What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 848: Willingness to cooperate.

1/ Michael Flynn told Robert Mueller that people tied to Trump and a person "connected to" Congress tried to obstruct the Russia investigation. Flynn said he received communications from Trump associates that could have affected the ex-national security adviser's "willingness to cooperate." Flynn not only told investigators about these communications, but provided Mueller's office with a voicemail of one instance. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in December 2017. (NBC News / CNN / CNBC / Axios) / Politico)

2/ A judge ordered public release of what Flynn said in call to the Russian ambassador. The order calls for a public transcript of the call by the former national security adviser that was a critical avenue in the Mueller probe. (Washington Post)

  • Democrats want a review of Russian investments in Kentucky. A Russian aluminum company recently came out from under United States sanctions. Now it's planning to invest $200 million in Kentucky, and maybe more in other states. (New York Times)

  • Panhandle county that backed Trump among Russian hacking victims. Washington County was one two counties successfully hacked by Russians seeking voter information files. (Politico)

  • Judge confirms Trump associate gave feds Osama bin Laden’s number. Felix Sater, who became an FBI informant after pleading guilty in a 1998 fraud scheme, later helped drive talks for a potential Trump Tower Moscow. (Politico)

3/ Trump wants his border barrier to be painted black with spikes. He has other ideas, too. Pointed tops. Fewer gates. Resistance to climbing. Trump's frequently changing design requests have frustrated Homeland Security officials and military engineers. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump's pick for ICE director: I can tell which migrant children will become gang members by looking into their eyes. "I've looked at them and I've looked at their eyes, Tucker — and I've said that is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member. It's unequivocal." (Politico)

5/ Trump delayed auto tariffs while pressing for a deal with Japan and Europe. Trump stepped back from opening another front in a global trade war by delaying tariffs on automobiles until later this year. (New York Times)

6/ Trump's tariffs are equivalent to one of the largest tax increases in decades. An analysis of data from the Treasury Department ranks the combined $72 billion in revenue from all the president's tariffs as one of the biggest tax increases since 1993. (CNBC)

7/ Trump reports making at least $434 million in 2018, according to his annual financial disclosure released by the White House. (CNN)

Day 847: On fire.

1/ The U.S. military will build six tent cities near border for migrants. The tents will likely not be on military bases, and ICE — not the military — will be responsible for migrant detention and custodial support. (NBC News)

2/ Trump's immigration plan will emphasizes immigrants' skills over their family ties. The plan will significantly scale back family-based immigration and increase the educational and skills requirements to move to the United States. (New York Times / NPR)

3/ Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran. "They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed," one official said of aides pushing for aggressive action. (Washington Post)

  • Trump told his Pentagon chief he does not want a war with Iran. Trump's statement came during a briefing on the rising tensions with Tehran, and officials said he was firm in saying he did not want a military clash. (New York Times)

4/ The Missouri Senate passed a bill to ban abortions at 8 weeks. Senators approved the legislation 24-10 and now needs at least one more vote of approval in the GOP-led House before it can go to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who voiced support for the bill. (Associated Press)

  • Alabama governor signs near-total abortion ban aimed squarely at Roe v. Wade, but the Supreme Court may prefer to chip away at abortion rights rather than overrule Roe outright. The new law is the most restrictive anti-abortion measure passed in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The controversial abortion bill could punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison. (New York Times / CBS News) / CNN)

5/ Trump moved to ban foreign telecom gear as part of an ongoing battle with China. American officials have long warned that they would stop sharing intelligence if allies installed Chinese technology on their 5G networks. (New York Times)

6/ Farmer who voted for Trump says he’ll "never vote for him again" as family is set to lose $150,000 in China trade war. “This is survival at this point. I mean, for a lot of operations it is a survival thing,” Iowa farmer Robert Ewoldt said. (Newsweek)

7/ Company owned by Brazilian crooks received $62 million in Trump bailout cash meant for struggling U.S. farmers. The Trump administration has forked over more than $62 million — taxpayer cash that was supposed to be earmarked for struggling American farmers — to a massive meatpacking company owned by a couple of… (New York Daily News)

8/ Trump pardoned his billionaire friend Conrad Black, who wrote a book about him. Black was convicted in 2007 on fraud charges, including alleged embezzlement, and obstruction of justice. (Washington Post / Reuters)

9/ Attorney General William Barr denied he is blocking Robert Mueller's testimony before Congress. "It's Bob’s call whether he wants to testify," Barr said. (Wall Street Journal)

10/ Ted Cruz warned that Trump's "Space Force" is needed to prevent space pirates. "Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space," Cruz said. (The Hill)

11/ Scott Pruitt spent nearly $124,000 on "excessive airfare" and the EPA watchdog suggests agency recover the $124,000 in travel expenses. A new Office of Inspector General report suggests there was not "sufficient justification to support security concerns requiring the use of first- and business-class travel." (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

12/ Trump's prized Doral resort is in steep decline, according to company documents, showing his business problems are mounting. Eric Trump said the resort was "on fire," but the company later said profitability was down 69%. (Washington Post)

  • Trump's Mar-a-Lago took a financial hit last year. "The Art of the Deal" continues to make money, but Trump's dozen-plus other books brought in next to nothing — $201 or less. (Politico)

  • Trump's wealth in the spotlight with new disclosure forms. America is about to get a tantalizing look into the hidden fortune on which Donald Trump made his name but is at the root of some of the most mysterious unresolved questions about his presidency. (CNN)

  • Televangelist Jim Bakker Show Peddles $45 Coin to Pray for President Donald Trump in SpectacularGrift. For just $45, you can pray for the president with this coin that's sold by a guy who says God told him you need the coin. (esquire.com)

poll/ Voters still see Trump as a successful businessman. The president maintains a positive image despite recent negative reports about his tax filings. (Politico)

poll/ 77% of Americans don't think Trump's term should be extended two years. 7% of respondents said that if Trump loses the 2020 election, he should ignore the results and stay in office. (University of Virginia Center for Politics)

Day 846: Escalating tensions.

1/ The White House rejected Congress' demands for records and staff testimony, saying the investigations amount to an "unauthorized do-over" of the Mueller investigation. The letter also rejected the committee’s standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice. "Unfortunately, it appears that you have already decided to press ahead with a duplicative investigation," White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote. (NBC News / Washington Post)

  • House Democrats are planning a marathon public reading of the Mueller report. The reading of all 448 pages of the redacted report, starting at noon Thursday, will take an estimated 12 to 14 hours. (Washington Post)

2/ A federal judge grilled Trump's legal team as Democrats fight for access to Trump's financial records. Amit Mehta, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, raised pointed doubts Tuesday about arguments by Trump’s legal team that a Democratic effort to subpoena Trump’s financial records was an invalid exercise of congressional power. An early court test for Trump’s vow to stonewall all subpoenas could be the start of a long fight over congressional oversight. (Politico / New York Times)

3/ All non-essential staff are being evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq as the U.S. continues to threaten Iran. The embassy says the State Department has ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country right away amid escalating tensions with Tehran. (Associated Press)

  • Skeptical U.S. allies are resisting Trump’s new claims of threats from Iran. The Trump administration is laying the groundwork for major military action against Iran, but it may have a hard time rallying domestic and international support. (New York Times)

  • The German government has expressed concern about the tensions in the Middle East between the U.S. and Iran, warning of a military escalation and saying it supports all measures for a peaceful solution. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said on Wednesday that, “obviously, we are watching the increasing tensions in the region with big concern and welcome any measure that is aimed at a peaceful solution.” (Associated Press)

4/ Jared Kushner struggled to answer GOP senators’ questions on his immigration plan. In a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser tried to pitch his plan to overhaul legal immigration but failed to win over Republicans, according to GOP officials. (Washington Post)

5/ Gov. Ron DeSantis: Russians hacked voting databases in two Florida counties. The GOP governor said the incidents took place in 2016 and no election results were compromised. (NBC News / Associated Press)

6/ The White House will not sign on to an international agreement to combat online extremism. The agreement was brokered between French and New Zealand officials and top social media companies. The U.S. did not agree to sign the agreement due to concerns that the pact clashes with constitutional protections for free speech. (Washington Post)

7/ Trump’s tariffs, once seen as leverage, may be here to stay. Trump’s latest trade measures have left the United States with the highest tariff rate among the most developed countries, outranking Canada, Germany, Russia and even China. (New York Times)

  • GOP senators raise alarms, criticize Trump as U.S.-China trade war heats up. They say tariffs are hurting their rural constituents, and they’re considering options to aid farmers. (Washington Post)

8/ Alabama passed a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for cases that involve rape or incest. The legislation is the most restrictive anti-abortion measure passed since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. (CBS News)

9/ Trump Tower is now one of the least-desirable luxury buildings in New York City. Most condo owners who sold the property since 2016 have recorded a loss. "No one wants in that building," said one former owner. (Bloomberg)

Day 845: Echoes.

1/ The White House reviewed military plans to attack Iran, in echoes of the Iraq War. The plans call for up to 120,000 American troops but not a land invasion of Iran. They were updated at the request of John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, who has been calling for the U.S. to go to war with Iran for nearly two decades. (New York Times)

2/ Attorney General William Barr instructed the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to review the origins of the Russia investigation. The prosecutor has conducted other sensitive investigations into conduct by national security officials, including the C.I.A.'s torture of detainees. (New York Times)

3/ Global stocks fell in response to China’s retaliation against U.S. tariffs, stoking economic anxiety. Stocks around the world fell sharply on Monday as the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies showed little sign of ending soon. Signs of economic anxiety also appeared in other financial markets. (New York Times)

4/ The U.S. is preparing to slap tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports, which could add levies on roughly $300 billion in additional goods. Days after both countries raised hopes of a deal, Trump and Xi instead escalated their tariff war. (Washington Post)

  • GOP's farm belt Senators back Trump as China takes aim at U.S. agriculture. Republican lawmakers in the farm belt are standing with President Donald Trump in the wake of an escalating trade war with China, which retaliated on Monday with more tariffs on agricultural goods. (CNBC)

5/ The House Intelligence Committee is investigating claims of obstruction of justice against Trump's lawyers. The Committee has opened an inquiry into Michael Cohen’s claims that lawyers for Trump and his family helped shape false testimony. (New York Times)

6/ Trump Jr. struck a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee to come to Capitol Hill in mid-June to answer the committee's questions for 2–4 hours. The agreed-upon topics for questioning include the Trump Tower Moscow development, but no other details about the compromise are currently available. (Axios)

  • Trump Jr.’s no-shows led to him being subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the Committee's Republican chairman Senator Richard Burr. Allies of Mr. Trump have mounted a campaign to quash the subpoena from the Committee, putting intense pressure on Burr. (New York Times)

7/ Trump said he would agree not to use stolen material as part of his 2020 presidential campaign. Trump said he would stay away from information stolen by foreign adversaries in his re-election bid, his first public commitment to doing so. (NBC News)

8/ Trump praised Hungary's authoritarian prime minister Victor Orbán and called him "highly respected." "Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's okay," Trump said, because "you've done a good job and you've kept your country safe." (Axios)

9/ Before Trump’s purge at the Department of Homeland Security, some top DHS officials challenged his plan to carry out mass family arrests. Kirstjen Nielsen and Ronald Vitiello were ousted after halting an operation that would have targeted thousands of parents and children in 10 cities for arrest and deportation. (Washington Post)

10/ Exclusive photos reveal children sleeping on the ground at a Border Patrol station in Texas. Photos obtained by CNN show migrants at the Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas over the weekend, many of whom are children, sleeping on the ground on rocks and covered by Mylar blankets. A baby bottle filled with milk can be seen in one photo next to a child sleeping outside on dirt, and in another, a woman is seen sitting on rocks leaning against a wall clutching a child. (CNN)

Day 844: Rules and norms.

1/ The White House asked Don McGahn to declare that Trump never obstructed justice. Two requests by presidential advisers show how far the White House has gone to try to push back on accusations that the president obstructed justice. McGahn initially entertained the request. "We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister," McGahn's attorney said in a statement. "It was a request, professionally and cordially made." (New York Times)

2/ Leaked letters reveal the details of NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre's alleged spending. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre billed the group’s ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe, and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents. (Wall Street Journal)

3/ The White House decried the investigations by House Democrats and complained that they are not following "rules and norms." The White House on Sunday decried Democratic-led congressional investigations, saying Democrats are refusing to abide by "rules and norms" that govern oversight authority as they issue subpoenas for documents the Trump administration refuses to hand over. (CNN)

  • Suddenly, conservative lawyers are condemning Trump for abuses of power. Prominent Republican lawyers are pushing back against Trump’s defiance of subpoenas and expansive claims of executive privilege and immunity from prosecution. (Los Angeles Times)

4/ China is raising tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods starting on June 1. The move to impose steeper tariffs on U.S. goods comes in response to Trump's decision to hike tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Trump’s trade approach is also under attack back in the U.S. as China readies retaliation and the markets prepare for a big sell-off. (CNBC / Washington Post)

  • Trump disputes impact of tariffs on American consumers, but warns China not to retaliate. The president accused Beijing of backing out of a “great deal” last week. (Politico)

5/ Trump aide Larry Kudlow acknowledged that U.S. consumers will be the ones who pay for Trump's tariffs, not China. "Both sides will suffer on this," Kudlow said. Trump’s decision to renew his trade war with China could inflict lasting damage on the American economy, but the ultimate impact depends on how far the president takes the fight. (NBC News / New York Times)

6/ Nadler is under pressure from calls for "inherent contempt." The House Judiciary Committee chairman faces pressure to get tougher with the Trump administration and start threatening fines or jail time as punishment for noncompliance. (Politico)

  • Schiff: Campaigns shouldn’t be allowed to get foreign help. The California Democrat responds to Rudy Giuliani’s proposed (and then scrapped) Ukraine trip. (Politico)

  • Schiff: Trump's additional obstruction of Congress "does add weight to impeachment". "He certainly seems to be trying, and maybe this is his perverse way of dividing us more." (Axios)

  • Schiff: Robert Mueller "is going to testify." On "This Week," Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Rand Paul weighed in on the Democratic-led congressional investigations into the president. (ABC News)

7/ The Pentagon will pull money from its ballistic missile and surveillance plane programs in order to fund Trump's border wall. The Defense Department, under Trump, intends to reprogram $2.5 billion that was originally designated by Congress for other projects. (Washington Post)

  • Is there a connection between undocumented immigrants and crime?. It’s a widely held perception, but a new analysis finds no evidence to support it. (New York Times)

8/ Omarosa wants to join a lawsuit alleging that women were underpaid by the Trump campaign. A former campaign staffer who accused Trump of sexual misconduct and pay discrimination filed a motion Monday asking for a judge to allow others, including Omarosa, to join her initial lawsuit filed in February. (Washington Post)

Day 841: No Rush.

1/ The House Ways and Mean Committee subpoenaed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over Trump's tax returns. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was also subpoenaed. Chairman Richard Neal gave Mnuchin and Rettig until until May 17 to turn over six years of Trump's returns, and is expected to go to court to enforce his request if the Trump administration continues to argue that the committee does not have a legitimate legislative purpose that warrants compliance. Earlier this week, Mnuchin rejected Neal's request for the returns. Trump previously vowed to fight all subpoenas from House Democrats. Subpoenas are now pending from the Ways and Means, Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, Financial Services, and the Intelligence Committees. (CNBC / New York Times / Politico / Washington Post) / Wall Street Journal)

2/ The House Judiciary Committee introduced the "No President Is Above the Law Act" that would "pause the statute of limitations for any federal offense committed by a sitting president." The move is an attempt to get around a Justice Department ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted or criminally prosecuted. Robert Mueller laid out extensive evidence of possible obstruction by Trump, but declined to exonerate Trump in his report, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. (Axios)

3/ Robert Mueller won't testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee next week, but "he will come at some point," committee chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters. The committee is still negotiating with the Justice Department for Mueller's appearance. "If it's necessary," Nadler said, "we will subpoena him and he will come." Mueller was tentatively scheduled to appear May 15th. (The Hill / Reuters)

4/ Trump escalated his trade war with China, raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and moving ahead to tax nearly all of China's imports. Trump said the move is meant to punish China for attempting to "renegotiate" a trade deal between the two countries. At one point, Trump mentioned that he received a "beautiful letter" from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who wanted to speak with him on the phone, but later said he would be more than happy to keep hitting China with tariffs. "I have no idea what's going to happen," Trump said, tweeting later that there is "no need to rush" on to securing a trade deal with China. (New York Times / NPR / Washington Post / Bloomberg)


Notables.

  1. Maria Butina denied that she tried to infiltrate U.S. conservative groups in order to promote Russian interests. She claimed she was "building peace." Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring to serve as a foreign agent inside the United States. (NPR)

  2. The House passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief package for farmers and communities hit by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters, including Puerto Rico. Trump urged House Republicans late Thursday night to vote down the bill. Instead, 30 Republicans voted in support of the bill, and the measure passed 257-150. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. North Korea's three new missiles have "Russian technology fingerprints all over" them, military experts said. The missiles reportedly bear a resemblance to the Russian-designed Iskander – a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that has been in the Russian arsenal for more than a decade. (Associated Press)

  4. A commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard rejected Trump's invitation to sit down for talks with the U.S. Trump said he would not rule out military action against Iran, but "would like to see them call me" first. Gen. Yadollah Javani responded that "there will be no negotiations with America," claiming that the U.S. wouldn't dare take military action against Iran. (Associated Press / Reuters)

  5. The Pentagon will shift $1.5 billion in funds to help pay for construction of 80 miles of wall at the U.S.-Mexican border. The funds were originally targeted for support of the Afghan security forces and other projects, and follows the Pentagon's decision in March to transfer $1 billion from Army personnel budget accounts to support wall construction. (Associated Press)

  6. The Department of Housing and Urban Development confirmed the Trump administration's plan to evict undocumented immigrants from public housing could displace more than 55,000 children. The proposed rule would make it harder for undocumented immigrants to access public housing, in order to "make certain our scarce public resources help those who are legally entitled to it," according to HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The agency's own analysis found that half of the people currently living in households facing eviction and homelessness under the new rule are children who are legally qualified for aid. (Washington Post)

  7. Rudy Giuliani is encouraging Ukraine to pursue an investigation into Joe Biden's son and his involvement in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. Trump's personal lawyer is meeting with the incoming government in Kiev to press them to try to discredit Mueller's investigation and undermine the case against Paul Manafort. "We're not meddling in an election," Giuliani said. "We're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do." (New York Times / NBC News)

Day 840: No choice.

1/ Mick Mulvaney criticized Republicans for not informing him that Trump Jr. would be subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. The acting White House chief of staff called it "bad form" to "not at least get a heads-up" from the Republican-led committee. Senator Richard Blumenthal said that "If [Trump Jr.] fails to comply with a lawful subpoena, he has no privilege, prison is the only answer." Trump Jr. is expected to assert his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination in order to resist testifying about his contacts with Russia. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / The Hill / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 839: The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony related to the Russia investigation. Trump Jr. testified before the committee in September 2017 that he was only "peripherally aware" of the proposed plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Michael Cohen, however, told a House committee earlier this year that he had met with both Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump "approximately 10" times to brief them about the Trump Tower plan. The Republican-led committee wants Trump Jr. to answer questions about his claim to have limited knowledge of the plan. (Axios / CNBC / New York Times)

2/ House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff issued a subpoena to the Justice Department for "counterintelligence and foreign intelligence" from Robert Mueller's investigation. Schiff said his committee had "no choice" but to serve the subpoena after the Justice Department "repeatedly failed to respond, refused to schedule any testimony, and provided no documents responsive to our legitimate and duly authorized oversight activities." Schiff gave Attorney General William Barr a deadline of May 15 to hand over the evidence. (Politico / CNN)

3/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed with Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler that the U.S. is in a "constitutional crisis" over the Trump administration's refusal to comply with congressional oversight, telling reporters: "The administration has decided they are not going to honor their oath of office." The House Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to recommend the House hold Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over an unredacted version of Mueller's report. Pelosi said she would bring the contempt citation to the floor for a vote of the full House "when we are ready." (New York Times / Axios)

  • Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster accused his former White House colleagues of being "a danger to the Constitution" because they're either trying to push their own agenda or see themselves as rescuing the country from Trump. (Politico)

poll/ 45% of Americans support impeaching Trump – up 5 percentage points since mid-April. 42% said Trump should not be impeached and the rest said they had no opinion. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. The White House implemented new rules that could reduce the number of journalists that hold "hard" passes, which allow them to enter the White House grounds without seeking daily permission. Journalists will be required to enter the White House grounds at least 50% of the time in the 180 days before renewal. If they fall short of this, they must apply each time they want access. (Washington Post)

  2. North Korea fired two short-range missiles – the second weapons launch in five days. They flew 43 to 125 miles before landing in the sea. (Associated Press / New York Times)

  3. The U.S. seized a North Korean ship used to sell coal in violation of American law and international sanctions hours after North Korea launched a pair of short-range missiles. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  4. Trump picked acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to take over as secretary of defense following the resignation of Jim Mattis. The nomination of the former longtime executive at Boeing had been held up by an inspector general's probe into whether he acted improperly in favor of Boeing, a major Pentagon contractor. He was recently cleared of wrongdoing, but still needs Senate confirmation. (CNBC / Politico / Bloomberg / NBC News / Washington Post)

  5. Trump joked about shooting migrants at the border during a rally in Florida. Trump was complaining that "border security people" are prohibited from shooting migrants approaching the border when he asked, "How do you stop these people?" One of his supporters shouted: "Shoot them!" Trump paused, laughed, and responded that "Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement. Only in the panhandle." (USA Today / Washington Post / CNN)

Day 839: Sport.

1/ Trump asserted executive privilege over Robert Mueller's full, unredacted report. Yesterday, Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department advised Trump to make a "protective assertion of executive privilege" in response to Democratic plans to hold Barr in contempt of Congress over his refusal to turn over Mueller's report or underlying materials to Congress. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Trump's "decision [to assert privilege] represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress's constitutionally mandated duties." The move will not have a direct impact on possible testimony from Mueller, but it could limit the scope of what he can say by putting some subjects off limits. (ABC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 838: The White House invoked executive privilege and ordered former counsel Donald McGahn not to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to Robert Mueller's investigation. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that "McGahn does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third parties" and asked that the committee instead direct the request to the White House, "because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege." Trump has also promised to assert executive privilege to block McGahn's testimony to the committee later this month. McGahn spent more than 30 hours speaking to Mueller's investigators, outlining two episodes where Trump asked him to have Mueller fired, and later asking McGahn to deny news reports about that conversation. McGahn rebuffed both requests. (CNBC / ABC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

2/ The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the full, unredacted Mueller report. "We are in a constitutional crisis,"Nadler said after the vote. "We are now in it." However, Nadler added, impeachment "may not be the best answer." The vote on contempt now heads to the full House. It is not immediately clear when that vote will be scheduled. If the full House follows the committee's recommendation, it would be the second time in American history that a sitting attorney general would be held in contempt of Congress. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNBC / Reuters)

3/ The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony related to the Russia investigation. Trump Jr. testified before the committee in September 2017 that he was only "peripherally aware" of the proposed plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Michael Cohen, however, told a House committee earlier this year that he had met with both Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump "approximately 10" times to brief them about the Trump Tower plan. The Republican-led committee wants Trump Jr. to answer questions about his claim to have limited knowledge of the plan. (Axios / CNBC / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 680: Trump Jr.'s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee conflicts with Michael Cohen's version of events regarding negotiations of a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow. In Cohen's version, he says the discussions with at least one Russian government official continued through June 2016. Trump Jr. testified in September 2017 that talks surrounding a Trump Tower in Moscow concluded without result "at the end" of 2014 and "certainly not [20]16. There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue." Trump Jr. told the Senate committee that he "wasn't involved," knew "very little," and was only "peripherally aware" of the deal other than a letter of intent was signed by Trump. He also said he didn't know that Cohen had sent an email to Putin's aide, Dmitry Peskov. In Cohen's guilty plea, he said he briefed Trump's family members about the continued negotiations. (NPR / USA Today)

  • 📌 Day 699: Newly obtained document show Trump signed a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, contradicting Rudy Giuliani's claim that the document was never signed. The signed letter is dated Oct. 28, 2015. Trump Jr. testified on Sept. 7, 2017 that his father had signed a letter of intent for the Moscow project, which Michael Cohen worked on, but he knew "very little" about it. Cohen also told congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election that Trump had signed the letter. On Sunday, Giuliani claimed: "It was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward, but no one signed it." During the 2016 campaign, Trump did not disclose that the Trump Organization explored the business deal with Russia. Instead, he repeatedly claimed he had "nothing to do with Russia." (CNN)

4/ Mueller tried to block the release of James Comey's contemporaneous memos over concerns that Trump and other witnesses could change their stories after reading them. The Justice Department asked a federal judge to keep the memos under seal around the same time Mueller's team was negotiating with Trump over a potential presidential interview. Mueller's team said it was worried that "the recollections of one witness, if disclosed to another potential witness, have the potential to [influence], advertently or inadvertently, the recollections of that witness." (CNN)

5/ Trump lost $1.17 billion between 1985 and 1994 — more than "nearly any other individual American taxpayer" during that period – according to 10 years of Trump's newly obtained tax information. Trump lost so much money during the decade in question that he was able to avoid paying any income taxes for eight of those ten years. Two years after The Art of the Deal was published, Trump reported larger financial losses than all but three other individual American taxpayers. Trump's businesses lost more than $250 million in 1990 and 1991, which were more than twice as much as the nearest taxpayers. Trump defended his "tax shelter" tactics on Twitter, calling it a "sport" to "show losses for tax purposes. […] Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!" (New York Times / CNBC)

  • 5 Takeaways From 10 Years of Trump Tax Figures. A decade of the Trump's tax returns reveal $1.17 billion in business losses. Here's what else the numbers show. (New York Times)

  • Democrats appear headed straight to court for Trump's tax returns. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday shot down the House Ways and Means Committee's request for six years' worth of Trump's personal returns. (Politico)

  • 📌 Day 54: Trump wrote off $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes in 2005. Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $150 million, an effective tax rate of 25%. By claiming losses from previous years, Trump was able to save tens of millions of dollars in taxes that he otherwise might have owed. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 621: Trump inherited his family's wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that "I built what I build myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from his parents, which helped his father claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than a $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also "earned" $200,000 a year in today's dollars starting at age 3 from his father's companies. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor's note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)

6/ The New York state Senate passed a bill that would allow Trump's state tax returns to be turned over to congressional committees. The bill would permit the state Department of Taxation and Finance commissioner to release any state tax return requested by the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation for any "specific and legitimate legislative purpose." The bill still needs to be approved by the State Assembly and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ 29% of voters approve of the way Barr handled the release of the Mueller reports. 35% said Barr has mostly worked to protect Trump while 32% said Barr has mostly tried to inform the American people. 32% were undecided. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Michael Cohen helped bury embarrassing photos of Jerry Falwell Jr. shortly before Falwell endorsed Trump in 2016. The Falwells wanted to prevent "a bunch of photographs, personal photographs" from becoming public, Cohen said during a recorded phone call with actor Tom Arnold. "I actually have one of the photos," Cohen claimed. "It's terrible." An anonymous attorney for Falwell Jr. denied Cohen's claims and insisted that "there are no compromising or embarrassing photos of Falwell, period!" (Reuters / Washington Post)

  2. The Florida Bar will investigate U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz's menacing tweet at Michael Cohen. The case against the Florida Republican stems from a tweet he directed toward Cohen on the eve of Cohen's testimony before a House committee, saying: "Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot…" (Tampa Bay Times)

  3. The House Oversight Committee threatened to withhold the salaries of employees at the Department of the Interior who prevent lawmakers from interviewing agency employees about whether Secretary David Bernhardt complied with recordkeeping laws. Committee chair Elijah Cummings issued a statement notifying the department that there would be no money available to pay the salaries of any "federal officer or employee who prevents another federal officer or employee from communicating directly with any member, committee, or subcommittee of Congress." (Politico)

  4. Trump's foreign policy officials exaggerated the military threat from Iran in order to justify the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and an Air Force bomber task force to the Gulf. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the movement was in response to "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings." But multiple sources say Bolton and other administration officials were "overreacting" to the threat. (Daily Beast)

  5. Iran will stop complying with the Iranian nuclear deal and threatened to resume enrichment of uranium in 60 days if European nations fail to negotiate new terms for the 2015 nuclear deal, which limited Iran's capacity to produce nuclear fuel for 15 years. Despite the opposition from European allies, Trump withdrew entirely from the 2015 agreement. (New York Times / Associated Press / Reuters)


🎉Celebrate Small Victories: We deserve better. [Editor's note: Super excited to announce that I've teamed up with Alison Diviney to share her Small Victories with the WTF community.]

Day 838: Privilege.

1/ The White House invoked executive privilege and ordered former counsel Donald McGahn not to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to Robert Mueller's investigation. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that "McGahn does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third parties" and asked that the committee instead direct the request to the White House, "because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege." Trump has also promised to assert executive privilege to block McGahn's testimony to the committee later this month. McGahn spent more than 30 hours speaking to Mueller's investigators, outlining two episodes where Trump asked him to have Mueller fired, and later asking McGahn to deny news reports about that conversation. McGahn rebuffed both requests. (CNBC / ABC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 819: After Trump fired James Comey, he attempted to have his White House counsel fire Mueller a month later. Trump twice told Donald McGahn to call Rosenstein and order him to fire Mueller, saying: "Mueller has to go" for alleged "conflicts that precluded him from serving as special counsel." McGahn refused, saying he did not want to repeat the "Saturday Night Massacre." McGahn then called Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff, and told him Trump had asked him to "do crazy shit." Trump later pressured McGahn to deny that he tried to fire Mueller.

  • 📌 Day 820: Trump claimed that statements about him "by certain people" in Mueller's "crazy" report are "total bullshit," made by people trying to make themselves look good and harm him. Close White House advisers said Trump's rage was aimed at former White House counsel Don McGahn, who blocked several attempts by Trump to interfere in Mueller's investigation. Trump continued tweeting: "This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…" He never finish the statement. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

2/ FBI Director Christopher Wray said he would not call the 2016 investigation into Trump's campaign advisers "spying." When asked during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing if he had "any evidence that any illegal surveillance" into the Trump 2016 campaign occurred, Wray told lawmakers that "I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort." Wray's comments are in contrast to those made by Attorney General William Barr at a Senate hearing on April 10th, where he claimed that "spying did occur, yes," calling it "a big deal." The Justice Department inspector general is expected to issue a report in the next month or two about the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign. Wray asked lawmakers to wait for the report. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 811: Barr told Congress that the government was "spying" on Trump's campaign during the 2016 election, but provided no evidence. During a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barr said that while he's not launching an investigation of the FBI or suggesting there is an "endemic" problem at the FBI, he does "think there was a failure among a group of leaders at the upper echelons." Barr went on to say that he wanted to understand if there was "unauthorized surveillance" of political figures and whether law enforcement officials had proper legal justification for the "genesis" of the counterintelligence investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / Axios)

3/ Mitch McConnell called the investigations into Trump and his 2016 campaign "case closed," despite Trump repeatedly rebuffing Democrats' requests for documents and witnesses in their multiple investigations. McConnell accused Democrats of continuing to re-litigate the presidential election, calling it a "Groundhog Day spectacle." Charles Schumer called McConnell's speech "an astounding bit of whitewashing — not unexpected but entirely unconvincing." McConnell also tried to blame Obama for failing to warn Americans about Russia's election interference ahead of the 2016 election, mocking Democrats for "abruptly awakening to the dangers of Russian aggression." McConnell, however, scuttled Obama's plans in 2016 and "dramatically watered down" a bipartisan warning to states by citing "skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House's claims." McConnell added that he was concerned Obama was playing partisan politics. (Washington Post / Vox)


Notables.

  1. Trump pardoned a former U.S. soldier who was convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner. Former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone and sentenced to 25 years in prison before his sentence was reduced to 15 years. He was paroled in 2014. Behenna admitted during his trial that instead of taking a prisoner home as ordered, Behenna took him to a railroad culvert, made him strip, questioned him at gunpoint, and then shot him because Behenna thought he might try to take his gun. Trump issued a full pardon and grant of clemency. (ABC News)

  2. China will not take part in three-way nuclear talks with the U.S. and Russia, according to a spokesperson for the Chinese government. Trump said on Friday that he had spoken with Putin and the Chinese government about a possible three-way deal. The Chinese government, however, publicly denied that it was interested in any such deal. (CNN)

  3. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will sign the state's "fetal heartbeat bill" today. Georgia's so-called "heartbeat bill" will become one the most restrictive anti-abortion access laws in the country. (CBS News)

  4. Trump's inaugural committee official disputes the White House account that she was forced out because she had profited from her role in helping organize inaugural events. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, claimed she was "thrown under the bus." Wolkoff has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating the committee's spending and fundraising. (New York Times)

  5. New York State lawmakers plan to advance a bill this week to allow congressional committees to see Trump's New York State returns. The State Senate reportedly has enough votes to pass the bill, which would allow the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by one of three congressional committees for any "specific and legitimate legislative purpose." (New York Times)

Day 837: Legitimacy.

1/ More than 370 former federal prosecutors asserted that Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he was not president. Robert Mueller declined to exonerate Trump in his report, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The former career government employees who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations signed on to a statement saying, "Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice." (Washington Post)

  • [READ] The statement by former federal prosecutors. (Medium)

  • 📌 Day 819: Mueller's office chose not to charge Trump with obstruction out of "fairness concerns," because "we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President's capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct." According to the report, Mueller considered Trump's written answers "inadequate," but knew a subpoena would impose "substantial delay" and they believed they had "sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President's testimony." Trump stated more than 30 times in his written answers that he "does not 'recall' or 'remember' or have an 'independent recollection'" of information investigators asked about. Mueller, citing numerous legal constraints in his report, declined to exonerate Trump, writing: "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment." (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump: "Bob Mueller should not testify." On Friday, Trump said he'd leave the decision on whether Mueller should testify "up to our attorney general," William Barr, who had earlier last week said he had no objection to Mueller testifying. Trump's reversal came hours after the House Judiciary Committee formally invited Mueller to testify on May 15th. The date has not yet been confirmed. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

3/ Nancy Pelosi warned that Trump might not voluntarily give up power in 2020 if he isn't defeated by a margin so "big" he cannot challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections, said "If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he's not going to respect the election. [Trump] would poison the public mind." Since winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, convened a commission to study the alleged fraud, and recently warned Republican lawmakers to be more "paranoid" about how votes are counted in 2020. And, in 2016, Trump refused to say he would accept the outcome of the election if Hillary Clinton won, saying: "I will keep you in suspense." (New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 4: Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes, according to people familiar with the meeting. Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, even while he clinched the presidency with an electoral college victory. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 112: Trump launched a commission to investigate voter fraud. The effort will be spearheaded by Mike Pence and will look into allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration in states and across the nation. Trump is expected to sign the executive order today. (Associated Press / ABC News / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 350: Trump dissolved his voter fraud commission. He blamed states for refusing to comply with the panel's requests for voter information, including birth dates and partial Social Security numbers. The commission was set up in May to investigate Trump's unfounded claims that massive voter fraud had cost him the popular vote. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 564: Documents from Trump's voter fraud commission "do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud," according to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the panel's 11 members. After reading through more than 8,000 pages of documents, Dunlap said he believed that the goal of the commission "wasn’t just a matter of investigating President Trump's claims that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally" but that it "seems to have been to validate those claims." The panel was disbanded in January, and the White House claimed at the time that despite "substantial evidence of voter fraud," the commission was shut down due to legal challenges from states. The panel never presented any findings or evidence of widespread voter fraud. Kris Kobach, the commission's vice chair, however, said at the time that the panel was shut down because "some people on the left were getting uncomfortable about how much we were finding out." (Washington Post)

4/ Trump claimed that two years of his term were "stollen" as a result of Mueller's investigation and suggested that his first term should be extended by two years. Trump retweeted conservative pundit Jerry Falwell Jr., who wrote: "I now support reparations — Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup." Trump, echoing Falwell's statements, tweeted that the Democrats "have stollen [sic] two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back." Trump later corrected his spelling, claiming that two years of his presidency had been "stolen." (Politico / CNN / Washington Post)

5/ The House Judiciary Committee took its first formal step toward holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for missing today's deadline to produce Mueller's unredacted report and the underlying evidence. Barr also skipped a hearing before the committee last week. The committee will vote at 10 a.m. on Wednesday whether to hold Barr in contempt. Hours after the committee announced the vote, the Justice Department offered to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss an "acceptable accommodation" that would potentially give more lawmakers access to a less-redacted version of the report, in addition to "possible disclosure of certain materials" cited in Mueller's report. (CNN / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)

6/ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected House Democrats' request for six years of Trump's tax returns, claiming the request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose." It's the third time Mnuchin has missed a congressional deadline to turn over the documents. Mnuchin previously called the request "unprecedented," and argued that it raised "serious constitutional issues" that could have consequences for taxpayer privacy. The power for lawmakers to seek individual tax returns was explicitly written into law in 1924. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CNN / Politico)

  • The New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and IRS for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request within the mandated time limit. In July 2018, the Treasury and the IRS released new guidance eliminating some donor disclosure requirements for non-501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups. In October, the New York and New Jersey attorneys general filed a FOIA request for information about the origins and development of the guidance. The New York and New Jersey attorneys general are asking the court to order the Treasury and the IRS to disclose all records that are relevant to the FOIA requests. (The Hill / Daily Beast / Law and Crime)

poll/ 60% of Americans say Trump has not been honest and truthful when it comes to Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. 37% say he has been honest and truthful. 42% say what they've read, heard or seen about Mueller's report doesn't clear Trump of wrongdoing, compared with 29% who say it does clear him, and another 29% who say they're unsure. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Michael Cohen reported to federal prison to begin his three-year prison sentence for tax evasion and campaign finance violations. Cohen said "There still remains much to be told and I look forward to the day where I can share the truth." (Associated Press / New York Times)

  2. The Trump administration deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East as a show of force against Iran. U.S. officials said the deployment is a response to "clear indications" that Iran and its proxies are planning an attack against U.S. forces. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. is "not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces." Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided no details or proof of Iran's actions or intentions, but Pompeo said the move was "something we’ve been working on for a little while." (ABC News / Associated Press)

  3. Trump named the former head of the Border Patrol as the new director of ICE. Mark Morgan is a former FBI agent who served as head of the Border Patrol during the final months of the Obama administration. Morgan supports Trump's call for a border wall, Trump's decision to declare a national emergency to secure funding for the wall, and the administration's proposal to take migrants caught crossing the border and drop them off in sanctuary cities. Morgan's appointment will require confirmation from the Senate. (NPR)

  4. Trump threatened to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese from 10% to 25%. The Trump administration accused China of "reneging" on its agreed to trade commitments and the tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods starting Friday. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Wall Street Journal)

  5. North Korea fired several short-range ballistic missiles. South Korea expressed concern that the launches were a violation of an inter-Korean agreement to cease all hostile acts. The missile test was North Korea's first since 2017. (Politico / CNN / New York Times)

Day 834: Sweeping and systematic.

1/ Trump discussed the "Russian Hoax" with Putin and both agreed that "there was no collusion" between Moscow and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Robert Mueller's report, however, detailed how the Russian government interfered in the 2016 race in "sweeping and systematic fashion" in order to help Trump win. Trump added that he "didn't discuss" election meddling with Putin or warn him not to meddle in the next U.S. election. Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that she was "pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of (the Mueller report's finding) long before this call took place," because it was "something we've said for the better part of two and a half years." The hour-long discussion about Mueller's report, trade, nuclear arms control, Ukraine, North Korea, and Venezuela was their first conversation since the release of Mueller's report. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / Politico / Washington Post)

2/ House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler set a Monday deadline for Attorney General William Barr to grant access to the underlying evidence in Mueller's report. If Barr fails to comply with Nadler's final "counter offer," the "committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse." Nadler told Barr that the committee was "willing to prioritize a specific, defined set of underlying investigative and evidentiary materials for immediate production," specifically citing witness interviews and the contemporaneous notes that were cited in Mueller's report. The Justice Department said earlier this week it would not comply with Nadler's subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, underlying evidence, or grand jury information. (Politico / CNN / ABC News)

3/ Trump probably won't allow former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to Congress because McGahn was already interviewed by Mueller's team. "I would say it's done," Trump told Fox News. "I've had him testifying already for 30 hours." Trump said he is concerned that allowing McGahn to testify would open the doors for Congress to call other members of his administration to appear before committees. (Reuters)

4/ The Trump administration rolled back safety rules for offshore drilling operations that were put in place after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The change is meant to ease drilling restrictions in places like the Gulf, even though oil production reached a record 1.9 million barrels per day at the end of 2018. It also reduces the required frequency of safety tests for key equipment, such as blowout preventers, a last-ditch safety measure against massive spills and "gushers." The new rule will take effect in 60 days. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. The U.S. added 263,000 new jobs in April. The unemployment rate fell to 3.6% from 3.8% – the lowest since December 1969. (CNBC)

  2. The California state Senate voted 27-10 to prevent candidates from appearing on the ballot unless they have publicly released five years of their tax returns. California will also be one of the first states to hold primary elections for the 2020 race. If the bill becomes law and Trump does not release his tax returns, he may not be on the California primary ballot. (The Hill)

  3. Michael Cohen heads to prison on Monday to begin serving his three-year sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress, and campaign finance crimes. (NBC News)

  4. John Kelly joined the board of a company that operates the largest facility for unaccompanied migrant children. Caliburn International is the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, which operates Homestead and three other shelters for unaccompanied migrant children in Texas. Prior to joining the Trump administration, Kelly had been on the board of advisors of DC Capital Partners, an investment firm that now owns Caliburn. (CBS News)

Day 833: That's a crime.

1/ Nancy Pelosi accused Attorney General William Barr of "not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States — that's a crime." At a House Appropriations Committee hearing on April 9th, Charlie Crist asked Barr if Robert Mueller's team believed he had failed to adequately represent their findings in his four-page memo. Barr responded that he was not aware of any concerns from Mueller's team. On April 10th at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Sen. Chris Van Hollen asked Barr if Mueller supported his finding that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump had obstructed justice. Barr responded: "I don't know." Mueller, however, had written Barr two weeks earlier, on March 27th, complaining that the attorney general's memo "did not fully capture the context, nature and substance" of his work. "He lied to Congress," Pelosi said. "Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general." The Justice Department called Pelosi's words "reckless, irresponsible and false." (Associated Press / Politico / CNBC / Washington Post / Washington Post / Vox)

  • 📌 Day 832: Robert Mueller twice objected to Attorney General William Barr's four-page summary to Congress, saying the memo "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusions." Barr's summary claimed that the Mueller investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government" and that Mueller "did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other —as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction." Mueller, however, sent a letter to Barr on March 27th – three days after Barr issued his summary – citing "public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation" that "threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations." Mueller asked the Justice Department to release the 448-page report's introductions and executive summaries, making some initial suggested redactions that Mueller believed would "alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation." Mueller's office first informed the Justice Department of their concerns on March 25th, the day after Barr released his summary clearing Trump of obstruction of justice. On April 9, Barr testified to Congress that Mueller declined an opportunity to review his summary of "principal conclusions." Barr also previously testified that he did not know if Mueller supported his conclusion on the question of possible obstruction. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / New York Times / Politico / CNN / The Guardian)

2/ House Democrats threatened to hold Barr in contempt of Congress after he refused to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing and ignored a subpoena deadline to hand over Mueller's full report and evidence. Barr is boycotting the hearing over the ground rules for his testimony, which allots time for attorneys from the Democratic and Republican sides of the panel to question him. Jerry Nadler said he would give Barr "one or two more days" to produce the full Mueller report before initiating contempt proceedings. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Axios / Reuters)

  • The House Judiciary Committee mocked Barr with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and an empty chair. (CNN)

3/ The White House accused Mueller's team of failing "to act as prosecutors and only as prosecutors." In an April 19th letter to Barr, White House lawyer Emmet Flood wrote that Mueller needed to "either ask the grand jury to return an indictment or decline to charge the case," despite Justice Department guidelines saying that a sitting president cannot be charged. Flood also claimed that Trump's decision allowing advisers to cooperate with Mueller's probe does not extend to congressional oversight investigations, and that Trump has the right to instruct advisers not to testify. (CNN / Reuters)

poll/ 56% of Americans saying Trump is doing a good job on the economy – a new high on his economic approval rating. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration had "no way to link" thousands of separated migrant parents and children, according to newly obtained emails from ICE and Health and Human Services officials. Officials resorted to using a spreadsheet and manually reviewing all of the records associated with the nearly 3,000 families that were separated at the border. On the same day a Health and Human Services official told ICE officials they had "no way to link" separated families, DHS issued a fact sheet claiming that the "United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families." The fact sheet also asserted that DHS had "a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children," which included "a central database which HHS and DHS can access and update." At the time, no such database existed. (NBC News)

  2. The Trump administration formally filed a request to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act, arguing in a federal appeals court filing that the legislation was unconstitutional. 21 million Americans and millions more who benefit from the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and required coverage for pregnancy, prescription drugs, and mental health. (New York Times)

  3. The Trump administration tried to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy. The administration objected "to any mention of climate change whatsoever" in a nonbinding declaration of goals and principles among the eight Arctic nations. (Washington Post)

  4. The House passed the Climate Action Now Act, which would require Trump to develop a plan for the U.S. to meet the Paris agreement goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide. The act would also block federal funds from being used to advance the formal U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 climate accord. Mitch McConnell said the Senate will not take up the legislation, dismissing the bill as "political theater" by Democrats. (Reuters)

  5. Trump won't nominate Stephen Moore for a seat on the Federal Reserve board. The news came hours after Moore said he was "all in" for the job. Trump withdrew Moore from consideration after Republican lawmakers criticized Moore's past comments about women, including that they should not earn more than men. (New York Times / Reuters / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN)

  6. At least seven foreign governments were allowed to rent condominiums in Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress. The 1982 Foreign Missions Act requires foreign governments to get State Department clearance for any purchase, lease, sale, or other use of a property in the U.S., and the emoluments clause bans U.S. officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent. (Reuters)

Day 832: "Context, nature, and substance."

