Peter Overby

Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.

Overby has covered scandals involving House Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill Clinton, lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others. He tracked the rise of campaign finance regulation as Congress passed campaign finance reform laws, and the rise of deregulation as Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions rolled those laws back.

During President Trump's first year in office, Overby was on a team of NPR journalists covering conflicts of interest sparked by the Trump family business. He did some of the early investigations of dark money, dissecting a money network that influenced a Michigan judicial election in 2013, and — working with the Center for Investigative Reporting — surfacing below-the-radar attack groups in the 2008 presidential election.

In 2009, Overby co-reported Dollar Politics, a multimedia series on lawmakers, lobbyists and money as the Senate debated the Affordable Care Act. The series received an award for excellence from the Capitol Hill-based Radio and Television Correspondents Association. Earlier, he won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for his coverage of the 2000 elections and 2001 Senate debate on campaign finance reform.

Prior to NPR, Overby was an editor/reporter for Common Cause Magazine, where he shared an Investigative Reporters and Editors award. He worked on daily newspapers for 10 years, and has freelanced for publications ranging from Utne Reader and the Congressional Quarterly Guide To Congress to the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

President Trump has never been shy about promoting his businesses.

Even at a press conference after the racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, Va., he paused for a product placement:

"Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own, I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville."

President Trump's charitable foundation received nearly $2.9 million in contributions in 2016, its latest federal tax filing shows — a million dollars more than it raised in the previous three years combined.

Three donors gave the Donald J. Trump Foundation more than 80 percent of its 2016 contributions. Million-dollar donations came from Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin, a friend of Trump's, and Laura Perlmutter, a Trump family friend and big donor to Republican causes. Ivanka Trump gave $100,000. There's no record of any funds from Trump himself.

The Federal Election Commission is moving to improve disclosure of the money behind Internet and digital ads, as the shadow of Russian-funded social media ads in last year's presidential race hangs over the agency.

"We can't, obviously, take over the role of the Justice Department or of Congress," Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub told other commissioners Thursday, "but I do think that we could do this little piece."

Washington used to operate one scandal at a time.

Not anymore. Here are just some of the scandals currently brewing:

  • The indictment of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

In a legal settlement that still awaits a federal judge's approval, the IRS "expresses its sincere apology" for mistreating a conservative organization called Linchpins of Liberty — along with 40 other conservative groups — in their applications for tax-exempt status.

And in a second case, NorCal Tea Party Patriots and 427 other groups suing the IRS also reached a "substantial financial settlement" with the government.

If there's one thing President Trump's critics want from him, and he refuses to give up, it's his tax returns.

The returns didn't come up during Wednesday's hearing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. But the hearing was the first step in a process that could loosen Trump's grip on them.

If the next step goes the plaintiffs' way, the case could make the president's tax returns surface.

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On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

As Democratic pols jettison their old contributions from Harvey Weinstein, the former entertainment executive embroiled in multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, his cash is not likely to leave a big hole in party coffers.

Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club and winter White House in Palm Beach, Fla., is a casual place. And so, it seems, are any official records of those who visit him there.

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Ever since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico last month, President Trump has been pointing out the commonwealth's "massive debt," as he has put it.

And then on Tuesday on Fox News, he warned Puerto Rico's investors that "you can say goodbye" to the debt issued by the battered U.S. territory.

It wasn't clear exactly what Trump meant by that. But the president's views on Puerto Rico's troubles may have been informed by his own experiences there. Not long ago, he himself ended up on the wrong side of a bet on Puerto Rico's financial health.

These are tough times for Washington's roughly 400 think tanks — the policy factories where scholars get paid to study issues and give politicians advice. Powerful external forces are reshaping the industry.

One current example is the left-leaning New America Foundation, founded in 1999. It works on public policies for the digital age. Last month it landed in the think tank industry's latest money controversy.

A watchdog group wants the feds to investigate some of the estimated 3,300 Russian-backed ads that appeared on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign.

It's been a summer of booming business at President Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel: a sweet season enhanced by the spending of foreign diplomats and lobbyists. But now a watchdog group and the Justice Department are preparing their first courtroom arguments for a lawsuit alleging the hotel was a hotbed of continuing violations by the president of the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause.

President Trump, with a well-known fondness for golf hats bearing slogans, toured post-Hurricane Houston on Tuesday wearing white headgear emblazoned with "USA." It had a U.S. flag on one side, and on the other side — maybe this was the giveaway — the numeral 45. Trump is the 45th president.

When President Trump commented last week on the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., a reporter asked him if he planned to visit the city.

Trump's reply veered far off the volatile topic of race relations: "I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days." There was crosstalk as Trump continued: "I own, I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville."

How is Washington spending tax dollars that might benefit President Trump? Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to count the ways.

The committee's 18 minority members sent letters on Tuesday to the 15 cabinet departments and nine independent executive branch agencies, requesting documents on their spending at "businesses owned by or affiliated with the Trump Organization."

They said the letters are the first step in an investigation of federal spending involving Trump companies.

As Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller investigates alleged Russian ties to the Trump presidential campaign, the White House and some Republicans in Congress are calling for a second investigation.

The proposed target is a retired woman living in a small town in New York's Hudson Valley: Hillary Clinton.

When presidential adviser Jared Kushner appeared last week in a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the focus was on his contacts with Russia representatives during the 2016 campaign.

Some critics say questions about Russian contacts are so serious that Kushner should lose his White House security clearance. But few are expecting he will get fired. He is, after all, married to the president's daughter.

President Trump lives in the White House, but he also spends weekends at his other residences in New York's Trump Tower and Florida's Mar-A-Lago resort. Taxpayers cover the security costs for his use of those private locations.

Now there will be yet another part-time residence covered by federal funds for security. Rep. Leonard Lance, a New Jersey Republican, announced Wednesday that the small town of Bedminster — population 9,000 — has been designated a priority for the Secret Service.

Job growth seems to be strong in one of Washington's specialized professions: defense attorneys for the White House. Investigations by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees are driving the demand.

One question is this: Who is paying for all those lawyers?

Those who have recently lawyered up include President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Vice President Pence.

Last week sparked a deluge of speculation about Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 encounter with a Russian lawyer, and what criminal charges — if any — might ensue.

But for a substantive answer, NPR asked a former federal prosecutor. Randall Eliason worked public corruption and government fraud cases; now he teaches law and writes the blog Sidebars, "a reflection on white collar crime and federal criminal law."

When Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last June, did he break any U.S. laws?

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