What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential newsletter. Logging the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
by @matt_kiser

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Day 155: Bothersome.

1/ Obama weighed pre-election retaliation against Moscow for the Russian assault on the US election. The Obama administration debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on infrastructure, the release of CIA material to embarrass Putin, and sanctions that could “crater” the Russian economy. Instead, he expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two compounds. Obama also approved an operation in late December to embed "digital bombs" in Russia’s infrastructure that could be detonated if the US found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project was still in its planning stages when he left office, leaving Trump to decide whether to use the capability. “It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” a former senior Obama official said. “I feel like we sort of choked.” (Washington Post)

2/ Trump denied obstructing Comey's FBI probe in a Fox & Friends interview. He said his tweet hinting of "tapes" was intended to influence Comey's testimony before Congress, suggesting it was possible that anyone could have taped their discussions. "With surveillance all over the place,” Trump said in the interview, “…you never know what’s out there, but I didn’t tape, and I don’t have any tape and I didn’t tape.” (New York Times / Reuters)

3/ Trump called Preet Bharara the day before dozens of US attorneys were asked to resign. The now former US Attorney sent an email to the Justice Department expressing his concern about a voicemail he received from Trump’s secretary. "It appeared to be that [Trump] was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship," Bharara said. "…It's a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general." Bharara refused to resign, and was firedthe following day. (BuzzFeed News)

4/ The director of national intelligence told House investigators that Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and repeatedly asked him to publicly acknowledge there was no evidence of collusion. At a Senate hearing earlier this month, Dan Coats said Trump never  pressured him to do anything inappropriate, but refused to confirm or deny allegations that Trump asked him to push back against the FBI probe into collusion between the campaign and the Russian government. (NBC News)

5/ Trump: It's "bothersome" that Robert Mueller is "very, very good friends with Comey." He added that “there’s been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that" and that Mueller's team of lawyers are "all Hillary Clinton supporters." (ABC News)

6/ Frustrated by the Russia probe, Trump loses patience with his White House lawyer. Trump took Don McGahn to task in the Oval Office for not doing more to squash the Russia probe early on despite having handed over the Russia investigation to his personal attorney Marc Kasowitz. (Politico)

7/ West Wing aides struggle to keep Trump calm on Russia. His new morning routine begins at 6:30 AM with a venting session with his outside legal team in an effort to prevent the Russia probe from consuming him all day. (Washington Post)

8/ Art of the Deal: Carrier is preparing to lay off 600 employees next month as Trump's deal fails to live up to the hype. Carrier will continue to employ at least 1,069 people at their  plant for 10 years in exchange for up to $7 million in incentives. But, only 730 of those positions are the manufacturing jobs that were at the heart of the debate. The rest are technical jobs that were never scheduled to be cut. (CNBC)

9/ The FBI is investigating business deals involving Paul Manafort and his son-in-law. Manafort helped finance a series of real estate deals by Jeffrey Yohai, who has been accused of defrauding investors. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman until reports surfaced that he had received millions of dollars off-the-book for his consulting work in Ukraine. (New York Times)

10/ Trump proposed a law that's existed for 20 years. During his rally on Wednesday, Trump called for a new law barring immigrants from receiving welfare for at least five years. Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996. The law prevents immigrants from receiving federal benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security for five years after entering the country. (USA Today)

11/ The White House is frustrated with Rex Tillerson's deliberate approach to hiring at the State Department. Tillerson is more concerned about setting the State Department up for success, rather than satisfying the White House's desire to place Republican appointees in the numerous vacant positions. (Washington Post)

poll/ 13% of US adults have a favorable opinion of Putin, down from 22% in February. Putin's unfavorable rating stands at  74%. (Gallup)

poll/ More Americans believe Comey over Trump. 45% say they believe Comey's version of events compared to 22% who believe Trump more. (NBC News)

Day 154: Win, win, win.