1/ Robert Mueller twice objected to Attorney General William Barr's four-page summary to Congress, saying the memo "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusions." Barr's summary claimed that the Mueller investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government" and that Mueller "did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other —as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction." Mueller, however, sent a letter to Barr on March 27th – three days after Barr issued his summary – citing "public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation" that "threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations." Mueller asked the Justice Department to release the 448-page report's introductions and executive summaries, making some initial suggested redactions that Mueller believed would "alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation." Mueller's office first informed the Justice Department of their concerns on March 25th, the day after Barr released his summary clearing Trump of obstruction of justice. On April 9, Barr testified to Congress that Mueller declined an opportunity to review his summary of "principal conclusions." Barr also previously testified that he did not know if Mueller supported his conclusion on the question of possible obstruction. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / New York Times / Politico / CNN / The Guardian)

2/ Barr testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, answering questions about Mueller's report for the first time since publicly releasing a redacted version of the report. Barr blamed the media for "reading too much" into his initial summary. He insisted that he did not misrepresent Mueller's report and downplayed the significance of Mueller's multiple complaints that the summary did not capture the report's full context. Barr called Mueller's complaint letter "a bit snitty" and questioned why Mueller's team investigated instances of potential obstruction of justice if he knew he couldn't charge Trump with a crime under Justice Department restrictions. Barr, however, admitted that he had not reviewed all of the evidence before declaring it "not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense." Barr also claimed that Trump had "fully cooperated" with the investigation and that Trump's multiple attempts to remove Mueller for alleged "conflicts" were not the same as firing the special counsel and did not constitute obstruction of justice. Democrats, meanwhile, accused Barr of "purposely misleading" Congress and the public about Mueller's report. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Axios)

  • Adam Schiff called on Barr to resign. The House Intelligence chairman argued that Barr "willingly misled the Congress" during his testimony on April 9 when Barr said he wasn't aware of reports that several people on Mueller's team were frustrated with Barr's summary of the findings in the Mueller report. (CNN / Daily Beast / The Hill)

  • Barr falsely claimed that the Trump was never briefed by the FBI about the threat posed by Russia during the 2016 campaign, saying "I can't fathom why it did not happen." Sen. John Cornyn then accused Obama of failing to stop the Russian threat, claiming the Justice Department and FBI "decided to place their bets on Hillary Clinton and focus their efforts on investigating the Trump campaign." Following a break, Barr walked back his claim, saying "a security briefing that generally discusses general threats, apparently was given to the campaign in August." (Talking Points Memo / Axios)

  • 📌 Day 333: The FBI warned Trump in 2016 that Russia would try to infiltrate his campaign. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton received counterintelligence briefings by senior FBI officials, which advised them to alert the FBI to any "suspicious overtures to their campaigns." Trump was "briefed and warned" at the session about potential espionage threats from Russia. (NBC News)

  • [OPINION] James Comey on Trump influencing Barr: "He has eaten your soul." (New York Times)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee is discussing whether to hold Barr in contempt of Congress if he skips tomorrow's scheduled hearing or ignores their subpoena for Mueller's full report. The committee voted to allow staff lawyers to question Barr at Thursday's hearing. Barr has said he will not appear under that format. Barr has until the end of the day to hand over the full Mueller report. He is not expected to comply. [Breaking news… Barr declined to testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, according to a committee aide. The decision comes after Democrats on the committee demanded that Barr face questions from the committee's lawyers.] (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

4/ Mueller is reportedly willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, but the Department of Justice has "been reluctant to confirm a date." It's unclear whether Mueller's testimony about his investigation into Russian election interference and attempts by Trump to obstruct the probe would take place in public or behind closed doors. Chairman Jerry Nadler asked the Justice Department that Mueller appear for questioning no later than May 23rd. (Reuters / Daily Beast)

5/ The White House rejected the House Oversight Committee's request for documents related to the security clearance process. The committee request came following accusations that the Trump administration granted security clearances to more than two dozen officials over the objections of career officials. Chairman Elijah Cummings called the move "the latest example of the president's widespread and growing obstruction of Congress." (Politico / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 802: Senior Trump administration officials overturned and granted at least 25 security clearances – including two current senior White House officials – to people who were initially denied by career employees for "serious disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds. Tricia Newbold, a whistleblower working in the White House Personnel Security Office, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she warned her superiors that clearances "were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security." Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings said he was prepared to authorize subpoenas to compel the White House to comply with an investigation into whether national secrets were at risk. Newbold claims she was retaliated against for declining to issue security clearances, including being suspended without pay for 14 days. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Associated Press / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 805: Jared Kushner was among one of the 25 White House officials whose security clearance was initially denied but later overturned. A whistleblower in the White House's personnel security office said she and another career employee determined that Kushner had too many "significant disqualifying factors" to receive a clearance. (Washington Post)

poll/ 43% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – his highest approval level since April 2017. 52% disapprove. (CNN)

poll/ 46% of voters say that Trump's Twitter use hurts his reelection campaign while 22% say it helps his reelection efforts. 60% say Trump's use of Twitter is "a bad thing" compared to 19% who say it is "a good thing." (Politico)


Notables.

  1. A federal judge ruled that Congressional Democrats can move forward with their lawsuit against Trump alleging that his private businesses represent unconstitutional gifts or payments from foreign governments. Judge Emmet Sullivan allowed the emoluments case to move forward, refusing a request from the White House to dismiss the case under Trump's narrow definition of the word "emoluments." The case alleges that, without seeking approval from Congress, Trump received payments from foreign governments for hotel rooms and events, plus licensing fees for his show "The Apprentice" and intellectual property rights from China. (Washington Post)

  2. A bill authorizing the release of state tax returns to Congress is expected to be taken up on the floor of the New York State Senate next week. If passed, it would allow the tax commissioner to hand over any New York tax returns at the request of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation. (CNN)

  3. The White House asked Congress for $4.5 billion in emergency aid to address migrants crossing the southern border. Trump is seeking $3.3 billion in humanitarian assistance and $1.1 billion for border operations. (Politico / Washington Post)

  4. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in a British prison for jumping bail and taking refuge in Ecuador's Embassy in London seven years ago. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. The Alabama House passed a bill that would criminalize abortion. If signed into law, doctors would face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted of performing an abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman's life is threatened. The legislation is part of an anti-abortion strategy to challenge Roe v. Wade. (NPR / CNN)

  6. After the firefighters union endorsed Joe Biden, Trump fired off 59 retweets in 20 minutes from users claiming that firefighters do not support Biden. Trump called the International Association of Fire Fighters a "dues sucking union." (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 831: Meritless.

1/ The Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee are at an impasse over Attorney General William Barr's scheduled testimony. Barr is set to testify about his handling of the conclusions reached by Robert Mueller on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Thursday before the House Judiciary committee. The House hearing, however, is now in doubt over a dispute about who would question Barr. Democrats want part of the questioning be conducted by the panel's Democratic and Republican staff attorneys. Justice Department officials have threatened to cancel Barr's appearance over the proposed format. House Democratic staffers, meanwhile, have threatened to subpoena the attorney general if he refuses to appear. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler added that the Justice Department seemed to be "very afraid" to have Barr answer questions from committee staff attorneys. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Axios)

  • Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee members called on the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate Barr's handling of the Mueller report. Democrats accused Barr of misleading the public with his four-page summary of Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election before releasing the full report. "It is unclear what statute, regulation, or policy led the Attorney General to interject his own conclusion that the President’s conduct did not amount to obstruction of justice," the Democratic senators wrote. (Politico)

  • 🔍 House Committee Investigations into Trump

  • Justice Department prosecutors are trying to block Roger Stone from reviewing unredacted portions of Mueller's report before his November trial. Stone's lawyers want review pertinent sections of the report about Stone, as well as internal memos from the special counsel's office. Sections in Mueller's report were blacked-out because they could cause "harm to an ongoing matter." (CNN)

  • Prosecutors subpoenaed Randy Credico to testify against Stone. Credico is expected to highlight Stone's efforts to connect with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election about Hillary Clinton's emails, as well as Stone's alleged attempts to intimidate Credico into repeating his version of events. (Politico)

  • A federal appeals court rejected a request to reexamine the constitutionality of Mueller's appointment. Andrew Miller's attorneys tried to stop a subpoena compelling Miller to testify before a federal grand jury about Roger Stone by citing alleged flaws in Mueller's appointment. (Politico)

2/ Trump mocked national security officials preparing for Russian interference in the 2020 election. Trump suggested that "China is the only game in town" and predicted that "other countries" would try to emulate Russia's efforts. In several meetings, Trump repeatedly told advisers that Russia didn't change a single vote in 2016 – even though his advisers never suggested that Russia did. He called Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election a "goddamn hoax" and insisted that his campaign was not "hacked." Trump's reported lack of focus on election security has made it difficult for national security officials to implement a comprehensive approach to preserving the integrity of the electoral process. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blamed the Trump administration for "not forcefully and adequately responding to the attack on our democracy" that Mueller describes in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 825: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney instructed aides not to mention Russian election interference in the 2020 election in front of Trump, calling it not "a great subject" that should be kept below his level." Mulvaney reportedly "made it clear" to aides that Trump still compares discussions about Russian election meddling with "questions about the legitimacy of his victory." (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 827: FBI Director Christopher Wray: Russia "poses a very significant counterintelligence threat." Earlier this week Jared Kushner downplayed Russian interference, suggesting that the Mueller investigation was more harmful to the U.S. It was also reported this week that senior White House staff have felt "it wasn't a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the President." (CNN)

3/ The House Intelligence Committee will make a criminal referral to the Justice Department about potential false testimony by Erik Prince. Chairman Adam Schiff said "the evidence strongly suggests that [Prince] misled our committee" about a meeting in the Seychelles islands nine days before Trump took office between Prince and a Russian financier close to Putin. Prince told the committee that it was a chance meeting, but the Mueller report revealed communications showing that it was planned. Prince is the founder of private military contractor Blackwater, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and a Trump ally. (Washington Post / Axios)

  • 📌 Day 442: Robert Mueller has evidence that questions Erik Prince's congressional testimony about a chance meeting last year in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund close to Putin. George Nader, a cooperating witness with limited immunity, told investigators that he facilitated and personally attended a meeting between Prince and Dmitriev days before Trump was inaugurated. The goal of the meeting was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration. Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in November that "I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy," and the meeting with Dmitriev was unexpected. Prince founded the private military contractor Blackwater USA and is the brother of Betsy DeVos, who serves as Trump's secretary of education. As of late March, Mueller's team has not asked Prince to appear before the grand jury. (ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 483: Mueller's team is examining a series of meetings that took place in the Seychelles, which have been characterized as an attempt by the U.S. to set up a backchannel with Russia. A Russian plane, owned by Andrei Skoch, a Russian billionaire and deputy in the Russian State Duma, the country's legislative body, flew into the Seychelles a day prior to the 2017 meeting. (NJ.com)

4/ Trump, his family, and the Trump Organization are suing Deutsche Bank and Capital One to block their compliance with subpoenas from House Democrats seeking his financial records. Trump's attorneys argue that the subpoenas serve "no legitimate or lawful purpose" and were issued to harass Trump and "rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses, and the private information of the President and his family." House Democrats called it a "meritless lawsuit" that was "only designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible" in order to "obstruct Congress's constitutional oversight authority." The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Trump, Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, and the Trump Organization. Deutsche Bank and Capital One intend to begin providing documents to the House on May 6th, absent court intervention. (New York Times / Politico / Axios / CNBC / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 817: House Democrats subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for Trump's personal and financial records. Democrats also subpoenaed JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup for documents related to possible Russian money laundering. Maxine Waters said Trump's "potential use of the U.S. financial system for illicit purposes is a very serious concern" and that the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees will "follow the facts wherever they may lead us." Deutsche Bank reportedly requested a so-called "friendly subpoena" from the committees before it would comply with their request. The Trump Organization, meanwhile, said it was looking at options to block Deutsche Bank from complying with the subpoena. (New York Times / CNN / Politico / Reuters / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 825: Deutsche Bank is providing financial records to New York state's attorney general following a subpoena for documents related to loans made to Trump and the Trump Organization. The bank is turning over emails and loan documents related to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, the Trump National Doral Miami, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, and the unsuccessful effort to buy the Buffalo Bills. The New York attorney general's office opened the investigation following Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress that Trump had inflated his assets. (CNN)

5/ Trump ordered new restrictions on asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. In a memo sent to Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, and Barr, Trump ordered the development of new regulations to ban asylum seekers from obtaining work permits who crossed the border illegally, impose application fees for asylum seekers, limit access to additional relief, and more. There are more than 800,000 asylum cases pending, with an average wait time of almost two years. Trump ordered that the courts to settle all current asylum claims within 180 days. (Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / New York Times / Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration wants to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. The White House directed national security and diplomatic officials to find ways to sanction the group after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi urged Trump in a private meeting to brand the movement a terrorist organization. The designation would result in wide-ranging political and economic sanctions against the group, as well as travel restrictions on companies and individuals who interact with them. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump is consulting with his national security team and that the designation is "working its way through the internal process." (New York Times)

  2. Trump's 2020 campaign manager gave a paid speech to a room full of Romanian politicians last month. Brad Parscale's appearance doesn't break any laws as long as he doesn't do any lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of foreign clients without registering. Parscale charges $15,000 to $25,000 in speaker fees and promotes his insider's knowledge as Trump's 2016 digital media director. (Washington Post)

🎉 Good News from the Resistance: The importance of following Obama on Twitter. [Editor's note: Super excited to announce that I’ve teamed up with Marla Felcher to share her Good News from the Resistance blog with the WTF community… because we could all use some good news right now.]

Day 830: Personal conversations.

1/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned, effective May 11th. In his resignation letter to Trump, Rosenstein writes "I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations." Rosenstein's successor, Jeffrey Rosen, currently the No. 2 official at the Transportation Department, is awaiting a confirmation vote by the Senate. Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. [Breaking news… stay tuned for updates] (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / NPR)

  • 📌 Day 110: Trump fired James Comey on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions. In a letter dated Tuesday to Comey, Trump concurred "with the judgment of the Department of Justice that [Comey is not] able to effectively lead the bureau." Earlier today, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Clinton email investigation during testimony, saying that only a "small number" of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the "hundreds and thousands" he’d claimed in his testimony. The move sweeps away the man who is responsible for the investigation into whether members of Trump's campaign team colluded with Russia in its interference in last year's election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out the reasons for Comey's firing, arguing that the handling of his investigation into Clinton's private server, his decision not to recommend charges be filed, and the news conference he held to explain his reasoning were the cause of his dismissal. Democrats reacted with shock and alarm, accusing Trump of ousting the FBI director to escape scrutiny over his campaign’s Russia ties. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged deputy Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor for the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russian officials — warning that failing to do so will lead the public to “rightly suspect” that Comey’s surprise firing “was part of a cover-up.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 118: Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in election. Mueller will take command of the prosecutors and FBI agents who are working on the far reachingRussia investigation. Trump said that he expects the probe will find no collusion between his 2016 White House campaign and foreign countries, calling the Russia inquiry a “taxpayer-funded charade." (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 610: Rod Rosenstein raised the idea of wearing a wire last year to secretly record Trump in the White House and expose the chaos in the administration, according to memos written by Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director. Rosenstein also discussed recruiting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. Rosenstein called the report "inaccurate and factually incorrect," adding: "Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment." At least one person who was present for the discussions said Rosenstein was joking. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 827: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended his handling of the Russia investigation, attacked the media for how it was covered and blamed the Obama administration for not revealing "the full story" about Russia's efforts. Speaking at the Public Servants Dinner of the Armenian Bar Association, Rosenstein recalled how he had promised to "do it right" during his Senate confirmation hearing and "take it to the appropriate conclusion," while attacking what he called "mercenary critics," politicians and the news media. Rosenstein, however, also warned that hacking and social media ma­nipu­la­tion are "only the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to Russian efforts to influence American elections. (NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

2/ Jerry Nadler threatened to subpoena Attorney General William Barr if he refuses to testify about the Mueller report before the House Judiciary Committee this week. Barr disagrees with the committee's proposed format and has threatened to skip the hearing if Democrats don't change the terms of his appearance, which Nadler said the committee has no plans to do. If Barr doesn't appear, "we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena." (New York Times / CNN / Politico)

3/ Trump accused the New York attorney general's office of "illegally" investigating the NRA after it opened an investigation into potential financial and disclosure misconduct by the gun rights group. The probe was launched after NRA President Oliver North accused Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer, of financial misconduct, including the improper use of $200,000 of NRA funds to purchase clothing from an NRA vendor. Trump encouraged the NRA to "get its act together quickly" because it's a "very important organization" that is "under siege" by Democrats. (CNN / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

4/ A pair of legal watchdog organizations are suing the FEC for failing to act on complaints that claim the NRA illegally coordinated with the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates in recent elections. The gun-control group Giffords, along with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center Action, allege that the FEC missed a 120-day deadline to act on four complaints brought by the groups, which claim that the NRA skirted contribution limits to provide unfair advantages to Trump and other GOP candidates. (CNN / ABC News)

5/ A gunman yelling anti-Semitic slurs armed with a semiautomatic rifle opened fire on a synagogue in California, killing one person and injuring three. The shooting is being investigated as a possible homicide, hate crime and federal civil rights violation. John Earnest reportedly posted a manifesto full of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views and claiming responsibility before the shooting on the online message board 8chan. Trump offered his condolences to members of the synagogue, saying Americans "forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate." (Los Angeles Times / NPR / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 803: The Department of Homeland Security quietly disbanded its domestic terrorism unit last year, saying that the threat of "homegrown violent extremism and domestic terrorism," including the threat from white supremacists, has been "significantly reduced." The branch of analysts in DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis were reassigned to new positions. (Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 827: Trump defended his 2017 comment that there were "very fine people on both sides" of the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, in which an avowed neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of protesters, killing a woman and injuring dozens of others. At the time, Trump condemned what happened "on many sides," arguing there were "very fine people on both sides" of the incident. Now, nearly two years later, Trump stands by his statement, claiming that he answered questions about the incident in Charlottesville "perfectly." Trump's comments came a day after Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign with a video comparing the violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville to Trump's response. The "Unite the Right" rally was organized by self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer. (Washington Post / Politico / CBS News / Bloomberg / CNN)

poll/ 55% of Americans say they "definitely would not" vote for Trump in the 2020 election, while 28% definitely would and another 14% would consider him for a second term. Trump won 46.1% of the popular vote compared to Hillary Clinton's 48.2% in 2016. 75% of Americans, and 85% of registered voters, say they're certain to vote in the 2020 election. (ABC News)

poll/ 42% of voters say Trump's handling of the economy makes them more likely to vote for him in 2020, while 32% say it makes them less likely to support him. (Washington Post)

poll/ 43% of Americans say they have either benefited a great deal or some from recent growth in the U.S. economy. 54%, however, say they have either not been helped much or not at all from the nation's growing economy. (Monmouth)


Notables.

  1. Steven Mnuchin: Trade talks between the United States and China are "getting to the final laps." Mnuchin is traveling to China today with Trump's top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, to try to resolve the remaining disagreements between the two countries. Chinese officials are expected to come to the U.S. on May 8 to hammer out the final details and possibly conclude the negotiations. (New York Times)

  2. Mitch McConnell signed a T-shirt joking about the death of former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. The T-shirt shows Garland's face surrounded by the dates 3/16/16 and 1/3/17, with the caption "gone but not forgotten." (Daily Beast)

  3. The White House is reviewing past writings by Trump's potential nominee to the Federal Reserve Board. Stephen Moore wrote a column for the National Review in 2014, saying women earning more than men "could be disruptive to family stability." (New York Times)

  4. Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading statements since taking office. Trump reached 5,000 claims on day 601 of his presidency, but he reached the 10,000 mark just 226 days later. Trump averaged nearly 23 false or misleading claims per day during that seven-month period. As of April 27, the tally stood at 10,111 false or misleading claims in just 828 days. (Washington Post)

Day 827: Defensive.

1/ Trump defended his 2017 comment that there were "very fine people on both sides" of the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, in which an avowed neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of protesters, killing a woman and injuring dozens of others. At the time, Trump condemned what happened "on many sides," arguing there were "very fine people on both sides" of the incident. Now, nearly two years later, Trump stands by his statement, claiming that he answered questions about the incident in Charlottesville "perfectly." Trump's comments came a day after Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign with a video comparing the violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville to Trump's response. The "Unite the Right" rally was organized by self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer. (Washington Post / Politico / CBS News / Bloomberg / CNN)

[ANALYSIS] Trump tried to re-write his own history on Charlottesville and "both sides." But some Trump supporters — and now Trump himself — have argued that he was taken out of context. They say he wasn't referring to neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists when he referred to "very fine people" on both sides, but rather some other people who shared their cause of saving a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. (Washington Post)

  • Trumps advisers: Biden poses the biggest threat to Trump's re-election. (Politico)

  • A Fox News reporter called out two of his colleagues for sounding "like a White Supremacist chat room" when they attempted to defend Trump's "both sides" comment about white supremacists in Charlottesville. (Daily Beast)

2/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended his handling of the Russia investigation, attacked the media for how it was covered and blamed the Obama administration for not revealing "the full story" about Russia's efforts. Speaking at the Public Servants Dinner of the Armenian Bar Association, Rosenstein recalled how he had promised to "do it right" during his Senate confirmation hearing and "take it to the appropriate conclusion," while attacking what he called "mercenary critics," politicians and the news media. Rosenstein, however, also warned that hacking and social media ma­nipu­la­tion are "only the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to Russian efforts to influence American elections. (NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray: Russia "poses a very significant counterintelligence threat." Earlier this week Jared Kushner downplayed Russian interference, suggesting that the Mueller investigation was more harmful to the U.S. It was also reported this week that senior White House staff have felt "it wasn't a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the President." (CNN)

3/ Trump called the Russia investigation "an attempted overthrow of the United States government," claiming "this was a coup." In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump complained that Mueller and his team had gone "hog wild to find something about the administration which obviously wasn't there" and had spent the last two years "ruining [the] lives" of people associated with his 2016 campaign. Trump called the special counsel investigation "far bigger than Watergate" and "possibly the biggest scandal in political history," characterizing the investigation as a "one-sided witch hunt" by "angry Democrats" who are "very serious Trump haters." He warned that some people involved in the investigation should be "very nervous." (Politico / CNN / Vox)

4/ Russian agent Maria Butina was sentenced to 18-months in prison for conspiring to act as a foreign agent. Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with then-Russian Central Bank official Alexander Torshin to gain access to the National Rifle Association and other groups since 2015. The Justice Department recommended an 18-month sentence, citing "substantial assistance" that Butina provided to investigators. She will be deported to Russia after her prison term ends. (Daily Beast / New York Times / Washington Post / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 56% of Americans oppose starting impeachment proceedings against Trump following Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 37% support starting the process. Among Democrats, 62% support Congress beginning impeachment proceedings, while 87% of Republicans are opposed. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration identify all of the migrant children separated from their parents at the border. The judge gave the administration six months to figure it out. (NPR)

  2. The Pentagon is preparing to expand the military's involvement in Trump's operation along the southern border by changing rules that prevent troops from interacting with migrants entering the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security requested that the Defense Department provide military lawyers, cooks and drivers to assist with handling migrants along the southern border. (Washington Post)

  3. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly threatened to jail White House officials who refuse to comply with oversight or testimony requests from congressional committees. Connolly sits on the House Oversight Committee, and warned that the committee would use "any and all power in our command" to ensure compliance with its requests and subpoenas, "whether that's a contempt citation, whether that's going to court and getting that citation enforced, whether it's fines, whether it's possible incarceration." (CNN)

  4. The White House is calling on key Republicans in Congress to raise the debt ceiling in order to avoid a budget impasse that could damage the economy later in the year. (Washington Post)

  5. Trump denied that the U.S. paid North Korea in exchange for the return of Otto Warmbier, disputing the report that he approved a $2 million payment to Pyongyang. North Korea sent the Treasury Department a bill for $2 million, which remained unpaid through 2017. It's unclear whether Trump ever paid the invoice. (Reuters)

  6. Trump now says children "have to get their shots" because "vaccinations are so important." In 2015, Trump erroneously linked autism to vaccines, and during the presidential transition in 2017, Trump asked Robert Kennedy Jr. to lead a commission on "vaccination safety and scientific integrity." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that measles cases had surpassed the highest number on record since the disease was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000. (NBC News / CNN)

Day 826: Inherent contempt.

1/ The White House rejected a House Oversight Committee request for Stephen Miller to testify about his role in Trump's immigration policies, including a plan to bus migrants to "sanctuary cities." White House counsel Pat Cipollone said blocking Miller from appearing before the committee follows "long-standing precedent" established by previous administrations. Cipollone said Cabinet secretaries and other executive branch officials would instead provide "reasonable accommodation" for requests and questions from the committee on immigration policy issues. (CNN / Politico / ABC News)

2/ House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler suggested fining officials personally for noncompliance with congressional subpoenas. In order to do so, the House would need to vote on a new rule to allow it to fine people outside the court system. The House could also vote to hold officials in contempt or sue to enforce the subpoena in court, which could take months or years. This week alone the White House directed a former personnel security official to not appear at a scheduled House Oversight Committee deposition, blocked former White House counsel Donald McGahn from testifying to the House Judiciary Committee, and the Justice Department ignored a subpoena from the Oversight Committee for testimony about the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Treasury Department also ignored the House's deadline to turn Trump's tax returns over to the Ways and Means Committee, and Trump sued to block a subpoena of his accounting firm. (Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios)

3/ Trump claimed he never told Donald McGahn to fire Robert Mueller weeks after he was appointed in 2017, "even though I had the legal right to do so." The statement runs counter to Mueller's report, which detailed "McGahn's clear recollection" of two phone calls in June 2017, where Trump "directed [McGahn] to call" Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and have Mueller "removed" because he "has to go." Trump also urged McGahn to dispute media reports that he had attempted to fire Mueller. (NBC News / Reuters)

4/ Trump's re-election campaign refused to rule out using hacked information. The Democratic National Committee and the party's 2020 candidates, meanwhile, have pledged not to use illegally obtained information to their advantage. Mueller's report outlined how the Russian government interfered in the 2016 race in "sweeping and systematic fashion" in order to help Trump win, and that the Trump team expected to "benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts." (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump tried multiple times to get Jeff Sessions to "unrecuse" himself and re-open an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, according to the Mueller report. No evidence has emerged showing that Sessions ever acted on any of Trump's requests to have Clinton's case reopened. The first instance was in mid-2017 when Trump called Sessions at home and asked him to unrecuse himself from "all of it" and go after Clinton. The second instance was after a cabinet meeting in December 2017. Trump pulled Sessions aside and said, "I don't know if you could unrecuse yourself. You'd be a hero. Not telling you to do anything." (New York Times)

  2. Joe Biden is officially running for president. Biden made the announcement in a video posted online, in which he criticizes Trump's handling of the white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, VA and warns that "We are in the battle for the soul of this nation." He is currently leading in the polls among Democratic primary voters. (NBC News / CBS News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. Trump agreed to pay North Korea $2 million for Otto Warmbier, the college student who was a prisoner in Pyongyang. Before releasing the comatose Warmbier in 2017, North Korea insisted that the U.S. sign a pledge to pay the bill. The bill was sent to the Treasury Department, but it's unclear whether the Trump administration ever paid the bill. In September 2018, Trump claimed his administration paid "nothing" to get "hostages" out of North Korea. (Washington Post / CNN)

  4. Sarah Huckabee Sanders held her first press briefing in 46 days. It was for children, mostly off the record, and lasted about 28 minutes. Since Nov. 1st, Sanders has held three briefings. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

Day 825: Transparency.

1/ Trump: "We're fighting all the subpoenas" by House Democrats. "Subpoenas are ridiculous," Trump said, claiming "I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of our country by far." House Democratic leaders have issued dozens of requests for information or cooperation from Trump, his administration and his associates. Trump has blocked his administration from cooperating with requests for his tax returns, information about White House security clearances, the 2020 census, and more. (CNBC / Politico / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump will oppose requests for current and former White House aides to testify to Congress, saying there is "no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it's very partisan – obviously very partisan." White House lawyers plan to assert executive privilege over testimony by Trump administration witnesses called by the House to try and block their congressional testimony. Trump confusingly tweeted "I didn't call [the reporter at] the Washington Post, he called me (Returned his call)!" (Washington Post)

  • Trump's recent tweets and public statements are potentially exposing him to new charges of witness intimidation, obstruction of justice and impeding a congressional investigation, according to Democrats and legal experts. (Politico)

3/ The White House is trying to block a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee to former White House counsel Don McGahn for testimony about the Mueller report. McGahn was mentioned more than 150 times in Mueller's report, telling investigators about how Trump pressured him to have Mueller fired and then urged McGahn to publicly deny the episode. The subpoena set a May 7th deadline for documents and a May 21st deadline for McGahn to testify before the committee. Jerry Nadler called the White House's effort to block the subpoena "one more act of obstruction by an administration desperate to prevent the public from talking about the president's behavior." Trump has reportedly told advisers that McGahn was disloyal to him, in part because of McGahn's notes from meetings were cited in Mueller's report. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

4/ The Justice Department refused to comply with a congressional subpoena for a Trump administration official to testify about the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The House Oversight and Reform Committee is investigating the addition of the citizenship question despite evidence that it could lead to millions of people being undercounted. John Gore's refusal to appear before the committee is at the direction of Attorney General William Barr. Gore is the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • Trump defended the addition of the citizenship question on the 2020 census, saying "the American people deserve to know who is in this country." The Commerce Department, however, has repeatedly claimed the question would be added as part of an effort to better protect voting rights. (Politico)

5/ Trump, claiming he "DID NOTHING WRONG," plans to "head to the U.S. Supreme Court" if Democrats "ever tried to Impeach." The Supreme Court, however, ruled unanimously in 1993 that authority for impeachment resides in Congress and "nowhere else." According to the Constitution, the House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment" and the Senate "shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." (Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney instructed aides not to mention Russian election interference in the 2020 election in front of Trump, calling it not "a great subject" that should be kept below his level." Mulvaney reportedly "made it clear" to aides that Trump still compares discussions about Russian election meddling with "questions about the legitimacy of his victory." (New York Times)

  2. Mulvaney claimed he doesn't remember telling staffers not to mention election security to Trump. "I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting," Mulvaney said in a statement. (Politico)

  3. The Justice Department contradicted Jared Kushner's characterization that Russia's influence campaign in the U.S. was limited to "buying some Facebook ads and trying to sow dissent." The filing describes how the actions of Russian spy Maria Butina contained all the markings of a sophisticated intelligence operation. The filing also argues that it doesn't take a master spy for such an operation to have a significant impact. (Politico)

  4. Deutsche Bank is providing financial records to New York state's attorney general following a subpoena for documents related to loans made to Trump and the Trump Organization. The bank is turning over emails and loan documents related to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, the Trump National Doral Miami, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, and the unsuccessful effort to buy the Buffalo Bills. The New York attorney general's office opened the investigation following Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress that Trump had inflated his assets. (CNN)

  5. Cohen claimed he wasn't actually guilty of some crimes he pleaded guilty to, saying "there is no tax evasion […] it's a lie." Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of evading personal income taxes and one count of understating his debt and expenses in an application for a home-equity line of credit. Cohen begins a three-year prison term on May 6th. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. Trump contradicted the Defense Department, claiming that Mexican troops "probably" drew guns on U.S. soldiers at the border as a "diversionary tactic for drug smugglers." The U.S. military, however, said the incident "was an honest mistake by the Mexican soldiers," because U.S. soldiers "were south of the border fence," but "north of the actual border." (Washington Post)

  7. Twitter suspended more than 5,000 pro-Trump bot accounts for "platform manipulation." The accounts were connected to a network that is focused on denouncing the Mueller report as a "hoax." They were also connected to other accounts that have been used to spread pro-Saudi messaging on the platform. An investigation into the network is ongoing but it's still unclear who is behind the campaign. (Ars Technica)

  8. Trump accused Twitter of deliberately tampering with his followers during a private meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. According to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation, Dorsey explained that follower counts fluctuate as the company enforced policies and removed fraudulent spam accounts. (Washington Post)

Day 824: Defiant.

1/ The White House instructed a former security clearance official not to comply with a subpoena to testify before the House Oversight Committee. Carl Kline, former White House personnel security director, was responsible for the Trump administration's security clearance process. He oversaw the approval of at least 25 people for security clearances despite serious concerns raised during the vetting process. Trump's deputy counsel argued in a letter that the subpoena by the committee "unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests." Kline's attorney, meanwhile, said Kline is being forced to choose between "two masters from two equal branches of government," and that Kline intends to "follow the instructions of the one that employs him." (CNN / Axios / Daily Beast)

2/ The House Oversight Committee moved to hold the former White House personnel security director in contempt of Congress for failing to appear at a hearing investigating lapses in White House security clearance procedures. Kline is accused of overriding career national security officials to approve security clearances for officials whose applications were initially denied. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the committee, said "The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump." (Politico / Washington Post)

3/ The Treasury Department missed the House Ways and Means Committee deadline to turn over six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns. Earlier in the day, the White House indicated that Trump was "not inclined" to hand over his tax returns and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration will make a "final decision" by May 6 on whether to turn over Trump's tax returns. Earlier this month, Mnuchin said "the Treasury Department will not be able to complete its review" by the deadline, due to the "unprecedented nature of this request." (CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / HuffPost / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 784: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that he would protect Trump's privacy if House Democrats request Trump's tax returns, saying: "We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer" regarding their right to privacy. Mnuchin said he "can't speculate" on how the administration will respond to demands for Trump's tax returns until it sees the request. House Democrats are preparing to ask the IRS for 10 years of Trump's personal tax returns under under a 1924 provision that requires the Treasury secretary to "furnish" any individual's tax return information to the House and Senate tax-writing committees. (Associated Press / ABC News / Politico / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 806: Trump's lawyers asked the IRS chief counsel's office to reject House Democrats' request for six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns, saying "it would set a dangerous precedent." Trump's lawyers sent a letter to the IRS counsel's office responsible for responding to the request, calling the request a "gross abuse of power" and that Democrats do not have a "legitimate committee purpose" for obtaining the tax returns. An administration official also said Trump is willing to fight the House Ways and Means Committee request to the Supreme Court. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 812: The Treasure Department missed the deadline set by Democrats to hand over Trump's tax returns. In a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he has "serious issues" with the request for six years of Trump's personal and some business returns. Mnuchin added that he was consulting with the Justice Department as to the "constitutional scope" and "legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose" of the request. Hours earlier, Trump flatly rejected the request for his tax returns, telling reporters: "I won't do it." The issue could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. (Politico / Vox / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Jared Kushner claimed – without evidence – that Robert Mueller's investigation was "way more harmful" than Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Kushner claimed Mueller's investigation had a "much harsher impact on our democracy" on the U.S. than "a couple Facebook ads" intended "to sow discontent." Mueller's report concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election "in sweeping and systematic fashion," intended to favor Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. Kushner called the idea that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government "nonsense." Mueller, however, "identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign." (Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / Washington Post / Axios)

  • The Democratic National Committee pledged not to use hacked emails or stolen data in the 2020 presidential election. Chairman Tom Perez challenged the RNC to make the same commitment. (Politico)

  • Paul Manafort is now in federal prison, serving his 7.5 year sentence at a minimum-security facility outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. (NBC News)

5/ The Supreme Court's conservative majority signaled it would allow the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The census hasn't asked a citizenship question since 1950 and lower courts have blocked the question, ruling that the Trump administration violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution by seeking to include it on the census form. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, however, directed most of their questions during arguments to the lawyers challenging the decision to ask about citizenship. Courts have found that several states could lose seats in the House, as well as federal money. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters)

poll/ 39% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president – down from 44% last week and ties Trump's lowest-ever approval. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Interior Department's Inspector General opened an investigation into whether six of Trump's appointees violated federal ethics rules. The inspector general's office opened the investigation following a complaint that the appointees discussed policy matters with their former employers or clients. (Washington Post)

  2. Oil prices jumped to a six-month high after the White House decided not to renew waivers for countries to buy Iranian oil despite U.S. sanctions. China, India, Turkey, and other countries who import Iranian oil will now face sanctions if they continue to purchase oil from Iran, OPEC's fourth-largest producer, after the waivers are lifted on May 1st. (Bloomberg / Business Insider)

  3. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to name a new settlement in the Golan Heights after Trump. Netanyahu said there was a "need to express our appreciation" to Trump for officially recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the illegally occupied territory last month. (Politico)

  4. Joe Biden announced he'll announce his plans to run for president in 2020. Biden will officially enter the race on Thursday with an online video, followed by a campaign event in Pittsburgh on Monday. (CNN)

  5. Trump spent the last 24-hours tweeting or retweeting more than 50 times. Trump demanded an apology from The New York Times, complained he doesn't get enough credit for the economy, claimed Twitter discriminates against him, and attacked the "Radical Left Democrats." He offered no evidence to substantiate his various claims. (Politico)

  6. Trump ordered administration officials to boycott the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. Trump's reversal of previous White House guidance allowing aides to attend Saturday's event came after his Twitter temper tantrum. (Politico)

Day 823: Weapon of choice.

1/ Trump and the Trump Organization sued Democratic House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings to block a subpoena seeking information about his finances. The committee subpoenaed Mazars USA, Trump's longtime accountant, for 10 years' worth of Trump's financial records after the firm requested a so-called "friendly subpoena." Trump's lawyers complained that Democrats have "declared all-out political war" against him, with subpoenas as their "weapon of choice." (CNBC / Politico / Washington Post / CNN) / Axios)

2/ Rudy Giuliani defended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, saying "there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians." When asked whether it's "okay" to use information stolen by a foreign adversary in service of a presidential candidacy, Giuliani said "it depends on the stolen material." He then added that Russia "shouldn't have stolen it, but the American people were just given more information." (Daily Beast / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn as part of its investigation into obstruction of justice. The subpoena demands that McGahn testify before the committee on May 21st and provide documents on three-dozen topics by May 7th. The committee previously served the Justice Department with a subpoena for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence, demanding the documents by May 1st. (CNN / CNBC)

4/ The Trump campaign hired a new in-house attorney for 2020, shifting its business from McGahn's law firm, Jones Day, that represented Trump since his run for president. McGahn told Robert Mueller's investigators that Trump directed him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and tell him to fire Mueller. McGahn refused. "Why in the world would you want to put your enemy on the payroll?" one adviser close to the White House said. "They do not want to reward [McGahn's] firm." (Politico / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 820: Trump claimed that statements about him "by certain people" in Mueller's "crazy" report are "total bullshit," made by people trying to make themselves look good and harm him. Close White House advisers said Trump's rage was aimed at former White House counsel Don McGahn, who blocked several attempts by Trump to interfere in Mueller's investigation. Trump continued tweeting: "This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…" He never finish the statement. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Trump claimed that "nobody disobeys my orders." Mueller's report, however, repeatedly depicts Trump's multiple "efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests." (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 820: Eight key figures resisted Trump at critical moments: Jeff Sessions refused to unrecuse himself after Trump repeatedly bullied him privately and publicly. White House counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Rick Dearborn, who worked for Sessions in the Senate, refused to relay Trump's message for Sessions to limit Mueller's jurisdiction to future election interference, rather than look backward on the 2016 election. Staff Secretary Rob Porter refused Trump's request to call Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand in an attempt "to find someone to end the Russia investigation or fire the Special Counsel." Chris Christie refused to "call [James] Comey and tell him that the President 'really like[s] him. Tell him he's part of the team.'" Rod Rosenstein refused to put out a statement saying it was his idea to fire Comey. K.T. McFarland refused to "draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct [Michael] Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions." Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wouldn't put out a statement saying no link existed between Trump and Russia. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump also claimed that Democrats "can't impeach" him, because "only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment" and that "there were no crimes by me." Mueller's investigators found that there was "insufficient evidence" to establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and their contacts with Russians. Mueller also examined 10 "episodes" where Trump may have obstructed justice, but that Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "disagreed with some of Mueller's legal theories and felt that some of the episodes did not amount to obstruction." Mueller found, in part, that those attempts were unsuccessful, because Trump's subordinates refused to carry out his orders. (CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 819: Mueller's office chose not to charge Trump with obstruction out of "fairness concerns," because "we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President's capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct." According to the report, Mueller considered Trump's written answers "inadequate," but knew a subpoena would impose "substantial delay" and they believed they had "sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President's testimony." Trump stated more than 30 times in his written answers that he "does not 'recall' or 'remember' or have an 'independent recollection'" of information investigators asked about. Mueller, citing numerous legal constraints in his report, declined to exonerate Trump, writing: "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment." (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "It is clear that [Trump] has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds." Pelosi, however, noted that "it is … important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings." (Politico / Associated Press / Washington Post)

poll/ 37% of Americans approved of Trump's job performance – down 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of Mueller's report detailing Russian interference in the presidential election. 50% agreed that "Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election," and 58% agreed that Trump "tried to stop investigations into Russian influence on his administration." 40% said they thought Trump should be impeached, while 42% said he should not. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court will decide whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, agreeing to take up three cases involving sexual orientation in the workplace. The set of cases include a transgender funeral home director who won her case after being fired; a gay skydiving instructor who successfully challenged his dismissal; and a social worker who was unable to convince a court that he was unlawfully terminated because of his sexual orientation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. It does not explicitly apply to LGBT individuals. The cases are expected to be argued in the fall. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / NBC News)

  2. The State Department will end waivers for countries importing Iranian oil as part of an effort to cut off of Iranian oil exports. China, India and Turkey are among Iran's top customers. The Trump administration said it was working with top oil exporters Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure the oil market was "adequately supplied." The United States decided to leave the Iran nuclear deal about a year ago. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Reuters)

  3. The FBI arrested the leader of a militia group accused of illegally stopping migrants after they crossed the southern U.S. border. Larry Hopkins is the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots. He was arrested in New Mexico on federal charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. (Reuters / Vox)

  4. Herman Cain withdrew himself from consideration for the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. Cain ended his campaign after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed several women while he was running Godfather's Pizza in the 1990s, and that he had an extramarital affair. Cain denied the allegations, and Trump called them an "unfair witch hunt." Trump announced Cain's decision to withdraw, calling him "a truly wonderful man." (NBC News / Axios / Washington Post / CNBC)

  5. Stephen Moore wrote in March 2002 that there should be "no more women refs, no women announcers, no women beer venders, no women anything" at men's college basketball games. Moore is one of Trump's picks to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. (CNN)

  6. Sears named Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a lawsuit against the company's former CEO. The lawsuit alleges that Mnuchin assisted Edward Lampert in stripping the retailer of more than $2 billion in assets. (Politico)

  7. Trump's tariffs raised the cost of washing machines by about $86 per unit last year and clothes dryers by $92, according to research from the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve. The tariffs created roughly 1,800 new U.S. manufacturing jobs, but each new job cost about $817,000. (New York Times)

  8. Trump exaggerated that the Sri Lanka terror attacks "killed at least 138 million people and badly injured 600 more." The population of Sri Lanka is around 22 million. Trump later deleted the incorrect tweet. Explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killed 290 people and injured more than 500. (Washington Post)

Day 820: Total bullshit.

1/ The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for access to Robert Mueller's full report, including grand jury testimony and other material not made public. "My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice," Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement. He added that the redactions in Mueller's report "appear to be significant." Nadler gave the Justice Department a May 1st deadline to provide the report and "all documents obtained and investigative materials created by the Special Counsel's Office." Attorney General William Barr will testify to the House Judiciary Committee on May 2nd. (NPR / Bloomberg / NBC News / New York Times / Politico / The Guardian)

2/ The White House called the House Democrat subpoena for the unredacted version of Mueller's report "more political grandstanding." Meanwhile, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of issuing a "wildly overbroad" subpoena to Barr. (Washington Post)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department to allow Mueller to testify next month. Nadler said he wants Mueller to testify "no later than May 23." Barr said he has no objection to Mueller testifying before Congress. (Politico / CNBC)

4/ Trump claimed that statements about him "by certain people" in Mueller's "crazy" report are "total bullshit," made by people trying to make themselves look good and harm him. Close White House advisers said Trump's rage was aimed at former White House counsel Don McGahn, who blocked several attempts by Trump to interfere in Mueller's investigation. Trump continued tweeting: "This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…" He never finish the statement. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed the Mueller report contains "no evidence substantiated by any facts" that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and that Moscow rejects any such accusations. Peskov also claimed that Putin has repeatedly denied any interference "because there was none." Mueller's report, however, documents multiple efforts by the Russians to meddle in the election. (Politico / NBC News)

6/ A militia group in New Mexico has been detaining groups of migrant families at gunpoint and then handing them over to Border Patrol. Several videos taken at the border appeared to a group of men from the United Constitutional Patriots approaching migrants, ordering them to sit down, and calling federal agents on them. At one point, they misrepresented themselves by saying they were "border patrol" as they approached. The ACLU called the group "an armed fascist militia organization" made up of "vigilantes" trying to "kidnap and detain people seeking asylum" by making illegal arrests. (New York Times / The Guardian)


👀 Portrait mode.

