Secret Service Racks Up Bills for Trump Kids' Trips. Next Stop Aspen?

President Donald Trump's family is reportedly headed to the ski resort town of Aspen this weekend, a trip that could cost taxpayers a pretty penny in security costs judging by the clan's recent globe-trotting.

The Trump family visit to Aspen has not been officially announced, but the Aspen Times, quoting anonymous local law enforcement sources, reported Thursday that Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump and their families were expected and that the Secret Service had met with the Aspen Police Department.

There are no hotel bills for Aspen in the Federal Procurement Data System yet, but the database does show a $12,208.25 contract by the Secret Service with Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club for "recreational good rental/ski equipment lease" between the dates of March 10 and March 23.

No further details were given, and the club's spokeswoman did not respond to requests for more information.

Federal documents examined by NBC News outline hotel bills for the U.S. Secret Service and State Department coinciding with other out-of-town visits by Trump's sons and daughters, including:

  • $53,155.25 during Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump's business trip to Vancouver in late February.
  • $16,738.36 during Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump's business trip to Dubai in mid-February.
  • $97,830 for Eric Trump's business trip to Uruguay in early January.

In addition, the records show the Secret Service spent $4,0162.02 on rental vehicles in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29, just ahead of Eric Trump's business visit to Cap Cana.

Ski Lift at Aspen
Gondola at Aspen Grafton Smith / Getty Images

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Police Chiefs to Trump: Don’t Punish Sanctuary Cities

The nation’s biggest association of police chiefs asked President Trump Wednesday not to punish sanctuary cities by cutting federal funding.

In a statement, the International Association of Chiefs of Police said, "[S]tate and local law enforcement agencies depend on the cooperation of immigrants, legal or not, in solving a wide array of crimes. Striking the proper balance between enforcement and cooperation requires the full participation of elected officials, community leaders and their law enforcement agencies."

The IACP said it opposed the use of sanctions to support policy. “Penalizing communities by withholding assistance funding to law enforcement agencies and other critical programs is counter-productive to our shared mission of reducing violent crime and keeping our communities safe.”

Senate Intel Committee May Interview Ex-UK Spy Christopher Steele

The Senate Intelligence Committee is in talks to interview Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence operative who compiled the dossier that alleges a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, three sources with direct knowledge told NBC News.

Steele, however, remains concerned about his safety and is not inclined to leave London.  He is also concerned about how he might be treated by the Trump administration, according to the sources. The FBI was poised last fall to pay Steele, a former officer with the British Secret Intelligence Service, for information, but that deal fell through, sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Two Congressional officials told NBC News that the Senate Intelligence Committee has not yet reached an agreement on how and when to interview the Trump associates who have volunteered to testify, including Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone. If any of those men seek criminal immunity for their testimony, the committee would not be inclined to grant it, officials say. The committee could then subpoena them, but they could assert their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to answer questions.

Image: Christopher Steele
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled a dossier on Donald Trump, poses in London where he has spoken to the media for the first time on March 7. Victoria Jones / PA via AP Images

Russian Pleads Guilty to Botnet Scheme That Snared Americans

A Russian man accused of attacking computers around the world, including thousands in the United States, pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday.

Maxim Senakh, 41, was arrested last year in Finland as he was returning to Russia from vacation — a move that authorities in Moscow denounced as "an abuse of the law." Russia tried to persuade Finland not to hand over Senakh to American authorities, but he was ultimately extradited.

Prosecutors said Senakh admits he and his co-conspirators used malware to take over a globe-spanning web of computers, creating a botnet that directed users to Internet scams that generated millions of dollars.

He'll be sentenced Aug. 3 in Minneapolis federal court on one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud.

Giuliani to Help Defend Accused Iran Money Launderer

President Trump’s "cyber czar," ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has joined the defense team of a gold trader who is under federal indictment for fraud, money laundering and evading sanctions on Iran, and who has ties to Turkish President Recep  Erdogan.

Reza Zarrab, 33, was arrested March 19 in Florida. He‘s accused of ducking sanctions by moving hundreds of millions of dollars for the Iranian government and Iranian firms via offshore entities and bank accounts.

Prosecutor Joon Kim sent a letter notifying the judge in Zarrab’s case that Giuliani had joined the defense, and that Zarrab had also hired ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Kim said he was "advis[ing] the Court of potential conflicts of interest," since Giuliani and Mukasey’s firms also represent some banks Zarrab used in transactions.

