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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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NNPC to inject fresh N1tn into road projects

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited is to provide additional N1tn for road projects in Nigeria, NNPC Group Chief Executive, Mele Kyari, has said.

Kyari, in a video clip seen in Abuja, disclosed this on Thursday during a tour of the ongoing construction work on the Agbara-Badagry road, Lagos.

He said the N1tn would come through the Federal Government road infrastructure tax credit scheme.

He said, “We are very happy about the state of this road development. We are very happy with this intervention across the country not just in this place. We are doing 1,800km across the country. We are taking another set of over N1tn of investments in road infrastructure in the country.

“We believe that this tax credit system which Mr. President has put in place is the game changer for our country.

“We believe that in the next 24 months, there will be massive change to the entire road network in this country and this is why the NNPC is your company and working for all of us.

“We think that it is the best way to intervene and bring up our infrastructure. We are adding another set of cash, we have not reached the final numbers, but I know it is over N1tn.”

According to a Punch report, the NNPC in the third quarter of 2021 announced its intention to provide funds for the reconstruction of selected road projects in order to ease the movement of petroleum products.

This was executed under the tax credit scheme that was funded by the NNPC through the Federal Inland Revenue Service in accordance with the President’s executive order 007.

The construction exercise was under the management of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, as the NNPC provided funds for the construction of 1,804.6km of roads at a cost of N621,24bn.

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Military under pressure to compromise elections, says CDS Irabor

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Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, has disclosed that the security agencies and the military have been under pressure to compromise general elections through financial inducement.

He however assured Nigerians that the military would maintain neutrality in the whole electoral process.

He spoke at the weekly ministerial press briefing on Thursday in Abuja and gave updates on strides made by the military in the fight against insurgency, terrorism and banditry.

He stated that military personnel were being trained to follow the codified rules of engagement before, during and after the elections.

The CDS disclosed that over 300,000 persons had been freed from the hands of abductors since 2016 while refugees who fled the North-East owing to insurgency were already returning.

General Irabor who admitted there were few sabotaurs within the military asserted that they had not succeeded.

He debunked a recent allegation by an international news media which accused the military of carrying out over 10,000 illegal abortions on female victims of the war in the North-East.

According to him, it is impossible for the military to have been engaged in a planned abortion programme since 2013 and as the military commander in charge of Operation Lafia Dole between 2016 and 2017, he never heard of any such thing.

The CDS also revisited the alleged Lekki tollgate massacre in 2020, insisting that the Nigerian military is not interested in killing its own people, but more concerned about protecting the citizens.

He added that the efforts of the military in the fight against crude oil theft had been yielding positive results with the increase in the crude oil production of 1.6 million barrels per day.

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FG recovers N120bn from crime proceeds —Lai Mohammed

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Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed

The Federal Government has said it had realised at least N120 billion as proceeds from criminal financial operations since the bill on Proceeds of Crime Recovery Management was signed into law earlier this year by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the disclosure at a news briefing where Minister of Environment presented the scorecard of the ministry under the Buhari administration in Abuja, yesterday.

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Mohammed said:  “I have an update on the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act (POCA), 2022. In line with the new law, all relevant agencies of government have now opened ‘Confiscated and Forfeiture Properties Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

“I can confirm that so far, the Federal Government has realised over N120 billion, among other currencies, from POCA. This money will be used to fund the completion of ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the country such as the Second Niger Bridge as well as Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kano Expressways. We will continue to update you on this,” he added.

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