A collection of in-depth reporting on the Mueller report with all the context you need to understand wtf just happened. If you don't know where to start with the Mueller report, start here.

  1. The White House emerged from more than 400 pages of Mueller's report to a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty — defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff, then tries to get his aides to lie for him. Trump repeatedly threatened to fire lieutenants who did not carry out his wishes while they repeatedly threatened to resign rather than cross lines of propriety or law. (New York Times)

  2. The portrait painted by Mueller is one in which, again and again, Russian officials and busi­ness executives offered assistance to Trump and the people around him. The campaign was intrigued by the Russian overtures, which came at the same time that the Russian government was seeking to tilt the outcome of the race in Trump's favor. (Washington Post)

  3. The most concrete takeaway from the Mueller report is its damning portrait of the Trump White House as a place of chaos, intrigue and deception, where aides routinely disregard the wishes of a president with little regard for the traditional boundaries of his office. (Politico)

  4. Mueller's report documented Trump's obsession with an investigation he believed could ruin him, eagerness to test the limits of the law to stop it, and willingness to mislead the nation to cover his actions. The report shows Trump's attempts to conceal his behavior and suppress the probe, showing that his actions and words left some top administration officials and White House attorneys deeply alarmed, adding to drama and deception in the West Wing. (Bloomberg)

  5. Mueller's report is of a presidency plagued by paranoia, insecurity and scheming — and of an inner circle gripped by fear of Trump's spasms. Again and again, Trump frantically pressured his aides to lie to the public, deny true news stories and fabricate a false record. (Washington Post)

  6. The Mueller report showed Trump unwilling to take on tough tasks, deal with personnel moves, follow-through to execute his decisions, and an indifference to fact. (Wall Street Journal)

  7. Trump evaded criminal charges, but Mueller's report is an indictment of his campaign and his presidency. The report details how Trump and his allies solicited, encouraged, accepted and benefited from Russian assistance, and then lays out evidence that Trump may have obstructed justice through what Mueller described as a "pattern of conduct" that included firing James Comey, trying to remove Mueller, publicly praising and condemning witnesses, and seeking to limit the scope of the probe. The report also made clear why Mueller didn't pursue charges and why contacts with Russians by the Trump campaign didn't amount to a criminal conspiracy. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

👑 Portrait of a President: An on-going list of various articles and essays to make sense of Trump. Curated by the WTFJHT community!


🔦 What we've learned from the Mueller report.

Clarifying news and events that emerged from the Mueller report.

  1. Putin convened a meeting with Russian oligarchs after Trump was elected, encouraging them to make contact with the Trump transition team and establish backchannel communications. U.S. sanctions against Russia was one of the main issues at hand for Putin and his gathering of oligarchs. The Mueller report didn't establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but it did reveal how important it was to Putin to set up a line of communication, and how receptive members of the Trump's inner circle were to Putin's overtures. (Politico)

  2. Eight key figures resisted Trump at critical moments: Jeff Sessions refused to unrecuse himself after Trump repeatedly bullied him privately and publicly. White House counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Rick Dearborn, who worked for Sessions in the Senate, refused to relay Trump's message for Sessions to limit Mueller's jurisdiction to future election interference, rather than look backward on the 2016 election. Staff Secretary Rob Porter refused Trump's request to call Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand in an attempt "to find someone to end the Russia investigation or fire the Special Counsel." Chris Christie refused to "call [James] Comey and tell him that the President 'really like[s] him. Tell him he's part of the team.'" Rod Rosenstein refused to put out a statement saying it was his idea to fire Comey. K.T. McFarland refused to "draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct [Michael] Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions." Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wouldn't put out a statement saying no link existed between Trump and Russia. (Washington Post)

  3. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Mueller's investigators that she lied to the American public that "countless" FBI agents told her they were thankful that Trump fired James Comey. Sanders, who made similar claims on multiple occasions, told Mueller's office that she simply made "a slip of the tongue" and the claim was made "in the heat of the moment," and that it "was not founded on anything." When asked about it , Sanders tried to avoid admitting that she lied saying, "I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democrat Party." (CBS News / CNN / NBC News / Daily Beast / The Guardian / Politico)

  4. Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos, helped finance the effort to obtain Hillary Clinton's deleted emails in 2016. After Trump privately asked Michael Flynn and other campaign officials to obtain the deleted emails, Flynn reached out to Barbara Ledeen, a onetime GOP staffer on Capitol Hill, for help. In September 2016, Ledeen claimed to have actually received "a trove of emails" that belonged to Clinton, but wanted to authenticate the. Prince then "provided funding to hire a tech advisor to ascertain the authenticity of the emails." (CNN)

  5. Russian hackers were able to breach "at least one" Florida county government through a spearphishing campaign. While Mueller's team "did not independent verify that belief," DHS and the FBI were already investigating the intrusions. (Politico)


💡 Analysis and commentary.

Some of the more interesting and relevant analysis to emerge following the release of the Mueller report. What are you seeing that should be included?

  1. Mueller report takeaways: 14 things (Bloomberg), 10 things (CNN), 9 things (CNN, again), 7 things (New York Times), 7 things (Axios), 5 things (ABC News)

  2. 7 times the Mueller report caught Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders lying to press. From Comey to Trump Tower, the report documents — without even trying — how easily Trump's press secretaries lie for him. (Vox)

  3. The Mueller report, explained. What the special counsel's 448-page report reveals — and conceals. (Vox)

  4. How Barr's letter compares to the findings in the Mueller report. Here's a look at what the letter Barr sent to Congress last month said vs. what the redacted version of the full report says. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. Nearly two-thirds of the section on Russian hacking is blacked out. Those redactions raise a series of fresh questions about the conduct of Trump and his aides. Roughly 10% of the Mueller report is blacked out with redactions. (The Guardian / New York Times)

  6. The Mueller report confirms that Trump runs the government like a criminal enterprise. (New York Magazine)

  7. Don McGahn may have single-handedly saved Trump's presidency by refusing to fire Mueller. (CNN)

Day 819: Inadequate.

1/ Attorney General William Barr repeatedly insisted that Robert Mueller "found no evidence" that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that Russian efforts to interfere "did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign." Barr also claimed Mueller's report did not find "collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Further, Barr said that even if the Trump campaign had colluded with WikiLeaks, that was not a crime. Mueller identified "numerous" Trump campaign-Russia contacts, but the report says there was "insufficient evidence" to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump or his campaign aides and their contacts with Russians. The report outlines how Trump was elected with Russia's help and when a federal inquiry was started to investigate the effort, Trump took multiple steps to stop or undermine it. Barr said Mueller examined 10 "episodes" where Trump may have obstructed justice, but that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "disagreed with some of the special counsel's legal theories and felt that some of the episodes did not amount to obstruction." According to Barr, Trump acted out of "noncorrupt motives" because he was frustrated by Mueller's investigation, as well as media coverage that he felt was hurting his administration. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / NBC News / CNN / The Guardian / Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 700: Trump's pick for attorney general criticized Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation in an unsolicited memo he sent to the Justice Department in June . William Barr said "Mueller's obstruction theory is fatally misconceived," claiming that Trump's interactions with James Comey would not constitute obstruction of justice, because Trump was using his "complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding." If confirmed as attorney general, Barr would oversee Mueller's work. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • READ: Barr's prepared remarks. (New York Times)

  • [BEFORE REPORT]: Mueller's report will reportedly be "lightly redacted" and is expected to reveal details about Trump's actions in office that came under scrutiny. According to an outline the Justice Department used to brief the White House with, Mueller did not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction of justice because he couldn't determine Trump's intent behind his actions. Separately, the Justice Department will let a "limited number" of lawmakers review Mueller's report "without certain redactions, including removing the redaction of information related to the charges set forth in the indictment in this case." (Washington Post)

2/ Mueller's office chose not to charge Trump with obstruction out of "fairness concerns," because "we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President's capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct." According to the report, Mueller considered Trump's written answers "inadequate," but knew a subpoena would impose "substantial delay" and they believed they had "sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President's testimony." Trump stated more than 30 times in his written answers that he "does not 'recall' or 'remember' or have an 'independent recollection'" of information investigators asked about. Mueller, citing numerous legal constraints in his report, declined to exonerate Trump, writing: "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment." (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  • "GAME OVER," Trump tweeted immediately after Barr's press conference. Trump spent the morning tweeting about "Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats" and complaining of "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT." (NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 666: Trump said he answered Robert Mueller's written questions himself "very easily," but he hasn't submitted them because "you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions." Rudy Giuliani said there are at least two dozen questions that relate to activities and episodes from before Trump's election. Trump spent more than five hours in meeting over three days this week with his attorneys working out written answers for Mueller about alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Despite telling reporters that "the questions were very routinely answered by me," Trump's temper boiled during all three meetings. Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump targeted Mueller on Twitter yesterday, calling the special counsel team "thugs" and the investigation a "witch hunt." (Associated Press / Reuters / CNN / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • 📌 Day 670: Trump submitted his written answers to Robert Mueller's questions "regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry," according to Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow. Mueller has not ruled out trying to compel Trump to sit for an interview after reviewing the written answers. (Bloomberg/ CNBC / New York Times / Associated Press)

3/ The Justice Department briefed White House lawyers about the conclusions made in Mueller's report before it was released, which aided Trump's legal team in rebutting the report's findings. Barr initially refused to answer whether the Justice Department had given the White House a preview of Mueller's findings. Later, Barr confirmed that he gave Trump's lawyers access to Mueller's report "earlier this week" – before it was to be sent to Congress and made public – and that Trump's lawyers did not ask for any redactions. (New York Times / Associated Press)

4/ House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler accused Barr of "waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump." Nadler charged that Barr was attempting to "bake in the narrative to the benefit of the White House" and to protect Trump by holding a news conference about Mueller's report hours before it was made public. Yesterday, Nadler and other House committee chairs issued a joint statement urging Barr to cancel the news conference and "let the full report speak for itself." The House Judiciary Committee plans to review the redacted report, and then ask Mueller and his team to testify before Congress. (Washington Post / ABC News / Politico)


🔍 Mueller Report Key Findings (so far):

A high-level overview of what's been learned from the Mueller report. All summaries are sourced from the live blogs linked to below or directly cited inline (or both).

  1. Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation was influenced by a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller's report says the team was "determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes."

  2. Trump engaged in "multiple acts" to influence on law enforcement investigations, but that his efforts were "mostly unsuccessful" because his aides refused to carry out his orders.

  3. Trump urged campaign aides to find Hillary Clinton's private emails. After Trump publicly asking Russia to find Clinton's emails in July 2016, Trump then privately "asked individuals affiliated with his campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails." Michael Flynn told Mueller that Trump "made this request repeatedly," and Flynn "contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails," including Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative, and Barbara Ledeen, who worked for Chuck Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. (Washington Post)

  4. The Trump campaign "expected it would benefit" from information released by Russia, but "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." The report continues: "The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome." Putin's "preference was for candidate Trump to win."

  5. When Trump learned of Mueller's appointment as special counsel, he said: "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked." Trump then repeatedly berated then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his recusal from the Russia probe, saying Sessions had let him down. "How could you let this happen, Jeff?" Trump demanded.

  6. After Trump fired James Comey, he attempted to have his White House counsel fire Mueller a month later. Trump twice told Donald McGahn to call Rosenstein and order him to fire Mueller, saying: "Mueller has to go" for alleged "conflicts that precluded him from serving as special counsel." McGahn refused, saying he did not want to repeat the "Saturday Night Massacre." McGahn then called Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff, and told him Trump had asked him to "do crazy shit." Trump later pressured McGahn to deny that he tried to fire Mueller.

  7. "Substantial evidence" corroborates Comey's recollection that Trump pressured him to let Flynn off easy. "I hope you can let this go," Trump allegedly told Comey. "While the president has publicly denied these details, other Administration officials who were present have confirmed Comey's account of how he ended up in a one-on-one meeting with the president," the report says. "And the president acknowledged to Priebus and McGahn that he in fact spoke to Comey about Flynn in their one-on-one meeting."

  8. Trump weighed installing Rachel Brand, then the Department of Justice's number three official, "to end the Russia investigation or fire the special counsel." Trump asked Staff Secretary Rob Porter what he thought of Brand and if she "was good, tough and 'on the team.'"

  9. Paul Manafort told Rick Gates to "sit tight" and not plead guilty because Trump is "going to take care of us." Mueller's report says "evidence […] indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government." Gates ended up cooperating with Mueller.

  10. Trump's personal attorney directed Cohen "stay on message and not contradict the President" regarding testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project that continued behind January 2016. Trump's personal lawyer told Cohen that he "was protected, which he wouldn't be if he 'went rogue.'"

  11. Mueller declined to prosecute "several" people connected to the Trump campaign who lied to the special counsel's office or to Congress about their contact with Russians and on other matters, including Trump Jr. and Sessions.

  12. Federal prosecutors are pursuing 14 other investigations that were referred by Mueller. Two were disclosed in the redacted report: potential wire fraud and federal employment law violations involving Michael Cohen, and charges against Gregory Craig, the former White House counsel under Obama, who was accused of lying to investigators and concealing work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. The other 12 referrals were redacted because the details could harm continuing investigations.

  13. Mueller left the door open to the possibility that after Trump leaves office, prosecutors could re-examine the evidence which could "potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes." Trump's lawyers have argued that it was impossible for Trump to illegally obstruct the Russia investigation, because he has full authority over federal law enforcement as head of the executive branch. "The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law," Mueller's team wrote. (New York Times)

Live Blogs: Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / The Guardian / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg

The Mueller Report: Annotated and Live Analysis


In other news.

  1. House Democrats subpoenaed nine banks as part of an investigation into Trump's financial and potential money laundering tied to Russia: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, and Toronto-Dominion Bank. Investigators on the House Financial Services Committee and House Intelligence Committee have focused their early efforts on Deutsche Bank, which has said it in engaged “in a productive dialogue” with the committees. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

  2. North Korea said continued nuclear talks would be "lousy" if Mike Pompeo remains involved, demanding that the Secretary of State be replaced by someone who is "more careful." A North Korean foreign ministry official said last week that Pompeo "spouted reckless remarks, hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership" after he agreed with the characterization of Kim Jong-un as a tyrant. That same official warned on Thursday that if Pompeo remains involved, "the talks will become entangled." (BBC)

  3. North Korea said it test-fired a new type of "tactical guided weapon." There was no evidence the test involved a nuclear detonation or an intercontinental ballistic missile. (New York Times)

Day 818: Weakened authority.

1/ Attorney General William Barr directed immigration judges to deny some asylum seekers the opportunity to post bail after being detained. Previously, migrants who established "a credible fear of persecution or torture" in their home country were eligible to seek release on bond. Now they could end up being jailed indefinitely while they wait months or years for their claims to be processed. The Department of Homeland Security will have the discretion to decide whether to release immigrants who initially crossed the border illegally, but later claimed asylum. The order will go into effect in 90 days. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / ABC News)

2/ Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution to end American military involvement in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. Earlier this month, Congress voted to invoke the War Powers Resolution to try to stop U.S. involvement in the foreign conflict. Trump called it "an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities." The veto – the second of Trump's presidency – comes a month after he vetoed a resolution to reverse his national emergency declaration aimed at securing funding for a border wall. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Axios / Reuters / Associated Press)

3/ Trump's attorneys and the White House plan to resist congressional requests for information about security clearances approvals, Trump's meetings with foreign leaders, and other topics the administration deems subject to executive privilege. While House Democrats say they'll continue to issue subpoenas, they also said they have little confidence that Barr will enforce contempt actions if their demands are ignored. Congressional subpoenas — and any criminal contempt proceedings — expire at the end of a congressional session. (Washington Post)

4/ Barr and Rod Rosenstein will hold a press conference to discuss the Robert Mueller report at 9:30 am ET Thursday. It's not clear if the news conference will occur before or after the release of the redacted, 400-page report. [Story is developing…] (CNBC / Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / USA Today)

poll/ 58% of Americans think Trump obstructed the investigation into whether his campaign had any connection to Russia, while 40% don't think he attempted to obstruct justice. 35% of Americans, meanwhile, think that Trump did something illegal related to Russia, and another 34% think Trump's done something unethical. (Associated Press)

poll/ 30% of Americans accept Trump's claim that Barr's 4-page summary Robert Mueller's report is a "total exoneration." 45%, meanwhile, said they believe the Mueller report is inconclusive. 51% believe that Trump administration officials will get away with corruption or unethical behavior. (Politico)

poll/ 38% of voters believe the allegation that Trump's 2016 campaign was spied on. 28% said they don't believe the campaign was spied on and 35% said they don't know or have no opinion about it. (Politico)

poll/ 40% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president. 54% disapprove. (Monmouth University)


Notables.

  1. An aluminum company partially owned by a Russian oligarch plans to invest around $200 million to build a new plant in Mitch McConnell's home state. McConnell was among the advocates for lifting U.S. sanctions on Rusal, the aluminum company Oleg Deripaska partially owns. (Newsweek)

  2. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to a hire Fox News commentator as his top spokeswoman. Trump planned to appoint Monica Crowley to the National Security Council, but she withdrew from consideration in January 2017 after it was reported that she plagiarized portions of her 2012 book and portions of her 2000 Ph.D. thesis. (Bloomberg)

  3. Ivanka Trump said her father asked her if she wanted the World Bank job, but she passed on the offer because she was "happy with the work" she's currently doing. Trump previously said he considered naming Ivanka to head the World Bank because "she's very good with numbers," but ultimately didn't because people would have complained about "nepotism." (Associated Press)

  4. The Trump administration will allow lawsuits in U.S. courts against foreign companies that use properties confiscated by Cuba during Fidel Castro's revolution six decades ago. The European Union urged the administration not to move forward with the new policy, threatening lawsuits against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization, as well as European courts imposing economic penalties against U.S. companies. (Reuters / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  5. The Pentagon has not held an on-camera press briefing in more than 300 days. The Department of Defense manages nearly $700 billion. (Time)

Day 817: Breakdown-level anxiety.

1/ House Democrats subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for Trump's personal and financial records. Democrats also subpoenaed JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup for documents related to possible Russian money laundering. Maxine Waters said Trump's "potential use of the U.S. financial system for illicit purposes is a very serious concern" and that the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees will "follow the facts wherever they may lead us." Deutsche Bank reportedly requested a so-called "friendly subpoena" from the committees before it would comply with their request. The Trump Organization, meanwhile, said it was looking at options to block Deutsche Bank from complying with the subpoena. (New York Times / CNN / Politico / Reuters / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 320: Robert Mueller issued a subpoena for the banking records of people affiliated with Trump. The move forced Deutsche Bank – Trump's biggest lender – to turn over documents related to certain credit transactions and the $300 million Trump owes the lender. Legal experts said it showed Mueller was "following the money" in search of links between the campaign and the Kremlin since Deutsche Bank may have sold some of Trump's mortgage or loans to Russian-owned banks, which could potentially give Russia leverage over Trump. Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's personal lawyers, denied that a subpoena had been issued. Since 1998, Deutsche has helped loan at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Trump, which he used to build or purchase highest-profile projects in Washington, New York, Chicago and Florida. (The Guardian / Bloomberg / Reuters / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 356: The Trump administration waived fines for Deutsche Bank and four other multinational banks convicted of manipulating global interest rates. Trump owes Deutsche at least $130 million in loans that were originally worth $300 million. The German bank was alsofined$425 million by New York State for laundering $10 billion out of Russia. (International Business Times / USA Today)

  • 📌 Day 746: Deutsche Bank refused to give Trump a loan during his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump was funding his campaign and expanding his business group's collection of properties at the same time. The Trump Organization specifically wanted a loan against a Miami property to fund work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. A 2018 financial disclosure, Trump owed at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of the German bank. The decision came down to senior bank officials worrying about what would happen if Trump won the election and then defaulted on the loan. Deutsche Bank would then have to choose between not collecting on the debt or seizing the assets of the president of the United States. (New York Times / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 789: Deutsche Bank loaned more than $2 billion to Trump over nearly two decades during his time as a real estate developer at a time when other banks wouldn't lend to him. The bank repeatedly loaned money to Trump despite multiple business-related "red flags," including instances where Trump exaggerated his wealth by an extra $2 billion in order to secure additional loans from the bank. In 2010, Trump returned to Deutsche Bank for $100 million loan, even though it had concluded at the time that Trump had overvalued some of his real estate assets by up to 70%. (New York Times / New York Times / CNBC)

2/ White House officials who cooperated with Robert Mueller at the direction of Trump's legal team are worried the redacted report will expose them as the source of damaging information about Trump. In particular, current and former staffers are concerned how Trump will react to information shared with Mueller, leading to "breakdown-level anxiety" among those who cooperated with the investigation. Officials and their lawyers have asked the Justice Department whether the names of those who cooperated with Mueller's team will be redacted, or if the public report will make it obvious who shared certain details. (NBC News)

  • Trump renewed his call for the Justice Department to "INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!" days before the public release of Mueller's report. Trump claimed without evidence that "Crooked Hillary, the DNC, [and] Dirty Cops" are the ones guilty of collusion and obstruction of justice. (Politico)

  • The Department of Justice declined to unseal records related to Paul Manafort's case due to "ongoing investigations." The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia argued in a court filing that, "although the Special Counsel has concluded his work, he has also referred a number of matters to other offices." (Washington Post / Axios)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee requested information about Trump's reported offer to pardon the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner if he was sent to jail for blocking asylum seekers from entering the U.S. Kevin McAleenan has since been named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security following the forced resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen. The deadline to turn over a list of employees who attended Trump's meeting with Border Patrol agents, and documents and communications related to Nielsen's meeting with Trump "on or about March 21, 2019 to discuss reinstating the zero-tolerance policy and closing the US-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas" is April 30. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 813: Trump promised to pardon the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner if he were sent to jail for blocking asylum seekers from entering the U.S. in defiance of U.S. law. Two days later, Trump promoted Kevin McAleenan to acting secretary of homeland security after pressuring Nielsen to submit her resignation. Nielsen previously refused to close the border, telling Trump it was illegal. A few days prior to the encounter with McAleenan, Trump backtracked from his thread to close the border, saying he was issuing a "one-year warning" for Mexico to halt illegal immigration and drug trafficking. (New York Times / CNN)

4/ Trump ordered thousands of additional troops to the southwest border. According to a document drafted by Defense Department officials, between 9,000 to 10,000 more forces would be deployed to the border over the next few months. A Pentagon spokesperson, however, put the number at about 3,000 additional forces. There are roughly 2,800 active duty forces currently supporting the border mission. The orders were drafted days after Nielsen's forced resignation. (Newsweek)

5/ The Trump administration will resume its "Remain in Mexico" policy, forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed in the U.S. On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's ruling, which blocked the policy. The DHS spokesperson said the agency would resume the practice in ports of entry in California and Texas, including those in Calexico, San Diego and El Paso. (CBS News / Los Angeles Times)


Notables.

  1. The White House rejected a House Judiciary request for documents detailing discussions with the Justice Department about the AT&T-Time Warner merger. In the late summer of 2017, Trump ordered Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN. The next day Trump declared the proposed merger "not good for the country." White House counsel Pat Cipollone cited executive privilege for the White House denying the document request, claiming any talks were "protected communications." (Politico)

  2. Trump offered Paris unsolicited advice for putting out the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, tweeting that "perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!" France's civil defense agency tweeted back: "The dumping of water by aircraft on this kind of building could, actually, cause the complete collapse of the structure." A French fire chief described Trump's advice as "risible." (Los Angeles Times / The Guardian / CNBC)

  3. Trump also offered unsolicited business advice to Boeing, tweeting that the airplane maker should "REBRAND" the 737 MAX "with a new name." Trump added: "But again, what the hell do I know?" (USA Today / Daily Beast)

  4. Trump called Bernie Sanders's Fox News town hall "so weird" and noted that anchor Bret Baier, who has been critical of Trump in the past, was "so smiley and nice" to Sanders. (Vox / Washington Post / Politico)

  5. Trump claimed he "has always liked" Jimmy Carter, despite previously calling him "the worst President in the history of the United States!" in 2013, 2014, and 2016. (Washington Post)

Day 816: Hateful and inflammatory.

1/ Attorney General William Barr will release a redacted version of Robert Mueller's report to both Congress and the public on Thursday morning. The redactions will cover four categories: secret grand jury details, classified national security and intelligence specifics, material related to ongoing investigations and sections that could defame "peripheral" third parties wrapped up in Mueller's probe. The release comes days after Barr told Congress he believed "spying" on the Trump campaign occurred during the 2016 election. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have already authorized the use of a subpoena to compel the Justice Department for the full report without redactions if they do not receive it this week. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / NBC News)

  • An insiders' guide to the Mueller Report: How experts and political operatives will read the report. (Politico)

2/ The House intelligence committee demanded that Mueller "must" brief them and provide "all materials, regardless of form and classification, obtained or produced" during his 2-year investigation. Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes requested that Mueller and other senior members of his team brief the committee, in a letter sent March 27th to Barr, FBI Director Chris Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Nunes has previously dismissed the Mueller report as a "partisan document" that he has no interest in reading. (Daily Beast / Axios / Politico)

3/ Trump's attorneys threatened legal action if an accounting firm complied with a subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee to turn over 10 years of Trump's financial records. Last month, the committee requested that Mazars USA turn over Trump's personal and business finances. In response, Mazars asked for a subpoena before they would comply. (Politico)

4/ Sarah Sanders claimed that members of Congress aren't "smart enough" to understand Trump's tax returns. Earlier this month, the House Ways and Means Committee formally requested Trump's tax returns from the IRS, setting a hard deadline of April 23 to comply. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • There are 10 accountants in this Congress, including two senators and eight House members. Three Democratic members of Congress are also trained as certified public accountants. (CNN)

5/ The White House is considering travel restrictions for nationals of countries with high rates of overstaying visas as part of a broader push to curb immigration. The effort would target nationals primarily from the African nations of Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, telling the countries' governments that if overstay rates don't reverse, then future visas could be shorter or harder to get. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

6/ Trump reportedly revived the rejected proposal to send undocumented immigrants into "sanctuary cities" in order to distract from the Mueller report, according to people close to him. After members of his administration dismissed the idea of sending migrants to sanctuary cities, Trump tweeted that he was still considering the plan. Further, Trump has reportedly been "purposefully escalating his language" to rile up his base of supporters and anger political rivals, despite previously claiming that Barr's four-page summary of the Mueller report proved there was "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION." (New York Times)

  • Three Democratic House committee chairmen: The Trump administration lacks the legal authority to send undocumented migrants to sanctuary cities. They're calling for documents related to the plan's consideration by early May. (NBC News)

  • Trump appeared to confirm that a proposal to send immigrants to "Sanctuary Cities and States" was in the works, "subject" to the Department of Homeland Security. (Politico)

  • House Democrats want Stephen Miller to testify about his role in the plan to release undocumented immigrants into "sanctuary cities," because he "seems to be the boss of everybody on immigration" (Washington Post)

7/ Trump tweeted a video of the World Trade Center towers burning interspersed with remarks Rep. Ilhan Omar made about civil rights and Muslims in America. "WE WILL NEVER FORGET!" Trump captioned the video. During a speech at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Omar said Muslims have "lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen" since the Sept. 11 attacks, because "some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties." The Minnesota Democrat is one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. (New York Times / Washington Post)

8/ Omar said she's "experienced an increase in direct threats on my life" since Trump tweeted footage of Sept. 11 accusing her of downplaying the terror attacks. "This is endangering lives," Omar said, charging Trump with encouraging right-wing extremism. "It has to stop." Sarah Sanders, meanwhile, said "it's a good thing the president is calling her out" for her "absolutely abhorrent" comments she made at the event. (CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post / CBS News / ABC News)

9/ Nancy Pelosi demanded that Trump delete "his disrespectful and dangerous video" of Omar, claiming his "hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger." Pelosi added that the U.S. Capitol Police and the House sergeant-at-arms "are conducting a security assessment to safeguard" Omar. "They will continue to monitor and address the threats she faces." (New York Times / Politico / Axios)

10/ Trump continued his attacks on Omar on Monday, baselessly claiming that she was "out of control" when she made her alleged "antisemitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful US HATE statements." Trump also criticized Pelosi for coming to Omar's defense, saying she has "lost all control of Congress." Trump flew to Minneapolis to attend an event bordering Omar's congressional district. (Politico / The Guardian)

poll/ 17% of Americans believed their taxes would go down as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 40% said they saw no change from the tax bill, while 32% said the bill drove their taxes up. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Interior Department's inspector general opened an investigation into ethics complaints against the agency's new secretary. David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, has faced multiple allegations of ethics violations since joining the Trump administration as the Interior Department's deputy secretary in 2017. (New York Times)

  2. Trump's reelection campaign raised more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, bringing Trump's total war chest to just over $40.8 million. The amount is unprecedented for an incumbent president this early into the campaign, and edges out the two top Democratic challengers. The GOP, meanwhile, matched Trump's fundraising abilities by bringing in $45.8 million in the first quarter, the party's best non-election year total. Trump's reelection campaign has set a total fundraising goal of $1 billion for 2020. (Associated Press / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Axios)

  3. Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld announced that he will challenge Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination. Weld said he will not run as an Independent if he does not win the Republican nomination. (CNN / Washington Post)

  4. Pete Buttigieg announced his presidential bid. If elected, Buttigieg, a 37-year-old Rhodes scholar and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, would be the youngest president ever and the first who is openly gay. "It's time to walk away from the politics of the past and toward something totally different," Buttigieg told a crowd at a rally, adding: "Change is coming, ready or not." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. Trump will award Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom, tweeting that he's awarding Woods the honor "because of his incredible Success and Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE." Since 2019, a series of women have said they had affairs with Woods while he was married. (People / Bloomberg / CNN / NBC News)

  6. Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Trump was joking during the 2016 campaign when he said he loved WikiLeaks. "Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign," Sanders told Fox News. "Certainly we take this serious." After Julian Assange was arrested last week, Trump claimed that "I know nothing about WikiLeaks," despite mentioning WikiLeaks multiple times on the campaign trail and once exclaiming, "I love WikiLeaks" at a campaign event in October 2016. (NBC News)

Day 813: Nonstory.

1/ Trump pressured Kirstjen Nielsen into busing detained immigrants to "sanctuary cities" located in the congressional districts of Democratic members of Congress. The plan was first raised in a Nov. 16, 2018, email asking whether members of a migrant caravan could be arrested when they reached the border and then transported "to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities" where local officials have refused to cooperate with ICE. The White House claimed that the proposal would free up ICE detention space, as well as send a message to Democrats. One top official responded to the plan by pointing out budgetary and liability concerns, as well as the "PR risks." The White House called the proposal a "nonstory" and said "this was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion." (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)

2/ Trump – contradicting his own administration – confirmed that he is "giving strong consideration" to releasing detained undocumented immigrants in Democratic "sanctuary cities," suggesting that it should make liberals "very happy" because of their immigration policies. Trump's tweets come after both the White House and Department of Homeland Security said they rejected the plan when it was floated in November and again in February, because it'd be "so illegal." The new push comes as Trump has empowered senior adviser Stephen Miller to lead the administration's immigration policy. Miller reportedly wants to create tent cities at the border to house migrants and detain migrant children beyond the current 20-day limit imposed by a federal judge. The goal is to force migrant parents to choose between splitting from their children or remaining together indefinitely in detention while awaiting court proceedings. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News)

3/ Trump promised to pardon the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner if he were sent to jail for blocking asylum seekers from entering the U.S. in defiance of U.S. law. Two days later, Trump promoted Kevin McAleenan to acting secretary of homeland security after pressuring Nielsen to submit her resignation. Nielsen previously refused to close the border, telling Trump it was illegal. A few days prior to the encounter with McAleenan, Trump backtracked from his thread to close the border, saying he was issuing a "one-year warning" for Mexico to halt illegal immigration and drug trafficking. (New York Times / CNN)

4/ Trump's top advisers discussed whether the military could be used to build tent city detention camps for migrants at the border. Also discussed was whether the military could legally run the camps, since U.S. law prohibits the military from directly interacting with migrants. Trump complained that the laws are "horrible laws that the Democrats won't change." (NBC News)

5/ The Justice Department is reviving a Bush-era regulation allowing appellate immigration judges to issue binding rulings on the entire immigration system while only a minority of appeals judges participate. Currently, the appeals board can declare a binding precedent only if a majority of all permanent sitting judges vote to do so. Immigration advocates and attorneys say the new regulations will be used to reshape immigration law to fit Trump's political goals. The Trump administration claims the move is to help fix an immigration court system plagued with delays. Attorney General William Barr has sent the proposed regulation to the White House for review. (San Francisco Chronicle)

poll/ 55% of Georgia voters say that they have an unfavorable view of Trump, compared to 39% who had a favorable view, and 4% who were undecided. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

poll/ 51% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance, while 45% approve – up from 39% since last month. (Gallup / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Rod Rosenstein defended the Justice Department's handling of Robert Mueller's report, saying Barr is "being as forthcoming as he can" about the redaction process. Barr has come under criticism for his four-page summary of the principal conclusions he issued less than two days after Mueller handed over his nearly 400-page report. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  2. The House Oversight Committee threatened to hold a Justice Department official in contempt after refusing to comply with a subpoena for testimony and documents related to the citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Committee Chair Elijah Cummings said in a letter to AG William Barr that the committee would hold his principal deputy assistant AG, John Gore, in contempt of Congress if Barr didn't make him available to answer questions about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's decision to add the question to the census. Gore was slated to testify on Thursday but he did not appear. The committee voted 23-14 earlier this month to compel Gore to testify and for the Trump administration to provide additional documents pertaining to the citizenship question. (NBC News)

  3. The House Oversight Committee will issue a "friendly subpoena" to the accounting firm that prepared several years' worth of Trump's financial statements. Mazars USA had requested a subpoena from the committee before it would provide records. (CNN)

  4. Trump withdrew his nomination for the next U.S. diplomat for South Asia. Trump nominated Defense Intelligence Agency official Robert Williams five months ago to fill the post, which has been empty since Trump took office. The White house did not say why it decided to withdraw Williams' nomination. (Reuters)

  5. The former White House aide who mocked John McCain as "dying anyway" is joining a pro-Trump PAC. Kelly Sadler was let go after saying McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel being nominated as CIA director didn't matter because he was "dying anyway." Sadler starts Monday and is "really excited" to join America First Action. (CNN)

  6. Trump confirmed that he considered naming Ivanka Trump to head the World Bank because "she's very good with numbers." Trump said he didn't nominate Ivanka because people would have complained about "nepotism, when it would've had nothing to do with nepotism." (The Atlantic / The Guardian / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

Day 812: "I know nothing about WikiLeaks."

1/ British authorities arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and charged by the U.S. with conspiracy to hack a classified Defense Department computer. The U.S. is seeking Assange's extradition over allegations that he agreed to help former military analyst Chelsea Manning crack a password on a Defense Department computer, resulting in what the Justice Department called "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States." Assange is facing up to five years in prison. He had been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for the past 2,487 days. During the 2016 presidential campaign, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. U.S. intelligence officials concluded the hacks were orchestrated by the Russian government. The conspiracy charge against Assange, however, is not related to Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election influence. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / The Guardian / NPR)

2/ Trump claimed that "I know nothing about WikiLeaks" despite declaring in October 2016 that "I love WikiLeaks." During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump praised WikiLeaks more than 140 times for leaking DNC and Clinton campaign emails. At one point during the campaign, Trump publicly encouraged the Russians "to find the 30,000 emails (from Hillary Clinton's server) that are missing." Following Assange's arrest, Trump told reporters: WikiLeaks is "not my thing." (CNN / Politico)

  • 2016: Trump praised WikiLeaks for publishing Clinton's hacked emails. "I love WikiLeaks," Trump told rally-goers in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., prompting a prolonged "Lock her up!" chant. (The Hill)

3/ The Treasury Department missed the deadline set by Democrats to hand over Trump's tax returns. In a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he has "serious issues" with the request for six years of Trump's personal and some business returns. Mnuchin added that he was consulting with the Justice Department as to the "constitutional scope" and "legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose" of the request. Hours earlier, Trump flatly rejected the request for his tax returns, telling reporters: "I won't do it." The issue could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. (Politico / Vox / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Trump's sister retired as a federal judge to end an investigation into whether she violated judicial rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings. Complaints against Judge Maryanne Trump Barry were filed last October after an investigation found that she benefited financially from many of her tax schemes while she was also in a position to influence that actions taken by her family. Barry, who hasn't heard a case in more than two years, was listed as an inactive senior judge, but filed retirement papers ten days after a federal court said the the complaints against her were "receiving the full attention" of a judicial complaint council. Retired judges are not subject to the rules of judicial conduct. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 621: Trump inherited his family's wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that "I built what I build myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from his parents, which helped his father claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than a $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also "earned" $200,000 a year in today's dollars starting at age 3 from his father's companies. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor's note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)

poll/ Trump tweeted a screenshot from Lou Dobbs's Fox Business falsely claiming his approval rating was at 55%. The actual polling numbers from Georgetown's Institute of Politics and Public Service found that 43% of voters approve of Trump. Fox Business later issued an on-air correction. (Georgetown / New York Magazine / Axios / Vox / Politico / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. A former Obama counsel was charged with lying to the Justice Department and concealing information about work he did in 2012 with Paul Manafort for Ukraine. Gregory Craig's former firm, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher and Flom, paid $4.6 million in January to avoid prosecution and agreed to retroactively register as a lobbyist for a foreign government. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN)

  2. Michael Avenatti was indicted on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes. Avenatti faces a potential 335 years in prison for an alleged scheme to defraud five clients since 2015. (Los Angeles Times / CNN / Associated Press)

  3. Trump signed two executive orders to speed up construction of oil and gas pipelines. One order directs the EPA to make it more difficult for states to invoke provisions in the Clean Water Act to slow pipeline construction. The other order transfers authority for approving the construction of international pipelines from the secretary of state to the president. (New York Times)

  4. The Senate confirmed a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist to lead the Interior Department. David Bernhardt previously served as the acting secretary, helping craft Trump's policies for expanding drilling and mining along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. (Politico / New York Times)

Day 811: Genesis.

1/ Attorney General William Barr assembled a team to examine the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia. Barr is pursuing allegations by Republican lawmakers of anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department and FBI. Robert Mueller took over the counterintelligence investigation when he was appointed special counsel. Separately, the Justice Department's inspector general is reviewing whether the FBI and federal prosecutors abused their authority when obtaining FISA warrants to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Barr told Congress that the government was "spying" on Trump's campaign during the 2016 election, but provided no evidence. During a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barr said that while he's not launching an investigation of the FBI or suggesting there is an "endemic" problem at the FBI, he does "think there was a failure among a group of leaders at the upper echelons." Barr went on to say that he wanted to understand if there was "unauthorized surveillance" of political figures and whether law enforcement officials had proper legal justification for the "genesis" of the counterintelligence investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / Axios)

3/ Trump claimed the Russia investigation was "an attempted coup" to remove him from office. Trump accused Mueller's probe of being "started illegally" and that "every single thing about it" was "crooked." Trump went on to say that "as far as I'm concerned, I don't care about the Mueller report," claiming that "I've been totally exonerated." (NBC News / Washington Post / Politico)

4/ The FBI discussed the possibility that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey "at the behest of" the Russian government in May 2017. James Baker, a former top lawyer of the FBI, testified to the House Oversight and Judiciary committees in October 2018 about the discussions he had with Andrew McCabe, FBI counterintelligence official Bill Priestap, and national security official Carl Ghattas about the possibility that Trump was "following directions" and "executing [the] will" of the Russian Government. (Politico)

5/ Trump repeated his refusal to release his tax returns, saying "I won't do it." Trump said he would "love" to release his tax returns, but claimed that "people don't care" about seeing them, and that he won't do so "while I'm under audit." House Democrats asked the IRS for six years of Trump's tax returns, citing a tax code provision that requires the Treasury Department to hand over the documents. The deadline to comply with the request is today. (CNN / CNBC / Reuters / USA Today / Wall Street Journal)

  • The IRS commissioner said there is "no rule that would prohibit the release of a tax return because it's under audit." Charles Rettig's comment came during his confirmation at a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. (Axios)

poll/ 51% of voters support House Democrats' efforts to obtain Trump's tax returns, including 46% of independents. (Morning Consult)

  • 📌 Day 775: 64% of American think Trump should publicly release his tax returns, while 29% believe he should not. (Quinnipiac)

Notables.

  1. Federal investigators in New York have "gathered more evidence than previously known" from Trump's "inner circle" about the hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who both claim they had affairs with Trump. Prosecutors interviewed Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller, Trump's former security chief. Investigators also have a recorded phone conversation between Michael Cohen and a lawyer who represented the two women. Investigators also have calls between Schiller and David Pecker, chief executive of the National Enquirer, which admitted it paid $150,000 to McDougal on Mr. Trump's behalf to keep her story under wraps. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  2. The Pentagon awarded $976 million in contracts to build Trump's wall along the southern border. The Department of Defense awarded the contracts via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and listed the completion date for the projects as October 2020. One contract worth $789 million was awarded to a company in Texas to build "30-foot bollard fencing and a five-foot anti-climb plate" in Santa Teresa, New Mexico along the El Paso sector of the border. The other contract is worth $187 million and went to a Montana-based company for "18-foot bollard fencing and a five-foot anti-climb plate" in Yuma, Arizona. (CNN)

  3. The White House is considering the former head of an anti-immigration group to lead Citizenship and Immigration Services. Julie Kirchner previously led the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushed for lower levels of immigration. (Politico)

  4. The House voted to revive net neutrality regulations, which bans broadband providers from blocking or throttling internet traffic. The legislation will likely fail in the GOP-controlled Senate. (Politico / The Hill)

Day 810: A mess.

1/ Trump recently put Stephen Miller "in charge" of the administration's immigration policy "and he's executing his plan" to clean house at the Department of Homeland Security. "There is a near-systematic purge happening," one official said. Miller has been arguing to bring in more like-minded hardline immigration reform advocates, with the senior White House adviser reportedly calling federal departments and agencies to demand that they do more to stop the flow of immigrants. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNN)

2/ A senior White House official: DHS is not doing enough to crack down on immigration and more people could be forced out soon. Sources close to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen say Trump and Miller have called for changes at DHS that are legally questionable, which would make them operationally ineffective. Several DHS officials who will likely be forced out soon, include Claire Grady, DHS' acting No. 2 official, Lee Francis Cissna, head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, one of Cissna's top deputies, and John Mitnick, the department's general counsel. (Reuters / Axios / New York Times)

3/ Congressional Republicans urged Trump not to fire any more top immigration officials. Senator Chuck Grassley said he was "very, very concerned" about reports that Cissna could be dismissed. Grassley said he texted Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, to express his concerns about removing Cissna, but Mulvaney "didn't seem to know who I was talking about." After Trump forced Nielsen's resignation, pulled his Immigration and Customs Enforcement nominee, removed his Secret Service director and threatened more firings, Senator John Cornyn called the situation "a mess." Cornyn added that he has no idea what Miller's "agenda" is for determining immigration policy because he isn't Senate-confirmed and doesn't talk with members of Congress. (Washington Post / Politico)

4/ The Trump administration plans to put Customs and Border Protection agents in charge of interviewing asylum-seekers. Miller has argued that the move will mean fewer migrants will pass the initial screening, known as a credible fear interview. Currently, asylum-seekers are interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers. (NBC News)

5/ Trump denied that he's planning to resume separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, despite pushing Nielsen to reinstitute a "zero-tolerance" immigration policy for months. Trump instead lied and blamed Obama for instituting the child separation policy and for building "cages." Obama had guidelines that prioritized the deportation of gang members, national security risks, and felons, while Trump's policy systematically separated families, even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. (CNN / ABC News / Washington Post / Los Angeles Times)

  • 📌 Day 809: Nielsen reportedly resisted Trump's pressure to reinstate large-scale family separation at the border since January. Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy. Trump reportedly wanted families separated even if they came through a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. Trump also wanted families separated if they were apprehended within the U.S. McAleenan has not ruled out family separation as an option. Separately, Trump was reportedly "ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue" two weeks ago. He then ordered Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. Nielsen proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports, to which Trump responded: "I don't care." (NBC News / CNN)

6/ Attorney General William Barr will deliver Robert Mueller's report to Congress and the public "within a week," but that it would be redacted in order to protect ongoing investigations and individuals who have not been charged. Barr said he'd color-code redacted information into the 4 categories so the public will know why the material is being hidden. When asked during a House Appropriations Committee hearing whether he had briefed the White House on the report, Barr declined to answer: "I've said what I'm going to say about the report today." (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios / Reuters / Daily Beast)

  • Barr: Mueller turned down an offer to review the four-page summary of the report before it was released to the public last month. Barr said Mueller declined to review it in advance. (Politico)

  • The FBI confirmed that James Comey was a witness in the Mueller investigation. Specifically, the FBI was interested in the contemporaneous notes Comey took during his meetings with Trump. The FBI confirmed in a court filing that it was concerned that revealing any details about Comey's meeting memos might allow other people who knew about those conversations to "try to hide or fabricate information." (Axios / USA Today)


Notables.

