington hotel or be in breach of his lease with the federal government.

That’s according to a letter they wrote reflecting what they say is the General Service Administration’s assessment. Led by Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings, the Democrats wrote that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is the primary contact on the lease— and that presents “obvious” conflicts of interest.

The letter also says the GSA had not, as of Dec. 8, heard from the Trump Organization about how it will solve the contract issue.

Trump contracted with the GSA to redevelop the Old Post Office building as a hotel. A provision in the contract expressly prohibits any elected official from having a financial interest in the lease.

The property opened for business this fall.


6:10 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump has announced his selection of former campaign rival Rick Perry to be the country’s next secretary of energy.

In a statement early Wednesday on his decision, Trump said that Perry, a former governor of Texas, had led his state through “a sustained period of economic growth and prosperity” by developing its energy resources and infrastructure.

Trump says in his statement that his administration “is going to make sure we take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation.”

Perry calls it “a tremendous honor” to be chosen for Trump’s Cabinet. Perry adds that he looks forward to “engaging in a conversation” about America’s energy future.