1/ The Senate unveiled its health care bill today. It's similar to the House bill that passed last month, but with changes aimed at pleasing moderates: linking federal insurance subsidies to income, curbing Medicaid expansion, and ending the mandate that most Americans have health insurance. Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a vote before senators go home for the July 4th recess, but he is still short the 50 votes he needs to pass the legislation. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico)

  • What's in the Senate Republican health care bill. Like the House version, McConnell’s proposal would slash taxes, cut Medicaid, and eliminate Obamacare’s insurance mandates for individuals and employers. (The Atlantic)
  • The GOP health plan is really a Medicaid rollback. It would also permanently restructure Medicaid, which covers tens of millions of poor or disabled Americans, including millions who are living in nursing homes with conditions like Alzheimer’s or the aftereffects of a stroke. (New York Times)

2/ Obama said the Senate health care bill "will do you harm.” In a nearly 1,000-word critique, Obama framed the GOP health care plan as fundamentally inhumane. “The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” he wrote. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America." (Barack Obama / HuffPost / Washington Post)

3/ Four Republican senators say they will not vote for the GOP health care bill unless changes are made, putting passage of the bill at risk hours after it was unveiled. In a statement, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul said they are "not ready" to support the measure. They are open to negotiating changes to win their support. (Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / ABC News)

  • Where Senators stand on the health care bill. It needs at least 50 votes to pass. Every Democrat is expected to oppose the bill, which means three Republican “no” votes would block it. (New York Times)

4/ The White House refused to say if Trump will support the Senate health care bill. Trump previously called the House health care bill "mean" and wanted the Senate version to be "more generous." (Politico)

5/ Trump tweets that he didn't tape his conversations with Comey after all. In May, Trump warned Comey against leaking to the press, suggesting there were "tapes" of their private conversations. Soon after reports surfaced of memos Comey had written detailing Trump's effort to shut down the Michael Flynn investigation. Today, Trump tweeted that "with all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings." (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump's tease of possible Comey tapes fits familiar pattern. In 2011, Trump promised to reveal what his private investigators had found in Hawaii about Obama's birth certificate. He never released anything. (Associated Press)

6/ Two of the top intelligence officials told Robert Mueller that Trump suggested they refute collusion with the Russians. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers described the interaction as odd and uncomfortable, but that they don't believe Trump gave them orders to interfere. The two repeatedly refused to say whether Trump asked them to intervene in the Russia probe during their public Senate intelligence committee testimony. (CNN)

7/ Trump at Iowa rally: "All we do is win, win, win." He then blamed Democrats for his problems, boasted about his "amazing progress," and called the Russia investigation a "phony witch hunt" at his campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids last night. During the 70-minute speech, Trump promised to lay out the next steps in “our incredible movement to make America great again," but continually veered off on tangents, reflected on the past, and contradicted himself. He knocked trade deals the Iowa economy relies on, dismissed wind energy in a state filled with thousands of turbines, and denounced the war in the Middle East despite reauthorizing troops in Afghanistan. Trump also revealed his plan for putting solar panels on his proposed border wall "so it creates energy and pays for itself." (New York Times / Washington Post / CBS News)

8/ Trump: "I just don't want a poor person" in charge of the economy.  "When you get the president of Goldman Sachs, smart," Trump told the crowd at his Cedar Rapids rally. During the campaign, Trump frequently bashed the investment bank for having too much influence in politics. Trump has one of the wealthiest Cabinets in history. (CNN)

9/ House Democrats want to suspend Jared Kushner's security clearance. Kushner's previously undisclosed meetings with Russian officials have drawn the attention of investigators. Democrats say these contacts should be enough to suspend his access to sensitive information. (ABC News)

10/ Hackers successfully altered at least one voter roll in 2016 and stole voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents. (Time)

11/ The White House is urging House Republicans to weaken its Russia sanctions bill, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate. The bill would place new sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and allow Congress to block Trump from lifting penalties against Moscow. (New York Times)

12/ Betsy DeVos picked the CEO of a private student loan company to run the federal student loan system. 42 million Americans currently owe $1.4 trillion in student loans. (The Hill)

13/ Trump will host his first re-election fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel next week, raising ethics concerns from conflict of interest attorneys. Trump is “becoming more and more brazen in his efforts to monetize the presidency,” Obama’s lead ethics attorney said. (Associated Press)

14/ North Korea called Trump a "psychopath" and warned South Korea that no good will come from aligning with him. The commentary, published in a state newspaper, suggested that Trump could launch a preemptive strike on North Korea to distract from his domestic problems. (AOL News / Washington Post)

15/ The White House told reporters not to report on instructions about not reporting on a press conference. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today's press conference would not be a video affair and then said the announcement itself was "NOT REPORTABLE." (Slate)

poll/ A majority of voters think the American Health Care Act would be harmful for low-income Americans, people with pre-existing health conditions, and Medicaid recipients. 41% oppose the House plan, while 30% support it. 13% think the plan will improve the quality of their healthcare. 9% think it would make their health care cheaper. (Reuters)

poll/ 16% of adults believe that House health care bill is a good idea compared to 48% who say it’s a bad idea. (NBC News)

Day 153: Vulnerable.