  1. Treasury Department lawyers consulted with the White House about the potential release of Trump's tax returns before House Democrats formally requested the records. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed "that the communication between our legal department and the White House general counsel was informational." (Washington Post)

  2. The Department of Justice recently adopted a narrow interpretation of the emoluments clause, which would exempt Trump's hotels from a ban on foreign payments or gifts. DOJ filings since June 2017 reveal a new interpretation that allows federal officials "to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official." (The Guardian)

  3. House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House Oversight Committee investigation into prescription drug pricing. Letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warned that any information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public and hurt their stock prices. (BuzzFeed News)

  4. Devin Nunes sued a newspaper chain for $150 million over an article he called a "character assassination." The article in the Fresno Bee, which covers Nunes' congressional district, describes a cruise in the San Francisco Bay that was hosted by a winery he partly owns. The cruise included drugs and prostitution. Last month, Nunes sued Twitter and two parody accounts for $250 million over mean tweets. (New York Times)

  5. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Trump designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization at his request. "Thank you for responding to another of my important requests," Netanyahu tweeted, "which serves the interests of our countries and countries of the region." (Los Angeles Times)

  6. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to prevent the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. The makers of TurboTax and H&R Block spent $6.6 million in lobbying to block the IRS from ever developing its own online tax filing system. (ProPublica)

Day 809: A way forward.

1/ Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned after meeting with Trump to plan "a way forward" at the U.S.-Mexico border. Nielsen's resignation came two days after she traveled to the border with Trump, and three days after Trump withdrew his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to be the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because he wanted to "go in a tougher direction." In her resignation letter, Nielsen said it was the "right time for me to step aside." She will be replaced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, who will take over as acting DHS Secretary until Trump appoints a permanent replacement. (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / Associated Press / CNN / Politico / NBC News) / Axios)

  • Government officials said at least two more top Homeland Security officials are expected to be forced out soon: L. Francis Cissna, the head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnick, the department's general counsel. (New York Times)

2/ Nielsen reportedly resisted Trump's pressure to reinstate large-scale family separation at the border since January. Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy. Trump reportedly wanted families separated even if they came through a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. Trump also wanted families separated if they were apprehended within the U.S. McAleenan has not ruled out family separation as an option. Separately, Trump was reportedly "ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue" two weeks ago. He then ordered Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. Nielsen proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports, to which Trump responded: "I don't care." (NBC News / CNN)

  • The Trump administration expects it to take two years to identify thousands of families separated at the border. Several factors complicate the process of reunification because all the children of separated families have already been released from government custody, Customs and Border Protection didn't start tracking separated families as a searchable data set in its records before April 19, 2018, and there are nearly 50,000 case files. (CNN)

3/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for an immigration court to hear their cases. The preliminary injunction is nationwide and will go into effect on April 12th. Migrants named in the lawsuit will be allowed into the U.S. to pursue asylum. Nielsen ordered that the policy be expanded last week. (Associated Press / Reuters / CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Trump instructed his acting chief of staff to fire his Secret Service director. Mick Mulvaney instructed USSS Director Randolph "Tex" Alles 10 days ago to come up with an exit plan to leave on his own timeline. Five days ago, Trump said he "could not be happier with Secret Service" following an incident at Mar-a-Lago, where a Chinese woman illegally entered the club carrying Chinese passports and a flash drive containing malware. James Murray, a career USSS official, will replace Alles. (CNN / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

5/ The woman who breached security at Mar-a-Lago had multiple electronic devices in her hotel room, including a signal detector to detect hidden cameras, another cell phone, nine USB drives, five SIM cards, and several credit cards in her name. The malware found on Yujing Zhang's thumb drive began to install onto an agent's computer, who described it as "very out of the ordinary" when conducting a criminal analysis. The FBI has been investigating Zhang as part of a Chinese espionage effort. Prosecutors urged the judge to keep her in custody, saying she's a flight risk with no ties to the U.S. (Bloomberg / CNN / Axios)

  • 📌 Day 803: A Chinese woman was charged with making false statements to the Secret Service after entering Mar-a-Lago with a thumb drive that contained "malicious software." Yujing Zhang was on the property on while Trump was playing golf at the Trump International course. Zhang told a receptionist she was there to attend an event (which did not exist), presenting documentation written in Chinese she claimed was her invitation to the event. After Secret Service agents were notified, Zhang claimed she was there to "go to the pool." Zhang was carrying two Republic of China passports, four cellphones, a laptop, a hard drive, and a thumb drive with malware on it. (CNBC / Washington Post / WPTV)

6/ New York lawmakers will introduce a bill this week to permit the Department of Taxation and Finance to release state tax returns requested by a congressional committee. Under the new proposal, the release of tax information would only happen after efforts to obtain federal tax information through the Treasury Department had failed. The move comes as the Trump administration has signaled that it will resist the House Ways and Means Committee request to turn over six years of Trump's federal business and personal tax returns by April 10th. Mick Mulvaney, meanwhile, promised that Democrats will "never" see Trump's tax returns. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico)

poll/ 17% of Americans believe their taxes will go down as a result of the 2017 Republican tax cut. 28% believe they'll pay more, 27% expect to pay about the same, and 28% don't know enough to say. 33% of Republicans believe they're getting a tax cut, while 10% of independents and 7% of Democrats do. (CNBC)


Notables.

  1. Trump designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization in an effort to increase economic and political pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran. It's the first time the U.S. has declared a part of a foreign government to be a terrorist organization. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  2. A New York man threatened to kill Rep. Ilhan Omar because of her Muslim faith. Patrick Carlineo Jr. called Omar's Washington office and accused her of being "a (expletive) terrorist. I'll put a bullet in her (expletive) skull." Carlineo was arrested and charged with threatening to assault and murder Omar. (CNN / Washington Post)

  3. Trump mocked Omar hours after police charged a man for threatening to assault and murder her. Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump ran through a list of Republican lawmakers supportive of Israel, adding: "Special thanks to Representative Omar of Minnesota. Oh, I forgot. She doesn't like Israel. I forgot. I'm so sorry." (Bloomberg / Vox)

  4. Devin Nunes plans to send eight criminal referrals to Attorney General William Barr this week. Nunes did not reveal who he is planning to refer, but he did say that five of the referrals are related to lying to Congress, misleading Congress, and leaking classified information. Nunes said the remaining three referrals are related to allegations of lying to the court that approves surveillance warrants, manipulating intelligence, and a "global leak referral," which is not aimed at any single person. (CNN)

  5. The Trump administration canceled a deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would have allowed Cuban players to sign with U.S. teams without needing to defect. Administration officials suggested that the Obama-era decision, which deemed Cuba's baseball league to be separate from the Cuban government, would subject the players to "human trafficking" by the Cuban government, making them "pawns of the Cuba dictatorship." (Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

Day 806: Tougher direction.

1/ Trump asked Mitch McConnell to prioritize confirming the chief counsel of the IRS earlier this year. White House aides reportedly insisted that the confirmation of Michael Desmond was more important than the 2017 tax cuts and the nomination of William Barr as attorney general. Trump told McConnell on February 5th that he was worried Desmond would withdraw his nomination if the Senate didn't act soon. Desmond was confirmed two weeks later. (New York Times)

2/ Trump's lawyers asked the IRS chief counsel's office to reject House Democrats' request for six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns, saying "it would set a dangerous precedent." Trump's lawyers sent a letter to the IRS counsel's office responsible for responding to the request, calling the request a "gross abuse of power" and that Democrats do not have a "legitimate committee purpose" for obtaining the tax returns. An administration official also said Trump is willing to fight the House Ways and Means Committee request to the Supreme Court. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Trump suggested that the Justice Department could become involved in blocking the release of his tax returns to Democrats. Sarah Sanders added that Trump would not release his tax returns because they were under audit, a claim the White House has not allowed to be independently verified. Michael Cohen, however, told a congressional committee earlier this year that Trump's taxes were never under audit and that he simply didn't want scrutiny over his financial dealings. (Washington Post)

3/ Michael Cohen offered Democrats access to 14 million files that could have "significant value" to congressional investigators. Cohen is asking that they persuade the Southern District of New York to reduce or delay his 3-year prison sentence to allow him to review the files he was "only recently able to access" on a hard drive. A 12-page memo by Cohen's legal team outlines evidence they describe as "Trump's involvement in a conspiracy to collude with Russian government intervention in his favor during the 2016 presidential campaign" and "other felony crimes committed by Trump before and after he became president." The memo also claims that Trump "encouraged Cohen to lie and say all Moscow Tower project contacts ended as of January 31, 2016 using 'code' language — telling Cohen during various conversations that there was 'no collusion, no Russian contacts, nothing about Russia' after the start of the campaign.'" (CNN / New York Times / BuzzFeed News / Axios / CBS News)

  • 📌 Day 729: Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in order to obscure his involvement in the deal. Cohen and Trump had at least 10 face-to-face meetings about the deal during the campaign. Cohen acknowledged to Robert Mueller's team that he had given false testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees that the Moscow tower negotiations ended in January 2016 were an attempt to "minimize links between the Moscow Project" and Trump "in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations." Trump also approved a plan by Cohen to visit Russia during the presidential campaign and meet with Putin in order to kick off the negotiations for the Moscow project. "Make it happen," Trump told Cohen. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. both regularly received "very detailed updates" about the project from Cohen. The revelation marks the first time Trump is known to have directly – and explicitly – ordered one of his subordinates to lie about his dealings with Russia. (BuzzFeed News)

4/ Barr was invited to meet justice department officials the same day he submitted his unsolicited memo criticizing Robert Mueller's investigation into obstruction of justice by Trump. Three weeks later, Barr met the officials for lunch and was then nominated to serve as Trump's attorney general about six months later. The meeting was arranged by Steve Engel, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. Barr concluded there was "not sufficient" evidence in Mueller's report to establish that Trump had committed obstruction of justice after consulting with Engel and Rod Rosenstein. (The Guardian)


Notables.

  1. Trump withdrew his nominee to lead ICE, saying he wants to go in a "tougher direction." Stephen Miller urged Trump to ditch Ron Vitiello because Vitiello was not fully in favor of closing the southern border. (Associated Press / CNN / Washington Post)

  2. Motel 6 agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit after giving information about 80,000 guests to ICE without warrants. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the shared information led to targeted investigations of guests with Latino-sounding names. (NPR)

  3. A third federal judge ruled against the Trump administration's addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The ruling, like two earlier ones, will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court. (Washington Post / NPR)

  4. New Mexico became the 14th state to pledge its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in future presidential elections. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact now represents 189 electoral votes. The states, however, will not adopt the new vote allocations until their combined electoral votes equal 270. (CNN)

Day 805: Alarming and significant.

1/ Robert Mueller's investigators gathered "alarming and significant" evidence of obstruction by Trump that was "much more acute than [Attorney General William] Barr suggested" in his four-page letter to Congress. Members of the special counsel team told associates they believe their findings are potentially more damaging for Trump than Barr explained, and are frustrated that Barr did not adequately portray their work. The team had also prepared summaries for different sections of their 400-page report, which Barr did not use. Lawyers and FBI agents on Mueller's team reportedly could not reach an agreement about whether Trump's conduct amounted to obstruction of justice, but Barr, after consulting with Rod Rosenstein, went ahead and cleared Trump. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Bloomberg)

  • The House Judiciary Committee called on Barr to release Mueller's summaries that were prepared as part of the Trump-Russia report. "If these recent reports are accurate … then those summaries should be publicly released as soon as possible," chairman Jerry Nadler said. Nadler also called on Barr to produce "all communications" about the Mueller report between the special counsel's office and the Justice Department. (Reuters)

2/ The Department of Justice defended Barr's handling of Mueller's 400-page report on possible obstruction and Russian interference, saying they didn't disclose the full report because "every page" contained protected grand jury information and it "therefore could not be publicly released." A full report is expected to be released by mid-April after "appropriate redactions." (Politico / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • Rand Paul blocked a resolution calling for Mueller's report to be released publicly. It was the fifth time that Republicans blocked the resolution, which unanimously passed in the House last month. (Axios)

3/ Trump accused the New York Times of being a "Fake News paper" with no "legitimate sources" after it reported that Mueller's team believes that the report is more damaging than Barr has indicated. "In fact, they probably had no sources at all!" The Times story was corroborated by the Washington Post and NBC News. (Axios / Daily Beast)

4/ The House voted to end American involvement in the Yemen war and cut off support for the Saudi-led coalition. The bill now heads to Trump, who is expected to veto it – his second veto as president – and Congress lacks the votes to override him. The White House claimed the resolution raises "serious constitutional concerns." It's the first time Congress has invoked the War Powers Resolution to try and stop a foreign conflict. (Associated Press / New York Times / Politico / CNBC / The Guardian)

5/ The House approved legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act with new provisions to prohibit gun sales to convicted domestic abusers and stalkers. The National Rifle Association opposed the bill and said it'd be "scoring" how lawmakers vote on the bill to measure future ratings and endorsements in elections. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump backed down from his threat to close the southern border. Instead, he gave Mexico a "one-year warning" and threatened to impose car tariffs before closing the border "if the drugs don't stop." (Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg)

  2. Jared Kushner was among one of the 25 White House officials whose security clearance was initially denied but later overturned. A whistleblower in the White House's personnel security office said she and another career employee determined that Kushner had too many "significant disqualifying factors" to receive a clearance. (Washington Post)

  3. Trump intends to nominate Herman Cain for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. Cain ran for the 2012 GOP president nomination, but dropped out after sexual harassment allegations. Cain also co-founded a pro-Trump super-political action committee, America Fighting Back PAC, which claims that "America is under attack" and "we must protect Donald Trump and his agenda from impeachment." (Axios / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

  4. Trump's nominee to lead the Interior Department continued lobbying clients for several months after vowing to end his lobbying activities. In November 2016, David Bernhardt filed a legal notice formally ending his status as a lobbyist, but continued his work until as late as April 2017. (New York Times)

  5. FBI Director Christopher Wray said that white supremacy is a "persistent" and "pervasive" threat to the U.S. After the New Zealand mosque massacre last month, Trump said he didn't consider white nationalism to be a rising global threat. (CNN)

Day 804: Not inclined.

1/ House Democrats formally requested six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns from the IRS. In a letter to the IRS, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee cited a little known provision in the IRS tax code that grants tax-writing committees in Congress the power to request tax information on any individual. Chairman Richard Neal requested Trump's personal tax returns from 2013 to 2018, giving the agency until April 10 to comply. Trump claimed his returns are being audited by the IRS and that he would "not be inclined to" turn anything over to Congress. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin previously told the Ways and Means committee that he would protect Trump's privacy if members of Congress requested his tax returns. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 784: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that he would protect Trump's privacy if House Democrats request Trump's tax returns, saying: "We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer" regarding their right to privacy. Mnuchin said he "can't speculate" on how the administration will respond to demands for Trump's tax returns until it sees the request. House Democrats are preparing to ask the IRS for 10 years of Trump's personal tax returns under under a 1924 provision that requires the Treasury secretary to "furnish" any individual's tax return information to the House and Senate tax-writing committees. (Associated Press / ABC News / Politico / CNN)

2/ Trump's accounting firm wants to be subpoenaed before it will comply with a request for 10 years of Trump's financial records by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Elijah Cummings said Mazars USA "told us that they will provide the information pretty much when they have a subpoena. And we'll get them a subpoena." (Politico)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee authorized the use of subpoenas to force the Justice Department to give Congress a full copy of Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as all of the underlying evidence. Chairman Jerry Nadler said he would not immediately issue the subpoena, but will first negotiate with Attorney General William Barr for the full report and documents. Barr promised to give Congress a redacted version of Mueller's findings by mid-April. Democrats, however, have said that redactions are unacceptable, "because it is our job, not the Attorney General's, to determine whether or not President Trump has abused his office." The committee also voted to subpoena five former White House officials it believes may have documents relevant to Mueller's probe. (New York Times / Washington Post / NPR / Axios / NBC News / The Guardian)

  • Adam Schiff suggested that it is "inevitable" that Mueller will testify before Congress. The House Intelligence chairman added that his committee has "a statutory requirement that the Intelligence Community, FBI, brief us on any significant counterintelligence or intelligence activity. And it's hard to imagine something that rises more to that level than this investigation." (Bloomberg)

  • More than half of the House Judiciary Committee's 81 targets in its obstruction of justice and corruption investigation have declined to produce documents. The deadline to produce documents was March 18th. (Politico)

4/ Trump backed-off his enthusiasm for releasing Mueller's report publicly after initially claiming that it "wouldn't bother me at all" if the report was made public. Trump went on to single out congressional Democrats who are trying to obtain Mueller's report, tweeting that "There is no amount of testimony or document production that can satisfy Jerry Nadler or Shifty Adam Schiff. It is now time to focus exclusively on properly running our great Country!" Sarah Sanders echoed Trump, calling Democrats "sore losers" who "will never be satisfied." (Politico / CNN)

5/ The House Intelligence Committee asked an organizer of Trump's inaugural committee to provide documents about how the fund raised and spent $107 million. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, served as a producer and a vendor for the inauguration. In February, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to the inaugural committee for documents about donors, finances and activities. Prosecutors have been investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations through Trump's inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Talking Points Memo)

  • 📌 Day 750: Trump's inauguration committee overpaid to use event spaces at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., despite internal objections at the Trump Organization that the rates were too high. The committee was charged a rate of $175,000 per day. An event planner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, suggested that an appropriate rate would be closer to $85,000 per day. Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to entities that are owned by people who also control the nonprofit. (ProPublica)

  • 📌 Day 392: Trump's inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by Melania's adviser and longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The firm was created in December 2016 – 45 days before the inauguration. Trump’s inauguration committee raised $107 million and paid to WIS Media Partners $25.8 million. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • At least 14 major contributors to Trump's inaugural committee were later nominated to become ambassadors despite not having diplomatic experience. They donated an average slightly over $350,000 apiece. (NBC News)

6/ The House condemned Trump's support for a lawsuit seeking to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. In a non-binding resolution that passed 240 to 186, the House called the Justice Department's advocacy for abolishing the ACA "an unacceptable assault" on Americans' health care. (Washington Post / CNBC / Politico)

  • Trump claimed that he was "never planning a vote prior to the 2020 Election" on a replacement to the Affordable Care Act, despite last week saying that the effort was already "moving forward." Mitch McConnell told Trump this week he would not bring up a vote on the ACA in the Senate. (Politico)

poll/ 59% of voters have little or no trust in Trump to protect or improve the health care system. 58% of voters also have little or no trust in Republicans to improve health care. 53% of voters, however, have "a lot" or "some" trust in Democrats improve the health care system. (Morning Consult)


Notables.

  1. Mitch McConnell triggered the "nuclear option" to unilaterally reduce debate time on most of Trump's nominees. Under the new rule, debate time on the Senate floor for lower-level administration nominees will be cut to two hours from 30 hours. Democrats charged McConnell with hypocrisy, citing his refusal to hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and the numerous other lower court nominees he blocked in the final two years of Obama's presidency. (Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

  2. Wilbur Ross declined a second invitation to testify about Trump's budget request, claiming his scheduled appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee would be a distraction from the budget discussion. Separately, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena documents related to Ross' decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. (Politico / Reuters)

  3. A group of states are suing the Trump administration over changes it made to school lunch nutrition standards, arguing that the changes go against nutrition requirements put in place by Congress. (ABC News)

  4. Trump claimed that "the noise" from windmills "causes cancer." Wind turbines do not cause cancer. (Esquire / New York Magazine / CNN / Washington Post)


⚠️ Editor's note: Some might be wondering why I'm not covering Joe Biden's attempt at addressing allegations by four women that he touched them in inappropriate ways, and his claim that he will be "more mindful and respectful of people's personal space." This is a serious topic and Biden's non-apology and pinky-promise is predictably weak. However, this story falls outside the scope and mandate of this publication, which is to log the daily shock and awe of the current administration. I generally only cover the people and events outside of that charge when they intersect with the administration in some substantial way (Trump, for example, making fun of Biden for the allegations does not meet the definition of "substantial," FYI). -MATT

Day 803: "Incompetent or corrupt."

1/ Trump abandoned his plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act a week after announcing that his administration agreed with a judge's ruling that the entire health care law should be eliminated. In a string of morning tweets, Trump promised that the "vote will be taken right after" the 2020 election "when Republicans hold the Senate and win back the House." Last week, after directing the Justice Department to support a full dismantling of the ACA on constitutional grounds, Trump urged Republicans to come up with a "spectacular" replacement to the ACA. He called the unwritten Republican proposal "truly great HealthCare that will work for America," while promising to unveil the plan "at the appropriate time." He offered no details about when that might be. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said he had "a good conversation" with Trump and "made it clear to him we were not going to be doing [health care] in the Senate." (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 796: The Trump administration supports a federal appeals court ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act should be invalidated and thrown out. In a reversal, the Justice Department now says it agrees with the ruling of a federal judge in Texas that declared the ACA unconstitutional on the basis of a 2017 change in federal tax law that eliminated the penalty on uninsured people. Previously, the administration had pushed to remove the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. More than 20 million Americans are covered through the ACA's Medicaid expansion and its insurance exchanges. Trump, meanwhile,tweetedthat "The Republican Party will become 'The Party of Healthcare!'" (CNN / NPR / Politico / Washington Post / Vox / Axios / Mother Jones / New York Times)

2/ Trump walked back his threat to close the southwestern border over the increasing number of asylum seekers crossing into the US, saying "we're going to see what happens over the next few days." He added that "If we don't make a deal with Congress, the border's going to be closed […] 100 percent." Last week, Trump threatened that he "will be CLOSING….the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week." While Trump's top economic advisors have briefed him on the consequences of shutting down the border, he told reporters that "security is more important to me than trade." McConnell also cautioned that closing the border would be ill-advised and "have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing." (Washington Post / Politico / Reuters/ NBC News / CNN / USA Today / ABC News)

3/ Trump blamed Puerto Rico for being "a mess" and called its politicians "incompetent or corrupt" after the Senate blocked billions of dollars in disaster aid for states and territories devastated by natural disasters in recent months. Senators took test votes on two competing measures: Republicans rejected a recovery bill passed by the House, citing Trump's opposition to the bill's Puerto Rico funding. Democrats, meanwhile, rejected the GOP legislation, arguing that the proposed $600 million in nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico was not enough. Trump has been pressuring Democrats to support a disaster relief measure that does not include the money they want for Puerto Rico. (New York Times / ABC News)

  • A White House spokesman twice referred to Puerto Rico as "that country" while defending Trump's attacks on the leaders of the U.S. territory. Hogan Gidley later clarified his statement, saying that calling Puerto Rico a country was a "slip of the tongue." (Politico / Washington Post)

poll/ 48% of American describe Trump as "aggressive" and 38% describe him as "mean." Trump scored high for being "insincere," "confident" and "creepy." On the attributes of being "sexy," "impartial," "handsome" and "physically fit," Trump scored between 0 and 4%. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to subpoena the former White House personnel security director accused of overturning security clearances after a whistleblower complained that the Trump administration ignored national security concerns to approve clearances for 25 individuals whose applications were initially denied. Carl Kline will now be forced testify before the panel about his role in approving security clearances. (Washington Post / Politico)

  2. The House Oversight Committee also voted to subpoena Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for records related to the Commerce Department's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Ross testified before the committee in March, denying the citizenship question was intended to influence the allocation of congressional seats across the country. (Axios / Politico)

  3. A Chinese woman was charged with making false statements to the Secret Service after entering Mar-a-Lago with a thumb drive that contained "malicious software." Yujing Zhang was on the property on while Trump was playing golf at the Trump International course. Zhang told a receptionist she was there to attend an event (which did not exist), presenting documentation written in Chinese she claimed was her invitation to the event. After Secret Service agents were notified, Zhang claimed she was there to "go to the pool." Zhang was carrying two Republic of China passports, four cellphones, a laptop, a hard drive, and a thumb drive with malware on it. (CNBC / Washington Post / WPTV)

  4. The Department of Homeland Security quietly disbanded its domestic terrorism unit last year, saying that the threat of "homegrown violent extremism and domestic terrorism," including the threat from white supremacists, has been "significantly reduced." The branch of analysts in DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis were reassigned to new positions. (Daily Beast)

  5. Trump claimed for the third time that his father was born in Germany. Fred Trump was born in New York City, in the United States of America. Not Germany. (The Guardian / Washington Post)

Day 802: Meaningless.

1/ Senior Trump administration officials overturned and granted at least 25 security clearances – including two current senior White House officials – to people who were initially denied by career employees for "serious disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds. Tricia Newbold, a whistleblower working in the White House Personnel Security Office, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she warned her superiors that clearances "were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security." Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings said he was prepared to authorize subpoenas to compel the White House to comply with an investigation into whether national secrets were at risk. Newbold claims she was retaliated against for declining to issue security clearances, including being suspended without pay for 14 days. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Associated Press / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

2/ The House Judiciary Committee plans to vote to authorize subpoenas to obtain Robert Mueller's full report. Attorney General William Barr pledged to release a redacted version of the report by mid-April. Chairman Jerry Nadler, however, wants the "full and complete report," which spans nearly 400 pages, as well as underlying evidence. (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ Trump called the 2020 census "meaningless" if it doesn't include a citizenship question that two federal judges have already ruled against. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' decision to add the citizenship question violated federal law by June. (Washington Post / Politico / Reuters)

4/ Trump plans to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance programs for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Democrats called the move "short-sighted and flawed," "reckless," and "counterproductive" to reducing the flow of migrants to the U.S. border. The move affects nearly $500 million in 2018 funds earmarked for Central America but has not yet been spent. (Politico / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Trump is considering bringing on a "immigration czar" to coordinate policies across various federal agencies. Trump is reportedly considering former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. (Associated Press)

5/ The White House reiterated Trump's threat to close the U.S. border with Mexico, despite warnings that the move would do little to slow migrants trying to enter the U.S. "It certainly isn't a bluff," Kellyanne Conway said. "You can take the president seriously." Mexico is America's third-largest trading partner and closing the border would cause immediate economic damage. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 799: Trump repeated his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border as early as "next week" if the Mexican government doesn't "immediately" stop all undocumented migrants crossing into the U.S., saying he's "not playing games." Trump has repeatedly threatened to close the border, but he's never attached a specific timetable. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / Vox)

  • Nearly half of all imported U.S. vegetables and 40% of imported fruit are grown in Mexico. American would run out of avocados in three weeks if imports from Mexico were stopped. (NBC News)

  • "Fox and Friends" described Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras as "3 Mexican Countries" while discussing the Trump administration's decision to cut aid to the so-called Northern Triangle. (Mother Jones)

poll/ 29% of Americans believe Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing, based on what they have heard about Attorney General William Barr summary of Robert Mueller's report. 40% do not believe he has been cleared and 31% are not sure if he's has been cleared. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 38% believe no additional investigation is needed after Mueller delivered his report to Barr – down two percentage points from before Mueller delivered his report on the Russia investigation. (Lawfare)


Notables.

  • Trump is reportedly telling people he is "saving" Judge Amy Barrett for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat. Barrett's past academic writings suggest an openness to overturning Roe v. Wade. (Axios)

  • The White House claimed that Republicans are "working on a plan" to replace the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans were caught off guard last week by Trump's declaration that the Republican Party "will soon be known as the party of health care." Before his inauguration in 2017, Trump claimed his plan for replacing most of the ACA was nearly finished. (Washington Post)

  • White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney guaranteed that Americans would not lose their health insurance coverage if the Affordable Care Act was declared unconstitutional. Mulvaney promised that a replacement plan for the ACA would include protections more than 60 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. (USA Today)

  • More than 750,000 people would likely lose their food stamps under a new proposal by the Trump administration to encourage able-bodied adults to get a job. The administration wants to stop food stamps after three months for able-bodied adults without dependents who don't work, volunteer or get job training for at least 20 hours a week. (NPR)

  • A federal judge declared that Trump's order to open oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is illegal. The decision puts 128 million acres of federal waters off limits to energy exploration. (Washington Post)

  • A Connecticut woman accused Joe Biden of inappropriately touching her at a political fundraiser in 2009. The accusation comes three days after a former Nevada state lawmaker accused Biden of an "awkward kiss" at a campaign rally when she was the state's Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014. (Politico / New York Times / Hartford Courant)

  • A group of Senate Democrats will introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College this week. A constitutional amendment can be proposed by a two-thirds supermajority in both the House (~290 votes) and Senate (67 votes) and requires ratification by 38 states. (NBC News / Politico / Daily Beast)

  • Trump has made at least 9,451 false or misleading claims since taking office. Trump is making roughly 22 false or misleading claims a day – up from his average of nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day during his first year in office. (Washington Post)

Day 799: Not playing games.

1/ The Justice Department plans to release a redacted copy of Robert Mueller's report "by mid-April, if not sooner," according to Attorney General William Barr. In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, Barr noted that the report is "nearly 400 pages long" and the Justice Department needs to redact sensitive portions of it, including secret grand jury testimony, classified materials and information about other ongoing federal investigations. Barr added that the White House would not see the report before he sent it to Congress. Barr offered to testify after the report is released, suggesting May 1 for the Senate committee and May 2 for the House committee. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNN) / Reuters)

2/ Trump repeated his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border as early as "next week" if the Mexican government doesn't "immediately" stop all undocumented migrants crossing into the U.S., saying he's "not playing games." Trump has repeatedly threatened to close the border, but he's never attached a specific timetable. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / Vox)

3/ A federal judge blocked a Trump administration rule allowing millions of Americans to buy health insurance that doesn't conform to Affordable Care Act coverage requirements, calling it "clearly an end-run around the ACA." The rule would make it easier for small businesses to offer health insurance plans outside the ACA, which would be both less expensive and provide fewer health protections. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN)

poll/ 75% of Americans think Mueller's full report should be made public, including 54% of Republicans. 66% said they want Mueller to testify before Congress with 64% wanting Barr to testify. (NPR)


Notables.

  1. Trump held his first 2020 campaign rally since Mueller wrapped up his investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election, which he claimed to be his "complete and total exoneration." "After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead," Trump told the crowd. "The collusion delusion is over." Trump also used his time on stage to attack House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, who has led the charge to investigate Trump's dealings with Russia and continues to insist that he has seen clear evidence of collusion. "Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff," Trump said at the rally. "He’s got the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen." Trump also called for retribution against "All of the Democrat politicians. The media bosses. Bad people. The crooked journalists," and everyone else who "paid for, promoted, and perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics, they have to be — I’m sorry — they have to be accountable," Trump said. The crowd responded with chants of "Lock them up!" (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / Mediaite)

  2. Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman, who lied to senators about his role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. According to the CIA assessment of Khashoggi's murder, Khalid bin Salman encouraged Khashoggi to visit the embassy to retrieve required documents for his marriage. (Washington Examiner / Talking Points Memo / Washington Post)

  3. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are planning to change Senate rules in order to speed up the confirmation of most of Trump's nominees. A Senate resolution, approved by the Senate Rules Committee in February, would cut the time allotted for floor debate on from 30 hours to two hours for all nominations except for Cabinet choices, nominees for the Supreme Court and appellate courts and some independent boards. (Washington Post / Politico)

  4. A Trump appointee directed millions of dollars in government contracts to Republican communications consultants during her time as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Some of the deals Seema Verma managed were approved over the objections of agency staffers, who were concerned that she was spending federal funding on GOP consultants to amplify coverage of her own work. (Politico)

  5. Trump's nominee to serve as third in command at the Justice Department has withdrawn herself from consideration, following opposition from conservative senators who had concerns that U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu would not be strong enough in opposing abortion rights. Barr reportedly got into a "shouting match" with Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a key leader opposing Liu's bid. (NPR / CNN / The Hill)

  6. Linda McMahon will resign as the head of the Small Business Administration to chair the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. The former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment had rumored to replace Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (Politico / New York Times)

  7. Trump claimed he had "overridden" proposed cuts and "authorized a funding of the Special Olympics" after Betsy DeVos spent three days defending her plan to eliminate funding for the program. The White House can make budget recommendations to Congress, but can't actually implement cuts. (Reuters / CNN / CNBC)

Day 798: Bully.

1/ Robert Mueller's report is more than 300 pages long and contains "lots and lots of footnotes," raising questions about how Attorney General Bill Barr was able to release his four-page summary of "principal conclusions" two days after Mueller turned it in. Democrats have demanded that Barr make the full report and "all of the underlying evidence" public. Nancy Pelosi called Barr's summary "condescending" and "arrogant." The Justice Department, meanwhile, has said it will release a version of the Mueller report in "weeks not months," but sensitive information will not be included. (New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / Axios / CNN / NBC News)

2/ Barr is expected to miss the House Democrats' April 2nd deadline for him to turn in the full Mueller report to Congress. Democrats are expected to subpoena the Justice Department for the full report if Barr misses the deadline. Barr also suggested that it will likely take weeks to redact the report. House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said Barr "wouldn't commit" to releasing the report to Congress without redactions, but did agree to testify to the committee "reasonably soon." (Washington Post / Bloomberg / The Guardian)

3/ Trump and Republicans in Congress are calling Adam Schiff to resign after Mueller's report did not conclude that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump accused Schiff of having "spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking" and should therefore "be forced to resign from Congress!" Schiff insists that "undoubtedly there was collusion" and vowed that the House Intelligence Committee will continue to look into the counterintelligence aspects of Mueller's investigation. (Politico / Reuters / CNN / NBC News)

  • Trump accused two former FBI employees of having "committed treason" for investigating possible Russian links to his campaign during the 2016 campaign. Peter Strzok was fired from the FBI after officials discovered he had been sharing anti-Trump texts with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and former member of the Mueller investigation, who he was having an affair with. Trump also promised to release the FISA warrants and related documents used by the FBI to investigate his campaign in full and unredacted in order to "get to the bottom" of how the Russia collusion narrative began. (Bloomberg / Axios / Fox News)

  • A federal judge has ordered that the Justice Department and FBI turnover James Comey's memos in full. Many of the memos have been released publicly, but some parts remain redacted. Earlier this month, the Justice Department argued that release of other information in the Comey memos could hurt the then-ongoing Mueller investigation. (CNN)

  • Jared Kushner met privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which wanted to re-interview witnesses central to the Russia investigation. (CNBC / CNN)

  • Russian agent Maria Butina will be sentenced on April 26. Butina pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to act as a Russian agent without registering with the Justice Department. She faces a maximum of five years in prison but could receive zero to six months because of a plea deal. (NPR)

4/ Trump frequently exaggerated his net worth and hid his debts to lenders and investors, sometimes sending official-looking documents called "Statements of Financial Condition." Investigators on Capitol Hill and in New York are attempting to determine if Trump's inflated numbers ever crossed over into fraud. (Washington Post)

5/ The Department of Homeland Security will ask Congress for the authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children more quickly. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will also propose holding families seeking asylum in detention until their cases are decided and allow immigrants to apply for asylum from their home countries. (NBC News)

  • Trump – again – threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border because he says Mexico and several Central American countries are not doing enough to stem the flow of migrants coming to the United States. Trump singled out Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in particular for having "taken our money for years" but not doing anything about migration. Trump continued that "Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country." (Politico / Washington Post)

poll/ 56% of American say Trump has done too little to distance himself from white nationalist groups. 28% of Americans called Trump even-tempered and 36% called Trump trustworthy. (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court declined to block the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on bump stocks, which enable semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns. The regulation went into effect on Tuesday and bans the sale or possession of the devices. (Associated Press / New York Times / Reuters)

  2. The National Rifle Association is opposing an expansion of the Violence Against Women Act, which seeks to block people who have committed domestic abuse from obtaining firearms. (Daily Beast)

  3. Puerto Rico's governor called Trump a "bully" over the White House's efforts to limit disaster relief aid needed to repair the damages brought by Hurricane Maria in late 2017. Trump, meanwhile, claimed that no other "living human being" has taken better care of Puerto Rico than him.(CNN / Bloomberg / Politico)

  4. The Trump administration approved six secret authorizations to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia. The White House has been pursuing a deal that involves sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with the Saudis and building two nuclear power plants in the country. Russia, South Korea, the United States, and other countries are all competing on the deal, and Saudi Arabia is expected to announce the winners later this week. (Reuters / CNBC)

  5. Trump says the FBI and Department of Justice will review the "outrageous" decision by prosecutors in Chicago to drop all charges against actor Jussie Smollett, calling the decision "an embarrassment to our Nation!" The DOJ declined to comment, and Smollett's attorney said "we have nothing to be concerned about" when it comes to the federal probe. (NBC News)

  6. Trump's nominee for a seat on the Federal Reserve owes more than $75,000 in taxes and other penalties. Stephen Moore referred questions about the tax debt to his wife (Bloomberg)

  7. Trump is expected to pick a Fox News contributor to be the new State Department spokesperson. Morgan Ortagus is under consideration to replace Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor. (NBC News / CNN)

  8. Twitter is considering labeling Trump's tweets that violate its rules – but won't delete them because – they claim – they're in the public interest. (CNN / Washignton Post)

Day 797: Difficult decisions.

1/ Trump pledged to have a plan "far better than Obamacare" if the Supreme Court strikes down the entire Affordable Care Act, saying "I understand health care now." Trump did not provided details about what health care plan would replace the ACA, but reiterated his baseless claim that the Republican Party will now be the "party of great health care." A district judge in Texas ruled that the entire law was unconstitutional after Trump's tax law eliminated the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate penalty. Yesterday, the Justice Department took the position that the entire ACA should be overturned. The ACA insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion provide health care coverage from more than 20 million people. (Politico / CBS News / New York Times / NBC News)

  • What happens if the Affordable Care Act is overturned? 21 million people could lose their health insurance and 12 million adults could lose Medicaid coverage. (New York Times)

2/ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Trump he disagrees with the administration's attempt to get the entire Affordable Care Act thrown out in court. McCarthy reportedly told Trump that the decision made no sense without a plan in place to replace the ACA heading in the 2020 elections. Republican officials are privately blaming Mick Mulvaney, domestic policy chief Joe Grogan, and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought for engineering Trump's new position. (Axios / Washington Post)

  • The Trump administration's move to invalidate the Affordable Care Act came despite the opposition from the heads of the Justice Department and Health and Human Services Department. Alex Azar argued against backing the lawsuit seeking the full repeal of the health care law, citing the lack of a Republican alternative. William Barr, meanwhile, opposed the plan based on skepticism among conservative lawyers about the wisdom of seeking to overturn the law. (Politico)

3/ Betsy DeVos defended her proposal to eliminate $17.6 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics, calling it a "difficult decisions" because she thinks "that the Special Olympics is an awesome organization," but "the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations." About 272,000 children would be affected from the funding cut to the Special Olympics. Overall, DeVos' proposed budget would eliminate 29 programs covering arts, civics and literacy for an annual savings of $6.7 billion – or about a 12% cut to the Education Department's budget. Meanwhile, DeVos has proposed creating a $5 billion federal voucher system for private schools. It was the third year in a row that DeVos called for eliminating funding for Special Olympic events at schools. Devos blamed the media and some members of Congress for "falsehoods and fully misrepresenting the facts." (Detroit Free Press / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)

  • The chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that determines Department of Education funding levels rejected DeVos' proposed cuts to the Special Olympics. Sen. Roy Blunt said "Our Department of Education appropriations bill will not cut funding for the program." (The Hill)

  • Trump's last five trips to Mar-a-Lago would cover the proposed Special Olympics cuts. Trump's trips to his private club in Florida cost taxpayers about $3.4 million. (Washington Post)

poll/ 48% of Americans still believe Trump conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election, despite the summary of Mueller's findings suggesting no evidence of a conspiracy. (Reuters)

poll/ 56% of Americans don't believe that Trump and his campaign have been exonerated of collusion. 77% of Republicans say Trump has been exonerated, 80% of Democrats and 58% of Independents say he has not. (CNN)

poll/ 47% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy while 43% disapprove. (CNBC)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller's grand jury is "continuing robustly" despite the end of his investigation, indicating that the ongoing cases Mueller handed off could still result in further indictments. Two former federal prosecutors said the grand jury activity may indicate that the office is pursuing matters spun off from the Mueller probe. (Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN)

  2. Mitch McConnell blocked a second resolution in the Senate calling for Mueller's report to be made public. Senate Judiciary Chair Diane Feinstein attempted to get unanimous consent to pass a Senate version of a non-binding resolution that passed in the House with a vote of 420-0. McConnell objected to her request and said that Attorney General William Barr is still working with Mueller to determine which parts of the report – if any – should be made public. (The Hill / Axios)

  3. McConnell supports a Republican effort to investigate alleged political bias against Trump at the Justice Department and the FBI, spearheaded by Lindsey Graham. "I think it's not inappropriate for the chairman of the Judiciary with jurisdiction over the Justice Department to investigate possible misbehavior," McConnell said. (Politico / Reuters)

  4. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff doubled down on his claims that he has seen evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. "Undoubtedly there is collusion. We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised in any way by a hostile foreign power? . . . It doesn't appear that was any part of Mueller's report." House Democrats gave William Barr until April 2 to deliver a copy of the Mueller report to Congress. (Washington Post)

  5. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation directing the Justice Department to give Congress all records on FBI obstruction of justice or counterintelligence probes against Trump. The full House now has the opportunity to vote on the measure. Approval would give Barr 14 days to comply with the demand for all records and communications, as well any discussions within the Justice Department about recording Trump or seeking to replace him by invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Politico / Reuters)

  6. The House Oversight and Reform Committee requested 10 years of Trump's financial records from an accounting firm that prepared several years of financial statements for Trump. The request comes after testimony from Michael Cohen, who raised questions about whether Trump inflated or deflated the value of his financial assets during the course of past business transactions. (Politico / CNBC / Daily Beast)

  7. Seven former senior Trump aides may have violated federal law by failing to disclose their future employment on financial reports. High-level staffers are required to disclose their future employment to identify potential conflicts of interest between their White House positions and new employers. (Politico)

Day 796: Invalidated.

1/ The Trump administration supports a federal appeals court ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act should be invalidated and thrown out. In a reversal, the Justice Department now says it agrees with the ruling of a federal judge in Texas that declared the ACA unconstitutional on the basis of a 2017 change in federal tax law that eliminated the penalty on uninsured people. Previously, the administration had pushed to remove the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. More than 20 million Americans are covered through the ACA's Medicaid expansion and its insurance exchanges. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that "The Republican Party will become 'The Party of Healthcare!'" (CNN / NPR / Politico / Washington Post / Vox / Axios / Mother Jones / New York Times)

2/ The House failed to overturn Trump's veto of legislation blocking his national emergency declaration at the border. House Democrats needed roughly 50 Republican defections to override the veto with two-thirds of the House. Fourteen Republicans crossed party lines. The failed effort leaves Trump's emergency declaration at the southwestern border intact despite bipartisan passage of a resolution to terminate the emergency declaration, which Trump declared after Congress rejected his request for $5.7 billion to build the wall. (ABC News / New York Times / Politico / Washington Post)

3/ The Department of Defense transferred $1 billion for new border barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. Up to $1 billion will go toward the construction of 57 miles of 18-foot-high "pedestrian fencing," improving roads, and lighting for the southern border. An additional $1.5 billion is expected to be shifted for wall funding in the near future. Trump's emergency declaration seeks to divert $3.6 billion from military construction to fund a border wall. Last week, the Pentagon gave Congress a list of $12.8 billion in approved construction projects that could be redirected to fund a border wall. (CNN / Reuters / Wall Street Journal / NPR)

4/ Six Democratic House committee chairs requested that Attorney General William Barr submit Robert Mueller's full report to Congress by April 2. Lawmakers say Barr's summary of the report "is not sufficient for Congress," calling on Barr to turn over the underlying evidence and documents by the same day. Democrats said that providing the report "in complete and unredacted form" would be consistent with DOJ policies and precedent. (NBC News)

  • Barr plans to issue a public version of Mueller's report within "weeks, not months." A Justice Department official said there is no plan to share an advanced copy of the report with the White House. (Reuters)

5/ The FBI will brief lawmakers on the counterintelligence findings from Mueller's investigation. The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump, but Barr's summary report of Mueller's findings didn't include any information about whether or not investigators found that Trump or anyone around him might be compromised or influenced by Russia. Officials expect the FBI to brief leaders from the House and Senate, as well as the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees in a closed session. (NBC News)

  • 📌Day 725: The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia after he fired Comey in May 2017. Law enforcement officials became concerned that if Trump had fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation, his behavior would have constituted a threat to national security. Counterintelligence agents were also investigating why Trump was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia. No evidence has publicly emerged – yet – that Trump was secretly taking direction from Russian government officials. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the report "absurd" and claimed that, compared to Obama, "Trump has actually been tough on Russia." (New York Times / CNN)

poll/ 42% of voters approve of Trump's job performance following the release of a summary Mueller's findings – unchanged from the week before. 55% disapprove. 52% believe Russia has compromising information on Trump. (Morning Consult)

poll/ 84% of voters want Mueller's report to be made public, including 75% of Republicans. 55% of voters say Mueller conducted a "fair" investigation. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Mike Pence talked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats out of resigning at the end of last year over his frustrations with Trump. Pence stepped in after Trump's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, convincing him to stay until at least this summer. Trump has also pushed Coats to find evidence that Obama wiretapped him, demanded that Coats publicly criticize the U.S. intelligence community as biased, and accused Coats of being behind leaks of classified information. (NBC News)

  2. Trump's nominee to lead the Interior Department blocked a report on the effect of pesticides on endangered species. The report found that two pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos, were so toxic that they "jeopardize the continued existence" of more than 1,200 endangered birds, fish and other animals and plants. At the time, David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist and oil-industry lawyer, was the deputy secretary of the interior. He is now Trump's nominee to lead the Interior Department. (New York Times)

  3. George Papadopoulos has formally applied for a pardon from Trump. The former Trump campaign adviser served a 12-day prison sentence after being charged by Mueller for lying to the FBI. (Reuters)

  4. Trump asked his top aides for ways to limit federal funding for Puerto Rico. Trump has also privately suggested that he will not approve any additional help for Puerto Rico beyond the food-stamp money. (Washington Post)

Day 795: No conclusion.