Erdogan defended Zarrab when the dual Turkish-Iranian citizen was fingered in a 2013 Turkish corruption scandal that also implicated Erdogan associates. The Turkish leader called Zarrab, who had given his wife’s charity $4.5 million, a philanthropist. All charges against Zarrab and Erdogan’s pals were dropped.

Zarrab’s lead attorney, Ben Brafman, told NBC News he would remain as lead counsel, and that neither Giuliani, Mukasey nor their firms would appear in court.

Ex-Prosecutor Charged With Wiretapping Love Interest

A former New York City prosecutor accused of forging judges' signatures to wiretap a colleague and a detective for personal reasons has been hit with federal charges.

Tara Lenich, 41, was indicted in federal court on Monday, four months after she was arrested and fired by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, where she was a deputy bureau chief.

Authorities say that after Lenich forged the orders, she misappropriated equipment to eavesdrop on her targets' cellphones and also created bogus search warrants to obtain their text messages.

The scheme came to light when it was noticed that the wiretap orders were renewed again and again. A law-enforcement source said Lenich's motive was jealousy; she had a romantic interest in the detective and viewed a female prosecutor as a rival.

"Unfortunately, sometimes those close to the law stray far from the truth," FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said. "As demonstrated today, however, everyone is expected to play by the rules; for this we'll make no exceptions."

Lenich's attorney did not immediately return a call for comment.

Coalition Airstrikes Up 122 Percent in Raqqa, Say Activists

The anti-Assad, anti-ISIS group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered tweeted out a graphic today that said coalition airstrikes on Raqqa, Syria, the ISIS capital, have increased by more than 100 percent since Jan. 1. Kurdish forces and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters are now massing north of Raqqa for a ground assault. 

Hezbollah Financier Arrested

A top financial supporter of Hezbollah was arrested overseas earlier this month on an 11-count indictment unsealed Friday in federal court.

Kassim Tajideen of Beirut, Lebanon is charged with evading U.S. sanctions placed on his because of his financial support for Hezbollah, officially designated as a terror group by the U.S. government.

The arrest came after a two-year investigation let by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and is part of Project Cassandra, which targets Hezbollah's global support network. Tajideen is accused of operating front companies for Hezbollah, and was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2009.

The indictment says that over the past three years, Tajideen transferred more than $27 million via at least 47 wire transfers to individuals in the U.S., who helped Tajideen continue to do business with U.S. companies and ship U.S. goods out of the U.S.

Top Senate Democrat Won't Go As Far As House Counterpart On Trump-Russia Collusion

Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined Thursday to endorse his House counterpart's assertion that lawmakers have been briefed on "more than circumstantial evidence," that Trump associates colluded with the Russian operation to interfere in the presidential election.

Leaving a closed-door briefing, the Virginia senator was asked by NBC News whether he agreed with Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.  

Schiff told Chuck Todd on MTP Daily Wednesday, "I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now."

Warned responded, "There are ever increasing amounts of smoke."

How Many Nukes Does North Korea Have and Who Can It Hit With Them?

Senior U.S. officials believe, based on the latest intelligence, that North Korea is not an immediate threat to the U.S. or Japan.

But South Korea is another story. The threat to South Korea, said one official, is "grave and current."

A senior intelligence official said that the U.S. assessment is that North Korea has eight to 10 nuclear weapons, with the number more likely to be eight than 10. That number is in line with estimates by outside experts. The Federation of American Scientists, for example, estimates 10-to-20, but as Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project, says, "it is unclear if they are operational yet."

Miniaturizing warheads to put them on long-range missiles might be a challenge for the North Koreans. But Seoul is less than 40 miles from the DMZ that separates South and North. Korea has many shorter range missiles that could theoretically deliver nuclear payloads inside South Korea, as well as to border regions of China and Russia. 

Image: Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip in this undated photo. ballistic missile
Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip in this undated photo. (C) KCNA KCNA / Reuters / Reuters

Drone Strike Kills Taliban Leader Who Trained Suicide Bombers

The Pakistani Taliban said a U.S. drone strike over the weekend in Afghanistan killed a senior military commander who was known for his skill in training suicide bombers.

Qari Mohammad Yasin, also known as Ustad Aslam, died in a drone strike in Afghanistan's Paktika province. He was linked to an attack ‎on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi and an attack on a bus carrying Sri Lanka's national cricket team.

"We lost a brave man and the trainer of trainers in a U.S drone attack," said Asad Mansoor, the spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar ( TTP-JA), a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, presently based in Afghanistan. 

Yasin was given the title "Ustad," or teacher, because he trained suicide bombers.