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Trump races to rehabilitate brand in final days in office

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As the House of Representatives voted to impeach him for inciting last week’s violent breach of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, President Donald Trump has an increasingly singular focus in his final days in office: rehabilitating his brand.

Trump’s concern about the future of his personal fortune is among the reasons some of his allies have suggested in recent days that he invite President-elect Joe Biden to the White House for the customary meeting between a sitting and a newly elected president, according to three people familiar with the discussions. And it is why Trump may deliver a farewell address, a tradition for outgoing presidents, to highlight what he sees as his accomplishments.

Proponents of such moves have made the case to Trump that anything he can do to make good on his very recent commitment to a smooth transition of power, even at this late date, “will be better for your brand in the long term,” a Trump ally said.

“The brand is becoming radioactive,” this ally said. “That matters more to him, because that’s going to have real, tangible effects on his life immediately.”

Wednesday marked the second time the House had approved articles of impeachment against Trump. The Senate will not issue its verdict before Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.

No invitation for a meeting has been extended from the White House, Biden transition officials said.

But conversations between Biden’s transition team and the White House have escalated to more senior ranks this week. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has spoken with senior Biden transition officials within the past 24 hours, Biden and Trump officials said Wednesday evening. The conversations focused on policy issues, an administration official said, although the officials did not know whether the topic of a meeting between Biden and Trump was discussed.

NBC News has previously reported that if any such meeting took place, it would involve strict coronavirus protocols and that it would likely occur outside, according to Biden aides.

Melania Trump similarly has not invited Jill Biden to the White House for the customary tea between the current and soon-to-be first ladies, a Biden aide said.

Trump administration officials have been conferring with their counterparts on the Biden team at various levels. White House spokesman Judd Deere had a phone call Wednesday with several members of the Biden transition team — Karine Jean-Pierre, TJ Ducklo and Meghan Hays — who will be working in the White House press office. Deere said that during the half-hour call they discussed transition-related topics and press operations.

As Congress moved forward with impeachment, Trump and his shrinking group of advisers have been looking at ways to use his remaining time in the White House to salvage his reputation and minimize the blow to his post-presidential financial standing.

Trump has also made calls this week to ask about the environment for his business ventures, including reaching out to at least one banker to whom he owes money, a person familiar with the call said.

“He’s got to get his branding back up or they’re in trouble,” a Republican close to the White House said. “He went too far.”

Keeping Trump’s brand from further damage is in part what prompted Kushner and deputy White House chief of staff Dan Scavino to object to the idea of his joining some fringe social media platforms — such as Parler or Gab — after he was banned from using mainstream social networks like Twitter and Facebook. An administration official said advisers did not think the more fringe platforms best served Trump’s interests.

In the week since Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, his business’ bottom line has taken a large hit. The Professional Golfers’ Association of America pulled a prestigious tournament from his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. New York City announced Wednesday that it was severing its multimillion-dollar contracts with the Trump Organization. And some banks have said they will not do business with Trump.

Trump could issue pardons to curry favor in ways that might help protect and rebuild his personal and business brands. In the last week, there has been discussion among his allies over whether he should rethink issuing more controversial pardons, given his diminished political capital, or whether he should “open the floodgates,” as an ally put it, to dilute backlash over pardons of himself or family members and to maximize the number of people who might be indebted to him once he leaves office.

Trump could issue those pardons in two or three groups, with some additional ones, on the evening of Jan. 19 and morning of Jan. 20, hours before his term ends.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is among those who is concerned that Trump could waver on a pardon for him, two people familiar with the matter said.

Bannon, who was indicted on charges of fraud, has recently expressed worries about his chances of a pardon, and he has told people close to Trump that he thinks Kushner will try to block Trump from pardoning him.

“This is the last time he’s going to have any kind of power,” the Trump ally said. “He might as well use it.”

Trump’s focus on his life post-presidency, rather than on how his final days in office are unfolding, is also evident in the lack of a clear legal strategy or defense team for his Senate trial, according to several people involved in the discussions.

Trump views any impeachment trial as something that is happening after January 20, if at all.

Longtime Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — who is among those expected to receive pardons — has said he might lead a potential group of lawyers. But others who were involved in impeachment in 2019, such as Alan Dershowitz, said they have not been contacted by the White House for any such assignment.

-NBC News

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EFCC grills ex-Kwara gov, Ahmed, over N9n fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has quizzed a former governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed, for allegedly diverting N9bn.
The former governor was grilled by an EFCC team of operatives from the commission’s headquarters at Jabi, Abuja.
Ahmed, on invitation of the anti-graft agency, was said to have arrived at the EFCC headquarters by 10am on Monday.
EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that he was in their custody, but did not give further information on the development.
Ahmed had governed Kwara between 2011 and 2019.
Before then, he had served as commissioner for finance in the administration of Bukola Saraki, his predecessor.
Details of the allegations of fraud against him are still sketchy but TheCable understands the funds involved run into billions of naira.
This is the second time the former governor will be invited by the EFCC since he vacated office in 2019.
In December 2020, he was at the commission’s office after an invitation.

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Only 9% of miliraty budget spent on weapons – Gbajabiamila

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  • DHQ: Nigeria needs N826bn annually to fund armed forces

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says only nine per cent of the total budget of the military is spent on weapons.
He stated this at a public hearing on the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill, organised by the House Committee on Defence on Monday in Abuja.