1/ Attorney General William Barr concluded that Robert Mueller's investigation found no evidence that the Trump campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia during the 2016 election. Barr submitted a four-page summary of Mueller's key findings to Congress for review, noting that Mueller didn't find conspiracy "despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign." While Mueller's team drew no conclusions about whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr and Rod Rosenstein independently concluded that the evidence was "not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense." Democrats are calling for full report to be made public and are questioning Barr's conclusions. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / The Guardian / CNBC / NPR / Reuters / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

  • 📖 READ: Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller report. (DocumentCloud / New York Times / CNN)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: The question unanswered by Mueller's report: Why did Putin risk interfering in the 2016 election as he did. (The Atlantic)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: The six unanswered questions from Barr's summary of the Mueller report. The attorney general offered his "principal conclusions," but left some questions abut the special counsel's investigation unresolved. (Vox)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: 4 key takeaways from the Mueller report summary. (Washington Post)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: What to make of Bill Barr's letter: Mueller did not find that Trump obstructed his investigation, but he also made a point of not reaching the conclusion that Trump didn't obstruct the investigation. (Lawfare)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: Legal experts question Barr's rationale for exonerating Trump. Barr noted that Mueller didn't conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice but that Mueller also said that he wasn't exonerating Trump either. (Washington Post)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: Why Trump isn't being charged with obstruction of justice. Mueller laid out the facts of Trump's actions with regard to the investigation and Barr and Rosenstein used those facts to draw a conclusion about whether Trump would meet the requirements to be charged with obstruction. (Vox)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: Impeachment just became less likely. (NPR)

  • 🔍 ANALYSIS: The key findings of the Mueller report. (The Guardian)

  • 📌 Day 700: Trump's pick for attorney general criticized Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation in an unsolicited memo he sent to the Justice Department in June. William Barr said "Mueller's obstruction theory is fatally misconceived," claiming that Trump's interactions with James Comey would not constitute obstruction of justice, because Trump was using his "complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding." If confirmed as attorney general, Barr would oversee Mueller's work. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post)

2/ Trump declared that Mueller's report was "a complete and total exoneration" despite Mueller saying the investigation "does not exonerate him." Mueller's report states that "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" and it "does not conclude that the President committed a crime." Trump complained that "It's a shame that our country has had to go through this […] that your president has had to go through this." Trump added that Mueller's investigation was "an illegal takedown that failed" and "hopefully somebody's going to look at the other side," implying that the appointment of the special counsel investigation may now be subject to scrutiny. (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Associated Press)

3/ Mueller told the Justice Department three weeks ago that he wouldn't reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. In Barr's summary to Congress, he concluded that the Justice Department couldn't make a prosecutable case against Trump for obstruction. Mueller's report, however, "did not draw a conclusion – one way or another – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction." The conclusion was reportedly "unexpected" and not what Barr had anticipated. (CNN)

  • Mueller's office deliberated with Justice Department officials about issuing a subpoena for Trump to be interviewed, but ultimately decided that a subpoena could not be pursued based on the evidence and merits of the issues. Current department policy also dictates that a sitting president cannot be indicted. (CNN)

  • The White House rejected a request from Congressional Democrats for documents related to Trump's phone calls and meetings with Putin. Investigators argue that Trump has attempted to "conceal the details of his communications with President Putin," which are a threat to national security and present concerns because Trump may have been manipulated by Russia. (ABC News)

4/ House Democrats want to see the full Mueller report and are calling on Barr to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions. "It is unacceptable," said Chairman Jerry Nadler," that after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours." Nadler called on Barr to "release the report and the underlying evidence in full," and to appear before the committee "without delay." Nadler has contacted the Department of Justice to set a date for Barr to testify and fill in the blanks he left in his summary of the Mueller report. (CNBC / NBC News / CBS News)

5/ Trump said it "wouldn't bother me at all" for Mueller's report to be released in full, but left it "up to the attorney general." Trump added that Mueller had acted honorably despite previously describing the special counsel as "conflicted," "disgraced" and a "liar." Trump later blamed "treasonous" people, who are guilty of "evil things" for the Russia investigation. He did not name his critics, but said he's "been looking at them for a long time," adding: "you know who they are." (ABC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Politico)

6/ Trump's attorney doesn't want Trump's "confidential" written answers to Mueller to be released, citing executive privilege. Jay Sekulow called such a move "very inappropriate," adding that "as a lawyer, you don't waive privileges and you don't waive investigative detail absent either a court order or an agreement between the parties." Nadler, meanwhile, warned Trump against attempting to assert executive privilege to block the release of portions of the Mueller report. "As we learned from the Nixon tapes case, executive privilege cannot be used to hide wrongdoing." (CNN / NBC News)

7/ Mitch McConnell blocked a non-binding resolution to make Mueller's full report public. The resolution was passed unanimously in the House, but McConnel cited national security concerns for his decision to block the resolution in the Senate. (CNN / Axios)

8/ Russia says the Mueller report "has proved what we in Russia knew long ago: there was no conspiracy between Trump or any member of his team and the Kremlin." Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of the Federation Council's committee on foreign affairs, blamed U.S. media bias and anti-Russian sentiment for the investigation, adding that they expect the U.S. to increase pressure on Russia. Dmitri Peskov, Putin's spokesman, called Barr's summary "recognition that there wasn't any collusion." (The Guardian / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Prosecutors suggest that Paul Manafort may be trying to get $1 million out of his $11 million forfeiture to the federal government. A shell company named formed as Mueller was investigating Manafort in August 2017 claimed that it deserves $1 million from Manafort's forfeiture. (CNN)

  2. The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from an unidentified foreign government-owned company resisting a Mueller subpoena. The justices left intact a federal appeals court ruling that said the company had to comply with the subpoena. The company faces fines that have increased by $50,000 a day and may have grown to well more than $2 million. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN)

  3. Michael Avenatti was arrested on charges of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to reveal negative publicity. The former lawyer for Stormy Daniels was also charged in a separate federal case of embezzling a client's money "in order to pay his own expense and debts," and of "defrauding a bank in Mississippi." (CNBC / Politico / The Guardian / CNN)

  4. Trump signed a proclamation formally recognizing Israel's authority over the long-disputed Golan Heights. Earlier in the day, Hamas, the armed group that rules Gaza, fired a rocket that destroyed a house in a village north of Tel Aviv. (New York Times / Reuters)

  5. The State and Treasury departments sanctioned 14 individuals and 17 entities linked to Iran's organization for defense, innovation and research. Senior administration officials suggested that SPND could provide cover for them to continue missile-related activity. (CNN)

  6. Mitch McConnell will put the Green New Deal to a vote, forcing Democrats on the record to paint them as socialists who are out of touch with American values. (New York Times)

Day 792: Principal conclusions.

1/ Robert Mueller submitted his full report on Trump and Russia to the attorney general. The Justice Department notified Congress that it had received Mueller's report, but did not describe its contents. William Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in the coming days, deciding how much of the report to share with Congress. White House lawyers are prepared to argue some material is protected by executive privilege, especially if the report discusses whether Trump's interactions with his aides or legal advisers are evidence of obstruction of justice. Mueller's work has led to criminal charges against 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and George Papadopoulos all pleaded guilty. Roger Stone was indicted in January and accused of lying to Congress, but has pleaded not guilty. More than 24 people charged by Mueller are Russians. No Americans charged by Mueller have been accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election. No further indictments are expected. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Bloomberg / USA Today / CNBC)

2/ Barr notified lawmakers that he intends to provide information about the "principal conclusions" of Mueller's report "as soon as this weekend." Barr promised to bring as much transparency as possible to Mueller's findings but stressed that Justice Department policy prevents officials from disclosing information about investigations that didn't result in criminal charges. That means part of Mueller's probe as it relates to Trump may not be revealed any time soon. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Trump warned that "people will not stand for it" if Robert Mueller's report makes him look bad. Trump – again – complained that "a deputy, that didn't get any votes, appoints a man that didn't get any votes," referring to Rod Rosenstein's appointment of Mueller. Trump also bemoaned that Mueller was "best friend" with James Comey, who succeeded Mueller as FBI director, despite there being no evidence that the two are close friends. (The Guardian / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 790: Trump called Mueller's report illegitimate because he was never elected and complained to reporters that he now has to deal with "somebody writing a report" despite having "won one of the greatest elections of all time." Trump went on to refer to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as just "a deputy" who was "appointed," who then "appoint[ed] another man to write a report," rhetorically asking somebody to "explain that, because my voters don't get it, and I don't get it." Trump nominated Rosenstein, who was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate in a 94-6 vote. (Talking Points Memo / Roll Call)

  • In June, Rosenstein sent a 12-page letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley outlining a potential road map on what to expect from Mueller. Rosenstein made it clear that he believes the Justice Department will not include disparaging or incriminating information about anybody who has not been charged with a crime. Translation: Don't expect a criticism of Trump or any associates if they have not been charged with crimes. (ABC News)

  • The lead federal prosecutor in New York supervising Michael Cohen's case is leaving his job in April. (Politico)

4/ The Democratic chairs of the six House committees will direct the Justice Department, FBI, and White House Counsel's Office to preserve records provided to Mueller. The effort will ensure that agencies comply with the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act to retain correspondence, memos, reports and other material should the committees request them. House Democrats have also discussed issuing subpoenas for the information if the White House refuses to cooperate. (Washington Post)

5/ Trump called for his attorney general to "do what's fair" and open investigations into Hillary Clinton, Comey, James Clapper, and John Brennan. Providing no evidence to support his claims, Trump asserted that he's been treated "very unfairly" by Mueller's team, while "nobody does anything" about all the "stone cold crimes" committed by former Obama officials. Trump also accused Comey, Clapper, and Brennan of telling "absolute lies" to Congress. Trump went on to call it an "interesting question" as to whether he thought Attorney General William Barr should look into his accusations. (Politico / Fox Business)

6/ Trump cancelled sanctions aimed at North Korea a day after they were imposed by his own Treasury Department. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump removed the sanctions because he "likes" North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Yesterday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against two Chinese shipping companies for their alleged role in evading U.N. sanctions against North Korea. A former director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury called it "utterly shocking" that Trump would "actively undercut his own sanctions agency for the benefit of North Korea." Trump announced his decision via tweet. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps warned that sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and funding transfers under Trump's emergency declaration has posed "unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency." Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller wrote two internal memos that said the "unplanned/unbudgeted" deployment order by Trump last fall along the southwest border, along with shifts in other funds to support border security operations, have forced him to cancel or reduce other military training in at least five countries and delay urgent base repairs. (Los Angeles Times)

  2. The deputy director of the National Economic Council is planning to leave the White House in the coming weeks as the Trump administration continues its high-stakes talks with China. Clete Willems is expected to leave his position in April due to the strain that frequent travel has placed on his young and growing family, according to people familiar with his plans to leave. A replacement to fill the top White House trade position is still in the works, but nothing has been finalized. (CNBC)

  3. Trump blamed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for the economy's failure to exceed 4% economic growth last year. (Politico)

  4. Trump will nominate his former campaign adviser Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve. Moore was the founder of the conservative Club for Growth and helped write Trump's signature tax plan. Moore is also a close friend of Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow, served as an adviser on Trump's campaign, and helped draft Trump's economic agenda early on. (Bloomberg / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Reuters)

Day 791: Alternative means.

1/ Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump used WhatsApp and personal email accounts to conduct official government business, according to Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In a letter, Cummings accused the White House of "obstructing the committee's investigation into allegations of violations of federal records laws" and potential breaches of national security. He said he'd give the White House a final chance to "voluntarily" comply with his investigation into the use of private email accounts by Kushner, Ivanka, and other White House officials before resorting to "alternative means" to obtain the information requested. Kushner's lawyer told the committee in December that his client had used WhatsApp for official business, but that he was not in violation of the Presidential Records Act because he took screenshots of his communications and forwarded them to his White House email account or to the National Security Council. CNN and the Wall Street Journal previously reported that Kushner had communicated with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman using WhatsApp. The panel also obtained documents showing that former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and Steve Bannon conducted official business using personal accounts. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Bloomberg / Politico)

  • Seven members of Trump's team have used unofficial personal email accounts for official government business: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Stephen Miller, Gary Cohn, Stephen Bannon, K.T. McFarland and Reince Priebus. (Washington Post)

2/ The former owner of a Florida spa involved in a prostitution investigation claimed she didn't sell access to Trump. Cindy Yang says the allegations that she is a Chinese agent are false, and that she believes she is being persecuted because of her ethnicity and political party. "I'm Chinese. I'm Republican," she said. "That's the reason the Democrats want to check me." She also said that she hasn't had any contact with members of the Chinese government since she moved to the United States 20 years ago. (NBC News)

3/ Trump wants Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the White House celebrating the team's Super Bowl victory despite Kraft's recent arrest on charges of soliciting prostitution at a Florida massage parlor. White House aides are worried that it could turn a photo op into an embarrassing media spectacle. (Politico / New York Times)

4/ Trump charged his own reelection campaign $1.3 million for rent, food, lodging and other expenses at Trump-owned properties since taking office. Federal regulations allow candidates to put campaign money into their own businesses only if they pay going rates. (Forbes)

5/ Trump signed an executive order that would deny colleges some federal research and education grants if they failed to comply with free speech standards outlined by the administration. Trump cited complaints by conservatives who allege their views are suppressed on campuses, and that speakers are sometimes assaulted or silenced when protesters threaten violence. Earlier this month, Trump said he would issue an executive order "requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars." Details about the policy and how it would work remain unclear. The White House says Trump will sign the order and make a statement about "improving free inquiry, transparency and accountability on campus" this afternoon. (Politico / ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 36% of American support impeaching Trump – down 7 percentage points since December. Support had been as high as 47% last fall. (CNN)

poll/ 78% of Republicans who watch Fox News say Trump is the most successful president in history, compared to 49% of Republicans who do not watch Fox News. 79% of Republican Fox News viewers said they believe the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies were trying to sabotage Trump, compared to 49% of non-Fox News viewing Republicans. (Daily Beast)


Notables.

  1. There is no longer a single Republican in the House that is considered a supporter of abortion rights, following the retirements of Charlie Dent and Rodney Frelinghuysen. In the Senate, only Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins remain as supporters of abortion rights. (Wall Street Journal)

  2. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has reportedly released hundreds of migrants from detention facilities along the southern border in Texas due to severe overcrowding. At least 250 migrants were released on Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials say the releases are necessary due to the recent influx of migrants from Central America. Immigrant advocates said the releases are meant to sow confusion at the border to help make the case for Trump's national emergency declaration. (Los Angeles Times / The Hill)

  3. The Florida man who sent pipe bombs to Trump's political enemies pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court. Cesar Sayoc's change-of-plea hearing was made public last week after a conference call between prosecutors, a judge, and Sayoc's attorneys. By pleading guilty, Sayoc will avoid his trial, which was scheduled for July. Sayoc has been held without bail since he was arrested in late October outside of a South Florida auto parts store. Sayoc faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. (Reuters / Bloomberg / Politico / NBC News / CBS News)

  4. Trump announced that ISIS would be "gone by tonight," presenting two maps showing before-and-after photos of the Islamic State territory that he said proved that he's had done more to eradicate the extremists than Obama had. (ABC News / New York Times)

  5. The Department of Defense Inspector General is investigating the acting Secretary of Defense over reported bias for Boeing. A spokesperson for the IG's office said they have "decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules." Shanahan said during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supported an investigation into the issue, so the IG's office "informed him that we have initiated this investigation." (Politico)

  6. In a shift in decades-long American policy, Trump announced that "it is time" for the U.S. to "fully recognize Israel's sovereignty" over the Golan Heights, one of the world's most disputed territories. The international community has never recognized Israel's sovereignty over the territory that it captured in 1967. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)


📓 Mueller Watch: Your guide to the conclusion of the Mueller probe. (NBC News / Politico / USA Today)

Day 790: Nuts.

1/ Trump called Mueller's report illegitimate because he was never elected and complained to reporters that he now has to deal with "somebody writing a report" despite having "won one of the greatest elections of all time." Trump went on to refer to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as just "a deputy" who was "appointed," who then "appoint[ed] another man to write a report," rhetorically asking somebody to "explain that, because my voters don't get it, and I don't get it." Trump nominated Rosenstein, who was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate in a 94-6 vote. (Talking Points Memo / Roll Call)

2/ Trump then called for Robert Mueller's report to be made public, saying "Let it come out, let people see it […] we'll see what happens." He added: "I don't mind" if it's made public and "I look forward to seeing the report." The decision to make Mueller's report public will be left to Attorney General William Barr, and Trump said he has "no idea" when the report will be released. (Reuters / Politico / Bloomberg)

3/ Robert Mueller's team told a federal judge that they're very busy this week because they "face the press of other work" and would like a deadline extension to respond to a request to unseal records in Paul Manafort's criminal case. The special counsel asked the court to give them until April 1 to respond to the request from the Washington Post, which petitioned the court to unseal the Manafort documents related to his breach of plea proceedings, citing "the profound public interest in these proceedings." Mueller's report is expected any day now. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • Here's what we already know about the Mueller report: The investigation has revealed a range of events related to Russian interference and the 2016 election. Six people connected to Trump have been charged and five have been convicted or pleaded guilty. (New York Times)

4/ Hope Hicks plans to turn over documents to the House Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into potential obstruction of justice. Rep. Jerry Nadler said the former White House communications director and long-time confidante of Trump will hand over documents from "any personal or work diary, journal or other book containing notes, a record or a description of daily events" about Trump, the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization and the executive office of the President. (CNN)

  • Michael Flynn's company submitted several thousand pages of documents to the House Judiciary Committee as part of the panel's investigation of alleged obstruction of justice and other actions by Trump. (Politico)

  • The chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee accused the Trump administration of engaging in "an unprecedented level of stonewalling." Elijah Cummings said the White House has refused to cooperate with repeated requests from the committee. (Newsweek)

  • 📌 Day 798: The Trump administration ignored the House Judiciary request for documents. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline asking for documents related the firing of James Comey, internal discussions about the decision of Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia probe, details about any talks to dismiss, as well as records about payments Trump made as part of a hush-money scheme to keep his alleged extramarital affairs from going public. (CNN / Politico)

5/ Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut will not result in the promised 3% annual growth rate. The White House conceded that the American economy would need additional labor regulation rollbacks, a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, and another round of tax cuts in order to produce the promised 3% average growth rate for the next decade. White House forecasters say that without those additional steps, the growth rate would slow to about 2% a year in 2026 when many of the 2017 tax cuts expire. (New York Times)

poll/ 62% of Americans have confidence in the fairness of Mueller's investigation – with 33% very confident. 37%, however, are not very or not at all confident in a fair investigation. 63% are concerned about the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia. (Associated Press)

poll/ 48% of Americans approve of Mueller's handling of the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election in 2016, while 37% disapprove. 56% say they consider Russia's efforts to influence the election a serious matter that should be fully investigated, while 38% consider an effort to discredit Trump's presidency. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump designated Brazil as a "major non-NATO ally" after meeting with the country's new far-right president and said he would be open to granting Brazil full NATO membership, even though Brazil doesn't qualify to join the alliance. Trump also remarked that he was "very proud to hear the president use the term 'fake news'." (Associated Press / Reuters)

  2. Trump Jr. thinks Brexit would have been on had Theresa May followed his father's advice. It is unclear what expertise Trump Jr. has in British or European politics. (NPR / New York Times)

  3. Trump said he plans to leave the tariffs on Chinese goods in place for a "substantial period of time" until he's certain that "China lives by the deal." Trump has levied tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods – about half the value of Chinese exports to the U.S. Beijing has retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. goods – about 90% of U.S. exports to China. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

  4. The Trump administration wants to use $359 million from an unrelated bank settlement to fund the border wall. French bank Societe Generale agreed to pay the U.S government $1.3 billion after admitting that it violated U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Iran for years. It's unclear if the White House can use the money for the wall. (CNBC)

  5. A federal judge ruled that Trump's ban on transgender people in the military can not go into effect yet, and that the 2017 court order blocking the ban remains in place. The White House released a memo last week saying that it planned to implement the ban in April because "there is no longer any impediment" to doing so. (BuzzFeed News)

  6. A federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal land in Wyoming, ruling that the Trump administration "did not sufficiently consider climate change" in its assessments of whether to lease federal land for individual projects. (Washington Post / Axios /Reuters)

  7. Trump plans to nominate former Delta Air Lines pilot and executive Stephen Dickson to lead the FAA. If confirmed, Dickson will become the first permanent FAA administrator since Obama-appointee Michael Huerta resigned in 2018. (NPR)

  8. 18 states have considered legislation that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the ballot during a primary or general election. Many of the legislatures considering the bills are controlled by Democrats. (Washington Post)

  9. A panel of federal appeals court judges challenged the legal basis for a lawsuit alleging that Trump's profits from the Trump International Hotel violate the Constitution's emoluments clauses. Trump has retained ownership of the hotel while serving as president, which has become a favored lodging and event space for foreign- and state-governments. (New York Times / Reuters)

  10. Kellyanne Conway defended Trump's attacks on her husband after Trump called George Conway "Mr. Kellyanne Conway," a "whack job," "a stone cold LOSER," and a "husband from hell!" George Conway responded: "You. Are. Nuts." Kellyanne, meanwhile, asked: "You think [Trump] should just take that sitting down?" (Politico / NBC News / CNBC / ABC News)

Day 789: A little longer.

1/ Robert Mueller obtained warrants to search Michael Cohen's emails and cell phones in July, August and November 2017, according to the unsealed search warrant applications. One warrant allowed Mueller's office to search Cohen's emails dating to June 2015 when Cohen still worked for the Trump Organization. In particular, Mueller sought records of any "funds of benefits received by or offered" to Cohen "on behalf of, any foreign government," as well as evidence of efforts "to conduct activities on behalf of, for the benefit of, or at the direction of any foreign government." In February 2018, Mueller's office began referring parts of its Cohen investigation to federal prosecutors in New York, including relevant emails from its warrants. Investigators used the search warrants as the basis for an April 2018 raid of Cohen's office, home, safety deposit box and a hotel room where he had been staying. Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. Mueller was was appointed special counsel in May 2017. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Politico / CNN / NBC News)

  • The prosecutor who handled Michael Flynn's guilty plea has left the special counsel's office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zainab Ahmad is the third senior member of Mueller's team confirmed to leave the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts but hasn’t yet been sentenced. (Politico)

  • Rod Rosenstein will stay at the Justice Department "a little longer" despite previously announced that he would leave in mid-March. (NBC News)

2/ Deutsche Bank loaned more than $2 billion to Trump over nearly two decades during his time as a real estate developer at a time when other banks wouldn't lend to him. The bank repeatedly loaned money to Trump despite multiple business-related "red flags," including instances where Trump exaggerated his wealth by an extra $2 billion in order to secure additional loans from the bank. In 2010, Trump returned to Deutsche Bank for $100 million loan, even though it had concluded at the time that Trump had overvalued some of his real estate assets by up to 70%. (New York Times / New York Times / CNBC)

3/ The Supreme Court ruled that the government can detain immigrants indefinitely with past criminal records, even if they were previously released from criminal custody. The ruling provides Trump more authority to arrest, detain and deport immigrants convicted of crimes. (Reuters / Associated Press / Politico / CNN)

4/ The House Judiciary Committee said it received "tens of thousands" of requested documents related to its investigation into whether Trump abused his power, obstructed justice or engaged in public corruption. The committee requested documents from 81 individuals, government agencies and others, including Trump family members, current and former business employees, Republican campaign staffers and former White House aides, the FBI, White House and WikiLeaks. The committee has received eight responses as of Tuesday morning, and the majority of the 8,195 pages of material the committee received was provided by Steve Bannon, who handed over 2,688 pages; Trump confidant Thomas Barrack, who supplied 3,349 pages; and the National Rifle Association, which turned over 1,466 pages, the Republicans said. (Washington Post / Politico / Reuters)

5/ The Trump administration, however, ignored the House Judiciary request for documents. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline asking for documents related the firing of James Comey, internal discussions about the decision of Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia probe, details about any talks to dismiss, as well as records about payments Trump made as part of a hush-money scheme to keep his alleged extramarital affairs from going public. (CNN / Politico)

poll/ 71% of Americans say the economy is in good shape –the best rating during Trump's presidency by two points. (CNN)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The Trump administration proposed placing a cap on federal student loan borrowing as a way curbing student loan debt, which has reached nearly $1.5 trillion. The plan is to prevent borrowers from taking out too many federal loans to the point where the debt becomes unmanageable, which the government argues will reduce college tuition rates. The president of the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success said the there's "no evidence" that the availability of federal loans has led to higher college costs. (NBC News)

  2. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed ending a loan forgiveness program for public service workers and eliminating subsidized loans for low-income students. DeVos also proposed a 12% decrease in funding for her department for fiscal 2020. (CNN)

  3. The Trump administration won't give the public more time to weigh in on its proposed rule restricting the Clean Water Act. [Editor's note: I don't have an account to this site, so I can't read the whole article, but it felt necessary to flag] (Greenwire)

  4. Paul Ryan will join the board of the Fox Corporation – the parent company of Fox News. (CNBC / CNN)

  5. Elizabeth Warren called for eliminating the Electoral College as part of an effort to expand voting rights, because "every vote matters." Separately, Colorado and 11 other states and the District of Columbia pledged to give their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

  6. Congressional Democrats asked the FBI to investigate the owner of the Florida massage parlor who allegedly sold access to Trump. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called on federal agents to investigate "public reports about alleged activities by Ms. Li 'Cindy' Yang and her apparent relationship with the president." The letter also called on the FBI to investigate whether another company started by Yang that "may be selling access to the president and members of his family to clients from China." Yang's attorney says she denies the allegations against her. (ABC News / Reuters)

  7. A federal appeals court will hear arguments in a case challenging Trump's ownership of a luxury hotel down the street from the White House. The case represents the highest-level hearing yet for a lawsuit that claims Trump's vast holdings are a conflict of interest between his businesses and his duties as president. The suit accuses Trump of violating the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the president from receiving "any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state" or any U.S. state while in office. (NBC News)


💬 Dept. of Interpersonal Communication.

  1. Trump: "I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be." McCain died last August after a battle with brain cancer. (NBC News / USA Today / ABC News)

  2. Trump called Kellyanne Conway's husband "a total loser!" after George Conway suggested on Twitter that Trump is not mentally fit to serve as president. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  3. Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and two parody accounts for $250 million over mean tweets. Nunes claims one Twitter account pretending to be his mom and another pretending to be a dairy cow in Iowa made fun of him and accused him of crimes, something Nunes says "no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life." (New York Times / Politico / USA Today / CBS News)

Day 788: Pathetic.

1/ Trump attacked the late John McCain on Twitter for his involvement in sharing the dossier allegedly linking Trump to the Russian government. After the 2016 election, McCain turned the Steele dossier over to the FBI, which Trump called "unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain." Trump incorrectly claimed that McCain had "sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election." He continued to complain about that longtime Republican lawmaker, who died last year, "had far worse 'stains'" than the dossier, "including thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!" Trump's statements about McCain were actually quotes from Ken Starr, who recently appeared on Fox News. (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Meghan McCain accused Trump of leading a "pathetic life" by obsessing over her father, who died almost seven months ago. McCain continued: "Your life is spent on your weekends not with your family, not with your friends, but obsessing, obsessing over great men you could never live up to." (Washington Post / Politico)

  • Christopher Steele admitted that he used internet searches and unverified information to support some details he had gathered about a web company mentioned in the dossier. (CNN)

2/ Trump accused "the fake news media" of attempting to blame him for the mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand, calling it "So Ridiculous!" In a manifesto, the alleged gunman called Trump "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," and referred to immigrants as "invaders within our lands." Trump told reporters he doesn't believe white nationalism is a rising threat around the world, suggesting "it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess." (Politico / Washington Post)

3/ Mick Mulvaney: Trump "is not a white supremacist." The acting chief of staff went on to say it was "absurd" to draw a connection between Trump's statements about immigration and the acts of a shooter who embraced both white nationalism and Trump. Last week Trump called undocumented immigrants coming to U.S. an "invasion" as he vetoed a congressional resolution that would block his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • The House Judiciary Committee plans to host a hearing on the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and the hate crime and hate speech surrounding the movement. (Daily Beast)

4/ Trump called for Fox News to bring back Jeanine Pirro after she was suspended for questioning a Muslim lawmaker's loyalty to the United States during an on-air monologue. Pirro asked if Representative Ilhan Omar's "adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Shariah law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?" Fox News said Pirro's remarks "do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly." Trump claimed "The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country." Trump also tweeted his support for Tucker Carlson, who has also recently faced criticism for a series of racist, xenophobic, sexist, and other comments. "Stay true," Trump tweeted, "to the people that got you there. Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine." (CNN / Politico / New York Times)

5/ Federal authorities raided the office of Elliot Broidy last summer in order to obtain documents related to the fundraiser's dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates. Federal agents searched Broidy's office for documents related to China, Saudi Arabia, and a Miami Beach club promoter related to conspiracy, money laundering, and crimes associated with illegal lobbying on behalf of foreign officials. The sealed warrant revealed government investigators took a similar approach to searching Michael Cohen's office. Broidy served as a Trump campaign fundraiser and was the national deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned in April 2018, after it was revealed he had secretly paid off a former Playboy model in exchange for her silence about their affair. (ProPublica / Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 578: The Justice Department is investigating whether Elliott Broidy tried to sell his influence with the Trump administration. The longtime Republican fundraiser resigned from his RNC position in April after it was reported that he paid a former Playboy model $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Michael Cohen arranged the settlement. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 GOP fundraiser Broidy under investigation for alleged effort to sell government influence, people familiar with probe say. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Ex-Fugees member Pras Michel denies wrongdoing in alleged effort to stop Malaysian corruption probe. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump claimed he encouraged House Republicans to vote in favor of a resolution calling on the Justice Department to make Robert Mueller's final report public. Earlier in the day, however, Trump tweeted that the special counsel "should never have been appointed" and that "there should be no Mueller Report." The House approved the resolution last week 420-0 to demand that Attorney General William Barr release Mueller's entire report and make it available to Congress. The resolution was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. (Politico)

poll/ 52% of Americans have little or no trust in Trump's denials that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. 28%, meanwhile, say they have a lot of trust in Robert Mueller's investigation to be fair and accurate. 50% agree that Trump is the victim of a "witch hunt" while 47% disagree. (USA Today)


Notables.

  1. The U.S. military now plans to keep nearly 1,000 forces in Syria. Three months ago, Trump ordered a complete withdrawal. (Wall Street Journal)

  2. Kirsten Gillibrand formally launched her presidential bid, announcing she will deliver her speech next week in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City. (Reuters)

  3. Trump pulled Rudy Giuliani from doing TV interviews after the lawyer claimed the Trump Tower Moscow talks may have lasted up until November 2016. The Sunday, January 20th appearance was Giuliani's last – other than a March 8 comment, where he said Paul Manafort's short jail sentence was fair. (Axios)

  4. Ben Carson's daily schedule from 2017 shows that the HUD secretary met with his staff once a week and left work before 2 p.m. on most Fridays to fly to his Florida mansion. (NBC News)

  5. Trump tweeted that he wanted the General Motors Ohio plant to be "opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast!" In November, G.M. announced that it would idle five factories in North America and cut roughly 14,000 jobs to trim costs. Trump's tweets were an attempt to pressure G.M. and the United Automobile Workers union to begin negotiations on an agreement that would put the plant back to work. Trump added that the president of U.A.W. "ought to get his act together and produce." (New York Times)

  6. Kellyanne Conway's husband believes that Trump's mental condition is deteriorating. Kellyanne disagrees. George Conway tweeted last week that "whether or not impeachment is in order, a serious inquiry needs to be made about this man's condition of mind." He continued through the weekend by tweeting screenshots from American Psychiatric Association's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," highlighting pages that include diagnostic criteria for "narcissistic personality disorder" and "antisocial personality disorder." Kellyanne told reporters that she does not share George's concerns. (CNN / Washington Post)

Day 785: Dangerous and reckless.

1/ Trump warned that his "tough" supporters – the police, military and "Bikers for Trump" – could turn violent against Democrats and things could get "very bad, very bad" if they feel either they or Trump have been wronged by the political process. Trump made the comments in an interview with Breitbart in which he argued that the left "plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress." Trump tweeted out a link promoting the interview Thursday night, raising concerns by several Democrats and political commentators that the comments amounted to a threat of violence. (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post / The Hill / Toronto Star / New York Magazine)

2/ Trump later deleted the tweet to his Breitbart interview that he posted as news was breaking about two mosque shootings in New Zealand, which left 49 people dead. In a manifesto posted online before the shooting, the suspected gunman praised Trump as a "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose." The White House did not explain why Trump deleted the tweet, but called the shooting a "vicious act of hate." Trump called it a "horrible massacre," but doesn't think white nationalism is on the rise, saying "I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems." (USA Today / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters / Business Insider / Daily Beast)

  • Remington can now be sued for marketing the semiautomatic rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The 4-3 decision, which reversed a lower court's ruling, will permit a lawsuit on behalf of the parents and relatives of the victims to proceed against the gun manufacturer of the AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 young children and six adults in 2012. (Axios / Vice News)

3/ Trump insisted that "there should be no Mueller report" a day after House unanimously voted to make the report public. Trump called Mueller's probe "an illegal and conflicted investigation in search of a crime," complaining that the probe was only started as an excuse for Democrats losing the 2016 election. (Politico / CNBC)

  • Robert Mueller's office said that Rick Gates "continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations" and isn't ready to be sentenced. Mueller and Gates' attorney asks a federal judge for 60 more days before providing the next update on Gates' status. In February 2018, Gates struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to two criminal counts including conspiracy and lying to FBI agents. (CNN / CNBC / Reuters)

4/ Lindsey Graham blocked a non-binding resolution calling for Mueller's report to be made public after the House unanimously voted in support of the measure. Chuck Schumer asked for unanimous consent for the resolution in the Senate. Graham asked that the resolution include a provision calling on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email use and the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications. Schumer declined to include the proposed amendment, saying he was "deeply disappointed" in Graham for "blocking this very simple, non-controversial resolution." Under Senate rules, any senator can try to pass or set up a vote on a bill, resolution or nomination. But, in turn, any one senator can block their request. (USA Today / The Hill / Washington Post)

5/ Trump issued the first veto of his presidency, rejecting a congressional resolution overturning his national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump called the resolution "dangerous" and "reckless" a day after 12 Republicans joined Senate Democrats to rebuke his decision to declare a national emergency last month in order to redirect funds to build a wall on the southern border. Trump's veto sends the resolution back to the House, which isn't expected to have the two-thirds of the chamber's support needed to override the veto. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / NBC News)

6/ The Trump administration is considering sending a volunteer force to the southern border. Trump has been "casting about" for novel ways to direct additional resources to the border to stop people from crossing illegally. One DHS official said the move "makes eminent sense for a hurricane," but not for border security. "All of this is just to buttress the administration’s claim that there’s an emergency," they added. (Politico)

poll/ 21% of taxpayers expect to pay less income tax this year under the GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. 29%, however, said they would pay more, and 27% said there would be no impact, with 24% unsure what they'll pay. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. North Korea threatened to suspend denuclearization negotiations with the Trump administration and resume its nuclear and missile testing programs because Trump's national security adviser and Secretary of State had created an "atmosphere of hostility and mistrust." Kim Jong-un's Vice Foreign Minister said Kim's personal relationship with Trump was "still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful," but members of Trump's team had spoiled the two leaders' negotiations in Hanoi, Vietnam last month. As a result, North Korea said it might end its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. Choe Son-hui said the decision to end the moratorium is up to Kim, and that "he will make his decision in a short period of time." (New York Times / NBC News)

  2. Foreign countries are turning to lobbying firms to try and curry favor with Trump and influence U.S. policy. Some of the countries employing lobbying firms are U.S. allies, while others include countries with deeply stained human rights records such as Zimbabwe, Kosovo, Georgia, Turkey and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Foreign countries have turned to lobbying firms in the past, but the number of countries with ties to the Trump campaign has gone up sharply. The lobbyists with Trump ties have also been charging exorbitant fees in exchange for representing companies that need help overseas, such as Chinese telecom giant ZTE. (Politico)

  3. The Trump administration is planning to expand rules that would disqualify more visa applicants living abroad, as well as those in the U.S. the administration believes are using too many public services. (ABC News)

  4. Trump administration reduced the fines for nursing homes found to have endangered or injured residents. The average fine dropped from $41,260 to $28,405. (NPR)

Day 784: Sending a signal.

1/ The Senate voted to overturn Trump's national emergency declaration at the southern border, setting up Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency. The resolution passed 59-41 – with 12 Republicans joining every Democrat. The measure, which already passed the House, now heads to Trump, who has promised to veto the legislation and effectively kill it. Lawmakers don't have enough votes to override a veto. Ahead of the vote, Trump warned Republicans that "a vote for today's resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!" After the vote, Trump tweeted: "VETO!" (New York Times/ CNBC / Washington Post / Politico / Associated Press / CNN / Reuters / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 757: Trump declared a national emergency at the border to circumvent Congress and fund his border wall with money lawmakers refused to give him, saying "I didn't need to do this," but "I just want to get it done faster, that's all." In a Rose Garden news conference, Trump said he would sign the declaration to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to his border wall and then use presidential budgetary discretion to redirect $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and another $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund. Between the $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in a spending package passed by Congress, and the roughly $6.5 billion in funding from executive action, Trump is will have about $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier – significantly more than the $5.7 billion that Congress refused to give him. Following the news conference, Trump signed the spending legislation. (New York Times / The Guardian / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / ABC News)

2/ The House voted 420-0 for the public release of Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired then-director of the FBI James Comey. While the resolution is non-binding and the House cannot force the Justice Department to take an action, the move is an attempt to "send a clear signal both to the American people and the Department of Justice" that lawmakers expect to see the full account of Mueller's work. The resolution will also put pressure on Attorney General William Barr, who did not commit to making Mueller's findings public during his Senate confirmation hearings. The Senate, however, is unlikely to take up a similar measure. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / NBC News)

  • Roger Stone's trial is set for Nov. 5. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she expects the trial will last "at least" two weeks. Jackson didn't address the re-release of a book Stone published in 2017, which could have been considered a violation of his partial gag order. The judge said she was taking it "under advisement." (CNBC / NBC News)

  • One of Mueller's top prosecutors will be leaving in the next week or so. Andrew Weissmann was the architect of the case against Paul Manafort. Separately, Mueller's top FBI investigator, David Archey, has also left the team. The departures are the strongest sign yet that Mueller and his team have all but concluded their work. (NPR / NBC News)

3/ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that he would protect Trump's privacy if House Democrats request Trump's tax returns, saying: "We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer" regarding their right to privacy. Mnuchin said he "can't speculate" on how the administration will respond to demands for Trump's tax returns until it sees the request. House Democrats are preparing to ask the IRS for 10 years of Trump's personal tax returns under under a 1924 provision that requires the Treasury secretary to "furnish" any individual's tax return information to the House and Senate tax-writing committees. (Associated Press / ABC News / Politico / CNN)

  • A casino magnate forced to sell his 12% stake met with Treasury Department officials as they were writing regulations that could help him defer and reduce his taxes. Steve Wynn generated $2.1 billion last March when he was forced to sell his stake in Wynn Resorts Ltd. and resign from the Republican National Committee after sexual-misconduct allegations. Wynn attended the meeting in the Treasury building with Daniel Kowalski, a counselor to Mnuchin, who stopped by the meeting to greet Wynn. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Mnuchin's Hollywood ties are raising conflict of interest concerns as he leads trade talks with China. While Mnuchin divested from his Hollywood film-financing firm after joining the Trump administration, he's been personally pushing Beijing to give the American film industry greater access to its markets. (New York Times)

4/ Federal prosecutors requested documents about Michael Cohen's alleged "back channel" discussion with Rudy Giuliani about the possibility of a pardon. Cohen's attorney spoke with Giuliani roughly a dozen times and, in one email, referred to their conversations as a "back channel of communication." During one of their discussions, Cohen's attorney allegedly asked whether Trump would put a pardon for Cohen "on the table." Giuliani told Cohen's attorney that Trump was unwilling to discuss pardons at that time. The request from federal prosecutors is part of an investigation into whether the alleged back-channel discussions amount to "possible violations of federal criminal law." Giuliani insists that he and Cohen's attorney only talked about how Trump "was very mad at [Cohen]" and the fact that the investigation into Cohen had been assigned to the Southern District of New York. (New York Times)

5/ A New York appellate court ruled that a former contestant on The Apprentice can proceed with her defamation lawsuit against Trump. Summer Zervos is one of about a dozen women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct before the 2016 election. Trump called Zervos and the other women "liars," prompting Zervos to file a lawsuit in 2017. The New York State Appellate Division’s First Department turned down Trump's argument that the case should be delayed until he is out of office because, as a sitting president, he was immune from a lawsuit brought in state court. The decision means Trump may have to sit for a sworn deposition. (ABC News / Washington Post / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 468: A former contestant on "The Apprentice" is suing Trump for defamation after he called her a liar for accusing him of sexual assault. Summer Zervos was among the more than 10 women who came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign and accused Trump of sexual assault and misconduct. He denied all of their claims. (New York Times)

poll/ 51% of Florida voters say they definitely won't vote for Trump in 2020. 31% say they definitely would vote for Trump, and 14% say they would consider voting for him. Overall, Florida voters give Trump a 40% favorability rating. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Senate voted 54-46 to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war against Yemen. The move is largely seen as a rebuke of the Trump administration's continued support for the Saudi monarchy in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. has been supplying money and weapons to the Saudis in support of the kingdom's relentless bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen since the war began in 2015, which has led to widespread humanitarian and health crises in the region. The resolution to end U.S. support for the war must now be taken up in the House, where members passed a nearly identical resolution earlier this year. If Trump vetoes the resolution, however, neither chamber is expected to have the votes required to override the veto. (Washington Post)

  2. Beto O'Rourke announced that he will run for president. In a video, O'Rourke said, "This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country." (Politico)

  3. Adam Schiff suggested that Russians may have laundered money through the Trump Organization. While House Intelligence Committee is investigating the matter, Schiff said the committee is primarily concerned with whether or not Trump is "compromised by a foreign power." (Newsweek)

  4. The Pentagon instituted its new transgender policy that limits the military service of transgender persons to their birth gender. Transgender service members currently serving will only be allowed to continue to serve if they adhere to the dress and grooming standards of their biological gender, and if they are unwilling to do so, they could be discharged. The policy will be implemented on April 12. (ABC News)

Day 783: Gaming the system.