1/ CIA Director Mike Pompeo continued to brief Michael Flynn on national intelligence despite concerns Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. The FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all concluded that Flynn had become susceptible to blackmail. Pompeo never raised these concerns with Trump. “Either Director Pompeo had no idea what people in the CIA reportedly knew about Michael Flynn, or he knew about the Justice Department’s concerns and continued to discuss America’s secrets with a man vulnerable to blackmail,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “I believe Director Pompeo owes the public an explanation.” (New York Times)

2/ Trump is expected to reveal whether tapes of conversations with Comey exist this week. After firing Comey in May, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” Trump and aides have since refused to clarify the ambiguous warning. The House intelligence committee wants the White House to provide an answer about the tapes by Friday. Under a post-Watergate law, destroying recordings would be a crime. (Associated Press)

3/ Jeff Sessions hired a personal lawyer amid the expanding Russia investigation. The Attorney General's longtime friend Charles Cooper has been providing counsel to Sessions, both for his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week, as well as during his January confirmation hearing. Sessions recused himself from the FBI’s investigation into Russia meddling and whether any Trump associates colluded in that effort. Special counsel Robert Mueller could seek information from Sessions about the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey. (Bloomberg / USA Today / National Law Journal)

4/ The Congressional Black Caucus will reject an invitation to meet with Trump. Members say the caucus-wide meeting would amount to little more than a photo op that Trump could use to bolster his standing among African-Americans. “No one wants to be a co-star on the reality show,” said one aide. (Politico)

5/ Queen Elizabeth didn't mention Trump's planned visit to the UK during her speech at the opening of Parliament. Trump's visit was already in doubt after he insisted on a gold‑plated welcome in the Queen’s royal carriage and started a feud with London's mayor on Twitter after the terrorist attack. The London mayor previously said Trump should be denied a state visit because of his “cruel” policies on immigration. The Queen's speech is used to set the government's legislative agenda for the next two years and announce planned state visits. (BBC / CNN / The Telegraph)

6/ Trump will hold a "Make America Great Again" rally to get a boost from outside of Washington. 8,600 political supporters will join Trump in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he's expected to repeat his campaign rhetoric at a time when he has the lowest job approval rating of any president in modern history at this point in his tenure. (Washington Post / AOL News)

  • Trump has only held one solo press conference since becoming president, lagging behind his predecessors. Obama had held six solo press conferences by this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had held three, and Clinton seven. Trump's last press conference was four months ago, where he delivered a series of raw and personal attacks on the media in a news conference for the ages. (NBC News)

7/ Michael Bloomberg tells Trump to "stop tweeting and focus on running the government." The former mayor of New York City added that Trump's refusal to acknowledge that climate change is real is an embarrassment. "No reputable person or scientist doubts that we are creating an environmental and a climate change problem," he said. (CNN)

8/ The EPA plans to buy out more than 1,200 employees this summer as part of a push by the administration to shrink the agency Trump once promised to eliminate “in almost every form.” It would be about an 8% reduction of the current 15,000-person EPA workforce. The administration has also proposed a 31% cut to the EPA budget. (Washington Post)

9/ Trump’s budget seeks to cut funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness, except for a federal housing subsidy that earns him millions of dollars a year. (Washington Post)

10/ The Pentagon spent $28 million on uniforms for Afghan soldiers, which were appropriate for just 2.1% of Afghanistan. In 2007, the Afghan Defense Ministry decided the army needed a “new and distinctive uniform” to set is apart. He chose woodland camouflage. (USA Today)

11/ Russian-linked hackers targeted election-related computer systems in 21 states. Systems involved in vote counting were not affected. The hackers appeared to be scanning for vulnerabilities. In May, it was reported that Russian hackers had hit election systems in 39 states, accessing software used by poll workers on Election Day. The Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one US voting software supplier last year, sending spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials days before the election. (Washington Post / CNN)

12/ Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia's special election for a House seat. Trump tweeted his excitement: “Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0." The Georgia race was the most expensive House race in history, with candidates spending roughly $55 million combined. (CNN / New York Times / Politico)

poll/ 35% of voters approve of the Republican health care bill passed by the House last month. 49% disapprove of the bill. (Politico)

Day 152: Spicey.