This came as the Defence Headquarters said Nigeria would need $2bn (about N826bn) annually to fund its armed forces to effectively combat the daunting challenges of insecurity facing the country.
This disclosure also came on Monday just it was revealed that some members of the Armed Forces currently engaged in the fight against insurgency and other criminal act are lobbying to be redeployed from the area where they are posted as a result of poor welfare.

Gbajabiamila said that appropriation records showed that about 91 per cent of the current funding of the Armed Forces was spent on recurrent overhead, salaries and welfare.
“This bill seeks to provide an injection of additional capital funding for the Armed Forces of Nigeria at a crucial time in our nation.

“I am sure many of you will wonder why the Armed Forces of Nigeria need an additional financial injection at this time.
“The fact based on appropriation records is that about 91 per cent of the current funding to the Armed Forces go on recurrent overhead, salaries and welfare, leaving only nine per cent for capital purchases.
“This reality has prompted this 9th House of Representatives to seek a way of providing funds that will be focused on the capital needs and training of our Armed Forces,’’ he said.
Gbajabiamila said that the importance of the bill is evidenced by the dwindling resources available to the Armed Forces to prosecute the various security operations it is involved in.
Gbajabiamila said that Nigeria’s expenditure on military hardware and training in the last five years was between nine per cent and 11 per cent of the budgetary allocation to the military.
He said that it was incapable of empowering the military to face the security challenges in the country especially the insurgency in the North-East.
Gbajabiamila said that to succeed in the fight against insecurity, the military would need more funding for modern weapons and training.
He said, “Nigeria is at war against insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and all manner of insecurity; hence the need to uplift the resources available to our armed services to enable them procure the best tools to help win this war.
“So, what we seek to do in this bill is not new or unique to us as a nation; the solution to our security challenges requires asymmetric actions across many policy areas. This is what we have tried to do as the representatives of the people.
“The concept of a trust fund already exists for the Nigerian Police; it only makes sense to also bolster our military capability as well through this unique vehicle.”
Chairman, House, House Committee on Defence, Rep. Benson Babajimi (APC-Lagos) said that the bill sought to explore alternative sources of funding for the military.

Meanwhile, Director of Production, Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshal M. A. Yakubu, who spoke at the public hearing said even the sources of funding specified in the bill would be inadequate to tackle the problem.
He said the projection for funding in the Bill is estimated at about N100bn per year.
When established, the Support Trust Fund is expected to draw funds from one per cent of the total money accruing to the federation account; 0.5 per cent of the profit made from the investment of the National Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment, one percent of Value Added Tax (VAT) remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) as well as any take-off grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal Government, states and local governments of the Federation.
It will also draw funds from one percent of the air ticket contract, charter and cargo sales charge to be collected by the airlines and paid to the support fund; Aids, grant and all assistance from international agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the private sectors; and Money derived from investments made by the Support Fund.
But AVM Yakubu said this will still be inadequate, saying “I have been a defence attaché in the United States of America from 2014 to 2017. I have been a Director of Procurement at the headquarters of the Nigerian Airforce for another two years.
“I have been a chief of logistics also at the headquarters Nigerian Airforce for another two years. So I am fully conversant with what it takes to run the affairs of a fighting Airforce.
“I also understand the limitations we have in Nigeria and what it should have been. I want you to understand how large is this problem we are trying to address before I make my point.”

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Insecurity: FCTA demolishes taxi park shielding criminals

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In a bid to eliminate criminal activities in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory Administration has demolished a taxi park reportedly turned into a drug addict’s colony and a haven for many other criminal activities.

FCTA said the place, located at NICON Junction in Maitama District, was supposed to be an interchange by the Abuja Master Plan, but temporarily made a taxi park to mitigate the hardship of commuters.

Director, FCTA Security Services Department, Adamu Gwari, said the taxi park had not only turned into an environmental nuisance but also a security threat that could not be allowed.

Gwari, who led other officials on the demolition exercise, also noted that in view of the persistent insecurity across the country, the administration is prepared to deal with all potential dangers to the residents.

His words: “In line with the city programme, this place is a taxi rank. But it has been highly abused and turned into nuisances. That is why we have to remove everything. This place has become a security threat and it breeds criminality. There are series of concerns from the residents regarding the rate of criminality which emanates from this place.”

Chairman,  FCT Ministerial Committee on City Sanitation,  Ikharo Attah said the FCT Minister  Malam Muhammad Bello was worried that the government’s efforts towards alleviating residents’ transportation difficulties were scuttled by miscreants.

Attah explained that the ministerial directive to immediately demolish the taxi park was meant to promptly address brewing insecurity within the highbrow Maitama District, saying the park was abused.

According to him, a place provided by the government to ease residents’ movement, unfortunately, had turned into a hiding place for drug addicts.

He vowed that the contravention won’t be allowed to remain an environmental nuisance that breeds insecurity within the neighbourhood and the territory in general.

Attah said: “This place is supposed to be an interchange according to the plans, but temporarily turned to a taxi park to manage transportation problems, but the place was abused. The place was turned into a home for drug addicts and has become dangerous for the neighbourhood.

“The Minister was clear when he gave a matching order that this nuisance is removed. The taxi park has become a contravention that can’t be allowed.

“All the concerned departments will ensure that the nuisance does not reappear because this place is the heart of Maitama District. The Minister has ordered that we should green the place, to add to the aesthetic of the city.”

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