1/ Paul Manafort was sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in prison after receiving an additional 43 months on federal conspiracy charges at his sentencing hearing in Washington, D.C. Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to 60 months in prison on the first of two criminal conspiracy counts – 30 of those months will be served concurrently with Manafort's prior sentence in a separate case. Jackson also sentenced Manafort to 13 months of consecutive prison time on his second criminal count, for a total of 43 additional months in prison to the 47 months he was sentenced to last week in Virginia. Jackson accused Manafort of spending a "significant portion of his career gaming the system" before sentencing him to what is now the longest sentence for anyone ensnared in Mueller's nearly two-year-old probe. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC / NBC News / CNN / Reuters / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 778: Paul Manafort was sentenced to less than four years in jail in the first of two cases against him. Manafort's 47 months in prison for bank and tax fraud was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines. Manafort was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and restitution of just over $24 million. Judge T. S. Ellis said he thought the sentencing recommendation was "excessive," adding that he believed Manafort "lived an otherwise blameless life." It's the longest sentence to date for a Trump associate caught up in Robert Mueller's investigation. Manafort will also be sentenced next week on separate charges that he served as an unregistered foreign agent, laundered money and tampered with a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NPR / ABC News / CNBC)

2/ New York prosecutors indicted Manafort with 16 counts related to mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records shortly after he was sentenced for federal crimes. The new state charges against Manafort allege a scheme of falsifying business records to obtain millions of dollars in loans. Trump has not explicitly ruled out pardoning Manafort, but he can only issue pardons for federal crimes. He does not have the power to pardon state charges. (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 781: Trump will "make his decision" on whether to pardon Paul Manafort "when he's ready," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. In November, Trump said that a pardon for Manafort "was never discussed," but added that he "wouldn't take it off the table," rhetorically asking: "Why would I take it off the table?" The comment from Sanders came during the first official White House press briefing in six weeks. (CNBC)

3/ Rep. Jerry Nadler said former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker "did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District" during a closed-doors meeting with the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee. During a hearing last month, Whitaker either refused to detail the conversations he had with Trump or gave answers that, in Nadler's estimation, strained credulity. Nadler added that "Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys" and whether the Southern District of New York "went too far in pursuing the campaign finance case" involving Trump. (Washington Post / CNN / The Hill / Talking Points Memo)

4/ Michael Cohen's attorney attempted to clarify Cohen's testimony that he never asked Trump for a pardon. The letter sent to Congress from Lanny Davis said that even though Cohen's statements were true, they "could have been clearer regarding the time frames." The letter continues: "At no time did Mr. Cohen personally ask President Trump for a pardon or did the President offer Mr. Cohen the same." (CNN)

5/ Rudy Giuliani reassured Cohen in an April 2018 email that Cohen could "sleep well tonight" because he had "friends in high places." While the email does not specifically mention a pardon, Cohen said it corroborates his claim that a pardon was dangled before he decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors. (CNN)

6/ Trump grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes after the second fatal crash in five months. Trump's announcement followed Canada joining some 42 others countries in grounding the jets. Yesterday, the FAA said it had seen "no systemic performance issue" that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet. Planes currently in the air will fly to their destinations and "be grounded until further notice." The order will ground more than 70 aircrafts. (USA Today / Politico / The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ 52% of voters are opposed to Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border – up 1 percentage point from last month. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Michael Flynn has completed his cooperation agreement with the special counsel's Russia investigation, according to Robert Mueller. Flynn's lawyers, however, asked for a 90-day delay in sentencing because "there may be additional cooperation" with another federal probe: his former business partner's upcoming trial in Alexandria, Va. Flynn is expected to testify in the mid-July trial against Bijan Rafiekian, who faces charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign government agent for Turkey. (Politico / Associated Press / Reuters / CNN)

  2. The Justice Department is investigating whether a $100,000 donation to the Trump Victory committee originated from a fugitive Malaysian businessman alleged to be at the center of a global financial scandal. It is a federal offense for foreign individuals or companies to make direct or indirect donations to U.S. politicians or fundraising committees. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. Wilbur Ross will face the House Oversight Committee on Thursday to answer questions about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Last March, Ross told the House Ways and Means Committee that the question was added after he received a request from the Department of Justice in December 2017 that claimed the data was needed to properly enforce civil rights laws. Documents released as a part of a multi-state lawsuit show that Ross wanted to add the question much earlier. (NBC News)

  4. The Mercers once donated money to a conservative group that promoted "cultural events for English-speaking peoples." The family spent more than $15 million backing Trump during the 2016 presidential election, and spent millions more to fund Cambridge Analytica, which did work for the Trump campaign. (CNBC)

  5. Trump – without evidence – accused media outlets of doctoring photographs to suggest that Melania Trump employs a body double when she has to appear with Trump at public events. (The Hill)

Day 782: Deteriorating situation.

1/ The New York attorney general's office opened an investigation into three Trump Organization loans from Deutsche Bank, as well as Trump's failed attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills. New York AG Letitia James issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other financing transactions in connection with the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Trump National Doral outside Miami, and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, as well as the unsuccessful purchase of the NFL team in 2014. The new inquiry was prompted by Michael Cohen's congressional testimony, who suggested that Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements and provided documents to back up his claims. The inquiry is a civil investigation, not a criminal one. (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Bloomberg / ABC News / NBC News)

  • One of Trump's closest political advisers: "We're not ready" for more investigations. David Bossie served as Trump's deputy campaign manager and has been counseling both the White House and congressional Republicans. (ABC News)

2/ The attorney who negotiated the hush-money payments on behalf of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal believes Trump could still be in legal danger for his alleged role in directing the efforts to buy their silence. Keith Davidson cited language used by prosecutors in Cohen's indictment, which alleged that Cohen was part of a criminal conspiracy, and said, "by definition, a conspiracy must involve more than one person – so who else could it be?" Davidson says he sat down with investigators for the special counsel for more than 15 hours, during which it "became clear" to him that prosecutors believe the hush-money payments were part of an effort to save Trump's presidential campaign, which would constitute a violation of campaign finance laws. (ABC News)

3/ Adam Schiff: Trump should be indicted when he leaves office for the crimes Michael Cohen was convicted of committing on his behalf. The chairman of the House intelligence committee said there's already sufficient evidence to support an indictment of Trump even before the conclusion of Robert Mueller's investigation, and that the Justice Department policy against indicting a siting president was "wrong." (NPR / Washington Post)

  • There might be a second Mueller report. Since Mueller's appointment, he's been conducting a counterintelligence investigation, while "also" assessing whether any crimes were committed. Unlike a criminal report, a Mueller counterintelligence report must be shared with Congress. Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are legally entitled to be given reports – in writing – of significant intelligence and counterintelligence activities or failures. (Daily Beast)

  • Mueller's team is funded through the end of September 2019, indicating that the probe has the funding to keep it going for months if need be. (Reuters)

  • Paul Manafort will face his second court sentencing on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson could sentence Manafort for up to 10 years in prison for violating a foreign lobbying law and witness tampering, and whether she orders the sentences to be served concurrently or one after the other. Separately, Mueller's prosecutors are scheduled to update another federal judge about the status of Mike Flynn's cooperation and whether his sentencing can proceed. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ Trump complained that planes are becoming "far too complex to fly" after the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Ethiopia that killed all 157 people on board. While European Union, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia and other countries have already banned the plane, the FAA said it does not see a reason to ground the fleet in the United States. Trump continued: "I don't want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!" (Politico / CNBC / New York Times / Bloomberg)

5/ House Democrats introduced an immigration proposal that would provide as many as 2.5 million immigrants a path to citizenship. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would cover young undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well as those with temporary immigration protections. If passed, HR 6 would represent the most generous immigration bill since the Reagan "amnesty" of 1986. While the legislation will likely pass the House, it faces significant hurdles from the GOP-controlled Senate and from Trump. (Vox / NBC News / Washington Post / Think Progress)

  • In a Breitbart News interview, Trump said his administration is thinking "very seriously" about designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. Trump's comments come after his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border last month. [Editor's Note: I'm not linking to the Breitbart propaganda article, because it's just that. You can Google for it if you're so inclined.] (Washington Post / Raw Story)

6/ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to close all 21 international field offices, which could slow the processing of family visa applications, foreign adoptions and citizenship petitions from members of the military. Agency staffers said closing overseas offices will make it more difficult to apply to immigrate from abroad. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio can cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions. Four of the 11 Circuit judges who sided with Ohio were appointed by Trump. (Politico / Reuters)

  2. The U.S. will remove all remaining diplomatic personnel from the embassy in Venezuela this week. The State Department said the decision "reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela," and that "the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy." They gave no additional details about the withdrawal from Caracas or the specific day on which it would occur. Venezuela is currently experiencing a five-day-long power outage. (Reuters / ABC News / Associated Press)

  3. Mike Pompeo accused Cuba and Russia of propping up Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro. Pompeo's statements came after the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on a Russia-based bank that it accused of helping Maduro's government circumvent earlier American financial penalties. (New York Times)

  4. The director of the National Cancer Institute will take over as acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration when Dr. Scott Gottlieb steps down at the end of the month. Dr. Norman Sharpless has been the director of the National Cancer Institute since 2017. (Politico / New York Times)

  5. Nancy Pelosi revoked Pence's office in the House. Republicans gave Pence a first-floor office in the U.S. Capitol shortly after Trump was inaugurated in 2017. (NPR)

  6. The Navy and its contractors and subcontractors are "under cyber siege" by Chinese hackers and others, according to an internal Navy review. The 57-page document reports that hackers are exploiting critical weaknesses that threaten the U.S.'s standing as the world's top military power. (Wall Street Journal)

Day 781: Sanity.

1/ Trump proposed a $4.75 trillion budget, dubbed the "Budget for a Better America." Trump requested an additional $8.6 billion for his border wall, and proposed increasing military spending by 5% to $750 billion while cutting funding for domestic discretionary spending $597 billion to $543 billion – a 9% cut in 2020. The budget calls for a 23% cut in State Department funding, a 15% cut in spending by the USDA, and a 31% cut in the budget for the EPA. The budget for Homeland Security would increase by 7.4%. The budget forecasts a $1.1 trillion deficit in 2019, 2020, and 2021, and a $1 trillion deficit in 2022 with the national debt ballooning to more than $31 trillion in the next decade by 2029. It currently stands at more than $22 trillion. Trump's acting budget chief called the budget a "return to fiscal sanity." (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / Reuters / NPR / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  • Trump's budget projects that the economy will continue to grow at a 3% rate or higher over the next five years – higher than independent outside projections. (CNBC)

2/ Trump claimed that "the Democrats hate Jewish people" during a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. He said he didn't understand how anyone could vote for a Democrat and that they've become the "anti-Jewish party." Trump also speculated that he would be at 98% in the polls if he were to run to become the prime minister of Israel. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, refused to say whether Trump believes Democrats hate Jewish people, saying "I think you should ask Democrats." (Axios / The Hill)

  • A Trump 2020 campaign adviser dismissed a question about diversity within the administration by asking "How many black people were in Abraham Lincoln's West Wing?" Katrina Pierson added: "I'm not going to participate in the attempt to make this all about race. It's ridiculous." (The Hill)

  • Trump tried to persuade Republican donors not a trust a video where he called the CEO of Apple "Tim Apple." Trump told the donors that he actually said "Tim Cook Apple" really fast, but the "Cook" part of the sentence was soft. Later, Trump claimed he intentionally said "Tim/Apple" instead of Tim Cook and Apple "as an easy way to save time and words." Tim Cook changed his Twitter profile to "Tim Apple." (Axios / ABC News / Politico)

3/ The former owner of a massage parlor tied to a prostitution ring sold Chinese executives access to Trump through her consulting firm, GY US Investments LLC. Li Yang's website claims its "activities for clients" have included "the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures." In particular, Yang arranged for a larger group of Chinese business people to attend a paid fundraiser for Trump in New York City at the end of 2017. Yang personally gave $5,400 to Trump's campaign and $23,500 to the Trump Victory political action committee 11 days prior to the Dec. 2, 2017 event. Foreign visitors may attend fundraisers as long as they don't pay their own entry. GY US also claimed it has "arranged taking photos with the President" at Mar-a-Lago and suggested that could set up a "White House and Capitol Hill Dinner." Since 2017, Yang and her relatives have donated more than $42,000 to a Trump political action committee and more than $16,000 to Trump's campaign. (Mother Jones / Miami Herald / CNN / USA Today)

  • Yang also serves as an officer of two groups tied to the Chinese government. She founded a non-profit in Miami that promotes "economic and cultural exchange" between China and the U.S. in coordination with "senior…Chinese leaders" in the United States. Yang has been offering to sell access to the Trump family, the White House, and various GOP power brokers. (Mother Jones)

4/ Nancy Pelosi on impeaching Trump: "He's just not worth it." The Speaker of the House called Trump unfit to be president – "ethically," "intellectually" and "curiosity-wise" — but she is "not for impeachment. […] Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump will "make his decision" on whether to pardon Paul Manafort "when he's ready," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. In November, Trump said that a pardon for Manafort "was never discussed," but added that he "wouldn't take it off the table," rhetorically asking: "Why would I take it off the table?" The comment from Sanders came during the first official White House press briefing in six weeks. (CNBC)

  2. The White House rejected a House Oversight Committee request to interview former deputy counsel Stefan Passantino, who represented Trump to federal ethics officials looking into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels in 2016. (Axios)

  3. House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff said Robert Mueller was making a "mistake" by not demanding that Trump testify as part of his investigation, "because probably the best way to get the truth would be to put the president under oath." (Washington Post)

  4. Schiff claimed Erik Prince lied during testimony about a 2016 meeting with foreign nationals at Trump Tower. Prince is the former head of Blackwater, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and an informal adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign. He told Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan that he informed the House Intelligence Committee during his testimony in November 2017 about a meeting at Trump Tower with Trump Jr., UAE emissary George Nader, and Israeli social media manipulation specialist Joel Zamel — but none of that is in the transcript from his testimony. (Axios / Al Jazeera)

  5. New video footage from the Venezuelan border shows an anti-government protester setting fire to a convoy of humanitarian aid last month, despite claims by Mike Pence and the State Department that President Nicolas Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. The Colombian government released partial footage from the incident and attempted to blame Maduro, but newly released footage revealed that a member of the opposition threw a Molotov cocktail at the convoy, triggering the blaze. (New York Times)

  6. Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention – a key Midwestern battleground state that Democrats lost for the first time in three decades in 2016. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / New York Times)

  7. Betsy DeVos illegally delayed implementing a rule that required states to address racial disparities in special education programs. DeVos put off implementing the regulation for two years, which will now take effect immediately after a judge ruled that the was delay "arbitrary and capricious." (New York Times)

  8. 🏌️‍♂️ Trump was named the winner of his own golf club-championship despite not playing in the tournament. A man named Ted Virtue initially won the 2018 Trump International club championship title. Trump, however, challenged Virtue to a nine-hole winner-takes-the-title challenge. Trump won, then offered to be co-champions with Virtue. (Golf)

Day 778: Blameless.

1/ Trump claimed that Michael Cohen "directly" asked him for a pardon, was told "NO," and then lied about it last week during his House Oversight and Reform Committee testimony. During the testimony, Cohen stated he had "never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump." Cohen's current lawyer, Lanny Davis, acknowledged that Cohen's previous lawyer discussed the possibilities of a pardon with Rudy Giuliani after the FBI searched Cohen's home and office in April 2018. Davis said that Cohen was open to the "dangled" possibility of a pardon in implicit statements by Trump's team. Cohen replied to Trump in a tweet of his own, calling the assertion "another set of lies." (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / USA Today)

2/ Trump's inauguration fund took in tens of thousands of dollars from shell companies owned by foreign contributors and others with foreign ties. The three shell companies each gave $25,000 to the fund, and at least one contribution was made by a foreign national who is reportedly ineligible to make political donations under U.S. election law. One of the donations was made through a Delaware shell company on behalf of a wealthy Indian financier. Another was made by a shell company formed in Georgia on behalf of a lobbyist with ties to the Taiwanese government, and a New York-based shell company formed by an Israeli real estate developer made the third $25,000 donation. (The Guardian)

3/ Paul Manafort was sentenced to less than four years in jail in the first of two cases against him. Manafort's 47 months in prison for bank and tax fraud was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines. Manafort was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and restitution of just over $24 million. Judge T. S. Ellis said he thought the sentencing recommendation was "excessive," adding that he believed Manafort "lived an otherwise blameless life." It's the longest sentence to date for a Trump associate caught up in Robert Mueller's investigation. Manafort will also be sentenced next week on separate charges that he served as an unregistered foreign agent, laundered money and tampered with a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NPR / ABC News / CNBC)

  • Trump twisted Judge T. S. Ellis's remarks made while sentencing Manafort to falsely claim "there was no collusion with Russia." Judge Ellis said that Manafort was "not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election," because Manafort was not charged with or convicted of any crimes of collusion. Trump said that he was "very honored" by Judge Ellis's statement and that he feels "very badly" for Manafort after receiving his lenient sentence. (New York Times / Daily Beast)

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4/ Trump watched the Super Bowl with the woman who founded the spa where Patriots owner Robert Kraft was caught soliciting prostitution from trafficked women. Her Facebook profile reveals photos of herself standing with Trump, Eric and Trump Jr., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, and others. Cindy Yang, who sold the spa around 2013, has also visited Trump's White House and is a member of Mar-a-Lago. A day after Kraft was charged, Trump expressed shock at the news, saying Kraft "proclaimed his innocence totally, but I was very surprised to see it." (Miami Herald / Mother Jones)


Notables.

  1. The House passed a sweeping voting rights, campaign-finance and ethics reform package. The legislation includes expansion of early voting, redistricting reform, making Election Day a federal holiday, automatic voter registration and stricter disclosure rules. The legislation would also require presidential and vice presidential candidates to publicly disclose 10 years of tax returns. Mitch McConnell does not plan to give the bill a vote in the Senate. (Politico / NPR)

  2. The White House communications director resigned to join Trump's 2020 re-election campaign. Bill Shine, a former top executive at Fox News before he resigned amid sexual harassment scandals there in 2017, joined the White House in July 2018 and is the sixth person to fill the role. (CNN / CNBC / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. A White House source leaked documents related to Jared and Ivanka's security clearance to the House Oversight Committee. The Trump administration refused to provide documents on the process for granting security clearances after the committee requested them, so a source inside the White House leaked them to the committee. One of the documents also includes details about why Jared's security clearance was changed to "interim" in September 2017. (Axios)

  4. Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was sent to jail for refusing to testify about WikiLeaks, the website she shared classified documents with in 2010. (Washington Post)

  5. Elizabeth Warren announced a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook. The far-reaching proposal would split up Amazon and Whole Foods, and Google and DoubleClick, as well as Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp. (CNN / New York Times)

  6. The U.S. economy added 20,000 jobs — fewer than expected — last month. Unemployment fell to 3.8% from January's 4%. (NPR)

  7. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining more than 50,000 people it claims are undocumented immigrants – an all-time record. ICE has detained approximately 2,000 people since Jan. 30, and is another 2,000 people shy of the 52,000-person daily detentions ICE is asking Congress to fund in its next budget. (Daily Beast)

Day 777: Humanitarian catastrophe.

1/ Michael Cohen asked one of his attorneys last summer to raise the possibility of a pardon with Rudy Giuliani after the FBI raids on his home and offices. It was previously reported that Cohen's then-attorney Stephen Ryan discussed the possibility of a pardon with Giuliani. However, Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee last week that "I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump." Cohen's current attorney Lanny Davis says Cohen stands by his testimony because he made the statements after he withdrew from a Joint Defense Agreement with Trump and many of Trump's advisers. (Wall Street Journal / ABC News / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 775: Michael Cohen's attorney raised the possibility of a pardon with Trump's attorneys after the FBI raided Cohen's properties in April. The House Judiciary Committee is currently investigating those conversations between Cohen's attorney, Stephen Ryan, and Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon. Trump's attorneys dismissed the idea at the time, but Giuliani left the possibility open that Trump could grant Cohen a pardon in the future. There is no indication that Cohen personally asked for a pardon, or that he was aware of any discussions on the subject. (Wall Street Journal/CNBC/Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 683: Cohen believed Trump would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message during conversations with federal prosecutors. That was before Cohen implicated Trump under oath in the illegal hush-money scheme with Stormy Daniels, which could be used as part of Mueller's obstruction of justice probe in determining whether Trump tried to illegally influence a witness in the investigation. (CNN)

2/ Giuliani said attorneys for several people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department's investigations into the Trump campaign and administration have reached out to him about presidential pardons for their clients. Giuliani refused to say which attorneys or which clients have contacted him about possible pardons. Giuliani claims he told them all that Trump would not consider granting pardons until long after the investigations are over. "I always gave one answer, and they always left disappointed," Mr. Giuliani said. (New York Times)

3/ Cohen sued the Trump Organization, saying the company refused to pay $1.9 million in legal fees he's incurred. The Trump Organization promised in July 2017 to pay Cohen's legal bills while he was still employed by Trump, but stopped in June 2018 after Cohen began cooperating with federal prosecutors. (Bloomberg / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Axios)

  • 📌 Day 516: Michael Cohen has signaled that he is "willing to give" investigators information on Trump in order to alleviate pressure on himself and his family. Cohen has hired New York lawyer Guy Petrillo to represent him in the federal investigation into his business dealings and wants Trump to pay his legal fees. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 466: The Trump campaign spent nearly $228,000 to pay for part of Michael Cohen's legal fees. Federal Election Commission records show three "legal consulting" payments made from the Trump campaign to a firm representing Cohen between October 2017 and January 2018. Cohen did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign and it's illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use. (ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 459: Trump rejected speculation that Michael Cohen will flip, tweeting that he has "always liked and respected" his attorney. He added that "Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!" In a flurry of weekend tweets, Trump called New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman a "third rate reporter" and a Clinton "flunkie" following her report that Cohen could end up cooperating with federal officials as legal fees and possible criminal charges pile up. (Washington Post)

4/ Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration practice of separating migrant children from their families at the border. More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents and detained by Customs and Border Protection last year – some parents were deported without their children. In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Nielsen insisted that there is a "real, serious and sustained crisis at our borders" and urged Congress to confront what she called a "humanitarian catastrophe" by changing laws to crack down on illegal border crossings. Immigration advocates have challenged the characterization that there's a national security crisis at the border. (New York Times / Associated Press / Vox / CNN / CBS News)

  • The Trump administration deported 471 parents who were separated from their children. At least some of those parents were deported "without being given the opportunity to elect or waive reunification." (CNN)

5/ John Kelly called Trump's border wall a "waste of money," and that the migrants who cross into the U.S. illegally are "overwhelmingly not criminals." Kelly said that the 18 months as the chief of staff were his "least" favorite job, but the most important one, because Trump "went from a guy who didn't know how the system works" to one "who understands how it works." (Politico / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner held U.S. embassy officials in Riyadh out of meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman. Lawmakers said they were concerned that they did not have knowledge of what was discussed between Kushner, MBS and King Salman, following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. (Daily Beast)

  2. Mitch McConnell won't bring an electoral reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote, calling it "offensive to average voters." The bill contains reforms to automatic voter registration, early voting, endorsement of D.C. statehood and independent oversight of House redistricting. It is slated to pass the House this week. (Politico)

  3. A federal judge ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in "bad faith," broke several laws and violated the constitution when he added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court will review a related, narrower decision starting on April 23. (Washington Post)

  4. Leaked documents show the U.S. government maintains a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers with ties to the 2018 migrant caravan. In certain cases, Customs and Border Patrol officials placed alerts on their passports to flag them for screening at the border. Some of the people being tracked have a large "X" over their photo, indicating whether they have been arrested, interviewed, or had their documents revoked by officials. Some agents even created dossiers on each listed person. Two of the dossiers were labeled with the names of journalists, who were also listed as targets for secondary screenings at the border. "We are a criminal investigation agency, we’re not an intelligence agency," a Homeland Security source explained. "We can’t create dossiers on people and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority." (NBC San Diego)

  5. 📌Day 776: ICE has been keeping tabs on a series of left-leaning and "anti-Trump protests" in New York City. The agency tracked protests that promoted immigrants' rights and those that opposed Trump's deportation policies, plus one protest against the NRA and one that was organized by a sitting member of Congress. (The Nation)


🍿👀 Crime Time TV:

Paul Manafort will face the first of two sentencing hearings today more than a year after Mueller secured an 18-count indictment against the former lobbyist on charges related to tax and bank fraud. Manafort faces between 19 and 25 years in prison as well as millions of dollars in fines and restitution for the crimes. He is expected to receive the harshest punishment of the half-dozen former Trump associates who have been prosecuted by the special counsel. Manafort's future is now in the hands of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis. (ABC News / New York Times / CNN)

Day 776: Unusual.

1/ Trump pressured John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn to give Ivanka a security clearance against their recommendations. While Trump does have the legal authority to grant clearances to anyone he wants, those decisions are typically left to the White House personnel security office, which raised concerns. Trump wanted Kelly and McGahn to make the final decision so it wouldn't look like he had a hand in the process. After both of them refused, Trump granted the clearance anyway. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 770: Trump ordered John Kelly to grant Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance last year and overrule concerns by intelligence officials and Donald McGahn, the White House's top lawyer. Both Kelly and McGahn wrote contemporaneous internal memos outlining Trump's "order" to give Kushner the clearance. In January, Trump said he had no role in Kushner receiving his clearance. (New York Times)

2/ On 11 different occasions while in office Trump issued personal checks to Michael Cohen meant as reimbursement for the hush money payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. The dates on the checks show Trump was simultaneously managing affairs of state while also repaying his former personal attorney for keeping Trump's personal secrets hidden from the public. Of the eight checks now available, seven were for $35,000 and another was for $70,000. Six were signed by Trump and the other two were signed by Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 769: During public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen accused Trump of "criminal conduct" while in office, including the fact that Trump knew ahead of time about WikiLeaks' plan to release DNC emails that were intended to damage Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen testified that Trump "asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair" with $130,000 of his own money weeks before the 2016 election "to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign." Cohen also described his relationship with Trump: "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat." (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Vox / Wall Street Journal / Politico)

  • Michael Cohen provided documents to the House Intelligence Committee showing edits to the 2017 false written statement he delivered to Congress about the Trump Organization's continued pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 campaign. It was Cohen's fourth appearance before Congress since last week. (CNN / ABC News / Washington Post)

3/ Trump intends to nominate Jessie Liu to be the associate attorney general. Liu is the current U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, which has taken the lead on handling Mueller's criminal case against Roger Stone, and convened a grand jury to investigate whether former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should face criminal charges for lying to investigators about his interactions with reporters. By moving Liu out of that job, Trump can now nominate somebody to oversee some of the prosecutions brought by Mueller. Liu also served on Trump's transition team at the Justice Department. She acknowledged that her 2017 in-person interview with Trump before he nominated her to be U.S. attorney was "unusual," since U.S. attorneys don't normally meet with the president as part of the interview process. (Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • The Senate confirmed a judge to a lifetime appointment who once interned at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Washington Post)

  • The Senate confirmed a judge who supported a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. (Politico)

  • Mitch McConnell is again preparing to use the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules and allow a simple majority to confirm conservative judges to lifetime appointments. The Senate is on track to confirm Trump's 34th Circuit Court judge. (Politico)

  • The Mueller report no one's talking about: Justice Department rules require an accounting of any time supervisors told the special counsel "no" during his work. (Politico)

4/ The U.S. trade deficit on goods ballooned to $891.3 billion in 2018 – the highest ever – driven in part by Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut. Since Trump imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum and other Chinese goods, the trade deficit grew by 12.5% from 2017, or nearly $70 billion dollars. Trump's trade war with China and others has cost the U.S. at least $19.2 billion, with Americans paying at least $12.3 billion to the U.S. government in tariffs while losing $6.9 billion in income due to trade-war-related market disruptions. (New York Times / Washington Post / Quartz)

poll/ 40% of Florida voters believe Trump should be reelected, while 53% are opposed to a second term. Trump has a 43% approval rating in Florida with 52% viewing him unfavorably — and 46% very unfavorably. (Bendixen and Amandi International / Politico)


Notables.

  1. New commercial imagery and analysis reveal that North Korea has started a "rapid rebuilding" of its long-range ballistic missile site at the Sohae Launch Facility. The site is North Korea's only operational space launch facility, and uses similar technology to what is used to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. The renewed activity was observed just two days after the latest summit in Hanoi, Vietnam between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, and "may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of U.S. rejection of North Korea's demands at the summit to lift five U.N. Security Council sanctions enacted in 2016-2017," according to a project sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (NBC News / New York Times)

  2. Trump canceled the requirement that U.S. intelligence officials publicly report the numbers of people killed in drone strikes and other attacks on terrorist targets outside of war zones. The Obama-era rule was part of an accountability effort to minimize civilian deaths from drone strikes. (Bloomberg / NBC News)

  3. ICE has been keeping tabs on a series of left-leaning and "anti-Trump protests" in New York City. The agency tracked protests that promoted immigrants' rights and those that opposed Trump's deportation policies, plus one protest against the NRA and one that was organized by a sitting member of Congress. (The Nation)

  4. The Democratic National Committee will not allow Fox News to broadcast any of its 2020 presidential primary debates. DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited the New Yorker story this week that detailed how Fox has promoted Trump's agenda, suggesting that the network had become a "propaganda" vehicle for Trump. (NPR / Washington Post)

Day 775: Stone cold crazy.

1/ Trump accused House Democratic leaders of going "stone cold CRAZY" by opening an oversight investigation into his administration and allies, arguing that the lawmakers are needlessly harassing 81 "innocent people" and groups with demands for documents. Trump claimed the Democrats are conducting a "big, fat, fishing expedition" which amounts to "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" (Politico / Washington Post)

  • House Democrats plan to request 10 years of Trump's tax returns in the coming weeks. The House Ways and Means Committee is using a 1924 law that gives the chairmen tax-writing committees the ability to demand the tax returns of White House officials. Trump has said he won't allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to turn over his personal tax records. The 1924 law, however, doesn't give Mnuchin the ability to deny a congressional request, as the law says he "shall" turn over the records. (Washington Post)

  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff hired a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York to lead the committee's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Daniel Goldman has experience fighting Russian organized crime, and has served as the district's deputy chief of the organized crime unit and oversaw prosecutions into traditional organized crime, international organized crime and white collar crime. (Axios / New Yorker)

  • House Democrats introduced a bill to protect White House whistleblowers subject to nondisclosure agreements. The legislation "clarifies that any non-disclosure agreements signed by White House employees do not cover actions protected by federal whistleblower law, and ensures that those in the Administration with knowledge of wrongdoing will not be afraid to speak the truth." (The Hill)

  • Senate Republicans rejected calls to investigate whether Trump committed crimes over a scheme to pay off women alleging extramarital affairs. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which investigated Hillary Clinton's email controversy in the last Congress, wants to wait until Mueller finishes his investigation first. (CNN)

2/ New York State regulators issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization's insurance broker. The request comes days after Michael Cohen testified that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies. The New York regulators are requesting copies of the insurance policies issued by Aon brokerage to Trump and the Trump Organization, as well as applications and financial statements used to secure the policies. The Trump Organization is now facing scrutiny from federal prosecutors, congressional Democrats, and insurance regulators. (New York Times)

3/ The White House rejected a House Oversight Committee request for documents about Jared Kushner's security clearance and the White House's process for granting security clearances to personnel. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called it an "overly intrusive document requests." Separately, Trump suggested that the White House will refuse to comply with requests for documents from the House Judiciary Committee. (Axios / Politico / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 770: Trump ordered John Kelly to grant Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance last year and overrule concerns by intelligence officials and Donald McGahn, the White House's top lawyer. Both Kelly and McGahn wrote contemporaneous internal memos outlining Trump's "order" to give Kushner the clearance. In January, Trump said he had no role in Kushner receiving his clearance. (New York Times)

4/ Former White House attorney Ty Cobb called Robert Mueller "an American hero" and that he disagreed with Trump's view that the investigation is a politically motivated "witch hunt." Cobb added that he believes Mueller's final report will spare Trump from any serious political harm, and that the investigation will continue into 2020. "[I]t's never going to be over," Cobb said. "I mean, this is going to go through 2020. And if the president is reelected, it'll go beyond that." Cobb said the Trump legal team's confrontational approach to the Mueller probe "wouldn't have been" his strategy, adding that he doesn't "feel the same way about Mueller." (ABC News / NBC News)

5/ Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign. Last year as a lawyer in private practice, Barr sent the Justice Department an unsolicited 19-page memo that criticized Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction and collusion by Trump as "fatally misconceived." (CNBC / Politico / Reuters)

  • Matthew Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, resigned from the Justice Department over the weekend. Whitaker served from Nov. 7 until he was replaced on Feb. 14 when Barr was sworn in. (Los Angeles Times)

6/ Robert Mueller notified a federal judge about Roger Stone's Instagram post that could be a violation of the judge's gag order. Mueller did not take a position on the post when notifying Judge Amy Berman of Stone's social media post suggesting that he'd been "framed" by the special counsel and ahead of the re-release of a book he co-wrote that explores the "myth of Russian collusion." If Jackson finds that Stone violated his gag order, she could have him jailed without bail pending his trial on charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing justice. (CNBC / Politico)

  • Two websites used by Stone to raise funds for his criminal case legal defense have been deleted. (CNBC)

7/ Michael Cohen's attorney raised the possibility of a pardon with Trump's attorneys after the FBI raided Cohen's properties in April. The House Judiciary Committee is currently investigating those conversations between Cohen's attorney, Stephen Ryan, and Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon. Trump's attorneys dismissed the idea at the time, but Giuliani left the possibility open that Trump could grant Cohen a pardon in the future. There is no indication that Cohen personally asked for a pardon, or that he was aware of any discussions on the subject. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Washington Post)

poll/ 64% of Americans believe that Trump committed crimes before he was elected. 45% believe that Trump has committed crimes while in office. And, 50% say they believe Cohen more than Trump. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 64% of American think Trump should publicly release his tax returns, while 29% believe he should not. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. T-Mobile spent $195,000 at Trump's Washington hotel after the announcement of its merger with its Sprint last April. Before news of the deal broke on April 29, 2018, only two top officials from T-Mobile had ever stayed at Trump's hotel. (Washington Post / Reuters)

  2. Trump accused India of unfairly shutting out American businesses and announced plans to end special trade treatment for the country. Trump sent a letter to Congress and signaled his intent to remove India from a program that gives developing nations easier access to U.S. markets. The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program lowers U.S. duties on exports from 121 countries. India was the biggest beneficiary of the program in 2017, with exemptions on $5.6 billion worth of goods. (CNN)

  3. Trump agrees "100%" with keeping a military presence in Syria two months after declaring all U.S. troops are leaving the country. U.S.-backed forces in Syria, however, are holding more than 2,000 suspected Islamic State fighters – at least double previous estimates. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

  4. Donor records reveal that Trump or Ivanka have donated to six of the declared or potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Harris received money from Trump six years ago, Jared and Ivanka held a fundraiser for Booker, and Gillibrand accepted Trump family donations three times over a seven-year period. Trump gave Harris two donations worth a total of $6,000 in 2011 and 2013, when she was already a rising star in the Democratic Party as California's attorney general. The donations were among several contributions Trump gave to attorneys general who were investigating Trump University or had investigated it in the past. (Politico)

  5. Bernie Sanders will "run and serve as a member of the Democratic Party." Sanders has also filed paperwork for reelection to the Senate in 2024 as an independent. (Politico)

  6. Michael Bloomberg will not run for president in 2020. Bloomberg is expected to still be involved in the 2020 general election, organizing and funding opposition to Trump. (New York Times)

  7. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned, effective in about a month. Gottlieb is credited with leading the FDA's charge against underaged vaping. (Politico / CNBC / Washington Post)

Day 774: High crimes and misdemeanors.

1/ The House Judiciary Committee launched a broad investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his administration. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent letters demanding documents from more than 80 family members, business associates, political confidants, and entities tied to Trump, including the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump Foundation, the presidential inaugural committee, the White House, Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, the National Rifle Association, and others. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over impeachment, and any hearings that explore whether Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" would take place before the panel. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / CNN / NBC News / Daily Beast)

  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff says there is "direct evidence" of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Schiff said the evidence can be found "in the emails from the Russians through their intermediary offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of what is described in writing as the Russian government effort to help elect Donald Trump." Schiff says the Russians offered dirt on Clinton and that "[t]here is an acceptance of that offer in writing from the president’s son, Don Jr., and there is overt acts and furtherance of that." (Fox News / CBS News)

  • The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said lawmakers found "enormous amounts of evidence" that Trump colluded with the Russians during the 2016 campaign. Sen. Mark Warner said there is "no one that could factually say there's not plenty of evidence of collaboration or communications between Trump Organization and Russians." (Politico / Fox News)

  • The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to request Trump's personal tax returns. Democrats say they are prepared to "take all necessary steps," including litigation, in order to obtain them. (NBC News)

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the hush money payments made by Michael Cohen to women on behalf of Trump "aren't impeachable" offenses. McCarthy downplayed the significance of the payments and referred to the campaign finance violations as mere fines. "I watched — this is a — if it’s a finance campaign, those are fines," McCarthy said. "Those aren’t impeachable in the process." He added that other politicians have done "this exact same thing in the past." (ABC News / NBC News)

2/ Mitch McConnell expects the resolution to overturn Trump's emergency declaration to pass in the Republican-led Senate – but not survive a veto by Trump – after Rand Paul became the fourth Republican to announce he would vote for the disapproval resolution. "We may want more money for border security," Paul said, "but Congress didn't authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it's a dangerous thing." Trump promised to veto the resolution if it reaches his desk, which would be the first veto of his presidency. Neither the House nor the Senate have the votes needed to override a presidential veto. (Politico / Axios / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / USA Today)

3/ Trump ordered Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN, a few months before the Justice Department eventually filed suit to stop the merger in the summer of 2017. The next day Trump declared the proposed merger "not good for the country." Trump called Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, into the Oval Office along with John Kelly and said to Kelly: "I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened! I've mentioned it fifty times. And nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked!" (New Yorker)

  • Roger Ailes reportedly informed the Trump campaign in advance about questions Megyn Kelly would ask during the first Republican Presidential debate in 2015, according to a pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump. During the debate in Cleveland, Kelly asked Trump started to ask the question: "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs,' and 'disgusting animals.'" Trump interrupted her question with the quip: "Only Rosie O'Donnell!" A former Trump campaign aide said that a Fox contact gave Trump advance notice of a different debate question, which asked if candidates would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won. (New Yorker)

4/ A coalition of 21 states filed suit to block the Trump administration's changes to the Title X family planning program, which would shift tens of millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood toward faith-based pregnancy clinics. The new rule that would affect more than 4 million low-income women who receive services including cancer screenings and pregnancy tests through the Department of Health and Human Services program. (Washington Post)

poll/ 41% of voters say they would vote to re-elect Trump in 2020 while 48% say they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. 58% don't think Trump's been honest and truthful regarding the Russia probe, and 60% disapprove of his recent national emergency declaration to build a border wall. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Roger Stone suggested he has been "framed" by Robert Mueller in an Instagram post, possibly violating the gag order barring him from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone published the post less than 48 hours after Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered his lawyers to explain why they didn't tell her about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him. On Feb. 15, Stone said on Instagram that his book, "The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won," would be published March 1. Digital versions of the book have been on sale since Feb. 19, however. (CNBC / Washington Post)

  2. Trump blamed Michael Cohen's congressional testimony for the reason that negotiations with North Korea collapsed. At the time, Trump said he walked away from the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because of a disagreement about economic sanctions on North Korea. (Washington Post)

  3. North Korean hackers continued to attack the computer networks of more than 100 companies in the U.S. and ally nations while Trump was meeting with Kim Jong-un last week. The attacks began in 2017 when Trump mocked Kim as "rocket man" in a speech at the United Nations. (New York Times)

  4. Trump has made 9,014 false or misleading statements over the last 773 days. Trump averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims per day during his first year in office, and he hit nearly 16.5 per day in his second year. In 2019, he's averaging nearly 22 per day. (Washington Post)

Day 771: Alarming.

1/ Otto Warmbier's family blamed Kim Jong Un for the death of their son a day after Trump said he took Kim "at his word" that the North Korean dictator was not responsible. Fred and Cindy Warmbier called Kim the leader of an "evil regime" that is "responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity" that resulted in Warmbier death in 2017. Warmbier was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel in Pyongyang in January 2016 and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was released in a coma after 17 months and died days later. (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  • The North Korean delegation to the Trump-Kim summit disputed Trump's claim that Kim demanded that the U.S. lift all sanctions in order for North Korea to move forward with denuclearization. "Basically," Trump said yesterday, "they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn't do that. We had to walk away from that." Hours later, two top officials from the North Korean delegation told reporters Kim had only asked for partial sanctions relief in exchange for shutting down their main nuclear complex. An anonymous senior U.S. official acknowledged that Kim only wanted the U.N. Security Council to lift the sanctions imposed since March 2016, and did not include sanctions from the previous decade. (Associated Press)

  • The U.S. military will end its annual, large-scale joint exercises conducted with South Korea in an effort to ease tensions with North Korea. The exercises will be replaced with smaller, mission-specific training. (NBC News)

2/ Michael Cohen and Felix Sater will both testify before the House Intelligence Committee on March 14 to testify about Trump's effort to build a skyscraper in Russia. Cohen interviewed with the House Intelligence Committee for more than seven hours yesterday. Sater is a Russian-born Trump Organization executive who worked on the Trump Tower Moscow project with Cohen. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Trump attacked Cohen's credibility and accused him of perjury. Trump tweeted that his former personal attorney's proposed "Book is exact opposite of his fake testimony, which now is a lie!" Trump also referenced a description of Cohen's book as a "love letter to Trump." (Washington Post)

  • Who is Felix Sater and what's his role in Michael Cohen's plea deal? (CBS News)

3/ Robert Mueller is expected to need five to eight days for Roger Stone's trial for lying to Congress and obstruction of justice. The anticipated trial length does not account for any witnesses that Stone's lawyers plan to call in his defense. (Politico)

poll/ A majority of Americans favor government action to help reduce the cost of prescription medication in the U.S. 86% of respondents support having Medicare negotiate directly with drug companies to get lower prices, something Medicare is currently barred from doing. 80% believe drug company profits are a major factor in the high price of prescription drugs, and 65% support tying the price that Medicare pays for medication to the prices paid by the health services of other countries. (Kaiser Family Foundation / NPR)


Notables.

  1. More than 1,000 TSA employees have not received all of the back-pay they are owed for work during the shutdown, which lasted from December 22 until January 25. (CNN)

  2. Trump reiterated his plans to veto the House-passed resolution that would end his national emergency declaration. "We'll be fine," Trump told Sean Hannity. When Hannity suggested that Trump would veto the resolution and that Congress would not be able to overturn the veto, Trump said, "Yeah." The Senate is required to vote on the House-passed measure within 18 days of its passage, and only four GOP senators need to vote with the Democrats in order for it to pass. Three Republicans have already indicated that they will back the resolution. (NBC News)

  3. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data show more undocumented immigrants are choosing to cross the border illegally instead of waiting in line to claim asylum at legal U.S. ports of entry as a result of the Trump administration's policies at the southern border. As CBP has cracked down on the number of migrants who can be processed at ports of entry, the number of migrants caught crossing illegally has gone up by 10 percent over the same period since last year. (NBC News)

  4. Three high-profile immigrant rights organizations sent a joint letter to DHS accusing ICE of detaining an "alarming" number of infants at a Texas detention center without providing the legally-required level of care. The letter claims that at least nine infants younger than a year old are being held in ICE custody at the South Texas Family Residential Center. One of the infants is alleged to have been detained for more than 20 days. The letter also expressed "grave concern" about the lack of specialized medical care available to families who are being held at the facility. (Newsweek)

  5. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he is running for president, centering his campaign around climate change, calling it "the most urgent challenge of our time." (NBC News / CNN / Politico)

Day 770: Options.

1/ Trump and Kim Jong-Un abruptly ended their summit in Vietnam after negotiations over North Korea's nuclear disarmament collapsed. The two leaders were unable to agree on steps toward denuclearization or any measures to ease tensions between North and South Korea. Trump said the main issue was the sanctions, which Kim wanted Trump to remove entirely. "We had some options," Trump said, "but at this time we decided not to do any of the options." He added, "Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times." (Politico / New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Trump defended North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un over the death of Otto Warmbier because Kim told "me he didn't know about it, and I take him at his word." (CNN / Politico / Washington Post)

2/ Trump ordered John Kelly to grant Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance last year and overrule concerns by intelligence officials and Donald McGahn, the White House's top lawyer. Both Kelly and McGahn wrote contemporaneous internal memos outlining Trump's "order" to give Kushner the clearance. In January, Trump said he had no role in Kushner receiving his clearance. (New York Times)

3/ The D.C. attorney general's office subpoenaed Trump's inaugural committee for documents related to how the fund raised $107 million and whether the fund's spending was "wasteful, mismanaged" or "improperly provided private benefit." The subpoena requested records of all payments from or on behalf of the committee to the Trump Organization, including any relating to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The committee paid the hotel $1.5 million. It's the third request to the committee for documents – the first two were made by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and by New Jersey's attorney general. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

4/ The House Intelligence Committee intends to call the Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to testify. Michael Cohen repeatedly cited Weisselberg's firsthand knowledge of alleged financial irregularities during his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee yesterday. Weisselberg was granted limited immunity by New York prosecutors to provide information in their case involving Cohen's hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Weisselberg does not have an ongoing cooperation agreement with prosecutors. (Daily Beast / NBC News / Washington Post)

5/ The House Oversight Committee will seek to interview Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Weisselberg. Michael Cohen indicated to Congress that all three were involved in hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, and that Trump Jr. and Weisselberg signed one of the $35,000 checks reimbursing him for the payment. Cohen also said that he briefed Trump Jr. and Ivanka about Trump Tower Moscow approximately 10 times, though Trump Jr. testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017 that he was only "peripherally aware" of the project. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / Axios)

6/ Robert Mueller corrected part of a previous allegation that Paul Manafort lied about his contacts with his Russian business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller cited new evidence obtained less than two weeks ago from Trump's former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, which appears to suggest that Mueller made a mistake with one of his accusations against Manafort. Mueller's recently revised court filing says the revision should not change the ruling by Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort lied about his interactions with Kilimnik because they have presented enough additional evidence to support the underlying allegation. (New York Times)

  • The foreign-linked mystery company fighting Mueller to avoid handing over records has racked up $2.25 million in fines. Lawyers for the mystery firm have argued that because the company is entirely owned by a foreign government it should not be subject to subpoena in a U.S. criminal investigation. (Politico)

Notables.