1/ Sean Spicer is searching for his own replacement as he's expected to transition to a behind-the-scenes role overseeing communications strategy – senior to both the communications director and press secretary. Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has frequently replaced him in the daily press briefings as he's slowly retreated from public view over the past month. He's often caught between striving for the respect of the press corps and Trump's erratic tweets. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

2/ Steve Bannon explains the change in Spicer's role: “Sean got fatter." The White House has pared back the daily press briefings, downgrading them from “briefings” to “gaggles,” and from on-camera to off-camera. They are now shorter and less frequent. (The Atlantic)

3/ Spicer hasn't talked to Trump about whether Russia interfered in the election. The US intelligence community concluded that Russia orchestrated a hacking and influence campaign to swing the election in Trump's favor. “I have not sat down and asked him about the specific reaction,” Spicer said. “I'd be glad to touch base with him and get back to you.” Trump's repeatedly raised doubts about their conclusions. (Politico / The Hill)

4/ The Senate will vote on their health care bill next week, despite not having enough support to pass it. The Senate will release the bill's text Thursday, with the CBO expected to score its impact on the federal budget and insurance coverage by early next week. The Senate could hold a vote next Thursday, before lawmakers leave for the July 4th recess. Failure to vote by then would open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents at town-hall meetings. (Wall Street Journal / BuzzFeed News)

  • Democrats held the Senate floor last night to spotlight Republicans behind-the-scenes efforts to repeal Obamacare. Democrats criticized the closed-door meetings using series of floor motions, inquiries, and lengthy speeches to highlight what Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called "the most glaring departure from normal legislative procedure that I have ever seen." (Reuters / ABC News)
  • Here's what we know about the Senate health-care bill. The blurry outlines of an Obamacare overhaul are coming into focus as Senate Republican leaders prod their members toward a health-care vote next week. (Washington Post)

5/ Trump's pick for FBI Director removed a past case involving the Russian government from his law firm bio at King and Spalding. Christopher Wray made the edit on January 12, when he was not considered for the FBI Director job, "or any position in government." Wray's law firm has worked closely with the Russian the energy sector, representing companies in deals with the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and Gazprom. (CNN)

6/ Wray billed New Jersey taxpayers more than $2.1 million while representing Chris Christie during the Bridgegate trial for legal charges and expenses. The public wasn't aware that Wray was working for Christie for almost two years. Christie hasn't said whether he recommended Wray for the FBI job. (WYNC)

7/ Michael Flynn failed to report a business trip to Saudi Arabia where he represented US and Russian state-sponsored companies, and Saudi financing interests to build 16 nuclear power plants a congressional letter issued Monday shows. The letter questions why Flynn failed to mention one trip and underreported a second for the renewal of his federal security clearance. It also questions why Flynn failed to mention “any of these contacts with Saudi or other foreign officials on his security clearance application or during his interview with security clearance investigators." (McClatchy – DC)

8/ The FBI is investigating Flynn’s former business partner and looking at whether payments from foreign clients were lawful. The now-defunct Flynn Intel Group received payments by three Russian companies and the Netherlands-based company Inovo. (Reuters)

9/ Robert Mueller adds a witness-flipping expert to his team. Andrew Weissmann is best known for gaining witness cooperation in the Enron investigation. He previously headed the Justice Department's criminal fraud unit. (Reuters)

10/ Rex Tillerson has a three-point plan for future US-Russia relations in an effort to seek constructive working relationship with Putin on a limited set of issues. Step 1: Tell Moscow that aggressive actions against the US are a losing proposition. Step 2: Engage on issues that are of strategic interest to the US. Step 3: Emphasize the importance of "strategic stability" regarding geopolitical goals. (BuzzFeed News)

11/ The House health care plan is unpopular in three states where a Republican Senator will have a swing vote. 31% of Nevada voters, 35% of West Virginia voters, and 29% of Alaska voters approve of the AHCA. (Axios)

poll/ 81% of Americans don't want Trump to interfere with the Mueller probe. Trump's approval rating stands at 36%, his lowest in the CBS News Polls since becoming president. 57% percent now disapprove. (CBS News)

poll/ 18% of Americans support Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. 44% of Americans are "very concerned" and 26% are "moderately concerned" that withdrawing from the agreement will hurt the country’s standing in the world. 64% of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling the issue of climate change, with 34% approving. (Associated Press)

poll/ 73% of Americans feel the current tone of politics is encouraging violence. 68% say the tone and level of civility in politics is getting worse. (CBS News)

Day 151: Collective self-defense.

