Day 197: That "totally made-up Russia story."
1/ Robert Mueller’s grand jury has issued subpoenas related to Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer. The subpoenas, issued in recent weeks, seek documents and testimony from people involved in the meeting. Yesterday, it was reported that Mueller had convened a grand jury investigation in Washington to examine allegations of Russian interference in the election. When Mueller took over the investigation in May, he inherited a grand jury in Alexandria, VA, which was impaneled to assist in the Michael Flynn investigation and focus on Flynn’s work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests. (New York Times / CNN / Reuters)
- Michael Flynn filed an amended disclosure showing his link to Cambridge Analytica, a controversial data analysis company that aided the Trump campaign. The disclosure shows that just before the end of the campaign, Flynn entered into a consulting agreement with SCL Group, a Virginia-based company related to Cambridge Analytica. (Associated Press)
2/ Trump used a campaign-style rally to attack the Russia investigation, hours after news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller had tapped a grand jury. He referred to the investigation as a “totally made-up Russia story” and a “total fabrication.” He insisted that Democrats “can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us, and most importantly, demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.” (Politico / CNN)
3/ Kellyanne Conway tried to downplay the ongoing investigation, saying: “Let me remind everyone what the president has said about this. It’s a witch-hunt. It’s fake. Last night I believe [Trump] called it a fabrication. And we know that the nature of these types of investigations become fishing expeditions, where you’re just throwing jello up against the wall and hoping it will stick.” (Politico)
4/ The FBI monitored social media on Election Day to track a suspected Russian disinformation campaign spreading “fake news” and identify possible disruptions to the vote. For the FBI, monitoring the news put them “right on the edge of Constitutional legality” given the First Amendment’s free speech protections. (CNN)
5/ The Senate unanimously blocked Trump from being able to make recess appointments during the August break. The Senate will hold nine “pro-forma” sessions — brief meetings that normally last roughly a minute – and will not hold any legislative sessions until lawmakers return to Washington after Labor Day. (Axios / The Hill)
- The Senate breaks for summer recess. There will be no more roll-call votes in the Senate until September 5th. (Washington Post)
6/ The Secret Service has vacated Trump Tower after a dispute between the government and Trump’s company over the terms of its lease. In March, the Secret Service requested $26.8 million to protect Trump Tower. Separately, the government is paying $130,000 a month to lease space in Trump Tower for a military office that supports the White House. Trump has not visited Trump Tower since he was inaugurated. (Washington Post)
7/ Jeff Sessions issued a warning that the “culture of leaking must stop” a day after transcripts leaked of Trump’s January phone calls with Mexico and Australia. Sessions vowed to bring criminal charges against people who had leaked classified information, while announcing that the FBI had created a new counterintelligence unit to manage these cases. The Justice Department is pursuing three times as many leak investigations as the Obama administration. Sessions wants to pursue “effective” subpoenas on media outlets, because “simply put, these leaks hurt our country.” Kellyanne Conway suggested using lie detectors to figure who’s leaking information. “It’s easier to figure out who’s leaking than the leakers may realize,” she said. (CBS News / ABC News / New York Times)
- Diplomats laughing at Trump over leaked Mexico transcript, saying “he’s the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt. He speaks loudly and carries a small stick.” (McClatchy DC)
8/ John Kelly has brought rigor to the White House, attempting to give Trump bureaucratic competence while forcing staff members to stay in their lanes. He’s attempting to broker peace between the different factions in the West Wing, telling employees that he was hired to manage the staff, not the president. Kelly encouraged National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to make any staffing changes necessary, which resulted in the firing of a top intelligence aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was hired by Michael Flynn, after months of trying. Kelly has also assured Jeff Sessions that his job is safe. (New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)
9/ The Trump administration will notify the United Nations today that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, despite planning to participate in UN climate negotiations later this year. Under the terms of the Paris deal, the US can’t fully withdraw until one day after the next presidential election. (New York Times / Politico)
10/ A Republican donor is suing the GOP for fraud over the failed Obamacare repeal. The lawsuit alleges that the GOP raised millions of dollars in campaign funds knowing they weren’t going to be able to overturn the ACA, representing “a pattern of Racketeering which involves massive fraud perpetrated on Republican voters and contributors as well as some Independents and Democrats.” (The Virginia-Pilot / Axios)
poll/ 44% of Americans in battleground districts would strongly oppose Trump firing special counsel Mueller. (USA Today)
poll/ Most voters want Democrats to take control of Congress in 2018. 52% want Democrats to take the House, while 53% are in favor of Democrats taking the Senate. There are 10 Senate Democrats in red states up for re-election in 2018 and one blue-state Senate Republican. (Quinnipiac)
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