  1. Roger Stone disputed Michael Cohen's claims that Stone and Trump discussed WikiLeaks' forthcoming DNC email dump in July 2016, saying "Mr. Cohen's statement is not true." Stone's "statement" on Cohen's testimony, which came in the form of a single text message sent to BuzzFeed News, did not indicate which part of Cohen's testimony was false. Stone is currently under a gag order not to publicly comment on his case or Robert Mueller's investigation, including any "participants" in his case or the investigation. (BuzzFeed News)

  2. GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz says he "personally apologized" to Michael Cohen after he publicly threatened to reveal information about Cohen's alleged "girlfriends" in a tweet sent shortly before Cohen's testimony. "I’ve personally apologized to @MichaelCohen212 4 referencing his private family in the public square," Gaetz tweeted. "Regardless of disagreements, family members should be off-limits from attacks … Let's leave the Cohen family alone." The Florida Bar Association is currently investigating Gaetz's original threat as a possible violation of its rules of professionalism. (NBC News / Daily Beast)

  3. The Pentagon offered to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan within three to five years as part of peace negotiations that could lead to a government in Kabul that shares power with the Taliban. (New York Times)

  4. The Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the EPA in a 52 to 47 vote mostly along party lines. Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to vote against him. Republicans have praised Wheeler for his deregulatory agenda, which includes weakening regulations for reducing emissions from power plants and cars, while also proposing to make new coal-fired power plants easier to approve. Wheeler has acknowledged that climate change is real, but doesn't consider it a priority at EPA. (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios / Politico)

Day 769: Spin this.

Overview: During public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen accused Trump of "criminal conduct" while in office, including the fact that Trump knew ahead of time about WikiLeaks' plan to release DNC emails that were intended to damage Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen testified that Trump "asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair" with $130,000 of his own money weeks before the 2016 election "to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign." Cohen also described his relationship with Trump: "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat." (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Vox / Wall Street Journal / Politico)


⚡️ Key Moments:

This is a work in progress. Check back for updates. If a blurb isn't directly sourced, please see the live blog links above.

1/ Cohen said Trump knew that Roger Stone was communicating with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election and had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks planned to publish the hacked Democratic National Committee emails intended to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. In his prepared written testimony, Cohen alleged that, in July 2016, he witnessed Trump taking a phone call from Roger Stone, who was on speakerphone. During the call, Stone told Trump that "he had just gotten off the phone with [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange and that …within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign." Stone pushed back against Cohen's claim, saying in a text message to BuzzFeed News: "Mr. Cohen's statement is not true." Stone, however, is under a gag order not to publicly comment on his case, Mueller's investigation, or any "participants" in his case or the investigation. (Washington Post / CNN / BuzzFeed News)

  • 📌 Day 678: Trump told Robert Mueller that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks and that he was not told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., campaign officials, and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump added a caveat that his responses were to the best of his recollection. For comparison, Trump also does not “remember much” from the meeting with George Papadopoulos, where Papadopoulos offered to arrange a meeting with Putin. Trump, however, has previously claimed to have “one of the great memories of all time,” using it as justification for not using notes during his meeting with Kim Jong Un, and blaming Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow when he stumbled over the solider’s name during a condolence call. (CNN)

  • [Perspective] Why it Matters if Trump Knew About Stone’s Contacts with WikiLeaks. It matters because WikiLeaks has a long and documented history of engaging in activities damaging to U.S. national security. (Lawfare)

2/ Cohen said he doesn't "know of direct evidence" that "Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia" during the 2016 election, "but I have my suspicions." Cohen said that he was in the room with Trump, "probably in early June 2016," when Trump Jr. "came into the room and walked behind his father's desk," leaned over "to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: 'The meeting is all set.' I remember Mr. Trump saying, 'Ok good…let me know.'" Cohen added that "Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world." (Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 172: Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer to acquire damaging information about Hillary Clinton  in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York City. On Saturday, Trump Jr. said the meeting was about the issue of US adoptions of Russian children and not the campaign. However, in March, Trump Jr. said he never met with any Russians while working in a campaign capacity. The meeting – attended by Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner – was disclosed when Kushner filed a revised form in order to obtain a security clearance. Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting, and Trump Jr.’s role in organizing it, to congressional investigators looking into his foreign contacts. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 544: Michael Cohen says Trump knew in advance about Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.  Cohen doesn't have evidence to back up his claim, but he is reportedly willing to make the assertion as part of his testimony to Robert Mueller. Cohen claims that he, along with several others, were in the room when Trump Jr. told Trump about the Russian's offer. According to Cohen, Trump approved the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Cohen's claim contradicts Trump, Trump Jr., their lawyers, and administration officials who have repeatedly said Trump didn't know about the meeting until he was asked about it in July 2017. Trump's response at the time was: "No. That I didn't know. Until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this. No I didn't know about that." A few days later, Trump was again asked whether he knew about the meeting. His response: "No, I didn't know anything about the meeting…. must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it … nobody told me."(CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 554: Trump tweeted that he "did NOT know" in advance about Trump Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting , disputing Michael Cohen's assertion that he did and accusing him of "trying to make up stories." Cohen said he's willing to testify that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. In July 2017, it was reported that Trump personally dictated Trump Jr.'s statement about the latter's meeting with the Russian lawyer, claiming they had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children." (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ Cohen suggested that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating an unspecified crime involving Trump that has not been made public yet. Cohen said he has "been asked by them not to discuss, and not to talk about these issues." Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York recently issued a request for documents related to donations and spending by Trump's inaugural committee. Cohen also said prosecutors in New York are investigating conversations that Trump or his advisers had with Cohen after his hotel room was raided by the FBI in April 2018. (Washington Post / Associated Press)

4/ Cohen provided a copy of a $35,000 check that was personally signed by Trump in 2017 to reimburse him for paying off Stormy Daniels, who had alleged having an affair with Trump. Cohen also submitted copies of additional $35,000 checks that Trump Jr. and the COO of the Trump Organization made "to reimburse me for the hush money payments." Cohen said that Trump directed him to lie about the hush payments to Stormy Daniels by telling Congress that Trump had no knowledge of payments. Trump was president when this happened. (Washington Post / Axios / The Guardian)

5/ Cohen: "I've never been to Prague. I've never been to the Czech Republic."

  • 📌 Day 707: Michael Cohen's cell phone was briefly activated near Prague around time of the Russia meeting described in the Steele dossier, which purports that Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials met in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close "liaison" between the Trump campaign and Russia. Additionally, around the same period of late August or early September 2016, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up Russians remarking that Cohen was in Prague. The cell phone and eavesdropping evidence was shared with Robert Mueller. (McClatchy DC)

  • 📌Day 450: Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen made a secret trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, entering through Germany in "August or early September." Confirmation of the trip corroborates part of the Christopher Steele dossier that Cohen met with an ally of Putin. Cohen has denied that he has ever been in Prague and that he colluded with Russia during the campaign. (McClatchy DC)

6/ In October 2016, Cohen said he received a call from Hope Hicks asking for help dealing with the "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump had bragged about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women, saying he'd "grab them by the p—y. You can do anything," because "when you're a star, they let you do it." Hicks told Cohen: "We want you to just spin this." (Washington Post)

7/ Cohen claimed that Trump asked him to threaten people "probably" 500 different people and entities over a decade.

  • The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz violated professional conduct rules by threatening Michael Cohen ahead of Cohen's congressional testimony. Yesterday, Gatez threatened Cohen with revealing Cohen's "girlfriends" over his testimony, adding that "maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat." (Daily Beast)

8/ Cohen said he never saw proof that Trump's tax returns were being audited, which was Trump's reasoning for not releasing his tax filings during the 2016 campaign. Cohen said he presumed that Trump did not want to release his tax returns because he "didn't want an entire group of think tanks, who are tax experts, to run through his returns and start ripping it to pieces" out of fear that he would then "end up in an audit and he'll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties, and so on." (NBC News / The Guardian)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The House Oversight Committee wants to depose both Trump's long-time tax lawyer and the former deputy White House Counsel in charge of compliance and ethics. The panel wants to ask about Trump's legally mandated financial ethics disclosures for the payments made before the 2016 presidential election by Cohen to buy the silence of women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. (Reuters)

  2. Trump met with Kim Jong-Un in Vietnam for the first day of his second summit with the North Korean dictator. Trump called Kim a "great leader" and promised to help North Korea to become a "great economic power." At a dinner between the two men, Trump said he believes the summit will "lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long term." (Daily Beast / Associated Press / Washington Post)

  3. The White House banned four U.S. journalists from covering Trump's dinner with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un after they shouted questions earlier in the day. Reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters were excluded because of what White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said were "sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays." (Washington Post / Politico)

  4. The House passed legislation mandating federal criminal background checks on all gun sales – the most significant gun control measure in more than two decades. The Senate, however, is unlikely to take up the measure and, even if it does, Trump has already said he would veto it because they impose unreasonable requirements on gun owners. (Politico / NPR / BuzzFeed News)

  5. Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has agreed to return to Congress and meet with lawmakers behind closed doors to "clarify" parts of his previous public testimony, during which he claimed he never made "any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation" to Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, however, believes it has evidence that Trump asked Whitaker while he was acting AG whether he could install a Trump ally to oversee the investigation into Michael Cohen. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. Pence's new chief of staff disparaged people with HIV and AIDS in an early '90s college newspaper column, claiming that the transmission of the disease was largely the result of "repugnant" homosexual intercourse. The column was published in The Spectator, a conservative student newspaper that Marc Short started as an undergraduate in 1989. Short served as an editor for the publication until he graduated in 1992. (Daily Beast)

  7. 68% of Americans say they want the Robert Mueller report to be made public, while 10% say it shouldn’t be made public, and 22% are undecided. (Politico)

Day 768: Lawless.

1/ The House passed a resolution to block and overturn Trump's unilateral national emergency declaration to get the border wall money that Congress denied him. "The President's act is lawless," Nancy Pelosi said. "It does violence to our Constitution and therefore to our democracy. His declaration strikes at the heart of our Founders' concept of America, which demands separation of powers." The House voted 245-182, mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans defecting to side with Democrats. The Senate now has 18 days to bring it to the floor for a vote, where it's also expected to pass. Four Republican votes are needed to ensure passage if all Senate Democrats vote for the disapproval resolution, and three Republican senators — Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis — have already signaled they will support the measure. Congress has never tried to cancel a national emergency declared by a president, and Trump has vowed to veto any measure that blocks funding for his border wall. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / ABC News / Washington Post / Reuters / Politico / Los Angeles Times)

2/ Paul Manafort's attorneys asked for leniency as he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. In a court filing, Manafort's attorneys described the 69-year-old as a man who has been "personally, professionally, and financially" broken by Robert Mueller's investigation, and as someone who deserves a sentence "significantly" below the statutory maximum of 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges. Manafort's lawyers also wrote that because "this case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron," the former Trump campaign chairman shouldn't be sentenced too harshly. Two federal judges will sentence Manafort on two separate occasions over the next month for criminal charges that include tax and bank fraud, witness tampering, and working as an unregistered lobbyist for a foreign government. (Politico / NPR / The Guardian / Salon)

  • Manafort gave alleged Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik 75 pages of recent, "very detailed" campaign polling data on August 2, 2016, which "would have been relevant to a meeting they were having within the [Trump] campaign," redacted court filings by Manafort's lawyers suggest. In an email, Manafort ordered Rick Gates to print out the data so he could share it with Kilimnik. Gates previously testified that Manafort walked Kilimnik through the data at the August 2 meeting. (Emptywheel / Daily Beast)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if an ally could take over the investigation of Michael Cohen and the Trump Organization in the Southern District of New York. The committee is looking into whether Whitaker may have perjured himself when he testified to Congress that he never made "any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation" to Trump, who wanted Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman to take charge of the investigations. Berman – a former Rudy Giuliani law partner who donated to the Trump campaign in 2016 and was interviewed for the U.S. attorney job by Trump – recused himself from involvement in the matter last year. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ A federal appeals court rejected claims that Mueller's appointment was unconstitutional. Andrew Miller, a Roger Stone associate, will now have to testify to a grand jury in Mueller's investigation or go to jail after the appeals court said that Mueller was legally appointed by Rod Rosenstein as special counsel in May 2017. (Politico / CNN)

  • A House Democrat filed legislation that would require Mueller's Russia report to be made public and give Congress access to the investigation's underlying evidence. (Reuters)

5/ Cohen is expected to publicly accuse and present documents that implicate Trump of "criminal conduct" while in office during public testimony before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow. Cohen will reportedly provide lawmakers with information about Trump's financial statements, including documentation of his reimbursement for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Cohen plans to share who signed the $35,000 monthly checks he received as reimbursement for his hush-money payments to Daniels. Cohen is also expected to detail how long Trump remained involved in discussions regarding a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, as well as to detail his "behind-the-scenes" experience of working for Trump for over a decade. Cohen testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, where he apologized for the lies he told during his 2017 testimony. (CNN / Axios / Daily Beast / NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Reuters)

  • A Trump ally and sitting U.S. congressman threatened Cohen with exposing his "girlfriends" on the eve of his public House Oversight Committee testimony. "Do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends," Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted. "Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat." Gaetz said he was "challenging the veracity and character of a witness," and not trying to intimidate a witness. He added: "This is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas." (Daily Beast / Axios / VICE News)

  • Cohen has been disbarred in New York. Cohen's guilty pleas on charges of tax evasion, excessive campaign contributions, and lying to Congress ensured he would be disbarred. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. A House committee voted to subpoena Trump administration officials over family separations at the southern border. The resolution will force Trump officials to turn over documents linked to the separation of thousands of migrant children and parents. (Associated Press / Politico)

  2. Thousands of unaccompanied migrant kids suffered sexual abuse while in custody of the U.S. government over the past 4 years. From October 2014 to July 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff. (Axios / CNN)

  3. Trump announced that American citizen Danny Burch has been freed after spending 18 months in captivity in Yemen. The State Department suggested that Burch was freed as a result of a rescue operation in concert with the United Arab Emirates. Burch lived in Yemen for years working for an oil company and was kidnapped in Sept. 2017 while taking his sons to a local sports club. (NBC News)

  4. A federal judge approved a move by the Trump administration to ban "bump stocks" for firearms, which allow semi-automatic weapons to be converted to automatic weapons. Opponents say the government does not have the legal authority to enforce the ban. The new rule is set to take effect on Mar. 26, when bump stock owners will be required to turn in or destroy their bump stock attachments. Trump promised to ban bump stocks in the wake of a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead in Oct. 2017. (Reuters)

  5. U.S. Cyber Command "basically took the IRA offline" during the 2018 midterms. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll factory in St. Petersburg and underwritten by an oligarch close to Putin, was part of the cyber campaign to "influence" the 2016 election and undermine faith in U.S. democracy. (Washington Post)

Day 767: Super-creepy and inappropriate.

1/ Paul Manafort "repeatedly and brazenly" broke the law and the "crimes he engaged in while on bail were not minor; they went to the heart of the criminal justice system," according Robert Mueller's 800-page court filing. Manafort's sentence should reflect the "gravity of his conduct," prosecutors wrote in the unsealed filing, which includes a note from Mueller indicating that federal sentencing guidelines suggest Manafort should receive a sentence of 17 to 22 years in prison. Mueller also said Manafort engaged in a "bold" string of criminal actions and an extensive pattern of deceit that "remarkably went unabated even after indictment." (CNBC / Washington Post / Associated Press / Axios / ABC News / CNN)

2/ Trump asked his outside legal team to stay on after the Mueller probe ends to help with the Southern District of New York investigation, which Trump's close allies consider a far graver threat than Mueller. Trump Jr., meanwhile, dismissed both the Mueller investigation and the Southern District of New York probe, claiming that Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump family "don't appear all that worried, because we know there's nothing there." Separately, the Trump Organization asked the House Judiciary Committee to stop its investigations related to the company, claiming a conflict of interest because the panel hired a lawyer whose firm once represented Trump's company. (Daily Beast / Fox News / Washington Post)

  • House Democrats are planning to investigate Trump's personal finances to discover why Deutsche Bank was willing to lend to the Trump Organization when other banks wouldn't, and whether Russia was involved. (Politico)

  • The House Intelligence Committee will subpoena the special counsel's final report and compel Mueller to testify if the full report is not given to Congress. During his confirmation hearing last month, William Barr said he would "provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law" when it comes to releasing the Mueller report. "We will obviously subpoena the report," Adam Schiff said. "We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress; we will take it to court if necessary. And in the end, I think the (Justice) Department understands they’re going to have to make this public." (ABC News / Reuters / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Michael Cohen will be questioned by the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. Cohen will not be questioned about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election or about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, but he is expected to be questioned about Trump's "debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election" and his "compliance with campaign finance laws." (Washington Post / NBC News)

3/ A bipartisan group of 58 former national security officials will issue a joint statement denouncing Trump's national emergency declaration. "There is no factual basis" for Trump to proclaim a national emergency in order to build his border wall, the statement says. The statement comes a day before the House is expected to vote on a measure to block Trump's declaration. Trump, meanwhile, warned Republican senators to not "get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security." (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)

  • Ex-GOP lawmakers urge Republicans to block Trump's emergency declaration (The Hill)

  • New Mexico governor says she withdrew border troops because there was no 'real emergency' (The Hill)

4/ The White House will select a group of federal scientists to challenge the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions and burning of fossil fuels are driving global warming. The panel is an initiative of the National Security Council and will not be subject to the same level of public disclosure as formal advisory committees, which are required to meet in public, are subject to public records requests, and require representative membership. (Washington Post)

5/ Trump delayed his own deadline to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, citing "substantial progress" in talks between the two countries. The increase from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods was scheduled to take effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on March 2nd. The two sides have not signed an official agreement and the White House has not released details on any agreements, but Trump suggested the possibility of a "signing summit" with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. (New York Times / ABC News / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

6/ Trump expects a "very tremendous summit" with Kim Jong-un later this week, but would be "happy" if North Korea maintains a moratorium on nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles that has been in place since November 2017. Trump added that he is in "no rush" to see North Korea denuclearize. (Washington Post / The Guardian / New York Times)

7/ A former Trump campaign staffer is suing Trump of forcibly kissing her on the mouth prior to an August 2016 rally in Florida. Alva Johnson alleges that Trump grabbed her hand and forcibly kissed her without her consent inside an RV, which she described as "super-creepy and inappropriate." Sarah Sanders, meanwhile, dismissed the allegation, saying: "This never happened." (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)


Notables.

  1. Russian state television aired a list of U.S. military facilities that Moscow would target in the event of a nuclear war and noted that Russia is developing hypersonic missiles that would be able to hit those targets in less than five minutes. The targets include the Pentagon and the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. The unusually aggressive broadcast comes just days after Putin said Russia was ready for a "Cuban Missile"-style standoff with the United States if Washington deploys intermediate-range nuclear missiles in western Europe. (Reuters)

  2. The Taliban and American diplomats are scheduled to begin the highest-level negotiations yet to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The talks will be held in Doha, Qatar, and will focus on working out the details of an agreement both sides said they reached in principle last month, which includes the Taliban agreeing to keep Afghan territory from becoming a haven for terrorists if the U.S. moves toward a withdrawal of American forces from the country. (New York Times)

  3. New Defense Department security measures could put the accuracy of the 2020 census "at risk." The new guidance will now count deployed troops as residents of the military installations where they're usually stationed, instead of using the addresses provided when they enlisted. 15% of all overseas service members, with most stationed abroad, and the 2020 census will direct hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars to local communities over the next decade. (NPR)

  4. The average tax refund this year is down 17% with the typical refund totaling $2,703, compared to $3,256 during the same period last year. (Politico)

  5. Most economists expect the U.S. to enter a recession by the end of 2021. 10% believe a recession began this year, while 42% project one next year, and 25% expect a contraction starting in 2021. (Bloomberg)

  6. Trump accused Spike Lee of a "racist hit" against him for urging people to vote in the 2020 elections. Lee's comments to "mobilize" and "be on the right side of history" came during his Oscar acceptance speech for the best adapted screenplay for "BlacKkKlansman," a movie about an African American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  7. GOP donors are worried that Trump doesn't have a strategy to win reelection. In particular, donors are concerned how Trump intends to win in Rust Belt states that swung to Democrats in the midterms. (Politico)

  8. Trump will host a Fourth of July "salute to America" at the Lincoln Memorial, which will include a "major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!" (New York Times)

Day 764: Infinitely better.

1/ Robert Mueller's sentencing memorandum is due to today before midnight in the prosecution of Paul Manafort. In filings like these, prosecutors typically outline all of the defendant's crimes, convictions, and their cooperation, which could also shed more light on how Manafort fits into Mueller's larger Russian investigation. [Editor's note: I've basically been waiting all day for this to drop. I'll update the blog when this is filed to reflect the latest.] (CNN / Associated Press)

2/ Mueller is not expected deliver a final report to the attorney general next week after all. It was previously reported that William Barr was preparing to announce the completion of the investigation into any links between Trump and Russia as soon as next week. Separately, the chairs of six House committees wrote Barr a letter suggesting that withholding evidence uncovered by Mueller could be the means for a "cover-up." 34 individuals and three companies so far have pleaded guilty, been indicted or been swept up in the inquiry. (CNBC / CNN / Reuters)

  • Sarah Sanders is confident that Mueller's report will not show collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, claiming that Trump had no reason to collude because he was an "infinitely better" candidate. (Washington Post)

  • Michael Cohen provided federal prosecutors in Manhattan with information about possible irregularities within the Trump Organization, as well as about donations to the Trump inaugural committee. Prosecutors questioned Cohen about Imaad Zuberi, a California venture capitalist and political fund-raiser, who contributed $900,000 to Trump's committee. (New York Times)

3/ New York state prosecutors are prepared to charge Paul Manafort if Trump issues a presidential pardon for his federal crimes. Manafort could be charged with state offenses without triggering double jeopardy protections, including evasion of New York taxes and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records. Manafort was convicted of eight felonies and pleaded guilty to two more. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month for those federal crimes. Robert Mueller recommended that Manafort serve up to 24 years – essentially a life sentence for the 69-year-old. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

4/ The Trump administration issued a new rule blocking taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. The rule prohibits organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program. Some of that funding will redirected toward religiously-based, anti-abortion groups. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The U.S. will leave 200 troops in Syria even after the so-called pullout announced by Trump in December. Trump has reportedly backed away from a complete U.S withdrawal from Syria, and will instead leave the "small peacekeeping force" in place for a period of time after the majority of forces have left the country. The decision to leave 200 troops in place came after Trump spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who convinced Trump to "continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone" in Syria. (Reuters)

  2. The Department of Agriculture has paid $7.7 billion to help farmers impacted by Trump's trade war with China. In total, Trump has pledged a $12 billion relief package to offset the losses from retaliatory tariffs imposed by Beijing in response to Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods. (NBC News)

  3. Trump is the only 2020 presidential candidate who won't promise not to knowingly use hacked materials that are published during the election cycle. Every other 2020 candidate who has either announced or is in the exploratory phase has pledged not to knowingly use or reference stolen or hacked material that appears online on the grounds that it may have been obtained illegally. (Daily Beast)

  4. The New Jersey state Senate passed a bill that would keep presidential candidates off the state's 2020 ballot unless they release their tax returns. Candidates for president and vice president would be required to publicly release five of their most recent tax returns at least 50 days before the general election in 2020. (The Hill)

  5. North Carolina's election boards ordered a new election for the state's 9th Congressional District after officials said corruption surrounding absentee ballots tainted the results of the 2018 midterm election. The bipartisan board voted 5-0 to hold a new election after Republican candidate Mark Harris was confronted by days of evidence that one of his campaign's operatives orchestrated a ballot fraud scheme, leading Harris to call for a new vote. The race is the last unsettled 2018 congressional contest in the country. (Reuters)

Day 763: Swiftly.

1/ House Democrats will file a resolution rejecting Trump's national emergency declaration. Nancy Pelosi said the House will move "swiftly" to pass the disapproval resolution, which is the first formal step in countering Trump's effort to go around Congress and build his border wall. While the effort is almost certain to fall short due to the threat of a Trump veto, voting will put some Republicans from swing districts and states on the record. (Washington Post / The Guardian / Politico)

2/ A federal judge banned Roger Stone from speaking publicly about his case after he published an Instagram post with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun drawn behind her head. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson banned Stone from issuing statements on the radio, press releases, blogs, media interviews, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat posts. Jackson also banned Stone's spokespersons, family members or his "many volunteers" from issuing statements on his behalf. Stone claimed he was "heartfully sorry" and that he was "having trouble putting the food on the table and making rent," and that he needed to be able to make money as a commentator. Stone's pre-trial consulting income was $47,000 a month. (NBC News / CNN / Washignton Post)

3/ The White House is forcing interns to sign non-disclosure agreements and warning them that a breach of the NDA could result in legal and financial consequences. Interns were also told that they would not receive a copy of the NDA. The Trump intern orientation process calls this "ethics training." (Daily Beast)

  • A former Trump staffer filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump campaign alleging that the non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements are invalid. The claims brought by Jessica Denson are the broadest attack on Trump's campaign practices to date, which include having staffers, volunteers, and contractors sign agreements that prohibit them from ever publicly criticizing Trump, his company, or his family, and bars them from disclosing private or confidential information about all three. Denson's lawyers believe thousands of campaign staffers, volunteers, and contractors signed NDAs and could be covered by the case. If the agreements they signed are eventually thrown out in court, they would all be free to discuss their time working for the campaign and to criticize Trump without fear of financial penalties or legal retribution. (BuzzFeed News)

Notables.

  1. Michael Cohen has agreed to testify publicly before Congress next week about his work as Trump's longtime fixer, lawyer, and confidant. Lawmakers have said they will limit the scope of their questions out of deference to Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation. Cohen will appear Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he'll be given an opportunity to explain the work he did for Trump, including the illegal plan during the 2016 campaign to pay off two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. (New York Times / CNN)

  2. Paul Manafort will be sentenced on March 8th in Virginia after being convicted last summer on eight felony counts of bank and tax fraud. Manafort will be sentenced in a related case in Washington, D.C. five days later. (Politico / CNBC / Reuters)

  3. Senate investigators want to question a Moscow-based American businessman with deep ties to Trump after witnesses told lawmakers that the man could provide information about Trump's commercial and personal activities in Russia dating all the way back to the 1990s. The Senate Intelligence Committee has been interested in speaking with David Geovanis for several months. Geovanis helped organize a 1996 trip to Moscow for Trump while he was in the early stages of pursuing what would become his long-held goal of building a Trump Tower in Russia's capital city. Years later, Geovanis worked for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. (CNN)

  4. White House officials, as well as several Republican and Democratic lawmakers, are concerned that Trump will soon replace Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Trump spent the holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago venting about Coats' testimony before Congress last month, where Coats publicly contradicted Trump about the chances North Korea agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons. (CNN / Washington Post)

Day 762: Retribution.

1/ The Justice Department will potentially announce the completion of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as early as next week. When that happens, Attorney General Bill Barr will likely submit a summary of Mueller's confidential report to Congress. Mueller is required to submit a "confidential" report to the attorney general, which is not required to be shared with Congress or the public. Barr suggested during his confirmation hearing last month that the report might not become public, and has made clear that the Justice Department generally guards against publicizing "derogatory" information about uncharged individuals. Trump, meanwhile, will travel overseas next week for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Justice officials don't want to interfere with the White House's diplomatic efforts. Trump said "totally up to Bill Barr" as to whether Mueller's report comes out while he is overseas. (CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • The FBI developed a backup plan to protect evidence in its Russia investigation after James Comey was fired in the event that other senior officials were also dismissed. (Associated Press)

  • Trump intends to nominate Jeffrey Rosen as deputy attorney general. Rosen is currently the deputy transportation secretary and will replace Rod Rosenstein, who is expected to leave his post in mid-March. (Politico / CBS News)

  • Michael Cohen's three-year prison stay has been delayed for two months because of a "serious surgical procedure" that requires extensive physical therapy. Cohen will now report to prison on May 6th instead of March 6th. (Bloomberg / CNN)

2/ Democratic 2020 candidates are already facing a coordinated barrage of social media disinformation attacks, with signs that foreign state actors are driving some of the activity. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O'Rourke have been the main targets of attacks, which have been focused on undermining their nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions. (Politico)

3/ Democrats in the House and Senate believe a senior Department of Education official tried to oust the department's independent watchdog because she pushed back against an attempt by the department to intervene in an investigation into Betsy DeVos. Lawmakers on four committees overseeing the DOE say the attempt to remove Sandra Bruce as acting inspector general was related to the probe of DeVos' decision to reinstate an accreditor that had its certification revoked by the Obama administration. (NBC News)

4/ CNN hired a longtime Republican operative as a political editor responsible with shaping the network's 2020 campaign coverage. Sarah Isgur was critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign, but later "kowtowed to Trump" and pledged loyalty to his agenda as a condition of getting the job as the Department of Justice's main spokesperson under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Isgur has no journalism experience, and while it's common for departing administration officials to join cable news networks as analysts or contributors, it is less common for them to oversee news coverage. (Vox / Politico)

  • 😂 CNN reports that CNN's hiring of an ex-Sessions spokeswoman to guide political coverage stirs controversy and concerns among CNN employees. (CNN)

5/ Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on the Court to reexamine a landmark 1964 case that makes it difficult for public officials to win libel suits. Justice Thomas said New York Times v. Sullivan has no basis in the Constitution as the founders understood it, and that the First Amendment does nothing to prevent states from protecting the reputations of their citizens and leaders as they see fit. Thomas' opinion comes in the wake of complaints by Trump that libel laws make it too difficult for public figures to win libel suits. (New York Times)

6/ Trump – angered by a New York Times report that he tried to influence and undermine the investigations surrounding him – attacked the New York Times as the "true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE" in the same week he called for "retribution" against NBC for satirizing him on "Saturday Night Live." (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Putin said he would respond to any deployment of new intermediate-range missiles placed in Europe by targeting the U.S. with Russia's own new field weapons that could reach U.S. decision-making centers. During his annual address to parliament, Putin said the U.S. has the right to think they can place missiles anywhere they want, "but can they count?" he asked. "I'm sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing." Putin added that Russia is not looking for confrontation and would not take the first steps toward deploying missiles in the wake of Trump's decision to pull out of a landmark Cold War-era arms treaty. (CNBC / NBC News / Daily Beast)

  2. Trump is moving forward with plans to use his national emergency declaration to divert federal funds from other programs in order to build his border wall, despite multiple lawsuits challenging his authority to do so. The White House plans to start with funds from the Defense Department's drug interdiction program and the Treasury Department's civil asset forfeiture fund before moving on to siphon funds from military construction projects. Trump is currently preparing for the possibility that a federal court will issue an injunction and prevent him from accessing the military construction funding. (CNN)

  3. The Transportation Department will cancel $929 million in federal funds for a California high-speed rail project and is "actively exploring every legal option" to claw back the $2.5 billion the state has already received. California Governor Gavin Newsom linked the Trump administration action to California leading 15 other states in challenging Trump's "farcical" national emergency to obtain funds for his border wall. (New York Times / Reuters)

  4. The Office of Government Ethics refused to certify a financial disclosure report from Wilbur Ross, saying the commerce secretary violated his ethics agreement by inaccurately reporting stock holdings in his 2018 financial disclosure form. (Washington Post / CNBC)

  5. The White House is assembling a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat. Trump dismissed a government report finding that global warming poses a major threat to the U.S. economy, saying, "I don't see it." (Washington Post)

Day 761: Grenades.

1/ Trump asked acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if a Trump-appointed attorney could lead the Southern District of New York's investigation into Michael Cohen's hush money payments during the 2016 election. Whitaker couldn't put Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, in charge, because Berman had already recused himself from the investigation, which led to Trump complaining about Whitaker's inability to pull the strings necessary at the Justice Department to make his legal problems go away. There is no evidence that Whitaker took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation, but Whitaker privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to "jump on a grenade" for Trump. Earlier this month Whitaker testified to the House Judiciary Committee that Trump had never pressured him to intervene in an investigation, which is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury. [Editor's note: This is a must read] (New York Times)

  • Trump denied the report that he asked Whitaker to put an ally in charge of the investigation into pre-election hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with him. Trump then praised Whitaker, who was replaced by William Barr last week, saying "I think he’s done a great job" and "should be given a lot of thanks by the nation." (Politico / The Hill)

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Whitaker to clarify his recent testimony, saying Whitaker "refused to offer clear responses regarding your communications with the White House." (Politico)

  • Michael Cohen plans to describe his "personal, front-line experiences of memories, and incidents, and conduct, and comments that Donald Trump said over that 10-year time period behind closed doors," which his lawyer described as "chilling." Cohen has pledged to appear before closed sessions of the House and Senate intelligence committees and in a public session of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee before he reports for a federal prison sentence on March 6. (ABC News)

  • Trump has publicly criticized the Russia investigation nearly 1,200 times. (New York Times)

2/ Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe briefed congressional leaders in 2017 about the counterintelligence investigation he opened into Trump and that "no one objected," including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. McCabe ordered the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, which made McCabe acting director of the bureau at the time. The FBI wanted to know whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. "The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we'd been doing," McCabe said, and that nobody raised concerns, "not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts." Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also attended the meeting, which is when the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation was first announced. Eight days after Comey was fired, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. (NBC News / CNBC / Politico / Daily Beast / The Atlantic / CBS News)

  • WATCH: The full Andrew McCabe interview. (CBS News)

  • McCabe: Trump is unwilling to accept intelligence on North Korea given to him by U.S. officials, telling them, "I don't care, I believe Putin." Trump said he didn't believe that North Korea has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland because Putin told him the missiles didn't exist. (The Hill / 60 Minutes)

3/ Trump accused McCabe and Rosenstein of "illegal and treasonous" actions. In a tweet, Trump said McCabe and Rosenstein "look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught" in response to McCabe's interview on 60 Minutes. McCabe and Rosenstein had discussed "counting votes" among Cabinet members to see who would consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. "There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more," Trump continued. "This was the illegal and treasonous 'insurance policy' in full action!" (Daily Beast / Washington Post)

  • Trump circulated a call by Rush Limbaugh to imprison the people investigating him and his administration, including Robert Mueller. Trump quoted Limbaugh in a tweet, writing, "These guys, the investigators, ought to be in jail. What they have done, working with the Obama intelligence agencies, is simply unprecedented." He continued: "This is one of the greatest political hoaxes ever perpetrated on the people of this Country, and Mueller is a coverup." Later, Trump added his own condemnation of Mueller and his team, calling the investigation "totally conflicted, illegal and rigged!" (Daily Beast)

  • House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said there is "evidence in plain sight" of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. Schiff rejected the conclusions of Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, who said no such evidence exists. "You can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence," Schiff said. "There is a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt." (Politico)

4/ Rosenstein will resign as deputy attorney general and leave the Justice Department in March. Incoming Attorney General William Barr is expected to name Rosenstein's successor as early as this week. Justice Department officials say Rosenstein's departure has nothing to do with McCabe's recent interview on 60 Minutes. It is unclear what this means for Mueller's investigation, which will likely be handed off to Barr. (CBS News / CNN / Reuters / Washington Post)

  • Barr's son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, will be leaving his job at the Justice Department and will join the White House counsel's office, where he'll "advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency." (Vanity Fair / CNN)

5/ Michael Flynn and several other Trump administration appointees ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings as they promoted the sale of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. The 24-page report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee outlined actions by the Trump administration to have American companies build dozens of nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia, potentially at the risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology. The report said the unnamed whistleblowers inside the White House came forward because they were worried by the continued effort to sell the power plants. House Democrats said the White House was still considering the proposal as recently as last week. The Oversight Committee said it would continue to investigate the matter and make new requests for documents from the White House and cabinet agencies "to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump administration are in the national security interests of the United States, or rather, serve those who stand to gain financially." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News)

6/ California, New York, and 14 other states joined a lawsuit to challenge Trump's plan to use a national emergency declaration to funnel billions of dollars into his border wall. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, and claims that Trump does not have the authority to redirect funds from other projects to pay for his border wall over the objections of Congress, which controls government spending. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia also joined the lawsuit. Several nonprofit organizations have also announced plans to sue. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

poll/ 61% of Americans disapprove of Trump's decision to declare a national emergency to build his border wall along the southern border. 94% of Democrats and 63% of independents disapprove, while 12% of Republicans feel the same. Nearly 60% of Americans also don't believe there is an emergency at the southern border. (NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller recommended that Paul Manafort spend 19-24 years in prison and pay up to $52 million in fines and forfeitures. Trump's former campaign chairman was convicted in August on eight felony counts including tax and bank fraud. Mueller added that "the government does not take a position as to the specific sentence to be imposed here," but he did remind the court about Manafort's long career of criminal activity. "Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law," Mueller said, "and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars." (CNBC / BuzzFeed News / Bloomberg / Politico)

  2. Roger Stone was ordered to appear in court after posting a photo of the judge in his case with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head days after the judge imposed a gag order on him. The photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson was posted alongside a caption that referred to her as "an Obama appointed judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime." The post also mentioned the "Deep State" and featured a plea to help Stone "fight for my life" by donating to his legal defense fund. Stone later deleted the post and issued an apology. (Rolling Stone / The Guardian / Washington Post / NBC News) / NPR)

  3. Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage and his staff bought more than 40 rooms in Trump's D.C. hotel for $22,000 over a two-year period, which coincided with trips to meet with Trump or members of his inner circle, as well as visits to White House events and Congressional meetings. LePage and his staff also spent hundreds of dollars on expensive steaks and other luxury menu items at the restaurants in Trump's hotel. (Portland Press Herald)

  4. Bernie Sanders announced that he is running for president again in 2020. Polls show the 77-year-old independent senator from Vermont ahead of the rest of the pack, trailing only Joe Biden in the 2020 field. (CNN / NBC News / New York Times)

  5. Trump's pick to serve as ambassador to the United Nations withdrew from consideration. Heather Nauert had a nanny who was in the United States legally but did not have the proper work visa. (New York Times)

  6. Trump's former legislative affairs director will now serve as Pence's chief of staff. Marc Short will fill the role that was left vacant by Nick Ayers when he resigned earlier this year. (New York Times / CNBC)

  7. Trump will sign a directive to establish a Space Force, but instead of being a new branch of the military dedicated to space, it will instead remain part of the Air Force. It will be structured similarly to how the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. (Politico)

Day 757: Didn't need to do this.

1/ Trump declared a national emergency at the border to circumvent Congress and fund his border wall with money lawmakers refused to give him, saying "I didn't need to do this," but "I just want to get it done faster, that's all." In a Rose Garden news conference, Trump said he would sign the declaration to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to his border wall and then use presidential budgetary discretion to redirect $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and another $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund. Between the $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in a spending package passed by Congress, and the roughly $6.5 billion in funding from executive action, Trump is will have about $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier – significantly more than the $5.7 billion that Congress refused to give him. Following the news conference, Trump signed the spending legislation. (New York Times / The Guardian / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / ABC News)

  • Capitol Police pushed and physically blocked reporters from talking with Senators headed to vote on the spending package last night, despite some lawmakers willing to engage with the press. (Roll Call)

  • The White House announced the national emergency by tweet using the iPhone Notes app. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Trump's national emergency press conference, annotated. (Washington Post)

  • Trump's bizarre, rambling national emergency announcement distracted from what the president actually did. (The Atlantic)

  • In November 2014, Trump called taking executive action on immigration dangerous, unconstitutional, and impeachable. (CNN)

2/ The Justice Department warned the White House that a national emergency declaration is nearly certain to be blocked by the courts, which would prevent the immediate implementation of Trump's plan to circumvent Congress and build the wall using his executives powers. (ABC News)

  • The ACLU plans to file suit challenging Trump's national emergency declaration, arguing his attempt to evade congressional funding restrictions is "patently illegal." (Axios)

3/ House Democrats plan to pass a joint resolution disapproving of Trump's emergency declaration, which would force Senate Republicans to take a public position. By law, if one chamber passes a resolution, the other one must bring it up for a vote within 18 days. While Republicans hold a 53-to-47 advantage, the resolution would only need a simple majority to pass. A White House aide indicated that Trump would "absolutely veto" any congressional efforts to interfere with his plan to declare a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico)

4/ The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. A federal judge last month stopped the Commerce Department from adding the question, questioning the motives of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who claimed he ordered the question to be added in response to a December 2017 request from the Justice Department, which said that data about citizenship would help it enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan issued an opinion saying that "promoting enforcement" of the Voting Rights Act "was not his real reason for the decision." The court is scheduled to hear arguments in April so that it can issue a decision before census forms are printed in June. (Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ Robert Mueller's team interviewed Sarah Huckabee Sanders in early fall of 2018 – around the time that Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly was questioned by Mueller's team. (CNN / CNBC)

  • Maria Butina, a self-confessed Russian agent, "manipulated" a Russian spy agency when arranging the NRA's trip to Moscow, according to her boyfriend, Paul Erickson. In a Nov. 25, 2015, email sent to then-incoming NRA President Pete Brownell, Erickson wrote that "most of the FSB agents 'assigned' to her want to marry her," which is how she arranged a tour of a Russian arms factory for the NRA delegation. (Daily Beast)

  • A federal judge has placed a gag order on Roger Stone and attorneys involved in his criminal case, ordering the Trump associate to "refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case." (Politico / CNN)


Notables.

  1. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro's foreign minister met secretly with the U.S. special envoy in New York, even while the Trump administration continues to publicly back an attempt to overthrow the Maduro government. While in New York, the foreign minister urged Elliot Abrams to come to Venezuela "privately, publicly or secretly." U.S. officials have said they are willing to meet with officials from the current Venezuelan administration, "including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans." (Associated Press / Politico)

  2. The top American general in the Middle East disagreed with Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria, and warned that the terror group was far from defeated. (CNN)

  3. Pro-Israel lobbyists and donors spent more than $22 million on lobbying and campaign contributions during the last election cycle. Those same groups have spent hundreds of millions of dollars through a variety of channels in order to influence American politics and elections in recent decades. The Guardian investigation found that the pro-Israel lobby is "highly active and spends heavily to influence US policy," but not as heavily as some U.S. business sectors. "I haven’t observed many other countries that have a comparable level of activity, at least in domestic lobbying data," said a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. The Guardian started examining the data after Muslim Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar claimed pro-Israel lobby money influenced U.S. policy. (The Guardian)

  4. Trump claimed that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to broker peace between North and South Korea. The Japanese have not announced Trump's nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. (Politico / Washington Post)

  5. At least 10 Trump judicial nominees in the past year have refused to endorse Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 ruling that abolished school segregation. (Mother Jones)

Day 756: Emergency declaration.

1/ Trump will declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and build his border wall after signing the spending legislation to prevent another government shutdown. The border security compromise provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of steel-post fencing – basically the same deal Trump rejected in December – instead of the $5.7 billion he demanded for more than 200 miles of steel or concrete wall. The emergency declaration would allow Trump to redirect funds from other parts of the government without congressional approval. The Senate advanced the spending package in an 81-16 vote. The House is expected to approve the package later tonight. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / CNN / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

2/ A federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated the terms of his cooperation deal by repeatedly lying to Robert Mueller and a grand jury about "his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik," a longtime aide who the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence. Judge Amy Berman Jackson found that Manafort also intentionally lied about $125,000 he received for legal bills and about another unnamed Justice Department criminal investigation. Manafort will not be able to retract his guilty plea, but he will still be required to hold up his end of the plea deal. The ruling does free Mueller's office from having to comply with the obligations in Manafort's cooperation agreement, notably offering Manafort a reduced sentence for his cooperation. The breach of the cooperation deal after his guilty plea could add years to Manafort's prison sentence, having been convicted last year of eight felonies, including tax and bank fraud. Manafort later pleaded guilty to two additional conspiracy counts. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Vox / Wall Street Journal)

3/ The Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general, putting him in command of the Justice Department and its ongoing investigation into links between Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. Last year, Barr sent a 19-page, unsolicited memo to the Justice Department and Trump's lawyers, arguing that Trump has the power to "start or stop a law enforcement proceeding," and therefore he could prevent Mueller from investigating whether Trump committed obstruction of justice when he pressured James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn. Barr previously served as George H.W. Bush's attorney general in the 1990s. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

4/ The former deputy F.B.I. director said Justice Department officials discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office after Trump fired Comey – his former boss – in May 2017. Andrew McCabe ordered the team investigating Russia's election interference to look into whether Trump had obstructed justice by firing Comey, and examine whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. McCabe's order came two days after Comey was fired in order "to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion" so the investigation "could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace". McCabe was fired last March and stripped of his pension days before his planned retirement, because he "lacked candor." (CBS News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 110: Trump fired James Comey on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions. In a letter dated Tuesday to Comey, Trump concurred "with the judgment of the Department of Justice that [Comey is not] able to effectively lead the bureau." Earlier, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Clinton email investigation during testimony, saying that only a "small number" of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the "hundreds and thousands" he’d claimed in his testimony. The move sweeps away the man who is responsible for the investigation into whether members of Trump's campaign team colluded with Russia in its interference in last year's election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out the reasons for Comey's firing, arguing that the handling of his investigation into Clinton's private server, his decision not to recommend charges be filed, and the news conference he held to explain his reasoning were the cause of his dismissal. Democrats reacted with shock and alarm, accusing Trump of ousting the FBI director to escape scrutiny over his campaign’s Russia ties. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged deputy Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor for the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russian officials — warning that failing to do so will lead the public to “rightly suspect” that Comey’s surprise firing “was part of a cover-up.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 610: Rod Rosenstein raised the idea of wearing a wire last year to secretly record Trump in the White House and expose the chaos in the administration, according to memos written by Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director. Rosenstein also discussed recruiting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. Rosenstein called the report "inaccurate and factually incorrect," adding: "Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment." At least one person who was present for the discussions said Rosenstein was joking. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 725: The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia after he fired Comey in May 2017. Law enforcement officials became concerned that if Trump had fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation, his behavior would have constituted a threat to national security. Counterintelligence agents were also investigating why Trump was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia. No evidence has publicly emerged – yet – that Trump was secretly taking direction from Russian government officials. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the report "absurd" and claimed that, compared to Obama, "Trump has actually been tough on Russia." (New York Times / CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump is dramatically downsizing two teams of federal officials tasked with fighting election interference by foreign countries. The task forces are part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency and were assembled in response to Russian interference in the 2016 election. One of the task forces is half the size it was a few months ago, and there are no indications that senior political leadership plans to rebuild it. The other task force was reduced significantly after the 2018 midterms, before its staff could produce a full assessment of what happened during the election. DHS sources say "2020 is going to be the perfect storm." (Daily Beast)

  2. The House voted to stop U.S. funding for Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen. The move is seen as an attempt to limit presidential war powers and highlight Congress' anger of Trump's refusal to condemn Saudi Arabia in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The vote was 248 to 177 in favor of stopping aid and condemning the Saudi campaign, which has killed thousands of civilians and caused a massive famine and an historic cholera outbreak. (New York Times)

  3. Trump is accelerating a secret U.S. program to sabotage Iran's missiles and rockets in an attempt to cripple Iran's military and isolate its economy. The program has never been publicly acknowledged by U.S. officials, which involves slipping faulty parts and materials into Iran's aerospace supply chains. It was started under the Bush administration and was active early in the Obama administration, but it was winding down by 2017 when Mike Pompeo took over as CIA director and started ramping things up again. (New York Times)

  4. A White House security specialist wants official whistleblower protections from the federal government after she raised concerns about "unwarranted security clearances" for top administration officials like Jared Kushner. Tricia Newbold requested whistleblower protections less than two weeks after she was suspended without pay by her supervisor, Carl Kline. Newbold says Kline "repeatedly mishandled security files and has approved unwarranted security clearances," one of which was Jared Kushner's. Kline overruled Newbold's concerns and approved top-secret security clearance for Kushner and at least 30 White House officials. (NBC News)

  5. Trump is in "very good health overall," according to results from his physical examination. Last year, then-physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson declared Trump in "excellent health," joking that Trump "might live to be 200 years old" if he made improvements to his diet. Trump gained four pounds since last year, putting his body mass index at 30.4, which makes him clinically obese. (CNN)

Day 755: Other methods.