1/ The US military shot down a Syrian fighter jet after it dropped bombs near local forces supported by Americans in the fight against the Islamic State. A US military statement said it acted in “collective self-defense” of its partner forces. This was the first Syrian plane shot down by the US. (Associated Press / New York Times)

  • Russia threatened to target US-led coalition warplanes over Syria in response. "Any aircraft, including planes and drones belonging to the international coalition operating west of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian anti-aircraft forces in the sky and on the ground and treated as targets," the Russian defense ministry said. (New York Times / BBC / Reuters / Associated Press)

2/ Trump's lawyer insists the president "is not under investigation." Appearing on several Sunday morning news shows, Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow stressed that "the president has not been and is not under investigation." He added that Trump has not been notified of any investigation. On Friday, Trump took to Twitter, saying: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” (New York Times / Associated Press)

3/ Trump tweets that his "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt" – aka Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Mueller is considering whether there is evidence to launch a full scale obstruction of justice investigation. (CNN)

4/ The White House is pushing the House Republicans for a friendlier sanctions deal against Russia. Senate Democrats fear the Trump administration will defang the bill designed to punish Russia for election meddling. The legislation would tie the White House's hands on US-Russia relations, the administration says. (Politico)

5/ Jared Kushner is reconsidering his legal team. He's contacted high-powered criminal lawyers about potentially representing him in the wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election. (New York Times)

6/ McConnell wants to force a health care vote by July 4th and is considering making even deeper cuts to Medicaid spending than the bill passed by the House. The Senate won't vote without a CBO score, which means they need to finish negotiations this week. The CBO, however, found that the House bill would cause 14 million fewer people to be enrolled in Medicaid over 10 years. (Axios / The Hill)

7/ Democrats are turning to procedural moves to slow Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare by objecting to all unanimous consent requests in the Senate. It likely won’t change the timing of the health care vote, but it will force Republicans to answer for what Democrats say is a rushed process and bad policy. (Politico)

  • House republicans to are sending McConnell a letter demanding certain provisions remain in the Senate health bill. Republican Study Committee outlines four components of the House-passed health care bill that are “particularly crucial” to maintaining support from GOP lawmakers in the House. (Independent Journal Review)
  • Six people have resigned from Trump's HIV/AIDS advisory council because he "doesn't care." Trump has not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. The agency's website has not been updated five months after taking office. "We have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care." (BuzzFeed News)

8/ The Supreme Court will hear a landmark case on partisan gerrymandering. The case could have "enormous ramifications" on how to draw district lines nationwide. Obama has said that one of his post-presidency projects will be to combat partisan gerrymanders after the 2020 Census. (CNN / Washington Post)

9/ The personal information and voter profile data on 198 million American voters was stored on an unsecured server owned by Republican data analytics firm Deep Root Analytics. The folder includes dozens of spreadsheets containing a unique identifier for each voter for the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, which link to "dozens of sensitive and personally identifying data points, making it possible to piece together a striking amount of detail on individual Americans specified by name." (ZDNet / Wall Street Journal)

10/ Trump’s business ties in the Gulf raise questions about his allegiances after spending years trying to enter the Qatar market. As Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar feud, Trump has thrown his weight behind the two countries where he's done business, raising new concerns about a conflict between his public role and his financial incentives. Qatar hosts America's largest air base in the region. (New York Times)

11/ Energy Secretary Rick Perry said he doesn't believe CO2 emissions from human activity are the primary driver of climate change, a view that is at odds with the conclusions of the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (CNBC)


  • News You May Have Missed

  • At the height of Russia tensions last summer, Trump's campaign chairman met with a former Russian army business associate. Konstantin Kilimnik had helped run the Ukraine office for Paul Manafort international political consulting practice for 10 years. (Washington Post)
  • Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke withdrew his name from consideration for an assistant secretary of Homeland Security post. Clarke's appointment had been subject to significant delays, contributing to his withdrawal. He was also accused of plagiarism, as well as drawing scrutiny for the conditions in his jails that left one mentally ill inmate dead. (Washington Post)
  • A 17-year-old Muslim girl was killed after leaving her Virginia mosque on Sunday. Police found human remains in a pond about three miles from where the initial altercation took place. A baseball bat was also recovered. Police charged Martinez Torres with the murder of the 17-year-old, which is not currently being investigated as a hate crime. (Washington Post / NBC News)
  • Trump demands face time with his favorite Cabinet appointees, turning the White House into a hangout for his chosen department heads. Trump doesn’t trust bureaucrats who do the day-to-day work of the federal government, referring to them as the “deep state,” and blaming them for the frequent leaks to the press. But for Trump’s Cabinet members, being present means they have a say in policymaking. (Politico)
  • The body-slamming congressman now calls for civil politics, four days after being convicted for assaulting a reporter who asked him a question about health care. In May, Greg Gianforte had grabbed a reporter by the neck with both hands, slammed him into the ground, and then began punching the reporter. Gianforte had to pay a fine, perform community service, and take anger management training, but no jail time. (Associated Press)

Day 148: Ruh roh.

1/ Trump tweets that he's under investigation for his role in firing James Comey and accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of overseeing the "witch hunt" against him. Rosenstein wrote the memo recommending Comey's firing, but also approved the appointment of Robert Mueller, the special counsel now leading the Russia investigation. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • The greatest threat to Trump and his presidency comes from his own conduct. And his obsessive behavior. (Politico)

2/ Rod Rosenstein urged Americans to "exercise caution" when evaluating stories attributed to anonymous officials. It's unclear why Rosenstein would issue the statement, but it follows several stories quoting unnamed sources on the direction of the Russia probe. (Washington Post)

3/ Rosenstein privately acknowledged that he may have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Rosenstein told Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department's new third-in-command, that if he were to recuse himself, she would have to step in and take over the probe. She was sworn-in little more than a month ago. (ABC News)

  • Former Bush official Rachel Brand takes over as the Justice Department’s third-highest-ranking official. Brand was confirmed in May. (Washington Post)

4/ Jared Kushner's finances and business dealings are now part of the Mueller investigation. Kushner joins the list of Trump associates Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page who are now under investigation by FBI agents and federal prosecutors. Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Washington Post)

5/ The Trump transition team ordered members to preserve Russia-related documents, including records related to Ukraine and certain campaign advisers and officials. The memo says members “have a duty to preserve any physical and electronic records that may be related in any way to the subject matter of the pending investigations.” (New York Times / Politico)

6/ The House Intelligence Committee wants to talk to Trump's digital director about Russia and possible connections between the Trump team and Russian operatives. Brad Parscale played a critical role on the Trump campaign, directing online spending and voter targeting with the use of a data bank built by the Republican National Committee. (CNN)

7/ The FBI won't release Comey's memos because they're part of a "pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding," a Freedom of Information Act request revealed. At least one of the memos is unclassified, but wouldn't because it could "reasonably interfere with enforcement proceedings." (BuzzFeed News)

8/ The White House is referring questions about a potential Oval Office recording device to outside counsel. A national security attorney suggested that the the White House is attempting to defer and deflect the issue for as long as possible. (The Daily Beast)

9/ Trump’s personal lawyer hires his own lawyer to navigate the Russia probe. Michael Cohen's decision is the latest sign that the Russia probe is intensifying and could end up focusing on many Trump associates, both inside and outside the White House. (Washington Post)

10/ An American lobbyist representing Russian interests contradicted Jeff Sessions' sworn testimony about not having contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. Richard Burt attended "two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions." (The Guardian)

11/ Trump picked his family's event planner to run federal housing programs in New York. Lynne Patton will oversee the distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars despite having no housing experience and claiming to have a law degree the school says she never earned. (NY Daily News)

12/ Senate Republican leaders want to bring their health care bill to the Senate floor by the end of June as disagreements threaten to derail their efforts. Mitch McConnell and a small group of GOP aides are crafting the bill behind closed doors. Earlier this week, Trump called the House version "mean." The comment has angered House Republicans and its likely damaged his ability to negotiate with them on infrastructure and tax reform. (Washington Post / Axios)

13/ Trump rolled back Obama's Cuba policy, tightening travel restrictions and blocking business with the island. Trump called it a "completely one-sided deal." At one point, Trump considered severing diplomatic relations with Cuba. (NBC News / The Hill)

14/ The Pentagon will send about 4,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, the largest deployment of Trump's presidency. Trump gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to manage troop levels to help Afghanistan's army against a resurgent Taliban. (Washington Post)

poll/ 65% think Trump has little to no respect for country's institutions. Only 34% of Americans think Trump has a great deal or a fair amount of respect for them. (The Hill)

Day 147: Phony.