1/ Trump intends to sign the bipartisan border security deal and avoid another partial government shutdown. Trump said he was "not happy" with the deal and suggested that he'd find "other methods" for financing his border wall without congressional approval by "moving things around" in the budget from "far less important areas." The agreement includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of physical border barriers – short of the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for his wall – and is less than the $1.6 billion included in a Senate package last year. Republicans and administration officials, meanwhile, have signaled that Trump will sign the measure and then immediately use his executive authority to redirect federal money to fund the additional border barriers. The agreement must be signed into law in both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump before the end of the week in order to avoid another shutdown. (CNN / Bloomberg / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)

2/ Paul Manafort and Rick Gates met with a Russian political operative in August 2016. Prosecutors believe that Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump's presidential bid, including a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine and Manafort sharing internal polling data from Trump's presidential campaign to the Russian associate. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 753: Robert Mueller's lead prosecutors disclosed that the special counsel is continuing to pursue collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia based on the conversations between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly is linked to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors have been focused on discussions the two had about a "peace plan" to end the conflict following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The two repeatedly communicated about the plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Manafort was still running Trump's campaign, and continuing into 2018 – months after Manafort had been charged by Mueller's office related to his work in the country. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 750: Mueller's team accused Paul Manafort of lying to them about "an extremely sensitive issue" in hopes of increasing "his chances for a pardon." Prosecutors allege that Manafort worked on Ukrainian political matters from August 2016 to December 2018 – after his first indictment by the special counsel in 2017 – and that he tried to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner in Ukraine. Prosecutors believe Kilimnik is connected with Russian intelligence. Kilimnik also attended Trump's inauguration. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 727: Konstantin Kilimnik "appears to be at the heart of pieces of Mueller's investigation" into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kilimnik is a Russian tied to Moscow's intelligence services and is connected to Manafort. Prosecutors filed a 31-page affidavit from an FBI agent, and another 406 blacked-out exhibits, after a federal judge ordered them to lay out the "factual and evidentiary basis" for their claims that Manafort repeatedly lied after his plea deal and as a result had breached his cooperation agreement. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 719: Paul Manafort gave 2016 polling data to a former employee with ties to Russian intelligence services. The exchange was inadvertently revealed when Manafort's lawyers failed to fully redact Manafort's interview with Robert Mueller in a court filing. Manafort's attorneys meant for Mueller's line of questioning to remain private, but the text in question was easily readable when opened with a word processor. (Washington Post / CNBC / Daily Beast)

3/ House Democrats plan to launch their own probe into Trump's connections to Russia. Using their new subpoena power, Democrats plan to focus on potential money laundering by using the multiple committees they control to host hearings and public sessions that could stretch into 2020. Democratic members of Congress plan to interview new witnesses and go back to previous witnesses, who they believe "stonewalled" committees under the Republican majority. The House Intelligence Committee will lead the effort, with the House Financial Services Committee focusing on money laundering, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee looking into possible Russian connections. (Axios)

  • The Justice Department is investigating the leak Michael Cohen's personal bank records, which includes numerous payments to Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, from a company linked to a Russian oligarch. Essential is what Cohen used to make hush money payments to Stormy Daniels to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump. (CNN)

4/ A Manafort-linked super PAC failed to report a $1 million contribution it received just before the 2016 election. The Federal Election Commission has asked the Rebuilding America Now PAC for more information about the contribution, which was disclosed in an amended filing two years after the fact. Mueller, meanwhile, is reportedly investigating whether Rebuilding America Now illegally received foreign funds. (Talking Points Memo)

poll/ 33% of voters support shutting down the government again over Trump's demand for a border wall while 60% of voters oppose another shutdown. 52% of voters would blame Trump and the Republicans for another shutdown, while 37% say they would blame Democrats. Voters remains split when it comes to building a border wall along the southern border, with 47% in favor and 47% opposed. (Politico)

poll/ Trump's approval rating jumped seven percentage points to 44% approval after the 35-day shutdown ended. The approval rating is one percentage point shy of his personal best. (Gallup)


Notables.

  1. The national debt topped $22 trillion for the first time in U.S. history. The Treasury Department shows that the total outstanding public debt is at $22.01 trillion — up from $19.95 trillion when Trump first took office – and the debt has accelerated since the passage of Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and the increase in military spending. (Associated Press / USA Today / CNBC)

  2. A record 7 million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their car payments – more than 1 million higher than the peak in 2010 following the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Economists warn that this is a red flag, saying car loans are typically the first payment people make because it's how they get to work, and that as car loan delinquencies rise, it is usually a sign of significant duress among low-income and working-class Americans. (Washington Post / CNBC)

  3. The FEMA administrator resigned. Brock Long was the subject of a Homeland Security investigation last year into his use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina. (NPR / Washington Post / CNN)

  4. The Senate passed a public lands conservation bill, designating more than one million acres of wilderness and hundreds of miles of wild rivers for environmental protection and reauthorizing a federal program to pay for conservation measures. The Trump administration, however, has worked to strip away protections on public lands, shrinking national monuments, and opening up large swaths of land up for oil, gas and mining leases. (New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  5. Trump called for the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep an aging coal plant open that buys coal from a company chaired by a leading donor to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump installed a $50,000 room-sized "golf simulator" at the White House, allowing him to play virtual rounds by hitting a ball into a large video screen. It replaced an older, less sophisticated simulator that Obama had installed. (Washington Post)

  7. Trump complained that getting a dog would make him feel "a little phony." The Trumps are the only modern first family to not have a pet of any kind. (ABC News)

Day 754: Not happy.

1/ Negotiators in the House and Senate reached an agreement "in principle" to avoid another partial government shutdown. Details of the agreement have not been released, but the tentative deal includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences along the border, but does not include the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for more than 200 miles of border walls. The border security spending agreement would also provide an additional $1.7 billion for other Homeland Security priorities, like new technology and more customs officers. To avoid another shutdown by the end of the week, the deal needs to be written into final legislation, passed by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by Trump. It's unclear if Trump will accept the deal. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / ABC News / NPR)

2/ Trump is "not happy" with the tentative bipartisan border security deal, adding that "it's not doing the trick." Trump did not commit to signing the spending measure if Congress passes it, but he did say: "I don't think you're going to see another shutdown." Trump also didn't rule out declaring a national emergency to secure wall funds. "I'm considering everything." (CNBC / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Bloomberg)

3/ The White House is working on a plan to redirect federal dollars to fund Trump's border wall without invoking a national emergency. The current plan is to take money from two Army Corps of Engineers' flood control projects in Northern California, draw from disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico, and tap Department of Defense funds. A former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee said the plan "will create a firestorm." (Politico)

  • The Trump administration is still separating families when they cross the U.S.-Mexico border unlawfully, despite ending the policy last summer. (The Guardian)

4/ Senate Republicans are "livid" with Trump's refusal to issue a report determining who is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The deadline was Friday for the White House to officially detail the role Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played in the Khashoggi murder. On Friday, the Trump administration said it reserved the right to decline lawmakers' demand under the Magnitsky Act that Trump determine who is responsible for Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Mike Pompeo also denied that the Trump administration is protecting Mohammed, saying "America is not covering up for a murder." The CIA, however, has concluded that the crown prince personally ordered Khashoggi's killing. (Politico / ABC News / CNN)

5/ The Senate Intelligence Committee found "no direct evidence" of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. "We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, 'Hey Vlad, we're going to collude,'" one Democratic aide said. Democratic Senate investigators said that the more than 100 contacts between Trump's associates and various Russians show that the campaign was willing to accept help from a foreign adversary. Senate investigators also said they have uncovered facts yet to be made public. (NBC News)

  • Trump's former attorney, John Dowd, claimed he knows more than Mueller about the Russia investigation because of the joint-defense agreements with witnesses in the probe. "I know exactly what [Mueller] has," Dowd said. "I know exactly what every witness said, what every document said. I know exactly what he asked. And I know what the conclusion or the result is," he said. (ABC News / Talking Points Memo)

6/ The House Judiciary Committee hired two "special oversight counsels" tasked with reviewing allegations against Trump that could be at the heart of an impeachment case. Norm Eisen and Barry Berke are two elite white collar litigators and prominent legal critics of Trump will consult on matters "related to the Department of Justice, including the Department's review of Special Counsel Mueller's investigation," would include alleged ethics violations, corruption, and possible obstruction of justice. The committee's chairman, Jerrold Nadler, has not committed to opening a formal impeachment inquiry, but the hires signal that he does not intend to wait for Mueller to finish his work to begin reviewing the issues. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

poll/ 56% of Americans say they trust Mueller's version of the facts than Trump's. 57% also believe that Mueller is mainly interested in "finding out the truth" than trying to "hurt Trump politically." (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote on the "Green New Deal," which could put Democrats on the record backing a plan that Republicans have derided as a "socialist fantasy." The deal has no chance of passing the Senate, where it will need 51 votes. Republicans hold 53 seats. (Politico / CNBC / The Hill)

  2. Michael Cohen postponed his planned appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee because of "post-surgery medical needs" stemming from his recent shoulder surgery. Cohen is is due to begin serving a three-year prison sentence on March 6 for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and financial crimes. It's the third time Cohen's testimony has been rescheduled. (Politico / CNBC)

  3. Companies are spending the corporate windfall from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on stock buybacks instead of wage increases and employee bonuses. Corporations spent $770 billion on buybacks in 2018, which is expected to increase to around $940 billion this year when after-tax profits are included. Other portions from the tax cut savings went to dividends or debt reduction. (Center for Public Integrity / NBC News)

  4. A small company in Switzerland is being investigated by Robert Mueller's team for its connection to a now-defunct Israeli social media manipulation company called Psy Group, which created a plan to help Trump win in 2016. Former employees of Psy Group were interviewed by Mueller's team in 2017 about the company's business and ownership structure. Psy Group's business structure was very complicated and included offshore entities registered in the Virgin Islands. It also included a chain of entities in Zurich known as Salix Services AG. Financial documents appear to show that Salix is connected to at least one of the companies that owned Psy Group. One question at the heart of Mueller's interest in Salix and Psy Group involves a $2 million payment from international business and influence-peddler George Nader to former Psy Group owner Joel Zamel. Investigators want to know why Nadler paid Zamel after the 2016 election and where the money went after that. (Daily Beast)

  5. A federal agency that acts as a personnel court for federal workers has only one person to hear cases and he leaves at the end of February. Two of the board's three seats have been vacant for the entire Trump administration. Justice Department attorneys said the agency could be operating illegally if the board has no members. (Washington Post)

  6. The acting chief of the Interior Department is weakening environmental protections for a fish in California, which would free up river water for farmers who are his former clients. David Bernhardt disproportionately benefit one of his former clients. (New York Times)

  7. A former White House aide is suing Trump after Trump's campaign organization filed an arbitration against Cliff Sims claiming he violated an NDA he signed during the 2016 presidential race by writing the tell-all book, "Team of Vipers." Sims alleges that Trump is using his campaign organization as an "illegitimate cutout" to penalize Sims for writing the book. The suit also claims that Trump has been selective when it comes to enforcing NDAs against former staffers by going after people like Omarosa and Sims, but not Sean Spicer or Corey Lewandowski for their tell-all books. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / USA Today)

  8. A BBC cameraman was "violently pushed and shoved" by a Trump supporter at Trump's rally in El Paso. A man in a MAGA hat started screaming "Fuck the media! Fuck the media!" after attempting to knock BBC cameraman Ron Skeans off balance while he was filming Trump's speech. The man was restrained and removed by security. Skeans said he is fine. (The Guardian / New York Times / CNN)

Day 753: Generally working.

1/ Negotiations to avoid another partial government shutdown fell apart on Sunday. Democrats are demanding a limit on the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, as well as a cap the number of beds in ICE detention centers to force the Trump administration to focus on detaining undocumented immigrants with criminal records instead of using indiscriminate deportation raids in local communities without valid reason. To avoid another partial shutdown – set to begin Saturday – the House and Senate must pass identical spending bills that Trump would then need to sign into law by Friday night. The 17 House and Senate negotiators had hoped to reach a deal by Monday to give lawmakers enough time to approve the deal in both chambers before the deadline. The only things being discussed at the moment are a temporary Homeland Security spending bill or a possible national emergency declaration by Trump. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters / The Guardian)

  • California's governor is pulling the National Guard troops back from the southern border. Gov. Gavin Newsom will order the removal of roughly 360 California National Guard members from the state's border with Mexico, and instead directing them to focus on drug trafficking and wildfire prevention. (Los Angeles Times / New York Times / CBS News)

2/ Mick Mulvaney "absolutely cannot" rule out the possibility of another partial government shutdown if Congress doesn't include funding for a border wall. The acting White House chief of staff blamed the uncertainty on Democrats and that "You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table." (NBC News)

3/ Trump spent about 50% of his time last week in unstructured "Executive Time," as more of his personal schedules leaked. Hours earlier, Mick Mulvaney said he expected to catch whoever leaked Trump's personal schedule to the media and "have a resolution on that this week." Trump responded to his leaked schedules by tweeted that "When the term Executive Time is used. I am generally working, not relaxing." Trump is believed to use his executive time watching TV, tweeting, calling friends, and reading newspapers. Trump added: "I probably work more hours than almost any past President." (Axios / USA Today)

4/ The average tax refund is down about 8% under the first full year of the Republican-led overhaul of the tax code. The White House promised a $4,000 "raise" under the Trump tax plan, but refunds have averaged $1,865 compared to $2,035 for tax year 2017. (NBC News / CNN)

5/ Robert Mueller's lead prosecutors disclosed that the special counsel is continuing to pursue collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia based on the conversations between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly is linked to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors have been focused on discussions the two had about a "peace plan" to end the conflict following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The two repeatedly communicated about the plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Manafort was still running Trump's campaign, and continuing into 2018 – months after Manafort had been charged by Mueller's office related to his work in the country. (New York Times)

poll/ 34% of Americans believe it's always or sometimes acceptable for a white person to wear blackface as a Halloween costume, compared to 53% who believe it's rarely or never acceptable. 50% of Republicans, however, say it's always or sometimes acceptable to wear blackface as part of a costume. (Pew Research Center)


👑 Presidential News and Notes.

  1. Amy Klobuchar announced that she will run for president in 2020. The three-term Minnesota Democrat announced her campaign with a call to rebuild American with a "sense of community." (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  2. Elizabeth Warren announced she will run for president in 2020, calling for "fundamental change" because wealthy power brokers "have been waging class warfare against hardworking people for decades" and that Trump is "just the latest and most extreme symptom of what's gone wrong in America." (New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  3. Trump mocked Warren – again – calling her by the slur "Pocahontas" and saying he'd "see you on the campaign TRAIL," which is interpreted as a reference to the Trail of Tears where Native Americans were forcibly relocated to reservations in the southeastern U.S. in the 1800s. Trump Jr. called the "TRAIL" tweet "savage." (New York Times / USA Today / ABC News)

  4. Warren suggested that Trump "may not even be a free person" by the 2020 election, noting the number of investigations into the president. (CNN / New York Times)

  5. Kamala Harris called for the legalization of marijuana at a federal level, saying "I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy." Harris also said she smoked weed in college "and I inhaled." (Politico)

  6. A Democratic party strategist called Joe Biden a "weaker candidate than Hillary." (McClatchy DC)

  7. Trump will hold a rally in El Paso tonight at the same time as Beto O'Rourke. Trump will speak at a Make America Great Again rally at the El Paso County Coliseum at 7 p.m. Mountain time, while O'Rourke and his supporters will meet at Bowie High School at 5 p.m., and then march to Chalio Acosta Sports Center. He will also begin speaking at 7 p.m. (New York Times)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The brother of Jeff Bezos' mistress leaked the text messages to the National Enquirer. AMI has previously refused to identify the source of the texts, but a lawyer for the company hinted that Michael Sanchez was behind the leak. Elkan Abramowitz also said the exposé of Bezos' extramarital affair was not "inspired by the White House, inspired by Saudi Arabia or inspired by The Washington Post," and insisted that neither the kingdom nor Trump leaked the messages. Abramowitz denied Bezos' allegations that the parent company of the National Enquirer attempted to extort and blackmail CEO, saying it "absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail." (Daily Beast / Politico / ABC News)

  2. The publisher of the National Enquirer asked the Justice Department last year if it should register as a foreign agent after it sought financial backing from Saudi investors and produced a magazine celebrating the country's new crown prince. American Media previously went to the Saudis to finance a failed effort to acquire Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. Trump is expected to sign an executive order launching the American Artificial Intelligence initiative to bolster American leadership in the field. (CNN)

  4. Trump's personal physician declared that the president is in "very good health" and should remain so "for the remainder of his presidency and beyond." Last year, Trump's then-physician noted the president's "excellent health" and "incredible genes," joking that Trump "might live to be 200 years old" if he improved his diet. (New York Times / CNN)

Day 750: No crimes whatsoever.

1/ The acting attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee that he has not spoken to Trump about Robert Mueller's investigation. Matthew Whitaker testified that while he had "not interfered in any way" with the special counsel investigation, he wouldn't discuss his "private conversations" with Trump. Meanwhile, Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of engaging in "political theater" and a "character assassination" against both Whitaker and Trump. (New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Bloomberg)

  • After being asked if he had ever been asked to approve any moves by Mueller's team, Whitaker told Chairman Jerry Nadler "I see that your five minutes is up." Whitaker didn't answer the question directly, but added: "I'm here voluntarily. I agreed to five-minute rounds." (Daily Beast)

2/ Mueller's team accused Paul Manafort of lying to them about "an extremely sensitive issue" in hopes of increasing "his chances for a pardon." Prosecutors allege that Manafort worked on Ukrainian political matters from August 2016 to December 2018 – after his first indictment by the special counsel in 2017 – and that he tried to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner in Ukraine. Prosecutors believe Kilimnik is connected with Russian intelligence. Kilimnik also attended Trump's inauguration. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • A federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release redacted versions of its Michael Cohen search warrant and other documents related to the FBI's April 2018 raid. (Politico)

3/ Rod Rosenstein privately complained that Trump ordered him to write the memo justifying the firing of James Comey. Rosenstein made the remarks in a private meeting at the Justice Department on May 12, 2017, according to Andrew McCabe, who also said that Rosenstein believed the White House used him as a scapegoat for Comey's dismissal. At the time, Sean Spicer denied that Trump had directed Rosenstein to write a justification for firing Comey, saying: "It was all [Rosenstein]." (The Guardian)

4/ Ivanka Trump has "zero concerns" about any of her "loved ones" being caught up in Mueller's Russia investigation. She also insisted that the Trump Tower project in Russia – pursued during the 2016 campaign – is overblown and "there's nothing there." (Politico / Washington Post)


Notables.

  • Trump has appointed at least eight people to senior posts in his administration who are either current or former members at Mar-a-Lago. Becoming a member of one of Trump's clubs can cost $100,000 or more in initiation fees, plus thousands more each year in dues. (USA Today)

  • The Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only one doctor eligible in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's four liberals. Only Brett Kavanaugh published a dissent. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • House and Senate negotiators are close to a possible border security agreement that would fund new technology, additional border patrol agents, and fencing in certain areas along the southern border. The agreement could offer Trump between $1.3 billion and around $2 billion in funding for border security, but there is no mention of funding for a wall. Trump has told allies he would grudgingly accept a figure of around $2 billion. (New York Times / Washington Examiner)

  • Trump's inauguration committee overpaid to use event spaces at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., despite internal objections at the Trump Organization that the rates were too high. The committee was charged a rate of $175,000 per day. An event planner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, suggested that an appropriate rate would be closer to $85,000 per day. Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to entities that are owned by people who also control the nonprofit. (ProPublica)


The Showdown: 🤜 Bezos vs A.M.I. 🤛

I'd rather not be talking about dick pics, but this is such a weird story that reaches back into the Trump administration in unexpected ways. So I guess I'll include. Happy Friday…

  1. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, accused National Enquirer's publisher of "extortion and blackmail" for threatening to release embarrassing photos of him. In a blog post, Bezos laid out a theory that covers international politics, White House politics, nude photos, and text messages. Trump is longtime friends with American Media's chief executive, David Pecker. Trump has repeatedly tweeted about the "Amazon Washington Post," because of Bezos' ownership of the paper and what Trump claims is unfair coverage.

  2. Bezos launched an investigation to determine how the Enquirer obtained his personal text messages for the initial article it published about the affair.

  3. Gavin de Becker, the Amazon chief's personal security consultant, confirmed that his probe was looking at Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos mistress Lauren Sanchez, who is also a personal and business associate of Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes. "Michael Sanchez has been among the people we've been speaking with and looking at," De Becker said, but added that "strong leads point to political motives." (Daily Beast / Washington Post)

  4. Sanchez offered several of theories to explain how the texts between Bezos and his sister made it to the Enquirer. He suggested that foreign governments were spying on Bezos, or that the "deep state" – specifically the National Security Agency – may have been responsible for obtaining text messages from Bezos' phone. (Washington Post / Daily Beast)

  5. American Media demanded that Bezos call off his investigators, instructing Bezos to state publicly that he had "no knowledge or basis for suggesting that [American Media's] coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces." The tabloid threatened to keep his photos on hand and publish them in the future "if we ever deviate from [the] lie."

  6. Bezos suggested that the Washington Post's reporting about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi may have made him a target of Pecker, saying "It's unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy." The CIA concluded that the murder was likely ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (The Guardian)

  7. A.M.I. engaged in talks with Saudi financiers to help shore up its debt-laden business last year. (Wall Street Journal)

  8. American Media entered into a deal with federal prosecutors last year where Pecker and Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard cooperate with authorities, and acknowledge that the Enquirer worked with the Trump campaign to kill stories "about the presidential candidate's relationships with women": the former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn star Stormy Daniels. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  9. The agreement stipulated that A.M.I, "shall commit no crimes whatsoever" for three years, and that if it did, "A.M.I. shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge." (New York Times / Bloomberg)

  10. American Media said it "believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos" and that it was acting in "good-faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him." (Wall Street Journal)

  11. Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer's handling of its story about Bezos to determine if the company violated the cooperation agreement. (Bloomberg)

Day 749: Political hack.

1/ The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to approve William Barr's nomination to become attorney general and succeed Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. All 12 Republicans on the panel voted for Barr, while all 10 Democrats voted against him. Democrats cited an unsolicited memo Barr wrote last year to Rod Rosenstein objecting to the obstruction of justice aspect of the Mueller probe was "fatally misconceived" and that "Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction." Barr also argued that Trump firing James Comey, and before that asking Comey to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn were within his powers as head of the executive branch. A final vote on Barr's nomination in the full Senate is expected next week. (ABC News / CNN / Reuters / NPR)

2/ Whitaker won't testify before the House Judiciary Committee unless he receives a written assurance that he won't be served with a subpoena. Whitaker's threat came after the committee voted to give Chairman Jerry Nadler the authority to subpoena Whitaker for testimony if he didn't appear or answer questions at Friday's planned oversight hearing. Democrats have until 6 p.m. today to respond. (CNN / Washington Post / Axios / Globe and Mail / New York Times)

3/ The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight met to examine the process for obtaining Trump's tax returns. One law they're looking at from 1924 allows the chairman of the tax-writing subcommittee to privately review anyone's tax returns. Once they secure the documents, the committee would need a majority vote in order to release them to the public. (ABC News)

4/ Trump complained about the wave of oversight investigations into his administration launched by the new Democratic majority in the House, claiming that he's being subjected to "unlimited presidential harassment" that "Never happened before!" to previous presidents. Trump tweeted that there was "no reason" for the House Intelligence Committee to open an investigation into whether his decision-making as president is motivated by financial gain, while calling Adam Schiff a "political hack." (Politico / NBC News / New York Times)

  • Trump is reportedly "furious" at Schiff for trying to hire White House employees to help with the House Intelligence Committee's oversight of the president. Schiff has already hired one former career official at the National Security Council, Abigail Grace, who left the White House last year. A second career employee detailed to the Trump White House is also considering joining the staff. Trump called the committee "nuts" and "a continuation of Witch Hunt!" (Bloomberg / CNN)

  • The Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that "based on the evidence to date" the committee could not definitively say there was collusion between Trump and the Russians. Burr was Trump's national security adviser during the campaign. (CBS News / Politico)

  • 📌Day 748: The House Intelligence Committee voted to send more than 50 witness interview transcripts from its Russia investigation to Robert Mueller, who could use them to then prosecute potential perjury or obstruction of justice by Trump associates. Among the transcripts are testimonies by Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Mueller has already prosecuted Michael Flynn for lying to both the House and Senate intelligence panels about the failed Trump Tower Moscow project. Mueller has also charged Roger Stone with lying to the House Intelligence Committee. (Politico / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 748: The House Intelligence Committee will also "investigate any credible allegation" into whether Trump's financial interests are driving his decision-making process. Chairman Adam Schiff announced that the committee would look "beyond Russia" and will examine "whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates." (CNN)

poll/ 87% of Americans say Robert Mueller's investigators should produce a full, public report on their findings. 48% believe that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government to help get him elected. (CNN)

poll/ 40% of voters approved of the job Trump is doing as president – a record low. 55% disapprove. (Morning Consult)


Notables.

  1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey released an outline for the "Green New Deal," which would set a "10-year national mobilization" to shift away from fossil fuels by "upgrading all existing buildings" in the country for energy efficiency, work with farmers "to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions," and overhaul the transportation systems to reduce emissions, as well as develop national health care coverage, add job guarantees, and more. The resolution is not likely to go before the House for a vote, and there's little chance of a Green New Deal getting a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Parts of the plan, however, could be turned into legislation to address climate change. (NPR / Politico / New York Times)

  2. The Southern District of New York is still investigating Michael Cohen, acknowledging in a court filing that "aspects" of the investigation involving Cohen "remain ongoing." Judge William Pauley partially unsealed documents pertaining to the April 9, 2018, raid of Cohen's home, office and hotel room. Pauley said there are other subjects of the ongoing investigation beyond Cohen. (CNN)

  3. The boyfriend of Russian spy Maria Butina was indicted by a federal grand jury for wire fraud and money laundering. Paul Erickson was arrested and pled "not guilty" to charges that allege he used a chain of assisted living homes, called Compass Care, to run a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018. He also allegedly defrauded his investors using a company called Investing with Dignity and claiming to be "in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair." The indictment also alleges that Erickson fraudulently claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. His case is separate from the case against Butina in Washington, D.C. (Daily Beast)

  4. Trump will not meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline to achieve a trade deal. (Reuters)

  5. The U.S. military will pull all American forces out of Syria by the end of April, despite the Trump administration having no plan to protect its Kurdish partners when they leave. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. The Trump administration plans to roll back Obama-era restrictions on payday lenders and vehicle title loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to get rid of a rule that requires payday lenders and others who provide "Certain High-Cost Installment Loans" to try and find out if borrowers can afford to pay back the loans before making them. The rollback happened just after Trump replaced the previous CFPB director with Mick Mulvaney, who now serves as acting White House Chief of Staff. (NBC News / Politico)

  7. New rules by the Trump administration will make it easier for U.S. weapons manufacturers to export semi-automatic weapons, flamethrowers, and some grenades overseas. Manufacturers will no longer need to obtain licenses from the State Department in order to sell certain weapons to foreign countries. Instead, they'll only need to get a no-fee license from the Commerce Department. (NBC News)

  8. T-Mobile executives involved in the company's merger with Sprint last year have booked more than 52 nights at Trump's D.C. hotel since then. Newly obtained records from the hotel show T-Mobile executives booked more nights than previously reported, sometimes staying in rooms that cost up to $2,246 per night. Trump still owns the hotel, despite turning day-to-day control over to his sons Eric and Don Jr. (Washington Post)

  9. Trump appealed to religious leaders with anti-abortion comments during the national prayer breakfast, saying "All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God," and that "Every life is sacred, and every soul is a precious gift from heaven." (Washington Post / ABC News)

  10. A former Fox News reporter is expected to be appointed to lead the State Department's efforts to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. Lea Gabrielle was the general assignment reporter for "Shepard Smith Reporting." She is expected to be officially named the special envoy and coordinator of the Global Engagement Center this week. (CNN)

Day 748: Doesn't work that way.

1/ Nancy Pelosi declared that House Democrats would not be intimidated by Trump's "all-out threat" during his State of the Union to stop investigating his administration. Pelosi called it Democrats' "congressional responsibility" to investigate Trump, "and if we didn't do it, we would be delinquent in that." During his address, Trump claimed that "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation." He added: "It just doesn't work that way!" Pelosi called Trump's rhetoric a false choice. (New York Times)

  • 🔥 State of the Union Hot Takes.

  • Trump gave his second State of the Union speech last night. He started by calling for unity and bipartisanship, before launching into attacks on Robert Mueller's investigation, calls for Congress to fund his border wall, and plans to enact a new ban on abortion. Democrats responded by calling the speech "sickening," "shameful," and "inappropriate." Sen. Mazie Hirono simply replied, "WTF." Republicans, meanwhile, erupted into chants of "USA! USA! USA!" during the speech and largely curbed whatever criticisms they had in once it was over. (Politico)

  • The audience for the SOTU address was deeply Republican, the most partisan audience since 2001. The slant in the audience led to largely positive reviews from those who watched – about 6 in 10 viewers had a positive reaction to the speech. The positive remarks were cut down party and demographic lines. (CNN)

  • On Trump's big applause line, the sound of silence was stunning (NBC News)

  • Trump presented a false choice between investigations and prosperity, warning House Democrats that "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. … We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction." (Washington Post)

  • "They know it's his party": Despite tensions with Trump, GOP lawmakers roar with approval for their president (Washington Post)

  • Why Trump's zigzagging speech made perfect sense (Politico)

  • Trump Asks for Unity, but Presses Hard Line on Immigration (New York Times)

  • State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong (New York Times)

  • In dissonant State of the Union speech, Trump seeks unity while depicting ruin (Washington Post)

2/ The House Intelligence Committee voted to send more than 50 witness interview transcripts from its Russia investigation to Robert Mueller, who could use them to then prosecute potential perjury or obstruction of justice by Trump associates. Among the transcripts are testimonies by Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Mueller has already prosecuted Michael Flynn for lying to both the House and Senate intelligence panels about the failed Trump Tower Moscow project. Mueller has also charged Roger Stone with lying to the House Intelligence Committee. (Politico / ABC News)

  • Mueller referred to "uncharged individuals" in recent court filings aimed at restricting some evidence from defendants in Russia. Legal analysts believe the language indicates federal prosecutors are investigating additional subjects linked to the Russian troll farm and the Paul Manafort cases and more people could be indicted as part of the special counsel investigation. (The Hill)

3/ The House Intelligence Committee will also "investigate any credible allegation" into whether Trump's financial interests are driving his decision-making process. Chairman Adam Schiff announced that the committee would look "beyond Russia" and will examine "whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates." (CNN)

4/ Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee has been delayed "in the interests of the investigation." It's the second time Cohen's planned testimony has been rescheduled. Cohen canceled his scheduled appearance before Oversight and Government Reform citing threats Trump made to his family. The Senate Intelligence Committee has also issued Cohen a subpoena to compel his testimony on Feb. 12, while the House Oversight Committee is still negotiating about a public appearance before that panel. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

5/ Global temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest on record, according to scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 2018 average global temperature was 1.5F warmer than average, placing it behind 2016, 2017 and 2015. Collectively, the last five years have been the five warmest years since modern measurements began. "We're no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It's here. It's now." (New York Times / The Guardian / Politico)

  • Climate change and natural disasters killed at least 247 people and cost the U.S. an estimated $91 billion in 2018. Since 1980, the U.S. has experienced 241 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage reached or exceeded $1 billion. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 733: 73% of Americans believe that climate change is real– a jump of 10 percentage points from 2015, and three points since last March. 72% also said that global warming is personally important to them. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: "We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump has attended 17 intelligence briefings over the last 85 days and does not regularly read the Presidential Daily Brief prepared for him. From Nov. 7, 2018 to Feb. 1, 2019, Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and quit a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. (NBC News)

  2. Russia is developing new hypersonic missiles that travel at more than five times the speed of sound and will be "invincible" in response to Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear arms treaty. The new hypersonic missile is expected to be ready by 2021. (New York Times / NPR)

  3. During a private lunch with TV news anchors, Trump attacked prominent Democrats, calling Joe Biden "dumb," Chuck Schumer a "nasty son of a bitch," and saying that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam "choked like a dog" when he tried to explain the racist photo in his medical school yearbook. Trump also repeated his slur against Elizabeth Warren: "I hope I haven't wounded Pocahontas too badly,” Trump said. "I'd like to run against her." (New York Times)

  4. Trump nominated a critic of the World Bank to be the next president of the World Bank. David Malpass, the Treasury under secretary for international affairs, has made past statements critical of the World Bank and multilateral institutions broadly. In 2007, Malpass wrote that the U.S. economy was "sturdy and will grow solidly in coming months, and perhaps years." Malpass worked at Bear Stearns as its chief economist at the time. (ABC News / NPR)

  5. Archival footage shows Trump meeting with officials in Russia in the 1990s to discuss a potential building project in Russia. The video was allegedly aired by Russian state TV in 1995, and shows Trump meeting with members of the former mayor of Moscow's administration. "He had contacts," former mayor Yury Luzhkov said, "on matters related to the construction of the Okhotny Ryad underground mall on Manezh Square." The video was apparently discovered by someone who had been "going through the Russian TV archives." Trump has said on multiple occasions that "I have nothing to do with Russia. I don't have any jobs in Russia. I'm all over the world but we're not involved in Russia." (The Independent)

  6. Trump wanted $20 million up front for the right to use the Trump name on a Moscow development in 2006. Trump was willing to accept a $4 million upfront branding fee and a cut of profits in his 2015 and 2016 efforts to build a Moscow tower. (Bloomberg)

Day 747: Hysteria.

1/ Federal prosecutors in New York requested interviews with Trump Organization executives. New York federal prosecutors are running at least two investigations into Trump-related entities: the first centers on Cohen's possible campaign-finance violations for the hush-money payments made or organized to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump. The second concerns the Trump inaugural committee. (CNN)

2/ Trump's inaugural committee was ordered to turn over documents related to donations and spending following a subpoena by the Southern District of New York. Federal prosecutors are seeking all information about donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts, and foreign contributors related to the inaugural committee, which raised a record $107 million – more than twice the amount raised to fund Obama's 2009 inaugural. Federal prosecutors are also seeking documents related to a Los Angeles venture capitalist, Imaad Zuberi, who gave $900,000 to the committee through his private-equity firm, Avenue Ventures, and once registered as a foreign agent working on behalf of the Sri Lankan government. The subpoena suggests that SDNY prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the U.S., mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud, and money laundering. The investigation is being led by the public corruption unit of the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, and grew out of the probe into Michael Cohen's business dealings. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to eight charges and has been sentenced to three years in prison. (Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed the Trump inaugural committee subpoena "has nothing to do with the White House," as she deferred questions to the committee, which is a separate entity from the White House. Sanders also dismissed the notion that Trump is a common factor in his inner circle's legal issues, arguing instead that "the common thread is a hysteria over the fact that this president became president." (Politico)

4/ SDNY prosecutors have been interviewing witnesses about foreign money flowing to three lobbying firms recruited by Paul Manafort to improve the image of the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, seven years ago. Mercury Public Affairs, the Podesta Group and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom are being scrutinized for representing foreign governments without registering as foreign agents. The case was originally referred by Mueller's investigation. (New York Times)

  • Manafort will be sentenced on March 13th on the two charges he pleaded guilty to: conspiracy and witness tampering. (CNN)

5/ Trump and Jared Kushner met with contractors at the White House to discuss building the border wall last week, despite senior Senate Republicans and members of GOP leadership raising concerns about Trump bypassing Congress and using an emergency declaration to build his wall. "Listen closely to the State of the Union," Trump said when asked if he was ready to announce a national emergency. (CNN)

👑 State of the Union: A Reader's Guide. Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Trump will deliver his address in the wake of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Democrats have taken the House, funding for the border wall is still off the table, Trump continues to be hounded by the Robert Mueller investigation, and his approval rating remains around 40%. (CNN)

  2. The theme of Trump's address is expected to be "Choosing Greatness" where he'll announce a plan to stop transmission of H.I.V. by 2030, make the case for an immigration "crisis," appeal to Republicans on abortion, justify reducing troop levels in Syria and Afghanistan, and more. (New York Times)

  3. Trump is expected to call for bipartisan cooperation amid a Congress divided over his demand for border wall funding, which has resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown. (Washington Post)

  4. 6 things to watch for: wall demands, Democrats, Pelosi, guests, Kavanaugh, and unexpected events. (Washington Post)

  5. 5 things to know about the economy before Trump's State of the Union: the GOP tax cut benefits were a mirage, the stock market has been unstable in recent months, Trump's trade wars have hurt nearly every sector of the economy, and more. (Vox)


✏️Notables.

  1. The commander of U.S. Central Command "was not consulted" prior to Trump's announcement to withdraw troops from Syria. Gen. Joseph Votel oversees military operations in the Middle East and said that the fight against the terror group is "not over" and warned ISIS could regroup after US troops leave. (CNN)

  2. Trump's four trips to Mar-a-Lago in March and February 2017 cost the government nearly $14 million. The government also paid roughly $600,000 to Trump's Palm Beach property. (ABC News)

  3. The Trump Organization has fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five golf courses following reports about the clubs employing workers without legal status. (Washington Post)

  4. A bipartisan group of Senators are trying to limit Trump's existing authority to impose tariffs unilaterally on national security grounds. The bill would require congressional approval to impose trade restrictions for national security reasons. (CNN)

  5. The Treasury Department plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump's tax returns into a series of legal arguments. The Internal Revenue Code gives the three congressional committees responsible for taxes the ability to request the returns of any individual or business, but a related section within the Code says leaking tax information is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. (Politico)

Day 746: Willful ignorance.

1/ Trump said he doesn't "have to agree" with his intelligence chiefs on worldwide threats. Trump, agitated after intelligence officials contradicted him several times during congressional testimony last week, said he wants "them to give me their opinion," but not to share them publicly with Congress. Trump later called the intelligence officials naive and suggested they might need to go back to "school." Senior intelligence analysts who prepare Trump's briefs and the briefers themselves say Trump displays "willful ignorance" when presented with analysis, and that the use of visual aids, confining briefings to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible all fail to keep his attention. Two intelligence officers say they have been warned to avoid giving Trump intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public. (CBS News / Time)

2/ Trump won't commit to making Robert Mueller's final report public, and that he doesn't know if he wants the report made public at all, saying "it depends" on "what it's going to say." Trump did say that while he believes it's time to "get rid of the Russia witch hunt," he would leave the decision "totally up to the attorney general." William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, said during his confirmation hearing that the public might see a summary report from the attorney general on Mueller's conclusions and not the full special counsel's report. (NBC News / New York Times / ABC News)

3/ Trump claimed to have "set the table beautifully" for his next fight with Democrats over his border wall, indicating that he will declare a national emergency on Feb. 15th, to secure funding for a wall. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, privately advised Trump about the consequences of declaring a national emergency to build his border wall. (The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • The Trump administration said that reuniting thousands of separated migrant children may not be "within the realm of the possible." Health and Human Services officials said they don't know the exact number of children taken from their parents and that finding them would be too much of a "burden." (NBC News / HuffPost)

4/ Trump spent about nearly 60% of his time in unstructured "Executive Time." According to a leaked copy of his private schedule for the past three months, Trump usually spends the first five hours of the day in the White House residence watching TV and reading the news, and then calling advisers to discuss what he's seen and read. Trump's first meeting of the day usually starts around 11:30am. Trump has spent almost 300 hours in executive time and 77 hours in scheduled meetings since the midterms. (Axios / NBC News / The Guardian)

  • For the first time in 69 days, Trump had a chance to play a round of golf. He was joined by Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. (Yahoo Sports)

5/ The White House claimed that Trump's tan is the result of "good genes" and not due to a spray-tan booth or the use of a tanning bed. According to three people who have spent time in the White House residence, there is no bed or booth in the residence, the East Wing, or on Air Force One. Two senior White House officials also insisted that no such devices exists. (New York Times)

  • Trump's annual physical exam is next week. Last year, Trump's physician described the president as being in "excellent health" despite revealing that he was borderline obese and has a common form of heart disease. (CNN)

6/ Deutsche Bank refused to give Trump a loan during his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump was funding his campaign and expanding his business group's collection of properties at the same time. The Trump Organization specifically wanted a loan against a Miami property to fund work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. A 2018 financial disclosure, Trump owed at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of the German bank. The decision came down to senior bank officials worrying about what would happen if Trump won the election and then defaulted on the loan. Deutsche Bank would then have to choose between not collecting on the debt or seizing the assets of the president of the United States. (New York Times / CNBC)

  • Maryland prosecutors have subpoenaed financial documents from Trump's golf courses in Scotland. The document request is part of an investigation into whether Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution by profiting from his businesses, including Trump Turnberry and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Times of London / The Hill / Business Insider)

  • In late 2016, Deutsche Bank tried to shed a $600 million loan to VTB Group, a large Russian state-owned bank. The bank sold $300 million of the loan to another Russian financial institution, Alfa Bank, in December 2016. (Wall Street Journal)

  • European lawmakers will probe Deutsche Bank's possible involvement with money laundering by Danske Bank. (Politico)

  • A Russian-born lobbyist at the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received half a million dollars in payments before and after the meeting. The large cash deposits to Rinat Akhmetshin were deemed suspicious transactions by bank investigators. (BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 38% of American want Trump to be re-elected in 2020, compared to 57% who say it is time for someone new in the Oval Office. (Monmouth University)


Notables.

  1. Trump plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to monitor and pressure Iran. The U.S. has been quietly negotiating with Iraq for weeks to move hundreds of troops stationed in Syria to bases in Iraq so they can continue to attack ISIS strongholds from there. Iraqi President Barham Salih said Trump did not ask for permission to station more U.S. troops in his country to watch Iran. Iraq and Iran are allies. (New York Times / Reuters / CBC News)

  2. Pentagon will deploy approximately 3,750 additional troops to the Southern border to install wire barriers and monitor crossings. The new deployment will bring the number of active-duty troops there to around 6,000. The additional troops will be deployed for 90 days. (NPR / CNN / Reuters)

  3. Trump is expected to announce new uniformed leaders for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Trump also will formally nominate a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Wall Street Journal)

  4. Trump nominated a former oil lobbyist to head the Interior Department. David Bernhardt is current deputy chief of the Interior Department and would succeed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned amid multiple scandals and ethics investigations. (New York Times / Politico)

  5. Putin ordered Russia's military to develop new medium-range missiles in response to the U.S. leaving a key Cold War nuclear arms treaty. (ABC News)

  6. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler appointed several climate change deniers to its Science Advisory Board. Wheeler also appointed a scientist who argues for easing radiation regulations to lead the agency's radiation advisory committee. (Associated Press / CNN)

Day 743: The greatest loser.

1/ In a wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office, Trump called negotiating with Congress over his border wall "a waste of time" (again), brushed off the Russia investigation and claimed that Rod Rosenstein told him he was not a target in the probe, dismissed the importance of the proposed Trump Tower his team was trying to build in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, denied he ever spoke with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails, and insisted that he played no role in Jared Kushner receiving a security clearance despite <