1/ Trump tweets: The reports of my "phony collusion with the Russians" have been greatly exaggerated. Trump's twitter tirade this morning essentially confirms yesterday's news that special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Nevertheless, Trump persisted: "You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history". (CBS News / New York Times / Washington Post / New York Daily News)

  • The three prongs of Mueller's Russia investigation explained. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, attempts to obstruct justice, and any possible financial crimes. (Washington Post)
  • Mueller is examining whether Trump obstructed justice. The special counsel investigation has expanded to look into president's firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee wants obstruction to be part of House Russia probe. Adam Schiff is negotiating with his Republican counterpart about whether to investigate Trump for obstruction of justice as part of the panel’s Russia investigation. (Politico)
  • The Senate intelligence committee won't investigate whether Trump obstructed justice, leaving the criminal inquiry to special counsel Robert Mueller. (CNN)
  • Putin – jokingly – offered Comey asylum during a marathon phone-in session with the Russian people. (The Guardian)

2/ Aides blame Trump for the obstruction of justice probe: "The president did this to himself" and "shot himself in the foot again with this cockamamie scheme to get Mueller to play ball" by spreading rumors that Trump might fire the special counsel. Senators, White House aides, former prosecutors, and FBI veterans are urging Trump not to do it, as firing Mueller now would require him to personally direct the Department of Justice to do so, which "could be shown that his purpose was to impede the investigation" and "could be additional evidence of obstruction of justice." (The Daily Beast)

3/ Pence hired outside counsel to help with House and Senate committee inquiries, and the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump revised his travel ban to address arguments that it would expire today. Under the ban's original wording, it would last "for 90 days from the effective date of this order." A separate provision set the effective date as March 16, meaning the ban would have expired June 14. The administration is arguing that the court orders blocking the ban had implicitly delayed the effective date. (Bloomberg)

5/ A GOP congressman wants members of Congress to "curtail" their town halls after the Scalise shooting "until we agree that we need to be more civil." In addition to yesterday's shooting, Lou Barletta cited "those town halls where the police had to carry people out" as a safety concern and reason to cut back on hosting town hall forums. (CNN)

6/ Dennis Rodman gave Kim Jong Un a copy of Trump's book "The Art of the Deal." Rodman may be the only person in the world who has personal relationships with both Trump and the North Korean supreme leader. (Washington Post / CNN)

7/ The Australian Prime Minister mocked Trump in a speech. Malcolm Turnbull's told a room of journalists, advisers, and politicians that "the Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much! We are winning like we have never won before. We are winning in the polls. We are! Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls. They're the ones we're not winning in. We're winning in the real polls." (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

8/ Despite being investigated by the FBI, Paul Manafort is still offering prospective business partners access to Trump. Manafort consulted on a proposal for a Chinese construction billionaire. A lawyer involved in discussions said, “He’s going around telling people that he’s still talking to the president and — even more than that — that he is helping to shape Trump’s foreign policy." Trump’s former campaign chairman is at the center of the FBI investigation into ties between Trump’s team and the Russians. (Politico)

9/ The Energy Department closed its office working on climate change abroad. The office was formed in 2010 to help the United States provide technical advice to other nations seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (New York Times)

10/ Trump ordered the government to stop working on the Y2K bug, 17 years after year 2000 came and went. Federal workers still report on preparedness for the Y2K bug, consuming some 1,200 man-hours every year. [Editor's note: I misunderstood this statistic. It was attributed to other, pointless paperwork. The Y2K requirements are often ignored in practice.] (Bloomberg)

poll/ 41% of Republicans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the US, down 17% since May. (Gallup)

poll/ 50% of the CEOs, business leaders, government officials and academics gave Trump an "F" for his first 130 days in office. 21% gave Trump's performance a "D" and just 1% gave him an "A." (CNN Money)